Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some romantic inspiration.

More fodder for my files for future scenes.

100 years ago ~ July 24, 1911 ~ in my local newspaper it was reported that a young woman was rescued by a star football player. I wonder if she did not fain her trouble in order to get the attention of 'Eddie'. Kind of romantic to be saved by him, and since he was a star tackle for Princeton, this would have been big news in a small town newspaper.
Miss Elizabeth Whitter, daughter of Mr. Francis M. Whitter, of near Adamstown, who is spending the summer at Brighton Beach, N.Y., narrowly escaped drowning. Miss Whitter floated out beyond her depth and was rescued by “Eddie” Hart, captain of the Princeton football team. This is Miss Whitter’s second mishap, as on July Fourth she was rendered senseless by being hit by a floating log and was carried ashore by bathers.
This is Eddie Hart's photo and a link to a site more about him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Incomplete Jane Austen

You never know, what you have tucked away in a draw may be worth a lot of money in years to come, or become a precious family heirloom passed down from generation to generation. For Jane Austen it took 207 years to find out what an incomplete manuscript was worth.

She began writing ‘The Watsons’ in 1804 after she had finished the first draft of Sense and Sensibility. She hadn’t gotten far into ‘The Watson’s’ and literary experts assume she had only written one quarter of the book in her own hand about a young girl brought up by her aunt.

For writers like myself who are fascinated with authors such as Jane, our eyes will gobble up her handwriting of this work in progress with notations and revisions. Hang on to your hat! You can see it here and read the text.

Click on ‘Manuscripts’ and on the page click the manuscript you are interested in viewing. To the left will be the text typed out for you. To the right the text in Jane’s original hand.

This is an exciting manuscript. I loved reading through it, seeing how she made corrections and revisions. Imagine her sitting at her writing desk, dipping her quill into the inkwell and penning the words, her mind racing with imagery and the storyline she is so anxious to get down on paper. She had no telephone to interrupt her. No internet to distract her. It was just Jane and her imagination.

‘The Watsons’ manuscript was expected to sell at auction for as much as $490,000. But it ended up selling for a whopping $1.6 million in London this July. You can read about the auction here, and view the video of the sale.

If you read the text, please share your thoughts. Where do you think she was going with this story?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This Week's 'How We Lived' post.

In Colonial times, quilts were more utilitarian than decorative for the common family. The wealthy were able to obtain elaborate fabrics and the colonial lady could stitch beautiful bedcovers, whereas the lower classes made quilts from the scrap-bag.

The earliest Colonial quilts were made of Indian chintz and palampores. Colonial era chintz was an expensive fabric and threatened the mills of France and England as the upper classes were buying this gorgeous fabric over the plainer linens and cottons of Europe. Thus chintz was banned by Parliament in 1720. However the ban was lifted in 1759 once the mills had acquired the necessary skills to make chintz, ending much of the import from India.

One pattern still popular today is toil de jouy, which originated in France and was a popular design in Colonial America. Most likely you have seen it as wallpaper and fabric. A relative of mine once papered her bedroom in blue toil and it was beautiful. I find it 'a joy' that toil de jouy is still popular after more than 200 years.

Palampores were cotton or linen panels that were hand-painted or dyed. Only the wealthiest of Americans could afford this fabric and you would find it in plantation and estate houses throughout the Thirteen. The designs were colorful and elaborate, made up of ivy, flowers, horses and peacocks. Each design was one of a kind. One thing of interest is how the quilts were made at the end to slip between the bedposts.

Some Colonial quilts were made of whole cloth. Fine stitches were made in ivy and floral patterns.

In time, the Colonial housewife used quilts that were utilitarian, to keep her family warm and comforted.
Slave women made quilts from scrapes and you can find some in museums that tell a story of family and culture. Block designs have been handed down through the generations.

Here is a quilt I made in between writing hi
storical novels. I've made several, but this is one of my favorites. I change the wall hangings in my foyer with the seasons. I have a leaf quilt for autumn, a snowman quilt for Christmas, and this floral basket quilt for spring and summer.

In closing, if you were living in Colonial times, what kind of quilt would you have made? Would it have been practical, or decorative?

This post is also featured on the 'Colonial Quills Blog' under 'Ye Good Ole Days'.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Living, Breathing, Characters

Writing a novel plunges a writer into another world. It demands that you become so intensely immersed into the lives of your characters, and I mean all of them, minor and major, that they become living, breathing, people to you. If you do this, you will develop your characters fully. You will 'flesh them out' and your readers will grow attached to them.

Writing good fiction is not a formula. Formulas do not necessarily create a page-turning story. What does is vivacious characters caught up in intrigue and crisis. What e
xactly makes up your characters and brings them to life?

Describing their appearance
Showing actions that reflect their personality

Let's start with dialogue. This is a conversation between characters that gives the reader insight into the characters' lives, personalities, likes and dislikes, their past, future goals, opinions, and concerns. It should flow naturally, but with emotion, whether intense or stoic. Dialo
gue is the best way to reveal a character's past instead of using either backstory or flashbacks. Watch a movie in your genre and listen to the dialogue between the characters. Listen to a conversation between people in your presence. How did her husband explain why he forgot their anniversary? How did the wife reply?

When it comes to describing your characters, give the reader just enough information that allows them to paint a picture in their mind of them. If you have trouble with this try this technique. Go online and look at a portrait. If your book is historical find a portrait of the past. If contemporary find a photo that reflects your character as you see him or her.

Say you are writing a historical and your female character is a beautiful woman of the Renaissance. She is totally stuck on herself due to her beauty...and possibly her wealth and family status in society. The painting here is called 'Vanity' by artist Frank Cowper 1907. Write down what you see about this woman. Her hair - its texture, color, and length. Her skin which is luminescent and pale. The strings of pearls, how she has looped them through her fingers. Her eyes, how they are looking downward, not shyly, but arrogantly. The curve of her mouth and the tilt of her head. Flesh this character's appearance out and give your reader a strong visual of what she looks like, and how her looks reflect her personality of vanity and arrogance.

Please share your description of this young woman, and let's compare notes. Each of us will see her differently, I guarantee.