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In most museums you wander around,  dazed at the beauty and majesty of the things that surround you.

I recently had the honor to visit a different kind of museum. A museum where you feel as if you are actually IN the past.

The Steamboat Arabia Museum in Kansas City, MO.

 

The actual wheel from the Arabia

 

In 1856, the Steamboat Arabia was making its last voyage of the season; before the winter ice closed the Ohio River.  The Arabia was a packet boat. Which means that while it did ferry passengers; its main duty was as a cargo ship. Most of the passengers were women and children, bound to meet  husbands or fathers, who had already gone out west to stake a homestead for them.

The last night of the Arabia’s life, a giant snag (or upended tree trunk) smashed into the hull of the Arabia, causing her and her 200 tons of cargo, to sink in a  matter of minutes.

 

Arabia sinks

 

The good news– The Ohio River is fairly shallow and as the Arabia settled on the bottom of the river; the upper level of the three level boat stayed above the waterline.  It took a while to ferry the passengers to shore, however. It seems there was only one lifeboat and the cowardly crew had taken it, at the first sign of trouble. Ashamed, they eventually came back, and ferried all passengers to safety.

The only casualty- one poor mule, who was tied up on the bottom deck. His entire skeleton, including the harness, is on display in the museum.

You can see all the fascinating history for yourself. In a tiny theater, there is a 10  minute video about the sinking of the Arabia.  The more interesting section of the video, however, is the story of the discovery of the Arabia and its resurrection.

In the 1980’s a family of plumbers heard an old rumor about a steamboat that was supposedly sunk in a field, near the river.  Even though they had zero experience at excavation, the story about how these people found, dug up, and preserved the contents of the steamboat is absolutely riveting.

The coolest part of the whole visit was when the  leader of the discoverers-Mr. Hawley- came out in person to speak to us; and answer any questions we had… A nice and very gracious man.

I love, love, love historical fiction. But, the American pioneer era has never been my favorite historical venue. I usually limit my writing and research to- and around- the English and European  monarchy.  But, this collection touched my heart and piqued my interest.

I can imagine  myself and my children heading out on this rickety old steamboat. We are finally going to join my husband. He has worked so hard to build our log cabin, so we will not freeze in the winter. All our hopes and dreams float with us down this river. In addition, underneath our feet is the entire supply chain of over 40 dry-good stores, in  towns up and down the river.  Merchants  are waiting anxiously for this, the last shipment of the year, to arrive.

 

a tiny portion of the goods

 

When the ship sinks, every worldly good we possess ends up at the bottom of the river. Not only our goods, but thousands of other pioneers will not get new boots, cloth for dresses and coats, dishes ordered from England, tools to work the farm, or countless other items, which the whole town will have to do without.

This ship, when excavated, was in absolutely amazing shape. The Hawley family were able to bring up pristine examples of things used in everyday life in the 1850’s. Things seen no-where else in the country. The sheer amount of goods in the museum is astonishing.

I said before, that I had never really been interested in the pioneer period. After my visit to this museum, however,  I think I’ll try to write about this most miraculous part of our past.

Please visit the website-     http://www.1856.com/

And enjoy your trip to our country’s past. I know I did.

You are in an awful hurry. You have an extremely important meeting at work. One that could change your career. You might even finally get that raise you deserve.

The doorbell rings right before you walk out the door. An old woman stands on your doorstep.

“You can’t go to work today.” She tells you. “If you do, you will destroy your life, forever.”

“Who are you?” You ask, irritated at the interruption.

“Why,” she says, “I am you. From the future!”

Da.Da..Dunnnnn…

What would you do?

My current (um..and first) manuscript deals with Time Travel.  It is a fascinating subject. The brightest and most brilliant minds of all time spend years studying the possibilities.

See interview HERE of Carl Sagan, describing his TIME TRAVEL theories.

I hope these uber-smart scientists  figure out how to build a time machine, then one day, offer it as a vacation package. Can you imagine? It would be like taking a cruise….to the past.

How flippin’ cool would that be?

Here are a few questions that I have been mulling over.

1.)  Who would you do…  In??

2.)  Who would you want to meet??-Other than your own loved ones.

3.)  What historical event would you like to attend??

For me:

1.)  Now, I know that everyone is going to say Hitler, Genghis Khan or  Pol Pot, and those are great choices.  I, however, am gunning for the first idiot who decided that women should be skinny.  Take a look at Renaissance paintings, sometime. In that age, “full-figured” women were the ideal. Then somewhere in the fabric of time, some doofus told his wife that her butt looked big.  This time, instead of her usual, “Why thank you, dear. What a sweet thing to say.” She must have frowned and decided to have a carrot stick instead of a bon-bon.   Booo!

2.)  That is easy.. Eleanor of Aquitaine.  My all-time favorite person from history.

3.)  This is on the fly, but maybe.. the Wedding of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.  They were both so young and beautiful.

How would you answer these questions?

While the purpose of most blogs on writing is to inform, I have created this blog to gather information. There are a lot of us “Aspiring Authors” out there, who are trying to learn as we go.

When I began this journey, the only thing that came to  mind when someone mentioned “craft” to me, were Popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue.

That was a beautiful time of innocence, when I wrote simply for the joy it gave me.  In fact, it made me a little sad to learn how much of “art” is actually  “business.”

Once I  committed to taking this journey, however, I determined to give it my all.  So,  I began to do research. The one word that was invariably near the top of the important issues  of nearly every website, tweet or book jacket on writing…. CRAFT.

The problem that I am facing at the present is that there is simply TOO much.  Too  many books.  Too many websites. Too many classes. How do newbies like me EVER make the right decisions?

That may sound ridiculous to any experts, who are used to weeding through the chaff of  information.  We poor little lost “aspirings” flounder.  We helplessly bounce from one site to another, not certain whom to trust.

Who is right?  What is wrong?

It can be a bit overwhelming.  I have already spent WAY too much on books, online workshops, and plan to spend a lot more as soon as I figure out how to choose.

… That is the question…..

HOW DO WE CHOOSE?

Where do  YOU turn for craft advice?

If there are any more Aspiree’s out there, which would like to link to this, I figure we are better off together.  Welcome. 🙂

Thank you and have a beautiful day.

Janet

Aspiring Nerd

I got some really good news Saturday. I submitted my first short story to an e-zine and it was accepted for publication. I know it is not that big of a deal to most people, but to me, it proved that at least my writing doesn’t completely suck.

I think that is important…  not sucking.

I am an “aspiring” author. Hmm.. What does that mean exactly?

The dictionary says:

as·pire

http://sp.dictionary.com/dictstatic/d/g/speaker.swf [uh-spahyuhr]

to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, esp. for something great or of high value (usually fol. by to, after,or an infinitive): to aspire after literary immortality;

Ahhh… Part of the dictionary’s definition… To aspire after literary immortality.. Immortality???    Woowee! THAT is a BIG aspiration!

I think I will shoot a little lower.

I want people  to read what I write. I want them to sink themselves into the world that I create. I want them to hide from their children in the bathroom, so they can finish one of my chapters.

There are an awful lot of us “aspirings” out there. The question is, how to I rise out of the obscure pack?

Obviously, the writing has to be good. Or actually, more than good. It has to be phenomenal.

I have mentioned how naïve I was when I started this journey. I thought if you wrote a good book, you got published. Well, apparently, there is a lot more to it. You must also build a “social platform”, have lots of followers on Twitter and have a large Facebook page. I wonder how large of a Twitter  following Dickens would have? Or how many Facebook friends Tolstoy could cultivate?  What would have been their social media strategy ?

I am a toddler in the Twitter world. As an (ahem) forty-something, I feel awkward trying to break into that world. It seems too hip, too cool for an old broad like me. When I announced to my teenagers that I now “twittered”, they first gagged a little, then informed me, acidly, that it was “Tweeting, Mom. Duh..”

So, here I go. I will face this electronic world. I am going to jump in with both feet, and just hope that I don’t embarrass myself by being a ginormous nerd.

Except.. aren’t nerds cool, now?

Here is a tiny excerpt from my Manuscript.  What do you guys think????

This time I dreamed of Alex. Only the dreams were not of our time together, but strange, disjointed images.

He stood across from me, near a wide, flat river. Palm trees swayed in a hot breeze; and behind him, a huge pyramid rose out of the desert.
He wore a bronze breastplate and the plumed helmet of a Roman soldier. The gritty wind whipped my long, white robes and black braids around me. Alex grinned and held out his hand. In his palm rested a huge opal.
As I reached for it, the scene changed to winter. Snow covered a hilly landscape and we were clothed in plush, smooth furs. He tried to push the stone toward me again, but as I stretched out my hand to grasp it; he melted away to be replaced by Lucien. Dressed in the dandified clothes of a French aristocrat, he threw his head back in a cruel laugh. His unnaturally red lips were clownish against his white, powdered cheeks and black beauty mark. I turned to run, but my wide skirts wouldn’t allow me to turn quickly. My head was so heavy under the tall, white wig.
Only a few feet away, Alex struggled, his arms pinned behind him. Scratches covered his chest, where his white-frilled shirt gaped open. His autumn brown hair had escaped the low ponytail and hung in straggles around his blood-covered face. Someone grabbed me from behind, pulling me away as he screamed my name.
I sat up, panting and sweating, and then wished I hadn’t.

BTW>> I added on some of my favorite blog sites, and also some of the books I have read in the last year. With working on my own book, I’ve had less time to read, which is SO not cool! I LOVE “literature”, but sometimes you have to concentrate too hard. All these books are pure pleasure.

Well, I am going to do it. I am going to eat a big old bowl of crow, feathers and all.

The other day, I submitted a very succinct and well-thought out post regarding the lack of writers and/or conferences held in our glorious South. Some might say I was just whining, being a big titty-baby, but to you I say….. pttttthhhh. :p.

In any case, today I was moping around on the net, my bottom lip thrust out like a toddler. I was perusing next year’s list of writers’ conferences ,which I can’t  attend because they are all too dang-blasted far away!

Then, it happened. It was like the angels smiled down on me, sending this link straight to my broken heart. (I know, sugar.. If you need a little Kleenex. It’s okay.)

http://dfwwritersconference.org/

I discovered a writers’ conference in Dallas/Ft.Worth in February!!  My joy knew no bounds. Then…… disaster struck.

The dates.. February the 26th and 27th. One of which just happens to by my 23rd wedding anniversary. {sigh}. What were the chances that my husband would want to drive six hours, only to sit in a hotel while I go to classes, lectures and meetings?

With little hope, I sent a quick email, with a link to the site. He knows how much becoming a published author means to me, but I had no idea how he would take doing something like this on our anniversary.  He already loses a lot of me when I am writing.

The ding of the inbox chimed, and I clicked on  it…..

The only thing it said in return…. Of Course.  I love you.

Now, I already knew my husband was Grade A, 24-Carat, 100% etc….He and I are high-school sweethearts and have been together for twenty-six years. A more loving and giving man does not exist in the world, and I should not have doubted it for a millisecond.

Now… you can pull out your Kleenex box.

(of course, I will not mention the little side deal I had to make… But..it IS our anniversary, after all.. )

I went to my first book signing this weekend. I know, I know.. What?! You say to yourself. How is this possible? All she does is talk about books. How is it that she has never been to a book signing?

I live in the South. That’s how. In particular, I live in Arkansas. We couldn’t be any further from New York or L.A. in either geography or lifestyle. We are slow ’bout things ’round here. Could that be the reason we don’t draw any big name authors to our state? I had to drive seven hours, to Kansas City,  just to attend an hour-long lecture and book signing.  I wouldn’t drive seven hours to meet a movie star, but I will to meet an author whose work I admire. Is that lame?

The population of Kansas City is around a half-million, including its suburban areas. My city, Little Rock, is not much smaller. Yet, we have little to no literary events. Oh, we can throw a hell of a watermelon festival, duck calling competition, or even a festival called Toad Suck Days (not even kidding). But try to get an author down here. Not happening.

So.. my question is… What’s wrong with the South? We’ll feed the heck out of anyone who wants to visit. Our mamas raised us to say yes ma’ am, and feed the company. Aren’t the  Black-eyed peas and peach cobbler alone worth the trip?

The English are the Best!

I have made three trips to Great Britain. Every time I visit, I am more and more impressed, not only with the beauty of the country, but the absolute friendliness of the people.

Exhibit A–Once, when we got lost, a man went ten blocks out of his way, to help us back to the location where we were to meet our group.

I give you exhibit B, here.– In working on my novel, I want to adhere to the strictest historical accuracy possible. I asked my historical fiction group for advice. One of the members suggested I contact Hampton Court, the actual scene of my manuscript.

I received this answer to my query, and it just goes to prove how wonderful the vast majority of the English and Scottish people are.

Dear Janet
Your email has been passed to me.  There would have been two types of garderobe in the time of Henry VIII.  In private lodgings (that is to say in the individual rooms for guests and their retainers, individual garderobes would have discharged into a sewage network which was periodically cleansed, either by periodically sluicing them out, or by the tide of the river flooding the sewers and carrying everything away.  Most people would have used a communal lavatory called the Great House of Easement, where all the men basically sat around together going about their business.  This discharged into a giant pit which was emptied periodically by a gang of men called ‘gongfermors’, whose job it was to shovel all  the waste up to a higher level where gravity and water would take it to the river.

Of course Henry VIII himself had a closed stool, which was box with satin lining, black velvet, tassels and ribbons with a pewter pan and its own leather carrying box.

Hope that helps.

Yours sincerely

Lee Prosser

Curator (Historic Buildings)
Kensington Palace and Kew Palace
Apartment 25
Hampton Court Palace
Surrey KT8 9AU
Tel:  020 3166 6409