While researching Watermark, there were several resources I mined in order to learn about what life would have been like living on the Mississippi River. One of my favorite and undeniably one of the most prolific resources I came across was a website called, “Steamboat Times, A Pictorial History of the Mississippi Steamboating Era.” I don’t believe the site has been updated for several years, but the site itself is still alive and well in that eternal ether called the internet.
I came across “Steamboat Times” early in my research and was amazed at the architect’s thoroughness. In terms of design, the website is easily navigable with pages broken down into specific vessels: keelboats, flatboats, rafts, steamboats, and so on. It’s also visually rich; as the website title says, it’s a pictorial history and not simply dry facts. There’s a remarkable compilation of daguerreotypes, drawings, watercolors, wood engravings, and maps that depict every vessel imaginable. In addition, the site is a wealth of information on dimensions, steamboat races, the life of boatmen, living conditions, and the dangers they faced on the river. Firsthand accounts of the era are depicted in letters, diary entries, and even court cases.
If you have any interest in what it was like to work and live on the river during the 19th century, or even if you just want to see an example of what Malcolm’s flatboat would have looked like, visit “Steamboat Times, A Pictorial History of the Mississippi Steamboating Era” by clicking here.
I’m happy to announce that award-winning author Regan Walker has reviewed Watermark on her historical romance blog! Click here to read the review.
The small primer that Malcolm gifts Juno in Watermark was indeed an actual 19th century textbook. I purchased it myself in order to get a feel for the lessons in pronunciation and to envision the full scope of Juno’s challenges in overcoming her illiteracy. The version I have was printed in 2002, but it’s an unabridged reprint of the 1824 edition. It’s actually an incredibly efficient little book, and it’s little wonder that it helped “build the most literate nation in the West.” According to the publisher’s note, many of the nation’s Founding Fathers used the Blue Back Speller, as Noah Webster’s The American Spelling Book or A Grammatical Institute of the English Language was commonly called, to teach their children and grandchildren to read, beginning with its first publication in 1783.
In Watermark, the reader only ever sees Juno advance through lesson twelve (helped along by Malcolm’s very creative tutelage), but it’s inferred in the epilogue that she continues her studies and becomes well-educated, which is hardly surprising considering the sheer number of tutorials covered in her beloved primer. The Blue Back Speller is packed full of simple and complex pronunciation tables, but also fables like The Cat and the Rat and The Fox and the Bramble, facts such as the inhabitants of the United States (beginning in 1790 and ending in 1820 in my edition), the names of rivers, lakes, and cities, and the crowning glory, a piece called “Domestic Economy, or the History of Thrifty and Unthrifty.” How scintillating that last one is! A real page turner, I swear…snore…
All in all, I loved writing Juno’s character and her quiet determination to better herself, just as I loved Malcolm’s for admiring education in a woman and encouraging Juno to accomplish her dream with his gift.
Curious about all those lessons and page-turning fables? The Original Blue Back Speller is still available for purchase on Amazon by clicking here.
I completed judging my book assignments in the first round of the RITA contest! Although this is only the second time I’ve participated in the RITA contest, it’s fast becoming a yearly tradition that I enjoy immensely. What better time than January to be shut indoors reading books, am I right? Also, it encourages me to read romances outside my genre; it’s always good to dip one’s toes outside his or her comfort zone. All sorts of new authors and stories are available to you when you do. As a writer and avid reader, I love any story, no matter the genre, so long as it’s an exciting one. I really enjoyed my reading assignments and can’t wait to hear the list of finalists in late March!
Love to read ROMANCE? Want FREE(ISH) BOOKS?
If you said yes to both questions, then please consider signing up to judge in The Carolyn Readers Choice Award contest.
The North Texas chapter of Romance Writers of America is looking for close to 400 romance readers to help choose winners in six romance sub-categories. To be eligible, you must be 18 years of age or older and not affiliated with the publishing industry in any way, to include being an aspiring author.
Judging involves reading the entirety of up to five books and filling out an online score sheet.
Contest closes for entries on Feb. 14 and judging panels will be emailed out during the following few days. Judging deadline is April 14th.
For more information and to sign up, visit http://www.ntrwa.org/thecarolyn/the.carolyn.judge.info.htm. If you have any further questions, contact Jen FitzGerald, the contest coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but I got suckered into watching a Hallmark channel Christmas movie last weekend. I always say the same thing every time I finish watching one of those corny things: “Well, that’s two hours of my life that I can never get back.” And yet I let myself get reeled in to watching this particular Hallmark movie because of the plot line—an unpublished romance author signs up for a 5-day writing conference at the aptly named “Mistletoe Inn” and as you can imagine, lots of silly romantic hijinks ensue. All in all, not a bad premise, right? Especially for someone like me who loves reading and writing romance and would undoubtedly connect with the scrappy romance-writing heroine…or so I thought…
First off, our heroine is not scrappy. She doesn’t have a spunky bone in her insecure little self. The heroine—I’ve forgotten her name and don’t care enough to google it, so let’s just call her Crumple Face for our purposes—has never let anyone read the stuff she’s written. Now that’s not entirely unheard of, especially since she’s an aspiring writer and has been tweaking her manuscript for years, and certainly every writer is protective of their book babies and loath to hear criticism. That being said, constructive criticism is par for the course if you want to improve your craft. Oh, and it’s also a part of life that anyone reaching the age of thirtyish like our heroine Crumple Face should surely have experienced by now. Anyway, poor little Crumple Face can scarcely contain her emotions as she embarks upon her 5-day writing conference at the Mistletoe Inn. She’s wide-eyed, excited, nervous, tittering, sometimes physically vibrating with anxiety over people’s responses to her writing. Will they like it? Will they hate it? Will her dreams be crushed? Will she be declared her generation’s next great authoress? Surely the latter!
As you can imagine by the moniker I’ve given our heroine, she does not react well to constructive criticism. Her poor little face immediately crumples with devastation every time she receives feedback on how she can improve her writing, no matter how gently that feedback is packaged inside festive wrapping paper complete with fluffy bow. After a while, I truly enjoyed the movie for Crumple Face’s reactions alone. Picture a toddler running off sobbing with her hands waving overhead because she dropped her lollypop on the ground, only it’s not a toddler, but a fully-grown woman with a complete dearth of coping mechanisms. Hilarious! I started to think the viewer could even make a drinking game out of it: Take a sip every time Crumple Face bursts into tears! We’d all be drunk before the movie was half over.
Now, as one would expect with any Hallmark movie, by the end our heroine learns a few valuable lessons in time to receive that book publishing deal she’s been pining over. Yay, validation! I was nearly rolling off the couch with laughter. Who knew it was that easy? All I could think about was my own struggles getting published and how, after nearly twenty years and a bulging file folder full of publishing/agent rejection letters, I finally sacked the notion of getting traditionally published and self-published instead. In comparison, poor Crumple Face would have launched herself off the nearest cliff after that first rejection form letter.
Writing, folks! It ain’t for the chicken-hearted.
I’ve entered the Romance Writers of America’s RITA contest for the second year in a row. How fun! How exhausting! How nerve-wracking! All things considered, it’s mostly the first; I haven’t invested the emotional weight into the contest this year like I did last year. I’m entering Watermark to see “what if,” but contests are always hit or miss, so it’s best to simply enjoy the experience and not think too hard on placing. Entries opened on November 1st at 11 am, so in a manner of speaking, this is technically old news, but I’ve been distracted by home improvement projects around the house and subsequently, my blog has been the sad victim of neglect. Poor overlooked blog, I’m back! As with Clingstone last year, I entered Watermark into the Historical: Long category. This year the contest is entirely electronic, which is an immense relief since that means I won’t have to mail off five paperback copies to RWA headquarters in Texas; that can get expensive, especially this time of year, and especially for a chronically unemployed former residential treatment worker like myself. All I had to do was upload a PDF of my book and voila! Nothing more to do but cue dusting hands. I am looking forward to judging in the preliminary round again, which all entrants are required to do, but this year I also volunteered to judge the final round (although that doesn’t mean I’ll be picked to do so). Can’t wait to read all those free books in January! That’s it for now…
The free promotion on Amazon for Watermark was a great success! At one point, Watermark ranked #72 in the romance action/adventure category. Again, thanks to all of you who downloaded your copy, and if you’re so inclined, post a review of Watermark on Goodreads or Amazon. As we all know, reviews help readers navigate the millions of books out there and whether a particular pick is up their alley or not; any thoughts on what did or didn’t work for you would be much appreciated! Thanks again, dear readers!
Thanks to all of you out there who downloaded their free copy of Watermark on Amazon! I hope you enjoy Juno and Malcolm's story; it was a true pleasure to write! Today is the last day to take advantage of this free promotion, so jump on Amazon and reserve your free copy if you haven't yet done so. Click here for the link.