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Friday, December 25, 2009

Good King Wenceslas

Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia (907-935)
His father died when Wenceslas was 13, leaving him to be raised by his mother and grandmother. Like many families, there was conflict on how to raise the children.

The father and grandmother were Christian while the mother, Drahmira, was pagan.The mother was furious for the interference his grandmother caused in raising Wenceslas as a Christian, so angry she plotted to have the grandmother strangled.

Wenceslas gained the throne when he was 18 and had his mother exiled. This did not stop his brother from making an attempt on his life. While on his way to church, Wenceslas was murdered by his younger brother and two friends.

The people never forgot the kind noble, and though he is referred to as a king, the title is a tribute to his character, not his actual rank.

Legends have sprung about the duke:
One claims a huge army of knights sleep within the mountains waiting to be called into battle at Wenceslas' command.
A legend in Prague says the statue of King Wenceslaus will come to life and slay the enemies of the Czechs in thier darkest hour.

In a ballad, his kindness lives on.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of StephenWhen the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and evenBrightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sightGath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, tellingYonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.
"Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


A Regency Christmas story wouldn't be complete without the hero and heroine celebrating their love with a kiss under the mistletoe. Long a symbol of fertility, mistletoe, with its glossy green leaves and white berries, has become a Christmas symbol of love and marriage.

Mistletoe is an evergreen, a spot of life in the brown, dormant landscape of a northern winter. At this low point of the year, Regency people decorated their houses with mistletoe, along with other seasonal greens such as Christmas rose (Hellebore), evergreen boughs, holly, ivy, hawthorn, laurel, rosemary, and bay, as a reminder that spring would return.

In England, mistletoe, which is a parasite, grows most often on apple trees, but also on blackthorn, hawthorn, lime, poplar, rowan and willow. Although its range extends from Devon to Yorkshire, the plant grows mainly to the south and west, and is particularly abundant around London.

Some of the myths surrounding mistletoe originated with the Druids, who deemed the plant a sexual symbol--the juice from the white berries resembles semen--and, by extension, an aphrodisiac. As part of their winter solstice ceremonies, they cut mistletoe from oak trees, providing a link to the later holiday of Christmas.

The origin of kissing under the mistletoe may derive from the Norse legend of the death of the sun god, Balder, killed by a sprig of mistletoe hurled by his enemy Loki. When Balder's mother, Frigga, the goddess of love, cried over her son, her tears resurrected him. In gratitude, she kissed everyone who came under the mistletoe.

A lesser known legend declares mistletoe the plant of peace. Enemies meeting under the mistletoe had to embrace and declare a truce until the next day. This goodwill and embrace may also be the source of the kiss under the mistletoe.

Regency people used mistletoe in the form of a kissing bough--a simple arrangement of mistletoe decorated with ribbons and hung over a doorway or entrance. The gentleman would kiss his lady and then pluck a white berry and present it to her, perhaps as a symbol of the child he could give her. When all the berries were gone, that sprig of mistletoe could no longer be used to steal kisses, although many people disregarded the berries' absence.

Now, for my latest news. The Wild Rose Press has just contracted my Regency Christmas novella, Mistletoe Everywhere, which incorporates the myth of enemies, in this case, the hero and heroine, declaring a truce under the mistletoe. Short blurb: A man who sees mistletoe everywhere is mad--or in love. More info here.

My Christmas present. Thank you, Wild Rose Press.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Quiz

How much do you know about Christmas? I thought I knew quite a bit, but I found this fun quiz by Rachel Rager, ( and I just had to pass it along. I hope you enjoy it!

1. Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, the s used mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter. What did they believe it did?
A. It had healing powers.
B. It warded off evil spirits.
C. It helped the winter to be less sever.

2. Where did the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe begin?
A. The red of the berries symbolizes love.
B. The Scandinavians associated mistletoe with their of love, Frigga.
C. Eating the berries gives the euphoric feeling of being in love.

3. Poinsettias are native to what country?
A. England.
B. Mexico.
C. Italy.

4. In the 1800's, the poinsettia was believed to be symbolic of what?
A. The star of Bethlehem.
B. The mother, Mary.
C. The birth of Jesus Christ.

5. From what country did the Christmas tree originate?
A. France.
B. England.
C. Germany.

6. Where was St. Nicolas, the first Santa Clause, born?
A. Italy.
B. Turkey.
C. Belgium.

7. What is the original belief behind the Yule Log?
A. It is believed to burn away the last year's evil.
B. It is believed to warm the Christ child when he comes.
C. It is believed to welcome all to its warmth and beauty.

8. What were the first Christmas tree decorations?
A. Candles.
B. Cookies and candies.
C. Flowers and fruit.

Some of those were pretty tricky, huh? I toyed with the idea of not posting the answers for a few days to encourage you to come back, but decided since that would have annoyed me, it would probably annoy you, too. So, I'll play fair and give you the answers. Here they are:

1. A
2. B
3. B
4. A
5. C
6. B
7. A
8. C

How’d you do? Hope this was fun for you! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Illuminated Book of Hours

During the Middle Ages, devotional books were known by many names: psalters, breviaries, and prayer books. They contained various texts, such as a Calendar (of Christian Feast Days), excerpts from the four Gospels, Psalms, Office for the Dead, and Hours of the Cross. Initially used by monks and nuns, heavier volumes were later condensed for the laity, and gradually became popular with medieval women.
The heavily illuminated books, known as Book of Hours, sometimes had jeweled covers and were personalized for the owner, such as inserting the owner’s name in a prayer. Plainer books, however, with little or no decoration, were carried by commoners, and sometimes even by servants.
Ofttimes husbands gave a richly illuminated Book of Hours to his wife on their wedding day.
Today, these lavish images give us an important record of life in the 14th and 15th centuries, as the pictures show clothing styles, leisure activities, and the cycle of life in the monthly Calendar scenes.
Today, numerous examples of these decorated manuscripts can be found in museums, libraries, and in private collections. To immerse yourself in the beauty of the Middle Ages, go to Wikimedia Commons and type in Book of Hours to view some of these beautiful images.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas lived in what is now southern Turkey between 260 and 280 AD. two sources corroborate his appointment as the bishop of Myra.

Though stories begin to change over time, often to make it more interesting to tell, accounts are consistent on many points. He is listed on the original Greek list of attendees at the Council of Nicae as well as five other lists.

I have no problem believing he was a real person.
He is noted for his great compassion and service to those in need. One of his symbols is three gold balls, representative of dowries he supplied for poor girls who had none.

He supported those wrongly accused of crimes as many historical documents support. For these reasons he became the patron saint of children, the oppressed and sailors.

He was a man who lived the love of God by caring for those around him. There are several accounts of Saint Nicholas rescuing children from abusive situations. He is rumored to fill children's shoes with treats and food. over time, the children would put hay and carrots in their shoes for Nicholas donkey.

The tradition spread across Europe as nuns took on the tradition of filing the children's shoes.The legends of Saint Nicholas spread to the New world with the colonists, though there are some differences between Saint Nick and Santa Claus, the essential spirit of giving remain.

The ancient sources cited to substantiate this information are Michael the Archimandrite, Sinaitic and Ethiopian manuscripts, Gratianus' Decretum, Theodore the Lector, Andrew of Crete, Eustratios of Constantinople, AD 583; Passionarium Romanum, 650 AD; and Praxis de tributo.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Regency Places

When I started to write Regencies, I looked at maps to familiarize myself with the places where my characters lived. Even a cursory examination revealed that many English place names were duplicated in the United States, especially in the areas the English settled.

The English were the first Europeans to arrive in the northeastern United States, where I live, and they named the area New England after the home country. As they built cities and towns, they named them after the places they had left behind.

Examples abound. After New England, the most familiar names are New York, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, named for the British counties of York, Hampshire and Jersey. Manchester and Peterborough are in New Hampshire, and Warwick is in Rhode Island. Massachusetts has Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex counties.

Some names were so popular the settlers reused them. Both Connecticut and Massachusetts have Middlesex counties. The city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, lies in northern New England, and Portsmouth, Rhode Island, in the south. Connecticut contains the city of Bristol, and Bristol County is part of Massachusetts. The city of Worcester, Massachusetts, lies in Worcester County. There are two Oxfords in Massachusetts, one in Bristol County and one in Worcester County.

Boston, Lincolnshire, lent its name to Boston, Massachusetts. The Charles River, named for King Charles I, separates Boston from Cambridge. About fifteen miles west of Boston is the Town of Lincoln. Travel another fifteen miles west to reach the City of Marlborough. Alas, Marlborough, Massachusetts, has no Duke.

Other English place names in Massachusetts include (in no particular order): Waltham, Sudbury, Bedford, Dover, Shrewsbury, Truro, Gloucester, Chelmsford, Tewksbury (not quite a match, the English town is spelled Tewkesbury), Falmouth, Taunton, Bridgewater and Chelsea.

As far as place names go, I've only scratched the surface. When I look at the maps again, I know I'll find even more.

Thank you all,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ice in Regency England

(This bog was inadvertantly posted on Saturday instead of today because I'm a cyber dunce! So my apologies to those of you who already read this and posted comments before I realized my error and removed it.)

A question was posed on my historical author loop which prompted a discussion I found interesting. It was about ice.

Was ice used in drinks?

Yes and no. There WAS such a thing as ice. (Take a look at Mother Nature) And ice houses were common in England in the Regency Era and earlier. Many estates had ice ponds where the ice was cut and it placed inside an underground ice house where it would stay frozen even during the summer. In America, ice was covered with sawdust to keep it from melting, but I don’t know if that were true in England. There was an ice house near ter' Tea Shop in London, which is famous for its “ices,” meaning a sweet frozen treat much like our shaved ice or the Italian sorbet. King Charles had an ice house in one of the city parks. The British made lemonade and sherbets as well as ice cream. They sometimes had ice sculptures as decorations for some of their fancier events. But I have found no evidence that they ever had ice IN their drinks.

England was cold during the Regency era, even more so than it is now, since they were in the middle of a mini ice age. It was so cold back then that Thames froze over more than once and they usually had a riotous party on it. During the cold winter months (and I live in Arizona where it really isn’t all that cold, comparatively speaking), I seldom want ice in my drink during the winter, so I doubt very much anyone felt the need to invent it in England during this time.

However, in warmer climates such as Italy, they frequently added ice to beverages. According to many travel writers back to the mid 1700's, Italians put ice in their lemonade, orgeate, sherbet. In Venice, they couldn’t have underground ice houses due to all the water underneath them, of course, so they brought ice in from surrounding areas to keep it from melting. Places like coffee houses and pubs would provide it to the public. Obviously, the rich had their own stash, just like everything else.

So there you have it. Something we take for granted will be in our freezer whenever we want it would have been something of a commodity in Regency England. Of course, that’s true about a lot of things. I’ve often said I’d love to visit, but I’m not sure I’d want to live there. Still, isn't the fantasy of Regency England glorious? That's why I love to read and write it!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Livestyle of Peasants in Medieval England

While researching this articles, I couldn't help but think of my own childhood, growing up on a farm and in a house where trudging to the outhouse was the norm. I remember how amazed I was when we moved into a house with indoor plumbing, a flush toilet and sinks with faucets instead of a pitcher pump that had to be primed everytime we used it. However, my early life didn't compare the life of peasants in medieval England and their children. What about you?

The lifestyle of peasants in Medieval England was extremely hard and harsh. Many worked as farmers in fields owned by the lords and their lives were controlled by the farming year. Certain jobs had to be done at certain times of the year. Their lives were harsh but there were few rebellions due to a harsh system of law and order.

The peasants were at the bottom of the Feudal System and had to obey their local lord to whom they had sworn an oath of obedience on the Bible. Because they had sworn an oath to their lord, it was taken for granted that they had sworn a similar oath to the duke, earl or baron who owned that lord’s property.

The position of the peasant was made clear by Jean Froissart when he wrote:
It is the custom in England, as with other countries, for the nobility to have great power over the common people, who are serfs. This means that they are bound by law and custom to plough the field of their masters, harvest the corn, gather it into barns, and thresh and winnow the grain; they must also mow and carry home the hay, cut and collect wood, and perform all manner of tasks of this kind.

The following was written in 1395:
"The one thing the peasant had to do in Medieval England was to pay out money in taxes or rent. He had to pay rent for his land to his lord; he had to pay a tax to the church called a tithe. This was a tax on all of the farm produce he had produced in that year. A tithe was 10% of the value of what he had farmed."

This may not seem a lot but it could make or break a peasant’s family. A peasant could pay in cash or in kind – seeds, equipment etc. Either ways, tithes were a deeply unpopular tax. The church collected so much produce from this tax, that it had to be stored in huge tithe barns. Some of these barns can still be seen today. There is a very large one in Maidstone, Kent, which now has a collection of carriages in it.

Peasants also had to work for free on church land. This was highly inconvenient as this time could have been used by the peasant to work on their own land. However, the power of the church was such that no-one dared break this rule as they had been taught from a very early age that God would see their sins and punish them.
The Domesday Book meant that the king knew how much tax you owed and you could not argue with this – hence why it brought ‘doom and gloom’ to people.

After you had paid your taxes, you could keep what was left – which would not be a great deal. If you had to give away seeds for the next growing season, this could be especially hard as you might end up with not having enough to grow let alone to feed yourself.

Peasants lived in cruck houses. These had a wooden frame onto which was plastered wattle and daub. This was a mixture of mud, straw and manure. The straw added insulation to the wall while the manure was considered good for binding the whole mixture together and giving it strength. The mixture was left to dry in the sun and formed what was a strong building material.

Cruck houses were not big but repairs were quite cheap and easy to do. The roofs were thatched. There would be little furniture within the cruck houses and straw would be used for lining the floor. The houses are likely to have been very hot in the summer and very cold in the winter. Windows were just holes in the walls as glass was very expensive. Doors might be covered with a curtain rather than having a door as good wood could be expensive.

At night, any animal a peasant owned would be brought inside for safety. There were a number of reasons for this. First, wild animals roamed the countryside. England still had wolves and bears in the forests and these could easily have taken a pig, cow or chickens. The loss of any animal could be a disaster but the loss of valuable animals such as an ox would be a calamity.

If the livestock was left outside at night they could also have been stolen or simply have wandered off. If they were inside your house, none of these would happen and they were safe. However, they must have made the house even more dirty than it usually would have been as none of these animals would have been house-trained. They would have also brought in fleas and flies etc. increasing the unhygienic nature of the house.

The houses would have had none of the things we accept as normal today – no running water, no toilets, no baths and washing basins. Soap was unheard of and as was shampoo. People would have been covered with dirt, fleas and lice. Beds were simply straw stuffed mattresses and these would have attracted lice, fleas and all types of bugs. Your toilet would have been a bucket which would have been emptied into the nearest river at the start of the day.

Water had a number of purposes for peasants – cooking, washing etc. Unfortunately, the water usually came from the same source. A local river, stream or well provided a village with water but this water source was also used as a way of getting rid of your waste at the start of the day. It was usually the job of a wife to collect water first thing in the morning. Water was collected in wooden buckets. Villages that had access to a well could simply wind up their water from the well itself.
Towns needed a larger water supply. Water could be brought into a town using a series of ditches; lead pipes could also be used. Water in a town would come out of conduit which was similar to a modern day fountain.

Bathing was a rarity even for the rich. A rich person might have a bath just several times a year but to make life easier, several people might use the water before it was got rid of!

It was said that a peasant could expect to be fully bathed just twice in their life; once, when they were born and when they had died! Face and hand washing was more common but knowledge of hygiene was non-existent. No-one knew that germs could be spread by dirty hands.

London had a number of public baths near the River Thames. These were called "stews". Several people at one time would bath in them. However, as people had to take off what clothes they wore, the stews also attracted thieves who would steal what they could when the victims were hardly in a position to run after them!
Regardless of how water was acquired, there was a very real potential that it could be contaminated as toilet waste was continuously thrown into rivers which would make its way into a water source somewhere.

Families would have cooked and slept in the same room. Children would have slept in a loft if the cruck house was big enough.

The lives of peasant children would have been very different to today. They would not have attended school for a start. Very many would have died before they were six months old as disease would have been very common. As soon as was possible, children joined their parents working on the land. They could not do any major physical work but they could clear stones off the land – which might damage farming tools – and they could be used to chase birds away during the time when seeds were sown. Peasant children could only look forward to a life of great hardship.

For all peasants, life was "nasty, brutish and short."

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Thanksgiving Procolamation

EXETER, November 1, 1782.

ORDERED,THAT the following Proclamation for a general THANKSGIVING on the twenty-eighth day of November [instant?], received from the honorable Continental Congress, be forthwith printed, and sent to the several worshipping Assemblies in this State, to whom it is recommended religiously to observe said day, and to abstain from all servile labour thereon.
M. WEARE, President.
By the United States in Congress assembled.


IT being the indispensable duty of all Nations, not only to offer up their supplications to ALMIGHTY GOD, the giver of all good, for his gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner to give him praise for his goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of his providence in their behalf: Therefore the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of divine goodness to these States, in the course of the important conflict in which they have been so long engaged; the present happy and promising state of public affairs; and the events of the war, in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils, which is so necessary to the success of the public cause; the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their Allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them; the success of the arms of the United States, and those of their Allies, and the acknowledgment of their independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States:----- Do hereby recommend to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe, and request the several States to interpose their authority in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the twenty-eight day of NOVEMBER next, as a day of solemn THANKSGIVING to GOD for all his mercies: and they do further recommend to all ranks, to testify to their gratitude to GOD for his goodness, by a cheerful obedience of his laws, and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.
Done in Congress, at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.JOHN HANSON, President.Charles Thomson, Secretary.

I found this on the history channel website and thought it intersting enough to share.
Give thanks and let your light shine. You're the only you we got!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I Write Regency

Why Regency?

As I sit here among the modern world of jangling cell phones, endless boring meeting and traffic jams, I ask, how can the modern world be romantic?

The commonplace, the everyday, is not the stuff of fantasy. Take me to a world lived against a background of life and death struggles, a vivid time, different from my own, but not too different, where vast possibilities reign--and that I can experience from a safe distance among all the modern conveniences.

Welcome to the English Regency. This historical period ran from 1811 to 1820, when George III of England went mad and Parliament appointed his son, the Prince of Wales, as Regent to rule in his stead.

But the Regency is an elastic term and can encompass the time from the French Revolution to Victoria's reign. The Napoleonic wars, that decades-long struggle which could have sounded England's death knell, occurred then. The literary giant Jane Austen lived and wrote in its midst. The time was one of extremes, of fabulously wealthy aristocrats and desperately poor commoners. But the era was also one of transition, when the old world, which defined a person solely by his birth, slowly and with great reluctance, yielded a new world where a person could make his own destiny.

The period was elegant, at least among the rich. In general, Regencies are tales of the upper classes two centuries ago. I love the sparkling conversation in these stories, the elegant manners and beautiful clothes. If I had lived then, most likely I wouldn’t have been the pampered lady of the house, but a poor servant, even more overworked and underpaid than I am now.

But in the realm of these books, I am the young, beautiful Lady of Quality, married to the same husband I have now, but who’s been transformed into a young, gorgeous hunk. We are both filthy rich so I can do what I like and not have to sit in boring meetings.

And I have all the modern conveniences. Ah, what a fantasy.

Thank you all,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Men's Hosiery and the codpiece

Men’s hosiery has evolved through the ages, dictated by what was worn above. Originally, hose were worn for warmth, under robes and floor-length tunics, but as tunics became shorter, hose became longer. In the Middle Ages hose, sometimes colorful, were held up by bands or fastened to the drawers (braies).
As doublets came into fashion, hose gradually changed from two separate pieces to one piece (like pantyhose). When the length of doublets became so short as to defy modesty, a codpiece was worn, sometimes padded and covered in velvet and luxury fabrics (although there are also metal ones in museums).
During the Renaissance, the hose became shorter, with breeches (like pantaloons) above, again made of rich fabrics in vibrant colors. The length of men’s hosiery also followed the fashion in various countries (witness the kilts that are worn today by some of the professional golfers). Eventually, trousers took the place of breeches and men’s hosiery became what it is today.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Where to Begin a Story

Where to begin your story

Normally, I keep my posts specific to research, but I'd like to broaden the topic today. Where to begin my story, is a question that plagues me with every novel and short story I write. There are a number of places you can begin your story. It’s not a science. Not even the experts can agree on the perfect place to start.

Decades ago, a novelist could open the story with flowery narrative and lengthy descriptions. That doesn’t work in today's world. Today, the first line or paragraph must grab the attention of the reader.

Many of us are tempted to start with the reasons and motives behind our character's behavior. However, let me tell you a secret: Background, also known as backstory, can wait.

In just a few sentences, an author must get the reader's attention, and make them want to know what happens next. That’s not easy.

Some authors to begin the story where the action takes place. But beginning too late can leave the reader lost and even asking ‘why do I care?’

Giving a little set up, then starting with the action is a good rule of thumb.
I try to begin at the moment where the hero(ine)’s life changes, or when disaster strikes. The start of your novel will determine whether the readers is interested enough to continue reading. It will also set the tone for the rest of the novel.

The beginning should fit the progression through middle toward end. That’s best accomplished once the novel is finished.

For example, perhaps your novel is about a detective. You could start with the detective getting up and getting dresssed, having breakfast and driving to work. Or, you could start with the first person who comes into work to make a statement. You could have him at a crime scene, taking testimonies of witnesses. Or you could even start with the phone call in the middle of the night telling him to go to a crime scene. Which would be more interesting? It depends on how you set it up, and on the tone of the story. Is it a mystery and solving this case is the plot of the story? Is it a romance, and this is how he meets the heroine? Is this a thiller, and how he picks up a stalker? Is this a coming of age story and he’s going to learn something about himself?

Other authors begin with immediate action; bank robberies, car accidents and chase scenes have all opened great novels. As long as the opening isn’t the only exciting part of the book, you can do it. It’s up to you. However, without any set up, you risk the reader not caring, so you have to be careful to weave in emotion and sensory detail to create tension.

I read a book once where the heroine was running for her life, chased by wolves and bleeding. It was exciting. The opening line was good, there was a lot of action. But even after page 2 I was totally lost. It took the better part of the chatper before I learned she and her brother were on a quest and that her brother and everyone with her had been killed in an attack by wolves. I think the author should have backed up a paragraph or two and told me who they were and why they were there.

Where to begin the story has as much to do with the timing of the story as the opening line. Many editors have said when they open an envelope containing a submission, they only read a few lines. If they aren’t interested with it then, they toss it in the rejection pile.

So, how do you do it?

An opening with a teaser that demands answers works very well. Here's an example of an attention-getting opening line:

"She's dead? Murdered?"

When you start with that, you're taunting the readers' curiosity and asking questions such as who was murdered? How? Why?

Finding the answers to these questions is what keeps them turning the pages.
Here's another one:

"I've been dodging the hangman for three years, and I still don't know if I committed the crime."

Think of all the questions this one stirs. How could he not know if he'd committed a crime? Was he drunk? Unconscious? What was the crime? To whom? Why has he been running so long? How is he going to resolve the situation?
Here are the first five lines of Gentle Persuasion by Rita Rainville.

"We've got to get rid of Edgar."
"Quietly...perhaps poison."

Does it leave you asking; Who’s Edgar? Who's planning his death? And why?

A lot of people prefer opening with dialogue because the immediacy helps draw the reader in more quickly. Personally, I think the story should begin with some kind of set up right after the opening line – but still with an interesting hook – otherwise it sounds like a voice coming out of the darkness. But that’s just me. I’ve read some great books that began with dialogue, but always felt as if I needed more time to paint the picture in my mind. Beginnings can also be effective in narrative. It all comes back to that opening line.

No matter which form you choose, narrative or dialogue, do your best to tantalize the reader into wanting to know more. Curiosity will keep your reader interested, and if that reader is an editor, it might spark their desire to buy.
The beginning of Stef Ann Holms', Weeping Angel, is a good illustration.
Every woman out of diapers thought Frank Brody handsomer than a new catalog bonnet.
Every one but Miss Amelia Marshall.

Readers will ask questions such as; Who is Frank Brody? Why doesn't Miss Amelia Marshall think he's handsome when all the other women do? Do they know each other? Do they have a history? Is she crazy?

Here’s one from my first novel, The Stranger She Married

Alicia Palmer stepped down from the coach with
all the enthusiasm of a condemned prisoner about to
meet the executioner. She glanced up at the starry
summer sky, seeking courage. Liveried servants
lined the front steps like guards to the gallows. All
she needed was a crowd with an appetite for the
macabre; a role, no doubt that the other guests could

Hopefully, you were wondering why she was so filled with dread? Where she was? Why she was there?

Here’s one from my latest WIP. Does it work?

Anticipation raced through Lady Eleanor’s veins. Across the drawing room from where she sat, open French doors beckoned her toward the cool night. Soon she would spend a few stolen moments alone with the man she loved. True, it was a tender, new love, but more broad and sweeping than she’d dreamed. Before she’d met Tristin Barrett, she’d imagined this kind of love but daren’t hope she’d find it. And now that Eleanor had found him, she knew he was worth any risk.
What questions did you have: What is she going to risk? Why were their moments stolen? Do you care?

Some tips:
* Hook the reader with a compelling opening line
This will create interest and make them want to read more.

*Make sure the tone of your beginning matches the tone of your book and sets up the ending.
If you solve the problem of a character who wants to make new friends, then the ending needs to reflect the resolution of that problem. If they don’t match up, you can decide if you want to change the ending or the beginning; but they must match up.

* Set the tone
Make sure the tone–the attitude displayed by the choice of vocabulary, sentence structure, genre, etc.–sets up the rest of the story. Also, the pace should be the same as the rest of the book.

* Begin the story where the hero’s life changed forever, preferably some kind of disaster.
This form of disaster, and how the hero deals with it, will show the reader who your character is and will make the reader identify/sympathize with the hero.

*Avoid back story except in little drops
Too much backstory slows down the pace and will lose the reader, who, at first will be the agent or editor. How much is too much? Usually, more than a line or two.

* Avoid using a flashback immediately after opening.
Flashbacks are difficult for a reader to follow. Throwing one in early in the story complicates it further. Solidly anchor your novel in the present before leaping back into the past.

*Avoid Introducing Too Many Characters
If your reader needs notebook and pen to keep track of everyone, he or she will get frustrated. Such clutter weakens creates disorder and the reader will put down your book.

Use the opening to name and define a few of the major characters. Define them as individuals with distinct personalities, before you introduce other characters.

*Avoid Dream Scenes
Dreams in general are often seen in the work of beginning writers because it provides an easy out. Therefore, dreams should be used sparingly no matter where they occur in a story, but should not be used as an opening.
(time when it was okay to break that rule)

Now, take an unbiased look at your first page. How many questions are unanswered? If there are none or very few, then look at your first chapter and see where the real questions, the real excitement, starts, then put that at the beginning of your manuscript.

Consider beginning much later (or much earlier). Often, it takes writers a while to get started in a story. Open your ms to page 10. Consider starting your story near here. Would you really miss anything from the first 10 pages? Then flip to page 25. Would this be an even better place to start? Usually, the pages you are sure are critical to the story, are really backstory and set up.

Conversely, do you start with a lot of action which leaves the reader with no idea who these people are? Should you add a paragraph or two to set it up? Build up the tension? Set up the character for a massive fall?

Begin where you feel in your heart the story really begins. After all, it’s your story.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ghandi's letters to Hitler

It was common knowlege Poland was oppressing Jewish and German minorities in Poland, and Gandhi spoke out against all activities dehumanizing to people. When Hitler threatened to take a firmer stance against Poland, few were surprised, though Ghandi wrote the fuhrer and recommened non violent action. One method, he suggested, might be to encourage Poland to change its ways of dealing with minorities.

The first letter was written in 1939, there was still hope for peaceful solutions to problems in Europe. Ghandi knew Hitler was in favor of the British Empire and, as a Hindu Indian, Hitler would look down on Ghandi.

Critics have denounced Ghandi for starting letters to Hitler with the greeting "my freind."
I can't. Face it had he started the letter with "Hey butthead," it is unlikely to have been read. An excerpt of one letter shows Ghandi treaded lightly:

"Friends have been urging me to write to you for the sake of humanity. But I have resisted their request, because of the feeling that any letter from me would be an impertinence." He follwed with:
It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to the savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?"

At least he tried.

The smell of war was in the air dispelling any concern Ghandi might have had, so the first letter was written, ending with:
"Anyway I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you. I remain, Your sincere friend, Sd. M. MK Gandhi".

In light of Hitler's attitude, this attempt on Ghandi's part was very brave, despite what critics say. Even as early as 1939, there was evidence of Nazi willingness to act with aggression.

Hitler supported the British empire and offered a solution to the problem of the Indian National Congress. He recommended assassination of Gandhi, and if that isn't enough then kill the other leaders too, if that isn't enough then two hundred more activists, and so on until the Indian people will give up the hope of independence.

If Gandhi was unaware of Hitler's advice, he knew the Nazi attitude toward non-aryans. True to his character, Gandhi remained friendly towards his own would-be killer.

A year later, he took off the kid gloves. Ghandi followed the vatican in denouncing the Nazi's with this letter:

But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especially in the estimation of men like me who believe in human friendliness. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity."

Though England was considered an enemy to India, Ghandi,Unlike many of his countrymen, rejected the idea of achieving freedom from British rule with German help:

"We know what the British heel means for us and the non-European races of the world. But we would never wish to end the British rule with German aid." Instead, Gandhi explained to Hitler, the non-violent method could defeat "a combination of all the most violent forces in the world".
some consider Ghandi weak for his passion about peace. He would not exchange one bully for another. In his mind, one oppressor was the same as the next.

In Gandhi's view, a violent winner is bound to be defeated by superior force in the end, and even the memory of his victory will be tainted by its violent nature: "If not the British, some other power will certainly improve upon your method and beat you with your own weapon. You are leaving no legacy to your people of which they would feel proud"

Ghandi couldn't stop WW2, though critics may still view him as weak, his methods ineffective. I have to respect a voice of sanity.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Guy Fawkes Night

Remember, remember the 5th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason that gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

The British celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, also called Bonfire Night or Firecracker Night, on the evening on November 5. Compulsory until 1859, Bonfire Night was one of the holidays observed in the Regency.

Guy Fawkes Night marks the failure of the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605. On that night, King James I was present in Parliament when a group of Catholic conspirators, including Guy Fawkes, were caught with barrels of gunpowder in the basement of the building.

This foiled attempt to blow up Parliament and assassinate the king was a reaction to the persecution of Catholics under James I.

Anti-Catholic sentiment ran high at the time, and the Gunpowder Plot served to increase a hatred of Catholics that lasted over two hundred years. Parliament passed punitive laws that remained on the books well into Victorian times, although restrictions had eased somewhat by the Regency. For example, in the Regency, Catholics could serve as officers in the Army and Navy, where a hundred years earlier, they could not. They were allowed to attend classes in the universities, but were denied degrees. A Catholic peer could not sit in the House of Lords until 1870.

Festivities include shooting off firecrackers and burning a "guy", an effigy of Guy Fawkes, on a bonfire. Since Nov. 5 coincides with the end of the harvest, Guy Fawkes Day contains some elements of harvest festivals. The firecrackers are probably a reference to gunpowder, but bonfires are a feature of Samhain, the ancient festival celebrated on October 31 and which is the precursor to modern Halloween. As the Samhain bonfires scare away specters and goblins, the burning of the guy symbolizes the defeat of the treachery of the Gunpowder Plot.

Some superstitions remain. One states that Parliament will not open on November 5, although the 1957 session, at least, did. And superstitious or not, the Yeoman of the Guard does a traditional search of the Parliament basements in one of the ceremonies before each session begins.

Thank you all,
Pictures from wikipedia. Top image is an etching of Guy Fawkes Night on Windsor Commons, 1776

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Regency Halloween

Halloween as we know it today was not really a holiday during the Regency. On October 31, the Celts celebrated Samhain, a harvest festival which contained some elements of a festival of the dead. The Christian religion attempted to neutralize the pagan Samhain by combining it with Christian holy days. November 1 was All Saints' Day, or All Hallows Day, so October 31 became All Hallows' Eve.

By the Regency, All Hallows' Eve was mainly a rural festival, rarely noticed in the cities. Elements of Samhain remained in the customs of guising, lighting bonfires, and carving jack o' lanterns.

On Samhain, the barriers between the real world and the supernatural world thinned, allowing the dead, as well as evil spirits, to walk the earth. People left their doors open to welcome the ghosts of their ancestors inside, while at the same time keeping the evil ones out. An associate custom was guising, in which people dressed as ghouls. By blending in with the demons, they avoided them.

Bonfires were also popular on all Hallows' Eve. The fires lit the way to the afterworld of relatives who had died during the past year. They also scared the specters and goblins away.

Carving jack o' lanterns was another custom. Believing the "head" of a vegetable its most potent part, the Celts carved vegetables into heads with faces to scare away supernatural beings. By Regency times, these lighted vegetables were called jack o' lanterns from the seventeenth century Irish legend of Shifty, or Stingy, Jack. Shifty Jack, so evil neither Heaven or Hell would take him, was doomed forever to wander the earth while carrying a lantern.

The lantern was usually carved from a turnip or mangelwurzel, as pumpkins were largely unknown in Britain at the time.

Since turnips and mangelwurzels are dense, not hollow like pumpkins, carving such a jack o' lantern was a great deal of effort.

The beginnings of many of today's Halloween practices existed in the Regency. If you enjoy Regency and Halloween, you might like Pumpkinnapper, my Regency Halloween comedy.

Pumpkin thieves, a youthful love rekindled, and a jealous goose. Oh my!

Buy link here.

Happy Halloween!

Thank you all,


P.S. The top picture is Snap-Apple Night, painted by Irish artist Daniel Maclise in 1833, of a Halloween party he attended in Blarney, Ireland. From Wikipedia.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vikings: Erik the Red

Erik the Red was born in 950, his birth name was Erik Thorvaldson.
It is believed he was called Erik the Red due to his red hair. Vikings didn't have sir names, often they were called after personality traits or physical characteristics.

It wasn't unusual for Vikings to settle disputes through fighting.
Murder of a family member would result in a member of the offending family being killed. This was justice.
"Things" were like courts where the Jarls, leaders of clans, would talk about issues and mete out justice for crimes. To determine if a person was telling the truth, they might be required to take a stone from a boiling pot of water. If they were honest, they would not get burned.

The Saga of Erik the Red tells of Erik's father being exiled form Norway because of "some killings." His family settled in Iceland. In the year 982, Erik loaned a shovel to a nieghbor, when the nieghbor refused to return the shovel, Erik stole it back. The two aruged and Erik killed the man.

In another incident, a landslide was accidentally started by Erik's slaves, damaging a farm. The farmer murdered the slaves. Erik in turn, killed the farmer. The thing had him banished from Iceland.

Erik began to travel, he and group of followers discovered a land nearly 500 miles west of Iceland. Erik named it Greenland. It was his belief a desireable name would make people more likely to settle there. Erik is credited with the exploration of Greenland, he spent three years exploring this land according to the Saga. When he returned to Iceland after his banishment period was up, he told stories of Greenland Life was harsh in Iceland and famine struck, many came to Greenland in hopes of a better future.

On a second expedition 14 of the 25 ships landed safely and established a settlement. Erik's colony would eventually die out, but other Norse settlements would survive until the 1400s, when communications ceased for more than a century.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Medieval kitchens were a far cry from our granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. Still, the people celebrated then in the same way we do—with food, wine, and good conversation.
In the kitchen, the cooks roasted meats on a spit over the fire. Common foods were stews and potage, a mixture of grains, with or without vegetables and meat, cooked with water until the mix resembled mush. These soups and stews were cooked in clay or iron pots directly in the flames.
In a castle, like the one to which the heroine of my novel, Jeanne of Clairmonde, traveled with the squire, they would have had a portable oven also, but these were luxuries. Bread and other foods were placed inside the oven, then the cook’s helpers buried the oven in the open fire to bake the contents.
The medieval kitchen, especially in homes of the aristocracy, was located a good distance from the Great Hall, where all the entertaining and eating went on. The danger of fire was ever-present in the Middle Ages, in a peasant hovel as well as an aristocrat’s mansion, because cooking was done over an open flame. Thus, if one could afford it, the food was brought in from another building, preferably through a passageway of wood or stone (to avoid the cooling effect of a brisk wind).
A great collection of 14th century recipes, The Forme of Cury, is downloadable, copyright free, from that most awesome of sites, the Gutenberg Project.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Regency Marriages and Annulments

Despite what you’ve no doubt read in many historical novels, annulments in Regency England were not easy to obtain.

The old fictitious “we can get our marriage annulled if we don’t consummate it” did not apply in Regency England, nor to my knowledge, at any time in England. Annulments were never easy, quick or painless. Marriages that could be annulled were invalid from the beginning; when either person was already married, when one was under the permitted age, when a minor married by license without proper permission (this included any illegitimate child marrying by license without permission from a guardian appointed by chancery court), or if a person was insane or so feebleminded s/he did not know what she was doing. Then there were annulments granted because of errors in names when people married by banns, because the couple was within prohibited degrees of relationships (i.e. consanguinity), and when one of the couple was impotent (but this have to be proven by a medical examination). A marriage could also be annulled if one party was incapable of sexual intercourse, or absolutely refused to consummate. The absolute refusal was considered the same as impotency, especially that when the person refused to state the reason(s) why.

All questions of validity of marriages were handled by the church courts in England.

Marriages were either valid, void, or voidable. A void marriage is a marriage that never was or had claim to validity. If someone has a spouse living and marries another without obtaining a divorce, the second marriage is void. If a minor married by license without permission, the marriage was void by the Hardwick act. Most void able marriages were marriages between persons within the prohibited decree of affinity and consanguinity. These had to be challenged while the couple was alive. Voidable marriages could not be voided after death of one of the couple.

If a woman’s marriage was annulled, she was reduced from wife to concubine, and her children were illegitimate. Nice, huh? The one time husband was not required to support her or pay her alimony as he had to do if they were separated or had a parliamentary divorce. Despite this, sometimes the wife was the one who instituted the suit in order to be free of the marriage. I asssume the marriage had to be pretty bad to be willing to be reduced to a concubine!

However, if neither sued for annulment, the marriage was valid. Again, consummation was not a requirement.

In my book, the Stranger She Married, the hero hinted that they could have their marriage annulled if she was truly unhappy. The reason for this is because his face was hidden from her and which might have been considered a kind of deception. I found historical precident for it, but I don't know if it really would have worked. Still, since they didn't use it, it didn't really matter. ;-)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Historical Money

In my previous two posts on Regency money, Regency Money and The Worth of Regency Money, several people said they liked and needed the information. So, this post is a compendium of some historical money links I've discovered in my research. They include, but are not limited to, Regency money.

The best site I've found is Current Value of Old Money, a GREAT collection of links about historic money in various countries, including historic exchange rates.

From the above site, here's the link for historic France:

Here's a link for data from medieval Europe:

Another good link is the Marteau site, which contains information for the eighteenth century for various countries. Here's the Marteau site's A Platform of Research on Economics History, which is included on the Current Value of Old Money site.

From the above page, here's the Marteau Prices and Wages page, which gives historical money information on France, Germany and Austria, Great Britain, Italy, the Dutch Republic, the Ottoman Empire, Spain, and the Spanish Netherlands

From the above page, here's the link for Great Britain, Wages and Prices in 18th Century England. For example, a 1710 English clergyman made about 99 British pounds per year.

Here's a site that converts old German money to modern money (do a google search on "historical german money"):

The Measuring Worth site contains many calculators, as well as historical information, mainly for the USA and Great Britain.

All this data can be pretty dry, but here's an article, Vulgar Economy, from the Jane Austen Centre that gives some idea of the cost of common items in Regency England.

And to end the post on a lighter note, here are some slang expressions for British money. Not all the terms are historical, but the definitions are enlightening.

Thank you all,


P.S. The above picture is old Croatian money.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Soap in History

The earliest reference to soap was in the 4th c., when Galen, that great medical researcher, said people should use it to keep impurities from the body. During the middle ages, they knew to cleanse their hands before eating, but they only dipped them in perfumed water, which was better than nothing. I suspect it was to get rid of unsightly dirt rather than to cleanse, but we’ll never know about that.
One of the earliest uses of soap was to prepare wool for weaving. Later, soap began to be an elemental part of bathing, and soap-making guilds became prominent in Italy and Spain. Soap-making was sometimes considered “women’s work”, although as it became a prized commodity the skill became one of craftsmanship, with one soap-maker trying to outdo the next with softening agents.
Gradually, coloring agents and perfumes were added, and soap was sold in both liquid and solid forms. Marseille and Castile soap are made from mostly olive oil, and are considered more pure than those with harsher chemicals.
A soap bar cost about one-third of a dinar (dinero, denier) in the tenth century.
A Persian chemist wrote recipes for making soap, as did other soap-makers. Here is a recipe from a 13th century document:
Take sesame oil, a sprinkle of potash, alkali, and some lime, mix together and boil. Pour into molds and leave to harden.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Interview with Regency Author, Julia Justiss

A very special welcome to my guest, Harlequin Historicals author, Julia Justiss, who has so graciously agreed to to give us a fun and revealing look into the life of a historical author.

Donna: What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?

Julia: I write Regency Historicals. I grew up on historical fiction, found Georgette Heyer and traditional Regencies while in college and was hooked. Naturally, when I decided to write my own stories, I stayed with the type of tale that had always fascinated me.

Donna: I have the same fascination! So, tell us about your book, From Waif to Gentleman's Wife.

Julia: Recently disappointed in love, Sir Edward Austin Greaves is happy to accept the challenge of bringing a failing agricultural property back into productivity. But when his carriage is attacked by Luddite agitators on the way to Blenhem Hill, he realizes the situation is more complex than he anticipated. So he’s dismayed and rather suspicious when destitute governess Joanna Merrill, claiming to be looking for her brother, the discharged former estate agent, arrives at midnight and faints on his doorstep.

Simple courtesy requires him to offer her temporary shelter—though the desire he feels when he catches her in his arms is anything but gentlemanly. Something about Joanna’s large dark eyes, slender frame and brave story strike a responsive chord deep within this guarded man. Just how much he risking by allowing Joanna Merrill to remain under his roof?

Donna: Sounds like another winner! When did you start to write and how long did it take you get published for the first time?

Julia: I’ve written since I was in elementary school. Starting with story ideas for Nancy Drew mysteries, I went on to poetry and short stories in high school and college. Then, after reading some Regencies that I felt I could have written better, I took the plunge and wrote my first novel. Children intervened, and it wasn’t until 1994 that I began writing again. My second complete manuscript won the Golden Heart for Regency in 1996 and was bought by Harlequin in 1998.

Donna: A Golden Heart is quite an honor. And well-deserved, I’m sure. Tell us a little about yourself. What is your typical day like?

Julia: Since I have a day job as a part-time high school French teacher, I leave home around 6:15AM for a local coffee shop to get some writing in before I have to be at school at 10:30. I try to put some more time in after I get home around 5:30-6PM. Then dinner, maybe a bit of reading or t.y. and sleep and do it all over again.

Donna: It’s an endless endeavor, isn’t it? Tell me, how do you write? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?

Julia: I’m definitely a plotter! With my writing time so tightly limited, I need every minute and can’t afford to write a scene I later decide isn’t essential to the story. So I make a pretty detailed synopsis before I begin and use it to keep me on track—although, of course, the story often takes unexpected turns. I may have a roadmap of where I’m going, but it’s always the characters who drive the plot, and sometimes they end up striking off in directions I haven’t anticipated!

Donna: I know exactly what you mean. Those pesky characters just aren’t always obedient, are they? So, veering off a little; you cannot bear to live without what food?

Julia: I’d be lost without chicken, fish, and salad. Chocolate ice cream and oreo cookies are every-once-in-a-while indulgences.

Donna: Yum! So tell us, what’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done?”

Julia: That one’s easy! While on my first trip to France after college, I was trying to tell the landlady of the bed & breakfast I’d just checked into that I was hungry (“J’ai faim.” ) But in my not-so-accurate French, I pronounced the “m” (which is not supposed to be pronounced) so the lady thought I was saying “J’ai femme”—I have a woman. She kept looking at me strangely and saying “quoi?” (what??) When I gave up and said instead that I was looking for a restaurant, she burst out laughing. At that point, I realized what I’d apparently done was tell her I was a . She laughed again each time she saw me for the whole time we stayed at the hotel.

Donna: That’s funny! If it’s any consolation, you probably cheered the landlandy by giving her something to laugh about that day. Do tell us what are you working on now?

Julia: I’m working now on the story of Greville Anders, the brother of e Joanna Merrill from WAIF. Fired from his estate manager’s job, Greville is knocked unconscious and delivered to a press gang by the embezzling employee he was about to turn in. Returning after six months as a common seaman on a Royal Navy man-of-war, he’s billeted at the home of Lord Bronning while he recovers from wounds received in a skirmish with pirates. Her sights set on a London Season and a brilliant match. Bronning’s daughter Amanda is dismayed by her father’s unsuitable house guest, even if he claims to be cousin to a marquess. With her beauty, charm, and amply dowry, Amanda can look as high as she likes for a husband. So why is she finding the totally ineligible Greville so annoyingly appealing?

Donna: I can’t wait! So going back to your newest release, where can we find it?

Julia: WAIF is available at Walmart, Borders, Barnes & Noble, Target and Books-A-Million stores that stock Harlequin series titles, as well as at the on-line bookstores of those companies, and from

Julia: You can find all about WAIF, including character sketches and photos of the Nottingham locale, as well as advice on the writing life, research tidbits and notes on my next release, THE SMUGGLER AND THE SOCIETY BRIDE, at my website,

Donna: Julia, it’s been a pleasure having you today. Thank you for being my guest.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Knights in Shining Armor

Armor and Weapons:

A knight was armed and armored to the teeth. He had so much armor and weapons that he depended on his squire to keep the armor and weapons clean and in good working condition. At first the armor was made of small metal rings called chain mail. A knight wore a linen shirt and a pair of pants as well as heavy woolen pads underneath the metal-ringed tunic. A suit of chain mail could have more than 200,000 rings. However, chain mail was heavy, uncomfortable, and difficult to move in. As time passed, knights covered their bodies with plates of metal. Plates coverd their chests, back, arms, and legs. A bucket-like helmet protected the knight's head and had a hinged metal visor to cover his face. Suits of armor were hot, uncomfortable, and heavy to wear. A suit of armor weighed between forty and sixty pounds. Some knights even protected their horses in armor.

A knights also needed a shield to hold in front of himself during battle. Shields were made of either wood or metal. Knights decorated their shields with their family emblem or crest and the family motto. Oft times these emblems or family crests/mottos were the only way to identity a knight who had been killed in battle.

A knight's weapon was his sword, which weighted approximately thirty-two pounds. It was worn on his left side in a case fastened around his waist. A knife was worn on the knight's right side. Knights used other weapons in combat as well. A lance was a long spear used in joust. Metal axes, battle hammers, and maces were also used to defeat the enemy.

In researching Armor and Weapons, I wondered how many knights died from heat stroke as opposed to mortal wounds during combat? And if he fell off his horse, how did the knight manage to get to his feet wearing all that heavy metal? Obviously, knight's were men of exceptional strength and fortitude.


Tournaments provided a means for knights to practice warfare and build their strength in times of peace. Tournaments were essentially mock battles with audiences. The audience was usually made up of "fair damsels." This was another way in which a knight was expected to act chivalrous. The tournaments had different rules that had to be followed. Knights were judged by umpired that watched for dishonest play. (Sounds like modern day games--like umpires and referees in football and basketball).

Tournaments were usually fought between either two people or two teams. If two people fought a tournament, it was usually by jousting. On horsebacke, two knights would gallop across the playing field toward each other. The men carried long, blunt poles and shields. The objective was to knock the other person out of his saddle.

Team play was conducted with fierce mock combat between two bands of fighters. They fought with wooden or blunted weapons so as to reduce the risk of getting hurt. However, this was often not the case. Many knights did get hurt and even died in what was referred to as 'gaming accidents.'

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pumpkinnapper is Here!

The time has come! The Wild Rose Press has released my Regency Halloween comedy novella, Pumpkinnapper.

Buy link here. Note, depending on your location, the link may not yet be active.

Join the fun as Henry the man and Henry the goose spar over heroine Emily's affections while they try to capture the foul pumpkin thieves.

The day's events (September 30):

3-5 PM Eastern time: I'll be at the Classic Romance Revival loop
9-10 PM Eastern time: I'll be at The Wild Rose Press loop. I'll drop in all day, but I'll be there for sure at this time.

You must join the loops in order to post.

And enter my CONTEST--Find Me a Hero! Prize is a PDF copy of Pumpkinnapper. Contest runs through October 31. Details on my Contest page.


Pumpkin thieves, a youthful love rekindled and a jealous goose. Oh my.

Last night someone tried to steal the widowed Mrs. Emily Metcalfe's pumpkins. She's certain the culprit is her old childhood nemesis and the secret love of her youth, Henry, nicknamed Hank, whom she hasn't seen in ten years.

Henry, Baron Grey, who's never forgotten the girl he loved but couldn’t pursue so long ago, decides to catch Emily's would-be thief. Even after she reveals his childhood nickname--the one he would rather forget. And even after her jealous pet goose bites him in an embarrassing place.

Oh, the things a man does for love.


"Emily, even with Henry, formidable as he is--" Hank glared at the goose. The goose glared back "--you need protection. I will send over some footmen to guard the place."

"No. Turnip Cottage belongs to Charlotte's husband. What will the townspeople think, with Lord Grey's servants about my house?"

Her refusal increased his fury. The sight of her hand on that damned goose's head didn't improve his mood, either. He balled his fists as his patience thinned and something else thickened. "I'll find you a guard dog. You must have some protection out here all alone."

"But I have Henry." She patted the goose's head and the bird snuggled into her hand. Again.

Heat flooded Hank, part desire for Emily's touch, and part desire to murder that damned goose, who was where he wanted to be. His insides groaned. "Very well, then, you leave me no choice. I will help you catch the culprits."


He changed his voice to the voice that either melted a woman or earned him a slap in the face. "Who knows, mayhap we would enjoy ourselves as I lie in wait with you." I would love to lie with you.

Her eyes widened. Had she understood the innuendo?

"I cannot stay alone with you, and you know it," she said, her voice severe.

"You are a widow in your own home and no one will see. I will make sure of it."

"No." She marched back into her cottage and slammed the door. Henry smirked and waddled away.

Hank grinned. He would be back, whether she liked it or not.

Thank you, all


Linda Banche

Regency romance--most with humor, some with fantasy, and occasionally a paranormal

Lady of the Stars--4 stars from Romantic Times, Regency time travel available from The Wild Rose Press

Pumpkinnapper--Regency Halloween comedy, available from The Wild Rose Press

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Kindertransport by Jennifer Childers

Hi all,

I hope you enjoy this excerpt from "Kindertransport"

I filled a syringe with morphine.Could innocent blood ever be washed away?
Would my hands ever be clean again if I continued on this course? The gas would make them choke, gasping for breath as life was strangled to nothingness. Morphine would make them euphoric, and an overdose would put them to sleep, peacefully, with no pain. A sleep from which they would not awake, but they would be safe from the evil that awaited them otherwise.

I filled the second syringe. I thought of each child as I punctured the rubber stopper, the needle sucking up the lethal fluid filling the tube. Little Wilhelm. My treasured leader of the pack. The braces on his legs never stopped his imagination from soaring. Lara. An artist’s soul expressed with the one good hand she had. Art reflective of the beauty living in her heart. The twins. Isn’t intelligence measured with creativity? I would sorely miss their energy.

My hand slipped., and the needle grazed the knuckle of my thumb. I swore and bit my lip. Perfect. I’ll kill myself before I get a chance to euthanize my children. Then, after I enter Heaven’s gate, if He lets me inside them, God can tell me I am an idiot and a murderer.

I rubbed my shoulders. They hunched with an invisible weight that made my back ache.

Romance Studio Review:


Jennifer Childers

Historical romance

Available from The Wild Rose Press

ISBN: 1-60154-522-3 August 2009
In the months before full scale war breaks out in Germany Erika Lehmeier is trying to find a way to help the six children she cares for escape death.

Hitler has decreed that people who have no worth to society, the ones he calls feeders, have to die to preserve the sanctity of the Aryan race. Erika knows the strengths and goodness of the children and can't bear to see them harmed.

The only one she can turn to is Rickard Sankt an SS officer. Will he help her or lead them all to certain death?

Jennifer Childers tells a fascinating story of atrocities committed by people who believed in a leader who brought them to prosperity. By the time they realize what is going on they couldn't refuse to follow his demands if they wanted to live. There are always those, like Gregor, who thrive with a license for cruelty. The writer reminds us in many ways that he and others of his ilk aren't representatives of all German society. Most readers know the history of the death camps where Jews and other unwanted adults were annihilated. This is a heart wrenching tale. I don't think the plans to destroy a whole generation of adults and children with any kind of mental, emotional or physical defect is as widely known.

Excellent characters and dialogue throughout show the wide variation in the German citizens' reactions to what is going on around them in the world. Erika, Rickard, Father Julian, Olga and many others show the diversity and the love everyday Germans have for their country. Ms. Childers has done an exceptional job crafting this mixture of fact and fiction into a book that will captivate the reader from first page to last.

Overall rating: Sensuality rating: Very sensual
Reviewer: Dee DaileySeptember 8, 2009