Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace
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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Castle of the Week: Alnwick Castle in Northumberland England

Alnwick Castle was first built following the Norman conquest in 1096, by Baron of Alnwick, Yves de Vescy, who was given the lands and lordship by King William II of England.

The Battle of Alnwick in 1174, was one of two battles fought near the town of Alnwick. In the battle, William the Lion, King of Scotland, was captured by a small English force right outside the castle's walls.

The current duke and his family occupy a part of the castle, while the rest is open to the public throughout the summer. After Windsor Castle, it is the second largest inhabited castle in England.

Alnwick Castle has even been featured in a several films. Including; Elizabeth, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and Harry Potter!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Video of the Week: Baking Bread the Medieval Way

It's no secret I'm a fan of bread! In every book I write, my characters are always devouring loads of freshly-baked carb-laden loaves... Check out this video on how they made bread back in the medieval era. I'm getting my apron out and firing up the hearth!


Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas and the French Revolution

During the French Revolution, there was a concerted effort by revolutionists to reorganize the Roman Catholic church which was the official religion of the French State. Devout practitioners turned against those revolutionaries who wanted changed and vice versa. But that didn't stop revolutionaries from going forward. Religious orders, churches, abbeys, were closed down, and religious worship was suppressed--being associated with bourgeoisie and royal blood, and a threat to the revolution.

(If you want to read more about the French Revolution and the church, I suggest reading this article!)

Because of the suppression of religion, Christmas during the French Revolution was a bit different. Midnight mass and street nativity scenes were prohibited, so people began making santons "little saints" within their homes--tiny figurines made of clay that represented bakers, vegetable sellers, local dignitaries, bakers, people from daily life, perhaps a baby and his parents...AND they added saints, a way to quietly, and secretly maintain their religious beliefs. Of course, if they were caught it would have been "off with your head!"

The calendar was rewritten during the French Revolution, months given equal days of 30 with holiday at the end of the year, and every month given a new name, such as "the rainy month," and days were give names of animals and plants. Thus December 25th was renamed Dog Day. 

Bakers were taken to task for making Christmas mince pies, and Galette de rois (in honor of the three kings). How day they make "idolatry in crusts" and pies that bear the name KING! The were advised to rename their pastries Liberty cakes.

Thankfully, this only lasted a few years...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

History of Polio by Madeline Martin

That awkward moment when you go to write about a character who survived polio, only to realize it wasn’t called ‘polio’ back then.

In Mesmerizing the Marquis, the hero, Noah Hesterton has polio as a child and still bears his scars in the form of a weakened limb. However, in my research, I realized it was not referred to as ‘polio’ until the early 1900’s. However, it is believed to have been around in pre-history based off Egyptian carvings depicting people whose limbs appear shriveled by the effects of polio.

Mesmerizing the Marquis takes place in 1816 when the disease is referred to as a “debility of the lower extremities”. Though later in the century, you may see it referred to as Heine-Medin disease after two physicians working with sufferers and studying the effects.

Through the centuries this disease continued to plague our children, leaving some dead and many survivors bearing the tell-tale sign of twisted and shrunken limbs. America was not immune and suffered a terrible outbreak in the mid-1900’s that killed thousands and left tens of thousands with permanent milt to severe paralysis of the limbs as well as many other issues.

However, in doing my research on polio, it gave me an appreciation for what survivors had to overcome following their illness. One of the things I love about all the research I do for these books is the incredible people and circumstances I learn about along the way. There was the 32nd president of America, Franklin D. Roosevelt, of course, but there were so many others. Like Ray Ewry who won ten Olympic gold medals in jumping despite having spent part of his childhood in a wheelchair, and Wilma Rudolph who had polio as a child and had to wear a leg brace for years just to walk – she went on to win three Olympic gold medals for and set two world records.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt 

Olympian Ray Ewry

Olympian Wilma Rudolph

Ray Ewry and Wilma Rudolph and so many more like them are exactly the reason I love delving into research, to remember the names of people who overcame so much and persevered against the odds stacked against them.

Who are some admirable people you know of in history who defied great odds?


Madeline Martin is a USA TODAY Bestselling author of Scottish set historical romance novels. She lives a glitter-filled life in Jacksonville, Florida with her two daughters (known collectively as the minions) and a man so wonderful he's been dubbed Mr. Awesome. All shenanigans are detailed regularly on Twitter and on Facebook.

Madeline loves animals in sweaters, cat videos, wine and Nutella. Check out her FB page on any given Friday to see what great new book she's giving away by one of her fellow authors. 

She also loves connecting with her readers, so feel free to follow her on any one of her social media platforms, or send her a message :) 

Author website: www.MadelineMartin.com

Author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MadelineMartinAuthor Author Twitter: @MadelineMMartin
Author Amazon Profile page: http://www.amazon.com/Madeline-Martin/e/B00R8OGFN2/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1 


Noah Haskett, the Marquis of Hesterton, is a recluse. His late brother's actions in battle have forced him to shy away from the ton. When the sole survivor of his brother's company begins speaking, Noah is lured out of hiding. But the answers he seeks are slow to come and it appears someone might be trying to kill him. Of course, being enchanted by a woman is not part of his plan and is making matters rather complicated.

Miss Helen Craig has spent a lifetime hiding her ability to see the future. Despite her reluctance to accept her gift, she has also begun to have visions of the past. Concerned her gift may lead to madness, she volunteers at a hospital for the sick and insane in the hopes of learning how to avoid such a fate. But when an omen of death comes to her after an encounter with a sullen, brooding marquis, she is compelled to do something she's never done before: attempt to change the future.

When the past and future collide, will love be enough to save them or will the sins of others be their doom?

 Read the Book!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Ghost Ship Octavius

The vast oceans of our planet are equally wondrous and dangerous. There are so many unknowns out there on the endless horizon where the sea and sky meet. Even today, the ocean is a mysterious place. It is no wonder sailors are a superstitious lot, especially mariners of the past. And why not? Phenomena and strange sightings were not easily dismissed as they are now with our scientific knowledge and understanding. Still, there are inexplicable occurrences that happen routinely. Just in the last few decades there have been missing air and sea crafts in the Bermuda Triangle, the discovery of underwater crop circles and temple-like structures, and strange aquatic sounds loud enough to be heard on hydrophones between Greenland and the United Kingdom. The ocean is shrouded in secrets we have yet to unlock and fuels our imagination.

Visualize how scary it might be to come upon a ghost ship floating in the middle of nowhere. Now imagine finding something even more terrifying on board.

That is what happened in 1775 when the crew of a whaling ship discovered the Octavius.

The story begins fourteen years earlier. The Octavius left London, England bound for the Orient with a belly full of trade cargo, more than two dozen crewmen, the captain, and his wife and son. The trip was a success, landing on the Far Eastern shores the following year. With new freight, the three-masted schooner set out to return to England. But this time the captain made a fateful decision based on unseasonably warm. He plotted a course through the brutal, relatively uncharted Northern Passage. That was the last anyone had heard of the Octavius, the ship was declared lost at sea.

That is until the whaling ship Herald happened upon the vessel west of Greenland. No one was on the deck which prompted a boarding party to search the ship. Below deck, the found all twenty-eight crewmen frozen to death. In the captain’s quarters, the captain sat at his desk with his logbook in front of him, pen still in his hand. He was not alone. A woman and a young boy were wrapped in blankets upon the bunk.

The spooked boarding party high-tailed it off the schooner, but not before grabbing the logbook. Because the book was frozen solid, parts of the middle broke away from its binding as they fled. What pages were left was enough for the captain of the Herald to piece together the crew’s probable fate. The last position recorded in the book placed Octavius roughly 250 miles north of Alaska’s northernmost point. And the last entry was November 11, 1762—thirteen years earlier. It is speculated that Octavius had become trapped in the sea ice. At some point, the ice broke and the ship continued on its journey successfully through the passage, but without her passengers.

Fearing Octavius cursed, the Herald left her to drift, never to been seen again.

About the Author      

Jennifer is the award-winning author of the Romancing the Pirate series. Visit her at www.jbrayweber.com or join her mailing list for sneak peeks, excerpts, and giveaways.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

October is a Momentous Month for the Tudors...

So many things happened to our beloved Tudors in October! Too many for me to pick just one, so I'm gathering a list here!

  • October 30, 1485 -- Henry VII is crowned king
  • October 2, 1501 -- Catharine of Aragon landed in England, prepared to marry Prince Arthur
  • October 2, 1514 -- Princess Mary Tudor, all of 18, sets sail to marry the 52yo French King. Their wedding took place on the 9th.
  • October 8, 1515 -- Lady Margaret Douglas was born. She was the daughter of Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII and Dowager Queen of Scotland.
  • October 25, 1529 -- Sir Thomas More is named Henry VIII's new Lord Chancellor, ousting Cardinal Wolsey who had served his king (and himself) faithfully for years. Sadly More would also see the same fate. Working for Henry was hazardous!
  • October 27, 1532 -- Anne Boleyn, Marchioness of Pembroke, makes a dramatic entrance into court at Calais to meet the King of France and Henry, of course. The scene wowed everyone, except Henry's wife who was left behind in England as Henry had decided to thrust her aside in favor of the exotic Anne.
  • October 4, 1536 -- Rebels in Lincolnshire started trouble which would become part of the infamous The Pilgrimage of Grace -- the first serious rebellion against Henry VIII's religious changes, you know when he declared himself next to God and thrust the Pope out of England.
  • October 19, 1536 -- Henry VIII writes a letter to his right-hand man, Charles Brandon, that basically gives him permission to use any means necessary to put down the Pilgrimage of Grace rebels. That same night, the rebels decided they were going to take Pontefract Castle. But the threat of it seemed to be enough, because the castle conceded to them the following morning.
  • October 12, 1537 -- Edward VI is born! Finally a legitimate male heir for Henry VIII
  • October 15, 1537 -- The long awaited prince is christened, and his mother, pale and ill, rallied to attend.
  • October 24, 1537 -- Queen Jane Seymour, Edward VI's mother, dies
  • October, 1539 -- Henry VIII's Bible was published
  • October 4, 1539 -- Henry VIII signs a treaty that he'll marry Anne of Cleves, his 4th wife
  • October 18, 1541 -- Margaret Tudor, elder sister of Henry VIII, dies
  • October 1, 1553 -- Mary I (Bloody Mary, 1st legitimate-born daughter of Henry VIII and Queen Catherine of Aragon--see what I did there? She's totally legitimate!) is crowned Queen of England
  • October 16, 1555 -- Mary I burns two religious leaders at the stake -- Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley. They are known as the Oxford Martyrs
  • October 10, 1562 -- Queen Elizabeth I takes ill with smallpox! It is a miracle she lived, a testament to her thriving nature.
  • October 14, 1586 -- Mary, Queen of Scots trial for treason (accused by her cousin Elizabeth I) began at Fotheringhay Castle in England. She begged to speak to her cousin, but was refused. For her part, Elizabeth did delay the sentencing as long as she could, but on October 25th, she ordered her cousin to be put to death. Most historians do believe this was a very difficult decision for her. But in the end, her throne and the validity of her claim to it won out over any blood ties she might have felt to her rival cousin.
  • October 29, 1618 -- Elizabeth I has her beloved Sir Walter Raleigh executed by her heir, James I, who was then king. Ironically, James I, who she named her heir, which united England and Scotland, was the son of her cousin Mary Queen of Scots whom she had executed.


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Talk Like A Pirate Day 2018

Ahoy, mates! For the past 23 years, September 19th marks International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Yes, there is such a thing. Read how it all started HERE.

How do you celebrate ITLAPD? Well, you can dress, talk, and act like a pirate, of course. Turns out there are boatloads of ways to get yer pirate on. Order around the scurvy landlubbers at work with the business end of yer cutlass. Drink rum at lunch declarin' it's a pirate life for you. Hang out the driver’s window of yer vehicle hollerin’ “move yer aft end!” You can even change your Facebook language to English Pirate (just go to your settings to easily make the switch). Aye, me hearties, there’s tomfoolery to be had.

Need help with yer buccaneer vernacular? Check out this spot-on, cheeky how-to video in proper pirate jargon.

And to help commemorate such a fine day, below is an excerpt to my latest pirate adventure The Righteous Side of Wicked, a Pirates of Britannia and Romancing the Pirate novel coming this December.

Enjoy this sample, ya horn swogglin' scurvy cur!


1730, Late October
Isle of Man, Irish Sea

“The devil is afoot.”
Coire might have laughed at the irony in Mr. Shaw’s remark had he not felt the same slick unease slithering up his spine.
Minutes ago, they had weighed anchor and slipped into the night on a hushed breeze, his ship’s belly full of contraband. That they were smuggling gunpowder and firearms hadn’t mattered. Coire and his crew had done countless nefarious deeds, commissioned by landowners, powerful men, and scheming governments. ’Twas what they were good at, a prosperous pirate’s life. But tonight, something was…different. Before the sun tucked under the blueing horizon as the men loaded the last of the hogsheads and smaller barrels, he had noticed the change in the wind. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but the foreboding was there, clinging like thick soot. Even now, the dark waves glittering from the light of the full moon were subdued despite the swift currents. Hardly a sound could be heard save the creak of Kelpie’s hull, a twist in her braces, or whisper of her shrouds. Or so it seemed.
“Best we not get in his way, then, eh, Mr. Shaw? He might find us worthy adversaries to engage.”
The haggard old sea dog’s bushy, graying brows rose as he slowly nodded in amused agreement. “That he may, capt’n. And a grand affair we’d give ’im.” Mr. Shaw cast one last weathered eye out to the darkness before leaving Coire at the railing. He recognized the look in his first mate’s gaze. ’Twas one of longing for warmer climates and friendlier ports. Or maybe Coire directed his own wish upon his interpretation. He wanted to return to the West Indies, resume his privateering ways. And he vowed he would do so…soon.
An unseasonal, low, wispy fog clung to the coastline. Up ahead, Coire could just make out the obscure outline of Peel Castle, the garrisoned administrative center, church, and prison of the west side of the island. Torchlight dotting the castle provided a guide to the open sea and the North Channel beyond.
It had been brazen coming to Man under the nose of the British for more gunpowder to add to their haul. Brazen, but necessary. He and his men would be paid a hefty sum to get the arms and ammunition to Scarba and into the hands of Jacobite rebels. And they had to do so ahead of planned attacks on key locations. Pockets heavy and lined with gold while aiding in the war against the British succession suited Coire just fine. Though he no longer claimed family there, or allegiance for that matter, Scotland was the home of his blood. She and her people deserved better than to be subjected to the whims of an English parliament and her abusive militias. But ’twasn’t his fight.
Kelpie passed the tidal island which the Peel Castle perched upon. More torchlight winked along the battlements. Odd so many lights would be burning at this late hour. A dark silhouette bobbed in the water between the ship and the shore. Was that…a skiff? As soon as he questioned his eyes his topman straddling a cross tree in the mast above him confirmed it.
“Boat, two points starboard bow,” the topman called down.
As the skiff neared, Coire grasped the rail and squinted hard, willing the thin gossamer veil of fog away. What kind of fool would be out in a tiny boat in the middle of the night?
Aw, hell. His imagination must have been running rampant. Was that a…? Could it be?
Mr. Shaw was once again by his side, along with Jonesy, Redd, and a few other crewmen, all wearing confused expressions.
“Do me deadlights deceive me? Is that a…woman?”
“’Twould appear so, Mr. Shaw.” Indeed, by the figure’s slight frame and long tendrils of hair lifting on the tender breeze, ’twas a female manning the oars.
That sinister unease lingering on the fringes of his conscious all evening suddenly pressed down upon him. Whatever this woman was about, whatever reason for her to be out in a rowboat in the middle of the night, it couldn’t be good.
The lass waved valiantly between pulls of the oars while trying to intercept the ship. Coire ordered the sails reefed before they rammed into her and a line thrown. ’Twasn’t long and the girl had a grip on the rope.
“Hello, there.” The woman’s words rushed out in her shortness of breath, yet she smiled. “A fine evening to ya. Permission to come aboard?”
“What are ye doing out here?” In no way was Coire going to blindly invite someone on board whilst he carried sensitive goods, especially a crazy lass paddling out to sea at midnight.
“Ah, well, ’tis a bit embarrassing, see. I was to rendezvous with a, um, friend on the bank. She swiped her shirtsleeve across her brow. Though the night air was cool, she’d be sweaty from the exertion. “I fell asleep waiting and the tide must have come in.”
A tryst, eh? She’d willingly admit to it? Coire wasna so quick to believe her story.
“Why is it then, lass, ye are rowing away from the shore instead of to it?”
“Please, sir. ’Tis a long way back and my arms are tired.” She glanced back toward the craggy shoreline and castle losing its shape in the thickening fog.
“Nay, ’tisn’t too far” he assured her. “I’m certain ye can make it.”
“Capt’n.” Jonesy frowned, worry pinching his brow. “Aren’t we gonna rescue the lady?”
“Rescue? The lady is hardly in distress.”  Not when he had caught a glimpse of two pistols shoved beneath her waistband. In fact, he was beginning to believe she intentionally set out to board his ship.
“I winna make it,” she called up.
“This is not a vessel ye wish to board, lass. That be a veritable truth. I advise ye to return from which ye came before yer journey back becomes overly taxing.”
Mr. Shaw’s jaws flapped, wrestling with the moral obligation of plucking the lass from the water and the problem she would pose if they did. “This ain’t right.”
“On many levels, I’m afraid,” Coire agreed. “We canna fish her out and go back to the wharf. ’Tis too dangerous and we must stay on schedule. We canna put the mission at risk.”
“Please, captain. Ye are the captain, aye?”
He nodded once. “I am.”
The woman’s grin was gone, replaced by a bothered moue. She flung another glance to the island. “There are sharks in these waters.”
“And ye are in a boat,” Coire pointed out.
“What if I sink?”
“Ye’ve a sturdy craft.” Persistent little fluff. “Let go of the rope or I shall cut it.” Coire drew his dirk and gripped the cord.
“But my boat is sinking.”
“I dinna—”
She tugged out a pistol, pointed it at the hull, and fired a shot. Bits of timber exploded. A puff of smoke and the echo of the blast snagged upon the breeze. Water flooded through the resulting hole.
“Shite! Are ya daft?” She was mad! Hell bent and mad!
“My boat is sinking.” Her calmness was unsettling as she tossed the spent pistol to the floorboards.
The lass had an unflinching composure given the speed her vessel took on water. And that she, herself, went to such lengths to board his ship was enough to set warning bells clanging loud between his ears.
“Drop a ladder!” Coire ordered.

He damned near growled at the sight of the girl standing ankle deep in the faltering skiff patiently waiting for the rope ladder. Her dangerous stunt reinforced why Coire did not trust women. They twisted and crooked circumstances to fit their fancy. Manipulating anyone to get what they wanted, even young impressionable men. Most especially young impressionable men.


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Happy International Talk Like A Pirate Day!
Fair winds and following seas, mates!