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New Story at 1000Words

I may have mentioned how much I enjoy writing a story based on a photo prompt.  1000Words' Pinterest boards are great places for this kind of challenge and using one of their more recent images, I came up with a new story.  I hope you like it.  (You can find it over at the 1000Words website.)

Dog lovers warning: the photo I used is dangerously cute!


Circa's Latest Offerings

No, it wasn't some April Fools' prank.  It's really here.  The latest issue of Circa: A Journal of Historical Fiction is out now and it is crammed with great stories.  Just click on the link and scroll down for the table of contents.

Some feature well-known figures, like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini in “The Last Escape” by T. C. Phillips and Winston Churchill in “Last Orders for Churchill” by Phillip Donnelly. Jack the Ripper makes an appearance in a short piece by Sean Fenlon and in “Three Not-So-Demure Ladies” we have biographical sketches of Marie-Josèphe Angélique, Lili St. Cyr, and Denise “Baby Face” Cassidy, translated by Susan Lemprière.

Then there are my favourite kinds of stories, the ones that follow the people on the fringes of more well-known textbook history. These are the people shaped or shattered by the larger stories we all know, these are people we probably never heard of. “Sideshow” by Charlie Riccardelli is one example, telling the heart-breaking story of the man who discovered the body of Charles Lingbergh’s kidnapped child. “Manassas” by Katy Bowman is another, giving a convincing portrayal of the aftermath of the famous battle of the American Civil War. And in “The Pillared Sepulchre” Alexis Larkin gives a new twist on the old story of the rediscovery of the lost remains of Saint Mark in medieval Venice.

And there are stories drawn entirely from the author’s imagination. In “The Inventive Step” by Andrew Battershill, we have the humourous personal history of the man who invented the vegetable.
One of the most compelling things historical fiction can do is evoke a previous time and a place so thoroughly that what seemed distant and unknowable becomes both enthralling and real. Jack Caseros shows us the excitement and the hazards of dating in Soviet Leningrad in”Give Me That Old Rock and Roll Music.” And in “Loyalty” Kei Ebata reveals the tense time faced by many following the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1942 and the consequent detention of thousands of Japanese-Canadians in British Columbia.

Creative non-fiction offerings include “Fahrenheit, Electricity and a Flexible Flyer” by Tom Sheehan, a moving look back at his own youth. And in “Black Market,” based on real events, Annette Oppenlander shows us the deprivations in post-war Germany through the experiences of two young men.

I hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as I have!


Desert Sand

After a couple small hiccups, it's up.  My story "Desert Sand" has been published over at The Citron Review.

This is a story I originally wrote in response to a photo-inspired story challenge at Camera Obscura.  They have a cool challenge twice a year, called Bridge the Gap, providing two photos that are to be the entry and exit points for your story.  Even if you choose not to submit to Camera Obscura, the photos they put up are always interesting and a great writing challenge.

Many thanks to the folks over at The Citron Review for selecting my story and providing a few helpful suggestions to make it shine.  And thanks to Camera Obscura for the inspiration!


Linking History

Truly there is a blog out there for everything.  And if you're fascinated by history, like me, this is good news.

One of my ongoing obsessions has been what historians call "the Long Eighteenth Century" - a period running from the Glorious Revolution in England in 1688 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  I'm especially keen on the latter part, the effects of the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon, the Luddite Rebellions in Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire, and the politics surrounding the assassination of the British Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, in 1812.

What luck then to find other people fascinated enough with the same periods to devote their blogs to them.

Marie Antoinette
Reading Treasure  A blog by Anna Gibson, dedicated to Marie Antoinette and 18th century France.

A Georgian Gentleman, aka Mike Rendell.  This blog grew out of the research he did for a book on his great grandfather and contains many newspaper clippings, illustrations and anecdotes illustrating what life was like in Georgian England.

The Luddite Bicentenary By far, my favourite.  In celebrating the bicentenary of the Luddite uprisings, this blog publishes primary sources, newspaper reports, diaries and court proceedings, the daily events of the uprisings on the 200th anniversary of the day they occurred.

But I'm always on the lookout for more history blogs, or just more examples of people sharing their passion for history.  What are yours?


Published: Head Cases

I'm very happy to say that my flash fiction piece, Head Cases, has been published in the Winter/Spring 2014 edition of Melusine.

Thank you to editor Janelle Elyse Kihlstrom for selecting it and for producing such a lovely journal.  A beautiful place for fiction and poetry by and for women (and everyone else!).



There are changes afoot over at Circa.  After long consideration and looking at the site stats, I've decided to change the format slightly.  Instead of having each issue released as a flipbook on Issuu, issues will now be published on the Circa website itself.  Over the next little while, I will be moving the contents of the first two issues onto the Circa website as well, so please pardon the dust during the renovations.


Shakespeare in Fiction - a random sampling

So what makes Shakespeare such a compelling character for fiction writers?  Is it that the beauty and empathy found in his writing makes writers think he must be a profound and sympathetic figure?  Is it that the paucity of sources concerning his life leaves so much room in which writers can play?  Or perhaps writers simply like to read and write about other writers.   And that being the case, why not draw from the best?

Which is a roundabout way of saying that I've read some very entertaining books about Shakespeare lately.  Despite appearances, I haven't sought these books out because of their common theme.  These are titles that I've read over the last few months, that came to me in the circuitous, fortuitous way that good books do.

So here we go.

Mr. Shakespeare's Bastard by Richard B. Wright 

In a quiet manor house in Oxfordshire, an ailing housekeeper by the name of Aerlene Ward feels that she must now confess the great secret that has shaped her life: she is the illegitimate daughter of William Shakespeare.  This is a marvellous story about a plain but clever woman making her way in seventeenth century England. Wright has done his research and recreates the period with astonishing vividness.

Elizabeth Rex by Timothy Findley

Not a novel this time, but a play.  It takes place on the night before the execution of the Queen's favourite, the Earl of Essex, when Queen Elizabeth has an encounter with an actor from Shakespeare's acting troupe who specializes in playing female roles.  One of the best lines from the play: "If you will teach me how to be a woman," says Elizabeth, "I will teach you how to be a man."  While strictly speaking Shakespeare has only a supporting role in the drama, I think it belongs in this list because of the insights it gives into sixteenth century English politics and into the life of a working actor.

Shakespeare's Mistress by Karen Harper

The fictional story of Anne Whateley, who, according to parish records, was married to William Shakespeare in Temple Grafton just days before he married Anne Hathaway in Stratford (of course, the traditional explanation for this is that there was another William Shakespeare, possibly a cousin, living nearby).  This Anne is the Dark Lady of the sonnets, the inspiration for Beatrice and Kate and many of Shakespeare's spunkier heroines.  Harper knows her Shakespeare and it was fun picking up here and there situations that supposedly became the inspiration for some scenes from his plays.

The Sonnet Lover by Carol Goodman

A good, old-fashioned mystery, this, and especially recommended to English majors.  I don't want to say to much about this one, except that the basic premise is a modern professor attempts to uncover several lost sixteenth century sonnets.  An undemanding read, ideal for a Sunday afternoon.

The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street by Charles Nicholl

Okay, this one isn't a novel at all.  It's nonfiction and in it the author tries to piece together some of Shakespeare's experiences living on Silver Street in the first decade of the seventeenth century, based on the documentation of a court case concerning his landlord in which Shakespeare acted as a witness.  I'm not sure how much to trust this as history - the author does take many imaginative leaps throughout - but I think it belongs in this list as an entertaining read.

So who are your favourite writers to read about?


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