20 Questions About “Lighthouse Loyalty” (Part 1)

Just for fun, I decided to answer a series of author interview questions about my 2017 historical fiction novel, Lighthouse Loyalty, as we wrap up this series of author’s notes. I hope you’ll chime in with your own opinions about the book or your own writing in the comments!

I’ll answer 10 questions this week and 10 more next week. Let’s see about this “interview”… Continue reading

Creating Characters – A Book of Inspiration

I’ll tell you a secret. March 2016 will be the last month of the blog series “Back to Gettysburg on Tuesdays.” But don’t worry – you’ll still get weekly Civil War history articles through a completely new series!

In this last month of Gettysburg, I thought it would be fun share some thoughts from the research and writing process of Blue, Gray & Crimson.

Today, I’ll give you a little glimpse into the “book of inspiration” which helped solidify the creative foundations of my historical novel. Continue reading

Why Gettysburg…Again?

There have been hundreds of books written about the Battle of Gettysburg. Generalized history, in-depth studies, biographies of commanders, accounts of local civilians, aftermath and care of the wounded, and the Gettysburg Address are just a few of the topics in non-fiction books. Then there’s the fiction category: military fiction is most prevalent, a few civilian fiction stories, and I’ve even seen a couple romance books supposedly set in Gettysburg.

“So why Gettysburg…again, Miss Sarah? Haven’t there been enough stories?” I’ll give you three reasons as we start the “Back to Gettysburg on Tuesday” series.

  1. My very first draft of this coming novel was set in Gettysburg. When one of my older cousins told me “you should write a book,” he helped me choose names of characters and dictated a few other details. However, I was very insistent that the story must be in set in Gettysburg. My reasoning at the time: it was a good way to include Lincoln in the story. Throughout the next eleven years, I planned to change many, many things in that original story, but the setting never changed.

    Sarah Kay Bierle at Gettysburg National Battlefield (2008)

    Sarah Kay Bierle at Gettysburg National Battlefield (2008)

  2. Gettysburg holds a special place in my heart. I was privileged to visit the town and battlefield in 2008 and my thoughts and feelings while touring the battlefield are very deep and hard to put into words. (And if a writer who works with words on a daily basis says that, she means it.)
  3. To my knowledge, no historical fiction book about Gettysburg has addressed civilians in a farm/countryside setting. There have been several historical fictions about civilians living in town, but in many ways the farmers and their families suffered more. I believe there’s an old prejudice against these country people going back to the 1860’s (more on that in the future) and now it is time to remember their sacrifices and their care for the wounded in their fields, barns, and houses.

What to expect on “Back to Gettysburg Tuesdays” here on Gazette665? Well, we’ll start in April by looking at primary source quotes by civilians from the battle days. From there, I’ll cover topics I found interesting or that I think you might enjoy more details on. Leave a comment if there’s a topic you’d really like to see and I’ll try to accommodate. 🙂

I’m looking forward to sharing the history about real people who reached out to serve and support those in need. It’s time to tell the story of Gettysburg again – through a new perspective. Faith and courage meet danger and difficulty.

This week I’d encourage you to read through an overview of Gettysburg military history, just to become familiar with the traditional backdrop of information I’ll be sharing.

Join us every Tuesday for history that inspired and supported my coming historical fiction story Blue, Gray & Crimson.

Your Historian (and Author)

Miss Sarah

P.S. Historical themes for each month will continue in the regular Friday blog posts. 😉

10 Books About Ireland

10 Books About Ireland Booklist

Here it is: the booklist to get ready for “A Week in Ireland on Gazette665.”

I’ve raided our bookshelves and borrowed a few other books from the local library and now present you with “10 Books About Ireland” Booklist.

10 Books About Ireland

It’s a compilation of children/family friendly books including picture books, books about the country of Ireland, Irish history, and historical fiction.

Happy Reading!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. You can find your St. Patrick’s Day history and craft HERE. And, of course, lots of Irish history on the blog next week.

Fighting in the City: The Setting of “Romeo and Juliet”

Setting of a story. It’s soooo important. Think of your favorite novel or movie…is there something in the location that adds to the story, or perhaps makes it impossible to happen anywhere else? (I bet there is.) What makes the setting of Romeo and Juliet so brilliant? The history of course! Let’s explore.

By the way this is the last post on historical fiction in William Shakespeare’s plays. My apologies that it didn’t post on schedule. The beginning of the holiday season kept me a “little” busy. It’s my goal to remain on the Friday schedule for the whole month of December and the month’s topic is going to fun! (Right now, we’re going to see if I can get this blog post launched before the space capsule Orion is launched on its historic flight…)

Scene 1 - The Feuding Capulets and Montagues (Public Domain)

Scene 1 – The Feuding Capulets and Montagues (Public Domain)

The Play *Warning: SPOILERS* Once upon a time in an Italian city (presumably during the Renaissance era) there were two families: the Capulets and the Montagues…and they hated each other. And I mean HATED – if they met on the streets there was sure to be a fight. Juliet is a young lady of the Capulet family who isn’t too excited about the possibility of an arranged marriage. Romeo is a young man of the Montague family; he sneaks into the Capulet house during a party, sees Juliet, and falls in love. In the famous “balcony scene” the young people discover they’re in love. They marry secretly with the help of Friar Lawrence.  Then disaster: Romeo’s friend is killed and in an angry sword duel he kills a Capulet, Juliet’s cousin. Romeo is exiled from the city; Juliet is told by her parents that she will proceed with the arranged marriage. She takes a mysterious medicine which puts her in a deep sleep and makes her appear dead. Long story short, Romeo returns, kills another Capulet, finds his bride dead, and drinks real poison. Juliet awakes, finds Romeo dead, and stabs herself with his dagger. In the end, the Capulet and Montague families agree to reconcile their quarrel and there is peace in the city.

The History At least two authors before Shakespeare wrote a version of this romantic tragedy, but Shakespeare made the characters more realistic and the plot stronger. However, our historical focus on this play isn’t the characters or plot, but the setting. Italian cities of the Renaissance (1300ish to 1500ish) often had multiple noble families living within a walled city. Theses nobles’ “palaces” were more like castles, designed to keep others out. For various reasons each family wanted to control the city, usually for economic reasons: thus conflict! In Florence the Medici family feuded with other noble families, but eventually won the lengthy fight, exiling opponents from the city and gaining social, economic, and political control of the city.

The Fiction It is probably that most of the play’s plot is fictional, but it is interwoven nicely with the historical setting. The fictional characters must over-come family prejudices to find love, but then those same family prejudices lead to more fighting and conflict.

The Reconciliation of the Capulets and Montagues; painting by Frederick Leighton (Public Domain)

The Reconciliation of the Capulets and Montagues; painting by Frederick Leighton (Public Domain)

Analysis I’m going to be completely honest: Romeo and Juliet is not one of my favorite Shakespearean plays. However, I did find the historical setting fascinating. The quarrels between noble families of Italian Renaissance cities was real and makes a dramatic backdrop for the love story. There are multiple tragedies within the tragic play, but I think one of the best underlying conflicts is that hatred of the families which motivates the lovers and also tears them apart. In conclusion, the setting of Romeo and Juliet is a fairly accurate portrayal of the conflict-filled lives of noble Italian families during the Renaissance and adds tension to the foreground conflict of the young couple.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Here’s a link to the full text of the play. Any thoughts on the setting or plot of Romeo and Juliet?

P.S. 2. I’ve got my blog post done and, as of 0900 eastern time, Orion still hasn’t launched. 😉 See you tomorrow for the start of our Christmas holiday posts!



MacBeth: Fact or Fiction?

Ancient Scotland. A murdered king. A guilt crazed nobleman and lady. Guess which Shakespearean we’re discussing today… If you said “MacBeth”, you are correct. Let’s explore one of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedies and uncover the historical threads in the playwright’s fiction.

The Play *Warning: Spoilers* MacBeth, a trusted nobleman of King Duncan, has just won a splendid victory against enemies of the realm. As he and his friend, Banquo, travel across a lonely heath, they come across three witches who prophecy that MacBeth will receive a new noble title and become king and Banquo will be the father of kings. King Duncan gives MacBeth a new title (thus supposedly fulfilling the witches’ words) and announces that he will stay the night at the MacBeth castle. MacBeth arrives home and tells his wife about the prophecy; they eventually agree to murder King Duncan, though they welcome him warmly into the castle. With much fear and searing of conscience they prepare their daggers and in the night, MacBeth murders the king. The princes of Scotland flee, fearing foul deeds, and MacBeth is crowned the new king. MacBeth and his lady are tormented by their guilt and begin killing noblemen around them who suspect their deeds; Banquo is brutally murdered and MacBeth sees his ghost. Lady MacBeth descends to madness. Meanwhile, a Scottish nobleman enlists the help of an English army and marches to overthrow MacBeth. The wretched king finds the witches who assure him his kingdom is safe unless the forest marches against the castle and he cannot be killed by a man of woman born. Still MacBeth mused on the futility of life and on his guilty conscience. In the end the English use the branches of forest trees to cover their advance on MacBeth’s castle and in the final battle he is killed by Macduff. King Duncan’s son is crowned the new king of Scotland.

1577 Illustration of MacBeth, Banquo, and the Three Witches

1577 Illustration of MacBeth, Banquo, and the Three Witches

The History Once upon a time Holinshed’s Chronicles was considered the definitive text on English history. In the text a man named Donwald discovers that several of his family have been killed by the king for consorting with witches; in revenge Donwald kills the king. Also in Chronicles, Macbeth and Banquo meet the three witches and then the noblemen plot the murder, at Lady Macbeth’s urging. Macbeth has a long, ten-year reign before eventually being overthrown by Macduff. Now, it is important to note that some modern scholars feel the story of MacBeth in the Chronicles is fictional; however, it is interesting that Shakespeare took an accepted historical event of his time and built a story around it. In the play the first battle MacBeth wins is against the Danes who were raiding along the Scottish coast. Also, remember the prophecy of the witches that Banquo’s children would be kings? That doesn’t happen in the play, but it was common belief in Shakespeare’s time that James IV of Scotland (James I of England) was a descendant of Banquo!

The Fiction Shakespeare took a story of witches, a murdered king, and characters named MacBeth and Banquo and invented a plot with great drama. He used what were accepted “historical facts” (in his era) and built his play around them. Unlike Henry V where almost everything is historically based, MacBeth takes the skeleton of a historical event (no puns intended) and transforms into a deep study of man’s ambition, turning from righteousness, and the torment of a guilty conscience.

Analysis MacBeth has a historically setting and borrows some basic historical facts from a history book of Shakespeare’s time, but it must be acknowledged that much of the drama of the work is fiction. Shakespeare’s understanding of human nature produces a dramatic fictional work, underscored with historical themes. Thus, while coming from a history/legend book, it is best to appreciate the author’s skill of portraying human nature and drama rather than take our Ancient Scottish history from this play.

On the whole the play is very, very dark (of course, it’s a tragedy), but I see value in the study of this classic work. It is a powerful literary example of Biblical truth. James 1:14-15 reminds us: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” MacBeth was tempted by the witches’ prophecies, desired to be king, committed murder, and, in the end, was haunted by his deeds until his death.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Have you read MacBeth? What did you think of it?

You can find the full text here.

I have seen a film version, but I cannot recommend it. I watched what is called the least gruesome MacBeth film, and while not gory, it was really creepy and frightful (in a bad way). I’d highly recommend reading the play if you’re 16 or older, but would suggest skipping all film versions.