Friday, September 28, 2018

Food, Glorious, Food—Nineteenth Century Grand Canyon Style

I have never been a big eater. My husband likes to tell the story of the first dinner I cooked for him. He mistook the entre, which I now know he could have eaten in a couple bites, for an appetizer and wondered when I was going to serve him the main course. What he didn’t know was that entre generally served my family of four, with leftovers the next day. But however little my family eats, even I was shocked at how little explorers in nineteenth century Arizona ate and what their diet consisted of.

I am confirming my research (lovely, lovely research!) for my October 2019 historical romance with my new publisher, Revell. A Scenic Beauty (title tentative) tells the story of a determined lady photographer on one of the early geologic surveys of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My wonderful critique partner Kristy J. Manhattan found me a copy of John Wesley Powell’s diary of his first expedition of the canyon, which took place approximately 2 years before my story. (His second expedition is happening during my story.) Powell deserves his own blog post (coming soon), but for now, I’ll focus on the food.

Which wasn’t much.

Powell had ten men on his team, all well experienced with wilderness travel. Their goal was to successfully navigate down the Colorado, mapping it as they went. Armed with instrumentation to confirm elevation changes, estimate the heights of the cliffs, and determine the temperatures, they set off in four boats. Their rations included flour, saleratus (an early form of baking powder), bacon, salt pork, beans, dried apples, and coffee. They planned enough to last them for 10 months, in case they had to overwinter in the canyon.

The Colorado had other ideas.

Rapids quickly sank or at least swamped their boats. They lost a third of their rations within the first month. The rest was soon so water logged they had to stop they travels to lay it out on rocks in hopes it would dry enough to eat. When the flour merely turned as hard as the rocks themselves, they beat it and sifted it through their mosquito netting, losing hundreds of pounds in the process. Somewhere along the way they lost the saleratus, because they went from having biscuits to unleavened “bread.”

They tried hunting and were mildly successful, but when they shot something, they tended to eat nothing but meat and coffee for the night. Dinner other nights consisted of boiled spoiled bacon and unleavened bread. One night they visited a garden abandoned by a hunter and trader. Nothing was ripe except the green tops of potatoes. They ate those and spent the evening violently ill. When they happened across land being farmed by Native Americans, they pilfered melons and paddled away as fast as they could. That night they gorged on “melon sauce,” which I take is like applesauce, but with melons, supplementing it with coffee and unleavened bread. That they made it out of the canyon alive—on the food alone—is amazing to me.

And it makes me terribly glad for the leftovers I plan to consume tonight. 😊

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

New Release News!

“It happened at the ball.”
“What did?”
“Well, a lot of things...”

Lots of things can happen at balls—flirtation, negotiation, name it. Fantasy author Sherwood Smith knows a thing or two about the subject, and she’s invited twelve other authors (including me!) to write stories about the strange, wonderful, and thrilling things that can happen when people come together to dance. They’re gathered together in a new anthology from Book View Café.
The pleasure of your company is requested.

Graceful feet tracing courtly steps.
Eyes in jeweled masks meeting across a room of twirling dancers.
Gloved hands touching fleetingly—or gripping swords...

Anything can happen at a ball.

You are invited to enjoy stories of fancy and fantasy from 13 authors, framed in the splendor and elegance of a ballroom. Be it at a house party for diplomats and thieves, or Almacks in a side-universe in which the Patronesses have magic, or a medieval festival just after the plague years ...

Prepare to be swept into the enchantment of the dance!

And here’s the table of contents:

Marie Brennan “The Şiret Mask”

Marissa Doyle “Just Another Quiet Evening at Almack’s”

Sara Stamey  “Homeworld Stranger”

Charlotte Gumanaam “Kerygma in Waltz Time”

Irene Radford “Dancing Bangles”

Gillian Polack “A Plague of Dancers”

Deborah J. Ross “A Borrowed Heart”

Francesca Forrest  “Gown of Harmonies”

Lynne April Brown “The Dress”

P.G. Nagle “A Waltz for May”

Brenda W. Clough “Sherbet on Silver”

Layla Lawlor “Gilt and Glamour”

Sherwood Smith “Lily and Crown”

I’m quite excited about my contribution. “Just Another Quiet Evening at Almack’s” introduces a world I’ve been working in for a while now, a world where the Lady Patronesses of Almack’s, those ever-so-correct and haughty ladies, secretly fight magical crime among the beau monde when they are not dispensing vouchers to the deserving. Call it Georgette Heyer meets the Powerpuff Girls...but more on that at a later date... 😉 Let me know what you think of it!

It Happened at the Ball is available as an ebook from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo, as well as in a print edition. I hope you’ll give it a try!

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?