how the heck did they go to the bathroom??? and other questions asked while writing historical fiction

To date I have about 8 different novels that can be classified as historical fiction, in varying states of completion. For Nanowrimo, I am writing a novel that takes place shortly after the Reign of Terror in France.  And this isn’t the first time that I’ve had to research historical bathroom habits.

The drawback to writing historical fiction in general is that small details will throw you out of the story and down a rabbit hole of Google searches.

In chapter one of my current WIP (The Red Ribbon), I Googled:

  • where did people get guillotined in french revolution paris
  • place de la concorde (answer to the above question)
  • rue des marronniers lyon
  • map of paris

(These were to simply get a sense of where my main character was walking and where she lived in the first few paragraphs)

  • matches history
  • lighting a fire in the 1790s

(Because my character needed to light a fire in the fireplace, and I wasn’t sure if matches existed back then.  I’m still not sure.  I managed to write the two sentences without specifically saying how she lit the fire)

  • invitation historical ball
  • invitation wording 1700s
  • french phrases with blood
  • phrases of the french revolution
  • french proverbs
  • qui vivra verra
  • Le Réveil du peuple lyrics
  • 1794 calendar days of the week

(My MC receives an invitation, and I wanted to include the actual words on the invitation… The example I found included a quote that gave hint to a theme for the ball, which led me to try to find some proverb that might work for my story.  And since the proverb was in French, I needed to verify that the translation was correct.  I also decided to make the ball happen on Friday the 13th and amazingly, according to one site I found, September 13, 1794 was indeed a Friday!)

  • rue du colisée paris
  • gossip magazines in revolutionary france
  • garters 17th century
  • how common were pistols in the 17th century
  • pistols history
  • pianoforte
  • pianos history
  • french pianos
  • 17th century french outerwear

(Moving onto the 2nd and third chapters – once again I was trying to place the MC’s home near where the ball was being held.  She also packs a few weapons to bring to the ball because she wants revenge, so I had to figure out a. whether 17th century garters could reasonably hold a knife or pistol and b. whether pistols were common enough for an aristocratic family to own one.  My character also has a moment where she remembers playing the piano, so I had to figure out if pianos existed then, or whether something like a pianoforte or harpischord was more common.  Finally, my MC needed to wear a coat or cloak of some sort as she walked to the ball)

  • waltz popularity
  • panniers
  • french fashion 18th century
  • chic synonym

(In describing the ballroom and the other guests of the ball, I needed to know if the waltz had even been invented, and whether it had reached France, also a few fashion terms, and while “chic” is a French word, it was not in usage at that time…)

  • what poisons were available in france 18th century
  • effects of arsenic poisoning
  • when did red and green become christmas colors
  • old french christmas songs
  • Bel Astre Que J’Adore

(One of my characters dies short after eating poisoned cake, which led to the searches about effects of poisoning, and then what poisons were readily available.  What exactly does rat poison contain?  How long does it take to work?  After I described a color combination as “Christmas-like” I remembered that red and green have not always been used as traditional Christmas colors.  And then I needed a Christmas carol that would have existed back then…)

  • how was it determined that someone was dead in the 1700s
  • pencils history
  • historical term for cataracts
  • what was the bathroom called in french revolution

(Obviously, at this point in the novel, someone has died.  And I was fairly certain that people did not check a pulse to determine if someone was dead at that point in time.  Also, did they have pencils back then and how common were they?)

And the question we’ve all been waiting for.

I know the obvious answer is that people used chamber pots.  You didn’t go to a bathroom in the middle of the night, you just pulled out your chamber pot and went.  But if one was out at a fancy ball in someone else’s home, or in this case, at a hotel, there would have to be a room, right?

In my research I discovered that Versailles and the bathroom situation is a big part of the reason for the stereotype of the French not being very hygienic.  Dogs and other animals that were allowed to roam loose in the palace relieved themselves wherever, and apparently the humans used stairwells or went behind curtains.  Eventually I did find that bathrooms might have been called “lavatories” or “commodes” (I dropped in the term “powder room” as well) and that there might be curtains for privacy while one used the chamber pot.  Obviously, there was no running water.

I also discovered while trying to find this information, that pissing in the streets was such a problem in Paris that in the early 1800s they built “pissoirs” or small buildings where you could go to pee on the street in privacy.

Oh, the things you learn… I just hope the FBI hasn’t put me on a surveillance list…

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editing time!

I was so ambitious when I planned for the third Wolf Point prequel to be released May 1.  Quite honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking, because I had planned to write the rough draft during April’s Camp Nanowrimo.  Like when I wrote The Madman, the rough draft was not in fact completed by the end of camp.  With a new deadline of June 1st, I raced to try to finish the rough draft.

Did I mention that the June 1 deadline was my publication date?

Obviously, I missed that deadline as well.  Just last night, I managed to finish the first draft.  Editing is an easier process than writing, so hopefully I can make my new deadline of July 1.  (I will most definitely be pushing back my deadline for the fourth and final Wolf Point novel, Warriors – as of right now it’s August 1, but yeah, I’m planning to write the rough draft during July’s Camp, so August 1 is NOT HAPPENING).

What took so long for this draft?

Unlike the other two prequels, I didn’t have as much freedom in the timeline.

IMG_3940

I had both a historical timeline, and I was working through the years of recent history to where the Wolf Point books begin.  This covers approximately 100 years.  I had to account for all those years somehow, as well as deal with what might have been going on politically and socially in that time.  I knew I wanted to include the Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888 (not to be confused with the 1888 Blizzard that hit the East Coast), and I also had to research what was going on with several of the Native American tribes in that region during those years, which was… a lot.  Famine, being forced onto reservations, etc.  It’s amazing how much research I have to do for what amounts to a paragraph.  Or I try to write something simple, like someone cooking over a fire, only to discover after doing research that the particular tribe I am writing about cooked over hot stones, not fires.

IMG_3941

And then there were the family trees.  I have pretty much determined that it’s impossible to make a cohesive family tree for the Five Families.  The characters kept having babies and I kept forgetting to write them down.  I found myself with two characters named Charles, three named Sarah, and one whose name was both Ainsley and Kieran.

But the good news is that the end is in sight!  My goal is to have The Seer published before summer reading madness hits at my library, and get busy with writing Warriors (so far there’s just a rather vague outline and some scenes written when I had planned the series to be 6 books and the 4th book was from Misty’s POV and titled Fighters).

i’ve hit the Big Time.

That’s right, folks.  I’m Big Enough (or little enough?) to get plagiarized.

madman-cover-2-copy
Poor, plagiarized Madman…

Someone, and I won’t name names at this moment (because I have already lodged a copyright infringement complaint with Amazon and I’m hoping this plagiarized book will be taken down soon), has taken the entire text of The Madman and thrown it up on Amazon with a new title and cover.  Selling it for exactly the same amount as I am.

Several questions arise.

First, why choose a book five deep into a series?  Or, if you consider the Wolf Point prequels as a separate series, it’s still the second book.  Like, did they even read the work they were plagiarizing?  They haven’t plagiarized any other books in the series, and didn’t bother to even change the characters’ names.  The Madman doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  There are references to the characters in almost every other book in the series.  Never mind that the first chapter is an alternate-viewpoint retelling of the last chapter of The Beast.

Second, did they really expect to make money off of this?  The book is actually free on Smashwords, and by extension sites like Barnes & Noble, and I’ve had 60 downloads in the 3 weeks it’s been available.  Zero actual sales over at Amazon.  I’m honestly not understanding what the thought process is here.  Maybe try ripping off a bestseller?  But yeah, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the plagiarized book was published on the day The Madman was made available on Smashwords (a day later than it was available on Amazon).

I’m confident that I will be able to prove my case should it come to that.  I’m just more annoyed that it even happened.  Apparently, according to this article, Amazon doesn’t have screening software that is anywhere close to other self-publishing distributors like Smashwords or Scribd. And this article talks about how profitable it is for people to plagiarize works on Kindle.  Even if Amazon eventually takes them down, the “authors” can make thousands of dollars before that, and the original author won’t see any of that money unless they pursue a lawsuit.  The examples here aren’t even as blatant as the plagiarism of my book (and the author did the same word-for-word plagiarism of almost all the other novels listed on her Amazon author page).  The article indicates that because Amazon takes 30% of the profit from Kindle book sales, they get more profit from leaving up these plagiarized works (this other article says the same thing).

This whole thing seems ludicrous to me.  I want to laugh at the title and new cover – literally, there’s a werewolf standing atop a bloody stagecoach (which never happens in the book).  The author has about six books, all from different genres.  But the more I looked into it, the more this plagiarism thing is a huge scam that is actually paying off for people.  It’s bad enough that someone would take a self-published work, which isn’t making any money to begin with.  But a lot of plagiarists seem to take from fanfiction and other freely posted writing (for example, from Litrotica), and these works aren’t as safe in their copyrights as even a self-published book would be.

All I want is for people to read what I’m writing – which is why most of my ebooks are freely available and I run a lot of promos.  I’d rather have people reading my work than making a profit.  I have work posted on fanfiction.net, Archive of Our Own, figment.com, and Wattpad.  All of which could be plagiarized at any time.  Like it isn’t hard to enough to be a writer.

P.S. I first heard about the plagiarism last night, and filed a complaint almost immediately.  As I was writing this post I went to check and thankfully, the book has been removed!  I hope the other books under this author’s name (Elsa N. Neuman) are also removed.  In case anyone has found their own work plagiarized, Amazon has a form for that.  You just need the ASIN for the offending work.  I also included the ASIN for my own work.

P.P.S. And 45 minutes after posting this, all of Elsa N. Neuman’s works have been removed from Amazon.  Victory!

 

Read a ebook week: March 5-11

In honor of “Read an eBook Week,” Smashwords is having a huge site-wide sale, which means all the Wolf Point series books will be free!

So, you can get Wolf Point books 1-3:

Hitchhikers ebook cover 4

dreamwalkers ebook cover

scavengers ebook cover 6 copy

 

 

 

 

 

And you can also get both of the prequel novellas (that’s right, The Madman is now available!):

beast cover 2

madman-cover-2-copy

 

 

 

 

 

Smashwords is great because you can download any format you need.  There’s ePub (for most ereaders), .mobi (for Kindle – use the Send to Kindle app to get on your device), and PDF (if you prefer that for ereader or to read on your computer).  You can also read online at the site.  And getting an account on Smashwords is free!

Presidents’ Day Sale

This week all my books shall be free!!  February 20-24!  EVERY.  SINGLE.  ONE.

Over on Amazon, you’ll find Bethany Caleb, The Art Kids, and Hitchhikers all free for Kindle!

If you visit Smashwords, you can find Dreamwalkers & Scavengers (Wolf Point #2 & #3) for free with the coupon codes.  Hitchhikers and The Beast (Wolf Point prequel) are always free on Smashwords, and you can download the mobi (Kindle) editions here as well.

Happy reading!

 

P.S.  I just finished the first final draft of the second Wolf Point prequel, The Madman, and hopefully I’ll have it available by the end of this week!

new year, new look

One of my goals this year is to get back on track with writing my original fiction.  First up was a new cover for The Art Kids:

artkidscover
Old Cover
The Art Kids cover 2017 update.jpg
New Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t it pretty??  Of course this is for the Kindle edition only, because creating a cover for the paperback is a lot more involved, but I’m going to get to that this year.  The new Kindle edition is available on Amazon for $2.99 right now (although there might be a sale coming up *wink*wink*).

I created my new cover on Canva, which is so easy to use.  Another new cover I’ve been working on is for The Thing About the Truth / The Thing About Zombies / My Zombie Girlfriend.  (As you can see, I’ve been having some trouble with the title as well.)  This novel was a Nanowrimo challenge and I had it posted over on figment.com for years.  Recently I decided to give a try over on Wattpad, since it seems like Wattpad is more heavily used and people are actually getting their work published there.  Anyway, I’ve been struggling to determine the audience for this book, and you can see the progression through the cover and title changes:

thethingaboutthetruthcoverkate-spoffordthe-thing-about-zombies-wattpad-1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original cover & title: The Nanowrimo challenge was based off the cover of Lauren Barnholdt’s “The Thing About the Truth” so I used that as the base but “zombified” it

Second cover & title: Trying to keep the spirit of the original title, but making a simple bold statement with the cover art.  I had also categorized this story as horror, which despite the zombies, it isn’t…

Current cover & title: Since this story is more of a horror comedy, I felt this title was a better fit.  I also returned to an image similar to the original cover.  I’d love to introduce the cracked surface of cover 2, but Canva has its limits…

So, two new covers!  Up next: redesigns for the Wolf Point series covers, and a cover for the second Wolf Point prequel novella, The Madman, which is nearly completion!  I’m looking at a release date for the end of this month, so stay tuned!

lost again

Damn, I wish my computer files would stop getting lost!

A couple of months ago, I finally took all my old floppy disks, bought an external floppy drive since no computer I have access to has a floppy drive anymore, and converted the files and saved them to my external hard drive.  Finally!  I thought.  I have all my computer files in one place!

I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to be releasing The Art Kids with a new cover and I wanted to make some revisions as well, and guess what I couldn’t find?  ANY OF THE FILES OF THE PUBLISHED VERSION OF ART KIDS.  Like, really?  I definitely had at least two files, one formatted for Kindle Select Publishing and one formatted for Createspace.  Do you think I could find either one of them?  Or even the full cover Photoshop file?  Nope.  I have no idea where these things are.  I have checked every flash drive I could find.

I was at the point where I had downloaded the Kindle edition and was prepared to update my most recent draft of Art Kids to match it – and that file was at least 7 years older than the published draft – and then I found in my emails a PDF of the original published file.  I am pretty sure I made a few changes sometime in the past year, and yet… WHERE ARE THE FILES???  It’s even worse that this is the second time this has happened, the first being when I had to re-type the entire manuscript from a print copy I had made before publication.

Looks like my revision/cover update project will take a little longer than I had anticipated.

However, I’m feeling positive that I will be getting some projects done in this next year.  I really love the new cover design for Art Kids, and I’m looking forward to update covers for the Wolf Point series as well.