Ghosts and Shivers

What is it about a good ghost story we can’t resist ?

Yesterday I sat outside, reading ghost stories and shivering on my front step (the weather was more like late September than late July). Ridiculous? Absolutely, and yet inside, in the six-year-old house my husband and I literally built with our own two hands, I found myself looking around corners and swearing I saw something in the shadows.Β  And yet, I kept reading. Why?

I wonder if it’s that fact that not a lot of us can claim to have met a werewolf or vampire or other paranormal-type creature (if you can – share! and you must lead a much more interesting life than I!). Still, most of us know someone who’s had some kind of ghost/spirit/unexplained type experience, or we’ve even had them ourselves. Somehow this seems to make the possibility of someone else’s story all the more intriguing … and potentially, all the more belieavable. I was reading “More Ghost Stories of Alberta” by Barbara Smith, so ghost stories about my home province, and including places I’m very familiar with, which certainly helps to make them more “real.”

I found myself shivering (and not just from the ridiculous weather) over the mini-tale of a couple in Edmonton who were awakened very early by their alarm clock – a clock neither of them had set. That wasn’t nearly as strange as the little boy they spotted at the end of the bed, dressed in striped pajamas. He suddenly raced across the room and slammed the ringing alarm clock with such force, it broke. Then he gave them a smirking grin, and vanished.

Or what about the story told by a woman about her grandfather. As a young child, around the turn of the century, the grandfather lived on a farm, and one day found himself home alone, his parents out. Fire broke out in the home. Young and frightened, he didn’t know what to do, and thought maybe he should stay in the house and wait for his parents to come and rescue him. Then suddenly a beautiful woman appeared out of nowhere and told him to run. He did. And survived when his parents wouldn’t have been able to get back in time, and when the house burned completely to the ground – and would have taken him with it. No one ever saw the mysterious woman then or since.

Both are equally intriguing tales, though certainly one has a darker edge to it. How delicious to consider them as “seeds” for a future story. Or just appreciate them for what they are: unexplained stories as they stand.

What about you? Do you believe in ghosts? Do you have any of your own ghost or otherwise unexplained stories? Come on, share, you know you want to. πŸ˜‰

And hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog so you never miss another. Thanks for reading, and have an awesome week. πŸ™‚

Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Yes, seriously

So, if you’ve been reading, you know I’m in rewrites. Yep, still. But I think I see the light ahead (then again, I always say that. Makes me happy, true or not.)

Anyhoo, I thought I’d share my method and what I’ve learned about rewrites and their 4 phases. Because as much as I hear refer to it as Rewrite Hell, it doesn’t have to be. (Yes, really-really, I pinky-swear.) In the coming weeks I’ll go over each phase in greater detail, broken down into easily digested steps and lists (ooh, pretty lists!).

This week, I’ll go over a broad-picture of the plan.

Phase 1: Assessment. This is where you have to go through your completed manuscript and make an honest of assessment of what’s working, and what’s not.

Phase 2: Macro assessment and changes. This is where you determine if the structure and “big deal” items of the plot are working. Here a “revised vision” may come into play to help structure your rewrites.

Phase 3: Implementation of macro changes and the revised vision. Actual rewrites taking place.

Phase 4: Micro assessment and changes. Here you get to finally go through and make the polish, cleaning up excess wordiness, adverbs, overused words, etc.

See? Totally easy. Didn’t I promise? πŸ˜‰

What about you: do you have a rewrite plan or method? Does it sound completely different than this? Is it super efficient (if it is, you MUST share for the good of the world and happiness of baby kittens everywhere … and the sanity of fellow writers). πŸ˜‰

Otherwise, thanks for reading, have a great week. And hey, why not sign up to follow the blog while you’re here?

Strange But Fun Research Books

I’m taking a break from the Regency for this week and instead showing off some of my favorite weird-ass books that I have on my shelves for research. You know the kind: they’re kind of unexpected, they’re not exactly the kind of book you use as everyday reference, they can become an enormous time-suck, but boy are they fun to poke around in. Yep, some of those. πŸ™‚

weaponsbookThe Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons. Eds. Leonid Tarassuk & Claude Blair.

This dear book has been a long and dutiful friend, ever handy when I’m feeling rather blood-thirsty. It’s an old guy that I picked up at a library book sale, but it’s a great reference for actually looking up weapons … or if you just want to compare different suits of armor, or maybe look for a neat-looking dagger your heroine might use. Or you know, play. πŸ™‚

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Dungeon Master Guide: Arms and Equipment Guide.

I confess that I haven’t used this book as often as I might, but when a friend’s hubby said he was giving away books, well, first, who says no to a free book? and second, this one looked handy when it came to describing things I wasn’t familiar with. There are lots of pictures and descriptions of those pictures so you can understand what different weapons are, different costumes, etc. Again, a fair bit of fun to thumb through.

bodylangThe Definitive Book of Body Language. By Allan and Barbara Pease.

This was purchased in relation to writing, and because it was really interesting when I read through it somewhat randomly the first time (have no idea why I picked it up). As well as being handy for understanding body language so you can write about it, try reading it and then go out for dinner with friends, or especially with people you don’t know very well. It’s great fun all dinner long to read what their body language is saying, so much more interesting than the conversation. πŸ™‚

You Can Read Anyone: Never Be Fooled, Lied To, or Taken Advantage of Again. By David J. Lieberman.

Yep, I got hooked on body language books, which is why I followed up the Peases’ book with this one. Also interesting, it delves into a bit more detail, and is especially used for kind of criminal profiling – though it also goes into why a read can be flawed on the basis of nervousness, etc. I, for example, swear I look like the most guilty person in the airport, because though I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m terrified I’ll be caught doing something and miss my flight.

bookromeTraveller’s Guide to the Ancient World: Rome in the Year AD 300. By Ray Laurence.

This was a bargain pick-up, and because someday, I swear I’m going to write a book with Ancient Rome in it. This one is a lot of fun because it’s formatted just like a modern travel book, which makes is super easy to find all kinds of information you’d be hard pressed to otherwise. I haven’t read – or double-checked – the sources and authenticity since I haven’t had to, but if you want it for actual reference, that would probably be a good idea. I’m not entirely certain how factual it is, but it is fun.

A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. By Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack.

I did mention these were weird and rather random books, right? This is an interesting book in how it’s written – as though you’re actually out encountering or hunting down demons. A bit strange, but definitely interesting for the perspective.

Planet Cat: A cat-alog. By Sandra Choron, Harry Choron, and Arden Moore.planetcat

I like cats, which is where this book originates. But I found, to my surprise, that it’s also a great source for weird cat-trivia which could come in handy if you happen to have a feline character. There’s tons of myth, famous cats, history, cat in context to said history, that sort of thing. No, you probably aren’t going to find a use for most (all?) of the info in here, but more fun than you’d probably expect.

birthdayencycThe Element Encyclopedia of Birthdays: know your birthday, discover your true personality, reveal your destiny. By Theresa Cheung.

Ah, and at last we end on my favorite weird-ass book. It grabbed the attention of my husband and I in the bookstore, and despite it’s price tag, it came home with us. It’s also often flipped through by friends when they see it, and I confess to looking up most of my friends and family to see what it has to say. (Oh, and characters for books too – though again, less research, more play.)

So what the heck is it, you ask? It’s an encyclopedia of birthdays, breaking it down by zodiac, numerology and other systems, so you can look at general “sign” information, as well as just look up your birthday and read an assessment of your personality. For example, if your birthday were today, July 26, you’d find (p297):

“this is the birthday of self-assurance.

“People born on July 26 tend to be charming and strong individuals with an almost unshakable belief in themselves. … Other people tend to listen when these dominant personalities speak because they have an air about them which others respect and admire. … From the age of twenty-seven, they have an increasing desire for more practical order, efficiency, and analysis in their lives. In the years that follow, it is important for their pscyhological growth that they don’t become over-confident …”

“On the dark-side: over-confident, tactless, uncompromising.”

“At your best: honest, authoritative, confident.”

Neat, huh? Trust me, lots of time can vanish just playing with this book.

So, what are your favorite weird-ass books – whether they live in your home or not? Why do they make your list? What makes them special?

Thanks for reading, and speaking of vanishing time, I better get back to work. πŸ™‚ Hope you have a great week, and hey, if you liked this post, why not follow the blog? Have a good one. πŸ™‚

Random Scribblings pt 1: Potential Paranormal Villains

Do you have one of those weird books where you scribble down random research notes or thoughts that occur to you for the next book, potential characters, interesting species? I do. It’s a mess of a thing (I’m going to get more organized, I swear … one of these days). But, it does provide for interesting reading when you go back and wonder, what, exactly was I thinking when I wrote THAT?

It also sometimes becomes the short-hand for just the type of creature / paranormal I was looking for. Perhaps today’s post will help you, since I’m sharing my potential list of ΓΌber bad-guys (or who knows, they could become the hero). πŸ™‚

Asahkku – name of an ancient Babylonian disease demon, considered responsible for tuberculosis. (Wasn’t sure I wanted everyone getting sick, but if you do, hey, this one has potential.)

Asto Vidatu – from Persian myth, this is a demon, chief agent of supreme evil, and his name means “Disintegrator of Bodies” (sounds like fun at a party, huh?). He is given the task of consuming those destined for hell, and was eventually venerated as the God of Death. (Just to let you know, this program wouldn’t allow the correct spelling. It’s actually A-S-T-O with a line on-top, then V-I-D-A with a line on top – T-U. Sorry, I have no idea what the letters with a line on top are called.)

Irra – A disease demon in Babylonian myth, particularly known for the plague.

Kikiades – a name for demons in the folklore of modern Greece. The name means “Bad Ones.” (Doesn’t this scream with potential for some kind of gang of sexy men? So much so, wonder who’s found it already?)

Namtar – An Egyptian demon, guardian of the underworld. In ancient Mesopotamia, the name meant “That Which is Cut Off.”

The Seven Whistlers – A group of evil spirits in the folklore of Worcestershire, who manifest on stormy nights or at sunset. They portend misfortune and disaster to any who hear their shrieks and whistling across the skies. They come one by one. If all seven should come together, the end of the world is nigh. (Yes, I’ve probably mentioned them before. Who can resist what sounds like Snow White’s seven evil dwarfs? They even whistle as they work … at ending the world.)

Dragon of the Apocalypse – an apocalyptic beast (bet you didn’t see that coming what with the name and all). Many serpent-like beasts mark the potential apocalypse. (And I’m a sucker for dragons, which is why this guy gets listed).

So, do any of these fellows catch your attention, grab you imagination? How do you keep track of your supernatural world or find potential myths and legends to work with?

Thanks for reading, and have an awesome week. πŸ™‚

Basic Plot Structure 101

I’ve been obsessing over plot structure recently. And, I’ve made some discoveries and had some major “aha!” moments. So perhaps you can take a shorter route there, I’ve decided to try and share with you what I’ve learned about basic story structure.

Plot Structure

So, first we start with our lovely diagram (yes, I drew it myself). You can see the basic plot arc that looks basically like a really lame mountain range. This is basic 3 Act Structure. But, seeing as how I’ve always been annoyed that the 3 Acts ends up Act 1, Act 2 part 1, Act 2 part 2, and Act 3, I prefer the four parts, as used by Mr. Brooks (more on him later).

Part 1: The Set-up. This is where your characters and ordinary world are introduced, and lasts roughly the first 1/4 of your book. You start off with a Hook, which may be accompanied, or followed by the Initial Incident, that is, the first event in the book that is a big deal for your protagonist. It will be dramatic (sometimes called “The Call,”) and much of the first part is the Argument phase as your protagonist decides how to respond to the initial incident that has changed his world. This is not to be confused with the First Plot Point, sometimes known as the End of the Beginning, which ends Part 1. The First Plot Point changes the hero’s world profoundly, such that s/he is thrust into “The New World” phase of Part 2, and defines the conflict that will carry the rest of the book.

Part 2: The Response. This is where you show your protagonist encountering the New World and how they respond to the challenges presented by the First Plot Point and the conflict of the book (often in the form of challenges raised by the antagonist). The protagonist now has a quest and conflict, but he doesn’t know where to go or what to do. S/he will usually react in the same ways they always have – they haven’t experienced profound change yet. This section ends at the Midpoint, which can either be a false victory or a low point. The Midpoint provides information that profoundly changes the protagonist and the understanding of hero and reader.

Part 3: The Attack. No longer wandering lost, the protagonist now actively pursues the antagonist and searches out ways to defeat challenges, warrior-like. S/he also understands that they need to change to succeed. The Antagonist, however, gets increasingly stronger, providing more challenges. This act ends after the Crisis or the Second Plot Point, which provides all the information the protagonist needs for the climax, and is often the lowest point for the protagonist (The All is Lost / Whiff of Death). The terms of the climactic final battle are usually clear by this point.

Part 4: Resolution. Action increases and speeds up as the protagonist and your reader are hurtled along towards the inevitable climax. The protagonist accepts that s/he may not succeed, but is willing to fight to the last against the antagonist, or sacrifice themselves to the cause if necessary and to achieve their goal. The climax hits, and the protagonist battles an often losing battle, until he takes hold of all that he’s learned (over the course of the book) and hopefully the solution to achieving his/her goals. After the smoke clears from the battle, there is some indication of the new state of the world post-climax, providing understanding and closure for the protagonist and reader.

So, totally and completely clear, right? πŸ˜‰

Don’t worry. That’s why I’m providing you with some books to go and learn more. They’re not paying me anything to recommend their books, I swear. But these three books are where I’ve learned a huge amount about plotting, and which I highly recommend. In no particular order:

The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master. By Martha Alderson. (2011).

I like this book for clearly explaining and going over the general structure, and specifically each “Energy Marker,” as she refers to the main plot points.

Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling. By Larry Brooks. (2013).

He also has “Story Engineering,” but I haven’t read that one, so can’t recommend it. This one I like for the explanation of some of the other elements of plot, and while I don’t find his plot structure arc the prettiest, it does have a few helpful other points I hadn’t considered before. He also uses examples from other books to help illustrate how plot works – especially when and why it works really well.

The Story Template. By Amy Deardon. (2011).

I love lists and clear charts, and this book has lot. It goes through with free-writing exercises to understand and plot your own work, but (especially in re-write phase), I found the Comprehensive Template Cheat Sheet of Chapter 9 awesome. Here she breaks down in list-form all aspects of the plot – including how layers work together – and gives you a check-list either for when you’re plotting (or as I was, restructuring) a novel.

So, are you a plot structure expert? What did you find the hardest element to master? What tips about structure do you have for other writers out there? Any books or resources you’d recommend?

Thanks for reading and commenting. And hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog. I don’t usually bite. πŸ˜‰

Regency Cops and Robbers: The Robbers

Last week I gave you a very brief overview of the law enforcement provided by the Watch and the Bow Street Runners. This week, we take a look at the criminals.

Fact is, not having an organized police force on the streets, coupled with extremely punishing laws that did little to equalize the level of crime with the level of punishment: if you could get hanged for robbery or murder, better to kill the witnesses, don’t you think? This all meant that Regency streets – especially in London – were ripe with crime.

If you’re familiar with Mayhew’s “London Labour and the London Poor,” he examines the poor districts during the later Victorian period, describing in detail the squalor of the living arrangements, the “dens of iniquity” where starting as children, criminals were shaped, honed, and trained in all illegal activity imaginable in underground rookeries. Accounts suggest that the Regency was the start and development of labyrinths of districts – notably the East End of London – which became criminal cesspits.

Even when there were honest poor in the areas trying to make a living, they were accompanied by many driven by desperation, greed, or perhaps other factors that made them turn to crime. When large numbers of country dwellers were moving to the city, accompanied by returning soldiers who had no provision and could possibly be unemployable, further strain is placed on the city.

Leigh’s New Picture of London among other resources paints a rather dark picture of city supposed to have not less than 30,000 prostitutes, and upwards of 3,000 receivers of various kinds of stolen property (see the section on Police of the Metropolis: 1819, found at: http:www.londonancestor.com/leighs/pol.htm).

Robberies, house breakings, all of these were organized and common. The visitor is suggested to beware Sharpers (who obtain licenses as pawn brokers), Swindlers (who take out licenses for auctions where false merchandise is sold or otherwise bamboozle your money), and Sharpers (those who pretend to be of the upper classes, essentially conmen and women).

It was well-known by 1816 that Field Land in Smithfield was the haunt of receivers and young thieves, whereas Petticoat Lane was the best place to dispose of stolen goods. St. Giles, though, was the worst (or best, if you were a criminal). St. Giles had an evil reputation because of how easily accessible it was from fashionable Leicester Square, the Haymarket, and Regent Street. Buildings were decayed and a warren of narrow alleys and streets where a criminal in the know could easily lose pursuers. (For more on St. Giles, see p58, London’s Underworld: Three Centuries of Vice and Crime, by Fergus Linnane.)

Even if you were dead you weren’t safe from criminals: with a need for more medical knowledge and laws against getting cadavars in legal fashion, you have the body snatchers. They stole recently buried corpses to sell to medical schools and universities for dissection (and which caused havoc in already problematic graveyards – more on them another day.)

One of the most horrendous crimes of the day occurred on December 7, 1811, when residents in London’s East End near the Ratcliffe Highway docks were brutally murdered in their homes. Resident Timothy Marr was closing up shop with his wife and apprentice when an intruder slipped in and murdered them all, as well as the baby in another room by bashing in their heads and slashing their throats. A seaman’s maul with the initials “J.P.” was recovered at the scene, but there were no other clues.

Two weeks later, on December 19, down the road a family staying at the King’s Arms Inn were similarly slaughtered. London was terrified.

Irish sailor, John Williams, was suspected on circumstantial evidence, but was never tried because he hanged himself first in the Coldbath Fields Prison (see p22-23, Beating the Devil’s Game, by Katherine Ramsland for more.)

So, what do you think? Do you too find the darker side (and perhaps the more honest side) of the Regency period intriguing? Have you stumbled upon any similar sidenotes?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Oh, and if you liked the post, why not follow the blog? Have a good one. πŸ™‚

Do you Believe? Normal vs Paranormal

Do you believe in magic and the paranormal?

Do you believe the ghost stories you’ve heard are true? Do you search for fairies? What about monsters? Do you believe in witches and sorcerers? Do you believe in powers like telepathy, prophecy, and others? Do you believe there is some other explanation for some events that science can never approach? Do you believe a kernel of truth lies at the heart of myth and legend?

Well, do you?

It’s a funny thing that when I’ve met “true believers,” they’re often labelled as flakes, a bit naive at best for not simply accepting the mundane, secular world we live in dominated by science and technology. Children are allowed to exercise their imagination and believe in all that the world has to offer, all it could offer. But when we enter adulthood we are expected to set aside these beliefs and naivety and understand that is it science, logic, and the mundane that provide our answers. Then you have those who throw themselves towards the other end, the self-proclaimed skeptics who don’t believe in anything, and will be sure to tell you so (doth the lady protest too much?).

I would like to believe, but I’m not sure if I do or not. While I have faith in other beliefs, I do not believe fairies inhabit my garden (if they did, I’d hope my gardens looked a heck of a lot better, and would a bit of weeding kill them?).

Surely where there is smoke there is at least a bit of kindling. How else do we have strangely similar legends of creatures like vampires and werewolves across great distances, on almost every continent, in every language? They have different names, but the similarities are there. Can coincidence correctly explain all of these myths? What truths lie beneath?

Do I believe that every ghost story I’ve ever heard is true? That every myth I read is based on complete and utter certainty, cold-hard fact? Certainly not – but then, I have a hearty skepticism whenever anyone purports to know the one and only “truth.”

And yet …

Shortly after my paternal grandmother passed away, and our family was gathered at her home for the funeral, there were a few rather odd things that happened. Each and every one of us grand-children won a stuffed animal at one of those claw-game things. Then there was the brick found in the washing machine (though seriously, I have no idea how that would be connected; it was just weird).

And then there are the places I have traveled, where the hairs on the back of my neck have whispered that I was not alone. There are rooms in houses I did not want to be alone in, and could never explain why. I have felt the weight of an animal against my feet while I sleep, but I look to find no animal there. I have heard footsteps on a basement floor in the concrete hallway outside my bedroom door. And the half-dim of an almost burned out light bulb always makes me shudder – it’s the lighting of my nightmares, when I finally open the door to investigate those footsteps.

Do I believe? Perhaps. Or perhaps I merely want to, and at times need to. Is it only the yearning for something more, something outside what we can see and define with our limited means?

What about you? Do you believe in magic and the paranormal? Are you a believer? Or, are you a skeptic?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a magical week. πŸ˜‰ Oh, and if you liked the post, why not sign up to follow the blog? Have a good one.

How Batman Saved My Book – And He Can Save Yours Too!

I have been in the midst of stressing over rewriting and restructuring my book. It’s become an obsession, especially regarding the plot structure. Which is how Batman comes into the picture.

You see, I took a bit of a break and watched the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy. And by the time I got through Dark Knight Rises (my favorite), things finally started to click as I analyzed the movie and plot structure while watching (I’ll try not to offer spoilers if you haven’t seen it.)

Part 1 – The Set-up – The world is revealed where we learn 8 years have passed since the actions of the last movie, in which time Bruce Wayne / Batman has become a recluse. Meanwhile, we meet Bane (the villain) and see him doing horrible things we don’t fully understand yet. Then there’s Selina Kyle / Catwoman. The actions of Commissioner Gordon and his regret about the lies he’s had to keep. And of course, Officer Blake, a young Gotham officer with a clear sense of moral justice – and sometimes in conflict with the situation.

What’s fascinating is watching all the characters going about their own path (their Ordinary World), while it was clear they were all heading on an intercept course without knowing it. Until bang! You hit the First Plot Point and Gotham is under direct threat.

Part 2 – The Response – The characters – including and especially the protagonist Batman – try to react to Bane’s threat, but they try to do it the way they always have. Batman has been out of commission for too long, and he’s not a young man anymore. Which leads to the Midpoint, when he loses those most important to him, is defeated, almost killed, and betrayed.

Part 3 – The Attack – Imprisoned, Batman must watch while Gotham suffers under Bane, Bruce Wayne’s greatest fear. The citizens of Gotham – and the other characters left behind – fight to survive and act without their biggest asset: Batman. Only when Batman is able to solve the secret to escaping the prison – and his own weakness – can he head back to save the day.

Part 4 – Batman arrives back, just in time before the city is destroyed. With his new power and understanding, he brings together all of the disparate forces so they can respond with strength and win the day. In the end, he finds a way to achieve what has become his ultimate goal: a way to no longer be Batman.

So, how did this save my book? Because by analyzing it, I was able to see how it worked – and worked well – and then apply the same logic to my plot. So indeed, by doing the same, Batman can save you too (or another well-plotted book / movie of your choice if Batman isn’t your thing).

Next week I’ll discuss the 4 stage plot structure in more detail.

But before I go: Has watching a movie or reading a non-craft book ever helped your writing? What has helped you learn and understand the elements of writing?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a fantastic writing week. Oh, and hey: like the post? Why not follow the blog? πŸ™‚ Have a good one.

Regency Cops and Robbers: Pt 1: The Cops

Watchmen Source: www.fromoldbooks.org
Watchmen
Source: www.fromoldbooks.org

While the Regency is often remembered / thought of in relation to Jane Austen, the social activities of the ton, and perhaps some connection to Waterloo and the Peninsular Wars, it’s also an interesting time socially. And it definitely has a dark side.

Now, I’m not going to get into all the details about the legal system, but I did want to talk about policing in the Metropolis (London) during the Regency. Mostly ’cause it means I get to introduce you to the Bow Street Runners. πŸ™‚

So, while socially balls and swanning around through London as you pursued the marriage mart during the London Social Season was lots of fun during the Regency period, was often gets neglected is the high levels of crime during this same period. Especially following the Peninsular Wars and Waterloo, you had the return of soldiers back to England. Problem was, there wasn’t provision for what to do with all of them, and many were left impoverished and on the street. This only added to the pressure in London already brought about by the influx of newcomers moving from the countrysides into the city. Unfortunately, many found lives of destitution and want in the poorer districts. And of course, when you have lots of people, lots of poverty, you also have an increase in crime as desperation drives people’s actions.

I have read descriptions where some people installed bars on their carriage windows to prevent muggings. Traveling through the countryside, there was a fairly substantial opportunity for highway robbery – and ending up dead in a ditch if you were especially unlucky. The East End of London, with narrow side-streets and twisting, turning alleyways with poor lighting – along with the Southwark district across the river from the fashionable West End – were considered particularly ripe with crime. But, even if you lived in the West End in a fashionable district, it didn’t mean you were safe. Your house could be burgled, you could be pick-pocketed, or perhaps conned by a “sharp” (conman).

Now, while in modern times high crime generally means higher investment in policing, this isn’t what happened in Regency London – at least, not until the end of the period. Englishmen feared having what they saw as a militarized state and living under martial law, where their rights and freedoms were at risk. Better, they thought, to put up with the crime and handle it as they could than lose their freedom. Law then came under a “hue and cry” system, whereby if you saw a crime being committed, you set up the hue and cry and chased down the perpetrator (or got help doing so), before turning them over to the local law, often the magistrate.

There were, however, two legal parties at work in London: The Watch, and the Bow Street Runners.

The Watch (Watchmen or “Charlies” as they were known) were organized throughout the districts of London, and essentially were expected to patrol or stand in their “watch boxes” out in the streets – available to hear the hue and cry and hopefully come to your assistance. They were a fairly ancient London institution. If you wanted someone arrested for something, if you cried for help and someone answered, it was probably going to be the Watch, somewhat like modern “beat cops.” (You could also apply to the parish constable, a position appointed for the year, but also often of dubious utility.)

The problem with the Watch is that they had a reputation for being lazy, too old, overweight, and generally useless. That is not to say they were – but such was their reputation, and sometimes deservedly. For most ordinary citizens, this is what you had to help you. They were often selected from the humblest of classes, and this was often the only money they could bring in. It was their job to keep order, receive offenders (and deliver them to magistrates), and watch for fire.

Then there are the Bow Street Runners. They were set up near the mid to late 18th century by the Fielding brothers, and started out as something of a “thief-takers” – that is, they were paid for each thief that they brought to justice. That system inevitably led to corruption. By the Regency, the Bow Street Runners had nine divisions, were paid a salary, and had something of a uniform to identify them (as it was feared they could be government spies otherwise). While we know them all now as “runners,” senior Bow Street personnel considered this derogatory, and referred to themselves as Principal Officers. Runner really was used to describe a messenger or minor member of the organization, and dates back to at least the 17th c. (Cox, 1.)

The Police Offices operated on three levels: first, it was a judicial center, the site of the magistrates where people from the City of Westminister could bring or defend charges. Second, it was the hub of executive law enforcement. And finally, it acted as an administrative center where victims from throughout Britain could apply for the services of a Principal Officer (Cox, 32). By 1805, the Horse Patrol was re-established to patrol the turnpike roads – and generally rid the area of highway robbers. Most often Bow Street would be called in for the case of a felony, as they were better at investigating than the Watch. And, while they did gain their own reputation for corruption, there were many excellent officers. When the Metropolitan Police came into being in 1839, the detective branch was largely made up of Bow Street, since the shiny new police force otherwise wasn’t very good at investigating. πŸ™‚

So, interesting? Any questions? Is there anything you’d like to know specifically about Regency policing? I can try to answer – or at least point you in the right direction. πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading. Next week: the criminals and some crime. πŸ™‚ Hey, like the post? Why not follow the blog.

My sources for this are generally as follows:

Cox, David J. A Certain Share of Low Cunning: A history of the Bow Street Runners, 1792-1839

Babington, Anthony, et al. A House in Bow Street: Crime and the Magistracy, London 1740-1881.

Goddard, Henry. Memoirs of a Bow Street Runner.

Pringle, Patrick. Hue and Cry.

 

 

 

Potential Magical / Pscyhic Abilities

Hello there! So, thinking about gaining some supernatural abilities? Or, you know, making up a character who has them?

Either way, here’s a list to choose from. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

  • Astral projection – out-of-body experiences
  • clairvoyance / future sight / precognition
  • levitation
  • mind control
  • prophecy
  • remote viewing
  • telekinesis – ability to move things with your mind
  • telepathy – read minds
  • clairsentience – pick up sensations and relate messages through this.
  • clairempathy – to feel emotions from beyond the natural realm
  • combat sense – martial art of sensing what a combatant’s next move will be.
  • empath / sensitive – taking on other’s emotions, feeling them as your won.
  • genethlialogy – astrologically predicting the destiny of a newborn.
  • phyllorhodomancy – slapping rose petals against the palm and judging the future by the loudness of the clap (or the sound of the clap). Ancient Greek practice.
  • sortilege – medieval term for sorcery or one who divines
  • aerokinesis – ability to control or general wind and air
  • atmokinesis – control and mentally affect the weather
  • chlorokinesis – control plant life
  • solarkinesis – produce solar energy or heat; can be used like the sun (wouldn’t this make an awesome vampire-hunter?) πŸ™‚
  • omnilingualism – ability to decipher any language
  • psychometry – gather details about the past and / or future of an object, person, or location, usually by being in close contact with it. Otherwise seen as gathering information / impressions from physical objects.
  • stichomancy – random opening of a book in hopes that the passage will reveal the future. (related to rhapsodomancy, which is divination by randomly opening a book of poetry specifically for the same reason, or bibliomancy.)
  • technopathy – control technology with your mind (I’m going to do this so I can actually make my electronics do what they’re supposed to!) πŸ™‚
  • absorbtion – absorb various forms of energy and release it either as a similar effect or altered with other powers
  • echolocation – determine the location of objects in an environment using reflected sound waves (I’d like to see a non-bat character do this.) πŸ™‚
  • temporal stasis – ability to slow down (or “freeze”) the molecules in an object until they stop moving.
  • photographic reflexes – ability to mimic any movement (athletic / martial arts) after seeing it once.
  • transmogrification – changing shape or form, even into inanimate objects.
  • aeromancy – divination from the air and sky, such as cloud shapes, comets, or sky color.
  • augury – interpreting signs and omens, but also fortune-telling in general.
  • margaritomancy – pearls under a pot (it’s said they bounce if a guilty person approaches.)
  • oomantia (also ooscopy, ovimancy) – reading eggs for omens and signs; fairly ancient divination technique
  • tiromancy – examining cheese for omens and signs
  • And my personal favorite divination tool:
  • geloscopy: divining the future from laughter. (Sounds like a fun way to live life, doesn’t it?) πŸ™‚

So, any magical powers I really should have on my list? Mostly I’ve just listed the unusual or those that especially intrigue me. What about you?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week. Oh, and hey, like the post? Why not sign up to follow the blog?

Have a good one. πŸ™‚