Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Such Language! 1917 Style

I used to have great fun with posts about early nineteenth century slang (and will probably have more of them). Imagine my delight, then, when in the course of research for my work-in-progress set in 1917, I ran across a list of words that first entered common usage (or at least were finally recorded in print) in this year. Entries are from the enormously fun and fascinating site Word Origins.

Ammo: It’s not surprising that a number of the words you’ll see here are related to the war, which the US had just entered in April...like this shortening of the word ‘ammunition.’

Blotto: Because another amusing term for being drunk is always useful.

Camouflage: a useful borrowing from our ally, the French.

Cootie: lice infestations being another by-product of trench warfare. Possibly arriving in English by borrowing from the Malaysian word for biting insect, kutu, by way of British soldiers serving in southeast Asia.

Bolshevik: The Russian Revolution in this year ushered a whole variety of words into English—not only this one, but also Leninist and Soviet as well.

Hokum: a borrowing from American theater slang, a blend of the words ‘hocus-pocus’ and ‘buncombe’ (or ‘bunkum’)

Spritz: to sprinkle or spray, borrowed from German.

Supersize: yes, really!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Good Story Is Timeless

What’s your favorite historical period?  Marissa and I started this blog because we have a fascination for the nineteenth century, and England.  But the nineteenth century is often called the “long” century, because the attitudes in it could be seen as spanning the late 1700s to the early 1900s.  And within that time, as you probably noticed from just in Marissa’s fashion forecasts, everything from fashion to technology to religion made some drastic changes.

Then there’s the difference between what was fashionable in England and what was popular in America.  And Marissa has found plenty to love lately in the World War I era.

So what’s your favorite?  I have a soft spot for the Regency period, no doubt about that.  But I've always loved stories about the way west along the Oregon trail, and I enjoy a good medieval yarn about bold knights and noble ladies.  And who doesn't love a cowboy?

The amazing variety of historical settings available to authors is one of the reason I’m so pleased to be part of the new boxed set, Timeless:  Historical Romance Through the Ages.  Together, the stories range from Regency England to early 1900s Chicago, from Minnesota during the Sioux Uprising to post-Civil War Missouri.  And two stories are set in Montana, one in a Civil War era mining camp and one on a 1890 ranch.   

Give it a try, and tell me which you love most.

And where is Marissa, you might ask? She’s off this week.  She’ll post next Tuesday, we’ll both be off the last week of August, I’ll post September 5, and we’ll be back to our normal posting schedule September 8.  Happy reading!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sailing the Seas of Cover Creativity

Ah, the joys of book covers!  As we've discussed, authors often have very little control over what comes out when they are traditionally published.  I feel quite fortunate that my editor and publisher at Love Inspired ask for a lot of input, and they generally listen when I have concerns.  That was exactly the case for November’s The Bride Ship.

In early June, my editor’s wonderful assistant sent me an early version, cautioning me that not much could be changed but to look for any major errors that must be corrected.  The heroine’s look was spot on, and I loved the way she seemed to be gazing out toward her future.  But then I saw the ship, and gulped.  She looked a bit like the one above.

The problem?  That’s an artist's rendition of the Queen Mary from around the 1930s.  My book is set post-Civil War.  The actual bride ship, the S.S. Continental, looked like this:

So I asked, nicely, hesitantly, whether that could be fixed.  And it could!

Here is the final cover for The Bride Ship.  The hull is still a bit metal-looking, but you can see the two masts rising above her, and the forecastle is much closer to reality.  Phew!

But I would be remiss if I didn't point out another cover recently created.  The talented author and artist Aileen Fish created this cover for our upcoming boxed set, Timeless:  Historical Romance Through the Ages, which will release next Tuesday, August 12. From turn of the century Chicago to 1860’s Montana to the Civil War era and Regency times, there is something for every historical romance reader. This sweet romance boxed set features seven novels by bestselling authors, starring unforgettable characters falling in love in the most captivating settings.

This collection includes:

All the Blue of Heaven by Virginia Carmichael
Sky Tinted Water by Keta Diablo
The Incorrigible Mr. Lumley by Aileen Fish
Lasso My Heart by Linda Ford
A Mile Apart by Sarah Jae Foster
Through the Storm by Brenda B. Taylor
And my own Secrets and Sensibilities, Book One in the Lady Emily Capers.

We’ll be pricing it at just 99 cents for the first month.  I hope you’ll give it a try. 

And happy sailing!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Fashion Forecast: August 1917

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

The reality of war seems to have caught up with designers this month: overall, styles have fewer fussy details, and a definitely military flavor has begun to creep in, as can be seen in both The Delineator...

And in this month’s McCall’s:


 Military style coats and dresses with less trimming, also from The Delineator:

The new military styling coming in this month will spell the eventual end of the barrel silhouette seen in the dress on the left, but for now, it's hanging on:

A few more military fashions from The Delineator (she looks like an army nanny, doesn't she?!):

And a daring outfit "for active service" from McCall's which includes bloomers and puttees:

The consciousness of the country's war status extended to learning how to "make do" as well and find new ways to use old garments. From a multi-page article from The Ladies' Home Journal, here are some tips on recycling chic:

Of interest are a section on lingerie from The Delineator:

And sports hats from McCall's--the sweaty headband and disheveled ponytail look for sports was definitely a thing of the future.  I wonder if Columbia still has a Millinery Department? ;) :

And lastly, teen fashions weren't exempt from the military look either, as seen in The Delineator here:

And here:

And here in McCall's:

And let's not forget the kids...perhaps more than any other war in American history, World War I had an enormous effect on our popular culture (The Delineator):

What do you think of August 1917's fashions?

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Surprising Game of Lawn Tennis

Lawn tennis sounds like such a genteel game.  Can’t you see the ladies in long dresses and gentlemen in natty jackets lobbing balls back and forth across the net on a summer’s afternoon in the nineteenth century?  I fully intended to write a post with the same languid feel to it.  But what I learned about lawn tennis, and its predecessor, “real tennis,” surprised me.

For one thing, the game called real tennis was almost exclusively relegated to royalty in the middle ages.  Kings in Europe and England were rather determined in their pursuit of the sport, building courts and challenging other gentlemen to matches.  And it turns out to have been a rather deadly sport.  King Louis X of France died from a severe chill received while playing.  Charles VIII of France died from striking his head on the way to a game.  When assassins arrived to kill James I of Scotland, he attempted to flee through the sewer, only to find that the drain had been blocked to prevent tennis balls from going astray on the court above it.  Alas, the assassins did not go astray.

For another thing, the courtly sport of real tennis died out with much of European royalty around the time of Napoleon, but lawn tennis, the tennis we know today, began to take form.  Various versions were played around England, but more as an enjoyable pasttime.  However, around 1874, the activity and its terminology became more codified with the publication of rules and the creation of the first tennis club.  Popularity continued to increase, and tennis championships soon followed.  And the ladies soon joined the gentlemen on the court.

That women played tennis competitively so early also surprised me.  The first women’s championships were held in 1879, one in England and one in Ireland.  In 1884, the All England Championships began including events for women players.  Held at Wimbledon, the singles match was won by Miss Maud Watson, who played her sister Lilian Watson for the title.  She won a silver flower basket valued at 20 guineas, while her sister won a silver-backed mirror and brush.  Miss Bingley (grand-daughter or great-daughter of Mr. Bingley, perhaps J) advanced to the quarter finals that year, but won in 1886.  She won again in 1888, but by that time, she had married and was billed as Mrs. G.W. Hillyard.  Those are the lovely Watson sisters in the picture, along with Ernest Renshaw and Herbert Fortescue Lawford, both champions in their own right.  Another important player at the time was Lottie Dod, who won the ladies singles five times between 1887 and 1893.

Ladies doubles were first played at Buxton in 1885, with Mrs. Watts and Miss Bracewell taking the championship.  Another surprise, however, was that ladies and gentlemen played with each other.  For example, in 1888, Mrs. G.W. Hillyard won the mixed doubles championship with her partner Ernest Renshaw.  One gentlemen reminiscing of the early days of tennis recounted how Lottie Dod (at left there) had even bested Ernest in a singles match.

Ernest was the twin brother to William Renshaw, both tennis professionals who played in England and France in the summers and hit the Mediterranean in the winter.  They had a court build on their property to practice.  Ernest appears to have been the lesser light.  He lost to William at Wimbledon three times.  William, on the other hand, won twelve Wimbledon titles, seven for singles, five for doubles partnering Ernest.  One commentary noted that that record for singles has only been matched by Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

Yeah, about that languid playing? I’m thinking not so much.

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!