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 12, 2013

Historical Novelists Book Fair

We will take a bit of a break from The Art Of English Shooting which you will see below, and then in a few day's time, above. 

In the meantime...
Welcome to the Historical Novelists Book Fair April 12-15 in this year of our Lord 2013.

According to the rules of the game, I am to start with latest release, a story of espionage in London 1662. It is titled: Of Carrion Feathers. But to get a better picture of my plan, let's begin with why I chose London during the 1660's.

My goal is to write a London novel each year from 1660-1666 when most all of the inner city burnt to the ground. The reason for a book each year is simple. The current events of those years were so extraordinary that I simply had to dedicate a book per year to explain it all.  That means I cannot speak of something in one book that happens a year later, which is sometimes difficult. Historians have a tendency to blur data as long as it's within a certain span of time.

For instance, the very end of 1659 there were whispers to bring the king back to England. When the king returned in May 1660, the churches were silent of music, but I cannot speak of music in the churches until quite awhile after the king resettled in England. Historians will say music returned to the churches with the Restoration (1660). Well, that is true, but in 1659 or in 1660 during Viola, there was no music in the churches. It took quite a while for this to happen.  But I digress...

As above, 1660 brought King Charles II back to England, and what a time that was. So many singing and dancing in the streets. The transition from Puritan to Anglicanism was extreme. Due to ever changing rules, good folk did not know if they were married or not. Many took this confusion to heart and left their spousal unit to marry again, but across town where they were not known. Viola, A Woeful Tale of Marriage is about a young woman who finds she is married to a bigamist. It's a rousing good tale. 

Then, in London 1661, we have TWINS (An EPIC 2012 Finalist) that begins with a little known superstition where a man can only sire one child at a time. If a woman has twins, especially fraternal, then it is clear to all she is an adulteress.  

But that's not the only storyline. TWINS deals with a papist (Catholic) merchant in an overwhelmingly Protestant London. If it were known our protagonists were Catholic, they'd be run out of town to the distance of at least 7 miles. It's a good conflict. 

TWINS is about trade in London during the year 1661, prior to when the East India Company got a better hold in the business. (The company did not fare well during the Civil Wars or Cromwellian years.) Our merchant - the twins' uncle - is in the Levant Company, and Edgar goes to sea as a learning experience. What he doesn't expect is to fall into a battle with pirates, or deal with a corrupt Levant official. 

Emmatha is forced to stay behind and marry a widower, and a Catholic, gentleman farmer (who has several children by his ex sister-in-law). Is this confusing? Where's the twins' father in all this? You'll have to read it to find out. 

By 1661, trade was better, and more ports of call were being explored, but it wasn't until Catherine of Braganza (1662) that England made so many more strides in that area. TWINS is another good rumpus tale that men and women alike will enjoy.

Of Carrion Feathers is London 1662 during the worst of the nonconformist uprisings, and plots are rampant against the king. With all the plots that abounded, it was a wonder King Charles II escaped this year unscathed. 

There is little written about espionage during this time, but I did find a lovely volume that detailed from the smallest to the largest plots, and the king's burgeoning spy network.  It's a Cambridge study in early modern British history, titled: Intelligence and Espionage in the Reign of Charles II, 1660-1685

There were even women in these spy groups, which added to the danger. My chief protagonist is Beatrice Short who is very bright, but not discreet. She is discovered snooping about the Undersecretary's desk, and finds ciphers. He recognizes her brilliance and blackmails Beatrice into becoming a spy for the Crown. 

Beatrice does not want to be a spy.  Since the king returned from exile, he had brought the French way of the theatre, which put women on stage.  Beatrice wants to be an actress, but as a servant, she doesn't have the coin to take music and dance lessons. After getting caught by the Undersecretary, he strikes a bargain with her. If she spies, and breaks code, the Crown will pay for her lessons. 

Beatrice reluctantly agrees. She is paired with a jaded spy called Oliver Prior. For most of their spy mission, neither knows the other works for the Undersecretary--a wily, controlling fellow. Beatrice figures it out much sooner that Prior, since she's so smart, but when Oliver finds out, he is furious.  For more on the full of this story, let's look at the back cover. 

Now, to continue with this book fair, and its rules. Let us do a small excerpt Of Carrion Feathers, London 1662

Beatrice trod up stairs.  At the first level she found a lit candle.  With it in one hand and the dish of starch in the other, she climbed one level after the other `til she reached the top.  The candlelight wavered.  She was on a very dark floor with two doors shut tight. 
She heard rats in the walls, and a clock ticked somewhere near.  No sconces or lanthorns lit the way.  Cold drafts snatched at her skirt hems, and Beatrice frowned.  She’d found herself in a very dreary place. 
She set the starch pot on the floor, and opened the door on the left.  Ladder-stairs led to the garret.  She faced the other door, and opened it to see a large chamber.  The clock ticked louder, and raising the candle, she saw it on a mantelshelf.  Windows were shuttered.  The room was near pitch, and Beatrice was glad to have the candle.  With it, she scanned more of the chamber.  A long table stood against one wall.  Joint stools, and hard backed chairs clustered about something large in the center of the room. 
Beatrice tiptoed around the chairs and stools to the large thing--a box--garnished with thick, metal handles.  The nearer she got, the more it looked like a coffin sitting on joint stools.  She raised the candle, and stepped closer.  She dipped the candle toward the box, and mewed in fear. 
It was an empty coffin.  Grains covered the bottom of it with black wool draped over one side.  It stretched silent in the dark chamber. 
Waiting to be filled. 

Don't forget my other, not of London 1660's novel: The First Apostle, a story of Camille Desmoulins during the French Revolution. You can see it along the banner of my blog. It's the one with the red cover and a guillotine. 

If you want to see what the story is really like, go to and Look Inside the books. All ebooks have been reduced in cost. Check out the link:


  1. Thank you for taking part, Katherine.

    Who's destined for the coffin? Say no more, I'm hooked! This period, The Interregnum and Civil War years are so my favourite periods. Must reads: ALL. ;)


  2. This is so fascinating. Congratualtions to you for taking on such a massive story.

  3. I liked your idea of one book per year. As to Beatrice, I hope she stays well clear of the coffin!

  4. Katherine, thanks for all of this thoughtful content. Fascinating to hear of such differences even within a single year, let alone from one to the next.

  5. The premise for Viola is intriguing. I wonder what it felt like in that period especially for people who found out they were married twice. Thanks for sharing, Katherine.

    1. The higher class did not find themselves in these situations. It was the middling class. The rules changed from Anglican to Presbyterian back to Anglican, and the marriage laws were quite iffy until the Marriage Act of 1753. Clandestine marriages were popular, and so was bigamy.

      I'm afraid many took advantage of it. There were marriage shops all over London, with the most famous being in Fleet Prison.

  6. I love this period (as you probably know) so find your whole list appealing. Nice book covers too. You've tempted me!

    1. The language is of the times, so before doing anything, go to amazon, and 'Look Inside'. If you can't bear the language, then you won't have wasted a groat. :D

  7. Fascinating undertaking, Katherine. The 17th century is a fascinating time full of stories to write about! Thanks for sharing.