Looking into Dublin Castle

The first time I visited Dublin Castle, I was just 14 years old. My family was a long way from our Florida home, and I was so consumed by the excitement of it all that now I hardly remember it. (I do remember my sister plopping me into a bathtub after I consumed way too much mead.)

OnDublinsThrone009Now I wish I’d had a better head on me, for the castle will be the primary setting for my next book. Research already had begun last month when my sister unearthed this picture of me on the throne. Is it any wonder that I’m drawn to Irish history as much as I’m drawn to write?

What tourists see today is not the Dublin Castle of my story, however. Founded by King John in 1204 for the defense of the city, the original castle had a circular tower and strong walls around a broad square that was filled with wooden structures for the business of castle daily life. But most of this was lost to fire in 1684.

The tower survived, and around it a new Georgian Palace was built to house government offices and activity, house the Lord Deputy, and host state dinners and other events.

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The throne room looks unchanged except for the rope that now keep kids like me off the velvet cushions (Wikimedia Commons)

Today the castle is quite a sprawling complex that even offers a conference center. Visitors can tour historic State Apartments, including St. Patrick’s Hall, the throne room, dining room, bedrooms, and state corridor. They can also seem some remnants of Medieval life, and much more of modern life.

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Dublin Castle, back view with garden. (Wikimedia Commons)

But I will be looking for the Castle of the 1630s and 40s, just prior to the Great Rebellion of 1641. The story I’m researching centers on the Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Wentworth, the First Earl of Strafford. He was vice regent for King Charles I, and did much to fill the king’s treasury during his tenure in Ireland, but managed to enrich himself at the same time. He offended many a powerful earl in the process, and this ultimately led to his downfall and execution in 1641.

The resulting book will be a sequel to The Prince of Glencurragh, a novel published last month:

jack6.140x9.210.inddAs the son of a great Irish warrior, Faolán Burke should have inherited vast lands and a beautiful castle, Glencurragh. But tensions grow in 1634 Ireland, as English plantation systems consume traditional clan properties, Irish families are made homeless, and Irish sons are left penniless. Encountering the beautiful heiress Vivienne FitzGerald, Faolán believes together they can restore his stolen heritage and build a prosperous life. Because the Earl of Cork protects her, abduction seems to be his only option.

But Vivienne has a mind of her own; the adventure that begins as a lark takes a dark turn, and plans go awry. Faolán finds himself in the crossfire between the four most powerful men in Ireland—the earls of Clanricarde, Cork, Ormonde, and the aggressive new Lord Deputy of Ireland—who use people like game pieces. With events spiraling beyond their control, what will become of Faolán, Vivienne, and the dream of Glencurragh?

Available in hard cover, soft cover and e-book.

Sign up for the Goodreads Giveaway now through Sept. 10. Or, purchase it today and embark on the adventure!

Giveaway: The Prince of Glencurragh

Sign up today on Goodreads and be eligible to win one of six free copies of The Prince of Glencurragh, my latest novel of 17th century Ireland. This book is a fast-paced adventure filled with action, romance, intrigue and terrible obstacles. Here’s a piece from the hard cover book flap:

Is it possible to reclaim a dream once it is lost to the mists of memory?

jack6.140x9.210.inddAengus O’Daly is what every good storyteller should be: observant, thoughtful, and inspired by love. He tells the story of his best friend Faolán Burke, both valiant and true, who tries to restore the world of his father’s dreams.

Had he lived to build it, Sir William Burke’s Castle Glencurragh would have been a wonder to all who beheld it. But when he died, all that remained of the castle were a few scattered stones and the indelible image in the mind of his ten-year-old son.

But in 1634 as the boy comes of age, the real world is not the one Sir William knew. As the English plantation system spreads across the province of Munster, Irish families will lose their homes unless they accept the Protestant faith. Farms that have been in their families for centuries now are given to English soldiers as rewards for service.

Even the great stone castles, once both the bounty and protection of the strongest clans, now have fallen against the power of the siege and cannon. Aengus says, “The day of the castle already was gone, be we refused to know it.”

With his whole being, Faolán believes all can be made right again, with perseverance, his love by his side, and with the right and perfect plan.

The Prince of Glencurragh is set in 1634 prior to the great rebellion of 1641. It is a stand-alone prequel to my first novel, Sharavogue, which won first place for historical fiction in Florida’s Royal Palm Literary Awards. Both books are available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Visit my website for more info, at nancyblanton.com.

The Giveaway ends September 10, 2016.

Dreams and disasters in 17th century Ireland

Rife with conflict, disaster, invention and sweeping change, there is not a century in history more fascinating and remarkable than the 17th.

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.”

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Image of a walled town from the Cork City Library

At the same time, the century produced an unprecedented synergy of disaster, as described by Robert Burton in 1638: “War, plagues, fires, inundations, thefts, murders, massacres, meteors, spectrums, prodigies, apparitions…and such like, which these tempestuous times affoord…” And all of that during the first few decades.

Some historians believe the changes and difficulties of this century resulted in part from a global climate change. The “Little Ice Age,” extending from the 16th to 19th centuries, delivered a particularly cold interval in the mid-17th century.

England in the 1630s recorded great floods, widespread harvest failure, intense cold winters, wet and cold springs, and drought in summer so excessive that “the land and trees are despoiled of their verdure, as if it were a most severe winter.” Such conditions would have been seen in Ireland as well.

These natural forces so affected human activity as to upset the existing social, economic and political equilibrium. People facing cold, famine, and grave uncertainty are likely to behave in more desperate manner.

Ireland in particular faced considerable unrest as the lands, traditional clans and centuries-old way of life were forever altered.

Life in Ireland

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died, leaving her throne and kingdom to James I. Her military forces in Ireland had delivered a crushing blow to end the Desmond rebellion in the southwest province of Munster.

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Inside a castle ruin, Kanturk, Co. Cork

The English saw Ireland as underutilized and ripe for exploitation. They sought to improve on Irish farming methods by settling their own more efficient farmers, and thereby increasing crown revenues.

The Earl of Desmond was among the Irish gentry who held castles, manor houses and vast tracts of land. They were mostly of Norman or Saxon roots, descending from distinguished families or clans who had obtained grants from Henry II in the 12th century. They resented the crown’s efforts to take control of their long-held dominions and displace their Irish tenants: typically subsistence farmers who paid rents either in food or in coin from the goods they sold. Often these tenants lived in one-room houses constructed of mud and grass, with no windows and a single door that served as both the entry and chimney.

Lord Deputy Arthur Grey seemed to defeat Queen Elizabeth’s purpose with his cruelty and scorched earth tactics. He left the province devastated, little more than a wasteland that would require years to recover, and was later removed from his position for excessive brutality—but, he had cleared the way once and for all for English settlement.

In a land already compromised by drought, the remaining Irish faced terrible famine, plague, disease, homelessness and oppression. Lands that had been owned and passed down through generations by traditional clans, especially Irish Catholic, were confiscated and granted to English military officers as reward for their service. Survival for the Irish was tenuous and choices were few. Some restoration took place in the coming years, but a fury simmered below the obedient surface.

In 1625, Charles I succeeded his father and extended his policies, filling his treasury through increased taxation and monopolies to his favorites, and expanding plantation in Ulster. When civil war erupted in England, Irish clans welcomed the distraction. They organized and rebelled again, retaking confiscated lands and ousting the English settlers, often violently.

When Parliament was victorious in the civil war, it took control of England and all of its business, and shocked the monarchies of the world by executing King Charles in 1649.

Parliamentary army leader Oliver Cromwell now turned his attention to Ireland, cutting an unrelenting swath of brutality, destruction and death across the island. Towns were leveled, people massacred, and terror wrought with full force. One estimate claims 618,000 Irish deaths from fighting or disease—an astounding 41 percent of the pre-war population.

Surviving Irish were relocated to rocky hills that served better for grazing sheep than growing crops. Some joined armies and fought in foreign wars; some became pirates. Some were sent to workhouses where they likely died; some escaped to colonies in America. Cromwell deported many to the West Indies where they perished from slave labor and tropical disease.

Irish Catholics were forced out of the Irish Parliament, while Catholic Mass and the Irish language were outlawed. Catholics were banned from holding office, Catholic clergy were expelled from the country, and Catholic landowners were stripped of their properties. An estimated one-third of the Irish-Catholic population was killed or deported.

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Bust of Cromwell from the Cromwell Museum, Huntingdon.

 

On the heels of this work, Cromwell was elevated to “Lord Protector,” England’s uncrowned king, and he established his famed Commonwealth. Oppression of Ireland was severe and would be seen by historians as genocide. But by the time of Cromwell’s death in 1658, England had tired of his Puritan influences, and his son proved a weak successor. Charles II was brought back from his exile in France and monarchy was restored.

While somewhat kinder and more tolerant toward the Irish who had supported his return, including the Earl of Ormonde who had led the royalists in the Irish Confederacy, the plantation of Ireland continued. Known as the Merry Monarch, Charles II restored some of the gaiety that had been lost to England, and smoothed the way for new thought, invention and discovery in the latter part of the century as the Age of Enlightenment was dawning.

(Geoffrey Parker’s Global Crisis was a valuable source for this post)

jack6.140x9.210.inddThe Prince of Glencurragh is set in 1634 prior to the great rebellion of 1641. It is a stand-alone prequel to my first novel, Sharavogue, which won first place for historical fiction in Florida’s Royal Palm Literary Awards. Both books are available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. Visit my website for more info, at nancyblanton.com.

Sex Appeal and the Earl of Ormonde

Today’s post is reblogged from a guest post on Mary Anne Yarde’s blog, “Myths, Legends, Books and Coffee Pots,” (maryanneyarde.blogspot.com). In honor of the official publication of my new novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, this story is about one of my inspirations.

While researching 17th century Ireland for my historical novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, I was stopped in my tracks by an arresting portrait of James Butler, the 12th Earl of Ormonde and the 1st Duke of Ormonde.

Ascending to earldom in 1634 at just 24 years of age, this earl became the Royalist leader of the Irish confederate forces in 1649, uniting the old English nobility, Catholics, and Irish rebel soldiers in a passionate stand against English dominance that was doomed to failure under the boot of Oliver Cromwell and his army.

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1st Duke of Ormonde by Sir Peter Lely (circa 1665) Public domain, Wikimedia Commons.

The portrait captures an older Ormonde, looking magnificent in ceremonial robes as he is created the first Duke of Ormonde. He wears white satin trimmed in red and blue. Delicate hands grasp lance and sword; his jaw is proud, his eyes soulful and knowing. The long golden locks affirm his noble stature and remind me of a young, proud-faced Roger Daltrey, out to change the world in his own particular way – perhaps with similar sexual energy but without Daltrey’s penchant for fisticuffs.

No less appealing would have been James’s enormous wealth and power. He was born into a family tracing back to the Norman Invasion in the 12th century. His ancestor, Theobold Walter, was named Chief Butler of Ireland, and thus the name stuck as a surname and reminder to everyone of the family’s prominence and favor under King Henry II. The family seat became the great Kilkenny Castle from which they controlled the vast kingdom of Ormonde (basically including counties Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick).

Ormonde landholdings in southwest Ireland were second only to the Desmond earldom by the 14th century. Rivalry and skirmishes between the two earldoms escalated into a private war in the 1560s, one that infuriated Queen Elizabeth I, and in part led to the first Desmond Rebellion in 1569.

When James’s father Thomas died in a shipwreck in 1619, James became the nine-year-old heir to his grandfather Walter Butler, the 11th Earl of Ormonde, and was given the courtesy title of Viscount Thurles. Walter was a devout Catholic, much to the dismay of King James I who schemed for Protestant control of Ormonde estates, imprisoned Walter for eight years, and sent James to be schooled as a Protestant by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

When the earl was released in 1625, most of his estates were restored to him. James went to live with him at his house in Drury Lane, London.

While in London, James learned the Irish language, which was to serve him well later in life; and also met his cousin Elizabeth Butler, daughter of Sir Richard Preston, Earl of Desmond. Their marriage in 1629 ended the long-standing feud between the two families.

When his grandfather died five years later, James became the earl. In 1642, he was named the Marquess of Ormonde; and, after living with the king in exile during the Commonwealth years, in 1661 Charles II created him the first Duke of Ormonde.

But wait, there is even more to Ormonde’s appeal. Most of my research has focused on James’s early life, and my favorite story thus far is about his first attendance of the Irish Parliament in 1635. The new Lord Deputy of Ireland, Thomas Wentworth, called the Parliament under King Charles I’s authorization, and was proud to have Ormonde on the roster.

In his biography of Wentworth, C.V. Wedgwood describes James Butler as a “high-hearted” nobleman: “Handsome, intelligent and valiant, he was also to the very core of his being a man of honor: loyal, chivalrous and just.”

And let’s not leave out dauntless (aka cheeky). When Wentworth ordered that the wearing of swords in Parliament would not be permitted, Ormonde told the official who tried to take his that the only way he’d get the sword was if it was “in his guts.” Wentworth summoned Ormonde before his council to answer for this behavior, and Ormonde arrived with his earl’s patent from the king. He threw it on the table. The king had made him earl, he said, and for anyone less than the king he would not ungird his sword.

“Wentworth [who was not yet an earl] conceded the force of the argument,” Wedgwood wrote.

Appealing as he was, Ormonde was not always everyone’s hero in life. As the Protestant in the family, he avoided the land confiscations that Catholic family members still suffered, and he was not above evicting Irish tenants if he believed he could earn higher rents from English ones. Still, when Ormonde died in 1688, he was lauded by poets of his time and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

In my novel, Ormonde is featured as a contemporary of the main characters who brings his significant power and influence, his chivalrous mindset, and his own agenda to the story, along with a fierce belief in fairness, justice, and love.

jack6.140x9.210.inddThe Prince of Glencurragh, published in July 2016, is the story of an Irish warrior who abducts a young heiress to help restore his stolen heritage and build the Castle Glencurragh. He is caught in the crossfire between the most powerful nobles in Ireland, each with his own agenda. It is the stand-alone prequel to my first historical novel, Sharavogue, which begins with the arrival of Cromwell in Ireland, and follows the protagonist to her indenture on an Irish sugar plantation on the island of Montserrat, West Indies.

My books are available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com. You can find more information and links on my website, nancyblanton.com

 

 

Review: The Light Between the Oceans

I’ve finished reading M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between the Seas, on my list for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. It is a good story well-told, Stedman’s command of language and characterization obvious from the first page.

IMG_0257The story begins in 1926, and the setting is key: Janus Rock, a lighthouse station near Perth, Australia, where the Indian and Great Southern oceans meet. Already the reader knows it is a hard place.

I was most taken by the way the two main characters were drawn. Two people, like the oceans, so compatible on the surface and yet so different beneath, and opposites do attract. Tom Sherbourne, the war-scarred, by-the-book lighthouse tender, falls in love with Isabel, his free-spirited wife who brings humor and fun back into his life.

I struggled with the premise at first. How could these two people, who find a dead man and a live infant washed up to the island, bury the man and keep the infant without even trying to discover whether she had family looking for her? These were normal, good, honest people, not the criminal type. But I began to accept that their isolation, and neediness that remained after their own infant had died, drove them to do things outside of the norms.

And of course, this becomes the crux of the conflict, especially for Tom whose conscience drives him to betrayal. They name the child Lucy, which means light.

Although one can anticipate what will happen, and it is a little like watching a train wreck, as they say, the writing is captivating, involving and tender to the end.

Personal branding: persona and positioning

And why you need both

In my book on the subject, Chapter 2 introduces you to England’s Henry VIII, the king from 1509 to 1547. He was the granddaddy of personal branding if ever there was one, and the perfect model for generating and expressing a memorable persona.

Henry-VIII-kingofengland_1491-1547Most people are familiar with the famous Holbein portrait of him standing tall, broad-shouldered, filling up the canvas in his regal robes and codpiece. An icon of strength and robust health, this king gave the people what they wanted: physical power, great wealth, cultural sophistication, grand architecture, athletic supremacy, and a direct link to God.

What you see was not always what you got with King Henry, but he lived in an age without mass communication or the immediacy of social media, so he could get away with projecting an inflated persona that suited everyone’s needs. In today’s world, authenticity rules, and you must build a brand persona you can live by.

So what is a brand persona?

It is a compilation of values, activities and interests that define a person. If you are an author, artist or business person, your work defines you to a great extent, but also the realm in which you work or the subject matter on which you focus. Add to that your activities. For instance, are you a runner? An equestrian? A motocross enthusiast? Do you love to cook, read, dance? And then there are societal interests like improving literacy, reducing poverty, protecting the environment, and so on.  What do you stay up late thinking about? Where would you invest your money to make a difference in the world? Where/how would you donate your time? What are you doing when you are at your best?

Your brand persona might not include all facets of your life and interests. Consider the top 10 that might come up in a conversation with a new acquaintance. You might only have 30 seconds with this person before you shake hands and say goodbye. If he or she is a potential customer, what would you hope might be remembered about you?

That’s how a defined persona can help, by clarifying the kernel of you and making it easier to communicate and, therefore, easier to remember. And now we come to the logical next step.

Brand positioning

Suppose this person is a fine business prospect, but knows 10 other people who do what you do? How can you not only rise to the top in this person’s memory, but also rise with distinction?

Remember that a personal brand is all about building trust with your audience. Your persona embodies all of your values, interests and drives that make you someone worth trusting and doing business with. 

Your positioning statement zeroes in on the places your persona intersects with audience  values and needs, and then shoots it to the next level by defining that which connects with and makes you irresistible to them -– capturing the essence of you that is different from (re: better than) anyone else.

Positioning statements are used broadly in brand differentiation. The secret is, you’ve got to get emotional. People make decisions on an emotional level. If you know your own core brand driver, it’s the best place to start.

A personal brand positioning statement goes like this:

For [insert target audience], [Your Name] is the [insert point of differentiation] among all [insert frame of reference] because [reason to believe].

Here’s a silly example: “For people who need dog walkers, Jane Dogmire is the most lovable and trusted of all dog walkers in the region because she is board-certified by Dogs United and comes with homemade peanut butter treats.”

Jane meets the needs of her audience because she can be trusted to do the job right, and will keep her dogs happy, too.

Now, using myself as an example: I like history and historical fiction, researching and learning about my Irish heritage, and I work hard to share what I’ve learned in an entertaining way so that others will be interested, too. I know historical fiction readers are educated, like to learn as they read, expect to be entertained, and want high-quality writing. So I wrote my positioning statement like this:

For readers of historical fiction, Nancy Blanton is the award-winning author of Irish history adventure novels, combining research skills with a passion for Irish heritage to both inform and entertain.

Note how my values and audience values converge. Words like adventure and passion help tap into the reader’s emotions. Normally, this statement would never be public, but would be used to guide me in creating advertising, marketing collateral, and online communications, and I could use the same words, or different words that do the same work.

Once you’ve invested the time to build your persona and create your positioning statement, most of the heavy lifting for your personal brand is done. These are the guiding forces for the decisions you’ll make going forward with taglines, marks, colors, and so forth.

The big thing to remember is consistency. I know that every time I go to a Starbucks and order a mocha, with few exceptions I will get exactly what I expect and, therefore, I trust Starbucks. Stay true to the elements of your persona and positioning statement. Use the same words over and over. If your persona identifies your interests as horseback riding and cooking, don’t confuse your audience by blogging or tweeting about golf and scuba diving. Be authentic, be consistent, and you will, over time, build trust. Trust brings customers.

BrandYourselfRoyallyIn8SimpleSteps_Blanton_cropMy book will guide you through all eight steps toward your own personal brand. For additional help, I can offer professional services.

Please sign up for my newsletter for events and new publication notices.

My latest novel, The Prince of Glencurragh, is set to publish in July 2016.

Oh, and…I really like dogs.

Brooklyn at last, Saoirse

Brooklyn cover imageI finally got to see the movie Brooklyn featuring two-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan, and it did not disappoint for a moment. Though quickly labeled a chick flick by the two gentlemen who were with me, one stayed for the duration and was glad he did.

In this movie, Ronan plays young Eilis Lacey who leaves her hometown in Ireland to find opportunity in America. I can’t believe Miss Ronan is only 21 years old. Her eyes are absolutely penetrating and so expressive. She had me by the throat when as Eilis she arrived by ship in New York — after the sea-sickness scene to which I can all-to-painfully relate. But her fear and discomfort in a strange place, as if she is the only fresh human among a circling pack of jungle carnivores, really took me back.

My experience was not as difficult as being an ocean away from anyone or anything she knew, but my first weeks as a freshman at college were pretty close. I felt alone, disconnected, as if everyone spoke a different language and all knew what they were doing while I knew nothing. After a few weeks, when an old friend from high school knocked on my dorm room door, he was the only person I knew in the state. I leapt into his arms.

I loved Eilis’s 1950s “costume” as they called it—those sunglasses! And her friend fixing her up for a trip to the beach with her Italian love. And especially the characterizations: the cruel and bitter old shopkeeper in Ireland; the nosy, disciplining house mother in Brooklyn; and the kind Catholic priest who reminded me just a little of my dear friend Eddie in Bandon.

And, I could not hold back the tears when the sister died. How would I feel if something should happen to my own beloved sisters? Incomprehensible.

To leave Ireland at any time must be gut-wrenching. I don’t know of any place like it: so charming, intimate and yet so wild it defies description. And yet, for some and in certain times, it must have been a relief to leave and again find hope for some kind of future.

Although Eilis returns to Ireland and suddenly it seems she can have everything she ever wanted there, she realizes it is an illusion, and she has forgotten the reasons she left in the first place. She breaks free of the bonds of the past, and chooses the new life and love. I wonder is there in everyone’s life, as there was in mine, an experience like this in which you’re given an opportunity to choose: to either hold on (like it or not) to what you know, or to embrace the new adventure.

Because I made the choice, I have ended up writing about adventures—always my dream—and in a place beyond my dreams.

SharavogueCoverIf you love adventures and particularly historical adventures, checkout my novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies, Sharavogue. May latest book, The Prince of Glencurragh, comes out this summer.

And please sign up for my newsletter for information about the release and upcoming events.

Thank you for reading this blog!

Parading in green hot pants

“Hot pants” were truly the hot fashion thing a few decades back, and as I recall they did not come in green. Unfortunately, we needed green ones for St. Patrick’s Day. My sister and I were still in high school when my father launched his “Hibernian Social and Marching Club” in Jacksonville, Fla. Gayle and I were to carry a huge banner ahead of our grand master father who would hold his shillelagh high.

We searched all over town but could not find green hotpants. The best alternative was to buy white ones and dye them. We had to pull out my other sister’s big K-mart soup pot, the one we’d used to tie-dye all of our t-shirts, and start the process with those cakes of Rit green dye.

And what a soup it was, the darkest emerald green you could imagine, and I was excited about the color we’d wear. We’d followed all the directions, hadn’t we? But when we were done with the rinsing, those hot pants were no greener than a stick of spearmint gum.

 

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My father, Ed Blanton, St. Pat’s Parade from years past

Oh well, green is green and we had no more time to make them darker. Somehow we have lost that precious photo of us carrying the banner and wearing our halter tops, hot pants and knee-high boots. But the memory remains clear.

 

My father and his cohorts began the day early with a few libations. Could have been Irish coffee, but I suspect it was shots of Irish whiskey. Tullamore Dew was one of his favorites.

Through my research, I’ve since learned the origins of this drink. Back in the 17th century the Irish called it “uisce beatha,” pronounced “ish-ke-ba-ha,” which the English then wrote as “usquebagh.” The word whisky (no e) was an anglicization of the pronunciation of uisce beatha which means “water of life” in English.

The parade involved Irish horses, Irish marching

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Nieces Kelly and Rachel driving the pony January. Note green hats!

bands, my two nieces driving a buggy with a pony named January, and some strange fellow dressed in green who painted the a crazy, meandering green line all along the parade route.

 

To my knowledge, the Hibernian Social and Marching Club exists only in name today, but it was a proud day when it marched, wasn’t it?

March 17th is truly a celebration of life. It is the official death date for St Patrick (AD 385 – 461). It became a Christian feast day in the early 17th century–yet another thing that started in that wildly important period.

Originally intended to celebrate the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, St. Patricks Day has happily evolved to celebrate the heritage and culture of all things Irish.

Sláinte mhaith! (“Slawn-cha wah,” an Irish toast to good health.)

SharavogueCoverAnd for those who love Irish history as I do, you might enjoy Sharavogue, an award-winning novel of 17th century Ireland and the West Indies. Watch for the prequel coming out summer 2016!

Makes a great St. Patrick’s Day gift, too!

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!

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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

 

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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!