History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

25 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah

Well be taking the week off as people travel to visit family and friends. To keep you tided over, here's the recipe for the Mushroom Bread Pudding I'll be bringing to my celebration.












Mushroom Bread Pudding


Ingredients 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 pound assorted wild mushrooms, chopped

1/2 pound cultivated crimini mushrooms, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon (optional)

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill (optional)

1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

5 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

2/3 cup heavy cream

6 cups trimmed and cubed ( 3/4-inch cubes) day-old French or Italian bread (5 to 6 ounces)


INSTRUCTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter pan. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute till soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter, then the wild and cultivated mushrooms and saute until soft. Increase the heat and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the herbs, salt and pepper, then set aside to cool slightly. Lightly whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Add the milk and cream, whisking until blended. Add the mushroom mixture and bread cubes. Season again and stir to blend. Bake the puddings for 35-40 minutes, or until the tip of a knife inserted in the middle of a pudding comes out clean. For optimum flavor, serve warm or at room temperature. Refrigerate for up to 2 days. To reheat, wrap puddings in aluminum foil, set in a preheated 325 degrees oven for about 10 minutes, or until hot.

22 November 2013

November 22, 1963 -- The End of Camelot

Where were you fifty years ago today-- November 22, 1963?

I'm not going to write a lengthy post filled with biography and history. For that you can read many books on John Fitzgerald Kennedy, his life, his career in politics, and his brief term as President of the United States, cut short by an assassin's bullets.

I would rather that this post be a memoriam. A place to share my recollections of that day and invite you to share yours, without snark or political bias. It was a hopeful time then, the early 1960s, the dawn of new eras: the Space Age, progress in civil rights (which would begin during the presidential term of JFK's VP, Lyndon Baines Johnson). It was a time when Americans were called to action, to service, both at home and abroad. For years now, I've wondered what happened to the ethos "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

My family answered the call in their own way. My father was active with the Anti-Defamation League, fighting the rampant institutional anti-Semitism that was a holdover of the McCarthy era. My mother was active with the League of Women Voters.

It was an age of youth and glamour. And I was a child born into a family of Kennedy Democracts who campaigned for Jack in New York State. The first song I ever learned was the Frank Sinatra version of "High Hopes" on a 45 (I can't remember what was on the B-side of the little vinyl record), which served as JFK's campaign song. I used to dance around our living room in the Bronx, singing along with  Ol' Blue Eyes, "C'mon and vote for Kennedy, vote for Kennedy, and he'll come out on top! Oops, there goes the opposition, ker-oops there goes the opposition, ker-oops there goes the opposition, ker-plop!"

I should mention I was pre-school age at the time. And JFK was my hero. Even then I thought he was impossibly handsome and dashing. I always did like older men. I used to schlep a newspaper clipping of him around with me.

I recall my mother, slender and dark-haired, dressing to emulate the First Lady, if not consciously so. I remember pointy-toed pumps and purses that matched them and pillbox hats. Men and women wanted to look chic and sophisticated.

And then, on an autumnal day in Dallas, the hope and promise of a nation was shattered by gunshots and a leader in the prime of life was taken from us before his dreams for us were fulfilled. As shocked as the rest of us, my mother, about to give birth any day, went into early labor. It might not have happened that way, but I was just a toddler and that's how I remember it. I don't recall whether I heard the horrible news of my hero's death on the news or whehter my parents broke it to me gently. But I became hysterical and crawled under my bed, bawling as if I'd personally known the president. My parents brought me down to my maternal grandparents' apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where I remained until after my mother was delivered of girl on November 26. My sister wasn't given a middle name, but my parents gave her a middle initial: K--for Kennedy. Ironically, my sister is the only member of the family who is apolitical.

So--where were you on November 22, 1963? And how do you remember it?

18 November 2013

100 words a time...

I just wrote 1,000 words (my minimum daily goal for myself, though I don't always achieve it) while sipping a latte in Peet's and nursing my daughter, sitting on a bench at the play park, watching her play with the toy kitchen in Pottery Barn Kids. A few hundred words snatched here and there and yet somehow I got to 1,000. On my a recent visit to New York, I talked about the challenges of finding time to write with Lauren and our mutual friend Cara Elliott. A particular challenges for parents of young children, but all of us struggle with the way life can intrude on writing time.

Driving to the vet’s a few weeks ago with three cats and a toddler (an adventure in and of itself, though we got through the cats’ check ups with everyone in a surprisingly good mood), I heard an interesting interview on NPR with the writer Dani Shapiro. One of the things she talked about was how difficult it is to walk to her desk in the morning and begin to write, how easy it is to get distracted on the way. This particularly resonate with me, as I am beginning to write the next Malcolm and Suzanne book after months of revisions and copy edits. I love the adventure of starting a new book, but there’s no denying the daunting nature of a blank screen. Instead of opening my computer to pages to revise, I open it to the limitless, exciting, and terrifying prospect of words to be written. I love being in my characters’ world. But making the mental jump into that world can be daunting. And with a young child, one can’t afford to spending writing time being daunted.
The trick I’ve settled into to get myself going is to tell myself I only have to write 100 words, then I can check my email, look at Facebook or Twitter, surf the web, or some other tantalizing, short (the key is to keep it short) break. 100 words is much less terrifying than 1000 (which is what I usually try to write a day). Usually somehow I can come up with something to say (it’s even better if I’ve thought it through on the drive to the Peet’s where I do most of my writing). Then a quick break, then another 100 words. Usually by the time I get to 500 I don’t need the breaks anymore or at least I write 200 or 300 words between breaks. On a really good day, I get on a roll after the first 100 words and scarcely need a break at all (sometimes go on to 1500, 2000, etc…). But knowing I can take a break can be the difference between starting to write and spending an hour or so staring at the screen or surfing the web or scrolling through social media. Of course the breaks between 100 word burst also take up precious time (particularly precious if it’s baby nap time). But I find I need to stop and think in any case. My subconscious is working while I read an article in the NYT or browse a fashion site. Or so I tell myself, and I do often find it easier to write again after the break. And telling myself I only have to write 100 more words, gets me to click back into Scrivener after my mini-break.
Somehow, 100 words at a time, this book will get written. After all, the last one did - I just went through the page proofs.

What tricks do you use to get yourself to write?

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14 November 2013

...And Then This Happened

Twitter is where I spend waaaaay too much of my time. Recently, Rose Lerner noticed that on Booklikes, the cover for Cecilia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone had suddenly been replaced by that of a scholarly work on medieval history. I thought this was hilarious and then Rose suggested a meme, and we were off to the races. 

Other participants:
Rose Lerner (I don't think anyone can beat what she did for In For a Penny).
*will add more links as I find them*

[transcript of screencapped twitter convo:
Jackie Barbosa (‏@jackiebarbosa): Well, it certainly doesn't look like anything anyone would be embarrassed to read on the subway!
Cecilia Grant ‏(@Cecilia_Grant): Maybe this will be the next trend in erotic romance covers! The scholarly look! 
Isobel Carr ‏(@IsobelCarr): So tempted. May need to make a scholarly book cover for my site.

Jackie Barbosa (‏@jackiebarbosa): I know. I was thinking of trying it on something, just for funsies.

Rose Lerner (@RoseLerner): Let's start a meme!
Isobel Carr ‏(@IsobelCarr): I suck at using GIMP, but I'm game to try.]

Here's mine. I seem to have gone in a different direction than everyone else, as I also retitled the book in an appropriately stuffy manner. And I do suck at GIMP, so I went totally old skool and did it in PAINT!

Inspiration: Marriage Law Practice in the Long Eighteenth Century by Rebecca Probert (a very pricy book I now REALLY want to read).

12 November 2013

Oh, the things you'll lean on Twitter

Sometimes I really don't want to lean "the truth". Sometimes I just want to cling to my mistakes and deny reality. This is one of those times.

Much to my horror (and that of the brilliant Mary Robinette Kowal), "fob" appears to have meant WATCH POCKET during the Georgian/Regency period rather than the dangly decoration on the other end of the watch chain.

Fobs play a pretty major roll in my first book (LORD SIN), so I was HORRIFIED!!! It would never in a million years have occurred to me to look up FOB in the OED. This is the kind of thing that happens to everyone one, and since I rail about accuracy all the time, I like to admit my mistakes and try to help others from repeating them.

So here we go, from the OED:

1. A small pocket formerly made in the waistband of the breeches and used for carrying a watch, money, or other valuables.
a1652   R. Brome Court Begger ii. i. sig. P2v, in Five New Playes (1653) ,   My Fob has been fubd to day of six pieces.
1667   St. Papers, Dom. CXCI. No. 63. ii,   The right side pockett..and the small pockett or fobb.
a1687   C. Cotton Poet. Wks. (1765) 133   And brought his Gods away in 's Phob.
1711   J. Addison Spectator No. 77. ¶1,   I saw him..squirr away his Watch..into the Thames, and..put up the Pebble, he had before found, in his Fob.
1751   T. Smollett Peregrine Pickle III. xci. 274   The..young gentleman, with an hand in each fob, stood whistling an opera-tune.
1819   T. Moore Tom Crib's Memorial to Congress 6   Whether diddling your subjects, and gutting their fobs.
1839   Dickens Nicholas Nickleby iii. 14   Mr. Nickleby replaced his watch in his fob.
2. U.S. = fob-chain n. at Compounds 2.
1889   M. Hatton-Ripley From Flag to Flag xxiv. 211   The tempting fob that hung from his pocket.
1893   J. S. Farmer Slang,   Fob..a watch chain or ribbon, with buckle and seals, worn hanging from the fob.
A small decorative or functional object attached to a chain or strap hanging from a pocket; (later also) = key fob n. at key n.1 and adj. Compounds 3.
1888   Hampshire Tel. 1 Sept. 9/7   The bride gave each bridesmaid a gold medallion bearing the date of the marriage, and combined monogram, which was worn like a fob, attached to a black watered ribbon.
1913   Railroad Telegrapher Aug. 1356/1   A number of the boys..presented me with a beautiful solid gold fob, engraved with the monogram, ‘O. R. T.’
I shall now weep in a corner.

03 November 2013

The "Other" French Revolution(s)

I’m enjoying reading many of the reviews of CONFESSIONS OF MARIE ANTOINETTE, the final novel in my historical fiction trilogy about the life of the doomed French queen. Yet I’m kind of surprised by the number of people who have conflated that violent era, which began with the storming of the Bastille in July 1789 and continued through 1794, as several revolutionary factions gained power, one after the other, resulting in the downfall of the monarchy in 1792, and the execution of the king—Louis XVI—and his consort, Marie Antoinette, in 1793, with the revolution depicted through most of the narrative of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables.

What came to be known in France as the July Revolution or Second Revolution (or for the sake of this post, the prelude to the rebellion depicted in “Les Mis” ), took place in July, 1830, and indeed the monarch was overthrown, although that king was replaced by his aristocratic cousin, not by a bunch of bloodthirsty revolutionaries.
 Charles X, Marie Antoinette's favorite brother-in-law

However, the two revolutions share some DNA. The king who was overthrown in 1830 was Charles X, formerly known as the comte d’Artois, the youngest brother of Louis XVI, who had spent the French Revolution safely, cravenly, hiding in exile. Charles X was replaced on the French throne by his cousin, Louis-Philippe, duc’Orléans. His wife, Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, was the daughter of the Neapolitan monarchs Ferdinand IV and Maria Carolina, making Maria Amalia Marie Antoinette’s niece. Ironically, the French citizens were so eager to get rid of Marie Antoinette, but they ended up making her niece their queen thirty-seven years after Antoinette's death (not to mention the fact that Marie Antoinette's grand niece, had been Napoleon's second empress).

Supporters of Charles X during this Second Revolution were known as Legitimists. Those who supported his cousin were called Orléanists.
 Storming of the Hotel de Ville (City Hall)

Charles X was the second consecutive ruler during the period known as the Bourbon Restoration. His overthrow marked the end of the Bourbon dynasty. What followed was known as the July Monarchy: the reign of Louis-Philippe, and the shift from the rule of the Bourbons to that of the family’s cadet branch, the Orléans. The two sides of the family, descending from Louis XIV and his brother Philippe had long been rivals, so much so that the duc d’Orléans (at the time, Louis Philippe II d’Orléans) voted to execute his cousin Louis XVI.
Louis-Philippe I, King of the French
After three bloody, violent days at the end of July, 1830, during which the Tuileries Palace was sacked, Charles X was forced to abdicate. He also abdicated the rights of his son, the dauphin, who was married to Marie Thérèse, the daughter of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. Technically, Marie Antoinette's daughter was queen of France for the twenty minutes it took between the time her father-in-law abdicated and the time her husband then abdicated. The French royal family emigrated to England.
The July Column, located in the Place de la Bastille in Paris, commemorates the events of July 27-29, 1830.

The events of the rebellion in "Les Mis" occurred years after the Revolution that toppled Louis XVI's monarchy and cost Louis and Marie Antoinette their lives. It took place in June 1832, during the reign of Louis-Philippe I, King of the French. Parisian students, disillusioned with the outcome of the 1830 Revolution, took to the streets and revolted. Their uprising, known as the June Rebellion, was mercilessly crushed within a week.

Louis-Philippe I and Maria Amalia would remain on the French throne for the next eighteen years, until 1848, when the Third Revolution swept them from power.
The death of Eponine from Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables

Are you familiar with these various French Revolutions, or do you end up getting them confused, too?

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