Category Archives: FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER

My Favorite Historical ZOOM Backgrounds

on June 28, 2020

We’re all on ZOOM these days, right?

I ZOOM in from my home office, which unlike everyone else’s beautifully-bookshelfed office, is really not that attractive. (No, I’m not going to provide photographic proof!)

So I often use the ZOOM virtual backdrop option and these are my favorite backgrounds so far:

Since I didn’t have a beautifully-bookshelfed background naturally, I went looking for my own bookshelf image. I found it in The Library at Edith Wharton’s The Mount.

 

When I feel like I want to be outside, I choose this Canal Street postcard. It’s not quite FANNY NEWCOMB’s 1889 New Orleans, but it’s close. 


Those are my two favorite virtual backgrounds. What’s yours? 

Just in time for Saint Valentine’s Day…Stinky Vinegar Valentines!

on February 14, 2020

The feast of Saint Valentine of Rome was designated in the year 496.

The date? February 14th, of course.

About 900 years later, Saint Valentine and his feast day (already celebrated with food, drink, jousting, poetry, singing, and dancing) somehow became associated with romance, passion, and love.

And so began the need to send Saint Valentine’s greetings—letters, cards, and books that were chock full of flowers, hearts, rhyming verse, sly suggestions and outright innuendos, and plump cherubs, puppies, and babies!

During the 19th century—when my historical mystery Fanny Newcomb & the Irish Channel Ripper is set—cards and postcards celebrating Saint Valentine’s Day reached a new height of romantic expression.

But in the mid-19th century and continuing into the mid-20th century, many valentines took a darker, meaner, and even stinkier turn for the worse.

What? You haven’t heard of Vinegar Valentines?

Bitter, caustic, and often downright nasty, Vinegar Valentines were created to offend and insult the recipient.

Vinegar Valentines consisted of two elements: first of all, they had graphics that included slimy animals like snakes and slugs or grotesque caricatures of men and women. Secondly, these missives included a rude rhyme or mean quotation.

And although my Fanny Newcomb would never ever, ever-ever-ever send out a Vinegar Valentine, I still thought you’d like to see a few stinkers for yourself.

The Serpent

The Saleslady

The Suffragette

Mr. Bald Head

(and I admit it! I’m glad that there were Vinegar Valentines for men also!)


 

The Surgeon

(A Civil War Vinegar Valentine)

 

Fortunately, Vinegar Valentines went out of style long ago, and today I can wish you a very happy Saint Valentine’s Day with a sweet postcard full of hearts and happy thoughts!

Happy Valentines Day from FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER!

 

 

 

 

It’s Giveaway Time…for 48 hours or so…

on February 5, 2020

The very kind and wonderful storyteller Suzanne Adair has invited me to share how to “hold history in your hands” in this week’s Relevant History blog.

And…here’s Suzanne’s scoop on the FANNY NEWCOMB giveaway:

“A big thanks to Ana Brazil! She’ll give away a packet of four reproduction postcards and one original postcard of Italian Headquarters, plus a paperback copy of Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper, to someone who contributes a comment on my blog this week (available Tuesday 4 February). I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available in the US only.”

For a little preview, here are a few of my postcards that are not in the Relevant History publication:

   

 

and here’s a larger view of the postcard that Kerry wants to know more about.

 

This postcard was printed after 1908, which is the date that the Southern Railroad Depot (the large monumental building with a rounded arch entrance on Canal and Basin Streets) was completed.

What’s cooking for Thanksgiving Dinner in 1889 New Orleans?

on November 28, 2019

Since it’s Thanksgiving week, right now I’m thinking about FOOD—smoked turkey, oyster stuffing, and gravy; sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce; and, one of my very favorites, fluffy ambrosia.

My food thoughts made me wonder what Fanny Newcomb and her friends (and even her enemies, since Fanny is hunting down the Irish Channel Ripper in 1889 New Orleans) ate for Thanksgiving dinner. And then I wondered—since it was President Lincoln who officially proclaimed the last Thursday in November as a National Day of Thanksgiving—did New Orleanians actually celebrate Thanksgiving in the 1880s?

from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, c1888

Oh, yes they did. With morning church services and an evening family feast, New Orleanians joined the rest of the country in giving thanks.

And what a feast! The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book of 1901 provides a complete menu for Thanksgiving Day Dinner (or as the Creoles called it le Jour d’Action de Graces) for New Orleanians. If you look closely (because there are an amazing twenty-one courses), you’ll see that—just like today—turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce were served.

Interested in recreating some of these late 19th century dishes? Check out the online 1922 version of the The Picayune’s Creole Cook Book.

A Thanksglving Menu.

Menu Pour le Jour d’Action de Graces.

DINNER.

Oysters on Half Shell.

Cream of Asparagus Soup.

Spanish Olives. Celery. Mixed Pickles.

Radishes. Salted Almonds.

Baked Red Snapper a la Creole.

Mashed Potatoes.

Lamb Chops au Petit Pois.

Chicken Saute aux Champignons.

Cauliflower, Sauce Blanche.

Pineapple Fritters au Rhum.

Pates de Foies Gras.

Stuffed Tomatoes.

Turkey Stuffed With Chestnuts, Cranberry Sauce.

Endive Salad, French Dressing.

Pababotte a la Creole.

Plum Pudding, Hard or Brandy Sauce.

Pumpkin Pie.

Lemon Sherbet. Assorted Cakes.

Assorted Fruits. Assorted Nuts. Raisins.

Neufchatel.

Quince Marmalade. Crackers.

Cafe Noir.

 

Fanny Newcomb Book Birthday & KIndle Sale

on November 8, 2019

Yep, “Book Birthdays” are a real thing.


FANNY NEWCOMB & THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER came out on November 1st, 2017 and in Fanny’s honor, my publisher is hosting a $.99 sale on Kindle.

ALL. MONTH. LONG.

If you haven’t read FANNY NEWCOMB, or if you’ve worn out your Kindle copy already, or if you’d like to send a Kindle copy to a friend (or potential friend) of yours, NOW’S THE TIME!

 

Gilded Age New Orleans: So much more than hookers, hurricanes, and Mardi Gras!

on July 28, 2018

Although late 19th century New Orleans was renowned for the hookers of Storyville, the devastating hurricanes of the 1880s, and the elevation of Mardi Gras to a state holiday, there’s so much more to know about the Crescent City during this time!

For starters, there was an assassination that was followed by lynchings (1890), an all-out political insurrection (1874), and a riot that killed 28 people (1900). There were duels in City Park and gunfights on Canal Street. There were too many bankruptcies, lottery swindles, and drunken sailors to count. And every year there was a long, hot summer and the constant threat of yellow fever or other maladies.

With a quarter of a million citizens and ships from the mighty Mississippi river depositing strangers in the city every day, someone was always causing trouble for someone else. Truly, Gilded Age New Orleans is a dream city for a historical mystery writer!

But back to summer…when the heat truly hit in late May, New Orleanians of means retreated to breezy coastal cities in Louisiana and Mississippi. During this “dull season”, those citizens who remained in town stocked their iceboxes, lightened their wardrobes and rooms with cotton fabrics, and, as advised by the daily newspapers, stopped working by 3pm.

And into this humid, hot mess of a city I toss my heroine, Fanny Newcomb. And ask her to solve a murder. Twenty-five and learning to make a living on her own, Fanny finds herself teaching typewriting to the hard-working factory girls of the city’s Irish Channel neighborhood. It’s a grim life.

Fortunately for Fanny and her crew, in addition to the problems mentioned above, New Orleans was also the entertainment oasis of the South.

Throughout the late 19th century, New Orleanians reveled in what the city maps called Places of Amusement. For grand music, they attended the French or Grand Opera Houses or the Academy of Music. For dramatic entertainment, they visited the St. Charles, Avenue, or Faranta’s Theatres, stages where Edwin Booth and Sarah Bernhardt both made appearances. For a peak at circus curiosities or a bit of common sensationalism, they bought a ticket to Robinson’s Dime Museum.

Horse lovers and gamblers alike visited the Fair Grounds, home of the Louisiana Jockey Club and their racecourse. New Orleanians in need of a quiet place for contemplation could visit a former racecourse, because the 1830’s Metairie Race tack had been transformed into the elegant and fashionable Metairie Cemetery after the Civil War. Even in traditionally laissez-faire New Orleans, a cemetery could not be called a Place of Amusement, but because the city had above-ground burials, many of the cemeteries did become celebrated centers of beauty and relaxation.

When New Orleanians tired of the hustle of the Canal Street business district or the bustle of the Mississippi river roustabouts, they retreated to resorts on Lake Pontchartrain, only a few miles from the heart of the city. The “pleasure grounds” of Milneburg, Spanish Fort, and West End offered a variety of hotels, restaurants, casinos, theatres, shooting galleries, and bathhouses. A visit to New Orleans was never considered complete without a “trip to the lake”.

Many New Orleanians were more charitable than cultural. Like all large American cities in the late 19th century, the city was home to churches, synagogues, charity hospitals, Young Christian Associations, a Woman’s Exchange, and—most vital to Fanny Newcomb’s story—a settlement house to assist immigrants in assimilating to their strange and dangerous new city.

Fortunately for me, there is a lot more to Gilded Age New Orleans than hookers, hurricanes, and Mardi Gras. Which means that there’ll be a lot more murders for Fanny Newcomb to investigate.

This blog post was originally posted on Jenny Q’s excellent letthemreadbooks.blogspot.com.

Additional ideas for Writing a Killer First Chapter…

on January 27, 2018

On January 28 I’ll be sharing ideas on “Writing a Killer First Chapter” with the Redwood Writers (a Branch of the California Writers Club) in Santa Rosa.

Here are some links with more info….

For novels:
10 Things Your Opening Chapter Should Do: A Check-List for Self-Editing
Finding the Perfect Place to Start Your Novel
4 Approaches for the First Chapter of Your Novel
How to write a murderously good mystery

For short stories:
Short Story Structures: Several Ways Of Structuring Short Fiction
How to write a mystery story

Fanny Newcomb Kindle sale!

on December 9, 2017

For two days only (Saturday December 9 and Sunday December 10), Fanny Newcomb & the Irish Channel Ripper for Kindle is on sale for 99 cents!

ALSO this weekend….all SAND HILL REVIEW PRESS Kindle editions  are available for 99 cents!