2016 Peterloo remembrance an act of creation

Each year, people gather in Manchester to remember the massive gathering there on 16 August 1819, when a meeting to demand political change turned into a bloodbath when local militia and military cavalry attacked the unarmed crowd. Speakers read speeches of the day and the listing of those killed at the meeting, now called Peterloo, a word that combines the remembered carnage of the battle at Waterloo a few years earlier with the location of the march, St. Peter’s field (near St. Peter’s church).

This year, organizers have invited everyone to create a piece for “The Peterloo Tapestry,” expressing their vision of what a planned permanent memorial should be. The plan is to erect such a monument by 2019, the bicentenary of the march. A news video by That’s Manchester shows some of the pieces.

The finished tapestry will be first shown in public during the reading of the names ceremony at 1 pm on 16th August, after the names are recited, near the protest spot. Find more event details on Facebook, where you can also keep up with all the doings of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign. Though I can’t attend this year, I expect some great photos from the events – and organizers say they have an even bigger event planned for 2017.

The events around Peterloo are the setting fothe final act in An Untitled Lady.
The events around Peterloo are the setting for the final act in An Untitled Lady.

More on Peterloo and on how I used it in my novel, An Untitled Lady:

Prelude to Peterloo: Reformers call for peaceable assembly – Text of the poster calling on people to march to Manchester in August 1819

Prelude to Peterloo: Reformers call a Meeting – Text of the newspaper announcement calling for a public meeting

Remembering Peterloo – While writing my sprawling romantic historical An Untitled Lady, I arranged to travel to Manchester, England, the week of 16 August 2010, the 190th anniversary of the big protest march I set at the heart of the story.

Getting the details right: Peterloo – How writers try to resolve conflicts in historical and eyewitness accounts. Includes photos of some of the banners people marched with

A Response to Peterloo – On Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “The Masque of Anarchy”

Why I put a melee in a romantic novel – It might seem odd to set a story about two people falling in love in the middle of the troubles that led to Peterloo, but for me love helps people see things more clearly—including the outside world.

Sources: Manchester 1819 – The main references I used when writing An Untitled Lady

Book-club guide for An Untitled Lady – Covers story and history


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Prelude to Peterloo: Reformers call for peaceable assembly



The eyes of all England, nay, of all Europe, are fixed upon you: and every friend of real Reform and of rational Liberty, is tremblingly alive to the result of your Meeting on Monday next.

OUR ENEMIES will seek every opportunity by the means of their sanguinary agents to excite a RIOT, that they may have a pretence of SPILLING OUR BLOOD, reckless of the awful and certain retaliation that would ultimately fall on their heads.

EVERY FRIEND OF REAL AND EFFECTUAL REFORM is offering up to Heaven a devout prayer, that you may follow the example of your brethren of the Metropolis: and by your steady, patient, persevering, and peaceable conduct on that day, frustrate their HELLISH AND BLOODY PURPOSE.

Come, then, my friends, to the Meeting on Monday, armed with NO OTHER WEAPON but that of a self-approving conscience; determined not to suffer yourselves to be irritated or excited, by any means whatsoever, to commit any breach of the Public Peace.

Our opponents have not attempted to show that our reasoning is fallacious, or that our conclusions are incorrect, by any other argument but the threat of Violence, and to put us down by the force of the Sword, Bayonet, and the Cannon. They assert that your leaders do nothing but mislead and deceive you, although they well know, that the eternal principles of truth and justice are too deeply engraven on your hearts; and that you are at length become (fortunately for them) too well acquainted with your own rights, ever again to suffer any man, or any faction, to mislead you.

—– —— ——

“Orator” Henry Hunt issued two public missives in the week between the cancelled Public meeting and its rescheduled date of 16 August 1819. One was to inform the editors of the London press what was going on in Manchester; this led to the presence of outside reporters on protest day. This one, the second, was published and pamphletted in the local press.

What happened on 16 August? The Peterloo massacre.

Image from Manchester Education Wide Area Network; see clippings reporting on the massacre there, too.

Earlier posts on Peterloo:

Prelude to Peterloo: Reformers call a Meeting

Remembering Peterloo

A response to Peterloo: Shelly’s The Masque of Anarchy

Why I put a melee in a romantic novel

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Getting the details right: Peterloo

Engraving by Richard Carlile. All the poles from which banners are flying have Phrygian caps or liberty caps on top.
Detail from engraving by Richard Carlile. All the poles from which banners are flying have Phrygian caps or liberty caps on top. Source: Manchester Library Services

One of the reasons I chose to write about the Manchester protest later called Peterloo in An Untitled Lady was that there were quite a few good sources on the event. Descriptions by reporters and private correspondents were published in national and local papers; the events led to court trials, which left documents and decisions; and even the people who gave out the donations collected from across the country to the injured kept close records.

But like all historical record, the accounts don’t quite agree. To write a single story, I had to make many choices, including deciding how many people I believed were hurt, who felled the first blow and when, and how many women really did attend the meeting. I often went by the “two or more” rule: If two sources agreed, and a third disagreed, I’d lean toward the first two. Of course, many details only appear once, so I made the best choice I could, always trying to keep my story coherent and logical within itself.

This all pleased the first editor who reviewed the manuscript back in 2012, so whew. But he did have one question, on one of the banners the marchers were carrying: Continue Reading

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Prelude to Peterloo: Reformers call a Meeting

peterloo_01[First paragraphs]



A REQUISITION having been presented to the Boroughreeve and Constables of Manchester, signed by above 700 Inhabitant Householders in a few hours, requesting them to call a PUBLIC MEETING “To consider the propriety of adopting the LEGAL and EFFECTUAL means of obtaining a REFORM in the Common House of Parliament” and they having declined to call such Meeting therefore the undersigned Requisitionists give NOTICE that a Public Meeting will be held, on the area, near St. Peter’s Church, for the above mentioned purpose, on Monday the 16th instant – the Chair to be taken by H. Hunt, Esq. at 12 o’clock.

Major Cartwright–Mr. Wooller–Mr. Pearson–Mr. Carlisle–Dr. Crompton–Edward Rushton–Mr. J. Smith–Mr. Thomas Smith–will be invited to attend this Meeting.

Manchester, 6th August, 1819

What happened on 16 August? The Peterloo massacre.

Image from Manchester Education Wide Area Network; see clippings reporting on the massacre there, too.

Earlier posts on Peterloo:

Remembering Peterloo

A response to Peterloo: Shelly’s The Masque of Anarchy

Why I put a melee in a romantic novel

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Now in Print

Baymax gives it an enthusiastic thumb’s up

The new trade paperback of AN UNTITLED LADY is available today on Createspace, Amazon USAmazon UK, and elsewhere. The cover looks lovely, the page layout is gorgeous, and the book feels satisfyingly hefty.

If you prefer print, now’s your chance!

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Remembering Peterloo

While writing my sprawling romantic historical An Untitled Lady, I arranged to travel to Manchester, England, the week of 16 August 2010, the 190th anniversary of the big protest march I set at the heart of the story.

Known to history as the Peterloo Massacre, in 1819 some 60–80,000 men, women, and even some children marched from the countryside to downtown Manchester demanding that all men gain the right the vote, not just landowners. That number of people gathered in protest looked scary to some; when the local magistrates called on their militia and nearby British troops to keep order the blades came out. At least fifteen protesters died and 400–700 were wounded; because the protest was declared illegal, many of the injured hid their wounds so the actual count is still in dispute. (The massacre, at St. Peter’s field, was nicknamed Peterloo as an ironic comparison with the battle of Waterloo, which took place four years earlier.)

During my visit, I took a Peterloo-themed tour given by Ed Glinert through New Manchester Walks. A dozen of us stood on the cement plaza and sidewalks in front of the city’s convention center, built on the land that was once St. Peter’s field. I imagined 60,000 people here, most in their Sunday best, crowded near a speaker’s stand made of two wagons lashed together. The sound must have crashed among the houses nearby, such a spectacle. How did they manage it? Even today, we rarely see crowds that size gathered in protest, and people in 1819 didn’t have cell phones, buses, or Porta-Potties.

Some historians have called Peterloo one of the defining moments of its age; because correspondents from papers like The Times were present, reports of the event—and the violence—were widely distributed, and the government could not downplay what had happened. The British people could not pretend that its army and militias were only harassing “rebels” and “miscreants” when babies and women were dead. The event also inspired Percy Bysshe Shelley to write the poem “The Masque of Anarchy,” which some have called the greatest political poem ever written in English. Its last stanza:

‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many – they are few.’

The political times were so sensitive, though, that while Shelley wrote the poem in less than 3 weeks in 1819, publisher Leigh Hunt did not publish it until 1832, the same year the political reforms Peterloo’s protesters sought finally became law.

But in 2010, while the food servers and shopkeepers I spoke with knew the name Peterloo, few could recall much beyond a basic idea of what happened. The only marker of the event is one of those little red circles, on the corner of the Free Trade Hall/Radisson Hotel on Peter Street. Still, the city’s Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress did mark the anniversary with a wreath. The Peterloo Memorial Campaign has recently commissioned a larger memorial and now seeks a site to install it. And plans are afoot for many commemorative activities marking the bicentennial of the march, in 2019.

A wreath in remembrance of Peterloo, 16 Aug 1819, laid on 16 Aug 2010 beneath the commemorative plaque in Manchester.

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An Untitled Lady cover reveal

AUL-20150301-1a-450Releasing this Tuesday, March 3, exclusively on Amazon. Audiobook available via Amazon/Audible.


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Help me decide on a new cover

UPDATE: We have a winner! Choice B was by far preferred, with bits from A and D added. Many, many thanks for your input — it was a huge help.


Here are some ideas for the new cover for my romantic historical novel, An Untitled Lady. Which one do you think would reach the right readers? This edition will be e-book only, so it needs to be readable when it is the size of your fingernail.

We want it to appeal to people who like history AND romance, people who like Dickens, Gaskell, Bernard Cornwell, Mary Jo Putney (I wish!).

IT DOES NOT need to say “I’m a regency romance”: People who go in expecting that kind of book think this book is boring because has too much history.

Themes in the story: Families: broken, building anew; Love story, Social unrest; Class distinctions; Manchester, England (urban, mercantile, gritty)

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Need more to help you decide? Here’s the back-cover copy:

Shocking family news forces Madeline Wetherby to abandon her plans to marry an earl and settle for upstart Manchester merchant Nash Quinn. When she discovers that her birth father is one of the weavers her husband is putting out of work—and a radical leader—Maddie must decide which family she truly desires, the man of her heart or the people of her blood.

An earl’s second son, Nash chose a life of Trade over Society. When protest marches spread across Lancashire, the pressure on him grows. If he can’t make both workers and manufacturers see reason he stands to lose everything: his business, his town, and his marriage.

As Manchester simmers under the summer sun, the choices grow more stark for Maddie and Nash: Family or justice. Love or money. Life or death.

Historical fiction with strong romantic elements. Includes scenes of violence and loss.

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Catch my post on Peterloo over at Musa

A wreath in remembrance of Peterloo, 16 Aug 1819, laid on 16 Aug 2010 beneath the commemorative plaque in Manchester. I took these photos during my research trip for An Untitled Lady. I’m chatting about Peterloo and my novel over at Musa Publishing’s blog today–come on by and find out which Georgian poet was inspired to write “the greatest political poem ever written in English” about the event.

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On Writing: Killing the Biggest Darling

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscripts to press. Murder your darlings”— Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

I’m a newspaper refugee; for two decades and more my writing goal was readability (and truth and fairness and justice and all). Fancy words and phrases, even if I let them slip in, were nearly always red-lined out by my editors. My prose was hard-boiled, clear and direct. When I started writing fiction, I thought I would never fall into the trap of holding my darling words and phrases tight, wrecking the flow of the story just to hold up my rococo phrases trumpeting, “Beautiful Writing Here.”

No, I fell into a bigger trap.

My first published book, A Note of Scandal, features a Regency-era newspaper publisher tempted and taunted by a viscount’s daughter who composes music. The book has a Dickensian feel: A number of secondary characters play big roles—some even have scenes in their own close POV. One is the publisher’s star reporter, a genial showboat who just seems to get people to talk with him. Of course, I fell for him, but for this book I stayed strong, cutting cut his lines and a scene when his subplot was overpowering the main story. I felt bad (but also virtuous), and by the end of the story I knew the next book would have him as hero.

Reading the histories and newspapers of the time, I found the perfect setting—not London, but Manchester—and some news-worthy events. It was 1819, four years after the first book, so my guy could be recovered from his stint as a war correspondent and finally deciding to settle down. I had two ideas for local girls who could be involved in weaving either as a worker or a lady’s aid society volunteer at the manufactories in the city, where I wanted to set the action.

By the time NaNoWriMo 2008 rolled around, I had reams of research, GMCs for everybody, four tent-pole scenes and a half-dozen other scenes. But the words, they did not flow.

Every scene fell apart as soon as I started really writing it. I plowed on, bewildered but relentless, and got to the end of the story. I had 35,000 words—less than half my target. It wasn’t until those final scenes, when all hell breaks out in the story, that I realized what was wrong. My guy, my beautiful, funny, great hero, was letting me down.

I had been blind: Reporters report: They observe; they don’t act. My hero was a passive presence, he wasn’t affected by the raucous political punches and counterpunches, and his parts were somnolent on the page. I needed a man (and a woman) whose actions changed the story and who were changed by events, again and again. A reporter might be good for a mystery story (like All the President’s Men), but mine was a runaway train story. He had to go.

Of course, I fought this idea. He was the star! He was the whole reason I wanted to write this story! I may have drunk too much wine and lay on the couch one spring night wracking my brain on to save my guy. But in the end, the story world I’d built was more attractive than this one guy.

I found a new hero, one who juggles demands of his Earl brother, his warehouse workers, and his new wife, who seems a little too sympathetic to the cries of the weavers and spinners for reform. I could not give up on my poor reporter, but in every draft his part got smaller and smaller. In the finished book, he has only a few lines.

This change necessitated other major changes, as well. My lady’s background did not change, but her present situation did—radically. Her journey grew a lot darker, so the decision she makes at her crisis point would make sense. This messed with the structure, and it took me until NaNo 2009 before I thought I had it solid. During that November, I wrote 87,000 words, and kept rolling. I sold An Untitled Lady in November 2012 and it was released last week.

My new guy, Nash, isn’t always a sweet talker, or good with the ladies, but he’s gutsy and I think he’s still a cutie (well, one reviewer did describe him as a teddy bear but with wood chips inside instead of fluff). This story is not your traditional regency; in addition to romance, castles, and picnics, it has fights, sex, slums, and protest marches. It’s ambitious; not a comfort read but a satisfying meal.

I still can’t quit this reporter guy. His image is still on my bulletin board. And now I’ve found chewy piece of history from 1808, so he’d by 11 years younger and wet behind the ears. And the story has the makings of a mystery, and an adventure…

[this post first appeared at SavvyAuthors]

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