Friday, October 25, 2019

Carriage collection at Stockwood Discovery Centre

As promised, today I've got the first of many posts on my latest trip to England. At Austen Authors, I'm sharing highlights from the extensive collection of carriages at Stockwood Discovery Centre.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Baltimore research

Well, as it turns out I made that trip to Baltimore sooner than expected! I learned that tall ship Lynx was going to be there along with Pride of Baltimore II. They're both types of schooners known as Baltimore clippers, and very much of interest to me at this point in my research. Still better, they were tied up at Fell's Point, the historic seaport and shipbuilding area of Baltimore, which turned out these schooners by the hundreds in the early 19th century. So I decided to go up and do a day sail on Pride of Baltimore II, since I'd been planning for a long time to do one on Lynx at another event a few weeks from now.

It was very weird to be going on a research trip that's only an hour away rather than a 7-8 hour flight. Unfortunately what I learned is that they were also doing a festival in Fell's Point, and it was a HUGE festival. Apparently it started as a way to raise money to keep Fell's Point from being razed for an interstate highway, but now that that threat is passed, it's just celebratory. So the views of a lot of the buildings were blocked by tents, although I was able to see some good examples of the architecture on the streets farther back. I think I'm going to pop up again at some point and do a history tour and get a better sense of what the harbour-front buildings look like normally.

Even though I didn't have to go all the way to England for this one, I did still manage to find the super-leaning old houses!

Some examples of the Georgian (called Federal-style here since we threw off George III) architecture of Fell's Point.

More house examples. There's no attempt whatsoever at the sort of architectural uniformity you see in places like London, in terrace houses. It looks like each one was built independently, to varying heights and styles. 

One thing that was strangely consistent was these passages, which all led to a sort of rear yard for all of the terraced houses. 

Lynx and Pride of Baltimore II tied up. I love moments like this where there are enough historic elements to mentally edit out the rest and envision this as a scene 200 years ago.

The sail was great, particularly getting to see Lynx with a full spread of canvas from the vantage point of another ship. It really gives a sense of how beautiful and fast these ships were, with their provocatively raked masts and sharp hulls.

Lynx looking absolutely lovely.

Lynx seen from Pride of Baltimore. That's Fort McHenry on the left, of Star Spangled Banner fame.

I also found a nice pub serving cask ale that was not too crowded with festival-goers, and made some good progress on the journal I wrote about at the end of my last post, so in a way it was like a little miniature English trip, except I made it by local commuter rail. All in all it was a very fun and productive time!

Monday, October 7, 2019

Back from my travels, and JASNA AGM

Hello, dear readers! It's been a while since I've done an update here, and I thought I would give you an update on what I've been up to over the past couple of weeks. As you might have seen if you follow my Facebook or Twitter feeds, I've been in England burning some more shoe leather and taking loads of photos to share with you all. I visited five great houses and also spent some time in the Lake District, where I'm planning on setting a portion of A Generation's Secrets.

So watch this space for future Austen Authors posts on the carriage museum I visited, those great houses, and my experiences walking in the Lake District. For now, though, here's a picture of the incredible long gallery at Syon to whet your appetite.

I also went to JASNA's AGM, as it was in Williamsburg this year which is not too far from me (although anyone who dealt with Sunday's I-95 traffic might disagree!). I was fortunate to go with a friend who is as much a Janeite as me, and we decided to dress up the whole time, which I enjoyed even more than I'd expected I would. Although I've certainly worn the clothes all day before and dressed up for the ball at the Washington D.C. AGM a few years ago, I've never actually worn them outside. But given there are already a bunch of people in colonial dress there, it wasn't at all intimidating to walk around in Regency clothing, and it gave me a sense of how it felt to hold a parasol (and how to keep it from bopping one's bonnet).

It also made for some fun moments as we decided to walk up and down Duke of Gloucester Street, which is the main street of the historic area. It turns out a lot of people probably didn't know the difference between Regency and colonial clothing, because we got stopped a number of times by people wanting to take our pictures or have photos taken with us. Our brighter Regency colors and parasols perhaps stood out from the more workman/woman-like clothing most of the people in the colonial area wear.


I think we were not the only ones who dressed up more since it was in Williamsburg, because I felt like I saw a lot more people in period clothes over the whole course of the conference than there had been in D.C. Wearing a new bonnet myself did not prevent me from having bonnet/hat envy as there was some incredible millinery on display.

The conference itself was focused on Northanger Abbey, which isn't my favorite work of Austen's, although it is one I appreciated more the second time I read it. And over the course of the conference I found myself glad that it was on a book I hadn't studied as much, because hearing various analyses made me consider it in different ways, and I think I appreciated it far more by the end of the conference.

The most interesting sessions I attended were:
  • Jocelyn Harris' opening plenary, where she framed Northanger Abbey in very modern terms like "gaslighting" and "fake news" and had a harsher view of Henry Tilney (as sexist and proud of his education and position as a man) versus my own (and I think many others') take of him as teasing and flirtatious. I didn't necessarily agree, but it made me think. 
  • Kristen Miller Zohn's talk on portraiture and architecture as it relates to Northanger Abbey, particularly the common trope of portraits coming to life either literally, or in someone viewing a portrait and then immediately meeting the subject. Until she called it out, I had not realized that Austen used this in Pride and Prejudice, nor that I had planned the same within my outline of The Crimes of Elizabeth Darcy without consciously understanding I was doing it. I wonder if Austen's use was conscious or unconscious?
  • James Nagle's talk on the British Army. Sometimes I find both Austen talks and Austen books too narrowly focused on just examples from her work, but Nagle did a fantastic job of explaining the much broader context of how the army worked and was structured, and then explained the examples seen in the books.
  • Roger Moore's closing plenary on what Austen had to say about the Reformation. Moore also used the example of Northanger Abbey as a fictitious abbey to tell the greater tale about what happened to the abbeys seized by Henry VIII and their legacies.
In and amongst the sessions I had a chance to meet fellow Austen Authors Bronwen Chisholm and Collins Hemingway, as well as Regency romance author Julie Klassen.

And of course there was a ball!


I think my favorite part of the ball is actually the procession beforehand. I remember from the Washington DC conference how amazing it was to see so many people dressed in Regency garb. While there we were riding on escalators, though, in Williamsburg there was a torchlight procession through the historic area.

It was so historically authentic that we needed modern gentlemen in Regency clothing to shine their phone flashlights on patches of horse manure so our dresses would not be soiled. I feel reasonably sure that's the first time JASNA has been THAT historically accurate!



That's not it for my traveling and meeting up, however. For once I actually get to do some location research MUCH closer to home, as Baltimore is also one of the settings in A Generation's Secrets, so I'll be popping up there at some point. And I'll be attending the JAFF Reader Writer Get Together in November, so I hope I'll get a chance to see some of you there!

And yes, in and amongst all of this, I've also been getting some writing in. Mild spoilers for what one of the plotlines will be in A Generation's Secrets below...

One of the elements of the AGS plot are found journals of Lady Anne Darcy's (one of the elements that drives the title) and I decided to write the entries as an actual journal, meaning long-hand in a journal. Although not with a quill pen...I've had quite enough of that for now! I think it's helped to form a different voice for them, and one more in keeping with them being journals than if I had just tried to type them out in and amongst the rest of the story. So I'm currently working my way chronologically through the pertinent events in Lady Anne's life, and then I'll be back to the main manuscript, pulling from the journal entries as I need them.

If you can read my handwriting (which I realize is a big if!), you can get a little sneak preview below, and see how the medium helped influence the tone:


I think that's it for now, dear readers! I hope to see some of you in November!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Why did we do that part 4

My evolution of fashion series wraps up with the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and some very big skirts. At Austen Authors.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Friday, August 2, 2019

Why did we do that part 2

It's time for peak Regency as I cover the 1810s in my latest Austen Authors post. With an excerpt.

I particularly wanted to do this series for my Constant Love readers so that you have a sense of the evolution in fashion Elizabeth will be going through, so I hope you're enjoying it!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Carriage collection at Stockwood Discovery Centre

As promised, today I've got the first of many posts on my latest trip to England. At Austen Authors, I'm sharing highlights from th...