The perils of pinning down every historical detail

There does indeed come a point when you realize you can’t find the specific data point you want and have to resort to what is plausible for the period and place about which you are writing.

Welcome to My Magick Theatre

While every good historical writer obviously needs to do a lot of research and get as many facts as possible right, there are inevitably times where we can’t find any information, the known existing information is scarce and sketchy, or it’s so difficult and time-consuming to locate information that it’s not really worth the effort. When that happens, we need to weigh the need for historical accuracy against how likely it is anyone will actually notice or care if some details aren’t 100% correct.

One of those scenarios is what was on the menu at real restaurants.

I’ve spent the past week working on my World’s Fair chapter in the book formerly known as The Very Last, and part of my research includes finding out what was served at the restaurants. I found several great New York Times articles in the archives (which I can search for free through my…

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Reviving the wives: why Henry VIII’s queens are having a moment – Experience Magazine

These new retellings mix regurgitations of juicy historical gossip with more pointed meditations for modern consumption. They strive to center women’s experiences, question stereotypes that have persisted for centuries, and, occasionally, recast the Tudor women as Renaissance-era #girlbosses — or at least symbols of proto-feminism, even though the concept didn’t exist back then.

Whether all of that is any truer to real life is an open question. The historical record is scant in places, and British royals have always been inscrutable, leaving pop culture to color in the lines. When Queen Elizabeth II died this past September at age 96, remembrances focused more on the global and societal changes under her long tenure than her actual person out of necessity; the famously taciturn queen never sat for an interview, so TV shows like The Crown had to make their best guesses about her inner life.

Reviving the wives: why Henry VIII’s queens are having a moment – Experience Magazine

I’ve been fascinated by Anne Boleyn since my junior high days.

Year of the Rabbit


Hi, everyone. The Lunar New Year celebrations began last night, and today marks the start of the Year of the Rabbit. I’m a Rabbit myself, so I thought I would share this nice graphic that shows some of our traits.

Also, as I do each year at this time, I’ll share a tale from my award-winning short fiction collection, Through the Opera Glass. Enjoy!

A Letter from the Mine Country
Written May 14, 2012
Clever Fiction writing prompt: Bandana/Carousing/Copperttog

February 4, 1917
Copperopolis, California

Dearest Ming:

Gong xi fa cai, little sister! May this year of the Red Fire Snake bring you much luck. As you may well imagine, there was little enough carousing here; we are constantly busy.

Let me tell you a bit about what my life is like here at the copper mine. I am one of the fortunate ones, for it is my job to look for the ore. They don’t trust a “Chinaman” to handle the chemicals that draw the metal from the stone … and I am glad of it. I bring the stones out of the ground, as do many others, and then the stone is crushed, and treated with sulfur until the metal comes out. Then, the copper can be smelted. I have a colorful bandana that I pull up over my nose and mouth when I have to go by the sulfur pit; you would laugh to see me. I look like some kind of bandit.

Once the copper is smelted, it’s made into bullets so that our soldiers can kill people they’ve never seen. If you sense, dear sister, that I am bitter, you are correct. I will never understand man’s propensity for violence to man.

The land is beautiful here in California’s foothills, but the work is hard. I am too tired to go into Angel’s Camp, let alone as far as Stockton, to buy the things I need. We are fortunate that the Copper Consolidated Mining Company has its own store, although goods are dear; we are able to have credit there until pay day, at which time I like to joke that we give the company its money back.

I need to stop writing for now; lamp oil is very dear indeed and there is no electricity in my cabin here.

When you write back, will you tell me how Veronique is doing? I have not heard from her in some time.

Your brother,
Samuel (Song) Lee
Ming returned the letter to its envelope and pinched the bridge of her nose. Her brother was still in love with Veronique after all of this time. How could it be? She was the reason that he lived so far away; it had been the only way to keep both of them safe.

She opened her lap desk and took out a piece of stationery and a pen. She had to tell him the truth.

Dearest Brother Samuel:

Gong xi fa cai to you as well. I smiled to myself when I thought of my educated brother looking like a bandit.

As for Veronique, I have some news that may upset you …