Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry was a long embroidered cloth that depicted the events leading up to, and the battle itself of the Norman Conquest, which made William the Conqueror King of England. This video (posted on youtube) below was shared with my RWA chapter Celtic Hearts, by a woman who is always a valuable resource for historical lovers! I thought I'd pass the video on to you.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Guest Blogger: Kimberly Killion Fiction vs. Fact: Did a woman’s virginity raise her worth on the slave market?

Fiction vs. Fact: Did a woman’s virginity raise her worth on the slave market?

This is the question I posed to Award-winning author, Kimberly Killion, who writes sexy Medieval romances for Zebra Books.

After reading HIGHLAND DRAGON, I immediately emailed Kimberly about the book. She had me held captive literally from the first sentence. No kidding, I was sitting in Starbucks with a girlfriend, and I kept tapping her arm and reading to her. She has such a vivid and intense way of writing. I really felt like I was there, experiencing everything that Calin and Akira experienced. The characters are so well-crafted they appear to be real people, with real emotions. Not to mention Calin is a hot-blooded Highlander—you can’t beat that! Verra, verra nice… I cried, laughed, held my breath, chewed off my nails, sighed…the whole nine yards. I told Kimberly this, and I’ll tell you all too, I haven’t read a book this good in a long time. She rivals with some of my old favs, Julie Garwood and Jude Devereux to name a couple. And OF COURSE, she has a great bit of knowledge on history and weaved all the details and facts into the story in a way that it just flowed off the page. I like history with my romance, I like travelling back in time.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

A love born of fire… A desire that defies all limits… and a love that was meant to be…

Scotland 1502. Akira Neish has been raised as a peasant, her belly often empty and her family subject to the cruel whims of her clan's laird. To the clan’s children, the horned shaped birthmark she bears means she is a witch. But she is neither peasant nor witch—and now the man who knows the truth has returned to claim her for his own.

Calin MacLeod has kept Akira's secrets and to avenge his father, the sensual young laird must marry her. He is more than a match for the fiery nature of the woman he adores. Yet the passion they share—and truths that can no longer remain hidden—could rip all of Scotland apart...

There was one scene in particular that intrigued me was the “auction scene”. The heroine, a captive, is led onto a dais to stand before the bidders. The auctioneer asks, “Is she a virgin?” She replies, “Aye, I am a virgin. And I intend to stay that way.” Well…short of me recapping, here’s what happened next…


EXCERPT of HIGHLAND DRAGON by Kimberly Killion

The auctioneer stiffened his grip on his gavel. He flashed a wicked smile at a woman standing behind him. “Nattie, fetch the oils.”

The crude spectators roared even louder and, though it seemed impossible, the narrow space of the tent tripled in attendance, as if the bastards outside could smell a virgin. The shrill sound of heckling amplified with every passing second. Two more guards wormed their way through the crowd collecting added compensation.

A flush of uneasiness crept over Kendrick’s face. “What’s amiss?”

“These men pay extra to witness the sale of a virgin. The coin goes to the chieftain who turns a blind eye to such an atrocity. I fear my bride is not only going to cost me far more than I intended to pay, but she’s to provide the entertainment as weel.” The dark tone of his voice matched the outrage of his thoughts. “I suspect your sister has nay idea what her pride is about to cost her.”

Calin offered a silent prayer for Saint Boniface to aid him, then hollered, “Twenty groats.”

“Twenty groats I am offered,” cried the auctioneer. “Who’ll offer more?”

“Thirty-fi’,” proffered another, tripping over a foreign language.



The bids escalated at a startling pace, quickly reaching three hundred. Calin intended to win, even if it cost him every coin he’d brought. The fires of Hades would be doused before he let another man touch his woman. He’d waited far too long to secure the alliance and avenge his father’s blood.

“I bid five hundred groats,” Calin hollered.

Curious whispers hissed through the crowd as hundreds of eyes studied him. The bid shocked the crowd and Kendrick as well. “Have ye that much siller with ye, mon?”

“Aye,” Calin answered briefly then awaited any challenge, his heart hammering in his chest. He’d never been one to flaunt or squander the MacLeod coin, but the survival of Clan MacLeod depended on his retrieval of this woman. His woman.

“Who’ll give me more than five hundred groats?” the auctioneer shouted, but no response came. The smack of his gavel ended the bidding. “Sold!”

Calin’s men waited with the haversacks of siller. With the dip of his chin, he ordered his seneschal to complete the bill of sale with the bailiff. He parted the crowd to stand at the edge of the raised dais as all the other buyers before him had done, but instead of tossing Akira over his shoulder, the guards backed her to the furthest edge of the platform.

A blue-flame of energy surged within him—a possessive desire to protect, to claim, to kill. Fingers balled into fists primed for battle.

“Bring out the bed. Bring out the bed,” the crowd chanted.

The auctioneer gave orders for preparations to begin. The guards pulled back moth-eaten drapes revealing a rusty frame holding a straw-filled mattress. The woman, whom the auctioneer referred to as Nattie, reappeared with a steaming pail of oil.

Calin held the auctioneer’s stare as he spoke with contempt. “My seneschal has finalized the sale. I demand ye relinquish this woman unto me!”

“She’ll be delivered accordingly, but as clearly defined in the precepts of your bill of sale, nay woman leaves Tigh Diabhail with her maidenhead intact.”


The scene was written with such realism that I emailed Kimberly and asked, So, is it true a woman’s virginity raised her worth on the slave market in the Highlands?

Kimberly: I have no idea. I made up the auction scene. After all, this is fiction, right? If Shana Ab can have her dragons, then I can have my auction, right? Ok…I’m not exactly comparing apples to apples. Shana Ab’s Smoke Thief was obviously paranormal and actually HAD dragons in her book, where the only “dragon” in HIGHLAND DRAGON is the feisty inner spirit of the heroine.

Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t do my research on the auction scene. I simply “altered” it. What I do know is that in the 16th Century, a Romani child sold for the equivalent of 48. By the 19th Century, slaves were sold by weight, at the rate of one gold piece per pound. Treatment of the slaves included flogging, shredding the soles of the feet with a whip, cutting off of the lips, burning with lye, and wearing a three-cornered spiked iron collar called a cangue. Gypsies have also been enslaved at different times in other parts of the world. In Renaissance England King Edward VI passed a law stating that Gypsies be "branded with a V on their breast, and then enslaved for two years," and if they escaped and were recaptured, they were then branded with an S and made slaves for life. During the same period in Spain, according to a decree issued in 1538, Gypsies were enslaved for perpetuity to individuals as a punishment for escaping. Spain had already begun shipping Gypsies to the Americas in the 15th century; three were transported by Columbus to the Caribbean on his third voyage in 1498. In the 16th century, Portugal shipped Gypsies as an unwilling labor force to its colonies in Maranho (now Brazil), Angola and even India, the Romas' country of origin which they had left five centuries earlier. They were made Slaves of the Crown in 18th century Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great, while in Scotland during the same period they were employed "in a state of slavery" in the coal mines. England and Scotland had shipped Roma to Virginia and the Caribbean as slaves during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Eliza: I did some looking around too and it was pretty difficult to find specific information on sex slave auctions, even though you know they happened. But I suppose since it was done mostly underground its hard to get the real deal hard facts about it. The topic is just fascinating, albeit gruesome… Auctions were open to the public and private. Flyers would be posted listing who was available for purchase. Private viewings were even held before the auction so buyers could preview the merchandise. I found out that virgins and blondes were highly sought after. Women were stripped or wore barely there chemises so their bodies could be viewed.

Even in prude Victorian Britain, a 13 year old girl was purchased for 5 pounds, by the editor of The Pall Mall Gazette—in fact trafficking of women apparently rose to its peak at that time. I also came across the issue of bridenapping too. Women bought and forced into marriage.

So, how did you come up with the name of your seedy venue? How about what price to start the bidding? And was Calin not afraid he'd be recognized?

Kimberly: I like to torture myself on occasion and this includes thumbing through an English to Gaelic dictionary. I found the translation for Devil and House which produced this line in the book: “Tigh Diabhail was hell’s den and appropriately named the Devil’s House.” So, in short, the auction place is the Devil’s House in Gaelic. As for the price, I estimated what chattel were going for, horses, cattle, general livestock, and took it from there…And Tigh Diabhail was located in the outer Isles and Calin was from closer inland. This wasn’t a place he often frequented, so I didn’t worry about recognition. In a place like this, the bidders are paying attention to the man beside them, they are more concerned with the “flesh” on the auction block.

Eliza: LOL, I like to torture myself too. Ah, the lengths we go to for authenticity. I love the name and how you came up with it. Just fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing! If you have read a Kimberly Killion book yet, I highly recommend you do. You’re in for an awesome adventure!

Award-winning author, Kimberly Killion, writes sexy Medieval romances for Zebra Books. Her debut book, HER ONE DESIRE, was a RITA® nominee, and her second book, HIGHLAND DRAGON, went into a second printing before release. RT Book Reviews dubbed Killion as an author who writes “captivating romance with excellent pacing and characters who are honorable, intelligent and full of humanity.” Aside from writing, Killion teaches graphic/web design and serves as the President of the Missouri Romance Writers of America. She lives in Illinois with her husband, two children, a dog, three cats, and two dozen chickens. Please visit Kimberly’s website at: www.kimberlykillion.com for news, reviews, and more.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Elizabeth I & Her Lovers

Immediately upon taking the throne, the question on everyone’s tongue was who would she marry? There were numerous proposals, but Elizabeth did not accept them.

It could be said that one of the reasons Elizabeth never married was she saw what went on around her. From the time she was born, Queen Catherine pushed aside and died alone, her own mother executed, and so forth. Plus with her supposed affair with Thomas Seymour, she saw in Catherine Parr what can happen to a wife when she sees her husband straying.

It is also said that the man she truly loved Robert Dudley, she could not marry, he was already wed. When his wife died, in 1560, mysteriously a few years later, Dudley was implicated. He was not in attendance at the house, Cumnor Place where she was staying. But it was thought that he ordered her murder, so he could marry the queen. However, it is also assumed that Robert would have been smart enough not to consider or sanction such an act as it would look badly on him and then disrupt any notions he had of marrying Elizabeth.

Another speculation is that the death was ordered by William Cecil who did not want the queen to marry Robert. He was also falling out of favor with Robert rising. He could have ordered it to ruin Robert’s chances and bring himself back to favor, which is what happened. But there is no evidence to prove it. At any rate, Amy was a ill a lot of the time and it is now suspected that she had cancer and porous bones. So she could have really just fallen and broken her neck. On the day of her death, Amy insisted on all of the servants going to a fair, even though it was Sunday. Some say she was also so depressed at being ignored by her husband, that she threw herself down the stairs, committing suicide.

Robert sent someone to the estate to report the circumstances back to him, but he did not attend her funeral.

Although he was cleared, the scandal it would have caused if Elizabeth had married him was too great. He was also the son of Northumberland who had been executed for treason, and he himself had been put in the tower for a short time with the Jane Grey situation.

Upon his proposal of marriage, and that she needed a mate Elizabeth responded with: “I will have here but one mistress and no master.”

For multiple decades Elizabeth was able to play her pursuers and gain alliances and wealth just from the possibility of marriage. This was Elizabeth’s speech to parliament about marriage:

In a matter most unpleasing, most pleasing to me is the apparent Good will of you and my People, as proceeding from a very good mind towards me and the Commonwealth. Concerning Marriage, which ye so earnestly move me to, I have been long since perswaded, that I was sent into this world by God to think and doe those things chiefly which may tend to his Glory. Hereupon have I chosen that kind of life which is most free from the troublesome Cares of this world, that I might attend the Service of God alone. From which if either the tendred Marriages of most Potent Princes, or the danger of Death intended against me, could have removed me, I had long agone enjoyed the honour of an Husband. And these things have I thought upon when I was a private person. But now that the publick Care of governing the Kingdom is laid upon me, to draw upon me also the Cares of Marriage may seem a point of inconsiderate Folly. Yea, to satisfie you, I have already joyned my self in Marriage to an Husband, namely, the Kingdom of England. And behold (said she which I marvell ye have forgotten,) the Pledge of this my Wedlock and Marriage with my Kingdom. (And therewith she drew the Ring from her Finger, and shewed it, wherewith at her Coronation she had in a set form of words solemnly given her self in Marriage to her Kingdom.) Here having made a pause, And do not (saith she) upbraid me with miserable lack of Children: for every one of you, and as many as are Englishmen, are Children and Kinsmen to me; of whom if God deprive me not, (which God forbid) I cannot without injury be accounted Barren. But I commend you that ye have not appointed me an Husband, for that were most unworthy the Majesty of an absolute Princess, and unbeseeming your Wisedom, which are Subjects born. Nevertheless if it please God that I enter into another course of life, I promise you I will doe nothing which may be prejudicial to the Commonwealth, but will take such a Husband, as near as may be, as will have as great a Care of the Commonwealth as my self. But if I continue in this kind of life I have begun, I doubt not but God will so direct mine own and your Counsels, that ye shall not need to doubt of a Successour which may be more beneficial to the Commonwealth than he which may be born of me, considering that the Issue of the best Princes many times degenerateth. And to me it shall be a full satisfaction, both for the memorial of my Name, and for my Glory also, if when I shall let my last breath, it be ingraven upon my Marble Tomb, Here lieth Elizabeth, which Reigned a Virgin, and died a Virgin.

Another of Elizabeth’s suitors was the Duke of Anjou, brother to the King of France. Negotiations went on for about a decade. She nicknamed him her “frog.” It was widely an unpopular choice for her, and also during this time she found out that Dudley had married her cousin, Lettice Knollys, widow of Robert Devereux. Lettice was the daughter of Catherine Carey, who was the daughter of Mary Boleyn. Portraits of Lettice are often confused with Elizabeth. Is it any wonder if he couldn’t have Elizabeth he may have chosen a look alike?

Elizabeth banned her favorite, from court and never again accepted Lettice in court, even nick-naming her, the “she-wolf.” It was also at this time another secret marriage by Robert was brought to light, that of Lady Sheffield. He denied the marriage, but Lady Sheffield had a child, naming him Robert Dudley, in 1573. Lucky for him it could never be proved, since Queen Elizabeth threatened to have him rot in the tower if it had been true.

During her lifetime, Elizabeth would have 26 different marriage proposals to consider, of which about five of the suitors had multiple proposals, and the Duke of Anjou’s would take up about a decade of time. She was proposed to by Philip II, King of Spain, Prince Eric of Sweden, the Archduke Charles (son of Emperor Ferdinand), the son of John Frederic Duke of Saxony, the Earl of Arran, the Earl of Arundel, Sir William Pickering, were among the suitors. Elizabeth’s council was good at stringing the men along while weighing in on their options and taking advantage of what they could.

Here’s a list from http://www.elizabethi.org/

Early Years (1534-1557)
~1534 Duke of Angoulme (third son of Francis I)

~c1542 A Prince of Portugal

~1543 Son of the Earl of Arran

~1544 Prince Philip (Philip II)

~1547 Sir Thomas Seymour

~1552 Prince of Denmark

~1553 Courtenay, Earl of Devonshire

~1554 Philibert Emanuel, Duke of Savoy

~1554 Prince of Denmark

~1556 Prince Eric of Sweden

~1556 Don Carlos (son of Philip II)

As Queen (1558-1584)
~1559 Philip II

~1559 Prince Eric of Sweden

~1559 Son of John Frederic, Duke of Saxony

~1559 Sir William Pickering

~1559 Earl of Arran

~1559 Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel

~1559 Robert Dudley

~1560 King Eric of Sweden

~1560 Adolphus, Duke of Holstein

~1560 King Charles IX

~1560 Henry, Duke of Anjou

~1566 Robert Dudley

~1568 Archduke Charles

~1570 Henry Duke of Anjou

~1572- 1584 Francis, Duke of Alencon, later Anjou.

So did Elizabeth have lovers or was she really a virgin? Was Robert Dudley her lover? Elizabeth denies that they were ever anything more than friends. In fact she points out that how could anything circumspect ever happen when she is surrounded by people and eyes are always watching. Although after making that proclamation she said “Although, if I had the will…I do not know of anyone who could forbid me!”

Many of the courtiers of England and foreign princes flirted with her and professed their love. Throughout her life she would encourage them and even entertain them by engaging in similar behavior, yet she would never commit to one person. Her anger at others for loving and marrying proved that she herself was jealous of what she’d forsaken. None of her ladies were allowed to marry without her permission which was rarely granted. In one case, she made the couple wait ten years before granting them leave to wed.

Source: http://www.elizabethi.org/, http://www.tudorhistory.org/, Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne, by David Starkey

Friday, November 13, 2009

Scottish Proverbs, Vol. I, by Nancy Lee Badger

Please join me in welcoming back guest blogger, Nancy Lee Badger. Nancy knows quite a bit about Scottish history, you'll recall her previous articles, The Origin of Scottish Mythology and Highland Games: Then and Now.

Today she'll be presenting Scottish Proverbs, Volume I. Come back on 2/12/09 for Volume II.
Take it away Nancy...and Happy Birthday!

I think of proverbs as simple, popular sayings. The Oxford English Dictionary explains a proverb as: “a pithy saying in general use", and the Longman Dictionary says it is: “a short well known phrase or sentence, which contains advice about life.” Often repeated, proverbs express a truth based on common sense. Proverbs are wise words of wisdom, said in a hidden way. In many cases, we heard them given as advice or as warnings.

Proverbs are handed down generation-to-generation, country to country, and through more than one language. The ‘Bible’s’ ‘Book of Proverbs’, and medieval Latin, have played a large role in distributing proverbs across Europe, although almost every culture has examples of its own.

Everyone has heard proverbs, in one form or another, retold over and again by the people who influenced their lives. Sage expressions such as hast makes wast, willful waste makes woeful want, and penny wise, pound fool were meant to guide us in our younger years. Spouted by our parents, schoolteachers, and clergy, we children were taught to use them wisely upon reaching adulthood. Recalling their words make us pause when faced with an important decision.

I write Scottish historical novels and my research has uncovered several interesting tidbits. I am amazed at the vast number of proverbs linked to Scottish origins. Many of these I found in literary texts written before 1600! Several of these old adages sounded familiar!

My favorites among the proverbs I recorded for this article are the ones that mention our furry or feathered friends. Please bear with me. I believe they will also ring true, even though their translations from Scottish dialects to English sound funny!

Waken not sleeping dogs. I agree. Good advice! I like owning ten fingers. Ye cannot make a silk purse of a sows lug. I felt this way when in my younger years, until the braces came off. Love me, love my dog. My sister, the veterinarian, lives this. A given horse should not be lookt in the teeth. I never let on which wedding gifts were God-awful-ugly! A few eventually found their way into one of our yard sales. Better a fowl in hand nor twa flying. I have always had a problem with taking ready cash and investing it in order to make more. With the all-too-recent economic downturn, this became a wise choice. Ane may lead a horse to the water, but four and twenty cannot gar him drink. I married a man just as stubborn! I find it best NOT to give him a choice about anything. And, this last one made me break out laughing, especially when I remember awkward family dinners! Fidlers, dogs and flies, come to the feast uncalled. (Just kidding, Mom and Dad)

Born a Scorpio, I have also used several adages from my childhood to tame my temper and found it TRUE that the higher up, the greater the fall. No one loves a bitch. What about all is not gold that glitters? Many instances in my life have shown me the truth in these words, especially when I recall our first home. It looked like a castle to our young first-time homebuyers eyes. What a money-pit.

As a volunteer EMT, I often responded to an emergency scene and arrived first. I learned many hands makes light work and always breathed a little easier when my squad showed up to back me up. Of course, my mom used that same proverb around my sisters and I quite frequently! And, a new bissom sweeps clean is recognizable in any language. Maybe we ignored her words at the time, as it goes in at one ear, and out the other, but I remember her wisdom years later.

You can find oodles of Scottish Proverbs in a vast selection of printed books, on-line resources, and even T-shirts! How have proverbs passed through time and space to guide our thoughts and actions? Family stories, one generation to the next, is the most common method. When you find yourself pausing before acting on some impulse which may change your life forever, think back on those little Scottish proverbs. And remember: no door ever closed but another opened. When you do, you may be delighted to find that all is well that ends well.

For more information on Scottish Proverbs try:

Nancy Lee Badger lives with her husband in Raleigh, NC. She loves Scottish Highlanders, chocolate-chip shortbread, and bagpipes. She volunteers at present day Highland Games while writing of ancient Scotland. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Sisters In Crime, FF&P Romance Writers, and the Celtic Heart Romance Writers. Visit her website at http://www.nancyleebadger.com/

Friday, November 6, 2009

Guest Blogger Lori Brighton on India During the Regency

As a child, I dreamt of traveling and seeing the world. Its why, in college, I majored in Anthropology. But traveling to exotic places is a lot easier in your imagination than in real life. With writing, I realized I could travel from the comfort of my home. This is how my career as a writer began.

A few years ago my son was watching the Disney cartoon Tarzan. Around the same time I saw a documentary on feral children. Authors will tell you that their story ideas usually start with a “what if?” After watching Tarzan for the tenth time, I started to wonder…what if my hero had been lost in the jungles as a child? I love those alpha males and you couldn’t get much more alpha than that. But the question remained, where would he have been lost? My husband had been to India for work and with that Country fresh in my mind, it was the perfect place for my hero, Leo, to live. I didn’t need to know much about the history of India for Wild Heart, my debut book, as Leo ends up moving back to England but I knew the second book would take place entirely in India.

And so I started to research. Sure, there were plenty of books on India, but most were inadequate for what I needed. A travel guide on the best places to visit, a history on politics and wars…nope. What I needed was real stuff. What did they eat? What sort of plants and animals would a visitor come across? What was the weather like? How did they live?

It’s no secret that up until recently, the British were deeply entrenched in India. Why did the British feel the need to visit such a far away land? It started the way it always does; someone found something they could make money off of. And so in the 1600s the British started traveling to India. Silk, tea, and opium were just a few of the coveted things found in India.

Of course resentment between Natives and Foreigners quickly flourished. Pick up a book on India and you’ll find information on the tense political climate. But I was writing a romance and romances are about life; the everyday life of men and women. And yes, there were women there. Officers brought their families and wives with when they traveled. In the 1800s in particular, people, especially women, were traveling. Fortunately a couple of these amazing women wrote down their accounts.

There was Mary Sherwood, the daughter of a clergyman, who lived in India for about ten years in the early 1800s. She traveled to India, like most women, because her husband was in the military. Mrs. Sherwood left accounts of her travels as well as her beliefs and fears. Upon arrival poor Mary worried that her unborn child would be born somewhere where he/she wouldn’t be able to be baptized. Because of Mary, we get an idea of what life was like for a woman moving into a culture so unlike her own. And although some of her fears may seem silly to us now, one can’t help but feel for Mary.

But by far the most interesting account of travel was left by a woman named Fanny Parkes; a woman who stayed over twenty years in India. Not only did she write about everyday life, but she wrote about women, a subject sadly lacking in most accounts. Her book, Wanderings of a Pilgrim, is well known with historians. Fanny left for India in June 1822 with her husband. She smoked cigars, traveled without her husband camping in tents, navigated rivers and waterways of India. She was completely outspoken, and talked about every subject under the sun; from elephant-fighting, famine, plague and poverty.

But she also wrote about everyday details; and it’s these everyday details that are jewels for a writer. I was able to find information from Ms. Parkes books that I never would have found in a book on Indian culture/history. “The floors are entirely covered with Indian matting, than which nothing can be cooler or more agreeable.” Fanny’s entries are done by months, which provide the reader with a great reference for climate and change across time. For instance, in December she writes that the weather is wonderful. In March the weather is very uncertain; beautiful one moment, the next moment filled violent rainstorms. Food, weather, wildlife… everything is discussed in Fanny’s journal.

The typical history books we read in school are great for general knowledge. They give us the basics on the dates of war, conflict, political strategies. But history books are written by men and often lack that simple humanity that we, as authors, need in order to write our books. It’s often to women we turn, women like Fanny who kept detailed accounts of everyday life. How about you, where do you like to find your pieces of history?

Leave a comment. Two people will win a copy of my debut romance, Wild Heart.