Tag Archives: history

Writing While In Slug Mode and My New Series


Sleepy kittyWinter is both a good and challenging time to write. Hibernation calls and chocolate becomes a food group, hot beverages a necessity. My favorite is hot Earl Grey tea, also peppermint. I am not averse to coffee. Caffeine battles the tug to curl up with my drowsy kitties and nap. Occasionally, I succumb, plus we’ve had a round of plague in the family that set me back.

Despite it all, I’m pleased to say I just submitted the next in my paranormal time travel romance ‘Somewhere in Time’ series to my Wild Rose Press editor.

Fairy woman walking in the woodsThis latest story, Somewhere My Lady, is a New Adult time travel mystery romance like Somewhere My Love but different.  The novel kicks off my new ‘Lady series.’ The common theme in all my ‘Somewhere’ stories is that they open in an old home, so far in Virginia, and then flash back to an earlier era in the same house or somewhere else entirely like the Scottish Highlands.

Old English Manor with red rosesIn Somewhere My Lady, the couple are whisked back and forth between present-day in the elegant colonial home on the James River and its rich past during the American Revolution. The story has mystery, history, ghosts, humor, angst, a lot of paranormal activity, and above all Romance! I’m psyched and look forward to sharing more about it soon. (This is actually a pic of a British manor house, but the best of the James River plantations homes bear a resemblance to one.)

old Victorian homeMeanwhile, I’m at work on the next in my ‘Lady’ series, which is totally different from the first except that it fits the arching theme in my Somewhere in Time series. This second story takes place in a castle-styled Victorian home in historic Staunton, Virginia, and flashes back to various eras within the span of the house. Another winner, I think. At least, I’m engrossed in the writing. Each of the ‘Lady’ stories has a strong female lead and hero, and a great supporting cast of characters. I hope you will enjoy them when they take flight later this year.

Door, Old, Fantasy, Halloween, Gothic Style, Mystery, Spooky, Wood, Medieval, Doorway (2)Doors are important in these stories and the question posed is, ‘Will you go through that door?’

What awaits you on the other side?

If you haven’t read my Somewhere in Time Series, the stories are all available in kindle at Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Somewhere-Time-4-Book/dp/B016DF8LJ2

The Lovely Willow and its Cures


“All a green willow is my garland.” ~John Heywood

weeping willow

The beautiful willow tree has an ancient, varied history of use and lore, depending on which culture is referenced. While regarded as a cure-all in America, it had strong pagan associations in early Scotland.

From The Scot’s Herbal by Tess Darwin: “Willows were one of the first trees to appear in Scotland after the last Ice Age and no doubt this versatile species has been used since prehistoric times for a great variety of purposes.

In addition to many practical uses of willows for basketry, rope, house building, fencing, beehives, lobster pots and coracle frames, it was a magic tree. A willow wand symbolized the goddess, and was used for divination—the original magic wand. Willow was one of the druids sacred woods…the word wicca (the craft and wisdom of witches) is said to be derived from the use of willow to make a wicker frame to build an effigy of the Celtic God Balder, king/consort to the queen/goddess, ceremonially sacrificed on Beltane.

Weeping Willow

Fear of the power of willow persisted long into Christian times: witches’ broomsticks sometimes had a willow shaft, and persecuted witches from North Berkshire were said to sail in willow winnowing riddles. In central Perthshire willow wands were reportedly used to work the evil eye. Black magic worked with willow could be counteracted by rowan.

On the other hand, a branch of willow catkins in the home is still believed to bring good health; this may relate to its medicinal uses. The bark contains acetylsalicylic acid (the main constituent of aspirin) and has long been used as a pain killer.”

In America, the willow is considered “one of Nature’s most valuable gifts to mankind.” From Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants by Bradford Angier. He goes on to say, “The North American Indians soon discovered that tea decocted and steeped from the cambium of the majority of willows was important for arthritis and for reducing fever and many pains—this centuries before the isolating and marketing of aspirin. The ashes of burned willow twigs were blended with water and used for gonorrhea.

pussy-willow-hatsWillow roots were powdered with stones and turned to in an effort to dry up sores from syphilis. The settlers soon joined the Indians in using potent teas brewed from the cambium or inner bark of the bitter willows to treat venereal disease. The dried and powdered bitter bark, astringent and detergent, was applied to the navels of newborn babies. It was utilized to stop severe bleeding, as were the crushed young green leaves, the bark, and the seeds, also stuffed up the nostrils to stop nosebleeds. These were also used for toothache.”

And the uses go on, including a spring tonic made of steeped willow roots, an Indian practice adopted by the settlers. The roots were used to kill and expel worms and willow tea to bathe sore eyes. Some settlers also shared in the Indian practice of using pussy willow catkins as an aphrodisiac. Probably in the form of a bark tea, but it doesn’t say.

I vote for spring.

Now in Print! Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles


Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles CoverAfter exhaustive efforts on my and daughter Elise’s part, Plants for a Medieval Herb Garden in the British Isles is available in print at Amazon (also other outlets).

For those of you who’ve been patiently waiting, it’s here, with over 100 lovely images. Remember, a number of these plants accompanied the colonists to the New World. Many are the herbs we use today, though some of their applications fell into disfavor. Not everyone still seeks a way to avert the Evil Eye, or risks potentially poisonous treatments for a cure.

Book Description: An illustrated collection of plants that could have been grown in a Medieval Herb or Physic Garden in the British Isles. The major focus of this work is England and Scotland, but also touches on Ireland and Wales. Information is given as to the historic medicinal uses of these plants and the rich lore surrounding them. Journey back to the days when herbs figured into every facet of life, offering relief from the ills of this realm and protection from evil in all its guises.~

dill with white aster and heirloom poppiesA Few Amazon Reader Reviews:

 
A perfect resource for gardeners and history buffs alike.  By Dorothy Johnson
 
Plants for a medieval herb garden is a fun, easy resource. I have been making my way through its pages and enjoying every minute of it. I’ve even found some new plants that I’d like to try out in my own garden.
Excellent Source for Herbal Lore,

Beth Trissel delivers detailed and useful information about herbs in the middle ages. Of course, no self-respecting medievalist would be without a thorough knowledge of healing herbs and their uses, and Beth lays it all out for us in alphabetical order.

archangel-michael, old stained glass windowWell-researched Medieval Herbal
I was in the online workshop where Beth first began putting this book together. The information she gave the participants in each session was amazingly detailed and very well-documented. She gave us an early version of this book and I’ve referred to it more than once as a resource for my own novel writing. When I saw the finished product was out and available, I grabbed my copy immediately. If you’re ever lucky enough to attend one of her herbal workshops — DO IT!! Until then, this is an excellent substitute and one heck of a resource. If you’re writing in this time period and location and want to make sure your characters are using historically accurate herbs in the way they were used at the time, you’ll definitely want this book. If you’re simply interested in learning how herbs were used in Medieval times in the British Isles, if you love knowing the history of the herbs you might use every day, or if you’re just learning about using herbs, this is the book for you!

Sleepy Hollow and the Persecution of Witches in America


Sleepy Hollow (TV Series)With all the TV shows featuring witches, like Sleepy Hollow, which is a fun show but its historical ‘facts’ are a hoot, (great costumes and dude, though) I want to clarify. No accused witches were ever burned in America. Hanging, dunking, drowning, pressing with stones, dying while imprisoned, lashing, banishment, and shunning were inflicted, but no burning. Also, some arrested for witchcraft were later freed and the charges dropped. And none of the poor souls hung or otherwise killed during the Salem Witch trials were practicing witches, but victims of an insane mania that overtook the people of that time and place whose madness is still begin explored today.

I did a post on My Ancestor and the Salem Witch Trials 

For historical records on the punishment and execution (or release) of various individuals accused of witchcraft visit:

http://www.personal.utulsa.edu/~marc-carlson/witchtrial/na.html

historicalromancenovelkiradaughterofthemoonMy fascination with the supernatural, whether real or imagined, played an important role in my historical romance novel, Kira, Daughter of the Moon. Murmurings against the unusual, young Scots-Irishwoman, Kira McClure, grow into accusations of witchcraft. Never a good thing, but especially not in the colonial Virginia frontier. Acceptance in a close-knit community could mean the difference between life and death. The highly superstitious Scots settled in the rugged Alleghenies on the heels of The French and Indian War were already wary. The dangers these dark woods held heightened their fear of the supernatural. Sick livestock, children struck down with illness, and other misfortunes might be blamed on witchcraft. Settlers were alert to anyone in their midst they could point to as the culprit. The farther people ventured from more civilized society, the deeper their superstitions ran. And taking the law, such as it was, into their own hands was often how they dealt with miscreants in the frontier .

veiled mountains

Late Shenandoah Valley author/historian, John Heatwole, put together a wonderful collection of accounts from valley and mountain people regarding their experiences with and feelings toward so-called witches. His book deals with beliefs lingering into the 20th century, but they’re still present among some rural Virginians today. Fear best sums up their sentiments. In his book, Shenandoah Voices, Mr. Heatwole says, “Witches have not been tried, jailed or executed in America since the early 18th century, but tales of their activities persist. During that period in our history, superstitious practices invoked for self-protection were considered prudent dabbling in the occult and virtually harmless. Powers or practices called upon for mean-spirited or evil purposes were attributed to malevolent people in the community who wielded demonic powers. Despite the perception of evil, people suspected of being witches, who were mostly women, were often tolerated in society because of their family ties or from fear of retribution—no one wanted to get on the wrong side of a witch.”

True. However, ‘often tolerated,’ doesn’t mean those perceived as witches were popular. He shares accounts, and I’ve read others, of outspoken or in some way unique females, perhaps even deformed, thought to be in league with the devil who were ostracized. Not being accepted and possibly even tormented by your neighbors was harsh, particularly for the poor and elderly. On the one hand, a woman might gain power over others, even men, in a historically male dominated society, through the fear she intentionally or unintentionally provoked, but the danger that people would shun her was always present–unless she was well-to-do. The rich were always better tolerated.

Spells and hexes were countered by witch doctors, usually men, although ‘Granny women’ were also known for battling the dark arts with magical incantations. I have friends who grew up ‘back in the holler’ and remember bringing in the Granny woman when home remedies failed. One common protection prudent mothers undertook for children was to sew little ‘acifidity’ bags filled with pungent herbs, garlic and asafetida,  to hang around their necks. “Oh my, did these kids stink,’ one friend told me. The stench was to drive away illness and evil. These stinky bags may be out of favor now, but the fear that lay behind them is still quite real among some folk.

Owl, Barn Owl, Tree, Hole, Bird, Animal, Bark, WildlifeYou may ask if any of the women, and occasionally men, thought to be witches actually were? Yes. And some of them sound pretty darn scary.

For my recent post on that visit:

One of the Scariest Ghost/Witch Stories Ever

Virginia–Steeped in History and Inspiration–Beth Trissel


The rich history of Virginia, the Native Americans and the people who journeyed here from far beyond her borders are at the heart of my inspiration.  Not only have I lived in the Old Dominion for most of my life, but also several previous centuries in the sense that my ancestors were among the earliest settlers of the Shenandoah Valley (1730’s/1740’s). Chapel Hill, circa 1816, the Churchman family home place on my father’s side, is part of the inspiration behind the old homes in my novels, as are the other early plantations I’ve visited like Berkeley, Shirley and Carter’s Grove.  My Scots-Irish forebears settled Augusta County in the southern valley with names like Houston, Patterson, Finley, Moffett and McLeod.  These clannish people often intermarried, so I can tie in with many other early families depending on how I swing through the ancestral tree.

Colonial Virginia encompassed a vast territory.  Initially  Augusta County named for Princess Augusta, wife of Frederick, Prince of Wales, stretched northward from the present day county of Rockingham to include part of Page; to the South it extended the full length of Virginia’s border, and to the northwest it included the present day states of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and part of western Pennsylvania, all the territory claimed by Great Britain at that time.

Jamestown, the earliest successful English colony, and  Williamsburg,  a vital center in early America, are both in Virginia.  If you haven’t visited Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown, you’re in for a real treat.  These sites are wonderfully  restored so it’s like stepping back in time to another age, one that fascinates me.

Virginia is steeped in history.   How could I not be drawn to this wealth of stories here?  They span centuries.  And if the earth could speak what tales it would tell, some of them horrific.

Virginia is also the site of more battles than any other state in the union, encompassing the Indian Wars, the Revolution and that most uncivil of wars, the Civil War.  Not to mention, Virginia has more ghost stories than any other state.  Also fodder for the imagination and yet more stories.

The Vital Importance of the Storytellers–Beth Trissel


“I come from a family of great readers and storytellers.” Katherine Dunn

So do I, and I’ve given much thought to the inestimable value of the storytellers, both in the family and those with a far broader reach. In each generation, the storytellers remind us who we are, where we’re going, and most importantly to me, where we came from. The keepers of the story pass on that knowledge, those family accounts, the history. Someone must keep the stories alive, lest we forget. I am blessed to come from a family with a rich wealth of genealogy and lines traced back as far as Geoffrey Chaucer, and farther. I know who I am and where I came from and hold it as a sacred trust to pass that on. In this crazy world, it’s more important than ever to remember. So I tell my children, my grandchildren, my nieces…and reach out to the world through my writing. I am one of the storytellers.

“If a nation loses its storytellers, it loses its childhood.”
Peter Handke

Lest We Forget–Beth Trissel


In these troubled times in America, it’s wise to remember where we came from  and what our founders envisioned for this great nation. Being an American is a sacred privilege, our hard-won freedoms, fast eroding, should never be taken for granted, and preserving these inalienable rights, a call to arms for all who cherish liberty. With that in mind, I highly recommend watching the excellent HBO production that came out several years ago featuring the indomitable John Adams–appropriately entitled John Adams. Not to be confused (as I’ve done) with an earlier production, The Adam’s Chronicles. 

What John Adams and his remarkable wife, Abigail, and their entire family suffered and sacrificed in the forging of America is unbelievable. Not only them, but countless others as well.  I wonder if I’d last a day in that turbulent era, and yet, my forebears did.  So did many of yours.  If your ancestors were not yet in this country at its birth, no doubt they played an important role in making America what it is, or is intended to be, at its finest. Let us not forget, or our children and grandchildren will pay the price. Theirs already is a vastly different America than the nation envisioned by its outstanding founders with their mind-boggling perseverance.

As an author with several stories set in early America, and currently at work on the sequel to my Revolutionary War romance novel Enemy of the King, I’m particularly mindful of our roots.  Join me in the quest to remember.

“Posterity! You will never know how much it cost the present Generation to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.” ― John Adams