Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Return to Alabama, 1945

Alice and David Strong in Birmingham, Alabama, 1947

(NOTE: This post was first published several years ago but I am publishing it again in honor of my Uncle David, who passed away on March 27, 2015.)

Here is the continuation of my mother's story of her family in the years of World War II, beginning with the sea voyage from the Philippines to the USA. They settled in Birmingham, Alabama where my grandfather's family had lived for generations. The photo above shows my mother and her brother David, wearing the knickers he so disliked.
My memories of the sea voyage to the US are that of a storm at sea where the ship was said to have come within 6 degrees of capsizing. I remember a long dark night with the ship rocking, people screaming and tumbling all over the place, suitcases and other articles sliding back and forth, and everyone getting severely sea sick. We were all confined below for safety, and my mother held me close to her in her bunk so I would not tumble around and end up with broken bones or worse yet, a concussion. During this voyage a US Destroyer could be seen in the distant horizon protecting us from Japanese submarines because we were still at war with Japan. Our ship the USS Eberle, as I recall it was a Coast Guard ship, had to take a zig zag course in order to elude the Japanese submarines that could possibly be stalking us.

It was spring of 1945 and the Atomic bomb was yet to be dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of that year. (On my brother's birthday, August 7th.) I recall landing briefly at Honolulu and watching a US Navy Band play 'Anchors Aweigh' and parade on the pier far below us. We then landed in San Pedro California, and were put up in a hotel by the Red Cross before boarding a train to Alabama.

A news reporter somehow got word of our presence in the hotel because he came and took photos of me holding an apple and an orange. I had never before seen fruit such as that. It made quite an appealing human interest war story.
The train trip across the country seemed endless. I remember traveling across Texas, and asking my mother repeatedly if we were still in Texas.

When we arrived in Alabama we ended up at my grandparents’ farm in Hollins, Alabama. Both my grandparents were still alive at that time and my father's sister, Lena Vernon and her husband, Frank, and son Raymond, lived in the house next door. We liked Raymond and had good times with him. My Aunt Lena, who was the only girl among all sons, was the one in charge, as my grandmother's health was failing and she was paralyzed in a wheel chair. I remember my grandparents, Allison Missouri (Watson), and Elisha David Strong, as being rather mild mannered people who were quite affectionate. My grandmother had given birth to eleven children, nine of whom had survived. Of the two who died, one was a boy named John Heflin who died when just a baby, and Floy Ruth, who, I believe, lived to be about the age of nine. (Southerners like two first names). The story goes that she ate green apples causing severe gastro-intestinal distress which brought on her death. One of their sons was a flier whose plane crashed during the war while flying over the Himalayas. I recall being quite fond of all of my uncles and their wives, as well as my cousins. My father was the youngest in the family, and I was the youngest of all the cousins.

It should be noted here that my grandfather was born in 1856 and lived to be a hundred years old. He loved the fact that he had lived to see cars travel 'a mile a minute', as well as witness the age of the jet plane. My fondest memory of my grandfather was when he would take me with him when he would walk to the train depot to pick up the mail. Hollins was such a 'backwater' that the train only stopped if someone was disembarking, otherwise the mail bag was thrown from the train onto a sort of hook attached to a tall pole. The depot manager would go out and get the bag then sort the mail. People had to go to the train depot and pick up their mail.

While at my grandparents farm I remember lots of wonderful good southern food, my favorite being thick fresh milk straight from the family cow, and hot buttered biscuits (home churned butter). There was a mule named Ida, and the cow had a name as well but I no longer remember what it was. There were lots of chickens that clucked around the chicken yard and one rooster who made their lives miserable. At night they roosted in muscadine vines in the chicken yard. It was a special treat to get to feed the chickens. There was a smoke house, but that was where my brother and Raymond got washed by my aunt in a big wash tub. I got to be washed in the kitchen sink. There was no indoor plumbing and we had to use the dreaded outhouse built over a small creek. During the night we used chamber pots that were kept under the bed. My Aunt was a meticulous housekeeper and very industrious. She and my mother were not fond of each other, but my mother loved my grandmother and I think it was mutual.

During this time my mother and father would make trips to Birmingham to find a house for us and a job for my father. He finally obtained a position with the Internal Revenue Service in Birmingham. Before we moved we had a huge family reunion and everyone brought clothes, and household goods to help us get started in our new life. My brother did not like hand me down clothes, especially knickers. He said that no one wore knickers anymore. (To this day he is particular about what he wears.) The whole family being there was, of course, an occasion to serve lots of good southern cooking at a huge table. There would be several kinds of meat such as ham, roast beef and chicken, 'Irish' potatoes, and sweet potatoes, lots of fresh vegetables from the garden, glasses of milk, sweet ice tea and hot buttered biscuits. The milk was thick with bubbles on top and I would go around and pop the bubbles in everyone's glass until my mother stopped me saying that was unsanitary. For dessert, there were several kinds of freshly baked fruit pies as well as home made cakes. All the leftovers went to the pigs. Southerners did not eat heated over food. Everything was made fresh for each meal.

After we moved to Birmingham my brother, father and I would still visit the farm, but my mother would avoid going. That is another story. As for me, I loved it there, but I now understand that my mother did not want to spend her weekends in another woman's house who was hostile to her.

There were many pleasant experiences at my grandparent's farm and in the neighborhood where I grew up in Birmingham. In spite of the perils and trauma of the War, I remember having a happy childhood and feeling loved, protected and nurtured by my family. My mother, as you may have noted, is the heroine of this story, and my sister was indispensable. I have lived my entire life being in awe of them and their courage and resourcefulness during some of the most daunting years of our modern era.

Marie-Antoinette with a Bust of Louis XVI

Via Tiny-Librarian. Share

The Order of the Garter

From the Tudor Society:
The Order of the Garter, officially known as The Most Noble Order of the Garter, is the oldest and highest British order of chivalry. The Order was founded in 1348 by King Edward III and consists of the King (or Queen), their spouse, the Prince of Wales and twenty four Knights. Other members of The Order are known as Royal Knights Companions and Extra or Stranger Knights.

While the members of the Order of the Garter are a small group a new member can be chosen if a vacancy becomes available. A new member of The Order is chosen personally by the ruling Sovereign and has to be someone who has served the Sovereign, held a public office or contributed to national life. Previously, only men were allowed to be Knighted with the Order of the Garter. Women had been associated with The Order but did not hold full memberships. For example, King Henry VII's mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was invested as a Lady of The Order of the Garter but was not considered to be a full member of The Order. In 1987 the current Queen, Elizabeth II, decided that both men and women had equal rights at being elected as a Lady Or Knight Companion of the Garter.

Every person that holds an Order of the Garter is required to display their banner of arms, helmet, crest and sword as well as a stall plate within the stalls of St George's Chapel. Upon a Knight or Lady's death, their banner of arms, helmet, crest and sword are removed, leaving only the stall plate. The Stalls at St George's Chapel contain stall plates of previous knights dating back over six hundred years.

Previously, an appointment to the Order was only for aristocracy but in today's modern times a person can be from a non-royal background. If there are vacancies within the Order, appointments are made on 23rd April, which is St George’s Day in England. A person who previously held an Order of the Garter can have it removed if they do not honour the title. Under the rule of Henry VIII several members of the Garter lost their title, these include Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, who was executed in 1521 for treason, Sir Nicholas Carew, who was also executed for treason in 1539, and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, who was executed for treason in 1547.

Many famous Tudor personalities have received the Order of the Garter, the most famous of these being King Henry VIII. On Saturday 1st November 1494 young Henry Tudor was created Duke of York in a lavish ceremony. Then on the 17th of May 1495 Henry was created a Knight of the Garter by order of his father King Henry VII. For the occasion, the young boy, only three and a half years of age, wore a crimson velvet gown and a bonnet of the same colour. It is most likely that the ceremony took place at St George's Chapel, the home of the patron Saint George. It is interesting to note that the traditional colour worn during the Order of the Garter ceremony is a mantle of blue and yet Henry VII chose for his son a crimson gown. Perhaps this was to signify his son's status as Duke of York and his royal lineage. (Read more.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Rare Picture of Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte of France

The daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette in black and gold. Share

Memories of Manila, 1941 to 1945

 (NOTE: This post was first published several years ago but I am publishing it again in honor of my Uncle David, who passed away on March 27, 2015.)

My mother recently jotted down some of her recollections about life in the Philippines during World War II. Born in Baguio in 1939, she was a toddler when the Japanese occupation began, and so cannot always relate exact dates and times. Her father, Herman Strong, was from Alabama and so as an American citizen was interred in a Japanese concentration camp. My grandmother, Magdalena Vidal Crosby Strong, kept the family together throughout the war and the many hardships. Above is a photo of my mother, Alice, as an infant in her father's arms. The small boy is my Uncle David and the young girl is my Aunt Floy, standing next to my grandmother. Here are the notes from my mom:
When WW II broke out we were living in a beautiful, what would these days be called a subdivision, of 6 houses each one walled in for privacy and safety from robbers. House robberies were common in Manila, thus most houses had iron grills on the windows and these had the added safety of walls. I remember the street we lived on was Colorado Street. I believe my father was doing well as an accountant because my recollections are that it was fine house.
My mother had two servants who would cook and house clean, and my brother had a 'house boy' whose sole job was to take care of him. His name was Felix. When my father was taken off to Santo Tomas prison camp, Felix would ride his bicycle many miles across the city of Manila taking food my mother had prepared in order to keep my father from starvation. He remained part of our household during most of the war, as did the 2 servants. One was especially close to us, her name was Nena, and I cannot be certain if the spelling of her name is correct. The family photo of all of us standing in a doorway with my father holding me was taken at that location.
When the war broke out everyone in the neighborhood pitched in and built a community air raid shelter where we would all go during an air attack. The house had a beautiful garden with Banana Trees and other lush tropical plants. There were trees with wild orchids hanging from them. I believe it was told to me that orchids are a parasitic plant, the same as mistletoe, and would grow from the bark of trees. My mother loved flowers and had hanging baskets of orchids that had been cut from the bark and placed bark and all in hanging baskets.
It was at this location that my mother had a 'school' for her children and any neighborhood children who wanted to attend. In this way she helped the young people maintain their educational level and earned an income at the same time. She also tutored children of wealthy families in their home. I recall a car being sent for her and I would get to go along as well. I was in awe of the furnishings and size of the rooms of the large mansions we would go to for my mother's tutoring sessions. After the war started and gasoline was no longer available to private citizens, the car would appear being drawn by horses.
The school even had a theater arts program in which the students would perform in plays. I specifically recall the Christmas re-enactment of Dickens's Christmas Carol. I believe my sister, Floy, was Marley's ghost, and my brother, David, played the boy who fetches the Christmas Goose. A real goose was used, and a large bow had been tied around its neck. The scenes in my mind of the fun during rehearsals and the final performance of this play are still vivid to me.
I do not remember how frequently the Japanese soldiers would make their rounds, but my mother had prepared the students by teaching them Japanese songs which they would sing in case of such visits. She had been warned not to teach anything related to the USA, but US History and Geography were part of the curriculum along with the history and geography of South East Asia, and Japan. My mother was quite proud of the fact that after the war every one of these students was able to enter school at their grade level, and the parents were quite pleased about this as well.
Another way my mother earned income after my father was taken to prison camp was by renting the upstairs of the house to a Spanish family consisting of a mother and two sons. The sons were in their late teens or early twenties. Their names were Jorge and Miguel. I remember they were quite handsome and flirtatious. Jorge was my favorite and would take me on outings to the Zoo and other places. Nowadays with the fear of pedophiles this would be unheard of, but Jorge was like a big brother to me.
It was at this time that the whole city of Manila was flooded by the Japanese. I remember wading around in about two feet of water while everyone carried furniture upstairs. I do not know what caused the flood, but my mother said it was because the Japanese did not know how to manage the city water works having come from a rather primitive culture which did not consist of such advances. My son, Pat, who is well versed on WWII History, said the Japanese flooded the city in anticipation of the U.S. invasion.
As the war progressed we had to abandon the area and moved to a smaller house in a safer part of town, however the house consisted of two stories. In this house the air raid shelter was built under the stairway. I believe we spent most of the remainder of the war at this location. While at this location we were robbed by a person who climbed up the side of the house and entered one of the windows (no bars) and stole a bag full of electric light bulbs, which were a valuable commodity. The next day I remember seeing his muddy footprints up the side of the house. The Filipinos were quite adept at climbing. After that my mother slept with a 'bolo', which was a large machete type knife, under her pillow. We slept under mosquito nets and my brother was always getting tangled up in them during the night. It was quite comical, although he did not think so.
It was also at this house that we had a vegetable garden on top of the other air raid shelter built off the back of the house. A wall separated our house from the back yard of the other houses. We had a live chicken at the time that would peck bugs in the garden my mother planted on top of the air raid shelter. I do not know where my mother got the chicken, but she was very resourceful, and also made friends with the local Filipinos who were always helpful. The chicken was being fattened for my father, and we were greatly saddened when my mother cooked it and Felix took it to my father at the POW camp. Not only were we sad to see the chicken go, but we were sad to miss out on a tasty morsel. My mother also hid guerrilla fighters from whom we would receive vital information about future events of the war. If the Japanese soldiers came to search the house, the guerrilla could climb the wall and escape into the neighboring yard.
When the Japanese soldiers went from house to house confiscating cars, radios and other valuables, one of the neighbors slaughtered his horse rather than aid the Japanese with the use of the horse. Food of any kind was scarce at this time so he shared the horse meat with everyone in the neighborhood. My sister refused to eat any of it, but I was hungry enough that I ate it. Getting protein from Mung Beans and Sprouts did not quite satisfy my hunger.
In my brother David's notes of the war he mentions the Japanese Officer, Peco, who befriended us and would visit and bring canned goods and sugar. From my recollection we met Peco when he and another officer were in a truck that had broken down in front of our house. I recall the weather was rainy and the road was muddy. They either came to the door or my mother invited them in for coffee. Even though she had white sugar, which she had obtained on the 'Black Market', she served them brown sugar because she did not want to arouse suspicion by having white sugar. It was after this that he appeared one day with canned milk and white sugar. As my brother mentions in his notes, we knew it was confiscated canned milk. He visited several more times after that and had long conversations with my mother. We grew quite fond of him and loved his visits. He told us that when he was twelve he was taken away from his family and trained for war along with many many other young men, indicating that Japan was preparing for conquest years and years before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
My mother said Peco told her he was a Christian, and was opposed to the war but had no option but to fight. He showed her photos of his wife and baby. The last we saw of Peco was when he came and told us of the impending US invasion. He said that he was being transferred and did not know whether he would survive the coming battle. In his broken English he told my mother, "Americano coming, Boom Boom!" My mother already knew this based on information from her guerrilla friends.
One needs to know that after the Japanese invasion and destruction of the American military facilities in Manila, life went on as usual and the Japanese wanted to be known as beneficent conquerors. It should be mentioned that the Japanese were not at war with the Filipinos, but the USA. In spite of this there was limited food and other resources, and many people had fled Manila into the outlying areas. We, of course, remained in order to aide my father in prison camp. The monetary system was in shambles and the Japanese printed Philippine bills that were worthless. When my mother would go to try and buy food, she carried a bag full of this currency in order to purchase even a small item. During this time she sold or bartered most of our valuables in order to get food. In spite of this we were malnourished, but fared better than most because of my mother's, and I might add, my sister Floy's, ingenuity. After the war my mother weighed eighty-five pounds, and even though she was not a tall woman, at eighty-five pounds she was quite underweight. I would see her take food off her plate and give it to my brother, who was constantly hungry. He did not want to take her food but she would insist that she had had enough to eat.

The History of Irish Traditional Music

From Irish Central:
Irish traditional music began as an oral tradition, passed on from generation to generation by listening, learning by ear and without formally writing the tunes on paper. This is a practice that is still encouraged today and students of traditional music are encouraged to pick up tunes they hear from others or to learn as they listen. Many formal classes will provide music notes for students and books do print tunes on a traditional music stave, however.

The traditional music played by the Irish came to the country with the Celts 2,000 years ago. The Celts were influenced by music of the East (which is why you may think you hear some resemblance of an Irish tune being played at Canal Street station) and it’s believed that the traditional Irish harp may in fact have originated in Egypt. (Read more.)

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Cinderella (2015)

Cinderella as a servant in her own home

Dreams come true

Arriving at the Ball
Meeting the Prince at the Ball
Dancing at the Ball
Fairy Godmother
Ella's Mother
Ella's Mother: Have courage and be kind. 
~from Cinderella (2015)
Too often in films, fairy tales are retold to fit current agendas, especially the feminist agenda. Snow White becomes a warrior and Sleeping Beauty's bad fairy becomes a martyr of male cruelty. This is one reason why Disney's new blockbuster Cinderella is a refreshing change from the usual movie fare. Shakespearean actress Lily James brings both grace and innocence to the part of Ella, a heroine who finds strength in kindness, courage and forgiveness. It made me fall in love with the old fairy tale all over again, retold on a grand and magical scale. Amid the enchanting and lavish sets and costumes, the golden rococo coach stands out as particularly entrancing, as well as the glass slippers, which look like Waterford crystal.

Director Kenneth Branagh does not apologize for his traditional version. According to The Independent:
In an era of revisionist fairytales such as Frozen and Maleficent, it might be a surprise to find that Branagh’s take on the story of Cinders and her glass slipper is determinedly traditionalist. 'I don’t find myself so exercised by a desperation to be new,' he says, pointing out that when you mix a fresh cast with costumes and production design by, respectively, triple Oscar-winners Sandy Powell and Dante Ferretti, 'all of these things create a new energy'.

And while the Charles Perrault fairytale has already been immortalized on screen by Disney’s own 1950 animated feature, taking it on held no fear for Branagh, given his experience in re-interpreting Shakespeare. 'I choose to be inspired by things that have been done well in the past,' he says. 'So, I don’t worry about being compared, because I think that does paralyze you.' (Read more.)
Cinderella is perhaps the most universal of fairy tales, one that has variations in many cultures over the course of several centuries. The experience of having a stepmother was not uncommon in the days when women sometimes died in childbirth and so the story of the "Cinder Maid" resonated deeply with past generations. Today, with the high rate of divorce and remarriage, young people often find themselves living in the same house with a step-parent, which even in the best situations can offer challenges for everyone involved.

On the most basic level, Cinderella is a tale of injustice and suffering inflicted upon an innocent by an older person whose job should have been to nurture and protect. The innocent is aided by forces from beyond this world, leading to final vindication; in this manner the story fulfills the very natural hope of those who have endured any type of material misery or abuse. As is the case with other fairy tales, the older versions are darker and much, more violent, with the triumph of the heroine being the result of struggle, not merely handed to her on a platter. The wicked stepsisters are grotesquely punished in the older tales whereas in the newer renditions they are shown mercy.

The new film makes many points about the nature of family life and the bond between parents and their children. Because she had a loving childhood, Ella does not pity herself. The love of her parents stays with her even after they die. Rather, she pities her stepmother and stepsisters, who are unhappy in spite of their material well-being. As for the Prince, because he comes from a loving and happy parental union as did Ella, he is determined to marry for love, which fuels his search for the mysterious maiden.

The Prince

Stepmother and Stepsisters


Statue of Louis XVI at Bordeaux

From Tiny-Librarian. Share

Catherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk

The marriage of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, to his ward, Catherine Willoughby. To quote:
According to Chapuys, Katherine and Charles Brandon were married on 7 September, almost certainly in London and very probably in the presence of the king. We can be reasonably certain of this because only three days later Brandon ‘supported’ the old Duchess of Norfolk when she stood godmother to the infant Princess Elizabeth. Elizabeth’s baptism would have been Katherine’s first formal appearance as Duchess of Suffolk, and marks the beginning of what was to be a long and not always easy relationship with the future sovereign. But no one, least of all Katherine, would have guessed this on a late summer’s day in 1533.

No detailed account of the wedding has come down to us but we may assume that, in accordance with tradition, the couple exchanged vows and the groom placed a ring on the fourth finger of the bride’s left hand ‘in plain sight’ at the church door. They then entered the building where their marriage was blessed and wine – a symbol of the new bond between the two families – was served to the assembled guests. The ceremony was followed by a feast – usually at the bride’s home but perhaps on this occasion at Suffolk Place – and then by consummation. There was frequently much horseplay as the newly-wed couple were put to bed, but such revelries were part of the occasion. Katherine would not have been surprised or alarmed.

How Katherine coped with her new role and responsibilities can only be imagined, but she cannot have found it easy. Until very recently she had been the heiress to a barony and the ward of one of the most powerful men in England; now she was his wife, a duchess, and the mistress of his household. At court she could allow her husband to take the lead while she basked in his evident pride in her, but she could not expect him to shield her when they were ‘at home’ in London or at Westhorpe. The servants would have been used to treating her with the respect due to a girl in her former position, but how did they respond to this abrupt change in their relationship? Some, no doubt, laughed behind their hands when she made mistakes (as she was almost bound to do in the early days), but they knew their places and Katherine would have learned fast. (Read more.)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Poem for Richard III

Coat of Arms of Richard III

Richard III with his wife Anne Neville and their son Edward

Aneurin Barnard as Richard in The White Queen

The poet laureate’s eulogy, written for Richard III’s re-interment at Leicester Cathedral on March 26, 2015, read by Benedict Cumberbatch. Via The Guardian.

by Carol Ann Duffy
My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; your own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead …

or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.
Coffin of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral

Posthumous Portrait of Richard III

Comfort Food Around the World

From PureWow:
The Canadian Francophiles don’t eat just any French fries; they douse their fries in brown gravy and melted cheese curds or even top the dish off with meat and veggies. It’s the ultimate satisfying dish. (Read more.)

Ways to Promote Your Book

A helpful article for authors and would-be authors. To quote:
  1. Tweet about it.
  2. Make a book trailer.
  3. Ask your readers to send in images of them with your book and then pin them on Pinterest. (people love the human connection)
  4. Comment on threads in facebook groups or on other people’s threads to build your reputation as an expert.
  5. Write a press release for PRWeb. It’s a great way to get some backlinks to your site and maybe even some press interest!
  6. Do a presentation at a local meetup group. Don’t ‘sell’, just give great information, and make sure to have some books to hand in case people ask.
  7. Do a kdp free promotion. They still work if you use them correctly.
  8. A GoodReads giveaway is a fantastic way to generate some interest and also to get some reviews. You need to be approved as an author first by GoodReads and this works better with your print books so it’s a little bit of process but well worth the effort!.
  9. Create a post about your book on your facebook business page. Pin it to the top.
  10. Post some free content or excerpts from your book on http://scribd.com. You can also sell your book here — worth some extra exposure?
  11. Give a talk at a local school (if it’s appropriate content — works well for children’s fiction, history or other educational content).
  12. Make a series of how-to videos for YouTube related to you non-fiction book content.
  13. Send an email to your list. Give them a reason to buy — like maybe they could send you the receipt and you’ll put on a special webinar or teleseminar?
  14. Run a facebook ad but make sure it’s closely themed around time or an event — maybe you have a Christmas recipe book and just before Christmas you run an ad targeted at foodie groups.
  15. Create a discussion on http:///www.quora.com. Ask questions, engage users, DON’T make it just a pitch for your book. If you are keyword savvy then use keywords in your post title and content so that it will show up on the search engines and give you ongoing promotional returns.
  16. Get more reviews! (more reviews will help your Amazon ranking).
  17. Create a URL forward that directs people to your Amazon page. Use this as your “main website” in your book and whenever you’re talking about your books. (for example mysite.com/bookname and forward this to your amazon page).
  18. Do as much guest posting as you can and refer to your book in the author box (or use that URL forwarding tip just above this one!).
  19. Create a bunch of $0.99 books that are full of quality. Use these as tasters for your other books — people will take a chance for 99c and if they like your content they’ll be back.
  20. Get some fun, slightly silly, videos done on fiverr in the hope they might get shared and go viral.
  21. Put a link to your book in your email signature (and if you’re a bestselling author, then make sure you say that!).
  22. Don’t enable the “Digital Rights Management” option in your kdp dashboard. Yes you might find your book being given away on free sites but more sharing = more people know about you…
  23. Start a podcast (or better yet, get on someone else’s podcast).
  24. All those great reader images you asked for — get people to post them on facebook and tag you. It’s a great way of letting their friends know about you.
  25. Create an Amazon associates account and add an image of your book and a link back to Amazon on your website (and as well as your royalties you might also get a few extra pennies from the associates programme!). (Read more.)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Elizabeth Feodorovna

Princess and Martyr. Born Elizabeth of Hesse-Darmstadt, she was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, sister-in-law of Tsar Alexander III and sister of Empress Alexandra. Share

Castles – Cold or Cosy?

From English Historical Fiction Authors:
We’ve often visited them, those cold stone ruins, the freezing spiral stairs leading nowhere, and we stand in awe while gazing up into empty rubble as the bitter winds whip along the battlements. We imagine life in such a place, and how daunting it must have been. Of course Norman castles were built principally as fortresses, but for several hundred years they were also the homes of nobility, attended by a host of their servants, guards and others of varying station and importance who resided within those soaring stone walls. So what must it have been like?

What we can no longer see, but what was the truth long ago – is that those stone walls were fully plastered inside, sometimes even painted with sweeping murals of mythic battle scenes and heroic tales. Exposed stone was not the fashion then that it is now. Those great vaulted ceiling beams were often carved and painted, and the draughts were further excluded with exquisite and colourful arras, rugs and tapestries hanging on the walls. Inglenook fireplaces blazed with huge fires, aromatic burning logs or sometimes charcoal, while pages kept those fires burning high. The floors, beautiful old flagstones at ground level and wide wooden boards on the higher levels, were warm with rich patterned rugs from Turkey and additional rush matting. Window seats were often padded and settles were cushioned or covered in rugs. Furniture could be sparse by our modern standards, but most seems comfortable enough. Those glorious four poster beds, for instance. At first they were roped bases attached to a wooden frame and heaped with huge feather mattresses. Above was a canopy (tester), often rich in velvet and tassels, which not only looked beautiful but also helped collect the tumble of any small scurrying creatures which might make their homes amongst those high roof cavities.

After all, the lord and his lady didn’t want a family of spiders, mice droppings or beetles landing on them in the middle of the night. The canopy caught falling dust and dirt, insects and cascading cobwebs. And the bed would certainly be warmed within, by placing a hot brick from the fire between the sheets, then piling on blankets, soft eiderdowns and elaborate covers.

A little later the bedposts and accompanying curtains also became fashionable. These beautiful curtains could be pulled at night, not only shutting out draughts and increasing the warmth, but ensuring privacy. Many literary fictions enjoy telling us how the assassin crept into the lord’s bedchamber at night, killing or abducting him while he lay vulnerable and alone. The trouble with these stories is quite simply – if he was important, he wouldn’t have been alone. There would have been a whole bustling throb of servants, pages and attendants sleeping on truckle beds or pallets within the room, and guards outside the door. For instance, the title ‘Gentleman of the Bedchamber’ meant exactly that and such a gentleman (usually of considerable importance himself in order to be offered such a position) slept on a small narrow bed within the chamber of the king – ready to answer any summons, dress him and undress him, and generally guard him. There would be quite a collection of servants sharing the room and completing varying tasks. So, should the lord who owned the great four-poster want to take his wife or mistress to bed, privacy was out of the question. At least he could close the curtains. Cocooned within the velvet shadows, he could do what he wanted unseen and try to forget that those beyond the hangings could still hear every word and every gasp.

There is some argument about the possible use of rushes on the floor. This doesn’t just apply to castles. Ordinary homes – where the owners could certainly not afford the highly expensive rugs from the east – used – it is said – piles of loose rushes, herbs and reeds on the floors. I have my doubts about this. Why would a whole host of dirty reeds seem either attractive or necessary? They would simply make it far more difficult to sweep the floor, and although they might discourage some insects, they would probably encourage others. The rushes would collect whatever was dropped, including dog excrement, and that would make it horrendously unpleasant for anyone to walk over. Besides, women wore long skirts and sometimes even trains to their gowns. This would make it a complete farce to trundle through a spread of reeds – collecting them beneath your skirts as you walked. So I tend to believe that these rushes were not lying loose but instead were perhaps woven into mats and rugs, if used at all. Some health-associated herbs were probably scattered at times of illness and when the lady was about to give birth. Herbs might also perfume any otherwise less than savoury smells.

There is one problem with dismissing the old story of the rushes on the floors. And that is the word ‘threshold’. This actually means that the threshing – i.e. rushes, straw and reeds – was kept within by the door and doorstep – in other words – held the threshing from falling loose. Hence the modern meaning of the word. So no assumptions concerning history are ever quite as simple as we’d like them to be. (Read more.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Gallery of Peace at the Tuleries

Sometimes I feel extremely upset that they tore down the Tuileries. Via Vive la Reine. Share

The Bishop's Poisoner

From author Nancy Bilyeau:
In the words of the Greyfriars Chronicle of London, a contemporary document: “This year was a cook boiled in a cauldron in Smithfield for he would have poisoned the bishop of Rochester Fisher with divers of his servants and he was locked in a chain and pulled up and down with a gibbet at divers times until he was dead."
Roose's crime, the legal method of his condemnation and finally the form of punishment create a bizarre chain of events that, in a more modern age, might well have raised questions of motive in several parties, including that of Henry VIII. Although there is no question of who did the killing, this is still a tantalizing Tudor murder mystery, and reveals some of the peculiarities of the early modern age, when laws existed and homicide was considered a heinous crime, but there was no trained police force nor forensic science. (Read more.)


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Fashion Victims

A book review by Anna Gibson. To quote:
In Fashion Victims: Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell delves into the aesthetics, evolution and multifaceted meanings of fashion in France from the 1770s through the revolution and its aftermath.

The book is separated into four distinct parts (Court and City, New and Novel, Fashion and Fantasy, Revolution and Recovery) and each part is further distinguished by chapters covering different aspects of fashion that fit under each part's theme. All four parts of the book are also supplemented by a short introduction that introduces the themes of each section.

In "Court and City," for example, Chrisman-Campbell discusses Marie Antoinette's penchant for fashion as well as her influence on the burgeoning fashion industry; the part also discusses the rise of "petite-maitresses," a term designated for women who were devoted to keeping up with the latest fashions, however rapidly changing or ridiculous they might be; and finally the role of the marchande de modes, such as the famous Rose Bertin, without whom the evolution of late 18th century fashion may not have been possible.

My favorite aspect of the book is Chrisman-Campbell's abundant use of various contemporary sources in her text. She quotes and analyzes material from fashion magazines, newspapers, memoirs, letters, revolutionary pamphlets and other sources; these sources give great insight into how fashion was viewed on a commercial, social and even personal level by the people who were directly impacted by it. I also greatly appreciated Chrisman-Campbell's insights into subjects that are not typically discussed in books about this period, such as chemise gowns and the chemise a la reine, the status of fashion for French emigres who fled during the revolution, extensive details about mourning fashion and its social customs, and the wave of "Anglomania" that crept into French fashions in the 1780s.

Fashion Victims is filled with gorgeous contemporary paintings, engravings,and illustrations as well as photographs of existing 18th century garments. The image reproductions are high quality and provide an excellent companion to Chrisman-Campbell's text. More important than the images, however, is the text itself. Fashion Victims is not just a pretty book: it is filled with interesting, insightful and in-depth scholarship by Chrisman-Campbell, who discusses everything from the details of elaborate court dresses to the scandal and acceptance of chemise a la reines to elaborate mourning customs to some of the strangest coiffures, like those made to celebrate smallpox vaccinations. (Read more.)

Birth of an Heir

No, this is not a Christmas card and the baby is not the Christ Child, believe it or not. It is the Archduke of Austria and future Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II, eldest son of Emperor Francis and Empress Maria Theresa. Joseph was to become Marie-Antoinette's bossy older brother. (Via Vive la Reine.) Share

Saint Chesterton?

From The Atlantic:
In his vastness and mobility, Chesterton continues to elude definition: He was a Catholic convert and an oracular man of letters, a pneumatic cultural presence, an aphorist with the production rate of a pulp novelist. Poetry, criticism, fiction, biography, columns, public debate—the phenomenon known to early-20th-century newspaper readers as “GKC” was half cornucopia, half content mill. If you’ve got a couple of days, read his impish, ageless, inside-out terrorist thriller The Man Who Was Thursday. If you’ve got an afternoon, read his masterpiece of Christian apologetics Orthodoxy: ontological basics retailed with a blissful, zooming frivolity, Thomas Aquinas meets Eddie Van Halen. If you’ve got half an hour, read “The Blue Cross,” the first and most glitteringly perfect of his stories featuring the crime-busting village priest Father Brown. If you’ve got only 10 minutes, read his essay “A Much Repeated Repetition.” (“Of a mechanical thing we have a full knowledge. Of a living thing we have a divine ignorance.”) (Read more.)

Via Joshua Snyder. Share

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Russian Calendar, 1915

The Imperial Family. Share

No White People Allowed

Now this is interesting. I actually have no problem with any ethnic group that wants to have their own space. From The HuffPost:
Last week The Ryersonian reported on an incident that involved two first-year journalism students who were turned away from an event organized by Racialized Students' Collective because they are white. Since then there has been a lot of commentary on the piece and a lot of debate -- a lot of the criticism is valid.

There are two sides to the story: 1) the media has a right to attend public events and report on matters that are in the public interest. The student media needs to cover initiatives that are happening on campus so that we draw attention to them and in turn create awareness (The Ryersonian reported that one student said he was covering the meeting for an assignment). 2) Marginalized groups have a right to claim spaces in the public realm where they can share stories about the discrimination they have faced without judgment and intrusion from anyone else.

I am a person of colour and a journalist and so there are two conflicting voices inside my head. But in this case one voice, that of a person of colour, is louder and my conscience does not allow me to be impartial. I have to take a side.

The organizers of the event, the Racialized Students' Collective, should have done a better job of labelling this event as a safe space on the Ryerson Students' Union online calendar. They should label safe spaces clearly and maybe even host events that educate the public on what they mean. Doing so will help the public and the media have a better understanding of the purpose and value of these spaces.

However, the point to note is not that two white students were asked to leave the event, but rather that this was a safe space and that we as a newsroom, as a campus and as a society are not as knowledgeable as we should be about what these spaces mean. (Read more.)

The Life of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey

From Tudor Times:
Ipswich, Suffolk, in the 1470s was one of the most prosperous towns in England. East Anglia was an important centre of the wool trade, with English fleeces being sent from its ports to the Low Countries and goods imported in return. Within Ipswich there was a school, possibly founded by the Guild of Corpus Christi, or perhaps attached to one of the monasteries, where the sons of local traders and farmers could learn to read and write in English and Latin, and study enough mathematics to run a business. To this school, in the late 1470s, went a young boy by the name of Thomas Wolsey.

Thomas Wolsey's birth date and parentage are not absolutely proven, but the generally accepted view is that he was born in the early 1470s to Robert Wolsey (or Wulcy) a butcher and grazier of Ipswich, and his wife Joan Daundy.

It seems likely that he had an older brother, both from his name (most first sons were named for their father) and from the fact that his father was keen for him to become a priest, as evidenced by Robert Wolsey's Will. Had Thomas been the older son, he would have been expected to carry on the prosperous family business.

Thomas did so well at the school that he was given one of the four scholarships in the gift of the Bishop of Norwich to Magdalen College Oxford. His exceptional intellect enabled him to complete his BA by the age of fifteen – even in a time when many scholars completed their BA earlier than is done now, this was considered remarkable. (Read more.)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Writing My Fourth Novel

Emily, Fergus, Madeline and Charles O'Connor of Long Point, Ontario
I want to tell of how I came to write my fourth novel The Paradise Tree. My goal is to create fiction which truly makes the past come to life. My idea of historical fiction has always been to open a door onto history, so that the reader feels they are in the same room with the characters, breathing the same air and absorbing the atmosphere. Historical fiction is an art; it is a painting come to life; we authors paint with our words.

The Paradise Tree tells of Irish immigrants Daniel and Brigit O'Connor and how they struggle to build a new life in Canada. One of the main characters in my novel is a little boy named Fergie, Daniel and Brigit's grandson. He is based upon Dr. Fergus Joseph O'Connor, my great grandfather. As a little girl, I visited him several times at his home on 193 Earl Street in Kingston, Ontario. I am grateful for the few memories I have of this wonderful man, a true patriarch. I recall how approachable he was, how kindly and gentle with small children. A Kingston newspaper article described him in his nineties as being “still active and spry…his eyes twinkling….with short quick steps“ and that is exactly as he appears in my memory. In 1918, Dr and Mrs. Fergus O’Connor, my great-grandparents, moved to 193 Earl Street  with seven of their soon-to-be eight children. A white rose bush from the original that Fergus' grandfather Daniel had brought over from Ireland was planted outside the front door. It was an elegant brick row house around the corner from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, where Fergus and Frank had been married eleven years earlier, and where several of their children and even some of their grandchildren would eventually be wed. “One ninety-three,” as the house is still referred to among my relatives, although it passed out of the family in 1988, seemed like a palace to me as a child, with its high ceilings, beautifully carved furniture, and three stories of rooms. It was not a palace though, or even a mansion, just a grand old house. Thus began my experiences with the Irish side of my family, the O'Connor clan.

During the summer of 2001, my late father and stepmother invited me to accompany them and my three half-siblings to Canada where my O'Connor relatives owned several cottages on Lost Bay Lake near Gananoque, Ontario. My dad rented one of the cottages from a cousin and we settled in for a week. At the time I was working on my third novel The Night's Dark Shade as well as suffering through several personal crises. My Dad's first cousin Mary O'Connor Kaiser showed a great deal of interest in my work and  in my life. She was a beautiful and brilliant woman, a retired attorney with four grown children and many grandchildren. She and my Aunt Margaret, as family historians, had collected a great deal of information about our ancestors who had settled in that same area in the 1820's and 30's. Mary suggested that perhaps I write a novel about the early Irish settlers, among whom was my great-great-great grandfather Daniel O'Connor. She gave me books on Canadian history so I could begin my research right away.

Then life intervened; I had a baby and all writing was put on hold. In 2004, I returned north (with both husband and daughter in tow) to work on my book with Mary. We went over family trees and documents and she told me where to go to find more information. She drove me all over the countryside so I could see the original sites where the ancestors had been. We walked through the old cemetery at Bellamy Pond in Toledo, Ontario and explored the old mill at Delta. It was an August day but slightly overcast which gave the hills and fields a pale golden glow. We both felt that we were driving back in time because the people who had once lived in those places seemed so alive to us at that moment. When I went home to the States, I had enough information to get started, and on August 15, my birthday, I penned the first lines of The Paradise Tree.

I worked closely with Mary via email and phone calls and sent her the first few chapters when they were completed. Then came the shocking news that she had cancer. Before I could see her again she was dying. I last spoke with her right after she received the Anointing of the Sick. She was peaceful and cheerful. She passed into eternal life on July 5, 2005. I last saw her at her wake; she was all in white and looked like an Irish Queen.

The next few years were difficult, but I struggled on to write the book when I could, making a few more trips to Canada to gather information, where I received help from other cousins. But when I made it to the chapter where Daniel is called to muster, the book came to a standstill for several years. By that time I was homeschooling, blogging and working in eldercare with little time to spare for anything else. I put the Irish novel on the back burner and focused on getting my medieval novel, The Night's Dark Shade, ready for publication. I had a deal with a publisher but it fell through so I decided to self-publish for the first time.

In the fall of 2013, I was contacted by Wiseblood Books. I sent them a book proposal of The Paradise Tree and they offered me a book deal. Having a contract forced me to break through the writer's block and finish the book. At the time I was taking care of an 81 year old lady who was recovering from an illness. My client had been a producer for the BBC for many years, plus a producer of plays. She encouraged me to complete the second half of the book, reading each chapter as I finished it, editing and making suggestions. As I came to the end, I knew it was the best novel I had yet written.

However, while going over the manuscript with the Wiseblood team, there were major disagreements about certain aspects of the plot, and changes that they wanted me to make which I felt would totally alter the story I was trying to tell. So I decided to ask to be released from my contract and self-publish once again.

The Paradise Tree
was released this Fall of 2014 and is dedicated to the memory of my Cousin Mary. The critical reception has been highly favorable. The Midwest Book Review hailed it as "historical fiction at its best"  and Kirkus called it: "An imaginative, meticulously told history...." The San Francisco Book Review gave it five-stars, describing it as "fascinating" and "stunningly lovely." So I am thrilled that after so many years I finally have a good quality book that honors the family members of times long past as well as those beloved ones whom I myself have known.


Richard III is Laid to Rest At Last

The present Duke and Duchess of Gloucester

Procession through Leicester

The King's coffin is strewn with white roses for the House of York

The King's Guard
Here are some phenomenal photos of the funeral of Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England:
Some threw Yorkist white roses on the passing coffin. Strange shades of the funeral procession of Princess Diana in 1997. The atmosphere was, of course, wholly different. And yet, this was an event which could not fail to remind us of the unique, mysterious visceral hold which royalty has on our affections.

At one point, mounted police had to join in and clear a path through the streets. It would be hard to imagine greater crowds should Leicester City ever get round to winning the FA Cup.

Earlier, around the Bosworth battlefield where Richard came to a violent end in August 1485, he was greeted with periodic applause from thousands who had lined the roads, many of them carrying white roses.

Half a millennium on, the War of the Roses still evokes strong emotions. There remain many who believe passionately that Richard should have been buried in York – in the heart of his old northern powerbase – rather than Leicester. 

Leeds taxi driver Shaun Dixon had not only come to pay his respects yesterday but had even gone to the trouble of commissioning and unfurling a banner proclaiming: ‘If the King can’t come to Yorkshire, Yorkshire will come to the King.’ (Read more.)
More HERE.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be offered for the repose of the King's soul. According to the Catholic Herald:
A Requiem Mass in the traditional Latin form is to be offered at a Catholic church in Lancashire to mark the reinterment of King Richard III, which will take place on the same day at Leicester’s Anglican cathedral.

The mortal remains of Richard III, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, before the Reformation, will be reinterred in the cathedral on March 26, in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and an invited congregation.

The Requiem Mass for the repose of Richard III’s soul will be held on the same day St Catherine’s Church, in Leyland, Lancashire, at 7.30pm. It will be a Sung High Latin Mass with singers from the Laeta Cantoribus Choir, “in the style and manner of (Richard III’s) day”.

“The idea is that it will be closer to what he might have experienced in his own lifetime, as a pre-reformation Catholic,” said parish priest Fr Simon Henry.

After the service, refreshments will be served, also in keeping with what King Richard might have expected in his lifetime.

“The food afterwards will make at least a nod in the direction of the 15th century, or at least to his Yorkshire connections,” said Fr Henry. “Though wild boar sausages are a little difficult to come by!”

The skeleton of Richard III was found under a car park in Leicester in 2012. In the days before the reinterment service at Leicester Cathedral, the coffin will be taken to Leicester University and Bosworth Field, where the king was was killed in battle.

Following the Leicester Cathedral service, Richard III’s body will lie “in repose” for three days before being reinterred.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster will be part of the week-long run of events to mark the reinterment.

The cardinal will preach at a service of compline on the day the king’s remains are received into the cathedral and will celebrate a Requiem Mass the next day at a nearby Catholic parish.

Dominican friars will also sing vespers at the cathedral in the run-up to the reinterment and Fr David Rocks OP, parish priest, will preach at a lunchtime Eucharist. (Read more.)
Nancy Bilyeau writes of the history of the Greyfriars. To quote:
There is no record of what Richard III thought of the Franciscans, Observant or otherwise, but considering that they braved a ferocious political climate to give him Christian burial, the relationship could only have been good. His successor, Henry VII, rather surprisingly, held the friars of Greenwich in high esteem as well. He arranged for the installment of stained glass in their church, and left them 200 pounds in his will as he “knew that they had been many times in peril of ruin for lack of food.”

But perhaps the greatest sign of Henry VII’s regard for the Observant Franciscans is that he chose to have his second son, the future Henry VIII, baptized in their chapel at Greenwich.

For a time, all was well in the new reign. Henry VIII arranged for the Observants to say two Masses daily for his father’s soul. In 1513, he wrote to Pope Leo X saying he could not commend enough the Franciscans’ strict adherence to poverty and sincerity, charity and devotion. His wife, the Spanish Catherine of Aragon, went even further. She was often accompanied by her Franciscan confessors and, in middle age, wore a habit under her robes.

All the players were in place, then, for one of the greatest clashes of the King’s Divorce. When Henry VIII sought to have his marriage to Catherine annulled so that he could father a son with the young Anne Boleyn, the Observant friars sided with Catherine and opposed him, showing tremendous—if not suicidal—amounts of courage.

After Catherine of Aragon had been banished from court, Franciscan Friar William Peto, in his Easter Sunday sermon in 1532, preached to a full church, with both Henry and Anne Boleyn in attendance, that if the king pursued his divorce, he would incur the same fate as Ahab and the dogs would lick his blood. After the sermon, Peto told the king to his face that divorce put his throne in jeopardy and that there were mutterings Henry had slept with both Anne’s sister and mother. There is no known record of greater defiance in the presence of the king.

Yet Henry VIII did not strike back. Astonishingly, Friar Peto was not arrested; he was allowed to go into exile. The following year, Henry VIII had his daughter with Anne Boleyn, the future Elizabeth I, baptized in the same Greenwich friary church as he had been.

But executions of more defiant followed, and a rebellion broke out in the North. Mercy was harder to come by. Another Observant Franciscan, Friar John Forest, a former confessor to Catherine of Aragon, bore the full brunt of Henry VIII’s rage. He refused to swear to the authority of the king as supreme head of the Church of England. After several years of imprisonment, Forest, 67 years old, was taken to Smithfield on May 22, 1538, and burned to death. About 200 Franciscans are believed to have been imprisoned for refusing to swear loyalty to king over pope; perhaps 50 died in captivity. (More here.)
The service at the Anglican Cathedral


ISIS Destroying and Selling Priceless Artifacts

From Histories of Things to Come:
Breadcrumbs in the forest: last fall, while looking for Indian silk fabric on eBay, I noticed Syrian daggers for sale, scattered creepily in between the silk listings. Were they antiquities? For some time, reports that the Islamic State have been selling and destroying the precious archaeological and historical cultural heritage of the Near East. On 26 February 2015, after pledging a year ago that they would not do so, they destroyed Mosul's antiquities museum and library, displayed in sickening videos (below). In early March 2015, after looting the ancient palace, they bulldozed the antique city of Nimrud.


Conspiracy theorists insist that Islamic State is an arm of America, and stories about ancient plunder are false flags. This is naïve. For those who believe that western peoples and powers can be blamed for every act of savage violence that occurs in the world, I must sound naïve. To them, I would say: please reconsider your infinitely media-fied gnosticism, your stubborn conviction that there must be a higher power, a secret superior force controlling every outrage. Perhaps these videos are exactly what Islamic State propagandists say they are: the naked bid of Islamic State for higher power in the region, laying the foundations for full-scale attacks in Europe. Because media reports can be so easily manufactured today, and the IS publicity machine is so slick, people never believe a report is just a report; an event is just an event; an account is just an account; and that history is just history. We can't really be living this nightmare, can we? (Read more.)