Sunday, October 30, 2011

Witches of Salem

Witches have become an intrinsic part of Salem, Massachusetts.
You don't see ads like the above anymore, of course. Although that sort of positive, Witches Can Help philosophy is much present. Very unlike the ad I describe in HIDDEN HISTORY OF SALEM (an ad that uses the hanging of Salem witches to sell a product and can be found if you search my website - it's hidden).
You can't find the famous Witch Spoon at Daniel Low anymore (the building currently houses Rockafella's) but you can find all sorts of authentic experiences, such as at the Witch House
where witch trials' Judge Jonathan Corwin lived. 
Or you can sit in the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and commune with the spirits of those who died.
Each of the stones jutting from the walls represents a person, and is inscribed with their name and the date they were hanged (or in one case, crushed). We don't know where their actual bodies are, or even where they were executed (something I address in HIDDEN HISTORY).

You can also learn to be a witch from the Official Witch of Salem herself

No, not like that.

Witchcraft involves studying and classes and workshops. Not near Salem? Check out Laurie Cabot, our Official Witch on YouTube.

Of course, some would rather Salem not focus on the witch aspect so much, but when your local police department's official patch looks like this:
You should really just accept that witches and Salem go together and are here to stay.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Solving Bioshock Cats on National Cat Day

Today, October 29, is National Cat Day and to celebrate I shall share with you a partial SOLUTION to the BIOSHOCK Cats Mystery.

Including cats for the player to discover actually IS a game-within-the-game.

While it is still unknown who originally designed the black-and-white cat and put him/her in the original Bioshock, all the level designers of Bioshock 2 participated in finding fun places to stash kitties. And...

We have Steve Gaynor to thank for putting NAMED cats in Minerva's Cave.
All Hail Steve!!

There are THREE cats - one for each level of Minerva's Cave. The names of each feline honor someone important to the development of computing - which is of course very important in the Cave storyline. I found Babbage and Turing, you may remember.

Armed with this information, I set about to find the third kitty on my second playthrough - and discovered:

According to Wikipedia, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace is recognized as the World’s First Computer Programmer, having written the first algorithm intended to be processed by a machine.
For whose computer did she write this? Charles Babbage’s.

Babbage called her the Enchantress of Numbers and wrote of her in his Passages from the Life of a Philosopher (1864):
I then suggested that she add some notes to Menabrea's memoir, an idea which was immediately adopted. We discussed together the various illustrations that might be introduced: I suggested several but the selection was entirely her own. So also was the algebraic working out of the different problems, except, indeed, that relating to the numbers of Bernoulli, which I had offered to do to save Lady Lovelace the trouble. This she sent back to me for an amendment, having detected a grave mistake which I had made in the process.
Fun facts:
 - Ada was the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Byron.
 - The computer language Ada created by the US Department of Defense is named after her.
 - The British Computer Society awards a medal in her name.
 - There is a movement to have an Ada Lovelace Day (which this year was October 7).

I didn't know any of that, so I am now a better informed person because of Bioshock's dead cats.  :)

Many thanks and virtual cupcakes to Steve for allowing me to interview him on the subject of virtual kitties. He's a wonderful fellow and you can follow his tumblr and his twitter.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Vulpes + Veronica = ?

A while back I saw a prompt on the Fallout kmeme to write Vulpes/Veronica and took it as a challenge to see if it could be done and still stay true to the characters' motives and persuasions.

The result was THIS.

In the ensuing discussion of the fic on the kmeme, I hypothesized how the child of a union between Vulpes and Veronica would look.

And a gloriously wonderful anonymous artist drew me this.

I shared it elsewhere already, and - as part of my realization that I've missed posting a bunch of Fallout artwork - I'm posting it here too.

If the artist would like to identify him/herself, I would be more than glad to post credits and links.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Set Sail For Horror

I commissioned Francesco Francavilla for something Lovecraftian with cats
and this is the fabulous, wickedly brilliant picture he created for me!!!

So I thought I'd share it with you, since it is Halloween-time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Taliesin Murders

This is the story of how an ACTUAL CRAZY AXE MURDERER killed seven people - Wisconsin's worst act of mass murder until 2005, inspired a Thomas Wolfe story - as well as many an urban legend, and completely changed a style of architecture - yet most of us have probably never even heard of it. 

In fact, parts of what happened that day are still clouded with uncertainties. The author does a wonderful job of sifting through the various accounts, coming up with what seems to be the most reasonable reconstruction, and presenting you with all the evidence for you to make up your own mind. 

I'm giving five stars because I actually cried at the end. Whatever your opinions about Frank Lloyd Wright, this book will make you feel for him. 

As an aside, just because I think this is interesting, the murderer would not be subject to the death penalty through the justice system even back then. According to the author, "Wisconsin enjoys the nation's longest uninterrupted history of an out-right ban on capital punishment."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Abducting Heiresses

Abduction is a popular storytelling device when it comes to historical romance, which isn't surprising since you can trace its place in romance literature right back to the Abduction of Persephone.

When you're talking historical romance set in England or Wales, abductors - and elopers, for that matter - are usually racing to Gretna Green in Scotland to take their vows.

Gretna Green was the Vegas of its day, in terms of quickie marriages. The marriage laws of England and Wales, requiring amongst other things parental consent for marriages of those under 21 years of age, did not apply in Scotland and Gretna Green was right across the border.

Photo by Niki Odolphie from Frome, England

But things that can seem romantic in fiction are often far from it in real life.

Edward Gibbon Wakefield, who is apparently something of a hero to New Zealand, tried his hand at heiress abduction in 1826.

He happened to hear of Ellen Turner, a beautiful 16 year old heiress, from an acquaintance who mentioned her as being a neighbor. So Wakefield moved to her neighborhood, learned the family's circumstances and habits, and then appeared at Ellen's school with a letter informing the headmistress that Ellen's ill father had taken a turn for the worse and the girl must accompany him at once.

This was entirely plausible - her father was sick, in an age of primitive medicine sudden deterioration was not uncommon, and a friend or servant would often be asked to carry an important letter (there being no FedEx service or the like).

So Ellen was packed off in Wakefield's carriage.

Which headed north to Scotland.

Now alone with her, Wakefield told the teen her father's business had collapsed, sheriff's officers were in pursuit of her family (for debt), and only through marrying him could she hope to save her father from jail and her family from the poor house. He said he would use his (nonexistent) fortune to save them, but only once he and she were wed.

Remembering that she was a sheltered 16 year old, in an age when women of her class were not taught anything about business and economics, trapped in a small space with a stranger - and Wakefield was known for being a smooth talker, it's pretty easy to see how she would come to believe him over the many hours to Gretna Green.

This is Wakefield & Ellen's marriage license:

Successfully married, Wakefield informed the Turners where to send his checks and promptly took his new wife off to France, where he thought he would be safe from any repercussions. He was wrong. Ellen's family contacted the French police.

Extradited, Wakefield stood trial at Lancaster Assizes, was convicted of abduction and sentenced to three years imprisonment.

This had no affect on his marriage, which was still valid.

An Act of Parliament was obtained to annul the marriage, so Ellen finally could be free.

(Yes, an Act of Parliament. You couldn't get out of a marriage without one. So those Regency romances you read with divorce treated as if it were nothing? Yeah. Not happening.)

Just so you know, some time after his release from prison, Wakefield relocated to the Australian colonies and did something more honorable with his life.

So why is today's post about heiress abductions?

Because today in Salem Massachusetts history:  October 25 1736 a Mr. McIntosh is bound at Salem court for trial, charged with attempting to abduct his two nieces, who are heiresses, and carry them off to England.

Heiress abductions happened in America, too.

Isn’t it cool when truth and fiction converge?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Roman Chariot Pug

Copyright ClaireLynn

This wonderful Roman chariot pug was part of Portland Oregon's PUGLANDIA event, which was held May 22, 2011 and raised funds for the Oregon Humane Society.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Excerpt from Dance Macabre

London 1897 

Lily Rafferty would never become accustomed to unfamiliar men embracing her in public. She stiffened involuntarily, but if he noticed her reluctance, it did not dampen her partner’s enthusiasm. Seizing her body, he pulled her away from the relative safety of the shadowed wall. His careless speed gave her an excuse to keep her eyes riveted to the pointed tips of her black satin slippers as they appeared and disappeared under the swishing accordion gores of her yoke skirt. It fit snug and sleek down to her knees before flaring out like a bell, and moving quickly was a dangerous proposition on the slick wooden floorboards. The last thing she wanted was to fall. Not here. 

Elegant music soared above the crowded dancehall floor as the shop-soiled quartet on stage launched into a waltz. He flung her into position. Lily felt one of her little puff sleeves slip farther down her shoulder and gave it a quick tug. Her d├ęcolletage was quite low enough, thank you. For a moment he looked disappointed she hadn’t popped out of her bodice, then he started to dance. She found her steps and followed his lead. 

His hand pressed against the back of her corset. Not for the first time, she wished her undergarments were fashioned from solid steel. She glanced at his other hand, at the stubby bare fingers. At least her hands were protected from his rude skin by her long white gloves.

She risked a look at his face. Flushed cheeks. Watery eyes. A high forehead from which heavily macassar-oiled hair lay slicked back. Her gaze traveled down, past his fierce moustache, to his neck. He wore a diamond tie pin. No need to look further. Decidedly a gentleman. Yet another toff come to enjoy the pursuits of the lower orders. As if being poor were an exhibit in Regent’s Park Zoological Garden. 

He noticed her attention and smiled. “Like what you see, m’dear?” He leaned down. His face was close to hers now. Too close. He panted against her cheek, his breath hot and reeking of liquor. “I like what I see. And I’ve got streamers of tickets to give to a welcoming sort of wench.” 

Stomach churning, she struggled to hide her distaste. If she wrinkled her nose he surely would not dance with her again, and she needed every ticket she could collect. 

“Thank you, sir.” She fixed her lips in a smile. 

“Nice, ripe partridge, you are.” He removed his arm from her back and suddenly his bare hand was roaming the low neckline of her gown, where the tight lacing of her corset had affected an impressive cleavage. 

As she started to object, he abruptly switched from waltzing to walking. She stumbled. Before she could completely recover, he had maneuvered her past a screen of potted aspidistras and into one of the dance hall’s dark corners. Inwardly she groaned. The management of the Barbary Coast Dance Hall arranged these corners deliberately—and for one reason. Any man without a Malthus sheath to contain his effluxion could release his seed upon the floor in the semi-privacy of such a corner.

Her French heels slipped and she clutched her partner’s sleeve. While the night’s fluids had been tracked around much of the dance hall, the floor was still slicker at the scene of the unmentionable deeds. She tried to wipe all such details from her mind. Thinking about it made her feel unwell. 

“Eager, are you?” He chuckled. “Excellent. Excellent.” With drink-clumsy fingers, he stroked the skin of her breasts. 

The effrontery of his actions was compounded by his bare hands. Gentlemen were supposed to wear gloves. Such crude undress would not have got him past the door of any other place but here. Here, where men with money could throw away their manners. 

Closing her eyes, she choked back the protests raging to escape her lips. Kitty had warned her there would be men who wished for services beyond dancing. Touching him would earn her extra tickets and, since the girls were paid for every ticket they turned in, it meant her wages for the evening might grow considerably. 

But her stomach threatened to rid itself of her meager dinner at the prospect of seeing his unmentionables. 

She hadn’t wanted to be a Cyprian—in fact, she’d been fired from her last job for refusing her employer’s advances. But times were so hard, especially for orphan girls without references, and a doss house charged tuppence just to sleep standing up. She needed money. 

Kitty didn’t mind the unspeakable work. Less tiring than a dance but just as quick, she said. Plus you got better paid. Getting pulled into a corner was an unparalleled opportunity in Kitty’s opinion.

His sloppy kiss upon her neck jerked Lily’s thoughts back to the present. An unparalleled opportunity, I don’t think. She’d gain more coin but lose her self-respect. 

“Sir….” Politely, she tried to extricate herself from his embrace. “Sir! Sir, the music will end soon….” She turned her face away, hoping if she concentrated fixedly upon the dance floor she could get back out to it. 

He mumbled something, his lips pressed against the curve of her jawbone, and continued to fondle the tops of her breasts. Her skin crawled at his touch. Not that he was behaving any worse than the other dancehall customers. Small wonder a steady trickle of girls walked out without notice each week. 

“Do you not wish to finish our dance?” She attempted to pull away again, but he jerked her close. 

“No, I’d much rather you finish off this.” His hand fumbled with the opening to his trousers as his hips furtively thrust against her. Not on my lovely dress! She shuddered to think what his abrasion, let alone his eventual wetness, would do to the fabric…. And she still owed money on it. 

“Truthfully, sir, I am not…I don’t…I would really rather not….” 

Laughter trickled through his sneering mouth. “That’s what you’re meant to say, I know. But you strumpets are never in earnest with your protests and false modesty.” 

“Oh, I can assure you I am in earnest.” She endeavored to pull away once more. 

He grabbed hold of her by her neck. “No, you don’t. I can’t stop now.” His voice sounded strained, and she didn’t like the look in his eyes.

“If you please,” she whispered, attempting a smile so as not to betray her growing horror, “I’ll just take the one ticket, sir. For the dance.” 

“You’ll take what I give you and like it.” 

Panic clutched at her heart. She couldn’t escape. She did not wish to do this—and he didn’t care. Flailing her fists, she pummeled him about the head and shoulders. His hand tightened about her throat. Changing tactics, she tried to pry his fingers loose, to no avail. 

His grip hurt. She felt her lungs struggling for air as if they were battering against her corset’s constraints. No air. She couldn’t breathe. Her heart pounded wildly. She had to get out of here. Get…run…. 

“No!” She had meant it to be a scream. Instead she produced a breathless whisper the music easily drowned. No one would have paid her cries the least bit of attention anyway. A woman’s willingness did not matter. Most customers assumed this was what she was paid to do. 

She kept scuffling despite the increasing heaviness of her limbs, despite the pointlessness. He was going to spend himself right here, in public, on her, and there was nothing she could do to stop him. With a biting stab of terror, she realized he might even kill her. And she would die in a stained dress. That relatively inconsequential concern almost made her smile at herself as dark spots obstructed her vision. What a ridiculous last thought to have. 

“Hartengate.” It was a male voice, a stranger’s, rich, raspy and aloof, slicing like flint across the scuffle to pierce the haze in her brain. 

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fried Dough in Salem

Haunted Happenings time in Salem and that means FRIED DOUGH!

I love fried dough. I also love the Yankee plain-speaking brevity that makes a person call it as they see it. While elsewhere in the United States these delicious treats are known by fantastically romantic names like Dragon Ears or Elephant Ears, here in Massachusetts they're just ... Fried Dough.

'Cause...y'know...that's what it is.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Death Stalks the Common

Last weekend the music video cast and crew for the song based on my book HIDDEN HISTORY OF SALEM was in Salem filming. Apparently someone called the police about the man who was playing Death in the video, telling the cops a "scary man" with "a real axe" was on Salem Common.

Here he is, relocated to the wharf, the scary dude and his real axe:

I feel your fear. 
I know if I assure you he's the sweetest fella in the world, you wouldn't believe me, right?
Caller, you waste police time. Salem, don't let me down like this again.

An Arachnophobe's Nightmare

More Halloween decorations in Salem Massachusetts.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Houston Says, We Have a Problem

Should Texas - a state intimately associated with space exploration - get none of the available Space Shuttles for its museum while New York City, a place with no NASA connections and no museum in which to place it yet, gets one? What do you think?

Fallout and Assassin's Creed (ish) Halloween Decor

Halloween decorations in Salem, MA.
The biohazard reminds me of Fallout.
And yes, that is a plague doctor in black behind the guy in the hazmat suit.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Salem Halloween Ferris Wheel

The carnival has returned to Salem Massachusetts. I love the witch on the ferris wheel.
It's all part of Salem's Haunted Happenings, which run the entire length of October.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dance Macabre Banner

Historical Paranormal Romance set in London.
Coming October 21st from Decadent Publishing.
You know you want it.   ;)

Friday, October 14, 2011

For Neither Girls Nor Women

Have you seen this new Dr. Pepper advertisement?
There has been some shock expressed at the perceived misogynistic content. 
Good thing those American consumers don't know about the Yorkie chocolate bar wrapper - it's been this way for years:
What do you think?
Amusing or sexist?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hidden History of Salem Video with New Soundtrack

I have re-done my HIDDEN HISTORY OF SALEM book-teaser
and that is just too cool not to share:
There's real history plus cool obscure facts plus ghost cats and candy and coffee and romance and a horrible murder - all sorts of interesting things. And we haven't even gotten to the witches.
Buy the single, too! It should be coming out in the next month or so. I'll keep you posted. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

I love Shaun Dingwall

Shaun Dingwall.

This man:

Is following me. OMG

I am preserving this brief, shining moment, because I'm certain he will unfollow soon - 
once he realizes how utterly boring I really am. 

That's a new type of anxiety, isn't it? Someone you like and respect follows you on Twitter or Tumblr and immediately you worry that whatever you post is unworthy and will result in unfollows. 
Does that happen to you guys?

Pug Prop Spotted in Movie

This pic is from the classic movie Gone With The Wind. It's the scene where Scarlett has taken over the lumber yard and her current husband Frank is scolding her about how she runs the business.

Notice the pug head prop.

This is an example of excellent scene dressing - pugs were exceptionally popular during the Victorian age and you can find pugs adorning all sorts of items, from pickle jars to inkwells.

This was not solely because of pug-loving people. Pugs were seen as a symbolic shorthand for status.

Anyone who had pretensions to being rich and classy would definitely have a pug on their office desk.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Salem's Peabody Essex and Me

This is the lobby of the Peabody Essex Museum. 

And in their Gift Shop:
Seeing my book on a shelf always makes me happy.
That book to the right is really good, too.
You should read all of them. All the books! 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Vulcade Rules

I love Chris Avellone. Seriously. He is the coolest dude.

And I shall now believe in my heart of hearts that Vulpes/Arcade is canon.

(FYI: The link in the above tweet I sent goes to THIS post)

Everything is Vulcade and nothing hurts!! You would not believe the squeee-ing and flailing of fan-girl arms that accompanied receiving this tweet. I was super-euphoric for the rest of the night. *dancing*

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Uncle Sam's American Coffee

American coffee from Uncle Sam's own possessions.
You don't see "buy American" in regards to coffee these days, do you?