Thursday, March 31, 2011

Writing Bloopers

When rewriting a novel, you tend to come by some things that weren't exactly written well the first time. I have also run across some pretty funny things that were chosen by my spell check to replace what I wrote. I will post some of my bloopers and spell check funnies here, and I invite authors of (any genre) writings to confess on the comments section of this post. Please spare us if it got too outta line. Waiting to hear!

I wrote: "Over the fireplace, hanging neatly next to a portrait of the reigning Queen Victoria, on each side were the uncrowned late Queen Caroline and the nation's beloved Princess Charlotte, her rule defeated forever by her death at the birth of her stillborn son." On the third or fourth rewriting, it finally struck me that um, we had a couple of dead bodies in regal garb hanging over the fireplace in the Duchess' Drawing Room!

I had to tangle with my spell checker pretty seriously once: I wrote, "They went to haul it up the hill...." and spell check wanted me to change it to "They went to haul it UPS." Lol!!!

I'm sure there were more bloopers to share; I will post them if I can drag them from their hiding places to confess. :)

I do moderate comments and reserve the right to refuse any that I choose not to publish without explanation. If your comment is not published within 24 hours, it may not be accepted.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Eating in London Before Refrigeration

As in every aspect of Victorian life, there were books to tell you how to go about eating. W.B. Tegetmeier's "Manual of Domestic Economy", published in 1858 suggested that the very poor spend nearly all their money on bread, but a little meat should be eaten every day and it should not be saved for Saturday night and Sunday. The cheapest meats from the butcher were cow's cheek, sheep's head, liver, ox heart and sometimes pig's head. A labourer should eat nearly 2 lb. of bread a day (nearly, you hear?) and a boy above ten years of age, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb. Every member of the family should have 2 pints of new milk daily. With plenty of bread and milk, there would probably be health and strength and no doctor's bills. If you were very poor, you were not to spend money on tea, but keep it for milk. "Tea is a very dear food." If you are less poor, drink tea only on Sundays and special occasions. He deplored waste; vegetable peelings, gizzards, heads and feet of fowls were to be used in soups. (The smell of fish was common in the houses of the poor, but Tegenmeier didn't mention it.) I don't know how these poor people could afford his book, but I am sure they were required to do so.

Wives of working men shopped at street markets. If they had been domestic servants, they would know how to cook. Otherwise, "something easily prepared" was preferred. I'm sure none of their mothers taught them anything?

Without refrigeration, it was necessary to buy fresh foods often. Even staples such as rice and flour could, in time, fill up with vermin. A middle class woman might be able to afford ice for some occasions. The rich often had ice houses, where ice from the rivers was cut in the winter and stored, surrounded by straw for insulation. That would be nice in country homes, but London ice must have come from the Thames, which was filled with sewage. It took a while before it was realized that cholera came from sewage cubes, as it had been blamed at one point in time on cucumbers.

Butcher's boys called at homes in the early morning, at the servant's door certainly, to take orders. They returned a little later with the meat in baskets or on trays atop their heads, and I doubt they had food handler's cards. Jewish butchers were recommended by Eliza Acton because of the hygiene laws enforced by the Sanhedrin. Sounds good to me! You could get fish from a "wet and dry fishmonger". Wet fish was the fresh; dry was the smoked, and kept longer. Some fish arrived live, but "skinning eels while alive is as unnecessary as it is cruel." A cod's head was good eating, but you were not required to eat the eyes.

Fruit and vegetables were, of course, seasonal. The Army had access to tinned food since 1820, but the public did not often purchase food this way because of the difficulty of getting at the food. The can opener was not invented until 1858. Soldiers, of course, had knives and weren't afraid to use them.

Food was often adulterated with preservatives, some of which were eminently dangerous. Bread often contained chalk to whiten it, potato flour since it was cheaper and alum so inferior grain could be used. Bakers often kneaded the bread with their feet. Copper cookware often made people ill. It was safer if coated with tin, but that wore off with the enthusiastic scrubbing needed and pans had to be recoated regularly.

Mrs. Beeton's ubiquitous etiquette book set out Bills of Fare for each month, including table settings. If you wanted something from down the table, you were either to ask someone else to dish it up for you or do without. Unfortunately, Mrs. Beeton included the cost for each meal in her book, which the Lady of the house had to know backward and forward, making it hard for the cook to scrape off excess money for herself.

Eliza Acton published a cookbook which promised plain English recipes, but from there she branched off into a poor Swiss fondue and curries, as well as a West Indies "tomata". Her "Mayor's Soup" recipe said to stew two sets of moderately sized pig's ears and feet, from which the hair had been carefully removed,for five hours. Another recipe for the same soup uses "half a fine calf's head with the skin on". You may want to consult my source, the fine Victorian London by Liza Picard, for further recipes. Many thanks to Liza Picard!

The green text links following will allow you to have your very own copies of Mrs. Beeton's Books at a rather steep price.

Mrs. Beeton"s Household Management. A Complete Cookery Book with Sections on Household Work, Servants" Duties, Labour-Saving, Laundry Work, Etiquette, Marketing, Carving and Trussing, The Art of "Using-Up" [and much more]. OUTSTANDING COPY

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My New Victorian Book
The Companion of Lady Holmeshire

I am very excited to have a publishing contract with World Castle Publications for my new early Victorian novel, The Companion of Lady Holmeshire. It will be available digitally and in trade paperback. The date of release is, as yet, not announced. A foundling infant, grown to become the lovely servant girl, Miss Emma Carrington, has been chosen by the Countess of Holmeshire as her companion to keep her from the lonely hours of widowhood. Emma returns from London, where she had been receiving training in the arts of refinement, to the country castle home of the Lady in Northumbria. There she receives a warm welcome from her former workmates downstairs. The Countess intends to introduce this former servant girl into aristocratic society alongside herself despite much anxiety over it on the part of the former housemaid. Soon the Lady’s son, the 7th Earl of Holmeshire, who is engaged to an aristocratic London lady, returns from his travels to the Continent. How does he take to the presence of this former servant at tea? A day in the village below reveals some hint of danger to Emma; what is the source of that threat? Follow the enjoyable romantic developments and enjoy life with both the aristocrats and the servants. Join them as they travel into London for The Season and learn how Emma is received in snobbish upper class society. See some of the harsh realities of life while visiting a poor area in Victorian London. Attend a ball along with the young Queen Victoria. Last, but not least, quite some intriguing mystery has been woven through the book; an expensive bracelet has been stolen and the identities of several people are puzzling. You can read a few chapters and see the video HERE.

After reading the first nine chapters, close the book and write your own ending for a valuable jewelry prize! Please read some paragraphs from the book and learn about the contest at My Website. Thanks for taking a look!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Wages and Info About Servants

I've written some here about servants and their hierarchy in my February 2011 posts. I thought I would now go on ad nauseum with some other points. I have been stuck in the Victorian era, it seems, but comments from any other period are also invited. Likely, the things brought out below pertained for quite some time previous to Victoria's reign.

To put the wages into perspective, I believe Bingley, from Pride and Prejudice, had 5,000 a year, did he not? And Darcy was well above that. Was it 40,000? Someone correct me as needed; I don't have the income statements available.

The biggest category of employment in the country was maids. Even if you could not afford to hire a maid full time, you had to have one come on Saturdays to scrub the front steps. It was a status must. If anything at all had to be done, it was the scrubbing of the front steps. You wouldn't want to hire a girl from the workhouses; she would be completely untrained. You'd want someone from a decent family. Not even a full time live in maid would make much money. But she would be likely to have good meals, as well as the roof over her head, and that could be expected to continue for her lifetime if she was any good at all. (Girls, you do need to get your job very young; when you are older you have to have a character- that is a written reference from your last job- to get another. And there had better not be a lapse between.) Depending on the income of the household, she might even have a shared bedroom. If not, she slept on the kitchen floor with the beetles. One servant girl wrote of earning 16 pounds per year, though I've also read that they might have received from to 9 to 14, and it depended partly on whether you were given cash to buy your beer, tea and sugar. (If a Mistress went to hire her first maid and did not know the price, she merely had to look in Mrs. Beeton's book about such things.) And believe me, the maid worked hard for it! Cleaning knives was no picnic. They were not of stainless steel as they are today. They discolored when used and had to be scoured with emery powder; a tedious and dirty job. And that is just knives. Someday I will write about housekeeping, and you can see my last post about laundry. The smaller you were, the more likely that you would be the one to climb up in the chimney to clean it. You might want to be naked for that. You might be that anyway, if you had not come complete with your own clothing, for none was provided. A maid was not to be caught talking with the handsome footman; if there was an accidental kiss, for which she could be fired, it was the girl's fault. In the end, when you had worked yourself nearly to death, out you went and likely ended up destitute in the workhouse.

Up the scale was the Lady's Maid. She earned a good bit more and sat nearer the butler at mealtimes. She spent her workday getting the lady of the house dressed and tended, hair done, cleaning spots and repairing her clothing, dressing her again for dinner or for tea or evenings out, and then getting her undone, hair brushed and bed cozied for the night, including putting warming stones in the bed ahead of time if needed.

Footmen were another story. They did not need the degree of capability or industriousness required from the girl in the kitchen, but boy, they had to be good looking. They also needed to tall, all of them be the same height and look as much alike as possible. A fortunate household could hire twins, I suppose. They never "heard" what was discussed at the dinner table as they waited on the family, and no servant every looked the Master/Mistress in the eyes when being spoken to. Their sharp livery was provided by the house (or they earned extra to buy it) and they earned between 20 and 40 pounds a year. The maids, of course, did all their laundry, rid their mattresses of bedbugs and served their meals.

On up the ladder was the housekeeper (over the maids) and cook, who made 12 to 26 a year plus their tea allowance. Cooks were allowed to sell the once used tea leaves and meat drippings and take tips from local tradesmen. They were called "Mrs." by the servants, although, of course, they could not be married.

The butler and even higher, the steward, if there was one in a great house, would make a good bit more and be able to save so he would be able to open a pub upon retirement. Though in most houses the Mistress did the hiring, no doubt in the greatest houses, where she was a duchess or princess, the steward would fill that role along with running the finances, etc. I just can't imagine a duchess spending her time interviewing maids. But that is my own thought.

Nannies, who raised and corrected the children while a nurserymaid cleaned for her, were up the pay scale and ate in the nursery. "Belgrave Square" is a good representation of the life and duties of a Nanny. Governesses, who educated the girls and the boys who were to young to be sent off to school, usually came from the gentility, though forced into service because of a father's or husband's death. They were allowed to eat at the family table, but endured some humiliation there for not being a family member, for being in service and therefore being somewhat beneath them. A gentleman who visited the family should best not set his eye on her, though I'm sure it happened, and Rochester himself took to Jane Eyre with no concern about it.

Some of this information was taken from Liza Picard's Victorian London.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Laundry: and You Hate Doing it Now?

We had a short discussion here a few days ago about the lovely stories from times gone by and about how many of the realities were not so pleasant. It made me think of something I once read about laundry in Victorian times, which I found and thought I would share. If nothing else makes you thankful for modern appliances, perhaps this will. It is no wonder that women did not have careers, usually, that instead they stayed home and cared for a family, often with the help of servants. This information is taken from Liza Picard's book, Victorian London.

She says that the family wash was done infrequently. A family of three might do the wash every five or seven weeks. It was done in a cycle of coloreds, body linen and other fine things prepared for boiling on Friday, the fire lit under the boiler at 3 AM on Saturday. Sunday was church, so Monday the washing lines were put up in the garden (yard), which was a major project in itself with a large amount of wash being done. The washing was also finished on Monday, my guess is that each item was scrubbed out by hand until some inventions during the Victorian era. Tuesday shirts and petticoats were starched and the table linen and sheets were smoothed and folded to be mangled. They were sent to and returned from the mangler on Wednesday, while the ironing was begun. Thursday everything would be checked and put away, so the laundry basically took a full week to do. An average wash for three persons was 24 day shirts, six night shirts, petticoats, drawers and knickers, nappies (diapers) and sanitary towels. Silk dresses were sent to a "scourer" to be cleaned, or to save money, you could wash it in gin! Remember, throughout all this, the family had to be fed and cared for in all the regular daily matters.

Now, mind you, if your house rented from 40 to 50 pounds a year (I assume this is approximate), drying could be done in the garden. But to hang out clothes next to a more expensive home of 70 to 80 pounds would be a "profanation". The family would be considered low and vulgar and shunned accordingly. The only hope for them, thereafter, would be emigration- that is what the book says! LOL. Of course, the higher your rent, the more servants you likely had, so the more laundry there was that needed doing. And of course, with the lack of modern birth control methods, there could easily be many children. I think I would require everyone to wash their own clothes out at the end of each day, hauling in their own water to do it! But what do I know? Perhaps I would be shunned for that.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Interview and Giveaway with Regency Romance Writer, Teresa Bohannon

Welcome to the first of my monthly author promotions. I asked Teresa to be the first of my authors because she has been a great encouragement to me, providing information which is available through her blog and website and personal help. I have enjoyed her caring and giving attitude. Please consider reading her Regency Romance, A Very Merry Chase, when you have finished the book you are reading today! There are links to two free gifts below. And now, the interview:

Your first published novel is a Regency Romance novel, why did you choose this genre?

Actually, after a somewhat convoluted path, it chose me. Books are the love of my life. Even when I was tiny, I couldn't wait until I could read all by myself. Fortunately, I had a mother who didn't mind reading to me. I started out very early with fairytales, then myths, legends, reference books, encyclopedias, and history--always, even when very young, in search of great heroines and strong female characters.

About age ten or so, I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote some truly wonderful action/adventure style females that could darn well save themselves if Tarzan or John Carter didn't happen to be around to do so. Then came Tolkien and epic fantasy, followed by epic romances via the risque Angelique novels written in France in the 1950's. I loved the romance and the adventurous females in these books, but to be honest I scanned or skipped the sex scenes. Then one day I discovered Georgette Heyer and.... "Ta-Dah!" No more skimming required.

Do you remember the first Regency romance you ever read?

That would be Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy--strong, willful, witty, matter of factly in charge and most of all, for me, both financially and emotionally independent, i.e. everything I loved in a female character.

Which Regency romance authors have most influenced you in your love for the Regency period?

Georgette Heyer, Dame Barbara Cartland, Jane Austen and actually just about every Regency that was written in the seventies and early eighties. I literally devoured every one that I could get my hands on, and especially Claudette Williams and all the authors of Coventry series. I remember they had lovely white covers graced with gorgeous paintings of couples in Regency dress.

Could you tell us a little about how you researched the Regency era for A Very Merry Chase?

I originally wrote A Very Merry Chase 35 years ago, and believe me that was a whole different world from research and writing these days--especially in small town America. I remember filling several legal pads with every historical, social, and cultural detail I could glean from the Regency novels I was reading. Fortunately, there were a two public libraries and a decent sized University library near by that I could visit. Their early 19th century collections were abysmally small, of course. So I had the public librarians borrow several titles for me from libraries in large cities to read locally. I wasn't a student at the University at that point, so there wasn't anything they could do to help me, other than look the other way while I sat there for hours on end reading. One of the big problems I encountered, even at the public libraries, was the fact that most of the books I needed to read were considered reference books and could not be checked out, so I had to read them on site. I suppose looking back on it, that the librarians I actually spoke with were amused, here I was a scrawny little old country girl with just a high school diploma, dreaming of writing books about the early 19th century British Aristocracy; but as best I can recall they were all very kind and none of them laughed at me or told me I couldn't do it.

Are there any Regency era historical figures who particularly intrigue you?

Although this was at a time when women authors such as Jane Austen, Fanny Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Maria Edgeworth were starting to emerge, my favorite Regency figure is still probably Emma, Lady Hamilton. Her history is tragically sad, but fascinating, and epitomizes so much of women's history. She was literally a cultural icon and Supermodel of her day yet she died alone and in poverty, mainly because she was a woman and, in the end, powerless in a man's world.

My BA and MA are both in history, and although the university I attended didn't have a women's studies concentration per se, I personally concentrated on women's history in my research for each of my classes. To me, Emma Hamilton personifies the harsh way that the majority of women have been treated throughout history, and while this was particularly true when physical strength ruled the day allowing the males to build a power base for themselves and their heirs that generally excluded women, it really wasn't much better as time marched on and we supposedly became more civilized. Traditionally men have set the rules, and most women were punished harshly if they attempted to step outside their socially acceptable niche--particularly when their looks faded, and they were no longer perceived as desirable by the men who held the power. And that in a nutshell is pretty much what happened to Lady Hamilton.

What inspired you to write A Very Merry Chase?

I wanted to be an author more than anything in the world. At the time I originally wrote AVMC, I was young and bright but also uneducated by the standards of the publishing world. I dreamed of writing and becoming financially independent, and I suppose, becoming the same sort of strong, self-reliant woman that I so admired in the books I read. The choice of Regencies was almost a given since they were the traditionally female genre that I most enjoyed reading at the time, and to this day, when I just want to sit back and relax and read for sheer entertainment, I love nothing better than a simple pleasures of a Regency Romance. However, let me state, for the record, that I would hate living in the real Regency era, even if I were incredibly, independently wealthy and could afford all the luxuries the period had to offer. The Regency Romance era that so many readers love, is as much a fantasy as anything ever written by Tolkien or H.G. Wells. In reality, the Regency, as was much of history, was dirty, smelly and uncomfortable, and it was a particularly harsh existence for women--even those in the upper classes whose sole responsibility was to provide an heir and a spare.

Tell us a little bit about A Very Merry Chase?

AVMC is a mostly light-hearted tale with just the tiniest taste of Napoleonic era intrigue. The heroine is the Right Honorable, Lady Sabrina St. Clair, who is wealthy, beautiful, and most independently minded, and who also happens to be on the verge of becoming--according to her less generous peers--an old-maid, or in the vernacular of the times, an ape-leader or antidote. Sabrina is anachronistic in that she does some things that no well-bred lady of the Regency era would ever dream of doing; but she's not particularly blatant about it. For Sabrina, the rebellion is more passive-aggressive in style, manifested, much the same those most women actually living in the Regency (or any other historical era).

The story opens with Sabrina's traveling coach being stopped by highwaymen as she journeys to London for the season. The hero of the story is Brenton, Lord Branderly, Duke of Brensted, an unusually tall gentleman, who, after spending most of his adult life wandering the world, has returned to England in search of a bride and heirs. They meet under rather unusual circumstances, clash repeatedly and eventually fall in love--she reluctantly, he determinedly--against a comfortably Regency backdrop of witty repartee, beaux, belles,dancing, mishaps, mayhem and misunderstandings. 

I actually just released an illustrated version of Jane Austen's The Widow's Tale, otherwise known as Love and Freindship(sic), which I compiled from period sources. However, now that project is out of the way and A Very Merry Chase is finally published, I'm free to revise, finish and publish some of the other books I've written. My next release will be a paranormal romance that I started approximately 25 years ago. It actually began life as a series of short stories about a trio of reoccurring characters moving through time together. Over the years it has been written, rewritten, tweaked and edited more times than I care to count; but somehow I just couldn't make myself write that final chapter until last December--and I still don't have a title for it! And then after that I have a children's fairytale that I have an artist working on illustrating, a short story collection I need to edit and publish, a horror novel I need to finish, and about a dozen Regency Romance novels floating around in my head that I need to write.

Search for A Very Merry Chase
Where can readers obtain a copy of A Very Merry Chase?

Both The Widow's Tale and A Very Merry Chase are available at Amazon and AVMC is also available at Barnes and Noble. You can purchase it, or download the first chapter to read for free at either location. I also have a video book trailer on YouTube and a facebook author page where you can keep up with my various posts on tidbits of Regency history.

A free E-copy of either book will be awarded to one person who comments on this post on March 31, 2011.

The Widow's Tale Cover, Free Musical Jigsaw Puzzle

A Very Merry Chase Regency Romance Cover, Free Musical Jigsaw Puzzle
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My Regency Romance Era Tidbits Blogs

RRW Blog


A Very Merry Chase Video Book Trailer

AVMC Video Trailer

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

History Recovered From the Thames

I just read an interesting Reuters article on Yahoo News by Stefano Ambrogi. It is about a man who searches through the Thames mud during low tide and finds items from centuries past which are preserved because of a lack of oxygen in the mud. It's a very interesting read for those who are interested in old Britain. The mud digging reminds me of the fact that poor men, women and children, in the past, used to dig in the mud of the once filthy sewer called the Thames to find items to sell to survive. Sad, but true.
News Article