Since I’m currently preparing Book 6 in ‘The Council of Twelve’ series to be published, I contacted all my Beta Readers, and this year I’m not as lucky as I was before. Life changes, and apparently, it has changed for a few of my supporters, my Beta Readers. I’m happy for them, and I wish them all the Best! But right now, I secretly wish Beta Readers could be bought in a supermarket… or knitted. HAHA
If you have fun Beta Reading, please, let me know. It would be a pleasure to complete the group again and send out my new manuscript..
And since the subject ‘came up’, here’s the blog post I published 2019 about Beta Readers. It’s still valid! Enjoy the read, and please, don’t forget to contact me at email@example.com. I look forward to hearing from you.
It seems there is the one or other author around who either don’t know what the job of a beta reader is. Also, some authors don’t want to pay for an editor and therefore try to ‘use’ the beta reader to get the editor’s job done.
From what I learned in my ‘long’ career of two published books (and a few lined up)… my order of ‘writing and publishing’ is the following:
personal editing #1
personal editing #2
professional editing (proofreading)
filing for copyright
sending the manuscript out to the beta readers
having the book cover done
possible corrections when getting the manuscript back from beta readers
At times the corrections, added paragraphs or even pages, demand a second round of proofreading or editing.
Now, what does the beta reader do?
Beta readers are helpful people around you – can be friends, co-workers, family members. They are asked to read the book pre-release. Often they are asked to review the book online, just after release. Most beta readers are very happy to do so in exchange for the book.
Every beta reader works differently. Some return a paper manuscript with scribbles all over the place…, some send an email with a few ideas, suggestions or remarks, some send texts whenever they discover something. When I beta read, I write a list and later send that list by email. So far, I never discovered a huge plot hole, but I found the one or other ‘thing’ that bugged me and that I had to let the author know about. Many other beta readers do the same thing.
There is one thing beta readers don’t do: they don’t correct typos and grammar. That’s what’s the editor is for. I’m not saying they always are perfect, and should I catch a forgotten typo, of course, I will tell the author about it. But I’m not actively looking for them.
I am lucky enough to have a beta reader who is sweet enough to actively look for typos and grammar problems that escaped my editor’s attention. The one or other author might be just as lucky. But generally, beta readers are not here for editing!
They should return your manuscript with a bit more than ‘I liked it.’ You want to get their notes. You want to hear about their feelings… when did they laugh? When did they cry? What scared them or amused them? Did they enjoy the read, and would they recommend the book? According to them, what age range is the book for (if you’re writing Young Adult), and what did they not like so much?
Did they discover something about the plot they didn’t like? Do they have questions about the story, the plot, or the characters? Is there anything they discovered that isn’t right?
Let me give you a couple examples. One of my last beta readers told me that she loves my book, and she finds ‘Sundance’ as a character very interesting. However, she misses Katie, the ‘Soul Taker’ and wishes her back. She is an exceptional beta reader and informed me about several other things that I later corrected. (I did not write more ‘Katie’ into the second book since that is ‘Sundance’s’ story).
When I was beta reading for a male author, I discovered a wardrobe flaw with one of the female character’s ‘undergarments.’ I told my fellow author about it, and he corrected that.
We all were grateful to have our beta readers. It is important to us having people with open minds paying attention to our stories. And we always hope we don’t ask too much.
Thank you, beta readers, for helping us with your time, your efforts, and your honesty. We need you!
I can be found at the book festival in ‘roughly’ three weeks. I will not be a participant, though! I will meet fellow authors, check out how the program is structured and what is expected from the authors, listen to some public speaking, wander around between the tents, and meet authors from my friend list and new ones.
Since I am an HSP, as addressed in an earlier post, I particularly picked a smaller event to look into rather than being surrounded by a vast mass of people and noises.
However, would you mind letting me know if you will be there? I’d be delighted to meet you in person!
Lately I was sitting in the car, signing along with a great Country song, and here it is, that old expression: ‘You can’t fit a camel through the eye of a needle’.
I heard that expression before, and finally decided to go and research where it comes from… and here it was, in the bible:
Mark10, verse25: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God
During my research I found about one hundred and one explanations what this could mean, from interpretation, over misinterpretation to misunderstandings, to mistranslation… But basically, it call came to the same. If you are rich, you’re not passing the Pearly Gates, not even if you danced naked on a quarter…
Now, can we go into the deeper meaning of that saying? Yes, we could… do we want to? Not today. This is not the purpose of that article.
We’re actually trying to determine, if generally old saying is actually still used, show up in books, or are even suitable nowadays.
Why don’t we look at a few more expressions and see?
“The Walls Have Ears”
Meaning: Be careful what you say as people may be eavesdropping. Origin: The face Louvre Palace in France was believed to have a network of listening tubes so that it would be possible to hear everything that was said in different rooms. People say that this is how the Queen Catherine de’Medici discovered political secrets and plots.
“Bury The Hatchet”
Meaning: End a quarrel or conflict and become friendly. Origin: During negotiations between Puritans and Native Americans men would bury all of their weapons, making them inaccessible.
(Well, some people bury their hatchets in the back of their enemies, but that’s a chapter for another post)
“Raining Cats And Dogs”
Meaning: Rain very hard. Origin: This idiom has two stories that try to explain its origin. The first explanation says that the origin of this phrase comes from Norse mythology, where cats would symbolise heavy rains and dogs were associated with the God of storms, Odin. The second version says that in 16th century England, houses had thatched roofs which were one of the few places where animals were able to get warm. Sometimes, when it would start to rain heavily, roofs would get slippery and cats and dogs would fall off, making it look like it’s raining cats and dogs!
“Blood Is Thicker Than Water”
Meaning: Family relationships and loyalties are the strongest and most important ones. Origin: Even though many might think this saying means that we should put family ahead of friends, it actually meant the complete opposite. The full phrase actually was “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” and it referred to warriors who shared the blood they shed in battles together. These ‘blood brothers’ were said to have stronger bonds than biological brothers.
“Born With A Silver Spoon In Your Mouth”
Meaning: Be born into a wealthy family of high social standing. Origin: It is an old tradition for godparents to gift a silver spoon to a christened child. However, not everyone was able to afford this type of luxury gift so those who did receive the spoon as a gift were considered to be wealthy, sometimes even spoiled.
“Steal One’s Thunder”
Meaning: Win praise for oneself by pre-empting someone else’s attempt to impress. Origin: You think that you’ve done something awesome and unique, but someone got in there first and took your credit! Spare a thought for playwright John Dennis who, back in the 18th Century, made a machine that could nicely mimic the sound of thunder for his play. Sadly, his play wasn’t a success, but somebody had taken note of his clever invention. When, later on in another theatre, Dennis found somebody had copied his thunder machine and was using it without credit, he got mad. Really mad. Somebody had stolen his thunder!
There are many more old sayings, I just picked a few of them. Over 60 old expressions and sayings and their meanings can be researched over at the ‘Bored Panda’ Website.
But, without knowing exactly where these sayings and expressions come from… should we writers even use them? Are they still timely?
I still use the one or other… but then, my fantasy books are partially situated in older eras. However, I’m not sure, if these expressions would go well with SciFi Anno 2765?
Please, let us know what you think in the comments. We are curious!
We, humans, enjoy abbreviations. (Which reminds me: Why is ‘abbreviation’ such a long word?)
But humor aside: What is an HSP? People who have never been diagnosed as an HSP probably won’t know unless they are connected or related to an HSP.
An HSP is a Highly Sensitive Person.
I can see some people giggling right now. But I assure you, I’m not joking. Being an HSP has its disadvantages, and it can cause a person to quietly suffer a miserable life if the circumstances are against them. I’ll get back to that in a minute.
Let me describe to you what defines a Highly Sensitive Person:
A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a human being who reacts with an increased or ‘deeper’ central nervous system sensitivity to stimulating influences, be they physical, emotional, environmental, or social.
American psychologist Elaine Aron invented the term in the mid-1990s, continuously developing knowledge of the concept in the past few decades. According to Elaine Aron, HSPs show increased emotional sensitivity and stronger reactions to external and internal stimuli than the rest of the population.
Try to find out if you’re an HSP on Elaine Aron’s website, but definitely start with asking yourself these questions:
Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?
If you’re looking for other tests to take than this one, there are quite a few you can find, one of them here. But careful. Most of the currently available tests online are at least based on Elaine Aron’s findings and tests.
According to ‘Healthline.com’, HSP isn’t a disorder or a condition but rather a personality trait that’s also known as sensory-processing sensitivity (SPS).
Julie Fraga, a licensed psychologist in San Francisco, CA, describes her life as an HSP quite precisely within only one article.
One particular paragraph of hers caught my attention, and I moved it here for you to read:
3 things HSP people want you to know
We feel things deeply but may hide our emotions from others because we’ve learned to retreat.
We may appear uncomfortable in group situations, like work meetings or parties, because there’s too much stimulation, like loud noises. This doesn’t mean that we don’t value relationships.
When starting new relationships, like friendships or romantic partnerships, we may seek out reassurance because we’re hypersensitive to any perceived signs of rejection.
And after all this information, I’ll get back to what I said in one of the initial paragraphs: I’m getting back to the ‘miserable life’…. Consider you’re a person who feels deeply disturbed by loud noises, constant disturbance, interruption, demanded multitasking, demanded work within a field that you don’t like, surrounded by the noise of fans, voices, emotions of other people, no daylight, the entire day, no sunshine, warmth, comfort, or anything positive, day, by day, by day, no possibility of retreat, or peace and quiet for even one single minute of the day… You’re humiliated, insulted, and hurt by having to be sitting in an environment, out in the corridor, in front of the ‘bosses’ office, like a 50s stenotypist…
If you’re an HSP, strongly reacting to the influences around you, then this is your personal nightmare… And at this point, it’s mine.
Every single day, I get up to get tortured for another 8 hours… I can’t sleep anymore. For 16 to 18 hours a day, I’m fighting against the tears and a depression that even scares the living daylights out of me!
James Killian, LPC, Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT found a few things HSP people can do to make life easier for them:
See your sensitivity as a positive, not a negative
Remember: there is nothing wrong with you, and you are not alone.
As much as possible, avoid negative people, places, and situations
Set firm boundaries with people who take advantage of your compassion and empathy
Practice regular self-care through exercise, meditation, and mindfulness
Give yourself the same empathy and kindness as you do others
Nice list, James… what, if you can’t say anything and cannot avoid your current environment because you need the job – and the money?? Then you’re going on… further and further… day by day, with no perspective, no way out, until one day it might be too late? You pray and beg for help – and there is none… picture that….
And then… people are wondering why you’re fighting a deep, darkening, paralyzing, overarching depression…?
When I read that quote, I started giggling. I’m not sure, this is entirely true. After all, it’s our ‘design’ of the story that ‘creates’ what we write, isn’t it? We pick up an idea, we start to form it, we work on it, plan it, outline it. All this has nothing to do with intuition. It’s careful planning. The story plot, the characters, all the preparation that is so much fun for us, it’s part of our writing process.
But then I realized: Ray Bradbury was not talking about the preparation… he was not talking about ‘before’ or after the writing. Indie-Authors were not a subject in his time. He talked about writing the story itself. The ‘quill on the paper’, so to speak. And then I started to understand.
With our fantasy… with our preparation, with our creative instinct, we basically have our story in our heads, far before the planning even starts! After drawing the story plot, after the fun of creating and naming our characters, we need to literally create the story, paint its world with words… and that’s when Ray Bradbury’s quote starts making sense…
“Don’t think twice, don’t overthink, just DO!’
The story is there, the book is ‘mentally written’… your intuition, your subconscious knows it… let it flow! Let the story write itself through your hands (be it by typing or handwriting… hearing the soft scratching of the pen on your paper, it doesn’t matter). Let the story build itself through your intuition. And that’s what it meant.
Since I’m currently writing the next book in ‘The Council of Twelve’ series, I’ll find out soon enough, if Ray Bradbury was right with what he said. I will try it, because I’m always curious about other author’s experiences, intuition and writing process.
If you have already experience with this kind of writing, let us know in the comments. We are curious!
Ray Bradbury, in full Ray Douglas Bradbury, (born August 22, 1920, Waukegan, Illinois, U.S.—died June 5, 2012, Los Angeles, California), American author best known for his highly imaginative short stories and novels that blend a poetic style, nostalgia for childhood, social criticism, and an awareness of the hazards of runaway technology.
First short stories
Bradbury’s family moved to Los Angeles in 1934. In 1937 Bradbury joined the Los Angeles Science Fiction League, where he received encouragement from young writers such as Henry Kuttner, Edmond Hamilton, Robert Heinlein, and Leigh Brackett, who met weekly with him. Bradbury published his first short story, “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” (1938), in the league’s “fanzine,” Imagination! He published his own fanzine, Futuria Fantasia, in 1939. That same year Bradbury traveled to the first World Science Fiction convention, in New York City, where he met many of the genre’s editors. He made his first sale to a professional science fiction magazine in 1941, when his short story “Pendulum” (written with Henry Hasse) was published in Super Science Stories. Many of Bradbury’s earliest stories, with their elements of fantasy and horror, were published in Weird Tales. Most of these stories were collected in his first book of short stories, Dark Carnival (1947). Bradbury’s style, with its rich use of metaphors and similes, stood out from the more utilitarian work that dominated pulp magazine writing.
In the mid-1940s Bradbury’s stories started to appear in major magazines such as The American Mercury, Harper’s, and McCall’s, and he was unusual in publishing both in pulp magazines such as Planet Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories and “slicks” (so-called because of their high-quality paper) such as The New Yorker and Collier’s without leaving behind the genres he loved. The Martian Chronicles (1950), a series of short stories, depicts Earth’s colonization of Mars, which leads to the extinction of an idyllic Martian civilization. However, in the face of an oncoming nuclear war, many of the settlers return to Earth, and after Earth’s destruction, a few surviving humans return to Mars to become the new Martians. The short-story collection The Illustrated Man (1951) included one of his most famous stories, “The Veldt,” in which a mother and father are concerned about the effect their house’s simulation of lions on the African veldt is having on their children.
Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and scripts
Bradbury’s next novel, Fahrenheit 451 (1953), is regarded as his greatest work. In a future society where books are forbidden, Guy Montag, a “fireman” whose job is the burning of books, takes a book and is seduced by reading. Fahrenheit 451 has been acclaimed for its anti-censorship themes and its defense of literature against the encroachment of electronic media. An acclaimed film adaptation was released in 1966.
The collection The Golden Apples of the Sun (1953) contained “The Fog Horn” (loosely adapted for film as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms ), about two lighthouse keepers’ terrifying encounter with a sea monster; the title story, about a rocket’s dangerous journey to scoop up a piece of the Sun; and “A Sound of Thunder,” about a safari back to the Mesozoic to hunt a Tyrannosaurus. In 1954 Bradbury spent six months in Ireland with director John Huston working on the screenplay for the film Moby Dick (1956), an experience Bradbury later fictionalized in his novel Green Shadows, White Whale (1992). After the release of Moby Dick, Bradbury was in demand as a screenwriter in Hollywood and wrote scripts for Playhouse 90, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Twilight Zone.
One of Bradbury’s most personal works, Dandelion Wine (1957), is an autobiographical novel about a magical but too brief summer of a 12-year-old boy in Green Town, Illinois (a fictionalized version of his childhood home of Waukegan). His next collection, A Medicine for Melancholy (1959), contained “All Summer in a Day,” a poignant story of childhood cruelty on Venus, where the Sun comes out only every seven years. The Midwest of his childhood was once again the setting of Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), in which a carnival comes to town run by the mysterious and evil Mr. Dark. The next year, he published his first collection of short plays, The Anthem Sprinters and Other Antics.
Later work and awards
In the 1970s Bradbury no longer wrote short fiction at his previous pace, turning his energy to poetry and drama. Earlier in his career he had sold several mystery short stories, and he returned to the genre with Death Is a Lonely Business (1985), an homage to the detective stories of writers such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett mixed with an autobiographical setting of 1949 Venice, California, where Bradbury lived at the time. Two sequels, A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990) and Let’s All Kill Constance (2002), mined his experiences in 1950s and ’60s Hollywood. His final novel, Farewell Summer (2006), was a sequel to Dandelion Wine. He adapted 59 of his short stories for the television series The Ray Bradbury Theatre (1985–92).
Bradbury was often considered a science fiction author, but he said that his only science fiction book was Fahrenheit 451. Strictly speaking, much of his work was fantasy, horror, or mysteries. He said, “I use a scientific idea as a platform to leap into the air and never come back.” He received many honours for his work including an Emmy for his animated adaptation of The Halloween Tree (1994) and the National Medal of Arts (2004). In 2007 the Pulitzer Prize Board awarded Bradbury a Special Citation for his distinguished career. (Source: Britannica.com)
Author: International Bestselling Author Stephanie Ayers
Genre: Paranormal, Thriller, and Suspense
Blurb: Every Spring she stands in the poppy field waiting on her groom. No one knows her name or where she comes from. She never ages and never fails to appear, weeping for her lover. Each night, the men of Stoney Village hear her cries and wander to the field, but only one can be chosen. Will there be any left to answer her calls where the poppies grow?
She said her name was Maize, and I couldn’t stop staring at her. Her dirty blonde hair looked so silky, I wanted to run my fingers through it. Her cheeks flowed with a natural blush my fingers ached to caress. She paid me no mind, though, just continued collecting the poppies, clutching them to her chest and sniffing them before tossing them into the air. The flowers flit around her like red confetti, until they fell to the ground and mingled together in the field.
“I’m Carter. The poppies are early this year.”
I had no idea why I said that. I only meant to introduce myself. It was true, though. The poppies usually didn’t bloom for another month.
Maize just smiled and nodded, tossing more flowers into the air. A few of the blossoms settled in her hair, and it stole my breath away. She was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, and she wasn’t from around here.
She couldn’t be because I’d never seen her before. And a girl who looked like she did would have been noticed, and not just by me. Everyone would have noticed her.
The fact that I only ever saw her in the poppy field should have been a clue, but I was so captivated by her, it never crossed my mind I never saw her elsewhere.
Admittedly, I stayed pretty busy between my schoolwork and my real job—which I only had so I could pay for college. Neither left me much time for a social life, and it never bothered me until I met Maize. Time stood still when she was around. I never wanted to leave because I never knew for sure when she’d come back.
She showed up with the appearance of the first poppy, and I worried she would go away when the last one disappeared. I don’t know why I thought that. It was crazy thinking, but I was much too wrapped up in her—or maybe it was the idea of her—to really consider the bigger picture.
The time of year, the appearance of the poppies, and the fact that she never went anywhere but the field should have been obvious clues; red flags I happily ignored as long as I could spend time with her. Time stood still whenever Maize was around, and that was okay with me.
It was not okay with my boss or my teachers. My mother didn’t much care for it, either, but none of them mattered when she was there.
We didn’t even need to talk. We just picked flowers side by side and tossed them into the air, their blooms covering us like blood until we were one with the field. And maybe that’s when I should’ve run far, far away, but I didn’t.
That was my first mistake.
“Where are you going?” my mother inquired.
“Please don’t. The poppies are in bloom, so it’s Maeve Hadley season.”
I laughed. My eyes rolled toward the ceiling. “That’s just an old wives’ tale, Ma. The only thing haunting that field is ghosts of memories gone by. No one has disappeared from that field for as long as I’ve been alive.”
Mom’s forehead wrinkled. “That doesn’t mean Maeve hasn’t shown up. Just do me a favor and stay away from the poppies. Please?”
I shook my head. Mom was easily placated, but I hated lying to her. Somehow, she always knew.
“I’m not going to make any promises I can’t keep. I promise to be careful, okay? Besides, the girl I meet up with is named Maize, not Maeve.”
“Maize, Maeve—they sound an awful lot alike. I heard she uses a different name every year.”
Connect with Stephanie
Author Bio: A creative ninja with a dark mind and a quirky nature, Stephanie Ayers writes all the words and spins twisted tales filled with horror, fantasy, suspense, and anything in between. With a trunk full of tricks thanks to a checkered past, she haunts Irish castles and snowy mountaintops in her dreams, while living the unicorn life in Ohio disguised as a human. When she isn’t listening to the voices in her head, she spends her days as a mom, Gigi, cat lover, and Netflix binger, while avoiding housework at all costs.
Since signing with Crazy Ink Publishing, Stephanie has managed to somehow produce over a dozen solo works (with no ending in sight). With ink in her blood, an absence of fear, and a passion for telling stories, she isn’t afraid to dip her pen in the inkwell of many genres, and even has four successful series in her name—the stand-alone horror volumes of The 13 Series, the amateur witch detectives of the Coven Cozy Mysteries, the individual displaced characters in the Portal to Madness series, and her epic five book fantasy series, Destiny Defined.
When she isn’t lost in her overactive imagination or entertaining her mini-unicorns, you can find her all over social media and find a full listing of her works on her Amazon author page. Her favorite wandering place is her readers’ group on Facebook. Join the herd now!
Stay up to date with everything unicorn by subscribing to her monthly newsletter and get a free read as a thank you!
Let me start by saying that this is a topic I use in my current need to write blog posts that give us a bit of information about how things really were in the ‘good old days’… I wrote about Historical Romance and Hygiene, I wrote an article describing Historical Health and Ladies Fashion, and their part in Historical Romance… now, let’s go to another piece of history, a dark, very dark part, that we nowadays rather ignore…
But let me ask you a question:
How did we get from THIS:
In these days of storytelling, authors enjoy the wonderful freedom that ‘fiction’ gives them. With the genre of ‘Historical Romance,’ ‘Paranormal Romance,’ ‘Chick Lit,’ ‘Sexy Romance,’ ‘Erotica,’ ‘Fantasy,’ and others, we are given the possibility to turn our characters into whatever we feel like… And it happens that some of these women become witches.
I admit, it wouldn’t be very romantic (or sexy), if the ‘lady’ from the first picture were our protagonist’s love interest, while nobody has problems seeing the young ‘witch’ being the chosen one.
In many cases, our young and sexy girl is often a witch with unmeasurable power. Of course, remove the pointy hat and the broomstick, but I think you get the drift.
But how did these accessories even come up? How did witches ‘become’? What happened to these women, and why is this part of history so dark?
Let’s have a look at that:
Partially to filming, movies, TV, illustrators, and artists (one of them the creators of ‘The Wizard of Oz’), the expression ‘witch’ has become stereotyped with a certain outfit, long ripped, ugly, unwashed flowing dresses, boots… black cats, broomsticks, and a pointy black hat.
After a few hours of intense research, I admit, I’m at the end of my wits. Despite all the information I got, I’m as helpless as I was before I started looking for the origin of that hat. History is full of pointy hats. Medieval noblewomen wore the ‘Hennin’, a long conic hat, often covered with a veil… Phrygian caps were worn by French revolutionaries (dwarves and smurfs), but the truth is, nobody knows truly when the pointy hat became associated with dark magic.
Until the early 18th century, witches were shown bare-headed and nude, until in England, illustrations of old crones in pointed hats started showing up.
Gary Jensen, a former professor at Vanderbilt and author of ‘The Path of The Devil, Early Modern Witch Hunts,” the pointed hat became an easy way to recognize dark magic. Witches showed up on postcards from the American colonies. Later, Victorian storybooks picked up on the theme and continued to develop the myth.
After all the interesting information I gathered, I still didn’t know about the origin of the conical hats and why there were supposed to represent evil. There were rumors that witches were trying to gather universal power with the hat, who supposedly served as the ‘catcher’ and vessel of said power. But other than that rumor, I didn’t find anything that would point me in that direction.
I also read about a theory, which Jensen described, how the ‘Fourth Council of Lateran in 1215 demanded all Jewish people to wear this so-called ‘Judenhat’ (Jewish hat) to show their religion. By then, this hat stood for Anti-Semitism. What surprised me was that Jews had been followed, hated, and bullied as early as the medieval by connecting them to the devil.
Another wild guess pointed me toward Quakers and the ‘commoner’s’ prejudice against them. This would partially explain the hatred and fear people had against this sect in colonial America, but it wouldn’t tell anything about the horrible hatred and Witch-Hunts in Europe. Also, Quakers wore hats but nowhere near pointed.
One more theory I read about, in a short, rather insignificant article, was the one that doctors set the rumors of ‘witches’ into the community when women started working as midwives and were much cleaner and more successful than the often dirty and careless medical ‘experts’ back in the medieval times. The midwives’ pupils had a much higher chance of surviving delivery, and the mothers-to-be felt more comfortable in their presence. And we are talking about a time, centuries before Lister’s Theory of Antisepsis, which he published after 1867. This theory is quite interesting but had nothing to do with the pointed hat.
After all that research, we know that witches use cone hats with wide rims, and we still have no clue where this began.
However, there are more ‘accessories’ witches have, one of them the infamous black cat. How did that start? I found a website, ‘Solidgoldpet,’ that told me in a few words, what I wanted to know:
Back in the 14th century, black cats were actually worshiped as gods, but as time went on, their reputation quickly changed. During the Middle Ages, the black cat became affiliated with evil. This stemmed from them being nocturnal animals.
Witchcraft also played a big part of the cat’s evil image. Since being one with nature was an important part of witchcraft, it was common for them to have a cat as a companion. Cats are also nocturnal and roam the night, which lead to the belief that they were supernatural servants to witches. When the black cat was linked to the devil, it lead to many of them being killed during the Black Death pandemic (although the cats were actually helping to kill the rats that spread the plague). The term witchcraft has a negative connotation, but it actually means “craft of the wise.” When witches claimed to be able to perform magic, they were actually brewing special potions that helped heal the sick. That is when the Christian Church spread propaganda that their magical powers came from The Devil. (Source: Solidgoldpet)
A third distinctive accessory for witches is the ‘broomstick’ on which they fly around. I found an amusing and very interesting article about this on ‘History.com’, which actually blamed a priest for practicing witchcraft and flying around on a broomstick, and he confessed. (Under torture, but still…) If you would like to read the entire article, it can be found here. At this time, I decided only to implement a part of the post here.
Anthropologist Robin Skelton suggests the association between witches and brooms may have roots in a pagan fertility ritual, in which rural farmers would leap and dance astride poles, pitchforks or brooms in the light of the full moon to encourage the growth of their crops. This “broomstick dance,” she writes, became confused with common accounts of witches flying through the night on their way to orgies and other illicit meetings. (Source: History.com)
So, when and where did the witch hunts start? It is unclear, how it started, the theory of ‘doctors’ starting them, accusing midwives of witchcraft, is as ‘good or bad’ as any other wild guess. Again, the ‘History Channel’ helped me. In limited, clear and simple words it explained the suspected origin, the wide spread witch hunts in Europe, and even touches the Salem Witch Trials. (For the entire article, please click here)
Witches were perceived as evil beings by early Christians in Europe, inspiring the iconic Halloween figure.
Images of witches have appeared in various forms throughout history—from evil, wart-nosed women huddling over a cauldron of boiling liquid to hag-faced, cackling beings riding through the sky on brooms wearing pointy hats. In pop culture, the witch has been portrayed as a benevolent, nose-twitching suburban housewife; an awkward teenager learning to control her powers and a trio of charmed sisters battling the forces of evil. The real history of witches, however, is dark and, often for the witches, deadly.
The Origin of Witches
Early witches were people who practiced witchcraft, using magic spells and calling upon spirits for help or to bring about change. Most witches were thought to be pagans doing the Devil’s work. Many, however, were simply natural healers or so-called “wise women” whose choice of profession was misunderstood.
It’s unclear exactly when witches came on the historical scene, but one of the earliest records of a witch is in the Bible in the book of 1 Samuel, thought be written between 931 B.C. and 721 B.C. It tells the story of when King Saul sought the Witch of Endor to summon the dead prophet Samuel’s spirit to help him defeat the Philistine army.
The witch roused Samuel, who then prophesied the death of Saul and his sons. The next day, according to the Bible, Saul’s sons died in battle, and Saul committed suicide.
Other Old Testament verses condemn witches, such as the oft-cited Exodus 22:18, which says, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Additional Biblical passages caution against divination, chanting or using witches to contact the dead.
Witch hysteria really took hold in Europe during the mid-1400s, when many accused witches confessed, often under torture, to a variety of wicked behaviors. Within a century, witch hunts were common and most of the accused were executed by burning at the stake or hanging. Single women, widows and other women on the margins of society were especially targeted.
Between the years 1500 and 1660, up to 80,000 suspected witches were put to death in Europe. Around 80 percent of them were women thought to be in cahoots with the Devil and filled with lust. Germany had the highest witchcraft execution rate, while Ireland had the lowest.
The publication of “Malleus Maleficarum”—written by two well-respected German Dominicans in 1486—likely spurred witch mania to go viral. The book, usually translated as “The Hammer of Witches,” was essentially a guide on how to identify, hunt and interrogate witches.
“Malleus Maleficarum” labeled witchcraft as heresy, and quickly became the authority for Protestants and Catholics trying to flush out witches living among them. For more than 100 years, the book sold more copies of any other book in Europe except the Bible.
Anna Göldi (Switzerland, 24 October 1734 – 13 June 1782) was probably the last person in Europe to be executed as a witch. She was beheaded in Glarus in 1782. She confessed under torture, and despite many people believing her innocent, she had to die. You can read about her life in ‘The Story of Anna Göldi‘.
In March 2007, 225 years after her execution, the government and the church of Glarus refused to admit that Anna Göldi was a victim of justice. They said that in the minds of the people of Glarus, she was already rehabilitated long ago.
However, the case was taken further, and finally, on September 20, 2007, the Swiss parliament decided that justice was wrong in Anna Göldin’s case. As a representative for Glarus in the Swiss parliament, Fritz Schiesser called for Anna Göldin’s exoneration. (An interesting view on things, because, in my opinion, an exoneration 225 years after her death gives the word ‘delay’ a whole new dimension, doesn’t it?)
Now, what are we doing with all our information about witches? I would say it depends on what kind of authors we are. We can write about sexy, breathtakingly beautiful women practicing witchcraft and having a happily-ever-after moment with their beau… or we write about the numerous poor women who had to die, innocent, after being tortured and accused for no reason, just because someone didn’t like them?
Or… we write a dark, dark fairy tale, where old hags eat children…”Nibble, nibble, gnaw, who is nibbling at my little house?”
Perfect for Historical Romance in the 19th century, when all the Lords, Dukes, Barons, and so on, from the old, wealthy, royal families, tried to keep their aristrocratic crap together and marry wealthy daughters to renovate their ancient sheds they called ‘family home heirloms’… it was a turbulent – and very romantic time back then in old England.
The young, heartbroken and distrusting heir, the young Duke undresses his love interest, opens her dress, his hand finds a very sensitive spot, and then…
Right… opens her dress and then the things are going on. HAHA To be precise, he actually had to peal her out of layers of clothing like an onion. I figure, by the time she was nude, he must have been covered in sweat and exhausted and lost interest.
Ladies fashion in history barely permitted a light and easy rendezvous in the hay. Ladies were dressed like onions. Everything was carefully connected, buttoned, bowed, sewn, bound, and hung together…
Women wore undergarments in wool, linen, and other odd material (I don’t even want to know how it was to sit in those) … then a bodice, a corset, a blouse, and then the ‘cage’, or ‘petticoat’, made of stiff material, wood, steel or horsehair, onto which the skirt was placed, using up endless amounts of fabric, ruffled, decorated, mounted on top of each other…
Women back then tended to the extremes, considering, they did not have much else to do, and the wealthier women’s petticoats became so extended, that they had difficulties moving around, if the ground wasn’t perfectly even.
Also, these dresses and skirts were a severe health hazard to the ladies. Since the crinolines were worn by aristocracy as well as the common women, they were in constant danger.
Women’s skirts have been caught in machinery and they could not free themselves in time. After bone-breaking torture, the owner of the dress passed away by organ failure, internal bleeding, or strangulation. In other cases, a sudden faintness made them fall into water, and the heavy fabrics pulled them under water and made it impossible to somehow safe themselves, they drowned. There have been known cases when women’s crinolines caught fire and the ladies wearing them literally burned to death.
The corsets the ladies wore did not make it easier for them. In an unhealthy way to give the impression of a small waist they endangered themselves, risking organ injuries, respiratory problems and more. Fainting was a common thing in these times.
While the crinolines slowly narrowed to a more ‘natural’ silhouette, mainly ‘cushioned’ on their backside, while the front was almost straight, the famous ‘hourglass figure’ needed to be pronounced, which resulted in the production and wearing of tight and unhealthy corsets.
They were made of metal and bone, hooks in the front, adjustable laces in the back, which gave desperate Nannies and Mothers the opportunity to deform their daughters and fosterlings to the extreme, sometimes with as little waist as 17 inches, leading to organ displacement and deformed ribcages.
Now, in hot steamy romance books, there is always this natural beauty, slim, elegant, with a perfect body that does not need corsets… She is, of course, the one on the cover, in a low cut high slitted sexy dress, that reveals more than it hides…
And considered the story is somewhat around the last third of the 19th century, every bit of her clothing is completely and totally un-authentic!
What are we going to do with this quite disturbing piece of information that ruins the reading fun with our 19th Century Romance book? I’m not sure if there’s anything we can do… Keep the cover picture in your memory and go on reading. *chuckle*
February 13, 2023 the Winners of the Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewer’s Choice Awards were announced. And yes, I’m very thrilled and excited to inform you all that ‘The Council of Twelve’ series has made the winner in the ‘Novellas & Shorts Series’ category!
A.J. Alexander, Paranormal Romance Guild 2022 Reviewer’s Choice Award nominee, writes poetry, fantasy, and is an accomplished classical musician. She often explores the concept of good vs. evil in her short stories or novellas while challenging the idea that angels, guardians and demons aren’t necessarily always male but romance usually figures into the struggle.
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