Saturday, July 2, 2016



Why do I write historical romance: Because I love history.

The most important aspects are:

You must be passionate about your subject in a historical novel. You might get away

without this passion in a contemporary, but you won’t in a historical:

Historical Accuracy. Without that, your novel is doomed and so are you.

Write about an era that you are interested in.

I am not into Medieval or Regency, so it would be tedious trying to do the research required for this, and I wouldn’t have the passion about it, and I am sure this would show in my writing.

Research Options:

The internet (use with caution as you can’t be 100% sure that the person who posted knows what they are talking about).

Library reference books – a great place to start.



Quizzing elderly relatives (depending, of course, which era you are writing about)

2nd World War, Vietnam, Great Depression – all o.k. because they would have lived during these times.

Reading family diaries and/or letters.

Actually visiting places where you story takes place or somewhere similar.

e.g. I visited the old Melbourne jail for my novel, Daring Masquerade, set during the 1st World War,  because my heroine was jailed for being a spy. I wanted to see what it was like. The walls were solid bluestone, and cold, even on a warm day. The cell was small etc.


Name towns: Know the area. What grows etc. I always set most of my stories in N.E. Victoria because I know the area well. Mention a few main towns, but I never be too specific, because you can get easily caught out.  I always make up a fake town near a main town or city.

In my novel, Allison’s War, set in 1916, I said the heroine lived at Dixon’s Siding (made up name) i.e The left the farm at Dixon’s Siding, and after an hours riding (horses) reached Wangaratta.

I PURPOSELY DID NOT SAY Dixon’s Siding was (10 miles west of Wangaratta on the Greta/Myrtleford Road, because I didn’t know for sure, that there wasn’t a giant lake there or a massive quarry at that time (1916).


Lauren’s Dilemma

1.30a.m. 25th April 1915. Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey

Pte. Danny Williamson shivered in the chilly air as he waited on the deck of the troopship.

A.    0130 hrs – not 1.30a.m. No soldier would say 1.30a.m. The army always uses the 24 hour clock

My novel, A Wicked Deception is set in 1854.

On arrival at the homestead, Melanie unsaddled the mare and let her loose in the stockyards James had constructed from split logs. Surprising how neglected a house became after being left empty for a few days

Within 5 minutes she had dusted the kitchen and was sitting down having a cup of hot milky tea?

A.    Where did she get the milk? She would have had to milk the cow.  

Water would have to be boiled on wood stove? She would have had to light the stove, maybe even cut the wood for it. This would certainly take more than 5 minutes.

In Daring Masquerade 1916. The heroine goes to ring Colonel Andrew Smith. She punches in the telephone number and waits for him to pick up the phone? No.

A.   She rang the operator, dialled the exchange etc. And she certainly didn’t use her mobile phone.

On her wedding night, her nightgown was exquisite, a soft, white polyester, lavishly trimmed with lace.

A.    No polyester in those days.

Beware of modern language and slang.

A poor, uneducated person wouldn’t speak the same way as a rich, educated person.

So, as you can see there are many pitfalls to writing historical fiction, but if you have a genuine love of history it is a pleasure to write in this genre.

When Harriet Martin masquerades as a boy to help her shell-shocked brother in 1916, falling in love with her boss wasn’t part of the plan.

Friday, July 1, 2016

WHAT TIME IS IT? by Shirley Martin

Hard to believe, but pocket watches date back to the 1400s.  Both men and women wore pocket watches, and these could be expensive when new.

How we tell time has changed dramatically throughout history.  In 3500 B.C.  Greeks and Egyptians used shadow clocks that depended on the movement and rotation of the sun.  The time of day was determined by the length of the shadow cast by the column as the sun passed from east to west.   The shadow cast by the markers around an obelisk calculated time and indicated morning or afternoon besides the summer and winter solstices.  Obviously, these shadow clocks were useless at night or on cloudy days.

Another method of telling time was the hourglass, believed to be invented by the Egyptians.  Two vertically aligned chambers are connected by a small opening, and grains of sand fall at a steady rate from one chamber to another when the hourglass is turned over.

By the end of the 9th century people used graduated candles to determine time at night.  King Alfred’s candle clocks measured 12 inches in height of uniform thickness and were made from 72 pennyweight of wax.  A mark illustrated every inch, each one denoting 20 minutes.  They burned for four hours inside glass boxes framed by wood to keep the flames alive.

Clock originally meant “bell.”  In the Middle Ages, religious institutions used bells to schedule daily prayers and work hours.  Christian monks became technically proficient and became the first clock makers.

Locksmiths’ and jewelers’ guilds gave rise to the first professional clockmakers.   The specialized craft slowly developed into a major industry in England and Europe.  In Germany the Black Forest focused on cuckoo clocks; carved wooden birds emerged and sang the time.

The English became renowned watchmakers and passed an act in 1698 that required watchmakers to place their names upon the watches they crafted.  When immigrants landed in the American colonies they brought their skills with them, but it was unusual for colonial watchmakers to sign their name, so we know little of their history.  Most of the watches sold in colonial America were imported from England.

In the colonies the affluent could purchase watches and clocks.   By 1750, newspapers advertised locally-made watches.

The first mechanical alarm clock, invented in 1787, could ring only at 4 a.m.  Eighty-nine years later, Seth P. Thomas patented a wind-up alarm clock able to be set for a wake-up time chosen by the owner.

Around 1850, with the beginning of the American system of manufacturing, Americans used automatic machines to mass produce watches with attractive interchangeable parts.  The watches were uncomplicated, reasonably-priced and of a better quality.

Women wore wristwatches at the beginning of the 20th century.  Men didn’t wear them until after World War I.  By war’s end, wristwatches had become fashionable.

The U.S.  National Bureau of Standards and Technology presented the atomic clock in 1999.  The most accurate timekeeping device recognized today, this clock is able to run for almost 20 million years without gaining or losing a second.  It’s used to define official world time, and modern life runs on the official measurement of time.

And speaking of time, we all know that the continental United States has four time zones–Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific.  Ever wonder how that came about?  The completion of the Intercontinental Railroad in 1869  prompted the designation of time zones.   By 1876, a wealthy man could travel from New York City to San Francisco in 83 hours.  (For a man of lesser means, the trip took ten days.)   So if a man left New York City at 9 a.m. and reached San Francisco 83 hours later, it could hardly still be 9 a.m.

We’ve come a long way from the shadow clocks of 3500 B.C.

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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Time Traveling

by Kathy Fischer-Brown
For the past four years, fellow BWL historical author, Juliet Waldron, and I have taken a few days together to step back in time to an era we both love and love to write about. As many of you read in her post yesterday, this year we ventured into the past to relive the 1778 Battle of Monmouth. I won’t recap the events, as Juliet (as always) did a great job. Instead I will meander a bit…

Lean-to for three
 As a writer of historical-set novels, I strive to make each book an immersive experience, and, if I haven’t lived in the time—at least on some basic level—my readers will be deprived of the sights, smells, sounds, flavors, and tactile sensations that make the past come alive. Living in the 21st century we tend to take many of our comforts for granted. Such things as plumbing and electricity, not to mention the internet, satellite weather forecasts, and streaming video. Even for the re-enactors themselves, going “home” to a hot shower and a real bed is always on the other side of a long weekend camping out without benefit of modern gear. It takes a bit of imagination to put oneself in the position of an actual denizen of the 18th century, stuck there for life…and all that that entailed. (And except for Jamie Fraser, I can’t imagine what kept Claire of “Outlander” so long in 1740s Scotland.)

Hanging the Laundry
I don’t for a moment wax nostalgic over a past in which our ancestors lived and died (most likely too young and from conditions and afflictions that in this modern world might be considered no more than nuisances or inconveniences, or in worst cases could be treated so much more effectively today). In this sense, I strive to create a realistic picture of the mid-to-late1700s, warts and all, taking into consideration some of the ugly facts of these days of yore, some of which today seem barbaric, even stupid, especially when the 18th century is known as “The Age of Enlightenment.” Women’s rights were barely the glimmer of a glimmer of a dream; sanitation and personal hygiene were practically nonexistent; and Draconian laws were often imposed for the slightest offenses. In cities, the poorest people often lived in squalid conditions without benefit of social services. Not to mention the existence of and dependence on slavery. 

Consideration of these facts often make me wonder why I love the period the way I do and choose to set stories in this time. That’s probably why a day or two at a re-enactment event can be so inspiring.

Doing the Wash
While the battles are fun to experience with all the senses and are well-orchestrated, I find the most interesting aspects of these events to be the daily lives and struggles of the people behind the scenes: the common soldiers hanging their wash to dry from makeshift lines and poles; women weaving baskets, cooking meals, mending clothes, and doing laundry; children being children (albeit without ipads and video games). The smells and the sounds, and the details of the clothing. The reminders that, despite the strangeness of the details, human nature remains unchanged.

Over the last few years I’ve developed a deep respect for the re-enactors of these events. They are passionate about what they do and are highly knowledgeable of the minutiae that governed the lives of the simple people they portray and are more than happy to share. 

And when the weekend ends, I look forward to returning to 2016, to my home in the suburbs of Central Connecticut, to my computer and cable TV, even if there’s an hour-and-a-half delay over the George Washington Bridge.


Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, Winter Fire, Lord Esterleigh's Daughter, Courting the DevilThe Partisan's Wife, and The Return of Tachlanad, her latest release, an epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her The Books WeLove Author page or visit her website. All of Kathy’s books are available in e-book and in paperback from Amazon and other online retailers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Katherine Pym

Katherine Pym for some reason really enjoys 17th century London, mostly the Restoration period of the 1660’s. Those years show the abrupt turnaround between the strict Puritan beliefs and the wild Monarchy romps, and how it profoundly affected the common man. On another note, Katherine and her husband divide their time between Seattle and Austin. 

The Barbers is historical fiction based in London 1663, a story that explores current events. This year is filled with science and medicine, the Royal Society and experiments that take place there. Bigamy prevails. Celia lives in a household filled with children from her father’s wives.  Sharing a shop with her father, Celia is a licensed barber who works as a healer. During her journeys, she crosses paths with the aristocracy who live in Whitehall, the home of the king. 

Jasper’s Lament is historical fiction, London 1664 when the London merchants clamor for war. They fear for their investments. The Dutch prowl the seas in their superior ships and are very rude to the English. Skirmishes take place, ports-of-call plundered. After his father’s mysterious death, Jasper discovers coded messages, letters penned in invisible ink which indicate plots against the king. Then, as war nears, Jasper falls in love with the daughter of a Dutchman.  


All my historical novels at:

A Master Passion:

I just went to the Battle of Monmouth last weekend in nearby NJ—although I was in no danger of being shot or impaled by a British dragoon. For a novelist, historical reenactments like this one are a unique kind of research. It’s one which, especially for the dedicated participants who volunteer their time to living history, functions as a full-on primitive camping trip, a personal exercise in experiencing the hard realities of “time travel.”

Kathy Fischer-Brown, who also writes the Revolution (The Serpent's Tooth Trilogy) did a lot of the work of getting us there, so she's the "we" and "us" in the following recitation.

At such events, you’ll find a group of dedicated history buffs portraying life as it was, in this case, during our now mythologized Revolution. These folks wear the clothes, made  of wool, muslin, and linen. They negotiate the territory wearing the one-shape-fits-both-left-and-right-foot shoes. After the “battle,” the men – and the women filling the ranks as foot soldiers--clean and oil their black powder flint locks, clean (puke!) the cannon. The “camp followers,” in reality, mostly poor women and their kids who would starve if they didn’t follow their soldier husbands, pluck chickens and scrape vegetables and use the cooking utensils—on the road, like this, mostly big black pots, knives, and iron cranes, to prepare their meals. Often, just as in the past, those big pots do double duty for food preparation.

At night they’ll sleep on the ground, with the marked exception of a few officers with camp cots. Washington, Lafayette and Joh Laurens are said to have slept under a tree together on the eve of this battle. On the British side, there will be tents and even the occasional officer’s lady/mistress, prettily parading at the encampment. On the American side, they’ll sack out in a group on hay strewn beneath a lean-to roofed with green branches. As much as possible, they walk the walk and talk the talk—and, this being summer in New Jersey—they sweat the sweat too.

Unlike the reenactment, the original Battle of Monmouth was not much fun. More soldiers are said to have died of heat prostration than bullets. And New Jersey was thoroughly beaten up in the American Revolution, marched and back and forth upon by both armies. (Only Massachusetts and Virginia may have suffered more.) The British Army, with a contingent of brutalized professional soldiers, plundered and raped indiscriminately. “…a day of rest and plunder,” is casually noted in the Visitor’s Center display, as the British Army who’d settled in the little town (then called Monmouth Courthouse) the day before the engagement. Don’t forget, though, that there was bad behavior by the Americans, too, under the cover of “Freedom’s Cause.” Violent militia groups with an ax to grind took advantage of local breakdowns of law and order in exactly the same way.  
This year at the Battlefield State Park, a young "soldier" reminded us that if you’d had a vote on The War of Independence—1/3 of the population would have been for it, 1/3 of the population against leaving the British Empire, and 1/3 just trying to stay the hell out of the way and get on with trying to farm their fields and raise their families. It must have been a long, dangerous, frightening eight years for all colonists.
However, June 18-19,  2016, was a great day to be at the place where all this history happened. Sunny skies brought out lots of people to take in the spectacle—the black powder display which seems to attract most of them.  They came in like a wave, and then, after the shooting was over and the acrid black powder smoke drifted away, departed.

After the crowd dispersed taking their small children, the hard core remains--folks like us who love history and the reenactors, who, I think, can lay claim to loving it even more. This is the time in which you may visit the encampments to observe and perhaps chat a bit while those in costume make their supper.  The reenactors Kathy and I have met are spectacularly devoted to their chosen task. (Calling it a "hobby" wouldn't be correct.) We saw entire families, from infants on up, at this “camping trip + time-travel”, everyone dressed appropriately.  Even little fifer boys of eight or nine are willing to play a part and give a history lesson.

Loyalist Rangers

One enjoyable facet of this reenactment at Monmouth was the number of young people enthusiastically and knowledgeably present.  Kathy and I enjoyed meeting the “smallpox survivors” who’d gone to the trouble of makeup to demonstrate active pocks, scaring, and boils.  Other young reenactors had constructed an ingenious in-ground cooktop, which conserved fuel and was less obvious from a distance than an open fire. (The reason, we were told, that you won't see this at a lot of other reenactments is that the Park personnel are usually not keen about folks digging holes.) Several pots of bubbling stew—a random assortment of vegetables and some chicken, with a bit of flour added, were being served, along with chunks of hearty bread.  

Laundry too "cooked" in a large "copper"—the heat and a bit of lye soap part of the sanitization process necessary for undergarments, this explained by the barefoot woman of the army busy stirring the pot. She and her sisters-in-arms were busy everywhere, all at work at some period appropriate task.   

In Sutler's Row, Lady Ellen showcases her talent as a seamstress; note what we'd call "mismatch."

BTW not a selfie in the background, but the heavy crook of her cane.
A pot full of chicken is seared.

         The in-ground cooktop/oven

Col. Hamilton was at Monmouth, an aide de camp who rode all day carrying messages around the battlefield for his commander-in-chief. (His doings, of course, brought about my original interest in the site.) Miscommunications and a lack of concerted movement by Gen. Charles Lee and Gen. George Washington turned the battle, begun so promisingly, into a kind of draw. This action, the longest single day's action in the war, was, nevertheless, an important moral victory for the Americans. Although the British continued on to their embarkation point at Sandy Hook, for the first time, the American army really stood up for itself against the military know-how of a far more mission-ready foe.

To close, if you write historical novels, there's a great deal to be learned at reenactments. Simply observing people wearing the clothing kick starts my writing process. Therefore, if you've never attended one, this summer would be a perfect time to start.

~~Juliet Waldron

All My Novels

*With heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in this marvelous day of living history, especially to the 2nd PA "The Regiment" The 43rd of Foot, who were so generous sharing their knowledge.

A Poodle, a Wedding Anniversary, and a Opossum By Connie Vines

I had an article about the craft of writing written and ready to post.  I decided, instead, to share that post next month. Why? For thos...