Friday, August 17, 2018

Why I love Writing Historical Fiction

I spoke to my sister-in-law the other day and she couldn't understand how I could write novels that required so much research. I said "I love the research." Digging out those little gems of history and daily life, how people dressed, what they ate. Did women really not wear underpants in the eighteenth century (my preferred time period)? They didn't! Apparently this made it easier for the women to use the necessary (toilet) with all those stiff layers of clothing.
A fact that shocked me: the English washed their clothing in urine. They used urine for its acidic properties. I learned that on a visit to Shakespeare's parents' farm in Stratford-upon-Avon.

When I wrote my first novel, now titled Escape the Revolution, I wrote the story before my research and had to change so much, but found I enjoyed ferreting out the details. In my tavern I had a bar. I discovered there weren't yet drinking bars in 1790, so I had to change it. Pot-boys scooped out ale or beer from barrels in the kitchen and poured the drink into tankards to be served directly to the table. I triple checked these facts.
I still find many famous authors who put bars in their stories long before they appeared in history (the Victorian age).
I love the challenge of getting my details right. Of putting my heroines in a situation where they can't whip out a Smartphone to call for help. They must use their wits. Nothing is simple without modern conveniences.

In the days before the Internet (Yes, young people, there were those days) I utilized the library system for my research. I lived near Washington DC and traveled there to the Library of Congress Reading Room, an excellent resource. I was fortunate to be able to use their comprehensive library.

How fast does a horse travel in one day? (about fifty miles). Marriage rules and restrictions, the calling of the banns. All these things you must take into consideration when writing historical fiction. There were odd customs/fashions for women, such as mouse-fur eyebrows, and when they lost their teeth, a cork ball was stuffed in the cheek to fill out the face. Early in the 18th c. men wore rouge on their lips and cheeks, huge wigs--as did women--and high heeled shoes.

In one novel, Rose's Precarious Quest, I had a character who was a doctor in 1796. I had to request rare books by a Dr. Hunter to gain knowledge from that era. I also came across a fantastic website put out by Colonial Williamsburg on eighteenth century medicine. Domestic Medicine. I learned about the humors of the body (black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood) and how they must be regulated to keep one well. The strange, often deadly remedies (as in mercury and white lead) used to heal the sick. However, the poisonous Foxglove plant was turned into Digitalis to successfully treat heart disease.

For my Canadian Historical Brides story, On a Stormy Primeval Shore, I had to research the province of New Brunswick. I must applaud my wonderful research assistant, Nancy Bell, who found me reproductions of historical documents on the internet.
 I learned so much about who settled this territory, who the native tribes were, the Acadians, Germans, Scots, English and the Loyalist Americans who fled the American Revolution. The struggles these people went through in a harsh climate.

It's a good thing I love all these details, the thrill of research. However, it makes me a picky reader when I catch the historical mistakes made by other authors.

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Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Why Historical Fiction? by Victoria Chatham

I freely admit to not having started off as a history buff. I found it the most boring subject when I was at school and never could remember dates, or the succession of kings or who ruled what country in Europe. It didn’t matter to me at all as the subject had no relevance to my life at the time.

It wasn’t until the early 80s when I read Sharon Kay Penman’s novel The Sunne in Splendour that I had a shift in interest. In this book, Richard III and the Wars of the Roses came to life for me in a very profound way. From reading anything that caught my interest from Danielle Steele to Louis L’Amour and anything and everything in between, I started raiding my local library’s history section. I read Anya Seton, Jean Plaidy, Umberto Eco, loved Wilbur Smith and later Ken Follett. I read all the Mazo de la Roche Jalna series pretty well back to back. Those books documented a slice of life and social history as did R.F. Delderfield’s A Horseman Riding By series or H.E. Bates’ Darling Buds of May which was made into a successful TV series.

I returned several times to the books of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, reading them from a totally different aspect. Austen was a must-read at school and, at that age, I had no idea what a treasure trove of minutiae they were. The same applies to Heyer. The first of her
books I ever read was Frederica (which I consider her best) but then I collected and read all her Regency romances without ever considering that they were, in fact, history books. A stylized history, maybe, but history nonetheless. Second readings of many of her titles gave me a whole new appreciation of the Regency era (1811 – 1820) beyond ladies' dresses and gentlemen’s sporting preferences.  

I started digging around in non-fiction history books, checking for myself anything I queried whether it was a style of dress or manner of speech and found I loved the research. At that time in my life I had no more thought of writing a book, historical or otherwise. But, in those odd and forgotten facts I came across snippets of past lives that really fascinated me. How other people lived, loved, and the events that surrounded them came to life in an amazing way. It was those people I wanted to write about and now I do.

Victoria Chatham

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

My Favorite Summer Vacation by A.M.Westerling

Well, this may be rather lame but my favorite summer vacation is to stay home and enjoy my garden. I live in Calgary and the summer months are beautiful here, why would I go anywhere else? It makes more sense to go somewhere warm when there’s snow on the ground and a brisk northerly wind! Luckily, my boys have left home and my husband and I no longer have to fit vacation time around their school schedule.

So this blog post is short and sweet and mostly pictures from my yard – enjoy! 

Last year we discovered Canna lilies and enjoyed the blooms so much that this year we put in a pot of only those. Same goes for the fern - I bought one last year for the first time and thought the foliage provided a nice contrast to all the flowers.

We spend a lot of time on our back patio:

I park on the front street and have to walk through the hosta garden to get to the back door. The secret to being a successful gardener is to find the plants that like the space you have. I tried one hosta a number of years ago and every year since keep adding more. I bought the little farmer guy because his overalls match the colour of our house! 

I love garden ornaments and have to restrain myself from buying too many. The bunny is one of my favorites and every year it goes in a different spot. The wrought iron duck is actually a tea light holder and I've jammed it in the pot to keep the squirrels at bay.

More from the back, that's our garden house where I keep my pots, etc., and also where I overwinter my geraniums.

We have more than one patio, we like to sit here later in the afternoon when the sun is shining into the back yard.

From that patio, you look back towards the garden house. The dahlias beneath the window are a few years old as I lift the tubers every fall.

This year I tried something new - I planted a small cedar for the pot beside the front door. I hope that by watering it, I can keep it over winter.

Somewhere in the petunias are three geraniums and three dusty millers. The petunias took over! 

These are Banff junipers. They're native to the area and they've pretty much grown all the way down the rock retaining walls. 

Lobelia are some of my favorite flowers. This is the flower box beneath my kitchen window.

Another one of my favorite ornaments - a gnome in a grass skirt! More lobelia and fibrous begonias, another flower which does well in our yard.

I could keep going on but I think you get the idea - I love summer in Calgary! 

And is there anything better than reading outside? Check out the Canadian Historical Brides Collection HERE.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Travelers' Tales

They live in a vanishing Eden, their spirits close to the land and the animals upon which they rely. Captured by another tribe, a new tribe- kwet'ı̨ı̨̀  - (Stone House People/Whites)--two teens are placed in a residential school patently designed to "kill the Indian inside," by taking away their language and belittling their culture. Yaotl and Sascho arrive as sweethearts; in order to survive as whole beings, they absolutely must escape. 

Storytelling, at least to this writer, is a kind of trance journey on which I hope to take my reader. The way may go through beauty or horror, boredom and sometimes horror.

Yaotl and  Sascho were born among the Tlicho, a perople for whom long on-foot journeys were a way of life. The early 1950's in the subarctic, where the story begins, is a land where many 1st nation's People live more or less as their ancestors have for 10,000 years, following the seasonal migration of caribou. 

Fly Away Snow goose is a captivity-and-escape story--the mirror image of the ones I read long ago where white children are carried off by "Indians."   Yaotl and Sascho suffer a variety  of trials that could all be filed under the 21st Century definition of "abuse" while being schooled in European norms at a Catholic run residential school. 
In the spring, like the Snow Geese, they yearn to travel North and Sascho, whose confinement is not as harsh as Yaotl's, finds an ally who will help them escape, riding the Mackenzie river northwest. Their courage and endurance and their  childhood education,living off the land, will be all that stand between them and death as they start the long journey which they hope will return them to their families.  


I went camping last week but am now sitting here, typing away while feeling exceedingly grungy because I have not yet had a bath. The house in which I sit has a cat-hair-on-the-floor problem of a high magnitude. As I type, the felines are yelling at me because they are mad that I went away.  Willeford has given me his welcome home bite, just to remind me who is the boss around here.

In my camp experience, I  did not sleep on the ground or among the leaves. I did not wear the same clothes until they fell into rags, like Yaotl and Sascho--although I sort of felt like that by the end of the muggiest days. It made me realize once again how pampered we are, but, oh, Lord! How I love the comfort of  my own bed, in a room where the potty is just a few easy steps down the carpeted hall--instead of over roots and mud and rocks. At 2 a.m. it might as well be in the next county!

On the way to camp there were some trials and tribulations. (Nothing of course when compared with any challenge my characters faced.) Today's trials are of a particular kind and are often automotive. We no longer paddle a canoe or walk to our destinations. We zoom along on Interstates at 65 mph (or more!) until a sea of red tail lights appears causing us to brake like mad. Then, it's stop and go for the next hour, advancing what seems to be a mere car length at a time until the road work or the traffic accident which caused the slow down appears on one side of the road or the other.

There was a traffic delay on the way to camp, an inevitable part of driving. The worst part was that I actually had to come face-to-face with the broiling July weather while the car sat on the  shimmering pavement. Windows down, the sun drummed on the roof of my old a/c-less VDub,  Boy, was it HOT! Diesel fumes were--fortunately--blown off a breeze, so I strategized my movements, a pilot fish beside a whale, in order to take full advantage of some long-haul behemoth's shadow.     

~~Juliet Waldron

See all my historical novels at the links below:

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Rialto Beach by Katherine Pym



 One of the most astonishing vacations I’ve been on is the Washington Peninsula. A large expanse, it encompasses an area with a mountain range, rain forests, lakes and landmarks along the Pacific.

Dead trees on edge of rain forest leading to Rialto Beach
At Rialto Beach not far from LaPush is dramatic and beautiful, but something happened there. A whole line of trees are white, dead, as if swamped by ocean water.

Washington coast on a sunny day

Rialto beach area on a Cloudy Day, which is most days.

Rialto Beach
Whatever happened to the trees had to have been fairly recent, for they still stand like lone sentinels guarding the land.

The beach is filled with pebbles to rounded rocks, and very difficult to walk on for any length of time. Rock hunters comb the sand for orbicular jasper and agates.


Driftwood on the beaches of Washington
Huge driftwood litters the beach, which you can climb onto and sunbathe rather than the pebbled beach. Islands dot the shallows. It is really magnificent. 

For more, unusual reading, try Miri's Song, a story of Joshua & Magdala, a love story

Buy Here

Many thanks to my memories, pictures, & Wikicommons, Public Domain