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Monday, May 30, 2011

Chestertown Tea Party Festival

This summer, my husband, three daughters and I have decided it will be a Summer of History. We will try to do something historical every weekend, with a minimum of twice a month. We kicked off our Summer of History this Memorial Day weekend with visit to Chestertown, MD and their annual Tea Party Festival. In May of 1774, the citizens of Chestertown MD, did in fact protest the British Parliaments closing of the port of Boston, and marched on the town and decided they too would forbid the import of tea. The townspeople marched down High Street, airing their grievances, fighting through brigades, toward the British ship, the Geddes, which happened to be anchored in their port, they rowed out to the ship, overcame the crew and tossed the tea overboard.

The reenactment was done very well and we had a blast! Below you'll find the pics I took of the reenactment along with a few descriptions.

A carriage with some colonials started off the parade.
(The blonde head is my oldest daughter.)

Here come some soldiers!

Here come the Pipers!

The militia! They were firing (blanks) right in the street--loading one at a time.

The Rough Riders

This is part of the 18th Century Chestertown street we were on for the parade.
I just love the tops of the buildings and the individual character given to each.

Punch and Judy!  A very funny but very macabre puppet show.

My girls with a couple of the militia men. We had to tell them we
were time travelers and our camera would not hurt them, lol

My husband and my daughter fighting a duel with wooden rubber-band guns.

The men in the row boat--after marching down High Street and fending off British forces so they could attack the ship--asked my oldest if she would hold their rope until they were all boarded!  I was praying she wouldn't somehow get yanked into the water!  All was well and she was psyched they asked her.

There were two row boats filled with militia and Colonials, and I thought I'd captured both in my pic but obviously I am missing one...

Now you see the two row boats... They've reached the British ship and will attempt to board!


Tea tossing, along with a British soldier!!! Yes, that man is being tossed into the water!

A few tossed soldiers with boxes of tea...

This was not at the festival, but it was on the way to my parent's house where we stopped on our way home--isn't it a beautiful tribute to the men and women who serve?  There are rows and rows of crosses on this family's property--each with a flag on top. Those "men" standing are manequins dressed as different service men throughout history, and by the flagpole, there is a woman dressed in black, holding the hand of a child, in mourning. People were pulled over up and down the street to take pics (and I have no idea who that guy is hup front... he stepped into my shot.)

Happy Memorial Day! And thank you to all those who serve on U.S. soil and abroad. America would not be what it is without you.


Eliza Knight is a multi-published author of historical romance and erotic romance. Visit her at http://www.elizaknight.com/ and look for A PIRATE'S BOUNTY, releasing June 22, 2011 with Ellora's Cave.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Nine Ways to Get a Celtic Mate

Until codification in the 10th Century by the Welsh king, Hywel Dda, depending on the tribe, there were many ways to be wed in Celtic Britain. Once Hywel had his clerks go through the plethora of forms, nine laws governed the marital status of a couple in Cymru. Many of them are not allowed these days but were acceptable in the early Celtic civilizations. My sources for this information are Peter Berresford Ellis's book, Celtic Women, and Henrietta Leyser's Medieval Women, as well as Cyfreithiau Hywel Dda yn ôl Llawysgrif (The Laws of Hywel Dda According to Manuscript). These nine forms are also to be found in the eight types of marriage in Hindu law
Polygamy was a commonplace occurrence in the earliest, war-torn times throughout civilization, a practicality, to provide for the many widows who otherwise would have starved to death along with their children. A warrior with many wives served the social needs of his tribe by taking responsibility for the families of his dead soldiers. In Anglo-Saxon society, a widow was expected to throw herself on her husband's pyre.
As necessity waned, polygamy in Celtic society disappeared and, with the conversion to Christianity in Celtic countries by the 6th-7th centuries, was no longer acceptable. In Cymru, some monastic Celtic Church clergy continued to marry until the late 12th century. In Ireland, polygamy continued for some time after the conversion to the Christian church.
In Cymru, the first degree of marriage was priodas(pree-O-das) – the partnership of a man and woman of equal financial position. In this form of marriage, a catalogue of goods is made and shared between the partners for the good of the household.
The second form is agwedi (aG-WED-ee). The woman brings a lesser amount or no property to the partnership.
The third form of marriage is caradas (car-A-das), from the word caru (car-ee)to love. In Cymru, this is when a man lives with a woman with her kin's consent. In Ireland, the third form is the man who has nothing to offer to the wealth of the household. She must love him very much!
The fourth form of marriage in Cymru, deu lysuab (day lees-EE-ab), having no equivalent in Irish marriage law, is the union of two persons related by the marriage of their respective parents, i.e., stepbrother and stepsister. The word llys (ll [an aspirated l] = llees) refers to a court of law; a legal relationship).
The fourth form in Ireland is lánamnas fir thathigthe (sorry, my limited Gaelic won't help with this pronunciation) – a man is given permission to live with a woman with her kin's consent. This is the same as the third form in Cymru.
The fifth type of marital union is called llathlut goleu (llAHth-leet go-lay) means 'open connection' – two people chose to live together openly without the consent of the woman's kin.
Number six on the Celtic wedding hit parade is llathlut twyll (llATth-leet tOO-eell [aspirated l]). An independent-minded woman allows herself to be abducted by a man or is visited by a man in secret without the knowledge of her kin.
Beichogi twyll gwraig lwyn a pherth (bay-CHO[hard CH as in loch]-ee too-eell gur-eyeg loo-een ah phair-th) is number seven, literally "to impregnate a woman between loins and hedge". This is a double entendre as llwyn also means hedge. It can be taken to mean "to make love in the hedgerows".
The eighth form, cynnywedi ar liw ac ar oleu (cun-ee-WED-ee ahr loo ahk ahr O-lay), as well as the nineth, rough literal translation: "to join by color and by light", a union by abduction of a woman without her consent.
Twyll morwyn (tOO-eell MOR-ooeen) is the nineth form of marriage, leading on from the eighth, a marriage by rape. In Ireland, there was a different nineth form: lánamnas genaige – a union of two insane people.
The above are forms of legal marital status, as we use 'common law' or 'civil partnership'. There are many customs and rituals associated with the wedding ceremony and early weeks of a marriage, such as the mis mêl. But I’ll save those for another time.
Photo: Abaty Tintern Abbey, copyright: The Author

Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Vision of the Cattle Trail

The historic cattle trail from Texas to the railheads in Missouri and Kansas served as the core of much Western fiction and several epic movies. During TV's Golden Age, when Westerns reigned, Clint Eastwood followed the herd for more than seven years as trail ramrod Rowdy Yates in Rawhide. The cattle drive is still a popular background in fiction today, yet few of these creations involve women in a major way,

When the idea came to me to write a cattle trail book, I researched the role of women on these adventures. As in many all-male professions in the nineteenth century, women occasionally disguised themselves as men in order to participate. Newspaper reports of the era told rare stories of females passing as males and working as cowhands and cattle dealers. At least two women were reported working undiscovered as drovers. Some women ran cattle ranches either in their husband's absence or on their own arranging for the trailing of the herd as needed. One woman was reputed to be a daring rustler who then drove the stolen herds to market. Other reports say she was only the paper owner of the herds her husband rustled.

However, no cattle drive that I discovered was ever accomplished with a crew of nearly all women. But that's precisely the situation I needed for my historical  Western, West of Heaven. For what's Marcella McGovern to do when she unexpectedly inherits her father's marketable cattle and her mother's bawdy? She has all the cattle eating up her profit and the women unable to make a living now that she's closed up their house. Top that with the cattle baron's scorned widow who issues Marcella an ultimatum to get the cattle off her land and local cowboys a warning that if they work Marcella's drive, they'll never work another in Texas. Marcella's  only recourse is to train the woman as cowboys.

West of Heaven has all the standards you'd want in a trail book, the rivers, the stampede, the singing to keep the cows calm at night, Because it is a romance and tells women's stories, there's a secret baby, a  husband seeking a wayward wife, an abandoned fiance, a triangle or two, a German cook who is using the journey to perfect the gourmet recipes he'll need when he opens his restaurant in Kansas. And, of course, romance.

The era of the great cattle drive was short. The railroads gradually built their way into Texas and other western lands making the journey to the railheads ever shorter,. Yet, that brief time period  etched into history the image of the cowboy we carry today. I figured, why not give the women a chance. It/s 1871, women are already voting in Wyoming.

Here's a clip:

Tom brought up a hardy mousey brown horse that should suit her. He had a sleekness to him and a wise look. He stood solid while Jean Luc saddled him. Marcella came up to take his reins, stroking the horse's nose and talking to him in soft reassuring tones.
"Does this one have a name, Tom?" Marcella asked.
"Redemption they called him."
"Redemption." From her mouth, the name whispered through the morning air like a word of endearment. The critter ate it up like sugar lumps. 
"You got a way with horses." Jean Luc pulled the cinches tight. "Sweet-talking might be all you need to keep you seated. Maybe he won't buck at all. He ain't puttin' up a fight now, but, just in case, try to sit back and catch his rhythm and ride with it."
"Until I land in the dirt with the best of them." She whispered something else to the horse as Jean Luc came around to give her a leg up.
"Have a good ride." He stepped back to clear the way.
Marcella steered Redemption toward the center of the corral, taking an easy pace, showing a confidence that let the horse know he was in good hands. He responded with a cooperation that thrilled Jean Luc. They walked the boundary of the corral without a bump or a bother. A mumble of appreciation rippled through the townsfolk who'd been attracted by the unusual Sunday morning goings-on. 
When she looked up, Jean Luc signaled his encouragement by snatching off his hat and waving it in the air. Ezra and Tom nodded enthusiastically. She urged Redemption into a post trot, raising herself in her stirrups so she was half-sitting and half standing, her body bobbing up and down in perfect rhythm to the horse's gait. On this go round she beamed at Polly's barely contained excitement and at Glory with her hands on her hips, no doubt puzzling out why she hadn't drawn Marcella's horse instead of the one she'd chosen. 
In truth, Jean Luc suspected it was Tom's horse sense that had reserved this mount for her. Not too shy to show off, Marcella directed Redemption into some quick turns and stops before taking him one more time around. She brought him to a smooth stop in front of Jean Luc and dismounted. 
Tilting back her hat, Marcella took off her bandana and used it to dab at the sweat on her brow. "I don't know, Jean Luc, do you really think I had to change clothes for that ride?"
Jean Luc rubbed his chin. "Well, how else do you think that horse knew you meant business? Now, ready for some breakfast? Or should we start right in on ropin' and tyin'?" 

Barbara Scott is the author of West of Heaven, Listen With Your Heart, Haunts of the Heart, and EPIC Award winner, Cast a Pale Shadow. Visit her at www.barbarascottink.com 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Confederate Memorial Day

A few weeks ago, my husband and I visited Charleston, SC for a family gathering. Several of us rented a beach house together in Folly Beach. We chatted, ate seafood, enjoyed the ocean, and toured the charming city. It was on a carriage ride through Charleston’s historic district that we came upon an event we, as Northerners, found enlightening.

A block or so from Battery Park, we saw a group of smartly-dressed folk gathering with Confederate flags. Some wore dress suits and hats while others sported Confederate uniforms. Our guide told us they were celebrating Confederate Memorial Day. In South Carolina, the day occurs annually on May 10. In other states it is held on other days, generally in the spring. Regardless of timing, it is held as a day to honor the memory of southerners who died during the Civil War. The day was especially chosen for Stonewall Jackson who died May 10, 1863 after being wounded at Chancellorsville.

From the 1880's until his death in 1926, my husband’s great-grandfather and his family lived in Charleston. On census forms, we'd found his address and tracked down the house where he once lived. We also found his church, and because we had a copy of his death certificate, learned he’d been buried in Magnolia Cemetery. My sister-in-law called the cemetery for more information.

Just before we arrived at the Magnolia Cemetery Office to pick up a map, we passed by the start of another large gathering of folk, coming to celebrate Confederate Memorial Day. A tent had been erected and chairs lined up. Scores of graves surrounding the tent were marked with Confederate flags. The event would soon start.

We proceeded to Great-Grandfather's gravesite. Not far away, was the burial site of the men of had died on the H.L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime. In the resulting explosion the Hunley also sank and remained at the bottom of the Charleston Harbor for 131 years. (See this link for a brief history and some incredible photos of Charleston.) The men from the Hunley were interred in Magnolia Cemetery in 2004.

Through the years there has been a lot of controversy over Confederate Memorial Day, particularly when it became a state holiday in South Carolina. Still, it is a day to honor those who died in battle fighting for a cause they believed in. A day to remember the Civil War and the history that made America.

~ ~ ~

From the comments received for this post, I’ll hold a drawing for a lovely hand-crocheted bookmark. Drawing to be held Saturday evening, May 28th. Be sure to leave a link with an e-mail address where you can be reached.

Posted by Debra Maher.

Please visit my blog at debmaher.com

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Gene Autry's Cowboy Code

I received a brochure in the mail the other day promoting the Cowboys and Indians magazine. Inside they had Gene Autry's Cowboy Code and it is pretty darn close to the original cowboy code only modernized.

Gene created this code in response to young radio listeners who wished to be like him.

1. The cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation's laws.
10. The cowboy is a patriot.

Could you imagine what a kinder and gentler world this would be if everyone were taught these standards?

Paty Jager

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Finding A Platform In Kansas

As a new blogger (new to Seduced by History) to such a wealth of historical knowledge one, such as myself, can feel a little intimidated. I'm one of those people who knows a little bit about a lot of stuff and not a whole lot about any one particular thing. It's taken me a few weeks to figure out what kind of platform I could bring to the table. And it wasn't until a wise woman told me, and I quote, ". . .everyone has something to offer! Your platform is a natural byproduct of you and your writing."

It was one of those light bulb moments. I'm a Kansan, and proud of it. Many of the stories I write are set in Kansas. I know, what can anyone possibly write about Kansas, right? I mean it's flat. It has no character and very little to pique an historical guru's interest. It's far from from Europe with castles, knights and lords and ladies. And how can Kansas compare with the Border reivers along Scotland and England's . . .well, borders? It certainly doesn't have the same charm as the South, the raw ruggedness of Texas and thrilling excitement of a California gold rush. Or does it?

Let's take a moment and look at one of my favorite historiacl topics, reiving. I'm sure y'all have heard of the Bushwackers and the Jayhawkers, haven't you? Well for those of you haven't let's just say these two warring factions played out their own border reiving in the years prior to the Civil War. Some say they fought over the slavery issue, others say they fought over a man's right to vote, others say many had no idea what they fought over. Whatever the case, Kansas bled. Just like Scotland and England bled, only Kansas was on a much smaller scale. A new twist on the border reivers? Maybe.

There is so much more, too. As an historical romance writer I  don't have to look far to see all kinds of inspiration blowing in the the wind. Battles were fought in Kansas and the turmoil eventually led to the Civil War. After the war, families from both sides rushed into Kansas for a land grab and I'm sure you can see how this could cause problems.  Lawless towns like Dodge City and Abilene sprung out of the prairie bringing with them a new kind of lawman.  Each of these tales are all worth re-telling, and eventually I'll get to them, bothe the well-known ones and the not-so-well-known ones,  but for now I'd like to leave you with a diary.

 The following excerpt come from Kansas: Its Interior and Exterior by Sara T. L. Robinson. The author, as you can see, seems to have been a guest of a state prison. For those of you who do not know much about this era in Kansas history, it was during a time known as Bleeding Kansas. A time when pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions warred fiercly. If Mrs. Sara Robinson was a prisoner at Lecompton, Kansas' first capital, a pro-slavery capital, then she most likely held the values of the anti-slavery camp dear to her heart.
Its pages were penned during a three months' residence of the authoress in the United States Camp, at Lecompton, with her husband, one of the state prisoners.
This account was written in the month of June possibly in the year 1856.
7th. -- Mr. H. was very ill with an attack of pleurisy. Doctor being absent, I felt anxious, yet did the best I could. A mustard plaster and some simples removed the difficulty of breathing, and he slept quietly. He said he never was as sick before, but I was thinking he imagined himself sicker than he was just before night, and as I was wondering where E. could be, she came in, pale and almost breathless, with just enough left of life to say, "O, that rattlesnake!" I laughed at her at first; but being convinced that seeing a snake of some kind was a reality to her, and not quite liking the idea of their making a home in our neighborhood, we started out with shovel and hatchet for a battle. The spot where she saw him was very easily found, as the pail she had in her hand, while coming up the path from the spring, she set down when she came upon him. She had heard a buzzing noise, like that made by a large grasshopper, for some minutes; but her attention was attracted by a small bird flying backward and forward across the path, and no great height above it, and did not, therefore, perceive the snake until she was within a foot of him. Hastily setting down the pail, as he lay there coiled ready to spring, she took another path to the house. We looked along both paths, above and below, and far out on the hill-side, but found nothing. His fright was undoubtedly equal to hers, not being particularly partial to the cold bath she gave him in getting down her pail so hastily.
By the way, I'd like to thank Casandra Carr for helping me find my platform. Who would have thought a romance writer could find a platform in Kansas.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Victoria's Top Ten Reasons to Love a Pirate

I have a confession...this post has nothing to do with history...other than the fact that pirates have sailed the seas throughout history. Given that Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow is gracing the silver screen again in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film, I have pirates on the brain. I adore a good pirate romance...my alter-ego, Tara Kingston, has a pirate novella coming out on June 10 from Ellora's Cave (shameless plug!)...next month, I'll take a more serious look at pirates. But for now, here are my top ten reasons to love a pirate:

1. You never have to worry about a pirate having a midlife crisis and running off to sail the world.
2. All that swashbuckling is great for a buff upper body.
3. Sword fighting is great for the buns – think of all those lunges!
4. Pirates always have sexy stubble at a perfect length.
5. Pirates can hold their liquor. No self-respecting pirate drinks a few ales and winds up snoring on the couch.
6. Pirates really know what to do with their swords…get your minds out the gutter, folks!
7. Pirates know how to sweep a girl off her feet…often in the most literal sense!
8. A pirate knows his way around with only the stars and a compass to guide him…no annoying “Tom Tom” voice bossing him around.
9. Pirates never choose mowing the lawn over ravishing their women.
10.  Last, but not least, have I mentioned Captain Jack Sparrow...swooning as I type...

What are your favorite reasons to love a pirate????

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dance Critique for “Pride and Prejudice”

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

I finally attended college in my 40’s, graduating in 2008 with an associate of arts in history and teaching. For my art appreciation class, I took Dance Appreciation. I loved it. Though we learned about the history of dance, we didn’t have to actually dance. Which was good for me, because my arms and legs are not always coordinated. We did have to write a paper on a dance. I chose to write on the first dance scene between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett from “Pride and Prejudice,” the Colin Firth version. Here’s my paper (which received an A):

I choose a dance from the 1995 A & E version of Jane Austen’s book “Pride and Prejudice,” starring Colin Firth as Fitzwilliam Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennett. Mr. Darcy is a wealthy land owner, who is very reserved. Elizabeth is the second of five daughters of a not-so-wealthy country gentleman, “whose spirited wit and good sense keep her away from folly—most of the time,” according to the DVD’s back blurb. Upon their first meeting, at a soirée, Mr. Darcy makes it known, through his behavior, that he does not dance. However, after observing Elizabeth over several weeks, he decides to dance with her at the Netherfield ball, after she’s claimed to a friend she would never dance with him.

“The dance chosen for this scene is a duple minor longways dance first published by John Playford's son, Henry Playford, in his 1695 Dancing Master. Although neither this particular dance nor the duple minor formation it is in were being used in Jane Austen's day, the dance is a very 'cinegenic' dance,” says Aylwen Garden on earthlydelights.com. Additional research on the English Folk Dance and Song Society website reveals that Cecil Sharp is one of many responsible for the preservation of not only this particular dance, but several other folk dances. However, “the Cecil Sharp version…has a longer B part dance sequence,” according to Garden. She suspects the “change from the original dance was probably inspired by the need for a more dramatic face-to-face beginning…for a 'battle' between the two protagonists.” The dance offers “a lovely, camera-confronting, film-effective, 4-in-line (with Darcy and Elizabeth 'trapped' side-by-side in the middle) up and back figure,” Garden explains.

When the dance starts the couples, ten in all, stand opposite each other, women in one line, men in another, about five feet apart and bow or curtsy to each other. Couples meet in the middle, circle, then back away. They then circle the couple next to them, meet again in the middle, then join a line with another couple, four people in all—female, male, female and male—step forward once, then back once, repeating twice. They then start the circling again. The description of the dance given on earthlydelights.com is:

A1 The 1. Man cross over and go back to back with the 2. Wo. Then the 1 wo. Cross over and go back to back with the 2. Man at the same time (in short, 1s cross r.sh. to other side- possibly giving r.hs momentarily, then after a bow to 2s below, do-si-do-ing with 2s below)

A2 Then meet and turn S. over r.sh. with 6 steps (2 bars) then 1 man turn the 2. Wo. with his right hand, and 1. Wo. turn the 2. Man with her right hand at the same time in 12 steps (4 bars), then 1. Cu. take left hands and turn into their own places with 6 steps (2 bars)

B The 1 cu cross over into the 2 cu. place by pulling on l.h., passing l.sh. and casting down on opposite side while 2s meet partner and lead up, and go back to back with their Partner while 2s cast out with 6 steps onto outside end, then all four lead up hands abrest with 2 steps and a rise, then back with 2 steps and a rise, then 1M and W cross (W in front) as they lead up and go the partial Figure through; and cast off into the 2 cu. place while 2s meet partner again and lead up.

The choreographer, Jane Gibson, used the element of space quite well for this dance. With a large ball room at her disposal, Gibson utilizes an area of about twenty feet by six feet as the couples move down the line, then back up again. The dance lasts over five minutes, giving Elizabeth time to draw Mr. Darcy into a conversation.

The music accompaniment, Mr. Beveridge's Maggot, is performed by a group of 8-10 musicians on a platform to one side of the ballroom. The musicians play violins, piano, clarinets, bass, and flutes.

The costumes are of typical Regency period. The men wear breeches, stockings, vests, coats, shirts with ruffled cuffs and fronts (Mr. Darcy doesn’t wear ruffles, as he is more reserved in both manner and dress) and a neckcloth intricately tied. There are also several men dressed in military uniforms of white breeches, and stockings and the familiar red coat with black and gold trim. The women wear romantic and Grecian styles dresses. Their hair is swept up in buns and dos, with feathers, flowers, beads or jewels for adornment. The women also wear arm-length gloves, which cover any exposed skin.

The point behind the dance is two-fold. Mr. Darcy, who proclaims more than once that he does not dance, is attracted to Elizabeth and, though he’ll never admit it, is jealous of the fact she’s dancing with other men. Elizabeth like-wise declares to never dance with the infuriating Mr. Darcy. However, when he approaches her for the dance, she can think of no excuse to refuse him.

Elizabeth has heard some disturbing news about Mr. Darcy, which seems counter to his character and during the dance she tries to draw him into conversation in an effort to discern the truth. The length of the dance allows her time to speak with him, even if the conversation is interrupted by the separations caused by the steps.

The other incident that occurs during the dance is when one of her neighbors congratulates them on their wonderful dancing. Unfortunately, he also brings to Mr. Darcy’s attention the fact that the local people expect a wedding announcement soon between Mr. Darcy’s good friend Mr. Bingley and Elizabeth’s sister Jane. This sets into motion a chain of events that cause great heartache for several people, not the least of whom are Jane and Mr. Bingley.

When the dance ends, Mr. Darcy leads Jane off the dance floor, but she is just as confused as she was at the beginning of the dance because the dastardly deed she thinks he has done is not discussed and therefore, the air is not cleared.

Works Cited

Garden, Aylwen. Dances From Pride and Prejudice. Earthly Delights website. www.earthlydelights.com.au/english3.htm. (6-25-07).

Pride and Prejudice. 1995

Regency Dress, Pride & Prejudice 1800s Gown, Napoleonic. E-bay website. http://reviews.ebay.com/Regency-Dress-Pride-amp-Prejudice-1800s-Gown-Napoleonic_W0QQugidZ10000000000085139. (6-26-07)

This article first appeared on my blog, Chatting with Anna Kathryn, on July 18, 2008.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Writing a Historical Inspirational

A friend who sold by turning a historical into an inspirational kept suggesting I give that a try. We’re often advised not to write to market trends...to write the books of our hearts. On the other hand, the inspirational market has been growing. For example, Love Inspired Historicals recently went from two to four books a month.

I was used to writing single title romance, where basically the only rules are appropriate word count and a happily ever after ending. Among other things, inspirational romance means no on the page sex, even if the characters are married. While publishers’ guidelines vary, Love Inspired Historicals, for example, doesn’t want any paranormal elements, and says “Christian characters in the stories may not consume alcohol, play cards or gamble.”

Finally I sat down with one of my medievals. I excised scenes involving sex and other topics I’d learned inspirational publishers might not be interested in, ignoring the pain and sense of loss at deleting so many hard won words.

Doing so left room for adding the required faith journeys for the hero and heroine. I was surprised to find I already had a few religious tidbits. For example, King Henry IV was conservative and very devout, to the extent that he didn’t like women to wear bright or revealing clothes in his presence. I’d used that to show how my heroine didn’t fit in at court. Supposedly he’s quoted as saying, “Be good lads, meek and docile, and attend to your religion."

How could I use religion and faith to heighten the plot and conflicts I already had, including that he served the king while she supported the king’s rival? I looked at the hero’s and heroine’s current arcs for places where the dictates of religion and believing or not would pull the characters further apart.

I researched and thought about religious issues in my specific time period, which turned out to be another way to incorporate the setting. Fortunately the Church and changes within it were a huge influence in late medieval England.

At first I worried that I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. But then I realized the manuscript was a puzzle, and inserting faith was like fitting missing pieces together. It didn’t take long to see who’d be a person of faith and who would have lost belief and why, or to make a variety of religious elements mesh with my story. I’d like to think adding these new elements heightened the emotional intensity. Finally, I changed the title to AT HIS COMMAND, which in this case can either mean the king’s or God’s.

I asked three published inspirational author friends to send me a synopsis, then had two of them review mine. But the first readers were judges in RWA®’s 2011 Golden Heart® contest. You can imagine my joy when I got the call that AT HIS COMMAND is a finalist.

If you’re considering writing a historical inspirational or adding faith elements to an existing manuscript, here are some questions to consider:

--what religious events/beliefs/trends existed in your time period of choice?

--will they make sense in your story, or does adding a faith element feel forced?

--how can you use faith to strengthen plot, conflict and your characters’ arcs?

--how will you resolve faith issues in a believable, satisfying manner?

Hearts Through History Campus - May Workshops

Class: Picts and Scots 400-1100
Instructor: Sharron Gunn
Dates: May 2-June13, 2011

Registration Deadline: May 1,2011
Fee: $15/HHRW members, $25/others
Click HERE for Registration Form
FMI: HHRW Campus Coordinator: classes@heartsthroughhistory.com  

Class Description:

Because the era after the fall of the Roman Empire seems so long ago, people think that very little can be known about the peoples of northern Europe. You will be surprised at what is known from archaeological records, place name evidence, saints' lives, king lists, and annals, and so on. Yes, there are gaps. It's not like writing a novel set during the Regency Period. But that's a good thing. Your imagination can kick in!

So here is a bit of what you'll learn. The Scots were a Gaelic-speaking people who came from Ireland during the Iron Age. The Gaelic kingdom of Dál Riata extended from the north of Ireland to the southwest of Scotland; the centre of kingship shifted about AD 500 from Ireland to Scotland. Christianity came to Scotland during this period and many clergy left Ireland to found churches in Scotland.

The Picts spoke a British language (very similar to Welsh). Myths about the Picts say they also spoke a language unrelated to most other languages in Europe and that inheritance was matrilinial (through the mother). We'll look at those ideas. The Picts and Scots, Celtic peoples, believed in the religion of the Druids. In the 9th century the Picts and Scots merged to form the Kingdom of Alba, to meet the Norse threat. Picts, Scots and Norse all in one course! What more could you ask for?

5 Lectures with self quizzes, simple research projects and story ideas. Questions and discussion encouraged, but lurkers also welcome.


Sharron Gunn learned to read and write Scottish Gaelic at Xavier College (now UCB) in Nova Scotia, and later obtained an honours degree in Scottish History and Celtic Studies from the University of Glasgow. While a student, she had a job selling Gaelic books in the Highlands from which she gained a greater knowledge of the geography and people. A requirement for the job was fluency in Gaelic, the language of the Highlands and Islands. She often returns to Scotland. Several times she has travelled to the Royal National Mòd, a huge music festival, as a member of a Gaelic choir from Canada. She is busy writing a fantasy novel set in WWII.

Format: Course is conducted via Yahoo Groups email with lessons and Q&A

For additional information, contact the Campus Coordinator.

Click HERE to register for this class.

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Crafting the Sensual Novella
Instructor: Eliza Knight
Dates: May 2, 2011 -- May 13, 2011

Registration Deadline: May 1, 2011
Fee: $10/HHRW members, $20/others
Click HERE for Registration Form
FMI: HHRW Campus Coordinator: classes@heartsthroughhistory.com  

Class Description:

Have you ever wanted to try your hand at writing a sexy novella? Are you worried you won't be able to write short? Do love scenes intimidate you? Worry no more! It's time to learn the craft of novella writing. Creating a sensual short story can be fun and profitable.

And there has never been a better time to write short. With so many new and established publishers hungry for novellas, the market is wide open--if you know how to catch an editor's attention.

Sensual novellas are about much more than sex. And the guidelines are different than for a traditional-length novel. This workshop will help you learn how to plot a novella whether you are a heavy outliner or a "pantser." You'll see how easy it is to layer emotion into your love scenes and hook the reader from the very first sentence. The class will also instruct you on how to pack more into less words, while still keeping your love story strong and your audience captivated. We'll even include a sensual and sensory word reference list as a bonus!

Are you ready to take readers on a swift, sensual, and emotionally riveting journey?

Note: This workshop includes handouts as well as suggested reading, and will include excerpts from the presenters' and other authors' novellas.


Eliza Knight is the multi-published author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. While not reading, writing or researching for her latest book, she chases after her three children. In her spare time (if there is such a thing...) she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping and visiting with family and friends. She lives atop a small mountain, and enjoys cold winter nights when she can curl up in front of a roaring fire with her own knight in shining armor. Visit Eliza at www.elizaknight.com.

Format: Course is conducted via Yahoo Groups email with lessons and Q&A

For additional information, contact the Campus Coordinator.

Click HERE to register for this class. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Why and How to Contest

Why and How to Contest©

If you read your RWR every month, you know there are a lot of contest out there. But before you enter a contest, you might want to think about what you’ll get out of the experience.

If you have a manuscript or synopsis that you’ve gone over and over (along with your critique group), it’s a good idea to get ‘fresh eyes’ to look at it. Here’s where a contest can help. Make sure you choose a contest that will give you written feed back from multiple judges. Today most contests will have a copy of the judging sheet in advance so you can see what type of comments to expect. Read the score sheet. Carefully.

Some contests only allow unpublished authors. Some contests allow published authors if they haven’t published in a number of years, usually three to five. Some contests allow published authors enter only ms. in sub-genera in which they weren’t previously published. Some contests allow on ms. that haven’t been entered previously.

So be sure to check and double check all the rules and regulations of the contest.

Choose a contest that has a category for your type ms. Check the entry form and rules for every contest that seems likely, then choose the best contest for your needs.

The contest’s ‘fresh eyes’ can find holes in your story that you (or your critique group) might overlook because you are so familiar with the work. If money is no object, you might try out two different opening/hooks to see if one was better received.

I really like synopsis contests, as they generally cost lest money and are shorter. I found this to be a great help with synopsis, as it can help you decide what information to cut (if too long) or punch up the motivation that you know, but the reader didn’t see in the synopsis. I always wanted to make sure my story would hang together before I spent my time and effort to write the complete ms.

If you think your manuscript is pretty good and you have a good chance to win, enter it in a contest where the top judges are editors of the line you are targeting. Just finaling in such a contest gets your ms. to the editor. Then when you write your thank you notes, you can ask if they’d like to see the ms. And even if they don’t buy it, when you thank them for looking, ask if they want to see something else. If they aren't buying now, they will in the future, and they've seen your name and your work. You can always query later.

If you win or place in a national contest, then be sure to mention it in your cover letter to editors and agents.

If you’re already published, there are now plenty of contest for published works.
If your previously published work placed/won in a contest, this might look good if you want to ask for a larger advance, are trying to change lines or houses. And again, if nothing else, placing or winning shows the quality of your work.

Choose a contest that suits your needs. Send for the entry form and rules. Read the rules carefully. Read them again. Make sure you enter your ms. in the correct category.

Check the scores sheet and make any adjustments in your ms. Let me repeat that, check the score sheet and make any adjustment in your ms. If there are scores for the hero, and in your 25 page submission, the hero appears on page 20 -- you're probably not going to get max points for the hero.

For example, in my ms. which has finaled in several contests, I cut out the paragraphs where the Hero finds a cat in the barn - this is important as it foreshadowing and the cat plays in important part later -- however, by cutting this section from the contest entry, it allowed me to fit more page time between the Hero and Heroine in the contest page count.

Make sure you send exactly the material requested, and with the proper postage/envelope for return. And many contest today are on-line, so there is no postage. If it’s an on-line contest, make sure you send your entry to the correct address/category coordinator.

When you get your entry back, be sure to write thank you notes to the judges and contest coordinator. It’s a lot of work, and they deserve your ‘thank you’. You can address you thank you to Judge #whatever and send it to the contest coordinator to be forwarded. Don’t forget the contest coordinator, they deserve a big thank you.

In your thank you note, be sure to mention the title of your entry, so the judge/coordinator can know who said thanks.

Read over all the judges’s comments. Read them again. Did they point out the same problem/areas of concern?

If they liked your ms. - then celebrate. It’s always nice to hear good things about your writing.

If you got negative comments - put them away and do the following steps:

1) Sulk for one day and eat two chocolate bars.

2) Write.

3) A week or so later, get out the comment and read them over again.

See if maybe there are some comments that will help you better your ms. After all, you paid money for their opinion.

I once got back a score of 168 and 68 from two judges, but their comments were almost identical. But that's the way it goes.

My ms. that became Kentucky Green won a contest for unpublished ms. And later in a contest for published books, finaled in Best Historical and Best First Book - winning Best First Book. So contests can be a big help in your writing.

Remember, contest judges are subjective – but then so are agents and editors. This is worth repeating - Remember, contest judges are subjective - but then so are the agents and editors.

Take any comments you think will help your writing and ignore the rest.

Good luck and keep writing.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Irish Invade Canada!

No, it's not a belated St. Patrick's Day parade, or even a ceilidh given by a local branch of the Irish Society. The Fenian invasion of Canada actually happened, and it was one factor that contributed to the Confederation of Canada in 1867.

The famine of the min-Nineteenth Century decimated the population of Ireland. Many fled to America, where anti-English sentiments (and Fenian beliefs) ran high. The Fenians believed that English might be turned away from Ireland if one of their colonies was threatened. So, in 1865, they threatened to invade Canada, then known as "British North America." The threats were taken seriously on both sides of the border, where troops were massed and ready for action.

 In April of 1866, a group of Fenians gathered at Campobello Island, New Brunswick, but withdrew in the face of the Canadian Militia, British warships, and American authorities. A month later, about 800 Fenians crossed the Niagara River into Canada, occupying Fort Erie and cutting telegraph lines. The Buffalo and Lake Huron railroads were also severed before the Fenians proceeded inland. Again, the Canadian Militia countered the attack.

In June, the Fenians drove the Canadians back at Ridgeway, Ontario, and suffered many casualties. At Fort Erie, they took on another Canadian Militia and forced them back. The main Canadian forces entered Fort Erie, but the Fenians had already escaped back across the border to the U.S., where they were given a hero's welcome. Later that same month, about 1000 Fenians crossed the Canadian border and occupied Pigeon Hill in Missisquoi County, Quebec. They plundered St. Armand and Frelighsburg, but retreated to the U.S. when the American authorities seized their supplies at St. Alban's.

Thus ended the Fenian invasion of Canada.

Although the raids failed to end British rule in North America or Ireland, they did have serious historical consequences. Canadian nationalism was promoted by the raids, and the fear of American invasion united Upper and Lower Canada in common defense. A few months later, the the provinces came together under the British North America Act of 1867 (also known as Canadian Confederation).

In my new Irish-set historical romance novel, Coming Home, the Fenian invasion plays a minor part in my hero, Cavan Callaghan's effort to convince his friend that another Irish war with the British will not succeed. It's a minor plot point, but I think it makes the story that much more relevant.

Of course Cavan had heard of the Fenians, a loosely organized group of Irishmen dedicated to freeing Ireland from British rule.There'd been plenty of Irishmen in New York who'd spouted such ideas. They'd even attempted to invade Canada, planning to hold the country in ransom for Ireland's freedom, but had been thwarted by the union of Upper and Lower Canada just this year.

Was Brian McDevitt a Fenian?

The union of Upper and Lower Canada may have destroyed that country's usefulness as "ransom," but the cause of Irish freedom lived on.

Buy Coming Home at Amazon

Buy Coming Home at Barnes & Noble

Saturday, May 7, 2011


We've all been there, sitting in a public place when someone nearby coughs like the last gasps of a three-pack-a-day smoker. We wonder, is that contagious? Or we come down with a stomach virus after eating at our favorite restaurant. Could the server or cook have been ill? Believing I had allergies and a sinus infection, I just spread my bugs to my family and and elderly friend. Yikes! Surely none of us wants to be a "Typhoid Mary" to others.

scene of Mary's arrest from
the movie "Typhoid Mary"
 What about the real person, though? Mary Mallon was born in Ireland to to a mother who'd had typoid fever while pregnant with Mary. Because Mary was the first healthy carrier of pathogens associated with typhoid fever, she has become infamous and synonymous with those who carelessly spread disease.
Born in 1869 in County Cork, Ireland, Mary immigrated to the United States in 1884. From 1900 to 1907 she worked as a cook in the New York City area.

In 1900, she had been working in a house in Mamaroneck, New York, for under two weeks when the residents developed typhoid fever. She moved to Manhattan in 1901, and members of the family for whom she worked developed fevers and diarrhea and the laundress died. She then went to work for a lawyer until seven of the eight household members developed typhoid; Mary spent months helping to care for the people she made sick, but her care further spread the disease through the household. In 1906, she took a position in Oyster Bay, Long Island. Within two weeks, six of eleven family members were hospitalized with typhoid. She changed employment again, and similar occurrences happened in three more households.
When typhoid researcher George Soper approached Mallon about her possible role spreading typhoid, she adamantly rejected his request for urine and stool samples. Soper left and later published the report in June, 1907, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. On his next contact with her, he brought a doctor with him, but was turned away again.
Mallon's denials that she was a carrier were based in part on the diagnosis of a reputable chemist who had found her to not harbor the bacteria, so perhaps she is not entirely to blame for her doubts. Moreover, when Soper first told her she was a carrier, the concept of a healthy carrier of a pathogen was not commonly known. Further, class prejudice and prejudice towards the Irish were strong in the period, as was the belief that slum-dwelling immigrants were a major cause of epidemics.

Mary Mallon in hosptial quarantine
During a later encounter in the hospital, Soper told Mary that he would write a book about her and give her all the royalties; she angrily rejected his proposal and locked herself in the bathroom until he left.

The New York City Health Department sent Dr. Sara Josephine Baker to talk to Mary, but "by that time she was convinced that the law was only persecuting her when she had done nothing wrong." A few days later, Baker arrived at Mary's workplace with several police officers who took her into custody. The New York City health inspector determined her to be a carrier. Under sections 1169 and 1170 of the Greater New York Charter, Mallon was held in isolation for three years at a clinic located on North Brother Island.

It is believed that individuals can develop typhoid fever after ingesting food or water contaminated during handling by a human carrier. The human carrier is usually a healthy person who has survived a previous episode of typhoid fever yet who continues to shed the associated bacteria, Salmonella typhi, in feces and urine. It takes vigorous scrubbing and thorough disinfection with soap and hot water to remove the bacteria from the hands.

Eventually, the New York State Commissioner of Health, Eugene H. Porter, M.D., decided that disease carriers would no longer be held in isolation. Mallon could be freed if she agreed to abandon working as a cook and to take reasonable steps to prevent transmitting typhoid to others. On February 19, 1910, Mallon agreed that she "was prepared to change her occupation of cook, and would give assurance by affidavit that she would upon her release take such hygienic precautions as would protect those with whom she came in contact, from infection".  She was released from quarantine and returned to the mainland.
She had been given a job as a laundress, which paid lower wages, however. Mallon adopted the pseudonym Mary Brown, returned to her previous occupation as a cook, and in 1915 was believed to have infected 25 people, resulting in one death, while working as a cook at New York's Sloane Hospital for Women. This time I have no sympathy for her. Knowing she could infect others, she worked in a hospital! Public-health authorities again found and arrested Mallon, and returned her to quarantine on the island on March 27, 1915.
Mallon was confined there for the remainder of her life. She became something of a minor celebrity, and was interviewed by journalists who were forbidden to accept even a glass of water from her. Later, she was allowed to work as a technician in the island's laboratory.

Mary Mallon
On November 11, 1938, aged 69, she died of pneumonia. An autopsy found evidence of live typhoid bacteria in her gallbladder. It is possible that she was born with the infection, as her mother had typhoid fever during her pregnancy. Her body was cremated, and the ashes were buried at Saint Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Sacred Site

I entered a contest after I wrote Knight of Runes, not with hopes of winning, which would have been awesome, but rather for feedback. More than anything, I wanted feedback.
I did very well in the contest actually. Well, according to two of the three judges anyway. The swing in the third set of scores was, well that's a blog for another day. Suffice it to say, I placed well but didn’t win. But I did get the feedback. Awesome!
My story is a time travel. Our heroine says the right words, carries the correct talisman, and is standing in the right spot. The constellation of events transports her back in time 400 years. I set the magic place at Stonehenge.  I know I took some ‘poetic’ license. The great stones now stand protected behind a fence. No longer can visitors walk around them.  
One judge noted that she lived near some great stones that were about as old as Stonehenge and had no barriers. The stones stand proudly amidst the village of Avebury, Wiltshire County in southern England.
Avebury is impressive. The henge is made up of sets of standing stones in set patterns surrounded by a ditch and bank. While erosion and vandalism, to say nothing of religious persecution (even for a stone), has reduced the henge, it remains breathtaking. Construction at Avebury started about 3000 B.C., when the central part of the henge, the Cove, was built. Archeologists estimate this to be about the same time that the first stones at Stonehenge were set in place. Construction of the Avebury henge moved outward and lasted for several centuries finishing with the a great circles that define its border. Within the larger circle, sitting side by side are two smaller circles. The outermost circle covers almost 29 acres with a circumference of almost 1 mile. It is the largest stone circle in Europe and the best known prehistoric site in Britain. 
These circles are much larger than the more famous Stonehenge. As a matter of fact, Stonehenge would fit into the outer stone circle at Avebury around 130 times.

 In the early Saxon period, about 600 A.D., a small settlement was built that was went inside and outside the henge. It is surmised that the settlers thought it a semi-fortified area. A Benedictine church and priory were built in 1114 A.D. Later in the 12th century, the church suppressed pagan rituals. The more prominent stones were given names associated with the devil. Many of the stones were toppled and buried. Today, a large portion of village still resides inside the Avebury circle. 
The Cove is the area of the henge where Rebeka, my heroine, is drawn into the time portal.  Like the rest of the henge, it’s been a long held belief that the stones represent male and female characteristics. A male scientist must have done this designation as male stones are long and thin while the female is short and square. The two surviving primary stones at the Cove are perfect examples.  I thought the Cove the perfect place for Rebeka’s adventure to begin. 
Where does your favorite adventure begin?