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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Month-long Contest - Lots of Prizes

Seduced by History Blog is hosting a month-long contest in August.  One winner will receive a ‘basketful of goodies.’  All you have to do is check in on each blog during the month, look for a contest question to answer and September 1-5, 2011 send in your answers to seducedbyhistoryblog@yahoo.com.

Prizes award to one lucky winner include:  Victoria Gray’s book "Angel in My Arms",  "Spirit of the Mountain" package from Paty Jager,  Cynthia Owens’ book  "Coming Home",  a Kansas basket from Renee Scott, Anna Kathryn Lanier’s ebook “Salvation Bride and gift basket, Stringing Beads - Musings of a Romance Writer” by Debra K. Maher, Eliza Knight’s ebooks “A Pirate’s Bounty” and “A Lady’s Charade”,  Anne Carrole’s book “Return to Wayback,” a 4 gb jump drive, a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card, and more!

All entries must be received by midnight Monday, September 5, 2011 to be eligible for the drawing. A winner will be chosen from all those eligible on or about September 6, 2011 and contacted by email.  Odds of winning will depend on the number of total number of entries received.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Medieval Entertainers and Feasts

During medieval times, nobles and royals often enjoyed themselves at feasts and with entertainers who were employed to--well, entertain them! Probably one of the reasons people today enjoy such venues as Medieval Times and Renn Fests!

If you've taken my A Noble's Life in Medieval Times, then you will recognize this post as one of the lessons. I thought it important to share with anyone who has yet to take the course! Enjoy :)


 Musicians and musical instruments were used everyday. Some instruments include: flute, recorder, gemshorn, lute, psaltery, vielle/viol, fiddle, harp, organ, bagpipes, and drums. Instruments were not the only form of music however, singing and poetry were also popular. Singers/storytellers were often referred to as troubadours (vernacular lyric poet) jongleur or minstrel. A story could be sung, chanted, or told in an expressive voice. You didn’t have to have a fancy title however to be a singer, and sometimes family members and friends would sing to entertain each other as well. Songs could be religious in origin, tell a folk tale or a real life adventure, or be a little more vulgar in nature. Dancers often accompanied the musicians. The nobles would often join in the dancing or watch was their seated place.

Some extremely wealthy houses had their own musicians, but most musicians traveled from place to place.

Other forms of entertainment were plays. Plays could be put on by the party who is attending the feast or a drama group could come and perform for the guests. Plays could be mythological, religious, re-tell a real tale, be political, or comical.


For some very wealthy nobles every mid-day meal (the biggest most important meal of the day) could be a feast. For others feasts occurred on special occasions and when guests came to visit. Feasts could take place in the courtyard depending on the weather, or in the great hall.

Feasts weren’t just about the food, but also about entertainment. The people would dance, listen to music, listen to stories, watch a play, talk with friends, and of course eat. Food and drink were plenty, and there were always more options to choose from than any one person could eat. If you were attending a feast, you may take a bite of several different dishes and be full. Toasts were given, and everyone had a merry time.

Check out these articles I've written on the subject:

Four and Twenty Blackbirds - http://historyundressed.blogspot.com/2008/02/four-twenty-blackbirds.html

Medieval Cookery - http://historyundressed.blogspot.com/2009/01/medieval-cookery-and-special-guest.html

Medieval Beverages - http://historyundressed.blogspot.com/2008/10/medieval-beverages-tasty.html


Eliza Knight is the multi-published author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. Visit her at http://www.elizaknight.com/.

A new release from Eliza Knight! A Lady’s Charade, a medieval romance novel, is now available in electronic format from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Romance Ebooks and Smashwords!

Book Blurb…

From across a field of battle, English knight, Alexander, Lord Hardwyck, spots the object of his desire—and his conquest, Scottish traitor Lady Chloe.

Her lies could be her undoing…

Abandoned across the border and disguised for her safety, Chloe realizes the man who besieged her home in Scotland has now become her savior in England. Her life in danger, she vows to keep her identity secret, lest she suffer his wrath, for he wants her dead.

Or love could claim them both and unravel two countries in the process…

Alexander suspects Chloe is not who she says she is and has declared war on the angelic vixen who's laid claim to his heart. A fierce battle of the minds it will be, for once the truth is revealed they will both have to choose between love and duty.

Given 5 out of 5 Stars from Historical Fiction Obsession!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Welsh Heroes at Agincourt: Their Legacies

"The result can however be summarized in a single sentence: a regular, trained and disciplined army defeated one that possessed none of these virtues"1.

1.Hibbert, C. Agincourt, B.T. Batsford Ltd, London, 1964, p.88

The Battle of Agincourt (25 October 1415) is one of those rallying cries that stir the blood of the English and their Welsh allies but chill the blood of the French. Many accounts give varying testimony and estimates of this famous event during the 14th and 15th centuries, an era known as the Hundred Years War.

A recent item on BBC Radio 4, mentioned the plight of the French army and their heavy armor, weighing between 30 and 50 kilos with much of it around the legs of the soldiers. According to the item, this was a significant factor in the defeat of the French. The presenter of this report also mentioned the skill of the longbow archers, in a defensive position while the French were advancing – using all their energy to trudge across the battlefield.

Fatigue was only one deciding factor, as the French also had longbow archers and greatly outnumbered the combined forces of the English and Welsh soldiers. Estimates run from between 10,000 French against 8,000 English and Welsh to 36,000 to 6,000 – the 6,000 being comprised of 900 men-at-arms and 5,000 archers.

Of the archers, the majority were from Wales and especially from the town of Llantrisant, northwest of Cardiff. Because of their bravery and skill, the Welsh archers were honored with the freedom of the town and, to this day, are credited with this victory over the French.

During the battle, Welsh bowmen were known to taunt the French by holding up the index and middle fingers of their hands. Captured bowmen were invariably maimed by the French by having these fingers amputated so that they were unable to draw the bow. To show their defiance, Welsh bowmen gave this two-fingered salute to their opponents. The rebellious gesture survives today as the backhanded “peace” salute used throughout the countries of Great Britain and Ireland. This insolent salute does not have the same meaning as the one-fingered gesture of the American variety.

Among the renown Welshmen who fought for Henry V at Agincourt, Dafydd Gam ('Dafydd Gam ap Llywelyn ap Hywel Fychan ap Hywel ap Einion Sais')*, an opponent of Owain Glyndwr during the Rebellion of 1400, earned his appellation, Gam, in one of two ways, depending on which side of the Rebellion your sympathy falls. Gam comes from cam, meaning either “crooked” (Dafydd either had a squint or had lost an eye) or “wrong”. He is still considered a traitor among some Welsh patriots for his opposition to Owain Glyndwr and support for the Plantagenet Norman rulers of England.

A popular Welsh idiom is: mae hi/e wedi cael cam meaning “s/he has been wronged”. Descendents of Dafydd Gam have adopted the family name of Games. In 1404, Dafydd is said to have attempted the assassination of Owain Glyndwr at the Senedd of Machynlleth at which Owain was recognized as a true Prince of Wales (Tywysog Cymru) – the last native Welshman to hold that title.

According to the Welsh nationalists, all others who proclaim themselves by this title are pretenders as they are not descendents of any Welsh family, but of Norman, and later, German origin. September 16th is celebrated as Owain Glyndwr Day and the banner of his rebellion against Norman English rule is flown above many civic buildings. Dafydd Gam is not similarly recognized as a national hero of Wales.

*ap is the Welsh equivalent of ‘son of’ and is used here as Dafydd Gam son of Llywelyn son of Hywel Fuchan son of etc . In my novel, Traitor’s Daughter, I have used the longer form: mab and in the case of a daughter, merch. A few Welsh last names that have incorporated this prefix are Bowen (ab Owain), Bevan (ap Ifan), Pritchard (ap Rhisiart), Price (ap Rhys), Powell (ap Hywel). The feminine equivalent is ach, from merch.

I hope you enjoyed reading this brief article. If you would like further information about Welsh history, excellent sources are at http://llgc.org.uk (Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru/National Library of Wales) and http://museumwales.ac.uk (Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru/National Museum of Wales).

Diolch yn fawr, Lily Dewaruile

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Birthdays

When I began participating on this blog, I was asked to pick a day for my entry each month. I picked the 28th because July 28th is my birthday. How could I forget the 28th? With this memory trigger and the several reminder alerts handily provided by the blog, remembering should be assured, right?

Not necessarily. Here I am at 10 AM CDT preparing my entry which should have been posted at midnight. This time, I blame procrastination more than forgetfulness, but the fact that today I am another year older might have contributed a tiny bit.

Photo Courtesy of Photo Bucket
In honor of the day, I thought I'd research the origin of birthday celebrations to share with you. With the importance we attach to the date in our culture (I know two relationships that shattered when he forgot her birthday--is it ever the other way around?) it's not as long a history as I expected.

Before the invention of calendars, ancient people marked time by the moon and the changing seasons. Birthdays, if they were noted at all, were commemorated for religious figures like the Greek gods, Buddah, or Christ, dignitaries like Pharoah, or rich people. Who else had the motivation or means to recall the actual day?

Among the common people an exact date might not have been as notable. However, a time was set aside to ward off evil spirits that were thought to gather closer at significant changes in life like turning a year older. Visiting guests, burning candles, the giving of gifts, noisemakers, even spankings were all believed to discourage demons from coming near at these vulnerable times. Group celebrations often occurred on common days associated with the lunar cycle. Alternately, the day chosen was associated with the god or protective spirit thought to have attended the birth.

The pagan and superstitious aspects of such celebrations presented other challenges to the early Christian Church which condemned them. They encouraged celebrating Name day on the feast day of the saint for whom the child was named.

When calendars came into regular use and it became possible to track specific dates annually, the "pagan" practices coalesced into the birthday customs we cherish today. Historians cite a European origin and Western birthdays have similarities in many countries of Europe and North America. The Germans receive the credit for children's birthday parties. (kinderfeste)  Birthday cakes came down from the Greek lunar cakes decorated with candles to simulate the moon's light. These two customs came together when the Germans put candles on their birthday cakes (Geburtstagorten) to represent the light of life and made wishes on them. The smoke was thought to carry the wishes to Heaven. Blowing all the candles out at once brought good luck.

The wearing of paper crowns came from the tradition of honoring royal birthdays. The sending of cards started in England about a hundred years ago. Of course, they are a vehicle for carrying the greetings and good wishes of earlier times. Pinning the Tail on the Donkey and breaking the Pinata both involve blindfolds said to be a nod to the notion that the celebrant is blind to the events of the year to come. The birthday spanking with a whack for each year with one to grow on, be happy on etc. was said to chase away bad luck and "soften  the body for the grave." An American pair, Mildred and Patty Hill contributed the melody for the Happy Birthday to You" in 1893. The original lyrics were "good morning to all." The song with the birthday lyrics appeared in print together in 1924. (Interesting information on the controversial copyrights of the song appears in its Wikipedia entry)

So whether you are young enough to look forward to each birthday or old enough to dread and deny them, birthdays come to you each year. Here's hoping yours is a happy one whenever it occurs.

BIO: Barbara Scott is the author of several romances including Cast a Pale Shadow, Haunts of the Heart, and Listen with Your Heart. Her most recent West of Heaven earned the following quote from Romancing the Book: "Barbara Scott blends the perfect amount of suspense, romance, history, and humor into a wonderfully engaging novel. I definitely recommend this novel with 4 stars (Lovely Rose!) and two thumbs up! "

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Character Arcs

One of the most important things in romance,  or in any work of fiction, are presenting characters a reader can relate to.
This means the hero and heroine have to act like real people and yet they also have to be heroic in the readers' eyes.  In a romance, they have to be worthy of each other and their happy ending.
There are a great many ways for a writer to learn about the protagonists of their story.  Character interviews, which run from a page or two, to a "this-is-your-life" compendium of information-- or not. Some writers may wait until the end of the story to have a full handle on their characters, but in the end, which ever route an author takes, they will know their characters inside out.
Some information is easy, hair colour, family birth order, height, physical descriptions. It is a really good idea to keep track of them, so you can keep them straight. I keep a list as I go along, as well as listing all the secondary characters names and any images or traits I have chosen for them. It is easier to look at a list that track back through the text.
More difficult, yet crucially important, is the character arc for each of the protagonists, where they are at the beginning of the story in relation to the their story goal and in relation to their inner journey and where they are in both of these instances throughout the story, and finally where they are in the end.  What they need to do, and how they change to deserve their happy ending that will make the book emotionally satisfying for the reader.
In More than a Mistress, my heroine seems like a very capable business woman who has no need for male assistance, not even when someone seems to be trying to do her harm. Which doesn't quite make sense. Why is she so unwilling to accept help, even though she is very willing to help others? She is certainly attracted to the hero, and not at all like the shy young debutantes he's used to (cough). Each time he helps solve one of the things holding her back from admitting her feelings, another pops up, until finally she admits to the crux of the matter. Even then he has to work very hard to make her see that he is the one person she can trust not to let her down. He has his own arc too, of course.
No matter how you write, pantser or plotter, at some point you probably need to see if you can chart your characters'  arc and what it is that is forcing them to make the changes required to achieve a happy ending they may not know they want. In a romance, it is most likely to be the hero or heroine who forces the other person to reevaluate their beliefs about what is important both in terms of the external story goal and in terms of their inner needs for fulfillment, no matter what the plot of your story is about.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Ecclesiastical Year: Part 2 by Mary McCall

As we discussed last time, the Ecclesiastical Year (or Liturgical Year) is a fixed annual cycle of holy seasons and feast days, which the Holy Catholic Church consecrates in a particular way to God’s service. The Liturgical Year contains two parts: The Proper of the Season, which includes feasts in honor of our Divine Savior, and the Proper of the Saints, which includes feasts in honor of Our Lady and the saints.

The proper of the Season is immutable and proceeds regularly but in such a way that the Proper of the Saints is inserted and continues with it. Today, we’ll take a look at the two seasons.
The Proper of the Season is composed of three parts, according to the three principle feasts of the Church. These are Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday.

The series of Christmas or the Christmas Cycle begins on the first Sunday of Advent, and ends with the Saturday before Septuagesima.
The series of Easter or the Easter Cycle begins on the Sunday of Septuagesima and ends the Saturday before Whitsunday.

The series of Whitsunday or the Pentecost Cycle, begins the Saturday before Whitsunday, and ends with the last Sunday of the Ecclesiastical Year (the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent).
The principle purpose of the Ecclesiastical Year is the praise of God through and in Our Lord Jesus Christ and the sanctifying of the Faithful, who by the remembrance and contemplation of the life of our Holy Savior share in the Redemption and are stimulated to a more intense love toward Jesus and a closer imitation of Him.

The Proper of the Season show us God the Son, the Redeemer of the world, as the long expected Messiah for all people: birth, infancy, hidden life (first series). Next Our Blessed Lord’s works, His preaching, His sufferings and death, His Resurrection and Ascension (second series). Lastly, the founding of Holy Mother Church founded by Jesus and governed by the Holy Ghost. The Church was commissioned by Our Savior to continue His work until the end of the world in all countries and among all peoples (third series).
It was not until the reorganization of the Ecclesiastical Office (Holy Hours of the Day) by Pope Saint Pius X and Pope Benedict XV that each Sunday had its own Mass. Exceptions to this were if the following feasts fell on a Sunday: Holy Trinity, the Holy Name of Jesus, the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Family. These feast days always took precedence.
On Sunday, the priest of the parish says Holy Mass for his parishioners. Sunday, the Lord’s Day of the New Testament, was instituted by The Church in remembrance of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Descent of the Holy Ghost upon; these two important feasts took place on a Sunday. Sunday also commemorates the creation of the universe. Thus, Sundays are also dedicated to the Holy Trinity in thanksgiving for creation, salvation and sanctification of souls. Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation, on which we rejoice in Him and thank Him for His glorious gifts and works. (On a side note for sacred music lovers or anyone else: if you can tell me the one part of the Holy Mass that Amadeus Mozart lamented not being able to put to music because it was reserved to chant, I’ll send you a print edition of my book).

It is a precept of God and Holy Mother Church to strictly sanctify Sunday by all the Faithful and their subordinates.
The Proper of the Feasts follows the regular calendar and celebrates the heroic Christians who founded and glorified Holy Mother Church by their courage and virtues. The date of their feast days for all the Saints, Our Blessed Lady and Saint John the Baptist excepted prior to Vatican II, is the day of their death, also considered the date of their solemn entrance into Heaven, or, according to the classic expression of The Church, to their birth into Heaven.
Until Next time, Happy Reading & Writing!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wagons, Trains, and Sternwheelers

Travel in the west was done by horse, coaches, wagons and buggies, sternwheelers and later on by train. Learning what conveyances were used where and when is always an ongoing process for me. My first published book, Marshal in Petticoats, I'd set the date and wrote the book with a train scene only to find out there weren't any trains in the area at the time. So I tried writing the scene with a stage coach and it didn't work nearly as well, then I changed the time of the story and had to go through and re-read newspapers for the new time to make sure I had other aspects correct in the story.

While researching the trains I came across sternwheelers on the Columbia River and set my next book, Gambling on an Angel there. The fourth book in the Halsey brother series, Doctor in Petticoats, has the hero and heroine traveling by train and required even more research to find out about what kind of cars were on the trains in Oregon at that time and how they were set up.

Some of the books I use for researching trains are: Early Oregon Days by Edwin D. Culp, Out West on the Overland Train by Richard Reinhardt, Rand McNally's Pioneer Atlas of the American West as well as several sites on the web. http://www.cprr.org/Museum/Car_Builders_Dictionary/

A story I'm working on for the fifth Halsey brother book deals with logging. I'm currently reading books on how they logged in the late 1800's. Glory Days of Logging by Ralph W. Andrews and Timber by Ralph W. Andrews. I also plan to visit a couple of logging camps in Oregon.

Research is my favorite part of writing a story.

Paty Jager


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Imperial Mistress by Emma Westport

No one called her a beauty.  In some photos, her teeth look slightly crooked.  Even friends criticized her figure and her tutus had to be specially designed to disguise her short muscular legs.  But there was one thing everyone agreed on.  When Mathilde Kschessinska danced, she commanded the stage.

Mathilde, or Mala as her family called her, came from a family of dancers.  At the age of 8, she was accepted into the Imperial Ballet School, following her brother and sister.  She graduated the age of 17.  First in her class, she had also earned the right to a solo at her graduation performance.

It was customary for the Imperial Family attended the performance.  Tsar Alexander III was so impressed with the young dancer that, when it was time for supper,  he sat Mala between himself and his son, the 21 year old Tsarevich Nicholas.  “Careful, now,” he joked to his son.  “Not too much flirting.” 

Alexander didn’t have to worry.  The awkward Nicholas remarked to Mala about the plainness of the school’s stemware, a comment hardly likely to send a young girl’s heart racing.   But Mala didn’t care.  She'd already fallen in love with Nicholas and his soulful blue eyes.  Determined as always, she wrote in her diary “…he will be mine!”

Historians have speculated that Alexander deliberately introduced his son to the young dancer.  Neither he nor his wife approved the Tsarevich’s interest in Princess Alix of Hesse Darmstadt, the future Tsarina Alexandra.  They may have hoped the diminutive Mala would provide a suitable distraction. 

And ‘suitability’ was definitely an issue.  Nicholas had been seeing a beautiful but Jewish opera singer.  The Tsar, fiercely anti Semitic, broke up the affair.  The young woman and her household were removed from St. Petersburg, never to return.   Mala was Polish and Catholic.  That, the Tsar could handle.

Besides, there was also a long tradition of Grand Dukes taking their mistresses from the Imperial Ballet.  Rumor had it a special passageway ran from the Grand Ducal loge to the stage, giving the Grand Dukes easy access to the dancers. The girls were atrractive and, on the practical side, the dancers’ health was carefully monitored.  There was little to no chance of disease.  

As for the dancers, the protection of a Grand Duke guaranteed good roles, spacious dressing rooms and other privileges.   And, of course, the Grand Dukes showered their mistresses with jewels, gifts, houses and servants.

At first, things between the Tsarevich and Mala appeared to move slowly.  She was the one who made sure to speak to him at performances or wave to him on the street.  By the summer, her career had picked up and, at one performance, she was given a dressing room with a window that looked out on the Imperial entrance.  There she was able to stand and talk to Nicholas and the other young Grand Dukes. 

It was a start but the quiet Nicholas did little more than talk.  Before the affair could progress, the Tsar announced that Nicholas and his brother, Grand Duke George, would leave that fall for a nine month tour of the Far East.  Mala was crushed.

But Nicholas did have feelings for Mala.  Before he left, he asked his fifteen year old sister, the Grand Duchess Xenia, to keep him informed on the two ladies in his life, Princess Alix and his ‘friend’ Mala.   Like any 15 year old, Xenia kept her brother’s secret, sharing it only with all her friends on the most ‘confidential’ terms.  The relationship between Mala and the Tsarevich quickly became a topic of gossip.

Nicholas’s trip was cut short by an attempted assassination.  He returned to St. Petersburg but had no opportunity to spend time with Mala.  As for Mala, her godfather took her to visit Europe.  The trip was said to be a belated reward for her graduation but there’s no question her family hoped to quell the spreading rumors.

It was not until the spring of 1892 that Nicholas, disguising himself as one of his friends, worked up the nerve to visit Mala at her parents’ home.  It was the first of many visits, visits that became so frequent the Prefect of Police showed up one night to warn the Tsarevich the Tsar had noticed his absence from the palace and was demanding to know where he was. 

The Tsar now feared his son would set up house with Mala and possibly have children.  The pressure was on to get the Tsarevich married. 

Meanwhile, Nicholas bought Mala gifts—a gold and diamond bracelet, a necklace with diamonds the size of walnuts--jewels the dancer proudly wore on stage.  Now there was no more talking through windows.  Mala entertained the Tsarevich and the other Grand Dukes in her dressing room.  When her performance was over, she’d slip away to meet Nicholas and go for supper.  

One night they went to Cubat's, a restaurant frequented by the often drunk and rowdy Grand Dukes.  The evening got out of hand.  Dishes and glassware were broken and when the owner tried to break the party up at 2 AM he was told to ‘mind his own business.’  A police officer, unaware the Tsarevich was present, ordered the party to leave.  They refused.  The Prefect of Police was called and Nicholas threw a bowl of caviar at his head.  Mala had to help calm things down.  The next day, needless to say, Nicholas was summoned to meet with his father.

Nicholas was sent on ‘maneuvers.’  Mala moved out of her parents’ home, into a house paid for and staffed by Nicholas.  At her parents’ insistence, her sister lived with her. 

When Nicholas returned, he visited frequently, causing the police considerable concern.  He’d leave Mala at dawn, walking back to the Anichkov palace alone.  Of course he was shadowed by the Okhrana. It was a matter of safety.  But a furious Nicholas threatened to ‘crush the face’ of any policeman he caught spying on him.

Mala’s career continued to flourish but by the summer of 1893 she knew Nicholas’ interest had started to wane.  By 1894, the Tsar’s health was deteriorating.  Anxious to see Nicholas married, his parents gave permission for him to court Princess Alix.  Nicholas broke off his relationship with Mala.  Shortly after that, his engagement to Princess Alix was announced. 

But the story wasn’t over.  Determined to save the relationship, Mala sent Princess Alix a series of anonymous letters, all written to blacken Nicholas in her eyes.  It didn’t work.  Princess Alix showed the letters to Nicholas who recognized them as coming from Mala.  He admitted the affair.  

Mala’s effort to stop the marriage effectively ended her relationship with Nicholas.   In her memoirs, she wrote her happiness was gone, her heart broken.  Her life, she said, was over.

It wasn’t.  The indomitable dancer went on to become the mistress of two Grand Dukes—some say three—finally marrying Grand Duke Andrei in the years after the revolution.  She survived two World Wars, a revolution and a civil war.  The jewels she was given were lost, some to war and revolution, most on the gaming tables in Monte Carlo but her skills and her talent as a dancer were passed on to students like Margot Fonteyn and Alicia Markova.  She died in December 1971 at the age of 99.  There was no question hers was a full life.   

(If you care to read more about a remarkable woman see her memoirs Dancing In St. Petersburg, or Coryne Hall's biography Imperial Dancer.  Adrienne Sharp's novel The True Memoirs of Little K is also excellent.  Photos and a short film clip can be seen on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3F02-Dd5MA.)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Two Sides of A Story

If I wanted to research for a contemporary, let's say a female private eye. I could interview a private eye. I could go to the local community center and take self-defense classes. I could practice shooting at a firing range. I could hop over to the race track and for a large sum, go for one heck of a ride. 

As an historical writer, it's not that easy. Much of our researh information comes from primary and secondary sources. Primary sources, for me being the prime;). Secondary sources often provide a wealth of ideas, but not everything may be accurate. And, it never fails, I find two, sometimes three, maybe even four different sides to a story.

Let's take the events surrounding the Battle of Glen Fruin. It was a battle between the Gregors and the Colquhouns. Both believed they had just cause to go to battle. Both believed they had been wronged by the other. The Colquhouns, which included Buchanans and Grahams, far outnumbered the Gregors, yet the Gregors defeated the Colquhouns. There's no question of who won the battle, but what occurred afterward leaves much to the imagination, at least it did with mine.

According to pro-Colquhoun sources, Laird Luss, Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, had his women folk parade their husband's bloody shirts in front of King James VI. James being weak of stomach embarrassed himself and demanded the annihilation of Clan Gregor.

According to pro-Gregor sources, Laird Luss had his women folk, who, by the way fought in the Battle of Glen Furin, dip their husband's shirts in lambs blood, then parade the bloody shirts in front of King James VI. James being weak of stomach embarrassed himself and demanded the annihilation of Clan Gregor.

Whatever the truth, on February 8, 1603, the Proscriptive Acts of Clan Gregor were enacted. This was an act of annihilation. No clan member could carry the name Gregor, caught doing so meant immediate execution. The women were stripped, they were branded (think hot poker), they were whipped in the streets, then they along with Gregor children were sold into slavery (yes, human trafficking was an issue). I can only imagine that the women were fair game for rape, as were the children.

In the spring of 1604, the Campbells betrayed Laird Alasdair MacGregor, leaving him, along with 30 of his warriors executed. You can find a list of names here http://www.webspawner.com/users/griersonorigins154/index.html

Now, according to many accounts, the Gregors were feared among the clans. They were one of James' biggest problems that needed to be dealt with. In all, many believed the Gregors got exactly what they deserved. I'm not so sure. This was a horrific period in time, there was turmoil all over the land. The act upon the Gregors left a stone crushing my heart. I felt sorrow. I felt compassion. I felt anger. Anger at a devious Luss. Anger at a cowardly king.

Somehow, Clan Gregor wrapped around my heart like a cloak of mist. I have felt their near destruction, as well as their fighting spirit. I have felt their mischief, as well as their honor. I have felt their mysterious elusiveness. They've risen from the ashes and have become timeless heroes. Rob Roy MacGregor wasn't just a man, HE was a CLAN. A clan that survived through trials and tribulations. A clan that persevered through the fires of hell. A clan that was bound together by faith, hope, and love for each other. A clan that never gave up.
Sir Walter Scott
As you can tell, I'm lost in time with an overwhelming passion for Clan MacGregor. But it's easy to become lost, especially since I'm currently writing a series of books surrounding the events of Glen Fruin. Perhaps you're wondering how I could find anything inspirational and romantic in such tragic times, I'm wondering myself. But I did, not with just one story, but with five.

I've taken a creative license with my historical research. I made a choice on how I would view the events surrounding this specific time in history. I also chose how to portray, my characters-hero, heroine, villain(s), and yes, even King James. I've convinced myself of the Gregor's innocence, so much so that I don't think I could write any Colquhoun with redemptive qualities.

How do you chose which side of the fence you stand on? For you contemporary writers, do you ever take historical events and place them in modern times to create a story? If not, where do you gain most of you inspiration? And where do you look for your villain?

Don't forget to check out Sir Walter Scott's, MacGregor's Gathering.

And if you're interested you can see my post Berserkers and Shrooms . It's a rough draft of a scene from my wip Possessing the Highlander. Obviously my hero is a Macgregor. I don't mention the villain but I bet you can guess after reading Two Sides of A Story.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Historical Romance from an Author's Point of View

Why do I love reading and writing historical romance?  The answer is really quite simple.  Historical romances transport me to another time and place and immerse me in a love story.  Before I started writing historical romance, I never considered the skillful balance between facts and emotion in these stories, the delicate weave of details within a love story that creates a sense of time and place and brings the plot and the characters to life.  Now, as a writer of historical romance, I know firsthand the challenge of blending facts into a story without creating information overload.

While the developing emotional relationship between the heroine and her hero is the central focus of historical romance, historical details serve to sweep the reader away to another time and place.  Infusing facts throughout the story without sounding like a travel guide is a writer’s challenge.  Research, layering details through multiple revisions, and a willingness to cut facts that don’t enhance the story are my keys to achieving balance between historical detail, story flow, and emotional intensity.   

Of course, thorough research is a given.  Historical inaccuracies pull a reader out of a story, while details about historical events, clothing, food, transportation, communication, occupations, and social structure – the list could go on and on - provide scaffolding for a believable story.

After I become familiar with the essential characteristics of an era, I map out the plot and research specific aspects of the time period that may factor into the story.  What weapons were available?  What historical events, landmarks, and people might have impacted the characters’ lives? What literary and artistic works were prominent during that era?  In my new release, Angel in My Arms, set during the American Civil War, Union spy Amanda Emerson visits with Confederate first lady Varina Davis and ventures to Richmond’s Libby Prison to rescue a double agent. These historical details add to the tapestry of the story.  In Destiny, the heroine’s love of tragic romances factors into the plot.  Research to identify popular authors of the heroine’s time provided details that fleshed out the character’s actions and dialogue.
How much historical detail brings a story to life without bogging it down?  That depends on the story.  Are historical events plot elements, or does the historical setting provide a context for the story?  Angel in My Arms and Destiny are set against the background of the Civil War, but the plot events are entirely fictional.  Historical details woven throughout the story create a sense of time and place, and references to historical figures can add to a character’s development, but historical name-dropping can result in detail overload.  Your characters shouldn’t sound like Joan Rivers on a time travel adventure.

Every author develops a method that works best for him or her.  To me, research, layering details, and revision are the keys to crafting a love story that transports the reader to another time and place.   

Here’s a brief summary of Angel in My Arms:

Amanda Emerson must break her cousin, a notorious double agent, out of a Confederate prison before his imminent execution. She’s a skilled Union operative, but for this mission, she needs a man. Even a man who looks and acts like a Viking warrior.
Caught with Rebel battle plans and set for a hanging, Union spy Steve Dunham isn’t about to refuse the assistance of the sable-haired beauty who shows up at the jail and slips him the keys to his cell. Of course, she’s there for a reason besides saving his neck - he’s the key to her plan.
He may be trading one noose for another, but he won’t forsake her. The spoils of his victory will be her surrender. And the terms of surrender will be sweet.

CONTEST:   Based on the story blurb, who would you like to see portray Steve and Amanda if this were a movie? One lucky commenter will win a pdf of Angel in My Arms.
I hope readers will stop by my website and my blog, www.victoriagrayromance.com and www.victoriagrayromance.blogspot.com.
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Angel in My Arms is available from The Wild Rose Press

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anne Somerset Percy, Countess of Northumberland

In Scottish romances whether they are set in the Lowlands or especially in the Highlands there is a running theme of conflict between Scotland and England. However, there is one area of Scotland that has a different take on this thematic conflict and that is the Anglo/Scottish Borders. The Borders began at least on the English side as a buffer zone created by King Wm Rufus and later Scotland's King Alexander I followed suit by encouraging more Scots to move into the area so in time it became overpopulated. As resources became scarce a culture of Reiving goods and cattle became the way of survival. Reiving rarely was used as a political means it was a way to survive a harsh environment and the constant Anglo/Scottish warfare that included scorched earth policies. The area became so lawless that in 1252 CE each monarch sent 12 knights to the borders to hammer out a set of unique laws that Borderers would abide by and over next 300 years those laws matured until the mid 1500’s when things had really gotten out of hand.

For the Borderer be he English or Scot, his mistrust of his monarch had proven that his allegiance to his family was first followed by respect for Border laws then maybe God and lastly his monarch depending on what side of the Border he was on at that moment. Reasons for this mistrust abound: Johnnie Armstrong’s murder at the hands of King James V after a passage of safe conduct, or Kinnmont Willie’s capture by the English troops on his way home on the Scottish side of the Border from a Truce Day and later imprisoned in Carlisle castle where he was freed by Borderers from both sides angered by this total disrespect for Border Law. But there is no better example of the unique Border hospitality and respect than the story of Lady Anne Somerset Percy, the Countess of Northumberland.

Alnwick Castle, home to Earls of Northumberland

Lady Anne Somerset thought to be one the most beautiful and charming women of the Elizabethan period married Thomas Percy of Northumberland in 1558. Many were saddened and feared she would waste away in the north of England with a family who had a jaded past. Thomas’s father, Henry Percy had sided with the Catholics during the reign of Henry 8th and the family suffered their ancient heritage in Northumberland been attained. Henry’s sons, Thomas and Henry even lost their right to use the surname Percy. However, both men proved themselves loyal to the crown by serving in the Borders defense until the reign of Queen Mary Tudor when Thomas was made the 1st Earl of Northumberland and their ancient heritage was returned. However, the family’s taint as papists would haunt this generation too.

Thomas Percy and family were Catholics but loyally served the English crown by improving English Border defenses earning him respect throughout the Borders on both sides. For a while Elizabeth Tudor, whose mother Anne Boleyn had a relationship with a Percy, held the Earl in high esteem. However, the same could be said for Queen Elizabeth’s secretary, William Cecil who disliked the power and especially the respect Thomas Percy had earned in the north and set about influencing Elizabeth against Percy by playing on her fears of Catholics who supported her cousin, Queen Mary of Scotland’s legitimate claim of Elizabeth’s throne. Percy had sympathized with the Catholic supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots and her right to rule Scotland but served his queen well. Cecil letting his jealousy have free reign sent a spy north to serve on the Border Commission who made life Lord Percy’s life so untenable he resigned his commission as the Border Warden for the Middle and East marches.

Thomas Percy, earl of Northumberland (pictured)

Cecil needing to discredit Percy informed Elizabeth of Percy’s copper mine where he was making great amounts of money that might be used in a rebellion against her. Elizabeth, fearing Papists behind every door and under every bed, with Cecil’s help seized not the mineral rights of the copper mine but also demanded all previous money earned on ore already sold be confiscated and given to the royal treasury and a fine was imposed on Percy. This was the last straw for many Borderers who saw this as a grave intrusion into the ancient rights of land ownership on the Borders. Soon groups of dissatisfied English Borderers organized a rebellion seeking to have the Duke of Norfolk replace Cecil. Thomas Percy rode to the Earl of Westmorland and Lord Dacre to meet with the group and try to discourage them. The Earl of Westmorland would only listen to his wife and Lord Dacre and the rebellion seemed eminent. Cecil heard of this meeting and claimed Percy led the rebellion against the queen. Meanwhile Lady Anne, ever the quiet but supportive wife tried to discourage her husband from being involved urging him to make peace with Queen Elizabeth when the dissenters were called to court. Percy as well as other northern nobles mistrusted the Queen but upon hearing an English force was heading to Topcliffe where his daughters were, he finally joined forces with the conspirators and never looked back. Soon pressure put on the outspoken leaders of the conspiracy, Lord Darce and Lady Westmorland, forced them to switch sides and join the Queens forces. Though Percy had the support from Catholics and Protestants borderers on both sides of the Anglo/Scottish Border, a letter of support from the Pope forced the Scottish Protestant supporters to withdraw. Things looked bleak for Lord and Lady Percy until the Spanish ambassador guaranteed safe passage to Holland for any of the rebels so so wished it. Percy declined claiming he had done nothing wrong and Anne stood by his side.

Throughout it all Lady Anne Somerset stood by her husband as an English army of 1000 men pursued them through the Borders. Knowing the Borders as they did Percy and the Earl of Westmorland headed for the debatable land where by Border Law no one could pursue them or remove them from the land. Along the way they stopped at fellow rebel Lord Leonard Darce’s castle so the Lady Percy could rest but were refused hospitality, even though Percy reminded him of his knightly duty to aid and comfort the Lady Anne. Yet along the way the simple Borderers in villages and farms on both sides gave them food and respect without betraying them to their pursuers. They finally found a safe place with the Armstrong family in the Scotland debatable land who Percy had previously shown clemency toward.

.Darce Castle in Cumberland

Meanwhile Cecil demanded the Scottish Regent capture and return Percy to England. The Regent Moray knew if he did this it would bring an uprising by Scottish Borderers in protest, as Border law forbid the taking of anyone from the Debatable land by force. Moray had a plan to safe face with the English and Scos a like and used a disgruntled Armstrong to betray Percy by telling him a party of the English was near and they needed to move to safer ground. However, by then Anne was in grave health from her ill treatment and couldn't be moved. Though Percy insisted he would remain by Anne’s side, she pleaded with him to go without her, to remain be safe for their daughters.. Outside of the debatable lands a Scottish army of the Regent captured Percy and Westmorland and took them to Edinburgh, as prisoners until a plan could be worked out that didn’t incite the Scottish people against the crown. Common Scottish folks loyalty lay with Lord Percy because he had respect for their Queen Mary, who was captive of the English queen.

When the Kerr ladies of Fernieheist heard of Lady Percy’s plight, despite the Kerrs being ancient enemies of the Percys, they rescued her from the outlaw Armstrongs, who had taken everything she owned sans her clothes. They brought her to their keep at Fernieheist providing her all the comforts befitting her station so she could recover. Ancient Border chivalry demanded all feuds be put aside for the Lady Percy. Soon she was visited by the Scottish Lord Hume (a Protestant) as well as Lord Scott of Buccleugh, both wanting to help her and her Lord Husband escape from Queen Elizabeth’s wrath. Upon hearing of her husband’s capture and imprisonment in Edinburgh, Lady Percy went to stay with Lord Hume in the eastern Scottish Marches where all the rebels of Percy’s forces were allowed sanctuary. Cecil warned Hume not to give sanctuary but Hume replied he would rather die than not aide a fellow Borderer namely Lord and Lady Percy.

When Cecil’s diplomatic means of getting Percy back failed, he sent an English army to the Scottish borders with the ultimatum Percy or Border warfare. Lord Moray, the regent responded by saying that if the English released the Queen Mary of Scotland they would release Percy to the English. The English forces entered Scotland but were trounced by the Scots and soldiers led by Lord Westmorland, while Percy remained in the Scottish prison. The embarrassed English then sent a much larger army where they attacked and burned 500 small villages and 50 keeps but no one on the Scottish side gave up any of the fugitives to the English forces and the quickly left.

Lady Percy now with the help of the Kerrs, Scotts and Humes came out of hiding hoping to help her husband and family escape to Holland. By then Lord Percy had been moved to a Loch Leven castle where he was under the care of Wm Douglas. Percy now too wealthy a prize for the Scottish monarchy to let go without compensation told Lady Percy if she could raise 10, 000 crowns they would release her husband to her care. Unable to get help from her English family and friends for fear of them receiving Elizabeth’s wrath, she had to go to the Continent to raise the funds. Meanwhile Douglas made a similar deal with the English. Lady Percy and party were delayed from leaving from Aberdeen as planned because Anne was in the painful process of giving birth to her youngest daughter, Mary who would never meet her father. When Anne finally arrived in Antwerp many supporters (Catholic and Protestant) of her husband’s cause had already donated 4.000 crowns and the remaining 6,000 crowns were donated by the Phillip, King of Spain. Douglas, Percy’s jailer not wanting to lose his valuable prisoner demanded Anne bring the money to him directly before Percy would be released. Unable or not trusting Douglas, Anne appealed to the Earl of Morton, head of the Douglas family for a more fair method but Morton was probably in league with the English and accepted their counter offer of the same amount which allowed him and not Wm Douglas to control the money.

Home (Hume) Castle

In 1572 Lord Percy was handed over to the English who went willingly because they told him he was going fishing not to alarm him. When the ship sailed out of the Firth of Forth and landed at Dunbar he knew something was a foot. The Scots had kept his wife's effort to free him a secret and told the Scots, fearing a Border uprising, that Percy had made is reconciliation with Elizabeth and was returning to London. He was quickly taken to York where Elizabeth had ordered his execution but the last laugh was on her. Because she didn’t get council approval she forgot that his earldom papers from her sister Queen Mary stated that if there was no male heir of Thomas, his brother would inherit the title and the lands Elizabeth and Cecil coveted in Northumberland. This was a minor bump in the road when Cecil was able to get trumped up charges against Henry Percy and sent to him to the tower and Elizabeth was free to take the Percy land. However by 1573 Henry paid a fine to Elizabeth declared his loyality to the crown and was released to inherit his brother’s land and title.

On the Continent the Lady Percy hearing of her Lord’s death slipped into a silent world of grief, but soon awoke and attacked Queen Elizabeth and Cecil with a vengeance. She wrote a pamphlet (Discours des troubles du Comte du Northumberland) that was distributed all over the Continent in both Protestant and Catholic countries, telling of the wrongs Elizabeth and her minion Cecil perpetrated against their loyal subject Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland. This fueled the fires of Catholic hatred toward a most unwomanly queen, Elizabeth. Accusations of greed and power were evident in the Lady Percy’s writings but her opponents made much of Elizabeth’s fear of Catholics. Meanwhile Cecil alarmed at what this would do to the Elizabeth’s subjects wrote his own pamphlet refuting the charges, but the cunning Lady Percy reproduced her pamphlet side by side with Cecil’s making her accusations all the more stronger, angering Elizabeth to epic proportions similar to her father’s wrath.

Lady Anne Somerset Percy, Countess of Northumberland spent the rest
of her days supporting Catholic causes while living on a pension provided by King Phillip of Spain with her daughter, Mary at her side in Namur (Flanders) until her death in 1591. Her other three daughters remained in England and were raised by their uncle Henry Percy, the 8th Earl of Northumberland.

Dr. Susan Anderson

By Anna Kathryn Lanier

The genre I have fallen into as far my writing goes is American Western. Though most of my stories are contemporary, the Early American West is really dear to my heart. The women of the west fascinate me. The hardships they endured following either their men or their own hearts west are amazing. But they went and helped to shape the west and the country as much, if not more, than the men.
One such woman was Dr. Susan Anderson, who practiced medicine in the mining towns of Colorado when women doctors were far and few between.

Susan Anderson, born in 1870, she and her brother were both well-educated by their parents. After her parents’ divorce, she moved with her father and brother to Kansas. There she excelled in Morse code, but when she told her father she wanted to be a telegrapher, William told her to set her sights higher and become a physician.

(Susan with her brother and father)
After graduating high school in 1892, Susan followed her father and step-mother to Colorado. In 1893 she enrolled into the University of Michigan’s medical school. With the handful of other women in the school Susan attended the co-ed lectures, but the anatomy class was separated by the sexes. The school did not think men and women should take this class together.

As Susan attended medical school, she also interned at the local hospital. The hours were grueling and it was at the hospital that she contracted tuberculosis, a disease that plagued her the rest of her life. After graduating in 1897, she turned down a position at the hospital and instead returned to Colorado to practice and to improve her health in the clean air.
(Susan's graduation picture)

There were 55 other doctors in the area she settled, so she drew mostly female patients. However, her proficiency in cleaning wounds and staving off infections—thus prevent amputations—grew her reputation as a good doctor. The thriving practice and clean fresh air did improve her health, as did her engagement to marry a man she loved.
Tragedy struck twice, however, in a short amount of time. First, her fiancée left her at the altar, breaking her heart. Before she could pick up the pieces of her broken engagement, her beloved brother and best friend John died of influenza. Dr. Anderson was sent into a deep depression and to help lift her spirits, she travelled Colorado. Finally settling in Denver, she once again set up a practice, but with a glutton of physicians already in the area, the budding business floundered. She then moved to Greeley and took a job as a nurse in the local hospital.

When a typhoid epidemic struck the area, she decided to leave for the good of her health and moved to Fraser, Co. There, she decided to practice medicine again and opened shop. After proving herself a good doctor, her practice thrived. “She mended bullet wounds, set broken limbs, and even removed abscessed teeth.” She was so admired by the local loggers she treated that they built her a house.

Dr. Anderson became well-known throughout Colorado and the country. Colorado General Hospital recognized her as an exceptional healer and Grand County, Co. appointed her as coroner.

As coroner, she held the commission overseeing the blasting of a tunnel through the mountain accountable for any on-the-job deaths or injuries due to safety negligence. When accidents did happen in the tunnel, she’d travel the six miles into the Moffat Tunnel to give first aid and retrieve dead bodies.

Dr. Anderson practiced for more than 50 years. At age 88, she was hospitalized and lived the remainder of her life in Colorado General Hospital. After her death in 1960, she was buried near her brother in Cripple Creek, Colorado.


Further reading:

Next month, I’m teaching a class on Pioneering Women of the West. Win a free workshop by leaving a comment. One lucky winner will receive a free workshop registration. Another commenter will win a copy of my ebook SALVATION BRIDE….the heroine is a mail-order bride and practicing physician.

Pioneering Women of the West Workshop
By Anna Kathryn Lanier

August 1-31, 2011
Hearts Through History RWA’s Campus

The West was discovered by men looking for adventure and fortune. But it was civilized by women who brought families, schools, churches, and stability to the area.

In PIONEERING WOMEN OF THE WEST, you’ll learn about the western movement, the treacherous journey hundreds of thousands people took and of the lives of specific women who helped shape the West, intentionally or not. Some women went looking for a better life; others followed their man into the wilderness.

There will be three lectures a week, with time for questions and answers and additional research on the participants’ part.

Anna Kathryn Lanier

Monday, July 18, 2011

Biography - The Seeds of A Story

When I was reading about the War of the Roses, I became fascinated with Thomas Stanley. Born in 1435 to Thomas Stanley, Knight Lord of Lathom and Joan Goushill, he was a direct descendant of Edward I King of England. In 1457 Stanley married Elizabeth Neville the sister of the Earl of Warwick, a powerful English noble commonly referred to as the kingmaker. In 1459 when his father died, Thomas Stanley inherited the title the King of Mann.

Stanley’s lineage, title, and marriage placed him in the middle of the English War of the Roses, the battle for the English crown between two branches of the royal family. Crafty and ambitious, he successfully played the Lancastrian faction against the Yorkist against during the reigns of Edward IV, Henry VI, and Richard III.

In 1482, he married Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and the mother of Henry Tudor. While his wife actively conspired to place her son, heir of the Lancastrian line, on the thrown and topple Richard III, Stanley managed to escape the label of traitor under Richard III.

Even though Stanley had promised to support Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth Field 1485, he delayed committing his army until Richard decided to charge Henry Tudor’s position. When Richard III’s horse bogged down in a marsh, Stanley committed his forces to Henry Tudor, his stepson. Richard III was killed, and Henry Tudor became King of England.

As a reward for Stanley’s actions at Bosworth Field, Henry VII created a new earldom of Derby and made Stanley the first Earl of Derby. Later on Henry VII’s coronation day, Stanley was appointed Lord High Steward of England.

It was in Stanley’s fortuitous marriages and his connection to the Kings of England at I found the seed for my story. Stanley’s history suggested the possibility of a romantic suspense filled with family strife. Of course, I played with historical fact a tad. In Wanted Ghostbusting Bride, Godfrey Markham, the first Earl of Ryne, is the ancestor of the hero. Godfrey’s actions and marriages have caused a ghostly war – one that plagues the hero five hundred years later.

Margaret Breashears