To be an Accomplished Lady

During the Regency era, a proper education was crucial to a middle or upper class young lady’s future. Since a woman’s only ‘proper’ aspiration was to marriage, her education focused on making her noticeable to potential husbands. Her accomplishments enabled her to display cultural distinction and set herself apart from women who were merely ‘notable’—those who could only manage a household but not cultivate elegant socializing.

The number of accomplishments a young lady acquired reflected the financial state of her family and the level of sacrifice they were willing to make to improve her chances of marrying well.
Men of the middle and upper classes sought a wife who would be a social asset to them (in addition to a good dowry of course.)  A “social asset” was never be an intellectual threat to her husband, but able to follow conversation, and perhaps more importantly keep a conversation away from unpleasantries and steered toward good humor for all. She could understand what was being said around her, but did not have ready opinions or advice to offer.

Certain subjects were considered necessary for becoming that desired social asset.  These included:

Reading

No young woman could be considered accomplished without the ability to read. Not only was it necessary for basic household management and correspondence, but it formed a foundation for intelligent conversation and for reading aloud for the entertainment of others.


Though young ladies were not encouraged to read heavy subjects like philosophy and theology, serious books were considered appropriate as they enabled interesting conversation. Similarly, scripture to enable her to recognize passages and sermons, such as Fordyce’s, aimed at young women, were appropriate reading for an accomplished lady.

Writing

In this context, writing did not refer to a creative endeavor, but rather being able to create a letter with beautiful penmanship, correctly spelled and with excellent grammar.  Young women would be schooled in the art of letter writing, with books dedicated to the topic and offering examples of good letters for her to emulate. She might even copy particularly pretty phrases out of these book for use in her own letters.

Arithmetic
No mistress could run a household or estate without a solid understanding of basic math.  She had to be able to keep accounts, balance a budget, calculate how much food and others supplies needed to be bought, track expenses and even forecast trends in the use of supplies.

Few women would have exposure to advanced algebra or other pure mathematics.  She had no practical use for them and would be dangerously close to challenging her husband’s expertise if she knew them.


Sciences and Social sciences
The natural sciences and social sciences were significant to young ladies only insofar as they facilitated the art of refined conversation.  General awareness and rote memorization in areas of history, politics, geography, literature and philosophy were sufficient for ladies of quality.

A cursory knowledge of botany was common.  Ladies who were more interested might also become learned in the use of plants as home remedies since the mistress of an estate was often the first one consulted in cases of injury and illness.

Languages
Despite the Napoleonic wars, a working knowledge of French was indispensable for a young lady.  Italian and German, for singing and understanding sung performances were also useful, but conversational fluency was not expected.  Greek and Latin, beyond a handful of commonly used phrases were the purview of men and not included in a young lady’s curriculum.

Music
 

Though not expected to be virtuosos, quality young ladies were expected to be proficient musicians.  Playing and singing were considered seductive to men since they displayed her body and bearing to potential suitors. Furthermore, once married, musical skills would be useful for long evening of entertaining both her husband and her guests.


Only a few instruments were considered appropriate for young ladies.  Anything which needed to be blown into was a risk for causing a reddened face and heaving bosom, neither of which would be attractive, much less alluring, so they were out of the question. The violin, which required raised arms, was also inappropriate.  The short bodied dresses of the era presented too many possibilities for embarrassing mishaps.  Moreover, the violin required a higher level of expertise to perform and the potential for embarrassing oneself with a mediocre was greater.

The harp was the most desirable instrument, but most had to make do with the piano which had replaced the harpsichord in popularity. Some young ladies also learned the guitar.

Not only did girls need to be able to play and sing, but they had to be able to dance. The dance floor was the place for young ladies to interact with their suitors, a place where they could escape the watchful eyes of their chaperones and engage in somewhat private conversation and even touch, which was otherwise entirely forbidden. Skilled and graceful partners were highly desirable. Girls who danced poorly could expect to spend a lot of time without a partner.

Artistic endeavors
Girls were encouraged to draw and paint and given training in it whenever possible.  Particularly talented girls might even exhibit their work at local or national levels, or teach other girls, all of which could be valuable if she failed to obtain a husband.

Filigree work, now known as quilling, and japanning, now called decoupage, were also encouraged as ways for ladies to display their artistic skills. Screens, small chests and trunks and various bric-a-brac were frequently the object of their efforts.

Needlework (plain and fancy)

 Needlework was one of the most practical subjects for a young lady. No matter what her future might hold, clothing, plain or elegant, would be a part of it. Clothing required mending and making.  Even ladies who could hire out their own sewing would often engage in making garments for charitable cases in their parish. Fancy work included embroidery, cross stitch, knotting, netting and more.


Needlework need not be a solitary endeavor. Often, women would bring along their work baskets during social calls and work as they visited. If someone arrived without something to work on, a hostess might offer something from her workbasket to her visitor.  Of course, the elegance of the project would reflect upon the seamstress and fancy projects were more desirable for working in company than plain.

Boarding Schools

Girl’s education was a bit of a controversial subject. Girls from wealthy and cultured homes were often educated by their mothers since they could hire enough help with the household work to have time to invest in their daughter’s education. They might enlist the aid of additional teaching masters for training in music, languages and dance. Alternatively, at the age of ten, parents might consider sending their daughter to a boarding school, sometimes for as little as a year or two to ‘finish’ their accomplishments. If the girls was in the way at home, she might be sent off for much longer. 

Boarding school could be a risky proposition.  Many girls’ school were underfinanced, badly managed that never quite managed to be respectable. Teachers frequently came from the ranks of  clever, but poor former students, impoverished gentlewomen, poor relatives of the clergy or retired servants of the upper classes.

Subjects taught at these schools included decidedly nonacademic subjects likesewing and fancy needlework, drawing, dancing, music. Polite literature, including mythology, writing, arithmetic, botany, history, geography, and French formed the balance of the more academic studies.  Rudiments of stagecraft and acting might also be taught as training in elocution and grace of movement.

Parents typically paid twenty to thirty guineas per year for these schools.  Some of these subjects, particularly those which required additional masters to be brought in, like dance, might incur additional fees. Washing and the privilege of being a ‘parlor boarder’ who enjoyed extra privileges like eating with the mistress of the school and using the parlor, also incurred additional fees.

Armed with these skills, a young woman would be considered ready to enter society and engage in the all-important task of finding a suitable husband.
 
 
 
  
References
Baird, Rosemary. Mistress of the House, Great Ladies and Grand Houses. Phoenix (2003)
Collins, Irene . Jane Austen, The Parson’s Daughter Hambledon (1998) 
Collins, Irene . Jane Austen & the Clergy The Hambledon Press (2002)
Davidoff, Leonore & Hall, Catherine. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780-1850 Routledge (2002)
The Female Preceptor. Essays On The Duties Of The Female Sex, Conducted By A Lady. 1813 and 1814
Fullerton, Susannah. Jane Austen & Crime JASA Press (2004)
Harvey, A. D. Sex in Georgian England Phoenix Press (1994)
Ives, Susanna  Educating Your Daughters – A Guide to English Boarding Schools in 1814, March, 10 2013.  
Jones, Hazel. Jane Austen & Marriage Continuum Books (2009)
Lane, Maggie. Jane Austen’s World Carlton Books (2005)
Laudermilk, Sharon & Hamlin, Teresa L. The Regency Companion Garland Publishing (1989)
Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels Harry N. Abrams (2002)
Martin, Joanna. Wives and Daughters Hambledon Continuum (2004
Selwyn, David. Jane Austen & Leisure The Hambledon Press (1999)
Sullivan, Margaret C. The Jane Austen Handbook Quirk Books (2007)
Watkins, Susan. Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style Rizzoli (1990)

 
~~~~~~~~~~~~

 Maria Grace is the author of Darcy’s Decision,  The Future Mrs. Darcy, All the Appearance of Goodness, and Twelfth Night at LongbournClick here to find her books on Amazon. For more on her writing and other Random Bits of Fascination, visit her website. You can also like her on Facebook, follow on Twitter or email her.

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A Touch of Quill and Ink: Regency Letter Writing

Line art representation of a Quill

Line art representation of a Quill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before telegraphs or telephones, email or texts, Twitter or Facebook, letter writing was the only way to maintain connections with distant family and friends. During the Regency era, writing letters, reading them, and sharing the news they contained was an essential part of social life, one largely slated for the women of the household.

 

Typically, women would write letters in the morning, before breakfast. They kept track of the letters they received and to whom they owed letters as carefully as other important social obligation like dinner invitations and entertaining. Though the information in a letter might be widely shared, one did not read another person’s letters. Select portions of letters might be read aloud to an audience. Sometimes the correspondent would indicate what could be read aloud by underlining passage. Otherwise, letters were considered very private and kept in locked boxes and drawers to preserve them from prying eyes.

 

Letter writing was considered an art form. Young ladies learned it as part of their necessary accomplishments. Governesses or boarding schools would teach handwriting, spelling and grammar, and the construction of suitable phrases to use in correspondence. Collections of letters by famous figures were often published. Similarly, books of sample letters could be found to assist a letter writer in conveying an appropriate sentiment. Phrases might even be copied directly from such books to insure a beautiful turn of phrase.

 

Not only could it be complicated to craft just the right words to convey a desired message, the very act of penning a letter was far more complex than sending off a quick text message today. ‘Dashing off a quick letter’ was hardly swift or simple process by today’s standards. A correspondent required a number of expensive supplies and specialized equipment to produce a proper letter.

Paper

The first step to crafting a letter was preparing the paper. Paper was an expensive commodity during the Regency, not like today when hundreds of note pads of various shapes and colors litter drawers, desks and countertops all over my house.

 10 16 cross writing 1020

In the 1700’s, paper makers began standardizing paper sizes and watermarking them according to size. Foolscap, one of the most common (and smallest) paper sizes, was typically used for printing and letter writing. Even so, at 16 1/2 inches by 13 1/4 inches it was often too large for a specific task and was often trimmed to size. A writer would not waste paper by leaving large spaces empty. To fit more on a single sheet of paper, letters wold be crosswritten, sometimes several times.  It took some practice to learn how to read such documents.

Paper, sold at stationers, could be bought by the ream (480 sheets) or the bale (ten reams. It was most commonly sold by the quire (1/20th a ream, 24 sheets). In some cases, particularly for specialty paper, like drawing paper, it was sold by the sheet.

 

Writing implements

Once the paper was ready, a pen (most likely) or pencil would have to be readied.

Quill pens

 

By far the most common pen was a quill pen from goose, swan or crow feather. Goose quill pens enjoyed the greatest popularity.

English: Three goose feathers in stages of bei...

English: Three goose feathers in stages of being made into writing quills. Top: unmodified. Middle: polished. Bottom: cut and shaped. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Not just any feather was suitable for a quill pen. The best pens quills were those from primary flight feathers taken from living birds. A healthy goose could produce about twenty pen-quills a year. Large flocks of geese were maintained for the sole purpose of producing pen-quills. Feather from the left wing were favored because the curve made them easier for right-handed writers to use. Left handers preferred pens made from the right wing. Goose feathers were used primarily for writing pens. Swan pens produced very broad lines. In contrast, crow feathers produced very fine, flexible pen nibs, favored by artists and ladies who wrote with small, delicate lines.

 Freshly plucked quills had to undergo extensive treatment before they could be turned into pens. The process, called quill-dutching started with plunging the quills into hot sand to remove the inner and outer membranes. The heat treatment also hardened the barrel of the quill and made it transparent. A treatment to nitric acid might be used to improve the appearance, but some thought it made the quills to brittle, so not all quills underwent this procedure. As a final step, quill dressers would trim away a section of the feathery ‘barb’ of the feather to make the pens easier to handle and take up less space in shipping. Bundles of twenty five or fifty quills were baled together and shipped to stationers’ shops.

 The pens would not be ready for sale until they had the attention of a pen-cutters. These professionals used a small, sharp pen knife and cut the quill down to a usable writing nib. A well cut pen, if treated correctly, could be used for quite some time before needing to be recut, something typical done by the pen’s owner. A pen could be re-cut several times before it needed replacement.

 

Ink

 

ink jar and quills

ink jar and quills (Photo credit: studentofrhythm)

Pens were of little use without ink. That should be fairly easy, right, a little lampblack or charcoal and some water and we’re ready to go. No, not at all. Ink are very complex substances to create.

 The most common ink was iron gall ink, made from oak galls, iron sulfate and acacia gum. The galls were pulverized, soaked in rain water for seven to ten days, boiled half volume, then the iron sulfate and acacia gum were added. Sugar, salt or brandy might also be added to the infusion. The fluid was stored in a tightly stoppered stoneware jug and kept warm to ferment for two weeks. Finally it was strained and ready for use.

 When first applied to paper, iron gall ink would be light grey, but after exposure to air, it darkened to a very permanent, dark purplish black. Although a useful, all purpose ink, if the iron sulfate content was too high, it would disintegrate the paper over time.

Ink corrosion:iron gall ink has oxidized the c...

Ink corrosion:iron gall ink has oxidized the cellulose, causing the paper to disintegrate. The manuscript is exhibited behind glass in a church in Evora, Portugal (next to the Capela dos Ossos). I took the photo through the glass. The manuscript is exhibited there without any comment, as just a curious old object. The light is indirect daylight. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Red, blue, yellow and green writing inks were also available, each as complex to make as iron gall ink. Stationer’s made these inks available along with quills and paper. Some stationers would formulate their own ink, generating a brand loyalty in their customers.

 For those seeking less expensive sources of ink, traveling ink sellers made their way through the streets, crying their wares along with sellers of fish, scissor grinders, and other tradesmen. They carried their supply in small barrels and dispensed it directly into the bottles supplied by their customers.

Pen knife 

 Pen knives, some extremely ornate, some plain, and some with folding blades, were another necessary implement for letter writing. Ordinary models might be acquired at the stationer’s while highly decorated models might come from a jeweler.

 The knives were necessary to recut quill pens when the tips degraded from use. They were also indispensable for maintaining the other Regency era writing implement, the pencil. They were not, though, used in trimming paper.

Pencil

 Though we take it for granted today, the pencil was the first truly portable, use anywhere, on almost anything writing instrument. Its introduction freed artists and writers from the constraints of quills and ink.

 At first, solid sticks of graphite were wrapped in string or paper to make them cleaner to use. By the 17th century, various wood and metal holders, like chalk holders used today, had been developed. The exact date that graphite was encased in wood to create a cased pencil is not known. At first, these were all handmade and very expensive, but as machines were developed to do the job, they became affordable to common folk.

Plant sap, known as gum elastic could be used to rub out marks made by pencils. It was so effective it became known as a ‘rubber’. These ‘rubber’ cubes could be purchased at a stationer’s right alongside pencils. They were not actually attached to pencils like they are today until the end of the 19th century.

Sealing wax and wafers

Since envelopes did not come into general use until 1840, Regency era writers had to resort to other means to keep their correspondence sealed and private. The least expensive alternative was to wafers of flour and gum. Letters were folded to form an envelope and a person would lick the wafer to stick the paper shut.

 Those who could afford more elegant means used sealing wax which provided a tamper evident seal for their documents. Despite its name, sealing wax contained little or no actual wax.

Museum - FreimaurersiegelArt and science were required for the production of a high-quality sealing wax. Each maker tended to have their own special formula, and some included wax, while others did not. A formula from The Encyclopedia Britannica (1773), included beeswax, rosin, olive-oil and Venice turpentine. Other formulas included shellac, sandarac, rosin, pitch or mastic. “Spanish wax” contained shellac, mastic, turpentine, chalk or gypsum, color and fragrance.

 In general, people preferred red sealing wax and it was the most commonly used wax. Black sealing wax marked letters bearing the news of death and during periods of mourning. Green was the only other color available during the Regency era, used by the office of the Exchequer and the courts, of both the government and the Church.

 Sticks of sealing wax were about seven to eight inches in length and did not have a wick. They would be held over a candle to soften, then pressed down on the paper to be sealed. A seal or signet pressed into the soft wax made any tampering with the seal evident.

 With all the specialized tools and supplies for letter writing it is little wonder that elaborate writing desks and desk sets to store everything were common in the era. Clearly our concept of dashing off a quick text in seconds on a cell phone bears little resemblance to the production that penning even a brief letter would have been during the Regency era.

Chelsea Porcelain Factory - Inkstand - Walters 48842 (2)

References

 All About It:or: the History and Mystery of Common Things. New York: W. Townsend &Company, 1859.

Collins, Irene. Jane Austen, The Parson’s Daughter. Hambledon (1998)

Copeland, Edward, McMaster, Juliet, The Cambridge Companion to Jane Austen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Kathryn Kane.The Regency Redingote. Sealing … Wax? 16 November 2012

Kathryn Kane.The Regency Redingote.The Precious Regency Pencil 23 October 2009

Kathryn Kane.The Regency Redingote.Ink — Regency Writing Fluid 18 September 2009

Kathryn Kane.The Regency Redingote.The Quill — The Regency Pen 11 September 2009

Kathryn Kane.The Regency Redingote.A Pen Knife was not always a “Pocket-Knife”. 8 January 2010

Kathryn Kane.The Regency Redingote.Oh, foolish Foolscap! 31 October 2008

Lane, Maggie. Jane Austen’s World. Carlton Books (2005)

Le Faye, Deirdre. Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels. Harry N. Abrams (2002)

Martin, Joanna . Wives and Daughters. Hambledon Continuum (2004)

Selwyn, David .  Jane Austen & Leisure The Hambledon Press (1999)

Todd, Janet M., Jane Austen in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Watkins, Susan.  Jane Austen’s Town and Country Style Rizzoli (1990)

Willich, Anthony Florian Madinger, MD. and Cooper, Thomas, MD., The domestic encyclopedia: or A dictionary of facts and useful knowledge chiefly applicable to rural & domestic economy. With an appendix, containing additions in domestic medicine, and the veterinary and culinary arts. The whole illustrated with numerous engravings and cuts. In Three Volumes. Volume II.Phildadelphia: Abraham Small, 1821

 

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A Little Colorful Language: Cacklers, Mowers, Woolbirds and Swing tails

Francis Grose, author of Dictionary of he Vulgar Tongue

 

We have a house full of cats and a dog who thinks she a momma-cat.  They all have their own proper names. But they’ve also got multiple nicknames each. I may just incorporate a few of these regency Era slang terms as new nicknames for them!

  

Cat

  • Grimalkin. 

  • Tibby.

Ram Cat. A he cat.

Gib Cat. A northern name for a he-cat, there commonly called Gilbert.

Cherry-coloured Cat. A black cat, their being black cherries as well as red.

Smellers. A cat’s whiskers.

 

Dog

  • Buffer

  • Jugelow

Gnarler. A little dog that, by his barking, alarms the family when any person is breaking into the house.

Rum Bugher. A valuable dog. 

 

Horse

  • Grogham

  • Keffel

  • Prad

  • Prancer

Rip. A miserable rip; a poor, lean, worn-out horse.

Roarer. A broken-winded horse.

Rum Prancer. A fine horse. 

Star Gazer. A horse who throws up his head

Queer Prancer. A bad worn-out foundered horse

Scarlet Horse. A high red, hired or hack horse: a pun on the word hired.

Galloper. A blood-horse, a hunter.

Gibbe. A horse that shrinks from the collar, and will not draw.

 

Chickens ect

  • Cackler. 

  • Margery Prater.

  • Chick-a-biddy. 

Sucking Chicken. A young chicken

Cackler’s Ken. A hen-roost. 

Cackling Cheats. Fowls. 

Cackling Farts. Eggs. 

Cobble Colter. A turkey.

Gobbbler. A turkey cock.

Quacking Cheat. A duck.

Tib Of The Buttery. A goose.

 

Cow

  • Dunnock. 

  • Mower. 

Cow’s Spouse. A bull.

Churk. The udder.

 

Calf

  • Blater

  • Cow’s Baby

  • Essex Lion

  • Quaking Cheat

  • Rumford lion

 

Sheep

  • Bleating Cheat

  • Woolbird

  • Havil

Bleating Rig. Sheep-stealing. 

 

Hogs

  • Grunter. 

  • Swing Tail. 

 

Lice

  • Active Citizen 

  • Creepers 

  • Scotch Greys  

 

Other Animals

Dickey. An ass.

Roll your dickey; drive your ass.

Kingswood Lion. An ass. Kingswood is famous for the great number of asses kept by the colliers who inhabit that place.

Long One. A hare: a term used by poachers.

Pantek. A hart; that animal is, in the Psalms, said to pant after the fresh water brooks

Sea Lawyer. A shark.

  
 

Quoted from:   Grose, Captain (Francis). (2004) Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811 ed. Ikon Classics

 

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Writing superheroes: Kim Rendfeld

 A superhero disguised as a copy editor and keeping the grammar police at bay!  Read on and find out more…

 

superhero copy

 If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing what would be the most important scenes?

Thanks for this opportunity, Grace. I started creating stories when I was in high school and would sketch cartoonish scenes kind of like a comic book, so this question is apropos. I was and still am a fan of The Lord of the Rings series, and my earliest efforts were knock-off fantasies. I left them behind when I went to college and don’t know where those efforts reside now.

 

All super heroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.

 My alter ego protects my employer from the grammar police. That’s right. I’m a copy editor in a university marketing and public relations office. I doubt my colleagues would call me mild-mannered when my notes in the margins say “Death to all caps!” and “Only one exclamation point!”

 I live in Indiana with my husband and spoiled cats. My husband and I enjoy travelling, especially to visit our daughter and three adorable granddaughters. KimBookPhotoSmaller

 

Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

My husband cooks for me and does a lot of things to give me more time to write. I also owe a lot to my critique partners in Lafayette, Indiana, whose insights brought The Cross and the Dragon and The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar closer to publication. Many thanks also to my friend and fellow novelist Jessica Knauss.

 

Where do you get your superpowers from?

 Of course, there is the original inspiration, the story that latches onto you and just won’t leave you alone until you place yourself in front of a computer and write – never mind you know very little about the Middle Ages. Sustaining those powers enough to produce a novel that is publishable, however, takes a willingness to do the research, to revise and revise and revise yet again, and to be open to criticism.

 

 Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

 My lair is a bedroom in my house converted into my study. To the untrained eye, it is quite ordinary: laptop with docking station, bookshelves, a comfy couch, and many to-do lists on scrap paper. Sometimes a spoiled cat will stop by wanting attention. Or food. Or is meowing at me to get off the Facebook and come to bed.

 

 What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you ensure they are used only for good?

 I read a lot. My research is mostly reading primary sources in translation and academic papers. (Historical novelist’s disclaimer: Any goofs are mine and no one else’s.) I often consult Google maps and Google Earth to estimate how long a trip took or prompt my imagination for what a city might have looked like 1,200 years ago. I also enjoy other authors’ novels. And a newly formed critique group will help me stay on track.

 As I write I sometimes must remind myself that I am telling the story from my medieval characters’ points of view, not that of a tolerant 21st century American, and I must let them do things I don’t like and believe in ideas I disagree with. In other words, I must trust the reader to understand.

 

 Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?

 Does that mean khakis and a comfy top don’t count? It’s hard to say what costume I’d choose, but nothing skin tight or midriff baring. And definitely no high heels.

 

 What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced with in your writing?

Lack of time and distractions. How’d it get so late? And where did all this laundry come from? And what do these cats want now?

 

What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project and how did you vanquish it?

 In this line of work, writers face rejection multiple times as we try to get the attention of an editor or agent – so many in fact, we have the term “good rejections,” although I prefer to call them useful. It is a frustrating process and can lead to self-doubt and asking oneself, “Am I really one of those people who only thinks she’s a good writer like the ones I encountered in my newspaper days?” The encouragement from my friends, critique partners, and family helped me persist, along with a dose of optimism present in all writers.

 

 What important lessons have you learned along the way?

 If you get a useful rejection – one that speicifies why the book did not work for an editor – take what they say seriously. I can recall two such letters, and addressing the editors’ concerns made the novel better, even though neither of them took on the book later. I will admit that lopping off two chapters in my first book to introduce tension felt a bit like murdering the proverbial babies, but the story was better for it.

 “Never give up” also comes to mind, but I would add “if you’re heading nowhere, take a different direction.” I spent several years trying to get published with what is now the Big 5 before contacting my current publisher, Fireship Press. I am glad I went this route. Small presses like Fireship are willing to take a chance on a story that has a different premise such as a pagan, peasant mother protecting her children, and the author has more control over the finished book.

 

 What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?

 One of the most pleasant surprises came while I was promoting my first book. During interviews, I mentioned that I was working on The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar and one day I got a note from Fireship saying that they were interested in the manuscript. Thrilled does not begin to describe how I felt.

 

 If you did this again what would you do differently and what would you not change?

 I would tell my past self to quit trying to prove how intelligent she is, stop trying to jam in so much backstory at the beginning, and above all, trust the reader. What I would not change is having a critique group review the story. This group of wonderful writers told me things I did not want to hear but absolutely needed to hear, and that got the manuscript closer to publication.perf6.000x9.000.indd

 

 What is the best (writing or otherwise) advice you have ever gotten and why.

 During the first Historical Novel Society conference in North America, the guest of honor told the crowd that the First Commandment of Writing is “Thou shalt not bore the reader.”

 If you are a storehouse of historical knowledge and have perfect grammar and spelling, it won’t matter if you cannot tell an interesting story in an interesting way.

 

Tell us about you new book and why we need to drop everything and get it now.

 In The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar, Leova must grapple with why her gods let a holy monument burn and how to protect her children when she’s lost everything—her husband, her home, her faith, even her freedom.

 This novel gives readers a little told side of the early Middle Ages. When source documents depict pagans as brutes, treat war captives like war booty, and rarely mention peasants at all, historical fiction such as The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar fills a gap. In fact, it might be the only way to see historical events, including Charlemagne’s destruction of a pillar sacred to the Continental Saxon peoples, through the eyes of pagans and peasants.

 Although separated from Leova by more than 1,200 years, modern readers will identify with her as she sacrifices her own honor for the sake of her children. They will grieve with her at the pyres of her loved ones, understand her desire for justice against the relatives who betrayed her, and agonize with her as she tries to determine who is friend and who is foe.

 

 What’s in store for you in the future? Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?

 I am working on my third novel, which I’m now calling Fastrada. The title character was Charlemagne’s influential fourth wife, whose supposed cruelty was the cause of a rebellion by Pepin, Charles’s son by his first wife. Never mind that Pepin probably felt cheated that he was not going to inherit a kingdom like his three younger brothers by wife No. 3. Never mind the resentment of the divorced first wife and her aristocratic family.

 So who was Fastrada, really? Was she so awful that she inspired a rebellion, or was she a strong-willed woman used as an excuse by a son angry to be cut out of the succession?

 

 

    You can find Kim at:

Amazon~Facebook~Blog~Website~Twitter@kimrendfeld~GoodReads

 

 

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History A'la Carte 8-21-14

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Welcome to History a’la Carte’ where I get to share a video and my favorite history links of the week with you.

  This week the demise of powdered wigs, eating peaches, skirt supporters and masculinity and disabilities in WW1; a few of your options in this weeks’ serving of History a’la carte’.  

 

 

*~*~*~*~*~*Regency*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~* General history*~*~*~*~*~*

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*~*~*~*~*~*1000 and earlier*~*~*~*~*~*

Want more History a’la Carte? Click here

History A'la Carte 8-14-14

NewIconHaC2small copy

Welcome to History a’la Carte’ where I get to share a video and my favorite history links of the week with you.

  This week lots about trousers and feminists, the birth of football and some hot mustard to top it all off;  a few of your options in this weeks’ serving of History a’la carte’.  

 

 

*~*~*~*~*~*Regency*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~* General history*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1900*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1800*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1700*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1600*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1500*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*General Medieval*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1400*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1300*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1200*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1100*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1000 and earlier*~*~*~*~*~*

Want more History a’la Carte? Click here

Summer Banquet Blog Hop

Summer banquet hop copy   The Giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Amy B., Lisa and Mary Ellen, winners of the give away.

Welcome to Random Bits of Fascination, my home on the internet.

Please take a moment to take a look around. There’s Regency Life and History a’la Carte for the history buffs, Promotional news of new books, blog events and even free kindle books on Fridays, interviews to help you discover a new favorite author, blogger or website, and a new original story, It Only Stand to Reason with new chapters posting Wednesdays.

mag collage copyFor this giveaway hop, I’m offering three prizes:  two sets of exclusive Jane Austen items–sets of two notecards, a magnet and book plate with Austen quotes, and one e-book, winner’s choice from any of my three books, Darcy’s Decision, The Future Mrs. Darcy and All the Appearance of Goodness.

Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will be entered in the giveaway.  New follows on the blog, likes on FB and twitter follows will earn extra entries and new newsletter subscriptions will earn a double entry. I have comment moderation turned on, so don’t panic if your comment doesn’t appear right away.

Thanks for coming by and I hope to see you again soon!

Dinner with Mrs. Rundel

 Oftentimes writers write what they know and I suppose I am no exception. With three teen-aged sons, food can be a big deal. Lots of entertaining and important things happen around the dinner table. So it isn’t surprising that in nearly everything I write I feature at least one important mealtime scene.

All this is well and good, except that food, like everything else has changed a great deal in the last two hundred or so years. What constitutes a satisfying meal today looks entirely different from the expectations of the 1800’s. Can anyone say ‘research’?

Enter my newest, or should I say oldest, favorite cookbook: New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded up Principles of Economy; and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, by Mrs. Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell (1745-December 16, 1828). ‘Mrs. Rundell’ as it was often referred to, was the most popular English cookbook of the first half of the nineteenth century. The first edition came out in 1806, several later editions were published with additions by other contributors.

At the time, few books on domestic management were available. Mrs. Rundel collected tips and recipes for her three daughters out of her thirty years’ experience running her household in Bath. Initially she planned to have four copies made, but Jane Austen’s publisher got involved and the rest is, as they say, history.

For anyone interested, replica editions have been published and the original itself is available free on line: here or here.

With Mrs. Rundel’s assistance I learned a great deal about both food and domestic concerns in the early 1800’s. Who would have guessed stale white bread was good for cleaning wallpaper?

Just as cleaning methods changed, what foods are served for a meal have changed as well.  A whole host of unfamiliar dishes and meal plans awaited me in the pages so generously penned by Mrs. Rundel.

Her final chapter contains dinner plans for family dinners. For us, dinner consists of three or four dishes, she starts at five and works her way up very quickly, all the way up to two courses of eleven dishes plus removes. (Removes were dishes that were replaced with something else part way through the course). I have to admit, the thought makes my head swim. For a big holiday dinner with all the relatives coming, I might make eight dishes, not including dessert, which I try to have someone else bring. Twenty two to twenty four dishes and you might just need to lock me up in a room with very soft walls!

The contents of Mrs. Rundel’s menus were also very heavy on the meat dishes. For example, a five course meal might include: Half Calf’s Head, grilled, (Remove and replace with Pie or Pudding.)Tongue and Brains, Carrot Soup, Greens round bacon, Saddle of Mutton, and Potatoes and Salad, at side table.  That’s three mean dishes out of the five. Atkins friendly I suppose.

Her most elaborate meal plan, ‘eleven and eleven, and two removes’ just made my head spin. It is hard to imagine how much kitchen staff it would take to accomplish this meal, especially when you take into consideration the lack of refrigeration and other modern conveniences. Notice the mix of dishes too. I would never serve a raspberry tart and lobster and duck all on the same course.

FIRST COURSE
Salmon, (Remove and replace with Brisket of Beef stewed, and high Sauce,) Cauliflower, Fry, Shrimp Sauce, Pigeon Pie, Stewed Cucumbers, Giblet Soup, Stewed Peas and Lettuce, Potatoes, Cutlets Maintenon, Anchovy Sauce, Veal Olives braised, Soles fried. (Remove and replace with Quarter Lamb roasted.)

 

SECOND COURSE

Young Peas, Coffee Cream, Ramakins, Lobster, Raspberry Tart, Trifle,  Orange Tourt, Grated Beef, Omlet, Roughed Jelly, Ducks.

Mrs. Rundel kindly includes recipes for many, though not all of these dishes. (I cannot for the life of me figure out what ‘Fry’ is.) A few of them are rather interesting.

I am not sure how many of these are going to show up on my dinner table. But I may just try the Stewed Cucumbers one of these days.

Be sure to leave your comment  and visit the rest of our hop participants!

Everyone who leaves a comment on this post will be entered in the giveaway. New follows on the blog, likes on FB and twitter follows will earn extra entries and new newsletter subscriptions will earn a double entry. I have comment moderation turned on, so don’t panic if your comment doesn’t appear right away.

Hop Participants

  1. Random Bits of Fascination (Maria Grace)
  2. Pillings Writing Corner (David Pilling)
  3. Anna Belfrage
  4. Debra Brown
  5. Lauren Gilbert
  6. Gillian Bagwell
  7. Julie K. Rose
  8. Donna Russo Morin
  9. Regina Jeffers
  10. Shauna Roberts
  11. Tinney S. Heath
  12. Grace Elliot
  13. Diane Scott Lewis
  14. Ginger Myrick
  15. Helen Hollick
  16. Heather Domin
  17. Margaret Skea
  18. Yves Fey
  19. JL Oakley
  20. Shannon Winslow
  21. Evangeline Holland
  22. Cora Lee
  23. Laura Purcell
  24. P. O. Dixon
  25. E.M. Powell
  26. Sharon Lathan
  27. Sally Smith O’Rourke
  28. Allison Bruning
  29. Violet Bedford
  30. Sue Millard
  31. Kim Rendfeld

Get to know Abigail Reynolds

Join me this morning in getting to know fellow Austen Author, Abigail Renyolds.

 

Writing is such a challenging endeavor. What got you started on it and what keeps you doing it? 

*  I started writing out of desperation in 2001 when I ran out of JAFF to read, which wasn’t that hard to do in 2001.

I didn’t intend to keep going after that one story, but the feedback was so positive I kept going.  As for what keeps me doing it, there are lots of reasons, the primary one being that it’s addictive.  I also love the interaction with readers.  There are days, though, when I really want to throw in the towel!

What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Did you still have them? 

*                  My very earliest efforts were when I was 13 years old, and while I still have them, nobody but me will ever read them!  Actually, when I looked back at them recently, I discovered they aren’t as bad as I thought.

What made you choose to write in the genres/time periods you write in? 

*   I write Regency JAFF because that’s what I liked best when I started reading it.  My modern novels were more inspired by the setting on Cape Cod, which is a place I love dearly.

What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?  

*The best is when the words are flowing and the characters start heading off in unexpected directions.  It’s like something new has come to life.  The worst?  Finding the motivation to keep my butt in the chair writing.  Ignoring bad reviews is a close second.  ;)

If you write in multiple genres how do you make the switch from one to the other? Do you find it a welcome change, crazy-making or a little of both? 

*        It’s a welcome change when I switch from Regency to modern and back.  There’s much less research and guesswork with writing a modern, but the language is, oddly enough, much more difficult for me.  Modern writing needs to be very tight and concise, while Regency language is very forgiving of excessive verbiage.

Historical fiction takes a lot of research. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way? 

*  I’m not sure I can pick any one thing.  Learning about premarital sex in the Regency was a shocker.  Another big one was when I researched beverages of the time, and discovered that when all the ladies were throwing back those glasses of ratafia, they were getting a serious alcohol hit.  It made me rethink a lot about the role of women in Regency society.

What do you to keep all your research information and plot ideas organized and accessible?

*  Anything I can!  I keep a list of story ideas on my computer, and I often jot notes about the current story at the beginning or end of the story itself.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten? 

*  Write quickly, edit later.  Otherwise my internal editor slows the writing pace to a crawl and the story loses life.

Tell us a little about your current project.

*   I’m working on a Pride & Prejudice variation with a few characters from other Austen books appearing in supporting roles.  It’s set at a country house party a month after Hunsford.  Darcy is still angry with Elizabeth, and he finds out that Henry Crawford has a substantial bet on whether he’ll be able to seduce Elizabeth by the end of the party.

What’s up next for you?

*  Another book in my modern Woods Hole series, this one starring Cassie’s younger brother Ryan, and I have plots for several other Regency set Pride & Prejudice variations cooking in my head.  I have too many ideas and not enough time to write them all!

You can find Abigail on line:

Facebook

Twitter:  @abigailreynolds

Google+

You can get Mr. Darcy’s Refuge on

Amazon    B&N  Kobo

Get to know Linda Wells

 Happy Mother’s Day! Please help me welcome super mom, Linda Wells this morning.

Writing is such a challenging endeavor. What got you started on it and what keeps you doing it?

I worked in the environmental engineering industry until I had a son who was born with severe developmental delays, and I needed to stay home and care for him. I found different ways to find some respite, but had not really read anything besides children’s books for twelve years.  I read the first Harry Potter book when I bought it for my nephew, and rediscovered the pleasure of escaping into a story.  When I saw the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film, I fell in love with Matthew Macfadyen’s portrayal of Darcy, and returned to reading Jane Austen.  Eventually I discovered JAFF and became a voracious reader.  I began imagining my own story, and could hear and see the characters talking to me at the oddest moments.  My husband didn’t have a clue what I was doing scribbling in notebooks, and I couldn’t really explain it to him, but it felt so good to be focused on something like that.  When I only had twenty-five chapters written, I took the plunge and started posting.  I had discovered the challenging and creative outlet that I was searching for.

If you were to write the ‘origin’s episode’ of your writing career, what would be the most important scenes?

Purchasing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for my nephew, catching by chance the end of Pride and Prejudice on HBO one day (and becoming obsessed), discovering JAFF, and finally, watching my hand shaking so badly when I posted my first chapter of Chance Encounters.

Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?

My readers, the people who leave comments as I post my WIP stories.   There is never an outline, and the readers tell me where I’m doing well, where I’m screwing up, and ask endless questions that force me to think in directions I hadn’t considered.  The most important readers are the first ones, my betas who often tell me no.

Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?

It’s my living room.  Imagine a big loveseat with reference books stuffed in the cushions, maps hanging over the back, Crabtree and Evelyn hand cream at the ready, and a photo of Darcy nearby.  For inspirational purposes, of course.

What did you do with your earliest efforts? Did anyone read them? Did you still have them?

My first effort was Chance Encounters, and I published it because I thought it would be neat to have a copy for my own.  There was a little box on the setup page that asked if I wanted to put it up for sale, and I checked it just for the heck of it.  The last thing creative thing I wrote before that was my senior paper at Penn State for Geography 404.  I got an A+ !!

What made you choose to write in the genres/time periods you write in?

Pride and Predjudice is a Regency story!  Moving it into modern times is a challenge.

What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?

I love the brainstorming with my betas, and I love becoming lost in the research.  I dislike getting stuck and staring at a page, willing something to happen.  And I have a terrible time remembering character names!

Historical fiction takes a lot of research. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?

I try to include as many little fun facts as I can in the stories.  The one that made me say, “ewww” was learning about the chamber pot kept in a sideboard for the men to use after the ladies depart the dining room.

What do you do to keep all your research information and plot ideas organized and accessible?

I have lots of bookmarks in a file specific to each story on my computer, and make use of the notepad feature on my ipad when I’m not at home, for writing down dialogue that pops into my head.  Oh, and I have a very battered notebook that is always next to me.  I really do need to get a new one.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

Write what you know, and let the characters lead the way.

What have been your most memorable experiences along the way?

Oh, I remember feeling absolute terror when I posted my very first time, and the amazing, wonderful reception the chapter received from the readers.  I remember being giddy and stunned when I sold 100 books (before kindle!) in one month.  And the best experience has been making so many friends, some who have become part of my daily life, all from that connection to Jane Austen.

Tell us a little about your current project.

I am posting my WIP Keeping Calm at AHA and AU.  It is a Pride and Prejudice variation set at the time of WWII in England.  Darcy and Elizabeth meet when she and the Gardiners come to visit Pemberley about seven weeks before the war begins.    It is such a rich time to explore.  The war is the backdrop, but I’m very interested in the home front and the loss of so many of the great estates during the years following the two world wars.

What’s up next for you?

After I finish Keeping Calm, I plan to return to Imperative and continue that story.  I’ve been asked to continue Memory, too, and there is a story I have begun called Perception.  I would love to try something that has nothing to do with JAFF!

You can find Linda online at:

My Amazon Author page:  amazon.com/author/lindawells

My Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/lindawellsbooknut

Twitter:  LindaWells  @booknut893

About Me:  http://about.me/LindaWells.

History A'la Carte 5-9-13

The fourth installment of the BBC series The Super Sizers go Regency, a light hearted look at Regency dining to enjoy with your  History a’la Carte. And please tell me what you think of the new format, too!

Regency Etiquette Series

  *~*~*~*~*~*Regency*~*~*~*~*~*

 *~*~*~*~*~* General history*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1800*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1700*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1600*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1500*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1400*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1200*~*~*~*~*~*

*~*~*~*~*~*1000 and earlier*~*~*~*~*~*