The Healer and the Pirate

The Healer and the Pirate is available now on Kindle and Nook, and in print at Lulu and Amazon!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Runaways and Chocolate - April 28, 1921

So this week I traced a pretty cool mystery in 1845 Coney Island, about a dead body found (!). But it gets more interesting from there, if you believe it. Check it out on my Coney Island blog!

Just one quick update in 1921. Runaways and chocolate!


Youngsters Glad to Return After Auto Escapade of 120 Hours and Candy and Cake Diet.
Long Branch Convinced Runaway Was a Lark--"Nicely Treated," Ruth's Comment.

--The New York Times, April 28, 1921

So 15-year-old Garrett "Garry" Disbrow Jr. took 15-year-old Bradford Ziegler and 14-year-old Ruth White on a joyride in Disbrow's father's car. But they broke the windshield and did other damage, so they stayed away to keep from getting into trouble. They lived on 4 boxes of candy and "a lot of cake." Ruth slept on the front seat, with Bradford and Garrett in the back. They stopped at a couple different garages, bartered for repair work, and got free sandwiches, coffee, and an offer for free gas. A police officer spied them fixing a flat tire, and brought the kids home.

The article notes that upon the reunion, "nobody even suggested a spanking" (!).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Physics of Magic - Tucson Festival of Books

For my own writing--my outline isn't perfect, but I'm now on the "spreadsheet" portion of the Snowflake Method. That's where you (basically) take your outline and write it into scenes. The only thing that annoys me about that--I actually LOVE spreadsheets (and rankle a bit at the implication that writers are scared of spreadsheets...I once created a PTO calendar for about 30 employees in Excel!). But can't find a good free spreadsheet program for my old laptop running Mac 10.4. I have NeoOffice, but it is SO slow. I've tried using Google's but it's not great for big blocks of text. So I'm just doing tables, which is sad because I adore spreadsheets. :( I'm slowly saving for a new computer but at this rate, it will be another year (unless this one dies first).

OK, just a couple more reports from the Tucson Festival of Books! This panel was on The Physics of Magic, with Dennis McKiernan and Timothy Zahn. Again, this is posted for the ideas these men convey, and isn't necessarily an endorsement of them. A few notes from me in (())s.

Dennis McKiernan says, "In physics, there's no such thing as a free lunch." He says it's not like in Harry Potter, where all you need to know is Latin. There, you don't pay anything to cast a spell..."You need a stick."

Timothy Zahn says the cost can be emotional/physical, or energy like real physics, or even moral costs like Lord of the Rings (Sauron was cast out because of the rule that wizards cannot dominate the world). He also says that in the real world, any equipment must work in a specified way. You must "put a box" around your magic so you know what you can do, and so your reader knows what you can do. Think of "costs and limitations." ((My dad in particular hates when people can do ANYTHING with magic--that turned him off of Lost, and he does mention it as a problem with Harry Potter.))

Dennis later says, "Never pull anything out of your hip pocket that the reader is not prepared for." This means a lot of foreshadowing. He also says, "Never make it easy on your hero."

Timothy also notes that the moral element can add another "box" for the hero--that they have to win against bad guys in a specified way. ((That would be a bit like the real world, where suicide bombers can kill and destroy indiscriminately but the good guys are hopefully derided for doing so.)) But the Nazis are a real-world example of how following the moral code can be advantageous--refugees from occupied countries helped develop the nuclear bomb. ((Or as my dad simplifies, "Our Germans were smarter than their Germans."))

Timothy thinks that you should set things up so that the reader remembers the setup later. The reader should understand it no more than two paragraphs before it's revealed. He also notes that in the real world, with weapons technology, someone is always looking for a counter. When he asked a 4th grade class about limits to magic, a child suggested "When you cast a spell, a dog appears and tries to bite you." ((We all laughed at that!)) He said if magic has been going around for 10 or 15 years, people have figured out all the ways to use/abuse it, and how to counter it.

Dennis notes that magic should be fairly rare or it gets too mundane, common, and boring.

But Timothy countered that Harry Potter has a lot of one-of-a-kind devices. In the real world, the knowledge that it has been done is enough to make more people make them. So if you have one-of-a-kind devices in your world, you have to figure out why someone hasn't made it yet. (Some options include guarded secrets--no one knows it exists--or that it's very hard to make.)

Dennis says that even in fantasy worlds, trees and rivers must act like trees and rivers. The fastest river, he says, is 30-40 miles per hour, with most running at 2 or 3 miles per hour. Things with some real-world basis should work like they really work. He notes that in most fantasy worlds--including his own, he admits--thousands of years pass without technological advances.

Timothy notes that for hundreds of thousands of years, things overall didn't change much. War speeds development. If the land is peaceful, things may not progress much, especially if wizards don't want peasants to get these developments.

One fascinating tip that Dennis had was that he is careful to place "red slippers" in his work. The idea is, what if a Sherlock Holmes mystery started out saying "We had just solved the case of the Red Slipper when..." someone came in and another random adventure started. They'd never actually describe the case of the Red Slipper, but someday, the author might come back to it for a new adventure. Those are the kind of hints you can scatter throughout your work--leaving a ton of things you can come back to when you write more stories.

If the archive link still works, you can read about red slippers in more detail at

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tampa Bay Airport - Things to Do in Airside/Terminal C

So on my flight to Florida, I had a long layover in Tampa Bay. As in, I arrived at 4:30 PM and was scheduled to depart at 8:05 PM (with delays, it turned out more like 9:00 PM). I was tempted to find something to do in Tampa Bay proper, but I didn't want to be stressed for time, and certainly didn't want to go through TSA. So instead, I became intimately acquainted with "Airside C" of Tampa Bay International Airport.

As an introvert, I found it delightful toward sunset and later, when it was less crowded. Mid-day on my flight back, it was spacious enough that it didn't feel crowded...but I still liked it when it was empty.

Most of the pictures I got were lower-quality cell phone pictures...I didn't feel comfortable taking too many pictures with my regular camera.

The whole terminal has a lot of glass and just feels very airy. It's like a giant building with mini-buildings and walled-off areas inside.

I'm really not sure why they call it an "airside" but I guess they think there's just one terminal?

I personally ate at Quizno's.

The sandwich prices were very steep. The salad prices were less steep--not that much more than a salad you'd get outside the airport, though they didn't come with any flatbread.

It was really good, though I doubt "healthy" would describe it.

Other restaurants include a standalone Nathans/Samuel Adams and a Home Team, whatever that is.

Home Team was kind of a sit-down-ish place (and a sports-bar type place), though they did have a to-go window. Due to time constraints, I ate at Nathan's on the way back...the hot dog was OK but there was a great chip selection (I got popcorn!).

And there's a Chili's Too. I feel weird eating at a sit-down place alone.

Looking back toward the security checkpoint:

The outdoor smoking areas are little screened-in concrete areas. Not too friendly but I suppose they'll do if you need nicotine.

There is a newsstand and another store with overpriced food:

And spiffy art above it.

Don't worry about what to do with your purse when you use the restroom. They have Purse Wrap!

Things to do in the airport during a 4.5 hour layover:

Scrounge around for a newspaper. Who knew Prince Valiant was still around?

Visit the play area:

Wave at the giant aviator statue:

Tuck yourself away into a workstation...

...including free Wi-Fi (at least in March 2011)!:

Get some Tampa Bay Info to Go:

Make sure your luggage and personal item will fit on your plane. (Or commandeer a wheelchair!)

Take a picture of your plane:

Take a picture of your luggage:

I saw someone taking a nap on the floor by the window. No pic but he looked very comfortable!

Relax in one of the luxurious leatherette chairs:

Or just snap and finally start taking pictures of your cute tiny Duffy Bear.

Safe travels, everyone!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Captain of our salvation

The first Easter morning was the most glorious hour of history and has shed its radiance down through all succeeding centuries. The empty tomb of Christ turned his tragic cross into an effulgent crown and proclaimed him Lord of Life and Master of Death. Here at last is a visitor from "the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns." Here is, not simply a whisper from the silence of eternity, but a clear strong voice; not merely a gleam for peering strained eyes but a gush and flood of light from the gates of the celestial city pushed ajar. The Wonderful Night with its Babe of Bethlehem is irradiated by the Wonderful Morning with its risen Lord. In the dawn of this day life takes on grand meaning and immortal hope, death is robbed of its sting, and the light and joy and song of it gild all our crosses and fill all our days. Let every sorrowing soul be comforted, and every fainting heart take courage, and follow the Captain of our salvation who hath marched to the gates of endless joy and opened them for our entrance. Plant a flower of hope on the grave: it "is the green mountain-top of a far new world."...

--A Wonderful Morning: An Interpretation of Easter by James Henry Snowden (1921)

Thank You, Jesus, for Your sacrifice, and for the gift and promise of everlasting life.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easter 1921

In 1921, Easter came a few weeks earlier than it does this year.

I had heard that scripted drama in church was a very modern phenomenon, but apparently not that new in the big cities:


Miracle Drama in Union Methodist, Mystery Play Before Altar of St. John the Divine.
Archbishop Hayes to Sing Mass--Bishop-elect Manning in Farewell Sermon as Trinity Rector.

--The New York Times, March 26, 1921

St. Patrick's Cathedral circa 2007

The article mostly details the Catholic masses at the beginning, and also at the very end. Tucked away a couple paragraphs from the bottom, it notes that Union Methodist Church at Forty-eight Street near Broadway will be putting on "a miracle play, 'The Resurrection of Our Lord.'" It lists the starring roles (Jesus is not a starring role; I assume it is more about the empty tomb).

"The Power of His Resurrection" is a mystery play by Carrol Lund Bates, put on at the Church of St. John the Evangelist at West Eleventh Street and Waverley Place. They haven't done a drama like that before.

More Colors Shown in Apparel in Other Parts of the City.
Outpouring Largest in City's History and East Side Children Were the Happiest.

--The New York Times, March 28, 1921

Back in the day, people used to wear their finest clothes for Easter, and then after church they would parade down Fifth Avenue. If the article is to be believed, they would parade by either walking, riding in an automobile, or riding on a bus or trolley. The article points out that other places, like "Lenox and Seventh Avenues and Riverside Drive, Grand Street and Mulberry Street, Brooklyn and the Bronx" had parades too, and with brighter and more interesting colors than the pretentions of Sixth Avenue.

It didn't rain as predicted, but there was a chill wind. They say that girls wore wraps over their short-sleeved, low-necked, sheer, summer clothes, and I think they're saying that men refused to put on their winter overcoats. They attribute the gaiety to the war (and its high prices) being over. (This was the first year in several that kids could afford to decorate REAL Easter eggs!)

The "Italian children" on Mulberry Street got to ride a small, hand-cranked merry-go-round for a penny a ride!


Week's Trade in Blooms Greater Than at This Season in Any Former Year.
Fifth Avenue and Broadway Shopping Districts Have Rush Like That Before Christmas.

--The New York Times, March 27, 1921

The article says that flowers were SO much cheaper that year (1921) versus the previous year, consumers just had to buy--and they were a higher quality than usual too, thanks to fortuitous weather! Interestingly, orchids used to come from overseas--there was nearly a shortage of orchids because they were trying to grow them in the US, which reduced the number of imports.

Astoundingly, "roses" were $4+, with a bunch of violets at $3, $5, and $6. "Spring flowers" were $3 to $6 a dozen.

Nowadays, many flowers come from overseas, again. notes that Columbia and Ecuador grow a lot of America's flowers, producing at least 90% of our roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums. Our prices today seem to be either similar to or maybe even reduced from the 1920s prices. The Inflation Calculator puts those $3 "spring flowers" at $36.24 in 2010. Many grocery stores have bouquets much cheaper than that nowadays, though $36.24 sounds right around what a florist would charge.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bringing History to Life - Julia London and Karen Hawkins

Back to the Tucson Festival of Books! Again, I went to these panels because they sounded interesting, not because I'm familiar with the authors' works. (But these authors were fun!)

First off, the most interesting note I heard here--so interesting I'll put it at the top--was that Karen Hawkins noted that people weren't THAT much smaller back in the old days. The reason most existant pieces of historical clothing are so small is because smaller pieces are the ones that were left over, because they weren't handed down often--there was no one to fit them. So while people WERE smaller back then, they weren't as tiny as the remaining pieces would lead us to believe.

I was on the fence as to going to this panel and Googled the authors' names to see just what kind of people they were. (The last romance panel I went to was mostly populated by people who wrote stories...ah...not like the kind I would like to read.) I chose this panel because of Karen Hawkins' hilarious entry on fan mail from jailbirds.

Despite the fact that I haven't written any historical fiction yet, I might like to someday. Between that and just how interesting the panel was, I took by far the most notes on this panel versus any other.

The panel was mostly for writing historical ROMANCE, not historical fiction. The difference, according to Julia London, is that historical fiction fictionalizes a historical event, while historical romance uses history as a backdrop.

Karen Hawkins added that in historical fiction, history is the meal, while in historical romance, the history is the dessert--it's a little more escapist, and for a reader, a little more relaxing.

Julia said that you want the backdrop to be right, the houses to have the right details (and in a romance, those houses are going to be castles and Georgian homes, not London hovels).

Karen added, "Almost every person you see in a romance lives in a castle...There's a lot of dukes and a lot of earls out there looking for the right woman." In fiction, it's amazing how many!

Another appealing part of writing historical fiction that Julia noted was playing dress-up in your head.

And Karen said that if you tell people you're researching, they think you're working when really you're looking at fashion plates and thinking, "I'd look good in that!" She went to the Smithsonian (I think it was) and told them she was an author, and got behind-the-scenes.

Both authors write in romantic time periods. ((As an aside, I'd argue that most time periods have been romanticized. I don't find the Civil War period very romantic--at least, I don't see much appeal in the Southern side--but there sure are stories about it!))

Karen says editors want you to write in a time period that's selling. "Write what you love, and love the market."

To find her setting, Karen actually looks at a map until a name catches her attention, then researches the place. She wants complete ownership, so she creates characters completely--she makes up the first name but uses the family name and place, and looks at political aspects.

Julia notes you need to know the geopolitical facts of the period--she even has a reference library on her particular time period (the Regency). She found costuming books in rare bookstores--some circa 1900 had fashions from the 1800s. For her sources, she visits houses and castles in person and picks up and buys booklets and the like.

Karen checks eBay, even books sold by the page. She notes, "I have a whole room--it's supposed to be an office but it's really a library--you could lean against the wall..."

Julia minored in history. She also read a lot of literature from the time period. She likes to get authentic names (though some you think are new are actually old). Her name sources are graveyards and

Karen admits she uses Wikipedia as a jumping-off point. She noted that Wikipedia says she has a Ph.D. in political science--"That's not true but I'm not gonna change it." She also reads books from the time period before starting writing, to get into the voice/tone. (She's read so many historical newspaper reports, she said she's become disgusted with the French!) But she makes changes, such as using more contractions than they did, and changing marriage laws and history when it suits the story. She'll listen to Scottish accent tapes before starting, to get the accent--but too much accent will pull the reader out of the story.

Julia suggests using a couple words a character says to bring out the accent without being cumbersome.

Karen also suggests looking up letters written in the time period (like letters from Byron, though a lot of the letters are really boring). She says to make friends with your local librarian, especially the University librarian.

If writing further back, like Elizabethan, Karen suggests researching important people and reading the biographies. The back of biographies often list other books that are better resources. She also suggested local academic resources, like Ph.D. works. Noting that you'll learn 800 facts and only use one, she added, "You have to sacrifice the history to the story. If it slows your pacing down or disrupts the story flow," you have to leave the facts out. She said to avoid author intrusions and info dumps. Info dumps can work but the story is what makes it sell.

Julia noted that pacing has to be faster now because attention spans are shorter.

Karen said, "Today's readers don't have time." You can use a detail to remind the reader where they are, and lace it throughout the whole book. "Add a horse," she said.

"Or a reticule," Julia added.

Karen said mistakes will always be there. Sometimes you think you know something. If traditionally published, an editor goes through the book, and then it goes to a copy editor, who is supposed to check every fact. All copy editors will find SOME things, but not all will go through the book as thoroughly.

As far as history, an audience member noted that historical fiction readers often read the afterword before they start reading the book.

Julia and Karen agreed that the appeal of the Regency period is that Jane Austen is so accessible. Julia said men were strong but chivalrous, and women were strong but nice--it was a gentler time. Karen cited that people have an image in their mind what Regency is; I believe one of them mentioned that there's kind of a framework built already, so you don't have to go into as much historical detail, since readers are familiar with it.

For her process, Karen says she writes a 12-15 page treatment, then an outline, and researches during the outline. "If I did not have an outline," she said, "I would still be on my first book" and I think she said it would be 900,000,000 words long. She doesn't stick to the outline, but it gets her going.

Both authors read what they wrote the day before, edit it, and then get going. ((I often do that too!))

For relationships, Karen watches the dynamics of real couples, reads self-help books for ideas (anxiety attacks, PTSD, and co-dependency all existed before they had a name for it). Julia remembers that men had all the power, and women did not--that's different from today.

She also notes that in publishing, the cover is supposed to sell and appeal to as broad an audience as possible. You tell them what you want, they say "Thank you for the suggestion," and then you get what you get.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bonnet House - Fort Lauderdale - March 2011

So Maggie had found a Groupon to Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale, a house built in the 1920s and 1930s.

The surrounding "grounds" are one of just a couple natural-type areas in Fort Lauderdale, and it feels almost like a miniature rain forest. We were advised that we just might spot a squirrel monkey--a local bartender nearby reportedly kept the monkeys caged in his bar in the 1970s. His bar burned down one night, but the monkeys got out. They determined that someone had released the monkeys and thus determined it was arson! The owner did the right thing by the monkeys, but went to jail for it. Those monkeys took up residence at the Bonnet House grounds.

And we saw most or all of them right as we walked in, which was really unusual! I don't like monkeys, but these were super-cute.

Oh no! It blinked!

That's better.

Note to self. Barbed wire fences do not deter squirrel monkeys.

So, when you check in at the main entrance, they give you your little visitor sticker and let you wander the grounds until your scheduled tour starts at the main house.

We had a large group and an absolutely excellent guide, an older woman from New York. We waited in a kind of shaded area. Once the tour started (I think at 10:30 sharp!) she outlined the history of the house.

The house was reportedly named for the bonnet lily that grows there, or else an alligator came up in the lily pond and it looked like it had a bonnet on, and that's how the house got its name. American artist Frederic Clay Bartlett received the near-beachfront-property land as a wedding gift (when he married his second wife, Helen Birch). Construction on the house started in 1920. Helen died in 1925, they donated their impressionist art collection to the Chicago Art Museum, and Frederic married Evelyn Fortune Lilly (of the pharmaceutical family). They did not lack for money! Frederic and Evelyn were both artists, and they built up the house.

Here is a link to the front of the visitor guide.

The map makes the grounds look really big, but the walk around the grounds is not very long at all. If you don't want to or can't walk, they'll take you on a tour on something like a golf cart for a couple bucks.

You are permitted to take photos in the courtyard only, not inside the rooms (which are even more fabulous than the exterior, IMO).

After our visit with the monkeys I found this statue pretty interesting!

I believe they said that Evelyn hand-painted all this netting, while Frederic painted the fish.

There is a little greenhouse right off the shell room.  The guide said something like she'd never seen the orchids look so nice.

If you want to see more of the indoors, Martha Stewart has some pictures up.  (They did not allow us to go upstairs, so it even has a picture of a bedroom we didn't see!)

After the tour, we enjoyed wandering the 38-acre grounds.

If you follow the one spur of the path, you can walk close enough to see the ocean. There's a locked gate keeping you from crossing the highway to get there, though!

I believe this is a little pavilion where Frederic would host card games, with themed murals and everything. The painting, being outdoors, is by necessity a reproduction.

Oh, and I love dressing up for no reason, so I wore my "1920s" outfit to the Bonnet House.  Should've worked harder to get good pictures with my co-author, though.

At Arby's afterward, they asked our names for our order. Is it wrong that I gave them the name of one of my characters from the 1920s?