blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

I was invited to participate in the Next Big Thing by Barbara Gaskell Denvil, whose "Summerford's Autumn" has just been picked up by a big publisher and will be reissued July, 2013. Check out her wonderful, adventurous, romantic and completely historical fiction at:

and also by Smoky Zeidel, whose magical, mysterious books and entertaining and thoughtful blog may be found at:

What is the working title of your book?

Roan Rose

Where did the idea come from?

This is a novel that I’ve been visualizing in various forms since the last Ice Age, when, in my teens, I read about Richard III, The last Plantagenet King. In a way, I’ve owed Richard this book simply because he’s hung out in my imagination for so long.

What genre?

Historical fiction.

 What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I watch the BBC a lot, so I’d pick great young British actors. Ben Whishaw (The Hour) or Aiden Turner (The Hobbit) for Richard, and Romola Garai (The Hour) or Karen Gillian (Doctor Who) for his wife, Rose’s mistress, Anne Neville.  

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

“Poppet, playmate, servant, lover—Rose belonged to her master and mistress body and soul.”

Published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC.

How long did it take you to write the m.s.?

The book has been in process for more than a decade.

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

Well, I can only quote what others have said, which was: “Sharon Kay Penman, with a strong streak of Cecelia Holland.”  That made me happy, as you can imagine.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It harks back to Josephine Tey, who wrote the wonderful mystery, The Daughter of Time. Single-handedly, Tey did more to legitimize the controversy about the King—was he Shakespeare’s murdering monster, or has he been the victim of his successor’s smear campaign? I became a convert to the “Good Richard” theory in my teens. Although my current characterization of Richard isn’t quite the knight in shining armor I’d earlier imagined—research got in the way—he remains a compelling, intriguing character.

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

Rose Whitby’s fate is changed forever when she, born a peasant on the Yorkshire dales, is taken to Middleham Castle to be companion and bed-time poppet for Lady Anne Neville, one of the richest heiresses in England. This is an “Upstairs, Downstairs” story of love, loss and loyalty, because Rose lives with a foot in both worlds. Divided loyalties are her eternal dilemma.


 Juliet Waldron




Monday, December 17, 2012

ROAN ROSE (Excerpt)

Rose is a survivor. Having survived a regime change and the death of both her Master and Mistress, deserted by her husband, she is living life as a peasant again.

 Pease porridge hot, Pease porridge cold.  Pease porridge in the pot nine days old…

            Here it was again, the grimy three-legged pot and the peas, oats or cracked wheat, with whey and a drop of honey to dress it up. A thin slice of sheep's milk cheese and maybe a boiled egg, washed down with a swig of bitter ale, was, these days, a feast. As winter came on, I hungered for meat.

Ah, I’d been born at Master Whitby's house--and, lo, and behold--here I was again! Living under the thatch which dripped in a hard rain, cold feet treading a floor of broken flags and packed earth, the border of my plain rough dress ragged and stained, the barnyard smell from the shed behind filling my nostrils.

            When I was feeling very sorry for myself, I'd recall what I'd seen at Bosworth--all those brave comrades of mine, lying blue and bled. At least I’d avoided that.

            At butchering time, I went to Naseby Manor to assist, though it had been years since I'd been near such work. The blood and guts and sorry bawling of the poor cattle made me weep and puke, but I kept at it. In the icy dark, I struggled home with my reward, offal, in a dripping basket.

            Though ready to faint with weariness, I roused Bet and got her to help in slicing the best of our trophy, half a heart and a veiny chunk of liver. That same night, Bett and I and the children sat and gorged, mopping up the juice from a drippings pan. The taste of beef in my mouth made the day of suffering I’d just spent easier.  Overhead, we hung another prize, an ox tail, which, tomorrow, we'd reduce to a fatty, marrow laden soup. It would improve the endless porridge.


View the Amazon page:


Friday, December 7, 2012

How History Becomes Distorted

Recently while researching my first nonfiction title A Fate Worse than Death about rape in the Civil War, I came across a book with an interesting diary entry from Private John Haley of the 17th Maine Infantry. On December 10, 1864, Haley wrote about a colonel in another regiment that was "perpetrating one of the foulest outrages upon two defenseless women." He went on to state that if these women had not submitted to "their infamous proposals" their house would have been burned and the women would have been "turned out into the bleak of December."

In Haley's disgust, he said that if privates had done such a thing, they "would have suffered death. The nearest tree would have been requisitioned." But because the colonel was an officer, he was drunk, "as is his custom."

I wanted to quote the complete passage for my book, but because the edited version of Haley's diary is still under copyright, I felt uncomfortable quoting a complete paragraph, even though the original is a public domain work. Instead, I searched for the original diary, which happens to be located in a small library in Maine, where the former private had lived. The current librarians were wonderful in helping to locate the original entry from Haley's diary and sent me a copy.

Here's the unedited version:

At this place [Virginia] occurred a dastardly outrage, if [the] report be true. Colonel Byles, of the 99th Penn. and his ADJT [adjutant] made their headquarters at a farm house near by occupied by two women alone. They made infamous proposals to them, which being refused, these miserable, cowardly skulks threatened to burn the house unless their demands were complied with. So to save their home, and themselves from being turned out into the 'bleak December,' they submitted.

Had this outrage been the work of privates, they would probably have dangled from the nearest tree in very short order, Col Byles consenting thereto. But there may be another side to the story, women are not all of them always paragons of virtue and these innocent creatures may have been 'as deep in the mud as Col Byles was in the mire.' As who shall say?

One thing we did know, Old Byles, was a drunken old fool and one never knows when an officer keeps in this condition, what crazy and dirty ideas may creep into his brain.

I think even with the snippets that I've posted from the book, anyone can see how the original is much more colorful and ominous than the altered version. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident while researching my book. It hasn't been.

No wonder our outlook on history is distorted.

Kim Murphy