Top 5 Literary Vampires

After a student of mine handed me Twilight, I started reading about vampires for the first time. I had always avoided reading horror fiction since I’m not into scary things, and to me vampires qualified as scary things. In my mind, vampires and horror were the same thing, but Twilight helped me realize that vampires didn’t necessarily have to be scary. With my new interest in vampires, I began watching True Blood when it was on HBO. With Twilight and True Blood on my mind, I was inspired to start writing my own vampire stories, beginning with Her Dear & Loving Husband. Once I started writing about my own vampire, James Wentworth, I wanted to read more about these preternatural creatures that have been the object of such fascination for centuries. I enjoyed many of the vampire books I read, so it’s hard for me to narrow down my list of favorite literary vampires. But I do have a few who stand out from the crowd:

Louis from Interview With a Vampire by Anne Rice

There is something about the inherent humanness of Louis that drew my attention from the beginning of this story. As he’s telling his tale in the interview to the young reporter, he’s conflicted about his life as a vampire, and I liked that about him. I liked that he hadn’t given himself over entirely to the animal-like vampire nature. Lestat is a fascinating character, but I’ve always liked Louis better. Louis strikes me as reluctant to entirely let go of being human, which is perhaps why he needed to tell his story. I think this book is where I first realized that a vampire might have a conscience. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my own vampire, James Wentworth, is also conflicted about his vampire nature.

Dracula from, well, Dracula by Bram Stoker

To be fair, Dracula himself is a meanie so in that respect I don’t like him all that much. But he’s so smooth, so suave, so enigmatic, and the way he sneaks around to accomplish his dastardly deeds is rather entrancing, to me and to the characters who share their blood (willingly or not) with the aristocratic vampire. I also loved Stoker’s storytelling, the way he tells the tale using newspaper clippings and diary entries. You can see how that influenced the Loving Husband Trilogy because I also use fictional primary sources to help tell the tale—in my case I used blog posts and television shows—in books one and two of the trilogy, Her Dear and Loving Husband and Her Loving Husband’s Curse.

Bill from True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse novels

Since the Sookie Stackhouse stories originated in Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampires series, I’m considering Bill a literary vampire. My Loving Husband Trilogy exists because of Bill (or Stephen Moyer, the actor who plays him, whichever comes first). There’s an episode early in the first season of True Blood (I think it’s episode four, but don’t quote me) where vampire Bill is giving a talk at Sookie’s grandmother’s church. Someone shows Bill a picture of his family from his human days before the American Civil War, and Bill becomes so emotional at the remembrance of them. That scene inspired Her Dear & Loving Husband. Here’s this vampire who has everything humans only dream of—extraordinary strength, immortal life—and yet he becomes so emotional at the sight of the ones he loved as a human. That’s where you see the connection between Bill and my vampire, James.

I did read Dead Until Dark, the first of the Sookie Stackhouse books, and I did enjoy it. Dead Until Dark is a quick, fun read told from Sookie’s point of view and you can see the influence the book had on True Blood. If you’re a fan of the show you should read the books.

Edward from Twilight

I’m compelled to give Edward a nod because if I hadn’t read the Twilight books I wouldn’t have ever given vampires a second thought. Twilight was the catalyst for my interest in vampires, which led me to write the Loving Husband Trilogy. It’s fair to say that without Edward, James Wentworth wouldn’t exist, the thought of which makes me very sad indeed. So thank you, Edward.

 

 

Matthew from A Discovery of Witches

I love the witch aspect of A Discovery of Witches, and the fact that Matthew’s love interest, Diana, is related to Bridget Bishop, one of those accused and hung for witchcraft in Salem in 1692. Of course, the Salem Witch Trials play a huge role in Her Dear and Loving Husband, and an even bigger role in the prequel, Down Salem Way, which I’m writing now. I thought it was an interesting twist that Bridget is a real witch in A Discovery of Witches. I loved reading this novel because I could see elements of Her Dear and Loving Husband in it, from the women’s connections to the Salem Witch Trials, to vampire professors, to spending a lot of time in a university library, to two unlikely beings falling in love despite the challenges. I’m glad I didn’t read this until after I wrote Her Dear & Loving Husband or else I would have worried about where I got my ideas from.

If you’re looking for some good vampire reads, here are my suggestions. The amazing thing about vampires is that people continue to be fascinated by them, so a new vampire book is something to be excited about. And most of these novels are part of a series, so there’s more than five books here for your reading pleasure.

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Sneak Peek: Down Salem Way

I wanted to continue sharing a sneak peek of Down Salem Way with you. Rather than writing in the same style as the other Loving Husband stories, going back and forth between the past and the present, Down Salem Way is strictly historical fiction written diary-style from James’ point of view when he and Elizabeth lived in Salem between 1691-1692. It still needs some polishing, but we’re among friends here.

If you missed the Prologue, here it is.

Here’s the first part of Chapter 1. Enjoy.

20 January 1691

This morn I walked along the seaside toward the near empty dock by the bay. The men who mulled about pulled their long hats closer over their ears and their woolen coats and scarves closer to their chins to keep away the wicked winter wind that poked at our ribs with pointed sticks and whipped our lips and chapped our eyes raw. I had to focus my eyes on the the horizon where the gray line of the sky met the black line of the sea, making the distance appear as though there were no sea and no sky but rather everything blurred into one vast array of nothingness. With my eyes turned toward gray, I bumped into one man, who must have been a ship builder since that was the only trade happening on the docks during the inclement weather. Ship builders abounded in Salem with the plentiful timber available within arm’s grasp. The man’s flat cap fell to the ground, his leather pouch flung from his shoulder, and he grimaced at me with great severity.

“My apologies,” I said. “I did not see you there.”

“Blind, are you? A pox on you!” The man spat tobacco on the ground near my boot and skittered toward the sea, his gray doublet and breeches blending into the slate colors surrounding us and he was gone from my sight as quickly as he appeared. I laughed to myself as I thought, indeed, I am blind. I cannot see without my spectacles, which are at home, and I care not to see anyone who is not my Lizzie, who is also at home, where it is warm, where she is warm, her embrace and her soft body warm, and I am here, being whipped like a thief in the stocks by the angry winter wind. I squinted into the distance, seeking out my father on this dark, frigid day. Standing on one of the docks, I shivered as I remembered how those who lived closest to the port were suffering from smallpox at that very moment, and once again I realized that I would rather be at home sitting in my chair before the amiable fire in the hearth, reading Samuel Pepys, Memoirs of the Navy, my wife sitting in her chair beside me knitting or mending or reading. I pictured my two-gabled wooden house and the dark-haired angel waiting for me inside, and suddenly the docks became even more miserable than they were when I first set out that morning.

Suddenly, near the ship builders I saw a group of men clustered close to one another and I guessed that my father was among them. Banging and clanging and shouted conversations among the ship builders filled the empty space alongside the waves crashing against the shore and the crisp cries of seagulls. I shivered,  shaken nearly senseless by the biting wind.

It was quiet by the docks today, as it normally is in January, the ship crossings lessened during the frigid winter weather. It was hard enough for the ships to pass through the unfriendly triangle seas of their destinations during calmer weather. While it may have been warmer in the southern destinations, in winter in Massachusetts it was virtually impossible to navigate the ships safely to harbor. For some reason, the weather did feel colder in January in Massachusetts than it did in London. Virtually, the sky was the same, deepening shades of gray that shed wind, sleet, or snow depending on its mood, but in London, more than 1600 years old and not yet three decades past the Great Fire, there are more people, more ways to deal with the discomforts of the cold. Especially at our home along the Thames between Westminster and London where we lived among earls and dukes. In Salem Town, where we have lived for more than a year now, everything is sparse. There are a few buildings, a few homes, a few artisans, and they call this a town. It makes me laugh when I think of home. Here there are so few people. So few ways to deal with vexations. There’s just so little of everything here, and it’s still a shock to walk outside my home and see nothing but a few trees and the sea. But my father and I decided to have a go here, settling in the Massachusetts Bay Colony since tis the epicenter of trade here. My father, already a successful merchant in England, had risen from the working class, his father being but a sailor for hire by whomever needed his hands. In England, we could never be anything but new rich, an uncomfortable realization since we lived alongside aristocrats and nobility. But here, in Massachusetts, there was the chance to begin again and see where our wits would take us.

I arrived near the group of huddled men and found my father standing among them as I predicted, near the dock where our ship, The Elizabeth, named for my wife, would be expected in the next few months. My father smiled his hearty smile when he saw me, threw his arm around my shoulders, and though he were a good eight inches shorter than me there was something about his infectious laugh that always made him appear taller, as though he might fill any room he entered. His head was covered under his hat, his balding head left his brain exposed to the cold, he liked to say, and his slanted, small blue eyes brightened. The other men, also merchants with their fortunes resting on the good behavior of the unpredictable seas, shook my hand and nodded in my direction.

“James!” my father said. I have always been certain that, had we remained in London, he could have made his living treading the stage with that hearty, sometimes exaggerated voice that carried over the hammering of the ship builders in the distance. “You see. Here he is. My James. What better son could any father wish for.”

The men murmured their agreement, then turned their eyes to the gray wash from the bay into the horizon. Tis a worrying time for the ship owners, the waiting. Anything could happen from here to there and back again, and it was all too easy to lose goods, men, and most importantly, profits from their merchant trade. In a burst of a bad decision, or a bad wind, everything they depended on could disappear to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean Ships from the Massachusetts Bay Colony carried rum made in New England to Africa where it was traded for the human beings meant to be sold as slaves, who were then brought to the Caribbean plantations where liquid sugar was purchased and brought back to New England to make rum. It could take a complete year for the ships to travel the triangle, and that was a year of worry for the ship owners. Together, these men had built wharves along the bay, a safe place to unload goods destined for local markets or to load cargo onto ships bound for distant ports. They also constructed warehouses and fashionable homes so everyone would know that they were not merely merchants, but successful ones at that. These men were more than shopkeepers who bought and sold goods. Some, like my father, had come from England with success already filling their pockets. Some had come from England with nothing more than the clothes they wore and they created wealth for themselves because of their enterprising spirit.

The ship owners like to congregate near the shore these winter days to gossip. They, including my father, are well dressed men in their finely fitting, jewel-toned fabrics and their jewelry. They are not so overdone as to be ostentatious since there are those in the Village who call them sinful for their vanity, but they are done just enough for others to see that they can afford that ruby ring. The ship owners leaned their heads close as they shared whatever they knew of interest in the Town or the Village. They held their heads high, letting the five-inch cock feathers on their hats reach towards the sky as though together they might lift off in flight like a bird at any moment. They kept their eyes on the barely visible horizon, as though, if they squinted, they could see their ships sailing smoothly across the Atlantic. It was, I thought as I stood near the lapping waves of the bay, not unlike a wake for ships not yet sunk or sailors not yet lost. I was not happy to see the men my father kept company with, but I daren’t bring up the subject with the men themselves stood there. My father had a small but profitable role in the trading—his ship traveled exclusively back and forth from England, sending fish, rum, and molasses to the mother country, receiving beads, copper, cloth, and hardware in return, which he sells round the colonies for a healthy profit. Still, he needs the cooperation of those with more extensive roles in the triangle trade, and my father, ever ready with the bawdy joke and the vivacious actor’s laugh, found that cooperation often in his reach.

My father clasped my shoulder more firmly and brought me into the circle of men. Again, I nodded to the others, waiting for the swift wind to lift away the distinctly sweet smell of the rum my father traded wafting from the breaths of the men leaning toward me.

“Ah!” Mister Boxley was one of the leading shipping merchants, one of the wealthiest men in Salem Town, as displayed by his fine fur-collared robe, white linen neck ruff, and fingers glittering with gold. I watched his hands flash like lightning during a storm, and I wondered if Lizzie might like gold of her own, but then I reminded myself of my wife’s simple tastes and I put the thought away. As if reading my mind, Mister Boxley grabbed my arm as though we were the greatest of friends. I had to turn away or else become intoxicated by the rum induced fumes emanating from his very pores. “There you are, young Wentworth! I was wondering why we haven’t seen you about. Too busy at home with that pretty little wife of yours, eh?”

I would have said something rude in reply if my father hadn’t stepped between Mister Boxley and me. “Now, now, George. You know that my James has been married but a month. What else should he be doing these days, and nights for that matter?”

George Boxley slapped his hands together. “Ah, aye indeed, the bliss of early married days. But they pass, young man. They pass. Enjoy them while you can.”

“My wife and I intend on remaining always as we are now,” I replied. “We are quite content together, I assure you.”

“Aye, but weren’t we all quite content when we were first married?” Mister Boxley looked round at the others, and each nodded as though this were all quite serious. “You see, young James. There is joy, but then it is gone. As I say, enjoy it while you can.”

“And as much of it as you can!” said a small, round man whose name I did not care to know.

“Hush!” My father looked around as though looking for spies among the ship builders in the distance. “If the farmers from the Village hear you speak in such a manner they’ll cite you for vulgarity. Perhaps they’ll set you in the stocks for your sin!”

The men slapped their knees at the mere mention of it. Good rum will do that to you, and my father was always keen to allow the merchants whose help he needed to sample as much of that rum as they liked.

“The Villagers can go to the devil,” said Mister Davies, “if they haven’t already. What with their superstitions and beliefs in things unseen. The invisible world they call it. Ha! That’s what happens when you’ve no proper education—you’re too easily manipulated to the biddings of others. Tis no wonder their reverend’s own family suffers. ”

“They have no thoughts other than that which their Reverend tells them to have,” said another, a Mister Stevens, “and I’ve heard he speaks of nothing but the spread of the devil’s own magic everywhere in the Village. Tis no surprise his own family suffers.”

“They’re simple folk,” said the small, round man. His white-shirted stomach pressed his coat aside as though it were only meant to stretch halfway round his waist. “Uneducated. Unthinking. Tis like living down the road from a field of cattle who allow themselves to be led to wherever someone else decides they should be.”

“I’m not sure that is correct,” I said. “My wife is from the Village, and from what she says the people sound like no fools to me. They fight firmly and forever if they believe they’re in the right, as might anyone else.”

“What do they have to fight about?” asked Mister Stevens. Mister Davies, who stood beside him, nodded sagely. “Someone stole their livestock? Someone borrowed their plow?”

“Yes, and they argue about who has the deeds to which lands and who had legally inherited those lands and who has too much land and who has lost too many children. And they argue about their reverend amongst themselves. Some want him at the head of the church in the Village, and others cannot stand him and want him gone. And so they bicker amongst each other.”

“Some of these families have been bickering amongst each other for generations.” Mister Boxley shook his head. “The intolerance they display toward anyone or anything they do not understand is unbelievable.”

“When you, of course, have the utmost tolerance.” My father smiled. The small, round man laughed, thinking my father teased him. But I knew. I heard the sarcasm underlying my father’s actor’s voice. My father said nothing else, looking from man to man as though making some vital decision about each of them. Then, as though the thought only just occurred to him, the small round man said to me, “Your wife is from the Village? My blessings on you, young man.” There was something behind his words, some glint in his small eyes, that made me think he included my wife in his small opinion of the Village though he had never, to my knowledge, set eyes on her.

My father’s hand touched my arm, imploring me to stay silent. He knew what I might say, and he would not have me say it there where I could do some harm.

“We speak not of Goodwife Wentworth when we speak of those in the Village,” said Mister Davies.

“Not at all,” said Mister Boxley. “Goody Wentworth is as fine and lovely a lass as one is likely to see.”

“Mistress Wentworth,” I said.

I am not a violent man. I am not the sort who gives vent to his frustrations by thrashing others. But that is exactly what I was about to do to these supposed gentlemen in that moment. By referring to Elizabeth as Goody Wentworth, they had essentially reduced her social rank. She may have been born into the farming class, but she was now my wife and she is due the respect of her proper title. Still, I stayed silent. I did not wish to impede my father’s business because I could not hold my tongue, or my fists.

“My point,” my father said, “is merely to say that not everyone is the same, no matter who they are or where they’re from. You cannot make generalizations about those in the Village any more than they can make generalizations of us in the Town.”

“Ha!” Mister Boxley poked my father in the ribs. “They make plenty of proclamations about us. We are sinful. We are wrong. We are bound for hell. What it boils down to is that we are too worldly for their simple ways.” He looked at me as though he pitied me. They could not bear to be in our church because they could not stand the proximity to us. They believe themselves to be too goodly, too godly for our kind of people.”

“Ignorant farmers,” Mister Davies said. “That is all they are. When the new charter arrives and we are a people under law again, we will put them in their place.”

“Massachusetts is a theocracy,” my father said. “With the loss of our charter, they have lost their ability to make the laws. That frightens them. When people become frightened of losing their power, they become even more far-reaching in their demands.” My father bowed toward the other men. “I shall meet up with you Thursday next. As always, gentlemen…” The others shouted their thanks for the rum, to which my father returned another bow. My father and I walked away from the shore, leaving behind the hammering of the ship builders and the shouts of the fish sellers in the distance and the rum-fueled laughter of the merchants who were still scanning the bay for their ships hundreds of miles and an ocean away. The further toward land we walked the faster our steps became, as though we could not put distance between ourselves and the shore fast enough. The smell of dried codfish was everywhere around us, and we watched the fishermen sailing into the bay in their boats. My father nodded toward them, hoping to expand his business in sending the codfish places where people might be willing to buy, perhaps in Spain or the West Indies. My father removed his flat hat and scratched at his balding head under its wrap. Finally, nearing the road where the farmers from the Village carted their flour, salt beef, pork, firewood, and cider to the market, my father stopped. He has a faster gait than I do since he is  shorter than me, and I was feeling winded from our brisk escape from the sea.

“Why are they so intent on cutting down those in the Village?” I said. I felt the anger thumping my heart briskly against my ribcage. “Did you hear them?”

“Never mind them, Son. They are foolish men with enough prejudices between them to stop everyone in the world from getting anything done.”

“And your business partners.”

“From necessity, James. We are here but a year, and I am still learning my way round these ports.”

I exhaled. “And what were they saying about the Reverend Mr. Parris in the Village? That his family suffers?”

“Ah.” My father smiled, always happy to share any new story he had. It was how he made friends so easily. “The Reverend Parris’ daughter and niece have had a turn, a burst of sickness that came on just sudden like. The girls have been overcome with fits and screaming or they are trance-like. Parris knows not what to make of it. Some say it is the work of witchcraft.” I laughed at the thought. “Do you not believe in witchcraft, James?”

“I prefer demons I can see,” I said.

To be continued…

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Christmas in the Massachusetts Bay Colony


As I’ve been working on Down Salem Way, a diary-style narrative written from James’ point of view when he and Elizabeth lived in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, I started wondering what Christmas would have been like for the Wentworths in Salem in the late 17th century. I hadn’t researched Christmas during that time since it wasn’t necessary for Her Dear & Loving Husband and the diary for Down Salem Way begins in January and ends in October. My curiosity got the best of me, as it often does, and I was surprised by what I found.

There are those who like to say there’s a war on Christmas, but everywhere I look these days there are rainbow-bright Christmas lights and Christmas trees, and there’s Christmas music on the radio and Christmas movies on TV, which makes it a pretty feeble war on Christmas indeed. As it turns out, there once was a war on Christmas, and it came from the Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Puritans didn’t take much to Christmas; in fact, they disliked it so much they banned it.

The Puritans had many good qualities…no, they did. They were hard workers, and they put a premium on education, though they may have been a bit harsh with those who didn’t conform to their austere ways. Nonconformists could be banished from the colony in freezing winter weather when there was little chance of survival without stored food or shelter. The Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 17th century lived their lives according to a strict interpretation of the Bible—their own strict interpretation of the Bible, but still, it was an interpretation of the Bible. If it didn’t say so in the Bible, then it wasn’t so to the Puritans. The Bible has nothing to say about the celebration of Jesus’ birth, so to the Puritans, Christmas wasn’t a true celebration of Jesus. It was a fake holiday invented by those seeking an excuse to party. After all, Christmas celebrations are about making merry—eating, drinking, caroling, and carousing in more or less (often less) polite ways. And the Puritans didn’t see the point of making merry, especially in impolite ways.

It was the pagan beginnings of Christmas that the Puritans disliked so much. Puritan minister Increase Mather noted that Christmas was celebrated on December 25 not because “Christ was born in that month, but because the heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those pagan holidays metamorphosed into Christian [ones].” For the Puritans, Christmas was a pagan practice adapted by the Catholics without any Biblical basis for it. To the Puritans, anything pagan was the work of the devil, and the devil had no place in pious Massachusetts (a belief which they would go to great lengths to prove in 1692).

In 1647, the Puritan government in England cancelled Christmas, and making merry was forbidden, shops stayed open, churches were closed, and ministers were arrested for preaching on Christmas day. Puritans who immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony brought their strict values with them, and between the years 1659 to 1681 anyone caught celebrating Christmas was fined five shillings, which in today’s money would be around 1000 US dollars according to measuringworth.com.

For my fictional characters James and Elizabeth Wentworth there still would not likely be much of a Christmas celebration since hostility toward Christmas remained in Massachusetts after 1681. When Sir Edmund Andros attended Christmas services in Boston in 1686, he prayed and sang hymns surrounded by soldiers meant to protect him from violent protesters. It wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that Christmas was formally recognized in Massachusetts.

You only have to look outside your window to see that there isn’t much of a war on Christmas these days, but in the Massachusetts Bay Colony the war against Christmas was so complete that the holiday was forbidden. The next time someone tells you there’s a war on Christmas, you can point to any sparkly display, and then you can tell them that there once was a real war on Christmas, and then you would have had to put your carols, your ornaments, and your ugly sweaters away unless you were willing to pay a fine for them.

Merry Christmas!

References

Forbes, B. D. (2008). Christmas: A candid history. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.

Klein, C. (2015) When Massachusetts banned Christmas. History. Retrieved from http://www.history.com/news/when-massachusetts-banned-christmas

Kohler, R. (2007). Ruling the lords of misrule: Puritan reactions to the Christmas festivities of early modern England.

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Jobs in the Massachusetts Bay Colony

The North American continent was largely a question mark to those who left their European homelands behind to seek their fortunes, or, in the case of those immigrating to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, religious freedom. The immigrants may have heard great success stories about others who had crossed the vast Atlantic to find fertile land, endless opportunities, and perhaps even gold. These stories prompted many to leave behind everyone and everything they knew to take their chances in the unknown.

Often when we think of life in Colonial America we think of farmers going about their business planting and cultivating crops. While that was true in the Southern Colonies, settlers in the New England Colonies were not blessed with such fertile land. As a result, they needed other means to earn a livelihood.

The original 13 American Colonies.

The American Colonies were divided into three regional areas—the New England Colonies (Massachusetts Bay, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut), the Middle Colonies (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware), and the Southern Colonies (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Caroline, and Georgia). The climate and natural resources available in each of the three regions determined the type of work available to those who lived there. In the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with its lack of fertile farming land, the fishing, timber, livestock, and shipping industries became the focus. There was still some subsistence farming to be had in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Even though the land was rocky and not as rich as it was in the southern region, colonists in New England were still able to grow crops such as squash, corn, and beans.

The Fishing Industry

With its location along the shore of the Atlantic ocean, Massachusetts was (and is) in a prime location to take advantage of the sea life there, and fishermen often found mackerel, herring, halibut, bass, and cod for their troubles. Whaling was also a popular job in the Massachusetts Bay Colony since whale oil was used in lamps and soaps. As Captain Ahab would tell you, whaling could be a dangerous endeavor; however, it was a money maker, so sailors took their chances.

The Timber Industry

The rich forests in the New England region provided great opportunities for settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Homes were built from the hard woods. Timbermen could find oak, maple, beech, birch, hickory, and ash trees. Saw mills were used to produce wooden planks for export to England, which were then manufactured into finished goods such as furniture. Wood was also a necessity for the shipbuilding industry, another money maker in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Wood was used to make barrels, and other products gathered from the plentiful trees included resin for varnishing, tar for coating and preserving timber, pitch for water proofing, turpentine for cleaning, and potash for soap, bleach, and fertilizers.

The Livestock Industry

Horse breeding was one way to make use of the hilly, rocky, often infertile land. Many breeds of horses were brought to North America by the colonists, and horse breeding used various breeds of horses including the jennet, the Andalusian, the Friesian, and Arabians.

 

The Ship Building Industry

Ship building was particularly important in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with its emphasis on fishing and whaling. The easy availability of timber made ship building cheap in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In fact, many found work related to the ship building industry—including carpenters, joiners, sail makers, barrel makers, painters, caulkers, and blacksmiths. Ship building was also important for the merchants who sold or traded their wares overseas since the ships and the barrels gave them the means through which they could reach across the Atlantic as part of the Triangle Trade. Items included in the Triangle Trade from the three regions of the American Colonies were timber, sugar, fur, cotton, flour, tobacco, rice, indigo, fish, guns, ammunition. wool, and rum. Sadly, slaves were imported into the colonies as a result of the Triangle Trade.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony, as in any of the American Colonies, could provide opportunities for those with the gumption and the heartiness to learn new skills and grab opportunites when they arose. Some settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony were subsistence farmers, eeking out a living from the less than fertile land. Others became successful fishermen, ship builders, or merchants. Adolescents played an important role in the growth of the Massachusetts Bay Colony since a 15 year old was an adult in the eyes of the law (Enright, Lapsley, & Olson, 1985). Subsistence farming, mercantilism, and the wars with Native Americans provided the backdrop for all work in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Despite the hardships settlers faced, the Massachusetts Bay Colony provided possibilities, which is why so many immigrants left their homelands behind.

References

Dow, G. F. (2012). Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Courier Corporation.

Enright, R. D., Lapsley, D. K., & Olson, L. M. (1985). Early adolescent labor in colonial Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay. The Journal of Early Adolescence5(4), 393-410.

Jernegan, M. W. (1929). The American colonies, 1492-1750: A study of their political, economic and social development (Vol. 1). Longmans Green.

The Land of the Brave. The thirteen colonies. Retrieved from https://www.landofthebrave.info/13-colonies.htm

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Character Inspiration: Sarah Alexander and Elizabeth Wentworth

Fans of the Loving Husband Trilogy are familiar with Elizabeth, the greatest love of James Wentworth’s life. She is the woman he sees across the dining room table in Salem Village in 1692, and her beauty and warmth capture his heart forever. But where did the idea for Elizabeth come from? And who came first, Elizabeth or James’ future love, Sarah Alexander?

To answer the second question first, trying to figure out who came first, Elizabeth or Sarah, is like a chicken and the egg question. On the one hand, you think the chicken had to come first because how can you have an egg without a chicken to lay it, but then you think it had to be the egg because where would a chicken come from if there wasn’t an egg to hatch from? You can’t have Sarah without Elizabeth. They’re too intertwined. Chronologically, Elizabeth was first since she married James in 1691, and James and Sarah married in 2011.

Writing the novel was more complex than following the chronology. My initial concept for Her Dear & Loving Husband was for it to be a completely modern novel. In my mind, Sarah came first. The bigger story that includes the Salem Witch Trials didn’t come to me until I decided where to set the novel. Once I decided to set the story in Salem and include the witch trials, then Elizabeth appeared. Are Sarah and Elizabeth exactly the same? Not quite. Obviously, they share similarities, but Elizabeth lives in the late 17th century; Sarah lives during our times. The differences between them are the differences you might expect from people who live in different centuries.

Sarah was easier to conceptualize since she’s a modern woman. I can’t say that there was any one major inspiration for Sarah. For most of the characters I write, I imagine a favorite actor in the “role” of the character, which gives me a sense of mannerisms and speech cadence. For example, for John Wentworth, James’ father, I imagined one of my all-time favorite actors, Sir Patrick Stewart, as John, which gave me a very clear vision of how John would sound as he spoke, what he looked like, and how he acted. I didn’t have a particular actress in mind for either Sarah or Elizabeth. They were completely figments of my imagination, which can work as well since I can allow my imagination to run wild. While we’re on the subject, I didn’t have a specific actor in mind for James. Every other character in Her Dear & Loving Husband had a well-known actor in the “roles.” Call it my Loving Husband dream team. But the three leads—James, Sarah, and Elizabeth—were all from my own imaginings.

Elizabeth is more of a mystery in Her Dear & Loving Husband. We see her in snippets throughout the novel, and we have some sense of her personality, and we see how close she and James are so that we undertand why James was so devastated by her loss during the witch hunts. But we don’t learn a lot about her. She’s there in the background, a shadow that haunts both James and Sarah, but by the end she’s relegated to her role as a memory. My inspiration for writing Down Salem Way came from the fact that I felt like there was more to explore about James and Elizabeth’s experiences in Salem in 1692. I wanted to know Elizabeth better. I wanted to see more of James and Elizabeth together, happy, content in their lives together, and I wanted to examine how it all fell apart, through no fault of their own.

Character inspiration can come from anywhere. It can come from books, movies, TV shows, music, people you know, favorite actors, or your imagination. My imagination was my main tool for creating both Elizabeth and Sarah. What I’ve learned from this experience is that you can go home again—at least when you’re writing fiction. I wanted to explore Elizabeth a little more, and now I’m able to do that through writing Down Salem Way.

You can see the first sneak peek of Down Salem Way here. It’s written diary-style from James’ point of view. I’m enjoying writing as James. It’s time he had his chance to share his side of what happened in 1692.

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