21 February 2018

To Be or Not To Be (Accurate)

To Be or Not To Be (Accurate)

That Is The Question
 Facing Authors of Historical Romance

In writing Historical Romance Fiction the author does a balancing act on up on a high wire.  He loves history so we strive to make it as accurate as possible.  Yet, it is fiction, which means an author may to take liberties.  The question is where to draw the line.  While this article was written to address historical do and don't questions, it could apply with any form of fictional world-building.

Historical authors really love history!  We can easily obsess over details that are endlessly fascinating―at least to us.  However, do readers really want that deep of an understanding of the past?  The answer: some do, some don’t.  After all, you are not writing a non-fiction work, historical book, not even a historical fiction novel.  It’s Historical Romance.  As when you pronounce a word, certain syllables are spoken softly while one is accented; when you say Historical Romance always put the stress on ROMANCE.  Never lose sight of that.  My editor on my first historicals, Hilary Sares (formerly with Kensington Books) says readers are tired of “clanking swords, that history is stale, cold, while romance is timeless.”  In this, she touches on the heart of what Historical Romance is:  history is the lesser of the ingredients in the mix.  Love carries the story.  Historical Romance is the cousin of Historical Fiction (which often has romance in them), but they are not the same.

Once a romance author accepts these boundaries then they are left with just how much history do you add?  History is a background for the tapestry you weave.  It should give the reader a sense of period, but never intrude upon the romance, never stall the story out, pausing to explain historical details or to give a history lesson.  After the author reaches that level of what will be good threads and elements to craft into the story, they next face a final hurdle―to weigh the importance of details, the minutiae that draws the historical authors to share their love of the past.

Only here is where it can get tricky.  Sometimes, what readers believe is accurate often is not.  “Bad” history, incorrect word usage, or even how time has changed the meaning of words can stymie the author.  Take the word acquaintance.  Noun: “a person known to one, but usually not a close friend.”  That is how it is accepted in today’s usage.  However, years and years ago the word meant something very different.  Surprisingly, when a man was “acquainted” with a woman, he was saying he had been physically intimate with her.  See the problem?  If you are going for historical accuracy and you say “Mr. Overton was acquainted with Miss Marple.”  In the historical sense you would be saying Mr. Overton had indulged in sex with Miss Marple!  Will today’s readers understand without you having to stop the story and tell them that?  Will a reader, lacking this crumb of knowledge, understand what you said, or will they just believe you are saying Mr. Overton has met Miss Marple, but they are not close friends?  If the author puts that sentence out there and wants the reader to comprehend what they are saying, then they must stop the flow of the plot and the scene and say, “Of course, we know acquainted means he has had sex with her.”  Even then, the reader might scratch their heads and go, hum, it does?  In that instant, you have taken them out of the story simply by using a word correctly, but not right in today’s eyes.  Right is wrong.  Rule of thumb: Rarely is one single word ever that important to risk using, when it can pull their reader away from the imagery to ponder if you are correct or not.

If a Historical Romance came along and used Irish Gaelic spellings instead of Scots Gaelic—which has been known to happen (lol), and this book using becomes a bestseller, then readers can often assume that book to be correct.  Then other authors come along using the correct form and people automatically presume they are incorrect.  So when readers come to the difference they often believe the right spellings to be wrong!  Okay, what then?  Do you knowingly use the wrong spellings of words to conform to what the readers have accepted as correct, or do you go ahead and be accurate and have readers think you are wrong?

Another complexity in to be or not be historically accurate―authors who set their novels in real places, such as the castles of Scotland.  Often, instead of world-building and creating their own castles, some writers pick out a very famous castle for the setting of their stories--even put the wrong clan living there, totally disregarding most castles have a very detailed historical record.  For someone not familiar with Scotland’s past that might not be a problem.  However, the author runs into the sticky wicket of having readers who do, and once more, are taken out of the story because they know the true history of the place.  We must remember it is fiction.  Authors are allowed to bend history a wee bit if it serves to make the story stronger.  I won’t go as far as Randall Wallace did when speaking of the many historical inaccuracies of his screenplay for the movie Braveheart and say history should never get in the way of a good story.  Still, authors should be able to present a romping tale without worrying about being one hundred percent accurate on every single detail.

Another is nationality.  It can come into play in perceptions of what is wrong and right.  Take the simple way you name the floors of a building.  In Britain and Europe, even today, the first floor of a building is the ground floor.  In America, you work on the first floor in New York, while in London you are working on the ground floor.  The first floor in Europe is actually the second level.  When Regency and Victorian periods were in flourish and they had their Seasons in London, they lived in fancy townhouses.  The first floor (second floor to Yanks!) was where they did most of their entertaining.  So, if a woman entered the front door, and went upstairs to the first floor many Americans would assume the author is making a boo-boo, despite they were being entirely correct!

These are just a few of the bumps facing historical authors when trying to keep the faith with history, yet also do a balancing act with the today’s readers and just how accurate do readers truly want their historical romances to be?

Just remember to keep rooted, and that romance and flow are vital to telling a whopping good yarn.

 Deborah Macgillivray
Internationally Published Author of the Dragons of Callon™  series

#PrairieRosePublications #HistoricalRomance #MedievalHistory #ScottishHistory #AuthorsTool  #WritingHistoricalNovels 

18 February 2018

Cultural and Heritage Art Show

Drafted my little self out to go help at the Cultural and Heritage Art Show.  Not that I had anything entered...lol, but I am always up for giving a helping hand to Christine Duncan, the County Agent.
So off we went to John Black Center in the pouring rain.  Rain is better than a foot of snow, so I won't complaint too much.

Candy, my best pal, had three entries - Little Raggedy Andy, which took a first place.
Snoopy on the Great Pumpkin hat (took second place) and my Scottish Sheep ( first place)

So big congrats to Candy Thompson for coming away with two blue ribbons and one red ribbon.
The Blue Ribbon Winners will move on to Kentucky half-state competition this coming Friday.

Redemption, Dragons of Challon, Book Four (excerpt #2)

They call him Redemption.

A jest, because Redam Maignart is a man to be feared. He sits at Edward Plantagenet’s left hand, and does his king’s bidding―an assassin who kills without blinking an eye. His heart had died on that long ago night when his family had been slaughtered, and nothing has touched it since. He is sent northward on a mission―to find and dispatch William Wallace, a commoner raising holy hell in the year 1297. What he never expects to discover is a witch with the power to heal his soul.

Gillian of the Flowers, the lady of Lochstorr

She hoped her small holding on the edge of Glen Shane would go untroubled by this fearsome English king. That wish went unanswered. The aftermath of the war between Scotland and England saw a brutal knight come to claim her holding…and her. She must escape, or knows he will kill her. In her darkest hour her wounded spirit calls out for a dark champion to save her.

When Redam discovers Gillian, beaten and half-dead by a loch, he’s filled with rage at her treatment. Yet, little did this stone-hard man know this woman held the key to redeeming his tortured soul. War stalks the Highlands, and evil men take advantage of these times. Redam knows he must protect Gillian, for he knows in saving her, he is saving himself.

As their passion grows, so does the terror that wishes to destroy them both.

Scotland, 1297

“My lady,” her maidservant, Cadha, had inquired through the kerchief held to her nose, “Are you unwell?”

Gillian hesitated in answering. Something was different and she was at a loss to say precisely what. She had experienced the sensation before. The kenning. When the air seemed stifling and her vision held a faint rippling of colors at the edge, those sensations presaged that something very vital was about to happen. Oft, she experienced these things when she was dosing for a well; the closer she got to locating the hidden source of water, the stronger the undulating swirl of reds, greens and yellows grew until her vision drew down to a narrow range.

Only she wasn't dousing for water, but simply staring at the Douglas pennon, while she waited for her soldiery to fetch their mounts. Was it something about the standard that drew the focus of this extra sense, an ability which touched the women of the Ogilvie line? All through the Highlands had heard about the brash, handsome Douglas lord who had carried off his English bride. Such tales of daring, love and romance! Now, his mighty banner seemed so sad hanging there, treated with such disrespect.

“My lady, the captain brings forth your mount.” Cadha reached out and touched Gillian’s sleeve. “Put the cloth to your nose. It helps. Just take slow shallow breaths. We will soon be out of this…this…”

There were no words created to describe this hell. It sickened her. Not just the vile remnants of months old battle, but the fact people perpetrated these atrocities upon their fellow man. Death was bad enough, a waste of life that served little purpose she could see. People killed to survive. A fact of this world she had long ago accepted. But this was not for survival. It was simply the will of an English king—and for what? To have a bigger kingdom? There was no pride or honor in what was done to the Scots that had merely defended their homes, their families. Thousands of men, women and children—children—had perished here, and no amount of quicklime could wash away the crime, the sin of Berwick.

“There is no name for what this place now is, Cadha,” Gillian replied. “‘Tis an offense methinks Edward Longshanks shall yet live to regret.”

Walking to the mounting block, Gillian allowed her captain of the guard to aid her in getting upon her Bay palfrey. She could have chosen to ride in the cart with Cadha, but she preferred sitting on the back on a horse to having her insides bounced around. Hooking her leg around the horn of the sidesaddle, she nodded that she was ready to set out.

Two outriders were followed by four knights, riding before her, and then the cart with the baggage and Cadha trailed just behind. Eight paid Irish hobelars would bring up the rear. In ordinary times, they could travel safe enough with this small of a force. Only, there were bands of brigands on the roads since the spring. Many serfs refused to go home to their masters after the battle of Dunbar. Instead, they hid out in the lesser traveled areas, causing problems for the English forces, and seeing many areas riven with violence. Some brigands were not so principled and attacked Scots as well. Still, she had not dared take any more defenders away from Lochstorr. She needed a strong presence there to hold in her absence.

As they had ridden along the charred remains of the area surrounding the Red Hall, she purposely kept her eyes on the back of her sergeant. There served little purpose in filling her head with the gruesome specter arrayed on Edward’s command. Shallow breaths failed to help, so she was forced to bring the kerchief to her nose. The scent saturating the cloth was mugwort. Auld Bessa spake that the wort was a good protection for a traveler, would shield them against wild beasts, fatigue and poisons. Well, the air was poisoned, so she supposed Cadha had chosen well.

When her party neared the edge of the dead town, suddenly, someone began yelling―a rider coming toward them―followed by more chevaliers and lancers. “Make way! Make way, I say!”

Her troop moved to the side of the roadway as it was clear the force, traveling fast, was not about to slow or give way. Two bannerets with small flags flying were behind the rider calling out, then a rider holding a large pennon.

Fascinated, Gillian watched the large flag rippling as the riders drew closer, the black field rather fitting in this town of death. There were two splashes of brilliant color—scarlet and gold―but she could not tell what the crest was. Her vision darkened as the kenning had slammed into her, the vibration thrumming through her body to where she felt faintly sick. Never had the gift been this strong. She swallowed hard against the sensations buffeting her; even so, she could not tell what was causing the disturbance. The banner? She gawked as it drew closer, until it was nearly alongside of her. Then, the coat of arms became plain to her. Two dragons rampant, facing each other as if locked in a mighty battle.

She leaned toward the knight riding beside her and asked, “Whose device is on that banner?”

The man swallowed hard, grimacing from the smell, before answering. “’Tis new to me, my lady. The red dragon on black is the device of the king’s left hand, but that one with a golden dragon…well, I am not sure. Edward’s new standard he flies before towns is a dragon gold. I do not think anyone would dare to use it, so this must be someone of great import.”

Choking on the smell, she raised the scented kerchief to her nose, and breathed in the scent desperately.

Behind the banner came two columns. At the fore were two knights on black steeds. No, that was not right. One was a dark gray, so dark that it was nearly black, reminding her of mouse’s fur. Beautiful, majestic animals, riding hard. The horsemen were in black mail and plate. The one on the far side wore a surcoat of deepest green, but she could barely take note of his features since her eyes had remained locked onto the rider closest. He was dressed in a black surcoat, with a red dragon on his chest. He wore no helm, no coif, so his wavy black hair was moved by the breeze. Obviously, he was one of Edward’s Norman knights, yet his locks were not cut in the Norman style.

For an instant, his head turned, his eyes only vaguely running over the small Scottish party decamping the town. The world held its breath. Her heart pounded in her ears, beating out a tattoo, as her eyes met his. Dark eyes, yet from the distance she could not tell their shade. A breathless magic spun around them making it seem as if they were the only two people in the whole town.

The spell shattered as he put spurs to his steel gray charger and moved on.


Gillian could almost smell the scent of mugwort, as she lay trembling in Redam’s embrace. The two dragons on a field of black. The images she had seen in the bowl when she had asked Annis for answers. Could that be? That she had seen this knight on that hot August morn? The irony struck her. If it had been Redam under the pennon of the double dragons, then he would little remember her.

She had held the scented kerchief to her face as he’d ridden past.

Could life have been that strange? That cruel?

Gillian felt sick...

Coming Fall 2018
Prairie Rose Publications

#PrairieRoseRomance #HistoricalRomance #ScottishRomance #DragonsofChallon

15 February 2018

Cover reveal and excerpt for Redemption, Book Four of Dragons of Challon™

Coming Spring 2018

Prairie Rose Publications

“Well?  What now?”  Dare turned in the saddle and flashed an aggravated glare in Redam’s direction, as if all woes were his fault.  “St. George would have trouble finding a fire-breathing dragon in this gloom!  This queer ring of hills seems to block all.  Mine eyes can make out naught that remotely resembles the mouth of a ravine.”

Redam heard his friend’s frustration, his exhaustion.  Understood it.  They had ridden for so long that he had nearly fallen asleep in the saddle.  In times when they feared stopping to rest, war weary soldiers often caught themselves nodding off whilst still astride their warhorses.  A habit Dare and he had mastered at an early age.

 As dusk cloaked the Highlands, the storm had increased, and at one point the sleet fell so heavy that his mantle, even the horses’ manes, had been coated with a thin layer of ice.  Finally, when they neared the glen of Shane, the winds shifted and almost held the sweet promise of spring.  While the warmth was welcome, as was the lessening in the rainstorm, the switch in weather saw the fog increase.  So thick were the shifting grey mists it felt as if Darian and he were no longer earthbound, but alone, lost in some mysterious land beyond the mortal realm.

“‘Tis not far to Glenrogha…if we but find entrance to the hidden valley,” Redam assured him, while his eyes searched the rising slope of the land.  He hoped some detail would fit with what he had been told to expect.

“Methinks we stand better odds of stumbling upon a fire-breathing wyvern.  The fae beastie could light the way for poor wandering souls, or at least provide flames to warm our backsi––”  

Dare’s jesting prattle was drowned out by a sudden, strange cacophony, as though thousands of ravens were taking wing, cawing and screeching.  Terrified by the discordant screams, the horses shied and pulled against the long tether, which Dare struggled to keep a hold on.  Used to battles, bombardments of Greek fire, and skies that were turned black with arrows, the battle-hardened destriers whinnied and bounced upon their hoofs, frightened by the unseen menace in the night fog.  Almost wild, Wraith spun in circles, his nostrils snorting streams of vapor into the air.  Despite his destrier’s training, he ignored the commands from Redam’s knees and fought hard against the bit.  

 Redam struggled to remain seated and not lose his hold on the woman.  The jostling about caused her to stir.  Frightened, confused, she started to struggle against his hold, lashing out, which in turn nearly unseated them both.  

“Still, I say!  Be still!  By damn, woman, cease this thrashing,” he ordered.

Stiff from holding her so long, his arm had trouble keeping his grasp about her.  And Dare had been right––the cold and damp caused the old wound to ache, leaving it tricky to control her body.  He finally grabbed hold of her legs with his right hand to prevent her from sliding off the horse, and mayhap trampled under the dancing stallion.

“No!”  With the fine edge of hysteria cutting through her mind, she protested in a half-moan, her shaking hands pushing against his chest.

Redam pulled her tighter to him, and tucked her face against his neck.  “You be safe, my lady.  No harm shall befall you.  This I so swear.”

With a choked groan and a bone-deep shudder, all resistance seemed to go out of her.  She collapsed against him, weeping softly.  

Emotions flooded through his body, as he took her pain inside him and made it his own.  He tried to throw up a wall against these overpowering sensations, but he had no means of shielding himself against the poignant anguish this woman evoked.  Her body trembled against his, as silent sobs racked her whole being.  Hot tears stung his eyes, as he held her close.

Leaning the side of his head against hers, he whispered in a litany, “You are safe.  I shall protect you.  You are safe.”

“Sweet Jesu!  Has the mouth of Hell yawned before us?”  Dare exclaimed.  “What dominion of the Devil have we blundered upon?”

Pulling himself back from these dangerous feelings, Redam let out with a short whistle.  Still giving Darian a hard time on the lead shank, the dapple grey horse tossed his head and nearly yanked free.  Howbeit, Redam’s command calmed Hobgoblin.  He finally started to settle down.  As he did, the other horses followed his demeanor.  

“No sphere of Hades…but Journey’s End, my friend.  Damian spake of birds―a thousand score ravens―which seem to guard the passes to Glenrogha.  We must be near the access.  The second passages should lie just beyond.  Then, ‘tis only a short distance to Glenrogha.”

“A fire-belching dragon would prove advantageous at this juncture, eh?  I cannot see aught, but this bloody mist.  How can there be fog and drizzle, too?  ‘Tis most unnatural, Redam.  Peculiar substance, ‘tis so thick I could cut it with my dirk,” Darian fussed, almost as if he found comfort in hearing his own voice.  “How in Persephone’s kitchen are we to ever find our way through this mess?”

Redam gave a worn sigh.  “The same as we have all along––trust the horses.”  Thinking upon how Julian had determined the way into the glen, he gave Wraith a signal with pressure from his knees.  Obeying, the dark grey charger walked forward.

“I shall fear no evil, for thou art with me,” Darian recited in a hushed tone, his voice barely carrying in the still night.  Nudging his mount, he trailed after Redam.

“Naught unnerves me more than someone whispering fervent words to some unseen being that hovers above us on a floating cloud.  Surely, even He would not venture forth on a night such as this,” Redam jested, willing himself to give over his fate to a fool horse in the hopes the beast could find the path into the ravine.

“Do you not believe in God, Redam?”  Dare asked in seriousness.  “Never have we held discourse on such before.  Tell me to tuck tail and mind my own counsel if you wish not to answer.”

“Mind your own counsel,” Redam bit out.  After the words were gone, he wished he had not spoken them, so tried to explain.  “Too much ugliness hath I witnessed in my sad, sorry life to accept that any such amazing and wonderfully benevolent creature exists.  My belief in the kindness of man died the night my family was slaughtered, along with my childish faith in this invisible father figure who guides our destiny.  There is no God, my friend, just scared people on sore knees, groveling whispered entreaties in the hopes something will happen to save them.  Help never comes.  It failed to come for poor Annalise.  No just god could have turned his back on her suffering.”

Darian countered, “But a man has to believe in something.”

“Does he?  I believe that gentle souls suffer and evil people who should be punished rarely are,” he snapped.

“Is that why you serve at Edward’s left hand?  Some perverse way of meting out justice, when no one else does––because you could kill the Baron Dunstan only once?  And once was not enough?  Redemption is not an assassin, but an avenger, eh?  A champion for all the Annalises in this world?”  Darian’s questions held barbs.

Not wanting to answer Dare’s probings––unsure if he truly knew the truth to the complex riddle himself––Redam turned his attention to moving into the rift, for just as Julian had said, the fog parted and like a ghostly door was now open and welcoming.  As if passing through a wall of smoke, suddenly he was on the other side.  Wraith stood in the mouth of a fissure, narrow with high granite walls, yet wide enough for five horses to ride abreast.

“Strike me thrice and call me a midden knave…who needs a fire-breathing monster when your trusty horse can lead the way!”  Dare voiced his amazement, as he emerged through the bastion of grey fog.  He paused, turned in the saddle and looked back.  “I have lived nearly two score years on God’s green earth, but that has to be one of the strangest occurrences mine eyes hath ever beheld.”

While Redam was not a silly child to be fearful of unseen shadows and shapes created by the darkness, an eerie stillness permeated the air that bespoke of witchery.  He felt it.  Sensitive to these things beyond the norm, the horses hesitated.  Wraith even backed up two steps.  Finally obeying the pressure of Redam’s knees, the stallion ambled slowly ahead.  Dare rode just paces behind with the string of horses, their hoofs echoing inside the confines of the stone passage.  

At their backs, sounds of the birds lessened, then finally fell to silence.  It was almost too easy to question if the whole incident had really happened, or if this was a Hell-born dream from which he would awaken.

Strange, no light penetrated the long corridor.  Even so, they had little trouble following the passageway.  The sheered walls of granite were heavily encrusted with chips of a lighter stone that almost shimmered with iridescence.  Dust from faerie wings, he mused.  Outside the sounds they made, nothing else broke the odd feeling of quietness, lending the sense that the world held its breath while they traveled from one domain to another.  

#HistoricalRomance #PrairieRosePublications #MedievalRomance #ScottishRomance #DragonsofChallon

11 February 2018

Party on down, Cher...'Tis Mardi Gras time

Mardi Gras
a celebration of excess New Orleans style 

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.  It is the day before Ash Wednesday--when you give up luxuries for Lent.  Facing weeks of doing without the things they enjoy, people went on merrymaking binges, knowing they would have to remain in their homes and fast afterward.  Carnival is another word you see associated for the festive period.  It comes from Medieval Latin, meaning remove the meat.

While several places around the world celebrate Carnival, New Orleans is likely the best known.  The very first Mardi Gras celebration there took place in March 1699.  French explorers, Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Sieur de Bienville, landed near what is known today as New Orleans.  Their party held a big celebration and christened the spot where they landed, calling it Pointe du Mardi Gras.

The King's Jester

Krewe Zulu Parade

The French settlers that followed celebrated the day with street parties, masquerade balls and lavish feasts.  However, when the Spanish took control of New Orleans, they were disgusted by the excesses, so they banned the celebrations and rituals.  This dictate remained until 1812 when Louisiana became a state.  In the late 1820s, groups of young men donned colorful costumes and paraded and danced through the streets.  The celebrations began to expand each year, until the first official Mardi Gras celebration was recorded about ten years later. 

The day is now a legal holiday in the state.

Krewe of Poseidon 

In the antebellum era of New Orleans the first Krewe was formed.  A Krewe is a secret society that sponsors a parade and ball.  The Mistick Krewe of Comus set the tone for all Mardi Gras celebrations thereafter.  Now there are many Krewes:   Poseidon, Rex, Orpheus, Bacchus, Endymion, Hermes, and Zulu are just a few-- so many their parades have to be on different days or times.

Bourbon Street

some parades are during the day, some at night

It's not advisable to wait to the last minute to go join the magnificent celebrations.  Finding rooms near is impossible, so plan ahead, book ahead!  Be sure to part take of a Poor Boy sandwich, Gumbo, Beignets, and especially don't miss having a big slice of King Cake.


Krewe Leviathan 

King Cake and King Cake Donuts

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler