My intent is to allow the reader to walk down the lanes of old London (before it burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1666) and feel as if you are actually there. You can smell and touch the nuances of London. You'll know what it's like to work your way through the City and its the conflicting laws where religion played in important part of everyday life. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

Oh, and then there's my French Revolution novel.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Hello, once again

Sorry this has taken so long, several months, but life has intruded. Deaths, loss of loved ones, waiting for the loss of loved ones. Hard.

But I've finished the first draft of Jasper's Lament, London 1664, a story of a young erudite of religious theory during a time when there is little tolerance for it. The story opens when Jasper's father dies under strange circumstances. During the course of the year, he finds his father has been involved in plots against the king. His uncle is of a perverted religion; his mother converses with his dead father, who resides in a corner of the common room. Jasper falls in love with the daughter of a Dutchman, who is in England illegally, for soon England will go to war with that dead flat country.

And during all this, Jasper takes his place as full partner in a London shop. Rumor and warmonger gossip in an understated tone. Good stuff.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ride the TITLE WAVE into the 17th century

This is in thanks to Christy K. Robinson who put this lovely piece together, allowing us to share with our friends.

There’s a vast crowd of enthusiasts reading and discussing everything medieval and renaissance. But time didn’t stop with Elizabeth Tudor’s death in 1603. Are you looking for the rest of the story?

King James, his son King Charles I, and grandsons Charles II and James II kept the drama level high and dangerous in the seventeenth century. Their marriages and lovers, births and deaths, political intrigues, religious conflicts, witch hunts, and wars marked the beginning of our modern period. Their aristocrats and politicians, tradesmen, midwives, ministers, writers, musicians, scientists, and artists changed the world.  

Have you noticed that it’s the gift-giving season?  Why not knock out your whole gift list right now with these suggestions? The gift of a book is one that's remembered for years. Some people find it convenient to buy books for all their siblings, or as appreciation gifts for their children’s teachers. You might give paperback books to some in the family, or use the Kindle-gift option. Some books are stand-alone, some are part of a series.

This is a list of authors who have the 17th century covered, from Shakespeare and midwife forensic investigators to barber surgeons, Charles II’s mistresses, men and women who founded American democracy, servants and highway robbers, people who gave their lives for their principles or just because they were falsely accused as witches. In these books you’ll find sumptuous gowns and high society, educated women, poverty, prostitutes, and massacres, childbirth and plague, castles and manors, cathedrals and meetinghouses—even a vampire.

Our ninth or tenth great-grandparents knew these people—or were these people. (Well, probably not the vampire—but everyone else!) Discover what their lives were like, and how their lives formed who you are. Many of the book characters from the 17th century are based on facts, events, and real people. The authors, in addition to their literary skills, have spent months and years in research to get the 17th century world “just right,” so you’ll get your history veggies in a delicious brownie.

Ride the wave of the time-space continuum into the 17th century with these award-winning and highly-rated authors. The images you see are a small sample of what's available from this talented group! Control+Click the highlighted author’s name to open a new tab.
Anna Belfrage Time-slip (then and now) love and war.

Jo Ann Butler — From England to New England: survival, love, and a dynasty.

Susanna Calkins — Murder mysteries set in 1660s London. 

Francine Howarth — Heroines, swashbuckling romance.

Judith James — Rakes and rogues of the Restoration.

Marci Jefferson — Royal Stuarts in Restoration England.

Elizabeth Kales French Huguenot survival of Inquisition.

Juliet Haines Mofford — True crime of New England, pirates.

Mary Novik — Rev. John Donne and daughter.

Donald Michael Platt Spanish Inquisition cloak and dagger.

Katherine Pym — London in the 1660s.

Diane Rapaport — Colonial New England true crime.

Peni Jo Renner — Salem witch trials.

Christy K Robinson — British founders of American democracy and rights.

Anita Seymour  Royalists and rebels in English Civil War.

Mary Sharratt — Witches (healers) of Pendle Hill, 1612.

Alison Stuart — Time-slip war romance, ghosts.

Deborah Swift — Servant girls running for lives, highwaywoman.

Ann Swinfen — Farmers fighting to keep land, chronicles of Portuguese physician.

Sam Thomas — Midwife solves murders in city of York.

Suzy Witten — Salem witch trials.

Andrea Zuvich — Vampire in Stuart reign, Duke of Monmouth and mistress.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Old St. Paul's

When I find historical texts published in the middle of the 17th century I feel I’ve won the lottery. Even though most authors of this time-frame write flowery 'epistles', or a long convoluted 'introduction to the reader', interspersed with Latin or other languages (Greek comes to mind) which I cannot read, once I finally get into the heart of the book, it yields great information.
St Paul's in the early years

Lately, I've run into historical texts about the physical condition of London’s old St Paul's Cathedral. The information is very interesting in that the old fellow lived a full life. The great church could have regaled us with stories from the blessed to the morbid. When the cathedral finally met his demise, he went down in a blazing coat of fury.

Surprisingly, for a good while it was a crumbling piece of rubbish, both structurally and spiritually. After reading, I really wonder if Godly services ever took place in the building.  

In 1658 William Dugdale published The History of St Paul’s Cathedral, and dedicated it to The Right Honourable Christopher Lord Hatton, Comptroller for the Household to the late King Charles (the first), and one of his majesties most honourable Privy Council. Mind you, this was during the Interregnum when Cromwell was in power. A year prior, no one would have attempted to do dedicate a book to a Royalist, but by this time, the underpinning of the Commonwealth was already weakening, as was the Puritan leader's health. Cromwell died in September of this same year, a catalyst to restore the Royal Stuarts. Times were definitely a' changing.

A short history: The cathedral build began in 1087 and took 200 years to finish. In 1255 part of the church was lengthened, which swallowed up St Faith, a nearby parish church. The parishioners were given space in Paul's crypt (called St Faith under St Paul’s) where booksellers and their families worshiped. Toward the end of Paul’s life, as a safety precaution, St Faith was used as storage space for their books/papers/printing presses.

St Paul's after the 1561 fire
In 1561 lightning struck St Paul’s spire where it caught fire and fell through the roof of the nave. The fire melted the cathedral bells, and lead covering the spire melted off the roof like molten lava. Queen Elizabeth sent letters to the Lord Mayor, pleading for a quick repair to the roof. She donated from her own purse 1000 marks, and lumber from her woodlands. Almost 7,000l were allocated. Within a month of the fire, they began to rebuild the roof, hastily covering the wood with lead. The spire was never replaced, the reconstruction of the roof poorly done, yet this still took 5 years to complete. 

As a result, St Paul's continued in ill-health for the next 60 years. Inigo Jones was given the task to refurbish the great, moldering cathedral while under King James I, but squabbles broke out regarding the architectural style, and money became scarce. Nothing happened for another 8 years. Then King James died.

Under Charles I, reconstruction was again attempted. This time, all donated monies were to be recorded, with instructions on what to do if a donor died without a will. The committee to rebuild the Cathedral would still get their money. Contributions flowed into London. The renovations became one of national pride. Over 10,000l had been gathered. By the end of 1632, repairs began. By the end of 1639 almost 90,000l had been collected. Houses around Paul's were demolished to make room for the reconstruction. Money was handed out to those who lost their homes; donations continued to flow in, sums were divvied for the repairs, then in 1641, everything came to an abrupt halt.

Civil wars engulfed the country; King Charles was at war with his own people. Parliament men, and their followers, defaced churches, including St. Paul's. The cavalry stabled their horses in the church, pulled down Paul's cross, and other crosses around the city and country. King Charles I was executed, and Oliver Cromwell moved into Whitehall Palace.

During the Puritan era, in Dean Milman's words, '...St. Paul's became a useless pile... The portico was let for mean shops... The body of the Church became a cavalry barrack.' The roof began to leak.

Paul's Walk as Wenceslaus Hollar would have it.
Then there was Paul's Walk.
As far back as the 14th century, abuses abounded in St Paul's, which seemed no one had enough power to stop. The nave extended the length of the Cathedral. It was long and vaulted, open to the public during all hours of the day and night. It became a sheltered shortcut across the churchyard, a meeting place for all and sundry, a marketplace of sorts. Young men threw stones at birds that nested there; some hurled arrows from crossbows, breaking statues and windows. Servants out of work gathered at a pillar to make themselves known they were for hire. Fights and brawls further sent the Cathedral into decline. The authorities tried to stop these transgressions through excommunicates and whatnots. By the 17th century, the governments were in disarray, and the abuse continued. St Paul’s nave remained a place of London's underbelly, especially at night.

Charles II returned to England in a blaze of joy and celebration May 1660. In 1663, a scaffold was built around St Paul's, money collected, and more houses designated to be pulled down in order to make room for the rebuild. Architectural design was again argued. A committee of commissioners had a meeting on August 25, 1666. The repairs would be extensive from the old foundation to the pillars up to the roof. The steeple still had not been replaced from the 1561 fire, and a new one fell into the discussions.

But before anything could be done, a fierce wind blew, and in the early hours of September 2nd, 1666 a fire started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. Flames blew with the winds and spread at a rapid rate, burning almost everything within the old London walls. St Paul's, too. 

The scaffolding and other demolition around Paul's hampered any fight to save the old building. Its disrepair only fueled the fire. St Faith's under Paul's was loaded with combustive goods that exploded, sending Paul’s choir into St Faith. The lead surface of the roof began to melt in folds and rained down the sides of the church, into the streets. Within hours the great Cathedral was a cavernous loss.

St Paul's after the fire of 1666
I guess all good things must pass. St Paul’s lasted for centuries, mostly in some sort of disrepair. Sad, really.  

Many thanks to:
Dugdale, William. The History of St Pauls Cathedral in London from its Foundation until these Times: Extracted out of Originall Charters. Records. Leiger Books, and other Manuscripts. Beautified with sundry Prospects of the Church, Figures of Tombes, and Monument. London 1658.
Longman, William (F.S.A). A History of The Three Cathedrals, dedicated to St. Paul in London. London 1873
Simpson, W. Sparrow (D.D., F.S.A). Chapters in the History of Old S. Paul’s. London 1910.

You can find my novels here:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rules & Regs London 17th Century

A reader asked a question to a post I placed July 4th regarding what and whatnots in a coffee house. His question was:

"I find all these social mores fascinating because I am curious....given this Independence Day....just how much personal freedom we really have compared to past eras."

I guess my answer was a bit flippant, for he did not Like or respond. The question got me thinking, though, and so I decided to write about some of the rules and regulations during past eras, and the 17th century. 

The church, i.e., Roman Catholic or Protestant, then the guilds, or livery companies, were the forces to be reckoned with for centuries. They ruled the roost. 

Sources say livery companies or fraternities called guilds (The word ‘guild’ derives from the Saxon ‘gildan’.) started prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and originated in Europe. To be a member of a guild, you had to be a freeman. In order to do that, you must complete your apprenticeship. Once done, you paid a fee to belong. You followed their rules, kept their secrets, and eventually participated in good works. You lived near their centers, and you sold wares that were approved by your livery company. 

Your livery company had the right to arrest you, fine or imprison you. When at war, the guild could call you up for arms, fit you with armor, and give you weapons, men and boys ages 7 and up; then off you’d go into military action. The Corporation of London had control over the livery companies, and the company you belonged to had control over the people in their organization. 

They owned land, set up hospitals, schools, and loaned kings money. If one of their own were in trouble, the company would bail him out, gave money to the family during difficult times; buried their dead, and gave pensions to the widows. 

New livery companies were established all the time. The Mercers obtained their royal charter in 1394, and the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers in February of 1664. Back in the day, there were considered 12 companies, but in January of 1551, the Lord Mayor & Court of Aldermen set down the order of precedence for 48 livery companies. Now, there are 110. 

The companies had their rules and regs, and the merchants passed down more rules unto their customer. For instance, the Barber-Surgeons Company. On a scale of 1-110 in order of precedence with the Mercers as number 1, the Barbers (which includes surgeons and dentists) is number 17 (per Wikipedia). 

Gate to Skinner's Hall

The Barber-Surgeons, as the title infers included the two fraternities. Their ordinances had the choice of apprentices, number of servants to be kept by freeman and liverymen, servants’ wages, rule against or for masters who lured servants away, where a shop opened, how the shop owner conducted his business. It was against the rules for a barber to cut hair on Sundays with a hefty fine, up to 5 shillings which was a great deal, but still, that rule was rarely obeyed. 

There were certain things you could and could not do in a barbershop. “Forfeits used to be enforced for breaches of conduct as laid down in laws…” The person who made a gaff would have to pay for his offense. 

You could not:
Handle razors
Talk of cutting a throat
Call hair powder ‘flour’
Meddle with the barber’s tools
Take another's turn, swear or curse, you pay 7 half-pennies. 

During the 17th century, a few things happened during this century that impressed the inhabitants of the time. Religion took a big stake out of everyone's lives. Separate beliefs, and a deep irritation toward King Charles I brought on the Civil Wars, resulting in the execution of the said king, the scattering of his family into exile, a strict Commonwealth, then the Restoration. 

When King Charles II returned from exile, he took a Portuguese bride. Her dowry gave England new lands to explore, and England reaped the benefits of trade. Goods brought back from these far flung places gave merchants a new perspective of what was truly available across the seas, and in the wide blue yonder.

Entrance to Fishmonger's Hall

 As a result, rules & regs from the past blurred with the new. Shops sold other than what their guilds dictated. Some livery companies failed, and those that remained primarily did good works. Those whose halls were located within the old City walls perished, along with all the records, in the great fire of 1666.

For more on this, especially of the Barber-Surgeons Guild, please see my novel,  
The Barbers: A Tale Most Curious & Rare 

Many thanks to:

The Annals of the Barber-Surgeons of London, Compiled from their Records and other Sources, by Sidney Young, one of the Court of Assistants of the Worshipful Company of Barbers of London, with Illustrations by Austin T. Young. London, 1890

At the Sign of the Barber’s Pole, Studies in Hirsute History, by William Andrews, Cottingham, Yorkshire, 1904.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meet My Main Character

I’ve been tagged by Linda Root & Anita Seymour Davison to tell you about the main character in one of my writing projects, but I really can't do that. I finished The Barbers, and my WIP is now just being born. Instead, I'll tell you a little of my 'Plan'...

Back in the day (a Texas colloquialism great grandparents used) I found Samuel Pepys. Upon reading his journal I realized it was a discussion of local mores, slang, and his life saturated in current events that were so minute, so abbreviated, I couldn't make heads nor tails of it. My understanding of the mid-17th century was nil, and what Mr Pepys wrote in his journal felt like jumping into a whirling chasm filled with bits and bobs only the locals of the time understood.

So, I had to learn of what his journals said, i.e., the life of one living in the 17th century who'd endured the English Civil Wars, and the Restoration, the 1st & 2nd Anglo/Dutch Wars, the death of King Charles II and subsequent exile of James II, then of course, the insane Titus Oates escapade.

I studied London City and its Liberties. I packed my library with all sorts of historical texts filled with random pieces of information my heirs will most likely give to used book stores, or the Goodwill. I mean, not many care about the history of beds or shoes and Livery Companies, the microscope Robert Hooke had made, or that he felt veins and capillaries meant something important. 

For The Barbers I found lovely 17th century published texts that helped my story roll along the foggy lanes of London, on medicine and science, even an experiment on a dog. It was soooo exciting.

My Plan, therefore, is to write of the volatile 1660 decade until London burns to the ground. Each novel will take place in London during one year due to the amazing amount of current events. So far, I’ve managed to write the years 1660-1663. 

My birthing project (Chapter 1 is always painful) is of London 1664. That manuscript has yet to take on a personality of its own. In the interim I’ll tell you of The Barbers, and my protagonist, how she deals with life in general.

 What is the name of your character? Is he/or she fictional or a historic person?
My character's name is Celia Barber, a fictional person. She apprenticed as a barber under her father, and enters the guild (Barber-Surgeons), but as a woman she will never be licensed. (There are some documented cases of women holding licenses outside the 7 mile radius of London, but not within the city proper.) Celia shares a shop with her father who snips hair & shaves chins, while she heals. It is against the guild to be a barber and do the work of a surgeon or physican. King Henry VIII separated the barber/surgeon job functions, which weren't often adhered to, but I digress.

When and where is the story set?
The story is set in London 1663.

What should we know about him/her?
Celia Barber is very interested in science and medicine, and she chafes at the restrictions set against women.

As religious strife settles down, the great brains of England begin to explore medicine and science. Celia strives to see a dissection in the Hall of Surgeons, and an experiment in the Royal Society, but her dreams far outreach reality.

Celia's sister works at the Palace of Whitehall and introduces her to Viscount Deeping, who takes an immediate 'shine' to Celia. He enjoys her quest for knowledge, her dreams to see an experiment at the Royal Society. He takes her there as his lackey where Celia is thrilled to meet Robert Hooke, who created so many tools for the scientist, and wrote theses for the physician.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his or her life?
Her mother is narcissistic, and as a toddler ignores Celia. Finally, when she is about three or four, her mother casts Celia to the streets with a pronounced slam of the door. Her father rescues her, but the rejection takes its toll. Celia never trusts anyone; she'd rather keep to the shadows with her thoughts and dreams, which were many, but life intervenes. She loses one brother, than another, and she can't save them.

What is the personal goal of the character?
To heal people the best she can with local herbs and the latest science, but her goal is sidetracked when her impudent sister sees an inkling of treasure, and the intrusive viscount.

Is there a working title for this novel? And can we read more about it?
The title is set in cement, and the work published. The Barbers, a Tale Most Curious & Rare. 

When can we expect the book to be published?
It’s on the cyber shelves as we speak, paperback and ebook, on amazon, almost all countries. 
Many thanks to Linda and Anita for inviting me on this trip of how my historical fiction develops of itself (after tons of research, that is).

Please click on the links below for The Barbers

For my other novels, see amazon: