Sunday, April 21, 2013

Where did everybody sleep?

If the Clibborns of 17th-century Moate, Ireland, had from 4 to 10 regular servants, in addition to 7 to 9 children (counting an orphaned nephew and niece) — where did everybody sleep?

Although John Clibborn's house was called the Castle, it was a tower house that didn't have as many rooms as we might imagine. Let me describe the layout for you — the rooms and arrangement are real; who slept in which room is fiction in progress.

Main Floor

The main or ground floor has a dining room (where the Moate Quakers probably worshiped), a sitting room, and a kitchen. A small room off the kitchen is called the servants' quarters; the cook likely slept there. Although there might not have been the great differences in hierarchy among servants that we see in shows like Downton Abbey (set 200 years later), I don’t know if the cook would have shared the closet-sized space with the kitchen wench. The girl probably slept on the kitchen floor in front of the fire. The bottom of the two-story round tower (hidden by a tree on the left in this picture) served as a dairy or pantry, similar to a root cellar.

The First Floor

The first floor (second floor to Americans) has four bedrooms: one above the dining room to the west (the window on the right), one off the stairway, one at the end of the hall (window on the far left), and a round room at the top of the tower that can only be accessed through the other bedroom. (I wanted very badly for the heroine of the second book to live in the tower room, so I wrote the story that way.)

17th-century bedroom exhibit - National Museum of Ireland
My novel sets John Clibborn and his wife in the west room. I imagine their bedroom as something like this 17th-century exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland, with the addition of curtains on the bed and a rug or two. (Do I see stacks of rushes on the floor? I think not!)

For the first book, the bedroom at the end of the hall is the nursery and the tower room is for the older girls. In the second book, all the girls live in these two rooms.

The Clibborns had such a reputation for hospitality that I made the room off the stairs a guest room. In the real life, however, guests may have bunked in rooms with the family.

Guests aren't the only ones who slept with family. In poorer households, according to MacLysaght, family and guests slept together on the floor. In wealthier households, according to Pepys' Diary, the chamber maid slept in the bedroom with her master and mistress. That gives new meaning to one of Pepys' diary entries (I can’t find the exact quote): The wench up early. Dallied in bed with the wife a while. That concept of no privacy is so alien to our culture! At least they had curtains on the bed.

The Top Floor

The second floor (or third) has the same pattern, except without the tower. So that's three bedrooms on the top floor. While it was common for siblings to share rooms, the older children must have been separated by sex. So I imagine the boys on the top floor, with their youthful energy to take them up and down that extra flight of stairs. Perhaps the steward had to share a bedroom with the footmen, unless the junior servants slept on the floor in the boys' rooms.

Settle bed
Servants' beds (or children's) could be pulled out from under the main bed. Another hideaway sleeping spot was the settle bed, which served as sofa-bench during the day and folded out into a mattress-holding frame at night. For this novel, I put a settle bed in the Englishes' cottage instead of the Castle.

So the house servants were scattered throughout the house, not in some separate wing. I presume field hands slept in their own cottages each night. But what about the permanent outdoor servants?

Remember the bawn, the walled courtyard on the east side of the Castle?  I forgot about the house-sized room at the far end from the kitchen door. It’s substantial (the current owner of the Castle uses it as her shop. Vague memory tells me the inside of the bawn is like a stable, but the large room could house several servants, including the gardener and the stable hands.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Authorpreneur: The Lure of the Pro-Blogosphere

What a year it's been! (And this is just the writing part.)

In March 2012, I was struggling financially with a part-time library job, a one-year-old bookstore that hadn't got off the ground yet, and growing bills. I was also struggling with a historical novel about my family. My big dream was to finish and publish it, but I'd put it aside for medical reasons. I'd recovered enough to write again, but had trouble getting back into the story.

Somehow I ran across Ana Hoffman's blog, Traffic Generation Cafe. The concept that a real person could make a living from blogging felt like a light turned on in my head. I wanted to write again, and I needed money. I began to hear the siren song of the pro-blogosphere.

In April, Robert Lee Brewer offered a month-long Platform Challenge for writers. I "knew" Robert through his involvement with Writer's Digest, and I'd heard all year that a writer needs a platform — a public face that shows one's expertise — even before the book is finished. It sounded like the perfect opportunity to learn about the world of online marketing while promoting my future book.

10% Off, No Min at Writers Digest Shop. Use coupon code writersdigest10w during checkout. Expires 06/30/2013. --- Look, this is what probloggers do. It's called an affiliate ad.

The whirlwind continued offline in May at the annual Quakers Uniting In Publications conference. Not only did I attend as a representative for a church-affiliated publisher, I co-led the panel on bookselling. My experience as a bookseller? A whopping one year, during one of the most difficult years ever for the printed book. With the help of the other panelists, we all left with a few refreshing drops of optimism.

Meanwhile, the April Platform Challenge participants had formed a community through our guided social media experience. Still thrumming with energy, we started a website (among other endeavours) and called ourselves Wordsmith Studio.

Summer rushed by with a freelance copyediting job, attained through a connection I'd made at the conference. After that I resumed brainstorming, thinking about blogging, reading other people's blogs, and trying to get back into writing through exercises and prompts.

November arrived in a hurry, and with it, National Novel Writing Month. Our local NaNoWriMo group has formed a year-round community through facebook, and I wanted to participate just to see them all in person again. However, my novel had already been through two NaNoWriMos; it needed thoughtful revision, not fast word count. I tried to be a NaNo rebel and wrote anything: blog posts, articles, free writes. I enjoyed the scribbling frenzy at the write-ins, but didn't meet the word count goal. On the bright side, my writing "muscles" warmed up and a few blog posts appeared.

In January 2013, Ana introduced me to Danny Iny. He gave out awesome ideas in his webinar about earning full-time income with an online audience business. The siren song got louder. Soft background music pleaded with me to finish the novel first. As I considered problogging, I made a small goal: just 300 words a day as I completely rewrote the draft novel.

Then, the song turned into a roar. Danny and his helpers launched the Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt in March. How could I resist? A list of tasks to improve my online presence, new skills to learn, new people to meet — would it be like the April Platform Challenge?

The Scavenger Hunt was fun; the challenge list could be used as a checklist. Some of the participants were really nice and connected through facebook. We all hated Tumblr. I even learned how to make a video! But no, it wasn't the same. The list was long and the competition high. Plus... I got a great, short-term freelance offer and found myself with FOUR jobs that month.

When Wordsmith Studio called for submissions to celebrate our one-year anniversary, I thought: My blog has about the same followers or traffic as last April. I just had to throw in the towel on the Scavenger Hunt. I simply don't have time to build a new website or all these things that probloggers are supposed to do. What could I possibly write about when I haven't succeeded? The song melted into a screech.

Silly me. I was measuring success by numbers.

Remember that little goal I had, to write every day? Last week, I finished draft number three. I finished the major rewrite of my novel!

Having short, attainable goals, and an incentive, was key. 

Now I need new goals for editing: not word count, maybe a certain number of scenes per week, with room for researching historical details and reading writing-craft books. I also need an occasional free day, for when I'm working three jobs or spending the weekend with family.

I think my new mantra for the next couple of months will be:


I'll have to measure what I can do in a week, but the current goal is to do one of those, every day.

Does this mean leaving the blogosphere behind? Not necessarily, just putting priorities in order. Look what I've learned this year!

- Ana taught me that people can and do make money online. If that's the goal, they have to adapt to changing audiences and technology.
- Robert taught us how to walk with babysteps first, like adding "share" buttons to a blog and planning with an editorial calendar.
- Being a speaker at a conference taught me that if you know a little, you'll know a lot more after you teach it.
- NaNoWriMo taught me that sometimes the community you build is worth more than what you did.
- Danny taught me to focus in on my audience. For example, if my readers are romantic history buffs, why would I blog for other writers? (Still working on that one.)
- The Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt, combined with FOUR part-time jobs last month, taught me... I can't do it all.
- and I learned from reading Joanna Penn's blog (and talking to a friend) that I'm not in this for the love of money. I've been trying all these things because I've been hungry to create something. The learning itself can be a high.

Best of all, I learned — from bloggers, tweeps, facebook writer buddies, journaling, thinking and reading Bible verses — to keep first things first.


The authorpreneurs that I know and follow, like Joanna Penn and CJ Lyons, already have a slew of published books in addition to their online businesses. Some bestselling, big-name authors (James Patterson, Umberto Eco) don't blog. They're too busy cranking out books. My favorite author, Elizabeth Peters, doesn't even have e-mail.

(sound of crickets chirping)

Thanks for reading this post that ran much longer than I anticipated. It's part of Wordsmith Studio's one-year celebration! Janice Sheridan summed up our April Platform Challenge experience with splashy poetic prose in "Platform Diving." To join the party, follow the confetti and clinking glasses to Wordsmith Studio. Next up: Sopphey Vance invites us home. You can take off your coat and put on your bunny slippers for Living On My Own.