Pocket watch? Wrist watch?

When a character in my historical novel, American Gold, wanted to know the time, would he or she check a pocket watch or a wrist watch? Another one of those nitpicking details I needed to check that had nothing to do with the plot!

Because American Gold takes place during 1911- 1913, my male characters would check a pocket watch to see the time or to determine compass direction. Prior to the war, a women might wear a wrist watch, but a “real man” would not.

During World War I, soldiers discovered how inconvenient it was to take out your pocket watch when you were otherwise occupied. After WWI, men began to change to wristwatches.

The watch to the left is similar to my grandfather’s silver one. When I took it to an appraiser, I learned that the chains on these old watches are often worth more than the watch.

If you’re wondering how to use a watch to determine north/south, you can find out here.

My grandmother also had a pocket watch, but hers could also be attached to a decorative pin and worn as a brooch. The gold case is elaborately decorated with scroll work and yellow, white, and rose gold.

Although her watch no longer works, I can’t bear to part with it because it is so beautiful. It’s similar to the one pictured on the right, but the photo does not do it justice.

These mementos of days past remind me that our ancestors appreciated the extra work required to make utilitarian things beautiful.

A friend once said her father told her, “surround yourself with beautiful things.” I smile just thinking about that. It’s one way to make our personal worlds a little more beautiful.

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Create Custom Word Dictionaries

Writing my historical novel, American Gold, I find myself using Czech words and names, but Word keeps flagging them as misspellings. I don’t want to add them to my main dictionary because I’ll probably never use those words or names again.

Bird with glasses checking dictionaryOne writer recently told me she creates a custom dictionary for each book. How could I not know about custom dictionaries? Or how to tell Word to use more than one dictionary?

For instructions on how to create and use custom dictionaries plus other neat tricks in MS Word, check out this article from PCWorld.

 

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Oranges and Sunshine: Empty Cradles

I just watched the powerful movie, Oranges and Sunshine, based on the empty cradlebook Empty Cradles by Margaret Humphreys. (Later editions were titled Oranges and Sunshine: Empty Cradles.) Now I want to read the book.

The movie chronicles Humphreys’ journey investigating the plight of English children sent to Australia and elsewhere. Some of them were orphans, but many were taken from poor families by the government.

Instead of helping the children and families in their native country, the government deported the children aboard because it would cost less money than keeping them in Britain. Families were told their children would have a better life with other families who could provide more.

Children were told they would be living in a land of constant sunshine where they could pick oranges off trees at breakfast. In reality, many ended up in orphanages or other institutions in harsh, sometimes abusive conditions. By the time Humphreys learns of this, the children are adults with no knowledge of their real families.

The movie states that an estimated 135,000 children were sent away on large ships in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, but other estimates range up to 150,000. Humphreys’ mission was to try and reunite as many children as possible with their families.

The movie focuses on only a few of the children’s stories and how Humphreys could or could not find their biological families in time. The book has many more stories.

The deportation scheme was finally exposed in the press in 1987. It took 23 years for Britain and Australia to apologize to the families and children.

If any of you have seen the movie or read the book, please share your reactions in the comments.

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CIA Connections to Paris Review

According to this article in Bomb, the publishing world has known for a long time that the CIA was involved in the founding of the Paris Review. I only found out two months ago. but then I’m not in the loop.

I always thought of insiders at literary journals as rather bookish intellectual types. Who knew that some of them were on the edges of the spy world. Hmmm, could be a setup for a thriller.

 

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Your first five pages

I received a professional critique of the first five pages of my historical novel in progress, American Gold, from Jodi Henley. Your first five pages are the most critical when submitting to an agent or publisher, or  grabbing a reader who’s browsing online or in a bookstore.

woman with handwritten pagesI’ve taken classes with Jodi before and found them worthwhile. She is known for being generous in her workshops. In this case, she went beyond critiquing the first five pages. She offered participants a a cursory review of additional pages.

The writing I submitted was private between Jodi and me. The other workshop participants saw neither ,y pages nor Jodi’s specific feedback.

The class I’m in is sponsored by All Writer Workshops (AWW) and runs until Feb. 11. AWW offers affordable classes on a variety of writing related subjects where you get to interact with your instructor. They are not pre-recorded sessions.

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A Man Called Ove

I didn’t want this book to end. I wanted to keep on reading more about Ove and the situations he gets into. The book is both humorous and sad. It’s written in present tense in conversational tone.


Ove is a curmudgeon who can be both exasperating and kind. He reminded me a lot of my father and somewhat of my husband. (I refuse to consider that Freudian!)


Read A Man Called Ove. If you’ve had a lovable curmudgeon in your life, you will smile at the similarities in Ove. If you haven’t yet experienced a curmudgeon, memories of Ove will help prepare you in case you do. If you’re unlucky enough to never have a curmudgeon in your life, at least you can experience one vicariously.

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Find Your Perfect Writers Conference, Retreat, or Workshop

solitary writer in natureIt is so frustrating when I learn about what sounds like the perfect writers conference or retreat only to find that it’s already happened or registration is closed.

Instead of waiting for your favorite writers magazine or author group to list a conference, retreat, or class that suits you, try targeted searches instead. They’re much more efficient way to find what you’re looking for.


You can find a great listing of conferences, retreats, etc. courtesy of 
The Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

Shaw Guides has long been the goto place for finding events aimed at writers. Their site lets you search by genre, location, or month and year.

Hope you find something of interest! If there’s a writer event you’d like to recommend, share it in the comments.

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Do All Writers Need a Platform?

Do all writers need a platform? Just what is platform anyway?

What if you’re an unpublished fiction writer?

I still struggle with the platform questions such as what to do and when. I write short nonfiction and some short fiction, and I’m writing a novel.

Part of me wants to just write, but another part enjoys engaging with people online and offline. So for now, I blog what interests and enlightens to me, and hope you feel the same.

This excellent post on platform from Jane Friedman is too good not to share and keep. What are your thoughts and/or strategy?

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Get your rocks in order

Firewords over waterHappy New Year everyone!

Are your rocks in order for 2017? Successful author Joanna Penn uses the analogy of rocks in a jar for determining major, medium, and minor goals in her podcast.

Maybe it will keep you from getting mired in the sand of minor tasks and social media addiction. I did better avoiding the sand this year compared to last year, but there’s lots of room for improvement. Check out her plan to achieve creative goals. (There’s some chit chat in the beginning of the podcast, but, after that, it gets into some good info, especially for writers.

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Norman Rockwell Moment

The e-cards I sent this year included an audio file of a child singing “Silent Night.” That has always been my favorite Christmas carol. I love the simple melody and lyrics, and it reminds me of my own childhood when I played the spinet on Christmas Eve and my German father and aunt loudly sang Silent Night and few other carols in their native German. I picture it now as my family’s own Norman Rockwell moment.

Springerle

Dessert at Christmas Eve dinner was the Christmas stollen plus German cookies – pfeffernusse and springerle. Pfeffernusse are a gingerbread type spice cookie, springerle are anise flavored. One could not cut into the stollen until Christmas Eve or else you would have bad luck. Mom used her Czech recipe for stollen, but the result worked for both sides of the family.

My mother was born in Nebraska to Czech parents, so Christmas in my house was a two-day affair. Christmas Eve was German night; Christmas Day was American/Czech day with my mother’s side of the family.

Medvedi tlapcicky

Roast goose and dumplings for a Christmas afternoon dinner, more stollen, and Czech Christmas cookies – vanilla crescents and medvedi tlapicky or “bear paws” because they are baked in individual molds or a madeleine pan to look like paws. They are a savory chocolate cookie. Good old American chocolate chip Toll House cookies were also there.

This story dates back to the 1920s. That’s well before my time, but I think you’ll enjoy it: The Real Flying Santa.

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