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.

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:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Barber-Surgeons Guild

Well, my story of The Barbers has published, and dedicated to my good friends across the pond, Jim & Sue Barber. I figured Jim's ancestors were barbers, and that my friends would like to know what their forefathers did for a living, but first, I needed to do a bit of research. I wanted factual data without it being textbook, but had no idea the amount of research it would take, or how unbelievable the health practices were at the time. 

In order for the reader to accept some of what I wrote, I included an example of my resources at the end of it under the heading: Afterward. I reckoned no one would believe me otherwise. Most of the texts were published in the 17th century, which is apropos due to the fact The Barbers takes place in 1663. Only two sources were published after 1663, one in 1667 and one in 1904 around which this blog is centered.  

Now, for a bit of history…
King Henry VIII & the Company of Barber-Surgeons 1540
In the old days, prior to King Henry VIII, barbers/surgeons shared job descriptions. They both sheared hair, made wigs, shaved faces, trimmed beards, bled, cleaned wounds, and healed the sick. The guild was then known as the Barber’s Company.

In 1540, King Henry changed it to the Company of Barber-Surgeons, and new rules applied. Barbers could only barber and pull teeth, while surgeons did everything else, but these laws were not often followed. Barbers continued to ply their surgical skills, and surgeons snipped mustachios and hair. It filled their coffers with extra money.  

In Early Modern England records indicate a few women barbered and did ‘pyhsik’ (doctoring). These women where allowed into the guild through their fathers or a male relative to apprentice and subsequently go into trade. They could do almost everything a male surgeon could, except see a male dissection, which would cause their womanly desires to flare. They could not witness a female dissection either. This would expose the men digging about in a female’s lower anatomy, trying control a woman’s breeding.

Women became barbers or surgeons, but rarely, if ever, could they be licensed. There is reference to a couple of women licensed to ply their surgical skills, but she could only practice seven miles outside the City limits. (Seven miles outside London seems important, for open Roman Catholicism was included in this distance limit.)

Female barbers were more accepted in the 17th century, their hands considered calm under pressure. They could shave a man very nicely whilst in a coach rumbling along a cobbled lane.
Pulling teeth

Barbers had long days. During the reign of Henry VI, an edict was cast down that “’…no barber open his shop to shave any man from 10 o’clock at night from Easter to Michaelmas, or 9 o’clock from Michaelmas to Easter, except it be any stranger or any worthy man of the town that hath need (what? Isn’t this contradictory, or does it apply to the less wealthy?): whoever doeth to the contrary to pay one thousand tiles to the Guildhall.’”   

Early barbershops had red rags lining their windows, to show they could let blood, and inside rotten teeth were strung on a string. This meant the barber could shave, draw teeth, and “breath’d a vein” (bleed someone). In the 17th century, while customers waited for his barber’s expertise, he strummed a gittern (early guitar).

There were certain things a potential customer could not say or do while in the barbershop, or he’d be forced to pay a forfeit. Examples of offences: a customer handling a razor or fiddling with the barber’s tools, speak of cutting throats, or call hair-powder flour.
Here’s a story re: barber-surgeons.

A duke entered a small barbershop to find the barber not in. He regarded the young apprentice and said, "Can you shave without cutting?" The apprentice said, "Aye," and the duke sat in the chair. After a few pleasantries, the duke patted his brace of pistols and said, "Of course, if you cut me, I shall shoot you dead." The youth thought a moment, then nodded. "I'm not afraid, sir." In quick strokes the lad pleased the duke by shaving him very well. The duke stroked his clean jaw. "Why were you not afraid, then?" With a shrug, the lad answered, "Before you could draw your pistol, I would cut your throat."

Ha! Well said.

For more reading on the barber/surgeons, please see my new release, The Barbers, now on amazon worldwide. Not very expensive, either. 

I want to thank the following for the quotes and information found in this blog: Andrews, William. At the sign of the barber's pole, Studies in Hirsute History. Cottingham, Yorkshire J.R. Tutin 1904

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Barbers

Well, I've finished my 4th installment of stories in the decade of 1660's, The Barbers, a novel of science, medicine, and superstition in 1663. It was a long and arduous process, especially since, during this writing adventure, we drove across country and built a house on a pretty piece of property we own. That, with the heat of Texas, living in a new town so we could be near the build process, in a teeny condo where you had to go through the bedroom to reach the bathroom, I researched, wrote, deleted, re-wrote, and edited a novel of almost 95,000 words. (sigh - as beads of sweat pop on my forehead)

In a previous blog on another blogspot, I tickled the reader with my at the time work in progress. I spoke of research and how it affected the story. I would have loved to use Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle. She is considered the first to have written science-fiction with her novel, The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing World where her heroine is kidnapped from a beach by an admirer, and put aboard ship. The ship blows off course and jettisons to the arctic where all the men die. (Hmm, did she dislike men?) One would think the ship careening through time and space would be the start of science-fiction, but no. The ship continues through a crack in the ether to a new dimension, which is where the science-fiction truly begins. You can still find this novel on amazon.
Early Edition

This book was not published until 1668, and my work is written within the confines of 1663. Margaret was also the only woman to be allowed to visit the Royal Society. If I could have, Celia (my heroine) would have palled around with her, and gone to the Society for a lecture or see an experiment. As it is, I have Celia dressed as a lacky, who accompanies a viscount, to see an experiment regarding the blood/oxygen flow through the heart and lungs of a dog. This experiment actually took place, and is documented in The History of the Royal Society published in 1667. I admit to fudging a bit here, but to compile and publish a good size tome takes time. The experiment did not document a date, so I decided the experiment on the dog could have taken place in 1663.

Research was the biggest part of the process, but it always yields good things. Whoever said reality is better than fiction was correct. Little tidbits of information lead to more detail, and in reality (ha, pun intended), it can make a good story.

For instance, I ended up having to hang someone in The Barbers. This started with a comment re: a silken halter for a quicker kill instead of hemp rope, and could be used by a man or woman of wealth. This led to the study of the justice system in Early Modern England. Did you know someone convicted of murder did not have a proper defense? No lawyers entered the courtroom during a murder trial unless they were in the gallery - watching. The guilty party was forced to show innocence, and the witnesses or the victims had to show the culprit's guilt. It made the courtroom a free-for-all. Then, of course, hanging was jolly fun where a great portion of the local populace watched while they drank and ate, and cheered those on the hanging tree, dancing the Tyburn Jig.

Are we not a blood thirsty species?

Child fastened to womb
There was a great deal of superstition and astrology linked to doctoring, so that took a good bit of study. The Barbers-Surgeons Guild changed policies during the reign of King Henry VIII, but by the mid 17th century, wherein barbers could not heal, and surgeons could not barber, it was not too keenly heeded. Of course, a barber did not broadcast before the guild he healed, or that a surgeon snipped hair and mustachios to supplement their income. Women could apprentice to become barbers or surgeons, but they were never allowed a license to practice in the city. Women were well known to have a steady hand to the point a gentleman bragged on a woman who barbered him very well while in a coach, trundling down the lane, but I'll talk more on that next time.

If you are interested in my other works, please see:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Old London Bridge

Old London Bridge looking from Southwark (approx 1616)

Old London Bridge was a world unto itself. Not considered London, it was a Liberty, or suburb.  People were born, lived, married, and died there, some without stepping off the Bridge the whole of their lives.  

Built in the years between 1176-1209, began by King Henry II, the first Plantagenet king of England, and finished during the reign of King John (who was forced to sign the Magna Carta), it was a massive structure that acted like a dam. It stood stalwart against heavy tides and ice during cold winters, and prevented invading ships to pass upriver.

So strongly built, the Old London Bridge lasted 622 years before being pulled down in 1830's. The location of the current London Bridge is some 180 feet upriver from the old.

It was a stone structure of 19 arches and a wooden drawbridge. Houses, shops, churches and other assorted buildings stood on the bridge. The anchors holding the bridge in place were called starlings. Massive and feet-like, they were comprised of broken stones and rubble. The starlings compressed the river flow into one-third of its width, causing the tides to rush through the arches like heavy waterfalls. The rush of water going out to sea could be as high as 6-8 feet, depending on the phase of the moon.

It brought out the reckless, usually young men, to 'shoot the bridge'. Boats would gain speed and if the water wasn't too high wherein heads scraped the tops of the arches, or be drowned, they'd fly through to shoot out the other side, over London Pool. After a moment or two dangling over the Pool they'd drop like a rock to the below water. Many died upon a wager, or from mishap by getting pulled into the fast current.

If one was lucky, the wherriman pulled his boat to the river's edge, and his passenger got out to walk around the bridge. He'd catch another wherry in the Pool and finish his journey.

The bridge had a row of houses on either side of its length with shops at road level. This made the actual road from London to Southwark no more than 12 feet across. Sources state there were about 140 shops at one time, two story chapel of St Thomas a Becket, Nonesuch House, and the gatehouse (no name). The bridge with its heavy flow of water wheels, corn mills, and on the London side sported the water works.
Heads on pikes
Then, there was the gateway at the Southwark side where heads of traitors were displayed. The Keeper of the Heads had full managerial control over this section of the Bridge. He impaled newly removed heads on pikes, and tossed the old ones into the river. When the original bridge was pulled down, workers found skulls in the mud.

Sometimes, reality is stranger than fiction. While researching the Bridge, I came across the following: 

When King Henry VIII demanded Catholicism no longer be the favorite religion of the land, Sir Thomas More refused to follow his liege. As a result he was beheaded.  His body was placed in a coffin and his head put on a pike above London Bridge. After the allowable time frame wherein the Keeper of the Heads knew gulls had feasted and nothing should remain but putrid flesh and hollow eye sockets, Sir Thomas' daughter beseeched him not to throw her father's head in the river. Instead, she requested the Keeper give her the head so she may join it with the body, and they be interred together.

Poor Sir Thomas More
The Keeper agreed, but was amazed when he removed the head.  It remained pink and whole as if still alive...

For more information on the Old London Bridge, see my novels of London 1660's.

Reference: Old London Bridge, the Story of the Longest Inhabited Bridge in Europe by Patricia Pierce, Headline Book Publishing, 2001.