The Wild, Wild West

“Four men straddled the road, barring our way. They wore scarves that covered their faces except for their eyes; they carried what looked like long sticks. I shook, trying to clear my head of confusion. Four horses, tied to a nearby tree, whinnied anxiously. Then I realized that the men were carrying rifles, not sticks, and the rifles were pointed at the carriage.” Pages 176-177, FAITHFULon the Grand Tour in the west

Previously, I gave you a look at some of Yellowstone’s tourist attractions. This is the wilder side of the West.

As recently as the early twentieth century, highway robberies took place in parts of the western United States, including Yellowstone National Park. A number of robberies took place on coaches making their way on the Grand Tour (for more on the Tour, see this post.) Passengers were relieved at gunpoint of their money and valuables: watches and jewelry.

The last of these robberies – possibly the last in the continental U.S. – occurred only 100 years ago, in July, 1915. One of the victims, far from being frightened, found it so exciting that he claimed, “It was the best $50 I ever spent.”

outlaw in the westAnimals, of course, were and are one of the chief attractions of Yellowstone. In the early days of Park tourism the unfortunate decision was made to feed the bears nightly by hauling garbage out behind the hotels. This practice became such a draw, but also such a problem, that by the 1930s feeding was restricted to the Canyon area, where a seating platform was erected behind a chain link fence. Tourists would watch fifty or more bears congregate – many of them grizzlies. Bears became so habituated that they would beg by the side of the road for handouts from passing cars. This practice was banned in the 1950s when the consequences (bears breaking into campsites with the result that “a fed bear is a dead bear”) became clear.

Bison in winter

Buffalo, or American bison, once numbered in the tens of millions in the western U.S. By 1884 there were only 325 animals, 25 of which lived in Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, because bison numbers were so small at the turn of the last century, the animals were held in pens, one near Mammoth and one on Dot Island in the Lake. Poaching in the Park at that time had become a serious threat to these animals. The near extinction of bison was halted in the nick of time, and small numbers of the animals held by individuals were bred until the bison herd held on public lands today numbers about 25,000, and many more are privately owned in ranches and on reservations.

IMG_1015 (1)

A wolf I photographed in Montana

Wolves in the western U.S. were also driven to near-extinction, but they were never so popular as bison, and were hunted out of Yellowstone such that by 1912 it was reported they were effectively gone. Wolves are canny creatures, however, and it’s likely they never disappeared entirely. Wolves were reintroduced in a managed fashion into the Yellowstone ecosystem in 1995. I’ve seen and heard wolves in the years since and they are beautiful and intimidating and are an important part of the landscape.

The West was – and remains – wild. Next up: geysers, hot springs, mud pots – evidence of a volcano.

 

Yellowstone In 1904

“This is nothing. Just wait! You and your pa heading out on the Tour today?”

“No.” I stared over the milky-white terraces, avoiding his eyes, plucking at my gloves. Whatever the Tour was, it would cost money. Which apparently we had none of. I sighed. “What is the Tour, anyway?”1904 map of Yellowstone

“It’s a tour through the entire Park. You’ll see it all, all the geysers, hot springs – with any luck, animals, too.” Page 87, FAITHFUL.

Yellowstone, our nation’s first National Park, was in 1904 nicknamed “Wonderland”, and it certainly lived up to the name then as today. The Park was open to tourists who mostly would have booked a Grand Tour through one of a number of organizations. Those tourists were called “dudes”, while tourists who made their own way through the Park and camped rather than stayed in one of the hotels were “sagebrushers.” Most entered the Park as Maggie did, through the North Entrance at Gardiner, and clambered aboard a Tallyho stagecoach for the ride to Mammoth Hot Springs.

lady @ Norris 1903, Yellowstone

Hotel at Norris (no longer exists)

Yellowstone in 1904 looked very similar to Yellowstone today, with the road layout largely complete (except for the leg between Canyon north past Mount Washburn.) A number of hotels provided stopping points along the way, from two at Mammoth (the National and the far more humble Cottage), to the Firehole and Fountain hotels which preceded the Old Faithful Inn, to the Lake Hotel, and finally the Canyon Hotel. Once the Old Faithful Inn opened in 1904 the Firehole and Fountain were closed.

Yellowstone Lake Hotel 1904

Lake Hotel, 1904

The Old Faithful Inn was not only beautiful – an outstanding log structure – but also sported all the modern conveniences (electricity, hot running water). It still retains its charm, including the original massive stone fireplace and huge clock, and although the topmost galleries in the entry hall are closed today, in 1904 musicians serenaded guests from almost 80 feet above. The Lake Hotel was a classic frame-style building, also fully appointed and luxurious.

Tent campers had the option of traveling the “Wylie Way”, which offered permanent, gaily candy-striped tent camps and a less formal (and cheaper) accommodation.

Old Faithful Inn 1904

The newly opened Old Faithful Inn

Tourists naturally visited all the hot springs and geysers along the way. They were also treated to nightly bear feedings, which took place behind the hotels, where food scraps were piled high and as many as a dozen bears would come out to dine while visitors watched from bleachers. Even women in ankle-length skirts climbed the rough walls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone via primitive ladders. And it was possible to take a ferry from Lake out to Dot Island, which housed live elk and buffalo in pens.

The entire tour, including stops, took about six days. One tourist in 1917 remarked: “I have just completed the six days’ circular journey by stage through the Yellowstone National Park. I am moved to admiration, but still more to awe.”

See my previous post on 1900s social norms here; in my next post I’ll give you a glimpse into the wilder side of the west.

Social Norms of 1904: A FAITHFUL Reflection

Mary’s ball had been the last debut of the season, held on an August night that began so hot and still, even the flies seemed drunk with stupor…Lightning flickered on the far horizon, echoing the tiny lights strung from branch to branch in the gardens outside. Page 27, FAITHFUL

My previous post discussed the fashion and food of 1904. Another fun aspect of researching historical fiction is discovering the social norms of past times. Social life in 1904, the time period for FAITHFUL, was vastly different from today’s social norm. The most important aa social eventspect of that difference: the formality of society in the early twentieth century.

A seventeen-year-old girl from the upper end of society like Maggie would already have begun thinking about marriage. She would have been preparing for her debut – her introduction to her peers and elders as a marriageable prospect. A proper debut was every girl’s dream, as she selected her adult wardrobe and cast aside more childish clothing styles. Of course, she also would now wear a corset, a most miserable contraption. A girl’s debut would include parties and balls, and especially one thrown by her parents – a very glam affair.

A girl’s suitors would be less interested in love than in her social and financial standing. American girls whose fathers were industrial giants – who had made fortunes in the railroad or banking industries – were often sought by European bachelors who were land and title-rich but cash-poor. (The story line of Downton Abbey features this thread in the marriage between Robert Crawley and his American wife Cora.)

Social separation in Downton

Downton Abbey’s two rigidly separated castes.

Maggie would be expected to behave with certain constraints. She would not be permitted to spend time alone with a man in a private place; she’d be expected to ride a horse side-saddle; she’d wear a hat and gloves when out. Her education would be completed by seventeen or eighteen. She’d be expected to go “calling” on her upper crust neighbors each afternoon, and to receive “callers”, who would leave calling cards on a silver tray at the house entrance. And, of course, a woman couldn’t vote in the United States until the suffrage law passed (see here for that discussion) and women really had no rights at all.

Consuelo - a social prisoner

Beautiful, rich, but sad Consuelo Vanderbilt.

In the lower classes of society, a young girl would either find factory work – grueling and poorly paid – or if she was lucky, would go into service as a ladies’ maid. Maggie would have needed a maid to help her dress and make up her hair, and to keep her clothing clean and in good repair. It was generally impossible for a girl from the lower classes to ascend to upper class status – marriage between classes was unthinkable.

This rigid caste society dictated everything from what a girl could eat, to what she could say, to those she could spend time with. Her marriage would have been almost arranged – that is, she would have only been able to choose from a select number of suitors, and love was not a high priority. (It’s said that Consuelo Vanderbilt sobbed throughout her wedding to a man she did not love, as she was forced to leave behind her true love.)

An upper class girl would want for nothing. She’d have beautiful clothing, jewelry, and a lovely home. But a lower class girl could make her own way – including marrying for love, if she was lucky.

In my next post, more about Yellowstone in 1904.

Fashion & Food in 1904

One gown hung from the door of my wardrobe. Black and white, with lace at the throat, and tight through the waist, where a crushed satin belt was a slash of scarlet. Page 27, FAITHFUL.

One of the fun things (for me) about writing historical fiction is researching food and fashion of the time. Of course I want my character’s behavior to accurately reflect what she wore and what she ate (how did women sit down while wearing those large bustles? How much could a girl eat when laced in a tight corset?) Since FAITHFUL is set in 1904 I spent a lot of time looking at those details.1904 women's fashion

In 1904, clothing styles still reflected Victorian propriety. Women wore corsets that required back lacing (necessitating servants), wore clothing that was made of rich materials like velvet and silk (necessitating great care), and were generally covered up head to toe. Hemlines still trailed the floor except for ensembles worn on outings, like you see here. Women wore their hair long but swesporting fashion 1903pt up in elaborate hairstyles.

Corsets of the time were back-laced, but a woman who was traveling or had no access to a maid wore a corset with front hooks called a busk. Once the corset was laced to the proper cinch (the tighter, the better) the wearer could hook or unhook the corset herself. When Maggie finally casts off her corset, it’s not only a sign of her rebellion and growth, but an indication of the changing times.

As today, day wear was less formal than evening wear, but unlike today the wealthier folk always dressed formally for dinner, even when not entertaining. Men wore white tie and tails, and women wore elaborate gowns, elbow-length gloves, and jewels. Younger, especially unmarried women could get away with a low-cut gown for evening, but most women wcasual fashion on tourists in Yellowstoneore blouses or dresses with modest high collars.

Food was more formal, too, and multiple courses were standard at evening meals. A fish course came first, followed by a meat course, and a tiny amount of sorbet was served between courses to “freshen the palate.” One especially popular dessert was Nesselrode pudding, a confection of cream and fruit. The ice cream cone is said to have originated at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, when a waffle vendor and ice cream vendor were stationed side-by-side; this is unlikely, but cotton candy was indeed introduced at the Exhibition.

Nesselrode pudding

Nesselrode pudding. Yum!

Obviously the fine fabrics of delicate hand-made clothing, the corsets, and the fancy food were all standard in high society, and required the aid of multiple servants. The lower classes emulated their employers in fashion and food, though with simpler materials and fare. More on the social norms of the early twentieth century in my next post.

See my previous post on travels and the Exposition here.

Trains and World Fairs: Progress in 1904

Today I’m posting the second in my series about 1904, the time period for my YA novel FAITHFUL. (For the first post, see here.)

Pullman train carMaggie’s father tells her that he is taking her across the country on a pleasure trip. In 1904, the best way to travel was by train. Maggie and her father would have traveled in first class, in a Pullman compartment, with sleeping quarters. The steam-driven locomotive made the voyage across country in only a few days.train sleeping compartment

On the way, Maggie recounts that they stopped to take in the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. The Fair was a marvel of architecture and display, of art and technological advancements. It’s popularly thought that the ice cream cone was invented at the Fair – certainly it was a popular treat eaten by fairgoers. Over 1500 buildings were erected on 1200 acres, and 62 nations participated, introducing the American visitor to oddities from around the world.

For a retro glimpse of the Fair, take in the 1944 Judy Garland movie Meet Me In St. Louis:

[youtube]https://youtu.be/7guqfYsG0dE[/youtube]

By 1904 electricity was in use in most cities, and the Fair even boasted the Palace of Electricity, which was described as follows: “DynamosSt. Louis Exposition and motors of many kinds and new electrical machinery for a multiple of uses may be seen in operation.  Definite progress has been made during recent years in the use of electricity in the treatment of diseases.  How it is thus used is illustrated with X-ray apparatus and the famous Finsen light.  The progress in electric lighting and the use of electric power is shown.” Thomas Edison had not only perfected the electric light bulb, but had begun to develop the modern electrical network, which changed society forever.

Once Maggie arrived in Livingston, she and her father stayed at the Murray Hotel, which still exists. Some rooms at the time featured a relatively new luxury – en suite baths. The Murray and Livingston itself have changed little in 111 years.

Yellowstone

Tally-ho coach in Yellowstone, 1900s

From Livingston yet another train ran down the Paradise valley to Gardiner, where visitors to Yellowstone National Park would disembark and catch a horse-drawn Tally-ho coach for the ride to Mammoth Hot Springs. The road follows the same path today as it did in 1904. In fact, while there have been changes in the Park, much of what Maggie experienced in 1904 remains today. More about that in an upcoming post.

But up next…clothing and food of 1904.

Context For FAITHFUL, 1904

This is the first post in a planned series on aspects of my debut YA novel FAITHFUL. If you haven’t read it, here’s the skinny: In 1904 Margaret Bennet has it all – money, position, and an elegant family home in Newport, Rhode Island. But just as she is to enter society, her mother ruins everything, first with public displays, and then by disappearing. Maggie’s confusion and loss are compounded when her father drags her to Yellowstone National Park, where he informs her that they will remain. At first Maggie’s only desire is to return to Newport. But the mystical beauty of the Yellowstone landscape, and the presence of young Tom Rowland, a boy unlike the others she has known, conspire to change Maggie from a spoiled girl willing to be constrained by society to a free-thinking and brave young woman living in a romantic landscape at the threshold of a new century.Faithful high res

When I first conceived the idea for FAITHFUL I had the notion of setting the story in Montana. It wasn’t that I was writing about Montana; I was writing about the loss of my own mother through Maggie’s search for her mother. Then my husband made the suggestion that if I was going to write about Montana, why not write about Yellowstone? Maybe even the historical Yellowstone? I liked that idea a lot, and chose 1904 almost out of thin air, because it was the year that the Old Faithful Inn opened, and I love that building, which is much the same today as it was in 1904 (see my later post for more on that).

My research took me into many aspects of the early 20th century, because I wanted to place Maggie in t1904 orphan trainhe correct social, political, and economic environment. Here are just a few of the things I uncovered:

Orphan trains: Between 1853 and 1929, roughly 250,000 orphaned or homeless children were relocated to foster families throughout the mid-west and western U.S. While it seemed like a good idea to remove children from1904 camera poverty and a life in an eastern city orphanage, many of these children were separated from siblings and placed in homes where they were treated like indentured servants. You can read more about this in Christina Baker Kline’s bestselling ORPHAN TRAIN.

Photography: Photography gained popular ground quickly in the early 20th century and in 1904 Kodak introduced the Brownie, a folding camera that could be used by the amateur. Costing a whopping $1.00, the ads for the camera proclaim “a child can handle the shutter.”
1904 airplane

First flight, early automobiles: In December 1903, the Wright brothers made their first successful airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Olds company (later Oldsmobile) began mass producing autos in 1901, and by 1905 was selling 5,000 automobiles per year.

The early 1900s were years of revolutionary change, and the rapidity and magetude of that change would have had a profound impact on a seventeen-year-old girl like Maggie. In future posts, I’ll be examining cross-country travel, clothing, food, Yellowstone itself and the Old Faithful Inn, and more. Next up: westward, ho!

Setting Writerly Goals

Yes, I know. It’s summer. You are lounging on a beach, or hiking in the mountains, or fishing a great creek, or…or…anything except writing. Goals are not on your mind.

I’m not here to jerk you away from a much-needed rest! I’m just here to inspire you so that when September rolls around (and it will) you’ll be ready to tackle those dormant writing plans.

a serene scene to help with goals

A serene scene to help with goals

Here are a few exercises that will hopefully get you started. Some of them are actually ideal summertime activities – expressing yourself artistically when you are playful is a great way to reinvigorate your brain.

1. Freewriting. Allow yourself to write by hand – by hand is important – for fifteen minutes without stopping to correct or think. Let your hand and brain run as fast as possible.

2. “Dreamstorming”. Rather than trying to brainstorm ideas, dream them. As you fall asleep, plant your story/sticking point in your mind and let your subconscious go to work while you sleep.

3. Try your hand at any other art expression. Draw, doodle, craft, play music – these other expressions will liberate the right side of the brain because you have nothing invested in them.

4. Read fairy tales, and Greek, Roman, Norse, and Native American myths and legends. Read Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. These tales form the basis of our oral traditions, and often contain repeating imagery and symbolism, much of which has been incorporated into our everyday subtext. Become familiar with them so you can consciously incorporate them into your work.

And here are a few books to set your goals in motion:

Lewis Hyde, The Gift
Annie Dillard, The Writing Life
Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk
Jane Yolen, Take Joy
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
Natalie Goldberg, Thunder and Lightning
Bruce Ballenger & Barry Lane, Discovering the Writer Within
David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear
Eric Maisel, Fearless Creating
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Julia Cameron, The Vein of Gold
Bernard Selling, Writing From Within
Robert Olen Butler, From Where You Dream
Jeff Vandermeer, Wonderbook

So don’t feel pressured. Just gather yourself into a fresh place, so come fall, your goals will be in place and your soul will be ready.

Tips For Writers & Readers

If you’ve browsed my website in the past you’ll know that in my Fox’s Den I’m creating a series of links to helpful tips for writers, readers, teachers, and librarians. Over the next few months, I’ll be adding to those files. Many are downloadable pdfs. Here’s what I have there so far:craft fox

For writers – getting started: thoughts on being a writer; professional organizations for writers; conference dos and don’ts; writing the synopsis; writing the logline; writing the query letter.

For writers – craft: a plot paradigm; a plot lecture; a discussion of conflict and tension; two links to files on crafting voice.

For readers: a series of articles on the Roaring Twenties; a series of articles on San Francisco in 1906.

For teachers and librarians: downloadable worksheets with helpful tips on organization skills for kids.

Please come back from time to time as I’m always adding new material. And to keep up with my latest information, sign up to receive my blog posts and occasional newsletter, right to your inbox. You’ll receive a free treat when you do!

Books With Diversity: Cross-cultural Relationships

In this moment when diversity is finally getting the attention it deserves, and publishers and readers are discovering books that represent diverse cultures, I’d like to make mention of young adult novels that feature cross-cultural and/or interracial relationships.

My interest in the subject stems from my own work. In my backstory construct of FORGIVEN, I imagined that Kula Baker’s great-grandmother was Alaskan Athabaskan, and married Kula’s Caucasian great-grandfather, who then brought her back to California. In the novel itself Kula, searching for a way to help her father, goes to San Francisco and meets and falls in love with David Wong, a Chinese-American boy. While diversity and the interracial nature of their relationship was not my primary focus I did try to represent fairly the kind of discrimination and social contempt my characters would have suffered, particularly as Kula’s looks reflect her heritage.

Additionally, in a parallel and cross-generational backstory, Kula’s mentor Miss Everts fell in love with a Chinese man in her youth, which would have been way outside the cultural norm.

Below is a selection of novels that also feature interracial relationships. Most of these novels are recommendations from a handful of YALSA librarians, so thanks go to Mary Plews, Susan Schab, Christina Kelley, Dhonielle Clayton, Yesha Naik, Nic Willcox, Naomi Bates, Tracy Weikel, and Brenda Kahn.

THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough, Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015. Flora and Henry, African American girl and white boy, are pawns in a game between Love and Death.diversity

A SUMMER OF KINGS by Han Nolan, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2012. Esther, a white girl, stands up for King-Roy Johnson, a black teen accused of murder.

THE SECRET SKY by Atia Abawi, Speak, 2015. Fatima is a Hazara girl, raised to be obedient and dutiful. Samiullah is a Pashtun boy raised to defend the traditions of his tribe. They were not meant to fall in love. But they do.

THE SUMMER OF CHASING MERMAIDS by Sarah Ockler, Simon Pulse, 2015. Christian is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat native Tobagan Elyse like a glass statue.

LIKE NO OTHER by Una LaMarche, Razorbill, 2014. Though their relation is strictly forbidden, Devorah and Jax arrange secret meetings and risk everything to be together.

WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE by Huntley Fitzpatrick, Speak, 2015. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge in Stony Bay, and she hails from a family of fishermen and housecleaners to her island’s summer population.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE by Mel Glenn, HarperTeen, 1999. When students from big-city Tower High School spend a weekend in rural Hudson Landing with the students of the local high school, an African-American boy from the city is accused of murdering a local white girl.download

NAUGHTS AND CROSSES by Malorie Blackman, Simon & Schuster, 2005. Callum is a naught, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white naughts and black Crosses simply don’t mix — and they certainly don’t fall in love. But that’s exactly what they’ve done.

ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013. Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits–smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

IF YOU COME SOFTLY by Jacqueline Woodson, Speak, 2010. In one frozen moment their eyes lock and after that they know they fit together — even though she’s Jewish and he’s black.

PERFECT CHEMISTRY by Simone Elkeles, Bloomsbury, 2015. In a passionate story about looking beneath the surface, Simone Elkeles breaks through the stereotypes and barriers that threaten to keep white Brittany and Latino Alex apart.

ROMIETTE AND JULIO by Sharon Draper, Simon Pulse, 2001. Romiette is African-American and Julio is Hispanic, and the Devildogs, a dangerous local gang, violently oppose their interracial relationship.

LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley, Harlequin Teen, 2014. Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.diversity

SOMEONE LIKE SUMMER by M.E. Kerr, HarperTeen, 2007. The start of a romance between a young Colombian who came to town to work and the daughter of a local contractor whose crews are entirely Latino.

MISMATCH by Lensey Namioka, Delacourte, 2007. Sue Hua just moved from racially diverse Seattle to a suburban white-bread town where she feels like the only Asian American for miles. Then she meets Andy, a handsome and passionate violin player who happens to be Asian American.

CHASING SECRETS by Gennifer Choldenko, Wendy Lamb Books, 2015.  Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.

Have I missed something? Can you add any titles to this list?

 

Cover Reveal! THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE

Drum roll…………I am over the moon about the cover for my debut middle grade novel, THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE, out March 15, 2016, from Viking. Here it is:

CharmedChildrencover (1)

 

And here’s the blurb:

Something is not right at Rookskill Castle, a rundown Scottish manor shrouded in mystery. The castle is a temporary boarding school for children escaping the Blitz, but soon it’s clear there is something terribly wrong. There are clues hinting that a spy is in the house, and there are undeniable signs of a sinister magic. When the children in the castle’s temporary boarding school begin disappearing one by one, it’s a race against the clock for twelve-year-old Kat Bateson, her two younger siblings, and their new best friend.

The novel will also be released as an audiobook from Listening Library. You can find it on Goodreads here, and on Amazon here.