Monday, March 17, 2014

Old Man Winter, I'm taking the pineapple down!

If you have ever toured an old, manor house I have no doubt you've seen carvings of pineapples in the wood trim, mantel decorations and displayed on staircase bannisters. In Victorian times the pineapple was a symbol of hospitality. A home which displayed a pineapple prominently, usually at the formal entrance and often attached to the bottom of the stairway bannister, either inside or outside, meant guests were expected to arrive and would be welcomed.

These bulbous displays, also known as finials, could sometimes be removed and replaced with a sphere or other non-symbolic item. It was widely understood that a guest had outstayed their welcome when a pineapple was removed.

It's no secret that in my neck of the woods the snow and ice have been persistent this winter. As I type this the temperature outside sits at -24 degrees Celsius, and technically the transition to spring is only days away.

My friends and neighbours are desperate for the spring thaw after a particularly harsh winter. Because of this I have decided to revoke my hospitality, and invite you all to follow suit.

Old Man Winter you have outstayed your welcome. Feel free to move along. We will welcome your next visit when the time comes, but for now take note, the pineapple has been removed!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

BOOK: Jane Austen's Guide to Thrift

This book, JANE AUSTEN'S GUIDE TO THRIFT, is on my night stand right now. I am a huge fan of the well crafted, entertaining non-fiction read and I have been delighted by this unique look into Jane Austen's famous novels.

Anyone who has read most of Austen's books (and really who hasn't) will know money plays an important role in the characters lives. Either the revenue abounds or there is a complete lack thereof. An independent female at a time in history when females were not valued or protected by law, Austen had her own small nest egg to handle and handle it she did. She did well to stay within her means and left a tidy sums for her family upon her passing.

Austen's opinions regarding prudent spending and careful penny pinching abound in her books. Men who gambled their money away were painted as rogues, the types of men who could not be trusted. The men and women who were careful with their expenses came across as wise and organized.

This book has a different take on thrift than others I have read (and believe me I have read many, many books on the subject) and that makes it entertaining, fascinating and fun. Halfway through the pages I have yet to stumble upon any nugget of information that I had not come across before but that is not where this book gets it's value. The value is in the comparison between what Austen's characters would do, how they would perceive a situation and how Austen imparted her own opinions on the subject through the deeds and misdeeds of her characters. Call it a wake up call from two centuries prior. Debt was still debt in the Regency era with the only major difference between then and now being society's willingness (dare I say eagerness) to take it out.

All in all, it's an interesting book for fans of Austen and anyone looking for a recharge to their financial health. But I would charge you not to buy it, rather check your local library first and Jane Austen would approve.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Guest Blogging: Victorian Children

I'm guest blogging for New York Times Best Selling author Deanna Raybourn today. I'm writing about Victorian Children and the struggles they faced.

If you want to learn more about my forth coming book THE DEAD AMONG US, stop over.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Salem Witch Trials

October has a real historic connection to witches but it’s not about Halloween or ghostly ghouls. A real life horror took place in North American three hundred years ago that resulted in the deaths of 19 innocent people and only came to an end during the month of October many, many moons ago.

In January 1692, three preteen girls became ill, suffering fits of hysteria, arching their backs, screaming uncontrollably and pointing to figures that weren’t there. After three hundred years the cause of the sudden outbreak remains debated. More recently scientists have suspected tainted wheat as the culprit, identifying a certain strain of mold that could have brought about the girls antics. Others suggest it was all a game, a series of tricks to bring some excitement to their otherwise monotonous and homogeneous lives.

 It cannot be blamed entirely on the girls, however. Medical science of the day was largely based on superstition and an old boys’ club of information being passed on down through the graduating classes with little scientific advancement. This was largely because autopsies were not permit and so indepth studies could not be done to learn the true workings of the physical body. When the girls became sick the doctor, limited by his archaic training, said it was the work of the supernatural. The Witch Craft Craze that had been stagnant in Europe for over 300 years was winding down (tens of thousands of accused witches, many of them women, lost their lives during that time) but that seemed to have little effect on the hysteria that betook the New England town of Salem.

Hounded by the local magistrates to confess the origins of their bewitched ways, the girls pointed an accusatory finger at three local women: Tituba, a slave from the Carribean, Sarah Good, a homeless woman and Sarah Osborne, an old, impoverished woman. All three were brought before the court and while Good and Osborne denied the accusations, Tituba confessed saying the devil bid her to do it. Interestingly Tituba survived the year-long hysteria of accusations and executions while the two Sarahs did not.

Many women were brought before the court including Martha Corey, a devoted church attendee. It took little to accuse a person of practising witch craft in those days. All it took was a single word and like children in a modern school yard the people of Salem Village and Salem Town were quick to point fingers to others in the hopes it would keep suspicion away from them. In May 1692 a special court, the Court of Oyer and Terminer,  was convened to deal with large numbers of supposed witches and the first person brought forth was Bridget Bishop, an outspoken older woman who had taken to wearing red (the devil’s colour) and was known to be promiscuous. She was tried, found guilty and was the first to hang.

Spectral evidence was all that was needed to deem a person guilty. A dream or vision seen solely by an accuser was the only evidence required to sign a person’s death sentence. After Bishop, five people hanged in July, five more in August and then eight lost their lives in September. It’s hard to imagine how accusers slept at night knowing they had sent a number of innocent people to early graves.

 In October two men, Cotton Mather, a respected minister in the area, and his father Increase Mather, then president at Harvard, denounced the use of spectral evidence. Governor Phipps agreed, though this may have something to do with his own wife being accused of witchcraft.
Witch House in Salem where Jonathon Corwin lived while persecuting the women

On October 29th, 1692 the Court of Oyer and Terminer was dissolved. The damage had already been done. 19 people lost their lives including Giles Corey, a 71 year old man who was pressed to death under tonnes of rocks in a slow, painful torture.

By May 1693 56 people were discharged from jail, though they were still required to pay money to the town to cover their confinement costs! Overall nearly 200 people had been accused of witchcraft.

To read about my family’s modern day trip to Salem, Massachusetts and see more pictures, visit Mysteristas, where I had the opportunity to guest blog about our experience. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Time Stamp

Yesterday I ventured to a nearby archaeology  here in southern Ontario where historians have found evidence of a native long house village. In the 1800s the Crawfords, a pioneer family settled along the shores of a small lake in the Niagara Escarpment. Though they lived on this land for a short period, during that time they found countless artefacts linking the area to a native village that once stood on the site in the 1400s. Because of their discoveries the lake was named after them and today the land is a conservation area boasting reconstructed long houses and archaeological dig sites.

The largest artefact found on the site is a stone once used to ground dried corn. You can see in the picture how the rock had been indented and when I felt the surface it was smooth. The guide, who was a member of the First Nations, explained how the tribes people received their calcium needs from small particles of rock that would end up in the food after  grinding.

The village housed over 250 inhabitants, men, women and children of the Iroquion nation lived here for a short time but left their mark on the landscape nonetheless. Corn pollen had been found at the dig sites and carbon dating assisted in tracing the time period for when the village would have thrived.

In recent years I have developed an interest in native culture and its historical context. It was not really my intent to write a book involving this time period of North America. I doubt I could ever truly capture the essence of their belief structures or their way of life. I am however working on a fur trade mystery set in the Canadian Rockies and I am glad I will get an opportunity to look into the lives of the Native tribes from that place and time. My research continues and my knowledge grows. This book will be different from my Ainsley books and it's a prospect that excites me and scares me at the same time.

People of the Longhouse (Iroquois, #1)

I recently read a book, People of the Long House by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O'Neal Gear. The book is really good and I devoured it quickly. It's part of a long series that I will complete because I just need to know what happens. Suspenseful, educating and fascination, this book is great for anyone looking to escape into native culture, the good, the bad and the terrifying.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Birth of Another Book

For writers a book is almost like a child. We spend countless hours tending to it, nourishing it, training it into the finished product we had envisioned it to be. During the weeks prior to my first book's release I was a nervous wreck. I wanted it to do well. I wanted readers to enjoy it and get lost in it. It was hard to set it free into the world without overwhelming feelings of anxiety. I dreaded a one-star review or somehow loosing respect amongst my peers should it be proven to be drivel. None of these things happened of course, but I feared it nonetheless.

In the end the process of letting the book go, of allowing it to be found and read, was quite liberating. The finished product has found finality and the only thing left for me as a writer to do was sit down and write another one.

Last week, I set another darling free. Into the world my book, DEAD SILENT, went. A sequel to my first book, this volume addresses unanswered questions left over from it's predecessor and introduces us more to Ainsley's and Margaret's character.  We meet Evelyn Weatherall, the woman engaged to Ainsley's brother, and Julia Kemp, Margaret lady's maid. And my person favourite, we are introduced to Lady Gemma Brant, a friend of Lady Charlotte Marshall and a character in her own right.

So while I work on book 3 in the series, enjoy your read through Dead Silent and don't forget to put a review up on Amazon.

From the backcover....

Peter Ainsley's mother, Lady Charlotte Marshall hasn't been seen or heard from in three days. While Inspector Simms of Scotland Yard is 'unofficially' investigating her disappearance, Ainsley and his sister, Margaret, are loathed to reveal knowledge of their mother's affair despite it being their best lead to her whereabouts.

When Insp. Simms brings a body to St. Thomas Hospital's morgue, Ainsley is forced to admit his double life as morgue surgeon and second heir to the Montcliff earldom. With a new found ally in the police force, Ainsley gains access to information about his mother's disappearance and a new mystery regarding a murdered woman with childhood ties to his future sister-in-law, Evelyn Weatherall.

Scandal threatening two sides of Ainsley's family, the young surgeon uncovers an intricately woven tapestry of deceit, lust and a crime that forces him to decide whether family loyalty supersedes the letter of the law.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Author Blog Hop

 Much thanks to Catriona Crehan at, for inviting me to participate in this blog hop. 

1.What is the working title of your book?

My forthcoming book is called DEAD SILENT and is the second book in the Peter Ainsley mystery series.

2: Where did the idea come from for the book?

I started the series after I conceived of an idea about a Victorian doctor who solves mysteries through dissection and exploration of the darker side of Victorian culture. Victorian mysteries are quite popular but I have yet to find an author who tackles the time period as I have.

3: What genre does your book come under?

My main genre is historical mysteries but I am finding as the series progresses (I am currently writing book 3) a bit of romance is making an appearance and changing some of the undertones. It's still dark and mysteries but there is always hope.

4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That is a very tough question. I'd love to see Adrienne Brody playing Ainsley, 

or even Jonathon Rhys Meyers.

Margaret would ideally be played by Anne Hatheway ...

and Jonas, Ainsley's school chum and rival, would be best portrayed by Eliot Cowen (Mr. Darcy in Lost in Austen).

5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Peter Ainsley's mother, Lady Charlotte Marshall hasn't been seen or heard from in three days. While Inspector Simms of Scotland Yard is unofficially investigating her disappearance Ainsley is loathed to reveal knowledge of his mother's affair despite it being the best lead to her whereabouts.

6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

I am dedicated to self-publishing the Peter Ainsley mystery series so that the whims of traditional publishers and the fickle book buyers market does not dictate whether the series lives on or ends because of a lull in the market.

7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

DEAD SILENT took me seven months to complete with another two to three months for revisions and edits.

8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I would love to say my books are similar to Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series but with a darker bent and male point of view.

9: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I was inspired by my husband who is quite scientifically minded, and much more versed on the subject than I am. His methodical nature and attention to minute details is what I have base Ainsley's personality on, even his loveable arrogance has roots in my husband. Ainsley's habit for the drink is entirely fictional, but his dedication to the sport of boxing is reminiscent of my husband's progress in the martial art of Aikido.

10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Within each book I try to highlight a part of Victorian society that may be consider obscure or lesser known, especially dealing with the Victorian people's obsession with death, spectres and the macabre. It truly is a fascinating time in history where scientific advancement collided with the superstitions of old. It was an age of great change, a gateway into our modern times and I don't foresee me ever running out of interesting things to write about.

Here's blog addresses for other mystery writers who you might like:

Hallie Ephron