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!)
May 2, 2016 • No Comments
I’ve been quiet lately as I battled a cold/flu thing that seemed to absorb most of April. I don’t get sick often but I made up for lost opportunities with this particular bug. I’m pretty much over it now and am predictably obsessed with lifestyle improvements so I don’t get so run down again. Being confined to the couch for a few days made me realize how much energy I’ve put out without what is quaintly termed “refilling the well.” By the end of my down time I began to feel creative in a way I haven’t in a very long time. That spark that gives us our art is very strong, but it’s not indestructible. I realized the crazy, electric wildfire of ideas that rattles around in my head had dulled, but I hadn’t noticed the fact until it came roaring back. Now my job is to keep it safe.
The biggest hazard to any creative person is the world we exist in. Stress is universal, but writers have a strange add-on bundle comprised of self-doubt, well-meant advice that leaves us feeling like compost, and a crazy industry. I can make a grandiose statement about how it’s our responsibility to endure it, but that only makes people want to punch the speaker.
May has to be a better month. It started with the best weather we’ve had so far and I took this photo on May Day. I love the touch of blood read in the depths of these saw-toothed tulips. They’re beautiful but sinister if you have the right kind of warped imagination.
February 14, 2016 • No Comments
January 14, 2016 • 1 Comment
I was piling through some photos from my trip to England a few years ago and found some from the fashion museum in Bath. This extremely Downton Abbey dress is certainly beautiful. I’ve seen photos of my grandmother as a young woman wearing this style and the cut, while seemingly loose, is very flattering to feminine curves. The dress dates from the early 1910s, but I think there are vague hints of the flapper
look to come.
The plaque at the museum describes the dress as “cream silk ninon dress with satin ribbon work trim.” For those (like me) who had to look up the term “ninon” it’s the gauzy stuff. I have to say I am besotted with the way the overskirt is gathered up at the back. It looks casual and elegant at the same time and reminds me of Grecian statuary.
January 13, 2016 • 4 Comments
So here we are the beginning of 2016 and it’s time for me to take a step back and consider next steps.
It’s been a while since the last Emma Jane Holloway offering landed in bookstores. I’ve been careful not to make promises I can’t keep, but I can say that after clearing out other obligations I have a bit of space to think about it and hopefully will have a concrete plan about next books before long.
It’s not like I’m short of ideas or ambition. There are a handful of projects to choose from, each appealing for different reasons. Some are connected to the Baskerville series, some not. Each of my babies deserves to be written. Really. In my admittedly biased view, they all have interesting features and undeniable merit (but then I’m their mom). The fact that I have a choice is in some ways a problem in itself—doing one thing means not doing another, and then I get sad. I want to write ALL the books.
When it comes to decision time, the question is one of how ready a particular project is to be written. It’s not something an author has control of—at least not beyond a certain point. It’s like having a bowl of pears on the table. Which one is ready to eat first? All you can do is watch and wait. What am I waiting for—I dunno. I get a glowy feeling or I don’t. The more complicated the story, the more it needs to sit in the cellar. But eventually a book simply must be written, and away we go.
To complicate matters, sometimes I think I know which project it will be and then some outlier gallops past the post. Yes, it is possible to ignore that project in favor of another, but then what happens is a messy struggle between an unripened plot idea versus a rotting synopsis. I’m not sure, but I think that’s how dystopian novels are born.
Those of you who are writers know what I’m talking about. For those of you who aren’t, be aware that writers are weird.
December 27, 2015 • No Comments
One of the pleasures of Christmas holidays is a little bit more time to read. Book time is also one of the benefits of having a rotten cold since nobody wants to talk to me right now. So, I bring to you a taste of what I’ve been dipping into. This bon-bon fell into my TBR pile a month or so ago. I love historical fiction, I love books about musicians, and I love Mozart so this was a triple win.
Vivien Shotwell’s Vienna Nocturne is the story of Anna Storace, a soprano whose career takes her across Europe and into the sphere of Mozart as well as other musical luminaries of the period. The book seemed to be positioned as something of a romance, but it wasn’t—at least not in the conventional way. Anna has a deeply felt affair with Mozart, but her art is just as much her true love.
Readers who know classical music will lap up the references to the theatres and composers of the period, singing techniques, and the highs and lows of an artist’s life. It’s no surprise to me that the author is also a singer. (see her website). Those less familiar will encounter some unfamiliar terminology and allusions connected with music practice and the history of the period. However, most of it should be understandable from the context.
The book is constructed out of many vignettes that give it almost an epistolary nature, which absolutely suits the eighteenth-century period. There is some gorgeous writing that had me stopping to savor a line here and there. The storyline is straightforward biography but it reads more like a literary than a genre novel, with less detail and a distilled quality of emotion. The form works wonderfully well, never drawing attention to itself and leaving Anna’s discovery of her personal strength a powerful narrative.
I recommend this for music and history lovers, and those who would like to be.
November 27, 2015 • No Comments
The last while I’ve been pulled into a day-job project that has monopolized a lot of my time. It finally came to fruition this week and now I’m on the other side blinking like some small, furry creature plucked from its burrow and into the daylight. As well as relief and some satisfaction, I’m feeling the OMG of everything I let slide until “after.”
Work projects are an opportunity to show what you’re capable of doing, and for that I’m grateful. I’m also humbled by the number of willing hands who pitched in to make it happen. I work with kind and brilliant people. And, in the end, we had a days-long training event with speakers and food and hotel and travel and hospitality suite and recognition–all with very little budget to speak of. Folks came from many cities to take part and seemed to actually enjoy the experience, if rumors of cartwheels in the lobby are to be believed. It’s all good. No doubt I’ll eventually forget the hours of nail-biting and remember only the fun stuff, which is how it should be.
October 6, 2015 • No Comments
I recently had a chance to visit the Ross Bay Villa in Victoria. It’s a historic house I’ve driven by a thousand times and finally made time to visit. Both the garden and building are being restored and tours are available. The best part of visiting was the tour guides, who were tolerant of all my questions and willing to go off on a tangent if asked!
Here are a few details about it, mostly borrowed from its excellent website here, where there is also a fundraising campaign to preserve the site:
- Ross Bay Villa was the home of Francis James Roscoe, his wife Anna Letitia, and their five children from 1865 to 1879.
- Roscoe was a Member of Parliament for Victoria from 1874 to 1878.
- A “Villa” in Victorian architectural terms was the country dwelling of a gentleman. This one is built in the gothic revival style.
- It is believed the house was designed by Write and Sanders, Victoria’s first professional architects.
I can’t imagine seven people plus servants living in this small residence, especially as they must have entertained given Roscoe’s political aspirations.
The wallpaper in the photos was replicated from examples found buried beneath other paints and papers. They believe it is the original or close to it. Notice how the pictures are hung from trim placed right under the ceiling during this period.
July 31, 2015 • No Comments
So, when I was about to begin A Study in Ashes, I was hunting about for some reference material on female colleges. I found plenty of references to the fact that such things existed, but not much detail until I got my hands on this book. I blogged about it here.
To my delight and trepidation, the Baskerville Affair (and A Study in Ashes in particular) has been made part of a college course! http://cdmyers.info/Steampunk.html
It raises some interesting questions about the use of history in what is essentially fantasy. I tend toward a real or real-ish setting because it grounds the story in an “ordinary world” that is the foil of the fantasy. I don’t think it is “bad” or “good” to include a certain level of historical detail but I do think it’s important to make what’s included reasonably accurate.
The other benefit of researching is you never know what you’ll find. The entire setting of the Dartmoor laboratories is a real place I discovered by chance. It’s an old farm and the ruins of a gunpowder mill. However, it serves delightful cream teas and holds pottery classes. The Hound of the Baskervilles was an old collie, I’m afraid.