Sharon E. Cathcart's Blog

September 27, 2016

One of the things that makes writing historical fiction so much fun is that I get to learn how people lived.  That includes learning about what foods people enjoyed, and how they were prepared.  From time to time, I’ll share a recipe I’ve found so that you can see just how much cooking has changed.  Here’s the first example.  Enjoy!

To Roast Turkey (Godey’s Ladies Book, 1860, 1862, 1863, and 1865)

roast_turkeyPublic domain image, Wikimedia Commons

Prepare a stuffing of pork sausage-meat, one beaten egg, and a few crumbs of bread; or, if sausages are to be served with the turkey, stuffing as for fillet of veal; in either, a little shred shallot is an improvement.  Stuff the bird under the breast; dredge it with flour, and put it down to a clear, brisk fire; at a moderate distance the first half hour, but afterwards nearer.  Baste with butter; and when the turkey is plumped up, and the steam draws towards the fire, it will be nearly done; then dredge it lightly with flour, and baste it with a little more butter, first melted in the basting ladle.  Serve with gravy in the dish and bread sauce in the tureen.  It may be garnished with sausages, or with fried forcemeat, if veal stuffing be used.  Sometimes the gizzard and liver are dipped into the yolk of an egg, sprinkled with salt and Cayenne, and put under the pinions before the bird is put to the fire.  A very large turkey will require three hours roasting*; one of eight or ten pounds, two hours, and a small one, an hour and a half.

 * Today’s roasting charts call for the following:  8-10 pounds at 325 F. for 3 to 3-1/2 hours; 10-14 pounds at 325 F. for 3-1/2 to 4 hours.

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Published on September 27, 2016 14:55 • 14 views

September 26, 2016

diversity-banner-fb-851x315-v1Hi, everyone.  It’s Banned Books Week again:  the time of year when we celebrate reading books that someone, somewhere, has said we shouldn’t.

Some of my favorite titles, like To Kill a Mockingbird and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, are challenged with shocking regularity.  Those are older books, of course, but they still show up regularly on someone’s list of “what no one should be allowed to read.”

The focus of this year’s Banned Books Week is Diversity.  The biggest bunch of challenges in 2015 seem to come from folks who don’t believe students (or anyone) should read books with LGBTQ+ protagonists. You can see the Top 10 most challenged books at this link.

As near as I can figure, the idea seems to be that we should never let kids know that gay folks exist, let alone that they lead lives that look no different from anyone else’s.  It’s a puzzle to me.

In any event, it’s not just modern literature that comes in for scrutiny by those with a view to censorship.  The American Library Association has a list of classics that are frequently challenged, too.  And by golly, there’s my old friend, To Kill a Mockingbird, at number four.

Unless we want to wind up living in a world like George Orwell showed us in 1984 (number nine on the banned/challenged classics list), it behooves us not to censor literature but to read and discuss it. Otherwise, we won’t know what is and isn’t real.


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Published on September 26, 2016 14:36 • 15 views

When my husband and I were on our honeymoon in Edinburgh, we stopped by Deacon Brodie’s Pub on the Royal Mile to eat lunch.  They were playing an Elvis CD over the loudspeakers … or so I thought.  Turns out, it was an Irish fellow named James Brown.  I had to have his CDs, so our next stop was a record store on Cockburn Street.  Enjoy this sample of The King!

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Published on September 26, 2016 06:12 • 2 views

September 25, 2016

A text-only version of this article appeared in my GoodReads blog on July 11, 2009.  I think it’s still applicable today.  Enjoy!

pinocchioI read a fascinating book last week: All Marketers are Liars, by Seth Godin. Now, Godin doesn’t really think marketers are liars; what he maintains is that they tell a story about a product that we believe, whether or not it is so, because it fits into our particular worldview.

A worldview, according to Godin, is not something that you can change with facts, or a better product than some other guy. So, he says, you need to figure out how to pitch your product to people who share your worldview. In other words, you need to figure out how to tell the story to people who will believe it.

I share all of this because lately I have been spending some time in an on-line forum focused on historical romance novels. As you know, In The Eye of The Beholder is exactly that.

Let me tell you something, friends: this group has been an education to me.

One of the reasons I wrote In The Eye of The Beholder is that I was tired of reading the same book with a different cover. I found romance novels to be formulaic and had really grown tired of them. The heroine would inevitably be a 20-something virginal bluestocking, and the hero would inevitably be a handsome man with a dark secret in his past. They would hate each other at first (or they would love each other but some horrible circumstance would keep them apart for a good portion of the book) … but eventually they would come together and live Happily Ever After.

Every. Single. Time. It was like the publishers handed out a template to authors or something.

So, anyway, there was a question posted on the group about whether people expected or wanted a Happily Ever After in their romance novels. With few exceptions, the answer was a resounding “yes” — that they bought these books expecting certain things, and Happily Ever After was one of them.

vision-154854_960_720That’s when I grasped something I hadn’t thought about before: people buy books because they fit into a particular worldview, too. People who really like the romance genre want to know that those elements of the story that I describe will be there.

What I figured out, as a result, is that I needed to figure out how to pitch my book differently. Claire, my heroine, is in her 30s during most of its action … and she’s no virginal bluestocking, as those of you who have read the book have reason to know. She’s not a typical romance heroine, and Erik is not a typical romance hero.

I think that there is a definite historical romance audience out there for this book, and I think that there are some other audiences for whom it would be a good “pitch.”

How does your worldview help you decide which books you buy? I’m curious to know your thoughts.

(Both images used in this article are in the public domain.)

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Published on September 25, 2016 08:13 • 15 views

September 24, 2016

The sad news comes from WWOZ New Orleans that Buckwheat Zydeco has passed away.

When I am writing, I get a little bit “method” and frequently listen to music that is related to the story.  For Bayou Fire, that’s meant zydeco, Cajun, traditional jazz, and even 1830s popular music.  Obviously, Buckwheat Zydeco, whose real name was Stanley Dural, was on the playlist.  Here’s a sample for you, in which he and Dwight Yoakam duet on a Hank Williams classic.


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Published on September 24, 2016 09:25 • 3 views

Here is a brief sample from my award-winning novel, In The Eye of The Storm.  Please visit the “My Books” page for purchase information.  Thanks, and enjoy!

Eye Of The Storm Cover_revisedJacket design by James Courtney

Zareh’s house was astonishing to Veronique; she goggled at the Persian furniture and rugs before taking up a place on a large pillow. Zareh, Gilbert and I drank glasses of thick Turkish coffee and reminisced.

“So, this is Erik’s daughter.” Zareh turned his jade-green gaze to where she sat quietly. “Tell me, child, are you musical as well?”

“I am learning the violin,” Veronique responded. I had taught her to speak when spoken to by adults and to confine her remarks, so she was rather direct.

“And for fun, what?”

“I play with the kittens, or Maman reads to me.”

Zareh went to another room and came back with a beautiful porcelain doll. He sat next to Veronique on the divan.

“This doll once belonged to a princess in Persia,” he said. ‘She knew your papa and me. She gave it to me for a daughter if I ever had one, but I think that she would like you to have this.”

The doll was beautifully painted, with a wig of real black hair and green eyes. Her costume was a long green tunic and trousers, and she had pointed leather shoes.

“What do you say, Veronique,” I urged.

“Monsieur Zareh, what did the princess call her doll?”

“Her name was Khadija,” he replied.

“Thank you. I promise to take very good care of her.  She is beautiful, and she looks like me with her black hair and green eyes.”

It was many years before we learned that Zareh’s beautiful gift had indeed belonged to the Persian khanum. Veronique was delighted to receive such a beautiful plaything, and Khadija became one of her dearest treasures.

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Published on September 24, 2016 08:50 • 2 views

September 23, 2016

thirty-copyLooking for something to read this weekend?  How about an anthology full of adventure stories, like my Two Days in June two-parter about the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris!  The best part?  Fifty percent of the proceeds benefit local literacy charities.  I’m really excited to be part of a collection that includes work by Harry Turtledove and T.E. MacArthur!

Purchase via Smashwords, Amazon (which includes a paperback option), Barnes & Noble, Apple iBookstore, or Kobobooks.

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Published on September 23, 2016 06:16 • 2 views

September 21, 2016

Yep, editing is much harder than writing. It’s why I let a manuscript sit for a while before I even consider sending it to editors, because I’ll see things I missed in the flush of “Oh, ain’t it marvelous!” that inevitably comes with finishing a first draft.

Read on for some real words of wisdom.



Editing. It’s often seen as the summit of the mountain after a long, tumultuous climb, complete with hand-cramps and carpal tunnel.

I have a different picture in my head. Writing, as hard as it is, is more like the packing and driving toward the first day of your climb. Writing is gathering all of your equipment, literally dotting your I’s and crossing your T’s, all the busy work. None of it’s in order, and half the time you don’t even know what the hell you’re writing. You’re just…writing.

But then you reach the last page, your last paragraph, your last word. You think you’re done. The world tells you, “You did it!” You get all sorts of accolades, you’re blinded by the paparazzi, and angels blow on trumpets as the opposite sex throws themselves at you.

But that’s a bunch of bull. I finished my YA novel back in February and I’ve…

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Published on September 21, 2016 14:37 • 15 views

September 20, 2016

My current work-in-progress, Bayou Fire, is partially set in 1830s New Orleans.  I will be the first to admit that I don’t know this era nearly as well as I know some others, so I am doing lots of research.

At the risk of succumbing to presentism, I must say that I find the women’s fashions for the period truly unfortunate.  Two things give me pause more than anything else:  the titular idiot sleeves (also called imbecile sleeves), and a hairstyle called the Apollo Knot.

7fb48861f40d189c514583e80f574c4bFashion Plate, La Belle Assemblee

The sleeves are truly enormous, eventually becoming tight at the wrist.  Women used “plumpers” tied around their upper arms to give them shape, as well as stuffing them with goose down.  Day dresses and evening dresses alike had this silhouette, with day dresses also adding a pelerine, or fichu, over the top.

The good news on the dresses, from my perspective, is that waist was much more natural than that of the Regency era, and the skirts (on day dresses, anyway), were a much more natural length for walking.

1830sapolloknot1830s Apollo Knot Hair Style

And then there’s the Apollo Knot hairdo.  You can see it on the fashion plate above, but here is a more clear representation.  Hair was parted down the center and curled on the sides, and then an elaborate braided or looped bun was created from the hair at the back.  Some women included combs, flowers, and more for evening wear.  The style was based on Greek statuary.

I can’t help feeling like the men got the better end of the deal when it came to dressing well during this period … but that’s an article for another day.

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Published on September 20, 2016 13:01 • 7 views

September 19, 2016

In The Rock Star in the Mirror (Or, How David Bowie Ruined My Life), Joe is constantly practicing this song because he wants to impress Lynnie by playing it.  Please enjoy this 2002 performance by the late, great David Bowie.


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Published on September 19, 2016 06:23 • 7 views