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Friday, January 30, 2009

Magic Bones and Time Portals

When a shaman-sorcerer interprets an omen he knows its exact meaning without having any notion of how he knows it. (Carlos Castenada/1988)

My novella, Isabelle and the Outlaw, is a time-travel, western romance. I admit it was a bit of a stretch trying to figure out how to get a modern day woman transported back through time two hundred years. Once I did, the trick was how to return Isabelle to her own century without sounding contrived.

My research led to me to some interesting information. One was the casting of bones, and the other black holes better known as time portals.

No one is certain when or how bones came to be used to divine the future, cast spells, or influence the outcome of events. Although tossing or throwing bones is an extremely archaic divination technique, their use was not recorded by Europeans until the 1600s.

Traditionally Shamans threw the bones into the air or the ground, usually into a specially drawn or marked off circle, and observed how the bones landed and what configurations they formed after landing. The bones would be consulted in order to determine many things, such as how to care for cattle and crops, hunting expeditions, marriage suitability and in matters regarding health.

Bones were also assumed by primitive man to contain something of the essence of the soul, and were treated with great respect.

This particular research gave me my “Aha” moment and the idea was borne of using an Apache Shaman to cast his bones and pray to the four winds to bring a woman from the future to save the hero.

Time travel is the concept of moving backwards and/or forward to different points in time, in a manner analogous to moving through space. Time travel has been a common plot device in fiction since the 19th century, so you guessed it, I had myself another “Aha” moment.

Here’s a tidbit from Isabelle and the Outlaw to tease your reading taste-buds:

Two hundred years in the past, an Apache Shaman mixes his potions, chants over his magic bones, and prays to the four winds to bring the woman to save Raphael Sinclair.

She fell in love with a picture of an outlaw in a history book. Professor of American History, Isabelle Landers lives by the “Murphy’s Law” creed. If it’s going to happen—it’s going to happen to her. While vacationing at a charming ivy-covered cottage in England, she walks through the garden gate and into a time portal that lands her smack dab in Arizona’s outlaw badlands, and face-to-face with Rafe Sinclair.

Pinkerton detective agent, Rafe Sinclair never expected to fall in love with a woman from the future. Posing as an outlaw on the run he is the victim of a hanging gone bad. Until Isabelle Landers can keep him from hanging a second time, and until he can find a way to return her to her own century, he vows to keep her safe from a notorious outlaw leader.

Currently an ebook, Isabelle and the Outlaw is being released(coming soon) as a traditional print anthology titled Through the Garden Gate.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Female Hysteria


Do you suffer from cramping, irritability, change in mood or appetite? Do you cause disagreements in your home with bouts of unladylike complaint?
You may suffer from Female Hysteria. Fear not, centuries of the greatest medical minds have been to work finding a solution to this problem.

This condition has been reported by Hippocrates, while the ancient Egyptians detailed the ailment on ancient payri. Plato had a theory about the wandering womb. A dangerous condition when the uterus wanders the body and interferes with the heart. Jeopardizing the very life of the lady in question. It was clear, a cure must be found!

Galen, a second century physician, noted the condition in sexually repressed women. it seemed to affect virgins, nuns, and widows frequently. He also noted a few married women suffered as well. Sexual activity was the recommended treatment.

In 1859 it was estimated a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria as was reported in a 75 page document of the time. By 1860 water treatments were widely used. The lady simply sat in a chair while given a pelvic massage with a steady flow of water. The treatment was successful when she reached a state of hysterical paroxysm.

The prescription for said ailment was increase sexual activity for the married, marriage for the unwed. As a last resort, a vaginal or pelvic massage could be provided by a skilled medical provider.

The Victorians took this condition very seriously. By 1870 a clockword vibrator was a tool used by doctors everywhere. In 1910, an advertisement assured "vibration is life". The vibrator became a vital tool to maintain a woman's health, and now, it was available for home use!
Sears catalogue advertised a vibrator and accessories in 1918. It was billed as a "very useful and satisfactory home device."

Thank Heaven, healthcare was finally in good hands!
Today the vibrator is a multi million dollar industry, so successful is this treatment that the syndrome is no longer included in medical texts.
That's alot of happy women.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Byzantine Clothing

Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) evokes images of golden domes and lavishly furnished villas. Not to be outdone, the women during this period wore richly ornamented garments, weighed down with rubies, pearls, and precious gems.
Fabrics for most people were sewn from undyed linen and undyed wool. Upper class garments were frequently made of patterned fabrics, including silk and stiff brocade. Designs were mostly geometric, but the embroidery and jewels were what made this clothing distinct from other periods in history.
Just as in earlier centuries, the basic underlayment for Byzantine clothing was the tunic, woven individually on a loom, as were the trim, stripes and medallions.
The stola and palla were still worn by women, but during the 11th to 13 c. they became more heavily jeweled, representing the garments we think of today as Byzantine.
Mosaics and paintings show us the superhumeral, a heavily jeweled collar worn by royalty and priests(see Theodora's attendant, far left)..
Purple was reserved for the emperor, as were red shoes, usually decorated with golden scrolls.
One look at a Byzantine mosaic will make one wonder how they could walk in such richly designed garments.
Some good Byzantine research sites are and

Monday, January 19, 2009

Interview with K. Celeste Bryan

Today, I have a guest blogger. I am interviewing historical author K. Celeste Bryan, also known as Kat.

1. Welcome, Kat! So, tell us a little about yourself? What is your typical day like?

I bet most readers think we sit around all day and munch on chocolates or browse through bookstores at our leisure, or perhaps vacation in the Bahamas every winter. Ha! Nothing could be further from the truth, at least in my little corner of the world. Most days, you’ll find me sitting at my computer praying my muse is patient today. There’s a fat kitty on my lap and a big dog curled up at my feet, but I wouldn’t trade one minute of my writer’s life for another.

2. When did you start to write and how long did it take you get published?

I have written in one form or another most of my adult life. I started researching histories of pioneers in America and then joined the US Web Historical Sketches site. I was fascinated by the stories about out industrious ancestors and soon, the “what ifs” surfaced and full-length novels took over my brain. I began writing historical fiction and then branched into romance.

3. How many stories did you finish before you were published?

I was very blessed to be accepted by a medium-sized publisher for my first book. When my contract ran out, I submitted some stories I had been working on for two years, and they too were accepted. I now write for New Concepts Publishing and The Wild Rose Press, wonderful publishers.

4. How did you break into publishing?

Oh, I knew nothing about it, but had written this story and my cousin any mother asked me every day to read the next Chapter. When it was complete, they encouraged me to send it in. “Where?” I said. So I bought a copy of Writer’s Digest and sent it in two publishers. One didn’t take my type of story, and the other bought it.

5. What inspired you to write romance?

When I realized how many women read it, and don’t read historical fiction. Romance accounts for a majority of the sales in the book industry. And . . . of course, I love writing about dashing heroes and sassy heroines.

6. What genre or sub-genre do you write? Why did you choose this genre?

Generally, I write historical romance, but somehow an element of paranormal worms its way into all my novels. I like the concept of the paranormal, the suspended belief concepts. Anything can happen in a paranormal – ghosts, time-travel, shapeshifting, and let’s not forget vampires and werewolves.

7. What difficulties does writing this genre present?

For historical, your research must be very accurate. Readers are astute these days and will call you on mistakes. My editor recently caught one of these oversights in my novel. I had referred to a book in the novel only to find out the book hadn’t been published until two years later. OOPS!
Thank goodness for editors.

8. How much time do you devote to writing each day?

At least five, and then another three answering e-mails, promoting and marketing.

9. Tell us about your other works, books, stories, etc.

Presently, I’m working on a pirate historical and tossing around a Highland warrior novel. And there have been readers asking for a sequel to Where The Rain Is Made, my time-travel, shapeshifter book. Hmm, this is going to take some heavy plotting.

10. How do you write? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Is it your characters or your plot that influences you the most?

I’m often asked this. I’m a rather unconventional writer, I think. I plan the story in my head for months, every scene, every conversation between the characters, until I know them inside and out. I need to know how they would react to a situation, whether or not they would actually say what I write down. Then I begin a scene, and most often it’s not Chapter One, but ends up somewhere in the middle of the book. From there, I work backward or forehead if called for. I never outline and don’t use note cards. It just doesn’t work for me.

11. What has surprised you about being a published author?

That people buy my books and then e-mail me to tell me how much they loved it. I still can’t get over this. I love my books, but hey, I’m a little biased, so I don’t expect other people to fall in love with the story or the characters. It’s so nice when they do.

12. 18. What was the most usual way you came up with a story idea? What made you to think, ‘hey, I could make that into a story?’

When my youngest son was ten, he became fascinated with Native American lore, particularly Cheyenne dog soldiers. We checked out everything from the library pertaining to the subject and I listened for hour upon hour about their customs, their beliefs and . . . their brutality, courage and honor. At some point, I figured, hey, I should put all those hours to good use and write a book about the Dog Soldiers, thus Where The Rain Is Made.

13.What advice would you give aspiring writers today?

Be patient, persevere and pay attention to everything in the market. If family and friends tell you to get a real job, ditch them. Listen to your gut while you’re writing. Pretend the character is standing over your shoulder. Ask, would he really say that? Would she really do that? You’ll know the answer.

14. Thanks for joining me today! Good luck with all your writing!
Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it. From now until the end of February, I’m hosting a “reader’s special.” These are tough economic times for all, and I’d hate to think readers stopped buying books. If you purchase either Where The Rain Is Made or Sojourn With A Stranger, I’ll send you the other one free (e-format). E-mail me your receipt (minus your credit card information) and I’ll send you the book that day.

Happy reading!
K. Celeste Bryan (Kat’s Kwips and Rants Blog)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hurrah for the bra

Pre WW1 women wore corsets. Not the pretty, soft things we have in lingerie shops now. They were instruments of torture, binding and grinding. supports of whale bone or steel held a woman's torso so tightly she often swooned in the streets during hot days when she couldn't catch her breath.

The war started, America was in need of metals. 28,000 tons of metal gained when women graciously, perhaps joyfully, ripped off the corsets and sent them to the steel workers. from their generous donations, two battleships were built.

What fun we could have had in their naming. The USS Titsling and and her sister ship Double Trouble.

No longer bound for glory, America's women became vested in the war effort, busting out in the job market, aiding the economy while the men were away.
The birth of the bra came on the heels of the Roaring 20's. More comfort. More dancing. The girls had something to celebrate.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Around Ye Ole Oak Tree

Do you know why the oak tree is associated with supernatural powers? The fact that the oak tends to be struck by lightning as much as, if not more often than, other trees has promoted its association with supernatural powers and made it sacred to the thunder-wielding Norse god Thor. A southern English rhyme sensibly warns: Beware the oak, it draws smoke.

Elsewhere, somewhat perversely, the tree is actually recommended as a suitable shelter in the event of a thunderstorm. Keeping boughs of oak (particularly if taken from a tree that has been struck by a lightening bolt), or a few acorns, in the house is reputed to protect the house from lightening. Standing beneath an oak, or wearing oak leaves, is further said to furnish protection from evil spirits and from witchcraft.

In Cornwall, superstition advises that hammering a nail into an oak tree will relieve the pain of a toothache, while in Wales rubbing sores with a piece of oak bark on Midsummer Day will help them to heal. Embracing an oak tree, meanwhile, is enough to cure hernias and to promote fertility of couples unable to have children. Oak trees planted at crossroads are considered to have the most effective healing powers.

The oak acquired a reputation as a royal tree in the seventeenth century after the future Charles II hid in one to escape his Parliamentarian pursuers after the battle of Worcester. In honor of this event, loyal subjects took to wearing oak leaves to proclaim their Royalist sympathies on what became Royal Oak Day after restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Anyone failing to comply was beaten with stinging nettles.

Back in the more brutal times, in pagan Germany, any man who harmed an oak was punished by having his navel hacked out and nailed to the tree; he was then forced to walk around the trunk, with the result that his intestines were slowly pulled from his body.

Even today, in our modern world, the oak tree is still honored. The choice of clusters of oak leaves as a military decoration hails back to ancient Rome, when soldiers who had performed some act of bravery or selflessness were honored with the presentation of an oak leaf crown. An oak leaf cluster or oak leaves is a common device which is placed on U.S. military awards and decorations for "Exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service, heroic deeds, or valorous actions."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Roman Clothing: B.C. to 5 A.D.

Because my books begin in Caesar's time and go through the fourteenth century, I'm fascinated by how fashions changed through the centuries, and research for my historicals has, I'm afraid, turned into a fun and time-consuming hobby.
The Roman Republic, and later, the Roman Empire, was heavily influenced by Greek culture, in everything from its literature to architecture and fashions. Much of our knowledge of early clothing comes to us from works of art, salvaged in part from archeological digs, and now residing in museums all over the world.
The standard Roman garment was the tunic, commonly called the T-tunic as its cut was basically the shape of a T. Over the tunic, men wore their togas, if they went to the Forum. Commoners usually wore plain brown tunics of wool. Yes, even in the summer, but their wool was not what ours is today. Rather it was a soft weave and could be worn in the summer. Patricians or nobles wore garments of linen and silk, usually ornamented with a band (or bands) to denote their office or status.
Women wore tunics, too, and since most of what we know comes from extant art, which more commonly depicts well-off citizens, the elegant draping of garments during this period looks much like Greek fashion; over a lady's tunic, which might only come to her knees, she wore a stola, a floor-length dress styled much like our 'jumpers', and clasped at the shoulders with ornamental fasteners. Over this came a palla, a shawl of sorts, worn draped around the shoulders or waist. In cold weather, she wore a cloak, sometimes hooded.
An interesting website, with terms and careful description of articles of clothing, can be seen at
Clothing changed little until the 5th century, an era we call Byzantine, a term coined later and one the Byzantines themselves never used. Byzantine dress is fascinating, and I'll blog about that later.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Real Men Wear Lace

Can you imagine a modern-day hero wearing lace? It conjures images of Liberace and cross-dressers. But until the twentieth century, lace was a sign of wealth. And wealth meant money. Freedom. Power. Security. Lace was not feminine or foppish. Let’s face, it, until very recent times, women had few choices; marriage or abject poverty. And for a woman who couldn’t go get a job to take care of herself, finding a husband who could care for her – and her future children – in comfort, was vital. If a man wore lace, it announced his wealth, which was attractive to women, and to the fathers of maidens looking for a husband. A wealthy man could afford to feed, house, and clothe his wife in comfort. He owned vast lands, had tenants, and in later times he also had investments. Today we call those guys filthy rich.

Unlike today, no one trimmed their undergarments in lace because it would not be seen, which was pointless because lace was a way of announcing status and money. In the late Georgian era, shirts were trimmed in lace because the cuffs peeked out from under the coat sleeves. But before that, and then in the latter part of the Regency era, lace on shirt sleeves disappeared when they stopped showing underneath the coats.

Men’s coats were also ornate, trimmed in lace and made out of brocade and often with gold threads creating intricate designs. The buttons were another sign of wealth. Even shoe buckles revealed money; only the poor used shoe laces.

So if you wonder through a time gate and find yourself centuries in the past, run for the nearest lace-trimmed man and hope he feeds you!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Superstitions abound from many cultures and many eras, and continues to flourish around the globe even in the most technologically advanced societies. The startling array of old wives' tales, saws and warnings that survive to this day are a reflection of many preoccupations, ranging from largely historical fears about the welfare of animals and portents of coming weather to psychologically telling omens of marital discord, mistrust of new innovations and magical ways of probing what the future holds.

Since superstitions played a large part in the historical era, I thought I might do a series of blogs about the role different superstitions played in various socities. Perhaps this information will serve as a source of research for you-the reader/writer.

Let's begin with "abracadabra." The word "abracadabra" is a magical invocation that is associated chiefly with stage conjurors and pantomime witches but in fact has a long history as a cablistic charm. The charm was said to have special powers against fevers, toothache and other medical ailments as well as to provide protection against bad luck. Sufferers from such conditions were advised to wear metal amulets or pieces of parchment folded into a cross and inscribed with the word repeated several times, with the first and last letter removed each time until the last line read just "A". According to the thinking behind the charm, the evil force generating the illness would decrease as the word grew shorter. Once the charm had proved effective (after a period of nine days), the wearer was instructed to removed the parchment cross and to throw it backwards into an eastwards flowing stream before sunrise.

Such charms were, according to Daniel Defoe in his Journal of the Plague Year (1722), widely worn in London in the seventeenth century as protection against the plague. Simply saying the word out loud is also said to summon up strong supernatural forces, hence its use by contemporary stage performers and entertainers throughout the West.

Well, this is certainly a curious, if not entertaining belief. Stay tuned for a fascinating journey in to the world of superstitions.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Jennifer Childers

Hi there,

Like so many writers, I was the story teller in the group. We would pass ongoing stories during lunch and fantasize about cute guys in class.

Like facets on a diamond, I like lots of genres. Paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, inspirational and of course, history. People ask how writers get ideas. Are you kidding? History begs to be written, and there is literally a cast of millions to choose from.

I find it amusing how the same personality types prevail through the centuries. Remember the guy who couldn't understand how you could possibly resist him? He was the same type who, as a conquistador in 16th century Florida, captured an Indian maiden and kept her from the rest of her tribe.

One of his fellow conquistadors politely told him the Indians might have a kinder attitude toward the Spaniards if they would refrain from abducting thier women. It didn't help that the lady in question was the chief's mother!

We don't have to wonder what people were like; we've met them.

The tyrannical boss becomes a pirate captain, the office gossip a spy for the resistance, of course the heroine is a comopsite of women we have always known. Women who have been hurt, overlooked, and overwhelmed, who come in the ring swinging and won't stop until the final bell. The kind of woman who gets knocked down but struggles to her feet for one more round. she is our mother, our sister, the heart of history and the reason we have one. Our nurturer, our fighter, our self.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cats in History

I'm Peachcup, an American short hair and mother of four. Three of my kittens are blessing the homes of other humans while my daughter, Freya, and I have remained as caretakers to Jennifer and her mate and kit. As you know, cats are not only the wisest and most beautiful of God's creations, but we have a noble history as well.

The Egyptians, an unusually intelligent group of humans, worshipped cats and loved us deeply. Some pharohs even mummified their cats and buried us with them. Err, there is a such thing as too much adoration. Unlike those inbred Anubis worshippers, some realized the feline is a link between this reality and alternate ones. You have seen a cat stare into nothing and run for no apparent reason? Well, he was in contact with a different dimension and may not have liked what he saw, or the creature wasn't interesting enough to hold his attention.

We don't always suffer fools graciously. Don't even get me started on those morons during the black death! The plague was brought on by rats. Rats! Cats are masters at destroying rats, but were we appreciated? Oh no, we were accused of being in league with evil and killed.
Ugh! The rat population grew and the disease spread, killing a large portion of the population.

Sadly, our mysterious communications have been misunderstood by humans, and there have been times we have suffered for it. Our glowing eyes have been mistaken for demon posession, the fierce battle cry we howl have frightened humans on occasion.
We have persevered despite it all, and there have been humans who have recognized our value.

During WW2, cats sensed and heard bomber planes before the humans did, we hid in the bomb shelters and the humans followed. We saved many lives. Winston Churchill even gave England's cats a medal for our dedication!
We were touched, though a little tuna would have been nice.

Now we are in a new century with a better understanding of how to live with each other. I am happy with my daughter, we have work and a place to play. The neighbors keep their dogs behind a fence. There is no accounting for taste. I ignore them.
Freya likes to sit in the yard and make eye contact. Raising kittens is another blog.

Be well good people and have a wonderful New Year.
Peachcup Lynx Childers
Daughter of Bast

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Historical Hodgepodge

Welcome to our blog! Jen, Joyce, andLoretta are historical fiction authors (well, junkies, then) who decided there's a real need for a blog that covers everything historical, from ancient wedding traditions, Irish food, SCA garb -- you get the idea. We might post anything, and the guests we plan to have are a lineup of STARS! So keep watching our blog for informative tidbits that just might figure in your next book, or give you something to talk about at the next cocktail party when you can't think of a thing to say.

We welcome comments, good or bad. Hey, we're new at this, so chime in!
(Hint) I love to cook, so you may find some authentic medieval recipes soon.