Tuesday, April 25, 2017

History Has Never Looked So...Unhistorical


And that’s what’s so cool about it!

This is going to be a short post, because the best thing I can do is give you a link and let you do your own exploring...but first, here’s the background. A few weeks ago, my awesomely awesome nephew sent me a link to an amazing thing: a collection of 19th and early 20th century black and white photographs that have been, after much research, carefully and sensitively colorized by professional artists.

I suspect that most of us have an unconscious idea in our heads that the world was black and white before ca. 1960.  It’s so easy to look at old daguerreotypes and cartes de visite and early photos and think of them as just that—dead images of dead people.

But the images here will change that idea—and blow your mind.  Czar Nicholas and his daughters...immigrants at Ellis Island...D-Day...dozens of Civil War images of soldiers and generals, both posed and casual...ranchers and polar explorers and Manhattan newsboys.  Scroll through these images, and come back and tell us what you’ve seen. But make sure you’ve got a spare hour before you start.


You’re welcome. ☺

Friday, April 21, 2017

My Mother's Book

I inherited my love of reading from my mother. A schoolteacher by trade, she encouraged me to read from an early age, recommended books, and ultimately read the same books and exchanged thoughts with me. She’s the one who first introduced me to Regency romances, which became my passion. I had published several before she came to me, piece of scratch paper in hand.

“I have an idea for a Regency romance,” she explained. “It’s about a widow with three young sons who enters into a marriage of convenience with a man, then sets about improving his life and realizes she’s just might have married a gem.”

Now, people have approached me in the past, wanting me to write a story they’ve envisioned. Let me state plainly: I don’t do that. There are already so many stories running around in my head that adding another non-organic one could quite possibly make my brain explode. And it is very, very hard to do justice to a story that isn’t your own. So, knowing she was not only a huge fan of the genre but a well-educated, well-read woman, I suggested she write it herself.

She lowered her gaze. “Oh, I couldn’t.”

I encouraged her, but it was plain the idea of writing a book was simply daunting. I took the slip of paper from her, promising to think about it, and went on with my writing. A few months later, my editor called.

“We’d like you to write a novella for a collection,” he said. (I love it when editors call with that sort of suggestion.)

“Sure!” I said. “When do you need it?”

He named a date, which was very tight, but doable, if I could find the right idea. Then he said, “But it’s for a Mother’s Day-themed anthology [even though Mother’s Day was unknown in the Regency], and the heroine has to be a widow with children. Can you come up with an idea like that?”

“Yes,” I said with a smile. “I can.”

So, I wrote my mother’s story. It wasn’t easy. Every characterization, every scene, I kept wondering whether it would live up to her hopes. The book was published the following May, and I presented it to her on Mother’s Day. She cried.

And she loved the story.

I’m very happy to report that the novella I wrote for my mother, Sweeter Than Candy, has been released as part of The Marvelous Munroes series and is now available at fine online retailers. This is the first time it's been available outside an anthology.

Widowed Cynthia Jacobs will do anything to support her three young sons, left impoverished by their father’s sudden demise. Anything, that is, but marry one-time suitor Daniel Lewiston. Cynthia’s family and Daniel’s conspired to match them up years ago, but Cynthia struggled to see the shy boy next door as the dashing husband of her dreams.

Wealthy Daniel Lewiston always admired the beautiful Cynthia, even knowing she’d never settle for him. But when her sons beg him to court her so he can be their father, his heart melts and Cynthia reconsiders. Perhaps what starts as a marriage of convenience for the boys can turn into something more, something that is far sweeter than candy.

Smashwords
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Kobo

I hope you enjoy it as much as she did.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Regency Fabrics, Part 14

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. So here we go!


Today’s four samples are from the July 1810 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is not very good, and when I went searching online for a less toned and foxed example, I couldn’t find one that was much better.  So here we are, in all its spotted glory:


No. 1 is a real India muslin*, of uncommon delicacy, calculated for half or full dress robes. In the former order it is worn plain, and over white sarsnet; in the latter over coloured gossamer, satin, or sarsnet slips. Long sleeves, cut obliquely, are frequently composed of this article; and the Persian robe, with white satin bodice and petticoat, boasts much elegance and delicacy when formed of this tasteful material. It is sold, from 6s. to 3 guineas per yard, by Mr. Millard of Cheapside; whose ware-rooms are not to be exceeded in taste, fashion, and variety, by any in the metropolis.

*The article of India muslin is well known to have been for many years in high and deserved estimation, and it has been considered by the India Company of the first consequence as an article of commerce, and by the government as a great and principal source of revenue. The improved state of the British manufactured goods has, for some time, enabled many persons to substitute the one for the other, and so well have they been imitated, that even many inexperienced vendors themselves have not been able to distinguish them whilst new. From these combined causes, for two or three years past, the India goods have sunk in the estimation of the public, because British goods have been substituted through ignorance or design; and it is a well known fact, that, in some of the leading streets of the metropolis, as well as in different parts of the country, British muslins have been constantly exposed for sale with large labels on them as real India. This has proved a serious evil to the India Company, to the revenue, and to the public. The establishment of the warehouse by Mr. Millard, in Cheapside, is likely to prove a check to these impositions, as the India goods are there sold direct from the India warehouses, not only in bales, but in single and half pieces. Here the public cannot be deceived, the honour and the reputation of the house entirely precluding the possibility of such a transaction, and those valuable articles will no doubt soon regain their wonted celebrity.

My comments: Okay, if this is real India muslin, I can see what the big deal is about bewaring knock-offs—it’s an amazingly finely woven, dainty, smooth fabric. It’s hard to judge if the patterning is machine woven or hand-done, but it’s lovely—so light and finer than the finest linen. I’m a little amused by the long footnote warning against domestically-made muslins trying to pass themselves off as imported—a bit of a reverse from what we’re used to!


No. 2. A most elegant permanent green cambric muslin, of most delicate pattern and happily contrasted shades. Morning wraps, summer pelisses, and high military gowns, have an uncommonly attractive and appropriate effect, when formed of this elegant print. It is sold by F. and I. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: A very pretty minty green fabric (assuming it hasn’t changed color over the intervening 200 years since it was printed!) The fabric itself reminds me of a lightweight percale; it’s fairly opaque, and has a pleasantly smooth hand. The subtle leaf print is attractive.


No. 3. A beautiful lilac embossed muslin, composing much appropriate and  unique elegance. This article is best calculated for the dinner and  evening party and must be worn over white satin or sarsnet slips, with ornaments of diamonds, pearls, or white beads. It is sold by Messrs. Waithman and Everington, 104, Fleet-street.

My comments: This displays more as pink than what we would consider lilac; it’s hard to judge whether the color in the sample has changed, or how the word is used. It’s fairly loosely woven, but the evenness of the threads keeps it from feeling coarse. The light blue flowerets look almost painted on.


No. 4. A sea-weed or rock muslin, appropriated [sic] also for evening dress, and which should also be worn over white satin or sarsnet. The observation with regard to the ornaments to be worn with dresses of the preceding article, applies to the present. This muslin is sold by F. and I. Smith, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: This sample has not aged well; looking at another example of this page I found on line the print is dark tan and black on a brown background, in a sort of loopy, tentacle-ish pattern; my guess is that the dye had degraded the material, so it’s hard to make a judgment about the weight and hand. The fabric body itself is very loosely woven of fine threads and any garment would indeed have to have been worn over an underdress.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The History of County Fairs by Linda Ford

My book The Rancher’s Surprise Triplets features a county fair which the Lone Star Cowboy League hopes will raise money enough to fund their many projects. Ironically enough, I have another book out in July 2017 that also includes a county fair.  I suspect most, if not all of us, have attended a county fair, a state fair, or even a local fair.

I hadn’t given the history of fairs much thought, but my curiosity was aroused. The earliest record of a fair that I could find was in Ezekiel Chapter 27."Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the kinds of riches with silver, iron, tin and lead, they traded in thy fairs." But from the description, it sounds more like our modern-day farmers markets. Other research verifies this, such as this picture by Flemish artist Gillis Mostaert 1590 (as found on Wikipedia).


According to my research, the first known agricultural fair in North America took place in Windsor, Nova Scotia, in 1765 and continues to this day. The first American fair is thought to have been organized in Pittsfield, MA, in 1807 by Franklin Watson. It became known as the Berkshire County Fair and still operates as such today.

Over the years the fair developed into local exhibitions of new agricultural implements and techniques, and plowing contests and horse pulls.
Entertainment soon became part of the scene with horse racing, balloon ascensions, games of chance, and midway rides.

I couldn’t find definitive dates as to when the fair began to include exhibition and competition of domestic products such as jams and jellies, handicrafts, baked goods, and garden produce. The prizes were usually rosettes –blue for first, red for second, and green or white for third.

I find the bench show fascinating. There are samples from gardens, flower arrangements, pickles, and jams. There's baking—pies, bread, rolls, biscuits, cookies, and cakes (all with a bit taken out for testing). There's sewing. The quilts are beautiful, the crafts unique. And there's artwork—paintings, drawings, and photography. The adult entries leave me overwhelmed, but the children's entries blow me away. The level of expertise in their work, the creative energy evident is amazing. One entry I once saw was a Lego model depicting Main Street with the parade going by. There was such detail—a man in a wheelchair, children picking up candy, a garbage can at the corner—imagination and attention to detail evident in every piece. I find the bench show a veritable feast for the senses. The animal and machinery display not quite so interesting to me.

The fairs began and continue as a means of informing others of developments and local availability of goods and services. They include tribute to those who excel in various crafts and skills. I love a fair. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Nineteen Teen Welcomes Linda Ford!

This spring, we’re off to Little Horn, Texas, again, with a new three-book series featuring some of the characters you knew and loved from 2016’s A Rancher of Convenience. This year’s trio starts off with The Rancher’s Surprise Triplets, and I’m pleased to have Linda Ford join us this week. Look for a great post from her on Friday.

In the meantime, she sat down with us at Nineteen Teen to tell us more about the book, her writing, and the marvelous nineteenth century. Here’s a little about Linda:

Linda Ford grew up devouring books and making up stories in her head, often late at night when she couldn't sleep. But she hadn't planned to write. Instead, she dreamed of running an orphanage. In a way, that dream came true. She married, had 4 homemade children, adopted 10 and lived her dream. She lives on a small ranch in western Alberta, where she can see the mountains every day. She and her husband continue to enjoy their children and grandchildren. Linda also provides care for a paraplegic, double amputee man. She still finds a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction in creating imaginary worlds only now she does it on paper or rather, at the computer.

19T: You’re one of Love Inspired Historicals most beloved authors for Western historicals. What draws you to Western settings and the nineteenth century?

Linda: I grew up reading about cowboys, horse, and pioneers. My father often took us to museums. My husband rancher loves western movies and when we were dating, I watched many westerns with him. Plus I live in cowboy country so I guess you could say it’s in my blood. I know the good old days were not without their challenges, but I like the idea of a simpler life where family units were strong, where roots went deep, and where a man’s word was his honor.

19T (Regina): I know from working with you on the Lone Star Cowboy League: Multiple Blessings series that you value historical accuracy. What surprised you the most about the late nineteenth century?

Linda: What surprises me the most about this era is how few rights women and children had. How little protection. If a father beat or abused his children, no one had the right to interfere. If a woman was abused or neglected by her husband she had no recourse.

19T: With 14 children, many of whom were adopted, you know the importance of family. How does that play out in your books?

Linda: My stories often have homeless or abandoned children. They frequently contain adults who have never known the security of a forever home. I get to give them all a new, loving family.

19T: What was the hardest thing about writing this series?

Linda: Having it set in Texas. I have never been there. Thank goodness for Google.

19T: What was the easiest thing about writing this series?

The story concept and many of its components are laid out by the editors who created the continuity. That makes it somewhat easier to plot as there are already some perimeters in place.

19T: Tell us a little about The Rancher’s Surprise Triplets.

Linda: Bo finds the abandoned babies. They are sick so he takes them to the doctor’s daughter, Louisa, who is also the doctor’s assistant, to be cared for. Because of a traumatic past he has no plans to marry. Ever. Louisa is also committed to remaining single so she can care for her ailing mother. Not that anyone is particularly interested in her. Not only is she plain, she is old enough to have earned the role of spinster. However, life has a way of upsetting the best laid plans, as these two learn.

19T: What’s next for Linda Ford?

Linda: The third book in my 6-book Big Sky Country series is out in July. It is Montana Cowboy’s Baby—a story about a baby left on the doorstep of the hero with a note saying the baby is his. He knows it’s not. This series is set in Montana—in case you didn’t catch that and features three Marshall young men, their sister and two close friends. Montana Cowboy Daddy was out in Oct. 2016. Montana Cowboy Family was out Jan. 2017. The fourth book—Montana Bride by Christmas—will be released in Oct. 2017. I am really looking forward to that story. It has many sweet elements. At least I think so. I’ve just turned in the fifth book and it’s about Annie Marshall’s friend, Carly, who is prepared to do anything to save her ranch and her home…including marrying a complete stranger.

Following the completion of that series in 2018, I will be doing a 3-book series on travels on the Santa Fe Trail.

19T: Thanks so much for joining us, Linda. Readers, here's how you can learn more about Linda and her wonderful books:

Blog and website: www.lindaford.org

Friday, April 7, 2017

Free This Weekend!

Looking for something to read this weekend? Secrets and Sensibilities, the first book in my Lady Emily Capers, is free through April 9 at all major platforms in the U.S., UK, Canada, India, and Australia. Already have your copy? I’d be honored if you’d suggest it to a friend.

Interested in hearing about more free, discounted, or newly released e-books? Here’s a few e-mail resources that just might be your cup of tea:

E-Reader News Today--25 categories, heavy on fiction, including young adult, women’s fiction, historical fiction, and historical romance.

Author Lauren Royal’s newsletter, with tidbits about her writing as well as free and 99-cent historical romance books, with an emphasis on Regency romances. 

BookBub--39 categories, fiction and non-fiction, including teen and young adult, middle grade, American historical romance, historical fiction, historical mysteries, historical romance, history, time travel romance, and women’s fiction.

Buy a Historical--the latest historical romances, across heat levels and time periods, but not necessarily free.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

You Just Never Know

A few weeks back when I was writing posts about parasols, I decided to have a quick look at some of the advertising circulars I have from Ackermann’s Repository and La Belle Assemblee, to see if there was any mention of parasols from any of the shops advertising in it. The first one I picked out, at random, was the Advertisements section from January 1811’s Ackermann’s. As I (carefully) flipped though its pages, I noticed an advertisement for books...in particular,

“In a neat Pocket Volume, handsomely printed, and embellished with superb Plates of Ladies’ Dresses, price 5s.; or on fine Paper, with coloured Plates, 7s 6d.

THE MIRROR OF THE GRACES;
or,
THE ENGLISH LADIES’ COSTUME

IMPARTING  the Art of combining TASTE, FASHION, and ELEGANCE, with MODESTY, ECONOMY, and JUDGMENT IN DRESS; also the Means of adapting the various ARTICLES OF FEMALE EMBELLISHMENT to different Ages, Forms, and Complexions, and preserving Beauty, Health, and Loveliness throughout Life, without the aid of injurious Cosmetics, or any spurious assistance from the Toilet.

Founded upon Principles agreeing with the Feelings of Nature and the Rules of Propriety.

COLLECTED BY A LADY OF DISTINCTION

who has attentively studied what is considered truly graceful and elegant amongst the most refined Nations of Europe."

I will admit that I gave a bit of a jump...because this little gem can actually be found in reprint form at your favorite on-line book retailers (or free to view online at https://archive.org/details/mirrorgracesore00distgoog) It was republished under the name Regency Etiquette  and subtitled The Mirror of Graces (1811)—a rather misleading title, since it has almost nothing to do with etiquette. It was undoubtedly popular back in its day—the advertisement noted that there would be a delay in its release because the bookseller had been forced to go back to press to satisfy the large number of pre-ordered books, and subsequent (and possibly pirated) editions were published in New York, Edinburgh, and Boston. I recommend you have a look—the style can be a little heavy-going (and unintentionally amusing to modern readers) but it’s a fascinating precursor to today’s fashion and beauty magazines and self-help books...and a mirror not only of “the graces”, but also what society’s expectations were of women in that time.

Another book you might have heard of is also due out in reprint form...By Jove is now available in a print edition, if e-books aren’t your cup of tea. ☕ ☺