Authors Recognition Award

If you follow along with this blog fairly regularly you may have noticed that I have been taking it a little easier this summer than I normally do. 2020 has brought plenty of strangeness and with that, I’ve found it useful to have the flexibility of trading my normally weekly post for an every two weeks schedule. At this point I anticipate returning to a weekly posting schedule when school starts at the end of August. But it’s 2020, so I may be carried off by murder hornets or blown away in a dust storm by then. I’m not making any firm promises.

Or maybe I’ll be be eaten by carnivorous plants grown from mystery seeds. What a strange year. Image by MarcosJH from Pixabay

In the meantime, with this “off” week, since I’m not researching any weird historical tidbits to share with you, I’m going to participate in an award/tag that I received recently.

The Author’s Recognition Award was originally created by Beverly at her Becoming the Oil and Wine Blog. She wants to support fellow bloggers who have written and published books, or who are somewhere in that process, to give them an opportunity to write about their work. Thanks, Beverly. That’s pretty super cool of you!

Thank you also to the Dippy Dotty Girl who nominated me for this award, and who is furiously querying agents in hopes of publishing a book about her “dippy-dotty travels through Cornwall.” As somewhat of a dippy-dotty traveler myself, I’m anxious for the someday when I can read it.

This is the image to which the rules refer, but feel free to use the Venus Flytrap picture if it works for you.

Like any blog award, there are few rules:

  1. Create a new post on your blog with the above logo or with one of your own creation.
  2. Include both the purpose of the award and the rules of the award.
  3. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
  4. Include links to the creator of the award and to the inspiration post Celebrating and Supporting our Fellow Writers.
  5. Write a brief description of the books you have written or the book you are currently writing.
  6. Include a link to your published books or the potential timeline of release.
  7. Nominate at least five bloggers who have published books or who are writing a book.
  8. Support at least one of the bloggers you nominated by either purchasing one of their books or sharing the links to their books. If they haven’t written a book, share one of their blog posts

My books:

Launching Sheep & Other Stories from the Intersection of History and Nonsense is a collection of humorous essays about quirky history, viewed through the lens of modern-day family life. Released in the spring of 2017, it is a celebration of the first five years of this very blog, which was originally called The Practical Historian: Your Guide to Practically True History. The blog title grew up a little as my writing career became more developed, but the posts have not matured at all. You can find more information about the book at this link.

Gentleman of Misfortune is a historical novel about a 19th century gentleman criminal who commandeers a shipment of Egyptian mummies, attempts to make his fortune by taking them on the road, and gets more than he bargained for. You can find out more and read an excerpt at this link.

Smoke Rose to Heaven is a historical novel that tells the 19th century coming of age story of a girl with a unique gift and a dangerous secret. It is a companion novel to Gentleman of Misfortune, but as the timelines intersect, the two books can be enjoyed in either order. You can find out more and read an excerpt at this link.

My Work in Progress is another historical novel that does have an actual working title, but one never knows how it will go with titles. It was inspired by a 19th century diary discovered by my aunt in the false-bottom drawer of a desk that once belonged to my grandmother. Close to completion now, this novel will soon attract an influential agent, a large advance from a major publisher, and inevitable fame. And since I’m dreaming big anyway, I might as well sell the film rights, too.

Now for the nominees:

  1. Jane Olandese (Book ‘Em Jan O)
  2. M.B. Henry
  3. Steven Baird (Ordinary Handsome)
  4. Tammie Painter
  5. Matthew Wright

I know a lot of writers, many of them wonderfully creative people I have met virtually in the blogosphere. I’ve listed five here, and I suggest you check them all out because they’re great. But please also know that if you are a writer and I didn’t list you, that was in no way an intentional slight. I know we’re all busy blogging away about anything other than our books so people don’t get sick to death of us writing endlessly about our books and begging them to buy our books and love our books and write thoughtful reviews about our books, but sometimes, it’s nice to get to just share. Also, I want to read about your books. So please consider yourself nominated and carry on.

Thanks for stopping by! I promise next week I’ll post something about a little piece of history you never knew you wanted to know, but that might come in handy at your next cocktail party, which will probably be swarmed by murder hornets so you should probably just stay home to be safe.

Four Score and Seven Words to Go

On November 2, 1863, a man named David Wills, writing on behalf of the governor of Pennsylvania, asked then president of the United States Abraham Lincoln if he might consider making “a few appropriate remarks” at the November 19th consecration ceremony of a new cemetery for the many soldiers who had died at the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg address
Lincoln’s in there somewhere making a few appropriate remarks. Just upper left of center, I think. Photographer attributions vary from unidentified (William Frassanito) to Mathew Brady (NARA) and David Bachrach (1845-1921) (Center for Civil War Photography). [Public domain]
The main speaker was to be Edward Everett, who allegedly spoke eloquently for nearly two hours, as everyone pretty much expected. History books rarely recount what he said. Then it was Lincoln’s turn. The president spoke relatively few words. Not even three hundred, in fact. And, diagnosed not long after with smallpox, he probably wasn’t feeling very well at the time. Still, most American school children could recite at least some of them.

Rumors have long circulated that the president dashed off the speech while on the train to the event, but that probably isn’t quite true. I don’t doubt that he fine-tuned and finalized a little of his phrasing on that train, but he’d known for a couple of weeks that he’d have to say something. Various observations place him scribbling notes between photo shoots and presidential responsibilities in the days leading up to the event. Most likely he thought a great deal about the words he would say.

I can’t speak for all writers and orators, but I know that for me much composition occurs in my head, swirling in the background of whatever essential tasks I’m completing. Sometimes I dash off a note or two to help me remember later, and then when I finally get a few dedicated moments, I have someplace to start and a great deal to pull together.

I think this is probably how it worked for Lincoln when he delivered what has become his most remembered address.

I was hoping something similar would happen with my blog post this week. You see, it’s been busy around here. I’m getting ready to launch a new book in a little less than a week, which means I have been spending a lot of time preparing. I’ve been upping my game on social media, sending off press releases, scheduling events, cranking out posts for an upcoming blog tour, and designing graphics. I even made a book trailer.

And then there’s my family, still busy doing all the many things they do while also expecting to occasionally eat and/or spend time together.

So, I was definitely hoping for some inspiration for this week’s practical history blog post. Unfortunately, if ideas were swirling somewhere in the background while I was busy elsewhere, I didn’t get them scribbled down.

But Abraham Lincoln is pretty inspiring as historical figures go. And though I think I can be fairly certain that “the world will little note, nor long remember” what I’ve written here, I can at least say I got it done.

5 more days until publication! Follow this link to check out more information about the book, or follow this one to sign up to receive occasional email updates.

What to Do in the Meantime

In 1912, rare books dealer Wilfrid Voynich added to his collection of his London shop the strangest book he never read. It’s not entirely clear how the manuscript came into Voynich’s possession, but it most likely came from the Jesuit Order, which around that time, sold some of its holdings from the library of the Roman College (by then Pontifical Gregorian University) to the Vatican and apparently to a few others as well.

Voynich2
Ohhhh… so that’s what it says. Excerpt from the Voynich Manuscript. Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons.

The Jesuits didn’t read it either, not even the scholar Athanasius Kircher, who was likely responsible for the inclusion of the manuscript in the collection.

Before him, the two hundred-plus-page manuscript probably belonged to a physician by the name of Johannes Marcus Marci, who likely received it from alchemist and antique collector George Baresch, who may have gotten it from Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz, who served as the personal physician to Emperor Rudolph II of Germany. Emperor Rudolf assumed the manuscript was the work of 13th century philosopher Roger Bacon and purchased it for a fairly large sum.

But none of these men ever read the book.

Because they couldn’t. What came to be known in the 20th century as the Voynich Manuscript is an enduring puzzle. Its vellum pages have been carbon-dated to the early fifteenth century, which means Bacon didn’t write it. They are filled with an unknown language or code, written by a single, careful hand, and accompanied by lots of strange pictures of unidentifiable plants, weird symbols, and plenty of naked ladies.

Voynich1
I chose not to highlight one of the pages with naked ladies, as this is a family-friendly blog. Illustration from the Voynich Manuscript. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Housed today in Yale’s Beinecke Library, and available to view online if you want to take a stab at it, the Voynich Manuscript has been defying translators for pretty much as long as it has existed. Recent attempts at translation by television writer Nicholas Gibbs and University of Bristol research assistant Gerard Cheshire have been pretty quickly shot down by Voynich scholars and enthusiasts. And in 2016, even AI failed to convince those in the know that it could crack the code.

It’s been suggested that the book is a medical guide of some sort, that it’s written in Hebrew anagrams, that it’s nothing more than an elaborate hoax, or that it’s of otherworldly origin. All we know for certain is that it’s weird, oddly fascinating, and unreadable. Perhaps it contains the answers to the greatest mysteries of the universe.

But as frustrating as it is that there’s this one book that has remained unread by everyone except, presumably, its author, I can’t help but think there are probably a lot of books no one has ever been able to read. Most languish on hard drives or exist only as scribbles in tattered notebooks. Others have been locked up in contracts with defunct presses, trapped away from the public by copyright law.

Hopefully that last possibility doesn’t apply to too many books. Very soon it will apply to one fewer, as the copyright of my first historical novel, Smoke Rose to Heaven, will be returning to me in the coming weeks. What this means is that very soon (February 4th to be exact), I will be releasing it finally into the world for anyone to read.

SmokeFrontCover
Coming soon!

I can’t promise that it contains the answers to the greatest mysteries of the universe, but it’ll be fairly easy to read because it’s written in English without anagrams, strange symbols, or unidentifiable plants. For better or worse, it doesn’t have any pictures of naked ladies, either.

I’ll have a lot more to share about this most elusive of my books in the coming weeks. You can’t read it just yet,* but maybe while you’re waiting, you can decipher the Voynich Manuscript.

 

 

*Okay, you can actually get a sneak peek if you would like to commit to giving Smoke Rose to Heaven an honest review. If that’s something that interests you, drop me a line at s_angleton@charter.net before the publication date and I’ll happily send you a complimentary e-book. You can check out the back cover blurb and read a sample here.