Friday, May 6, 2016

(Really Great) Writers on Writing By Gail Roughton

A few weeks ago, I took a couple of hours and "organized" my computer files. Like closets and file cabinets, computers tend to accumulate a lot of files and documents you had good reason to save at the time you saved them. Unfortunately, six months--or six years--later, you have absolutely no idea what that reason was.  That's when you need to bite the bullet and go through those accumulated files, organizing what's usable in such a fashion you can actually find it when you need to use it, and deleting the things you have no idea why you saved in the first place.  Sometimes, in the course of such a clean-up, you find some absolute gems you'd forgotten you'd ever saved. Like the following quotes from a few of the acknowledged greatest writers of our time. 

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." W. Somerset Maugham. (That might be my favorite.)

"If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they're happy."  Dorothy Parker.  (No, wait! With apologies to Mr. Maugham, that's my favorite!)

Writing's tough. If it was easy, anybody could do it. Any seasoned writer will tell you--the first rule of writing is there are no rules, and that's been said by many people in many different ways.  Still, there are pearls of wisdom to be gleaned from listening to the greats. Like this one:  "The first draft of everything is s--t." Ernest Hemingway. And when an aspiring writer actually believes that insofar as their own first draft goes, they are well on the way to ceasing to be "aspiring" and becoming a seasoned writer. 

"I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide."  Harper Lee. Now who in their right mind would ignore advice from Harper Lee?  (Nobody in their right mind, of course.) I'd also add that without a thick hide, all the talent in the world isn't going to help you, because you won't survive long enough for that talent to be discovered. 

"If writing seems hard, it's because it is hard. It's one of the hardest things people do." William Zinsser.  Yes, it is. And that's why it's so satisfying when a reader's review lets the writer know that their words made an imaginary world populated with imaginary characters live for them. It's magic. Magic made real. And there's nothing like it. Speaking of magic...


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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Kathy Fischer-Brown




I’ve always loved history. Way back in junior high, my mind would wander far from the class lectures on dates, battles, and treaties to musings on what it might have been like to live in another time.  For the past 30-something years, I’ve used that same curiosity to explore the past through social histories, diaries, old maps, attending re-enactment events, and use it all to enhance the settings of my novels and the attitudes and mores of the characters that populate the stories. I like to imagine these books as a passageway to another time, where readers can escape to a bygone era while being entertained by a good story.

Born in New York City, I live in central Connecticut with my long-time husband and two dogs.



Historical Romance
Winter Fire

Historical Fiction – Georgian/American Revolution
Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter (The Serpent’s Tooth, Book 1)
Courting the Devil (The Serpent’s Tooth, Book 2)
The Partisan’s Wife (The Serpent’s Tooth, Book 3)

Epic Fantasy Adventure
The Return of Tachlanad (Sword of Names, Book 1)


The Return of Tachlanad

Amazon
When the queen receives an omen, it can mean only one thing: the fate of all she loves hangs in the balance. The land and its people will topple into chaos if a tenuous alliance cannot be preserved. Her husband misled by sinister forces, her son gone missing, she sends her daughter and wizard father on a journey far to the west to reach the impregnable stronghold of “the True King in Hiding.” There they will seal the truce with Elthwen’s marriage to the old king’s unwilling son and unite against the evil power that seeks to subjugate them.
An epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers, The Return of Tachlanad is the first book in the “Sword of Names” series.

Courting the Devil

Amazon
Four years after a near fatal blunder uproots her from her home and inheritance, Anne Darvey, daughter of the Marquess of Esterleigh, finds herself an indentured servant on a farm near Fort Edward in New York, as the British army advances toward Albany. Driven by guilt over the pain she has caused her father and grief over her lover’s death, she sets out to deliver a message. The consequences lead to the discovery that all is not as it seems, and sets in motion events that lead to love and danger.
Set against the backdrop of the American Revolution, Courting the Devil is the second book in “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy, which follows Anne from her childhood in the rural English countryside, to London society, and into the center of the American Revolution.

The Partisan’s Wife

Amazon
Faced with an impossible choice, Anne is torn between her love for her husband and the hope of her father’s forgiveness. As the American forces follow up on their tide-turning victories over the British at Freeman’s Farm and Bemis Heights, Peter is drawn inextricably deeper into the shady network of espionage that could cost them both their lives.
Is his commitment to the Rebel cause stronger than his hard-won love for Anne? Will her sacrifice tear them apart again...this time forever? Or will they find the peace and happiness they both seek in a new beginning?

The Partisan’s Wife follows Anne and Peter through the war torn landscape of Revolutionary War America, from the Battle of Saratoga to New York, Philadelphia and beyond.

Find all of Kathy's titles at Books We Love:


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

17th century Medicine by Katherine Pym



Healing the Brain

 While researching my 1660 novels, I come across some very interesting information. The most unique is medicine. Even though the cures were most often worse than the disease, from journals of the time people gave their healers an optimum of trust.

A Surgeon at Work.
At the beginning of the 17th century, Barbers and Surgeons were in demand, but by the end of the century, Physicians took over the bulk of medicine. They were even allowed to enter the birthing chamber.

London Air:
A few great thinkers felt the ‘airs’ in the city were toxic, and a cause for the many illnesses that plagued the environs. To remove the vile odors that poisoned the city, one suggested a barge be filled with freshly cut onions and transported downriver to the sea. The stink would follow the onions like a cloud of bees after their queen.

Another use was to leave peeled onions on the ground for several days. It would soak up all the nearby illnesses. Herbs scattered in doorways and window sills were popular to keep fevers from entering the house. Pomanders filled with spices were shaken by men and women in crowded halls and markets.

In 1664 Amsterdam suffered from the ravages of the bubonic plague. It was only a matter of time before it sailed the North Sea and found its way to London. Superstition and false treatments (expensive too) ruled the day.

Smoking a pipe, Sir Walter Raleigh being doused.
During the London plague of 1665, an edict stated the lanes must be swept of cats and dogs (killed & immediately buried), for they could carry the deadly scythe. Tobacco kept the plague at bay, and was smoked or chewed. Children were whipped if they did not pull on their pipes. Burning brimstone helped, and discharging a musket or pistol in the house cleaned unwholesome airs from the premises. Many wore lucky charms around their necks.

Piss Pot Science: a diagnosis of illness by looking at someone’s urine. The patient can be within reach or elsewhere. It was diagnosis by proxy.

Barbers pulled teeth. They could also bleed a customer, i.e., leech blood to balance the fluids and cool dark bile within the body. To be bled a cup of blood would cost you five shillings. Barbers were not allowed to do surgery, but they often disregarded this rule.  

A medicine: A draught of wormwood (absinthe) with white wine and sheep’s trittles (dung) were infused together. Then the apothecary would add powdered eggshells to the mixture. My sources did not state what this would cure.
More meds: drugs that came from the apothecary could have these ingredients in them—moss, smoked horses’ testicles, May dew, and henbane.

Other cures:
One must sing and dance before the victim of a tarantula bite.
When in bed and fearful of getting ill, have someone tie your hands under the covers. 
The king’s hands held sacred cures. When he touched you, your scrofula would be cured. Touching an executed man’s hand would also cure scrofula, and other ailments.
Rub veal lard on injured parts of your body.
It was good to tie a newly dead pigeon to a patient’s foot. This released poisons from the affected person through its feathers into the dead bird’s body.
If you had the pox (syphilis), you could not get the plague.

Things to do & avoid:
Sweet potatoes bring on wind and lust.
Wear a cloth on the belly to keep from getting cold.
Carry signs of the zodiac to ward off the plague.

Weather:
A green winter (warm) will cause illness.
Do not eat fruit during a warm summer. It will give you a deadly fever.

The sale of fruits was prohibited during plagues. L. Riverius, in The Practice of physic (1672), said, “In summertime crude humors breed... by eating of fruits, and over much drinking which being mixed with choler do breed bastard Tertians.’” (a type of malarial fever)

Mercury was used for almost everything, especially syphilis.
Turpentine was formed into syrups and pills. Easily obtained, it was a solution to many problems. 
Cut a sick child’s hair, put the strands between two pieces of bread; then give it to the first dog you see. This will cause the child’s illness to transfer into that of the dog.
Tobacco also kept tuberculosis (consumption) at bay. Initially called the ‘white plague’, TB gained prevalence during the 17th century. Thomas Willis came to the conclusion all lung diseases would mutate into consumption. He blamed this on the higher intake of sugar and acidity in the blood.

Charms & Good Luck pieces:
Grey cat’s skin=remedy for whooping cough
Key attached to rope=wards off witches
Coins=brings wealth
Iron pyrite covered acorns=prevents lightning strikes.
Hares foot=cures the colic. When it is made into a glister of honey and salt, it “purgeth the guts of slime & filth.”

Due to a large amount of meat in the 17th century diet, constipation was an issue. People would set aside a day to purge, take a physic and sit near the potty-chair. When things got bad, you’d resort to a clyster or enema.

A Physician's Tools
One enema recipe: ale, a fair amount of sugar, and butter. Recipes such as this or warm water in a plunger would be inserted into the anus. With use of a pump, these solutions would be injected into the colon. Not so different from this day and age, but God only knew what was in the ‘warm water’, which came either from the conduits along Cheapside, or more than likely, the Thames, a stinkpot of offal and sometimes a receptacle for dead bodies.

Women’s illnesses:
In the mid-16th century, a physician described the green sickness an ailment of virgins.  Young women would suffer from lethargy and dietary changes. By the late 17th century the disease was considered a hysterical woman’s ailment. A man could be the source of the cure, though. He would have sex with the suffering (chaste & virginal) woman.

Another male diagnosis on the subject of women’s heath was the wandering womb. The physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia said the womb was “’an animal within an animal,’ an organ that ‘moved of itself hither and thither in the flanks.’” The womb would bang into all sorts of internal organs, and sometimes, even make its way into the brain, pushing aside grey matter. To get the woman with child was the only cure; if the woman was celibate or a virgin, so much the better. 

A Treatment for Mental Maladies.  One was to strap a poor fellow to a board and slide his head into an oven constructed like a large beehive. Other holes were drilled around the top of this oven. The fire within this beehive sort of structure would purge the bad humors and make one well again. Not likely he’d survive the fire and smoke inhalation, though. Sad business, that.

~*~*~*~*~
Many thanks to my notes collected over the years,
Culpeper, Nathanial, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, and

  
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