Know My Name – a memoir by Chanel Miller

When you write a novel where one of the main characters is raped, you need to dig very, very deep to understand what that means in terms of the physical, emotional, and psychological effect on the victim. For my novel, You Don’t Know Me, the very last thing I wanted to do was diminish, in any way, the profound, life-altering, and seriously damaging effect of such an occurrence.

One of the books I read to inform myself is Know My Name, a memoir by Chanel Miller.

Let me begin by saying that Chanel Miller is an amazing writer and a woman of great bravery. “Writing is the way I process the world,” Chanel says at the end of her memoir. She states that she writes “to show how victims are treated at this moment in time, to record the temperature of our culture.” The culture of dealing with sexual assault victims.

Chanel Miller’s ability to take the reader into the gritty depths of what happened to her amazed me. I’ve selected a few quotes from her memoir that resonated for me in terms of the system that victimizes victims and the strength required to fight for what’s right. Believe me there are many, many more insightful quotes I could include.

For years, the crime of sexual assault depended on our silence. The fear of knowing what happened if we spoke. Society gave us one thousand reasons; don’t speak if you lack evidence, if it happened too long ago, if you were drunk, if the man is powerful, if you’ll face blowback, if it threatens your safety.”

“The agony is incessant, unyielding, but when you get to the point where you feel like everything’s gone, there’s a little twist, a flame, a small shift. It is subtle, it comes when you least expect it. Wait for it. This is the rule of the universe, this is the one thing in life I know to be true. No matter how awful and long your journey, I can promise you the turn. One day it will lift.

“This is not about the victim’s lack of effort. This is about society’s failure to have systems in place in which victims feel there’s a probable chance of achieving safety, justice, and restoration rather than being retraumatized, publicly shamed, psychologically tormented, and verbally mauled.”

Often it seems easier to suffer rape alone, than face the dismembering that comes with seeking support.”

Assault buries the self. We lose sight of how and when we are allowed to occupy space. We are made to doubt our abilities, disparaged when we speak.”

After Chanel Miller’s victim impact statement went viral, Joe Biden took the time to write to her. “In his letter, he wrote, I see you. What did it mean that the vice-president of the United States of America had stopped every important thing he was doing, to write I see you.” “Biden said, You have given them the strength they need to fight back. And so, I believe, you will save lives.”

Read Know My Name. You will never look at sexual assault again without compassion, without understanding, and without a deep appreciation for what it takes to merely go on with your life.

You Don’t Know Me – as yet unpublished – is my first contemporary novel. 


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website

Favourite Historical Research Resources – K.M. Pohlkamp

K.M. Pohlkamp uses the byline Historical Fiction With a Touch of Noir. Her titles give you than hint of noir: Apricots and Wolfsbane, Physicists in Petticoats, Shadows of Hemlock. Last year, K.M. (Kara) posted a very interesting article on her favourite historical research resources and has graciously allowed me to repeat that article here in A Writer of History.

My Favorite Historical Research Resources by K.M. Pohlkamp

Small details transfer the reader into another world, and for historical fiction, another time. Lingering honey upon a tongue after a character sips mead, the warmth of a candle flickering in the mind, the sound of a metal zipper opening in the corner…

And nothing destroys the mood more than an anachronism.

All of this condemns the historical fiction writer to hours of research – a thankless task necessity for our genre. To aid the burden, here are some of my favorite resources available from the comfort of your favorite writing place.

A Timeline Of Slang

These timelines were developed by Jonathan Green, a “slang lexicographer.” His website has timelines for 31 terms including oaths, weapons, rich/poor, death, money, and private body parts.

For example, clicking on “drunk” brings up this visual timeline of what people called that slop in the tavern over the years.

Online Etymology

Etymologies are explanations of what words meant and how they sounded in the past. This Online Etymology website is a fantastic way to check if a word was common in the period of your manuscript and the origins of a term.

Ngram Viewer

Another way to check if a word was used during a time period is Google’s Ngram Viewer. This tool lists the earliest written record of a word. Keep in mind, especially for early historic periods, a word was likely used in speech decades before written records.

Historical Thesaurus

Well shoot, the word you just typed was not used during the era of your manuscript. No worries, use this Historical Thesaurus!

Historical Maps

My favorite source for historical maps is Old Maps Online. You can search via geographical area and obtain links to historical maps within the search field. For example, I’ve zoomed in on London, England and historical maps are linked to the right.

Another great map source is the Leventhal Map & Education Center, part of the Boston Public Library. This site allows you to also search by date with the timeline selector on the left.

Historical Names

What’s in a name? Well, a lot.

I find naming characters stressful. They can affect a reader’s preconceived notions before any description is offered. Are they an eccentric pirate with an exotic name? Are they one of a hundred farmers named Thomas?

Here are my favorite lists of early English names:


Have 30 minutes during your commute or jog? Why not research your novel at the same time?

Listening to historical podcasts from your period of history can be a great way to pick up little bits to weave into a manuscript and make the world come to life for your reader.

My favorite history podcast is the Renaissance English History Podcast produced by historian, Heather Teysko. Her casts are short, entertaining, and jam packed with interesting facts. I especially enjoyed this episode about 16th century cosmetics.

Historical Bibles

Given the domination of religion upon past society and politics, religious quotes often come up in historical fiction. But historic bibles are different than modern ones. Bible Study Tools provides multiple translations from different eras and languages.

Social Media

Yes, you read that right.

Facebook has a breath of historic groups and societies, many of whom are pleased to answer your questions. My current WIP takes place near Hinckley, England and I’ve received aid from the Hinckley Past & Present Facebook Group of historians. Shout out also to the English Historical Fiction Author’s Group who have helped me with research in the past.

Similarly, there’s a a breath of historical fiction authors on Twitter who are ready and willing to help. Checkout these historical fiction hashtags:

Wow! That’s a great list, Kara. Many thanks for permitting me to share your post here in A Writer of History. You can check out K.L. Pohlkamp’s novels on her website 

Apricots and Wolfsbane by K.M. Pohlkamp ~~ Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies—to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Believing confession erases the sin of murder, her morbid desires are in unity with faith, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.

At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge with her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website


7 Ways to Check Your Sources

I’m going through previous blog posts looking for materials to share with you. My intent is to flesh out the 7 Elements of Historical fiction, which just happens to be the most popular post on my blog. Having just reread a bit from Your Grandmother is Lying by Leah Klocek it strikes me that not only is this bit relevant to those writing historical fiction, but in this world of fake news and deliberate misinformation, the advice could be helpful to all of us.

Leah asks: Did you take AP history classes in high school? If so, prepare for a flashback when I say this: APPARTS.

APPARTS is an acronym used to help students critically analyze primary and secondary source documents. It breaks down into the following categories and questions, each of which you should be able to answer before you can decide how trustworthy a source is and whether you can, with any integrity, use the information it gives you:

Author: Who created the source? What was his/her background? Did s/he have a vested interest in pushing a specific point of view?

Place and Time: In what time and place was this source produced? What about this time and place may have affected the meaning of the source?

Prior Knowledge: What additional information do you already know that might be relevant in analyzing this source?

Audience: For whom was this source produced? How does the intended audience alter the reliability of the source?

Reason: Why was this source produced at this time and place? What is its purpose?

The Main Idea: What is the central message of this source?

Significance: What makes this source important? What inferences can you make from this document?

What do you think?


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website