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Kick Off Your Winter Doldrums with a Spring Writing Conference!!!

March 28, 2019 by in category Quarter Days by Alina K. Field, Writing tagged as , , ,

Normally I’d devote this Quarter Days column to a topic I’ve uncovered in historical research, but preparations for the California Dreamin’ Conference have consumed my life lately, and I have to share. This is going to be a great conference!

A Chance to Retool and Refresh

From April 5-7, 2019, authors and aspiring authors will gather at the Embassy Suites in Brea, California for workshops on the craft and the business of writing fiction. Plus, we’ll connect up with agents, editors, and industry professionals to help grow our businesses, whether pursuing traditional or indie publishing.

Craft, Craft, and More Craft

And we’re not just covering Romance! Kate Carlisle will teach us how to write a Cozy Mystery, Rebecca Forster will cover Police Procedurals, and Orange County Deputy Coroner Paul Hoag will talk about dissecting a death scene (sorry–couldn’t resist that image). We’ll have workshops on Women’s Fiction, and YA, and Historical Fiction.

Getting Down to Business

Authors pursuing traditional publishing will have a chance to pitch to seven editors and two agents. Those following an Indie track can meet one-on-one with representatives from Ingram Spark, Draft 2 Digital, ACX/Audible and WonderPR. And since everyone, both trad and published, has to market, we’ll find workshops on selling our stories to editors, Hollywood, and most importantly, the readers!

Add-ons

Conference add-ons include a fabulous all day Book Camp on April 5th presented by author and writing teacher, Janice Hardy, offered for $99. Learn how to write that story from start to finish!

Short on cash? You don’t have to attend the full conference to sign up for Book Camp!

For those who do attend the conference, our Editor/Agent critique sessions are full and closed, but we still have spots for a new conference add-on: Special Author Critique Sessions. Spend $10 for an hour of expert advice!

Inspiration, Good Food, and FUN!!!

What’s a conference without keynote speakers, and we have two! Beloved and bestselling author of Regency romance, Tessa Dare, will speak at Saturday night’s dinner. Bestselling Contemporary Romance author Theodora Taylor, known for writing alternative heroes and smart feisty heroines, will speak at Sunday’s luncheon.

And speaking of food–the conference features an opening night reception, soup-and-salad bar lunch on Saturday, and sit-down dinners on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. For those staying on site, Embassy Suites offers a full made-to-order hot breakfast.

After noshing on appetizers at the Friday night reception, attendees can pull out their laptops and tablets and take part in the great Friday Night Write-In. Get those words flowing onto the page in the company of your fellow writing enthusiasts!

What are you waiting for?

Check out all the great things in store for you at the California Dreamin’ Conference and register today!

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Quarter Days: Yuletide

December 28, 2018 by in category Quarter Days by Alina K. Field tagged as , , ,

Winter Solstice

An Arch Druid

’Tis the Fourth day in the Twelve Days of the great feast of Christmas and I’m back to talk about celebrating the winter holidays in the British Isles where the stories I’ve been writing are set.

A week of binge-watching the series Shetland gave me a good appreciation of the closeness of Scotland to Scandinavia. Given the Celtic and later Viking influence, It’s no wonder that many of this season’s customs date back to pagan festivities marking the winter solstice. The word Yule (as in Yuletide and Yule Log) comes from the Norse word “jul” or “houl” meaning wheel.

Saturnalia

Ancient Rome also celebrated the winter solstice in the Saturnalia festivities of ancient Rome. I mentioned in my December post last year that the early Christian church built a religious holiday, Christmas, around this natural time of ancient celebration. Many of the Christmas traditions—Yule logs, mistletoe, feasting–date back long before the designation of December 25th as the birthday of Jesus.

Hogmanay

Though we’re a week out from the shortest day of the year, nights are still long, so why not keep partying? The seventh day of Christmas, December 31st brings us to the celebration of the new year. In Scotland, reaching back to their Norse roots, the locals celebrate Hogmanay with torchlight parades, bonfires, and lots of good whisky.

My favorite Scottish New Year’s tradition is the First Foot.

Needed: a tall, dark, and handsome man

Tradition says that if the first person to cross the threshold in the new year is a tall, dark, handsome man, the home and all who dwell therein will have good luck in the coming year. (No red-headed men, please—they’re considered unlucky!) I saw this set up in a blurb for a Christmas romance this year, and then promptly lost the link. If you recognize that story, please mention it in the comments below.

Whatever winter holiday you celebrate, I hope you’re surrounded by family and friends. I wish you many blessings in the New Year. Have a Happy Hogmanay!

The Misteltoe Bough, by Francis Wheatley
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Quarter Days: A Festive Menu

September 28, 2018 by in category Quarter Days by Alina K. Field tagged as , , ,

A Michaelmas Menu

A quarter of the year has passed since my last post, and I am back to talk again about Michaelmas!

In my post last year, Michaelmas Goose, I mentioned that September 29th, Michaelmas, was apparently a traditional feasting holiday.

This year, I cordially invite you to celebrate the holiday with me.

In my family tradition, holiday feasts are eating extravaganzas, and so I present our Bill of Fare: a family meal in two courses, the first one of eleven dishes, the second of fifteen, including a lovely green Michaelmas goose as the crowning dish. You will not go home hungry!

First Course

  • Turbot
  • Forced Cucumbers
  • Harrico of Lamb Steaks
  • Cauliflower
  • Very Small Ham
  • French Pie
  •  Chickens
  • Beans
  • Beef Olives
  • French Beans
  • Haunch of Venison

Second Course

  • Pigeons, Stewed
  • Cray Fish in Jelly
  • Crocant
  • Potted Wheat Ears
  • Raspberry Cream
  • Pippins Stewed, set in Custard
  • Artichoke Bottoms fricasseed
  • Syllabubs and Jellies
  • Stewed Pease and Lettuce
  • Brandy Fruit in Glasses
  • Pistachia Cream
  • Potted Leveret
  • Melon in Flummery
  • Smelts in Jelly
  • Green Goose

The Lady’s Assistant

I owe this excellent menu to the 1787 edition of Mrs. Charlotte Mason’s The Lady’s Assistant:

There are many books of RECEIPTS, but I have never met with one that contained any instructions for Regulating a Table.–The great inconvenience I experienced, on commencing mistress of a family, from the want of such assistance, has since prompted me to attempt a set of bills of fare, which I flatter myself will be of great use to ladies in general…It is certain, that a woman never appears to greater advantage than at the head of a Well-Regulated Table…

Mrs. Mason was a “Professed Housekeeper, who had Upwards of Thirty Years Experience in Families of the First Fashion”.

Choosing your Goose

The author provides not just menus and recipes, but also, in an age when food was much more likely to be locally sourced, advice choosing a goose to cook:

The bill and feet of a young goose will be yellow, and there will be but few hairs upon them; if old, they will be red: if it is fresh, the feet will be limber; if stale, they will be stiff and dry. Green geese are in season from May or June, till they are three months old: they should be scalded. A stubble goose is good till it is five or six months old, and should be picked dry. The same rules will do for wild geese, with regard to their being old or young.

Cooking your Goose

A green goose will not take more than three quarters of an hour at the fire. Unless it is particularly liked, it is not usual to put any thing into it but a little pepper and salt, a little gravy in the dish, and some in a boat. There must be green sauce in another boat, made as follows:–About half a pint of veal broth, the juice of an orange or lemon boiled up for six or seven minutes, then put in some juice of sorrel, enough to make it green, and just boil it up; stir it all the time for fear it should curdle, which it is apt to do, and it ought to be very smooth.

Gouty Gourmands at Dinner, Thomas Rowlandson

Are you scratching your head over some of these dishes? The Lady’s Assistant provides explanations and receipts…er, recipes.

I confess, I had to look up many of them, and I’m not at all sure where I’ll find a leveret to serve, much less a potted one! Any suggestions?

Have a wonderful autumn, and if I don’t see you at my dinner party, I will meet you here again on December 28th!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quarter Days: Happy Belated Lady Day

March 28, 2018 by in category Quarter Days by Alina K. Field, Writing tagged as , , ,

Or should I say, “Happy belated New Year”?

Greetings to my fellow history nerds. It’s time for another installment of my quarterly blog on historical topics.

In past posts, I talked about the English Quarter Days of Christmas,  Midsummer’s Day and Michaelmas.

Lady Day

To refresh your memory, Quarter Days were the four days during the year when rents were paid, servants hired, and contracts commenced. My Christmas blog inspired some comments about when New Year’s was celebrated. Marianne said:

“New Years used to be celebrated on the First Day of Spring. But when we changed from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian’s calendar, New Years change to January 1st. That’s why September, October, November and December are named the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th months—even though they no longer are. While the Gregorian calendar was introduced in October 1582, we didn’t start using it until September 1752. April Fools were people who still celebrated the New Year in the Spring.”

In fact, that first day of spring on which the new year was celebrated was March 25th!

I mentioned before that most of the Quarter Days coincide with astronomical events (like the Vernal Equinox) and Pagan or Christian holidays. In the Catholic tradition which dominated most of Europe until the Reformation, March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation, the date on which the Angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary. Thus it’s called Lady Day.

Why did the New Year’s Date Shift?

I blogged a bit about the calendar changes in a 2016 Leap Day post. In short, the year began in January when the world ran on the Julian calendar (inaugurated by Julius Caesar) until 1582, when Pope Gregory introduced the Gregorian (what else would you call it?) calendar. With the implementation of the Gregorian calendar, countries adopting the calendar lost ten days.

Given that the calendar was devised by Catholics, England resisted and ran on the Julian calendar until 1752. Imagine subtracting ten days (or adding them) to line up your calendars. And vital statistic records, like births, deaths, and marriages? What a mess! As I mention in my 2016 post, George Washington’s birthday in 1732 was not February 22nd but February 11th.

Farming and Geese

A crowd chasing a goose. Wellcome Library

As the first day of spring, Lady Day was the most important Quarter Day for landholders and tenant farmers, and these contracts would run at least a full year to allow for the cycle of planting, cultivation and harvesting. Kathryn Kane has a thorough and well-researched post on this subject at her blog, The Regency Redingote.

Kathryn mentions that Lady Day apparently initiated goose-plucking season. Throughout the warmer months, quills (needed as writing implements) and down were harvested. And when the summer ended with Michaelmas, I seem to remember a feast of roast goose! Poor birds!

Weaving a Story

I know these are all little pieces of trivia, but as a historical romance author, I never know when I’ll be able to snag a detail or two to add to my story. Or maybe even craft a holiday-themed story, like I did with my latest release, A Leap Into Love, a Regency romance built around Leap Day traditions.  I hope you too can find something useful here!

Happy spring! I’ll be back again in June for Midsummer’s Day.

 

Image credits: Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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Quarter Days: Michaelmas Goose

September 28, 2017 by in category Quarter Days by Alina K. Field, Writing tagged as , , , , , ,

A Michaelmas Goose Market

Michaelmas

Greetings to everyone, especially my fellow history nerds. It’s September 28th, time for another installment of my Quarter Days blog.

Southwark Fair, September 1733, Hogarth

I’m a huge fan of feasting holidays, and much to my surprise, Michaelmas, September 29th, is one of those.

Harvest Time

It makes sense though. In every culture where there’s an autumn harvest, there’s an autumn harvest festival, like a Polish Dozynki or a German Oktoberfest. Some sources say that Michaelmas is still celebrated in England with roast goose and other goodies, like this fun Michaelmas dragon bread.

Last June I blogged about Midsummer’s Day, one of the Quarter Day holidays, and pretty self-explanatory. The same is true for this holiday—tomorrow is the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, he who battled Satan. 

In Fiction

I first encountered a mention of Michaelmas in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, and most recently saw a reference in fellow Regency author Caroline Warfield‘s latest release, The Reluctant Wife, where a character must get back to England for the Michaelmas Term at his university. For a historical author, a mention of Michaelmas is a wonderful device for setting the time of the story without citing a specific date.

Paradise Lost

One blogger claims that St. Michael was popular in Regency England because of the influence of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, a late seventeenth-century epic work. Researching this post inspired me to pull out my copy of the Complete Poems and Major Prose of Milton which, to be honest, I haven’t opened since my university days.

Paradise Lost is something of an early paranormal story of nearly invincible beings and shapeshifters:

…the sword of Michael from the Armory of God was giv’n him temper’d so, that neither keen nor solid might resist that edge: it met the sword of Satan with steep force…deep ent’ring sher’d all his right side; then Satan first knew pain…but th’ Ethereal substance clos’d not long divisible…Yet soon he heal’d; for Spirits that live throughout vital in every part not as frail man….cannot but by annihilating die…All Heart they live, all Head, all Eye, all Ear, All Intellect, all Sense, and as they please, they Limb themselves, and color, shape or size assume as likes them best…

A Servant Hiring Hall, Rowlandson

Contracts, Rents, and Work

And of course, as I mentioned in my June post, Michaelmas was a day to pay rents (possibly in kind, with a fatted goose) to hire and pay servants, and sign contracts.

Do you celebrate Michaelmas? If so, please share in the comments!

Have a magical Michaelmas, and I shall return in three months to talk about the next Quarter Day, Christmas!

 

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