31 October 2007

Crime & Punishment:
The Salem Witch Trials

By Penny Ash

Between February 1692 and May 1693, one of the most notorious events in American history occurred. A small group of girls began accusing their neighbors of being witches and sparked a level of hysteria that soon had 19 people hanged, 1 crushed to death, and 5 dying in jail. Over 150 people were accused and the court allowed what was then called Spectral evidence to be used. What we would call hearsay and perjury today. The targeted victims were the different, the people who did not always conform to Puritan social ideals, and people who spoke out against the accusers.

The girls may have started the hysteria but some of the adults were quick to see the possibilities and fanned the flames. Motivations were greed and hatred, ego and fear and superstition, a lot of the same factors that motivate people today. There are several scientists who have advanced the theory that Ergot poisoning was the cause of the symptoms the girls complained of but I personally don't think this explains the events which took place.

We get the term witch hunt from this era. And I find it interesting that a similar event took place some 258 years later America would be engaged in yet another witch hunt, the McCarthy Hearings, with much the same result. And on Halloween 2001 all those accused, tried and convicted of witchcraft were finally officially exonerated and proclaimed innocent 300 years after the events of 1692.

30 October 2007

Crime & Punishment:
Life in Victorian Prisons

By Jennifer Linforth

That last pint was not a good idea.

He stared at his unraveled cravat and the ruby stains marring his vest. Flexing his hand made the wounds on his swollen knuckles split and pour fresh blood.

Yes...he definitely regretted that last drink.

The doors of 'her majesty's carriage' slammed shut in his face. Within minutes it rumbled down the cobbled road, jostling its newest prisoner. There was nothing he could do now but reflect on his foolish temper. His life was pulled down the road toward inevitable change. And changed roared around him like a hungry lion the instant he set foot on the grounds of his new home.

Bathed in water not unlike mutton broth, the newest prisoner of Kirkwood Goal began his new life with humiliation. Where was his valet now, he wondered, as his privacy was raped by men scrutinizing his naked body for distinguishing marks. His anger flared when his hair, once tangled by a woman's fair fingers, was cut to the scalp. His bloody vest and cravat were removed and bundled up, his breeches and waistcoat replaced by ill-fitting uniforms. The boots he once took such pride in were sold to a dealer and replaced by ones heavier than lead. (He tried to guess the weight. 14 pounds seemed accurate.)

He caught his reflection in a dusty window. Who he had been before was of little importance. The markings on his uniform designated his standing in the hierarchy now. He was a convict. Gone were the days of climbing social ladders in salons and country balls. Here social isolation was his dance partner. All too often he would see the dark interior of separate confinement or be forced to adhere to the strict silence rule. All because he tried to garner a bit of humanity and speak to a fellow convict.

He would find ways to break the unearthly silence imposed upon him. He tapped messages on the walls or water pipes. The chapel he found was ripe with opportunity. He was a quick student, learning to use hymns (meaningless to him before) to his advantage. Emphasizing the first word of each line then quickly dropping to a lower tone, he could carry on a conversation with his neighbor. The longer the hymn, the longer the conversation he could murmur between lines. Sign language useful as well. The isolation was a forlorn hope. Man was not designed to live alone...

Morning noon and night his belly rumbled for the succulent soups, roasts and puddings his crime denied him. Three-quarters of a pint of cocoa was his breakfast, a sludge of flaked cocoa mixed with molasses. Dinner was four ounces of meat, a half-pint of soup and one pound of potatoes. Supper: a pint of gruel sweetened with molasses with one and a quarter pounds of bread and salt.

Tired and hungry, he retreats to sleep. But the silks of his pillow are gone and the down that warmed him is a distant memory. Nothing is so aptly designed to depress than his prison cell. Thirteen by seven feet (4 by 2 meters) and nine feet high, only a tiny window offers a glimpse of freedom. But standing on a stool to look out was a punishable offence.

He was cold in the winter, hot in the summer and his eyes constantly fighting the poorly lit conditions. Why not just go blind? Maybe he would not be reminded of this hell. His isolated room seemed private, but the spy hole in the door made him uncertain as to if whether he was being watched or not.

Perhaps he could sleep? Wake up and this nightmare would be over? The year was 1865, a few months previous a new Prison Act was initiated bringing with it the hard plank bed. Part of a severe regime introduced where punishment and deterrence took precedence over reform. Not that he thought he needed reform.

When morning dawned and he choked down the cocoa, a question was poised. Was this labor he faced meant to encourage fulfillment in honest work, or break him body and spirit?

The tread wheel was an ominous beast. He would climb the wheel as if trying to summit an endless mountain. As the wheel fell way beneath his feet, he was forced to lift his body into the next step.

All this for grinding corn? He thought not.

If not at the wheel he would be at the crank, turning a handle until his shoulders ached. There was no harder or more degrading work. He would do his work, eat his meals, live in silence and fight for a small scrap of interaction with the other convicts. Prison officers were products of their own draconian regulations. They lived in a powder keg, where one spark could set off a symbiotic relationship between guards and convict. Each could make the other's life difficult.

And life would be difficult.

Staring down at calloused hands in a sweat soaked uniform, isolated, angry and questioning his "reform"...he definitely regretted that last pint.

29 October 2007

Crime & Punishment:
Homosexuality in Georgian Times

By Erastes

It was the case that in the first third of the nineteenth century, trials and executions for sodomy were much commoner than they had been in any earlier period. That is to say that fifty men were executed within that time, and trials, punishments and executions were more common than at any earlier period. This reached a peak in 1806 when more men (6) were executed for Sodomy than for murder (5).

However, these figures don't take into account the Naval Court Martials which of course dealt with these matters themselves and produced a steady flow of cases similar to that in the civilian courts. An average of two or three were sentenced to death for sodomy each year.

The most notable civilian to be hanged for sodomy in these years seems to have been Isaac Hitchen, one of a homosexual coterie at Warrington which was prosecuted in 1806; he was said to be one of the richest men in Warrington, worth £60,000.

There were also rumours concerning even more distinguished personages such as the earl of Leicester, afterwards Marquess Townshend, and King George III's unpopular 5th son, HRH field marshal the duke of Cumberland, afterwards king of Hanover. One of the most notorious scandals of the time was that involving the fabulously wealthy William Beckford, M.P. for Wells,(pictured right) and the Hon William Courtnay, afterward Viscount Courtenay and earl of Devon (pictured left, as a languid boy) in 1784.

Both Beckford and Courtenay spent the following twenty five years virtually ostracised by society and in 1811 Courtenay was forced to flee from his ancestral home at Powderham Castle and go into exile to avoid prosecution for sodomy. The nearest a member of the aristocracy came to indictment for homosexuality in this period was in 1822 when the bishop of Clogher, the Hon Percy Jocelyn son of the first earl of Roden, was caught buggering a Guardsman in a public house and escaped trial by jumping bail and fleeing to Scotland.

The laws against buggery and sodomy have nearly always been known as "The Blackmailers' Charter" (see the wonderful film Victim for that, filmed before sodomy was legalised) and this was no different here. A lot of prosecutions were begun with letters as a source of evidence. Many men would succumb to blackmail rather than face their chances in court, for obvious reasons--a lack of social standing--being excommunicated from society must have been almost as terrifying as the risk of prison or death.

Some have argued that it wasn't a case of more men being homosexual, but more that it was a case of urbanization, drifting into cities for work and where they concentrated together and were able to form a sub-culture for the first time. And such a "large" proportion of homosexuals in a city (there were 20 houses of male resort (known as Molly Houses) in London in this age, compared with 80 years later when there were only four) was more likely to draw attention to the authorities (and the people who would denounce them) than two men living quietly together in more remote areas.

The Vere Street Coterie
The most notorious scandal of the age. In 1810 a group of homosexuals were arrested at The Swan, a known Molly House in Vere Street London. The place was famously known as being a place where the Reverend John Church (shown left) would perform male/male marriages. The arrested men were charged with sodomy, and eight of them were convicted

Six of the convicted men, found guilty of attempted sodomy, were pilloried in September of that year. The crowds who turned out to witness the scene were violent and unruly, throwing various objects (including rotten fish, "cannonballs" made of mud, and of course vegetables) at the men. The women were reported as being particularly vicious. The city provided a guard of 200 armed constables, half mounted and half on foot, to protect the men from even worse mistreatment.

Ironically, two of the men were later hanged.

Other reasons for such intolerance at this time can be blamed on the hardening of sexual stereotypes, sexual slander--which became rife at this time. Sexual knowledge was becoming more widespread--more people were learning about such "Unnatural acts" which then led to even more sexual intolerance.

"Damn the fellow! Now I think of it, I never remember his having a girl at college!" remarked an acquaintance of a man who had brought a charge of malicious prosecution against a solider who had accused him of attempting an unnatural act.

There were other reasons, too, all of which helped--The Evangelical Revival probably helped spread the prejudice; the overhaul of the whole system of law enforcement, public pressure (letters to the papers, etc) which all helped to bring the "problem" to the public eye, calls were made to "do something about it."

All of which goes a long way to explain why--instead of being more tolerant in the early 1800's, things were actually a lot lot worse. Never mind boys! It will soon be the Victorian Age...

*rolls eyes*
"Prosecutions for Sodomy in England at the Beginning of the Nineteenth Century" by A. D. Harvey, The Historical Journal, Vol. 21, No. 4. (Dec., 1978), pp. 939-948.

A History of Homophobia by Rictor Norton, "1: The Ancient Hebrews" 15 April 2002.

28 October 2007

Guest Blog: Jennifer Macaire

Jennifer Macaire
Today's guest blogger is Jennifer Macaire, historical romance author and co-founder of Calderwood Books.

What is the name of your publishing business, and who owns/runs the company?
It's called Calderwood Books, and it's run by Joy Calderwood, Jennifer Macaire, Christopher Miller.

Why are they qualified to run a publishing company?
A trio combining different skills, experience and talent: Joy is the editor, Jennifer is the author and artist, and Christopher is the numbers man.

Why should aspiring authors pick you over all the other companies out there?
We choose books because we like them and think readers will too. We choose them without regard for publishing fashions, marketing genres, or even what readers are currently buying. We look for shine and creativity. Then we put them through a rigorous editing process to ensure that the new books are as good or better than books that come out in print.

Calderwood Books bannerWhy should the readers decide to buy from your company?
Same as above. We don't accept average books. There are more good books written than ever get published, and readers deserve access to them. The results are in the reviews, which are consistently enthusiastic.

What kind of editing process do your books go through?
A several-week process of full read, an editing run-through, exchange of manuscript notes, discussion until agreement, another full read, and discussion on polishing until agreement.

How long have you been in business?
We opened in September 2007.

Tell us about your unusual historicals.
Traces of Dreams by Tricia McGillTraces of Dreams by Tricia McGill is set in England and Australia and follows the true story of Tricia's grandparents. (That's their portrait on the cover of her book!) It's a lyrical, haunting book about a family's struggles during the War and deals with such subjects as out-of-wedlock pregnancy and violence against women. When she first published it in Australia, it won the Romance Writers of Australia award. Tricia writes wonderful books set in turn-of-the-century Australia. Blue Haze is set to come out next. The heroine is a deported criminal who lands in Australia as an indentured servant.

Time for Alexander by Jennifer MacaireThen there is my own series, set in Ancient Greece in the time of Alexander the Great. It's a time travel, with a journalist from the future going to interview Alexander the Great in the past. He mistakes her for Persephone and kidnaps her, thus stranding her in his own time. Book One, titled Time for Alexander, came out when Calderwood Books opened, and Book Two is in final edits. There are seven books in the series, all written and stacked in the edit pile. It's unusual in that it's a cross-genre book. Time travel is fun device to use because it sets modern against ancient times. I did a year's worth of research before embarking on the story, and then I let my imagination run wild. It is pure fiction set against solid history. It was great fun to write.

Only e-books or print as well?
We're looking into POD books. We pride ourselves on being 'green'--e-books are ecological, and paper books, although precious, are damaging to our environment. There are the chemical inks, the fuel burned transporting them, and when you factor in the number of copies that are unsold and end up in the incinerator, you're talking major pollution. Most people look at a little book and they don't see the reams of paper and petroleum based products behind it. Trees are a renewable resource, but recycled paper is better, and how many books are printed on that? Frankly, after e-books, POD books seem to me to be the most ecologically feasible idea. That way there is less waste. However, if you really want to make me happy, buy a portable e-book reader and load it full of hundreds of e-books. E-books: Easy, Ecological, and Economical!

Anything else you’d like to say about the company?
We believe that the young people of today, with their computer skills, will be the first full generation of ebook readers. For them we have set up our Calderwood Kids line.

Now does anyone have questions for Jennifer? She'll be around all this week to provide more information about the publishing opportunities at Calderwood Books.

26 October 2007

Weekly Announcements

Jennifer Linforth is pleased to announced the sale of her first book, Madrigal, to Highland Press. Madrigal is the first of three books in a series that continues Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera. Release information will be forthcoming. Congratulations, Jennifer!


Sandra Schwab garnered two good blogger reviews, the first for The Lily Brand:
The Lily Brand by Sandra Schwab
The story is intense and dark, as Troy struggles with his hate and anger, and Lillian with her guilt and fear. Their characterizations are very believable, particularly in how they remember what happened and in how they react and show (or don't show) their emotions. --Darla
A second reviewer said of Castle of the Wolf: "...it was great fun!"


It Takes Moxie by Delia DeLeestDelia DeLeest also received a great review, this one for her debut It Takes Moxie from The Wild Rose Press.

This book is utterly captivating. Ms. DeLeest has crafted a novel full of fun, dry wit, humor, adventure and romance. There is nothing boring or slow about this book. It is fast-paced and filled with hilarious situations and delightful dialogue that had me laughing out loud and my husband asking what was so funny.
--Lily, The Long and The Short Of It
In other Moxie news, our selected winner for a free copy never claimed hers, so we've drawn a new name. Congratulations to Morgan St. John! Contact Delia by e-mail to get her your home addresses. Prize must be claimed within one week or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her debut book.


Stop by Sunday when our guest blogger will be Jennifer Macaire of Calderwood Books!


Happy Friday, and have a good weekend! Remember, if you don't get your announcements to me, I can give you your dues! If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie! See you next week...

25 October 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Great Research Books

By Sandra Schwab

1. Sharon H. Laudermilk and Teresa L. Hamlin, THE REGENCY COMPANION
A truly great introduction to the everyday life of the upper classes in the Regency era. Unfortunately, the book is not only out of print, but also hard to find, thus sellers of used books can demand exorbitant prices. (Duh.)

2. Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert, editors, THE LONDON ENCYCLOPAEDIA
Very few illustrations, but lots and lots of great information. All you've ever wanted to know about London, past and present.

3. Hugh Montgomery-Massingbred and Christopher Simon Sykes, GREAT HOUSES OF ENGLAND AND WALES
Need to build a country estate for your characters? Here you find descriptions and a vast number of gorgeous photographs of 32 stately homes, from Alnwick Castle to Waddesdon Manor.

Well, if you've pieced together a country estate for your characters, you'll also need a garden. Here you find descriptions and pictures of different kinds of European gardens and garden architecture.

5. Steve Parissien, REGENCY STYLE
A true treasure trove for everybody who writes novels set in the Regency. Parissien covers everything from architecture, windows, and plasterwork to colours, fabrics, furniture, and gardens. Contains many illustrations and photographs.

What can I say? Your characters need clothes, too! And in this book you'll find pictures and descriptions of the most beautiful clothes (dresses, mostly) imaginable. This is an awesome book!

In a romance novel, there's bound to be a wedding. This publication of the National Trust describes dresses and wedding customs from the mid-18th to the 20th century, and contains many contemporary illustrations and photos as well as pictures of wedding dresses from the collections of the National Trust.

Have you ever wondered how people in the 19th and early 20th century made butter or cheese? How they dealt with the dirty laundry? What their lamps looked like? How they kept their homes clean? John Seymour answers all of these questions and many more. He provides a fascinating glimpse at household chores of ages past.

Tee-hee! Full of anecdotes from the years 1810-60.

A great resource! Mrs. Beeton doesn't just give the reader a list of recipes, but also includes advice about how to run a household, about the duties of the different types of servants, and about caring for the ill. Even though it was first published in the Victorian era, it can be a valuable source for earlier time periods as well. The full text of the book is available online at mrsbeeton.com.

11. A. E. Richardson, THE OLD INNS OF ENGLAND
A survey of historic inns across England. If your characters ever need to travel and you want them to stay the night somewhere on the road, this is the book for you!

12. Lesley Blanch, editor, HARRIETTE WILSON'S MEMOIRS
More reminiscences about the Regency era, yet this time we get a glimpse at society from a female point of view. What's more Harriette Wilson was one of the most famous courtesans of the early 19th century -- she knew all the important men of London. And in her memoirs, she named names.

13. Patrick Hanks and Flavia Hodges, A CONCISE DICTIONARY OF FIRST NAMES
Well, your characters don't just need country estates, gardens and clothes, but also names! In this book you won't just find a list of names, but also a few lines about the meaning, history, and use of each name.

23 October 2007

Crime & Punishment:
The Nuremberg Trials

By Vicki Gaia

The International Military Tribunal (IMT), known as The Nuremberg Trials, resulted in a desire to see the Nazi political, economic and military leadership face justice. At first, the Allies didn't agree to the form of punishment. Churchill believed they should be hunted down and shot. The French and Soviets preferred summary executions, while the Americans pushed for trials. However, at Yalta in February 1945, they all agreed to the to the prosecution of Axis leaders following the end of World War II. In August of 1945, the Allies met in London and signed the agreement that created the IMT, the Nuremberg court, and the set of rules for trial.

Nuremberg had been the site of the elaborate Nazi party rallies. Holding the trials in this city symbolized the demise of the Nazi Party. While most of the city laid in ruins from Allied bombings, the Palace of Justice, where the trials would be held, remained fairly unscathed, and had a convenient prison adjacent to it.

On November 20, 1945, twenty-one defendants were charged with participating in the conspiracy for the accomplishment of crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity and planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression. If found guilty, the punishment was ten years to life in prison or death by hanging, using the standard drop method. The French suggested a firing squad, the standard death sentence for military court-martial, but this was opposed by the Soviets who believed the Nazis were unworthy of this more dignified method.

I thought it was interesting that throughout the trials an American psychiatrist, Leon Goldensohn, interviewed the defendants. His notebooks survived, and would make interesting reading.

The results of the Nuremberg trials set in motion the establishment of a permanent criminal court, leading to the adoption of the Statute of the International Criminal Court fifty years later. The trials served the purpose of keeping the horrendous war crimes in the public's view three years after the war ended. Also the trials became a catalyst for the creations of several conventions on genocide and human rights.

21 October 2007

Taken by the Viking Winner

We have a winner for Michelle's Taken by the Viking release party: Crystal B.! Contact Carrie by e-mail to give me your home address. (Michelle will be away from her computer this week.) Your prize must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of Michelle's first Viking book. Congratulations!

Guest Author: Joan Kayse

Please give our guest author Joan Kayse a warm welcome and toss a few questions her way. --Carrie

Your books are set in ancient Rome. Why did you choose this time period and location?

As with many historical writers, I love history as a whole but have always had an affinity for Rome and the ancient times. Even the stories I wrote as a teenager were set in that time period. I watched Ben Hur and The Robe, but I remember even in sixth grade just soaking up all the information about that time period in history class.

The energy, the passion of the Empire's domination of the civilized world and the conquered who fought against them is fascinating to me. Their society was based on strict rules and convention yet these same civilized mores were often abused and manipulated so that the powerful could rule the world. The potential for external conflict alone makes it an ideal place to put a hero and heroine.

How much research did you have to do before beginning your Roman novels?

When I began my first manuscript, THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE, I thought I had to do every bit of research before I began writing. If I had stuck to that plan, I'd still be researching. Instead, I took the advice of a friend and began the story, pausing as I went along to look up the particulars; types of food, the usual lot of an agricultural slave, the type of jewelry, the trade routes from Alexandria. Often during the search for information about one particular thing I would find a tidbit about something I knew I would need later and would bookmark it or print out the info and stuff it in a REALLY thick folder I keep for these items. If anyone wants to know how to cook a dormouse to perfection...maybe with a bit of garum (fish sauce), I'm your girl!

Tell us a bit about your books.

Jared of Alexandria is a successful merchant prince who shuns his Roman heritage and counts on no one save himself to make his way in life. But when a series of devastating thefts threaten to ruin him, he seeks the counsel of a beautiful oracle to discover the thief. Bryna, a beautiful slave, is an unreliable seer who survives each day with only one thought--to escape and reunite with her brother. With a chance to find her way to freedom, she reluctantly agrees to assist his enemies and gives him false information that leads to his betrayal into slavery.

Jared labors under the lash and survives harsh conditions by planning the vengeance he will exact on the witch with fire sparked eyes and ice in her veins. For once the Fates take pity on him and deliver both freedom and Bryna into his hands. But destiny has a way of mocking the best of a man's plans, and Jared is stunned to find that only Bryna can help him discover his enemy and reclaim his life while exacting a devastating revenge of her own--claiming him heart and soul.

Born of the Equestrian class and sold by his father to clear a gambling debt, Damon is the ex-slave of Jared. Freed by his former master, now friend as a young man, Damon has been searching for his mother and two sisters. In an effort to gain the freedom of his last sister, Damon has been operating as a spy for a Roman Senator but finds himself caught in a web of deceit and sacrificed to the cross. Moments from being crucified he is saved by a mysterious woman who offers him his life..in return for posing as her husband.

Julia Manulus is a desperate patrician lady. Her father, a Senator, has been missing for months and she is under pressure by the powerful Prefect of Rome to marry. She only needs time until her father returns and decides that the criminal she's saved from death will be duly grateful and malleable enough to pose as her husband. That plan falls apart as she when she meets the incorrigible, stubborn and incredibly handsome man who has plans of his own. Together they survive the machinations of a power hungry enemy and find that love brings down the barriers of class and society.

The third in this connected series, this is the story of Bryna's brother Bran, a warrior with deeper wounds than the ones that mark his body after being a gladiator. His heroine Adria is a plebeian who survives by stealing and picks the wrong target when she steals from the dark barbarian. This story is in process but I'm loving writing it!

What challenges have you faced setting your books in Rome?

Well, the usual and the same as every author on this website has faced in getting their books published. I remember my inaugural RWA conference and the looks of pity I received when I said my books were set in Rome. Well, that just ratcheted up my determination.

I believe a historical romance can be set in any time period as long as it is a good story. I think others are starting to recognize this too. THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE has won two contests (The Suzannah as "Captured Hearts" and The Molly), recently finished second in PASIC'S Book of Your Heart contest and was a 2006 Golden Heart finalist. Damon has been no slouch either, placing in two contests. I value each of these validations, but even more I value those in the writing and reading community who have said, "I'd love to read a historical set in Rome." I applaud the publishing professionals who are open to different stories and different eras.

Thank you for sharing with us, Joan, and best of luck in your endeavors. We look forward to hosting you again in the near future when you have your own book ready for a release party!

18 October 2007

Weekly Announcements

On Sunday, we'll feature an interview with guest author Joan Kayse who writes historicals set in ancient Rome. Joan recently won second place in PASIC's Book of Your Heart with her manuscript The Patrician's Desire and was a 2006 Golden Heart finalist!


Anne Whitfield has released a new short story titled "Avenue Of Dreams," available here through The Wild Rose Press.

Molly Daniels is summer holidaying in a small town in the country to recover from a broken marriage. She's hurt, disillusioned and unsure of her future. She last thing she is looking for is a man.

Sebastian Lord is the town's most eligible bachelor, a title he hates. Having given up on a successful career in the city he now owns a small farm and is content to hide away there, away from the real world that has hurt him in the past. Since his fiance was killed four years ago, he's refused to enter the dating game again.

They're an unlikely pair, but Seb's wayward dog has a habit of bringing them together. They give into their attraction and share a hot summer together, but can they let go of the past enough to embrace a future together?
Anne also received a great review for A Noble Place from Julie of SingleTitles:

Courageous and independent, Pippa Noble is a heroine readers will admire, cheer for and hope to emulate. With its spellbinding blend of romance, heartbreak, passion and drama, A Noble Place is the perfect book to curl up with on a cold autumn night. Don’t miss it!
Michelle Styles' new release, Taken By the Viking, has received another solid review, this time from Jayne of Dear Author.

Overall, I did enjoy the story and the historic details you included. I liked that twists on what I was expecting and when I had to stop reading for such daily mundane things as going to work to earn a living, I eagerly looked forward to getting home and picking the book up again.
Remember to visit Michelle's release party and leave a comment for your chance to win a copy!


Gracie and the Bad Hat by Vicki GaiaUPDATE: Vicki Gaia's newest release, Gracie and the Bad Hat, which is due out in December, has received its first review. Aya of Euro-Reviews writes:
A must read for all romantics as well as those jaded by losing in love. This book is FABULOUS! ... Humor, romance and a touch of reality are brilliantly combined to form what could just be my favorite book of the year!
Nice! Vicki has also posted her book trailer for Gracie and the Bad Hat here.


Happy Friday, and have a good weekend! Remember, if you don't get your announcements to me, I can give you your dues! If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie! See you next week...

Thursday Thirteen: Gangs of New York

By Eliza Tucker

In New York City, the gangs of the 19th and early 20th century had some "killer" names--even though historically not all gangs were violent, and worked instead as racial, religious, or vocational unions.

1. Daybreak Boys
2. Dead Rabbits
3. Old Slippers*
4. Cherry Hill
5. Bowery Boys
6. Five Points
7. Midnight Terrors
8. Plug Uglies
9. Gophers (as well as the Lady Gophers and Little Gophers)
10. Roach Guard
11. Hudson Dusters
12. Whyos
13. Swamp Angels**

* Great name, huh? They were a bunch of angry kids--bookbinders apprentices--who made life heck for residents around the Manhattan street Old Slip, according to Luc Sante in Low Life.

** Wouldn't think about a New Yorker relating much to the swamp, eh? Consider that much of Lower Manhattan was more or less wetland and eventually drained and filled in.

17 October 2007

Crime & Punishment:
Bounty Hunters in the Old West

By Jacquie Rogers

The law was a bit sparse in the Old West, often not a lawman around for hundreds of miles. If a criminal knew how to live off the land and he owned a fast horse, he was pretty well guaranteed an escape. What's a sheriff to do?

In 1872, the Supreme Court ruled that bounty hunters were a part of the U.S. law enforcement system with a decision in Taylor vs. Taintor:
When the bail is given, the principal is regarded as delivered to the custody of his sureties. Their domain is a continuance of the original imprisonment. Whenever they choose to do so, they may seize him and deliver him up to his discharge; and if it cannot be done at once, they may imprison him until it can be done. They may exercise their rights in person or by agent. They may pursue him into another state; may arrest him on the Sabbath; and if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose. The seizure is not made by virtue of due process. None is needed. It is likened to the arrest by the Sheriff of an escaped prisoner.
As you can see by this decision, bounty hunters didn't have to adhere to the same rules of due process that lawmen did. (This is still true in some states.)

One of the greatest bounty hunters was Pinkerton Detective, Charlie Siringo. Siringo had a long and distinguished, if not controversial, career. He had steely nerves and his cleverness got him out of more than one jam. But he wrote a book, and the Pinkerton Agency wasn't too keen about that, so he spent several years at the end of his life arguing with them. Could be that the Pinkertons were the only ones to ever best him.

Lots of town marshals and county sheriffs supplemented their meager incomes with bounties. Of course, they had to follow the rules of due process while a bounty hunter had no such restrictions. Then again, if there's no one around for a couple hundred miles, who's to know? This is part of how the West was tamed. Many lawmen straddled the fence between law-enforcing and law-breaking.

Charlene Sands, author of Bodine's Bounty, blogged about bounty hunters on Pistols and Petticoats. Really good info at this site on lots of Old West topics. Anyway, she points out that in order for a bounty hunter to get his money in British Columbia, he had to bring the criminal in alive. The US had no such compunctions, but the bounty was half if the prisoner died before making it to jail. She also mentions that the bounty hunters didn't receive payment until later, so when they brought in prisoners, they'd either have to wait, or have the money sent to a bank. (They'd probably wait, considering the state of banking at the time.) But the most important thing that Ms. Sands mentioned was that bounty hunters' names were never, ever recorded, because their anonymity was their protection. This little item is what makes research difficult.

Much to movie and TV viewers' delight, popular lore glorifies the Old West bounty hunter. The role of Josh Randall in Wanted: Dead or Alive in the 1950s made Steve McQueen a star.
Josh Randall (Steve McQueen) was a man of few words. A bounty hunter by trade, he tracked his prey all over the West. Randall carried an 1892 44/40 center fire Winchester carbine that he called "Mare's Laig." It handled like a revolver by had the punch of a rifle. Unlike other bounty hunters, Randall had scruples. He tried to bring the prisoner in alive and often found himself called upon to protect people in need.
Then there's my personal favorite, Paladin, played by Richard Boone on "Have Gun-Will Travel." (Okay, so he was more gunslinger than bounty hunter, but they go together well.) I'm not the only one impressed with that character: Eminem will be starring as Paladin in a contemporary movie remake. Does Eminem have what Richard Boone had?

We'll see!


Please vote for Faery Special Romances in The New Covey Awards! It's #23, and I'd really love to see the cover artist, Monika Wolmarans, win this!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Faery Special Romances (Available now)
Take a look at the book video
Royalties go to Children's Tumor Foundation, ending Neurofibromatosis through Research
*** Myspace *** Bebo *** Ning

16 October 2007

Crime & Punishment:
Crime Didn't Pay in Ancient Egypt

Jean Adams
By Jean Adams

It didn't pay to be convicted of a crime in ancient Egypt.

A criminal had to think it was worth the risk not to stay on the straight and narrow. If officialdom didn't get you and torture you, then the gods would. And their justice was far harsher than any punishment people could mete out.

When someone died and went west (a term we still use today) to join the gods, their heart would be weighed against Ma'at's feather on the scales of justice. Ma'at was the goddess of truth and justice. She represented the divine harmony and cosmic balance of the universe. If the heart weighed heavier than the feather, they were turned over to Ammut, the Devourer who ate the dead soul, ensuring that they were totally annihilated and would wander the netherworld forever. Not an ideal way for an Egyptian to end his days. It was enough to keep many people on the straight and narrow although the criminal element seemed to have no fear of the justice of the gods.

It is very useful for us to know what was and what was not acceptable behavior. Biographical texts include two declarations of innocence in which the deceased denies having committed various crimes. These are many, known as The Negative Confessionin, such as "I have done no injustice to people, nor have I maltreated an animal" or "I have done no wrong" It also records some very specific faults:

Crimes of a cultic nature: blasphemy, stealing from temple offerings or offerings to the dead, defiling the purity of a sacred place.

Crimes of an economic nature: tampering with the grain measure, the boundaries of fields, or the plummet of the balance

Criminal acts: theft and murder

Exploitation of the weak and causing injury: depriving orphans of their property, causing pain or grief, doing injury, causing hunger.

Moral and social failings: lying, committing adultery, ignoring the truth, slandering servants before their master, being aggressive, eavesdropping, losing one's temper, speaking without thinking.

These standards are not new. As in the Christian Bible, most Egyptians loved their gods, and the ancient Egyptian believed that looking out for his neighbors was a high point in his life. Other early texts, we find lines such as "Never did I take the property of any person"; "Never did I say a bad thing about anyone to the king (or) to a potentate because I desired that I might be honored before the god"; and "Never did I do anything evil against any person", all of which are recognizable ethical standards to most of the modern world. The ideals expressed in biographies, including justice, honesty, fairness, mercy, kindness and generosity, and reflect the central concept of Ma'at, the cosmic and social order of the universe as established by the creator god.

Not so the criminal. Two crimes were considered worse than others. Attempted assassination of the pharaoh was seen as an attack on the divine god. The lowest classes could be impaled on a stake on the edge of the desert until they begged to die, or they could also be thrown to the crocodiles.

Annihilation was feared more than anything by most Egyptians. Others didn't seem to care. The most heinous crime was tomb robbing. Tomb robbing was seen as pharaoh's annihilation and since they were buried with all the riches of home for their journey through the afterworld, amulets made of gold, jewels and semi precious stones were wrapped in their funerary bandages so the gods would know he was a man of substance. These amulets were choice pickings for tomb robbers, who would break into the new tomb, unwrap pharaoh's body and help themselves to the gold.

This was mostly accomplished by tomb workers who knew where all the passages and escape routes were. They were,however, often caught, but not until after they had spirited away the loot.

If a lord or high official was proved to be involved in tomb robbery, they were given a choice. They could be put to death, ordered to commit suicide or life with horrific mutilation.

Clearly it didn't pay to indulge in crime in ancient Egypt. It caused chaos, another word that has come down to us from them. It upset their sense of order and balance which was all the good Egyptian wanted in his life.

Jean Adams

She found the love of her life, 3000 years too late!
ETERNAL HEARTS, Highland Press, Spring 2008
Jean's Blog

14 October 2007

It Takes Moxie Winner

We have a winner for Delia's It Takes Moxie release party: Cia Leah! Contact Delia by e-mail to get her your home addresses. Prize must be claimed by next Sunday or another winner will be drawn. Please stop back later to let us know what you thought of her debut book. Congratulations!

Release Party: Taken by the Viking

Today we welcome one of our long-time contributors, talented Harlequin Mills & Boon author Michelle Styles. Michelle's newest book is Taken By the Viking, a departure from her successful catalogue of Roman-set historicals.

A Viking raid: They claimed they came in peace, but soon Lindisfarne was aflame. Annis of Birdoswald fled in fear, but she could not escape the Norse warriors.

An honourable captor: One man protected her--Haakon Haroldson. The dark, arrogant Viking swept Annis back to his homeland, taking her away from all she held dear.

A new life--as his mistress! Now Annis must choose between the lowly work that befits a captive, or a life of sinful pleasure in the Viking's arms!
Michelle has agreed to answer our questions about this newest storytelling venture. Welcome!

You have written several Roman set historicals Why the change in time period?

The change came from a lunch I had with my editors. We discussed my career and the fact that I did not want to be pigeonholed into a time period. The problem from their point of view was that I am prolific and the Unusual Historical slot is very popular amongst authors, and they did not feel that solely concentrating on Rome would be a good idea. We discussed a number of time periods and came up with the Viking period. According HM&B research, they do not get many manuscripts in the Viking period, but those that they do publish traditionally do very well.

I also pitched an idea for an early Victorian with a self-made hero. This book is going to be published in the US in December as A Christmas Wedding Wager, and in the UK's single title programme as part of a duo--Christmas by Candlelight. Going to lunch with your editor can be good for your career as well as being fun.

What is the most challenging part about writing Viking-set historicals?

The most challenging part for me has been to get the hero super alpha enough. Readers of the Viking period expect really alpha heroes. Viking alpha heroes are more alpha than Roman heroes because of the warrior culture. And with both of the books that I have written, I have had to go back and make him even more alpha during the revisions. However, fingers crossed, I think I have managed it. Personally I find it easier to go back and my heroes more alpha but that might just be me.

What about this book in particular?

Aside from making Haakon more alpha, my other great problem with the book was making sure that Annis and Haakon actually spent time together. I had to rearrange chapters four through eight, but in the end it worked. I discovered, for example, that I had set a sensual scene too early and therefore suffered from a lack of tension. Moving the scene to later in the book really helped up the tension, in my humble opinion.

What is it about the Vikings that makes you want to write during that period?

I have been interested in Scandinavian myths and fairy tales since I was a little girl, and my grandfather gave me a large picture book on the subject. There was a very lovely picture of a dark-haired man holding a woman on a white horse to illustrate the story of how Sweden was founded. I find the whole era intriguing--the different perceptions about the Vikings, their sagas and the way they changed the course of European history.

Give us a tidbit of history that surprised you when researching Taken by the Viking?

Nobody is precisely sure who conducted the Lindisfarne raid. There are some good guesses, but because there is a lack of reliable primary sources, we can not be sure. The great Viking longship burial sites date from just after this period and it is possible they included one of the ships that did raid Holy Island.

What advice would you give to anyone trying to write or sell Viking set historicals?

Make sure your hero is very Alpha. Do not let the history overwhelm the romance, and keep the focus on the growing emotional relationship of the hero and heroine. A strong and compelling romance is really important with an Unusual Historical as there is a lot of competition.

What is your favorite genre or period to read?

Historicals and within that, I am simply looking for a good story.

Favorite book from the past year?

The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn. I am a recent convert to the Bridgerton series and that one was my favourite. I can readily understand why the series was so popular.

Five books from your TBR pile?

1. Thames--the Sacred River by Peter Ackroyd
2. Industrial Revolutionaries by Gavin Weightman
3. Wicked Pleasures by Helen Dickson
4. The History of the Middle Sea by John Julius Norwich
5. Cabal by Michael Dibdin

Tell us what part of Taken by the Viking is your favorite: the scene or element that, when you read it, leaves you feeling most satisfied?

I think my favourite scene is where Haakon is forced to cut Annis’s hair. I loved the whole conflict and feelings of betrayal on both sides. It is when Annis finally has to face the fact that instead of being a high-born prisoner, she is about to become a slave.

What's up next for you?

At the moment, I am working on the second book of my Regency duet which is set in Northumberland. The second book has a self-made man as a hero. After that, I am planning to write the third book in the Viking series. It will be Ivar’s story and is something I have planned for awhile. The second book--Viking Warrior, Unwilling Wife--comes out in the UK in June 08. My next US release is A Christmas Wedding Wager and that comes out in December.


Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Michelle!

Ask your own question or leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of Taken by the Viking. One random commenter will be chosen this time next week. Check back to see if you've won. You can purchase Taken by the Viking online through Mills and Boon, Amazon.co.uk or even Amazon.ca

12 October 2007

Weekly Announcements

Carrie Lofty has proposed an article to RWR (Romance Writers Report) about unusual historicals. Authors like Gaelen Foley, Madeline Baker, Jade Lee, Hope Tarr, and Diana Groe have already signed up to participate, as well as our UH contributors. Editors and agents are on board too. If you'd like to be included in the mailing list for a research questionnaire (no more than 5-10 questions), please email Carrie!


Michelle Styles' new release, Taken By the Viking, has been earning great reviews. From CataRomance:
Readers looking for historical romances that are densely plotted, meticulously researched and highly evocative ought to look no further than Michelle Styles. Blazing with all the passion and intrigue that she has become renowned for, Michelle Styles' latest Mills & Boon Historical Romance, Taken by the Viking is a sensuous tale that will beguile and captivate romance readers everywhere. [It] combines courageous heroes, valiant heroines, powerful romance and heart pounding action in an unforgettable tale that will captivate, beguile and enthrall.
And from The Pink Heart Society:
Taken By the Viking by Michelle StylesMichelle Styles is a wonderful historical novelist whose spellbinding tales of romance, adventure and intrigue never fail to hold readers spellbound from beginning to end. Writing with plenty of skill, style and alacrity, Michelle Styles paints a vivid picture of the Viking era and makes her readers feel as if they are living the story next to her characters rather than just reading it. Michelle Styles combines history, passion and suspense in an engrossing tale that cements her position as one of the finest writers of the genre.
Great job, Michelle! And for those of you who'd like to know more about this newest novel, we'll be featuring Michelle in a Q&A about Taken By a Viking on Sunday.


Also on Sunday, we'll announce the winner of a free copy of Delia Deleest's It Takes Moxie. Visit the release party to post a comment and enter to win.


Happy Friday, and have a good weekend! Remember, if you don't get your announcements to me, I can give you your dues! If you have an announcement to make for next week, email Carrie! See you next week...

11 October 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Traveling the World

By Jennifer Mueller

Ha! I'll make my list today fit the Unusual historical theme.

Thirteen unusual places I have set a story.


When Celeste Reed steps off the boat in the fledgling colony of Kenya, East Africa she finds out the man that she was to marry doesn't even care to get to know her let alone listen to a word she says. Life is miserable and then he has the nerve to die leaving her to run an estate without any money. It seems he spent all he had to impress the colony and she was just part of the package. Africa is unforgiving to the weak, but it can be the people that you least expect that make it. And then there's Edward.


Five stories, four days, three nights, two times the fun, and one heck of a good time. Dahlia, Eve, Nora, Alice, and Marianne; when five women who work together
in depression era Boston save up for a trip of a lifetime to decadent Havana, anything can happen. With seductive Latin men and rich vacationers at every turn who wouldn't enjoy dancing till dawn, the parties, the nightclubs, the beach, the gambling, and there’s always more than one side to a story.

3. Argentina: A short story in WOMEN OF THEIR TIME anthology

4. Byzantium/Turkey: FAR FROM HOME

She's a highly placed lady in waiting and he's a lowly soldier guarding her as she sneaks out of the palace during the Byzantine empire. Each thinks the other wouldn't be interested but things change as the months drag on including the danger she's in.


When a dancer in World War I Constantinople holds the key to a British spy's assignment, he can only trust his instincts. She's not telling how getting her out alive will save the lives of thousands of men and with a traitor to catch, instinct is all he has as his network falls apart around him.


She was a puzzle to Claudius, a challenge and the ultimate mystery. She came to his party, then abruptly left without chaperon, escort, or imparting much knowledge about herself. The one fact sticking out is that Livia is running. Still, he is attracted, and needs to find out why the beauty is running and from whom. Livia wants to leave the city, but because of her father's position, she cannot. He allows her little or no freedom, and is determined to sell her into marriage to a man twice her age or more. Livia would like to marry for love, but she knows that is improbable until she meets Claudius. Not knowing who he is, she accepts his help. Battered and bleeding, she goes to Claudius, and hides in his home from her abusive father and his manipulative schemes. In ancient Rome it was the fathers and then the husbands job to protect the women in his care. Can Livia Pollia be kept safe by Claudius, and away from the father who traps her? Can the scandal they promote help her while bringing her abuser to pay for the crimes against her mother?

6. China: Two short stories in WOMEN OF THEIR TIME anthology


A decade after World War II ended and her husband returned with plans that didn't include her, Danielle Maxwell hopes a several month business trip to Malta will be just what her marriage needs to get back on track. When her husband has more interest in drinking and fishing with an old friend that has settled on the island can Danielle find a way to rebuild her life with or without her husband?

8. Ancient Egypt: EGYPTIAN NIGHTS

A horrible death, an even bigger mistake by the gods of Ancient Egypt. A modern woman is trapped in a life not her own. But even in death beginnings can happen.

9. India: A short story in WOMEN OF THEIR TIME anthology

10. Majorca: ALL MY DREAMS (okay this one isn't historical but it is unusual)

When all of Loryn's family was taken from her she just ran. Fixing up a house in Majorca sounds like a dream to most but it was only hiding from life. When a movie producer decides her house is perfect for a location, life comes charging in and he drags her into the world once more. But does he bring too much of life to make it work?

11. Portugal: ANCIENT WALLS (another non historical, but unusual)

Maya Montgomery just wants a vacation with her son, that's it, but with her ex giving her trouble to the point of needing a restraining order, even relaxing involves a fight. At least until everyone in the hotel is kept inside with days of rain. After the way her ex has been all it will take is someone being nice to her and Carson is nothing but nice. Nice to look at, nice to talk to, nice to go to bed with. For once in her life, things are looking up, until her son is kidnapped and the note orders her to find a hidden treasure. Treasure not everyone is even convinced exists and her son's life depends on it. So much for a peaceful vacation.

12. Ancient Greece: THE MOUNTAINTOP

In ancient Greece men marry for money and land while finding their pleasure elsewhere. When Orestes saves a captured woman from slave traders just what is she supposed to do when she doesn't feel like sharing? Especially when she's literally ready to fight him over the matter.


When a Geisha in turn of the century Japan starts receiving gifts from an anonymous benefactor she can only guess at who it is that is helping her. Its not making the woman who owns her her house happy either she stands to loose a lot of money if her geisha leaves. Is love the answer to all her problems?

For more details on any of these titles, please visit my website.

Jennifer Mueller

Out Now!!!!
Writer's Block, a recommended read at Romance at Heart Publications
Far from Home at Aphrodite's Apples

09 October 2007

Crime & Punishment:
Chinese Torture as Judicial Punishment

By Christine Koehler

China isn't the only country to use torture, yet it's often the one that first springs to mind, mostly because of the Communist regime during the Cold War and the mass media coverage. Like other countries, east and west, China has used torture as judicial punishment and a means to gain knowledge for thousand of years.

Why Chinese torture? Why torture as a topic at all? It's an indisputable part of our history, there's no getting around it, and by studying it we learn more about the culture, time, and people. It's fascinating, in a morbid and terrible kind of way, but it goes lengths to identifying a civilization and its place in history.

In China, as most other countries, torture was also highly political. It was used to gain information, confessions, or implications against a rival. Since Chinese history goes back thousands of years, in narrowing this down I focused on the last imperial dynasty, the Qing (1644–1911).

Not really narrowed down, is that.

According to an uncredited faculty member at the
Catholic University of America, there was no distinction between criminal and civil law. Penal sanctions occasionally applied to crimes that, today, would be covered by civil law. Disputes dealing with family matters or land were generally settled through mediation conducted by the village elders who applied customary rules and concepts of morality to reach harmony.

During the late years of the
Qing Dynasty (1890s-1911) efforts were made to modernize the system, because the harsh punishments of criminals were looked down upon by other countries and by those revolutionaries within China. It failed largely because those with the power, the aristocrats, the imperials themselves, and various governors and such, were unwieldy and corrupt.

Before any of the modernized laws could be put into effect, the Qing Dynasty was overthrown.

Harsh treatment of criminals?

According to A History of Torture by George Riley Scott, much of China's reputation as a country who did nothing but torture is unwarranted. However, not all of it. Compression of the ankles (mostly but not always for males) and feet (mostly but not always for females) were popular forms to force witnesses to speak or alleged criminals to confess.

According to F. Alvarez Semedo's History of China, 1655, "For the feet they use an instrument called the Kia Quen. It consisteth of three pieces of wood put in one traverse, that in the middleis fixt, the other two are movable, between these he feet are put, where they are squeezed and prest..."

This is confirmed in
Sir George Staunton's work, including Fundamental Laws of China, 1810. Both say that if the first application fails to achieve results, "it is lawful to repeat the operation a second time."

There were rules, even in ancient and semi-modern (before the end of the Qing Dynasty) China. Torture of the ankles and feet were unlawful to those accused criminals under 15 or over 70, the diseased, or crippled. I guess they didn't see the point in crippling the already lamed individual even more.

That was only judicial torture. There were also methods of punishment. For instance, according to B. Picart's Religious Ceremonies, 1737, Vol. IV, fornication by a monk was treated most severely. A hole was bored with a hot iron through his neck, one end of a chain about 60 feet attached through the hole and secured. The other end? Held by another monk as they walked--the fornicator was naked--through the city collecting tributes for the monastery.

They also used a pillory, much like Western Europe. It's probably a popular form of punishment for minor offenses worldwide. The Chinese version was The Tcha or Kea.

Capital punishment (execution) included strangulation, decapitation, and Torture of the Knife--Ling-chy. Usually reserved for punishment of parricide, it was commonly known as Death by the Thousand Cuts or Cutting into Ten Thousand Pieces. It's just what it says it is.

Crime & Punishment:
Medieval Trial By Ordeal

By Lisa Yarde

In the medieval period, there were different methods of determining whether an alleged criminal was guilty. Failing sufficient proof of accusations of adultery, theft, murder, etc. medieval people relied on God and on nature to act in an unusual way, which would prove innocence or render the guilty the ultimate punishment.

A person accused of a crime first sought the aid of "oath-helpers," who could attest to his / her character, or whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime. For someone whom everyone adjudged to have a terrible character, this was not possible. In that case, the people relied on trial by ordeal.

There were three types of ordeals used to determine guilt or innocence: fire, water and combat. A priest presided over these rituals, which required that the natural elements behave atypically. Fire or hot metal would not burn the innocent, cold water would not allow the guilty to sink, and the innocent would have the strength to defend themselves in mortal combat.

In trials by fire, the most common usage was hot iron, though retrieval of something from a pot of boiling water was also popular. After a solemn three days of fasting and prayer, the accused would take a hot iron from tongs held by the priest, walk three paces (or nine feet dependent on church rules) and release the iron. His or her hand would be bandaged and marked with a seal. After three days, the priest inspected the wound. If it was healing without discoloration, the accused was vindicated, but if the wound festered, punishment for the guilty waited.

For trials by water, the accused removed the clothing and had his or her hands and feet bound with rope. Dumped into a pool or stream, a priest adjudged that only the innocent would sink but the water would allow a guilty person to float. Surely to the innocent who drowned, their vindication after death didn't matter! This practice continued in the later periods of witch hunts.

Lastly, trials by combat had rules specifying where they could take place, the armaments allowed, and even the behavior of spectators. The priest exhorted each man to prove his cause by defeating the other; women, the sick and clergy often engaged professional champions to fight on their behalf. If the accused lost the battle, he or she was guilty of the crime, for surely, God would not allow an innocent person to suffer.

Tristan & Isolde by Herbert DraperMedieval people abandoned these practices after 1215, resorting to juries. It's easy to see how guilt and innocence could be misjudged. In the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, after her husband Mark suspects their affair, Isolde agrees to trial by hot iron. Her lover comes to her dressed as a pilgrim and carries her to the trial. This enables Isolde to later swear a sacred oath that no other man had ever touched her, except "the poor pilgrim" whom her husband had seen carrying her.

08 October 2007

Crime & Punishment:
Punishment and Execution for Piracy

Marianne LaCroix
By Marianne LaCroix

There were several manners of punishment dealt out to those practicing piracy in the 16th through the 18th centuries. The most common practice was that of hanging. The process was slow and torturous. There were two methods: putting the rope around the victim's neck then pulling him off the ground, or dropping away something from under his feet to allow him to dangle freely. Many times a delay of ten days lapsed between being found guilty to the day of execution. This allowed more people to travel to witness the execution. It was also thought the condemned would repent during this time. Repenting did not ensure a lighter sentence or delay the execution, but at least his soul was saved, or so it was believed.

Gaols (jails) were dank, dark cellars overrun with rats and insects. Oh such a pleasant place to await trial or one's death sentence! There was no sanitation, and conditions were exceedingly poor. The most dangerous criminals would also remain in chains the entire time. And if one were to escape the gaol, it was most likely he would suffer from a chronic illness for the rest of his life.

Hanging wasn't the only fate of those sent to gaol for piracy. They could be flogged with the cat-nine-o-tails, a lash with tiny knots one each line. There are even stories of barbs used. Either way, the sentenced criminal could face 50 to 100 lashes of the cat-nine-o-tails. It would be a miracle if one could live through the punishment and recovery. Without knowledge of germs and bacteria, it was likely cat-nine-o-tails were a breeding ground for disease. If one did not die of the beating, he could die from infection.

Some pirates were sent to the pillory for public humiliation. Chained at the neck, wrists, and ankles, and positioned on their knees, possibly in a neck and hand yoke, one would be subjected to the taunts and physical torment. Tossing rotten vegetables or stones were not uncommon. Many times a pirate would be sentenced to 50 lashes then sent to the pillory. It was possible to die from injuries received while in the pillory.

Slavery was another fate of those condemned of piracy. Generally pirates could be sold into slavery, and this means was more profitable. Companies like the East India Company used slaves on plantations or in mines. Conditions were poor and disease ran rampant. If a pirate was a slave and sent to the American colonies, it is likely their treatment was slightly better than African slaves.

The worst sort of end for notorious pirates would be the irons. Once a pirate was dead (by hanging, lash, etc.), his remains would be placed in irons and put on display, or gibbeted. The body was left to rot and once the decomposition had eaten away the flesh, the remains were dumped into the sea. No burial. No ceremony. It was rare anyone would claim the remains of one in the irons due to the shame and disgrace.

Famous Pirate ends:William Kidd – Accused of piracy, he was imprisoned and hanged at Execution Dock in London May 23, 1701. His body was put on display for 2 years at the River Thames in London.

Stede Bonnet – After escaping once, Bonnet was tried and sentenced November 10, 1719. The Governor refused a pardon and Bonnet was hanged December 10, 1718.

Calico Jack Rackham – He was tried on November 16, 1720 and sentenced to hang. He was hanged on November 17, 1720. His lover, Anne Bonny, and her friend, Mary Read, were also tried and sentenced, but they claimed to be both pregnant. Their executions were delayed. Mary died in prison, possibly during giving birth. There is no record of the fate of Anne.

Bartholomew ("Black Bart") Roberts – He was lucky. On February 22, 1722, Black Bart was killed in battle by cannon fire and his crew buried him at sea, wrapped in a sail and weighed down, possibly with cannon balls.

Edward ("Blackbeard") Teach – He was hunted down for his crimes and died in battle against British Lieutenant Robert Maynard on November 11, 1718. His head was severed from his body and hung from the bowsprit as Maynard's trophy. Later Blackbeard's head was displayed hanging on a pike in Bath. (It is said his headless body swam around his ship the Adventure several times before finally sinking into the sea.)

Marianne LaCroix
Sea Hawk's Mistress, Ellora's Cave
Crossed Swords, Ellora's Cave (coming Nov 23, 2007)

07 October 2007

Release Party: It Takes Moxie

It Takes Moxie by Delia Deleest
Today we welcome Delia Deleest for the book release party of her debut novel, It Takes Moxie, published by The Wild Rose Press. Congratulations on your success!

It was supposed to be simple. Moxie Hamilton was going to kidnap an unsuspecting driver just long enough to get to an out-of-town train station and buy a ticket to Chicago. She didn't factor in the stolen diamonds, being chased by a gun-wielding thug, or falling in love with her kidnap victim. The last one was probably one of her worst ideas, especially since she had a fiancé waiting for her in Chicago. Getting kidnapped wasn't high on Ben Kincaid's list of things to do, but that didn't stop Moxie from pulling a gun on him and ordering him to take her out of town. From the steamy heat of St. Augustine, Florida to the crime-ridden streets of prohibition Chicago and everywhere in between, Ben and Moxie leave a trail of chaos in a cross-country caper that will change their lives forever.
What is the most challenging part about writing 20th century historicals?
Many people don't realize that many things were invented much earlier than they think that were. I've had people question my use of certain types of telephones, features on cars and my use of slang terms they hadn't realized were already in use in the twenties. And then there was, what I call, The Great Betty Boop Discovery. I made the mistake of assuming Betty had been around in the twenties and put her in one of my manuscripts. Fortunately, an issue of Smithsonian magazine set me straight before it became to late to change it. Betty Boop didn't come into being until 1930. Who woulda thunk?

What about this book in particular?
It's hard to write comedy. Sometimes what I think is funny, other people just don't 'get'. I can usually see humor in most situations, the trick is to convey that humor so other people can see it also.

What is it about the 1920's that makes you want to write during that period?
My first manuscript was a western, set in 1865. I soon became frustrated with the fact that everytime my characters wanted to meet up or even talk to each other, someone had to saddle a horse. But, the modern conveniences of a contemporary would fill a lot of my plot ideas full of holes. The twenties are a happy medium. My characters can easily jump in a car, go to the hospital or date without a chaparone without nasty things like cell phones, DNA samples or the internet messing up my plots.

Give us a tidbit of history that surprised you when researching It Takes Moxie?
While doing research for Moxie, I had the privilege of interviewing a collector of old cars. He showed me cars from his collection that had some of the most fascinating features, including a side compartment used solely for storing golf clubs! I'd always thought of old cars as being basic and uncomfortable, boy was I wrong! Some of the amenities of eighty year old cars would put today's vehicles to shame.

What advice would you give to anyone trying to write or sell 20th century historicals?
Early 20th century is slowly starting to be acknowledged as real history and no longer just the time when grandma grew up. I believe that in the next five years, books set in the beginning of the last century are going to be the big sellers. People are looking for something new and different, and early 20th century fits that criteria to a "T".

What is your favorite genre or period to read?
I love romantic comedy. I'm not too picky about the time period, I just like reading a book that can make me laugh.

Favorite book from the past year?
Boy, I can't name just one, there's been so many good ones over the last year. I'm guessing it was probably something written by Katie MacAlister, I'm a real groupie.

Five books from your TBR pile?
I'm working my way through rereading Sarah Strohmeyer's Bubbles books. Morag's Perfidia is also sitting here waiting for me. I'm saving it for the middle of November--I'm heading over to Oahu for Thanksgiving weekend and am hoping to spend some time with her then. I want Perfidia to be fresh in my mind when I see her so we can have a good gab session about it.

Tell us what part of It Takes Moxie is your favorite: the scene or element that, when you read it, leaves you feeling most satisfied?
I love the scene where Moxie gets in the brawl with the moonshiners girlfriend at the fair. Description and action are very difficult for me to write, so you can imagine how hard a fight scene between two women and an orange and purple teddy bear was for me to do. I struggled with that scene for days, and I think it turned out wonderfully. Well, I always laugh when I read it, so that must count for something!

What's up next for you?
Eye of the Beholder, another 1920's era book, is set to come out the beginning of next year. It's about a man who was physically injured during a WWI bomb blast and a woman who marries him with the understanding that he will pay for her little brother's medical treatment. Their chance at happiness is threatened by her old boyfriend, who refuses to accept their marriage. I based Will, the hero, on Gerard Butler's Phantom of the Opera, so I'm totally in love with him. It made my editor cry (in a good way, of course) so I'm hoping others will enjoy reading it also.

Thanks for your thoughtful answers, Delia! Ask your own question or leave a comment for the chance to win a copy of It Takes Moxie. One random commenter will be chosen this time next week. Check back to see if you've won!

UPDATE: You want to know where to buy a copy, right? Here's the link.