Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Apology, and a Weird List

Yes, I was supposed to continue the theme begun back in July about odd research facts.

Clearly, I didn't.

So it's September. The good news is, four of the five of us from the Cabinet will be gathered together in person later this week. Suzanne--well, I can't even begin to talk about how much we're going to miss you. Because it makes me cry. Be assured that you will be hovering with us every moment and we'll start planning ahead for next year.

One of the items on my agenda for this writers' retreat is getting this blog and us into a workable schedule. Which, let's face it, mostly means Me. Paying. Attention. And Remembering. To. Post.

But while we're in contemplative mode, why don't you share with us what you'd most like to see. Guest posts from other writers? Author interviews? Photos and video links? Our process, our stories, our failures, our workaday lives? We live to serve, in so many ways it's not even funny. But this service is of our choosing, so bring it on.

And just to keep my own conscience from strangling me while I sleep (I hear it whispering at 3:00 a.m.: "You didn't post your research facts. I'm coming for you . . ."), I present what I have researched in just the last three weeks.

1. How to Make Your Own Substitution Cipher.

     Sparked by a comment from my copyeditor in book one, in which a series of coded letters are found after a young woman's unexpected death, I looked up everything from Cardan grilles to Petrarch's Canzoniere. And then in my notebook I wrote out my own cipher for several messages using a keyword from one of Petrarch's sonnets. In Italian. Here's the result:

Plain Text: 'plant this to be widely seen'
Ciphered Text (with keyword farmi): KHBIN NZEM NJ UX QEWXHS MXXI

I think I'm ready for James Bond now. Calling Daniel Craig (I say hopefully(have I mentioned that I'm seriously beginning to see him as my older, non-dead George Boleyn in THE BOLEYN KING?)) . . .

2. Venomous Snakes in England
     There's only one native snake in England that's venomous: the adder. Fortunately for my nightmares, they do not appear to chew on people like the snakes Suzanne researched. (I'm still shuddering over that one.)

3. John Dee and His Star Charts

     John Dee was a mathematician and astronomer (among numerous intellectual interests) who is best known as an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. For book two revisions, I needed a clearer idea of what his star charts looked like--in which he would plot the positions of the planets according to the time and place of a person's birth and from there divine their past and future life. I don't claim to understand them, but at least now I know a little better what they looked like. 

4. How Many Children did John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, have and in what order? How many of those children were alive in autumn 1555 and which of them had spouses and/or children themselves? 

     Genealogical research gives me a headache, especially in a time period in which people re-used names and, sometimes, didn't even wait for the first sibling holder of the name to die. It appears that Dudley named two of his sons Henry before the first Henry was dead, and that's only the beginning of my irritation with that family. Honestly, if you're going to have thirteen (twelve?) children and virtually all of them are going to survive infancy, have the decency to keep better records. And come up with more names.

     And all of that for one brief scene near the end of book two set in Dudley Castle. Most of the children present don't speak, and only a couple of them are referred to by name. But if you'd like a complete list of who was there and how old they were (to within a few years or so), just ask. I've got it all :)

5. The Rack in Tudor England. 

     As in torture. Did you know the rack was introduced to England by a man named John Holland, Duke of Exeter, in the mid-15th century? Neither did I. It was a particularly apt piece of trivia, considering that in my twisted world of the Tudors, the first man in a hundred years to hold the title Duke of Exeter is examining the torture device that was sometimes called 'the Duke of Exeter's daughter.' How's that for good fortune?