Baby Farming in Victorian Times

Amelia Dyer, hanged for murder on June 10, 1897 at Newgate Prison, London. (Image from Thames Valley Police Museum)

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Illegitimate children were a major problem in the cramped cities of Victorian England, particularly in London. Though the legal system had originally (18th century) penalized men who fathered children out of wedlock, that financial roadblock was removed in 1834 with The New Poor Law (and its ‘bastardy’ clause). Now, the woman alone was responsible for the child’s welfare, which meant an unwed mother–often with few skills or prospects–was left to find means to support a dependent infant. Those in domestic service usually lost their jobs if found to be pregnant, and so that income might be lost. Not was unwed pregnancy and motherhood stigmatized, it was actually punished (in the misconception that doing so would prevent such pregnancies). However, young women without family or skills often found themselves seduced by unscrupulous men for personal reasons and often also for profit. Procurers prowled the backstreets of London with their eyes peeled for vulnerable young women.  Continue reading “Baby Farming in Victorian Times”

The Kindle Proof is Here

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Our wonderful and very talented typesetter (layout and design person), Kevin G. Summers, sent us the galley proof for the Kindle version of ‘Blood Lies’ yesterday. Simply put, it is clean and elegant. I read nearly all books on Kindle now (love making the font BIG), and many of these books have a utilitarian appearance. Functional but not so pretty. Kevin’s font choice and simplicity make my words look awesome!

The Kindle and print versions of ‘Blood Lies’ will be released at Amazon on April 8th, 2017.

New Release Date for ‘Blood Lies’

Good News! The first book of The Redwing Saga is going to be released even sooner – and it will be available in print and in Kindle formats. Previously, we had announced that the book would be available on June 10, but a recent shift in the production schedule has cleared the decks for an April 08, 2017 release date.

Keep watching this site for a link to where to buy!

Antimacassars and Victorian furnishings

Antimacassar scarf for furnishings. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

By Sharon K. Gilbert

When I was a young girl, men who wanted to impress ladies still used hair oils and grease to make their hair behave and shine. It was no different in the 19th century, when men slicked back their unruly locks with a pomade known as Macassar Oil.

Supposedly, the hair oil was created and popularized by a barber named Alexander Rowland in the early 19th century and eventually trademarked in 1888 (our Book One year).  Made from coconut oil or palm oil with the addition of ylang-ylang oil for a light fragrance, it not only served as a fashion statement for men but even influenced home furnishings.

I can tell you that my father and uncles’ hair often left ‘stains’ on chairs, so even in the 1950s, we still used doilies on couches and other upholstered furnishings. These became ubiquitous necessities in Victorian homes and came to be called ‘antimacassars’ in honor of the oil these small scarves hoped to absorb.

So, the next time you see a doily on a chair, think of all those oily heads and smile.

Algorithms and Writing

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Writing characters who travel and speak numerous languages fluently is less of a challenge than once it might have been, and it’s all because of algorithms. Not only am I able to use translation programs online to help me obtain the correct French phrases, but I’m also able to access entire passages from novels and newspapers in other languages. Research for the historical portions of the plot and context are also much easier, thanks to the many online dictionaries, encyclopedias, and transcribed/scanned material. 

I began plotting out much of the Redwing Saga in the early 1990s, and at that time, the Internet was rather small, connecting researchers at various colleges and universities. As a student at Indiana University, I was able to spend a great deal of time on our Intranet and the Internet, asking questions on a variety of forums and even emailing other students in England. I thought that was cool, but being able to access a wealth of knowledge with a few keystrokes truly does make this job of writing historical thrillers much easier!

We Have a Release Date!

UPDATE: The release date has been revised to April 08, 2017! 

Word just came in from Rose Avenue Fiction’s parent company, Defender Publishing, that the official release date for Blood Lies is June 10, 2017.

Pre-orders will probably begin via the and Amazon beginning about one month before that date, but keep watching this page for more information. Thanks to all who have encouraged us in this series. It’s a labor of love (or as the Brits would write, ‘a labour of love’).

Cover Art for Blood Lies

The cover for Blood Lies is being built, but here is the sneak look at the front. Jeffrey Mardis is the talent behind many of the Defender Publishing books, and he’s done a wonderful job on Blood Lies. Thank you, Jeffrey!

Researching Ripper

Catherine Eddowes, sketched as she appeared in life. Artist unknown.

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Though the core plot and characters of The Redwing Saga series of books encompasses far more than Jack the Ripper, this series of brutal slayings does play an integral role in the early books in the series. Researching these murders is made easier with the advent of Internet archives. There are numerous Ripper websites, but one that I’ve found very useful is, which not only provides commentary but also original texts of police reports, newspaper articles, and even post-mortem reports. This morning, I’ve been reviewing the report submitted by Dr. Frederick Gordon Brown, who examined the body of Catherine Eddowes, both on scene and at the Golden Lane mortuary.

It’s heartbreaking to read how this woman met her last moments of life. Photos show an emaciated form, striped with horrific cuts and slashes, but Brown’s description makes it more chilling, because the murderer clearly ‘staged and posed’ much of what the police discovered that night.  When Catherine Eddowes lived, she surely never imagined that her name and final images would form substrate for a monster.


Illusionists in the Late 19th Century

Photo of John Nevil Maskelyne, Illusionist

By Sharon K. Gilbert

I’m currently working on Book Two (Blood Lies), and I decided to add a scene where Paul Stuart visits an informer at a west end music hall. Originally, I’d planned to use the Canterbury Music Hall, which was extremely popular and lay close to Westminster (just across the bridge in Lambeth), but I found a very interesting place yesterday called the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, which featured the stagecraft of a resident illusionist named John Nevil Maskelyne (and his partner George Alfred Cooke). Maskelyne and Cooke perfected the art of the cabinet illusion as well as ‘levitation’. Some in London even began to believe that Maskelyne’s talents were not so much illusory as spiritual in nature. Of course, since I’m writing about spiritual warfare, setting a scene here with this ‘magic’ act will provide for an interesting plot twist.

Spelling the British Way

By Sharon K. Gilbert

Because the novels are in many ways an homage to the beautiful British novels of the 19th century, I chose to use British spelling throughout the books. As an American writer, that presents a challenge, because I don’t tend to use those spellings on a day to day basis. Of course, I don’t generally say ‘whilst’ instead of ‘while’ either, but my characters do. In fact, because I have been using a more archaic form of speech ‘whilst’ writing the books this past year, I sometimes find myself speaking that way, and when writing or reading my first choice sometimes is the British version of a word.

So whilst reading the books, you may also be learning how Brits in the 19th century spoke and ‘spelt’ their words. Here’s a link to a site that’s helped me navigate these unfamiliar linguistic waters. If you spend much time here, you’ll soon find yourself writing ‘favour’ rather than favor and ‘licence’ rather than license.