How the 17th century rocks your world

In reading last year’s historical fiction reader survey by M.K. Tod, I was shocked to learn that the 17th century ranks 7th among time periods readers are most likely to choose. Shocked, I say! Because the 17th century is just so fascinating.

In the words of J.P. Sommerville, University of Wisconsin history professor, the 17th century is “probably the most important century in the making of the modern world. It was during the 1600s that Galileo and Newton founded modern science; that Descartes began modern philosophy; that Hugo Grotius initiated international law; and that Thomas Hobbes and John Locke started modern political theory.”

See what I mean? Just little things like these happened in the 17th century. But wait, there’s more!

King_Charles_I_after_original_by_van_Dyck

Enter a caption. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“The Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and others, all struggled to maintain and extend colonies and trading-posts in distant corners of the globe, with profound and permanent consequences for the whole world,” Somerville wrote.

It was a time of tremendous turmoil and brilliant discovery:

  • The little ice age was particularly cold, creating chaos and famine
  • The Thirty Years War raged across Europe from 1618 to 1648
  • England’s bloody civil war defeated a monarchy
  • Science trumped religion for the first time to influence society
  • Agricultural and commercial changes paved the way for the Industrial Revolution

And there were sweeping changes that affect our lives even today:

Architecture. Inigo Jones (the Banqueting Hall) and Christopher Wren (St Paul’s Cathedral) introduced magnificent architectural designs in London and throughout England that remain beautiful and influential.

Banking. In England, instead of depositing gold in the king’s mint for safety — where he might confiscate it (as Charles I did in 1640) — London merchants deposited money with goldsmiths who gave them receipts and promised to pay on demand.

Food. People started eating with forks for the first time. England discovered bananas, pineapples, chocolate, coffee and tea.

Furniture. Chests of drawers became common, and Grandfather clocks popular, followed by a new arrival: the bookcase.

Medicine. Doctors learned how blood circulates around the body, and how to treat malaria with bark from the cinchona tree.

And of course, there were the scandals:

  • John_Wilmot

    John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.And of course, how can we forget the scandal

    The murder of Buckingham

  • The execution of Charles I
  • The attempted assassination of Cromwell
  • The numerous mistresses of King Charles II
  • The indecent antics of the Earl of Rochester

Personally, I am digging deeply, fascinated by the greed, intrigue, rebellion, atrocities and resilience that took place in Ireland. Fascinating stories abound.

Yes, I am shocked that anyone might find another century more alluring. Not me.

 

SharavogueCoverEmbark on an adventure in Irish history — 17th century, that is, with Sharavogue, and my upcoming novel, The Prince of Glencurragh. Available on amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and iBooks. Find out more at nancyblanton.com

 

Amelia Island Book Festival Begins

 

NBwithbookAIBF22115

Me at the 2015 Amelia Island Book Festival

I’m excited about this week – it’s time for the 15th annual Amelia Island Book Festival, February 18-20, here in northeast Florida. I’m proud to be on the advisory board this year, and proud of the format changes that will help make it one of the best so far.

Bestselling author Steve Berry is the headliner and honorary chairperson, coordinated this year’s focus – An Amelia Island Encounter – Action, Thrills and Mystery, with all proceeds going toward promoting literacy to the students of our Nassau County Public Schools.

The festival begins with the Kick-off Luncheon featuring a keynote thriller writer, Andrew Gross on Thursday, February 18, at the Amelia Island Plantation.

Then that evening there are Teens Scenes: free events for middle and high school students can choose from among four offerings designed especially for young people and presented by noted authors. I’m helping out with the graphic novel event, featuring authors/illustrators Michael Regina and Jonny Jimison.

On Friday, February 19, at FSCJ-Nassau Campus in Yulee, Steve Berry and his wife Elizabeth Berry will lead a workshop, Lessons from a Bestseller Writer.

But my favorite is the festival’s main event, the “Author Expo/Readers Extravaganza,” a day for all ages featuring more than 100 noted authors of all genres. With FREE admission and free parking, the Expo runs from 10 AM to 6 PM Saturday, February 20, at the Fernandina Beach Middle School Campus.

I’ll have a booth there, and will also be part of a three-author panel on historical fiction. My author friends will also be there: Barbara Bond, Parker Francis, Lauren Gilbert, John Gillgren, Louise Jacques, Andrea Patten, L.M. Reynolds, Raffaella Marie Rizzo, Jim Weinsier, and so many more!

Complete info about the authors attending (so many!!!) and details for each event, directions and to purchase ticket or make a donation, visit www.ameliaislandbookfestival.org, or call 904.624.1665

Hope to see you there!

Lieutenant Doherty and President Lincoln’s assassin

In honor of President Lincoln’s upcoming birthday I am reblogging content about him including new information. I write frequently about Irish history and just learned that the man who led the capture of Lincoln’s assassin was an Irishman. Although born in Canada in 1838, Edward P. Doherty was the son of Irish immigrants from County Sligo in the northwest corner of the republic.

Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Edward P. Doherty. Credit: Mathew Brady [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Doherty became First Lieutenant in the 16th New York Cavalry in 1863. Alan Parker writes:

“Doherty was a big, bluff man with an aggressive, ambitious personality. What he lacked in finesse and polish, he made up for with confidence and determination.”

(I urge you to read Parker’s colorful and detailed account of the capture.)

On the night of April 14, 1865 Doherty was called to action, to lead his men in pursuit of Booth and his accomplice who had fled Ford’s Theatre after firing Lincoln’s fatal shot and had crossed the Potomac River into Virginia. Doherty’s men located and surrounded Booth in a barn where he was hiding, but Booth refused to surrender. They set fire to the barn and when the firelight revealed Booth’s location inside, Sergeant Boston Corbett shot him through a crack in the barn wall — intending to wound him in the arm, but Booth moved suddenly as the shot was fired and the bullet hit him in the head.

Booth lingered for hours, similarly to Lincoln, but died at the Virginia farmhouse and later was buried under the floor of a Washington, D.C. prison. Doherty died two years later at age 59 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

My initial post about Lincoln focused not on his assassination, but on his persona, the cornerstone of the personal brand that helped him win the presidential election.

Lincoln1861

Looking up: Lincoln promised a unified future. Public domain.

Every school kid knows the story of the impoverished Abraham Lincoln, growing up in a log cabin and reading books by candlelight. As Alan Brew writes,

“Lincoln’s life exemplifies what has been variously labeled ‘the American dream,’ or ‘the right to rise’ from rags to riches. In Lincoln’s case it is quite literally a rise from a log cabin to the White House. His story is the embodiment of Lincoln brand: gritty determination, honesty, family values, unswerving belief in America and the basic rights of his fellow men. His life offers a powerful testimony to dream. It is what ordinary Americans want to believe about social
mobility and the opportunity to get ahead.”

In fact, he was a highly intelligent lawyer and was one of the first presidents who was actively branded and marketed to the voting public by his political campaign. Sociology professor and author Jackie Hogan said in an interview, “There were all kinds of theatrics: pulling up a fence rail and parading around saying this fence rail was split by Abraham Lincoln. They created an image of him as an average Joe, and in many ways, he was not an average Joe. But he was very happy to ride that reputation into the White House.”

What Lincoln had that other presidents, and royals, lacked, was access to new technology, and he used it to advantage to receive and distribute information. This new technology was the telegraph. It had been used primarily by the banking and financial industry, but Lincoln was the first president to use it for wartime communication.

“Like social media the telegraph is an electronic form of communication. The telegraph increased the speed at which information and communication could be received. It changed the world, it changed war, and it changed daily life.”

Scott Scanlon

Lincoln certainly had his detractors. It would be impossible not to, leading a nation in the time of a civil war. Booth and his band had called him a tyrant. But Lincoln rose to power through his intellectual leadership, and in many cases was able to diffuse contentious situations through his powerful oratory. He was able to define, in elegant and often poetic layman’s terms, the sides and meanings of an issue. Today we might call that “content marketing.”

And though some thought his physical appearance awkward, he did try to look the elegant part. “At his second inauguration, Abraham Lincoln wore a coat specially crafted for him by Brooks Brothers. Hand-stitched into the coat’s lining was a design featuring an eagle and the inscription, ‘One Country, One Destiny.’ He BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropwas wearing the coat and a Brooks Brothers suit when he was assassinated.”

The story about Lincoln’s personal brand is featured in my book, Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps, available at amazon and B&N. To learn more about Doherty, see the story here.

Please visit nancyblanton.com for more information about my books and to sign up for newsletter updates.

Could Groundhog’s Day be Irish?

What, me worry?

What, me worry?

So many things in life actually do trace back to Irish, or rather Celtic heritage, but what about Groundhog’s Day? I took it upon myself to discover the truth, because I knew you wouldn’t have time.

I found a few articles that very loosely related Groundhog’s Day to early Celtic feast days in Ireland. First of all, there was Imbolc, signaling the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It was also known as lambing season, when sheep began to lactate for birthing lambs. A lamb is a far cry from a groundhog, you might say, and you’d be right, but stay with me.

After Imbolc there was St. Brigid’s Day, honoring the Catholic saint named for a Celtic fertility goddess. This event was celebrated on February 1. By at least one account, ashes in the fireplace were raked smooth at night and then checked in the morning to see if the saint had visited. Still no groundhog, but there’s something about making an appearance that may have informed the modern event.

Then we have Candlemas, which was February 2. Now this involved fire and purification, with candle processions and special foods celebrating the birth of spring. I’m sure it was quite a good time, but with all that purification going on, to my mind more likely inspired the annual spring cleaning.

But then I came across a short paragraph by one writer, saying Groundhog Day traces straight back to the Romans. They used a European hedgehog, though. I’m not sure whether the hedgehog was more astute in weather prediction than, say, Punxsutawney Phil.

Personally, I like the legend of Cailleach, a mythical old woman who gathered firewood for the rest of winter. If she wanted winter to last longer she’d make a sunny day so she could collect more wood. If she was tired she’d sleep in, and let the day be dark. I think she deserved a far better public image to follow her, though. Couldn’t she have been a sleek horse? Or maybe a black cat? But no, a groundhog. Really?

I’d like to tell you groundhogs are cute and cuddly, and therefore deserving of the attention they receive, even if they aren’t Irish and they aren’t much help with the weather. But I found more evidence online that in fact most groundhogs are aggressive and mean, and it takes a lot of hard work to tame them.

But I think maybe such a demeanor is appropriate, so that Groundhog Day can remain grumpy and mysterious. It’s how we all feel, waiting for the winter to end.

 

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropPlease follow this blog if you are interested in updates.

Last year my new book on personal branding — Brand Yourself Royally in 8 Simple Steps — was published in paperback and ebook. My new historical novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, is due out in summer 2016.

And please check out my award-winning Sharavogue, a novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies, for a fast-paced adventure you won’t soon forget.

SharavogueCoverMy website at nancyblanton.com provides more detail on books and upcoming events. Please visit!