Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesday Ten: Write the West

Here for this week's Tuesday ten are ten books to help you breathe life into your old west characters and take your reader there:

1. Time Life: The Old West (series). Now, I could have cheated and listed these by title –that would have covered two Tuesday Ten’s! But I am that rare western writer who doesn’t own the whole set (though I’m having fun collecting it, one book at a time, as needed). With titles such as The Cowboys, The Gunfighters, The Ranchers, The Townsmen, The Gamblers, there’s something there to help you create any character you conceive.

2. Saloons of the Old West, by Richard Erdoes. This one is never far from my fingertips. Saloons always figure into my westerns, they’re very much a character unto themselves. Either fancy with a high polished boot rail and rows of shiny glasses, or dim and dark with a sawdust floor—where hard men drank hard liquor and nobody asked questions. This book covers them all.

3. Cowboy Lingo by Ramon Adams. This gives you a real feel for how cowboys talk and think. There’s even a section on nicknames – cowboys were never called by their given names but by hair color (ex: red, copper, brick for a red-head) or by build (stretch, stubby, slim). And another section on the proper cowboy “names” for things—i.e., trousers were pants or britches, your horse was your mount, hats were a Stetson or a John B. (regardless of make).

4. How the West Was Worn: Bustles and Buckskin on the Wild Frontier by Chris Enss. Now that you’ve conceived your characters, you’ve got to dress them. And, if you’re writing romance, there will also come a time when you need to undress them, which leads me to…

5. The History of Underclothes by C. Willett Cunnington and Phillis Cunnington. Need I say more? Western writer or not, no historical romance author should be without this one.

6. The Writer’s Guide to Every Day Life in the Old West by Candy Moulton. With chapters like Coins and Currency; Food and Drink; Marriage and Family; Doctors, Dentistry and Medicine, this is a must-have for any western writer.

7. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Old West. Maybe it means I’m a complete idiot, but I really love this book. It doesn’t go into great detail but it’s more of a “this happened, which led to this happening, which then led to…” breakdown. It never fails to inspire me to further research some event or detail.

8. Soiled Doves: Prostitution in the Early West by Ann Seagraves. Every town had them and no western is complete without them. Was she a shrewd businesswoman or a victim of circumstance? Saint or sinner? This book gives you the gritty details that Hollywood glossed over.

9. Taming of the West: Age of the Gunfighter, Men and Weapons on the Frontier 1840-1900 by Joseph G. Rosa. I love the detail on the pictures of the rifles and six shooters, the bios on the outlaws and the lawmen, both the legendary and the lesser-known. You can’t create the fictitious ones if you don’t study the real ones!

10. Wild and Wooly: an Encyclopedia of the Old West by Denis McLoughlin. A who was who, what was what, and a “what the heck does that mean anyway?” resource.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Victorian Baseball

I am a Red Sox fan. I have been for lo these many years, and have experienced the highs, and far more often the lows, of watching my team. I know a little about the history of the team, and I know for sure that baseball was originally created in Victorian times. I've even read a about in in a Civil War diary, which mentions a baseball "club" instead of a bat. It was very exciting, because when I read it, I thought "Wow, I can use baseball in a book! Yay!". I decided I would have my characters in my WIP go to a game. They do, after all, spend some time in Boston. What could be more fun than a Red Sox game?

Except the Red Sox weren't around in 1886.

No!!! Say it ain't so!!

I know there was a field, I know Boston had a team. But it wasn't the Red Sox, darn it all.

So I started to research.

The rules of baseball were written up in 1845. It was well established as a sport by the 1860's and I have heard that the Civil War spread its popularity. The first paid team was the Cincinnati Red Stockings in 1869, and the National League was established in 1876.

Other 19th century teams (all in the National League, by the way):
The Braves (1871), The Cardinals(1882), The Cubs(1874), The Dodgers(1884), The Giants(1879), The Phillies(1880), The Pirates(1882) and the Reds(1882).

The Yankees and Red Sox both started in 1901, still technically the Victorian Era, but not the time period I write in. I expect the rivalry was established at the same time. It seems, though, that the rivalry between the two cites--Boston and New York--may have started earlier, when there were two versions of the game--yes, you guessed it, the "New York Game" and "The Massachusetts Game". http://www.19cbaseball.com/game.html. I believe, although I cannot find it anywhere presently, that the Massachusetts Game allowed an out to be made if you threw the baseball at the player and hit him. I've heard that the balls were not as hard back then. Still, it does seem, um, fortunate, that this rule was eventually thrown out.

All of which is fairly interesting but in no way useful to my book. I need to send my hero to a baseball game. I am determined!

And now after surfing for an hour, I know this. Boston's original team was called The Red Stockings, established in the National League in 1876. In 1883 they became the Beaneaters. (A horrible, horrible name for a sports team). In 1909 they changed the name again to the Pilgrims, (better) which only lasted until 1912. Then they became The Braves. The team still exists under this name, only now they are the Atlanta Braves. http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/nl/bosbraves/BosBraves.html

So there I have it. My hero is going to a--I can't believe I'm going to write this--Beaneaters game. Why on earth would anyone ever name a sports team something like that? And how on earth am I ever going to write that without laughing? I suppose I won't. I can hear my characters laughing now over the new name.

Next, I'm going to have to find out where they played ball. But that's for tomorrow. Today is about swallowing the fact that my city once actually named a team the Beaneaters. And enjoying my favorite team play in the World Series, even if they weren't playing as long ago as I had hoped.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

10 ‘modern’ Victorian things

It’s amazing that what we take for granted now was new and fascinating slightly more than 100 years ago. I admit, some might be a stretch, but you can see the connections! The very first link at the bottom is a short blurb about Christmas in Victorian times, and highlights a lot of new inventions we take for granted today.

CD – yeah, you thought it was invented in the 1980s, didn't you. Technically, yes, but the phonograph was invented in 1877, and the gramophone record in the 1887. It took nearly 100 years for the jump, but jump it did.

Tires – yeah, the ones we still use on our own cars. Charles Goodyear (recognize the name?) announced vulcanization in 1844; rubber ones were invented by Robert Thomson in 1845; in 1888 John Boyd Dunlop patented the pneumonic tire (the kind we use today).

Which brings us to Cars…they were invented in 1885 – technically. But in 1850 gasoline was developed, there were already those rubber tires, in 1859 oil was discovered in the US, and in 1892 Rudolph Diesel discovered, well, diesel.

Cell phones – now follow me here. We all know about phones; they were invented in 1876, then came the wireless radio in 1895. Sure, I could’ve just put phones, but this was much more interesting!

Still, since you insist on connecting it all to a computer, what about Charles Babbage’s Calculating Machine? Sure, he didn’t invent the first computer, but he tried hard enough to do so. And sure, his Difference Engine really only made sense to about 5 people in the world, but it is the foundation of our modern day computer.

Christmas Cards - designed by John Calcott Horsely in 1843.

Vacuum Cleaner – 1901 by Hubert Booth who began the British Vacuum Company.

Escalators – yup, those very same moving stairs we take to the upper level of the department store or the 2nd floor of the airport. Jesse Renno and Charles Seeberger made it all possible in 1899.

Paper Clip – so small, so innocuous, so hard to find one when you need one! Samuel B. Fey made them in 1867; however advertising didn’t really begin until 1899.

Machine gun – Contrary to Hollywood culture, it didn’t suddenly pop up in the 1920s on a gangster’s arm. There was the Gatling Gun in 1861, a popular weapon of the American Civil War, and Hiram Maxim made the Maxim Machine Gun in 1885.




Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is It a Boy Or a Girl?

It's a common question asked at a birth, but when studying pbotos from the nineteenth century, it's often hard to tell whether a young child is a boy or girl.

In that time period, despite their sex, infants and toddlers all wore dresses.

The reason was simple. Until a child was potty trained, a dress or gown made diapering easier. Infants were dressed in long gowns and wore knit or crocheted pants called "Soakers" over their diapers. http://www.shasta.com/suesgoodco/newcivilian/kids/infants.htm

Toddlers of both sexes wore short dresses which enabled them to crawl and walk.

So, how to tell the difference in period photos? One clue is the trim. Although dressed alike, boys' fashions during the Victorian era had less frilly trim. Another difference is the hairstyle. Both boys and girls could wear their hair short or long, but boys always had their hair either parted on the side or wore bangs, while girls always had their hair, short or long, parted in the center. http://members.tripod.com/~histclo/dress.html

Of course, 21st century reenactor fathers have a hard time dealing with their young sons wearing dresses, even though it's historically accurate. But to 19th century fathers, this was a practical clothing style.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tuesday Ten: The Cowboy Code

The American cowboy’s code of ethics was pretty straightforward—but each “rule” was backed up by plain ol’ common sense. Here, for our Tuesday Ten, are ten “laws of the plains” that the cowboy strictly adhered to.

1. It is bad manners to ask a man his name. He may have a reason why he can’t afford to share his name or bring attention to himself.

2. Stealing a man’s horse is a crime punishable by death. To leave a man stranded on the plains, miles from food, water or shelter is as good as killing him.

3. Cheating at cards is an unpardonable offense. The victim or one of his friends is entitled to retaliate with a six-shooter.

4. Drawing on an unarmed man is strictly prohibited. Offenders may be gunned down on the spot by the victim, if he’s able, or his kin or friends.

5. Encountering a stranger on the trail, a man must approach him and speak a few words before moving off in another direction. Greeting him establishes good intentions.

6. When two men meet, speak, and pass on, neither must look back over his shoulder. To do so is an indication of distrust, implying that the man looking behind him expects a shot in the back.

7. When a stranger dismounts to cool his horse it is not polite to remain in the saddle while carrying on a conversation with him. The proper thing to do is dismount and speak to him face to face, so he can see what you’re up to.

8. To ride another man’s horse without asking permission is a grave insult. A horse is private property and borrowing one without permission is equivalent to a slap in the face.

9. Only in a dire emergency is it permissible to borrow a horse. Every man has his own style of riding and a horse can easily be spoiled by the wrong rider.

10. A smart rider always puts his horse’s comfort before his own. If the horse becomes lame or disabled, the rider may find himself stranded in the middle of the desert.

Courtesy of Cowboys Then & Now museum, Portland, OR.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Another Scandalous Victorian Interview -- Catching Up with Kristin-Marie

Why do you write historical?

I’ve always been a storyteller. Even as a child.

In Kindergarten, I’d gather dozens of students about to tell them scary Victorian ghost stories. I’d learned already to use cliff-hanger endings and so the students would come back time and again to hear the rest of the story.

Nowadays, I love to unearth the past, presenting it in fresh form to readers.

What part of the Victorian era/setting do you write in?

1865 to 1866, and on into the Edwardian Era. Post Civil War era, mostly. Events of that timeframe tug at my heartstrings.

I focus mostly on lesser known royalty and nobility, and try to give the reader a view of the historical happenings through the experiences of the fictionalized historical persons and my fictional main characters who play off of them.

The reason I’m writing inspirational style is because religions and people’s faith were extremely important in their lives. Religious charities began dominating social scenes, for example, with balls and even daily involvements by patrons. History books tend to leave out such facts.

I’ve been most curious about the Mediterranean areas and Middle Europe during the Victorian era. But I research Queen Victoria and her lifestyle quite a bit because her influence was global. France’s Royal Court also influenced very many lives even at a distance as it was a measuring stick in everything from fashion to protocol.

What is it about the era that most intrigues you?

There are several things that stand out.

Lifestyles of the women, particularly of the nobility and aristocracy as I've mentioned. They had great influence behind the scenes. Great heartaches. Great joys.

The ways that society and social mores were changing and evolving. Queen Victoria’s morality changed society whether people wanted to change or not.

Technology was becoming available to Industry and the general public and changing their daily lives. For example, trains were new and being promoted as an elegant choice in travel in many parts. People dressed for the occasion and gourmet meals were served by liveried staff. The trips were short, though. Train barons began moving in and tracks began appearing all over, not necessarily connecting. But people began using trains to speed to destinations. The whole era was like that. Big changes. Then the entrepreneurs and investors would take over, putting things in reach of the populace.

Where do you get your information?

I ask around.

I interview.

I find families with historical documents from their treasured heritage. Often, they’ve preserved stories of those times.

Because I mostly write about nobility and royalty and indigenous tribal leaders, I’m known to interview or ask decedents from those groups for details. In once case, I had to await a congressional style decision before I could use fictionalized items based upon a real prince.

Mainstream sources include Google, bookstores and the library systems.

From there, the rest is imagination.

What are you working on now?

Presently, the bulk of my time is going into articles on historic and modern costuming, which includes, of course, etiquette and lifestyle elements.

That’ll change as I complete my research for the new inspirational novel manuscript. It’s entailed research from sources not available to the public and so has taken a bit of time. But I love the challenge of recreating a past as I understand it with as much authenticity as I dare utilize so it’s worth taking the time.

How many books have you written?

I’ve completed three full novel manuscripts and have about half a dozen other manuscripts in various revisions, from first drafts to fourth drafts.

This Summer, I began peddling the Victorian manuscript, Vistas of Gold as well as a contemporary manuscript. Steeple Hill’s upcoming inspirational historical line has read the full manuscript for my Victorian story by request, already, as they’d graciously asked for a first right to refuse it. We’ll see what the future brings for Vistas of Gold.

Do you write outside of the Victorian era, genre?

Yes. I’m also writing another inspirational historical romance about the little known missionary era in Ancient Ireland during the 1st Century A.D. Too little is published for source material so it is a jigsaw puzzle effort to fit together factual elements from history. The rest is fictionalized to fill in the missing pieces.

I also write and publish poetry – haiku, mostly – and I've worked as a journalist. And a costuming newsletter, column and other articles have been published recently.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

The first major challenge came when I was diagnosed with cancer, and so I quietly took time off of career and life. I decided not to tell everyone I knew right away and instead immersed myself in writing a contemporary manuscript. I took courses on novel writing. By the time I’d completed that first manuscript and Harlequin American Romance had read the full and rejected it, I was in remission and feeling good about learning a new type of writing skill. My early career years entailed advertising and public relations editing and marketing writing, so it was a new writing skill tucked under my belt.

Unexpected challenges also arose shortly afterwards with repeated home burglaries which included theft of my computer and most of my manuscripts. Since then, the Federal Trade Commission had a counselor call me and notify me that surveillance showed identity thieves were flashing my stolen manuscript pages at fine dining restaurants in Mexico. The identity thieves were pretending to be me, although I’m not from Mexico, but that is another story.

What is you writing schedule like?

I’ve just wrapped up a year-long writing sabbatical out of state during which I wrote anytime of day or night. Plus, I did some journalism to supplement the sabbatical, so some days were nonstop writing. I turned into a writing hermit for some months but the block of time facilitated my completing two full manuscript drafts. My goal had been to complete one. I’d recommend writing sabbaticals to other writers, as a result.

As I return to California and get back to a different lifestyle, I’ll schedule in two to four hours a day of research and writing time. I type rather fast, so that will yield a few pages a day. About right to make my scheduled commitments to turn in full manuscripts to editors for reads in the near future.

One thing I've learned in the last year on writing sabbatical is the value of keeping writing commitments, whether to a journalistic employer or to an awaiting editor, and especially to myself.

Check back on the 5th of November for another interview of a scandalous Victorian blogger.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Another Interview

After doing my very first interview on this blog last month, I was asked to do an interview on Shirley Kiger Connolly's website.

I had fun talking about my book projects and work habits. Here's the link:

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tuesday Ten--Slang sources

I bought several slang dictionaries years back to help me get a feel for period dialogue. I often found that the slang references were from books of the period, which lead me to investigate the original sources. Not only did I find more slang in those sources, but often learned general Victorian phrasing as well, which is often markedly different from current speech. Here are 10 sources.

Tom Sawyer—Mark Twain—I’ve used this one for my mid-western farmer-type Victorian characters. It’s very helpful for children as well.

Roughin’ It—Mark Twain—I’ve used this more for the Western characters, cowboys and miners and such. Lots of good slang.

Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court—Mark Twain—I’ve used this for my Eastern characters, later in the Victorian period. Mark Twain was really good with using regular speech as opposed to the formal speech in many books of this era. That’s why he’s on the list 3 times.

Little Women—Louisa May Alcott—Eastern characters and those of an educated class, mid Victorian period.

The Virginian—Owen Wister—The problem with this book is that it was published late in the period (1902?). I have used some of the slang, and I do use the dialogue to help me out, but I worry that I’m using early 20th century slang instead of that of the mid-19th. I find myself going back to my slang dictionaries to check.

Gettysburg—The movie—Of course this was written in the 20th century, but the dialogue often has a good period feel. I’ll sometimes have this movie on in the background as I revise my books, in hopes that the “feel” will sink in.

Sharpe Series—Bernard Cornwell—all the movies—I love these movies. They’re about the Napoleonic wars, true, but they do still give the general “feel” for the early 19th century. Although written in modern times, I’m comfortable with the authenticity of the dialogue, after looking up some of the phrasing in the slang dictionaries. I find it most useful when I have English characters (phrases like Bugger off) in my Victorian American novels. Besides, Sean Bean is to die for. http://www.compleatseanbean.com/sharpe.html

The Bostonians—Henry James—I’ve read the book but have yet to use it extensively. I expect to be doing so in the near future, when I edit/revise my WIP, since it’s about a Boston born women’s right’s activist.

Edgar Allen Poe—anything—Although he was American, his writing has, to me, a very British feel to it. I don’t know why. I do use him for flavor, but usually for characters who are apt to be more verbose and starchy.

Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility—Jane Austen—Her books are from the regency era, true. But I had an English Aristocratic heroine in Wicked Woman and I wanted to see if I could find words that would differentiate her from the American characters in the book. I figured the wording in these books were close enough to the time period of Wicked Woman (1811 to 1855—40 years) that I wouldn’t be totally off.

Anyone else have favorite books written in the Victorian period? Especially anything Western. . . .