Regency and Research

Regency Graveyards, Pt1

The Crypt, St. Bartholomews Church. Source:
The Crypt, St. Bartholomews Church. Source:

Remember how I mentioned that I have a thirst for the unusual when it comes to the Regency period? As a result, I have been combing resources (online and elsewhere) for information about Regency graveyards.

First note: if you want to do the same search, save yourself some aggravation, and use the search term “cemetery” instead. While the term graveyard is used, in the context it generally seems to refer to Churchyard burials rather than the larger public burial places.

So, the search started off discovering a fair bit of information about burial customs. That is, when someone died, it was often the family – usually the females of the house – who would dress and care for the body. Then, while there may have been some kind of service in a church, females rarely came out to the graveyard, considered too “delicate” for these matters. I thought this a bit strange – they hadn’t been too delicate to care for the corpse.

Then I did a bit more research.

You know the saying “6 feet under” and those cracked and ruined graveyards with moss and trees, melancholy yet picturesque? Yeah. Very much a Victorian invention, and created after things reached horrific terms by the 1820s  – 1840s.

Graveyards were noxious places. There were two central problems: grave robbers, and open graves. For while the rich were privileged enough to often have private burial places perhaps at churchyards or in family graveyards on the ancestral estate, others were not so fortunate. Graves were packed tightly together in a square formation – no wide walking paths, but narrow passage between groups of them. Worse, as populations, especially in major cities, increased, there were naturally more dead to bury. This often necessitated a grave that might be dug six feet, perhaps deeper – but it wasn’t closed before more than one body was interred, leaving perhaps a foot of earth covering the coffin if there was one, sometimes less.

Yes, by this time I was thinking I, too, would have been too delicate for the graveyard.

As today, there was still a fee for burial. And for those lacking funds? You could inter your loved ones for a time, after which their “parking spot” expired, and the remains would be removed, trundled off in the night for a fertilizer plant, all to make room for new arrivals. How long the body stayed there depended on the watchfulness of the surviving family, and sometimes just the caprice of the graveyard keepers.

This was one of the few advertisements I found directly hinting at Regency conditions:

New Bunhill Fields Burial Ground, Church Steet, Islington – This extensive GROUND has been prepared with a view to prevent those shocking depredations which now afflict the public mind: it is securely enclosed, carefully guarded, and will always be well lighted during the winter months; it also offers the best security against profane intrusion, because dry graves may be sunk in it to a depth defying such attempts, viz. 10, 15, 20 feet, or as much further as may be desired: the public will easily perceive that a grave which demands the incessant labour of two men during two long days to sink, and requires many shoring planks, must be placed beyond the power of violation. Orders for funerals taken in by the sexton, on the premises, of whom cards of the dues and fees may be had. By the particular request of several of the principal undertakers, a large general vault has been constructed, in which all interments must be in lead or iron.
    Advertisement in The Times, December 15th 1818

[source 1=”” language=”:”][/source]

High walls and strong internment caskets to keep out grave robbers (the bodies were only good if still fresh). Not certain if the lead and iron internments were just to prevent robbery. The problem with them was that sometimes, having no air holes, they could explode.

I had trouble finding contemporary account of cemeteries (weird, huh? Didn’t they know someone would want such strange information someday?).

I’ll offer just this tiny tidbit to start to give you an idea. This is a brief description of Clement’s Lane, in London.

“… The back windows of the houses on the east side of the lane look into a burying ground called the ” Green Ground,” in Portugal Street, presently to be described ; on the west side the windows (if open) permit the odour of another burying place — a private one, called Enon Chapel — to perflate the houses ; at the bottom — the south end — of this Lane, is another burying place, belonging to the Alms Houses, (‘) within a few feet of the Strand, and in the centre of the Strand are the burying ground and vaults of St. Clement Danes ; in addition to which, there are several slaughter houses in the immediate neighbourhood : so that in a distance of about two hundred yards, in a direct line there are four burying grounds ; …” [source 1=”Gatherings” 2=”from” 3=”Grave” 4=”Yards,” 5=”by” 6=”G.A.” 7=”Walker,” 8=”p149″ language=”:”][/source]

So, this post has already gotten unbearably long. 😉 Thanks for reading – curious?

Here are a few resources you can check out, available free from Google Books:

Report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. Edwin Chadwick (sir.) [1843]

Gatherings from Grave Yards: Particularly Those of London. With a concise History of the modes of internment among different Nations from earliest periods. And a detail of Dangerous and Fatal results produced by the unwise & revolting custom of inhuming the dead in the midst of the living. By G. A. Walker, Surgeon. 1830. [had to include the full title; kind of explains what the book is. 🙂 ]

The Funeral Guide: or, A correct list of the burial fees, & of the various grounds in the metropolis &c. five miles round. John Cauch [1840]

The Paranormal

Some Recommended Reads

Okay, so I’m fresh out of monsters today – or monstrous research (don’t worry, I’ll have more soon.)

So, thought I’d share some of the great reads I’ve been enjoying this summer.

51T6dDa3BTL._AA200_First up, Amanda Steven’s Graveyard Queen series. I started with The Kingdom. Second in the series, and my favorite even after reading the remainder of the books. As a writer, I learned a huge amount just reading these books about how to create fabulous setting – and how it’s really supposed to work. But that was while enjoying a great story about a mysterious young woman who professionally restores graveyards and can see ghosts – but tries to pretend she can’t. The atmosphere and the creepy-yet sweet – yet funny combination of the story and writing was so unusual and engaging, as soon as I finished one book, I had to have the others … and now I eagerly anticipate the fourth! Beware: these books are deliciously addictive. 😉


Recently, I’ve found myself engaged by Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series. I’m becoming more of an urban fantasy fan, and I like my reads 517c8apFNlL._SL200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU15_AA200_funny, as this one is. The first book in the series is Hounded. Herein you meet “Atticus O’Sullivan, rare book salesman, herb peddler, and 2,000 year old druid – the last of his kind”(source: Kevin Hearne’s site). They’re set in the modern day, where gods of every size and denomination romp around. There’s a talking hound, and a lot of fun mythology and geek-culture references. I enjoy that the stories are fun, yet make me laugh and think, written in a funny, easy-to-enjoy style. I’m finished up to book 3, Hammered, which was my favorite one yet.

Hope you enjoy – and hopefully more beasties and paranormal beats for you next week. 🙂

What are some of the books you’re reading now? Any you’d recommend?

Thanks for reading – and sharing. Have a great week!


Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Phase 4: Micro Assessment and Changes

March2013 003We’ve made it. We’ve arrived at the final phase of the rewrite, and from here, you know you can succeed. (Um, is it just me, or have I really been that obsessed with plot structure that I think the 4 phases are also based on the four plot sections?) Well, good news is, we have just the climax ahead, and we will succeed – no martyrdom allowed here.

So, the 5 steps of the final phase: Micro Assessment and Changes.

  1. Read through and make notes as you did on step 1 of Phase 1. If possible, do a search and highlight of overused words / phrases, throw-away words, etc. Look for awkward wording, anything unclear, and particular weaknesses (like a tendency for talking heads or lack of setting, etc.) Note opportunities to fine tune scenes, along with suggestions. Again, I highly recommend doing a read-through and only making notes in this phase. If you start making changes, you’ll get caught up and not be able to enjoy the “read” as hopefully your readers will.
  2. Assess. Are there still big problems? Loose ends? Stray plot threads? If so, go back to phase 1 and start again. (I’m sorry, I know that hurts!) If not, then proceed.
  3. Correct and Implement. Using your notes, make the minor corrections like deleting extra words, tightening up sentences, and making scenes as strong as possible. Consider heightening description, the use of the five senses and imagery. If your gut says something still isn’t working, go back and correct it. BUT, don’t get caught up in the need for absolute perfection; it’s a losing battle.
  4. Celebrate! You’ve completed rewrites. Now you can go on and do things like marketing material, send it out, etc.
  5. Get to work on your next book. You’re a writer. That’s what you do. 🙂

So, you’ve survived the four phases of rewrites.

I love hearing from you. How did you do? Any sections you suffered through? Any tweaks or suggestions for improving the method? What’s your next plan?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a terrific week. Oh, and if you liked the series, why not follow the blog? There’s sure to be more. 🙂

Regency and Research

Stress Driving You Mad?: St. Luke’s Hospital

Bedlam, or Bethlem, Hospital has achieved such historic notoriety, certainly most of us have heard of it. Here it was that pauper lunatics were sent up until 1751.

Now, the sad fact was that the 18th and early 19th centuries were not kind to lunatics. They were often treated little better than animals. If they were lucky enough to have wealthy relatives, somebody was paid to care and keep them out of the way. For the rest of them, Bedlam was designed specifically for the purpose. Perhaps most disturbing to modern sensibilities was the addition of galleries and methods so that visitors could go to visit Bedlam and laugh and jeer at the poor lunatics trapped there.

So, note to self: if I am trapped in Regency England and declared mad, St. Luke’s is the way to go. No provisions were made for laughing and jeering at the lunatics.

This picture, again from Microcosm of London, shows St. Luke’s Hospital, one of the galleries in the female wing. By historical standards, it was quite humane. The room is clean, some of the women are working, others take turns around the room. None of them are chained, and each lunatic is provided with a bed, blankets, and if “her habits were clean enough”, sheets. Yes, again I look to my tiny 1940 edition, and John Summerson’s helpful notes.

Summerson writes:

“The building is very like a prison and was, indeed, designed by George Dance, the architect of Newgate Gaol. Dance was an artist of extraordinary power and a grim theme sometimes drew out the best in him. This gallery, with its long thin windows, fantastically high cell doors and iron grilles, might be a stage set for the Duchess of Malfi. Compare it to Dance’s Chapel at Newgate [see Aug 16th post], another specimen of the art of being architecturally grim. Today we disapprove of architecture which deliberately dramatises unpleasant things. A madhouse which looked like a setting for the hallucinations of madmen would never do. It must look like a gentleman’s residence and must be called, not a mad-house, or even a lunatic asylum, but a ‘mental home.'” (- Summerson, 19-20, Microcosm of London, 1943)

I included the last bit because I found it rather amusing, his ascerbic notation – because in designing buildings today, we’re also conscious of making them more “friendly” for the most part. Of course, we also know (or think we know) that different environments have different effects on patients and inmates (depending on whether it’s a hospital or prison – often designed by similar people).

What do you think? Does this hospital look suitable for the mad? What improvements do you think we’ve made since then? What perhaps have we forgotten? Curious about anything else? Do leave a note – you know you want to. 😉

Thanks for reading, and hey, like the post? Why not sign up for the blog and never miss a thing. Hope you have a fantastic week. 🙂

The Journey to Publication

On Lady Luck’s Bad Side

Do you believe in a deity or force that somehow controls your luck and good fortune? Maybe whether good things come your way or not? I know I use and have heard terms like your guardian angel / deity of choice / Lady Luck / Good Fortune is looking out for you when good things happen. Then there’s life under a black cloud or enmity of a deity or that somehow the “universe” is out to get you when things look bad.

You may have noticed today’s post is, well, really late. It’s been kind of one of those weeks / months here at our house. For me, I’m not sure whether it’s autumn sneaking up (which means it’s bad big brother winter is lurking nearby), and being stuck in rewrites now for what’s just passed the one year mark. Hubby is likewise having a hard time at work, and it’s unusual for both of us to be down at the same time.

Just look for the black cloud, and you could probably follow it to our house.

But here’s the thing: while I may say that some supernatural / outside force is what somehow forces us to be unhappy, that’s total B.S. While I don’t think the universe is out to get us, I also don’t think it much cares what we do. What matters most is how we deal with it at the end of the day (either in a literal sense of end of the day, or metaphorically looking back over the course of our lives).

WE decide whether we are happy or satisfied. WE decide to be happy … or conversely, to be unhappy. So if there is a black cloud or grumpiness demon, we attracted him with our own grumpy-ass nature and decisions.

Sure, it can be annoying as all heck to consider that gee, I’ve decided to be unhappy? But it can also be empowering, because it means we have the choice to remember to be grateful for all the wonderful things that ARE in our lives, rather than focusing on the less-than-perfect aspects.

So anyway, I’m going to go out with a broom on the roof now and shoo that cloud away – and grumpiness demon, I’m after YOU next. Then I’m going to sit down and get to work, and figure out how to make my writing better (and finish the darned rewrites!), as well as make my life better by focusing on the good bits rather instead.

What about you? Dark clouds on your horizon, or are things sunny and clear? Do you truly believe you can determine your own happiness?

Love to hear from you. And thanks for stopping by. Oh, and if you’re new and like the post, why not follow the blog?

Have a great week, all, good, bad, or ugly. 😉


Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Phase 3: Implementation of Macro Changes

Hello, and welcome back. Hope you’re full of energy and enthusiasm, because today we look at Phase 3: Implementation of Macro Changes which is probably the hardest bit. Today we enter the real meat of rewrites. You know, the actual “rewriting” bit.

Okay, so get ready. Get yourself psyched, remind yourself that you know what you’re doing (yes, do it anyway, even if you don’t feel like it), and get your materials in order. You will need your chapter by chapter outline with the initial notes you made on the manuscript. Your “new order” outline / summary. And lots and lots of energy. 🙂

These steps can vary a bit in the order you address them (for example, you may want to create new scenes before messing around with the order of the old, etc.) The point here, though, is to try and work non-linearly so you put off re-reading the entirety of the manuscript as long as possible, thereby trying to avoid the “I hate this stupid thing in a horrible bad way” feeling.

So, off we go on the 5 steps of Phase 3: Implementation of Macro Changes:

  1. Start by re-saving you manuscript under a new draft. This is a personal thing, since I like to keep track of the changes. Skip if you don’t care about old versions.
  2. Go through and add your titles to each of the actual chapters / scenes. This will help you identify them after you start moving things around.
  3. Move the chapters in the manuscript to reflect your “new order” outline. Add space for new chapters (if applicable). At this point you may also want to write the scene cards for each scene, ensuring you have an idea what your purpose for the scene is, what the protagonist goal is for the scene, if they achieve it or not, and how this leads to greater conflict and furthers the story goal.
  4. Start working through the chapters and changes with “biggest changes” down to the “smallest.” For example, perhaps start with the creation of fresh, new scenes if you’re adding any. Then amalgamation of chapters. Then partial scene re-writes and weaving / peppering objects / details.
  5. Check off / address your initial notes from your read-through so hopefully you’ve caught those problems. Then yay! You’ve made it through this phase. Another treat is in order. 🙂


You did it! Yay you! You have made it through the hardest part thus far, and hopefully, it will be smooth sailing from here.

Next week, the final phase: Phase 4: Micro Assessment and Changes.

But before we go: what do you find hardest about rewrites? How do you keep your enthusiasm for a piece? What methods have you found worked to get through the rewrites – especially the really extensive ones?

Thanks for reading, and hope your week is merry! Oh, and hey, liked the post? Why not sign up for the blog?

Regency and Research

Newgate: Clarifying the picture

Newgate Chapel. From my research and familiarity with the era, I know that Newgate was one of the most notorious of the prisons during the Regency Period. So, take a look at this etching, originally from The Microcosm of London. What do you think is happening?

Source: Wikipedia, public domain, source: Microcosm of London, 1810
Source: Wikipedia, public domain, source: Microcosm of London, 1810

If you’re like me, you see that it looks like a chapel and people praying around the coffin – obviously someone died.

And then you read the explanatory notes.

I was fortunate enough to receive a tiny, abridged 1943 edition of The Microcosm of London, originally by T. Rowlandson & A.C. Pugin. What’s neat about this edition is that it explains things that Rowlandson and Pugin’s contemporaries would have known – but which we modern readers miss. John Summerson provides the following explanation of the picture:

“… Pugin and Rowlandson show us the chapel (plate V), planned by a great architect, George Dance, for the hideous ceremony which took place on the Sunday preceding an execution. In the centre is the pew in which the condemned sit or kneel round a symbolic coffin. A crowd of other prisoners enjoys the rich spectacle of men and women faced with prospects worse than their own. The Governor and his wife are lodged securely in their corner pew: the chaplain prays lustily as he stares across his congregation of the damned to the painted Ten Commandments, which stare back vindictively from the squat altar-piece. Shortly he will ascend the pulpit and preach the ‘condemned sermon.'” – J. Summerson

A bit different than you expected, hmm?

Have you found something interesting like this before in your research? Care to share? Did you know when you first looked at the picture what was going on in the picture?

Thanks for reading, and hey, why not sign up for the blog and never miss another post? Have a great week, and happy writing. 🙂

The Journey to Publication, Writing

Paranormal Randomness

So it’s Wyrd Wednesday, and seriously, I’m a bit tapped out for anything really interesting to share with you (still stuck in rewrite hell – and yes, it is that).

Which of course makes me wish that there were such thing as a a magical rewrite fairy – like a fairy godmother, but able to help alleviate rewrites. Thing is, I’m not certain whether she’d be purple and sparkly, turning every page into wonderful things. Or, if she really wanted to help with rewrites, that she’d have a whip and a pointy stick to keep forcing you on (the purple sparkly gown seems off, so I’m guessing she’d be into a lot of black leather, too). A fairy godmother dominatrix.

Writing life is not, of course, all rainbows and unicorns. And, seeing as both the unicorn images and fairy godmother dominatrix images I find are copyrighted, this email is going to look a lot less rainbowy.

Seriously, though. While “what if” can be a powerful tool for writers, I think it can also be a loaded gun. Because while it’s great to think, “wow! what if now my hero transforms into an eight foot hall wolf – and bangs his head!” It’s not as useful as: “wow. what if the phone rang right now and someone wanted to pay a gillion dollars for my book, so then I’d have to finish it – and have ample cause to!”

Most of the time, fantasy and magic stay firmly stuck to our pages and words. Real life … well, there’s lots of balancing work, family, and maybe attempting to have a life somewhere in there, too. And if there’s writing, there will inevitably be rewrites.

Above my doorway, so I can see them from the computer I have a few different quotes that I try to use as inspiration. I’m thinking perhaps I need a unicorn peeing on the words – somehow that seems suitable.

Anyway, here are a few that I have:

Separate yourself from the road you’re on. The pitfalls are part of the road – NOT you.

Revising ripens the first draft. (Not by me, but I’m not sure who said it.)

Today is the day you succeed. No one can tell your stories but you.

Everyday, and with every word, you become an even better writer.

If it was easy, everyone would be a writer.


What’s above your doorway or computer? How do you keep pushing through rewrites and writing even when things are tough?

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a fabulous, unicorn-filled week. 😉 I’m off to the rewrites. They definitely won’t get done if I don’t work on them.


Rewrites in 4 Easy Phases: Phase 2: Macro Assessment and Changes

Herein we enter the phase of rewrites I never properly considered … and have had to do many, many more drafts of the zombie book than I should have. So hopefully you don’t have the same problems, I’m here to help.

Phase 2 looks at the big issue changes and issues to address during the rewrite. One of the things I’m trying to do is spend less actual time reading the actual text ad-nauseum until you get to the point where you positively despise every word, good or not (you know that feeling, right?). That’s why this phase makes a lot of use of the notes you made in Phase 1.

Do note that this is a big phase. Unless you are superhuman (and I totally envy you if you are!), then it may take you a while to get through each of these steps. To give you some idea, it took me a bit over a month to read through and make notes, a day for the chapter by chapter, and almost a week for the re-organization. I wish you all the best if you can do it faster – and it’s certainly possible – but don’t beat yourself up if you can’t. So not useful. 😉

Phase 2: Macro Assessment and Changes in 4 steps:

  1. Read over the chapter by chapter summary you created. Do scenes flow seamlessly and logically into other scenes? Does the progression of the story make sense to you? To others who might take a look? Do you have multiple chapters saying and doing the same thing?
  2. Structure Test. Can you clearly identify which scenes are the major structural elements of the plot? Are they behaving and coming across the way they need to? Are you missing pieces of the plot?
  3. Scene test. Beside each chapter / scene, write out the scene purpose and goal for you the writer. That is: why is this scene in the book, what does it do, why do I need it? Do you have scenes without a purpose? With weak purposes? Consider how these can be strengthened, or deleted.
  4. Re-organization. If you found some red-flags in step 2, now it’s time to fix the problems. Weak structure is often a failing of many unpublished novels (which is what I remind myself of too when I’m annoyed at the mistakes I make – you can remind yourself of the same). So, now make a second copy of your chapter-by-chapter (just the chapter summary) and chop each chapter into its own little strip. Start with the major plot points, and work through the plot either using a huge drawing of the plot arc, the four-act structure, or whatever works for you. You want to re-organize to make sure a) each scene flows logically from one to the next, b) the character growth and plot intensity progresses logically, c) you haven’t missed anything. This might mean chapter 5 becomes chapter 20, or vice versa – the number doesn’t matter. You may also combine chapters, switch some out, and delete others.
  5. Filling in holes. Once you determine what’s working, you may find that some scenes don’t progress from one to the next, or that you’re missing steps on the character growth or plot progression. Fill these in with rough notes of what you require in the scene, and perhaps brainstorm a few ideas.
  6.  Name your chapters / scenes on your main chapter-by-chapter summary. Nothing fancy, perhaps the purpose of the scene or something that helps you identify it. This will be important when you start moving things around in your actual manuscript, especially if you use a word processing program.
  7. Tape together the new order of your scenes, and make notes. They can only get taped or “finalized” if the scene flows from one to the next. I made additional notes of each chapter to understand the flow, especially because I added new chapters / scenes and needed to clarify what I needed, and because I was combining other chapters, and wanted to know what the heck I wanted out of each.
  8. Read through your new chapter by chapter (or scene) progression. KEEP THE OLD CHAPTER BY CHAPTER, because it has your earlier notes, and you’ll need those later. If things still aren’t working, go back to step 1. Otherwise, behold the new order and wonder your book will be. Post somewhere you can see and refer to them later.
  9. Take a moment to smile and be proud of yourself. Try to forget that now, the real work begins.

Phew! That phase wasn’t easy, was it? Pat yourself on the back or feed yourself a treat for getting that all done. You deserve it!

Next week: Phase 3: Implementation of Macro Changes

But first: how do you assess major changes and rewrites? How do you decide what needs to be changed, and what stays? Any tips to help the rest of us write the best darned book we can – and survive rewrites?

Thanks for reading, and have an awesome week. And hey, why not stop by and sign up for the blog? It’s fun here. 🙂