June 7, 2019 • No Comments
Here are some truly fascinating clips of real nineteenth-century street life.
This is Manchester in 1901. It looks like rush hour to me.
This is a trip through Paris in the late 1890s. Partway through is a horse-drawn fire truck and a moving pedway!
June 5, 2019 • No Comments
Jack the Ripper is a favorite subject for fiction writers for many reasons and the notion that the sinister drama is true ranks high among them. However, we don’t know the killer’s name or occupation, if there were one or several killers, and even the exact number of victims. The number of suspects is staggering. Despite the amount of ink spilled on the subject, the undisputed facts of the crime fill only a slim volume. So why, in a time and place where murders were common, did the Ripper case garner so much public attention?
One might say the media co-created the crime, both intentionally and by reflecting the Zeitgeist of the era. While the residents of Whitechapel were justifiably terrified by the murders, the wider public was served up the villain their imaginations demanded.
The dark side of London fascinates those able to view it from a safe distance. By the time of the Ripper, public hangings, complete with printed confessions sold for a penny, had long been entertainment. Relics of famous crimes were sold in the streets, tourists went to the mental hospitals to gawk, and Madame Tussaud created her waxwork Chamber of Horrors, depicting the true crimes of the day. Plays and novels followed where the newspapers led, presenting melodramatic versions of famous murders—or entirely bizarre urban legends, like Spring-Heeled Jack. On top of this was a fascination with the duality of the human psyche—just before the Ripper’s arrival came Stevenson’s smash hit Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By 1888, the public appetite for Gothic drama was prodigious.
A climate of social unrest underscored this mood. The Ripper murders are generally agreed to begin in April or August of 1888. Scant months before, soldiers mounted a bayonet charge against jobless protesters in Trafalgar Square. In simplistic terms, the incident reflected the deep division between the prosperous ruling class, who lived mostly in the West End districts like Mayfair, and the impoverished areas of the East End, such as Whitechapel. The East End also housed the migratory population of the docks, abused factory laborers, and immigrant populations. Is it any wonder the bogeyman of the day sprung from those desperate streets? The Ripper was a personification of middle-class fears.
And then there were the police. They had been increasing their numbers over the past few decades, but rather than increasing a sense of safety, public attention was fixed on a series of scandals that undermined their credibility. Missteps during the Ripper investigation gave the public ammunition to criticize, and the press lovingly documented every moment of the train wreck.
As mentioned above, one of the difficulties with the Ripper case is knowing when it began and ended. Prostitutes were frequently murdered, and despite general indignation at police inaction, not much ever got resolved. Were Emma Smith and Martha Tabram Jack’s victims, or those of another? They both had violent deaths—Tabram was stabbed 39 times—but were not mutilated on the scale of later victims. It was those breath-taking excesses that signaled something new was afoot, and the press got to work.
Delicious Gothic horror. Simmering social anxiety. An excuse to air grievances against whoever came to hand—corrupt officials, suspicious radicals, unionists, foreigners, and an unpopular and inept police force. Jack the Ripper’s crime spree was an editor’s dream moment, ripe for endless titillation. Crime sells papers, and the presses ran around the clock during peak carnage. With improved printing technology, illustrated depictions of crimes could be reproduced in greater detail than ever before. Concerned citizens worried that such graphic displays might unbalance the minds of readers, much like the complaints about modern video games. Such quibbling stopped no one—the papers kept the Ripper Murders in the public eye as long as they possibly could.
Much of what we know about Jack the Ripper–including the name–came from a series of notes written by Jack to Scotland Yard and the Central News Agency. The true origin of these letters is doubtful, and their timing perhaps calculated to revive public interest during a slump. The grammar and word usage suggest a forger attempting to appear uneducated. Did the press write the letters themselves? It’s a popular theory, and if that’s true, the version of Jack we carry in our imaginations—taunting, cannibalistic, almost cheeky—is a pure fabrication. The media put a face on the most famous serial killer of all time to boost circulation.
Is that what actually happened? As with so much of the case, we don’t know the truth. There is even some uncertainty over who was the last victim—Mary Jane Kelly, or another murdered prostitute. What we do know is that sometime around 1889 the murders stopped and Jack’s audience moved on. In 1890, Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray appeared, summing up the public’s troubled self-reflection.
Popular attention is fickle, and even Jack the Ripper couldn’t hold center stage forever. Another fascination was pushing Gothic melodrama aside—the clear-eyed rationality of the consulting detective. While the genre was not new, its popularity rose, giving readers the opportunity to solve crimes from the comfort of their firesides. Times had changed and, after the Ripper’s confounding chaos, certainty, justice, and the ever-increasing power of science held appeal.
It was time to invent a new avatar.
June 4, 2019 • No Comments
November 5, 2018 • No Comments
This rather cool. I’ve been wikified here:
I think I’ll have to check out some of the other series!
August 17, 2017 • No Comments
It’s almost September and I’m evaluating my monthly progress. There are plenty of projects on the workbench, so here is the state of the lineup:
Enchanter Redeemed (Camelot Reborn book 4). This is the last of the series and the last book I will do for Nocturne since the line is closing. This is currently with the copyeditor and will be released in February of 2018. It’s up for preorder HERE.
Kiss in the Dark (Corsair’s Cove Chocolate Shop book 4). My first indie book and a novella. Is also with the copyeditor and will be released September 30. If you want a glimpse of this universe, check out the web site HERE. If you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free prequel short story I just finished, The Brotherhood of the Rose.
Fragile Magic re-release (short story from the Dark Forgotten universe). I hope to get this up and available for sale in August. The cover is done. This is a personal favorite of mine.
Sharon’s projects have been coming thick and fast, in part because I’ve been participating in a project that will educate me about indie publishing. So far, so good. I want to be a hybrid author, so that’s one of this year’s goals achieved! In addition, there are plans for a new trad series on the drawing board. More to come on that.
Emma Jane’s projects have been ongoing, but there have been delays due to other deadlines, industry hiccups, and time spent learning how to navigate the DIY universe of indie pub. Also, anything historical takes more fact-checking. However, I feel pretty bouncy about what’s lined up here and this is my priority for new material right now.
October 13, 2016 • No Comments
I realize that I haven’t posted here for a bit. I have a very good excuse – this website is getting rebuilt and will be merged with my other website. The prototype looks fabulous and this project will result in a single blog, all my publications under one virtual roof, and more effective communication all around. I’m on a campaign to simplify things so there may be other redirects and tweaks about the place, but this will result in more news getting to the right places and less of the author running from site to site like a headless chicken. Frankly, when I think “oh, I should write a post,” I get stalled when I have to decide where to put it, and then I think I should write more so that every site gets one, and I end up doing nothing. Not good, so I’m renovating.
June 19, 2016 • No Comments
Father’s Day is an odd thing for me. I’ve grown used to the endless advertisements celebrating Dads. I certainly don’t begrudge the holiday, but it does highlight the fact that my own father passed away some time ago and each reminder gives me a twinge. But, I’m happy to say I remember the good times we shared more strongly than any sadness I might feel. I adored my father. Yes, I saw his flaws and the chaos he sometimes caused but I was still a Daddy’s girl. He taught me a lot, including how to cling to my round-peg self in a world full of square holes.
He would have been an inveterate steampunk given the chance. He loved Monty Python, waistcoats, the Pre-Raphaelites, marmalade, British mysteries, tea, sausage rolls, and books. And books. And books.
Happy Father’s Day. Surely the afterlife is a library with easy chairs and a tea trolley.
June 15, 2016 • No Comments
I lay no great claim to poetic talent, but some days I need to amuse myself:
A book proposal
Dance seven coy veils for the
June 11, 2016 • No Comments
I watched the latest episode of Houdini & Doyle last night. I like the show. It’s fun and colourful with likeable characters and good acting and I can get my history geek on. Sure, I want to rush in and fix plot points for them, but that’s another issue. What I wanted to mention was there was a moment in this episode in which Houdini talks about being born in Eastern Europe and emigrating to the New World. In particular, he tells a story about how an American shopkeeper refused to sell his father food because they were foreigners.
This struck a chord with me, because I’ve heard that story before about members of my own family. A farmer refused to sell my ancestors potatoes despite the fact they were dirt poor and with many children to feed–just because they were first-generation immigrants who spoke oddly and probably went to a different Church or maybe just because they had the bad taste to be penniless. Who knows. But refusing to let people buy food for their children? Seriously?
I don’t understand how people can think that way, but obviously they did and some still do. It was a passing mention, but on behalf of my forebears, thanks to the show for speaking up for those who were in such a hateful situation.
Now, if only the writers would dig into the Society for Psychical Research and their doings. It would be a shame if they passed over the actual paranormal investigations going on at the time.
June 10, 2016 • 2 Comments
I may as well resort to crinolines and corsets, because at least dressmakers paid attention to fit. Seriously, I’m done with the notion creeping into retail establishments that one size will fit any woman—small, large, tall, or petite. Trust me, that would be a NO.
This rant is brought to you by my recent agonies looking for decent summer garments. I’m not a fashionista per se, but I do have strong opinions about quality. I sew. Therefore, I expect a garment to be put together with actual seams and stuff. I won’t go crazy and expect darts and gussets, but enough stitching to hold the thing together in the wash would be nice. And while I appreciate flirtation, not everything should look as if it belongs in a night club. At least a few items must be office wear. Nor should garments be made from shiny, scratchy artificial materials that look like they came off the 99 cent reject rolls at the back of the local fabric store. In point of fact, not absolutely everything on the planet needs to contain Spandex. Just saying.
I should counter all this grumpiness by saying that I did eventually find enough fun, rather bohemian outfits to carry me through the warmer months (hot weather is always a relative thing in the Pacific Northwest) but it took a great deal of looking and walking and rolling of the eyes.
Sad to say I may have to break open the warehouse of yard goods I’ve had carefully aging to perfect ripeness. (Why, yes, of course every seamstress knows freshly cut fabric is too green to use and must be stored for several years. One simply cannot use FRESH cloth!)