Sunday, November 27, 2022

Stranger Things

Dana McNeely

My children once filmed a humorous video about scary titles in my library, such as Crime Scene, All About Poisons, and Famous Villains. (I once thought I’d like to write mysteries.) Now that I’ve found the perfect genre - historical fiction set in Bible times - those books have been shuffled to back shelves. Yet as I paged through my research in preparation for this post, I found it a collection of even stranger things!

Horseback Archery in Shiraz - Image courtesy WikiMedia

Horseback Archery - from The Archer's Guide by an Old Toxophilite, 1833

"The exercise of the bow, as a pastime, is performed by [the Persians] on horseback as well as on foot. The horseman gallops away with the bow and arrow in his hand, and, when he has reached a certain point, he inclines either to the right or left, and discharges his arrow, which, to win the prize, must hit a cup fixed at the top of a pole 120 feet high."
  • I used this research for battle scenes in Whirlwind, along with other interesting historical tidbits about ancient warfare. Whirlwind is now available for preorder, releasing December 6th.

Statuary Angel blowing what appears to be an anafil - courtesy Deposit Photos

Music and War – from

"The function of music in war has always been twofold: as a means of communication and as a psychological weapon. 

Among the oldest references to the latter role appears in Chapter 6 of the Old Testament’s book of Joshua, with an exceptionally detailed description of the deployment of ram’s horns against Jericho, the oldest fortified human settlement known to archaeology.

Among the Saracen instruments adapted [during the Crusades] were the anafil, a straight, valveless trumpet; the tabor, a small drum, sometimes snared; and the naker, a small, round kettledrum, usually deployed in pairs.

In The Art of War Niccol├│ Machiavelli wrote that the commanding officer should issue orders by means of the [anafil] because its piercing tone and great volume enabled it to be heard above the pandemonium of combat."
  • I was familiar with the Israelite's use of the shofar, but found these additional instruments of interest. Another source noted potential use of the naker and anafil (pictured above) by the Arameans. I used anafils to terrify horses in a Whirlwind battle scene.

Image courtesy Chabad.Org

Festival of Dancing Maidens

based on the teachings of the Lubavicher Rebbe – courtesy MeaningfulLife.Org

"There were no greater festivals for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur. On these days the daughters of Jerusalem would go out... and dance in the vineyards. And what would they say? 'Young man, raise your eyes and see which you select for yourself....'

And so it is written, 'Go out, daughters of Zion, and see King Solomon, in the crown with which his mother crowned him on his wedding day and on the day of his heart's rejoicing' (Song of Songs 3:11). 'His wedding day' — this is the Giving of the Torah; 'the day of his heart's rejoicing' — this is the building of the Holy Temple, which shall be rebuilt speedily in our days."

Talmud, Taanit 26b

  • I had so much fun using this bit of research and various other sources about men’s dances in a celebratory scene which took place in Naboth’s vineyard, in Whirlwind. This is a scene that would have been impossible without the random impact research often brings to a historical novel.

The Syrian Brown Bear – Wikipedia

The Syrian brown bear's fur is usually very light brown and straw-coloured. The hair on the withers is longer with a grey-brown base and is often a different shade from the rest of the body, seen in some individuals as a dark stripe running across the back. The lighter colors usually appear at higher altitudes. Their legs are commonly darker than the rest of their body. It is the only known bear in the world to have white claws. It is a rather small brown bear. Adult males have skulls measuring approximately 30–40 cm (12–16 inches). The Syrian brown bear weighs up to 550 lb (250 kilograms), and measures from 101–140 cm (40–55 inches) from nose to tail.
  • I am using this bear, currently endangered, in my next book, currently in progress. I'm also finding "What to do when you encounter a bear" of intense interest. Ha!

WHIRLWIND ~ Whispers on the Wind, Book 2  
Preorder ChristianBook  Preorder Barnes&Noble  Preorder Amazon

A king's downfall and a love that transcends war

SPURNED BY POTENTIAL SUITORS, Miriam travels to Jezreel to care for her cousin’s son. There, the precocious seven-year-old works his way into her heart. When Arameans swarm the land like locusts, Miriam focuses on the safety of her young ward but promises adventures beyond the city walls when the war ends.

Gershon, a quiet and kind vintner, is happily building a life for his wife, son, and aging parents. But when his wife dies during childbirth and war looms on the horizon, he must make a decision—will he take a new wife before his heart can mend?

Meanwhile, Dov, a young officer crosses paths with the “bird girl” he remembers from the past, now grown to womanhood. That she is a beautiful woman matters not, as he is a career soldier. Unexpectedly charged with leading Ahab’s army against the Arameans, Dov anticipates death and defeat in Samaria, but when a prophet pledges victory, Dov vows to fight to the end.

When an unlikely victory brings freedom, a bright future seems imminent. Then one afternoon Miriam witnesses a tragedy and must flee with the boy to keep them both safe. With henchmen on their trail, will they find refuge—and her heart the home she’s longed for?
DANA MCNEELY writes biblical novels from an Arizona oasis, where she lives with her hubby the constant gardener, two good dogs, an antisocial cat, and myriad migrating butterflies. When not researching, writing, or struggling with the mysteries of social media, Dana can be found wandering in her personal Eden dreaming up new stories.

You may follow Dana at and receive a free eBook. The Eyes of the Lord is a prequel to Rain.


  1. Thanks for posting! This blog has brought me to love the process you all use to authenticate your writings. I admire it, appreciate it and enjoy it when you share the random things you learn.

    1. Thanks for commenting, Connie, and sorry for my late response. I've been out with covid, but thankfully am better now. It's been fun digging around in history and I enjoyed writing about some of the "stranger things" I've found.