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


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Monday, April 15, 2013

Amanda Scott on Highland Romance

Please join us in welcoming historical romance author, Amanda Scott to History Undressed today! She's sharing a bit about her books. Enjoy!

How do you get the idea for a novel? What is your writing process like? Could you give us an example of you got the idea for any or all of these three books: Dangerous Illusions, Highland Fling, Border Bride.
My writing process varies from book to book, depending on what strikes chords in my imagination. Sometimes, I begin with a character. Other times, it's a particular setting that I want to use, like the Borders or the Highlands, or a castle with an interesting history. I think of the process itself as a sort of jigsaw puzzle. That's the same for every book. I find a piece here and another one there, and pretty soon they begin to add up to the outline for a story.
Border Bride began with the idea of a lass from the Highlands marrying a powerful Border lord, simply because men's attitudes toward women were very different in the two areas. In the Borders, on both sides of the line, traditions and attitudes were similar. Not that Scotsmen could not generally insist on doing things their way all over Scotland, mind you, but few men in the rest of country felt as if they had a God-given right to order their women around.
In sixteenth-century England, a woman had no legal standing except as her father's daughter or her husband's wife. Only widows who did not remarry had standing of their own. In Scotland, a woman had as much right as a man did to plead her case before a clan chief or laird, or the King for that matter. The King of Scots was just the chief of chiefs. Women could inherit wealth and titles in Scotland. They had many, many rights that Englishwomen did not have until the 19th or 20th centuries.
So, I asked myself, what if a Highland lass accustomed to offering her opinions and receiving generally respectful hearing marries a Border lord accustomed to instant obedience of his every command, who will dismiss most of her opinions and react badly to defiance? And what if her father orchestrates the marriage to suit an agenda of his own and arranges things in such a way that she has little choice but to comply, despite the Scottish law protecting women from unwanted marriages? What if both main characters have fiery tempers? What if he has a secret and she knows what it is? What if revealing it could get him hanged for treason? What if it concerns Mary Queen of Scots? The "what-ifs" are always the fun part of the process.
With Dangerous Illusions, the primary pieces were the Regency period and English versus Scottish laws pertaining to marriage, to women, and to children. In the case of children, there were literally no differences except that they were possessions of their fathers in England, just as wives were. In Scotland, wives had more rights, but children belonged to their parents, which generally amounted to the same thing as it did in England. The biggest difference was in what happened in cases of divorce, and that's what I chose to focus on for at least the first two books of the four-book series. But, having decided that much, I began to collect the pieces, and for Dangerous Illusions, I began at the Battle of Waterloo and the hero's 'meeting' with the heroine. After the battle, he finds a gilt-framed miniature of her near a dead soldier's body and decides to inform her himself of the man's death. Her family lives near his in Cornwall, and since his father and hers have not spoken for decades, the two of them have not met. What follows is a combination of mistaken identities, a bit of Romeo and Juliet, with a more sinister subplot that will lead to the second book and beyond.
Of course, research always provides numerous pieces for my books, and Dangerous Illusions was no exception. The heroine's niece, Charlotte (Charley) is horse-mad, and it occurred to me that at the time I knew almost nothing about training horses or how women learned to ride sidesaddle. So, when the local libraries failed me (no Google yet), I called the Smithsonian, told them my problem, and an expert talked to me for about twenty minutes after having recommended two excellent books on the subject. I've used details from that conversation and those books in many other stories, too. As a result, I was able to make both Charley and her aunt sound as if they knew what they were doing and what they were talking about. The heroine of Dangerous Illusions is Daintry Tarrant. Tarrant is a Cornish name, and when I traveled to England and Wales
Highland Fling actually began with a serendipitous, chance finding of three items at nearly the same time: a coffee-table size picture book at the University of California (Davis) library, detailing the River Thames through London in 1750 right down to shops on London Bridge, the steps from river to street level; a copy I bought of a fold-out, detailed drawing of London in 1750, showing the river and skyline behind it and including such details as individual houses (with their names) and garden layouts; and last but hardly least, the simple fact that Bonnie Prince Charlie had returned to London secretly in 1750 (having fled Britain after the '45) to persuade English supporters to stir up the whole conflict over the 'rightful' king again.
That gave me one setting for the book, so it was a simple matter to decide that the heroine should be another Highland lass but one whose father had lost his land when the English surged into Scotland. The hero, naturally, would be the English lord who had acquired their land for his own service in defeating the Scots. Add a father who is making illegal whisky, mix with wonderful stories of how such men smuggled their product past English officers wanting to seize it, send the heroine to London to meet her hero Bonnie Prince Charlie to offer Highland support and get herself arrested in the process…Then, when the only name she knows in London is the beast who stole her father's land… =and there you are.
In the process for any book, I do a detailed outline before I begin writing. I also, however, sketch out and write the first few scenes as soon as I know what they will be, and then I figure out what the other big scenes will be. I try always to write the big scenes as soon as I get a handle on them, because I find it easier to connect the dots, so to speak, if I know exactly where I'm going. The more road signs I can create for myself and my characters, the better and faster the work goes.

Leave a comment with your email address for your chance to win! One winner--ebook of your choice: Highland Fling, Dangerous Illusions or Border Bride!
 About the Author

A fourth-generation Californian of Scottish descent, Amanda Scott is the author of more than fifty romantic novels, many of which appeared on the USA Today bestseller list. Her Scottish heritage and love of history (she received undergraduate and graduate degrees in history at Mills College and California State University, San Jose, respectively) inspired her to write historical fiction. Credited by Library Journal with starting the Scottish romance subgenre, Scott has also won acclaim for her sparkling Regency romances. She is the recipient of the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award (for Lord Abberley’s Nemesis, 1986) and the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award. She lives in central California with her husband.

For more information on Amanda Scott’s novels, please visit the official website.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Macbeth: a smear campaign? by Thursa Wilde

Welcome back to History Undressed, Thursa Wilde! Today she's written another fun post for us--a bit of Shakespeare and a bit of history! Enjoy!

Macbeth: a smear campaign? 

by Thursa Wilde

We all know the story of the murderer with the ambitious wife, Shakespeare’s eponymous King in Macbeth.  But how much of the true tale can we extract from that misty history? Mac Bethad Mac Findlaích (anglicised as Macbeth, son of Finlaech) was born around 1005, grandson of Malcolm II of Scotland. He and Duncan were cousins, and Duncan, like the Shakespearian character, had two sons - Malcolm, who later became Malcolm III and Donalbane, later Donald III.

The Scottish Play calls him Thane of Cawdor, but the real Macbeth was Mormaer of Moray.  (Thane and Mormaer were both Scottish titles). It was from Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, published in 1577, that Shakespeare lifted the incorrect title. These chronicles are an ambitious account of history from earliest times, but aren’t always based on historical fact. They took earlier references from books like John Fordun’s Chronica Gentis Scotorum, (Chronicles of the Scottish People), written 1363-85, which contained accounts of angels, prophecies and Merlin among other ‘facts’. So either Holinshed’s invented the story of Macbeth and the witches, or a folk-myth developed in the years after Macbeth’s death which Holinshed’s picked up on, and Shakespeare later borrowed. Or maybe there is another reason.

The original decision was that succession to the Scottish throne would alternate between the male issue of the two sons of Kenneth MacAlpin, because of this unwise gambit the line of MacAlpin is littered with poisoned and stabbed bodies. However Malcolm II had been on the throne for 29 years when he decided on his heir, a long time for a Scottish monarch! He was a shrewd leader, and although he only had daughters he married them off to the heirs of families that might otherwise have caused him trouble. So his grandsons, Duncan and Macbeth, were next in line.  Malcolm chose Duncan, the elder of the two, as his heir.

Macbeth had in the meantime married the real Lady Macbeth, Gruach, the widow of his deceased cousin, Gillacomgain and granddaughter of Kenneth III; and Macbeth’s own distant cousin, as she was also Gillacomgain’s niece!  This family tree makes your head spin.

Gillacomgain is implicated in the killing of Macbeth’s father when Macbeth was around 15 years old and he had stolen the Mormaer title. About 12 years later Gillacomgain burned to death in a hall with fifty of his men, and Macbeth became Mormaer of Moray. We don’t know whether Macbeth, or his grandfather, Malcolm II, did the burning.  But you could say Gillacomgain had it coming.

With marriage Macbeth was now related to both branches of the MacAlpin line. This strengthened his position as heir to the Scottish throne. Make of that what you will!

King Malcolm died at Glamis Castle in 1034, allegedly of old age, though some annals say he was killed by his nephews. Duncan then became Duncan I of Scotland. Although his 5 year reign seems mostly peaceful, his nickname was An t-Ilgarach, meaning ‘the diseased’ or ‘the sick’. It is recorded that Macbeth was Duncan’s Dux, or Duke, a highly influential position near the king.

In 1039 the Northumbrians attacked Strathclyde and Duncan retaliated against Durham, but this apparently went badly and he retreated north to find himself in another battle in Moray against his own Macbeth, who must have been plotting an overthrow in his absence, and seemed to have much support. Duncan was not killed in his bed at Glamis Castle as the play suggests, but on a battlefield by Macbeth and an army of Scotsmen. Duncan’s wife and young sons fled into exile.

Macbeth ruled from 1040-1057. According to the Prophecy of Berchan Macbeth is described as ‘a generous king’. In a historical narrative poem, Duan Albanach (Song of the Scots) he is referred to as ‘Mac Bethad the renowned’. So there is no evidence to suggest that he is unpopular, and a seventeen-year rule is good innings. Around 1050 he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome. No one tried to overthrow him in his absence so we can presume his reign was a peaceful one. That is until Malcolm, son of Duncan showed up. 

In 1052 Macbeth must have annoyed Edward the Confessor, King of England, when he gave shelter to some Norman noblemen, because Edward began a long war with Scotland which resulted in Malcolm meeting Macbeth in 1057 on a battlefield in Lumphanan and fatally wounding him. (There’s a pub there now called the Macbeth Arms!) Some historians think that England was behind a plan to re-instate Malcolm on the throne, which might explain why negative propaganda about Macbeth grew up. A popular monarch would need sullying to justify the takeover.

Although old texts do differ about events, there is no supporting evidence that Macbeth and his wife were serial killers. So where did Holinshed’s get their information? Did the English King do a deal with Malcolm, exiled at his court, and was Macbeth’s reputation destroyed as a result? You know what those scheming English are like.

Thursa Wilde is a writer and member of the support team at Highland Titles. Highland Titles sells plots of Scottish land to people all over the world, many of whom have an affinity with Scotland and Great Britain.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A ‘Biased’ View of 1930s Fashions by Afton Locke

Today on History Undressed, I'd like to welcome guest author Afton Locke! She's written a fun post on 1930's fashion. Enjoy!

Rose, Exposed - A ‘Biased’ View of 1930s Fashions

Thank you for hosting me today. I’m excited to discuss 1930s fashions and my recent release, Rose, Exposed, a multicultural historical erotic romance set in the 1930s.

This post is part of the official Rose, Exposed Blog Tour (3/26 - 4/09).         

The grand prize for the tour is vintage-style rose earrings for pierced ears (U.S. shipping address only).
To be eligible, COMMENT on this post. Comment should include the historical time period and geographical setting (when and where) you’d most like to see in a romance.

The tour winner will be announced at http://www.aftonlocke.com/RoseExposedTour.html on April 11th.

A ‘Biased’ View of 1930s Fashions

When I wrote Rose, Exposed, clothing was a big part of my research. I don’t pay a lot of attention to clothes in the first draft. I’m too busy getting down the plot, dialog, and love story. My characters are so eager to get the clothes off they don’t want to be slowed down. During the polishing stage, however, I consider a lot of factors when dressing my characters -- time period, setting, climate, socioeconomic status, personality, plot, and color symbolism.

For my current release, I dressed my hero in simple work clothes because he does physical labor for a living. I emphasized his earthiness with tan homespun and green fabrics. My heroine is in a higher social class but her parents are strict and old-fashioned. Accordingly, I dressed her in nicer fabrics with conservative styles. Because her name is Rose, I made the first dress she appears in a rose print.

Undergarments and hosiery go hand-in-hand with clothing because some can’t be worn without the other. The fact that Rose hates stockings and rarely wears them added to her character. Underwear was a struggle for her too. She went from wearing old-fashioned bloomers to sometimes none at all, enhancing the theme of having her secret exposed.

When I research clothing, I consult a reference book on my bookshelf, which has fashion illustrations for various time periods for men and women. I also use Google’s Images feature a lot. Finding just the right look gives me ideas and helps me visualize what I want. I look at several old sewing patterns and vintage clothes on eBay.

Of all the garments in this book, I had the most fun with evening gowns. While women’s fashions in the 1920s and 1940s tended to form straight lines, dresses and skirts in the 1930s flared from and draped around the body, created beautiful feminine curves. When a woman spins around, the dress cascades around her in a beautiful swirl. The secret to this is cutting fabric on the bias. If I weren’t a life-long seamstress, that research fact might have sounded Greek to me, so I’ll illustrate it for everyone.

Fabric is woven, so it has both vertical and horizontal grains (warp and weft) at right angles to each other. In clothing, the vertical grain goes straight down your body, from collar or waistband to hem. Go to your closet and select a shirt. Try grabbing a piece of the fabric and another piece a couple of inches below it. No give, right? It’s as strong as steel. Try it horizontally and you get the same thing. Now try it with diagonal points and the fabric magically stretches. This is the bias.

Today, sewing patterns with ruffles specify cutting the piece on the bias. The stretch makes the fabric more elastic, allowing a narrow hem to be formed along the curved edge of the ruffle. Even then, sewing a perfect ruffle hem is tedious.

In the 1930s, especially, entire skirts or dresses were cut on the bias. Pattern pieces are printed with lines on them that you match to the grain of the fabric. For a straight skirt, picture the line going straight from top to bottom. For bias skirts, put that line on a 45 degree angle. The following illustration shows a pattern piece on a piece of fabric for each. Solid arrows represent the grain line, and the dashed line is the center line of the garment. The crosshatch shows the weave of the fabric.

Fabrics suited for these fluid evening gowns, as shown in the illustration below from left to right, include: chiffon, crepe-de-chine, silk, and satin.

To read more about the bias cut and 1930s fashions, see:

Rose, Exposed

Publisher:  Ellora's Cave Publishing
Release Date:  27 March 2013
eBook ISBN #:  978-14199-45205
Stay tuned for reviews and more: http://www.aftonlocke.com/Rose.html

(I love creating trailers for all my books!)

When Leroy Johnson gets promoted at the new oyster plant on Pearl Point, all he cares about is working hard. When he meets the flirtatious artist Rose Wainwright, however, nothing matters except getting her to the altar and into bed. Healing from a recent loss, he’s not about to let her go too.

Because Rose’s strict, social-climbing father doesn’t approve of dark-skinned Leroy, they court in secret anyplace they can find. Although Leroy’s raw passion can convince her to do almost anything, why can’t he understand she needs freedom, not marriage?
Her father wants her to be white, but Leroy wants her to be black. Playing both sides of the fence leaves this young biracial beauty exposed in more ways than one.

Excerpt (modified)
Rose, Exposed - Copyright © AFTON LOCKE, 2013 - All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.

“You’re so…dark,” she exclaimed. Instead of the disdain he expected, he heard fascination.

Come on, lady. Don’t tell me you’ve never seen a colored man before.

“Yes, I’m dark,” he agreed as he politely removed her hand, “which is why it’s not a good idea for us to sit alone together in this car. Someone might come along and jump to the wrong conclusion.”

A conclusion that could get him beat up or worse with the Klan close by on Oyster Island.

But before he could stop her, she clasped both sides of his face and pressed her sweet mouth to his. Aw, hell. A man only had so much self-control, and she’d just shattered his. Unable to stop himself, he plundered her delicate mouth. Her lips reminded him of rose petals, and he sucked the sweetness out of them as if he were a bee. The more he tasted, the more he wanted.

She opened, giving him access to her even sweeter tongue. Taking a big breath, he pulled away from her.

“We can’t do this. You’re white.”

She looked down at her upturned palms. “Then I really do look white?”

Leroy frowned. “Aren’t you?”

For the first time, her smile disappeared, making him shiver in his wet clothes. “The truth is, I don’t know what I am. I suppose that’s why I took this foolish drive.”

She must be biracial then, he realized, and not forbidden after all. The thought made him want to dance on the hood of the car. She still looked white, though. If he didn’t have the time to court a girl his own color, he sure didn’t have any for a complicated one like this.

“Kiss me again,” she demanded.

Without waiting for him to answer, she locked her hot, damp mouth on his again and tugged hard on his shoulders. Before he knew it, he was on top of her on the front seat. He wished her dress weren’t so thin when long, slender legs shifted restlessly under his. Dizzy with the scent of rain and her, he froze.

At that moment, nothing mattered except having her. He didn’t care if the entire Klan showed up, knocked on the window and caught him making love to her. It had been too damn long since he’d had a woman. He needed to stop this while he still could.

“Do you know what you’re asking for?” Lust had turned his voice into a husky croak.

She laughed and touched his face again. “I don’t know. What am I asking for?”

This girl was crazier than he’d first thought. What if someone less honorable than himself had stopped instead? She could’ve been raped.

“A whole lot of trouble.” He sat up. “Look, this is not the time or the place. Now let’s get you home.”

The sooner he could be rid of her—before she derailed him from his job, family, and everything else that mattered—the better.

WIPs Coming Soon

Rose, Exposed is the sequel to Plucking the Pearl, an interracial historical erotic romance.

I have two more books planned for the Oyster Harbor series. Next up for romance are Sadie and Henry.

In addition to interracial/multicultural historicals, I also plan to keep writing erotic contemporaries.
Can an older woman find love with a hot male stripper? My current WIP, Two Hours to Entice, will answer that question.

Where readers can find me

I will be attending EC’s RomantiCon Oct 10-13, 2013 in Canton, Ohio - http://ecromanticon.com/:
Don’t miss the book signing on Oct 13th.
I’m also hosting a Fabulous Fusion workshop with Koko Brown and Eve Vaughn to celebrate interracial erotic romance for EC’s Fusion line.

Newsletter - The Love Chronicle: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/thelovechronicle/

Monday, April 1, 2013

Video of the Week: The Borgia Family Song

I've been under the weather... caught whatever horrid stomach flu my princesses had... Promise to post more of my Scotland trip when I recover! In the meantime, here is a video from one of my fav shows, Horrible Histories...