Authoresses are wierd people

Just realized how weird we are. I was looking at my twitter feed, and seeing what was suggested to me. I hadn’t played with twitter, until my husband suggested that it would be good for publicity.  I won’t name names, as they don’t need any more publicity, or at least any free publicity. All I can say is I was not amused. (Though Queen Victoria never said that.)

It strongly suggests that authors really are weird birds. I guess if you want to write stories, sitting back and having pap fed to you isn’t palatable.

Doing my homework.

I was just doing some homework for my next book, “the doctor’s wife” and found I’d mixed up some things. It may make it easier if they’re correct.

  • The doctor’s wife was actually a beautiful young doctor’s widow. She was living in Mt. Holly and her dalliance with the Hessian Colonel Donop helped keep his brigade out of the way during the assault on Trenton. Donop and Rall (in Trenton) were not the best of friends, so it probably didn’t take much to entice him away. There was a different woman in Trenton who took pot-shots during the battle and killed a Hessian captain. By the way the oft-told story that the Germans were drunk out of their skulls was a canard invented by their British employers to explain why an isolated outpost was left in such a vulnerable position.
  • She was almost certainly a rebel spy, and almost certainly recruited by Robert Morris or his wife Margaret Morris. He wasn’t just a rich Philadelphia businessman who used his fiscal skills to keep the rebel army alive, he recruited agents and ran an intelligence service throughout the war. It could have been Washington who recruited her, but he was otherwise detained at the time.
  • Colonel Donop was not a very sympathetic character. Scared by the defeats at Trenton, Trenton again and Princeton he evacuated Southern New Jersey (obligate New Jersey joke here – who wouldn’t?). He took 150 wagons of plunder but left his wounded and ill soldiers behind. He certainly had his priorities straight.
  • Some of the units I have marching off didn’t. I’ll have to steel myself to read some rather boring stuff so that I’m right and you don’t have to.

So the plot could go something like:

  1. introduce the young wife and her husband
  2. husband marches off to defend New York and promptly gets killed. 
  3. wife is distraught and therefor willing to risk it all by spying on the invading army. Can introduce various turncoats, semi-turncoats, and legitimate agents, with a series of mistakes.
  4. Donop marches south from Bordentown to deal with the South Jersey rising. The south jersey rising was a combination of militia and the Philadelphia associators initiating a series of small battles in late November and early December 1776.
  5. She and Donop fiddle while Trenton burns. How far do they go?
  6. A romantic redux. Either a dashing Hessian who joins the rebels (they did, about 1/4 of the Hessians ended up staying in the USA. Mostly they were prisoners who liked what they found, but not all), a handsome rebel soldier, or possibly her dead husband isn’t quite dead.  I have to think this out.

Hillerman Country

I’m accompanying my best friend on a trip to Albuquerque NM. It’s right out of one of my favorite author’s books, though not as scary.

This shows some of the petroglyphs from the petroglyph national monument.

Albuquerque and the Sandia mountains.

 Another neat petroglyph

An approaching snowstorm from the top of Sandia Mountain.

On Dialog, Grammar and Spelling

While you’re not supposed to obsess over bad reviews, sometimes thats a little hard to avoid. The part that stung the most was that my amateurish work was full of spelling and grammar mistakes.

One problem is that, at least in the US, you submit your work to the KDP and then release to the world. Center/centre, color/colour and a number of other spelling differences are simply going to be wrong. The real buggers to find are homonymic misspellings. One that I caught after the initial release and corrected was heal/heel (“He turned on his heal”?). I’m sure there are others. This is one place where Kindle publishing shines because it is easy to upload fixes. Finding these homonymic errors is one place where the new Word shines, it underlines them with a blue squiggly and it convinced my linux-loving husband to let me get a windows machine.

Grammar is different. In one simplification, there are two parts of novel, dialog and the rest. The rest should be in reasonably clean English. However no one really speaks in perfectly grammatical English. If you think you do, listen to yourself. You’ll be shocked at what you hear.  So my dialog attempts to be realistic, which means “nuts to you” if you’re a grammar nazi. That said I do have a tendency to write long and complicated sentences, and a history of proof reading my husband’s scientific papers has inured me to the passive voice.

Pecan Pie

Memorial day is almost upon us. Being a Yankee holiday from the late unpleasantness between the states, it wasn’t celebrated down here until recently. Here’s a good Southern recipe.


  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 tsp salt
  3. (optional but good with a sweet filling) 1 tsp sugar
  4. 1 stick margarine (about 1/4 lb)

Mix these together until well homogenized.  An electric mixer works great as does a pastry knife, but a fork will do the job as well.  (I’m faster with a pastry knife than a mixer, but a mixer is easier on the arms).  When done it will be about the consistency of corn meal.  Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes (or longer – it will freeze well at this stage) to chill and harden the margarine.  (prepare the filling during this time).
The simple way to prepare the crust is then to add cold water in small increments, followed by mixing to form a ball that holds all of the mixture together and is not sticky (you can add a little flour to dry it out if need be).  Do the mixing by hand with a fork or a spoon as it is important to be gentle with pie crusts.  Then roll it out on  a floured board and put in the pie pan.
To make a flaky pastry,  reserve about 1/3 of the mixture and add water to the rest.  This time you want the wetted mixture to be slightly sticky.  Roll the mixture out and place some of the dry mix on it (use about a tablespoon of the dry mix).  Fold over twice (once lengthwise then once across).  Repeat rolling out, adding mixture and folding until all of the dry mix is used up.  Then roll out all the way needed for the pie and put it in the pan.  (this is a bit more complicated than the first way, and the first way works fine if you’ve never made a pie crust before).
To make the filling (for a 9 inch deep dish pie crust):

  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 1 cup corn syrup (I used “golden eagle” brand which is mixture of corn syrup, molasses and honey )
  4. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1/4 tsp salt
  6. 2 tbs margarine (melt if you’re doing this by hand otherwise just blend it in)
  7. 1 cup (or slightly more) Pecans

Beat the eggs, sugar & margarine.  Add the vanilla, syrup and salt.  Beat some more.  It should be slightly opaque and foamy.   Put the pecans in the prepared (unbaked)  pie crust and pour the mixture over it.  Bake in a preheated 325 F oven for about 50-55 minutes.  Remove and cool.

Simon doesn’t want to let go.

I’d been planning to work on another book set in the American revolution, and probably still will. I’ve heard authors say that their characters come to life and to a certain extent dictate what you do. Never really believed it. My mistake.

Simon and Katherine don’t want me to take a break. As I try to work out the plot line for the new book, they sneak in, unbidden and demand attention. Without really trying I’m further on a plot line for a third book with them, than I am on the new one.

It would start after the first and cover their wedding and posting to Vienna.

  1. Wedding in St. Osyth. They’ve been convinced to post the banns rather than use the special license Wolfe brought. This means that their family has a chance to gather. This allows a few discussions and family secrets to emerge.
  2. Back to London. While getting ready to be posted there are things to do. They might connect with Freddy (the banker who is worried about cloth sales to ‘Denmark’) and Katherine can get into some sort of trouble. Maybe do something with her friends that is subject to misinterpretation.
  3. Cambridge. Simon has to learn how to use codes, ciphers, secret inks and various 18th-19th century tradecraft. Sounds like I’m channeling LeCarre here, doesn’t it? They did use surprisingly sophisticated techniques so he’d need to learn them. Gives me a chance to catch up with a couple of loose ends.
  4. On Clarke’s ship. He’s posted to the Mediterranean fleet. I’ll have to do some research for this. The little bit the navy appears in Katherine’s choice didn’t require much because it wasn’t very long.  (I did have to research the shipyards, though).
  5. ???

They have to pick up a romantic interest somewhere. In the French Orphan it was originally going to be Sally and Wilcox, but that didn’t work out. O’Reilly sort of grew on me, and her. I wonder who it will be this time?

Preliminary draft of chapter 1 for the next book, “The Doctor’s wife”

No I don’t mean Dr. Who.
This is set in the American revolution and is a fictional back-story for a woman, known only as “the Doctor’s wife” who was a revolutionary agent in Trenton when the Hessians occupied it. She took a few pot shots from her window from behind their lines on Christmas morning 1776, and (probably) shot one Hessian officer. 

Chapter 1. Call to Arms

The sun was just rising on the morning of July 6th1776, its rays illuminating the bedroom on fifth street where Elizabeth and John Graydon were sleeping. Elizabeth stirred as the light awakened her. She kissed her husband awake. The last few days had been exciting, with the Continental Congress, now the Congress of the United States, declaring independence from Great Britain. There had been fireworks, speeches, and toasting.
Today was different, sad. The Philadelphia Associators were set to march to New York today. To join General Washington and the rest of the continental army in defending the biggest city in the nation, for it was now a nation or at least was becoming one, against the, now foreign, British and German aggressors. The Regular army under General William Howe with their Hessian mercenaries had been camped on Staten Island for the last few weeks, and it was only a matter of time before the attacked the city. They had to attack before Admiral Richard Howe, the general’s brother sailed for shelter in the fall.
“John,” she asked, “do you have to go?”
He stirred, they’d only been married three months, and sleeping next to a beautiful woman, waking to her touch, was still a novel and wonderful experience. They’d married as soon as John had finished with his course in medicine at the Pennsylvania College. They would have married earlier, but the college rules prohibited married students. They’d had three months of the joys of marriage, though Elizabeth had not yet been sized by its fruits.
“Liz,” he mummered in her ear, “I’m their doctor. Their surgeon. I cannot stay home. You know that.”
It was true. His friends had all signed up, like their fathers before in the Seven Years war, to defend their nation. He could not decline, not without a deep and personal feeling of shame.
Awake, John continued, “in any case, Dr. Reed is too old and the Associators are the cream of society. I’ll be in good company.” He reached over and held her tight. “We don’t muster until mid-morning. There’s time to say goodbye.”
The Associators mustered in the green to the south outside the Philadelphia State House. Their commander, the chairman of the committee on public safety and defense, John Dickinson, addressed them. He stressed that it was everyone’s responsibility to defend themselves, and even though he had absented himself from Congress – abstaining rather than voting against the declaration of independence, he was cheered. It wasn’t that long ago since the former colonists rose up to defend their rights as Englishmen.
Then they marched off with a new flag flying along with their regimental banners, one still had the thirteen stripes of the old one, but a blue field with stars instead of the union jack. The drums beat the time and fifes piped to keep their spirits high as the marched north toward Easton, to catch the ferry to Trenton on the morrow and begin marching on the main road to New York.
Elizabeth and her maid Molly waved and cheered as the Associators left. It helped to keep them from crying over the absence of their loves. Sadly turning to trudge back to the, now too, quiet house on fifth street they ran into her uncle Cadwalader.
“Fine troops. You should be proud of John.”
“Uncle, what are you doing here? I thought you were with Smallwoods’ regiment in New York.”
“I came down from New York on the flying machine Thursday. I had to tell General Dickinson where to report.”
“Where’s John going?”
“The associators will join General Washington’s flying column, outside of Elizabethtown. The British are on Staten Island. The flying column will make sure they stay there.”
“Ma’am?” Molly requested, the caution clear in her voice, “what are we going to do?”
“About what?”
“in the fall?’
“I thought we’d move in with John’s parents in Lancaster.”
“Lancaster?” Uncle Cadwalader exclaimed, “That’s an awful town. No you mustn’t stay there. Why don’t you stay with my wife in Trenton?”
“It’s near Philadelphia and she would appreciate the company.”
“Molly, what do you think?”
“Ma’am, I’m from New Jersey. I like Trenton.”
“Uncle, can you write to my aunt? I would be very happy to join her in Trenton.”
“I will. Now were you wanting lunch?”
“Yes I would, but we haven’t prepared anything at home.”
Molly spoke up, “Ma’am if you will walk with Mr. Cadwalader, I’ll prepare a meal.”
“That would be good, Molly.”
As Molly left, Uncle Cadwalader spoke, “That’s a good girl, your Molly. Is she married? You’re not going to lose her are you?”
“No she won’t leave me, at least not until after my John returns. Her husband was his man and is now with the artillery.”
Elizabeth recognized someone as they strolled along Market street. “There’s Mr. Peale, I’m sorry Captain Peale.”
As a wedding present for John, Elizabeth had been sitting with Charles Peale. In the small world of Philadelphia, Charles, John and her were friends. Despite their friendship, it was still expensive, but worth every shilling. It wasn’t done, and might never be. Peale’s brother James had already left for New York with Smallwood’s brigade and was posted to Long Island. Charles himself was an officer in the Philadelphia Associators and could only paint when off duty. So her painting was started, but waiting on the rare times that Captain Peale could be Mr. Peale the artist.
“Captain Peale! When would you have time for a sitting?”
“Mrs. Graydon, I’m sorry but with the Regulars landing in Staten Island, I’ve had to put my brushes away.”
Uncle Cadwalader, waited quietly. “Oh,” Elizabeth blushed, “I’m sorry. Captain Peale this my uncle General John Cadwalader from Smallwood’s regiment. We were heading to my house for a repast, would you be interested in accompanying us?”

The French Orphan is out

Or almost so.
I’ve checked and approved the proofs for the hard copy and the kindle version. It’s not quite out on the amazon site right now, but is ‘publishing’.

The kindle version is actually a more or less native kindle version with page numbers removed and a clickable table of contents.

Now on to the next one.

Almost ready for release

My latest book, The French Orphan, is almost ready for release. I’ve spent the last couple of days writing time going through it, again and again, trying to catch the typo’s, odd homonym and occasional grammatical error.

I think I’ve found most of them. It’s funny how your can think one word and your fingers type another.

Kilts and Jane Austin

What does a kilt-wearing Scotsman and Jane Austin have in common?

It’s what they wear or wore underneath their outer clothes. Nada, zip, nothing. Well, technically Jane probably wore a chemise and a slip in addition to an outer cover, but below that not much else.

This lead to certain behavioral consequences that a writer of regency based books has to be aware of.

  • Sidesaddles. Nearly everyone rides a horse astride today. Mounting a horse astride while wearing regency muslins would reveal a great deal more of your flesh than your shapely ankles or “gasp” calves. Mounting a sidesaddle without exposing yourself is much easier.
  • The saddles themselves were different and much less suitable for hard riding. Modern sidesaddles have a “horn” at the top which supports a leg and gives the rider something to grab onto. Without that jumping the horse and, more importantly, staying on the horse when she landed would be very difficult.
  • Athletics. Cartwheels, need I say more? Seriously though, muslins that were secure from the wind would have to be relatively long and restrictive. Tree climbing in mixed company would have unfortunate consequences.
  • Hot bricks. Winter carriage rides would be more than a bit grueling. Without something akin to ‘long johns’ or ‘polypros’ to keep the legs warm, it would a rather cold experience. Putting a hot brick between the feet would warm your whole body and make the experience much more comfortable.

On the other hand, dressing like this could have advantages when it came to using the chamberpot. Unlike the gentlemen, we’d just have to put the pot in the right place and make sure our skirts were out of the way.

The cartoon below (from the wikipedia article about sidesaddles) gets the point across rather clearly.