Thursday, July 31, 2014

What Men Read in 1901



One of my favorite parts of researching Annie's Stories involved figuring out what Stephen Adams would have read, besides The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which he read because he knew Annie Gallagher was interested in it. (You can see this on the cover.)


Jules Verne and H.G. Wells came to mind, but I had to pick novels for my character that would have been available in 1901. Wells had only three novels published by that point, but they were popular: The Time Machine, War of the WorldsThe Island of Doctor MoreauThe First Men in the Moon came out in 1901, and my characters are eagerly awaiting it.

For Verne there were plenty to choose from because he had been publishing for decades at that point. I chose Facing the Flag because I imagine most people today would not be familiar with that one. I wasn't. So because my character, Stephen Adams, was reading it and enjoying it, I had to read it along with him.

Verne's visionary outlook is startling when you think about it. In this novel he wrote about a weapon of mass destruction a hundred years or so before that term was even being used. A brilliant, but somewhat demented, scientist invents a weapon that the countries of the world all want, something that actually happened in the WWII era. You can read about the novel here. The novel is in the public domain so you can get it free on Google Books.

Of course there were classics like The Last of the Mohicans that I assume folks re-read. Libraries existed, but access was not widespread, especially for my characters in Lower Manhattan, so I supposed books got passed around, therefore Stephen and his friend Dexter trade books. There were dime store novels certainly, but my character is looking for bigger books. I wouldn’t call him a literary snob, but he is a discerning reader. That’s why his landlord chose him for some moonlighting work for his publishing company. (You’ll understand if you read Annie’s Stories.)

I left some hints in my novel. One is about a book that would soon be published. I'd love if readers would find that and let me know! Another is about something that Stephen, thinking like the novelists he most admired, imagined would be a keen invention, a device you could use to hear someone read a book to you while you worked.

There are other bookish themes in Annie's Stories, not the least of which is The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. If you haven't read the book by L. Frank Baum, it's also in the public domain. Try it out. It's a bit different than the movie.




Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Back to School with Annie Gallagher

Being a former teacher, I like to ponder how readers might be prompted to learn more about history after reading my Ellis Island Series. I've added to my "Teaching History" page. Check it out and let me know if you have more ideas!

If you are on Twitter, you can help let others know about this resource by copying the text below:



Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Story Behind Annie's Heart Pin

If you've read Annie's Stories, you know in the story she receives a special heart pin. The pin is actually on the cover. It's a little hard to see, so I've pointed it out to you below. If you have a copy of the book, you can see it easily if you know where to look.



I have that pin. It was my inspiration while I wrote the story. I purchased it from an Etsy shop. I told the seller what I was using it for and she actually pre-ordered Annie's Stories! As a shout-out to her, and because I know many of you would be interested in her wares, here is the link to Mrs. C's Vintage Boutique.

So, if I have the pin, how did it get on the cover? I actually asked Mrs. C., the Etsy merchant, if she had any more of these. I thought they might make great giveaways. But unfortunately she doesn't, and she doesn't know where to get another one. If any of you have seen these anywhere, please let me know. It's real silver, but probably not from the era of my story. Although it looks like it could have been, don't you think?

So the pin, as far as I know, is one of a kind. The kind folks at Tyndale agreed to use it on the cover so I sent it to them and when they were done with the cover photo shoot, they mailed it back to me. It's a special little touch readers won't know about unless they read my blog or come to one of my appearances where I'll probably be wearing this pin.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The History Behind the Fictional Author's Mark in Annie's Stories

Annie Gallagher's stories were marked with a symbol. If you've read the novel you know that this symbol held great importance for determining the value of these stories (to everyone but Annie that is. For her they were priceless since her father wrote them.)

You might wonder how I can up with the idea that someone might give his original writings a hallmark so others would know he'd actually written it. In the story the author's pen name is Luther Redmond. I explain where the names came from, but for clarity here I'll tell you that Luther is for Martin Luther. Martin Luther gave his writings a mark. It's called the Luther Rose.

From Wikimedia Commons, Stained glass window with Lutheran rose by CTHOE


From Wikipedia, this is how Luther described his symbol when responding to the man who created it for him:

Grace and peace from the Lord. As you desire to know whether my painted seal, which you sent to me, has hit the mark, I shall answer most amiably and tell you my original thoughts and reason about why my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, which retains its natural color, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. "For one who believes from the heart will be justified" (Romans 10:10). Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. It does not corrupt nature, that is, it does not kill but keeps alive. "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17) but by faith in the crucified. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. In other words, it places the believer into a white, joyous rose, for this faith does not give peace and joy like the world gives (John 14:27). That is why the rose should be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and the angels (cf. Matthew 28:3; John 20:12). Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. Such blessedness is exquisite, beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable, most precious and best metal. This is my compendium theologiae [summary of theology]. I have wanted to show it to you in good friendship, hoping for your appreciation. May Christ, our beloved Lord, be with your spirit until the life hereafter. Amen.

I was inspired by this and created something for Annie's father use on his stories. I'll let you read the book to find the reasoning behind it, but here is how I imagined it looking:

Image adapted from work of  Jed on Wikimedia Commons
Just as a master's painting could be faked, a writer's manuscript could be mislabeled. In a time when all we had was one's word, I imagine artists used marks, like kings and officials would have.

So that's the story behind that part of the story!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dorothy's Visit to Oz Was Not Just a Dream

Not in the book version, anyway. There are several differences between L. Frank Baum's book and the movie version with Judy Garland. Most people will point out that the slippers were silver not ruby. That's interesting, but I think a more major difference involves the dream.


The author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book had passed away before the movie came out, but Frank J. Baum obviously had an opinion about it. In the 1950s Baum's son wrote an essay about why the Oz books continued to sell. He cited reasons juvenile fantasy readers found the story appealing such as simple language, the fact that it appeals to adults who read it to their children. He says, "Reality and unreality are so entwined that it is often difficult to know where one leaves off and the other begins...." And then Baum says something that might surprise people who have only seen the movie and not read the book.


The story leaves the reader with a feeling that it all could have happened just as it was told. And the end is not spoiled by the author's explanation that these marvelous adventures were a dream or a hallucination. Never attempt to explain fantasy.


 In 1938 the screenwriters working on the film disagreed. They thought audiences were too sophisticated for that kind of thing. In The Making of the Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz one of the screenwriters is quoted as saying, "...you cannot put fantastical people in strange places in front of an audience unless they have seen them as human beings first." And he meant that literally, believing that you couldn't just introduce a scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion and have audiences identify with them. But Baum did, didn't he? And scores of other film makers have since then if you think about the genre of fantasy...Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Avatar...just to mention a few.

Even so, the movie has survived and continues to entertain audiences, so maybe you can do both or one or the other. I believe it's the quest, the search for home and a place to belong that people identify with. What do you think?