Friday, July 29, 2011

How to Steal Without Plagiarizing

Shakespeare did it. Faulkner did it. Yes, even some of the most popular screenwriters of the age did and are doing it. So, to semi-quote one of my favorite bands, The Cranberries... if everyone else is doing it, why can't we?

Stealing is common practice in the writing world, and it's okay if I do it, too. Come on, now. Let's say it all together. Stealing is common practice in the writing world, and it's okay if I do it, too. Very good! Anyone ever told you there's only a grand total of, like, 6 or 7 stories in the entire world? And that every story is just some sort of spin off of those stories? Whether you choose to believe this or not is irrelevant to what you, as a writer, can accomplish if you 1) study what you love to read and 2) think of a new way to put a twist on that story. I'm talking about taking an old plot (or... not so old plot...) and weaving in your own original, wonderful, God-given writerly talent.

Take an interesting plot & weave in your own magic

Now, listen, folks. And listen good. You cannot just lift a plot and characters out of an original story and make it your own. That's a nasty word called plagiarizing, and you never ever ever wanna steal straight from somebody else's hard work.

However, you CAN take a seed from any given plot and filter in your magic. Switch characters. Steal a pattern (plot) and stick it in your world, then throw your characters into the mix. Turn stuff upside down. Get creative! Listen to what James Scott Bell has to say about mixing up genres:

It's very easy to take a Western tale, for example, and set it in outer space. Star Wars had many Western themes (remember the bar scene?). Likewise, the Sean Connery movie Outland is like High Noon set on a Jupiter moon. The feel of Dashiell Hammett's The Thin Man characters transferred well into the future in Robert A. Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. Even the classic television series The Wild, Wild West was simply James Bond in the Old West. A brilliant flipping of a genre that has become part of popular culture.

Remember the movie Clueless? With Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash and, "oh my gah, as if!"? Jane Austen's Emma. Strong-willed, independent minded heroine plays matchmaker among her acquaintances and winds up falling in love herself.

Been shopping with Dr. Suess?

Think of the "star-crossed lovers" bit. Really, how many books and films have you read/seen with either the exact or at least some version of this concept? Romeo and Juliet, anyone? But where did good ol' Billy Shakes get his idea? Who knows? But here we are, over 400 years later, and that lovesick, can't eat, can't sleep, I'd rather die than live without you plot-line is still going strong. Think Tristan + Isolde, Ladyhawke, The Notebook... TWILIGHT, for pity's sake. All Romeo and Juliet-type plots with the respective author's own special twist.

So, next time you begin to plot out a book, think on the classics. Mull over what you've already read. Bet your bottom dollar there's at least three to five that flashed inside your mind just now. Then, figure out how you can make it your own, whether with plot or characters or both.

What other methods aid you when starting a new project? Do you perhaps read newspapers? Magazines? Do you study up on nonfiction? If you could steal anyone's story and make it your own, which one would you nab? I promise, I won't tell. :)

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SoS Aloha!

Wonderful, original, fun-loving Kim from SoS Aloha is interviewing me today! 
So, I'm sending you all over to her fabulous 100 Days of Summer to find out how an unpublished writer keeps her motivation and, as is tradition at SoS Aloha, for a chance at a free giveaway. Mahalo!

Coming up Friday:

That's right. I said it. Now, run along and grab a handful of your favorite books.
Oh... But only after you've read the interview, of course. :)

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

P.S. Since I am a BIG sucker for insane deals, I'm also sending you to Tynga's Reviews today. She graciously spilled the beans on Book Depository (who always has FREE shipping AND accepts PayPal--double wammy!) selling The Missing by Shiloh Walker for .$99! Can't pass that up, can you? I know I couldn't. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

What Makes a Bad Book... Well... Bad?

Confession: Earlier this morning, I hadn't a clue what to blog about. I'm feeling a bit under the weather, and I'm all grumpy and crabby and just... bleh. Drove to work with the music off (sacrilege!) and trudged in with the CP (we work in the same building), who of course asked, "Did you write--" I don't write on Fridays; it's my only day off; she knows this, so... "--oh, that's right!" she says. "You blogged this morning."

I told her the bad news; I didn't blog. She laughed--possibly through gritted teeth, I'm not certain. She's a tough cookie when it comes to me getting in my daily writing, but I've no reason to complain. I need a drill sergeant more times than I'd like to own up to. Anyways. I promised her I'd come up with something at my desk before the day was out.

Didn't happen.

So, at 4:30ish she calls and says, "Come up with something yet?" To which I respond with a long sigh and a mumbled, "No."

"Well," she says, "I've got a good one: What makes a bad book bad?"

Here's the scoop: Over the past week, she's been reading this full length novel by an author we both kinda sorta know. A giving props kind of thing, you know? Read your fellow authors; they'll read you. You come to my book signing; I'll come to yours--with friends. You scratch my back; I'll scratch... All right. You get the idea.

When I asked her what made the book... well... bad, she said, "Everything!" One, the author didn't do her research. (3 year old still sayin' 'pot-pot' and 'da-da', while Momma swears he's exceptionally bright? I don't think so.) But that's just the tip of the iceberg. The heroine was completely unlikable, wishy-washy, and had several moments of going in and out of character. Say what?? The person on whom we are supposed to lay our trust? Our hopes and dreams for the eventual and ultimate satisfaction of this story? Let's bear in mind this is a romance novel, folks. Heroine should be likable and somewhat easy for the reader to relate to. Writing Romance 101, right?

Well. Apparently this particular author didn't get the memo. So, we got to talking back and forth, the CP and I. Ping-ponging ideas of what makes a bad book bad. What, when we're reading, will most likely grab us first. Character? Plot? Dishonesty? Terrible dialogue? When I pick up a book at the store, I flip first to the middle, and read. If I like what I see, I go all the way back to the beginning and read at least the first 2-3 pages. Why? Because if the author is holding interest at mid-story, I'm willing to wager that interest will still be there by page 365 (or whatever... the end). Just the way I do it. Fortunately, this has helped me avoid quite a few of the crabbier apples.

However. It's still happened every now and again. And when it does, I put the book down. The CP? She goes in for the long haul, just to see how much worse it can get. Sometimes it helps her write. Gives her a little kick in the butt and a hearty, "Hey! I know I can do better than this!"

So, lemme ask you, gentle readers... What, to you, makes a bad book bad? At what point do you say, "Nope. No Way. No More." and promptly set the story to the side? Do you have any especially bad experiences which still haunt your writer's mentality from time to time?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Uh Oh! I Forgot to Add...

You wanna piece of me?

While reading James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure, I've come across tons of helpful information, some of which has caused me to go back and re-examine what I've already written. One of the key points he makes (in what I've read thus far--Kindle says I'm only at 15%!) is the need for confrontation to be introduced at an early enough time in the novel so the reader can easily identify with him/her/it/them/whatever. So, I thought and thought and thought... Who is my main confrontation in this novel? Besides Hallie's parents wanting her to court an acceptable bachelor and get married, like, now... Who will keep her on edge? Present a problem while she and Adris are trying to find what they're searching for?

Oh, that's right! The police! The bobbies or Peelers, as our neighborly Britons call them. But here's the problem I ran into: I hadn't even introduced them yet, and I'm on chapter 10. Eeep! What to do? What to do? Initially, I panicked. Fretted. Bit off both my thumbnails. I'll have to rewrite the entire story! I thought. Foolishly, of course. Because all it took was this: I went back to the beginning, where Hallie, her 'rents, and the entire town are hangin' out at a local ball/soiree. I then slid in a paragraph where she notices the bobbies milling through the crush. Among them is a detective, who watches  her closely. Almost as if he thinks she knows something deliciously criminal, and he's just waiting to ask her a ton of questions.

Hallie worries over this (on top of the whole bit of courtship and marriage, etc.) all the way into the third chapter, where Adris pops onto her bedroom balcony, unannounced. In the middle of the night. Most scandalous! One of the first things she says to him is, "No one knows you are here... Do they?" So, I added a little tidbit--a memory of the detective oddly staring at her at the ball--followed by the above dialogue. Voila! I've successfully inserted the confrontation--the boogeymen waiting in the shadows--that will follow Hallie and her companions throughout the novel.

Be vewwy vewwy quiet...

Obviously I could have gone on, made myself a Post-It to "insert confrontation toward beginning," because that's what a lot of people do, right? Wait 'til the novel's finished, then go back and do the inserting and fixing when it's time to edit. Problem is, I can't. Well. That may be pushing it. I don't like to. Why? Because I write a fairly clean first draft. I'm one of those people who can't move on unless I've picked the right word, constructed the sentence and/or paragraph exactly how it's meant to be. It's as if my brain won't allow me to just rush through, screw my word choices, sentence structure, etc, as long as I get the story down as soon as possible. Nuh uh. Not me. Won't work. Sure, it makes for a fewer word count every morning, but I'm happier with what comes out on the page.

However, I would like to hear from my fellow authors: How do YOU write? Do you get that first draft down, lickety-split, then go back and worry about rewrites and word choices and making sentences and paragraphs agree? Or do you obsess over all that stuff now, so you're only left with minor editing?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

Friday, July 15, 2011

L.O.C.K. into a Stellar Plot

As most of you may already know, I've been diligently attempting to make the switch from Pantser to Plotter. Granted, I'm not a bona fide rendition of the latter--at least I don't think I am--but I do try and plot ahead at least 3 chapters (which I totally need to do this weekend, because I'm so behind) and keep myself immersed in story and characters at all times.

I've also tried to implement more "how-to" books into my regime. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Uh, but you said you don't condone the use of how-to's..." and I don't. But! Deb Dixon recommended Les Edgerton's Finding Your Voice, which is awesome and incredibly well-written and loaded with all kinds of helpful tips, information, and exercises. While reading through Les's fabulous manual on voice (with yellow highlighter, thank you very much), I happened upon yet another how-to: James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure. And here's the really cool part: I got it on Amazon Kindle for $1.99.

I know, right? That's how you get sucked in with the Kindle, folks. Just sayin'...

Anyways. I've only just begun P&S--while simultaneously reading Finding Your Voice, mind--and already I'm amazed at 1) the quality of the writing & how interesting Mr. Bell made his how-to and 2) the basics and ease of plotting out your very own novel.

So, for today's post, I thought I'd share a tidbit of Mr. Bell's theory on plotting. He calls it the L.O.C.K. system. As a disclaimer, this system belongs totally to him and is a vital part of his teachings on plot. None of this came from own personal thoughts, save for the added comments.

L is for Lead -- Every strong plot begins with an interesting Lead character. Compelling and memorable, this is someone we just have to watch throughout the course of the novel. And this doesn't mean we have to entirely sympathize with this person. It just means we need to be in this person's head. We're in for the long haul. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Harry Potter -- Jo Rowling's Lead Character

O is for Objective -- The character must have an Objective. A want. A desire. A desperate need. This is the driving force in both literary and commercial fiction. The forward motion that keeps the Lead from just sitting around, staring at the walls and flipping through television channels. According to Mr. Bell, an Objective can take either of two forms: to get something or to get away from something. He goes on to say that solid plots have one and only one dominant Objective for the Lead character. And this forms the great story question: "Will the Lead realize his/her Objective?"

James & Lily Potter, Harry's parents, killed by Lord Voldemort.
Throughout the novels, Harry always bears them in mind; not only must he save
the wizarding world from Voldemort, but he must also avenge their deaths,
the childhood of which he was robbed.

C is for Confrontation -- Simply put, this is the opposition from characters and outside forces which brings your story fully to life. Keeps your Lead from reaching his Objective. If the Lead goes on his merry way without hitting any roadblocks, where's the fun in that? Seriously, our readers want to worry. Bite their fingernails. Fret and invest that sacred emotion which blossoms upon finding a really good story with memorable characters. Mr. Bell quoted an ancient scribe who said, "Get your protagonist up a tree. Throw rocks at him. Then get him down." Shove obstacles in his way. Make matters difficult. Never let him off too easy.

Voldemort & his Death Eaters. The main Confrontation for Harry and his
friends. Weaved throughout almost every conflict, Harry must
consistently find ways to "defeat" this band of misfits over & over.

K is for Knockout -- This is the ending. The summit. The moment we've all been waiting for, hung on through the course of six hundred and eleven pages to see... All right, hopefully not that many. The end of your novel MUST satisfy the reader. Why do I say this? Simple. Do you really want your reader to be disappointed? To read the last line of your novel and say, "Wow. Ah, that's it? Really?" And proceed to throw your hard work upside the nearest wall--or worse. You, the writer, must take the Lead through the journey toward his Objective, remembering to throw some Confrontation along the path. He may make it to the end victoriously. Or... he may fall tragically. Either way, the end should prove both compelling and satisfying.

Harry & Voldemort finally battle. Mano-a-mano. Or, as it were, wand-to-wand.

After all, all of us want to make someone's Keeper Shelf, right?

What tips do you have for creating a compelling novel? Do you start with a character, then think of all the evil ways you can mess up her life? Or do you start with a plot, then add the characters? A little of both?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How Harry Potter Changed Our Lives

At stage left, you'll notice a little ticker I've got goin' on featuring Daniel Radcliffe's smudged, bespectacled face. Only, he's not just good ol' Dan, looking all breathless, intense, and eager to get out of a full day's worth of nonstop, "stand here, do this, look this way" etc. etc... He's Harry Potter. Ready to battle the odds, defeat the most dangerous dark wizard of all time, and save the entire world from the tyranny of Death Eaters and a ginormous snake who's doubtless fighting a serious case of indigestion.

This Friday at midnight marks the conclusion of what has been an enormously successful franchise in movie-making history. Whether you are young or old or somewhere in between, I'll be my last dollar you know at least a little about the orphaned boy who found out he was a wizard, went to a wizarding school (some weird name... what was it? Pigsfeet? Dragonsbreath? Ah! Hogwarts!), and proceeded to meet up with two introverts, much like himself, who helped him in more ways than studying for Charms and Potions exams.

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter, & Ron Weasley

Harry Potter has, in some way, meant something to you, whether you wanna own up to it or not. If you're a kid, he's taken you on an adventure beyond your wildest dreams, made you believe in magic and elves and stones which can bring one back from the dead. Heck, he's done that very thing with us adults, too! If you're a graphics artist, the movies have wowed you with all their magical elements, scary beasts like trolls and basilisks, and sets that'll make the viewer declare they wanna pack up their bags in suburbia and move to a castle in Scotland. Finally, if you're a writer, there's no turning away from the success that is the fabulous, multi-talented Ms. Jo Rowling (J.K. is merely a pseudonym she used for the first book, so she could easily sell to both boys and girls. I'm thinking it worked!).

Yes, as writers, most of us yearn to touch even a portion of Jo's enormous success. That's why so many of us fans write fanfiction! Yours truly being one of them (look to the right for my personal renditions of what might've happened years later, after the seventh book, sans epilogue). Fact is, the stories spun by Jo are among the most fascinating ever told. A new world, an old concept with a new spin, and elements which each and every one of us can understand. I mean, who at one point in their life hasn't been a frightened child, headed for their first day at a new school? Add on the pressure of making new friends, possibly not knowing what the heck's going on in your classes, this one kid blowing up stuff every time he swishes & flicks his magic wand...

Harry & Seamus Finnigan in 1st Year Charms Class

Yeah. We all know what that's like. Except for maybe the last part. So, then, you have to wonder... What can I do in my own writing to equal this incredible burst of imagination Jo had whilst traveling the subway from her first to her second job? (She thought, "What would it be like to fly?") How do create a new version of an old concept? Because, really, that's what we're told the editors and agents want, am I right? Beuller? Beuller? Old concept, new spin. Give us what readers like to read, only make it your own.

Wow. Okay, Madam Editor. Just back off. Here's the thing, guys: I believe you need to throw all that out the window. All right, maybe not ALL of it. But a good portion, I'd say, because this is supposed to be YOUR story. Not what someone wants. Yours. YOU are the artist. Do you really think Jo Rowling was worried about what Madam Elite Editor or Mister Highfalutin Agent thought of her little story about an orphaned boy wizard from Surrey? Heck, no! She BELIEVED in herself. KNEW she was onto something. She just needed the right timing, and the right support group.

Alan Rickman, Tom Felton, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Matthew Lewis
(better known as Professor Snape, Draco, Hermione, Harry, Ron, and Neville) at this year's NYC premiere.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone got rejected twelve times before it was finally take on. If you're a writer, you probably already knew this. As a matter of fact, Jo's agent said to her, "This will never sell. People aren't ready for this kind of a story." But she wouldn't budge. And you know what? It did sell. And people were more than ready. Potterworld is a multi-billion dollar franchise, with not only Jo's books still selling in print and (soon!) ebook, but films and theme parks and prop replicas and hats and scarves and people proudly declaring their houses. (Hogwarts! Slytherin! Hufflepuff! Ravenclaw!)

So, why am I telling you all this? I'm so glad you asked!

1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2, the final installment in the Harry Potter film series, releases to the public in theaters nationwide this Friday at midnight. Woop! Woop! One of your local stations has doubtless been running every Potter movie over and over for the past week or so. They do this every time, not that I'm complaining. :)

2) I want YOU, whether you are a writer, a teacher, or the busboy at T.G.I.Fridays, to never give up on your dreams. Don't let others tell you what to do. Yes, do take good advice, use it to your advantage. Set goals, achieve them. If you fail--and you will--pick yourself back up, and try again. Believe in your abilities. Go after what society has deemed as impossible, a dreamworld, unlikely for the average Joe/Jill, and do it! Because you can, and you will. I believe it, 110%.

3) I've posted this before, and it pretty much goes with what I said in #3, but I want you to read it again. Plus, it goes in keeping with the whole Harry Potter/believing in your dreams theme for today.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned. 

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes. 

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. 

Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

Dream on, gentle readers. The only person who can stop you is you. Tell me: When adversity comes your way, how do you face the challenge? Have you had people ridicule you for what you believe in? The goals which you've set for yourself? What do you tell those nonbelievers when they laugh or try to discourage you, etc.?

Peace, Love, Junior Mints, and Harry Potter (and Draco, too, because I love the bad boys),

Quick Note: From this day forward, I will blog on Tuesdays & Fridays, instead of Thursdays. Need a little more time in between. :) Thanks for following and/or reading!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


So, I wrote this book...

As writers, I believe it's safe to say we all agree on one thing: Most of us want to be published by a real, bona fide & certified publishing house. To be recognized and taken on by an editor and/or agent team who says, "Hey! We can sell this!" And, therefore, proceeds to throw all their big-buck NYC funds into our project. A great cover, perhaps even a stepback with people who really portray our characters well, a marketing plan, bookmarks, tote bags, t-shirts, big signing appointments at Barnes & Nobles all over the country, movie contracts...the list goes on and on.

But what happens when you've spent years without success? What happens when the most common rejection you receive these days goes something like, "loved the story, loved the characters, but we just don't have the space for it right now"? Because it's true, you know. Books are expensive to publish. And I know what you're thinking: Uh, but don't these huge publishing companies have, like, lots and lots of money? Yeah, they do. But they've got many mouths to feed, too. Think about all those things I listed in the first paragraph. Now think about how many authors write under, say, Avon. Some of whom have novels which go out first in hardback (a HUGE expense).

Can you imagine how much $$$ went into the launch of
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows??

You get the point, right? Good. Last month our local RWA (Romance Writer's of America) chapter NOLA STARs hosted its first Summer Writing Workshop. You saw me harp on and on about it (and Janet Mullany! *squee*) during the months of May and June. While we had plenty of talented authors and members of the publishing industry with great information and stories to tell, one particular tidbit stood out to me above all others. Perhaps because I, like many, many of my fellow writers, am desperately seeking publication. But the speaker--and I believe it was Deb Dixon, but my mind fails me often, so--said that NYC publishing houses are currently only giving 25% in profit to their authors.

Wow, I thought. There must be some mistake. Nonetheless, she explained that because of the economy (if all of us had a nickel for every single time we've heard that phrase over the past few years...) and overall decrease in sales on printed (paperback and/or hardback) books, the publishers have been forced to decrease their royalty rates.

Now, here's the next thing she said: E-publishers are paying up to 40% royalties.

Whoa. Big difference, right? Why is that? Well, it's obvious isn't it? While I, like most writers, still love the feel of a real book in my hands, the smell of its pages, both old and new, I must admit: I adore my Kindle. It's entirely too easy. I go to Amazon or an author's site and... CLICK! I'm conveniently reading my shiny new book within seconds. And we as a people--especially Americans--love our convenience, don't we? Just look at all the fast food chains booming like crazy. Sure, they're bad for you. Sure, they'll eventually kill your pocketbook. But we do it anyway. Because we're in a hurry, we don't want to be bothered, we... want... convenience.

Ah... Starbucks drive thru...

Hence, the big bang in the e-book industry. Now, at this point you may be saying, "Yeah, OK, Alyssia. But the title of this post is 'Self-Publishing,' so what gives?" Writers vanity publishing their novels via e-book, that's what. See! I do have a point! A couple of months back I stumbled upon Addison Moore, author of the Celestra Series. On her blog site, she advertised the first book in the series, Ethereal, for a whopping $.99. At the time I was trying to read every YA I could get my hands on, and so I immediately went to Amazon, clicked that handy Buy now with 1-Click button, and in less than 5 seconds, I was curled up at the end of my couch reading Addison's first novel.

Before all that, though, I noticed this (because by now we're all in the habit of looking at the publishing house on the spine of the book, right?): Sold by: Amazon Digital Services. (Click the link to learn all about Kindle Direct Publishing services on

Whoa. You mean... she self-published this book? This wonderful story? Instantly, my mind began this mad race of possibilities--which, may I say, gets faster and faster the more self-published books I come across. Recently I found this one, too: Morgan Karpiel's Fantasies of New Europa Series. Historical/Steampunk novellas with beautiful, 3-dimensional characters, gorgeous exposition, witty dialogue, and, most importantly, believable plots. And again... $.99 a piece. I read the first one, bought the next two in one fell swoop. AND, as I mentioned in my review of The Inventor, I'm a Morgan Karpiel fan for life.

Loved it!

Now, listen. YES, I've stumbled upon a few self-pubbed who were... well. They need some serious guidance and a lot more practice at their craft before even thinking about putting their work out there, in the world. But some are REALLY good. I mean, really. So, this is what I want to ask all of you...

Have YOU thought about self-publication? If so, what do you make of this whole thing with the big publishing houses & e-book publishers versus self-pubbing? Do you, like me, ever wonder if maybe, just maybe you self-publish that first book, it'll give you a sort of... I don't know... kick start? Are you ALREADY self-published, and have some words of wisdom to share?

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Research & Witchcraft

While researching for Hallelujah & the Rowan Stone, I came across a bit of interesting history concerning witchcraft in the 17th century. Before you ask: No, witchcraft does not play a part in this book and yes, H&tRS is set in the mid-1800's. But a while back I imagined that if Adris were to get caught by the local authorities for... I don't know... appearing out of thin air (time traveling), then the po-po (known as bobbies in 19th century England) might very well arrest & charge him with practicing witchcraft.

So, I figured I'd do a little research on the history of witchcraft in England, and ended up on a great true story from 1612 called The Pendle Witch Trials. I'd like to share with you the best account I found, authored by Cassandra James for associated content on Yahoo!

As a child growing up in England, one of the best and scariest things my family would do was to go to Pendle Hill for Halloween. Pendle Hill, in the English county of Lancashire, is famous for being associated with the most famous witch trial in British history - the Witches of Pendle. On Halloween, my parents would take me to a local stables, on the slopes of Pendle Hill, and here the local kids would bob for apples, eat treacle toffee and watch fireworks. Here also, we would be told scary witch stories about the Witches of Pendle by a woman wearing a black cloak and a big witch's hat, and with a huge wart on her face.
The story of the Witches of Pendle takes place in 1612. Nineteen men and women were imprisoned in the Lancashire in small cells below Lancaster Castle. They were tried at the Lancashire assizes, a traveling court, ten of them were found guilty and sentenced to death. The ten found guilty are famous in Lancashire history. Any child growing up in Lancashire knows the names of the ten, and fears them at night when the lights go out.
The ten were Ann Redfearn, Elizabeth Device, Alice Nutter, Alison Device, James Device, Katherine Hewitt, Jane Bulcock, John Bulcock, Isobel Robey and Anne Whittle (also known as Old Chattox). Elizabeth Southernes (famously known as Old Mother Demdike), would have also probably been found guilty, but she died in prison before this could happen. I remember as a child, if I was naughty, being threatened that Old Mother Demdike would come and take me away if I wasn't good.
Four hundred years after the fact, children all over northern England are threatened with the Pendle Witches if they misbehave. The sad truth is though, the Pendle Witches were nothing more than old and poor men and  women who were pulled before the magistrate because of a quarrel between two families.
Old Mother Demdike (Elizabeth Southernes) lived with her daughter, Elizabeth Device, and grandchildren Alison and James Device. Anne Whittle (Old Chattox), another elderly woman, lived with her daughters Ann Redfearn and Bessie Whittle. Bessie Whittle one day broke into Old Mother Demdike's house and stole some clothes and some food. So Old Mother Demdike reported her to the magistrate. Bessie Whittle then turned around and accused Old Mother Demdike and her family of witchraft. Alison Device, Old Mother Demdike's daughter, returned the favor saying Anne Whittle's whole family also practiced witchcraft and both families were arrested.
After a long imprisonment and then a trial, ten of the members of the two families were hanged as witches - being found guilty of the murders of 17 people. They weren't dropped though, which would have broken their necks and given them a quick death. Instead they were hung so they strangled slowly in front of a huge crowd who watched their deaths. Nine year old Jennet Device was the only one who was really giving evidence against them though, saying she had seen them flying around on broomsticks and turning people into frogs.
As kids in Lancashire, we were also told stories about the witch's 'familiars'. Alizon Device had a black dog familiar, and Old Mother Demdike a devil's spirit called Tibb, who came and drank her blood. I remember being very careful around black dogs for a long time afterwards.
To this day, the Pendle Witches are famous all over England. Their names are used to attract tourists to the area, and are a big draw during Halloween, when every neighborhood child is warned about Old Mother Demdike and Alice Nutter.

Great story, right? In the current scene between Hallie & Henry (Chapter 9), Henry relays that the idea of time machines has been milling about America for some time. In fact, he says, most Americans actually welcome the notion. This prompts Hallie to contemplate their own people, the Britons, and how they might respond to an invention so advanced and complex. Recalling what she knows on the Pendle Witch Trials, Hallie decides the government (or, in their case, the local authorities) would likely arrest and try that individual for witchcraft.

Hope you found this article as interesting as I did! While researching for something--a book, school, whatever--did you ever stumble upon a piece or several pieces of information you totally did not expect? Does one particular instance stick out in your mind? If so, share!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,


Monday, July 4, 2011

A Bit of Forefather Wisdom for the 4th

John Trumbull’s painting, Declaration of Independence, commissioned in 1817, depicts the presentation of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, in 1776. The “Committee of Five” presenting the Declaration in the center of the painting consists of Thomas Jefferson (the document’s primary author), Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Robert R. Livingston, and Roger Sherman. The five stand before John Hancock, the president of the Continental Congress. 47 of the 56 signers of the Declaration appear in the painting, along with five men who did not sign. Trumbull sketched the men and the room from life. A facsimile of this painting appears on the back of the $2 bill. (Courtesy of Learn NC)

"Where liberty dwells, there is my country." -- Benjamin Franklin

"Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth." --George Washington

"Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination." --John Adams

"The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object." --Thomas Jefferson

"The fiery trails through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation." --Abraham Lincoln

Happy Birthday, America & 
Happy Independence Day, Americans!

Peace, Love, and Junior Mints,

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