Friday, September 28, 2007

The Friday Fact

Crinolines vs. Hoop Skirts vs. Bustles

It saddens me when some people use these three words interchangeably. They're not interchangeable, really. Especially not bustle. So here's the quick 411 on the difference between the three. (the picture above was taken 2 years ago at a CW re-enactment. I'm on the right, my sister's on the left and a friend of hers is in the middle. She's wearing my dress though)

Crinolines: Crinolines are also known as petticoats. During the 19th century, crinolines were worn from about 1828 to 1853-1855. There are two kinds: Horsehair and corded. Horsehair crinolines are made out of horsehair, and resemble tulle petticoats that you find under early '90's wedding dresses and awful bridesmaid dresses. Corded petticoats are cotton petticoats with stiffened cotton string in them. My sister is going to make one, so I'll share it when she finishes it.

These things are HOT!! I have danced in crinolines. In Louisiana. In May. Thought I was going to die of a heat stroke. The tulle ones are scratchy, itchy and uncomfortable and I shudder to think how much worse a horse hair one would be. In 1853, that all changed.

Hoop Skirts: Charles Frederic Worth, the favorite designer of Empress Eugenie of France, debuted the "modern" hoop skirt at a ball. It was worn by Eugenie under the biggest skirt that had ever been made to that date. I think the skirt yardage was somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 yards of fabric. That's a lot of fabric! Its weight could not be supported by the crinolines of the day, so Worth got creative. But not original. The hoop skirt dates back to the Byzantine period. He merely updated it and used lighter materials.

A lot of feminists make the argument that the hoop was constricting, a cage of sorts and is all manner of evil. Having worn both crinolines and a hoop, I will take a hoop any day! I can imagine how freeing that must have been to get rid of the mountains of petticoats that could weigh 10 pounds or more, and switch to the light and airy new hoop skirt. Yes, it was big, and yes it did make getting more than 3 ladies in a room very interesting, but it's still preferable to mountains of petticoats that don't breathe.

The hoop was all the rage from 1853 until late 1869/early 1870. In the 50's, it kept getting bigger and bigger and more bell-shaped. Starting in late 1862, the hoop began to take on more of an elliptical shape. After The War, it started shrinking again and shifting more towards the back. Enter The Bustle.

The Bustle: The bustle came about sometime in 1870-1871. I'm not entirely sure when. The entire weight of ladies skirts shifted to the back. Some of the evening dresses from this period are just amazing with the amount of bows and laces and drapes that decorate the back of the skirt.

So you're probably wondering how the heck do you sit down in a bustle. They resembled bird cages and the wires were held together with leather straps. It was designed to collapse when you sat down, and then when you stood back up it would open out again. Really ingenious if you ask me.

In 1877, the bustle disappeared. Completely. Almost overnight. Then in 1884 it came back. 1884 to 1890 is the period that most people associate with the bustle. It's known as the Second Bustle Era. 1890 brings in the era of the Gibson Girl that segued into Edwardian, then into Flapper and so on.

Hoops and horsehair petticoats are easier to buy these days than bustles are. Probably because of the great emphasis on Civil War re-enactment and the general fascination that goes with the world of the Old South. My hoop is made of cotton and plastic and weighs next to nothing. It's a 6-bone. Today, hoops are referred to by how many bones they have. Back in the day they weren't talked of in that manner because the hoops had anywhere from 10-30 bones in them. They were steel, so they did weight quite a bit more than the modern interpretation. But still, they were lighter and cooler and easier to care (as well as took up less closet space) than mountains of horsehair petticoats.

Next time you hear someone going on about how restricting and awful and horrendous hoops and bustles were, stop and think for a minute. Think about how the women then must have felt about the new fads, how free they felt, how much cooler they were in the new fangled items. I know I do. Had I lived in the 1850's, when my first hoop finally arrived, in all likelihood I would have burned my horsehair petticoats.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm a Brownie!

Georgiana posted What Kind of Dessert Are You? Naturally I have to play.

You Are a Brownie

Decadent and intense, you aren't for the weakhearted.
Those who can deal with your strong flavor find out how sweet you really are.

First thought: WHAT??? That can't be right. I don't think of brownies as a dessert. They're in the same category as cookies- you eat them whenever the mood strikes or you need a quick mood elevater. But then I read the description. I am intense and not for the weak-hearted. Those who can deal with my strong personality and strong sense of who I am, do like me. Those who can't deal with it run the other way so fast it'll make your spin.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Conference pictures

Me and Susie Warren. She's just as wonderful in person as she is online!

Me and Tricia Goyer. Now I really need to one of her books......

Clockwise: Kaye, me, Erica and Georgiana. Saturday afternoon during the book signing. It was so much fun getting to meet my buds face to face and find out what their voices sound like. May we have many conferences together!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Conference recap

I have now experienced and survived my very first writing conference! And I have to say that I am totally hooked. If I could just follow Susie Warren around all the time and listen to her talk, I'd be one of the most prolific authors on the planet. Everything she says unlocks something that I need for my writing.

Had a wonderful time. The food was great, some of the best I've ever had. Dessert at the banquet Saturday night put me in chocolate heaven! It was fabulous. Even room service Friday night was good. That's one of the best club sandwiches I've ever had. (and yes, Erica and Kaye, the burger was DIVINE!!! Wow)

I learned a lot. I found Nick's Deepest Fear while in Susie's Brainstorming Blitz Late Night Chat, rewrote the opening of The Master's Hand while sitting in her class about hooks, and then wrote two more scenes in A Time For War while sitting in the airport. I'm now halfway to my Genesis goal with this one. I need to check a few dates before I can continue, those dates affect what order the next three scenes happen in. Then it'll need editing and revising and hopefully I'll have found a crit group before then. I want this to be as good as it possibly can be.

I personally however was disappointed with the worship part of the conference. I really was, especially after hearing about how wonderful it was. The sort of worship that was chosen is fine for a lot of people. But it's not my thing. And I really don't like hearing the same 4 songs over and over and over, and having theological issues with one of them. There's nothing wrong with traditional worship that consists of hymns. Jazz it up a little! Do each worship section in a different way, that way everyone will get the chance to worship in their own way. So there's my soapbox issue...

The best part of the whole conference (aside from meeting Susie and sitting in her classes and sharing a gushing moment over my St. Basil's wallpaper) happened Saturday just after lunch. The door prize winners had been posted, and I wasn't even going to look because I never win door prizes. Mama stopped and looked and I am so glad she did!

It's amazing how God knows exactly what you need to hear and exactly when you need to hear it, and you didn't even realize that you needed to hear it. In the back of my mind I've wondered if I'm on the right track with my life. Yes, I love to write, I love creating words and building a fictional world. But I wasn't sure about its place in my life. Is it a hobby, is it serious, do I pursue publication?

The answer is a resounding yes. I won Tiff Colter's Writing Career Coach course. The whole thing! I opened the envelope, stood there and cried. And then cried some more later, and some more yesterday and today. The envelope is sitting on my desk and I still don't quite believe it.

I hope to be able to go again next year. It was totally worth it. And I've never been to Minnesota before. Sleepover at Erica's!!!!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

12 hours, 25 minutes

12 hours and 25 minutes till I get on the plane to Dallas! Well, theoretically anyway. We all know what airlines are like.

Good news? I don't have a huge airport to run through, so I can sleep late. :D Here I come!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Exhaustion has set in. I had every intention of going to church this morning. A new Sunday School class started last week on exactly what my church believes and why. The first class was wonderful and I really wanted to go to the second one. So I told Mama to wake me up. She did. I couldn't get out of bed. I could barely open my eyes and didn't even try to move. Stayed in bed until 11:30 when I could finally scrape up enough energy to stand upright and put one foot in front of the other.

The reason is one 30 hour work week. I'm not capable of pulling a 30 hour work week. I haven't been for over a year, because of my fibromyalgia. I'm telling myself it was because this was my first week, I needed the experience as part of my training, etc. I really hope that's the case, but at the same time I don't believe it is. HL is short-handed, and it almost feels as if I'm the one being used to fill in the gap and I just can't do that.

It wasn't a problem getting the time off to go to conference next week, since I was up front about that in the interview and told him about both my trips before I was offered the job. Part of the deal is two evenings a week and every other Saturday. I don't have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is being told I am expected to give more than I've got to give.

I'm currently scheduled to work an 8 hour shift Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On top of being flat out exhausted from this past week, and I still have to pack. I quite literally did nothing today. Only checked my email twice all day, which is a sure sign that I don't feel good. So I'm taking matters into my own hands and being very upfront and honest with the boss.

Tomorrow I'm going to repeat that I can only work 25 hours at most per week, and I'm going to see if one of my shifts this coming week can be shortened. I cannot go to conference the way I feel right now, and with the way I'm scheduled, the way I feel will just get worse between now and Thursday. When I'm this tired, my brain shuts down. 24 hours of working in retail in a period of 3 days is more than my body can handle right now. The nature of fibro is progressive, this is not a situation that will get better with time. If I don't pace myself properly, it'll get worse faster, and I'm trying to prevent that.

If I continue to be given more than hours than I've asked for and continue to be expected to work 30 hour weeks, I will leave and find something else. I absolutely flat out refuse to sacrifice my health for anyone, anything or any job. That's why I left KH. And I'll leave HL too. I've sacrificed health and sanity for a job before and I will NEVER do it again.

Please pray that Mr. Robert will be receptive and that he will listen to what I have to say and that he will act on it. I will not sacrifice my health for a job. Period.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Friday Fact


Ever wonder why the skin in 18th and 19th century portraits is so smooth and flawless? It's not just the way the painter painted it. That's the way some skin really appeared to be. It was all in the make-up.

Smallpox was a very real problem back then and could really leave some hideous scars, particularly on the face. To combat this problem, make-up was made out of wax. It went on smooth, and filled in any pockmarks and scars that had been left by smallpox. It was quite beautiful, and for people who had bad scars, it was probably a god-send.

There was a downside to it though. The makeup often contained high amounts of arsenic and lead. Many people who used wax make-up over a long period of time would eventually die of lead or arsenic poisoning. Usually lead since the skin absorbs that mineral more easily.

Since it's made of wax, it also melts easily. Hence the invention of firescreens. They served a dual purpose- to protect the skin from the heat of the fire and to keep the makeup from melting!

Both men and women wore it. There was only one way to tell the difference between a man's makeup kit and a woman's. The woman's had lip rouge in it, the man's did.

Next week is the ACFW conference, and since I'll be attending, there won't be a fact next week. I'll resume once the conference is over.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

How NOT to build a website

I'm starting to put some serious thought into how I want my website to look. That's my first writing goal for next year. Buy a domain name, figure out my content and get it up there. This is where having a SIL who is very handy with HTML comes in REAL handy! I know it'll be heavy on tips for historical writers. I'm a historical writer who dabbles in contemporary, so my site needs to reflect that. It also needs to have purple in there somewhere and a bit of an old-world feel to it. It will also have to reflect my love of Russia. I am completely serious when I say every single thing I write has Russia in it somewhere. If Russia isn't the setting, there's at least one Russian character in there somewhere. I guess that's sort of my trademark. (ooh, maybe I can play off of that for branding myself...)

So far, all I have is a list of things I don't like. This is a really god place to start though, believe it or not. Knowing what you don't like will help you build a better site right from the start. So what do I not like?

#1: Music. I don't like music playing on a page. Particularly if there is no way to turn it off. This is why I don't do MySpace.

#2: Flashy intro pages. It's distracting to me, so I avoid sites that use them. That includes sites run by my favorite writers. I have Terri Blackstock's site linked in my sidebar, but have never been a regular visitor because it was too flashy and strobe-like. Thankfully that's changed and it's a lot calmer. That means I'll visit more often.

A good example of something that's too flashy for my tastes that you can actually see, is Elizabeth Ludwig's site. I know for a fact that Lisa is very proud of her intro page. And it is nicely done. To be perfectly honest, I hate it. 2 of the 3 times I have attempted to visit and see what she's up to, the intro page has frozen my browser. Completely frozen it to where I have to do the Three-Fingered Salute to close it. That's one of the WORST things that can happen to an author's site. If you can't get into it, you can't even drop the author a line to let him/her know that there's a problem. An author site is an essential tool for marketing. If it never loads, you might as well not have anything.

#3: Reliance on lots of graphics. I do have cable internet that's unbelievably fast, but I still don't like things that take forever to load. And the miniscule amount of people still on dial-up don't appreciate it either. Another surefire way to NOT build an audience of regular visitors.

#4: Sites that automatically and without my permission RESIZE my browser window. I have it set the way I want it and I don't want some site changing it, thank you very much. It's a sure fire way to make sure I never come back.

#5: Badly laid out. A good layout for the site that's easy to navigate is absolutely CRUCIAL to the success of a site. Even the most useful site in the world will never get visited if you can't get to what you're looking for. Example of my opinion of a bad layout would be Dee Henderson's site. There's lot of content there. But it's badly laid out. My favorite example of a well laid out author site is Susie Warren, and now I add Terri's site that list. (Terri's new site ROCKS, btw)

#6: Fonts that are hard to read. For example, white text on a black page. Or even worse, neon green on a black page, and yellow or red on a blue page. Yes, I've seen sites like this. We all know this is hard to read, and putting it on a computer screen just compounds the problem. Yet web designers continue to do it. To quote a great man whose name I don't know and who is often quoted by my father- Keep It Simple, Stupid.

There you have it. My few and simple tips on how NOT to build a website. So what are a few of your pet peeves about web sites?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Three Volume Novel

I just watched the British version of The Importance of Being Earnest, made in 1952. It was quite delightful and wonderfully cast.

Anyone who's seen either version or loves the play, knows that Miss Prism is quite proud of her three volume novel and is highly insulted when Cecily says how boring and trivial such things are. My sister promptly turned to me and said "Your Russian thing is a three volume novel".

She's right...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Friday Fact

Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia

Today you'll learn a little bit about Catherine the Great. First off, her name wasn't Catherine. It was Sophie and she was Prussian by birth. Or German or Polish, whichever you prefer. Her mother was in direct line to produce an heir to the throne of Sweden. This is where things get confusing!

Catherine's uncle was engaged to a Russian princess, not just any Russian princess though. Grand Duchess Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. The uncle died before the wedding though, leaving Elizabeth with no way to produce an heir for her father's throne. So the responsibility fell to her younger sister Anna. She produced a son, Peter, and then died shortly after his birth. Now it gets even MORE confusing! This son was the heir to the Russian throne AND the Swedish throne. But there was also another heir for the Russian throne named Ivan VI.

Elizabeth got power hungry, deposed her cousin who sat on the throne as regent for Ivan, and declared Peter her heir. Then it became time to find Peter a wife. Elizabeth's first thought was for the niece of her dead fiancee. Princess Sophie. Sophie and Peter were wed and she took the name of Catherine.

Peter was a weak little man, refusing to grow up and refusing to be Orthodox. As far as he was concerned, there wasn't a drop of Russian blood in him and he was entirely German. Even going so far as retaining his Lutheran faith. Catherine despised him and despised his weakness. Peter was an ugly little man with no self-esteem. A very far cry from his grandfather Peter the Great who stood six and a half feet tall and brought Russia out of the Dark Ages. Catherine herself discovered a love of learning and read literally everything she could get her hands on, from Plato to Voltaire.

Eventually Peter did assume the Russian throne, and he was hated by the Russian people because he refused to be Russian. A bit later, Catherine caught wind of rumors of a plot afoot where she would be killed so Peter could marry his mistress and make her the Empress. Needless to say this didn't sit well with Catherine. She orchestrated a brilliant coup and seized control of the Russian throne without a single drop of blood being spilled. Peter died a few days later. Some say she had him murdered, some say his fragile health finally gave out completely. I like the murder theory myself, makes interesting reading.

Russia was deeply in debt. Her economy was in shambles and her morale shattered. Catherine changed all that. Though she didn't have a drop of Russian blood in her, she became Russian and ruled like a Romanov. Her reign is remembered as great and brilliant, rivaling that of Peter the Great. She fixed the economy, the military, the educational system, the healthcare system and completely revamped the tax code, thereby catapulting Russia very firmly into the Industrial Revolution. She also began the work that would eventually lead to the freeing of the serfs by her grandson, Alexander III.

The one child that she'd born from her late husband was named Paul, and he produced many offspring. Catherine became a doting grandmother and adored her numerous grandchildren. Paul himself married a German princess, thereby securing the fact that the future rulers of Russia would not be Russian.

Catherine also made significant contributions to Russian art. She was a collector of fine arts, and commissioned many of the art works that are associated with Imperial Russia, including the statue of Peter the Great where he's sitting astride a rearing horse. She also built the magnificent Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe Selo. The famed Amber Room that was stolen by the Nazis is inside the Catherine Palace, as is The Great Hall made famous in Anastasia starring Ingrid Bergman and the animated Anastasia produced by Fox. She also built the most GORGEOUS sitting room I've ever seen in my life. It's done floor to ceiling, and the floor and the ceiling too, in blue and white tile. I think it's in The Hermitage, formerly known as the Winter Palace. I just remember seeing it when I went to see The Palaces of St. Petersburg exhibit many many years ago.

It was after Catherine's death that her son, Paul, decreed that no female could ever again sit on the throne of Russia. And no female ever has. But without Catherine, many of the things I love most about Russia and the very things that drew me in in the first place, would never have existed. In a way, I owe my entire fascination with Russia to Catherine. Without her desire to make Russia a modern power, the beauty I fell in love with simply wouldn't exist.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I need of votes!

So, I'm wearing my bridesmaid dress from my brother's wedding to the banquet Saturday night. The dress is sleeveless. I also have a pair of opera gloves that I've never worn. They're the ones that come up above the elbow and button at the wrists.

I can't decided whether or not to bring them. Cast your votes! Gloves yes or no?

Monday, September 3, 2007

5 more days

5 more days till I'm done at KH. I simply MUST remember to take a tote bag with me one day this week so it'll be easier to bring all my stuff home. I have 3 dresses up there, my hoop skirt, some snack stuff, and a load of jewelry. And at least one pair of shoes, possibly two. I honestly don't remember. And have to remember to turn my keys in Friday.

I love the Internet. Flying to New York from here is expensive. To the tune of nearly $600 expensive! That's a HUGE chunk of change for a plane ticket and I don't want to pay it. So I like to scour the Internet and all of the travel sites I can possibly find, looking for the best deal.

Did that just now because the earlier I buy my ticket to NY, the cheaper it is. I was looking at a flight that was $470, and that was the best I could find. But that flight's full and no longer on any of the travel sites. Today is when I started seeing the $6-700 tickets pop up, via Delta. I HATE flying Delta! Mostly because I hate the Atlanta airport. So I usually go through my list of sites to see which one has the best deal.

I didn't do that today. I decided to Google "airline coupon" and see what popped up. Lo and behold here comes a travel site called Side Step. Never heard of it. It searches ALL of the big name travel sites, plus the small ones, plus the airline sites. Thanks to Side Step, I have a ticket to New York through for just shy of $400. Needless to say I snapped it right up and even got to choose my own seats on 5 of the 8 planes I'll be on, I like aisle seats in front of the engines. Yes, 8 planes. Here, Memphis, Philly, Baltimore, NY. And back again. You don't actually buy your ticket on Side Step. It takes you to the site where the ticket is, and Cheap Tickets is owned by Expedia, which is where I usually buy tickets.

So all pre-buy tickets for the trip are purchased! Now we just have to decide if we want to brave the Staten Island ferry in November...

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Chewing on a new idea

And just pounded out the first thousand words of said new idea. It's not actually new, it's been up there floating around for a long time. I just haven't been able to figure out how to tell it.

For some strange reason, all the idea wanted was a prologue written in first person. Now that that's done, the focus of the story has solidified and it falls very firmly into the category of relational drama. I think that's part of what had it hung up. I also finally have a general idea of where to start the story. There is backstory that goes with, quite a bit of it actually, so it'll be a good exercise for me on how to incorporate that without it feeling like backstory.

It's another thing with a tough issue at the core of the story. I seem to be incapable of not dealing with tough issues in my contemporary fiction. Which is pretty odd to me considering I've never dealt with one myself.

It'll probably be awhile before it comes back out and gets any major attention. But when something lands so clearly in my head, I have to write it down. Now I can turn my attention back to A Time For War and not feel guilty about it.