Saturday, July 28, 2012

Historic Finds

As a historical writer I spend a lot of time researching. If you are a history buff like me it is easy to know and find information on the big things; wars, social rules, political structures, and even the climate of commerce. Non-fiction history books abound about the life of royals, the battles fought in wars and even interesting court cases throughout time but what is not so easy to find are the little details. In my view it's the little details that make all the difference with regards to a historical book or movie. Now that's not to say the little details should be a starring role, absolutely not, but little things intertwine together to form a three dimensional view of the world we are trying to escape to.

Most historical writers place heavy emphasis on research. We often hear that readers are brutal when it comes to historical accuracy and so it serves us well to get our facts right. But what if I am in the middle of a chapter, nay a sentence when it hits me, what kind of card game would they be playing? What types of buildings would my character be looking at right now? What headline would be on the paper that day? It's small details but ones that I want to include so my readers can feel like they are really there with my characters.

I ran into a wall recently in regards to research as I was trying to find information on bathing facilities. Because the Victorian era is a great time of change and progress the answer would be different for different types of houses. A country house, even a country manor house would be considered very primitive compared to some middle class houses in the city. It all depends on exact dates, the street or town or residence and the financial resources available to the family who lives there. Disregarding any of these key elements and the detail will not ring true.

But I came across an invaluable tool the other day that knocked my socks off. As many know I am writing a series set in Victorian London, and as much as I adore London and read about it there are details that get lost in books and essays. One of them is social class for certain districts and neighbourhoods. We all know the big ones, the poorest of the poor (Whitechapel) and the richest of the rich (Belgravia) but what about in between. I know many writers who would just come up with a name and plug it in. Not me. I want people to identify my stories with a genuine possibility they could be real. So I had to know where the middle class families would live, and this would help me pick an address for one of my secondary characters. Enter stage right; the internet. An invaluable resource for the modern historian.

I found a lovely site, London Street Origins, that outline the history of street names and neighbourhoods. Not all street names are listed here but a lot are and some are just filled with British history. I also found a interactive map that has been digitized from 1889 colour coded drawings outlining neighbourhood class and poverty levels. This was fascinating to look over and I nearly got completely sidetracked from my writing. The maps are called Charles Booth's 1889 London Poverty Maps and they are amazing. Just click on the section of the grid you want to explore and voilĂ , you can also zoom in for a closer look. I am so thankful Mr. Booth provided us with this amazing resource with which to gather a true picture of London's streets.

So in my quest for a neighbourhood, I used Mr. Booth's map to find a place within walking distance to the original St. Thomas hospital, but it must be a middle class dwelling. Thanks to his colour coding it was a synch. I found a street, did a search on London Street origins and then went to Google Maps to "walk" the neighbourhood to get a feeling for the architecture, and all from the comfort of my home here in Canada. It may seem like a lot of work for one of those small details but to me it's worth it if it gives authenticity to my writing. Beside with the Internet making history so accessible it's much easier than it use to be. We live in a great age.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

CHORUS OF THE DEAD now available on Kindle!

My long anticipated novel, CHORUS OF THE DEAD, is now available on Kindle. Within a few days or so it should also be available on Kobo and other electronic reading formats.

I started writing this book two years ago, right when my family was beginning what would turn out to be a long house hunting journey. I finished the first draft in November of 2011 and I have spent the last 8 months revising, editing, revising and editing some more in an effort to produce the best possible book I could.

Peter Ainsley is the type of protagonist every author dreams of working with. His personality is so full I often feel like he is a real person and I am just relaying his tales that really did take place many years ago. He's slightly arrogant, a bit of a drinker and can often become so engrossed with his work that he loses sight of what others around him are telling him. At constant odds with his father, Ainsley can become quick to anger and lashes out at those he cares about. In all honesty, Ainsley is simply a passionate man. He adores his sister, Margaret and their mother. He abhors his family's fortune and tries to distance himself from it whenever possible. He has focus and determination which makes him an excellent surgeon but a poor friend.

Margaret Marshall, Ainsley's sister, is a fire cracker in her own right. Inheriting inner strength from her mother and an aura nobility from her father, Margaret brings grace, beauty and a feminine touch to Ainsley's cases. She struggles for relevance in the 19th century world and finds herself easily drawn where her heart leads. She helps temper Ainsley's passion and provides a sounding board for his questions. Thanks to her sheltered upbringing, her innocence often gets her in trouble but she is still somewhat young and over the years I see her developing into a strong female character with faith, love and beauty.

CHORUS OF THE DEAD is the first book in what I hope becomes a long saga chronicling the lives of both Ainsley and Margaret as they navigate the two worlds in which they live; the high society of London's elite, and the dark impoverished alleys of London's worst neighbourhoods. Join me on a journey that begins with book one.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Less than one month until release but I have decided to give everyone a sneak peek of chapter one before it's ready for sale. Feel free to leave comments and tell me what you think here, on Facebook or Scribd. Thanks!

Chapter One Preview Chorus of the Dead