Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hijacked by History

by Debra E. Marvin

Where did history meet you?
Where did it wink, turn, urge you to follow?

Was it in a schoolroom nudging the back of your brain through the words of a teacher?
Perhaps a lesson given via a stuttering filmstrip? (didn’t the filmstrip always have a problem necessitating the help of a boy from the Audio Visual club? Well, at least back in the sixties and seventies. By the way, those nerdy boys are all making big bucks now.)

Was it on a trip to a small, musty museum or the filing past of a fife and drum corps in a parade? Or hearing stories told by your parents, your grandparents, a reenactor or docent?

Or did you first leave your present, everyday world through the pages of fiction?
Replica tall-ship "Enterprize" in Me...Image via Wikipedia
Maybe history never teased you. Maybe you’ve never really stepped through its doors.

That would sadden me. History is a real place—a place of imagination, possibilities, joys and sorrows. You’ll find skirmishes, chisels working at stone, horses pawing at dusty trails and snorting with impatience, and the sound of workaday chatter between neighbors, merchants, servants and lairds.
I smell it. I hear it. I feel it.

Can you smell the meal in a colonial hearth? Hear the snap of a schooner’s canvas? Feel the anxiety of a family saying goodbye to a loved one off to a new land, perhaps never to return?

I’ve always liked history. Something along the way got into my head and became my world of play. I don’t remember when but it continues to be kindled by books, movies, travels. It’s still my world of play and I admit I’m often annoyed when it’s time to leave and come back to the present. I’m not alone. Anyone who writes historicals can tell you we love our modern medicine, but…

Maybe being a dreamer, a wanderer in another century is, to you, a waste of time. That’s okay. Think what you will. It won’t bother me because, frankly, I might be sitting here, but I’m looking at you from another time and place.

Are you able to choose one favorite historical period and setting?

Where would you spend a day if we could get our Inktropolis Time Machine up and running?

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  1. Good morning friends,
    I regret I won't be at my computer much today but I hope to come in later and find that some of you have shared just where you'd like the dials set in our time machine!

    No worries. Some of my Inky sisters love to chat up history, too!

    If you can choose one place, that's great. I don't think I can, so I'll have to make that time travel a few times!

    First trip? The Scottish lowlands, 1830s. It's all about research!

  2. I would love to travel back to see the apostles or even Moody preach. Some great speeches would have been neat too.

  3. Adge! Wow, what a thought. Can you imagine how quiet a crowd would have to be to hear some of those great speeches? Without benefit of amplification other than the speaker's own voice and the setting he or she chose--
    my mind is spinning with thoughts on this.
    I do like to read biblical fiction and fiction set in biblical times. For a great treat, check out "The Master's Wall" by Sandi Rog or "A Stray Drop" by Roseanna White.

    Thanks for stopping by. Nice and Early!

  4. Great post, Debra.
    I fell in love with history when my dad told me of a town called Pompeii and a volcano called Mt Vesuvius. If I could travel back I would have to go there. Even though I write medieval and regency romance, Pompeii holds a special place in me.

  5. I was born and brought up within easy reach of all those landmarks that epitomise London, The Tower, St Paul’s, Christopher Wren’s Churches, tiny cobbled streets that run behind the concrete and glass of the modern business district of the City. I always imagined I could actually see men in tall periwigs and frock coats carrying canes walking through those streets, getting out of sedan chairs to enter the Coffee Houses.

    On school trips to historic houses, I was the kid who dawdled at the back waiting for the room to empty so I could visualize the people who once walked the halls and slept in the beds. I think my teachers thought I was bored so lagged behind, but I loved them revisit favourites whenever I can.

  6. Debra, you have a beautiful site, I love the pictures. Books and movies always drew me into history. Plus, visiting historic homes. I'd imagine myself in those places and how I'd cope in an era that was often precarious for women. I'd love to travel to 18th c. Cornwall, where I set many of my novels; but of course, I'd want that modern plumbing.

  7. Hi, Debra! My favorite era in history is the mid to late 1800's. I feel as though I could set my birth date back 100 years and not lose my stride. So much occurred during a relatively short period of time. Changes to technology, transportation, communications, social mores, religion, fashions, science and medicine, literature, art and entertainment. The American Civil War and its long-lasting aftereffects. The glory and grit of the American Old West. A very rich and revolutionary period in history.

  8. Oooh, Tamara, that's a place I'd hadn't considered but your enthusiasm for it is catching! The stories that came out of that moment, the lives of people caught mid-action fascinate me too but to visit? When would you go? The day before the eruption? Knowing or not knowing what was to happen?

    Thanks for much for stopping by and commenting, it means a lot to me. We have some very talented ladies in our blog group and they keep it looking pretty nice around here.

    For now I guess I'll see you in the 19th century, where we usually meet!

  9. Welcome to all the commenters!

    Deb, that's a seriously hard question. I want to visit all of them. As I was reading everyone's comments I was going. Oh yeah. Yep., can't believe I forgot about that. Aw, never considered that one. Now I wanna go!

    Colonial Williamsburg captured my imagination. Same with London (which will always, always hold a special place in my heart!) Ancient Rome, the India of Maharajahs and palanquins, the Indian Ocean islands dotted with spice plantations. Gold rush Alaska. I want it all!!

    I'm like you, Deb. Came to history through fiction. Visiting historical sites helps me to populate the world of the written page with scenes from my own head.

    I've never understood those who find history boring. It is all of humanity. An enormous boiling cauldron of emotion and drama and discovery and mystery.

  10. Hi Anita, I'm so glad you're here. I think a few of us here at the Inkwell would love to have had some of those opportunities growing up. Your writing resonates with so much detail, it inspires mine.
    Really. I feel blessed to be part of our historical fiction critique group. I have to remember to thank Anne again for allowing me in!
    (I just had the pleasure to start your new story last night!)

    I tend to be that person at the museum or living history site that asks too many questions and retraces their steps to ask some more. I try not to watch other people roll their eyes, because it's much too important to me to be swayed by their opinions! I'm there to learn and soak up details.

  11. Diane, truth is, while debating my next setting, I settled on Cornwall for two reasons. Your writing and my fascination for the Celtic history of the area. Your current WIP sucks me in and I have to slap myself back to the present.

    If it's not too late, please feel free to post the link to your book!

    I think I'd be willing to deal without modern plumbing but never without modern medical care!!

    Thanks Diane!

  12. Hi Virginia!!

    You've been around here enough to know my fascination with the civil war. I think its quite possible my love of history grew out of Gone With the Wind. The trend to stay away from it in current publishing seems to be going away and soon there'll be a rebirth in that setting. I think. I hope!

    A fascinating period in American History that I will never tire of. It also drives some of my love to travel south. (here's a shameless plug for my post on Savannah Georgia http://inkwellinspirations.blogspot.com/search/label/Savannah)

    Well Virginia, you are on the other side of the Mason Dixon but I'm forgiven aren't I? Only one part of my family fought in the Civil War, the rest of us were over across the pond.

    As for the glory and grit of the old west, keep an eye on our very own Anita Mae Draper, who takes me through the rugged Dakota hills every time I open a chapter to critique.

    sending a hug your way, Virginia!

  13. Lisa, we're cut from the same history cloth, aren't we? I could never make up my mind, so I think we should use the time machine again and again.

    I think it was you who got me interested in the Elizabeth Peters mysteries set in 1920s through ??40s? Egypt and the amazing Amelia Peabody.
    My dad always said that was one place he'd like to go. He'd been in the pacific theater during WWII and brought back beautiful photos and items, but I never did ask him "why Egypt?"

    Thanks for checking in. I will be going outside to work for the day and will leave our visitors to chat among themselves while the rest of the Inkies do hostess duties!

    Sorry! This has to do with a paycheck and so far no income from daydreaming in history. But so much more fun!

  14. Hey, Debra! All is forgiven : ) As you know, I'm "Virginia from VA", and I have a deep love and sense of pride for my home state. We are "The Old Dominion" and "The Mother of Presidents". "Virginia is for lovers!" is our motto. Lovers of history, music, food, wine, mountains, seashores and much, much more. You can travel through Virginia from corner to corner, and you will meet history at every turn.

    Everyone is invited : )


  15. my dear Virginia, you are quite the promoter of your state and I'm sold.
    I've always found it fascinating. Imagine the power it held in the continental congress and the days when West VA was still part of it.
    When we vacationed there in my youth, I always thought it interesting to think about the politics of north and south that met there.

    A beautiful state from mountains to shore. And you should be getting a percentage for your PR work!

    Have you all had the chance to watch the miniseries John Adams? I should be getting a percentage for PR on that one. I'm always harping about how good it is. Every American should watch it, heck, all our history loving visitors from beyond the border should too.

  16. Hi, Debra. This is such a difficult question! I've always loved history. It's literally in my blood. My father was a college history prof. Course, he taught American Revolution and that's not history to me. LOL. Give me 500 years plus. In school, I was the only person who thrived in history. I once told a fellow student I longed to go to England and he called me stupid because I believed England was real. That was just a place they invented in order to test us! LOL

    Times to visit is really hard, though. I'd die to sit at the feet of Christ. I would love to see Pompeii, too, but not on the day of. :) I'd love to see my time period of ancient China - there are just so many times! Exodus in Egypt...

  17. I was always fascinated by the "pioneer days" -- those who took the huge risk to travel to new lands and unknown territories!

    History as a subject never really appealed to me until I had the privilege of standing on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City, Canada. Suddenly I realized those dry high school history books were telling real stories, and interesting ones at that! And then many years later, I was moved very deeply when I stood on Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia -- the place where so many immigrants, including my own grandparents, landed when coming to Canada.

    My husband is a major lover of history so he teaches me so much now.
    Elaine King

  18. Colorado Territory. Besides a wealth of family history, my 7th grade social studies teacher did an incredible job of making that era come alive to me.
    I like castles and Scottish clans and such, as well, but I don't think I'd actually like it very much.
    To go further back, thinking about listening to the great Bible teachers and preachers... can you imagine hearing Jesus preach the sermon on the mount, or sitting beside Mary at His feet? Or Paul in Athens at the Areopagus?

  19. I can't decide!!! I love romance and drama-laden stories from every period. Love museums, stories that take place in museums, movies with museums in them...

    Williamsburg is awesome, Cornwall sounds terrific, a friend went on a Jane Austen tour (sign me up)!

  20. Ooooh, to travel. :-)

    Like Cheryl, I can't decide where or when I'd want to go.

    Although I think being in the early church, maybe 30 years AD.

  21. I was brought up in a home that watched anything that had a horse, rifle or badge in the series. Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel...I think you get the picture. Plus, when I spent time with my grandparents, I heard stories about how hard it was for great, great grandparents, and how somewhere I was connected by blood to the Cherokee Indians. Strangely, I have a fascination for the Lakota Sioux when I write. But, being exposed to so much about the west colored my reading tastes, and while in grammar school, I found Laura Ingalls Wilder and her wonderful series that swept me back to the 1800s. It's no wonder that I write mainly western historical because so much of that time period is engraved in my memory. I can't watch an old western today without missing those of my family who have passed on. If there are televisions in heaven, I can bet there's a western on somewhere. :)

  22. I think for me I would love to go back to the Birth of Christ and be in the stable and look into the eyes of My Lord as an infant and see the Glory of My King wrapped in nothing but rags.
    I then again would loved to be at the Foot of the Cross and see the most precious gift ever given.

  23. You KNOW this is such a cool subject with me! Of course, meeting the Lord when He was on earth has gotta be number one. Then, eighteenth- century America (had to be in Philly this summer)and just going down the steps of Independence Hall I thought of those men who'd signed the Declaration--and possibly their lives away. Strong stuff. Then, Edwardian era--pre-WWI (my grandma's, when she was young) And finally, WWII. Anything that I can corral into a colorful setting/ball gown thingy! :)

  24. Oh wow, Deb, this is the hardest question! Too many places, and of course I'd love to go back to the Holy Land! I would love to hear Jesus preach -- to reach out and touch Him, but aside from every Biblical setting, the list is still pretty huge.

    I'd delight in taking in the waters at Bath during Regency England (what if I sat at a table beside Jane Austen?), or walk the streets of a young America. Or go on an archaeological holiday with Agatha Christie... I could be here all day.

    Thanks so much, Deb!

  25. Come on, Deb, you know where I'd go. Straight to the 1300's in England. But not during a plague year :)

  26. Hi Victoria. I'm so glad my HisFicCrit friends dropped by. Nice to see your faces for a change!

    In those moments when I think, "I wish I had chosen a different path", I have to admit being a history professor has crossed my mind. Someone like a Shelby Foote, the amazing Civil War expert, but what period of history would I have wanted to specialize in? Can't say.

    Of course I'd guess you'd pick China! But like I said I can't imagine picking only one, so you're free to dream bigger. I'm really enjoying everyone's comments!

    Thanks for commenting!

  27. Hi Elaine. Quebec City is on my list of places to go and it's relatively close. May end up to be my closest connection to France. I'll have to look up some information on the Plains of Abraham.

    I have been to Nova Scotia and loved it. I was amazed to find out the connection between those who settled there and the 'cajun's in the gulf states. The Arcadians became 'cajun' and of course, the Nova Scotians are known for their fiddle playing and there's such a connection to that in the mountains and along the gulf coast states. I really don't know much about Canadian Immigration. I hope to go back. Loved the dialect, too!

    Thanks Elaine, for playing my game!

  28. Niki, it's only for a day, so you can go back and hang out in a castle. No long term commitment. A warm summer day, how's that?

    I've never thought much about going back to see Jesus here on Earth. I don't know why. Knowing what I know, and to see him in person? I don't think my mind could handle it. His disciples were with him for three years and never realized what they had until he ascended to heaven.

    Should we expect some Colorado history in your first published book?

  29. Hi Cheryl, glad to see you today. Sorry I've been gone so much of it, but I'm loving everyone's ideas. I could probably go on about this subject all day.

    I took two of my kids to Virginia and Washington D.C. when we had a chance during high school. We went to DC and then I gave them a choice: Williamsburg or Busch Gardens.

    So of course, I've never been there, but I think I'd be quite excited by it. I hope to go at Christmas time some year. If I get to half my list before--you know, The End--I'd be thrilled! I think a Jane Austen tour sounds amazing. I don't have any problem being a bus tourist, either.

    Thanks Cheryl, I hope you know how much we appreciate your visits!

  30. Gina and Dina (our gold dust twins)

    Gina - I think the early church could have used you. But I'm not sure there was any latte' for the working class. We'll try to send you into a wealthy family, okay?

    Dina, get your shots. We might have trouble picking the exact time to send you safely between plagues!
    But talk about research opportunities!

  31. Hi Ginger! So glad you're visiting and that you're back to our crit group ready to get 'back in the saddle'!

    I grew up on westerns too. I think we've talked about this on the blog here but I had at least two pairs of 'six-shooters' as a girl, two cowboy hats and finally got the pony to go along with it. I still love all those old shows and I think that's one reason that the Love Comes Softly series is so popular. Hallmark runs those 'movie marathons' and I can get sucked in for the whole day if I'm not careful.

    Thanks Miz Ginger! I'll put you down for an old west day as soon as we get the darn time machine working.
    I would suggest a book I'm currently reading called The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz. Set in Kentucky when it was still Cherokee country and the writing is exquisite! The details show a lot of insight into the history of the region. I have a hard time putting it aside at night.

  32. Okay, just drop me back safely before the plague. Let's say late 1200s early 1300s. Even early 1200s would be fine. I could hang out for the signing of the magna carta.

    I love history more from a humanities perspective: the culture, the arts, the sociological trends, the philosophy and religion.

  33. Louise, you got me thinking about the birth of Christ--that holy night? Wow. But what would be really cool to me is to go and see Jesus as a young man before his call to ministry. When he was the older brother, the carpenter, the simple Nazarene. But I'd want to be a fly on the wall (as if God wouldn't know what I was doing hiding behind a tree to gawk!)

  34. Hey Pat!
    (PS I'm waiting on chap 2)

    Hey, glad you stopped by. Pat and I are crit partners and last year we went to an amazing reenactment of a peace treaty between the French and the Iroquois and spent part of the days in an authentic longhouse and picking the reenactor's brains about all their activities and clothing. That's a dream day, is it not?

    Pat, I got your note about John Adams, too. I'm going up to Boston and Cape Ann this fall and I'm hoping to venture into Quincy and the Adams house. Watching that miniseries really fired up my revolutionary war interests again. Oh my. I'm having a blast talking up history with everyone! Good Stuff!

    Thanks for coming by Pat. Let's plan our next history date, soon!

  35. Susie,
    I'd like to go back and stay from around 1810 to about 1840. But I'd refuse to go to the apothecary and have my teeth pulled and I know I'd never last 30 years without my professional cleanings 3x a year...

    One of these days I'm going to buy the Victoria movie and you'll be the first to know. 1837, here I come.

  36. Okay, gotta run and do some edits. Thanks everyone!
    I'm getting tired of seeing my face on here, though I must admit.

    Maybe I'll post my photo in the Queen Victoria dress? hmmmmm

  37. I absolutely CAN NOT pick a favorite time period! Impossible! For as long as I can remember, I've loved history. Any history. BIg or small. Of a place or a person. And I love visiting historical sites and museums because to me, they are a time machine!

    What I love most is the everyday history--how people lived and worked and loved and died versus "big" events of politics or war or economy. My only concern with those is how they affected everyday life!

    Wherever you want to go, Deb, I'll jump in that time machine with you!

  38. Hmm...where to go?
    1)I'd pick the 1870s. I worked in a living history museum that covered this time period. I'd like to see if what I researched/worked in was close or not.
    2)1920s - I'd love to visit a speakeasy
    3)I'd like to turn the dial and see where it takes me - but yet I might end up in the Dark Ages and be burned as a heretic, witch or something...

  39. Hmm...where to go?
    1)I'd pick the 1870s. I worked in a living history museum that covered this time period. I'd like to see if what I researched/worked in was close or not.
    2)1920s - I'd love to visit a speakeasy
    3)I'd like to turn the dial and see where it takes me - but yet I might end up in the Dark Ages and be burned as a heretic, witch or something...

  40. Hi Anne!
    Oooh, I wish you'd reminded us what time period and locale your debut book is set in!

    I agree with you about the little details of everyday lives. Don't you just love reading diaries and journals? I actually found a nice resource of them free from Amazon for kindle.
    I recently downloaded one called "Peter's letters to his kinsfolk" which is going to be very helpful to me for my current WIP. I found it on Google books a few years ago.

    Thanks for stopping in--I knew you were a history geek too!

  41. Hi L.M. Thanks for stopping in. I hope we get to know each other better through our crit group and I'd love to see you here as well.

    Well, your name and your dog's smile, but, you know what I mean...

    Where was the museum you worked for, if you don't mind me asking. I've always wished I could work at a living history museum. We have a great one in our area called Genesee Country Museum. They also sponsor a lot of interesting 'weekends': civil war re-enactment, highland games, etc. This year they had Laura Ingalls Wilder days and their first Jane Austen/ War of 1812 reenactment. I didn't get to either. NEXT YEAR!!

    Sorry, to ramble on, but what's not to love about playing dress up?

    I'd like to hear more about your 'night at' okay, your days at the museum, Lisa, and I look forward to seeing your WIP.

  42. Thanks Debra. I look forward to reading your writing in the critique group.

    You asked about the living history museum. I worked at Living History Farms (lhf.org)in at a variety of different sites--but mostly in the 1875 middle class home. They do 3rd person interpretation opposed to places like Williamsburg that does first person. There are pros/cons to both ways. I guess it depends on what you like.

    I did dress up in period clothing, cooked on a wood burning stove, used period items in every day use, ect. I loved talking about history, researching and sharing it with others. I didn't like Iowa's 100 degree summers. You come up w/ quirky/fun comments after you've heard 'are you hot in those clothes?' for the umteenth times a day. My favorite: 'Am I hot? Well, no. I feel I'm only modernly attractive, but thank you.' I'd tell that to the teenagers, they'd go blank for minute then chuckle.

  43. Lisa, I went and checked out that site. It looks great. I see they even do dinners where you can sign up and have an 1875 meal or a 1900 meal.

    Ahhh but look how realistic you can paint your story settings.

    I often read historicals and think of the facts about hygiene--oral and body and think. Not so romantic, eh?

  44. Not very romantic-you're right. But it didn't seem to stop a lot of people. We wouldn't be here otherwise ;-)

  45. My favorite authors are John Steinbeck and F. Scot Fitzgerald. So yeah, I like the turn of the 20th century and the early decades. Just now I tried to figure why I like this time and I think its because its old enough to be interesting but recent enough to imagine it.


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