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Monday, October 11, 2021

Since this is the month of “Trick or Treat,” I’m sharing a blog I wrote a few years ago for the celebration. I hope you enjoy it.

Most everyone knows that Halloween, October 31, is the day before All Saints or All Hallows Day. But did you know that some of our modern traditions grew from the ancient Celts more than 2000 years ago? The Celtic festival of Samhain, or the Feast of the Dead, celebrates the day when summer ends and winter begins. It is believed to be the day when the dead revisit the mortal world.

Carving pumpkins—or jack-o-lanterns—dates from the 18th century, when a blacksmith named Jack consorted with the devil and was condemned to wander the earth as punishment. He begged the Devil for some light and was given a burning coal, which he placed inside a hollowed-out turnip. When the Irish came to the United States during the great potato famine, the practice of keeping a turnip with a candle in it in the window to ward off the Halloween demons came with them. Since pumpkins were easier to get here than turnips, the substitution was made and a new tradition was born and shared.

Wearing costumes also dates back to Celtic times. On Samhain night, when the living and the dead were at their closest, the Celtic Druids would dress up in elaborate costumes to disguise themselves as spirits and devils to avoid being carried away by the real thing at the end of the night. To this day, witches, goblins, and ghosts remain the most popular choices for the costumes. I’m not sure many demons would be frightened off by Iron Man or Hannah Montana.

And the masks? From earliest times people wore hideous masks when disasters struck, believing they would frighten away the demons that had brought the misfortune upon them.

So, when you venture out to ring doorbells and threaten tricks to get treats, beware! The spirits of the past will be looking over your shoulder. I suggest you share your candy.

 

Tracy Garrett

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Poison in the Pot

Poison in the Pot 

The 19th Century Whistleblower and the Poison Squad 

C. A. Asbrey

Accum’s book “A Treatise on Adulterations of Food and Culinary Poisons”. A spider lurks in the middle of the web over its prey, and a skull crowns the entire collection with a caption: “There is death in the pot”

From the 2008 Chinese milk-tainting scandal, 2013’s “Horsegate” in the UK to salmonella powdered milk, the adulteration of food has been in the news a fair bit recently.  Back in the 19th century, a German scientist Friedrich Accum not only denounced the use of chemical additives as poison but named the companies that were doing it.

The modification of food is as old as the selling of it.  Fines for adulterating food appear in Sanskrit laws dating back to around 300 BC. Warnings about peddling risky foodstuffs filter into the Bible, including a very pointed passage in Leviticus about bad meat. Similar warnings occur in Chinese writings dating back to the second century BC, as well as in the literature of the ancient Greek and Romans. Pliny the Elder wrote sadly of wine purveyors who “I regret to say, employ noxious herbs” to color wine, creating both a more beautiful and more toxic drink. What changed is the 19th century was a drastic increase of additives used in the industrial preparation and packaging of foods.
Friedrich Accum

Friedrich Accum explained to his readers that there was a high lead content in Spanish olive oil, caused by the lead containers used to clear the oil, and recommended using oil from other countries such as France and Italy, where this was not practiced. He warned against bright green sweets sold by itinerant merchants in the streets of London as the color was produced with “sapgreen”, a colorant with high copper content. “Vinegar”, he explained to his readers, “was frequently mixed with sulphuric acid in order to increase its acidity.”
Accum paid particular attention to beer, introducing the subject with the comment: “Malt beverages, and especially port, the preferred drink of the inhabitants of London and other large cities, is among the items which is most frequently adulterated in the course of supply.” He claimed that English beer was occasionally mixed with molasses, honey, vitriol, pepper and even opium. Among the most shocking customs he pointed out was the practice of adding fishberries to port.

Accum was the first to point out the dangerous use of additives and the profiting thereof: "The man who robs a fellow subject of a few shillings on the high-way,is sentenced to death; while he who distributes a slow poison to a whole community, escapes punishment."

Only a year after publication Accum left England after an improbable lawsuit was brought against him.

Theft of paper :14 pence

A librarian called Sturt reported to his superiors at the Royal Institution that on November 5, 1820, a number of pages were removed from books in the reading room, books Accum had read. On the instructions of his superiors, Sturt cut a small hole in the wall of the reading room to watch Accum from an adjoining room. On the evening of December 20, Sturt claimed to see Accum tear out and walk off with a paper concerning the ingredients and uses of chocolate. The paper had been in an issue of Nicholson’s Journal. Accum’s premises on Old Compton Street were searched on the order of a magistrate for the City of London.  They identified what was probably waste-paper as pages from the books.

The Magistrate after hearing the whole of the Case observed that however valuable the books might be from which the leaves found in Mr Accum’s house had been taken, yet the leaves separated from them were only waste paper. If they had weighed a pound he would have committed him for the value of a pound of waste paper, but this not being the case he discharged him.

The Royal Institution committee that met on December 23, 1820 was not, however, satisfied with this judgment, and decided to issue a lawsuit against Accum for theft of paper valued at 14 pence.  Two of his friends were included in the indictment: the publisher Rudolph Ackermann and the architect John Papworth. These three appeared in court and paid altogether 400 pounds sterling as surety.  Accum, apparently frightened and depressed, did not make an appearance at the court session. He had fled England and returned to Germany.

It would take another forty years and the work of other equally outraged scientists—including the discovery that arsenic was rather lethally being used to color candy, resulting in poisoned children—before Britain passed its first law regulating food safety in 1860. But no such legislation existed in the United States, even into the first years of the twentieth century.

The Poison Squad

The following menu was for a rather unusual 1902 Christmas dinner party.

Apple Sauce.
Borax.
Soup.
Borax. Turkey. Borax.
Borax.
Canned Stringed Beans.
Sweet Potatoes. White Potatoes.
Turnips.
Borax.
Chipped Beef. Cream Gravy.
Cranberry Sauce. Celery. Pickles.
Rice Pudding.
Milk. Bread and Butter. Tea.
Coffee.
A Little Borax.

This particular menu was designed to test the toxicity of food additives. In these tests, groups of volunteers—popularly known as “Poison Squads”—agreed to dine dangerously in the interests of science, working their way through a laundry list of suspect compounds. Building on Accum’s work, Harvey Washington Wiley wanted to use the Poison Squad to persuade the U.S. government to step in and protect the nation’s food producers.Borax came first on the list, partly because it was so widely used by meat processors. It slowed decomposition and gave rotting meat a more shapely appearance. Wiley actually had a range of alarming compounds on his test list beyond borax, including formaldehyde (used to slow the souring of old milk) and copper sulfate (used to restore color to canned vegetables).
The poison squad bravely tucking into a meal


To avoid doing real harm, Wiley selected young men for his experiments. He thought they would be healthy enough to withstand a daily dose of poison.  However, once the borax trials got under way, the squad members began losing weight, some complaining of stomach pains and severe nausea. Two years later, when Wiley began testing benzoic acid on another group of twelve recruits, only three lasted until the end; the rest became so ill that they had to withdraw.

The Poison Squad was also memorialized in songs and advertisements . The most famous was probably “The Song of the Pizen (Poison) Squad,” by poet S.W. Gillilan, a poem that exaggerated the squad’s exploits::

For we are the Pizen Squad.
On Prussic acid we break our fast;
We lunch on a morphine stew;
We dine with a match-head consommé
drink carbolic acid brew

The human lab rats were “twelve young clerks, vigorous and voracious.” All were graduates of the civil service exam, all were screened for “high moral character,” and all had reputations for “sobriety and reliability.” One was a former Yale sprinter, another a captain in the local high school’s cadet regiment, and a third a scientist in his own right. All twelve took oaths, pledging one year of service, promising to only eat food that was prepared in the Poison Squad’s kitchen, and waiving their right to sue the government for damages — including death — that might result from their participation in the program.

Squad members needed a lot of patience. Before each meal, they had to weigh themselves, take their temperatures and check their pulse rates. Their stools, urine, hair and sweat were collected, and they had to submit to weekly physicals. When one member got a haircut without permission, he was allegedly sent back to the barber with orders to collect his shorn locks. Most of the squad members didn’t get extra pay for their hazardous duty: in return for their patience and obedience, they received three square meals a day — all of which were carefully poisoned.

There was one more rule: although many of the most prominent food crusaders were women, squad members had to be men. An outspoken misogynist, Dr. Wiley was prone to referring to women as “savages,” claiming that they lacked “the brain capacity” of men. His staff was similarly inclined: when the program replaced Chef Perry with a female cook, one worker griped that ladies were not fit for cooking — or poisoning. “A woman! Tut, tut. Why the very idea!,” he reportedly said, “A woman can potter around a domestic hearth, but when it comes to frying eggs in a scientific mode and putting formaldehyde in the soup — never.”

Harvey Washington Wiley 

Wiley had other quirks. A Civil War veteran and graduate of Indiana Medical College and Harvard, he was among the first professors hired at Purdue University. He was also one of the first fired, an unfortunate turn of events that occurred when he scandalized the University administration by playing baseball and buying a bicycle -– a mode of conveyance that, in the words of one of the University’s trustees, made him look “like a monkey … astride a cartwheel.”

ONE MAN’S VISION

At Purdue, Wiley experimented with food additives, testing each chemical by, in his words, “trying it on the dog.” Soon after getting hired by the Agriculture Department, he waded into the pure food fight, pushing for federal regulation of additives. In response, high-paid lobbyists from the packing and canning industries went on the offensive, shutting down each of Wiley’s proposed bills.

To show the physical costs of food additives, Wiley designed the table trials — and convinced Congress to give him $5,000 to fund them. Officially, the goal was to “investigate the character of food preservatives, coloring matters, and other substances added to foods, to determine their relation to digestion and to health, and to establish the principles which should guide their use.” Unofficially, Wiley hoped to use the table trials as a springboard to enact widespread food regulation.

Wiley’s first target was borax. One of the most common food preservatives in 1902, it tightened up animal proteins, giving the impression of freshness; consequently, packers often used it to doctor decomposing meat. From October 1902 to July 1903, Wiley’s squad ate it with every meal, as was demonstrated by a Christmas menu published by the Poison Squad’s kitchen: “Apple Sauce. Borax. Soup. Borax. Turkey. Borax. Borax. Canned Stringed Beans. Sweet Potatoes. White Potatoes. Turnips. Borax. Chipped Beef. Cream Gravy. Cranberry Sauce. Celery. Pickles. Rice Pudding. Milk. Bread and Butter. Tea. Coffee. A Little Borax.”


The Poison Squad soon became famous for its borax consumption, and Wiley became popularly known as “Old Borax.” Before long, the group determined that borax did, indeed, cause headaches, stomachaches, and other digestive pains…in addition to imparting an unpleasant flavor to food.

Borax defeated, the poison squad moved on to test other common additives, including sulfuric acid, saltpeter and formaldehyde. One of their targets, copper sulfate, was especially disturbing: used by food producers to turn canned peas a bright shade of green, it also caused a host of health woes, including nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, liver damage, kidney damage, brain damage, and jaundice. Today, it’s commonly used as a pesticide.

Even after Wiley’s squad managed to demonstrate the negative effects of several additives, he still had to fight against the powerful food lobby. In fact, the Secretary of Agriculture himself suppressed several of the Poison Squad’s reports; the one on benzoic acid only got out because a staffer misunderstood his orders and sent it out to print while the Secretary was on vacation.

But while lobbyists could suppress Wiley’s findings, they couldn’t control newspapers, which breathlessly reported on the group’s menus and members, its poisons and their effects. Afraid that the press might trivialize his efforts, Wiley tried to stem the tide, instituting a blackout and threatening to fire any member of the squad who leaked information. This didn’t keep stories from appearing in the papers: denied access to facts, reporters printed rumors and made up elaborate tales. Eventually, Wiley relented, and began to actively publicize the squad. As he later bragged, “My poison squad laboratory became the most highly advertised boarding-house in the world.”

Since that time, really dangerous food—the term food poisoning, even—has tended to refer to bacterial contamination issues rather than toxic chemical contamination.

Still, the public continues to worry about pesticide residues, preservatives, genetically modified food and food dyes.  But thanks to the work of Accum, Wiley, his valiant poison squads, and a host of other crusaders, we aren’t likely to be killed by arsenic-dyed candy or formaldehyde-improved milk.


Excerpt

In All Innocence

“Nat, take a look at this.” Jake held out a sketch pad.

The dark eyes scanned the parchment before they darted back to his partner. “The whole railway car?”

“Yup. When one of the butlers was sayin’ he was sketchin’ I thought I’d have a look to see if it was any use to us.” He smiled. “I think it is. We can see where people were just before the murder.”

“It sure is. Look at that. Everyone in their place. I guess the ones playing the game with blindfolds moved about, though.” The cheeks dimpled. “And we can see exactly where that was. This is a real good drawing. Who did it?” He scanned the cabin and smiled at the lean man whose receding chin disappeared into his starched collar. “Ah, yes. The one who spoke up.”

Jake held the pad out at arm’s length and turned the page to look at a few unfinished etchings. “He’s talented. He’s caught your lopsided face real well.”

Nat’s mouth firmed into a line. “My face isn’t lopsided.”

“Yeah, it is. It might look fine from your side, but you should see it from here.” 

Nat turned indignant eyes on the conductor. “Farrow, is my face lopsided?”

The man gave Nat a long, hard stare. “Not lopsided exactly, but one eye’s bigger than the other.” He pointed, staring at the right one. “Well, maybe not bigger. A different shape? It’s got more lines about it. Funny, I never noticed it until you pointed it out. It’s kinda different from one side to the other.”

“No, it’s not.” Nat stabbed a gloved forefinger at the drawing. “I’ve always been told my eyes are my best feature.”

Jake’s guffaw cut through the railway car. “Maybe for their variety?” He glanced between the sketch and his nephew.

“In the drawing, it might be. Not in real life,” said Nat. 

Jake snapped the pad shut and grinned. “I guess the problem ain’t so much that your eyes don’t match some romantic hero, it’s more that they don’t match each other. It don’t matter none. Abi loves you anyway, and the babe seems to take after her ma.”

The partners watched Farrow’s retreating back as he followed the driver and the fireman down the aisle toward the latrines.

“And you’re so perfect?” Nat demanded. “What about those curls? You look like that boy in the advertisement for tar soap; the one in frilly knickerbockers.”

One slim, fair brow arched in retort. “At least they picked him because he was sweet-lookin’. Not because he’s lopsided. That ain’t gonna sell soap.” Jake paused pensively. “Your face might sell some kinda cure, though.”

“I’m not lopsided.” Nat dropped his voice to a hiss. “My description in the wanted posters said I have even features.”

“Good point.” The blue eyes sparkled with humor. “I guess it was such a good description you were recognized everywhere you went, huh? That’s why you’re in jail right now.”

“I can’t talk to you when you’re like this. It’s like trying to order a cat around.”

“You should be more grateful, Nat. I just got you a picture of where everyone was just before the second murder. Whoever it was would have to try to get past Mrs. Hunter and Philpot in the back row.”

“Yup. I have one more thing to find out. Where did Farrow go?” Nat nodded toward the sketch pad in Jake’s hand. “And take those. We don’t want anyone to have pictures of us.”

“So you agree it looks like you?”

“Just take the pad, Jake.” Nat sighed at his uncle’s laughing eyes. “Tell him we need it for evidence.”



                                                 

Monday, October 4, 2021

 

Part Two: Underground Tunnels and Wolf Caves by Elizabeth Clements

Isn’t it interesting  what a chance encounter can lead to? Back in the 1990’s, a giant poster in a booth at the Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede drew my attention and the lonely-looking author seated at the table with a stack of her book. Most Stampede attendees are more interested in buying cowboy hats or candy floss than a book to carry around on the midway or while watching rodeo events. Being a writer myself, I had empathy for her, stopped to chat, and bought her book—One Hundred Years of Grasslands. It remains my favorite book of all my dozens of research books of Canadian history.

Marjorie Rohde Mason was born and raised on a ranch in the Grasslands region of southern Saskatchewan. The ranch has been in her family for over a hundred years and thus she had heard lots of stories passed down about the lawless days of horse-thieves and cattle rustlers in the Big Muddy badlands. The book is full of history and reminisces by pioneers of the area. One quote speaks volumes: “Most of the time, you could not tell the colour of the horses for mosquitos.” One chapter heading and photograph particularly intrigued me: wolf caves. I had to visit them.

Nineteen years ago we made that trip to celebrate the new millennium. The day following our tour of the Chinese tunnels in Moose Jaw (Part 1), we drove approximately 160 kilometers south to the hamlet of Coronach. As luck would have it, we were the only ones who’d booked a tour that day, so instead of being crammed in a passenger van with a dozen  tourists, we had the guide all to ourselves in the comfort of our van with her giving my husband directions. What a stroke of luck that was having her undivided attention! I took lots of pictures and notes, which I can’t find right now,  so I’m writing from nineteen-year-old memories, Marjorie’s book, and a little help from Google for pictures.

Many of the places our guide took us to were located on private land, under lock and key, accessible only through her. We wandered around a one-room schoolhouse where we saw old school desks,  a pot-bellied stove, lessons  written on the blackboard and breathed in the dusty air of the old building.  In my mind I heard the children’s voices reciting their lessons, imagined the teacher walking down the aisles checking their arithmetic, and glanced out the tall fly-specked windows at the two outhouses near the play area.

We visited an Indian burial site and ceremonial circles that were fenced off.  Two particularly interesting sites  displayed effigies of a large turtle and also a buffalo, each a pattern of carefully placed stones that have rested undisturbed for decades. “Dakota Siksika legends use turtles to represent wise and highly respected people. Buffalo were the “staff of life” for Indigenous people and this (buffalo) effigy is believed to be the only one in Canada if not North America.”

Then at last we left the main road and traveled along a gravel trail on private land to the old Giles ranch. I still remember the lonely, deserted feel of the weathered fence rails with no cattle or horses in sight, the heat blasting on my shoulders, and the stillness of the prairie with only the breeze whispering stories too low to hear. Our guide had keys to unlock the gate. I don’t recall a sign on the gate then, but apparently one exists now that warns “All trespassers will be given a fair trial and then hung.”  Friendly, eh?

We drove a little further, disembarked, and at last I gazed at the entrance to Sam Kelly’s caves. One cave was used by the outlaws and the other held their horses to keep them hidden from sight. The caves were originally occupied by wolves; outlaws enlarged them. (For the safety of modern-day tourists, the caves have been reinforced with wooden beams.) 

I ducked inside the bigger one used by the men and just stood there, eyes closed, and breathed in the cloying smell of dirt walls all around me. Imagined two outlaws hunched over a tiny fire, heating their coffee and beans while another outlaw kept watch above on the high bluff for any sign of the red-coated North West Mounted Police approaching. If so, he’d warn the others and they’d rush their stolen horses across the narrow gully and up the slope of Peake's Butte  and cross the International Boundary (49th parallel) just a few yards away. There was also an escape tunnel in case the "Redcoats" were to close.

This memory was used in the third book of my trilogy: Beneath A Desperado Moon which will be published sometime next year by Prairie Rose Publications. Reliving these memories, I may just want to go back and revisit that cave <grin>.

This area of the Big Muddy was the first point of the Outlaw Trail, which was carefully organized well over a century ago by Butch Cassidy and  Kid Curry (whose real name was Harvey Logan). Patterned after the successful efficiency of the Pony Express before railroads made the Express obsolete, Butch had set up relay stations all along the route from Canada to New Mexico for the convenience of The Wild Bunch. Butch arranged to always have stations equipped with fresh horses, food, and protection. There were “friendly” American ranchers all along the border and down through the western states who willingly helped the outlaws by keeping fresh horses at the ready. For more information about the Outlaw Trail in the Big Muddy area, check out this link: https://www.coronach.ca/outlaw-trail.html

The discovery of gold in Montana enticed not only the gold-seekers but also the building of railroads to transport the ore—and ruthless outlaws who were happy to relieve them of their gold and money. The drought of 1883 caused tremendous cattle losses; the price of beef went down and many cowhands were let go accordingly. Unable to find work, many of them drifted into robbing banks and horse-stealing to survive. If you can buy or rent the movie, Monte Walsh played by Tom Selleck, here’s the trailer to give you a good idea of a cowboy’s life herding cattle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0r0fBbTjEo8 .

The Wild Bunch outlaws were excellent horsemen and accomplished horse thieves. Although they were most noted for their bank and train robberies, one branch of the gang concentrated on stealing as many as 200 horses and driving them across the border, selling them, stealing them back and fleeing into Montana and North Dakota where they’d resell them again. The Nelson-Jones Gang, reportedly a part of The Wild Bunch, and Dutch Henry were known to do this quite successfully. 

In my book, Beneath A Horse-Thief Moon, the Billy Cranston Gang was inspired by the Nelson-Jones Gang that raided the border ranches, causing a lot of grief and hardship. Nelson was a tall, skinny red-haired, red-bearded man described as having sharp eyes as “cold as fish”.

In Montana, Nelson was known as a rustler and a killer and was never without a gun. One of the stories about him involved him boldly breaking a gang member, Trotter, and another prisoner out of a Montana jail in 1894. Seffick promptly joined the outlaws. Nelson’s gang created so much trouble that ranchers banded together and posted a $1500 reward each for Nelson and Carlyle, an ex-mountie turned outlaw, and lesser amounts for several other outlaws.

Charles "Red" Nelson (also known as Sam Kelly) eventually gave himself up in Plentywood, Montana, but due to insufficient evidence and because most shootings were considered self-defense, he was released. He (ironically) bought a ranch in the Big Muddy area and it was rumored he was periodically visited by former gang members. I love this little tidbit: “If the rain barrel was tipped a certain way it was a signal to visitors that it was not safe to be in the area.” He supposedly died in 1954.

Another outlaw in my novel is French Henri, whom I mentioned in my author’s notes as being patterned after Dutch Henry, an excellent horseman and bronc buster, but best known for being a horse thief in the Big Muddy area. After being kicked out of Dodge by Wyatt Earp, Dutch hooked up with a trail drive to Montana and proceeded to swindle his boss, eventually causing the man to go bankrupt. Dutch and his men would haze as many as 400 horses across the border, selling, re-stealing and reselling just like certain members of the Wild Bunch. His gang had some interesting names: Bloody Knife, Pigeon-Toed Kid, James McNab, Duffy, and Birch. With names like the first two, no wonder they were feared by the border ranchers.

There are conflicting accounts of Dutch Henry’s death. One story is that he was killed in Canada by the North West Mounted Police—twice! Another account says he was found dead in the Minnesota brush, yet a third report claims he was hanged in Mexico. Or did he marry and live peacefully in Minnesota until he died of a gunshot wound? This has stimulated some history buffs to play detective to solve the mystery. Check out this link for a little more history on Dutch Henry: https://www.coronach.ca/dutch-henry.html

The Big Muddy Badlands is an amazing narrow valley about a two hours’ drive south-west from Regina, Saskatchewan. It has amazing scenery, created by the Ice Age traveling through the area  millions of years ago and melt water creating all kinds of formations. Wind and rain also play a part in erosion of the cliffs and buttes. They also provide great hiding places for outlaw activity. On our last day we did some exploring on our own.

We traveled off the main roads onto a trail across the prairie to see Castle Butte, an amazing large sandstone and clay hill pockmarked with caves—perhaps wolf caves in the past?

It stands 200 feet high and is a one-quarter of a mile around the base. We didn’t climb it, but I saw all kinds of possibilities for this in a book. Apparently, some of the caves are narrow and deep so you take a risk exploring them. Years ago, when lost, people used the landmark to get their bearings again. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Muddy_Badlands

On our way home to Alberta, we headed west toward Eastend, south of the Cypress Hills to visit a friend. Along the way near Wood Mountain, we came across a small North West Mounted Police Museum but sadly after the Labor Day weekend, it was open only on weekends so we couldn’t go inside. Perhaps we’ll see it on our next trip. The mounted police had a base at Wood Mountain and had their hands full with whiskey smugglers and outlaws whipping in from Montana, stealing cattle and horses and escaping across the border again and avoid prosecution. All they could hope was to catch them in the act in Canada and incarcerate them.


There are lots of interesting, historic places to visit in western Canada that give you glimpses of our pioneer days, the difficult task the police force had to control the whiskey trade, horse-stealing and cattle rustling. I could only touch on a bit of that history. I’m glad you came along for the brief outing.

Note: My computer was down because of a glitch since Wednesday, so my son came to my rescue tonight...thus because of this and not feeling well, I have re-posted a blog from a couple of years ago.

 

                                        www.elizabethclements.com


Sunday, October 3, 2021

Writing - Blogging - Marketing

Post by Doris McCraw

writing as Angela Raines

As I work to finish my book, the thought hit me, we're coming out of our homes, going to events, and of course bookstores. The reason it hit me, I never had the option, nor did I want it, to stay inside. I continued to work, hike, and take photos. The one thing I didn't do a lot of, and I've heard others say, was writing. It just seemed harder to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

At the same time, I continued to write for the blogs I'd committed to. The exercise of following through on my promise was a good thing. It allowed me to keep the research and creative juices flowing. It was during this time that I started doing interviews for one of the blogs in addition to my regular post. 

It was also a time of education on the art of writing and how to market. So, even though I may not have gotten all the writing done on my WIPs, it was not wasted time. In fact, our writer's group still meets, just online. It has kept us all writing and connected. When we get together again, it will almost be like we never left. 

Therefore I thought I would share a bit of what I learned, or at least the resources I used.

1. My online improv writer's group

2. Attended two online conferences. (That was fun)

3. YouTube Videos. Here are a couple of favorites: How to get your life back on track

How to Show Not Tell

4. Book I found useful: 

Amazon

Amazon

Something I heard or read has stayed with me when it comes to marketing - People First/Books Second.

Now, what does that mean to me? It means it's more important that I connect with my readers, develop a relationship. I confess I'm still working on that one.

Some additional tidbits that fascinated me:

Raymond Chandler would type his manuscript on 4x6 note cards and something had to happen on each card. (That's approximately every 250 words)

Create a Story Box which is listing stories or ideas that resonate with you. If one stays with you for a long time, maybe it's the next story.

Write while you walk (I do that all the time, I just don't write them down. oops!)

The list could go on and on. The thing is, as people are getting back out again, are they taking the time to read, to study, to learn from others, like these blogs. Are we still going to continue to hone our craft or do we move on to something else? 

Regardless, I have set aside one morning a week, where for 2-4 hours I focus on learning something new on this author journey. What do you do?

Doris Gardner-McCraw -
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
Angela Raines - author: Telling Stories Where Love & History Meet




 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

An Old Church - The Anglo-Saxon Church at Bradford on Avon

The small church in Bradford on Avon is one of the few Anglo Saxon churches to have survived and is one of the most complete. That it has done so is something of a miracle or an accident, seeing that it has been used as a church, a school and a cottage.  The Victorian historian Canon Jones recognized the building as a church and it was restored in the 1870s. It is now used as a place of worship from time to ime.

The church is dedicated to Saint Laurence, one of the very early Christian martyrs. Churches to this former deacon of Rome are often a sign of ant earlier Christian community in the area. Whether or not that is the case, the medieval historian William of Malmesbury records that the church here existed in the 1120s. 

William thought that it dated back to the time of the 8th century and that it  was built by St Aldhelm.  Aldhelm, of the royal house of Wessex,  was the bishop of Sherborne and, after his death in 709, his body was known to have been brought to Bradford on Avon, maybe for burial in his church. That is possible, though the present building, from its architectural style, looks to be from the 10th century, which would fit a tradition that the church was intended to house to remains of King Edward the Martyr, the older brother of King Ethelred, who was murdered in 978, though Edward ended up buried in Shaftesbury Abbey.

The building is very tall for its size and decorated with arcades, similar in style to those seen  above on Bosham church as represented on the Bayeux Tapestry. It has few windows and these are small, while the doorways are tall and narrow.  In Anglo-Saxon times the interior would have been lit by candles. This sounds plain but there is evidence of decoration around the doorways and in the plinth running around the walls. It’s probable that the now whitewashed walls were painted, and in bright colors. This would have given the church an impression of a jewel,  a very suitable spot for the resting place of a martyr king.  Other decoration includes two stone angels, discovered in the east wall of the nave, and a stone bowl, which is now used as a font.

The church is important to show how the Anglo-Saxons viewed religious buildings as enclosed yet airy sacred spaces, a great contrast with the larger Anglo-Norman churches that came later. It reminds me of a sacred version of an Anglo-Saxon great hall, an intimate and companionable space for worship. 



You can read about Anglo-Saxon and early Norman society in my novels, "The Snow Bri
de" and

In my novels "Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure" and "Dark Maiden" I

show the vital role the church played in village life.

Lindsay Townsend 







Wednesday, September 22, 2021

What’s in a (Danish) Name?

When I give programs about The Legacy or The Claim, I frequently receive questions about why so many Danes have last names ending in ‘–sen’ even though most of my Danish characters do not. I posted this blog several years ago, but I’m reposting it today because it answers these questions. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

    Have you ever wondered why so many Danish surnames end in “sen?” Unless you have Danish ancestors, probably not. But the reason lies in a naming tradition that is not exclusive to Denmark.

    In the very-olden days, when the population was small and no official records were kept, most people had only one name such as Hans or Jens. As the population grew, many people were given the same names. To distinguish between the many who were named Hans, they added a descriptor such as Hans the baker as opposed the Hans the crook. These descriptors applied only to the individual, not to that person’s family.

     Surnames were initially used only by nobility and wealthy land owners, and they were usually based on where they lived, what they did for a living, a personal characteristic, or a parent’s (usually the father’s) name. This last option, known as Patronymics, became popular especially in the rural areas, which encompassed much of Denmark.


     The way Patronymic surnames work is to combine a person’s fathers’ first name and the word for son, sen, or the word for daughter, datter. So if you are a girl, your name is Inga, and your father’s first name is Jens, your full name would be Inga Jensdatter. If you are male, your name is Erik, and your father’s first name is Thor, your full name would be Erik Thorsen. Up until the mid 1800’s, patronymics were the most common type of surnames.

     As the population continued to grow, this naming scheme became problematic. Only one generation had the same the same surname, which made determination of familial lines in government records impossible. In 1828, a decree was issued, declaring that all families should have a permanent surname. However, especially in rural areas, it took many years to abolish the custom of patronymic surnames.

     In the 1850’s, people living in cities began taking permanent surnames that were not patronymics. Elsewhere, it was common for families to adopt a patronymic as a permanent surname.

     In 1904. a law was passed to allow people to change their patronymic family name to a more individual name. However, names ending in “sen’ are still predominant in Denmark.

     I am half-Danish. My mother’s family history inspired THE LEGACY. Neither of her grandfathers had a patronymic surname, but my married surname is Knudsen (Son of Knud). When I began writing, I knew I was going to choose a pen name that was easier to spell and easier to pronounce. My name is frequently misspelled as Knudson, Knutson, Knutsen, Kuntson, and so on. And then there is the dilemma, do you or don’t you pronounce the ‘K’? We do. Most people don’t. Why would they? Probably the most common English word beginning with ‘kn’ is ‘know.’ In Denmark, the ‘K’ is pronounced, but the ‘d’ is silent.

    When it came to choosing my pseudonym, I wanted something family-related, easy to spell, and easy to pronounce. I also wanted something that would reflect the women in my family. So I chose ‘Ann,’ the first 3 letters of my mother’s first name, ‘Mar,’ the first 3 letters of my first name, and ‘Kim,’ the first 3 letters of my daughter’s first name. All together it is Ann Markim. 

Do you know the derivation and meaning of your name? 

What kind of problems, if any, does your name cause you?

Ann Markim

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Monday, September 13, 2021

LOVE STILL REMAINS

While driving one day, a song came on the radio. The lyrics were about how good it is to know love still remains, that some things never change. That’s certainly true for romance readers. We believe—we know, in spite of everything, love still remains.

That’s why I write and read romance. Love is always there, in the story, and at the end. You know the bad guy will get his come-uppance and the good guy will get the girl. (I do write westerns, after all.)

In my novel, TEXAS ROSE, published by Prairie Rose Publications, the good guy isn’t really a good guy—at least not to begin with. But there’s nothing like the love of a good woman to show him the light. And if she leads him on a merry chase along the way, so much the better. He should have to work to have her, don’t you think?

Let me introduce you to Jaret and Isabel from TEXAS ROSE.


A TEXAS PROMISE…
Texas, 1847. Jaret Walker is a loner, a gun for hire with a heart of ice. He’s never had anyone to call his own, and he likes it that way. But when a promise made to a friend leads him on a ride through the desert and to remote Two Roses Ranch where he meets Isabel Bennett, the woman he’s supposed to protect, all he can think of is making her his. She’s the kind of woman a rough-riding cowboy like him can never have. But her hot gaze tempts him like no other woman has before…

A SCORCHING DESIRE…
The moment Isabel Bennett lays eyes on Jaret Walker, she remembers the dreams she’s denied for so long. She’s sworn never to marry. It’s the only way to protect her ranch. But when Walker rides into her life, she decides to let herself taste what she’s giving up—a passion that burns through her with each kiss—and a desire that won’t be denied…

Now I don’t know about you, but I’m a sucker for a good “meet” – that moment when the hero and heroine see or meet each other for the first time. That first glance that you and I know starts them down the path to happily-ever-after. Here’s the scene where Jaret Walker and Isabel Bennett first encounter one another:


EXCERPT from TEXAS ROSE:

Rising again, Isabel pushed the curtain aside to take a closer look at the stranger. He was tall, sitting easily in the saddle of an equally leggy buckskin horse. He’d been on the trail for a while, judging by the dust on his clothes and the sheen of sweat on the animal’s coat.

The sun sharpened the angles of the man’s face, making his high cheekbones and square jaw look as if they’d been carved of granite. A long mustache framed his upper lip, setting off his sharp, straight nose.

The muscles in his arms shifted beneath his black shirt as he brought the horse to a stop. His sleeves were turned back to combat the rising heat, and tanned skin showed below the roll of fabric. Then he tipped back his hat with one finger and turned toward the window where she stood.

“Oh, my,” she whispered. Even from this distance she could see his eyes were the icy blue of a winter lake, and his hair was the color of the sable fur her mother had loved, dark brown and luxurious. It brushed the collar of his shirt and she was embarrassed to find she wanted to run her fingers through it. Unfamiliar warmth that had nothing to do with the sun washed over her.

Straightening with a jerk, she stepped away from the window and smoothed her skirts. Her hands were shaking. Who was this man? How could he affect her with only a look? She shook her head to try and break the spell he’d cast over her. Whoever he was, he was a guest on her ranch. She should be welcoming him, not ogling from behind a window curtain. Hoping her upset didn’t somehow show, she followed her uncle outside to greet him.

Jaret Walker set up a stir among the ranch hands when he rode his dun-colored mare into the yard. The horse’s dark mane lifted with each step as he guided her toward the house. Without moving more than his eyes, he counted a dozen. There should be ten more working close to the house and another thirty or so out with the herds, if his friend’s information was accurate.

He ignored the urge to turn back to the east and ride hard to get far away from this remote spot on the Texas desert. Being among people made him itchy. Give him the wide open prairie and his horse for company, and he’d ask for nothing more. But he was here because of a promise, and he always kept his word.

One of the ranch hands stepped out of the shadows, directly into his path. Jaret stopped his horse with a slight tug on the reins. Though he was taller than most men and broad enough to intimidate people just by being, this man looked to be nearly his equal. When he reached up to grab the bridle to hold the horse in place, Jaret moved the animal out of reach with a touch of one heel.

“Afternoon.” He nodded in the general direction of the other hands who’d stopped what they were doing to size him up. “I have business with Nick Bennett. Would he be around?”

“Perhaps I can be of assistance?” A short, rather round man separated from the shade of the porch. “I am his uncle, Don Enrique Antonio Ferdinand de la Rosa.” The man puffed up with importance and lost his balance, staggering into the porch railing. “I run the estate in his absence.”

Estate? The man had a pretty high opinion of this plot of dirt in the Texas desert. While it looked like decent grazing land with the only water he’d seen for hours, it was still only dirt. True, someone had put a lot of caring into the place. The dusty wagon road leading to the house had been lined with smooth-cut fence rails that were placed with precision for nearly a quarter of a mile. And the fence was nothing compared to the house.

It looked like it had started life as a small, stone and mud shotgun house, with a door at each end of the hallway to let the breeze through. But the structure had been added to over the years. The two-story extension in front of him was part wood, part native rock, and sported large glass windows and lace curtains.

There was a stone building off to the right of the main house and the dozen or so structures spread out on both sides were probably the homes of the ranch hands and their families. Each building was painted a different color, bright splotches on the dry brown land offering plenty of places to hide, and lots of eyes to see you, too. He turned away from the layout of the homestead. It wasn’t his problem at the moment. The man watching him from the porch steps was.

“Jaret Walker.” He touched the brim of his hat but didn’t bother to take it off. “No offense, Mr. de la Rosa, but my business is with Nick Bennett.”

“My nephew is not here, nor, sadly, is he expected to return. You’ll have to take your business up with me.”

“Any business on this ranch will be handled by me, Uncle.”

Though Jaret couldn’t see who was standing in the shadow of the doorway, it was definitely a woman who spoke. Her warm, rich voice carried the authority of one accustomed to being in charge.

“Welcome, Mr. Walker. Won’t you come inside? I want to hear how you know my brother.”

Jaret pulled the dusty hat from his head automatically as she stepped into view. She was a sight worth a three-day ride. Eyes the color of obsidian sparkled in the sunlight. Her long black hair was tied back with a silk scarf and looked as rich and soft as the fabric that bound it.

The light yellow dress she wore made her skin glow like sun-warmed honey. Its puffed sleeves accented her straight shoulders and made her waist seem small enough for his hands to span. She was taller than the man she called uncle and well formed, with enough curves in all the right places to get a man’s attention. She met his stare with a look of confidence and more than a little arrogance, to his thinking.

She was going to give him trouble.


I’m glad TEXAS ROSE has a home here at Prairie Rose Publications. Now it’s your turn. Of all the books you’ve read, which “meet” is your favorite?