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Picturing a World

Jack o' lantern

Blog tip: Somewhere I read about American art students in Paris carving caricatures at Hallowe'en. I wanted to include a scene in which Jeanette and her friends carved turnips to look like their teachers, but it didn't fit dramatically. This picture—from a post at That Devil History—illustrates how really creepy the original jack o' lanterns were and something of what is involved in carving them. Happy Hallowe'en! Read More 
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Half-finished sentences

Edgar Degas once said, "Conversation in real life is full of half-finished sentences and overlapping talk. Why shouldn't painting be too?" Look at the partially lifted curtain in the background and the men hanging around on stage in middle and foreground. Don't  Read More 
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Hungaria Restaurant, 1908

Having read that Hungarian restaurants were among the first ethnic restaurants in New York to attract customers outside their own community, I’ve sent Mattie and her lover to one early in ANONYMITY. For the fun of it, I tried to find images of one in 1908. Lo and behold, this photograph! It shows  Read More 
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What corsets do

Blog tip: Corsets exercise the modern mind. Why did they WEAR them??? A revealing answer, a myth-busting answer (oh, the puns are endless) and more important a good look at how a corset affects the look of clothes is offered by The Pragmatic Costumer hereRead More 
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Painting Limoges porcelain

At one point when I thought Jeanette might try to earn money to pay for her art lessons, I considered sending her to a porcelain factory to paint vases as the men in Dammouse’s picture are shown doing. An echo of that theme lingers in the porcelain manufacturer from Limoges who attends the  Read More 
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Clay maquette

Swedish artist Eva Bonnier accompanied Hanna Hirsch to Paris in 1883.* Bonnier was primarily a painter; but like my characters, Amy Richardson and Sonja Borealska, she practiced sculpture in clay. Read More 
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Mistress, Mrs., Miss

Website tip: Writers of historical fiction sometimes have to fudge past usages and customs to make them comprehensible to modern readers (Jeanette would no doubt always have called Amy Miss Richardson, but I decided to put them on first-name basis to communicate the level of their friendship). Nevertheless, we need to know what to fudge. To learn about the evolution of Mrs. and Miss from Mistress and what it all implies, click hereRead More 
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Puffed rice

In discussing a story line in a juvenile-fiction assignment with a ghostwriter, Mattie suggests including cakes made from puffed rice. Never mind about the ghostwriter’s story or my plot twist. The burning question was, Had puffed rice been invented in 1908? Luckily for me, the answer is yes! It was introduced by Alexander P. Anderson at the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904. Read More 
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House of Arden

My new heroine Mattie works for a literary firm that produces juvenile series fiction. I wanted her to be aware of other, better books for children. E. Nesbit seemed perfect: imaginative, popular but literate, unstuffy. What work of hers might Mattie be familiar with in 1908? The House of Arden was published that year in England. What about America?

The expert on the question is Professor James Arthur Bond of California Lutheran University. I e-mailed him out of the blue, and he was generous enough to answer immediately with the information that Ardenwas serialized in The Strand Magazine: An Illustrated Monthly, which was published in London but distributed in the U.S. as well as Britain. Perfect!  Read More 
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Flower Market

The flower markets and sellers of Paris pop up now and again in Where the Light Falls; but what really makes me want to include a post about one today is my recent discovery of a beautifully illustrated blog that features clips of the sounds if Paris. In a story  Read More 
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