In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Crossing Paths with Franklin Benjamin Gage of East St Johnsbury

Although it's barely a whistlestop* now, with just a post office and a church and a "free library" on the post office porch -- plus the significant Peter and Polly Park, which I'll write about at another time -- East St Johnsbury was once a hub of manufacture and business. The significant Fairbanks family that nurtured both jobs and culture for the area erected its first mill on the Moose River in East St Johnsbury. Actually in the early days this was "St Johnsbury East" or just "East Village." And it prospered.

That prosperity and the related emphasis on education were in the background of a youth named Franklin Benjamin Gage, born in the village in 1824. He became a significant inventor in photo processes, and created both portraits and landscape images. I'm enamored of his stereo views of the region, which have become hard to find.

Shown here is a child portrait -- could it be your great-great-great-grandparent? -- probably made in Gage's studio in St. Johnsbury proper. On the reverse, he calls it an "ebonytype": a fancy name for a way of presenting the work that may have emphasized the sharp contrast of black and white in the original portrait. It's hard to tell now ... "ebonytype" doesn't have a definition that I've found, and is only mentioned in a wonderful article on Gage, from which I draw this quote:
By 1856 Gage advertised that his was the largest photographic establishment in the state of Vermont; at first offering daguerreotypes and then adding all the modern processes and styles as they became available – ambrotypes, mezzotypes, ebonytypes, cartes-de-visite, cabinet portraits, and so on, as well as displaying and selling his stereo views. 
The highly researched piece on Gage is authored by Bill Johnson and Susie Cohen -- I don't know who they were/are, and they stopped posting their writing about vintage photos five years ago. But I keep returning to the article, and now it has added meaning because the prime of F. B. Gage's life overlaps the period that's coming to life in my in-progress book, THIS ARDENT FLAME (second in the Winds of Freedom series from Five Star/Cengage). So I am thinking about what Gage may have seen in this image, and why he chose it to promote his work.

If this IS your four-greats grandparent, please do let me know. I'd love to attach a name to the face.

*Whistlestop: a railroad term. Also pertinent to the article I spent yesterday researching and drafting. You'll see it soon.

[Thanks, Dave Kanell, for the images!]

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Ruffed Grouse, or Partridge (Pa'tridge)?

One of the challenges of writing a novel set in 1852 is the details that aren't recorded, but that I still want to get "historically accurate" for the story. Today's puzzlement is how to talk about the wild bird known to American colonists, based on their British experience, as partridge -- but corrected in name to ruffed grouse. John J. Audubon painted the birds (see above). And Karen A. Bordeau of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department also wrote this in 2015:

Regulation of grouse hunting received no attention for a long period. The first act protecting birds was passed in 1842, affording a breeding and rearing season free from molestation. They could be legally taken between September 1 and April 1, and permission of the landowner was required for hunting.
The regulation was repealed after four years, and grouse remained unprotected until 1862. The second law protecting grouse, passed in 1862, established a shorter season September 1-February 28 and four years later hunting was further curtailed by closing the season on January 31. Snaring had been a popular method of capture, and in 1885, was forbidden. By 1929, grouse were so rare all over the state that the Legislature completely closed the season in Coos County on the Canadian border, and in Cheshire County bordering Massachusetts.

And the New International Encyclopedia of 1917 says this:


So, what do my characters call these birds? That's in chapter 4 of THIS ARDENT FLAME (Book 2 of Winds of Freedom).

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Review of THE LONG SHADOW in Vermont History, Summer/Fall 2018, Social Studies Focus

One of the best tests of a historical Vermont novel with teen protagonists takes place when a social studies teacher -- a professional in the field -- sits down to read it. So I am hugely grateful and honored that Christine Smith, a teacher-librarian at Spaulding High School in Barre, Vermont, and president of the Vermont Alliance of the Social Studies (VASS), chose to read and review THE LONG SHADOW for the summer/fall 2018 issue of Vermont History, the journal of the Vermont Historical Society. I'm posting the review here -- seeing this in print is one of the great benefits of being a member of the Vermont Historical Society. Other articles in this issue focus on Burlington's ethnic communities, a Vermont steamboat pioneer, and Revolution-era hero Seth Warner. All worth reading!




My Brain Is Back in 1852 (Writing THIS ARDENT FLAME)

Dishes are stacked a little higher than usual. There's dust under the bed. But the chapters are unfolding, each page a marvel as I "discover" where the new book is going. My feet and my brain are in 1852 (fear not, my heart's still with my honey in 2018, and I can still cook).

Just so you can see what it's like -- at one moment I'm tapping out dialogue and moving the characters to the next scene. And then, quick, it's time to dash back into the research, like these marvelous pages from the 1854 edition of Walton's Register -- a business directory for Vermont that reveals much, much more than who owns what.