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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Setting Collector, by Mia Marlowe

Although today is usually my day to post, I have invited special guest author Mia Marlowe to take my spot! You are all in for a special treat. Mia is a wonderful author of historical romance, and I think you will find her post today to be equally fascinating and get your minds cranking.  Mia is an avid supporter of writers and the romance genre, and I encourage you to not only check out her books, but her blog as well. Visit her at her site, http://www.miamarlowe.com/.

The Setting Collector
by Mia Marlowe

Travel is one of my passions. I like to think of myself a "setting collector." When I explore a new place, the seeds of stories are planted in my subconscious, even if it takes them a while to germinate. In 2002, my DH and I went to Hanover, Germany a couple times--he to conduct business and me to play tourist. One of the places I discovered was Schloss Celle, a castle a short train ride from Hanover.

Like all castles, it was built in stages, starting with a fortified tower around 980 AD. Through the years, it was altered and added to till it became the Renaissance style 4-winged structure that exists today. It's a fascinating place with a hodge-podge interior, reflecting many different building styles.

It doesn't have a moat and was never used defensively. The schloss (German for castle) was primarily a pleasure retreat for the House of Hanover. But in 1772, it also became a prison of sorts for Queen Caroline Mathilda.

Queen Caroline MathildaShe was the sister of Britain's George III and, as if having a mad brother weren't bad enough, this unlucky princess had the misfortune to wed her equally mad cousin, Christian VII of Denmark.

Caroline may not have been a beauty, but she had a vivacious and fun-loving personality. She sometimes outraged people by dressing in men's clothing and riding astride. At Schloss Celle, there is a miniature of her with a decolletage so daring, her rouged nipples are proudly on display.

A free spirit like Caroline couldn't avoid trouble long and soon was embroiled in a long-running affair with her husband's doctor, Johann Friedrich Struensee. Her daughter was almost certainly her lover's child since Christian VII didn't seem to like his queen much.

Even mad kings resent being cuckolded. There was a seething scandal and a messy divorce. Caroline was banished to Celle and her lover was executed. She died of scarlet fever three years later in 1775 at the age of 23.

Touch of a Thief by Mia MarloweThe story of this sad queen inspired me to use Schloss Celle as the setting for a rather gothic section of Touch of a Thief. Lady Viola Preston and Lt. Greydon Quinn are on the trail of the Blood of the Tiger, a cursed red diamond. They encounter the malevolent stone and the villain who has possession of it at this Hanoverian castle.

Posing as newlyweds, Quinn and Viola's adventures take them from London to Paris to Hanover and back again. I hope you'll enjoy doing a little armchair traveling with them!

Have you ever visited a place and thought it would be a good setting for a romance? Leave a comment or question today for a chance to win a copy of Touch of a Thief!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Living Tradition

by Lily Dewaruile

Good morning or as we say in Wales, bore da. My pen name is Lily Dewaruile and for the past few years, I have been writing Welsh Medieval Romances based on three decades of living in this beautiful, vibrant country. When I first moved to Wales (Cymru as I will from now on refer to it), very few of my friends and family knew where it was. “That’s in England, isn’t it?” was the consistent response. I am neither historian nor scholar – I am passionate about Cymru, its language, culture and history.
A Living Tradition

As this is my first opportunity to tell you a bit about my second country, I will start with something old and new. As beirdd appear in my two completed novels, Pendyffryn: Invasion and Traitor’s Daughter, and this is the season for bardic traditions to burgeon in Cymru, let me tell you about the Eisteddfod (roughly translated to mean “sitting together”).

From the earliest weeks of spring (gwanwyn) to the end of summer (haf), schools, colleges, community groups and people working in the Arts are focused on three events: Eisteddfod yr Urdd, ttp://www.urdd.org/en/eisteddfod/archive Eisteddfod Genedlaethol and Llangollen International Eisteddfod http://www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk/en/home.

An eisteddfod provides an opportunity for poets, painters, dancers, novelists, photographers, playwrights, film-makers, composers, instrumentalists, singers, choirs – any and all of the creative arts (including fashion design and architecture) to compete for titles and prizes in their art form. The first woman ever to win the Cadair in the 140 year history of the revived Eisteddfod Genedlaethol is Mererid Hopwood, a fellow resident (and friend) of Caerfyrddin. This link is to a BBC Radio 4 interview with her just days after her historic achievement. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/womanshour/13_08_01/friday/17_08_01info.shtml). You will be reading more about her and her work in my next month’s contribution.
These days, there are eisteddfodau in town halls and village church vestries from Ynys Môn to Caerdydd, primary school cafeterias to university lecture halls. Many of these are in preparation for the three national eisteddfodau I mentioned above. The passion of the Cymry for these competitions dates back to the beirdd
of the early middle ages. The Bardic tradition is strong in all of the Celtic countries but the eisteddfod Cymreig is unique, in my experience.

History of the Eisteddfod

The VIPs of all ancient and modern civilizations have their scribes to record their mighty deeds, family history, ancestors and descendents. The Celts were no exception. The tradition was oral until the 6th century when the Godoðin was written. This epic poem records the defeat of one tribe by another, listing names and feats of the heroes. From the Godoðin we know facts about the early Celtic tribes in mainland Briton, some of which I have written about in my own blog: Welsh Medieval Romance.

The eisteddfod tradition originated in these ancient times, largely for the same reasons they exist today and for the same reasons that talent shows and writing competitions of all makes and sizes exist: to promote the creative work of the participant and to find a patron (earn a living). The by-product of the eisteddfod is entertainment as a public spectacle. http://www.eisteddfod.org.uk/english/content.php

 


Hundreds of thousands of paying customers attend to watch modern day beirdd (bards) compete for the cadair, the goron, the riban, the tlws. The first recorded eisteddfod was held at Aberteifi in 1176 at the court of Rhys ap Gruffudd (Lord Rhys). The largest was held in 1451, in my town, Caerfyrddin. Many of you will have heard of the Llangollen International Eisteddfod held each summer – a huge music festival. The West Coast Eisteddfod will be held in Los Angeles this year. If you’d like to see photos of the Eisteddfod Genedlaethol, go to this website: http://www.lluniaullwyfan.com/ for some stunning images of the cadeirio (chairing the bardd).

The eisteddfod declined in the 16th and 17th centuries and its revival is credited to Iolo Morgannwg in the late 18th C along with other Celtic traditions such as Druidism. These romanticized recreations of the past sprang from the imaginations of poets and artists – in much the same spirit as members of Hearts Through History RWA recreate a romantic history of our chosen era.

A Treat for You

In honor of the eisteddfod season, here is a recipe for Taffi Aberteifi:

12 oz of granulated sugar, 1 oz ground almonds, ½ oz butter, 6 tablespoons of milk.
Grease a small (6”x4”x1” deep) tin. Melt the butter in a thick saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar, almonds and milk, stir well. Boil gently for 7 minutes, stirring continuously. Scrape any solid bits formed on the side back into the mixture. Remove from heat and keep stirring until the toffee thickens. Pour into the tin and leave in a cool place until set. Break into pieces.

Photos: Mererid Hopwood, 2001, First Woman to win the Cadair (Bard's Chair); Christopher Painter, 2005, Winner of Tlws y Cerddor (Musician's Medal)

Thank you for stopping by today. As soon as this is posted, I will be on my way to Ireland by ferry. Once I find a friendly cyber café, I’ll answer any questions.
--Lily

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Old Rules for Marriage

How many of these rules do you think William and Katherine will be following?


Rules for Husbands and Wives
from A Primary Source 
written by
Matthew Carey
(1830)

Having seen various sets of maxims for the conduct of married life, which have appeared to me to contain some very injudicious items, degrading to wives, sinking them below the rank they ought to occupy, and reducing them in some degree to the level of mere housekeepers, and believing them radically erroneous, I annex a set which appear more rational and just than most of those which I have seen:

Husbands
1. A good husband will always regard his wife as his equal; treat her with kindness, respect and attention; and never address her with an air of authority, as if she were, as some husbands appear to regard their wives, a mere housekeeper.
2. He will never interfere in her domestic concerns, hiring servants, &c.
3. He will always keep her liberally supplied with money for furnishing his table in a style proportioned to his means, and for the purchase of dress suitable to her station in life.
4. He will cheerfully and promptly comply with all her reasonable requests, when it can be done, without loss, or great inconvenience.
5. He will never allow himself to lose his temper towards her, by indifferent cookery, or irregularity in the hours of meals, or any other mismanagement of her servants, knowing the difficulty of making them do their duty.
Wives
1. A good wife will always receive her husband with smiles,—leave nothing undone to render home agreeable—and gratefully reciprocate his kindness and attention.
2. She will study to discover means to gratify his inclinations, in regard to food and cookery; in the management of her family; in her dress, manners and deportment.
3. She will never attempt to rule, or appear to rule her husband. Such conduct degrades husbands.
4. She will, in every thing reasonable, comply with his wishes—and, as far as possible, anticipate them.
5. She will avoid all altercations or arguments leading to ill-humour—and more especially before company.


Posted by Barbara Scott, author of West of Heaven, sort of "lonesome soiled doves"


Available at Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for the Nook, Sony, Kobo and Apple's iBookstore".
or at DBP   http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-150/Barbara-Scott-West-of/Detail.bok

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cultural History

When I began writing my first manuscript, a time travel set in 1871 Wisconsin, my knowledge of the era came mainly from history books (like those read in school), from movies, or from other romance novels. It wasn’t enough. I needed to know more.

In each scene, I struggled to imagine myself in my heroine’s mind, a late 20th century urban business woman cast back into the life of a 1871 farm wife. But, although I had grown up in a house built in the late 19th century, it wasn’t the same. I hadn’t actually lived in the time when that house was new.

What did they eat and how was it cooked? What illnesses were common; what medicines were taken? What were their beliefs and values? How much was a pound of sugar? Did women hand-sew everything, or were some clothes ready made? What did a child learn in school? What dances were popular? How were holidays celebrated?

Not that I needed to put all those details into the story, but I needed to know so I could put myself in my characters’ minds.

In those pre-Internet days, I trudged to the library. There were, of course, long shelves filled with history books. I'd already read many. Most were written about famous events and battles, about economics and politics. I found almost nothing about how the every day man and woman actually lived their day-to-day lives.

What I was looking for, but didn’t realize it until a few years later, were books on cultural history.

Over time, I’ve found many books that proved helpful to better understanding the era. Foremost of these was a series Harper Collins published called Life in Everyday America Series.

A few years after the Harper Collins' series, Writer’s Digest books published the Writer’s Guides to Everyday Life series.

I discovered a wealth of information about my Civil War veteran hero when I found The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union.

Later I uncovered its companion book The Life of Johnny Reb.

Diaries and journals are an incredible source, first hand impressions of the time. Mary B. Chestnut’s Diary from Dixie gives riveting accounts of a southern woman’s life in the Civil War. These treasures have the added benefit of letting you hear how people spoke, and wrote, in that time.

Today we are so fortunate to have the internet. Through it, a whole world of resources have been opened.

A favorite site of mine, one I've shared before with Hearts Through History readers, is the Food Timeline, a record of foods and when they were introduced from the beginning of man’s recorded history.

There’s a huge amount of information on World’s Fairs from the first one held in 1851 London to the present. Go to Expo Museum.com.

Victorian era fashion information can be found at Harpers Bazaar.

I’ve found a wealth of material on the Lone Star College - Kingwood American Cultural History site. It gives links, decade by decade and topic by topic, for 19th Century America. It also has a link which will take you to the 20th Century.

~ What are your favorite books, or websites of interest for learning about cultural history and how your characters lived?

From the comments received for this post, I’ll hold a drawing for a lovely hand-crocheted bookmark. Drawing to be held Friday evening, April 29th. Be sure to leave a link with an e-mail address where you can be reached.

AND THE WINNER OF THE BOOKMARK IS...Anna Kathryn Lanier! Thanks so much to all who read and commented. Enjoy the links!

Posted by Debra Maher.

Please visit my blog at debmaher.com.



Sunday, April 24, 2011

Which came first?

I put up on facebook the other day the question- Which came first the Easter Bunny or the Easter Bonnet? Of course, I received some interesting answers none of which answered my questions. LOL

Which, made me dig into the history of both and found that they both go back much farther than I expected.

The Easter Bunny actually originated as the symbol for the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, used the earthly bunny symbol for the Anglo-Saxons to worship to her. The Easter bunny was also use in pre-Christian fertility lore. And because of the fertileness of the hare and the rabbit, they were symbols of new life in the spring season.
Now did the Easter Bunny cross the ocean to America? The Germans brought him. The Easter Bunny was first written about in Germany in the 1500's. In 1800 the first edible Easter Bunnies were made in Germany. Nest were built in secluded places, with the children using their caps or bonnets. If the children had been good all year the Easter Bunny would lay eggs in their nest.

The Easter Bonnets? They began before Easter was celebrated. The first bonnets were circles or wreathes of flowers to celebrate the coming of spring. After so many months of drab darkness the round shape was to symbolize the shape of the sun and the path it takes about the earth and the flowers and green leaves to show the new growth and color.
Easter was once known as the "Sunday of Joy". Mothers and daughters, who wore the dark mourning clothes after the Civil War, began wearing colorful hats to this Sunday service, adorning the hats with blooming, fresh flowers. If the flowers weren't blooming yet, they made paper and ribbon flowers and added feathers.

So, which came first the Easter Bunny or the Easter Bonnet?

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

Friday, April 22, 2011

Newbie to Seduced By History

Hello! Since I'm new to Seduced By History I thought I'd introduce myself. I'm Christina, one of the unpubbed writers here, and I am addicted to history. I'm also a wife, a mother of four (one YA and three teenagers), and on occasion I help hubs out at the upholstery shop where I get to fawn over all kinds of antiques. I have three furbies (one Great Dane, a Lab-Mastiff mix, and a terrier. Actually the terrier belongs to my oldest, he just never moved out when she did).

I write romance anywhere from Ancient Israel to Westerns set in Kansas. There are even a few Scottish Historicals sprinkled in the mix. Did I mention I'm addicted to historicals? With the wide spectrum of historicals I found it necessary to work at building two brands. Christina Rich and Renee Lynn Scott.

Currently I'm (Renee) working on finishing up a Western and I'm (Christina) polishing my Biblical. So I'm sure you'll find a wide variety of blogs from me. It should make for interesting reading.

Are there any particular topics you'd like to see from the Biblical, Pioneer, Western eras? I'll leave the Scottish to the experts. Come to think of it, I should leave the Westerns to the experts too. ;) 

You can find me (Christina) at http://christinarich.wordpress.com/ and Renee at http://www.reneelynnscott.com/

Happy Friday,

Christina

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ten Things You May Not Know about the American Civil War

April 12 marked the 150th anniversary of the shots fired at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the first shots of the American Civil War. This war has been the subject of countless books, movies, and documentaries, and even now, more than a century and a half later, the war is a subject of great interest for many. Three of my historical romances have been set during the Civil War...espionage was a critical factor in the war effort on both sides, and female spies such as the characters in Angel in My Arms and my upcoming release, Surrender to Your Touch, played a vital role in gathering intelligence. In my research, I've learned facts about the Civil War that truly amazed and touched me. Here's a sampling:
1.  Three million men fought in the Civil War.
2.  More than 620,000 died during the Civil War. This figure equates to two percent of the American population at that time.
3.  Disease killed twice as many men as battle wounds.
4.  Women served as nurses during active conflict. Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, once had a bullet go through her sleeve, killing the man she attended.
5.  The phrase brother against brother held real meaning. The sons of one Kentucky senator attained the rank of Major General: one in the Union Army, one in the Confederate Army.
6.  The battle of Antietam resulted in 23,000 casualties, making it the single bloodiest day of the Civil War.
7.  The battle of Antietam produced more casualties than D-Day in World War II.
8.  The battle of Shiloh produced more American casualties than all previous American wars combined.
9.  More than 85% of African-American men eligible to enlist in the Union Army did so...180,000 African-Americans served the Union during the war.
10. The Battle of the Ironclads (the Monitor and the Merrimack - also known as the CSS Virginia) rendered wooden warships obsolete.

The list of mind-boggling facts about the Civil War goes on and on. Add to that the sad fact that less than a week after the Confederate surrender, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, and the tragedy of the war is compounded even further. Men and women on both sides of the conflict made sacrifices - some ultimate - for their cause. These sacrifices have fueled literature for decades and will no doubt continue to do so.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Common Medicines for the Family Home

By Anna Kathryn Lanier


A few weeks ago, I came across a reproduction copy of THE FAMILY NURSE or COMPANION OF THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE by Mrs. Lydia Child. It was originally published in 1832 and is full of helpful medical help. One chapter is Common Medicines.


Mrs. Child says, “Every family ought to keep a chest of common medicines, such as ipecac, castor oil, magnesia, paregoric, etc., and especially such remedies as are useful in croup.” She stresses that medicines should be kept covered and have their names on them. Medicines such as opium, laudanum, nitric acid, etc. should also be marked “in large letters, Poison or Dangerous" and kept out of reach of children.


“The operation of medicine is always favored by very simple food, very sparingly used. Gruel is the best article. As a general rule it is better to avoid the use of emetics, when cathartics [purging] will answer the purpose equally well.”


What do these medicines do?


Castor oil is a cathartic producing little pain. It is recommended for pregnant women and those who just delivered, as well as children. You can mask the taste of it by mixing it with cinnamon water or with sweet coffee.


Carbonate of Magnesia is good for an acid state of the stomach. “A heaped up table-spoonful, well mixed in water or milk may be taken.”


Paregoric is used to control diarrhea.


What kinds of medicines were common in an 1837 household? Besides those mentioned above, Mrs. Child suggests:


Manna as a laxative, but because of its mildness, it can mixed with senna, rhubarb or some other cathartic.


Rhubarb is “at once a tonic and cathartic…Some aromatic is usually combined with it, to render it less painful. 1 ounce of senna leaves, 1 drachm of bruised coriander seed, and a pint of boiling water; steeped an hour in a eathern vessel, and strained.”


Jalap is also a cathartic (evidently, making people vomit was considered a good remedy for many illnesses). It is recommended especially where physic is required and is good to use in cases of dropsy.


Alum in “a weak solution held in the mouth is excellent for canker.”


Ginger, cinnamon, cloves and carroway are not only cooking spices, but may be used for medicinal reasons as well. The Home Nurse knew how to use these spices for helping family members with such things as dyspepsia, tooth aches, digestive problems and flatulence.


Cayenne may also be used as home remedy. Sprinkled on flannel it can be used as a rubefacient [causing redness of the skin] and was thought to be effective “for violent pain of the bowels and as a wash for rheumatism.”


Camphor must be dissolved in alcohol or expressed oil and is good for nervous head-ache or faintness. “Likewise comforting to bathe the hands, feet, and forehead, in cases of dry skin and nervous restlessness.” Camphor can also be used for muscular pains.


Mrs. Child lists twenty pages of common medicines in her book (along with long definitions of how to use them…the list is not twenty pages long). THE FAMILY NURSE is available via Barnes and Noble and a great resource for anyone writing in the 19th Century.


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

Friday, April 15, 2011

HIstorical Fun Facts in Prisoner of Love

In my latest historical romance, Prisoner of Love, coming from Ellora's Cave in June, I included some historical tidbits just for fun. I write mainly Regency-set historical romances, but the truth is my graduate degree is in American History. Same century, 19th, but different continent. So I took one of my characters, Michael, to America for part of the book. He relates his experiences there when he is back in London.

Some of the historical facts in the book are integral to the plot. Michael is in New Orleans in the winter of 1819-1820, when they had a slave revolt on one of the plantations there. The revolt is what causes Michael to return to England. But I had him travel around the still quite young United States for almost two years prior to that. He visited the newly rebuilt White House and had tea with President James Monroe. The White House was burned down during the War of 1812, and Monroe had just moved back into the partially restored house in 1817. They discussed the admission of Missouri to the Union. The debate gripping the country at that time was whether Missouri should enter as a slave state or a free state, and would culminate in the Missouri Compromise. Missouri entered as a slave state and Maine entered as a free state.

Michael traveled up the Mississippi from New Orleans to St. Louis by steamboat. In St. Louis he met fur trappers and explorers--Americans, French Canadians, Irishmen and Englishmen--trading and trapping beaver in the West. He stayed in the home of Auguste Chouteau, a famous historical figure in the history of the Louisiana Territory. The Chouteau family founded the cities of St. Louis, Kansas City and Pierre, South Dakota. They controlled the fur trade in the area.

I wrote my Master's thesis on the Chouteau family. One of these days I'm going to write a book about them. They have a very colorful and romantic history. Frankly, I love this period of American history and wish that more romances were set there. I have plans to take this series, my Brothers In Arms series, to America again, but this time to actually set a story there.

Do you like to include favorite historical tidbits in your books, even if they aren't integral to the plot? What about as a reader? Do you enjoy reading these, or do you wish authors would stick strictly to the story? I know that too much of a good thing can still be too much. But I like it when an author includes one or two fun things.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Writing Historical Romance and Who to Invite for Dinner







I found this interview I did a few years ago, and thought it had some good information on writing historical romance, as well as one of my favorite questions about who to invite to dinner. Hope you find it interesting.


1. Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold is your second historical romance. Would you tell us a little about the book?


The book is set in Durango, Colorado. I created this story around the setting. When I was a child we lived in California, but every summer drove back to Illinois to visit the grandparents. I remember how beautiful Durango was, so I wanted to set a historical here. I got a book of Durango history, and used what I found for the background for the story, the mining, the smelters, etc. 2. Both the hero and heroine are hiding secrets .What problems did you run into maintaining this tension and how did you deal with them?


The fact that they are hiding secrets is what keeps them from going right into a relationship. The reader is privy to Wes’ work for Wells Fargo and why he’s in Durango right up front, so there was no real problem in writing Wes. I had to be a little more circumspect with Julie, as the reader knows she concealing something, but not exactly what she’s concealing. The hard part for writing Julie is not to reveal too much when in her point of view or internal thoughts. Just enough to keep the reader wondering, but not enough to give the secret away until the proper time. This creates a push-pull in their feelings, as they are attracted to each other, but don’t feel they can do anything about the attraction.



3. Both your first book, Kentucky Green, and Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold are set on the American frontier. What in your opinion is the hardest part of writing stories in this setting? What is the easiest?

Well, since I a BA and MA in History and taught I was familiar with the history so once I decided where and what type of story I wanted to write, I had a general idea to start. Doing the detailed research is easy and fun for me. For Kentucky Green I did research on Kentucky long rifles, Conestoga wagons, their average speed, how far it was from one little town in Pennsylvania to another. You can find really great thing, such as a WPA travel guide to Pennsylvania that listed all the little towns, when they were founded, if they’ve changed names, what they might be famous for, etc. And I used this as a guide for the wagon train trip.


For Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold, I learned about mining and smelting in Colorado, the history of Wells Fargo, etc. The hard part of this is to stop doing the research and start writing. And while I like research, my formal training didn’t cover what clothing people wore, so I had to do a lot of research on who would be wearing what, when.


One problem I have is conveying the social conventions of the time I’m writing in without over explaining (author reader-feeder). For instance in Kentucky Green, it takes a while for the hero and heroine to even think of each other by their first name before actually addressing each other that way. That was the convention of the time, where even married people addressed each other as Mr. and Mrs. in public. Another problem is writing in a time period where S*E*X* (as Erma Bombeck used to write) wasn’t quite so prevalent. Today there is S*E*X everywhere you look. So it had to balance the actual conduct of the time with today market that wants things hot, hot, hot.


4. You're ready to begin a new project. What's the first thing you do? Research? Character bios? Plot and plan? Or just jump in and let the muse take you?

The staring place can be the setting, or just the idea of a hero or a heroine, or a plot line such as a marriage of convenience. Then you noodle around with the characters (how are they wrong for each other, how will they be right for each other) and the plot, until I have a vague outline. Then I’m fortunate enough to belong to a critique group, that over the fifteen plus years we’ve been together we’ve become a plotting group. We have an annual retreat where we each bring an idea and do the brainstorming to flesh out the characters and the plot line.


Then I write a narrative outline of the story with all the important points before I actually start writing. I sometimes do a first person bio, but not always. I know some writers feel that plotting takes away the mystery of the story, but I like to have a road map, but with my general outline, all the details somehow revel themselves as I write the story.


For example, in one of my ms. I wrote in the outline ‘Johnny finds out where the fence cutter will strike’ but had no idea how he would find out, but as I wrote the story, it figured itself out. Too weird, huh? 5. What advice can you offer to writers who are working toward publication?

Have friends who are also writers – no one else understand except other writers what we worry about, or understand and support us. My husband loves me, but he just doesn’t get ‘writing’.



And you have to keep thinking of the line from Galaxy Quest – “Never give up, never surrender!”



6. And lastly, if you could invite three people to dinner (real, fictional, living or dead), who would they be? What would you serve and why and what would you want to discuss over coffee?



Wow! What a choice. Did you ever watch the old PBS series Meeting of the Minds where Steve Allen had historical figures to dinner and a discussion?


After a lot of thought (too many possibilities!) I think I’ll have dinner with George Washington, Elizabeth I and Alexander the Great. These are personalities who fascinated me while studying/teaching history. I think it would be interesting to find the real person behind the historical persona they’ve become. All of them seem to be bigger than life characters but from my studies I think they all were in essence really very private people who only allowed a few real friends to really know the people they were.


And it, it just occurred to me, none of them left a direct descendent. What to serve would be a real problem since George, Elizabeth and Alexander come from such different times. So I think I’d go with a simple menu, roast turkey and new world vegetables such as corn and tomatoes, some bread, then round it out with fruit (apples, pears, grapes) and nuts along with a couple of types of cheese, one or two types of wine, and of course coffee and tea.

Discussion is easy as we would discuss leadership and the responsibility there of. George was a natural leader, who was willing to step up and take on the role and responsibility.



Elizabeth had to keep her head (literally) on her way to becoming queen. And then as a woman in a man’s job, learn to lead men without making them resent it.



Alexander must have been some sort of super charismatic man to get his troops to follow him to the ends of the earth.


These three were also in a sense the first/originator of their role – President, a reigning Queen, a conqueror.



If you got to invite three people from history for dinner - who would it be?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Civil War Trauma

Post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s a timely subject, considering how many young men and women are serving in the military all over the world today. But what of the men who fought during one of the bloodiest conflicts of the time, a war that pitted brother against brother, father against son?

What of the American Civil War? Surely the suicidal frontal assaults, troops marching forward in formation to be decimated by rifle and artillery fire, battlefields littered with the dead and dying, must have had a horrific effect on those soldiers. Yet surprisingly little has been written on the subject.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychological syndrome which results when a person is exposed to a traumatic event such as warfare. Although PTSD only really emerged as a psychiatric diagnosis in the 1970s, it’s clear that veterans of the Civil War also suffered from it. Its symptoms include anxiety, a dread of calamity, depression, flashbacks and nightmares; emotional numbing or apathy. PTSD can include social pathologies, as well, including suicide, drug or alcohol abuse, and domestic violence.

One study states that among the typical symptoms of PTSD in Civil War soldiers, the most common is fear, specifically the fear of being killed. This fear would often lead to a man barricading himself in his house, often at night, and stay up watching and waiting for the imagined foe to appear. Others would keep weapons at their side at all times, and sometimes sleep with an axe or other such weapon under their beds. The usual treatment of the day was heavy doses of sedatives to keep them calm.


In Coming Home, my new release from Highland Press, my hero, Cavan Callaghan, is a veteran of Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade who fought at Antietam. He’d lost a lot even before joining up, and I knew he couldn’t have come through that bloody conflict without at least a few scars. But I decided to make his scars the internal, rather than the external type. Cavan’s PTSD manifests itself in an extreme possessiveness of those he loves, even as he tries to deny the extent to which he cares for them. He’s sure my heroine, Ashleen, will eventually betray him. And he’s pursued by the fear that the fragile happiness he’s discovered in Ireland will be snatched away



“The more things change, the more they stay the same…”

~ Alphonse Karr, 1808-1890



Here’s an excerpt from Coming Home:


The Atlantic Ocean, 1867

He was going home.

Home. Such a simple word. And for so long now, such an unattainable dream.

Yet as he stood on the deck of the Mary O’Connor, he thought maybe he’d finally find a real home once again.

When Johnny comes marching home again . . .

He looked seaward. The salt wind tugged at his hair. Spray stung his eyes. Gulls wheeled and shrieked overhead. Open water lay beyond the horizon, and beyond that still, his new life. In a few weeks, the Mary O’Connor would dock in Galway Bay, and from there he’d head for the small village his parents had spoken of with such love. He felt a stirring of emotion, the first spark of excitement since—

Deliberately he cut off the thought. He was no longer a soldier. There would be no more Rebel yells, no more guns, no more battles. He was no longer Captain Callaghan, so-called hero of the Irish Brigade.

He was just plain Cavan Callaghan, an Irishman searching for peace.

What would Ireland be like? For as long as he could remember, he’d heard his parents speak wistfully of the country they’d left behind. The green fields and sea-swept coast. The heather-strewn countryside filled with wild strawberries and prickly gorse. They’d spoken of the people, too, but especially of his father’s brother.

The last of the Flynns now, except for himself.

His mother had said the village of Ballycashel lay some nine miles from Galway City. What would he find there? He knew about the Hunger, of course. Had any of his family survived?

Or would he find the same devastation he’d confronted on his return from the war?

A ripple of sound floating on the briny breeze told him he wasn’t alone. Recognizing the delicate notes of a penny whistle, he glanced around. One of his fellow passengers, obviously an Irishman, lowered the instrument from his lips and smiled, his foot tapping in jig time.

The piper began playing anew, and a raw slash of anguish ripped through Cavan’s gut. He knew the words well, and the tune the man played so effortlessly and with such emotion.

He’d prayed never to hear them again.

The minstrel boy to the war has gone,


In the ranks of death you’ll find him . . .

He squeezed his eyes shut, the ‘ranks of death’ marching through his memory. So many friends, his comrades-in-arms, who would never return . . .

His brother.

With a hard shake of his head, he strode away from the haunting melody.

He was going home. And there he would find peace.

There would be no more war.