ancient history, books, cats, general wackiness, Hiccups in History, literature, nonfiction, research, review, Uncategorized, US history, writing

Cats in History

Hiccups in HistoryAlthough Reddit can be, in the immortal words of Obi Wan Kenobi “a wretched hive of scum and villainy,” it is also the source of historical amusement, if you are selective about the subreddits you follow. One of my favorite is Old News, which shares interesting old newspaper articles on various and sundry subjects. A couple cat-related ones I discovered lately earn the Hiccups in History designation.

Forgive the yellow highlights, which I can’t seem to get rid of. These items are from the California Digital Newspaper collection, which lists sources from 1846 to the present.

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Since I have a currently untitled Icebound tale in the works that is set in 1910’s Alaska, this one caught my eye. I wonder about how H.J. Coleman’s cat scheme turned out. It is rather ingenious, though how in the world did warmth-loving cats fare in Alaska?

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And then there is this one, in which cats are meant to combat “great armies of gophers.” Did they put on armor and sally forth with tiny little swords, guns, and tanks? I’m reminded of this infamous gif:

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Currently, I’m almost finished reading a wonderful nonfiction history of cats. I haven’t been able to find much in the way of real history about animals so I was thrilled to find Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat by L.A. Vocelle of http://www.thegreatcat.org. The book relies on artwork and literature primarily to fill in the historical gaps, primarily in the ancient time periods, and even through the Middle Ages. Artwork and literature are useful in that they demonstrate the presence of cats and how they were conceived of, at least by the social class that is depicted, and they are particularly pleasant to examine–not always the case with books, unfortunately!

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The author also makes use of some older histories of domestic animals published in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It’s always a bit perilous to write a complete history of anything because an author opens herself up to claims of “but you forgot this and that” which I suppose I am super sensitive to, but this book seems to carry it off with confidence.

It is written in engaging language and focuses on particularly interesting–and sometimes tragic–instances and individuals important to feline history. It proceeds chronologically and while it is well-written, it is also largely unbiased, another important feature of historical writing. Relevant photos and pictures are provided, a timeline, lists of tombs and cemeteries in Egypt to do with cats, and a voluminous references section. In short, this book is a giant YES and will be included in my future historical writings.

If you have any other references for me to check out please feel free to leave them in the comments.

 

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dogs, history, research, Uncategorized, US history, writing

Animals in History, Oh My!

If I had unlimited time, I would probably spend several hours a day, every day, learning Latin and perusing old newspaper articles. Alas, I do not have unlimited time, but in my research for various fiction and nonfiction projects I do come across some interesting bits now and again. You may recall my rampaging monkey post. This is another post in the same vein.

First we will start with the wild. Bears! I do believe this has the makings of an American nursery tale.

bears history
Thursday, November 2, 1894. Sturgeon Bay, WI, Vol XXII, The Democrat.

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire! Hyenas can be pretty dangerous, too.

Chicago cemeteries hyena

Dogs in danger always pulls at the heartstrings! It seems that Jack London’s Call of the Wild may have inspired some unsavory people:

Dog slavers
June 18, 1910, v. 26 n.25, Sausalito News.

And last, but not least, apparently dogs have been accompanying folks on car rides for quite some time.

dog automobile
March 19, 1905, Omaha Daily Bee.

You will notice that these articles are from around the turn of the 20th century. That’s the setting of my latest project, a quirky romance between a dog musher/postman and a bicycle-riding pastor in 1911 Alaska. Check out my newsletter to keep apprised of its progress and to read free flash fiction while you are at it.

general wackiness, humor, research, Uncategorized, writing

It’s Alive!

Yes, I am resurrecting my blog from the dead. Lazarus, come forth! I am not so sure about this header photo, but it is a bit quirky and has books on it. Plus it gives the illusion that I look like the woman on the bed, which I most assuredly do not.

I have decided to change the focus of my blog from an unfocused mishmash of travel posts and writing/marketing ideas to something near and dear to my writer’s heart:

RESEARCH.

Ah, research. I could spend my life on you if I had all the time in the world. Now, on the face of things you might be saying, “How boring!” But, my friend, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Case in point being this article from the June 15, 1908 edition of Perth, Australia’s The Daily News:

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Now don’t tell me that rampaging monkeys released by a baboon and subdued by alcohol doesn’t give you a chuckle.

I came across this while browsing for material about my latest Work-in-Progress, an early 20th century gay romance set in remote Alaska.

Stay tuned every Monday for something equally enthralling. Err … I hope!

history, inspiration, travel, writing

Arctic Wastelands and Ideas for Writing Projects

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A dozen or so years ago, I went through a phase of reading travel adventure tales. Like other phases I’ve gone through, I became insatiable for months on end, gobbling up accounts of shipwrecks and quests for the source of the Nile, mountain men and pioneers, mountain climbers and Englishmen abducted by African slavers. And then I came to the most brilliant adventure tale of them all: Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing, the true story of Ernest Shackleton’s harrowing journey to Antarctica, which became at once a struggle against desolation, despair, and weakness as the small group of men – hardy bigger-than-life souls – eventually conquered nature’s most frighteningly beautiful continent. I could wax eloquent about this classic real-life adventure tale for many pages, but suffice it to say that if you choose to read it, it will enthrall and amaze you and make you marvel at nature’s fierce brutality and man’s endless ability to surmount it.

51KGxiEas1L._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_The second-most brilliant adventure tale also involves Arctic conditions, this time in 1920s Alaska. The small Gold Rush town of Nome, to be exact. You may have seen the Disney movie Balto, which covers, in gloriously unrealistic, typical Disney fashion the diphtheria epidemic that plagued Nome, and led to a desperate relay race using dogsled teams to deliver antitoxin to the afflicted townspeople – mainly children. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury and Laney Salisbury recounts this tale in an endlessly fascinating, touching, and uplifting fashion. The authors are female cousins, and Laney Salisbury is an experienced journalist for Reuters. This accounts for the truly stunning level of detail and the skill at fashioning a narrative. Both authors spent three years in Alaska to produce this book, and the dedication shows. While listening to this tale you truly get to know the men and dogs that inhabited this wild land, and were molded by it. The conditions of Arctic life are so lovingly, realistically rendered that I found myself envisioning the conditions clearly in my mind’s eye – the blowing snow drifts and crackling frozen wastes, the unforgiving, imposing wilderness and the courageous men and dedicated dogs that made their way across it.

Recently, I listened to this audiobook* for the second time. Into my mind popped two characters, followed quickly by their story. Antagonists at first, they are opposites, but you know the old adage: opposites attract. So it is that this will be a love story set against an Arctic backdrop. When will I write it? God knows. I have numerous projects to finish first, but sometimes I will allow a story idea to percolate for years before fleshing it out.

As my friend Cheryl Dyson wrote about in her blog post, I, too, am sometimes asked where my ideas comes from. Most of the time I cannot honestly answer this, other than to say something frustratingly vague such as “the collective unconscious” or “I don’t know” (accompanied by a blank look and possibly some drool at the corner of my mouth). There is something mysterious about ideas, something divine, as has been typified in the muses of Ancient Greece, the goddesses that inspired creative work. One day, when my Arctic love story manuscript is complete, I may have to sacrifice to those goddesses in thanks.

*audiobooks are an addiction of mine. I can listen to so many wonderful stories while doing boring tasks like driving, cleaning the house, and walking the dogs. It is a different experience than reading, but one that I enjoy nearly as much.