Thursday, April 6, 2017

Say What, Now? By Gail Roughton

Visit Gail Roughton at Books We Love, Ltd.
Has it ever crossed your mind that a lot of problems are caused by folks unnecessarily complicating things? We've all got folks in our lives who're masters of that.  You know, like the people who, when hanging a picture, first pull out their handy-dandy stud-finder and locate a stud (regardless of whether the picture weighs a few ounces or whether it's in an ornate frame and weighs a ton), and then pull out the tape measure and measure top to bottom and side to side before picking a spot.  This was my husband's preferred method when he was younger; nowadays, he's more apt to follow my method of eyeballing the wall, hammering in the nail and hanging the picture. I've always been a "the shortest distance between two points is a straight line" type of gal.

But the prize-winners among the folks who unnecessarily complicate things are English teachers, especially senior high English teachers and college professors.  Please let me state here that I have the utmost respect for teachers, truly I do. However, I'm afraid teachers, especially those who teach in the aforementioned upper levels of the educational system, might have a bit too much respect for just how complex and complicated a writer's mind is.  We're really not that complicated.  What am I talking about?  

This.  This little diagram is what I'm talking about.  We're writers. We're not rocket scientists.We're telling a story. We're not making comments on the inequities of society.  Well, we are, but that's because any story we write is, of necessity, reflective of the society in which it's set. In other words, we write what we know because guess what? It's what we know.  Unless of course it's science fiction or fantasy. But it's not like we're sending out hidden messages visible only to those who sit and analyze our wondrous words. 

For instance, when my youngest son was in college, one particular assignment required him to discuss the significance of Bram Stoker's use of the Three Sisters in Dracula as an allegory for the social inequities in the treatment of women in Victorian society. Or something similarly esoteric to that phraseology, it's been a while.  And really. Say what, now? 

We're talking about Dracula here.  Truly one of the masterpieces of literature. I read it when I was in the eighth grade and I didn't sleep for three nights thereafter. I didn't sleep without a cross and a St. Christopher's medal around my neck for the next ten to fifteen years, either. Was that the effect Bram Stoker was going for? Oh, you betcha it was. Was he disappointed it never crossed my mind that the Three Sisters weren't being treated fairly as equals to the Count, just as women in 19th Century England weren't treated as equals to men? Well, I can't exactly ask him but I really doubt he'd have lost any sleep over it. I think if anybody asked him what was going through his mind when he created the the Three Sisters, he'd say "I was trying to scare the bloody hell out of anybody reading the story." And if anybody asked him for his thought processes in creating such an allegory for the social inequities of his society, his response would be "Say what, now?"  In an English accent of course.

Because evil never dies. It just--waits.
I write to entertain. To be honest, I write to entertain myself. That's honestly my primary motive for writing. I've written books widely disparate in style and genre and usually the bottom-line motive is I'm bored and I need some entertainment. That being said, of all my books, The Color of Seven is the one an English teacher would be most apt to find full of hidden allegories and parables and comments on society (not that I think any English teacher would ever be using it in an English class). That's because it spans over a century in time, beginning in the 1880's and extending to the present as it tells the story of a family living in Macon, Georgia in the post-Civil War South. Racism, mixed marriages, and prejudice are all elements of the plot. And then there's the eternal battle of good versus evil, light versus dark thing, I've always been a sucker for that, it gives me the excuse to throw black magic and voodoo and vampires in. I call it my Southern Gothic family saga horror, and my unabashed and unashamed motive in writing same was to scare the hell out of my readers while making them fall in love with some of the characters and totally loathe a few others, which is the pinnacle of success for any writer. (And at the risk of sounding as though I'm tooting my own horn, feedback from readers indicate I was successful in that endeavor, at least with a few folks.) 

As to the more serious social issues I admit are an integral part of the background and plot of this book--trust me, I didn't set out to write a novel highlighting those issues. They're in the book because I'm southern, born in 1954. I cut my teeth on Civil War history, I grew up in the 1960's. I never did a lick of research on anything in that book (unless you count copying the street names and business names off an old 1888 map of my hometown of Macon, Georgia which is why the story starts in the 1880's in Macon, Georgia--I wasn't about to waste that treasure) except for the voodoo black magic elements involved. I didn't do any research  because I didn't need to. And why not?  Because we write what we know, what's already there, burned into our brains and woven into the very fibers of our being. There's not always a hidden agenda.

Therefore, if any English teacher ever did ask a student to discuss the use of vampirism in The Color of Seven as a statement on the post-Civil War dichotomy between the races, trust me--the only appropriate response would be "Say what, now?" Everything doesn't have to be complicated, folks. You know what they say.  "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck--it's probably a duck." Enjoy the simple pleasures! (Including a good scare.)

Visit Gail At Books We Love, Ltd.
You can also drop in at her WebBlog,

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The reign of Queen Anne Stuart, Rosemary Morris

 Purchase these books written during the riegn of Queen Anne Stuart, and more books by Rosemary Morris by visiting her Books We Love author page: 

I have written three historical romances, with strong themes, set in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart, 1702-1714. Tangled Love, Far Beyond Rubies and The Captain and The Countess.
When Queen Anne Stuart, niece of Charles II, ruled from 1702 to 1714 attitudes towards children and their education were very different to those in the 21st century.

Childhood and Education. Gentlewomen
     in early 18th century England.

Little is known about the nursery, in which babies were fed pap instead of either their mother’s or a wet nurse’s milk. To entertain infants, those whose parents could afford them, babies had coral rattles with bells.
Little girls played with dolls, which were called ‘Babies’. An advertisement read: On Saturday, last, being the 12th instant, there arrived at my House in King Street, Covent Garden, a French Baby for the year 1712.  Some dolls were made of wax, but these were the most expensive and so were those in Widow Smith’s raffle, large jointed, dressed Babies. It is possible that, dolls were girls’ only toys.
Although most girls were educated at home some of them attended boarding schools. . In Tangled Love, the heroine’s young sister attends one owned by *Mrs Elizabeth Tutchin in Highgate, where young gentlewomen could be soberly educated and taught all sorts of learning fit for young gentlewomen.
It was considered very important to instil sobriety into pert girls, who probably ogled men, were always on the lookout for a potential husband and flirted with fans. For example: *A fan placed near the heart sent the message “You have won my love.” Hiding the eyes behind the fan. I love you. Twirling the fan in the left hand. We are being watched.
In addition to reading, writing and arithmetic, plain sewing and embroidery, town bred pupils were taught to dance, sing and play the virginals, spinet and guitar. Other instruction might include painting on glass, wax work and drawing. They also learned culinary arts - pastry, sweetmeats, sauces and liqueurs.
A clue to country-bred girls’ education is in the dialogue between characters in The Sowrers by Shadwell, from which I quote some snippets.
Priscilla. Did she not bestow good breeding upon you there?
Clara. To see cow’s milk’d, learn to Churn, and make Cheese? (Presumably neither Clara nor the other young ladies were expected to milk a cow.)
Eugene And to learn the top of your skill in Syrrup, Sweetmeats Aqua mirablisi and Snayl Water.
Priscilla. Ay, ay, and ‘twere better for all the Gentlemen in England that wives had no other breeding, but you had Musick and Dancing.
A good housewife was valued. An aunt tells her niece.…she spent her time in better learning than you did. Not in reading flights of battels of Dwarfs and Giants; but in writing out receipts for Broths, Possets, Caudles, and Surfeit Waters; as became a good Country Gentlewoman.
If girls could not learn the art of making pastry at home, particularly for raised pastry, there were the forerunners of Cookery Schools.
Whatever else a gentlewoman’s education lacked it was not dancing. She was taught how to hold her head, heave her breast, and move with her entire body. If she didn’t learn to do so correctly, she was threatened with never finding a husband. A young lady was also expected to learn how to behave at the Tea Table, to present her snuff box and how to place patches on her face to the best advantage.
Poor children could attend Sunday School, where they were taught to read, not for entertainment, but to study the Bible.
At charity schools orphans were trained to wash, iron, clean, sew and knit as well as write and cast accounts. The older girls assisted the housekeeper, and made and mended the children’s clothes. By the time they left they had been trained to become domestic servants and, if they were fortunate, to become good housewives.

*Elizabeth Tuchin’s brother, worked for the Observater.
*The Language of The Fan by Micki Gaffney.

Mediaeval Novel
 Yvonne, Lady of Cassio
set in the turbulent reign of Edward II. Publication date to be announced.

Available as e-publications and paper backs.
 Early 18th century novels by Rosemary Morris
Tangled Love,
Far Beyond Rubies
The Captain and The Countess

Regency novels
False Pretences
Sunday’s Child   Heroines born on different days of the week. Book 1.
Monday’s Child Heroines born on different days of the week. Book 2
Tuesday’s Child Heroines born on different days of the week Book 3


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Let’s Go Fishing by Katherine Pym

Release date July 1, 20017

I wrote “The End” on my first draft of Pillars of Avalon, a story of 17th century Newfoundland, Canada. When I first started this project, I thought this would be difficult since settlers in the New World struggled to stay alive. They hunted, fished and peeked over big boulders to see if wild savages lurked in the distance, waiting to scalp them. 

How could I write a full novel of almost 95,000 words on episodes of crude survival that would numb the reader over time? It would make them think: Boy, I’m glad I didn’t live then. What a pain!

Then I came upon Sir David & Lady Sara Kirke. They were wine merchants living in London. King Charles I gave David and his brothers carte blanche (in the form of a letter of marque) to pillage and destroy French settlements along the Canadian coast. 

I thought, Oh good. A pirate story. I’ve always liked heroes with a slightly wicked bent. If one is too good, he/she is boring. 

But David Kirke was more than a king sanctioned pirate. While he pillaged and set ships afire along the St. Lawrence River, he was also a businessman. He saw opportunity wherever he went. One of those places was Ferryland, Newfoundland, where the fishing was supreme-o.

Fishing on the grand banks NL with icebergs
Men returned to England after a season along the grand banks and enthused how the waters teemed with fish. The cold waters were so crowded that to breathe, the fish jumped into fishing boats just to get away from the overwhelmingly packed seas. 

London and Dartmouth merchants leased ships of sail and traded goods like wine, clothing, and farm implements from England in exchange for dry salt fish and cod-oil. No money was to exchange hands. To transport money was illegal. Everything was traded, or supposed to be. When you see or read pirate stories, their chests filled with silver and gold coins, (if they are law abiding fellows) the money would have come from Spain or Portugal, France or any port of call in the Mediterranean. 

But I digress: 

Crude fishing equipment
Crude Fishing Equipment
Closer Look at one end
Boats with 5 men fished daily in the late spring to early autumn months. They were expected to haul in over 300 cod a day using the most primitive of tools. (In high summer, 1000 fishing boats could be in the water at the same time.) Cod could be as heavy as 120 lbs (54.43108 kg). Nets were apparently not used. Seins were used for the smaller schools of fish, like herring. 

Depending on the day and who did what, a fisherman would use this primitive device to haul upward to 100 fish per day. One would think the hemp line would slice through a leather glove and cut your hand. 

Every day, fish would be brought ashore to be processed. The fish would be gutted and beheaded by men called ‘Headers’. Cod livers would be thrown into barrels for cod-oil. The Header pushed the gutted fish to the ‘Splitter’ who opened the fish and removed the spine.
Notes have come down through the ages how quickly this could be done, up to “24 score in half an hour”.  If a team of gutters and splitters processed fish for 10 hours, that’s 9,600 fish per day—that’s one team. 

After the fish were gutted and salted, they were washed off in sea water, then laid flat on a rocky shore or flake. A flake is a low table covered with pine boughs or such which allow air to pass around the fish and dry uniformly. Boys would stand by, waving a large enough object to keep the flies away since maggots would destroy a dry salt crop.  

Fish Flakes covered with Cod

The calculations are like this: 

In the summer months, a period of 8-10 weeks, a crew of 5 would be expected to catch and cure 200 quintals (quintal=112 lbs or 50.80234kg of salt fish). That is an amount of 22,400 lbs/10,160.47kg of fish in a season. At 11 shillings per quintal (17th century prices), the merchants would garner several thousand pounds sterling per fishing boat per season. If a merchant owned several fishing boats, the numbers are staggering. 

Sir David & Lady Sara Kirke saw the potential and eventually went into the "sack" trade, where goods were traded for fish. They exploited this when they moved to Ferryland in 1638, and by the time of Sara's death in 1684 or 1685, she was a wealthy plantation owner. 

So, that’s one story line, but how many fishing tales are good for a long novel? Well, I found a whole bunch of other stories that filled the breach, which I will relate in another blogspot post. Very exciting.

 PILLARS OF AVALON will be released July 1, 2017. 


Many thanks to WikiCommons, public domain and
Pictures of fishing lines, page 26, Fish Into Wine, The Newfoundland Plantation in the Seventeenth Century by Peter E. Pope (University of North Caroline Press, 2004

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...