Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I hate to apologize, but this needs be said: I'm sorry.

My historical writing spans several eras. While not a family saga per se, the stories follow two families (One Yorkist, one Lancastrian) that join in the first novel, diverge into the White Rose Trilogy and the Red Rose Trilogy, following different branches of the family, and join again at the end of the two series. As a result, I'm constantly second-guessing and double-checking myself on the details of each era. And therein lies the reason I need to apologize.

I never rely on a single source when doing research. Experience has taught me not all sources are trustworthy despite their credentials. My assertion that chausses are ringed armor is supported by Webster's College Dictionary (with etemolgy for obvious reasons) and Writer's Digest's Everyday Life in the Middle Ages, among others. However, while double checking another fact about masculine attire, I used a book just recently aquired, History of British Costume by James Robinson Planche. Within I read that 'They consist of hose or long stockings (the Norman chausses, in fact) tied by points,' (pg 230).


Okay, so one book could be wrong. I had another recent purchase titled A History of Costume, by Carl Kohler so pulled that one out. Although the passage is contained within descriptions for 14th century attire (my story is late 15th century), it gave me pause. On page 153 it states: This period saw a great improvement in the dress for the lower limbs, called les chausses.


Two sources, both credible, both at odds with previous sources. Now what?

Out comes book #3. (I did warn you I can be anal about facts in an earlier blog.)

On page 174, Medieval Costume in England and France by Mary G. Houston states: The shoes are very long and pointed, and the hose or chausses are jointed together at the top by a gusset back and front to form one complete garment which is attached by small laces tied at intervals to the garment above.

(Oh, and just for the record, all three books disagree on other garments, both on the time of their appearance and their names. Ain't nothin' easy.)

So that's three to two on the chausses. I lose.

So I most humbly apologize, and while within the context of my own work chausses will appear only in relation to armor--hose is more easily recognizable to readers for daily wear--I promise to desist from tossing books that have naked heroes jumping from their beds and pulling on their chausses.

However, I still reserve the right to wince.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thank you.

I posted a picture of me and my girls dressed in Ren costumes, and it got me to thinking (yes, I recognize the hazards, thank you very much) about what tomorrow's writers will say about those of us living today. It's fine to attach cutsey names to particular demographics, i.e., Baby Boomers, Gen X, but what kind of legacy will today's writers leave the historical writers who follow?

When I started reading romance, the choices were few. Mills & Boon dominated the contemporary market, such as it was, and Barbara Cartland reigned as the historical genre's Grand Dame. Readers of romance became familiar with torches and boots and bonnets (Brit speak for flashlights, trunks, and car hoods) because that's what there was--until Silhouette came onto the scene. Regency romance was the province of Georgette Heyer unless one chose, as I did, to read Jane Austin or the Bronte sisters.

The pickings were slim.

Then came Bertrice Small, Rosemary Rogers, Sylvie Sommerfield, Laurie McBain, Shirlee Busbee, and Kathleen Woodiwiss, just to name a few. Historical romance as a distinct genre had no guidelines, no signposts, so these intrepid ladies made their own, defining, refining and redefining them as they went along. They are our history, the pioneers of the historical genre.

(I know, I know. I can hear fans of Johanna Lindsay, Julie Garwood, Phoebe Conn, Cassie Edwards, and a host of others asking why their faves (and a few of mine) aren't listed. The reason is simple; I'm not getting any younger, and I have a book to finish. To list all of the ladies who've influenced historical fiction would be a herculean task. Even were I to try, I'd most likely forget someone I admire, hear about it later, and feel like an idiot, so a sampling seems prudent.)

I happen to have the honor of an acquaintance with Bertrice Small. She's a lovely woman and as strong-willed as Skye O'Malley ever dreamed of being. In 2007, after the finalists for the Golden Heart were announced, Bertrice asked me about my story. As soon as I said "War of the Roses" she began telling me why Richard III couldn't have been the monster history painted him.

Such is the power of history. Five hundred plus years after the fact, people still debate the veracity of the "accepted" version. There are Richard III societies that will denounce ad nauseum Henry VII's claim to the throne.

History is, in fact, the province of the winner, so there is always another side of ANY story, but there I stood, confronted by a woman I have long admired, unwilling to debate the issue. I explained that, for the purpose of my story, the heroine took the Yorkist view, the hero took the Lancastrian, and I tried to present both sides. I'm happy to say, being the gracious lady she is, Bertrice smiled and spoke of other things (whew!)

The ladies who are our past--some of whom are still going strong--deserve our thanks. They "suffered the slings and arrows" so we might write the types of books we do. They opened the doors (windows, dog flaps, whatever it took) so we could--if not walk through--stick our toes in and make someone listen to us. Yes, many of their books earned the appellation "Bodice Ripper" which continues to haunt the genre to this day, but they were feeling their way through the dark, lighting torches so we could follow.

Thank you, ladies. Thank you for braving the wildnerness, fighting the dragons, raising the standard, and for the hours of enjoyment found in the stories you created and the characters you gave breath. You have set a sterling example of intelligence, creativity, and tenacity.

Let us hope, someday, the same can be said for those of us that follow you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bear with me


Glad you stumbled in. I know you didn't intend to come here because this is a very new blog and a very new experience for me.

New experiences have been rife since my 2007 Golden Heart final, but the other finalists are such lovely ladies, they just keep herding me along into places I never thought I'd dare tread. Thus, the title for this first entry. I promise to get better once the scope of this new territory doesn't tie my belly into little tiny Gordian knots. Of course, after this comes the dreaded "web page," but not today. As Neil Armstrong said (with a bit of a paraphrase from me), "One small step for chicken kitty, one giant leap for scaredy-cats everywhere."

I called this blog Romancing History because, truth be told, history isn't, in and of itself, romantic. It's dirty, unsanitary, bloody, and a host of other unpalatable adjectives. Learning history in school required memorization of mind-numbing facts, dates, and names.

The names caught my attention.

People make history. Not dates, not battles, not rivers of slops flowing unfettered down horse manure festooned cobbled streets. People who laughed, cried, danced, bled, changed their babies, yelled at the dog. Biographies became my preferred reading.

I wrote my first romance--and I use the term loosely--sitting at a cafeteria table in junior high with a group of friends. I still remember the high-perch phaeton the hero swooped to a halt before my startled, and inappropriately named, heroine. We'd discovered Barbara Cartland, you see. It was all downhill from there---at least for me.

Writing historical romance requires research, and since learning about people still intrigues me, that's no hardship. I am, however, anal about facts. So many books have inaccuracies within that are, despite being SO wrong, accepted. Since when does accepted equate to correct?

I once entered my manuscript in a contest where the judge marked me down because I didn't call the heroine's home a "keep." Duh! Keep, as in fortified holding, donjon, castle, etc., is a Renaissance term and the Renaissance didn't come to England until the 1500s--more than a decade after my story takes place.

Chausses. Ah, yes. Several times now I've read about naked heroes bounding from their beds to don their chausses. Must have hurt. And the succession? Forgeddaboudit. Chausses are made of small metal rings. Webster's defines them as medieval armor of mail for the legs and feet. Chausses were worn atop thick, quilted hose for obvious reasons.

Why am I telling you this? Because there is no way to ascertain exactly--especially in the areas of clothing, armor, and personal items--what things populate a specific segment of time within an era. Folks I know were sporting elephant bells and tie-dyed shirts from the seventies before current fashion went retro. By their very nature, some things overlap. However, if I were to make a glaring mistake, I'd want someone to tell me, or at least caution me to check it out. Thinking of my stories thrown against a wall or into the dust bin---which is where inaccuracies end up in my world---doesn't sit well.

So this is an invitation to gently (I hate qualifiers too, but you know how it goes) correct me if you find an inaccuracy in my work. I will, sometime in the future, post some bits from my current WIP and will welcome your feedback.