Archive for the ‘historical fiction’ Category

Christmas Spirits… coming soon…

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Winter, 1788, the festival on the frozen Thames River.

Baronet Edward Manning and Lady Alice have brought their children, Prudence and Parnell, to London to enjoy the Frost Fair and visit their uncle, Sir Thomas. When tragedy strikes, the Mannings return to Ravencrest where the family doctor can see to their injured son. But no matter what Dr. Lanval does, the young master’s health continues to decline, and soon, the doctor begins to suspect darker forces are at work. Arcane forces.

When a hex bag is discovered under his patient’s bed, Dr. Lanval and Sir Thomas set out on a race against time to catch the spellcaster and try to save Parnell. As Christmas Eve approaches, things have improved and the Manning’s begin their celebrations. Father Christmas arrives… but on his heels comes a new kind of darkness that will forever cast its ominous shadow over the Mannings; a curse powerful enough to span generations… and continents.

For centuries the walls of Ravencrest have been soaked in blood and corruption. And now a new evil has spread its black roots into the very foundations of the manor… and into the Manning bloodline.

The fourth episode of The Ghosts of Ravencrest: Christmas Spirits will be available in early December. The first three installments are available now in an omnibus form titled Darker Shadows, at Amazon.

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Both of us have always set our stories in contemporary times – as with Quantum Leap, we’ve kept everything within our own lifetimes. But with our Christmas installment of The Ghosts of Ravencrest, we are traveling all the way back to the winter of 1788 to visit the Frost Fair on the Thames.  And, oh, what a chunk of research we’ve bitten off.

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We began by researching 1788 Christmas traditions and discovered the Frost Fair. We absolutely had to write about that, so we dug and dug. And dug some more. Then we researched how the landed gentry celebrated Christmas and that required an even bigger shovel.

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Finally, we thought we were ready to write. We got about a sentence into the story  – and realized we didn’t know what little children called their parents in those days. We found out. Then we needed to know what married couples called each other – oh, what a can of worms that opened.

Our story is set in one of England’s coldest winters and we realized we needed to find out how people kept their hands warm at the fair. The answer is muffs. Men women, and children had gloves and muffs. We mention this only because every time we write anything about people slipping their hands into muffs, we crack up… And now, we’ll carry on.

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The questions stop us every other sentence. Besides muffs… What did gentry wear in the cold before there was Gore-Tex?  How did women pee in those dresses? Did they wear underwear? (NO! But they did put their hands in their muffs!)

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But to the point, the first time a character used a profanity, we found ourselves researching once more – and, because we’re writers, we want to tell you all about archaic English profanity today. Here are our favorite 13 words, used in sentences, as presented on the November 13 episode of Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE!

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13 – Our 13th favorite Archaic English slang term is Gotch-Gutted, which means pot-bellied. Used in a sentence, it might sound something like this: “That Gotch-gutted son of a bitch stole my powdered wig!”

12 – Bacon-Fed, which means fat and greasy! A lot like gotch-gutted. “That pusillanimous powder-headed bacon-fed magistrate spilled goose grease all over my breeches and doesn’t give a fig.”

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11Public Ledger, which was a common term for a prostitute. “Pass me the public ledger, James, I need to make a deposit!”

10 Scald which meant venereal disease. “God’s Teeth, James, I do believe I’ve been scalded by the public ledger!”

9 – our 9th favorite slang term is related to scald.  It’s Sauce, another term for VD. “I got the sauce from James, who picked it up from the public ledger who soiled my fantastic powdered wig!”

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8 – Captain Grand, which refers to a haughty, blustering man. “He thinks he’s Captain Grand,” Master Sulu whispered to the Scotsman as James Tiberius Kirk strutted into the room.

7 –  Saddle the Wrong Horse. This term meant you had blamed the wrong person for something. “When my powdered wig was stolen, I saddled the wrong horse when I blamed the public ledger.”

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6 – Wamble; an unhappy tummy. As in “Watching the public ledger soil the beadle’s powdered wig made my stomach a bit wambly.”

5 Married to Brown Bess.  This referred to someone who was enlisted in the army. “I’d totally marry Brown Bess if they’d let me wear my powdered wig on the battlefield.”

4 – Squirrel Hunting, which meant looking to buy a working lady’s favors. “I left the pub to go squirrel hunting and could only afford one with a ragged gray tail.”

3 – is a term that means to make much ado about nothing. In those days, they called this making a Great Harvest of Little Corn. “When I found my powdered wig on the mannequin head where I left it, I realized I’d made great harvest of little corn and owed the public ledger an apology.

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2 – Flay the Fox;  to vomit. “I was so excited I flayed the fox into my powdered wig!”

1 – Our number 1 favorite term refers to someone who can’t keep a secret. “By God’s Toes, James, why did you tell my mother I once watched her bathe? I Cannot Trust Your Ass With a Fart!”

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Getting your research right is always important, no matter what century your story is set in. In The Ghosts of Ravencrest, in addition to contemporary times, we will be visiting various eras in Old England and covering America from the 1800s on. In coming Writing with T&A blogs, we’ll cover more about researching the past, including everything from clothing, taboos, manners to how to insert real historical figures (like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Marie Antoinette) and events into your work.  We hope you’ll join us.

Be sure to check out tonight’s podcast at Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! where we interviewed horror author, Michael Aronovitz.

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It was a carnival on the ice. From skating and sledding, to bear-baiting and puppet plays; from horse and coach races to gaming, gambling and lustier pleasures, there was something for everyone. Children went on donkey rides and men could have business cards made by printers who dragged their presses out onto the ice among the shop-tents that lined the frozen river. It was so cold that tree trunks split and merchants kept warm by lighting fires in their tents. It was the Frost Fair of 1788 on the Thames River in London, and it is where you will meet several of the ghosts of Ravencrest… in the flesh.

With the release of the omnibus edition of The Ghosts of Ravencrest: Darker Shadows just before Halloween, we realized that All Hallows’ Eve isn’t the only time rife with ghosts. Christmas is absolutely lousy with spirits, the most famous being Dickens’ Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future.

It’s no wonder, really. Christmas arrives in the dead of winter, as the old year is about die. It’s a single bright spot in a frozen wasteland. Nature sleeps. Plants and trees have lost their leaves and we value evergreens as signs of life and hope that once again, the earth will be reborn. There’s no green grass, nor wheat in the field. The days are short, the nights, long. By morning, hearths grow dark and cold, as do souls.

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Christmas, in all its gaiety, with its songs and bright ornaments and feasts; with its candles and good cheer, is a light in the darkness. It tells us to have hope; it reminds us we are alive. But in the dead of winter, it does not totally assuage the fear that spring will not come, that plants will not resurrect.

In old England, Father Christmas came to visit and festivities went on for twelve days, culminating in January with Twelfth Night, where the Lord of Misrule reigned and sometimes servants traded places with gentry. The parties went on and on, lest winter invade and remind everyone that this is the true season of death. It had to be gotten through with as little loss as possible; it was too cold to dig graves so bodies were stacked, frozen, awaiting the spring thaw.  You did not want to die, so you celerated life with the force of Christmas and Twelfth Night.

No celebration could quite wipe away the fear of winter. The fear of death. People gathered around fireplaces to tell the stories of the ghosts walking the halls and moors, always aware that they might one day walk with them.

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In Ravencrest Manor, ghosts stories were whispered, often fearfully, because in 1788, the mansion was 300 years old and already held more than its share of lost souls. In the next special installment of The Ghosts of Ravencrest: A Ravencrest Christmas, you’ll come face to face with people you’ve already met as spirits, and you’ll discover clues to the mystery that is growing around Ravencrest’s new governess, Belinda Moorland.

A Ravencrest Christmas will be available in early December. Meanwhile, the third installment of our tale, The Ghosts of Ravencrest: Darker Shadows, is available at Amazon. This is an omnibus edition that also includes the first two installments, The New Governess and Awakening as well as the previously unreleased third installment, Darker Shadows, for the special low price of $2.99.

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