Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Queen's Indian Servants, Part 2

As we discussed here in Part 1, Queen Victoria decided to employ some Indian servants in her household, and Mohammed Buksh and Mohammed Abdul Karim duly joined the Royal Household in Windsor in June 1887, their first duty being to serve Her Majesty’s breakfast. The Queen enjoyed their presence, and noted in her diary in early August that she had learned a few words of Hindustani in order to converse with them in their own language. By the end of that month, she had asked Karim to give her lessons in Urdu, the variety of Hindustani used by Muslims, and had arranged for extra tutoring for him in English to facilitate their communication. She had taken a definite liking to him above and beyond his being a window into an exotic world she knew little about; she liked this cheerful, good-looking young man (he was twenty-four at the time he came to England), who though not particularly well-educated and certainly unsophisticated, seems to have been genuinely fond of his mistress. The Queen returned his fondness, signing herself “your affectionate mother” in notes to him and giving him permission to bring his young wife and mother-in-law to England, whom she visited frequently.

When Karim told her that waiting at table was beneath his social station because he had been a clerk in India, the Queen named him her “Munshi”, or teacher. Gradually, he took on more secretarial duties for her...and this was where he ran into trouble.

While the Queen herself was amazingly free of racial prejudice, her Household was not. The Queen’s Household was its own little world; the people who served in the various secretarial and “waiting” positions were often the children and grandchildren of people who had served the Queen in the past, and outsiders found it difficult to be accepted into what had almost become a hereditary “caste.” When those outsiders had skin of a different color and spoke accented English... Resentment quickly arose when the Queen made it clear that she expected the rest of the Household to accept Karim as one of themselves.

It is difficult now to know whether complaints of high-handed and arrogant behavior on his part are true, or simply the outrage of those of the Queen’s Household who could not imagine treating an Indian native as an equal; he left no memoirs, while they left several. Add in the different cultural expectations for behavior, and it made for a tense atmosphere, especially after Karim was given John Brown’s old room at Balmoral—a sign of the Queen’s definite favor. Accusations that Karim was leaking state secrets to Muslim agitators and others, though they persisted for years, were never proven; there is no evidence he engaged in any political behavior of the sort. Karim was also excoriated for asking the Queen for a grant of land in India for his family (which he received after a great deal of hemming and hawing from the Viceroy), and for asking to be made a nawab (peer). He was instead made a Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire and the Royal Victorian Order, honors which acknowledged his personal importance to the Queen but lacked political overtones.

Perhaps the most telling detail of the relationship between the Queen and her Munshi came after her death in 1901. The new King Edward dismissed Karim and arranged to send him and his family back to India after the Queen’s funeral, but first he was commanded to hand over all his correspondence with his late mistress...which he did, without complaint, even handing over signed photographs the Queen had given him. He lived quietly at his home outside Agra until his death in 1909.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Good Day, Sunshine

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, there’s a good chance it’s sunny where you are.  How sunny is it?  Well, our local chamber of commerce claims we have at least 360 days a year with at least partial sun.  That’s pretty sunny for the Pacific Northwest!

Measuring the amount of sunshine received in a day has been around since the nineteenth century.  Two surprisingly different men furthered the science. John Francis Campbell first invented a sunshine recorder in 1853.  He was best known as a Gaelic linguist, author, and folklorist, traveling around Scotland to collect the old stories, but he also served as a barrister and a government official as well as a scientist.  His recorder, sometimes called a heliograf, was a glass sphere set in a wooden bowl.  The sunlight shining through the glass burned a line on the wood.  The longer and deeper the line, the longer and stronger the light.

Perhaps physicist Sir George Gabriel Stokes wanted a bit more quantification.  A talented scientist dedicated to education, he changed Campbell’s stand to metal and added a changeable card that records the line made by the light. 

The result is the Campbell-Stokes Recorder, which measures the number of hours of bright sunlight in a certain period. The UK Met Office stores cards from various locations dating back to the nineteenth century, and the design is still widely used today. Hammacher Schlemmer even sells a version. 

But if you’d like something more than measuring sunlight to occupy your time, you might check out my summer bonus, which I posted this week.  “Master Thief” is a free, short online story set between Art and Artifice (formerly La Petite Four) and the soon-to-be-released Ballrooms and Blackmail.  More on that soon.  In the meantime, have some fun in the sun!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fashion Forecast: July 1917

What was the well-dressed young woman wearing in July 1917?

A lot of interesting things, as it turns out: there are several new trends in this month’s women’s magazines. First, this from McCall’s Magazine: the first set of patterns for war service-related clothing that I’ve run across: two nurses’ uniforms and two outfits for outdoor work, overalls, and a shorter skirt with bloomers to wear underneath:

On a related note, in this month’s The Ladies’ World magazine is a two page spread on “the New Ready-Made Clothes.” This page features fashions from The Hamilton Garment Co., The Bradley Knitting Co., and The Betty Wales Dressmakers:

As always, The Delineator has some beautiful color prints. I like the pink dress on the right, with the tassel variation on the barrel-style skirt:

And here’s McCall’s color plate for July. A rather different artistic style from The Delineator, no?:

According to McCall’s, gingham was the rage, and checks and plaids do seem to be popular this month:

More bold geometrics in The Delineator:

This being July, we have to talk about bathing suits. Here’s The Delineator’s beachwear for the month. Note the girl's suit at left--not much different from Mom's:

McCall's bathing suits feature less busy designs:

And I suspect "seeking comfort in kimonos" is code for maternity wear (McCall's):

Finally, some teen fashions from The Delineator:

And also from The Delineator (I love the title at the top of the page!):

What do you think of July 1917's fashions?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Quiz: Name that Prof!

In my new release By Jove, Theo Fairchild is thrilled to find herself working toward her doctorate in the very prestigious Classics Department at John Winthrop University in Boston. The faculty are at the top of their field, the best of the best...for a very good reason!

I’ve put together a little quiz I’m calling Name That Prof; let’s see if you can figure out just why the faculty members that Theo meets in By Jove seem strangely familiar...

1. Professor Arthur Waterman, Theo’s advisor, swims laps every morning in the university’s pool, keeps tanks of pet tropical fish, and wears a large diver’s watch. He just might bear a passing resemblance to:
A. Jacques Cousteau
B. Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea
C. Michael Phelps’s older brother

2. Professor Henry Forge-Smythe, who teaches Theo’s class in Pre-Roman History, walks with crutches, has a very beautiful wife, and when not teaching indulges in a metalworking hobby. He kind of calls to mind:
A. Long John Silver
B. Hephaestus, the Greek god of blacksmiths
C. Tiny Tim Cratchit, thirty years later

3. Department secretary June Cadwallader is fond of peacock blue, dislikes female students, and does her best to rule the Classics Department (and its chairman) with a rod of iron. She is somewhat similar to:
A. Ivana Trump
B. Hera, queen of the Greek pantheon
C.Cersei Lannister

4. Renee Frothington-Forge-Smythe, wife of Professor Henry Forge-Smythe, loves shopping, reading romance novels, and the color pink. She reminds you a bit of:
A. Barbara Cartland
B. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love
C. Kim Kardashian

4. Professor Di Hunter teaches Greek, coaches the women’s field hockey team, and is quite disgusted when she happens upon Theo and Grant sharing their first kiss. She might make you think of:
A. Katniss Everdeen
B. Artemis, the Greek goddess of the chase
C. Queen Elizabeth I

5. Professor Paul Harriman also teaches Greek, plays several instruments, and has cut quite a swathe through the hearts of the female students at John Winthrop. He is somewhat reminiscent of:
A. Justin Bieber
B. Apollo, the Greek god of music and poetry
C. Brad Pitt in a gladiator costume

6. Professor Bellow, who directs the Classics Department’s museum, has a habitually somber expression, a dog named Kirby, and prefers to lurk in his office in the basement of Hamilton Hall. He rather resembles:
A. Riff Raff (okay, so how many of you know who he is? ☻)
B. Hades, god of the underworld
C. Your creepy Uncle Hubert

So...are you sensing a pattern here?

Don’t forget, By Jove is on sale for its introductory price of $.99 through tomorrow, June 28, so now is a great time to buy it before the price goes up.

And I’m still on tour (blog, that is) so do stop in and say hello!

A brief note about our upcoming schedule: Regina will be taking next week off, then alternating weeks for posts over the next two months so that we can enjoy summer fun with our families. Have a good Independence Day vacation!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

By Jove is here!!

I am thrilled, delighted, and generally dancing in my chair to announce that By Jove, my very first book for adults, releases today from Entangled Publishing! It’s a kind of a romance, kind of a contemporary fantasy, and totally a book of my heart. Most authors have books of their hearts—stories that for one reason or another mean a little bit more to them no matter what others think. By Jove is one of mine, and I hope you’ll give it a chance to find its way into yours!

What’s it about?
For Theodora Fairchild, returning to graduate school after three years of teaching Latin to unenthusiastic middle schoolers is a dream come true. The professors in the Classics Department at John Winthrop University in Boston are the best in their field; the classes are varied and intellectually stimulating…and she meets brilliant, sweetly nerdy post-doc Grant Proctor.

As she gives in to her feelings for Grant, someone seems determined to keep them apart—no matter the consequences. Things are not quite what they seem in the Classics Department, and someone there has plans for Theo that don’t include Grant. When Grant disappears, surviving the semester becomes only one of Theo’s worries; her wits and wisdom may be the only things that can save the man she loves.

Why did I write it?
I wrote this book before Bewitching Season was even thought of, which is quite a while ago...so it’s really, really cool to have this story finally see the light of day. It was inspired by a dream—yes, really!—which is why I always keep a light-up pen and notebook next to my bed. That actual dream doesn’t appear anywhere in the book, but it’s amazing how a small thing can inspire an entire book. I also studied Latin for eight years in high school and college and loved it almost as much as Theo does, so it was probably inevitable I’d write about Latin some day.

Where can you get it?
You can get By Jove now as an ebook at all the usual sales outlets...and today through June 28, it’s at Entangled's special introductory price of 99 cents. So if you think you’d like to give By Jove a try, now is the time!!

Anything else?

I'll be doing a blog tour over the next few weeks, so if you'd like to follow along, I'd love to see the friendly faces of regular NineteenTeen readers on my journey through the blogosphere. The schedule can be found here...do stop by!!

If you'd like to read the first chapter of By Jove, it's right here on my website as well as on Entangled Publishing's site.

And thank you for happy-dancing with me on my book birthday!

Friday, June 20, 2014

From the Women of England to Wellington

This week marks the 199th anniversary of the Duke of Wellington’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo.  As we've mentioned in previous posts, Wellington ended up a much celebrated gentleman, with nations and royalty showering him with gifts and mementos.  One of my favorites, however, is said to have come from a very different set of people, the women of England.

The Wellington Monument in Hyde Park, also known as Achilles, was paid for by a ladies subscription amounting to 10,000 pounds sterling and cast from cannons captured at the battles of Salamanca, Vitoria, Toulouse, and Waterloo. Created by popular sculptor Sir Richard Westmacott, the 18-foot bronze statue sits on a plinth of Dartmoor granite to rise a total of 36 feet above the pebbled path near Hyde Park Corner.  Even before it was erected in 1822 it was surrounded by controversy.

For one thing, Westmacott must have focused more on his art than the dimensions of its intended location, for when the statue was moved from his studio in Pimlico, Achilles was found to be too big to fit through the gates of Hyde Park! Not to be deterred, the movers merely knocked a hole in the wall to move it through.

For another, critics could not decide whether it was great art or a cheap knockoff.  Newspapers and books of the time either praise the fact that the statue resembled one in Rome, where Westmacott had spent some time on his Grand Tour, or scolded the artist for failing to live up to his Roman pretensions.  Some deemed the body magnificent; others complained that it didn’t look enough like Achilles (and you would know how?).  One critic even lambasted Westmacott for including visible straps holding the shield in place on the statue’s arm.

And then there was the matter of Achilles’ lack of clothing.  The statue is said to be the first nude male figure on public view in London.  The ladies who had helped raise the subscription had not seen the design and were rather shocked by the anatomically correct statue.  Some seemed to feel their reputations damaged by association.  A fig leaf was hurriedly placed over the offending section.  It remains there to this day, even though it has been chipped off twice.

And if you’re a lady enamored of Greek or Roman statuary, or anything Greek or Roman, I urge you to return next week, when Marissa will be launching her first book for adults, by Jove.

Er, yes. By Jove.  No need to raise a subscription.  Fig leafs not required.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tagged! What, How, and Why I Write

It was my turn to get tagged for the Writing Process Blog Tour, making the rounds in the writing world (and which Regina participated in a few weeks ago.) Thank you to Tracy Bilen, author of the upcoming YA thriller Watch Your Back coming soon from Spencer Hill Press, for tagging me! You can read about Tracy's stop on the Writing Process blog here (and in general check out her really cute website!) Thank you, Tracy!

What am I working on?
It’s been a little hard to squeeze writing time into my schedule these last couple of weeks as I’ve been busy with pre-release promotion and nail-biting (very time consuming, nail-biting) for my first adult book (and first contemporary, too), By Jove, which releases from Entangled Publishing in one week! I’m pretty darned excited...but you’ll be hearing lots more about it next week. Just saying. ☺

In terms of works-in-progress, right now I’m working on a YA set on Cape Cod in the summer of 1917, just after the US has entered World War I. It has beaches, dances, secrets, lies, a handsome young man, seals (or are they just seals?), a Scottish seamstress, u-boats, German spies, and a lively young heroine who saves the day. And I’m writing it in first person, which is a bit of a change for me but this story just demanded it.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Um...because it’s mine? No, seriously: every book is different because every author is different. Every author has her own voice, her own way of telling a story. If you give five authors the same outline from which to write a story, you’ll end up with five very, very different tales. It’s why so many readers will have “auto-buy” authors: because they just love how that Regina Scott writes. ☺

Why do I write what I do?
Mostly because I have to. Because if I didn’t the stories would gang up together in my head and beat at me with their fists and shout in my ear (or whisper seductively, as the case may be) and not let me sleep at night. Writers can be funny that way; our stories often take on personalities and identities in some strange way, and do that sort of thing.

How does my writing process work?
I generally know, as I’m wrapping up work on one novel, which will be next (see above about the shouting and whispering.) But before I reach that point, an idea will have been sparked somewhere, somehow (on more than one occasion, as the result of a dream) and I will spend quiet moments noodling over it, asking myself “what if” questions about it and seeing if there’s “enough there” for the idea to be made into a book-length story. I’ll often write out a synopsis of the story at this point as a way to help make that decision, and if there really is a spark of life in it, fragments of scenes and speech and character development will also pop into my head, so I’ll scribble those down as well.

Once I’ve mentally (if unconsciously) chosen to write a book, I’ll work more on that rough synopsis and try to flesh it out further, concentrating on the beginning of the story (the characters, their wants and aims, the plot conflicts), and then...I’ll start writing. I keep refining my synopsis as I go on, adding and changing and sometimes going back and removing or altering things. It’s like a lantern I hold up as I walk down a dark corridor: it illuminates best in a close circle around me (which means the current and next couple of chapters). Beyond that, things remain shadowy until I move a few feet forward.

As for the actual process of writing...I write best in the mornings, so I try to get busy pretty promptly after rising or getting back from the gym. I reread what I’ve written over the last day or two and edit it, adding in details or whatever else is needed (it’s often more bare-bones than it should be), which sets me up beautifully to pick up the thread and move on.

And now it’s my turn to tag two authors, both of whom are my fellow RWA chapter-mates. Be sure to check out their stops on the Writing Process Blog Tour next Monday!

Always the hopeless romantic, Rebecca Paula writes gritty historical and NA romances full of social misfits, swoony heroes, and angst. She’s a graduate of Emerson College and a former journalist. When not writing, she is most likely reading or daydreaming about her next travel adventure. Rebecca lives in New Hampshire with her husband and their cat, Bella. You can find her online at her website, on twitter, or the Modern Belles of History blog.

Christine Tetreault fell in love with romance fiction in college and hasn't looked back. She writes contemporary romance set in her native New England and beyond. Learn more about Christine and her books at her website and at her blog, Happily Ever After.