Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Launching Something Wondrous

Today’s release day for the second book in my American Wonders Collection, Nothing Short of Wondrous. Yay! The historical romance is set against the backdrop of Yellowstone National Park, American’s first national park, and received a starred review from Booklist.

It is 1886, and the government has given the US Cavalry control of Yellowstone. For widowed hotelier Kate Tremaine, the change is a welcome one. She knows every inch of her wilderness home like the back of her hand and wants to see it protected from poachers and vandals.

Refused a guide by Congress, Lieutenant William Prescott must enlist Kate's aid to help him navigate the sprawling park and track down the troublemakers. But a secret from his past makes him wary of the tender feelings the capable and comely widow raises in him. When her 6-year-old son is kidnapped by a poacher who wants the boy to guide him to the place where the last of the Yellowstone bison congregate, Will and Kate must work together to rescue him, save the bison, and protect the park. In doing so, they may just find that two wounded hearts can share one powerful love when God is in control.

I think the Revell staff did a phenomenal job capturing the feel of the book in this trailer.

You can find Nothing Short of Wondrous at fine online retailers and bookstores near you (the Amazon link is an affiliate link):

Baker Publishing Group
Barnes and Noble
Christian Book
Independent bookstores near you
The Book Depository, free shipping worldwide

Friday, October 16, 2020

No More Than 30

The story of the American bison has been documented many places, from books and articles to movies, and I had thought I knew it. But when I was researching for Nothing Short of Wondrous (out next week!), I learned a few things that surprised me.

You may have read that once vast herds of these majestic creatures roamed the Great Plains. Historians estimate there may have been as many as 60 million, and they lived as far east as the Appalachians. Loss of habit, competition from cattle, and overhunting by nonindigenous hunters decimated their ranks.

So, here’s the first thing that surprised me. I tend to think of late-Victorian era hunters as starting the trend in killing massive numbers of bison. The hunting actually began as early as 1830. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Hudson’s Bay Company on the West Coast traded 75,000 buffalo-hide robes in 1844 alone.

Here’s another thing that surprised me: By the 1870s, bison hides were being tanned for leather and their bones were being used in making fertilizer and bone china (that mountain of bison skulls is horrifying!). Because they were becoming valuable, ranchers began picking up stray calves and starting their own herds. Wealthy hunters also moved in for the kill. At one point, 5,000 bison a day were being killed.

As early as 1886, fewer than 350 bison remained in wild herds. The largest single group may have been the one in Yellowstone National Park.

It numbered no more than 30.

That number stunned me. Small wonder my heroine, Kate Tremaine, will do anything to protect them. Kate loves her wilderness home and the others who live beside her.

She may be fictional, but a number of real-life people felt the same way. The turn of the century saw conservationists around the country coming together to protect the bison. By 1910, numbers had increased to more than 2,000 in the US and Canada. Ten years later, that number was more than 12,000.

Today, the Yellowstone herd alone numbers around 5,000, and estimates of other herds on public and private lands are closer to 500,000 total.

Now, that’s a comeback story!

I hope you’ll come back next week when we celebrate the launch of another story, Nothing Short of Wondrous.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

La Belle Assemblee, Up Close and Personal

Some months back I was fortunate enough to find a complete Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts <cue Marissa hyperventilating> and shared it here with you. Now, my heart is again going pitter-pat over another exciting (to me, anyway!) find: a complete, as it was published, copy of La Belle Assemblée!

The cover is a very sturdy paper, and features a logo of the Three Graces (this changed over the years—issues in its early years had an Egyptian-inspired design) and some hints of the treats within: a portrait of Lady Elizabeth Belgrave as well as two full-color prints of “female fashions.” We can see by this year (1825) that founder John Bell was no longer publishing La Belle Assemblée; rather, George Whittaker was at the helm, and had been since 1823. The back cover features advertisements of new-released books, and ads for the New British Library and Reading Rooms in Cheapside and for marble chimney-pieces (but very superior chimney-pieces, as the purveyor held a royal warrant.) The inside covers feature books published and/or printed by Mr. Whittaker.

The interior is of a lighter-weight but still very sturdy paper; most of the pages are still sewn in place, though a few signatures have come loose. The table of contents features stories, essays factual (Contemporary Poets and Writers of Fiction, No.1—a serial, no less) and humorous (Christmas in the Country), pages of original poetry, a section of fashion (and the featured fashion prints, this month an Evening Dress and a Morning Visiting Dress, complete with the protective piece of tissue paper between them, as can be seen above), and a sort of round-up of reviews and commentary on newly-published books, music, drama, and art as well as of “Literary and Scientific Intelligence”, in which we learn that Mr. Matthew Clarke was awarded an exclusive patent by the tsar to erect gas lighting in Russia (wow--that's a big contract!), and that a mummy unwrapping was held at the Bristol Institution. There’s an advertising supplement too, but I think I’ll save that for a future post because there are some wonderful ads in it.

Among my favorite parts of La Belle Assemblée are the Births, Marriages, and Deaths page (this month noting the death “At Worle, aged 103, Mr. Joel Bishop. He was the father, grandfather, and great grandfather of 180 children, of whom 115 are now living.”) and the note to Subscribers and Correspondents, where submissions were (quite publicly!) accepted or rejected, in terms amusing, kindly, or, on occasion, rather barbed. My favorite in this issue reads “From the extreme difficulty we find in decyphering the MS. of a tale which has reached us without either title or signature, we find ourselves under the necessity of retaining it for further consideration.”  Oops! 😊

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Elk’s Temple

Sounds like part of an Indiana Jones movie title, doesn’t it? It’s actually a hotel with a pub and taverns owned by the McMenamin family in one of the oldest parts of Tacoma. I had the pleasure of dining there recently, and I thought I’d share some of the history with you.

The gorgeous Beaux Arts era building was originally finished in 1916 and served as Lodge #164 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. It was one of the largest lodges in the country. The first floor originally held a gymnasium. The second floor featured a gorgeous ballroom and banquet room, while the third held a library, billiard room, card room, and dining room.

But, by 1965, the club was outgrowing its space. Most of the members had migrated to the suburbs, so the Elks followed. A few years later, the new owner opened it to the community to host events. At one time it held a theatre and a dinner theatre. But when he died in 1986, the building sat empty for decades.

Well, not entirely empty. A massive, white stone building at the end of the city center was too good to pass up for any graffiti artist in the area. Many snuck in at night to decorate the inside as well.

The McMenamins invested $34 million to renovate the building, but, as is the family’s style, they worked hard to preserve the history. Various hotel rooms are themed and named for people in Tacoma’s history, from politicians to musicians. The colors are vibrant, the décor as eclectic as it is historic.

If you’re out this way, I recommend dropping in for a tour and a bite at one of the pubs. There’s even a secret pub in the building as well as a “secret” fifth floor (none of the elevators and only one of the six stairwells reach it). On our visit, my husband and I found the fifth floor, but alas, the secret pub still eludes us.

Another reason to visit!

Friday, October 2, 2020

Calling All Regency Writers!

If you are an author or hoping to be an author of stories set during the early nineteenth century, rejoice! October 1 saw the birth of a new writer’s organization. Regency Fiction Writers advances the professional interests of writers of the extended Regency period of England (1780 to 1840) through inclusion, networking, advocacy, and education. The international non-profit welcomes writers of all types of fiction set during the period we all love. Marissa and I are founding members.

Below is information from the press release, used with permission.

“The Regency period is a perennial favorite among readers,” said Vanessa Riley, critically acclaimed author of more than 20 novels set during that time. “It has spawned hundreds of bestselling books and dozens of popular movies.” Riley is President-Elect of the new group and will take the reins in January 2021.

“Our authors write award-winning stories that cross genres,” added Ann Chaney, 2020 President. “History, mystery, romance, and speculative fiction, among others. It’s a rich heritage.”

Between October 1 and December 31, first year dues are $25, rising to $50 plus a processing fee in 2021. For that fee, writers of any race, creed, religion, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, or ability can network with their peers around the globe through online forums. They can also learn from monthly programs on history, marketing, and industry insights and gain additional visibility for their books through active online properties and marketing initiatives.

Regency Fiction Writers is an outgrowth of the Beau Monde Chapter of Romance Writers of America®. The chapter recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Chapter members voted to leave Romance Writers of America in part because they hoped to expand beyond the boundaries of the romance genre.

For more information on the new organization and to join, see the website

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Such Language! Part 28

More lexigraphic levity and laughter, courtesy of the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Enjoy!

Mouth: a silly fellow. A dupe. To stand mouth; i.e. to be duped. Sir Archibald is such a mouth that he believed my little sister’s claim that she’s engaged to the Duke of Wellington.

Oak: A rich man; a man of good substance and credit. I have no use for empty titles; I’ll take an oak over a spendthrift viscount any day.

Elbow-shaker: A gamester, one who rattles Saint Hugh’s bones, i.e. the dice. Aunt Amelia might want to be more vigilant about the people my cousin Sarah associates with at parties; rumor has it that Sally has become quite the elbow-shaker, and will have to pawn her earrings to cover her losses.

Baker-knee’d: One whose knees knock together in walking, as if kneading dough. My brother Thomas is glad that knee-breeches are no longer worn at town parties, as he is ferociously baker-knee’d.

Queen Street: A man governed by his wife, is said to live in Queen Street, or at the sign of the Queen’s Head. His friends tease Papa about living in Queen Street, but he is very happy to have Mama take care of all the fussy and boring bits of life.

Smoky: Curious, suspicious, inquisitive. My little sister’s angelically blank expression when discussion at dinner turned to diary-keeping was decidedly smoky.

Willow: Poor, and of no reputation. To wear the willow; to be abandoned by a lover or mistress. Henry has been wearing the willow since Georgiana met the young Duke of Flatpurse, but I suspect it will be Georgiana’s turn next as the Duke was seen taking Miss Plumpocket riding in Hyde Park.  

Friday, September 25, 2020

Pictures from Wonderland

First—thanks to Roxanne C, for your comment last week. Contact me at reginascott@owt.com. I know you mentioned you had a copy of the book you won. Let’s see what else I can find you.

The heroine of A Distance Too Grand, Meg Pero, is a photographer, specializing in stereographs, those double pictures that allowed people to approximate three-dimensions in her time. But when I was researching Yellowstone National Park for the second book in my American Wonders Collection, Nothing Short of Wondrous, I discovered another early photographer had made his mark there.

Frank Jay Haynes was born in Michigan in 1853. He didn’t do well at his first profession, traveling salesman, so, when he went to live with family in Wisconsin, he took the opportunity to apprentice as a photographer. F. Jay opened his own studio in 1876 in Moorhead, Minnesota. But he wasn’t content to stay there. It seems that traveling part of his salesman’s job stayed with him throughout his life.

Less than a year later, he started taking his equipment on the road, traveling via stagecoach from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Deadwood, South Dakota, taking pictures of the scenery and the people along the way. The next year, he traveled from Bismarck to the Pacific Ocean and followed that up with a tour down and up the Missouri River. His pictures made excellent prints, postcards, and, yes, stereographs.

Perhaps because his popularity was growing, he won a contract with the Northern Pacific Railroad to take publicity shots along the line to Bismarck. With a free pass to ride any train, he could go where he liked, when he liked. Along the way, he met then Yellowstone superintendent Philetus Norris, who invited him to come tour Wonderland and photograph its scenic beauty. During his two months in the park in 1881, F. Jay shot more than 200 pictures. And he came back the next year to shoot more.

Again, his stature grew, to the point that, in August 1883, he was chosen to accompany President Arthur in touring Yellowstone and serve as the official photographer. He still found time to photograph the golden spike ceremony of the Northern Pacific in Montana. But Yellowstone had so impressed him that he applied for and won a concession to be the park’s first official photographer. His studio opened in 1884.

But Yellowstone was only really accessible from May through September. What do to the rest of the year? F. Jay purchased a Pullman car from the Northern Pacific and refitted it as a traveling studio, calling it the Palace Studio Car. He traveled all over the west for the next 20 years in that car, taking pictures of local places and local folks. He was part of the one of the first winter tours of Yellowstone in 1886 and photographed the journey from my native Tacoma to Glacier Bay, Alaska, in 1891 for the Puget Sound and Alaska Steamship Company.

When he passed away in 1921, his son Jack, who had been helping him, inherited his business and carried on the tradition until his death in 1962.

And if you’d like to experience a little of Yellowstone, hop over the Goodreads, where you can enter a giveaway of a print copy of Nothing Short of Wondrous, due out October 20, 2020. 

Picture perfect!