Friday, October 28, 2011

Guest post: Walk Like an Egyptian

Today we're welcoming back Jen Bradbury, author of Wrapped, with a seasonally appropriate guest post.

In honor of the spooky season, Marissa and Regina invited me to share a bit about a key plot point in Wrapped: mummy unwrappings. To that end, here is what I know.

They happened.

That’s sort of it.

But I should back up a bit.

During the nineteenth century, Egypt mania took over the western world. Archaeologists and expeditions from all over Europe and the Americas converged on Egypt, seeking knowledge, treasure and, of course, mummies. The lost empire that raised the pyramids and apparently covered everything else in gold wormed its way into the collective imagination of the culture. Its influence could be seen in fashion, architecture, and literature. And when Napoleon took 40,000 troops into the Nile Delta in 1798, the move was motivated by political and personal ambitions. Even he was fascinated by the mystique of Egypt, fancying himself something of a pharaoh. As artifacts from Egypt began to make their way back to museums in Europe and beyond, public fascination and curiosity grew. But the centerpieces of these collections were always the mummies—objects that spoke to the scholarly and macabre interests of people simultaneously.

Somewhere along the way, individuals began acquiring mummies privately. Nell Gwynn, mistress of Charles the second, was thought to have owned a mummy given her by one of her admirers. The most famously cited piece of evidence for the parties themselves comes in the form of an invitation from 1850.

“Come to Lord Longsberry's at 2 p.m., Piccadilly, for the unwrapping of a mummy from Thebes. Champagne and canapés to follow.”

But despite knowing that they happened, there is some debate as to the context in which they did occur. According to legend (and as the above invite suggests), they became en vogue among the upper class for fun as they discovered trinkets tucked into the wrappings (like a piñata! Only deader!). Still others contend that unwrappings were conducted primarily in the spirit of scientific inquiry. As a writer of fiction, I love the ambiguity of it all, the room it gives me to embroider and create a story touching on so strange a practice. But not everyone shares my enthusiasm in that regard.

So why don’t we have better details and evidence about the practice of mummy unwrappings? We may never know, but I have my own pet theories. I suspect that those who participated in the practice maybe later realized it wasn’t the sort of thing they really wanted to brag about after all. Or perhaps, the curse of the mummy they disturbed caught up with them in the end, and they didn’t survive to tell the tale.

Is it bad that I hope it might have been the latter? ‘Tis the season, after all.

Thanks, Jen, and thank you for visiting Nineteenteen! Don't forget that all commenters this week through Halloween night will be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Wrapped!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

This week's guest: Jen Bradbury and Wrapped!

This week at Nineteenteen we're delighted to bring you Jen Bradbury, author of the Regency-set young adult adventure novel Wrapped!

Regina and I got to know Jen through the Class of 2K8 promotional group for debut authors, and when we found out she was working on a historical YA, we knew we'd have to bring her here to meet you. Since her book Wrapped has a slightly spooky, Halloween-ish theme to it--mummies!--we thought this would be the perfect week to invite her. Here's her official bio, and then we'll get on to our chat with Jen:

Jennifer Bradbury’s debut novel, Shift—which Kirkus Reviews starred, calling it “fresh, absorbing, compelling”—was picked as an ALA and a School Library Journal Best Book for Young Adults, was a YALSA pick, and made the Booklist Top 10 lists for both Crime Fiction for Youth and Sports Literature. Her most recent release, Wrapped, has been reviewed as “A winning combination of Egyptian mythology, English Regency, and just a hint of romance, this charming caper delivers both historical detail and boisterous entertainment.” A former English teacher and one-day Jeopardy! champ, she lives in Burlington, Washington, with her husband and two small children.

Nineteenteen: Welcome to Nineteenteen, Jen! Your first book, Shift, was a contemporary story set in the US featuring two boy main characters. So Wrapped is a bit of a departure from that…will you tell us how you came to write it? How was it a different experience from writing Shift?

Jen: It is a bit of a departure, I admit. But I'm very lucky to have a supportive agent, and extremely lucky to an an editor who understands and maybe even appreciates that I'm a bit all over the place with my interests. Wrapped actually came about when I was waiting on my first round of editorial feedback for Shift. I was so anxious about that process (and worrying if I could actually pull off what my editor wanted), that I had to figure out some sort of escape. So I dug up an old nugget of trivia that a professor shared in a lit class once about mummy unwrapping parties, and ran with it. The book required a lot more research (which was fun to get lost in as well), and gave me a chance to write in a voice that came a little more naturally to me.

Nineteenteen: Your heroine, Agnes Wilkins, turns out to be quite an intrepid character (which is all I can say without including spoilers!) Do you consider yourself adventurous? What’s the most swashbuckling thing you’ve ever done? And do you speak as many languages as she does?

Jen: Agnes is one of those girls I sort of wish I was, but yes, I am pretty adventurous. We used to do a lot of climbing and backpacking, and we once biked cross country (like the guys in Shift). I have the same longing to travel and see odd parts of the world that she does, but sadly, I've never found myself embroiled in an international conspiracy. And alas, I speak only a tiny bit of French, so I'm very jealous of dear Agnes in that regard.

Nineteenteen: Agnes is an avid reader of the novels of Jane Austen…so I’m going to guess that maybe you are too? What’s your favorite Jane book? And what were your favorite books when you were a teen?

Jen: I adore Jane Austen. Oddly enough I didn't read any of her novels until I was studying abroad in Cambridge in 1995. But I read them all that semester for a class, and loved them all. My favorite is still Persuasion. I just adore those characters and that particular love story. As far as favorite books when I was a teen, I mostly read what I was assigned for school, but I loved most of those. I still reread Jane Eyre pretty often, and Frankenstein was a favorite then and now. What I did read outside of class, oddly enough, was usually sci-fi or comic books.

Nineteenteen: Oh, Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne--"You pierce my soul"--has to be one of the most romantic moments in all of JA!

Of course, the “bad guy” in Wrapped is revealed at the end of the story, in best mystery fashion. Are you a mystery fan? Which characters to you have more fun writing—good guys, or bad guys?

Jen: I love mysteries! I forgot to mention the Sue Grafton alphabet mystery series in the question above. I devoured those in high school and still seek out the new ones when she publishes them. But more than being a mystery fan, I'm a lover of anything that makes me want to turn the pages quickly.

As far as who I have more fun writing, it mostly depends on the scene. But generally, the good guys interest me more.

Nineteenteen: Have you been to Egypt? Have ancient Egyptian culture and history always been of interest to you?

Jen: My little sister and I were obssessed with ancient Egypt when we were kids, and still are to some degree. I remember we read tons of Egyptian mythology when we were little, and were fascinated by the stories. While I have never been to Egypt, the sequel for Wrapped is set in Cairo shortly after the events of the first book, so I feel like I have an even better reason to go there someday. Maybe my little sister can make the journey with me.

Nineteenteen: Can we come too? How did you research the history for Wrapped? Did you have any funny research moments, or moments that sent a chill up your spine?

Jen: Generally, I start with an idea to hang it on--in this case it was that weird thing about mummy unwrapping parties. But from there I've got to figure out how to grow that idea into a book. For me, it all grows out of asking myself questions, teasing the story into some kind of shape, and then breaking into a really loose, rough outline. At that point, I stop and research more formally. And the biggest, most wonderful gift that emerged in the my research process ended up being the fact that Napoleon was as enamoured of Egyptian culture as you could hope for, and then the story took off in earnest.

Nineteenteen: What’s next for you…or for that matter, for Agnes? Will we be seeing a sequel to Wrapped, or other YA historical fiction from you?

Jen: I just finished the first pass at the line edits on my next book, another historical novel. It is set in the Punjab in 1947, just as partition of India and Pakistan were finalized. This one is pretty weighty compared to Agnes' adventure, but I'm very excited about it. After that, I've got a sequel to Wrapped, and we just sent my editor two more manuscripts--one contemporary and one historical.

Nineteenteen: Good luck with your Punjabi story, and we'll definitely be watching for more of Agnes. Where can readers learn more about you and your books online?

Jen: Visit me at my website Sadly, I don't blog, or tweet, or even have a facebook page. I'm a mother of two small kids! Answering emails is a luxury!

Nineteenteen: Then we're very happy you were able to squeeze in a visit with us, Jen. :)

Stay tuned for Friday, when Jen will tell us a little more about mummy-unwrapping parties in the early 19th century...and be sure to leave a comment! All commenters this week through next Monday evening (that's Halloween!) will be entered in a drawing to win a signed copy of Wrapped.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This and That and a Here-and-Therian

Forgive the fragmented post, my dears, but I had so many things I wanted to share, and none were really large enough to warrant a post on their own. So, here are five things to amuse you on a Friday:

Those of you who like sparklies may want to check out this post by historical author Tara Cohen about a nineteenth century set of jewels held by the Swedish Royal Treasury. Drool worthy!

Some of you may remember our posts on nineteenth century country dances, such as this one by guest blogger Gail Eastwood. Now, thanks to, there’s a wonderful resource online for learning the steps. They’ve even provided animation so you can envision what the couples would be doing. Interesting and entertaining!

During our birthday house party, Lo suggested that we host more current authors of YA set in the nineteenth century. We’re delighted that next week Jennifer Bradbury will be joining us to talk about her book, Wrapped. Hint: It’s a perfect lead in to Halloween!

October 30 is the 200th anniversity of the publication of Sense and Sensibility and officially Talk Like Jane Austen Day. To celebrate, Marissa and I will be guest blogging at SOS Aloha. Stop by and say hi, or should I say, offer us your esteemed company, if you have a chance.

A here-and-therian was a fellow who couldn’t commit to anything (a bit like this post), who traveled about with no set home or preferred to chase women rather than catch them; as in “I truly thought Englebert would propose this time, but he’s such a here-and-therian that I suppose I’ll never bring him up to snuff!”

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Delightful Surprise on a Monday

I received a most exciting—and unexpected—package in the mail yesterday. When I opened it, I found these:

Yes, it’s the Advance Reader Edition (also known as Advance Reader Copy, ARC, or uncorrected proof) of Courtship and Curses! They were ready much earlier than I expected, since the book doesn’t actually hit shelves until early August of next year, and so don't contain all the final corrections of typos and so on…but what fun to see them!

Here’s a better view of the cover:And here’s the cover copy:
Sophie’s entrance into London society isn't what she thought it would be: Mama isn't there to guide her, Papa is buried in his work fighting Napoleon, and Sophie's newly-acquired limp keeps her from dancing at any of those glittering balls. If it weren't for her shopping escapades with her new French friend Amélie and a flirtation with the dashing Lord Woodbridge, she would think this season a complete disaster.

But when someone uses magic to attack Papa the night of Sophie’s first ball, her problems escalate, especially when it becomes clear that all the members of the War Cabinet are being targeted. Can she catch the culprit and keep her own magic powers hidden long enough to win herself a match?

Can you tell I’m just a little excited?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Shocking, Isn't It?

I am not a party game kind of gal. It never even dawns on me to break out the cards when friends come over for dinner. But in the nineteenth century, as we’ve discussed, young ladies and gentlemen delighted in finding new games to play, whether with card games, guessing games like twenty-questions, or acting games like charades. Something we often take for granted today, however, was first popularized as a parlor game.


The science of electricity had been growing steadily since the 1600s, and the 1700s has seen advances in understanding how nerves use electricity to transmit instructions to the muscles and the first true battery to store electrical energy. But as the 1800s began, many people were still puzzled by the possible uses of electricity outside either a scientific experiment or something to do to amaze and entertain your friends.

The 1807 Practical Electricity and Galvanism by Jonathan Cuthbert, for example, laid out a series of experiments for understanding the science as well as having some fun. Some experiments were educational, such as creating a prime conductor out of household materials. Others were amusing, such as setting up a current to ring a set of bells. One I found, in an innocent-sounding book from 1831, Endless Amusement, was downright disturbing, explaining how to kill an animal for “fun” by electrocuting it. [Insert shudder.]

But one of the experiments, found in books about amusements dating from 1807 to 1889, was designed to be titilating. It was called the “electrical kiss.” In that game, a lady used an electrical conductor to give herself a charge (perhaps by using a static generator like the one here), then challenged a gentleman that he could not kiss her. The gentleman would approach and incline his head, the lady would be careful not to let their clothes touch, and a spark would fly from her lips to his, forcing him back before he could actually kiss her. (And the very concept sparked a few ideas for scenes between characters, let me tell you!)

Shocking, eh?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Victoria’s Children, Part 8: Leopold

Queen Victoria’s eighth child and fourth son came into the world at Buckingham Palace on April 7, 1853. After seven children, the Queen knew what to expect in childbirth, and she wasn't looking forward to it. So when her personal physician, Sir James Clark, made a radical suggestion, she was all for it—and so the Queen of England became an early adopter of chloroform to help ease the pain of childbirth. She was so delighted with the results that she publicly endorsed the drug’s use, much to the ire of the medical establishment of the time, which felt that pain in childbirth was divinely ordained. Her Majesty thought otherwise.

So it was with relative ease that Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert arrived in the royal family…perhaps the last time anything associated with his life would be easy. He was not an attractive child; and coming after handsome and sunny-natured Arthur, the Queen’s favorite, made his unattractiveness seem even worse. Fortunately, the two brothers loved each other dearly, and would be close all their lives.

But how long would that life be, in Leopold’s case? For not long after his second birthday, disturbing hints that his health was not good began to occur. Though it would be a few years before Leopold’s diagnosis would be confirmed, that year marked the appearance of symptoms of his hemophilia. Unfortunately, Leopold did not like to be coddled: despite his fragility he was an active, adventurous boy, which of course led to accidents. Something as small as a bruised knee could lay him up for weeks of agony and bed-rest, which would make anyone fractious and difficult to deal with. Moreover, he was intelligent (probably the cleverest of the royal sons) and liked to argue—which did not endear him to his mother.

Victoria was determined to keep her son more or less wrapped in cotton wool—a condition which Leopold gamely fought all his life, trying as hard as he could not to be an invalid despite his condition (which included, in addition to the hemophilia, occasional epileptic seizures). With his brothers’ help he fought to be allowed to attend Oxford, and though he wasn’t allowed to complete a full course of studies there, enjoyed a fair sample of university life and made many friends—including a certain Miss Alice Liddell, better known to the world as the heroine of Alice in Wonderland. He became a favorite uncle to his sister Alice’s children, and even visited his favorite sister Louise to tour North America while her husband served as Viceroy of Canada.

Leopold and his mother continued to rub each other the wrong way, but it didn’t keep Victoria from employing him as a private secretary, her interface with her ministers. Though the work eventually came to interest Leopold and he became especially good friends with Benjamin Disraeli, he wanted more from life than to be constantly at his mother’s beck and call, and again with the help of his brothers and sisters, convinced Victoria that he should be allowed to marry and live his own life apart from her. After a good deal of consideration (and, alas, some refusals from eligible princesses) he became engaged to Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont. They were married in 1882, just after Leopold’s 29th birthday, and though they were barely acquainted, quickly became devoted to each other. They had a daughter, Alice, in 1883, who incidentally was the longest lived of Victoria's’grandchildren, dying in 1981.

In March 1884, Leopold was visiting the south of France as he often did to escape England’s cold, damp winters. A slip on the tiled floor of the villa where he was staying led to a painfully bruised knee and more bed-rest…but this time, Leopold did not recover. He died in the night, whether due to an unknown deep hemorrhage, too much morphine, or an attack of epilepsy. His dear Helen gave birth to their second child, a son, four months later, who inherited his father’s title of Duke of Albany.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thank You Very Much, Mr. Robot

We tend to think of robots as the stuff of science fiction, or, today, technology fact. You’ll even find a few stomping around the television channels this month, in honor of Halloween. But nineteenth century young ladies and gentlemen were no strangers to robots. They called them automata. Some of our Nineteenteen family (such as a young lady who’s written two books about a clockwork prince—cough, cough) have done extensive research on automata, so please chime in!

In some cases, automata were created as children’s toys, something to amuse the little ones. Watchmakers and music box makers hoping to make a little extra income put them together. Powered by wind-up clockwork, clowns did simple flips over ladders, birds sang from gilded cages. The masters of these trinkets lived in Germany and France, and the French Revolution took its toll on their customers. So, they turned to making ever more elaborate devices for grownup boys and girls, the royalty and nouveau riche of Europe.

Some of the automata developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth century are amazing! Gentlemen in gilded robes play flutes; copper ducks move about, swim in water, quack, and pretend to eat. The mechanical creatures wrote poetry, drew pictures, and waltzed together. One marvel, a present to Marie Antoinette, was a court lady who played the struck dulcimer, and her tiny head and eyes moved as she worked.

But just as Hollywood tends to make robots appear more intelligent and capable than they truly are, so too some automaton makers decided to show off their skills. A German gentleman created The Turk in 1770 to impress the Empress Maria Therese of Austria. The automaton was the size and shape of a man, sitting behind a chess set on top of a cabinet. You could take a seat opposite him and play a game. His arm moved pieces to counter yours, and if you tried to cheat, he would either wipe your pieces off the board or move the piece you’d cheated with back to its original place.

He tended to win, even supposedly beating Benjamin Franklin and Napoleon as the various owners took him on tours all over Europe, England, and America. Unfortunately, his abilities were all the product of a chess master hiding inside the gears. A sliding seat allowed the fellow to escape notice as the cabinet doors were opened. The truth was never fully revealed until after the machine’s destruction by fire, and some today still question the revelation.

Eat your hearts out, Disney Imagineers.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fashion Forecast: 1823

What was the well-dressed young lady wearing in 1823?

This must be one of the sprightliest Ball Gowns of the decade, from the trim on the bodice and puff sleeves (it looks rather like ribbon embroidery) to the sheer overskirt edged with appliqué over a pink petticoat, finished with a sash in back. Just delightful! (Ackermann’s Repository, January):For a more sedate evening outing, she might wear this glowing red Evening Dress, with two rows of different trims around the hem and scalloped petal decoration on the sleeves and bodice. Notice also the satin-lined cloak…and if you look very carefully, you might be able to see that her elbow-length gloves are ruffle-edged! A very handsome outfit, from February’s Ackermann’s: I don’t know what’s more interesting in this print from the June edition of Ackermann’s Repository—the Carriage Dress, in blue with caped shoulders and what looks like giant frogging all down the front (and a confection of a gauze cap) or the view of the interior of a carriage! Note her quizzing glass at the ready, to examine passers-by: Here’s another sweet Ball Dress, also from June’s Ackermann’s. The sleeves are an interesting style, with long points of lace—that and the almost medieval-looking tiara and the princess-seamed bodice seem definite signs of the growing Gothic influence that was creeping in everywhere, from houses to furniture and clothing. And what a charming pose!This Ball Dress from July’s Ackermann’s is proof positive that young ladies of fashion required lady’s maids: the decoration on the sleeves, down the front, and around the hem is made up of tiny pockets of white satin, into EACH of which a small China rose and cluster of leaves has been placed. I wonder if her maid went with her to balls, to replenish any roses that fell out during the dance sets? Notice again also the ruffled edge on her gloves….and the rather, um, novel headdress which reminds me of olives on toothpicks—a style that seemed to be big this year, as it appears in more than one Ackermann’s print from 1823: This Morning Dress from the September issue of Ackermann’s looks almost like a more restrained version of the Carriage Dress above…but what an amazingly trimmed bonnet lies on the table! Note also her hair, with a coronet of braids in back--again, the Gothic influence--married with flirty ringlets in front: I love these prints of Head Dresses that appear on occasion in Ackermann’s…particularly the curious turban-like hat at upper left and the elegant, mannish riding hat with lace veil at lower left (Ackermann’s Repository, November): I just love this last print, for several reasons. The Full Dress is very handsome, in a vibrant cherry-red with gold appliqué on the bodice, sleeves, and hem (and by the way, notice that waistlines have crept slightly downward this year). I wish I knew whether the dots on the fabric are embroidered on or woven in, though. Her accessories—the lace shawl, fanciful turban, and peacock feather fan—are striking and handsome. But the most amusing part is that the artist seems to have had a momentary lapse of attention and has given his poor model two right feet…either that, or her knees are remarkably flexible! (Ackermann's Repository, December)What do you think of 1823’s fashions?