Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Historical Festivals -- Next Best Thing to Time Travel


Mini-Eliza #1 with a Lady of the Court
I must offer you my most humble apologies for not posting in months...  Earlier this year I delved into writing historical fiction, and my main characters are historic figures.  The amount of research and world building was an immense project, which I've only recently completed.  I am very pleased with the work though, a novel which takes place at the court of Henry VIII.  I will keep you posted about the story.  Currently my agent and my crit partner are reading through it, and I'm hoping for only one more revision before it is sent on submission.

Now onto my post!  How historical festivals are in essence like time travel!

As a writer of historical fiction, historical and time travel romance, I have to breathe life into a time that no longer exists, dress up characters in costumes that are way out of date, have them speak in a way that is no longer common.  Books can only tell you so much.  Movies help sometimes--and other times they are grossly incorrect.  Historical documentaries are a life saver! 

But sometimes, you just want to travel through time.  To enter a world where the people you write about come to life, and you walk and talk amongst them.  And that is where historical festivals come in.

We have a Renaissance Festival that comes to our area for two months out of the year.  They have their own grounds, replete with list fields, merchant houses, ale houses, and all other sorts of entertainments.  Walking minstrels, shouting bards, jongleurs, knights, lords, ladies and even King Henry VIII and a couple of his wives are in attendance...

Mini-Eliza #3 eating a giant turkey leg
For me, it is exhilarating to walk into the festival.  To be called, "My lady," to drink mead, eat a hunk of meat and spend the day watching and observing.  This year, I was tickled beyond pink that I got to go to the festival twice.  My husband loves the festival as well, but we hadn't been in several years because of having little ones.  We still have three little ones, but for some reason this year it was like magic.  They loved it so much!  Had so much fun that when we suggested going again, they were thrilled at the prospect.  It may be that the festival has lots of fun things for kids too which they fully imbibed in:  rock wall climbing, pony rides, elephant rides, a park, a giant slide, but they also enjoyed watching the knights fight in the list, and the lords and ladies walking by.


Mini-Eliza #2 with a Courtier, who was
extremely impressed with how she tore
right into that turkey leg
 But also, perhaps, its that because I live and breathe history, I talk about it a lot at home.  I find children's books on history and read them to my kids.  We go to museums, we watch the history channel together.  Either my children have an appreciation for that time period or they know no other way since I can't stop talking about it.  When we arrived to the festival the first time, there was a large painted portrait, I pointed to it, and to my oldest said, "Oh, wow, do you know who that is?"  I did not expect her to know, seriously.  Her reply "Mom, that's Henry VIII."  My heart lurched with pride that she was able to see him and recognize him from a painting!  I think from that moment on, I knew we'd have a great time.  And although this was two months ago, they are still talking about it.

So in essence, attending the festival is like stepping into a live world of my book (minus the demons and faeries) and for several hours, I could pretend I'd travelled through time.  I haven't yet been to a Celtic Festival or a Highland Games.  There is a Celtic Festival coming to my area in April next year, which I fully intend on enjoying.  And I've heard there is a Highland Games nearby as well, so I will have to look into that.

Do you enjoy going to festivals?  What is your favorite part?  What kind of festivals do you have near you?

PS....  I will be away from my computer most of that day, but will be checking in this evening!


Eliza is the author of historical romance and time travel erotic romance.  She also writes historical fiction as Michelle Brandon.  Visit her at http://www.elizaknight.com/, http://www.historyundressed.blogspot.com/ or http://www.authormichellebrandon.com/

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Winner!!

CJ send me an e-mail at patyjagatgmaildotcom with your snail mail address and which of my books you would like. You'll receive that along with a box of Country Christmas cards. Thank you for commenting.

Paty

Friday, December 24, 2010

Prettige kerstdagen en een gelukkig nieuwjaar

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I receive several Christmas cards with this greeting every year. My husband's family is from the Netherlands, and we receive Christmas cards from many of his aunts, uncles, and cousins this time of year.


The first Christmas card was commissioned in 1843 but Sir Henry Cole. There were 2,050 printed and they sold for a shilling. These first Christmas cards didn't depict Christmas. The images were of spring, children, and animals. The saying on the cards: wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


In 1875 Louis Prang was the first printer to offer cards in America. These were very intricate and beautiful cards. But they were soon pushed aside by postcards that were easier to make and cheaper to send. By the 1920's the card and envelope greetings came back into style.


As world events came along they would be depicted in the cards of that year.

The first "official" Christmas card began in the 1840's when Queen Victoria send cards with portraits of the royal family at events. Later in 1953 President Dwight Eisenhower sent the first "official" White House Christmas card.

I've become one of the "newsletter" Christmas card senders. I write up a newsletter on the computer, print it out, and send it. But I love getting cards especially from other countries.

Do you send Christmas cards or letters? Do you get ones from other countries? If so what countries?

Because I love giving and it 'tis the season'- If you leave a comment you're name will be entered to win a box of western themed Christmas cards and one of my books.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Paty Jager
www.patyjager.net
www.patyjager.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

LEGENDARY OUTLAW SAM BASS

Sam Bass, Outlaw
Born on a farm near Mitchell, Indiana on July 21, 1851, Sam Bass was the son of Elizabeth Jane (Sheeks) and Daniel Bass. He was orphaned, probably by age ten. He and his brother and sisters moved to a nearby farm to live with a reportedly abusive uncle and his nine children. He ran away in 1869 and—with no formal schooling—worked most of a year in a sawmill in Rosedale, Mississippi. In the summer of 1870, he left for cattle country and arrived in Denton, Texas in the fall. Cowboy life was not as he had pictured it, so he returned to Denton. He worked for a hotel, in the stables of Sheriff William Egan caring for livestock, cutting firewood, and spending much of his time as a freighter between Denton and the railroad towns of Dallas and Sherman.

Soon Bass became interested in horse racing. In 1874, he acquired a racing horse that became known as the Denton Mare. After winning most of his races in North Texas, he took this mare to San Antonio. When his racing played out in 1876, he and Joel Collins gathered a small herd of longhorn cattle for their several owners. The two drovers reached Dodge City and decided to trail the cattle further north where prices were higher. After selling the herd and paying the hands, they had $8,000 in their pockets. Instead of returning to Texas where they owed the money, they squandered it gambling in Ogallala, Nebraska and in Deadwood, South Dakota.

After Union Pacific
Robbery
In 1877, Bass and Collins tried freighting without success, so they recruited several hardened characters to rob stagecoaches. Collins and Bass with four others rode to Big Springs, Nebraska where they held up the Union Pacific passenger train. They took $60,000 in newly minted twenty-dollar gold pieces from the express car plus $1,300 and four gold watches from passengers. They divided the loot and went in different directions. Within a few weeks, Collins and two others were killed while resisting arrest. Bass made it back to Texas and formed a new gang.

Sam Bass, standing
at left, with his new gang
The new Bass gang held up two stagecoaches and robbed four trains within twenty-five miles of Dallas. They didn’t steal much money, but their activities enraged citizens. A special company of Texas Rangers headed by Junius Peak chased the gang across North Texas. In a sweep of all residents suspected of harboring the bandits, Jim Murphy and his father Henderson Murphy were arrested and Jim taken to Tyler to face charges of robbing the U.S. mails. Jim turned informer and agreed to rejoin the gang and betray Sam Bass to the Rangers.

On July 14, 1878 Sam, Frank Jackson, and Seaborn Barnes arrived in Round Rock to case the bank one final time while Jim waited at camp. They went into Kopperal’s General Store. Williamson County Deputy Sheriff Grimes decided to investigate the men’s actions, and was accompanied by Travis County Deputy Sheriff Morris Moore. Shooting broke out and Grimes was killed and Moore severely wounded. Barnes died, but an injured Bass was helped by Jackson and escaped. Texas Ranger Ware, who was getting a shave at the time, ran into the street and fired at the escaping bandits and believed he shot Bass. Ranger Harold believed he wounded Bass. Ranger Jones was at the telegraph office, heard the commotion, and he also fired at the bandits.


Who actually shot Sam Bass was never completely decided. The Rangers called off the search to avoid what they feared as an “outlaw war” of reprisal. But on July 20, two men discovered Bass leaning against a tree. He’d given Jackson his mount, guns, cash, and all his ammunition. When approached, he said, “I’m Sam Bass, the man that has been wanted so long.” He died the following day on his 27th birthday. Jim Murphy died the following year, but no one is certain whether he committed suicide or Frank Jackson killed him.


Original tombstone
Sam Bass’ original tombstone, erected by his sister, has been chipped away by souvenir hunters. It said “A brave man reposes in death here. Why was he not true?” A new stone, seen below, has been erected by Round Rock’s Historic Preservation Commission.  Seaborn Barnes' grave is beside that of Bass.

Rosston (twenty miles from Gainesville, Texas) where Bass reportedly lived, celebrates Sam Bass Day on the third Saturday in July. Round Rock has celebrated Frontier Days on July 4th since 1964.

The preceding material was taken from data available from Texas State Historical Society Handbook of History Online and the City of Round Rock information.
 
Caroline Clemmons writes western historical, time travel and contemporary romances. Her website is http://www.carolineclemmons.com/ and her blog is at http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/ She loves to hear from readers at caroline@carolineclemmons.com

Monday, November 29, 2010

Openings

by Ann Lethbridge

No, I'm not talking about job opportunities.  Or am I? I'll let you be the judge.

Last week I had the privilege of  reading a few five-hundred word story openings provided by aspiring authors. I was not being asked for a critique, so I was unable to offer advice and I didn't know their names, or anything about them.

I was concerned that almost all these openings suffered from what I saw as similar problems. If it had been possible for me to give  feedback on these snippets, this is what I would have said.

  •  A reader expects to be carried into your world in a very few lines or they might not get past the first page. One way to do this is to start with action, or dialogue. If you start where something is happening or even better, where everything changes for the worst for the point of view character, the reader will want to read on. People love conflict and disaster, so if you can hint at it, or even provide it at the beginning your book will open with a bang.
  • Providing the details up front of why and how a character arrived at the point when the book opens can cause a reader to yawn. For example, the character thinks about his miserable childhood, his awful time at school and his recent accession to a title, which will allow him to improve his life. In the meantime, nothing has happened in the story. This is an information dump. I see it over and over again in contests. It is also telling. 
  • The best way for a reader to get to know your character is to see them in action. This character, for example, could be entering a ballroom, greeting people who in the past had snubbed him and piercing them with his superior wit. The reader would be intrigued. Why would this man act this way? Or he could dive in to rescue a citizen from a band of thugs in a bad part of town. Why is he there? Why is he willing to be involved? Show us whatever it is you want to show us about who this person is, or thinks he or she is right now, by having him or her react to their world. Intrigue us to read more by not telling us why.
  • Avoid large casts of characters in opening scenes. Readers can be confused and/or impatient with too many people to keep track of, especially when they don't know who is important to the story.
  • Don't have your character physically describe themselves, either by looking in a mirror, or by thinking about their appearance. She turned her bewitching blue eyes on her visitor, is, if you turn it into the characters' own thoughts: I turned my bewitching blue eyes on my visitor. How often do you think about the nature and color of your eyes when you look at someone entering your front door? If you can put yourself inside your point of view character's head, see only what they see, feel only what they feel, your reader will be right there with you. And they will want to read on.
  • Know where your story starts. I have this terrible habit of wanting to write prologues full of action. My editor is very smart. She makes me take them out. Writing the prologue puts my head in the right place for the story. Deleting it, doesn't spoil or change the story at all, indeed it leaves a question to be answered later when the reader needs to know the answer. Don't start your story too early. Start where things begin to go wrong, often in a romance at the point the hero and heroine meet.
  • If your book starts with a bang, in the middle of action with conflict, with questions, try to keep the tension going.  Don't have your character go off and change their gown, for example, so you can get in some description, while the furious hero waits in the drawing room. Have her confront him right away. Keep the reader wanting to know what is going to happen next and keep things happening.
  • A great first line is wonderful. An art form if done well.  If it is followed up by telling and passages of description, its impact is lost.
  • Look at the openings of your favorite authors. What did they do right? Were you bored but only continued reading because you knew in the end they would deliver? Did you skip ahead? Were you breathlessly intrigued? An editor who is breathlessly intrigued by your opening page or two might well buy your book.

Do I do perfect openings? No, but I do strive for them and try to keep all these points in my head. I think I spend more time on the opening paragraphs than I do on any other scene in the book. I hope these little pointers will be of as much help to you as they are to me.

What are some of your favorite opening paragraphs?

Ann Lethbridge
The Gamkeeper's Lady, Dec 1 2010
Harlequin Historicals
Find me at e-harlequin.com

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maize an Amazing History


The first Thanksgiving in 1621 corn was there. It was one of the new found foods in the Americas.

Europeans didn't know corn existed until Columbus discovered America and brought it back. It's believed corn was developed 7000 years ago in Central Mexico and Central America. Corn is a crop that has to be cultivated, it doesn't grow in the wild. The first Native Americans learned how to propagate corn from a wild grass called teosinte. They cultivated the grass and soon had the small 3 inch cobs with sparse kernels slowly becoming the corn we know today.

The crop was transferred by seed from Central America to North America and down into Peru by the wandering tribes.

The corn was used fresh and dried. What we call hominy today was first cooked thousands of years ago. The dried corn was ground into a meal and used for bread, puddings, and syrup. the corn husks were sued for weaving mats, hats, baskets, shoes, and ceremonial masks. The corn cobs were used for fuel, darts in games, and tied to sticks for rattles in ceremonies.

Paty Jager
www.patyjager.net
www.patyjager.blogspot.com

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Elizabeth Van Lew - Spy in Petticoats


What comes to your mind when you hear the word spies? James Bond, gadgets, an eccentric Civil War-era spinster known as Crazy Bet. Yes, that’s right…a spinster known as Crazy Bet - Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond spinster known as Crazy Bet, used her eccentric behavior as a cover for her ingenious schemes, disarming the people she’s deceiving without ever using a weapon.  The daughter of a prominent Richmond businessman, the devoted abolitionist spent her inheritance buying and freeing slaves before the war. During the war, she spied for the Union, supplying information to Union generals; during her frequent visits to the Confederate prison in Richmond, Crazy Bet brought food and books for the imprisoned Federal soldiers and much desired treats for the guards while she gleaned information she could funnel to Union officers. Using her reputation as an eccentric to her best advantage, she adopted the touched persona of “Crazy Bet” to further avoid suspicion of her activities.

Crazy Bet hid in plain sight – the vocal abolitionist made no effort to hide her Union sympathies. Widely disliked for her views, she even became the subject of newspaper editorials condemning her humanitarian efforts, for they were aimed at Union prisoners rather than Confederate soldiers.  She and her mother, who joined with Elizabeth in her efforts, were held in disdain by their Richmond neighbors. Ironically, this served as a shield for her espionage. She was so open about her views that she was viewed as silly and hysterical, rather than the secretive, deceptive persona which one would expect a spy to adopt.

As time passed, she played up the eccentricities. She’d leave her hair in disarray, dress in her shabbiest clothes and bonnets, and mutter to herself while she walked through Richmond. Crazy Bet used her image as a harmless, touched spinster as the perfect disguise for her activities.

Elizabeth Van Lew’s methods were ingenious and varied.  A middle-aged spinster, she pried men with food rather than feminine wiles. She even charmed her way past the Confederate prison commander, Lieutenant David Todd, by learning of his fondness for buttermilk and gingerbread and bringing these to him in the prison. Lieutenant Todd, who was Mary Todd Lincoln’s half-brother, allowed Elizabeth to bring food, clothes and medicine to the prisoners. Often, this small gifts contained messages hidden in false bottoms and through clever codes. Her methods for funneling information to Union generals were equally clever. She even hollowed out eggs and used them to hide intelligence, which were then ferried to union officers by her household servants. General Grant considered her one of his most valuable sources of information. After the fall of Richmond, one of General Grant’s first visits was to the Van Lew home.

Elizabeth Van Lew’s story inspired the character of canny spymaster, “Crazy Betsy” Kincaid, in  Angel in My Arms, the story of Amanda Emerson, a beautiful Union spy and Captain Steve Dunham, the Union officer she recruits for a suicide mission. Steve Dunham’s facing a noose when sable-haired beauty Amanda Emerson and her crazy matron “aunt” engineer his escape from jail. There's a catch - Amanda needs him to break into Libby Prison to rescue a notorious double agent who may or may not be on the side of the Union.  He’s trading one noose for another, but Steve can’t resist her.  He’ll possess her love – if he lives long enough.

The rugged soldier she recruits for her plan looks more like a Viking warrior than a disciplined officer, but Amanda’s drawn to Steve’s courage and tenderness.  As  the danger  surrounding them thickens, every moment he’s with her jeopardizes their lives, but they discover a passionate love that’s worth the risk. 

Steve Dunham, the hero of Angel in My Arms, was introduced in an earlier novel, Destiny. When I wrote Destiny, I knew I’d have to give Steve his own love story. Throw in a gang of gun-runners who specialize in stolen military weapons, a nest of beautiful spies, a heroic Confederate officer whose ties with Steve go back to their Army service in the western territories, and a villain with a thirst for revenge, and you've got a plot that isn't your mother's Civil War romance. 

To learn more about Angel in My Arms and read an excerpt, please visit my website, www.victoriagrayromance.com and my blog, www.victoriagrayromance.blogspot.com . Angel in My Arms is now available in print and as an eBook from The Wild Rose Press, www.thewildrosepress.com .







Friday, November 19, 2010

Noah Webster – American Lexicographer

According to “On This Day” at reference.com, Noah Webster's (1758-1843) first edition of AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE was released on April 14, 1828. I remembering hearing years ago that Webster wrote his dictionary because whenever he would say something to his wife over the breakfast table, she would reply “Now, what's that supposed to mean?” I don't know if this is true, an urban legend or just a joke.

Prior to the release of Webster's Dictionary, he was already well known. From 1783-85, he released GRAMMATICAL INSTITUTE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, a three-part speller, grammar and reader. It made him the chief American authority on the English Language, which he felt had been corrupted by the British Aristocracy. According to www.reference.com, “The appropriate standard for the American language, argued Webster, was, 'the same republican principles as American civil and ecclesiastical constitutions', which meant that the people-at-large must control the language; popular sovereignty in government must be accompanied by popular usage in language.”

Webster's frustration at having to copyright his books in each of the 13 colonies, each of which had their own copyright laws, led to his support of a National Copyright law, which passed in 1790.

His ELEMENTRY SPELLING BOOK helped standardize American spelling. School rooms across the country, as well as pioneer families in their own homes taught children to read from it. Towns used it for citizen-wide spelling bees. By 1850 the annual sales of Webster's spelling book was about 1,000,000 copies. That's one copy for every 23 citizens.

“AMERICAN DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE included definitions of 70,000 words, of which 12,000 had not appeared in such a work before. Its definitions were excellent, and the dictionary's sales reached 300,000 annually. This work, Webster's foremost achievement, helped to standardize American pronunciation. Webster completed the revision of 1840, and the dictionary, revised many times, has retained its popularity.,” says reference.com.

In addition to writing dictionaries and grammar books, Webster was a newspaper editor, an advocate for a Federal government (he wrote pamphlets in favor of a centralized government and urged the passing of the Constitution), and he wrote scholarly studies on subjects ranging from epidemic diseases to meteors to the relationship of European and Asian languages.

Raise your hand.....do you own a Webster's Dictionary?

Works Cited:

"Webster, Noah." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. 09 Apr. 2009.
http://www.reference.com/browse/columbia/WebsterN

This post first appeared on Chatting with Anna Kathryn on April 10, 2009.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
http://www.aklanier.com/
http://www.annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Capturing the Past


I love old photographs. My mother has boxes and boxes of them stashed away. I used to spend hours when I was young looking through her photo albums. Below is a picture of my great grandfather in his butcher shop in Amboy, IL. I'm not sure of the year.

A black and white image instantly catches my eye, and my imagination. (Yes, this is an actual photograph.)



Color photographs do to, of course, like the one below from the How to Be a Retronaut website. Can you believe this photo was taken in 1913?!


And I recently found this blog at Mental Floss, Talking Pictures: Times of Trouble. Lost photographs picked up at scrap fairs and junk shops, each with a handwritten caption, some, like the one below, more cryptic than others.

("Rock wall near Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Cal. where Dorothy found a Baby Girl on Jan. 24, 1961.")

Old photographs are just some of the things I use to inspire my stories. What about you?


Sunday, November 7, 2010

HANNAH DUSTIN--THE MOST FAMOUS WOMAN IN AMERICA

Hannah's statue, Haverhill
Ever heard of Hannah Dustin? In her lifetime, folk figure Hannah Emerson Dustin became a role model for pioneer women as her exploits spread across Anglo America. She is the first woman in the U.S. to have a statue erected in her honor. In fact, she has two statues . . . but I’ve gotten ahead of the story.


The time is March 15, 1697 and toward the end of King William’s War. When she learned they were being attacked, Hannah urged her husband, Thomas, to take their other children, aged two to seventeen, and flee to the nearby garrison and safety. Reluctantly, he left her to save their children. Less than a week after the birth of her child named Martha (her ninth), forty-year-old Hannah and her aunt, Mary Neff, were captured by Abnaki at Haverhill, Massachusetts.

The Abnaki smashed baby Martha to death against an apple tree before marching the two women for fifteen days north into New Hampshire. Taken with at least ten other people from Haverhill, those who couldn’t keep up the Abnaki’s pace were killed and left for carrion. Hannah and Mary were parceled out as slaves to another Abnaki group consisting of half a dozen adults and several children, including an adolescent captive boy, Samuel Leonardson, who had been taken from Worcester eighteen months earlier.

Hannah's statue in Boscawen
The band set up camp at the conjunction of the Merrimack and Contoocook Rivers (now known as Dustin Island) near what is currently Boscawen, New Hampshire and near Concord. One of the Abnaki men told Samuel that they would soon be moving to Canada where the captives would be stripped and forced to “run the gauntlet.” One of the Abnaki men had been teaching Samuel to fight and had showed him how to kill with a tomahawk. As the story goes, Hannah led a captive rebellion. She, Mary, and Samuel tomahawked ten Abnaki men, women, and children to death as they slept. They left alive only one elderly woman and a small boy. Hannah had the foresight to take scalps before leaving the enemy camp. There is speculation as to whether this was pay back for killing her baby and friends or necessary for escape. My guess would be both.

Hannah, Mary, and Samuel scuttled the enemy canoes except for one, which they used to travel down river at night. They reached Haverhill in three days. After some weeks of recovery, the now famous trio traveled to Boston where they requested bounty money for the scalps. The Massachusetts Bay Courts had enacted a bounty on scalps in 1694, but it had been repealed. However, the Massachusetts General Court made an exception for Hannah and her two companions. Accounts vary, but the most widely mentioned is that Hannah received twenty-five pounds and Mary and Samuel each received half that amount. In 1697, that was a considerable amount of money.

Hannah's grave, she died in 1736
Hannah became famous for her escape and exploits. A statue of her stands in Haverhill, Massachusetts showing her with a tomahawk in one hand and scalps in the other. Another statue is located in Boscawen, New Hampshire, site of the escape. Her story is retold in “The History of Haverhill," in “Notable American Women,” in Henry David Thoreau’s “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers," by Nathaniel Hawthorne, in Laurel Ulrich’s “Goodwives,” and other tomes too numerous to mention. In some accounts, Dustin is recorded as Dustan, Durstan, or Duston. A remarkable woman, Hannah Dustin, the most famous woman in America in her time.

Thanks for stopping by Seduced by History,
Caroline Clemmons

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Northern Roses and Southern Belles Finalist in the 2011 EPIC




I’m thrilled to share with all our readers that the anthology, Northern Roses and Southern Belles has finaled in the 2011 EPIC eBook Awards Competition.

This anthology of Civil War era stories, written by me and five other authors at the Wild Rose Press, continues to entertain readers. We all wrote novellas which take place in the Civil War era, before, during, or after the war as in my story, Are You Going to the Dance?

My Texas family’s experiences inspired me. Although my story does not actually represent my Dutch great great grandfather or my French great great grandmother, they, along with many folks in the German communities of the Texas Hill Country, believed strongly in preserving the Union. Towards that end my great great grandfather took the mules he raised to the Union army. He would have been shot by the Confederate army if he had been caught.

The community where they lived in Texas voted to form local militia units rather than send fathers and sons to fight with the Confederate army. My ancestors’ son joined the local militia unit and took part in protecting their town and the surrounding farmers. This group of settlers attended church every Sunday and enjoyed weekend gatherings where they danced and socialized.

My great great grandmother was known for her kindness and independent spirit. It is said of her that she would rather have been outside riding her horse and working with the men than working inside the house. One night, she found a Comanche brave who had been wounded during a raid, but not discovered in the field by the farmers who strove to protect their crops. She saved his life without the farmers knowing, and as a result his tribe never again raided their farm.

With TWRP’s support, our anthology, Northern Roses and Southern Belles, came together easily. Encouraged by the response from our readers, I next wrote Moonlight Desperado, also inspired by an incident which happened to my Texas family after the war was over. For fun I added shape shifters to this story and published it with Siren-BookStrand Mainstream.

Along with all our anthology stories, it has been a pleasure to see Are You Going to the Dance? in print because the story that inspired it is dear to my heart.

The Civil War as you’ve never read it! Northern Roses and Southern Belles now available from the The Wild Rose Press and other eBook sellers! For an excerpt, visit my web site http://www.JeanmarieHamilton.com
Enjoy!
Jeanmarie Hamilton

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall at Crathes Castle


On my first driving experience in Scotland, we set the GPS to guide us to Crathes Castle in the east of Scotland. But did it take us there? No, it took us (in our rented Mercedes) along a narrow muddy road filled with cow poop to a barn. Why me?! Do the GPS gods hate me?

We drove around what seemed like circles on those one-lane Aberdeenshire roads until we found a sign for Crathes Castle. Whew! Finally! And it was well worth all the trouble.



I was excited to visit Crathes because it’s a 16th century tower house, much like the ones I often set my stories in. Crathes Castle was started in 1553 and completed in 1596 by the Burnett of Leys family. Another wing was added in the 1700s. The land was given to the Burnett of Leys family by Robert the Bruce in 1323 and was occupied by the same family for over 350 years. It is now owned by the National Trust of Scotland. Crathes is said to be one of the best preserved castles in Scotland. I did get a genuine historic feeling as if I’d stepped back in time several hundred years.



We were not allowed to take photos inside of the rooms but they were beautifully furnished in historic pieces. We saw the Horn of Leys, a jeweled ivory horn, given to Alexander Burnett by Robert the Bruce in 1323. It is on display in the great hall. Some of the original Jacobean (or Scottish Renaissance) painting remains on the ceilings and upper parts of the walls in such rooms as the Chamber of the Muses, the Chamber of Nine Worthies and the Green Lady’s Room. These are fascinating, old paintings of historical figures including their names and written passages of scriptures. This was one of my favorite parts of the castle.





Above is a picture I found of the painted oak ceiling of the Chamber of the Muses. Apparently it was covered up for years and was rediscovered in 1877.


The views from the upper floor windows were stunning especially with the fall colors in the gardens and grounds.



A view out the windows of the roofs below and the gardens beyond.




The autumn colors in the gardens were spectacular.




The estate contains 530 acres and apparently the barn we’d gone to at first was the back part of the estate.



The estate also contains almost 4 acres of beautiful walled garden divided into 8 themed areas. I loved walking along the pathways among the flowers and shrubs. Being a gardener I saw many plants I recognized and would love to grow myself. The yew hedges date from around 1702.






The formal gardens were truly beautiful and amazing.









Hope you enjoyed this visit to Crathes Castle.
Thanks!
Nicole






P.S.
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