This never gets old...so exciting to get the copy edits for my third Lucy Campion mystery--The Masque of a Murderer!
I am hoping to reveal the cover soon. I've seen an early version and I love it! Can't wait!
(To be released on April 14, 2015, but available now for pre-order at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and a bookseller near you!)
I won't say HOW exactly, but a scold's bridle features prominently in my third novel, Masque of a Murderer. (Well, okay, maybe one is found on the corpse of a young woman. Or not.) But the bridle does play an important role, and I thought I would give a little more background.
Since at least the Middle Ages, women had been expected to heed Paul's admonition to be "chaste, silent and obedient," an expectation that became even more pronounced for women in early modern Europe. Women were branded "scolds" if they harangued their husbands or neighbors, or as we may say today, spoke their minds.
"The Scolding Wife," shown here, is one of many tales of a merry young man who made the mistake of marrying a rich widow who very quickly made his life miserable.
Indeed, the couple couldn't even sit down to eat without her scolding him:
"They was not all at supper set, or at the board sat down,
Such accounts explain how the men's good will and cheer are sapped by the woman's speech. It should be noted, however, that the tale is to be 'set to a pleasant tune.' The ballad is meant to be lighthearted--an everyday tale of a man who cannot control his wife. As such, it is as much a comment about his nature as it is about hers. Nevertheless, there is a gendered warning here about the respective roles that men and women should play in a marriage.
My favorite of these little discourses is one by Anonymous (1684): "The tongue combatants, or A sharp dispute between a comical courageous country grasier, and a London bull-feather'd butchers twitling, twatling, turbulent, thundering, tempestuous, terrifying, taunting, troublesome, talkative tongu'd wife."
Sometimes, however, the warning against women's scolding was more explicit--and more terrifying.
Devices known as scold's bridles, or scold's masks, first emerged in the Middle Ages, and continued to be used (in England at least) throughout the early modern era.
The scold's mask was a painful contraption of iron and leather that fit over a woman's face that effectively prohibited her from speaking. Sometimes, the woman might be paraded about, as a humiliating reminder to keep her opinions to herself, and as a lesson to other women who might be inclined to do the same.
So how does this play out in my novel? Find out in April 2015, when Masque of a Murderer is released!
I am excited that Sam Thomas, author of The Midwife Mysteries, was able to join me on my blog today! To celebrate the fact that The Midwife's Tale is now available as an E-Book for just $2.99, Sam shares the story behind his cover! (Head over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to pick up your copy!)
One question that a lot of readers have asked is how The Midwife’s Tale wound up with its cover, and whether I had any say in its creation. It’s a pretty great question with an interesting answer.
When I envisioned the cover of The Midwife’s Tale, I wanted it to look like a seventeenth-century book, largely in keeping with my original title, Bloody News from York. The image I had in mind was something like this book from 1635:
I thought that this cover would both capture my setting and the central tension of the book, whether a woman would be burned at the stake.
Unfortunately, kept this idea to myself for a bit too long, and before I said anything to my editor, he sent this cover:
I was floored. I loved the darkness, the color scheme, the way the light played across the figure’s back… nearly everything about it.
The one concern my agent had was that it seemed a bit too still. I had written a murder story, after all, and he thought it could use a bit more danger. We suggested putting a knife in her hand, and perhaps replacing the stalks of grain on the table with a mortar and pestle.
This is where Minotaur came through for me the first time. By all rights, they could have said, “Nope, this is it.” But they didn’t. They came back with a modified cover:
I am pleased to re-post a blog entry written by Christy Robinson about recent 17th century novels. The post originally appeared on Christy's blog.
Christy's novels focus on William and Mary Dyer, two famous 17th century Quakers who also happened to be her ancestors.
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 I, his son King Charles I, and grandsons Charles II and James II kept the drama level high and dangerous in the seventeenth century, with their marriages and lovers, births and deaths, political intrigues, religious conflicts, witch hunts, and wars. [Along with, of course, Oliver Cromwell and William and Mary -SC] 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 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 [at least Christy's!-SC] knew these people—or were these people. (Well, probably not the vampire—but everyone else!) Discover what their lives were like...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! 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.
Among the many things I never expected when I began to publish my historical mysteries is the steady stream of questions I get from readers. I really enjoy getting these questions, but sometimes I'm a little perplexed.
The "easy" questions focus on interesting historical details, like how people kept time in the 17th century or what the revolving signet ring described in From the Charred Remains actually looked like. Sometimes they focus on larger questions, such as the gendered nature of the printing industry, the so-called "miracle" of the Great Fire, and the like. Sometimes, I just answer these history-related questions in a quick email, but I will probably start answering them in more detail on this blog.
However, what's interesting to me is the number of questions that I'm starting to get about the decision-making processes that accompany the writing of a novel, especially historical fiction. "How do I decide on a time period/setting for my novel?" "How do I begin my research?" "How much research do I need to do?" "How much historical detail is enough?" "Do I need footnotes?"
I hate to say it, but all of these questions can be answered in a single phrase. It depends.
I know, I know. That's not very helpful. Since I've written at length in Writers Digest about seven tips for writing historical fiction,"Balancing accuracy and authenticity in historical fiction," I won't go into detail about those writing strategies here. And really, I don't have any particular insights about how to select an interesting time period. Choose a time period that fascinates you, intrigues you, keeps you enthralled. Keep in mind: this time period had better hold your attention, since writing a novel takes a very long time indeed! If you become bored with the time period, I have no doubt it will show in your writing, and your reader will become bored too.
Truly, to answer such questions: "Have I done enough research?" "Have I offered enough historical detail?" "Do I need footnotes?" it really does depend on who your intended audience is, the kind of book you are writing, and the conventions of the genre.
To answer these questions, there's a bigger question that you really need to ask yourself first:
Am I actually writing historical fiction?
This seems like a simple question, but I've been quite surprised when readers and writers ask me about the difference between history and historical fiction. It's clear to me now that there is a spectrum of categories, associated with the writing of history. None is "better" than another--each has a different purpose. I thought I would lay out how I conceptualize the difference in these categories:
(1) Scholarly historical writing: This type of non-fiction writing is usually conducted by scholars and academics, produced in institutions of higher learning, museums and libraries, with highly specialized audiences and very small print runs with academic presses. Historical narratives and interpretations are framed by theory, historiography, with a strict adherence to evidence found in primary and secondary sources. Footnotes are crucial for credibility. Usually peer reviewed by other scholars/specialists before proceeding to publication.
(2)Popular historical writing: This non-fiction writing may be very similar in scholarship to academic writing, but it may be more sensational in nature; it may be mass produced by commercial presses and readily found in bookstores; less emphasis may be placed on historiography and theory, but these features may still be present. Standards of evidence may be less strict. May not be peer reviewed, or only reviewed by editors. Generally, the writing seems more accessible and is intended for a lay audience. Footnotes are present, but are used more to explain ideas than to provide citations for every piece of evidence (again, this varies by publisher).
(3) Fictionalized History: This is a tricky category to explain, because I think it is usually lumped together with historical fiction. I think this occurs when a writer takes a well-known historical narrative and adds to this narrative with made-up conversations and interactions between real historical figures. There is a great deal more supposition and creative license in constructing this type of narrative. Evidence may be selectively used to frame the overall story. Footnotes may be expected by readers. I think it is safe to say that this category can be called "Based on a True Story."
(4) Historical fiction: While this varies, I would say that in this category, the historical narrative usually forms a backdrop to the story, with characters interacting with authentic details. Background theory and research will inform the best writing in this category, but will be implicit, not explicit. Historical fiction is not usually produced by academic presses, and undergoes editorial, not peer, review prior to publication. Much of the main plot may be fictionalized, even if there are real characters and true historic events being described.
So in my case, the 17th century plague and the Great Fire of London form the backdrop of my stories, and my completely fictional characters sell murder ballads, spend time in Newgate prison, and scrub chamberpots. I do not have footnotes (ack! ack! not in a novel! Convention right now, at least in traditional publishing, is to eschew footnotes), but I do have a lengthy historical note in each book to explain historical points more or to indicate where I stretched the facts slightly to enhance the storytelling. I avoid information dumps, and try to get my characters to engage with the historical details. I'm telling a story, not writing a textbook.
In any one of the above-mentioned categories, however, writers may be seeking to shed light on a little known historical event or figure, to expose larger truths, to offer new explanations and interpretations about a historical event or idea, or simply to provoke curiosity about a bygone era. One category is not BETTER than another; there are different purposes for each (and there are examples of good and poor writing in every category.)
Ultimately, the level of historical detail and the length of the book will depend upon your intended audience (children, adults, scholars, history enthusiasts etc), the opinion of your editor and publisher, the conventions of your genre, and most importantly, the story you are trying to tell.
But what do you think? Do these categories make sense?
I'm so excited....Bouchercon is just a few days away. MURDER. AT. THE. BEACH. What could be more fun than that?! This will be my fourth time at this fabulous meeting of mystery readers, authors, publishers etc, and I can't wait!
All my stuff happens on the Thursday, which frees me up for hanging out at the bar, er, "networking" for the rest of the conference.
First, I will be on an awesome panel called "Chills, Thrills, and Mysteries in the 17th to 19th centuries" (Thursday, November 13, 2014 2:30-3:30 pm Regency A), to be moderated by Laura Brennan, with some wonderful authors Emily Brightwell, Charles Finch, Eleanor Kuhns and Suzanne (SK) Rizzolo. Seriously, how much am I looking forward to chatting with these writers? A lot!
Then, a few hours later, I will be at the Murder at The Beach "Hollywood Premiere" Opening Ceremonies 6:30 pm. I'm honored to say that my first novel, A MURDER AT ROSAMUND'S GATE was nominated for a Sue Feder Historical Macavity Award (so exciting!). The winners will be announced during this session.
And just in case you are wondering, the answer is, "No I do not have anything ready to say on the off chance the world flips upside down and my name is called." There's not much need to prepare when you're up for an award alongside fabulous authors like:
The cliche is true: It truly is an honor to be nominated.
But thankfully none of the other nominees start with a "Su-" sound, so I won't be halfway to the stage before I realize it wasn't my name called. ("Ahem, I was just taking a little walk. You know, to congratulate the winner. Right during the ceremony. That's okay isn't it? No? Should I just sit down then? Okay, I'll do that.")
However, I'll write about the experience afterwards and let you know how it goes! Wish me luck! (and them too, of course! ;-) )
While I work on my copy edits of The Masque of a Murderer, I thought I'd post something about Lincoln's Inn Fields Theater, which plays into my third novel. Lincoln's Inn Fields Theater interested me because it was one of the playhouses that King Charles II built in 1661 after he was restored to the throne.
Ironically, it was not originally intended to be a theater, but a tennis court. (You can see the long rows of box seats on either side where an audience would have watched a match). The Lisle Court only became a theater in 1662, before being temporarily closed during the plague in 1665. [There may also have been a murder that occurred there, but somehow that tale has only recently resurfaced :-) ]
In doing my research, I came across the work of Steve Bouler, a theater professional and academic, as well as being an extremely talented designer of virtually reconstructed theatrical playhouses.
It's hard to express how immensely helpful these reconstructions are to a researcher. Since so many of these Renaissance and Restoration playhouses are now gone, we must rely on extant sketches that can be difficult to track down,and even more difficult to interpret.
I know I spend a lot of time looking over faded sketches with teeny print, trying to figure out how everything fits together. But when I came across these reconstructions, I gained a far better sense of how plays would have been staged (and received). You'll understand when you check out Bouler's amazing panoramic reconstructions! Check it out!
A while back someone gave me a book on writing, which contained a number of random quotes by writers. As a historian, I am sometimes frustrated when presented with quotes that have been detached from their original context and passed off as inspirational or profound.
So as I was flipping through the book, I came across this one that made me sit up and take notice:
"The author must keep his mouth shut when his work starts to speak." -Friedrich Nietzsche
So without knowing anything about Nietzsche, I might interpret this as a humble phrase. Let your work speak for itself.
Perhaps, it is a warning. You must let others critique your work as they will, once it is out in the world. Do not answer your critics.
Or maybe it is just a reminder to writers. Do not edit or self-censor as you write, but allow your work to emerge in the world in its most full and beautiful form.
I assume because the quote was included in this writing book, and is oft-repeated (again, with no context) on many writing sites, that this admonition is seen as a virtue.
Do words have meaning of themselves? Do they live, and change with the times? Or do they need to be ever-framed by the context with which they were first uttered?
Consider the source of this quote. Friedrich Nietzsche.
Nietzsche was a nineteenth-century German philosopher, philologist and poet, among other things. Such as being a megalomaniac. And a syphilis-riddled man who spoke frequently of his own genius. A man whose work inspired both Nazis and Fascists alike. Altogether, an intriguing--if tortured--soul. So what did he mean when he said this?
As I indicated, it's very difficult to identify the source of this quote, so for all I know it is completely inaccurate and has just been repeated ad nauseam. Some digging for the past hour (which is about all the time I have to devote to this quest) has yielded little more context, except that I think, but can not be sure, that the quote appeared in the second edition of Nietzsche's first published book The Birth of Tragedy, in a new section called "Attempt at a Self-Criticism" (1888).
Rather than being a true self-criticism, however, the statement is widely viewed by scholars as a means for Nietzsche to clarify his earlier views, and to impose his later thinking onto his earlier work. Such a revision could be construed as more arrogant than humble ("See how brilliant I was, even when I was a young man?")
This additional context, to my mind, sheds a different interpretation on the quote.
Should we just make sense of words ourselves? Or does the larger context matter?
While there's a pleasing democracy about the idea that we can all interpret words for ourselves, for my part, I think, understanding the larger context almost always offers a more full and interpretation of words.
But what do you think?
[P.S. I also find it amusing how often the above quote by Nietzsche is used by authors, when it turns out that he actually did write "Rules for Writers" that are NEVER EVER quoted. Such as this gem: "Be careful with periods! Only those people who also have long duration of breath while speaking are entitled to periods. With most people, the period is a matter of affectation." Rich stuff indeed!]
Image: Lou Andreas-Salomé, Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche (1882)
"We've completed two novels without killing each other"--an interview with mystery writer D.E. Ireland
Given that My Fair Lady is one of my favorite musicals, I was quite intrigued when I learned that D.E. Ireland had transformed the unlikely uncouple--the curmudgeonly linguistics professor Henry Higgins and the charming but inarticulate Covent Garden flower-girl--into a crime-solving duo. Loverly!
I am thrilled that the two authors who comprise D.E. Ireland were able to waltz their way over to my blog today, and answer some questions about their debut novel and the writing process.
From the official blurb: Following her successful appearance at an Embassy Ball—where Eliza Doolittle won Professor Henry Higgins’ bet that he could pass off a Cockney flower girl as a duchess—Eliza becomes an assistant to his chief rival Emil Nepommuck.
After Nepommuck publicly takes credit for transforming Eliza into a lady, an enraged Higgins submits proof to a London newspaper that Nepommuck is a fraud. When Nepommuck is found with a dagger in his back, Henry Higgins becomes Scotland Yard’s prime suspect...
SC: I know that the two of you became friends when you were undergraduates, but how did you become “D.E. Ireland?” Can you tell us a little bit about how you decided on the name? Does it mean something?
DEI: We are longtime friends and critique partners and have been looking for an idea to collaborate on for years. And voila, while singing to the My Fair Lady soundtrack on her way to visit Sharon a few years back, Meg stumbled on putting Eliza and Higgins together as amateur sleuths. We plotted, outlined, then wrote the first book in the series.
Since we're both published authors under our own names, we needed to choose a pseudonym. We finally agreed upon ‘Ireland’ in honor of George Bernard Shaw who was born in Dublin. And ‘D.E.’ is Eliza Doolittle backwards!
SC: Your mystery features the unlikely yet beloved couple from stage and screen, Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion (later adapted as My Fair Lady.) What was it about these characters—a guttersnipe from the dredges of London, and a professor of linguistics—that appealed to you as amateur crime-solvers?
DEI: We are both huge fans of the play and the movies. Since Shaw's Pygmalion is in the public domain, we used his play and the delightful banter between Eliza and Higgins as the models for our own series' characters. However we had to flesh out their backgrounds along with that of the other characters such as Pickering, Mrs. Pearce, Mrs. Higgins and the Eynsford Hill family. In the play, Eliza worked hard to win Higgins's bet, yet she hadn't truly earned – and kept! – his respect until our series. We want to keep alive the witty exchanges these two whip at each other, and continue to expand on their friendship as they turn their collective talents to sleuthing. That should be great fun.
SC: The book offers a great deal of detail about life in Edwardian London (1913). How did you conduct your research into this era? What was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned while conducting your research?
DEI: We are both research hounds; Sharon wrote several historical romances set in the Old West and Victorian England, while Meg has written American western mysteries. Sharon was also a college history instructor so the opportunity to research Edwardian England seemed like great fun. We eagerly started digging into the era immediately following the death of King Edward VII. We love the two PBS series Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, and both shows serve as inspiration.
But we rely heavily on our "Edwardian Bible" which we have compiled that includes London shops, streets, parks, neighborhoods, food, social behavior, etc. And of course, we always refer to Shaw's Pygmalion, along with his appendices and notes of the play which include descriptions of Higgins' phonetics lab and his mother's Chelsea flat. Book 2 required that we expand our research to include horse racing, Ascot, the Henley Regatta, along with the suffragette movement.
The most interesting or surprising thing? Hmm. Since electricity, autos, the telephone, and the cinema had shown up by the 1900s, perhaps it was our realization at how similar life was then to our times now -- except for fashion and manners of course.
SC: Do you foresee Henry Higgins developing over time? Will he be out petitioning for votes for women in future novels?
DEI: Oh, we think Higgins is the one who will be clinging to his fencepost, kicking and screaming for the old days. Eliza is the changeling of the pair and will tug and pull him into the 20th century!