Friday, September 21, 2018

A Writer’s Process, All the Way to Free Book

A writer should not have favorite books any more than a mother should have favorite children. But some books come easier than others, and some stay in your heart for different reasons. In general, my favorite book is the one I’m working on now, at least at the beginning. In fact, there’s a definite process involved, and the timing varies from book to book. For me, however, it generally goes like this:

  • Idea and Research Joy, oh joy! I’ve been tapped by greatness. This is the coolest idea and absolutely must be committed to paper. Immediately. But first, I get to delve into lovely, lovely research to make sure the idea is feasible and WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE? Well, there are such things as fresh spins and unique takes. This will be one of those.
  • First Draft The words pour onto the page. Scenes I never dreamed of dance before my eyes. I can’t write fast enough. There’s just so much to pull together.
  • Second Draft Now I roll up my sleeves. Every fact checked, every phrase confirmed as in use during the period. Emotions amplified. Descriptions enhanced. Action crisp and clean. Flow. Wait, where’s the flow? He said “I love you,” pages before he should have. More work ahead.
  • Final Draft Before Critique Partner Ug! I hate it. It is trite and overworked and hopelessly pedantic. My critique partner is going to find soooo much wrong with it. But, hey, that means I’ll get another chance at it. And while she’s reading it, I get to come up with an idea and do research for something else, something better than this.
  • Manuscript to Editor Well, my critique partner didn’t think it was all that bad. Sure, she found some problems, but fixing them only made the book stronger, deeper. And I spotted some things that could be improved as well. This just might be a book.
  • Revisions [Okay, this is one of Marissa’s favorite points in the process, but we won’t hold that against her.] So my editor didn’t like the hero or thought the heroine wasn’t likable enough out of the gate. Valid points. I knew it must have problems. Sleeves rolled up again, I dive in once more and polish this baby until she shines.
  • Final Book Every word is familiar, every character like meeting an old friend. It is what it is. If the book is for a traditional publishing house, I’m done. If I self-published, however, I could go back and tinker.

Hands off!

Want to see a book that’s been through that process not once but twice? Secrets and Sensibilities, the first book in my Lady Emily Capers, is free through September 27. Many of you have that book, but, if you enjoyed it, please alert let your friends and family who might like it.

Because, you never know. I might decide to rewrite it again someday.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Regency Fabrics, Part 21


Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like.


Today’s four samples are from the October 1811 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is very good, at least as far as the paper goes; while the physical integrity of the fabrics is good, the two lower ones seem to be a bit faded or have offset from the facing page.

Here we go!

No. 1. A lilac and white Moscow checked sarsnet, for dinner or evening dresses: trimmings of Chinese fringe, thread-lace, or white beads, are appropriate for dresses of this light article, with jewellery ornaments to correspond. They are (like most of the evening robes) made with demi-trains, and many ladies adopt the short full sleeve. It is furnished by D. and P. Cooper, Pall-Mall.


My comments: Very pretty! Today we might call this a window-pane plaid, and it is lovely stuff, a lightweight silk plain weave with the twill stripes in off-white running through it and a soft sheen overall. It's fairly opaque, but would benefit from a lining in both bodice and skirt.

No. 2. A purple striped Iris net, calculated for the above order of costume. This article is usually worn over a white sarsnet or satin slip, and trimmed with white lace, or silk fringe. It is sold by Mr. George, No. 19, Holywell-street, Strand.


My comments: Funny how tastes change; I would not have pegged this fabric as appropriate for dresses intended for formal occasions. It's a net-type fabric so the thread count is lower (and yes, it would absolutely have to be worn over a slip) but the weave is even and the fabric itself fairly stiff and sturdy.

No. 3. A jonquil shawl-pattern cambric, belonging to the domestic or intermediate order of dress. Robes of this article are usually made plain, sitting close to the form, in wraps, or high gowns, with long sleeves, rather large, and trimmed around the throat and at the wrists with lace. It is sold by Mr. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-Garden.


My comments: What a cheerful fabric! Though the yellow is fading it's plain to see how bright this originally was. The fabric itself is of a nice weight and would drape nicely, with twilled diagonal stripes woven in.

No. 4 is also an article for morning or domestic decoration, and is called the palm-leaf imperial-striped cambric. It is formed in plain robes as above; and furnished also by Mr. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-Garden.


My comments: A twill weave, with the pink stripes woven in and the leaves printed over. A bit lighter weight than No. 3, but certainly appropriate for a cheerful morning dress to wear at home while answering letters or planning the social domination of London. ☺

Any thoughts on this month’s fabrics?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Happy Birthday to Us!


Yes, well, here we are again, dear readers. Nineteen Teen is another year older. Eleven years, to be exact. And we have passed the 1,000 mark when it comes to number of posts. My word!

As we often do this time of year, we’d like your thoughts. 

What would you like more of? 

What would you like less of? 

What facts about nineteenth century life are you itching to explore? 

What aspects of being an author intrigue you?

Come on! Don’t be shy! Wish us happy birthday and let us know how we can give you presents in the coming year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

And Now, Another Report from Carriage and Driver


It’s September once more, and time for a new report from Carriage and Driver with a preview of the upcoming decade’s hottest new vehicles. Whether you’re looking for a sporty performance model or a practical family vehicle, Carriage and Driver will tell you all you need to know!


First up, this 1816 model landaulette (as illustrated by R. Ackermann—a name well known to Car and Driver readers, I’m sure!), perfect for the smaller household with seating for two and comfortably drawn by one horse. Quite smart!


When more seating is required, Car and Driver readers can’t do better than this Patent Landau built and patented by Birch and Son of Great Queen-street in Lincoln’s-Inn-fields. Mr. Birch “has obtained a patent for improvements in the construction of the roofs and upper quarters, not only of landaus, but of all other carriages which are made to fall down. By these improvements the objections against landaus upon the old plan, either as town, pleasure, or travelling carriages, are entirely removed. The head or roof, and upper parts, by the new invention, have an even smooth surface, like a well built town coach, shew no outward joints on the top of the windows, or locks on the roof; yet are so completely secured as to prevent any possibility of being opened from the outside: it removes the inconveniences arising from the leather contracting, or drawing the fore-lights out of their perpendicular position, it causing the shutters and glasses to act properly, and renders it impossible for water to penetrate the leather or to lie on the roof.” (Ackermann’s Repository, February 1809)


For anyone who admires barouches but requires more seating than a barouche provides, perhaps this handsome caleche will answer. With enclosed seating for four, you’ll be out of the weather and very much in style.


If your fancy runs to foreign vehicles, this droschki may be the carriage for you.  Its form is particularly graceful and elegant, and models seating one or two are available. The Emperor of Russia recently made a gift of one to his majesty King George IV. (Ackermann's Repository, August 1820)


And speaking of Russia…with the approach of winter, our readers might find this next model of interest. This Imperial Sledge, as seen in a outing attended by a number of monarchs, nobility, and other great persons during the recent congress in Vienna, makes getting around during the snowy season both possible and pleasurable. With its phaeton form and elegant decoration, you’ll drive like an emperor! (Ackermann’s Repository, April 1816)


What say you, Carriage and Driver readers? Is there a model here you’d like to take out for a test drive?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Where Art and Water Collide: Historic La Conner


As I mentioned in my last blog post, I ran away earlier this week with my husband to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We had planned to visit Victoria, British Columbia, but fate conspired to deny my husband the necessary paperwork to cross the border. So I Googled “Romantic getaways near Seattle.” And one of the places that came up was La Conner, specially, the Wild Iris Inn.

Now, I was familiar with La Conner as the home, with Mt. Vernon, of the legendary Tulip Festival each spring. But what I didn’t know was that the town is steeped in local history, from the heritage of the Swinomish Tribe across the channel to the early days of Washington State.

John Conner (no, not that one—no mention of Sarah) purchased the trading post in 1869 and opened a post office. The town had originally been named Swinomish for the Tribe, but John renamed it to honor his wife, Louisa A. Conner. Many of the homes and businesses in the town still show their frontier roots and are listed on the National Historic Register.



Even the toiletries at our inn has an appropriate vintage.


In its heyday, La Conner boasted more than 1,000 residents, the first courthouse north of Seattle and exceptionally fine farmland, the produce from which was sent throughout the region and shipped far south. The proximity to a waterway that runs from the San Juan Islands down into more central Puget Sound also made the town an ideal fishing spot. My husband and I noticed a number of crabbers setting out with their pots while we strolled the lovely boardwalk along the waterfront on our trip, with views across the water to Tribal lands.


Also prominent is the Rainbow Bridge, which connects La Conner with Fidalgo Island and points west.


Beginning in the 1940s, La Conner became known for something else besides abundant crops and scenic waterways: art. That tradition still stands today, with many galleries sprinkled along the boardwalk and throughout the town. La Conner is also home to the Northwest Art Museum and one of the only Quilt Museums on the West Coast. Even the pilings along the waterfront were appropriately artistic.


And speaking of art, allow me to share a piece I was given this week: the cover for the Timeless Regency collection Christmas novella. Yuletide Regency is now available for preorder. I’m honored to have one of my Fortune’s Brides stories included. This one tells the story of how Meredith and Julian fell in love, all over a very nostalgic Christmas. Look for more details when the book is released in early November.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Blast from the Past: Lawn Ornaments, Garden Furniture, and Hermits

It's a busy couple of weeks here in NineteenTeen East, what with winding down the summer and helping assorted offspring launch new ventures for the fall. So to follow up on Regina's bothy boys (and my upcoming posts on the very picturesque Iceland), here is a revisit with The Picturesque Hermit. Both Regina and I will be taking next week off to enjoy the last gasp of summer, and are looking forward to regular posting as September gathers up steam. Look for a new report from Carriage & Driver on the latest model year vehicles, continuing eye candy fashion posts, and more!


As our 19th century young lady tourists meandered about the country, guidebooks in hand as they visited scenic vistas and stately homes surrounded by artfully planned “natural” landscapes, they might pause to admire a grotto here, a ruined temple there, an obelisk raised on an artificial hill…or they might stop to check out the resident hermit.

Yes, really.

Just as the wealthy landowners of the 18th century rebuilt their houses into magnificent country seats, so they hired landscape gardeners to design what was really an outdoor set of “rooms”. All those fake ruins and follies and grottoes and medieval herb gardens and Chinese bridges and sylvan groves and statue gardens were the outdoor equivalent of the libraries, music rooms, dining rooms, drawing rooms, and salons indoors—spaces made to impress, to inspire admiration. The outdoor features, beside being “picturesque”, also carried picturesque meanings: a ruined temple symbolized man’s creations overtaken by the forces of nature, for example. And if a ruined temple or nymph’s grotto was “interesting”, how much more so would be if it contained a resident?

But since authentic nymphs were not always easy to find, some wealthy landowners built hermitages—picturesque (of course) dwellings which would be occupied by hermits. And just as ruins had a meaning, so too did hermitages--they symbolized the idea of man's return to nature.

Hermitages ranged from the very rustic--a single room, perhaps made out of wattle and thatch woven into the roots of an overturned tree--to the rather grand--a temple or miniature cathedral (the image above is of the hermitage at Frogmore, from an 1823 issue of Ackermann's Repository). The hermits themselves differed as well. Some were men (sorry, no female hermits--just think of the scandal!) genuinely interested in living a secluded, humble life dedicated to work and prayer…while others were cheerful types willing to appear suitably ragged and “natural” in order to entertain his lordship’s guests out for a stroll in the grounds.

Some landowners had very specific ideas on how their hermits should behave, demanding their potential hermits sign contracts stating that they weren't to speak, or to cut their hair or toenails. Others were more relaxed and invited their resident hermits to mingle with guests as a form of rustic entertainment.

So what do you think? Is there a spare garden shed in your yard? Why not be 19th century and install a hermit in it?

Friday, August 24, 2018

Blast from the Past: Bothy Boys

I'm heading off to celebrate my 30th wedding anniversary with my dear husband. No Iceland for us, alas, but if I see something lovely, I will bring back pictures. In the meantime, enjoy this post from 2015.

What lives in a dark hole in the garden, coming out to till the soil and tend the plants?  No, I’m not talking about gnomes or hobbits.  I’m talking about bothy boys.

Bothy boys appear to be a mid- to late-nineteenth century phenomena in England.  Those wealthy families with extensive gardens often required a herd of gardeners to tend things.  I hadn’t thought about the fact that some garden tasks, like protecting spring plants from a sudden frost or maintaining greenhouses before the widespread use of electricity, were twenty-four-hour efforts.  Particularly on a massive estate, sending your garden workers home to the nearest village between shifts simply wasn’t feasible.

While the head gardener might have his own quarters on the estate, the under gardeners, journeymen, and apprentices were sometimes housed in bothys. A bothy is a small house of sorts, with an emphasis on the sorts.  The term is used for waystations on Scottish trails.  But on the great estates, bothys served as home to as many as a dozen workers.  Some bothys were no more than a dirt cellar carved out of a hillside with piles of blankets for bedding.  Upscale bothys were made of stone or brick and boasted dormitory-style living with a sitting room. The picture at top isn’t actually a bothy--I couldn’t find a royalty-free picture, alas.

The “boys” who lived in the bothy were not always boys--workers ranged from their teens to their early thirties.  They worked hard all day and sometimes into the night, depending on the time of year and needs of the gardens. The best houses provided instructors one night a week to teach the fellows enough botany to care for the plants, enough Latin to recognize the proper names, and enough drawing to sketch plan, placements, and the occasional odd specimen.

Produce from the garden appears to have been part of their wages, and they used it barter for other things, like meat for the table and eggs and cream from the local farmer. The universal feeling seems to be that these fellows had better things to do than cook for themselves; the better estates had a woman come in to clean once a week and cook once a day. Romantic that I am, I was already planning story ideas about a plucky Irish cook and a strapping bothy boy. But then I read that the position of bothy cook was generally given to an elderly female servant who was considered past her prime.

I bet she still kept those bothy boys in line.

For more on bothys, check out this excellent treatise and the pictures herehere, and here.