Monday, April 30, 2012

What Makes A Hero Sexy? by Tracy Sumner

When I thought about my guest post, I had just watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. Again. I’m a complete and total sucker for Indiana Jones!

But not the guy with the whip. Oh, no, I’m in love with the professor. The nerd. 

Aren’t bow ties sexy?

The hero in my novel TIDES OF LOVE -- Noah Garrett -- is a marine biologist. And a biology professor. The 1898 version, spectacles and all. No, Noah doesn’t carry a whip, but he’s a tough customer when forced against the wall. And his mind….ah, nothing says sexy like an intelligent man all buttoned-up and shall we say…repressed. The fun is unleashing the hidden passion in the quiet, a-little-on-the-shy-types.

In TIDES OF PASSION, Noah’s brother, Zach, has lost the game of love. He’s a great friend, a wonderful father, a capable leader…but he feels like love has slipped through his fingers. For some reason, when I was writing him, I saw shades of Jake Perry (Josh Lucas, Sweet Home Alabama). Gentle, misunderstood, gorgeous! (Of course, the other guy was Patrick Dempsey. Oh, what a choice!)

The perfect here? Yes.

Second runner up? I don’t think so!

Who inspired Tanner Barkley, the hero in my mid-December novella release, TO DESIRE A SCOUNDREL: A Christmas Seduction? Easy. Billy, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Departed. A flawed, kind, vulnerable man with a goal in life that is destroying him. The low-key love story in this film really resonated with me. 

What’s not to love?

The first hero I ever created holds a special part on my heart. Adam Chase, hero in TO SEDUCE A ROGUE, was alone in the world. Until he met the love of his life, Charlotte Whitney. Of course, he fought tooth and nail before giving in. A very stubborn guy. Yes, he can be an insensitive, brash, arrogant bastard at times. But we love anyway. Why? Because his vulnerability is there…just beneath the surface. It’s visible if you look hard enough.

Sound like anyone we know and love? (Instead of Chewbacca, Adam had a horse he was very fond of.)

Harrison Ford is the man!

Read more about Tracy Sumner and her books (including lengthy excerpts for all new releases) on
Purchase TIDES OF PASSION: Amazon || Barnes & Noble
Purchase TIDES OF LOVE: Amazon || Barnes & Noble

TIDES OF PASSION, the National Reader's Choice for Best Long Historical, debuted as an ebook in late 2011. The second novel in the Tides Series, TIDES OF LOVE, has been released as well. Watch for Tracy's first contemporary novella, TRUE FATE, next week.
Tracy would like to give away an Ebook copy of TIDES OF PASSION to one lucky reader! To enter, leave a comment on this post. For future updates, please sign up for her newsletter at


Tracy’s story telling career began when she picked up a copy of LaVyrle Spencer’s Vows on a college beach trip. A journalism degree and a thousand romance novels later, she decided to try her hand at writing a southern version of the perfect love story. With a great deal of luck and more than a bit of perseverance, she sold her first novel to Kensington Publishing.

When not writing sensual stories featuring complex characters and lush settings, Tracy can be found reading romance, snowboarding, watching college football and figuring out how she can get to 100 countries before she kicks (which is a more difficult endeavor than it used to be with her four-year-old son in tow). After stops in France, Switzerland and Taiwan, she now lives in the south. However, after spending a few years in “the city”, she considers herself a New Yorker at heart.

Tracy has been awarded the National Reader’s Choice, the Write Touch and the Beacon – with finalist nominations in the HOLT Medallion, Heart of Romance, Rising Stars and Reader’s Choice. Her books have been translated into German, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish. She loves hearing from readers about why she tends to pit her hero and heroine against each other and that great novel she simply must order in five seconds on her Kindle.


Friday, April 27, 2012

This Old House

When I travel, there a few things I put on my list no matter where I'm going. 1. Museums, (of course)  2. Libraries and I always hope I can get a souvenir library card. 3. A restored historical house or collection of houses.

I actually search the web for historical homes before I go someplace. Part of it is probably my love of history, (I once was an American History teacher), part researcher for my books and most of all, just a nosiness about what it would be like to have lived so many years ago.

I literally want to walk in someone else's shoes. Or at least sit at their table, peek into their bedrooms and try to imagine what their daily life must have been like.

My husband shares my interest in history, and in his case house visits are spurred by a love of antiques. He looks at these excursions as a means to create a shopping list. My sons grew up with my obsession and learned to live with it, although my oldest son could often be heard muttering beneath his breath, "another non-stop educational tour!"

There is just something wonderful about wandering about a house, whether it's a small rustic log cabin, a farmhouse or a mansion, and almost hearing the voices of the people who lived there murmuring around you.

I've never seen a ghost on any of these visits, (and I have seen ghosts, so I'd know it). But I have felt as if I walked through a time portal, as the table is set, the clothes hung in the closet and the toys of children scattered around the floor. It's as if the people walked out the door, but might return at any moment.

I take a lot of photos on these visits, and when I'm trying to imagine what my book characters are doing, I can pull out my collection and finally, the people have come home.

What spurs your imagination when you're writing?

Sibelle Stone is the pen name for award-winning author Deborah Schneider. She writes Westerns as Deborah, and paranormal and steampunk as Sibelle. Both of her personas live in the Pacific Northwest. Deborah was the 2009 RWA Librarian of the Year. Sibelle does not hold a day job.

Learn more at or

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I do

I do
Those two famous words every girl knows…and some guys fear. But in Ancient Rome the famous words were “Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia”  or translated “where you are the male, I am the female” or ‘to whatever family or clan you belong, I also belong.
        Today, the question asked by the priest, “Who gives this bride away?” is answered by the father answers usually, “Her mother and I.” In the days of Ancient Rome, the bride was passed from the control of her father to the control of her husband.

 The bride’s father -with the influence of the mother-determined who the daughter married.The groom had very little say either because even he answered to his papa.  Marriage was of convenience not love. It joined two houses. Yet, the bride did not take her husband's name. In fact, if, after a time, papa didn't like this marriage, he could divorce his daughter from this marriage and remarry her again. Neither bride or groom had a say. But it wasn't good politics.

      Let’s start with the engagement or betrothal or ‘sponsilia’.  According to Augustus, a bride “sponsa’ could not become betrothed under the age of 10  because she was expected to be able to understand what this was all about. However, we’ve heard of betrothal in Rome with a infant. This was to rebel against Ausgustus’ taxation on unmarried men. So, if an unmarried man betrothed a babe who couldn’t marry him until she became ten years of age, he had ten years of freedom.  However the typical age for his first marriage of the groom or sponsus was in his late twenties. The sponsa or bride was in their mid to upper teens.
            Another interesting clue is that the betrothal gifts were showered upon the couple. The engagement  was informal and could be easily broken. Thus the gifts were simple household gifts, easily returned. Vases, tableware, blankets. Easy to return.
However, the groom could make substantial gifts during the engagement and wedding. Why?   Because, Roman law forbade the exchange of substantial gifts between husband and wife AFTER marriage for political reasons  to prevent him from giving his wife land and apartments that the state was about to remove from his possession.  So he gave them before marriage.  
The concrete symbol of a betrothal or engagement was a ring.  It was originally made of iron or gold.   This was slid onto the third finger of the left hand. Why? It was believed that the Egyptians discovered that a very delicate nerve starts with this finger and runs directly to the heart.
The Weddings
There were three types of marriages back then.  Coemptio’ or a bride purchase. Five witnesses see the groom make a fake purchase of his bride from her father.  A second was ‘Usus’ or cohabitation or simply living together. If the bride lived with her groom for a full year, they were wed. However, should she stayed with a friend or family for three days during that year, the marriage was not valid.
And then there was the ‘Confarreatio ‘or the formal wedding.   Not all days were suitable for marriage.  It was  fatal to marry when the spirits of the dead were at large (no Halloween)  Feb 18 and Aug 24, Oct 5 and Nov 8, nor was March and May. Thus the saying “Wed in May and rue the day.”The first half of June  was iffy until the 15th after the cleaning of the temple Vesta.  Festival days were good for widows but not virgins.  Second half of June was best of all. This was nature’s month of abundant fruitfulness. The gods of marriage belonged to nature or land. as Ceres.

The Confarreato was the only form of marriage deemed legitimate by Rome and to divorce required  the approval of the pontifix maximus or highest priest.  This priest also presided over this ceremony where the family and friends sat accordingly. 
The Groom

The groom simply appeared spotless in his tunic and toga, not necessarily his senatorial toga but if he was a senator he wore this pristine, gleaming white wool wrap boasting his position in Rome by the purple stripes it carried..
The Bride
Her hair had been imprisoned in a crimson net the night before  In the morning, her hair was parted by a bend spear into six plaited locks bound by woolen fillets as the Vestial virgins wore as symbols of their chastity.  This bend spear instead of a comb implied her husband’s sexual domination and related back to the kidnap and rape of the Sabine women as plundered goods.  If the bent spear had killed a gladiator it was even more efficacious.

Her hair and face was fully covered by a veil ‘the flammeum ‘of transparent fabric of brilliant orange or flame colored and matched her shoes.  Upon her head rested a wreath of marjoram and verbena, myrtle, and orange blossoms.
Her dress  or was woven by her own hands well, early on it was. Later it just appeared to be hand woven wool or linen that would never be worn in the original form again.  In the future the bride wore the matrons dress or stola, a gown that was embroidered along the hem. This tunica was fastened at the waist by a woolen belt called ‘the knot of Hercules’ to avert ill-fortune.  Over this was a cloak or palla of the color of saffron.

The Wedding Day
            The day started at the bride’s home where she gave up her childhood toys, and was led to the priest who…either presided in the house of the bride or in a temple. Either case, the groom’s guests sat on his side and the bride’s sat on her side of the aisle. Personal family sat up front nearest the ceremony where the bride and groom sat together on a bench covered with a sheep’s fleece sacrificed for the occasion.

             The priests over saw the sacrifices of doves or pigs, a ewe but rarely an ox. The witnesses usually five bridal/five groomsmen witnessed the auspex  and the proceedings and, if good, the wedding could proceed  . The bride’s right hand was given over by her father to the right hand of the groom who took possession of his daughter.

 The couple shared a spelt cake.  

The priest blessed them. The bridal veil was lifted, either by the groom or the bride who repeated the ritual words “Ubi tu Gaius, ego Gaia.”
            The marriage contract was signed, which included the inventory of the bride’s possessions down to the last hair pin. If in the case of divorce, everything had to be returned to her father or guardian… down to the last hair pin.  The contract was signed by the priest, fathers, and witnessed by the bridal party.

Cheers of “Feliciter!” resounded in the halls. 
            The day was young so the bride now reclined with her groom who was congenially harassed and all ate and celebrated until evening. The bride was then removed from her mother’s arms (symbol of the Sabine women being kidnapped) with a display of resistance. The couple was accompanied her to the groom’s house in a wild parade of celebration, led by a happy flute player. Again, “Talasio!”  proceeded them. She was led through a pummeling of walnuts  or nuts (surely shelled) that the children scrambled to claim. These could also playthings of the groom from his childhood, and the rattle on the pavements was a merry prophecy.  

 Three young boys of living parents led her. Two held each of her hands while the third carried a torch to light the hearth of her husband’s home.  Usually this was whitethorn or pine and only one of the five lit during the procession. Her attendants carried her spindle and distaff, symbols of her virtue and domestic diligence.
They reached the groom’s house. The boy threw the torch away to a scramble to obtain it, thus granting the person the promise of a long life.  (Or if this was NOT a happy arrangement between bride and groom, the bride could obtain the torch, extinguish it and place it under the marriage bed to end this ‘long life” or the groom could secure it and let it burn itself out on a tomb.)
The bride rubbed oil and fat on the doorposts (symbol of wealth and well-being), wreathed them with wool and was then carried over the threshold , spread over by a white cloth and blanketed with greenery, by the groom or by his attendants (another symbol of the kidnapping) . Inside the groom presented her  with oil and water of which she touched.
The third and most honored bridesmaid, led the bride to a nuptial couch where the groom invited her to recline. The then removed the cloak/palla, and tried to untie the Herculean belt while the party dispersed.  Or a wedding song was sung as one of the young boys led the bride to the bedchamber to be undressed by women who had been married only once.  It was then the groom was admitted to the room.
The following day the bride and took part in the religious cults of her new family wearing the stola of a  matron.  And he went to work most likely.
 So, much is still shared with Rome even today, even with the marriage of two hearts. 
42years and counting.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Anglo-Saxon Royal Administrative Center at Yeavering: Not as Boring as it Sounds

L.G.C. Smith

One of the joys of writing books set in Britain is the research trips. After reading thousands of pages of history and archeology I feel I’ve earned a look at the places where my books take place. However, because my current focus is on the early medieval period, this often means there’s not much left to look at beyond the landscape itself. I’ve learned to develop a good imaginary eye when exploring what may now appear to be nothing more than a field or river valley.

Yeavering, the site of a sixth and seventh century Anglo-Saxon administrative center in northern Northumberland, is one of these places. It’s a field now, a big, boring field with a spectacular past. I write about the kings who had halls there, who called their citizens to meet in the wooden amphitheater, and consulted with their priests, both pagan and later Christian, in the temple or churches. All those buildings fell into ruin thirteen hundred years ago.

Knowing there wasn’t much to see at Yeavering didn’t stop me from renting a house nearby on one of my research jaunts. I was traveling with my cousin and when we arrived, we engaged in a cheerful conversation with the owners of the house we were staying in.

“What brings you to this particular location?” they asked.

“Yeavering,” I said. “Bamburgh and Holy Island. I write about Roman and Anglo-Saxon Britain. I’m particularly interested now in the early Anglo-Saxon period. And my cousin’s an archeologist.”

The wife looked at the husband, eyes twinkling. “Roger here’s an archeologist,” she said. “He bought Yeavering a few years ago.”

I was, as the Brits say, gobsmacked. Roger Miket had indeed bought Yeavering when English Heritage passed on it, and he and his wife created The Gefrin Trust to protect the site. The Trust has a website at: It’s full of wonderful information and great publications.

“Would you like to see some little things I have from Brian Hope-Taylor’s excavations?” Roger asked.

Oh, yes, please! Hope-Taylor spent years working at Yeavering. I’d been reading about it forever.

Now I have to say, the bits and pieces of pottery and metal carefully stored away didn’t look like much at first glance. Any really impressive stuff is probably in museums, and the main value in the site isn’t in the treasures that came out of it but the information, things like how buildings were built, the ways they were organized, evidence of how they were used, and so on.

But to hold a pot in my hand that had been made when Æthelfrith (the hero in “Eve of All Hallows”) had been king . . . wow. Roger had a small piece of jewelry, somewhat crushed and far from bright, not like the shiny cleaned up bits from the Staffordshire Hoard or Sutton Hoo, but likely to have been worn by a high-born lady, someone King Edwin (who I’m writing about now) might have seen . . . WOW.

In that moment, that past was as real as the brooch in my hand, swimming with color, sound, and smells. The glowing afternoon sun breaking through rain clouds. The give of thick grass underfoot, and the scent of earth and animals on the wind. Cattle lowing as they are brought into the pen. Wagon wheels creaking under a heavy load of grain. The king’s wife walking beside her priest, a bright gem glinting on her cloak in the sudden sunlight.

Those are the moments I seek when I write, the glimpses into history, particular and alive again for each reader if I do my job well. Every once in a while, the research gods reach down with a special blessing, something more than books and museums alone can grant.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lighting in the Regency Era

Though gas lamps were used on a couple of London streets as early as August 1807, it was not a common light source in the Regency period. During the Georgian/early Regency era, street lamps typically used whale oil. Around 1817, London theaters started to use gas lighting and there were other big towns that were partially lit by gas. It wasn't until 1834 that 600 miles of gas lines were laid throughout London to light up the streets and public areas of the city.

The most common forms of lighting in the Georgian and Regency periods were rush lights, candles, and oil burning lamps. Note that different social classes used different forms of lighting.


Rushlights were very cheap and easy to make (and have been used since the Middle Ages). Candles were expensive, both due to the materials and because they were taxed. So poor families needed a cheaper means of illumination. Rushlights were made by taking a rush (or even a splinter of wood) and dipping it in grease. Rushes were cut fresh and then soaked. Soaking them made it easier to peel off the hard outer skin. Then the rush would be dipped in mutton grease (or other animal fat). There were special holders for rush lights that pinched the wood between metal pliers. Once the rush burned down to the pinchers, the light went out. Obviously, rushlights did not burn for very long so you'd have to keep burning new ones if you weren't going to bed.

If you'd like to try out a rushlight, Jas Townsend & Son, Inc. makes replicas of old 18th century items. Click on the image for more information. This is a combination rushlight holder which allows for both a candle and a rush. You can see the little pliers holding the rush.

Tallow Candles

Servants and middle class families would use tallow candles. Basically, these candles are made from fat rather than from wax. They were cheaper than wax candles because you could use the fat from your sheep or cows and if you didn't use it all, that fat could be preserved for soaps or for use in the kitchen. A cotton or linen wick was dipped into the fat and solidified. You'd have to keep dipping it until you got the candle to the size you wanted. Technically, you could get around the tax by making a candle from home, though you'd have to buy the material for the wick. If you were purchasing the candle, you had to go to a licensed chandler (I'm guessing to make sure that you paid the appropriate taxes). Tax on tallow candles was a penny/pence.

Keep in mind that both rushlights and tallow candles were made with fat, so they would stink when you burned them. Different methods were suggested for alleviating the smell. Some people soaked the wick in vinegar; others burned pastilles of gunpowder! Tallow candles didn't stay functional as long as wax, so you'd only keep them for a few months, and the wicks had to be trimmed periodically or the candle would sputter.

Wax Candles

Wax candles were pricey and were often made of beeswax, though I did see a mention of spermaceti, which is a wax that comes from the head of a sperm whale. Only wealthy people could afford wax. Going to a house that is lit entirely with wax candles is a significant sign of wealth. Often people would burn tallow candles when there were no guests present and preserve the wax candles for company.

A housekeeper would be in charge of the wax candles and she was allowed to collect the leftover wax stubs and sell them to tradesmen. I saw a funny reference where one household only allowed the butler to keep the wax candles and the housekeeper kept the tallow candles (which indicates how valuable they were).

How to Light a Candle

Here is a fun video I found last month that shows how to light a candle (hint, it requires more than just a match). You may have to increase the volume.

Spunk or Sulfer Match (shows how to light a candle with a flint and tinder tube)

Oil Burning Lamps

Oil lamps would burn whale oil, rapeseed oil, or lard (which was used by the lower classes). Prior to the Regency, oil lamps were "floating lamps" where you would put a wick inside of a bowl of oil and light it. Note that light from a floating lamp burns red. In the late 18th century, people started putting a glass container on top of the oil lamp so that the flame would burn a bright yellow.


Greton, Lel. "Rushlights." Old & Interesting Blog. Web. 17 Apr. 2012. <>.

Hughes, Kristine. The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England, from 1811-1901. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest, 1998. Print.

Pool, Daniel. What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist : The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth-century England. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. Print.

*Note all images link back to their original source

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Pony Express

I love research. Earlier this week, I was looking for information on the building of the railroads across the US. As happens to me almost every time I try to research a tiny fact, I start clicking and before I know it, I'm researching something that has absolutely nothing to do with what I was originally looking for. This time, my clicking took me to a site about the Pony Express.

I'd heard about it, of course, watched the original 30-minuteTV show back in the late 50's as well as The Young Riders with Stephen Baldwin and Josh Brolin in the late 70's, but I didn't realize that the Pony Express actually existed for less than two years.

In 1860, the Civil War was imminent. Three men, realizing that better communication was needed between the east and west, founded the Pony Express. On April 3, 1860, the first rides left St. Joseph, Missouri and Sacramento, California, each covering 250 miles in a 24-hour period and making the 1800-mile journey between the two stations in an unprecedented ten days.

Many of the riders, young men (many of them still in their teens) answered ads like this one:

"Men Wanted" The undersigned wishes to
hire ten or a dozen men, familiar with the
management of horses, as hostlers, or riders
on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City.
Wages $50 per month and found."
- Ad in Sacramento Union, March 19, 1860.

Over the next few months, the Pony Express company swelled to over 100 way stations, 80 riders and 200 horses, but in all the trips that were made, only one mail delivery was lost. The last trip began on October 24, 1861 and the last letters reached California in early November.

Less than nineteen months. Yet in such a short period of time, the Pony Express became a legend, and eventually spawned movies, TV shows and books about these daring young men who carried the mail over uncivilized and dangerous territory. I never did find the information I'd started to look for, but learning about the Pony Express gave me a new twist to the project I'm working on. So, moral of the story? Click away. You never know what you'll find.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A List of Regency Colors for Clothing

One of my favorite eras in history is the Regency.  I love the clothing styles--the delicate slipper shoes, the elegant bonnets, the silk stockings.  Even the hair ribbons and small purses called reticules.  While I found clothing styles to be easy to research, I had to dig deeper to learn about colors.  Below is a list of colors used during the Regency.

Blush - pale pink
Laylock - warm pink

Amaranth - purple‐red with a pink tint
Amethyst -  light purple
Deep Violet
Violet - parma violet

Azure - bright, sky blue
Bishop's Blue - blue/purple

Cerulean Blue - a bluish green color during the Regency (not the sky blue we think of today)

Spanish Blue - dark blue, used for men's coats

American Green - bright green
Bottle Green - dark green with a hint of blue

Emerald Green - a bluish green color made from a copper arsenic compound.  Yes, it was poisonous, but not known to be at the time

Pistache/Pistachio  - light green
Pomona - Apple green

Bois de Citron - a yellow green
Canary yellow -  bright yellow
Evening Primrose - deeper yellow than Primrose
Fawn - a light yellow‐tan
Jonquil - daffodil yellow
Primrose - soft yellow

Capucine - dark orange
Coquelicot - named after the Poppy flower
Devonshire Brown - rich reddish brown
Garnet - same as today
Hazelnut - reddish‐brown
Pompeian Red - the deep red color
Poussiere de Paris - light brown
Puce -  brownish-purple/purplish-pink
Sorrel - cinnamon color
Egytian Earth-Brown

Manilla - light, hemp brown
Nakara - pearl color
Slate - a dark gray/stone gray
Steelgrey -  a metallic blackish gray
Straw -  the golden beige hue

Resources:  A Lady of Fashion - Barbara Johnson's Album of Styles and Fabrics;  Sandra Brands Regency Clothing Workshop; The Regency Companion by Laudermilk and Hamlin

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Bayeux Tapestry Comes to Life by Anna Markland

For any writer of medieval romance set at the time of the Norman Conquest of England, the Bayeux Tapestry is an invaluable resource. I studied it carefully while writing the first book of my series The Montbryce Legacy. In Conquering Passion, my hero, Rambaud (Ram) de Montbryce, is given the responsibility by William the Duke of Normandy of building the invasion fleet.

I found it incongruous that the launch of the fleet was held up for six weeks because of unfavourable winds. Surely if the Normans were descendents of the Viking Norsemen they would simply have rowed across the Channel. But no, a close examination of the tapestry clearly shows there were no oarsmen, only men holding the tillers and the wind filling the square sails.

One of the reasons the Normans were ultimately victorious is that they had mounted troops. While it may be difficult to believe that hundreds of horses were transported on these relativley crude longboats, that too is clearly shown in the tapestry.

The tapestry, which is actually an embroidery, was completed in England by Anglo-Saxon artists who were well known for their embroidery skills. It was sent to Bayeux where William the Conqueror's half brother, Eude (Odo) was building a cathedral. He was Bishop of Bayeux and had fought alongside William in the Battle of Hastings.

The tapestry details the reason for the invasion-Harold Godwinson's "stealing" of the throne of England after the death of Edward the Confessor.

My latest release, Defiant Passion, tells the story of the coming of the Normans from the Celtic viewpoint of the Welsh resistance to Norman rule. Many readers have suggested that the villain-turned-hero Rhodri from Conquering Passion is worthy of his own story. So I gave him his own series, entitled The Sons of Rhodri. Defiant Passion is Book One, and Dark and Bright (coming soon) will tell the story of Rhodri's oldest son, Rhys. Readers met Rhys briefly in A Man of Value.

The Conqueror's insistence on a record glorifying and justifying his invasion of England has left us with a tremendously rare glimpse into a medieval event that completely changed the course of history.
I hope you enjoy this nifty animated version of the Tapestry where history comes to life.

Quick reminder you can qualify to win a Kindle if you leave a comment. Plus a free download of Defiant Passion will be awarded to one lucky commenter on today's post.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Some History on Fine Dining in Victorian New York City

If there's one thing I love about writing historical romance, it's doing the research for each specific book. There's so much detail involved in writing a story, in particular, with Historicals. You have to research the historical period itself, taking into consideration all the goings on of the day. For instance, war, court cases, society, social structure, and location, where you'll do it all over again. i find searching for timelines extremely helpful. It puts me smack-dab in the center of a year and locale. Then once you get a handle on all that, you can narrow your focus. :)

There's so much to consider, fashion, society traditions, servants, and so much more. Like food? Yep... :) But unfortunately, we must kill our darlings for the sake of the story. :)

Yes, it's difficult cutting unnecessary facts and fun information, but sometimes that must be done in order to not make your story read like a history textbook. :)

While doing research for my historical, His Fifth Avenue Thief, the hero suggests that he and the heroine dine at Delmonico's, nicknamed "The Citadel," because of its grandeur. It stood three stories tall with two columns flanking its entrance said to have come from the ruins of the ancient empire of Pompeii. The first and second floors featured large "saloons" or dining rooms with inlaid floors and the most expensive decor. The third floor contained several private dining rooms, as well as the kitchen. The cellar included wine vaults stocked with 16,000 bottles of French wine.

Delmonicos first began as a pastry shop and wasn't made a restaurant until 1831 by the Delmonico's, two brothers from France. For the next ninety years, Delmonico's would be the place to dine if you were anyone of importance. It was said that author Mark Twain and opera singer Jenny Lind loved to frequent Delmonico's.

In 1836, five years after the restaurant's grand opening, it was recorded that Delmonico's was the first place to ever print a menu for diners. Before then, patrons would simply eat what was prepared each day, but Delmonico's provided it's patrons a true Parisian fine dining experience. In the 1830's, Delmonico's menu offered 340 entrées, 11 soups, and 40 hors d'oeuvres

This is a sample of what they served then and how items were priced. It's amazing now to see how "hamburger steak," priced then at ten cents was considered expensive back then. :)

Regular beefsteak, pork chops and fried fish are each 4 cents, roast beef, roast mutton and chicken stew are all 5 cents, and roast chicken is 10 cents. Delmonico's menu is 12 pages long with over 350 dishes listed.

Delmonico's was most known for creating Delmonico's steak and potatoes. Two other famous dishes created there were Lobster Newburg and baked Alaska.

I couldn't include all of that in my story. Though it would've been fun. :) That's pretty much what I learned for less than a page of story. :) Doing as much research as I did, I love using some of what I've learned to enrich my books. :) It's the small details that help give character depth and emotional layers, not to mention enhance the setting.

His Fifth Avenue Thief blurb:
Two years prior, Irishman Aaron O’Connel took his life from rags to riches. Chance and wits have kept him alive in 1850’S New York City. But no amount of money or success can bring his love Cathlene back from the dead. When a thief sneaks her way into his mansion, the last woman he expects to find absconding with his belongings is his long lost wife.
Abandoned on New York’s shores, a widowed, penniless, and ruined Cathlene O'Connel was left to fend for herself in an unfamiliar world. Fear and circumstance drove her to a life of thieving in order to survive, but her heart risks the biggest danger of all when Aaron hands her a scandalous proposition: A son in exchange for her freedom.
Now that he has her back, Aaron doesn't intend to let Cathlene slip between his fingers. He'll do whatever it takes to regain her trust and love. But when an enemy from Cathlene's past resurfaces, Aaron not only faces battling for Cathlene's heart, but also her life.
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Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tax Day and a Giveway

Tax day is fast approaching. I don’t know if this will interest folks as much as it did me, but I was surprised to learn even this little bit about the history of our federal income tax system. Taxes have been a hot topic from the inception of our country. We all know that our forefathers and those who fought alongside them believed we had to have representation: No taxation without representation. (The Colonists felt their interests weren’t being represented to the King.) Most of us also know our country didn’t begin with a federal tax. What I didn’t know was that we did have a federal tax for a short time, but it was abolished because it was deemed unconstitutional!

Take a look and let me know what you think.

History of the Income Tax in the United States
Source: Tax Foundation.

In 1862, in order to support the Civil War effort, Congress enacted the nation's first income tax law. It was a forerunner of our modern income tax in that it was based on the principles of graduated, or progressive, taxation and of withholding income at the source. During the Civil War, a person earning from $600 to $10,000 per year paid tax at the rate of 3%. Those with incomes of more than $10,000 paid taxes at a higher rate. Additional sales and excise taxes were added, and an “inheritance” tax also made its debut. In 1866, internal revenue collections reached their highest point in the nation's 90-year history—more than $310 million, an amount not reached again until 1911.

The Act of 1862 established the office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue. The Commissioner was given the power to assess, levy, and collect taxes, and the right to enforce the tax laws through seizure of property and income and through prosecution. The powers and authority remain very much the same today.

In 1868, Congress again focused its taxation efforts on tobacco and distilled spirits and eliminated the income tax in 1872. It had a short-lived revival in 1894 and 1895. In the latter year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that the income tax was unconstitutional because it was not apportioned among the states in conformity with the Constitution.

In 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution made the income tax a permanent fixture in the U.S. tax system. The amendment gave Congress legal authority to tax income and resulted in a revenue law that taxed incomes of both individuals and corporations. In fiscal year 1918, annual internal revenue collections for the first time passed the billion-dollar mark, rising to $5.4 billion by 1920. With the advent of World War II, employment increased, as did tax collections—to $7.3 billion. The withholding tax on wages was introduced in 1943 and was instrumental in increasing the number of taxpayers to 60 million and tax collections to $43 billion by 1945.

In 1981, Congress enacted the largest tax cut in U.S. history, approximately $750 billion over six years. The tax reduction, however, was partially offset by two tax acts, in 1982 and 1984, that attempted to raise approximately $265 billion.

On Oct. 22, 1986, President Reagan signed into law the Tax Reform Act of 1986, one of the most far-reaching reforms of the United States tax system since the adoption of the income tax. The top tax rate on individual income was lowered from 50% to 28%, the lowest it had been since 1916. Tax preferences were eliminated to make up most of the revenue. In an attempt to remain revenue neutral, the act called for a $120 billion increase in business taxation and a corresponding decrease in individual taxation over a five-year period.

Following what seemed to be a yearly tradition of new tax acts that began in 1986, the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1990 was signed into law on Nov. 5, 1990. As with the '87, '88, and '89 acts, the 1990 act, while providing a number of substantive provisions, was small in comparison with the 1986 act. The emphasis of the 1990 act was increased taxes on the wealthy.

On Aug. 10, 1993, President Clinton signed the Revenue Reconciliation Act of 1993 into law. The act's purpose was to reduce by approximately $496 billion the federal deficit that would otherwise accumulate in fiscal years 1994 through 1998. In 1997, Clinton signed another tax act. The act, which cut taxes by $152 billion, included a cut in capital-gains tax for individuals, a $500 per child tax credit, and tax incentives for education.

President George W. Bush signed a series of tax cuts into law. The largest was the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. It was estimated to save taxpayers $1.3 trillion over ten years, making it the third largest tax cut since World War II. The Bush tax cut created a new lowest rate, 10% for the first several thousand dollars earned. It also established a slow schedule of incremental tax cuts that would eventually double the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000, adjust brackets so that middle-income couples owed the same tax as comparable singles, cut the top four tax rates (28% to 25%; 31% to 28%; 36% to 33%; and 39.6% to 35%).

The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief and Reconciliation Act of 2003 accelerated the tax rate cuts that had been enacted in 2001, and temporarily reduced the tax rate on capital gains and dividends to 15%. In 2004, the U.S. was forced to eliminate a corporate tax provision that had been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization. Along with that tax hike, Congress passed a cornucopia of tax breaks, which for individuals included an option to deduct the payment of whichever state taxes were higher, sales or income taxes.

Two tax bills signed in 2005 and 2006 extended through 2010 the favorable rates on capital gains and dividends that had been enacted in 2003, raised the exemption levels for the Alternative Minimum Tax, and enacted new tax incentives designed to persuade individuals to save more for retirement.

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Everyone deserves a break during tax season. My contribution is a digital copy of my Scottish Medieval The Pendulum. Leave a comment and you're in the drawing. I'll contact the winner via email.


Two men.

Two murderers.

Two demands for the promised payment of marriage.

Murder, deceit, and fraud pull Lady Arin Keith between these men.

Which one will bed her, claim her...own her?


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Thar's Gold In Them Thar Hills....... by Jennifer Jakes

OK, as far as I know no one really ever said that except in the movies - but in 1897-1898 men and women alike not only believed it but risked their lives and livelihood to find some of that gold.

This post is going to be the first of a series about the Klondike Gold Rush which is the setting for my work-in-progress, ALASKAN HEAT.  I’ve found so many interesting facts about the era and the people that I thought it would make a great post. J I hope you enjoy! Don't forget to leave a comment and your email addy to be entered in the drawing for the Kindle!

Yukon Territory 1897
The Klondike Gold Rush
The gold rush started in July, 1897 when two ships docked - one in San Francisco and one in Seattle - each carrying miners returning from the Yukon. The miners carried large amounts of gold and didn’t hesitate to proclaim great amounts of wealth was to be had in the Yukon. The press was alerted and papers carried the story to the masses – stories as ridiculous as gold nuggets lying just barely underground. * More on the reality in later posts.*
Soon, miners of all shapes and sizes – both male and female - called "stampeders", were on their way to the gold fields. Within six months, as many as 100,000 gold-seekers headed to the Yukon. Only approximately 30,000 completed the trip.
Most stampeders knew nothing about where they were going, so pamphlets were available to help them on their way. *Note: The United States was still in economic decline at this time, so the lure of money, much less a way to get-rich-quick made many leave or sell what little they had and head to Alaska. *
 Many of the pamphlets were pure fiction, some written by men who never even made the journey. But nevertheless, the pamphlets made outrageous claims of “easy” routes to the gold fields. Outfitters – both along the West coast and in Alaska - sprang up overnight that were more than happy to sell the stampeders whatever they needed to get started – most of the time at outrageous prices, especially the outfitters in Alaska. The supplies included food, clothing, tools and camping, mining and transportation equipment. Helping the outfitters in this regard were the Northwest Mounted Police who required all stampeders to have one year’s supply of goods before they allowed them across the border into Canada. *More about the different routes in later posts*  The supplies equaled roughly one ton of goods per person.
Here is a list of required supplies.
1898 Supplies
McDougall and Secord Klondike Outfit List (clothing & food):
2 suits heavy knit underwear
6 pairs wool socks
1 pairs heavy moccasins
2 pairs german stockings
2 heavy flannel overshirts
1 heavy woollen sweater
1 pair overalls
2 pairs 12-lb. blankets
1 waterproof blanket
1 dozen bandana handkerchiefs
1 stiff brim cowboy hat
1 pair hip rubber boots
1 pair prospectors' high land boots
1 mackinaw, coat, pants, shirt
1 pair heavy buck mitts, lined
1 pair unlined leather gloves
1 duck coat, pants, vest
6 towels
1 pocket matchbox, buttons, needles and thread comb, mirror, toothbrush
etc. mosquito netting/1 dunnage bag
1 sleeping bag/medicine chest
pack saddles, complete horses
flat sleighs
100 lbs. navy beans
150 lbs. bacon
400 lbs. flour
40 lbs. rolled oats
20 lbs. corn meal
10 lbs. rice
25 lbs. sugar
10 lbs. tea
20 lbs. coffee
10 lbs. baking powder
20 lbs. salt
1 lb. pepper
2 lbs. baking soda
1/2 lb. mustard
1/4 lb. vinegar
2 doz. condensed milk
20 lbs. evaporated potatoes
5 lbs. evaporated onions
6 tins/4 oz. extract beef
75 lbs. evaporated fruits
4 pkgs. yeast cakes
20 lbs. candles
1 pkg. tin matches
6 cakes borax
6 lbs. laundry soap
1/2 lb. ground ginger
25 lbs. hard tack
1 lb. citric acid
2 bottles Jamaica ginger
*This list found on Adventure Learning Foundation Site.

Remember, all of this per person had to be hauled over a mountain range. That’s what we’ll talk about next month. J
You can find Jennifer Jakes and all her books at her  Website

Monday, April 2, 2012

How Did Medieval Nobles Entertain Themselves?

It seems that a life of leisure was led by the nobles, and for some it was, although they did have many duties they needed to attend to as well.  Nobles were in charge of vast holdings, which housed hundreds if not thousands of people. Their were crops, animals, taxes, disputes, duties to their king or overlord, and more that they had to keep up with. When it was time to take a break, there were plenty of things they enjoyed doing. I try to incorporate many of these activities in my own work. Between all that heart-wrenching conflict, I have to let my characters have some fun!

What did they do for fun?

When there wasn’t a huge celebration, or entertainments going on, nobles still did things for fun, just like we do.  Has your power ever gone out?  What did you do for fun?  Believe it or not, what they did for fun is a lot like what we do today for fun, without the technology and electricity.

Here’s a list of some things they might do:

  • Read quietly or aloud
  • Write – poetry, theology, philosophy
  • Art – painting, drawing, sculpting
  • Sewing – tapestries, embroidery
  • Music – playing, singing, listening, dancing
  • Gardening (flowers, herbs, picking fruit and berries)
  • Walking
  • Horseback riding
  • Mock fights (men – unless you have a feisty woman J)
  • Hunting – there were a lot of types of hunting.  Hunting was done on horseback with either/both hounds and hawks (falcons too).  They would hunt deer (stag), wild boar, fox, and any other wild animal that caught their fancy.  Women hunted too.  Hunting was a dangerous and exhilarating sport.  If you recall, Henry VIII injured his leg quite badly in a fall while hunting.
  • Talking
  • Playing cards (triomphe, piquet, vingt-et-un)
  • Playing board games (chess, checkers, draughts, dice, backgammon, tabula)
  • Watch or participate in a play
  • Outdoor games:  Bocce, Bowling games, Tennis, In France/Italy a form of football was played called la Soule
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Bobbing for apples
  • Wrestling
  • Treasure hunts
  • Christmas Game – “King of the Bean” a bean was baked into a bread or cake, whoever found it was king of the holiday feast
  • Riddling – making up riddles people had to figure out (popular among knights as well—kept their wits sharp which was just as important as keeping their bodies in shape.)
  • Puzzles
  • Gambling
  • Blind Man’s Bluff
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