Saturday, May 6, 2017

Soul Sisters by Gail Roughton

Take a Trip Down Home!

Netflix binge-watching is one of the joys of retirement. I missed a lot of television shows and movies during my working years. I've enjoyed the heck out of the opportunity to see past episodes of favorite series I'd somehow never managed to catch, and I've fallen in love with series I'd never followed at all, like SupernaturalBlacklist and Grey's Anatomy.  But being human, of course I found a few favorites.

One of two of the prize jewels in my crown of newly discovered (to me) series was a little CW production that ran for four seasons by the name of Hart of Dixie.  New York City girl Dr. Zoe Hart transplanted herself down to Bluebell, a little Alabama town on the Gulf, to take over her deceased father's practice. Turns out her mama'd had a little fling on a cruise ship some years back nobody'd known about, don't you know, including Zoe, and she was the souvenir.  It was filmed on a back lot and not on location and the set had been used before for several small towns, but hey! If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Oh, the critics didn't like it much, it was "demeaning" and "insulting" and certainly not realistic in it's portrayal of life in a small town.  Say whaaaat???  

Well, I've never liked what the critics liked and in general, tend to adore a lot of productions they trash. And in this case, all I can say is whoever thought this show was insulting and demeaning definitely had no experience with life in a small southern town, or ever followed the ebb and flow of town gossip.  You know, who's dating whom,  who's mad at whom, who's sick, who's dying, who's having a baby, who's cheating...well, you get the idea.  Life in microcosm. I even loved the accents and that's saying something for the accent coach, 'cause few of those actors were southern and I absolutely detest Hollywood's standard fake southern accent. The entire cast did an outstanding job and let me state for the record there's no such thing as one southern accent.  Every region has it's own and this show nailed it's target. It also nailed all the town characters, from socialites to eccentrics, from small town doctor to hair dresser, sports hero to local shopkeepers and jacks of all trades. A few of them may have been exaggerated a bit. And then again, when I think of all the characters I've known over the years--maybe not. I've watched the whole thing twice (don't judge me) and pretty much went into withdrawal without new adventures for these characters to star in. 

That's when I went on a search for a new series to fill the void left by Hart of Dixie, nothing involving cops and robbers, or spys, or medical emergencies and surgeries. I didn't want a situational comedy or even anything paranormal (yes, this is still me and I haven't been taken over by a clone, I promise). I wanted something real. No, not reality television.  Fictional real. Something you watched and wanted to jump into yourself, set in a place you wanted to live, populated by characters you wanted to know.  

That's when I discovered BBC's Doc Martinthe story of Martin Ellingham, successful, emotionally stunted London surgeon, who suddenly found himself getting sick (literally) at the sight of blood.  What to do, what to do? Become a GP in a Portwenn, Cornwall.  Be still my heart.  Filmed on location in Port Isaac, Cornwall, the scenery alone made my breath catch. The sea, the cliffs, the houses and cottages and shops!  

I've never lived anywhere but smack-dab in the center of the the state of Georgia; that is to say, in the Deep South, and truthfully, I've never wanted to.  I've never believed I'd be happy living anywhere else.  I'm a place person, my roots sunk deep into the small town Southern society I was born into, raised in, raised my children in, and will die in. And that's undoubtedly the reason I love Hart of Dixie so much. But I honestly think I'd be happy in Cornwall.  Why?  Because in their deepest essence, folks are the same everywhere.  Especially in small towns.  Every small town has the same ebb and flow of gossip and relationships, troubles and joys, and especially eccentric characters.  

As I got acquainted with all the town characters, the group of giggling girls, the depressed constable, the pharmacist with the crush on Doc Martin, father and son plumbers Bert and Al Large, I realized I knew them. I knew them all and loved them already.  Because every small town everywhere has them. All small towns are soul sisters and the citizens of each share kinship with the citizens of all.  It seems the BBC and Great Britain are more sensitive to that fact than Americans, as Doc Martin is highly lauded and critically acclaimed and nobody's ever called it insulting and demeaning in it's portrayal of the town characters. Which it isn't. But neither is Hart of Dixie

But no matter the reason, I send thanks to the BBC for Doc Martin and it's continued production, though I understand it's ninth season will be it's last.  Of course, that's what they said about the seventh and eighth season, too, so hope springs eternal.  I just hope the seventh season hits Netflix before I have to break down and buy the DVD set. The British aren't in too much of a hurry when it comes to the telly, it seems, they only typically film eight shows per season and typically film a season every two years. And they're slower than that when it comes to giving Netflix the green light. That's enough to drive any American crazy, including me--but Doc Martin is well worth the wait.  

Speaking of small towns, if you haven't ever visited Turkey Creek, Rockland County, Georgia, the door's always open. Just click the front cover and step into a world where everybody in town knows if your eggs were scrambled or over-easy before you even step outside the Scales of Justice Cafe....

Come Visit!

Check out Gail Roughton at

Friday, May 5, 2017

Marriage in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart 1702-1714

The Captain and The Countess
By Rosemary Morris

I have written three historical romances, with strong themes set in the reign of Queen Anne Stuart and am writing a series of articles about life in the early 18th century.
The Age of Consent

In England, a fourteen-year-old boy and a twelve-year-old girl could marry without the consent of their parents or guardians. Even if the boy was poor and the girl a duke’s daughter once the knot was tied it would be impossible to untie it.
For example, without his father’s consent fifteen-year-old Sir George Downing married thirteen-year-old Mary Forester in 1714. In accordance with custom they were bedded in the presence of those who later testified that they did not touch each other.
After the marriage, George spent four years travelling abroad while Mary lived with her parents. When he returned to England he refused to live with his lawful wife and publicly declared that he would not consummate the marriage. Fourteen years later the couple who disliked each other wanted a divorce. They applied to the ‘Legislative Power’ to dissolve the marriage. The judgement was that in the words of the marriage service Those whom God has joyn’d let no Man put asunder. The verdict was that George and Mary were Man and Wife by the Laws of God and the laws of the Land and could not be divorced.

Valentines, Marriage Settlements and Wedding Rings

Young people could visit each other and meet in dancing academies. On St Valentine’s day, an equal number of maidens and bachelors got together. They wrote their names on papers called Valentines which were rolled up. These were distributed at random and the bachelors held Balls and gave treats to the maiden who was his valentine. Sometimes, they fell in love and married but the wild blood engendered in Charles II’s reign still ran hot and young men tended to avoid marriage.
Another reason to avoid wedlock were marriage settlements which were comparatively new. Previously widows were contented with the third part of their husbands’ property which the law allotted them. Now the sum of the wife’s pin money for her personal use was included in a marriage settlement. Apart from the marriage contract the bridegroom was obliged to give his bride a ring with ‘a posy’ (two couplets) on it. These are examples of those engraved on lost wedding rings advertised in the newspapers.
                                                    Two made one
                                                    By God alone.’
                                                   ‘God’s Providence
                                                    Is our Inheritance.’
                                                    ‘Vertuous love
                                                    Will never remove.’

What about unvirtuous marriage? In 1702 Haagen Swendson kidnapped Mrs Rawlins, an heiress and was convicted of a crime and executed. In another case Sir Alexander Cumming, Knight of the Shire, abducted Madam Dennis rumoured to be worth £16,000. There were no consequences either because of his rank or because Madam Dennis was content.

Public and Private Marriages

Reading the banns in church for three weeks to inform the congregation of a couple’s intention to wed had become unpopular. A letter in The Spectator newspaper published by Steele to the editor reads: ‘I was marry’d on Sunday last, and went peaceably to Bed; but to my Surprise, was awaken’d the next Morning by the Thunder of a set of Drums.’  The unfortunate bridegroom had to pay the drummers to go away.
To avoid the noise and riot of a public church wedding, which besides being very expensive because an open house was only a small part of the celebrations, marriage by license in front of witnesses became popular.
Private marriages for which a marriage license cost a guinea became popular. Some couples preferred to be married in their closets (small rooms) in the presence of two friends who were witnesses.  
This new custom could be subject to abuse. Clergymen accepted a fee instead of calling the banns or insisting on a marriage license. A bride and groom could marry in a chapel which required neither banns nor a marriage license. Bigamy could be concealed and matches that would probably result in a difficult life could take place between ladies of quality and footmen. Some couples married in taverns such as the Ship Tavern without Temple Bar and in both the Queen’s Bench Prison and the Fleet. Clandestine marriages conducted by defrocked clergymen and laymen at the Fleet and forged marriage certificates were an illegal curse.

Novels by Rosemary Morris available as e-publications and paper backs.

Early 18th century novels: Tangled Love, Far Beyond Rubies and The Captain and The Countess

Regency novels: False Pretences and Sunday’s Child, Monday’s Child and Tuesday’s Child. Heroines born on different days of the week.

Mediaeval Novel, Yvonne, Lady of Cassio, set in the turbulent reign of Edward II will be published as and e-book on the 9h May, 2017 and subsequently as a paperback.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Early Pulp Press & Superstition by Katherine Pym

Buy Here

 As a historical fiction author, I have accumulated a lot of data, and stored it for ‘just in case’. One such book I came across deals with pulp press during the 17th century.

Strange and Wonderful Woodcut from 17th century Press

Thanks to King Henry VIII, most news of the 16th and 17th centuries was surrounded by religion. The constant upheaval during these nearly 200 years must have been mind-boggling. Wars on the Continent, changes in regime in England, regicide, conspiracy theories and civil wars were nonstop. Even if England wasn’t at war with the Holy Roman Empire, battles bled into their waters. The English navy was always on the alert. 

Something to attract the eye
Due to these unsettled times, a big interest was divining the future, reading about ancient prophecies. Strange woodcuts were attached to these pamphlets and journals, used again and again. Most of the woodcuts did not match the story or article.

Even Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary of an incident where he met a gypsy in the street. She said, ‘The world will end Tuesday next,’ then she wandered off, leaving the poor man in a conundrum. Should he put his things in order or leave them be? After all, if the world ends, no one will want his things, his chest of money buried in the back garden. There won’t be anywhere to spend it. So, he turned away from the encounter and went about his everyday business. I don’t recall if he mentioned having lived through "Tuesday next" or not. 

Kings and queens of those centuries tried to suppress unauthorized stories coming from the press rooms but it was a flow of nature no one could stop. “A list of prohibited books first appeared in England in 1529.” A licensing system followed where printers had to gain permission from the Crown before publishing pamphlets, which overwhelmed the Star Chamber whose other responsibilities were soon dwarfed. Queen Mary finally gave that responsibility to the English Stationers Company. 

Example of a 17th century News-sheet
Nothing could stop the flow. Within a few years, London was near buried under satirical and blasphemous pamphlets that soon found their way into the countryside. As a result, strange apparitions and beasts returned from the countryside in the form of divining the future, blaspheming God and Country. 

The government tried to suppress these incoming and outgoing tides of strange and ungodly news. Men would haunt the lanes looking for unauthorized presses. 

Printers found ways to secretly print their pamphlets. They made the presses smaller, easier to handle, to dismantle and hide them when the government came looking. Authors had pseudonyms so they weren’t caught and fined, thrown in to gaol. 

As an example: one fellow collected 22 pamphlets in 1640, almost 1000 in 1641, almost 2000 a year later. By 1660 he’d collected “a total of over 22,000 pamphlets, newspapers, and news books.”

The really good thing about this is, the literacy rate increased throughout England. 


Many thanks to:
Wikicommons Public Domain & 
The Battle of the Frogs and Fairford’s Flies, Miracles and the Pulp Press during the English Revolution by Jerome Friedman, St. Martin’s Press, NY, 1993

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Where can I send my heroine? By Roberta Grieve

Where does a story come from? For some of us it is a character, others a setting, sometimes a plot. For me, the character is the start. I have a young woman in trouble of some sort; she has a problem to solve, Since most of my books are set in the past, the problem might not be the sort of thing that would daunt a modern heroine. Women’s lives were more circumscribed in Victorian times. They often had very little freedom. Whether rich or poor they were bound by the constraints of society. It is my job as a writer to find a way for them to overcome those constraints and find happiness at the end of their journey through the chapters of my book.

I have created heroines from .all classes of society from rich girl Arabella, whose one desire is to be a singer in ‘On Wings of Song’, to orphan housemaid Ruby in ‘Farewell Innocence’.

Arabella is leading a double life, desperate to keep her career as music hall singer Bella a secret from her respectable family. Her rebellious ways lead her into all sorts of adventures which brings me to the title of this blog. ‘Where do I send my heroine?’

Arabella ends up in the Crimea alongside Florence Nightingale, a far cry from the respectable London square where she lives, and the smoky seediness of the music hall. My heroines may have problems to solve but this is where my problems start.

The answer is research - probably one of the most enjoyable parts of my writing life. I love searching out contemporary accounts of the places my characters visit. I don’t use the internet much, preferring to linger in libraries and museums.

When you have not had the opportunity to travel to far off places it is possible with a writer’s imagination to submerge oneself into the atmosphere of exotic places. In ‘More precious than Jewels’ my heroine Grace ends up in India. I found a wonderful book, ‘Women of the Raj’ consisting of letters and diaries which painted a perfect picture of the country and the sort of life Grace could expect when she arrived in that strange place with its colours and smells.

It is often said that writers should write about what they know and when I started out as a writer I was very nervous of depicting places I could never hope to visit. But I grasped the nettle, did the research and, I hope, managed to show my readers what those places were like – India, Australia, Malta, Crimea – and, next on the list – Russia. Once I’ve done the research, that is.

Brides of Banff Springs by Victoria Chatham

AVAILABLE HERE   VICTORIA CHATHAM is a young-at-heart senior who has written short stories, newspaper and magazine articles on a...