Category: Book One

Compilation of posts with research background.

Book One Released

This is one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill about writing a book:

 

“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” – Winston Churchill

Well, I’ve flung that baby to the public.  November 1, Toil Under the Sun hit the marketplace in eBook.  It’s also available in print.  You can purchase copies at these links.  Below is the synopsis:

Described as hell on earth, Manchester in 1866 was the hub of industrialization in England. Its chimneys rose high above the landscape, spewing out smoke from the factories. While men, women, and children spun cotton in the mills, bricklayers built the workhouses, warehouses, and terraced residences of the city. They were skilled in their craft but also experts in enforcing the rules of their union demands, hoping to escape the bondage of serfdom to gain a better life.

Born into obscurity and a descendant of men who slung mortar from their trowels as a trade, William Leighton, swore that one day he would rise above his poverty-ridden class. The means in which he chose to climb out the slums differed from his brother, who believed that violence was the only way to bring about change and close the gap between laborers and masters.

The clash of siblings in Toil Under the Sun creates the foundation of family and is the first book in a saga that spans three generations.

Research for Book One

I’ve been searching my family history for well over twenty years, amassing information and books from the early 1800’s to 1930’s.  Book One, Toil Under the Sun, is really a compilation of much of my research.  What you are going to read upon release November 1, are historical accounts gleaned from this group of material.

This particular book was a good resource regarding the building of the town hall. The planning started in 1863 but the Town Hall wasn’t completed and opened until September of 1877.  The construction was plagued by multiple worker strikes.  To read more about it, you can visit Wikipedia. 

On one of my trips to Manchester, I did visit the impressive building and interior.

What shocked me the most regarding this discovery was that my third great-grandfather, wife, and child lived two blocks from the area that was known as Angel Meadow.  I’m sure being two blocks from these notorious slums still placed the family in the middle of the worse areas of Manchester during the mid-1860s.  This book is an eye-opening experience for the author who also discovered his ancestors lived at this location.

My introduction to this court proceeding was discovered from searching articles about unions on the British Newspaper Archives.  By the way, if you’re into ancestry research in England, this is a great source. I found numerous articles regarding my second great uncle, as well as the testimony when these proceedings took place.

It is a fascinating read into the incidents of that time. You might think twice about mild-manner bricklayers. These men were often violent in their pursuits to protect their trade and became known as terrorists and despots of their class. Of course, that is how history has recorded them, but they were working folks protecting a trade that kept roofs over their heads and food on the table. Most of their actions are driven by desperation to survive. It’s an interesting read from 1867.

These two references were of great help. Broughton and Cheetham Hill especially helped me to set the scene for the location.

Radical Salford focuses much on the political landscape and the growing socialist movements of the time, which will be weaved into Book Two.

Let it not be said that I didn’t read about the craft, although I’ve never laid a brick myself. I did, however, take home a piece of brick from my second great uncle’s twelve bedroom home still standing in Higher Broughton as a memento from one of my trips. Thank goodness it made it back to the USA.

To add to the fun of research, you need historical maps. There are plenty to find online which helps immensely in visualizing the area while writing. The University of Manchester has a wonderful collection online at Maps Collection. Manchester Libraries, Information, and Archives, Manchester City Council are the rights holder but they do allow you to share, embed, print, and download the maps.

One of the most disparaging reviews an author receives is when readers don’t find your books believable. I’ve done my best to do my homework in historical romances and family sagas. Some of what you may read will sound outrageous and shocking, but in reality, such times existed. I’m sure the majority of ladies would rather focus on the titled aristocrats and cushy way of life with a 10,000 pounds a year or more income. However, that lifestyle only accounted for a very small majority of the English population. However, it doesn’t, in my opinion, make the lives of the working class any less interesting in their pursuits.

All my best,

Vicki

 

 

Writing Dialect

1When I started this book, I questioned an author group about writing dialect for the local folks.  I’m not sure if you’ve ever read Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South, but she was one of the first authors who gave her characters what is termed a Mancunian vocabulary. Manchester has its way of pronouncing words, and if you read some of her dialects in the book, it can get pretty dicey attempting to figure out what they are saying.  Here is a portion from North & South as an example:

‘Hoo’s rather down i’ th’ mouth in regard to spirits, but hoo’s better
in health. Hoo doesn’t like this strike. Hoo’s a deal too much set on
peace and quietness at any price.’

‘This is th’ third strike I’ve seen,’ said she, sighing, as if that was
answer and explanation enough.

‘Well, third time pays for all. See if we don’t dang th’ masters this
time. See if they don’t come, and beg us to come back at our own price.
That’s all. We’ve missed it afore time, I grant yo’; but this time we’n
laid our plans desperate deep.’

Aye, lass, reading bits and pieces of dialogue as such can really be a challenge. Needless to say, I skirted it for the most part by leaving only a few characters who speak slightly less than correct and articulate proper English. Unfortunately, I don’t have the skill to make it more authentic, nor do I wish to burden readers. I will be the first to admit that reading how the Scottish dialect is written is a real challenge for me that takes away my interest in books.

I’ve saved you the pain for the most part and wanted to clarify why I didn’t go down that route to make it more Mancunian in style.

However, there are a few words you may wonder what the heck they mean.

Knobstick – Means someone who refuses to join a trade union.

Zounderkite – A Victorian word meaning idiot.

To add to the fun of British dialects, from Anglophenia, comes this great One Woman 17 British Accents. You might get a kick out of it.  Enjoy!

 

Vicki

Locations in Toil Under the Sun

It’s all about location.  In the first book, I have married my characters (William and Mary) at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Prestwich, UK.  This church is of great importance to me because my second great uncle was married there and is buried in the graveyard, along with his daughter Annie and his wife, Caroline.

Below are pictures that I took on one of my visits to the location. The church is stunning. It was founded in 1200 and parts of the building date back to 1500. The graveyard is fascinating and beautiful, and I wish I could go back again to visit.

In the meantime, I hope these photographs will help the imagination of readers as they picture the Leighton characters at this location (click to enlarge).  As a sideline tidbit, I just discovered that Coronation Street, which is a British soap opera series on ITV, films at this location for church scenes.

I also have scenes at St. George’s in Manchester. My third great grandfather is supposedly buried there, but the church closed in 1984 and was converted into apartments in 2000.  To read the history on Wikipedia CLICK HERE.  For more fascinating information and modern pictures visit Manchester History CLICK HERE. Below is an old print of St. George’s Church from 1831.

St. George

Courtesy AncestryImages.com

The Bullies of 1860’s Victorian England

It’s not often that I write a book in four weeks. Of course, it’s only the first draft and editing begins, i.e. rewrites, embellishments, additions, deletions, etc. After that comes the other kind of editing–grammar, sentence structure, syntax, spelling, punctuation, and further reviews with the help of ProWriting and Grammarly. Then off to Victory Editing to be poked at again.

Some of what you’ll read in Toil Under the Sun may shock you and lead you to believe that I have an evil imagination. The incidents you’ll read about are actual occurrences I discovered while researching and reading the proceedings of the Manchester Assize Courts in 1867. These acts make Boucher throwing a rock in Elizabeth Gaskell’s North & South appear like child’s play.

Here is a short, but shocking list, of terrorist-like activities, perpetrated by union members against those who defied their rules. You’ll read about those rules in the book, which were put in place to supposedly protect the trade. The newspapers and courts called them “outrages.”

  • “Bottling” – throwing bottles full of combustible substances into rooms where brickmakers, their wives, and children slept.
  • Use of pistols to intimate watchmen and shoot watchdogs during their nightly raids.
  • Hamstringing of horses or slitting their throats. Setting stables on fire and burning horses alive.
  • The stabbing of cattle and other livestock owned by brickmakers.
  • Brutal beatings of employees, including young boys who worked for brickmakers, often resulting in permanent physical damage.
  • Destroying bricks sometimes as many as 60,000 or more at a brickmaker’s business.
  • Destroying buildings under construction that used machine-made bricks or bricks not made by union men.
  • Blowing up brickmaking machines with gunpowder.
  • Other atrocities that earned them this comment in the newspapers that their acts were the “despotism of their own class.”

As you can see, brickyard bullies were the hooligans of the day who would do anything to protect their trade, including murder those who stood in their way. A policeman was killed at one of their outrages.

Keep checking back for updates!  While editing, I’m going to dive into book two, Slave to None, and continue to the next era of 1870’s and how the trade changed and businesses grew. These are the years of prosperity and growth, and the foundation for family riches.

 

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