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Monday, November 27, 2023

Pace in my Romantic Fiction.


Pace in my romantic fiction 


Pace in my fiction depends on what genre I'm writing in. This determines what I focus on. When I write romance, I like to be tactile, highlighting the positive aspects of any setting. I focus on appearance, the sensual aspects, the thoughts and feelings of my characters. If there is violence in my romances, it is not dwelt on.


In my novels, I find that pace can be increased by showing and involving the reader in the characters's dilemmas. Each time a viewpoint is changed or a new setting is used it can 'refresh' the reader and so add to pace.


Pace does not need to be unrelenting, I find, or stories can seem rushed. There can be times for moments of reflection, particularly when a character learns or chooses something. I always feel that a crucial scene deserves a full showing.


As a reader myself, I know that romance readers are curious and love to learn. If I can make the research interesting by putting it in a character's mouth and also imperative - the character really needs to know it, the stakes are important - then so much the better. 


I also find that anticipation can be an important device in pacing - readers love to anticipate. You can make readers 'wait' in writing. For me, anticipation is one of the ultimate appeals of romance - I know the hero and heroine are going to have their happy ever after ending, but how?


I finish with an excerpt from my Christmas Sweet Romance, "Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure." In it I switch points of view between hero and heroine, something I love to do so the reader sees the characters through the eyes of my romantic leads, drawing my reader in and so hopefully adding to romantic pacing.


Sir Conrad, steward of the forest high lands, glowered at the latest miscreant to be dragged before him in the great hall of the northern sheriff’s castle. A castle that has never felt like my own, for all I am reluctant steward here.  

Despite his instructions, Sir David, his under-reeve, would bring the wretches up in fetters, even the women. Conrad tightened his already crushing grip of  his sword hilt to stop himself from punching David and rose from his chair to approach the small, slight figure before him.

“What, where and who?” he snapped at his shorter, stockier, second-in-command. The woman—girl, really—did not flinch, which surprised him.

Conrad knew he was harsh, unsmiling in his manner. Since Joan had died three winters ago, leaving him a widower, feeling angry, cheated and bereft at the age of twenty-four, he had been unable to be anything but cold to anyone. He had no interest in brief affairs. I witnessed too much tumult and heartbreak from my father and brother and their parade of mistresses to do the same. Although this girl—

          Studying her, he recognized two things at once. The first was that he truly desired her. To his own shock, Conrad wanted her badly, with a potent drive he had not felt since he was a youth. Is it the picture she makes in her chains? I would chain her to my bed, if I could. She was delicate, with a fragile profile, sweetly upcurving lips, masses of glossy blonde hair and eyes as blue and big as a summer sky. She seemed both graceful and slender and at the same time determined, standing straight, poised as a dancer, facing life head on.

That was the second thing he realized. The girl was brave. Dressed in her dirt-coloured gown, her mud-spattered, heavily-stained tunic and shedding cloak, in old leather boots that were splitting at the seams and looked too small for her, she watched him with the poise of a cat, all barely-hidden fire.

If she smiles at me I may even kiss her, and yes, I would love to keep her by my bed. But why did she seem familiar?

“David?” he asked.

His under-reeve blushed. “We found her in the lower castle.”

Sir Conrad felt himself become dangerously quiet, the background chatter of the great hall burning away in a blaze of righteous anger as memory spurred him to move. In a dazzling flash, as if he had been struck by lightning, he remembered earlier that morning.

He had been striding to the stables when yelling and the thud of  punches had erupted from a mob of youths, kicking about a clattering wooden ball. As the lads’ shoving and shouting quickened and Conrad spotted fisted hands groping for knives, a small hooded and cloaked figure skirting the edge of the group suddenly tottered. Pushed savagely from behind, the tiny, limping rag of a creature threatened to tumble headlong into the boiling mess of arms and legs.

“Hold off!” Conrad had bellowed, sprinting as he warned. In a few long steps he rammed past the fools, seized the falling figure and had carried it to safety, setting his light burden down on the top of the outer keep staircase.

The work of moments was forgotten in the fierce tongue lashing he flung at the lads. But he recognised her now.

No wonder she seemed familiar. “I rescued you,” he said aloud.

The girl pierced him with a glare, clearly disputing his version of events. Do not expect me to be grateful, her eyes said.

“….She was swept up with that group of ‘prentices…” David was explaining, oblivious to the currents between them. Exasperated at the girl, Conrad was still glad to break their battle of stares and looked back over his shoulder at his second.

“The ruffians rioting in the bailey this morning over a foolish game?”

His stocky second shuffled his booted feet and muttered something about kicking a ball about being harmless entertainment.

“That is as maybe,” Conrad growled, his quicksilver temper flaring afresh as he stalked closer to the one he had saved, his cloak snapping round his heels. “The girl could have been crushed in that mêlée, you idiot! Why is she in chains?” The iron shackles were a bitter grey against her pale, delicate wrists.

David hunched a little, clearly uncertain how to answer, and the girl spoke for the first time. “I confessed, sir.”

“To what, girl?”

She studied him with narrowed eyes, a shuttered expression falling across her pale face, then she straightened afresh, with a faint rattle of her fetters. “To whatever would bring me before you so I could ask for your help, sir. And to propose a bargain.”

Sir Conrad stared anew.


The steward glowered and Maggie held his darkly brilliant gaze, seeing herself reflected in his deep grey eyes. Towering above her, he looked like a scowling saint. Somewhere between her dread for her brother and her surprise that she had truly startled him, Maggie admitted that he was handsome.

Handsome and bereft. Strange words for a hardened warrior and knight but true for him. “Handsome but keeps to himself, not like his brother, more's the pity.” “It’s said he loved his wife, didn’t he, and she’s dead.” “Will his children be as striking, I wonder?” The muttered comments about the steward were all true, except for that one thing. Sir Conrad was not just handsome, but vulnerable.


Lindsay Townsend 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Dance Scenes in Historically-Set Movies – November – Pride and Prejudice #prairierosepubs #moviedancescenes

For the last ten blogging months, I’ve shared a series of dance scene from historically-set movies. It’s now November, and we’ve come to my Number 2 favorite movie with a dance scene.

As a recap, here are links to the movies to this point:

January – Cat Ballou
February – The King and I
March – Easy Virtue
April – Shakespeare in Love
May – Chocolat
June – Beauty and the Beast
July – Dirty Dancing
August – Cinderella
September – The Mask of Zorro
October – Gone with the Wind


Name of Movie: Pride and Prejudice (2005) Kiera Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen
AND Pride and Prejudice (1995) Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle
Historical Time Period: Regency Period
Location: England
Occasion/Purpose: Socializing, Courting, Courtship Ritual
Types of Dances: English Country Dancing aka Contra Dancing


I love the 2005 theatrical film and the 1995 television mini-series of Pride and Prejudice equally well.

Kiera Knightly as the independent thinking and ‘everyone woman’ Elizabeth Bennett appeals to my admiration for that type of portrayal of Elizabeth Bennett. Ms. Knightly’s Elizabeth Bennett appears in clothing indicative of a family of somewhat modest means. The family’s house shows signs of wear and disrepair. The sight of the pig walking through the house suggests the family lives in somewhat of an earthy we-do-what-we-must-to-get-by life, yet, we don’t have the impression they are poor. They live a modest, but never-without, existence that stays true throughout the movie.

Contrast that Elizabeth Bennett with the one portrayed by Jennifer Ehle in the mini-series. This Elizabeth is a more refined, socially proper Elizabeth Bennett. There is an overall impression of greater wealth and privilege within the Bennett family (in clothing, household furnishings, etc.), which is evident throughout the movie.

Matthew Macfadyen and Colin Firth each took aspects of Mr. Darcy’s character and made the character their own. For that, I admire them both equally.

I will say that Colin Firth’s dip into the pond and subsequent wet-shirt walk toward his house is not a scene in the book, but who cares. I don’t. Colin Firth dripping wet is a sight to savor.


Matthew Macfadyen’s scene at the end of the movie as he walks across the foggy pasture at daylight toward Elizabeth and then his proposal is not to be missed. In fact, watch that scene on repeat.


I digressed. Onward to the dancing…

The movie dance scene for November is not a particular dance scene. It is the dance itself. Consequently, extracting one scene from the movie to illustrate how the filmmakers showed us the relationship between two characters in a manner that is more effective than simple dialogue is an impossible task. Everything about dancing is wrapped around the heart of this story.

Without dancing, there is no story. Dancing is so critical to the story, that we are treated to the first dance within a few minutes. Ballroom dancing wasn’t called ballroom dancing at the time. People attended Balls (private parties) and Assemblies (public parties), where they danced to a variety of popular English Country Dances. At the time, dancing was the only way to spend time with members of the opposite sex. Passing touches, occasional hand-holding, and speaking to that special someone without an adult listening to every word was exciting.

“Dance” in Pride and Prejudice is its own character . Dance personifies the societal mores of the time:

  • the physical act of dancing (knowing the steps and performing them correctly)
  • thinking about dancing
  • talking about dancing
  • preparing for a dancing
  • reminiscing about dancing
  • following the etiquette of dancing
  • the purpose of dancing (courtship, courtship ritual)

To be fond of dancing was a certain step toward falling in love. Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Dancing, whether attending a lavish ball or a more intimate, private dance, served several purposes during this time. A refusal or reluctance to dance showed that person’s lack of good/acceptable character. The characters in the story reveal their true natures during these social events. In addition, a person’s worth was on display via their individual performance on the dance floor.

Sir William Lucas explains, “I consider dancing as one of the first refinements of polished societies.”

Dancing, as an acceptable and approved social activity, was a means of public and appropriate courting, and it was expected that those who traveled in certain social circles would attend balls and parties for the ultimate goal of showing themselves as suitable dancing partners, which suggested they were also suitable for courting, and then, presumably, mutual satisfaction in marriage would follow.

For a man to dance with a woman more than once in the evening was a sign of his romantic, and presumably marriageable, interest in the lady. Mrs. Bennet says of her eldest daughter, Jane, “Only think of that my dear; he actually danced with her twice; and she was the only creature in the room that he asked a second time.”

It is impossible to adequately explain how critical dancing is to this story. So, please, if you’ve never read Pride and Prejudice, I urge you to do so. It is doubly a delightful reading experience and a study of human nature. At the very least, treat yourself to watching both the 1995 miniseries and the 2005 theatrical movie. The mini-series stays fairly true to the story, while also including more of the book. While the 2005 movie truncates the story, as it must due to time constraints, it stays true t the story and it is an exceptionally well-done and well-crafted version. I am not at all disappointed in the two-hour movie experience over the mini-series version of five and a half hours.

However, because I’ve included a dance scene in all of the other movies in this series, I’ve chosen the one scene that captures a moment so exquisitely, so perfectly that, if you blink, you’ll miss it. This is the moment that Mr. Darcy sees Elizabeth Bennett at a dance. We know in that instant that Elizabeth has ‘bewitched him body and soul…’

This clip also serves the purposes of showing us the Bennett sisters talking about the men at the dance, getting a feel for the dance as a social event, enjoying the visual pleasure of seeing the period costumes and the historical setting, and offering us a glimpse of the dances of the time. Mr. Darcy is introduced to the movie at this point. We can tell by his surly demeanor, his stern expression, and his stiff body language that he does not want to be there.

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth see each other face-to-face for the first time in this clip. Watch closely from 0:48 to 0:53 for ‘The Moment’ that changes Mr. Darcy forever.


So, here I am in November with one more movie dance scene to go in this year-long series. The December movie dance scene is my favorite. Any guesses?

Until we meet again,
Kaye Spencer
writing through history one romance upon a time

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

First, Do No Harm

 First, Do No Harm

C. A. Asbrey

Although the phrase, "First, do no harm," is attributed to Hippocrates, it doesn't actually form part of The Hippocratic Oath. It's from his work, Of the Epidemics. It's also a commonly held opinion that all doctors take the oath when they graduate. They don't. And those who do, take various versions of it around the world. One thing we can all agree on is that we all want doctors to do as much as they can to mitigate suffering, and not to increase it.

The various criminal trials and medical scandals that litter history show us that has not always been the case, not to mention the number of doctors and nurses who have been found to be serial killers. The most vulnerable are always the victims of such predators, and we thank those who have the courage to stand up and speak out against them. These whistle-blowers often have to deal with the powerful to do so.

The first doctor to do so was a remarkable man in so many ways, and spent his whole life confronting discrimination and abuse. He was also the first African American to get a medical degree, an ex-slave, and a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society along with Frederick Douglass. Douglass called him, "the single most important influence in his life."

He was born in 1814, a slave in Manhattan. Set free in 1827, his maternal grandfather was the man who owned his mother. He stated often that he had relatives who were both slaves and slave owners. He attended The African Free School at 2 Mulberry Street in Manhattan. Smith was taught by an English immigrant, Charles C. Andrews, who frequently stated that his pupils were every bit as smart as white children, if not brighter. James McCune Smith stood out as exceptional, but despite being showing obvious intellect, he was refused admission to numerous universities and colleges due to racial discrimination. He was encouraged to go to Scotland where no such bars existed, and he attended Glasgow University, gaining a medical degree in 1837. In the interim he received a licence from The Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh in 1813, and served with the British Military as a surgeon in Sierra Leone. Glasgow University was on a par with Oxford or Cambridge at that time, and was a seat of The Scottish Enlightenment a few decades earlier. It had strong links with the abolitionist movement, and was far better than any American University of the time. In fact, it was one of the best in Europe. A fluent French speaker, Smith finished his residency in Paris.
The Glasgow Lock Hospital for Unfortunate Females

Smith was offered a position in the Glasgow Lock Hospital for Unfortunate Females. Many cities had these in the nineteenth century, places where women suspected of having a venereal disease were incarcerated until they were considered 'cured.' Low class women were seen as responsible for the contamination of the men they tempted into sexual liaisons, even if they were children as young as seven. The origins of its name are believed to have stemmed from the French word 'loques', meaning rags and bandages, or from the old English 'loke', meaning a house for lepers. Europe's first Lock Hospital had previously been a leper Hospital. The Glasgow building was constructed to look like the surrounding tenements in an act of Victorian discretion, and the conditions were dreadful. Women arrested for vagrancy, prostitution, or even having given birth outside wedlock were kept in reformatory conditions. The place was feared for good reason. Very few survived the treatments there.

On admission, their heads were shaved and they were thoroughly disinfected. The average stay was twenty-nine days, and they were given a number of treatments ranging from pills, ointments, salves, and eye-watering poultices and vapour baths. Most were ineffective at best, at worst they were fatal, and the women were given no say whatsoever on anything done to them.       

Smith's background and understanding of the powerlessness of the marginalised led him to publish a series of articles in The London Medical Gazette, in which he openly questioned the use of experimental treatments on patients without their consent. It was not only the first time this had been done, but he also published the testimony of two poor women and the impact of unethical misapplication of medical experimentation on them, making it triply unique: The first time an African American Doctor had been published, the first time medical ethics on experimentation were questioned in medical publications, and the first time poor women were given a voice and taken seriously. To understand how little these women were considered worthy of consideration, reports from the same hospital blame girls up to the age of eight for their own venereal infections.

As well as being a doctor, Smith was also a talented statistician. He compiled figures to prove that one doctor in particular was administering experimental, and fatal, treatments to bolster his own medical reputation. The easiest thing would have been to say nothing, but his own life experience informed his courage in not only speaking up, but in publishing it in papers read throughout Europe. It's especially telling that the doctor concerned knew what he was doing and tried to cover up the deaths and miscarriages by mis-attributing them to other causes. Smith was having none of it. He wrote:

"By this novel and ingenious mode of recording the Hospital transactions for 1836, [Prof Hannay’s team] keeps out of view the evidence of the severity of the treatment, and the amount of mortality, while, at the same time, the residence of the patients in the house seems shorted, the cost of each diminished, and the treatment made to appear more than usually successful."  

Professor Hannay's aim was that effective treatments could be found so they could used on men and the wealthy.

It's worth nothing that while at Glasgow University, James McCune Smith took philosophy classes from James Mylne, the theistic empiricist, who taught that the use of statistics could be an effective way to judge what is moral and ethical, based on the greater good. Smith not only used this approach in Scotland, but challenged the US Government on many occasions using the same method. He used statistics to prove that free black people were as intelligent, orderly, and employable as white people, that slavery shortened lives, and that the figures in the census showing that free black people died younger and had higher rates of insanity were corruptly added by those with vested interests in slavery. He was able to show that the census showed more black people in insane asylums in the north than the actual number of black people living in the states. John Quincy Adams called for an investigation based on his work     

James McCune Smith returned to the USA, and married in the 1840s. He had eleven children and never stopped fighting for the poor and the voiceless. He was a prolific writer, submitting articles to multiple scientific and political organisations and publications, and was the first black member of the American Geographical Society. He taught and practiced medicine, and in 1863 was appointed as professor of anthropology at Wilberforce College, the first African American-owned and operated college in the United States, but he was too ill to take up the position.

He died of congestive heart failure at the young age of fifty-two, a mere nineteen days before the abolition of slavery was ratified in the constitution. His children all married white partners, and the records show that his descendents gradually disappeared into white society, no doubt to escape discrimination.

Greta Blau, a white woman who wrote a paper on The Colored Orphan Asylum for a class at Hunter College in the 1990s, and recognised his name in the family tree in her grandmother's Bible. She had only ever known of him as 'the Scottish doctor', and had no idea he was black, or of his incredible contribution to the world. She arranged for a new headstone and found that many of the extended family were buried in the same graveyard without even realising they were related.

Sadly, some of those contacted by her to be told that they were descended by this clever, humane, and educated man were not happy at the news that they had a black ancestor. That tells us that his work is not yet over.     

James McCune Smith was the first African American doctor, but not the first black doctor. In 1809 Jamaican, William Fergusson, became the first black medical student at Edinburgh University, and he went on to become the president of Sierra Leone. 


Sunday, November 5, 2023

Mackenzie's Raiders - A Show Taken From 'REAL' Life.

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

I am closing in on the end of the year-long at those little-known Western TV shows. A list of previous show discussions can be found at the end of this post.

This month the show I'm focusing on is "MacKenzie's Raiders". It ran in syndication for one season much like the previous month's show. It began in October 1958 and ended in July 1959. I've read the idea for the show was the book, "Mackenzie's Raid" by Russell P. Reeder. 

The premise of the show: Colonel Mackenzie receives orders from President Grant to pursue bandits across the border from the United States into Mexico to stop crime in that area of Texas. Of course, if captured across the border the government would deny all knowledge. The location: Fort Clark near Braackettville in southwest Texas in the 1870s.

Richard Carlson
Image from Wikipedia

The show starred Richard Carlson. Carlson, born in 1912 in Minnesota, Carlson received a master's degree in English from the University of Minnesota. He taught drama at his alma mater. He decided to pursue the craft eventually appearing on Broadway and then moved to California to continue the practice of the craft. He remained in California passing away in 1977 at the age of 65.

As a side note, there really was a Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, 1840-1899. He was a Union officer who served in the Civil War and later in the West. 

The real Colonel Mackenzie
Photo from Wikipedia

If you would like to check out an episode of the show, here is a link to a YouTube option:

Mackenzie's Raiders - Episode 1

For more on the real Col. Mackenzie:

An article from the Texas State Historical Society

Links from previous posts:

Frontier Doctor

The Tall Man

The Adventures of Jim Bowie

"Overland Trail" - YouTube

Trackdown - Self-Defense

Cimarron City

Whispering Smith


Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy.