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


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Friday, February 12, 2010

Guest Blogger: Nancy Lee Badger on Scottish Proverbs Volume II

Welcome back Nancy Lee Badger! We were excited to have you present Scottish Proverbs Volume I, and I'm sure our readers are delighted to have you back for Volume II. Take it away Nancy...

Thanks for joining me for another discussion on Scottish Proverbs. For those of you who did not get a chance to read Volume #1 (posted on this blog on 13 November 2009) let me explain what we are talking about today.

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.

Various sayings come down through the ages. Origins get muddied. The proverbs I will list today, in their exact spelling, were recorded as far back as the 1600’s and attributed to Scotland. Passed for centuries before then by stories told around the home fires, many still ring true. Many will sound familiar, though a word or two may have gotten lost in translation.
I heard many that I didn’t realize were actual proverbs while growing up. I thought my parents, grandparents, etc. were quite intelligent. As an adult, I have come across these pearls of wisdom and abide by some to make my life run smoother.

Take this saying, which I cannot say influenced my life, simply because my husband and I never considered ourselves ‘rich’. A fu’ purse never lacks friends. Have any of you found people suddenly latching on when a little extra cash comes your way? Beggars cannae be choosers.

The proverb that has helped my family is A penny saved is a penny gained. Remember ‘Christmas Club accounts’ at the bank? Putting aside a set amount of money each week helped once our two boys came along. Then our bank offered a ‘Tax Club Account’. A Godsend when the property tax came due. Look after the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves reminds me how happy we were when our boss handed us bonus checks. Putting those funds away for a rainy day helped us buy a house. Even today I have a container in my desk. All the extra change I accumulate each day gets dropped inside and I gleefully carry it to the bank whenever I need funds for a trip or event. A small amount adds up!

Speaking of marriage, I heard to marry is to halve your rights and double your duties. Is this statement true? My husband might agree. Though I think owning a home together brings its own burdens. We compromise on several issues, but I still remember his face the day I drove home in a new car. Well, it was an inexpensive used car, and I paid cash for it, but he looked at me like I was crazy. Willful waste makes woeful want. The vehicles air-conditioning broke and other little things started to pop up so we traded it for a Jeep that HE wouldn’t mind driving. Confessed faults are half mended. Since then, we tend to discuss major purchases before they happen. Nae fool like an auld fool, I guess.

Speaking of major purchases, we were discussing our first home purchase back in the day when $500 down got you a new home and two mortgages. Our son and partner are buying their first home. They are jumping through hoops and climbing mountains! Don’t marry for money, you can borrow it cheaper. One of the two mortgages we held for our first house had a balloon payment. Surprise! We held the mortgage on our next house while trying to sell the other house yep…two mortgages for six months. You CANNOT borrow it cheaper. They that dance must pay the fiddler. My opinion, remember.

When times get tough I think of several proverbs that have stuck with me. Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead. Nothing is more straightforward than that! Job loss is another issue that has raised its ugly head lately. Those of us who remember the massive unemployment rate back in 1990/1991 will understand that what is meant by when one door sticks, another one opens. Finding a new position in a new company or in a new field is a daunting task, especially if you are supporting a family. Change can be a good thing so don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.

What about the employer who pink slips hundreds of workers in order to make the bottom line look good? How can they sleep at night? A business is more than cement walls, desks, and personnel files. What about when the recession ends? It will. It always does. Then this boss will try to fill his needs. What if everyone already changed careers? What if his normal work base left the state? Will he blame himself or the powers that be? He’s the slave of all slaves who serve’s none but himself. Did he remember to give charitable gifts to those in need? Did he drop off food for the food bank or old clothes for the thrift shop? If he doesn’t help our neighbors in need he’s as water in a holed ship.

These words have survived for centuries because a good tale never tires in the telling. Remember the next time something or someone bothers you that time and tide will tarry on nae man. And when life irritates you until you feel like throttling everyone and anyone, never draw your dirk when a blow will do it. Hit a wall or, better yet, a fluffy pillow.

Valentine’s Day is a time for forgiving, forgetting, and showing how much you admire the love in your life. Take time to say pretty words, do a good deed, and enjoy life, because a’s weel that ends weel.

Nancy Lee Badger lives with her husband in Raleigh, NC. She loves everything Scottish and still volunteers at the New Hampshire Highland Games, with her family. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Fantasy Futuristic & Paranormal Romance Writers, and Celtic Heart Romance writers. Her first novel comes out 25 June 2010 under her pen name, Nancy Lennea. Visit her websites and blog for updates and excerpts.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Guest Blogger Mary McCall on Sacred Gardens

When I spoke with Eliza a few months ago about some Church history topics that might interest historical writers, I mentioned the Virgin Cult. It began when Thomas and James, who were unable to attend the Blessed Mother’s burial, arrived and asked to see her body that they might recite the prescribed prayers. When the tomb was opened, rather than a decaying corpse, the smell of roses greeted the Apostles. Her body was gone, replaced by thornless, long-stem roses. And of course, her first apparition occurred to Saint James when he was evangelizing what is now known as Spain. So talk about a topic bigger than one can chew – that would be more than a book – more like a series of tomes!

One thing that jumped out as useful topic to writers is something I employed briefly in one of my manuscripts (that will someday be purchased by some lucky house). That is Mary Gardens and other Sacred Gardens. Now even I will be the first to tell you, the Catholic Church didn’t invent these mediation retreats. We can go back to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World to know they have been existence for quite a while. Recent excavation along the Scottish Lowland border of an old Celtic site shows evidence of what is believed to be a “prayer” garden. And Jesus was in a contemplative garden when he was arrested. The colors, the aromas, the peacefulness – all combine to lend a sense of serenity and otherworldliness that are, to this day, considered conducive to prayer and meditation.

Mary Gardens are filled with flowers, plants and trees named for Our Lady, Jesus, and other holy people or places. They are designed to be a place of beauty that reminds one of our Lord and our Lady, allows one to experience God's creation, and invites prayer and contemplation. Because Mary is an archetype of the Church as Bride, the garden should be enclosed if at all possible, based on the words in the fourth chapter of Solomon's Canticle of Canticles: How beautiful art thou, my love, how beautiful art thou! Thy eyes are doves' eyes, besides what is hid within.

Saint Benedict had a rose bush dedicated to the Blessed Mother at his monastery in the 4th century that still grows to this day and covers an entire side of the building. However, the first garden we know of that was specifically dedicated to Mary was created by the Irish Saint Fiacre in the 7th century. The earliest record of a garden explicitly called a "Mary Garden" involves a "fifteenth century monastic accounting record of the purchase of plants "for S. Mary's garden" by the sacristan of Norwich Priory, in England."

Before the rise of Christendom, many flowers were associated with pagan deities – Diana, Juno, Venus, etc. When the Age of Faith ascended and superseded the pagan age, these flowers were christened and re-dedicated to Christian themes. So many flowers were named for Jesus, Mary, the angels, holy places, etc. – enough that you can create a garden focused on specific aspects of Mary and Jesus' lives, such as His Passion or her sorrows. Enchanting names, like "Our Lady's Tears" (spiderwort), "Christ's-Cross Flower" (Summer phlox), "Joseph's Coat" (Amaranthus), "Pentecost Rose" or "Mary's Rose" (peony), and "Our Lady's Mantle" (Morning Glory), abounded. During the Protestant rebellion and the rise of secularism, many of these flowers were re-named yet again with more worldly names. But, of course, these flowers still exist, and to many Catholic gardeners, their religious names are still meaningful.

In Pennsylvania, the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish’s (a place I would love to visit) Mary Garden Dedication Booklet includes the following, which will give you an idea about how Mary Gardens recall the lives of Mary and Jesus. The booklet asks the reader to visit the garden and think of Mary:

"Picture her eyes (Forget-Me-Nots), her hair (Maidenhair Fem), her five fingers (Potentilla). Think about her apparel: her smock (Morning Glory), her veil (Baby's Breath), her nightcap (Canterbury Bells), her gloves (Foxglove), and her shoes (Columbine). Remember her attributes: Mary's humility (Violet), the fruitful virgin (Strawberry), Mary's queenship (Virgin Lily), Mary's Flower of God (English Daisy), Mary's glory (Saint John's Wort), and Our Lady's Faith (Veronica). Think about her life: The Bethlehem Star (Bellflower), the Christmas Flower (Poinsettia), Lady's Bedstraw (Dianthus - Mary used bedstraw to prepare a bed for Jesus), the Epiphany flower (Chrysanthemum), the Flight into Egypt (Fig Tree - legend says that the Holy Family ate the fruit of this tree during their flight into Egypt), Our Lady's Tears (Lily of the Valley - tiny white nodding bell-shaped flowers can be likened to a train of tears), Our Lady's Tresses (Asparagus Fern - legend holds that at the foot of the cross, Mary, in. deep agony, tore out a tress of her hair which Saint John preserved), Mary's Bitter Sorrow (Dandelion), and the Assumption (Hosta - Plantation Lily blooms at the time of the Feast of the Assumption)."

In medieval times, chatelaines planted flowers, plants, and herbs whose names and form evoked the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, the Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, the Seven Dolors of Mary, or any number of other religious themes, according to their patrons. Thus, by walking through their gardens, they not only enjoyed natural beauty, but practically "made the Stations" or "walked the Rosary," turning their gardens into a holy shrine (especially when accented with beautiful statuary). It was common for families without chapels to gather in their gardens for morning and/or evening prayers. Also, some of these plants had healing properties that were believed to be enhanced by their presence on land dedicated to God, because, of course, these gardens were blessed by priests.

As time went on, these gardens became treasured spots. Nobles vied with each other to create the most extravagant outdoor paradises in honor of God (and themselves). The revival of labyrinths (a topic in itself) in the medieval period came about by these “unnamed contests.” However, the significance of the labyrinth in a garden from a Christian perspective is that there is only way to the heart of the maze, which signified Paradise, but many ways to get lost and land in Purgatory or Hell. For these complex gardens, nobles needed caretakers known as, you guessed it, gardeners. A few of the mazes in England today can be traced back to medieval origins.

Over the years, I’ve developed a huge table with the modern name, scientific name and medieval names of many of the plants, flowers and herbs used to create these outdoor cathedrals. Knowing the medieval name lends a sense of time to any period fiction. If you want the medieval name of any you don’t see listed above, let me know. I’ll let you know if I’ve found it.

So the next time your medieval heroine needs a place to escape where the hero can actually trap her, think of the enclosed Sacred Gardens – where I’m sure more than praying occurred.

Mary McCall is an award winning writer of historical romance. Visit her at: http://marymccall.wordpress.com/

Monday, February 1, 2010

Historical Book Review: Beauvallet, by Georgette Heyer

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading one of Georgette Heyer’s magnificent works, Beauvallet. The title itself rolls off your tongue and promises an escape, something exciting and romantic. Originally published in 1929, Beauvallet was been reprinted by Sourcebooks Casablanca in the USA, this pas January!

About the book…

A swashbuckling tale set in the second half of the 16th century, when Elizabeth was on the throne and the Spanish Armada ruled the waves. Sir Nicholas Beauvallet, pirate and nobleman, captures a Spanish galleon and discovers a lovely lady on board. Chivalrous to the core, he woos and wins her heart, then returns her and her father to their homeland, vowing to come after her—even though there's a price on his head and discovery of his identity will mean certain death. In the midst of much adventure, Beauvallet masquerades as a Frenchman, is betrayed, and must fight his way to freedom while stealing the lady willingly away…

About the author, from Sourcebooks…

The late Georgette Heyer was a very private woman. Her historical novels have charmed and delighted millions of readers for decades, though she rarely reached out to the public to discuss her works or personal life. She was born in Wimbledon in August 1902, and her first novel, The Black Moth, published when she was 19, was an instant success.

Heyer published 56 books over the next 53 years, until her death from lung cancer in 1974. Her work included Regency novels, mysteries and historical fiction. Known also as the Queen of Regency romance, Heyer was legendary for her research, historical accuracy and her extraordinary plots and characterizations. Her last book, My Lord John, was published posthumously in 1975. She was married to George Ronald Rougier, a barrister, and they had one son, Richard.

History Undressed Review…

Heyer has been dubbed the Queen of Regency, which she very well is, but this story takes place in Elizabethan times. I think this calls for another title to be bestowed on our beloved late author--Ms. Georgette Heyer, is also the Queen of Elizabethan romance. I must say thank you to Sourcebooks, for bringing Heyer back into the limelight. I’d never read one of her books before, and am now a major fan, swallowing up her literary treats as fast as I can get my hands on them.

From the very first sentence-- “The deck was a shambles.” -- the reader is pulled into the story. Heyer is magnificent in her hooks, but not just the opening and ending hooks, but the very middle. Her work bounces off the page in a lively piece that is reminiscent of Shakespeare and other great historical writers. She has been likened to Jane Austen, which I can see as well.

The dialogue is witty, fun, exciting. The characters are well thought out and unique. As a history lover, I was impressed by Ms. Heyer’s research. The book is chock full of real-life history, including those larger than life real privateers like Drake and Raleigh. Her scenery descriptions and the way she captures the true essence of the characters was a marvel to me. The heroine, Dona Dominica was a woman ahead of her time. She stoically and valiantly thwarted the evil machinations of her cousin and aunt, all while staying steadfast to her true love. Sir Nicholas Beauvallet was so well created and imbedded in the history, I actually did a search to see if he existed in real-life. Sadly, he was all made up, but a hero I fell in love with nonetheless, and a book I recommend to all of you! If you love adventure, romance, intrigue, betrayal, love and history all rolled into one, Beauvallet, has it!

And let’s face it--who doesn’t love a daring pirate hero willing to risk life and limb for his feisty heroine?

Buy link

Product ISBN: 9781402219511

Reprint by Sourcebooks Casablanca

Publication Date: January 2010

I highly recommend visiting this site, with all sorts of fun information on Ms. Heyer, her work and historical eras she wrote in: http://www.georgette-heyer.com/