In Memory of Elizabeth Barton, March 10 1798 – April 20 1534

Last week, I was speaking at the East Coast Game Conference, my mind full of live action and augmented reality game design, and so I missed the chance to post on April 20, in honor of one of Henry VIII’s lesser-known victims: Elizabeth Barton, the Holy Maid of Kent.

Yeah. Elizabeth Barton. Of Kent.

She claimed to be born in 1506, but little is known of her early life. Her fame began in her nineteenth year, when, working as a servant in Thomas Cobb’s household, she fell seriously ill on Easter Sunday of 1525, and began to speak in rhyming prophecies. An inquiry was held, presided over by Archbishop William Warham, and the inquisitors determined her trances and visions to be genuine, and her theology to be sound. Elizabeth became a Benedictine nun at St. Sepulcre’s in Canterbury, and thereafter Sister Elizabeth rubbed shoulders with some of the most influential men of the day, including Thomas Wosley, Thomas More, and Thomas Cramner, the latter of who said she spoke “of many high and godly things, telling also wondrously, by the power of the Holy Ghost as it was thought, things done and said in other places, whereas neither she was herself, nor yet heard no report thereof.”

I wonder how Elizabeth Barton could have possibly known what was being said and done in other places, or what would come true in future days.

At first Sister Elizabeth confined her prophetic warnings to “rebukes of sin and vice” and to criticism of the growing Lutheran movement. But when Henry declared his intention to have his marriage to Katherine of Aragon annulled in order to marry Anne Boleyn, Sister Elizabeth waded into political matters. She spoke openly against the King’s proposed annulment, gathered around her a group of important supporters, and went so far as to “force herself into the King’s presence” and warn him to his face that if he divorced Katherine and married Anne, he would no longer be king of the realm, would reign a mere seven months after his second marriage, and would die a villain’s death.

(The seven months thing didn’t come true, obviously. Elizabeth must have been from an alternate timeline.)

Unsurprisingly, her prophetic career ended badly. She and her supporters were arrested on charges of treason, Elizabeth confessed to being “a poor wench without learning” who had invented all her visions, and she and all her supporters except Thomas More were sentenced to death. Elizabeth Barton’s head was struck off, parboiled, and impaled upon a pole of London Bridge–the only woman in British history accorded such an honor.

So let’s review–a “prophetess” whose career started at the age of nineteen, who grew powerful enough to speak on equal terms with the King’s foremost advisors, who was brave and outspoken enough to threaten the King to his face, and who died the death of a traitor, a heroine, or a saint, depending on your point of view. And who was named Elizabeth Barton. Of Kent. Sound like anyone we know?

As to whether this part of her story will be teased in Timekeeper, or fully explored in Timebound…well, like many other things, that would be telling. You’ll just have to wait for June to find out.

Reposing woman with three men, only one of whom is looking at her.

image from Volume 3 of David Hume’s History of England


Want to be quoted in an ECGC talk?

I am in search of BRIEF positive quotes about LARPing. Ideally, the emotional impact, but I’ll take what I can get.

I’m not kidding when I say brief; it needs to look good on a slide.

For example, “I got choked up telling the story afterward.”

Or, “There were times during the game when it was very difficult to tell if I was myself or I was my character” (a quote from Rachael Eyre re Crooked House’s magnificent God Rest Ye Merry.)

“it was a thousand times cooler to see it in real life than it had ever been to see it in my head” – me, re Iron & Lace


Obviously, if you wanted to make it about one of my games, that would be awesome, but by no means necessary. Why do you love LARPing? Tell me in a comment, and give me a name or handle by which to credit you, and odds are good you’ll show up on an ECGC slide. Thank you!

My Favorite “Editing Timekeeper” Moment (so far)

The situation: a local from 1790 encountering a time traveler from 1815.

The line: “Not only was the young woman without hat or kerchief, but she also appeared to be without a gown, to be clad in what certainly looked to Viktor’s eyes to be nothing more than a shift.”

The copyeditor’s comment: “Would not the Grecian shift style have arrived by this time and therefore be familiar to him?”

My internal response: Crap. Good point. Let me make sure.

My eventual written response: “I looked it up in The Costume History by Auguste Racinet. He says the Grecian shift arrived ‘suddenly’ in 1796. “Before 1794, the only modification in women’s clothes was in the fabrics…In 1796, women’s clothes were suddenly emancipated from the baleened and elongated bodice and tight-fitting gown.” He provides pictures. He’s writing specifically about French fashion, so it’s just possible it might be different for English or Swiss, but I feel comfortable taking the risk of saying that in 1790, Viktor would have perceived Elizabeth as under-dressed.”

I love my copyeditor. She is awesome. The level of attention to detail is just stunning.

I love The Costume History. Best (and most beautiful) impulse purchase ever ever ever.

I love my life. That there was billable time.

The Things I Read

Sitting on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, watching the snow swirl against the windows, and wishing it were January rather than March. I wouldn’t have minded this so much in January.

But I guess I don’t mind it that much now. It’s warm in here, I went grocery shopping yesterday, we haven’t lost power (at least not yet), and I have a vase of $4 Whole Foods yellow tulips to lift my spirits.

I also have haphazard piles of books of different genres – source material for different projects, some current, some future, some past, and some hypothetical. I so love inter-library loan. It never ceases to amuse me what I wind up using as reference material.

In the hopes that it will amuse you as well, here are some lists for a snowy Tuesday afternoon.


Read For The First Time While Researching Timekeeper:

  • The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte by Robert Asprey
  • Waterloo by David Hamilton Williams
  • Napoleon and the Conquest of the World (there’s a story behind this one, but I’ll wait until the publication of the new edition of Timekeeper before I tell it)
  • Fodor’s Travel Guide To Vienna
  • The Stars Look Down by A. J. Cronin (fiction, but an excellent source of information on everyday life in Welsh mining villages)
  • Articles on Clément Duval, François Frean, Paul Renuci, Raymond Vaude, Giovanni Batistoti, Henri Charriere, and their escapes or alleged escapes from the French penal colony of Cayenne (a.k.a Devil’s Island)


Reread While Researching Timekeeper:

  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (obsessively, to get the timeline and choreography right)
  • Waterloo: A Near-Run Thing by David Howarth (ditto)


Movies Watched While Researching Timekeeper:

  • Ocean’s Eleven
  • Ocean’s Twelve
  • Ocean’s Thirteen
  • The Italian Job

(the “heist” subplot ended up being downplayed by the final draft, but the research was fun)


Read For The First Time While Researching Timebound:

  • The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb by Neal Bascomb
  • Assault in Norway: Sabotaging the Nazi Nuclear Program by Thomas Gallagher
  • The Mountains Wait by Theodore Broch
  • The Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France by Caroline Moorehead
  • History of England, Volume 3 by David Hume (can anyone guess why?)
  • Under These Restless Skies by Lissa Bryan (fun read, but didn’t turn out to be much help, since the character I was interested in only appeared briefly – can anyone guess who?)


Reread To Get The Feel For A Specific Tiny Scene In Timebound:

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (and there’s a virtual cookie in it for anyone who figures out which scene it is, when the book is finally done. It’s not a mad wife in an attic, I’ll tell you that much.)


Regency Inheritance Law

Today’s research question:

Under what circumstances could a Regency-era parent withhold their child’s expected inheritance?

I note that in the Jane Austen canon, Mrs. Ferrars Senior “settles all her money irrevocably upon one of her sons” when the other declares his intention to make a marriage his mother disapproves of.

On the other hand, Mr. Wickham famously seduces Georgiana Darcy, “his object being her fortune,” which seems to indicate Mr. Darcy could not cut his sister off financially if she married without his approval. Unless he could, but Wickham was betting he wouldn’t?

My guess is that the terms of the inheritance matter a great deal. If Georgiana Darcy was left so much by her parents, to her by name, to come to her when she came of age or married, Darcy couldn’t do anything? But if the late Mr. Ferrars left all his money to his widow for her lifetime, she could disinherit a child if she wanted to? Something like that?

If anyone knows for sure or could point me to an appropriate website, I would greatly appreciate it.


Arisia 2017!

Will you be at Arisia this year? So will I!

You can find me at:

Emerging Trends In Game Technology

Friday at 8:30 in Fanueil

Augmented Reality now has mass appeal. The Virtual Reality market is getting overcrowded. Giant procedurally generated worlds are old hat. Yesterday’s promises are already mundane. So what’s next? Our panelists weigh in on which new technologies developers are embracing, and which might just be vaporware.


The Stories People Play

Saturday at 2:30 in Marina 3

Video games are often an interactive experience, and a good story can help immerse the participants. But interactivity changes the requirements for a good story, doesn’t it? If you want to give your audience choices, those choices will affect the outcome. How do you write something with that caveat? Do all games need a story to be enjoyable? If you just want to take out the alien invasion with your boomstick, does it matter *why* they are invading? In this panel, we will discuss these and more.


Writing A Great LARP

Sunday at 5:30 in Marina 3

Beyond the nuts and bolts of creating and running a game, what makes one truly excellent? The panelists will explore character writing, plot design, and game structure, and discuss what makes a game into something that people will talk about and recommend to others.


The Broad Universe Table

sometimes, but not other times, in the dealer room

Where, if all goes well, I will be selling Timepiece!


Very much looking forward to the fun. See you there!