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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Invasion of Privacy: Reading the Correspondence of Others.

Today our guest blogger is Regency expert Nancy Mayer. She discusses a great research tool - reading the letters and journals of the famous and not so famous. Anyone leaving a comment today will be eligible for the drawing for two of Victoria Alexander's Regency novels, "What a Lady Wants" and "A Little Bit Wicked." Be sure to leave your e-mail so we can contact you should you win.

Invasion of Privacy: Reading the Correspondence of Others.

It is said that when counter espionage efforts were wanted against British enemies that one objection raised was that Gentlemen don’t read other people’s mail.

Perhaps Gentlemen don’t but, one would hope counter espionage agents would, and historians certainly do. Plain unedited letters can add much to our knowledge of social life and history. If one is fortunate enough to have an annotated edition of the letters with people identified, the picture becomes much richer and fuller.

History is made up of the collective lives of individuals. And while it is the big movements and wars that are usually recorded for posterity, it is the lives of individuals who give flavor and color to life.

A few people whose letters give some light on Regency life.

Most of these people lived beyond the Regency but all have things and people of interest to say about the time period from about 1790-1822.

Lady Sarah Spencer was born in July of 1787, the daughter of Earl Spencer, niece of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and Lady Bessborough.

The Spencers lived a life of decency and normality, according to Lady Sarah.

Her oldest brother was Viscount Althorp and was always called Althorp. The brother closest to her in age was Robert who went into the navy. Another brother also went into the navy, and a fourth brother went into the church. He later scandalized the family by turning Catholic. There was also a younger sister.

Lady Sarah wrote frequently to her brother Robert and sometimes to her grandmother.
Of interest, is the fact that neither Lady Sarah , nor her cousin Lady Harriet Cavendish mention anything about Almack’s. Instead they go to balls at private homes and at the Argyle rooms.
Lady Sarah writes about teaching children to read and about her making a pair of shoes.

We have often been told that regency era ladies never discussed politics. This was not true in the Spencer house. Lady Sarah reports to Robert about all the discussions and debates and newspaper articles.

Her brother Althorp was sporting mad. He loved hunting, shooting, boxing matches and all sports. He married late and his wife died within a few years. He had no children and never married again.

Lady Sarah married Mr. Lyttelton who later became the third Lord Lyttelton. After she was widowed, Lady Lyttelton became governess to Queen Victoria’s children.

Lady Sarah’s letters can be found in The Correspondence of Sarah, Lady Lyttelton.
Lady Sarah tells her brother Robert that their cousin Harriet (Lady Harriet Cavendish) writes amusing letters. I do not find them so amusing; but then, we don’t have the letters she wrote the Spencers that made Sarah laugh.

Lady Harriet’s letters in A Second Self, The Letters of Harriet Granville begin in 1810 and go to 1845.

Lady Harriet Cavendish married Lord Granville Leveson Gower in 1809. It must have been a small private ceremony for the Spencers did not attend the wedding and it was not until January 22 of 1810 that Lady Sarah met her new cousin.

The letters collected in A Second Self or the previous book: The Letters of Harriet Countess Granville cover the same period. She moved in diplomatic circles after her marriage. As the daughter of a duke and related to some of the top families, she never had to worry about her place in life. When in England she meets such people as Lady Jersey.

Prudence Hannay wrote an article about Lady Granville as a Letter -writer for the August, 1969, issue of History Today . In this article Hannay praises lady Granville for her letter writing style. She quotes some earlier letters of Lady Harriet’s such as the one she wrote her sister telling how everyone was quite disturbed to be in the presence of Lady Holland.

I find it interesting that when she was writing to her sister about a visit from her grandmother, she writes my grandmother arrived here yesterday ... I have seen this in other people’s letters.
Jane Austen, writing to her sister, writes my mother, or my uncle.

Speaking of Jane Austen, as some say I am all too apt to do, most people know about Jane Austen’s books and the movies made from them. Fewer know of the wealth of interesting information to be found in her letters. Chapman and Deidre LeFaye have both put out editions of Jane Austen’s letters and many of them can be found on line.

The Chapman edition of the letters has a wonderful index.

Jane Austen’s letters were mostly to her only sister, Cassandra. She writes about having the keys to the spices and the tea, or about trimming a hat, or having to dye an old dress black for required mourning.

The letters cover the period about 1790-1816. These letters are from someone in a vastly different place in society from either Lady Sarah or Lady Harriet.

For a view of the world from the man’s point of view, I suggest one read the letters of Lord Byron. These are vastly different from any of the letters of the ladies though no less interesting.
While usually the notes of editors are welcome and add to the enjoyment of the correspondence, some of the editors have gone beyond that with Byron’s letters and added their own interpretation. I do not believe he committed incest with his sister.

The last person whose privacy I shall invade is that of Miss Weeton. Though in her case, I think she would welcome the intrusion as she wanted to spread her opinions abroad.

Miss Weeton’s Journal of a Governess volume one covers 1807-1811. Miss Weeton lived a life very much on the lower side of society.

Her father was in the merchant navy who died while away from home and whose family never received all the monies due him. There were only two children, a boy and a girl.

The mother and sister sacrificed everything to get the boy educated to make his living as a solicitor. Nell, as she was called, even turned away a fine young man because she thought it her duty to stay and keep house for her brother. Her brother had no such thoughts and married. Then he charged Nell her yearly income to live with them.

One can get quite exasperated with Nell about her feelings for her brother despite the way he treated her.

Nell lived near Liverpool, and wrote about life in that general vicinity.

Volume two (1811-1825) of Miss Weeton’s life tells of her marriage to Mr. Stock, the birth of her daughter and the hardships she faced.

When their mother died, the brother received everything except 100£, which was Nell’s. She lived on the 3% interest it earned. It was hers until she died or married. Now, her brother resented that 100£ bitterly and arranged with a Mr. Stock to marry his sister. Nell was told that the man was a good man, and that the brother recommended him, etc. So she married him. The men shared the 100£. Nell soon found out her husband was not at all kind. He mistreated her. He had all the power, even to having her declared a public scold. How she must have regretted that refusal of the good, kind, wealthy young man of other years when she had thought she owed it to her brother.

Not that I think Nell was easy to live with, as she probably nagged him to death. Still, his treatment of his wife was not at all the thing.

Nancy Mayer

Monday, March 30, 2009

Grappling the Muse to the Ground

And making her "give it up, baby."
by Ann Lethbridge

And if you are wondering about the eggs -- read on.

: "the presiding spirit or force behind any person or creative act" Just one of the definitions in the OED.

Where do ideas come from? Now clearly anyone who can think the stuff up in my books all by themselves has an over-active imagination. But, since I know I'm perfectly normal, quite ordinary in fact, these strange ideas must come from somewhere else, a muse, an outside force, not under my control.

Naturally a muse pops in to visit with great ideas whenever you need one.

If only. She does pop in unexpectedly. She looks like a cross between Angela Joli and Marg Simpson, and has a weird sense of humor. The ideas she scatters about like fairy dust are badly formed, illogical and impossible. Like a cartoon of eggs dropped on the floor, too sticky to gather up with a dustpan and brush, too runny to pick up with a cloth and too gelatinous to scoop into a container. To make it worse, she then runs away laughing. Leaving me to clean up the mess.

What I needed in my arsenal to deal with this crazy lady was a body slam, a take down stragegy instead of stomping around the house, looking under beds and behind doors, muttering questions like: "Why on earth would a man leave his courtesan to his nephew? Isn't that a bit well...off?" Or. "Why would a responsible man do anything so rash as to take her on?" And. "Why is she fighting it tooth and nail, he's gorgeous?"

Well you get the picture.

Once I found that crafty muse-lady babe, I forced her into my office, sat her on my chair, and plonked into her lap. Gotcha!

Sometimes she still gives me completely wrong answers to my questions, forcing me to write the scene more than once. Sometimes she makes me cry when she reveals the true story behind my characters (bless her). But I learned very early on-- Butt in chair every day or my muse doesn't play at all.

My first Harlequin Historical "The Rake's Inherited Courtesan" is in stores April 1. The day after tomorrow.

April fool's day. I wonder if muse-baby had something to do with that?

Want to win a copy? Tell me about your muse, or your favorite egg dish. Me and the muse will pick the comment we like best.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Romance and Readability

A while ago the issue of readability caught fire on a few chat loops and spread out of control. It seems an editor told a writer in a pitch that they were looking for manuscripts written on the fourth to fifth grade reading level for their adult audience. The writer was shocked and interpreted this meant she was expected to "dumb down" her work. She expressed her concern on the loops and the debate began. Responses ranged from outrage to acceptance.

The request for a readability score is not so unusual as some may think. It's accepted fact that most newspapers are written on the 3rd grade level. The NY Times averages a 5th grade reading level; the Wall Street Journal is rated 11th grade. The Harry Potter books range from 4.9 to 7.8, increasing with Harry's years at Hogwarts. Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series are all between 4.9 and 4.5 as are all of Judy Blume's books regardless of their target age group.

Finding the reading level of you own work is a function of counting words, number of syllables, number of sentences. Calculate the average of words per sentence and syllables per word. Then multiply the average number of syllables per word by 84.6 and subtract it from the average number of words multiplied by 1.015. Finally, subtract the result from 206.835. You should test at least three 100 word sections from beginning, middle, and end of your work and average your results. Luckily, for historical writers, you can skip all place names and other proper nouns in your count.

If all this has you scratching your head and you use Word, you're in luck. You can turn the readability function on in your grammar check.

1. Open Word.
2. Click the Microsoft Office Button and click Word Options.
3. Click Proofing.
4. Place a check beside the Show readability statistics option.
5. Click OK.

Now when you click the Spelling and Grammar button on the Standard toolbar, the results will include information about the reading level of your document.
Readability and reading level are two different measurements. Readability is a percentage and represents the percent of the reading population who will be able to understand the work. Reading level is the grade level (or years in school) that reflects the literacy level of the work. A 50% readability will mean 50% of readers will understand it. A 4.5 reading level means a 4th grade, 5th month average student should be able to comprehend it.

Of course none of these formulas calculate the appropriateness of the content, or the complexity of the ideas in the work. No one expects a 4.5 level book by J.D. Robb, for example to appeal to a 4th grader.

According to those who have tested a range of popular authors, the lower reading level the more books that author sells on average. In his book Fiction Writer's Brainstormer, James V. Smith Jr. analyzed the works of various fiction writers, both literary and genre, on the NY Times bestseller list and found all their books fell in the average 4th grade grade reading with a range of 2.6 to 6.3 and an average readability of 83%.

From this, Smith developed his "Ideal Writing Standard" for writers to use when editing and revising their work: No less than an 80% readability on the Flesch Reading Ease scale and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level between 4 and 6.

More information on this topic can be found by searching "reading level" and "readability" online. One interesting website is <http://www.juicystudio.com/services/readability.php > which includes a way to instantly determine the readability of a website. Mine was 4.6 RL and 74% readability. MORWA.org's was 7.5 and 57%. Nora Robert's was 3.8 and 75%

Email me and I will gladly send you a PDF of a copyright free graph that you can use to manually check the reading level of your work.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a collectible teddy bear because you're never to old to need a hug. No reading level needed to comprehend that.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Our First All-Blog Contest

Time to celebrate. It's just past our Seduced By History 1st Monthiversary. Thanks to all our bloggers, followers, and visitors, we're off to a bang-up start. And to cap it off, we have Kimberly Killion's Rita nomination for Her One Desire to raise the roof about.

Winners of our first all-blog contest were chosen randomly from those who made comments since the first blog. The winners are Helen Hardt and LuAnn. This month's prizes are supplied by Paty Jager and Anna Kathryn Lanier. Winners please email me at bscott49 @charter.net (no spaces)

Please continue to follow and comment and you may win our next all-blog contest.

2009 RITA Nominee

Click to Visit My Website

I am thrilled to announced that my debut book, HER ONE DESIRE, has been nominated for a RITA in the Best First Book category.

A little about the award:

The RITA Award is Romance Writers of America's® highest award of distinction. The awards are presented annually to the best published romance novels of the year. The award itself is a golden statuette named after RWA's first president, Rita Clay Estrada, and has become the symbol for the best in published romance fiction.

A little about the contest:

Up to 1,200 romance novels from 12 different categories are entered each year in the RITA competition. Novels can be entered either by their authors or by the books' publisher. After the first round of judging by fellow published romance authors, the competition narrows to approximately 100 finalists. Winners of the awards will be announced July 18th at the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony to be held at RWA’s 29th Annual National Conference in Washington, D.C.

For a complete list of all the finalist, go to the RWA website.

If you get a chance, check out my website to get a peek of HER ONE DESIRE.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Research ya gotta love it!

I like research. Really what historical writer doesn’t? You have to have a curiosity for why they did things this way and how that worked to really tell a story that pulls the reader in and makes them live the life of your characters.

Nothing is more fascinating to me than visiting a museum in the area my story is set. I love looking at old photos, reading journals and diaries, and visiting with the people who love the history of the area. The one-on-one interviews with people are where the juicy tidbits can be picked up.

For one book, I learned how they hauled heavy cast iron cooking stoves into remote places via mules. And this was from a man who as a boy went with his father to town and purchased the cook stove for his mother and helped haul it home. They strapped long poles to the outsides of pack saddles on two mules. One mule in the front, the poles and one mule in the back. The trail was narrow only one animal at a time could walk on the sides of rocky canyon walls. The stove was tied to the poles. When the animals got tired, they’d go down on their knees and rest. And according to the person I talked to, the animals wouldn’t get up until they were rested, so there was no sense hurrying them. You just took a seat and whittled until they got up.

The great information find I dug up for my latest release, Outlaw in Petticoats, had to do with saloon bars. One of the reasons the bar top was such thick wood was to allow for finger holes underneath. When there were drinking contests, a man could put his fingers up in the holes under the counter and remain standing. Try it sometime. If your fingers are stuffed into holes, it’s just like your hand is tied to the bar. I used that information when my heroine tries to fit into the male crowd while the hero is getting information.

Blurb for Outlaw in Petticoats
Maeve Loman has had her heart crushed before; she isn't about to have it happen again. When she takes Zeke Halsey up on his offer to help her discover the truth about her father, she's sure she can control her traitorous body and not fall for the man's considerable charms.

Zeke Halsey has wanted Maeve Loman since he first set eyes on the prickly schoolteacher. Even as she thwarts his advances, he sees the desire burning in her eyes. He knows she feels abandoned and uses bravado to keep people at arm’s length. Offering to help her find her father, he hopes to prove he’s not going anywhere.

Excerpt (after the bar scene)
The horses were saddled. Zeke looked around.
Where’d Maeve go? She knew better than to wander
around this town unescorted.
“You see the woman I came in here with?” he asked
the boy tending the horses.
“She stumbled out back a while ago.” The boy lugged
two buckets of water down the aisle.
His heart thudded in his chest. Damn. He should
have paid more attention to her. She drank the beer at
the Umatilla like a thirsty cowhand. And he knew she’d
never tasted the drink before today.
He stepped into the open alley behind the livery and
scanned the area. Nothing moved. Where could she have
wandered? A moan filtered through the night air. Zeke
cocked his head. There it was again. He moved in the
direction it appeared to originate. That’s when he spotted
the privy.
Standing in front of the building, he ran over the
proprieties of opening the door. When another moan
echoed inside the shack, he grabbed the door and yanked
it open. Maeve sat on the wooden bench, her head
propped against the wall. Her eyes were closed, and she
gulped air like an animal taking its last gasp.
“Maeve?” He reached out and shook her arm.
“Maeve.” Her eyelids slowly rose.
“Zeke. Did you find my father?” A silly grin
brightened her face.
“No. We’re getting ready to ride out and find Barton.”
He grasped her arms, pulling her to a standing position.
She flopped against him, wrapping her arms around his
In her condition, he couldn’t put her on a horse by
herself. He scooped her up in his arms and carried her
back into the stable.
“She need a doc?” the stable boy asked, scurrying
over as Zeke placed Maeve on his horse.
“No.” He swung up behind the drunk woman. “Hand
me the reins to that horse.” When the boy complied, he
nodded his thanks and urged his horse out of the building.
They wouldn’t be able to travel as fast riding double, but
at least he wouldn’t have to keep stopping to make sure
she was still mounted.
The arm circling the rag doll woman in the saddle in
front of him, rested just under her breasts. What would
she do if he slid it around and- He groaned. Now wasn’t
the time. He’d never take advantage or any woman in this
state and especially this woman. He wanted her trust.
Taking her when she was drunk wasn’t showing her any
kind of trust.
“Zeke?” Her head smacked back against his chest.
Lucky for him she was short enough her head didn’t hit
him in the chin.
“Do you think my father is alive?”
“It’s hard to say. Don’t think about it, just go to sleep,
you’ll feel better after you rest.” He kissed the top of her
head and snuggled her against him.
She sighed and wrapped her arms around his arm
like she hugged a puppy or a pillow. Now why couldn’t she
be this clingy when she was awake?
He shook his head. No, he didn’t want a clingy, needy
woman. Maeve’s independence had captured his
attention. Her insistence she needed no one pushed him
to prove her otherwise. If she wanted to find out the truth
about her father, she needed him. Would she find a reason
to slip out of his life once she had the answers? The
thought squeezed his chest. He’d find the truth, and then
he’d prove to her he was nothing like the man.

To enter to win a pdf of Outlaw in Petticoats leave a comment. If you’d like to learn more about my other books and me or to enter my monthly website contest, go to: www.patyjager.com

Monday, March 23, 2009

Egypt—my grand passion

I fell in love with Egypt when I went to see the Yul Brynner movie, The Ten Commandments. I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with Egypt of course, I was supposed to be rooting for the other side, but the moment I saw pharaoh’s court, I was a gonner.

I devoured Egypt for many years. Bought books, lapped up any movies I could find, even paid a visit to the tombs and temples. That visit was like a pilgrimage for me.

The passion continued to grow and as I built a small career in category romance, someone suggested I wrote a book set in Egypt. But even after all the study, what did I know? Until one day an idea came to me and Eternal Hearts was born.

It’s a time travel set in the time of the heretic pharaoh Akhenaten and Nefertiti. Although many consider him to have been mad, others have suggested he was actually Moses, even though he was born almost 1000 years before Moses.

Writing about Egypt was not without its strictures. Although they decorated their various pottery objects such as pots, bottles, walls of tombs and the many pylons and obelisks in bright colours, clothing remained simple and virtually colourless. No brightly coloured silks for Nefertiti to clothe herself in, none in fact until Cleopatra’s time, 1500 years after Eternal Hearts is set. All they had was linen, which does not take kindly to dyes.

The hero is Lord Khafra, a charioteer in pharaoh’s bodyguard and Alexis (Abana) is an American actress, sick and tired of all the hype about her career.


Alex found the love of her life, 3000 years too late. But time cannot destroy a love as great as theirs.

When Alexandra Kelly returns a broadcollar to Egypt she is swept through a time portal into a breathtaking, yet terrifying journey to a land of majesty and splendour--the land of the pharaohs.

Death is Lord Khafra’s fate if he embarks on his dangerous quest. Alex’s arrival disrupts his plans, but can she save him from his destiny?

Together they face terrible danger and hardship but the sexy charioteer could make any woman believe the gods were smiling on her.

Eternal Hearts, coming soon from Highland Press http://highlandpress.org/
Book video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4y6MeAzlepAhttp://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mothering Sunday

Today is Mothering Sunday in the UK. Since I arrived ten days ago, I have seen many signs of what a big holiday this is. All the bakeries encourage you to order your Simnel Cake and nearly every popular musician has a CD of songs with special meaning for your mum. All the shops carry cards and the supermarket is stuffed with all kinds of flowers. People are planning to leave home early in the morning to get to mums in time for Sunday dinner.

The earliest records of a celebration of mothers date back to the ancient annual festivals honoring the maternal goddesses. Rhea, Hera, and Demeter, were favorites of the early Greeks and  the Romans celebrated Cybele during the Hilaria, a three day festival that eventually got so wild that followers of Cybele were banished from Rome.

More Recently Mothering Day in England officially dates back to the 1600's, though many believe it is taken from the celebrations that the early Christians held in honor of the Virgin Mary. It is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of lent and the restrictions usually enforced during lent are relaxed for this day.

Mothers have been important in English history and literature for ages. They have been quite quirky, like mums in Jane Austen, powerful and politically astute like Eleanor of Aquitaine who bore and counseled three kings, and great warriors like Boudicca (pictured right), who started a war with Rome when her daughters were besmirched. And I've read more than one regency romance where the hero is driven by his mother, either to escape her dominance or out of respect and love for her. Regardless if he is the tortured dark loner, the honorable gentleman, or the alpha male who leaps to the rescue, mothers have made their sons into the heroes we love to read about. 

My mother passed on nearly five years ago at the age of eighty. She didn't look a day over sixty (Great genes. I hope I get them:) ). She was an imposing woman. A force to be reckoned with. No one believes she was only five foot three, because her personality was so strong. 

She was a leader in her community. She sat on the city council of our town for many years. She was a founder and president of her sorority's  alumni chapter. She taught sixth grade for fifteen years then counseled middle school students for the same length of time. 

When I was growing up, we fought many times. She was a person who wanted it done her way, or else. And I, especially as a teen, didn't want to do it her way. Mind you, I didn't give my parents many headaches. But my mother taught me to be an independent thinker, even though she didn't much like it when my thoughts were independent of what she thought(lol). But later in adulthood we did come to a level of mutual respect and understanding. By watching her, I learned to go for what I wanted and to not stop until I got it. And so today I am an author who is almost published.

 Widow's Peak my first novel will be released on September 23rd, from The Wild Rose Press. It too is about a medieval mother, Lady Amye Barnard, who finds that after a long widowhood, life still has a few surprises for her. Here's a short excerpt:

Amye noticed the shift in breathing as her charge fell into slumber. She closed her book and quietly withdrew. Once outside she took a deep breath and leaned against the door. Had he called her beautiful? No. Be not foolish. He spoke of the reading.

Pushing aside thoughts of the handsome troubadour, Amye went to check on her household. In the list, Siward had just finished training the garrison. Their bodies, wet from the work of sword play, reminded her of wiping the sweat from Laine’s fevered brow. When she checked with Genevieve, in the kitchen, supper was nearly prepared. She wondered if the soup had been to his liking. A chill wind blew through the courtyard as she passed, and she ordered the braziers filled so he would be warm that night. Try as she might, thoughts of him intruded on her. Where did these feelings come from? I must stop this nonsense this instant.

For more, visit my website at www.hannarhys.com 

Through much of my life, my mantra was "I will never be like my mother", but each day I see that I am getting to be more and more like her. I notice little mannerisms that she used to do or phrases she used creeping into my everyday actions. And at her funeral, dozens of people came up to me and said what an influence she had been on their lives. I realized then, that's how I want to be remembered. As a strong person who has been a good influence on those around her. I may not have helped hundreds of people like my mother, but I will do as much as I can for those who ask.

What is the most valuable thing that your mother taught you? 

Leave a comment and I'll enter you in my Mothering Sunday contest to win this beautiful pewter and mother of pearl pendant on a silver chain from my trip to the UK!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Medieval Love

About twelve years ago, I fell in love with the Middle Ages. I'd always found the concepts of chivalry and courtly love pretty cool, but I didn't have any real way to express the fascination. Then I discovered the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism). The SCA is a group that re-enacts and educates about the time period of 600 - 1600 CE. Once I discovered this group it was only a matter of time before it found it's way into my writing.

Now, all these years later, my writing and my passion for the Middle Ages have come together to create the book I just recently contracted to Ellora's Cave called Seeking Truth. Here is the blurb.

Seeking Truth

Pain. Baron Eaduin Kempe has experienced enough of it to last him a lifetime, yet again it stalks him. Judith, his beloved foster mother, suffers in agony which cuts like a blade to his own gut. He'll do anything to ease her pain, even if that means that he, a man of dominant, fierce passions, must marry an innocent, convent-raised healer to obtain her services.

Witch. Lady Vérité de Sauigni fears this accusation more than any other, because of her psychic gift to see truth. A convent should be a haven for service to God, but her father made it her prison. Vérité will do anything to escape, even marry a sensual, handsome man who only wants her for her healing skills.

Vérité's healing skills, though prized in her new home, can't save her from charges of witchcraft when King Stephen and His Court arrive at Kempe Castle. Will Eaduin honor the vow she extracted from him to kill her so she won't suffer under questioning? Or will he do more? Will he risk his life for love?

In my daily life I work as a reference librarian and when you add that to my SCA experience research is probably a given, but I have to admit I had a great time completing the research for my book. Since I write for Ellora's Cave, I knew the book would be an erotic romance. I took a lot of time researching Medieval sexuality, Canon Law regarding marital relations, and the rights of women in marriage.

But I also set this book in a time period I knew little about, the troubled reign of King Stephen, the grandson of William the Conqueror, who reigned from 1135-1154. My book is set in 1146 which is after some of the worst of the civil war between Stephen and Empress Matilda, or Maud (as she was often known) who was the daughter of Henry I, had passed.

I discovered this time period by watching the Brother Cadfael mysteries featuring Derek Jacoby. As I watched The Rose Rent, I was struck by how well they'd researched the clothing. I'm a sucker for a properly researched historical drama - especially good clothes. As I watched more episodes, I decided to find out more about the time period. I requested books through interlibrary loan and purchased books for my personal collection.

This turbulent time in English history was the perfect world for my hero Eaduin, so I found him a heroine who would suit him and started to write. I'm happy to say it worked. I fell in love with my hero and liked my heroine. I took a bit of artistic license with the language and activities of my characters, but I think it worked. At least my editor likes it. ;-)

The nice thing for me was that when I ran into snags with my research I had friends in the SCA to whom I could turn for guidance. Some of the SCA fighters really helped me get inside the mind of my hero - a man well used to protecting his people by his command or by his own hand. I thank them for their input because it was something I couldn't have gained anywhere else.

As a tease, I'll include the opener of my book for you to enjoy.

(© 2009 - Francesca Hawley)

His stallion’s hooves pounded like the beating of his heart as Baron Eaduin Kempe shook damp black hair from his eyes. Though a gentle spring rain fell, it felt like a driving storm. The presence of his beloved foster mother blunted the emptiness of his keep, but if he lost Judith…

Nay. He wouldn’t think on it. All had seemed normal with her, so well did she hide her pain.

Was he blind? How could he have missed something of such import?

Eaduin rode on grimly, determined to find aid. Today.

His horse leaped a ravine, clearing it easily. When he’d asked Judith to whom he should apply for aid, she’d ordered him to the Abbey of Blessed Virgin to seek vérité. He didn’t need to find truth. He needed medication to dull Judith’s pain. Despite her pain, her will was as strong as ever so to the Abbey he rode. Only Judith mattered. He glanced ahead, catching sight of the spires of the Abbey’s central chapel above the treetops.

His half-brother, Godwin who served as his Captain of the Guard, rode at his stallion’s left flank. They approached the gates at a gallop, but pulled up when they remained closed. He and Godwin had been five miles on the road, and would need to return before evening, for Eaduin wouldn’t leave Judith alone for longer. Where was the damned guard? Their horses sidled restlessly as the men exchanged glances. Godwin hailed the guard who should be atop the gates.

“Baron Eaduin Kempe wishes to speak with the Reverend Mother on a matter of grave urgency.”

Eaduin smiled faintly. It was his thundering voice which made Godwin’s squires jump to do his bidding, and it drew the immediate attention of the watch.

“Lord Eaduin bloody Kempe will find no welcome here!”

He grimaced, before looking up to see the old guard peering over the ramparts. “I seek no welcome from you, Artur Pecke, you insolent cur. How dare you swear within these sacred walls! Open the gates. I will speak with the Abbess. Now!” His roar echoed off the stone, making the old man wince then scowl, shaking his fist.

“And what army will see you past this gate?”

Eaduin swore under his breath. He just had to assign his father’s former guard captain here, hadn’t he? The old bastard hated him. Be damned to hell! He pulled his strung bow from his saddle and an arrow from his quiver. He knocked it, taking aim in one smooth movement then sighting on the stupid man’s head.

“I need no army, old man. Let me in and live to see the sunset!”

Eaduin knew the wily old guard could easily duck before the arrow even reached him, but Eaduin was out of patience. He heard Judith’s cries in his ears and had no time to parlay with a self-important idiot.

“Open the gate, you fool!” a voice inside the gates yelled.

Eaduin relaxed his drawn bow, his breath releasing with a hiss. He recognized the authority of Mother Anne’s voice when he heard it and so did Sir Artur. The clack of the windlass rattled loudly as the bridge lowered and the heavy doors opened ponderously. How ironic it was that his orders and his money barred his passage, for long had he given money to afford protection to these brides of Christ. Eaduin spurred his horse, traversing the bridge and coming to a stop in the courtyard—Godwin at his side. They dismounted, handing the stableman the reins.

“Treat them kindly. They’ve been run hard and will need to make a return trip shortly.” The chief stableman offered a respectful nod before leading the horses away. Eaduin turned to meet the concerned gaze of Mother Anne.

“Why are you here, Baron Kempe?”

“I need a healer. Where are your sisters who serve?” Eaduin strode toward the hospital, but the Abbess planted herself in his path.

“Why do you seek a healer? What help can we give you Mistress Judith cannot? After all, she has been the teacher to most of our sisters in the use of herbs and healing.”

Eaduin’s rubbed his face, trying to hide the anguish he felt but Mother Anne saw it and placed a comforting hand on his arm.

“Lord Eaduin? What is it?”

“It’s Judith. She’s very ill but none of us has the skills to help her.”

“Is it fever?” She tensed, her brows knotting in worry.

He shook his head. “Nay, she’s hidden her illness from all of us. A bit more than a fortnight ago, she collapsed. We have tried to follow her directions to offer her relief, but none of us know what we are doing. We are as likely to kill her as cure her the way we blunder about, but it might almost be a mercy.”

“Did she say what the illness is?”

“Nay. She looks far gone with child, yet there is none. After treating herself for months with syrup of poppies, the medicine eases the pain no longer.”

He could see the Abbess’ confusion with his poor description. His ignorance at his lack of expertise appalled him. He shook his head, his eyes filling with tears. He blinked before they spilled, lest Sir Artur taunt him.

“You are sure she’s not with child?”

“Certain. God forgive me but I hadn’t noticed how she had loosened her gowns and ceased to wear belts at her waist.” He shook his head in self-disgust. “God forgive my selfishness…” he muttered as he met Mother Anne’s serene blue gaze in chagrin. He took a deep breath, speaking forcefully. “She needs aid, Mother. Judith is in grave pain which nothing relieves. I can’t… I can’t bear listening to her pain-filled screams. It tears out my heart.”

Tears began to fall. He brushed them away with annoyance. The old guard captain studied him and Eaduin expected to see laughter at his show of weakness. Instead he saw shared pain. Mistress Judith was beloved of everyone, it seemed.

His need for his foster mother felt purely selfish to him. After all, Judith had given life to Godwin and his brothers and sisters. Surely their grief should supersede his, yet she was Eaduin’s salvation. He owed his sanity and conscience to her, for without her he would be a monster like his deceased father and half-sister had been. Both now suffered in the fires of hell. If not for Judith… God above...Judith… He must help her. Eaduin would not leave without aid—no matter what he had to do to receive it.

“When did you last sleep, my Lord?”

He paused in thought, trying to remember, then shook his head. “It matters not. Will you send someone to her? Please?”

Eaduin could see apology in the Reverend Mother’s face as she readied a refusal. Before she could reject his request, he dropped to his knees on the hard ground in front of her in the supplication of a penitent.

“I beg you, Mother, for Judith’s sake. Let me rot when the time comes, but for the love of God, don’t allow Judith’s suffering to continue. She doesn’t deserve it. Isn’t the pain she endured at my father’s hands enough?”

Eaduin beseeched the normally stern Abbess, whose bright blue eyes filled with tears which spilled down her cheeks. Mother Anne knew the truth of Judith’s suffering at Osweald Kempe’s hands. She took a deep breath.

“Judith ordered you here?” Eaduin nodded as the Reverend Mother considered, her hands settling on his shoulders as she looked down at him. “What did she tell you, my Lord? Exactly…”

“She told me to come to the Abbey of the Blessed Virgin to seek vérité,” he snorted. “Truth? Mother, I have no need of truth. I need a healer. Yet she was adamant. ‘Seek vérité,’ she said.”

“In this case, they are one and the same.”

“I don’t understand.”

“I know. But you will, my son. Rise. Let us go find the healer you seek.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mary Edwards Walker, M.D.

Doctor, Civil War Veteran, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient

In my book, SALVATION BRIDE, I write about a heroine who's ahead of her times. Laura Ashton Slade is trained doctor in 1873 Texas. But a woman who truly was ahead of her times is Mary Edwards Walker, M.D.

Mary was the fifth daughter of Dr. Alvah and Vesta Walker, born on November 26, 1832 in Oswego, New York. Both her parents had unconventional views on female education....they believed women should receive a formal education. Mary started her employment as a school teacher, just as her sisters did before her. However, she soon broke tradition and attended the Syracuse Medical School, the country's first medical school and the only one to accept both men and women as equals. She graduated in 1855 at the age of 21 after three 13-week semester, which cost her $55 each.

She married fellow doctor Albert Miller not long after graduation and the two of them set up practice in Rome, NY. But both the practice and the marriage floundered (she accused her husband of infidelity). After only a few years, she separated from her husband, but it took a decade for them to divorce, due to the divorce laws at the time. Mary remained in Rome, practicing medicine, advocating social causes and writing the magazine SYBIL. She was friends with Amelia Bloomer, who the under garment is named after and one of her causes was dress reform for women.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860, she attempted to join the Union Army. When denied a commission, she volunteered as a nurse instead. While working at a hospital in Washington, D.C., she discovered mothers and wives of soldiers living in parks and sleeping on benches. Spurred into action, she helped found the Women's Relief Association.

In September 1863, she was awarded a contract as an Active Assistant Surgeon for the Army of the Cumberland. When she was finally commissioned into the military in 1864, she became the first woman Doctor to service in Army Medical Corp. She modified her officer's uniform in response to the demands of traveling with the army and working in field hospitals near the front lines . She was later transferred to the 52nd Ohio Infantry.
During this time in the army she was also a spy for the Union.

In 1864 she was taken as a prisoner of war, the first American woman POW, and spent four months in a Richmond POW camp. She and two dozen other Union doctors were exchanged for seventeen Confederate surgeons.

She left the army in 1865 and was paid $8.50 a month in a pension. Even when it was raised to $20 a month, it was less than what a widow received as a pension.

On November 11, 1865, President Johnson signed a bill awarding Mary Edwards Walker with the Congressional Medal of Honor for her Meritorious Service. She is the only woman ever to receive the Medal of Honor, the United States' highest award.

Her medal was revoked, along with 910 others, by an act of congress in 1917 when the Medal of Honor standards were revised to include “actual combat with the enemy”. Mary refused to return her medal and wore it daily until her death. In 1977, an army board restored her medal, citing her “distinguished, gallantry, self-sacrifice, patriotism, dedication and unflinching loyalty to her country, despite the apparent discrimination because of her sex.”

After the war, Mary's activities became more political. She fought for women's rights (including changes in marriage and divorce laws), dress reform, and health and temperance issues. She traveled across America and abroad lecturing on her beliefs. During this time she also wrote two books, HIT, an autobiography and UNMASKED OR THE SCIENCE OF IMMORALITY, a book on the infidelity of men.

For most of her life, Mary was a strong proponent of dress reform, stating that women's clothing was immodest and inconvenient. She herself wore full male dress for the latter part of her life and was proud of her multiple arrests for wearing men's clothing. In 1866, she was elected president of the National Dress Reform Association. Her eccentricities, however, often alienated her from fellow reformists, especially suffragists. Noticeably, she was against a constitutional amendment for women's right to vote because she felt the constitution already gave women the right to vote.

She spent her last years on her family's Bunker Hill farm in Oswego. She died at her home on February 21, 1919 and is buried at the Rural Cemetery in the Town of Oswego.
For additional information on Mary, check out:
(this is a really good site, one I didn't read before I wrote this, so it's worth looking over for additional information.)

Anna Kathryn Lanier

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Guest Blogger - Skhye Moncrief: Books of Magic for Research

President of Hearts Through History Melinda Porter invited me over to share a few resources that might be helpful to those authors wanting to put what I consider an authentic slant to their historical wips without going over the top and creating a new world that has nothing to do with what readers consider historical. I'm known on my blog, SKHYE'S RAMBLINGS, for posting my personal collection of reference books. My library spans many topics. "Many" may not be the best word. For example, I'm formally educated in geology (paleontology) and anthropology (bioarchaeology). A person acquires a lot of books studying those two subjects. I've also taken quite a bit of ceramics and art history on the side. Then, I write about time travelers who are alchemists from the future who use magic and a force only the fairies control to travel along the timeline. Take alchemy as an outgrowth of scientific study, add Druid and Freemason beliefs, and shake... You can see how I had to do some research to devise logical cultural evolution for my time travelers in the future.

My personal library tripled in size as the geo-archaeologist pushed up her sleeves and went in to descry what in the heck Druids were in prehistory, history, and today. We literally know nothing other than what Romans reported in documents or what has been historically recorded in the past few centuries as the revival of a belief system. The same holds true for witchcraft. But what we do have to play with when researching fairies are a few wonderful collections of information that were written by people we hold in high esteem--academia. I'm going to share some of the books with you just in case you're writing a historical with a speck of magic. Okay, maybe you just need to know which deity a person might have known about or secretly revered...

SPIRITS, FAIRIES, LEPRECHAUNS, AND GOBLINS: An Encyclopedia by Carol Rose. If you want to find a vague legend to weave into your historical wip, buy this book.

GIANTS, MONSTERS, AND DRAGONS: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth by Carol Rose. Rose's other collection of factual tidbits is certain to become a springboard for your creativity.

Turner, Coulter, and Coulter's DICTIONARY OF ANCIENT DIETIES has it all. Flip to any page and find tons of information from cultures through time spanning the globe.

Lindahl, McNamara, and Lindow's MEDIEVAL FOLKLORE is a book I refer to often. It's extensive entries can often be overwhelming when you go in to search for an answer. But I'd rather be inundated with information than operate on a line or two.

Search for a copy of Christian mythology if you want to find really good new twists for the same old story. I'd give you the title of mine but it's buried in the garage. We're still renovating (carpet/tile/countertops/shelves). I have no idea which box contains the coffeetable-sized tome.

A book's introduction I found incredibly useful for creating a knight was in the SONG OF ROLAND. The version I used is at
http://blog.skhyemoncrief.com/2008/09/04/the-song-of-roland.aspx filed away at my blog among my Reference Books blog posts.

If you're interested in even more paranormal, fantasy, or historical references, visit http://blog.skhyemoncrief.com. My ever-growing reference-book blog-post list currently has approximately 150 titles.


Monday, March 16, 2009

The Historical Voice

Like many romance authors I considered trying another genre. I read historical romance, I wrote historical romance, but I gave considerable thought to writing a contemporary romance, which I did. It wasn’t easy. A friend told me, “You don’t have a contemporary voice, you have a historical voice.”

That gave me pause. What did she mean I had a historical voice as opposed to a contemporary voice? I thought about it a lot. What made my voice so different from the voices of contemporary authors? In fact, what makes a historical voice?

I decided to compare some of the contemporary authors to well known historical novelists. Sharing my findings may be no surprise to you, but they were to me and led to other questions.

What did I find? The most noticeable difference is the dialogue between contemporary characters. That I expected. But I noticed other discernable changes in the use of words describing a scene, a character, a place. There is an ease to the modern novel quite removed from the historical tale. For one, contemporary romances contain clichés, and modern turns of phrase not even known a hundred years ago. But I also noticed something else. There is a more formal approached to the historical story, not something you can reach out and touch, but it’s a real. Words are used in a certain pattern, fewer contractions, more formal address. The age of the words used now counts. The heroine of a historical romance set in the west a hundred years ago would never use the expression, ‘over and out!”

The characters have a tendency, even if it’s a humorous historical romance, to be more formal in their conversations. The heroine of an eighteen century adventure would never tell the hero, “Don’t go there,” if she didn’t want to discuss something.

All this analysis leads to another question. How do you develop a historical voice, and can you accomplish such a task? I don’t have the answer to that, but I have a feeling that the author of a historical novel is someone who thinks of and might even admire the simpler, less complicated life of days ago. Someone who perhaps likes a bit of formality, an individual who enjoys hearing historical tidbits, admires the style and beauty of historical dress and the grandness of some time periods. Someone who instinctively would be attracted to books by Jane Austin, Charles Dickens to name just two.

That doesn’t mean a historical author doesn’t enjoy the here and now. Where would we be without computers, printing presses, POD, microwaves, and the automobile? We’d be nowhere, and I doubt any historical romance author would willing trade a today with yesteryear. But true to the nature of the historical romance writer – we can pretend for awhile and go back in time.

So, how would you describe a historical voice?

Allison Knight
"A Treasure For Sara"
available now from Champagne Books

Friday, March 13, 2009

National Women’s History Month – a salute to the American frontier woman.

Welcome to the Seduced by History blog. I was seduced by history as a young child. I was lucky enough to grow up in a Midwest extended family with a rich oral tradition. As a child I heard stories of my ancestors’ life and times as they settled in what was at one time a wilderness along with their adventures with wild animals, weather and each other. These stories of who we are and where we come from have always fascinated me. So naturally I gravitated to the study of history, eventually earning a BA in History, a MA in History and a BA in European Studies (Yeah, over educated!), and taught at the college level.

Now a good history teacher is nothing if not a good story teller, and as I taught everyone said you know all these ‘stories’, you should write a book. Which is a lot of fun (doing the research) and a lot of work (actually writing the book). Even though my history degrees mostly focus on British and European history, when it came time to write, I went back to my roots. The American frontier – the place where men and women work together to make a home and a civilization.

Since this is National Women’s History month, I was trying to think of a specific woman to blog about. But I think I’ll go with the ‘every woman’ who left the home she grew up in and went with the man she loved and set out to make a new home. These are the women I write about, the women who were our grandmothers, and great grandmothers, and beyond. The women who made us what we are today.

Before the 20th Century and the gaining of legal rights, women had to get along in a narrower world, and they did by courage and pride and commitment to their ideals. These are the women (and men) whose story I want to tell. The fictional people who might have lived down the road from my ancestors.

I set my first story in Kentucky in 1794. April Williamson was born in the frontier in Boonesboro, but with the death of her father her mother took her back to Philadelphia. Now a widow, April wants to return home to Kentucky where she can make her living as a seamstress.

Because she’s a widow, she has control over her life.
An excerpt from the text: "I seem to have started in the middle. Let me explain. My name is April Williamson and I need transportation to Oak Point."
Mr. Murray looked intrigued. April chanced a glance at Mr. McKenzie. If anything, his frown had deepened. With a prickle of annoyance, she turned to him and asked, "Is something wrong?"
"Where are your menfolk?" His voice held a tone of manufactured civility.
Meaning of course, April thought tartly, where is the man who takes care of you? He would, of course, expect a young woman to be attached to some man. A measure of her self-confidence returned. She had the perfect, irrefutable answer. "I have no menfolk. My husband died last November."
With satisfaction she noted Mr. McKenzie's surprise and discomfort. "I've inherited property near Oak Point. I appreciate it's unusual for your company to take passengers, but there's no other means of getting to Kentucky."

An excerpt from a review: April is presented as sensible and intelligent. Her character tone was set early on with her reaction to Dan's initial refusal to take her along. She doesn't whine, cry, or beg prettily. Instead, she acts with dignity, simply asking Dan (McKenzie) and his partner, Scotty (Murray), to please think about it and reconsider. The letter to General Wayne is no female machination to force Dan's hand; it's a move made before she met him. And her actions on the trail are just as adult. The result of this was that by the time they reached Kentucky, I really did believe that April would make it on her own, an idea I didn't entirely embrace at the beginning of the story. (see http://www.theromancereader.com/blain-kentucky.html review)

Because the time frame of 1794 is not exactly main stream, I blogged about this story on Unusual Historicals http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/2008/10/guest-author-terry-blain.html

Of course, because KENTUCKY GREEN is a romance the hero and heroine have obstacles to overcome. April refuses to let her fear of Indians or the disapproval of Dan McKenzie, the civilian army scout she coerces into escorting her, to deter her. Despite her resolve to keep the independence of widowhood, and Dan's belief the frontier is no place for a woman, they fall in love amid the dangers and hazards of the journey. But Dan knows April cannot be his. He was present at the Indian massacre that killed April’s father – not as a settler, but as one of the Indians.

For my next story, COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD, I went further west and forward in time to the 1880s.

Masquerading as a widow, socialite Juliette Lawson flees Philadelphia to ‘visit’ her uncle in Durango, Colorado. At a train stop she literally bumps into a handsome man before continuing on to Durango. For Julie, family is all important and her visit hides a secret to protect her pregnant sister back east. Here is a young woman who determined enough to set out on her own and carry the burden of a secret for what is important to her. Throughout the course of the story, Julie’s independence and self assurance grows stronger.

While family is all important for Julie, it means nothing to Wes Westmoreland. An undercover agent for Wells Fargo, Wes grew up in the saloons and brothels of San Francisco. For Wes, his job is all important as he see it as the only redeeming feature of his life. But as Wes and Julie fall in love, both have secrets to conceal. Secrets that could drive them apart forever.

I’m proud that this story received a 4 Spur review at Love Western Romance. http://www.lovewesternromances.com/coloradosilvercoloradogold.html

Currently, I’ve created a town in central Texas in the 1870s where my hero Texas Rangers are falling in love with more American frontier women. Charity Simmons has run away from a utopian community in the east, and plans to open a restaurant and be independent. Abbie Sinclair (like April Williamson above) returns to Texas from Chicago to claim the ranch she grew up on as a child. Spinster Kate Rocklin is content to run a boarding house until her childhood love returns to town.

As you can tell, I have a real respect for the American women who helped civilize the frontier. And the romance element is the universality of any story. Regardless of time or setting, social customs, economic conditions, politics, wars, crusades or whatever, there is always the relationship between men and women to be explored.

Also, I think knowing the past in important. You know Koko the gorilla who learned sign language? When she signs "the past" she motions in front of her, when she signs "the future" she motions behind her, as we can see what in front (the past) but can't see behind us (the future). So how can we know where we want to go in the future unless we have some idea of our past?

Since I was lucky enough to grow up with a sense of community and history from the stories I heard my family tell writing historical romance gives me the opportunity pass on stories of who we are and where we come from while exploring the relationship between men and women. What could be more fun than that?

Both KENTUCKY GREEN and COLORADO SILVER, COLORADO GOLD are available on Amazon – just search for author ‘Terry Blain’. You can also purchase the books directly from the publisher at Wings http://wings-press.com/ as either a paperback or electronic edition by author.

Terry Irene Blain
Escape to the past with a romantic adventure

Victorian Christmas -- Western Style

When my editor told me that the launch novel for my upcoming trilogy was to be a Christmas themed story, I was equally excited, and stumped. Snagging a holiday slot was fabulous news, even though it meant a total rewrite of the summer set novel I'd nearly written in keeping with my proposal.

I'd published a Christmas themed short story a couple of years ago, so I had a fair idea how the holdiay was celebrated in Victorian America, but I was stumped on how the Old West ranchers truly celebrated Christmas. Face it, it would be nearly impossible or impractical to brave blizzards and go caroling door to door, as your nearest neighbor could be miles away.

Decorating Christmas trees had gotten a foothold in Europe in the early 1800s, and that tradition was brought to America.

Though blown glass ornaments had been used to decorate Christmas trees in late 1870s Germany, they didn't become vogue in America until the 1890s. The glass ornaments were handpainted and decorated with twisted wire and tinsel, reflecting the time. Jockies on horses, sail boats, trumpets, globes, bells and baskets -- just to name a few.

Nuremberg angels, with their spun-glass wings and gold and silver crinkled skirts, were much sought after. Ornaments imported from Dresden, Germany were another hugely popular decoration, being made between 1880 and 1910. These pressed cardboard designs were extremely realistic, and either gilded, silvered, or handpainted.

Electric Christmas lights were invented in the late 1880s, but many people still used tiny candles on trees, either because they lived in isolated regions were electricty hadn't reached, or they were poor.

For those without the financial means to deck the tree in the new Victorian fashion, they relied on what they had at hand. Popcorn and berry garlands, or paper strings were used to drape a tree. Yarn dolls, gingerbread men, and lacy sachets hung from the boughs. Cornhusk angels often perched atop the tree.

The children hung their stocking by the fire, in hopes that St. Nick would leave candy and a toy, and maybe a shiny new penny inside.

For those living on ranches in the West, they did their caroling around the Christmas tree. Their gifts were mainly handmade items that were desperately needed.

Christmas Day dinner was as much a feast as could be had, with the ranch family and the workers gathered together to share the bounty. If they could afford it, they'd order a turkey or ham from the mercantile in town. Some imported fresh fruit, only to have it arrive frozen. Many baked desserts far in advance, from pies to cakes to traditional plum puddings.

One thing remained the same for those living in the city or country. By and large they viewed Christmas as a special day of sharing and reflecting.

I enjoyed doing research on Victorian Christmas traditions for my October '09 release, A Cowboy Christmas. My heroine adored Christmas and all it meant, and my hero had never celebrated the holiday in his life. I hope to have an excerpt up on my website soon.

What's your favorite Christmas tradition? Comment for a chance to win a copy of my Christmas short story, Christmas Showdown.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mothering Sunday

This year Mothering Sunday is celebrated on March 22 in the UK.

I confess I had never heard of Mothering Sunday until last month. I assumed it had something to do with a day honoring mothers, but when Mills and Boon combined my debut, The Angel and the Outlaw, with Sarah Mallory's More Than a Governess, they entitled the new book ~ On Mothering Sunday.

My curiosity peaked; I delved into the long and rich history of the United Kingdom to find that the origin of Mothering Sunday offered a bit more substance and tradition than the Mother’s Day we celebrate in the U.S.A.

Mothering Sunday is always the fourth Sunday in Lent, a half-way point when the strict fasting would be relaxed for a day. The day dates back to the 1600s when once a year, church-goers would go to their “mother church” or the largest church or cathedral in the area rather than attending their nearby village church. It was the time--once a year--when maids and apprentices were given a day off to visit their mothers. Often children as young as ten years old would leave their homes and go into service. I can imagine that Mothering Sunday must have been quite a day for family reunions and celebrations.

In Victorian times, the maids were allowed to bake a cake to take to their mothers. The Simnel cake became the traditional cake for Mothering Sunday. It is a light, fruity cake decorated with eleven marzipan balls on top that represent the apostles (Judas is absent.) Another tradition was that the children, as they walked home, would gather wild flowers from the fields and roadside along the way to present to their mothers.
I found several recipes online for Simnel cake, but I thought the most traditional one would come from the U.K. It sounds like it would be delicious and I’m determined to make a cake to celebrate Mothering Sunday and the release of my debut book in the United Kingdom. Here’s a link to the recipe I’m using: BBC's

Do you have a special Mother's Day tradition you'd like to share? For those who comment, I'll put your name in a drawing for a free, autographed copy of On Mothering Sunday--a two-book prize!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Anna Kathyrn Lanier

Hello. I'm here to introduce myself and my books. I'm a short story published author who first started writing in the early 80's, but quit for a several years to raise my daughters. Now that I'm a grandma, I have more time to write. So, a few years ago I started up again. Right now, I have two historicals out: TEMPT ME TWICE and SALVATION BRIDE. Both are available electronically.


Seven years ago, Meghan Shelton fell in love with Peter Bourne, Duke of Prestwick, only to learn his seduction was a means to win a bet. Ashamed and pregnant, Meghan flees England. On her return, she literally runs into Peter. This time she has more to protect than her heart, she has a daughter, too.

One look at Meghan and Peter knows he was foolish to think he could seduce her and not love her. Now he has to gain her forgiveness and work his way back into her heart. Will Meghan be tempted twice by the man she loves?
Buy it: http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/BookStore/index.php?main_page=pubs_product_book_info&cPath=53&products_id=1768


The hot dusty town of Salvation, Texas has more than its share of secrets in 1873 when Laura Ashton's stage rolls into town. Sheriff David Slade has no idea what baggage his mail-order bride is bringing into his life. Throw in the nightmares from his Civil War days and he's got more than courting to contend with. Laura's a woman ahead of her time, a woman trained in medicine. And she's got a will that could move mountains. Unfortunately, the only mountains in Salvation are in Sheriff Slade's memory. Can the determined doctor heal his pain, or will the dark secret in her past turn up to steal his Salvation Bride?
Anna Kathryn Lanier