Monday, June 20, 2022

Insight From Frederick Douglass

For Juneteenth, I'm sharing this article about Frederick Douglass from PBS.org:

"Between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference," wrote Frederick Douglass, a leading American abolitionist and former slave. Douglass rejected all biblical justifications of slavery after living under the cruel institution himself. Born in Maryland in 1818, his master's wife taught Douglass to read at a young age, and Douglass shared this knowledge with other slaves, encouraging them to read the New Testament and interpret Jesus Christ's message of equality. But Douglass rejected all Biblical justifications of slavery.

After escaping slavery, Douglass settled in New Bedford, Mass., and joined an integrated Methodist church where he attended anti-slavery meetings and befriended fellow abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Garrison encouraged the young Douglass to become an anti-slavery lecturer, and in 1845, Douglass published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. The book quickly became a best seller, reprinted nine times and translated into French and Dutch.

Douglass started a weekly journal, The North Star, where he challenged his readers to question the contradiction between America's Christianity and the institution of slavery. Speaking before packed houses in Great Britain and America, Douglass attacked Christianity for not only permitting the continuation of slavery but also encouraging its expansion: "The church and the slave prison stand next to each other. ... [T]he church-going bell and the auctioneer's bell chime in with each other; the pulpit and the auctioneer's block stand in the same neighborhood."

Though Douglass was initially disappointed that Abraham Lincoln did not advocate for an end to slavery at the beginning of the Civil War, he was overjoyed when the president issued the Emancipation Proclamation. After Lincoln's Second Inaugural the president welcomed Douglass into the White House and was pleased to learn that Douglass approved of his speech.

After Lincoln's assassination, Douglass said of the late president: "Can any colored man, or any white man friendly to the freedom of all men, ever forget the night which followed the first day of January 1863, when the world was to see if Abraham Lincoln would prove to be as good as his word?"

Both of my kids have read the Narrative of the Life of  Frederick Douglass for their English classes, but I'm ashamed to admit I haven't, but it is on my to read list! Have you read it?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, June 13, 2022

Gaslight and Gaslighting

Back in May of 1944, the psychological thriller Gaslight was released, starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and 18-year-old Angela Lansbury making her Oscar nominated screen debut.

The dictionary definition of gaslighting is to manipulate (someone) by psychological means into questioning their own sanity. If you're familiar with the term, but not exactly sure of how it originated, it all began with this story.

The 1944 film was adapted from the 1938 stage play of the same name. The drama centers around a  husband trying to drive his wife insane in order to distract her from his criminal activities. Here's a brief synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:

After the death of her famous opera-singing aunt, Paula (Ingrid Bergman) is sent to study in Italy to become a great opera singer as well. While there, she falls in love with the charming Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer). The two return to London, and Paula begins to notice strange goings-on: missing pictures, strange footsteps in the night and gaslights that dim without being touched. As she fights to retain her sanity, her new husband's intentions come into question.
Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman
With help from the outside, Paula eventually understands what's going on and realizes she's not mad. When Gregory faces the consequences and appeals to Paula for help, she uses what he's tried to convince her of against him, "If I were not mad, I could have helped you. Whatever you had done, I could have pitied and protected you. But because I am mad, I hate you. Because I am mad, I have betrayed you. And because I'm mad, I'm rejoicing in my heart, without a shred of pity, without a shred of regret, watching you go with glory in my heart!"
Charles Boyer and Angela Lansbury

I love old movies, but this was one I had never seen until a few years ago. If you enjoy psychological thrillers, you'll love this one! Have you ever seen Gaslight? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, June 6, 2022

It's All in What You Say: Writing Dialogue


"A dialogue is more than two monologues." Max Kampelman

My favorite part of fiction writing is dialogue. It serves many purposes. And so much can be revealed about a character through his thoughts, actions and especially words he says or doesn't say. Each word clues the reader in to that particular character's identity.

I love old movies and Casablanca is one of my all time favorites! William Bayer, in his book The Great Movies, classifies it as one of the 60 greatest motion pictures of all time. Bayer says it is one of the few adventure films where the adventure takes place indoors. There are no fights or outdoor adventures. "There are, instead, adventures of verbal jousting, of dialogue and innuendo, and they are dominated, in fact ruled, by a supreme adventurer, Rick."

What makes us know Rick is an adventurer is his dialogue. Bayer outlines several snatches of it that reveal glimpses into Rick's character:

His Irony
When asked to explain why he came to Casablanca, Rick says,"I came to Casablanca for the waters."
"What waters? We're in the desert."
"I was misinformed."

His Sex Life in Casablanca:
As seen with a girl in a brief exchange. She asks," Where were you last night?"
"That's so long ago I don't remember."
"Will I see you tonight?"
"I never make plans so far in advance."

His Bitterness:
When he accuses Ingrid Bergman of having had other lovers: "Were there others in between? Or aren't you the kind that kisses and tells?"

His Urbanity:
"What is your nationality?" Major Strasser asks.
"I'm a drunkard," says Rick.

His Mystique (my favorite quote):
Claude Raines explains to Ingrid Bergman: "Rick is the kind of man that if I were a woman, I would be in love with Rick."

Besides revealing insight into your characters, dialogue moves your story along by providing important information. That's why the lines are there in the first place, and that's what keeps the reader reading!

Keep your dialogue natural sounding. Reading it out loud is a good test to hear if it sounds like a real conversation. As far as dialect, a little goes a long way. It makes your reader work too hard by having to intepret what you've written. Just throw in a few words, then leave the rest to the reader's imagination. They'll get the message regarding the character's speech pattern.

Hope this insight into dialogue has been helpful! If you haven't seen Casablanca, rent it over the weekend! It's worth it!

What's some of the best dialogue you've seen or read lately?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 30, 2022

Happy Memorial Day!

 


I'm taking a day off from blogging today. Enjoy the holiday and remember to honor those who have served our country!

Monday, May 23, 2022

Synopsis: Friend or Foe?

"There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

Mention the word synopsis to any writer, and you'll elicit fear or an overwhelming dread at the thought of having to write one.

I think most authors agree that writing a synopsis is no fun! After we've worked months, or years, to refine and polish our novels, how can we reduce them to 10 pages, five, two or one page, and then whittle them down even further to a paragraph or even a single sentence?

We can't let the synopsis be our enemy. It has to be our friend to help us sell our work. If you're not familiar with what a synopsis is, here's a simple definition: the summary of a novel.

But in summarizing your novel, you want to show that editor, agent or publisher that you can tell a knock down, drag out, darn good story that they're gonna want!

One agent told me that she doesn't read the synopsis until after she's read some of the sample writing sent along with it. So remember, you're writing (the actual novel pages) will always speak louder than the synopsis, because all the synopsis is, is plotting. But regardless, it must be clean, tight and extraordinarily well written!

There are varying lengths for a synopsis, the longer lengths, of course, being the easiest! Sometimes an agent will ask for a "short synopsis." This usually means one to two pages. Page length may or may not be specified. If a "synopsis" is requested (with no page limit mentioned) you're pretty safe to send 5 pages. If a "detailed synopsis" is asked for (with no specifications), up to 10 pages is acceptable.

However, just be sure to carefully read the guidelines of whomever you're submitting to. Some agencies and publishers are very specific about the page length of the synopsis.  

The formats for a single page and a multi page document do differ. A one page synopsis is written in block paragraphs with double spaces between paragraphs. More than one page requires the entire document to be double spaced.

Still thinking the task impossible, especially the one sentence synopsis, or one line hook? Read this example from Elizabeth Lyon's The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit: "As the Civil War rages, a woman's passion for the wrong man blinds her to the love of the right one."  That's a one line synopsis for Gone With the Wind!

If you're fighting with the idea of writing a synopsis, it's time to stop. As with writing a query, there are lots of great tools out there to help, such as Blythe Camenson's and Marshall J. Cook's Your Novel Proposal, and The Sell Your Novel Tool Kit, mentioned earlier. Visit Charlotte Dillon's website at www.charlottedillon.com/SynopsisSamples.html for some great sample synopses.

Writing a synopsis can be difficult, but it can be done!

Have you written a synopsis for your latest completed work? Are there any other tools you'd like to recommend that have helped you?

Thanks for stopping by and have a great week! 

Monday, May 16, 2022

A Surprising Friendship

I must again thank my Goodreads Friend Damon Evans for this wonderful post! He always passes on such fascinating stories, so thank you, Damon!

If anyone had ever asked me what Marilyn Monroe and Ella Fitzgerald had in common just a few days ago, I would have thought absolutely nothing. After all, what would a legendary African American jazz singer have in common with a 1950s superstar sex symbol? What I recently learned, however, was that these two were great friends and had quite a bit in common!

Here are some excerpts from Biography.com's article on their surprising friendship:

When once asked about her favorite singers, Marilyn Monroe answered, "Well, my very favorite person, and I love her as a person as well as a singer, I think she's the greatest, and that's Ella Fitzgerald." Not only was Monroe a Fitzgerald fan, but she was also a friend who used her status as a Hollywood star to boost Fitzgerald's career.

One reason for the connection between Monroe and Fitzgerald may have been the number of life experiences they had in common, beginning with their traumatic childhoods. Monroe grew up during the Great Depression unaware of who her father was and coping with a birth mother who was mentally unstable. She was moved among many different homes and was subjected to sexual abuse.

Fitzgerald was 15 when her mother's death in 1932 upended her world. Her stepfather became abusive, so she went to live with an aunt in Harlem. She left school to earn money, taking jobs, like brothel lookout, that skirted the law. Her truancy led to Fitzgerald being placed in a segregated reform school in upstate New York, where staff didn't hesitate to brutalize residents.

By the 1950s, Fitzgerald's enthralling singing voice had won her fans across the country. But the venues that hired her were often smaller clubs; some places weren't interested in having an overweight Black woman perform for them, no matter her talent. Fitzgerald reportedly once told her press agent, "I know I make a lot of money at the jazz clubs I play, but I sure wish I could play at one of those fancy places."

Movie star Monroe had spent hours listening to Fitzgerald's recordings (a music coach had recommended this to improve the star's own singing). In November 1954, she got to see Fitzgerald perform in Los Angeles. The two were soon friends, so when Monroe learned of Fitzgerald's inability to get a gig at the Mocambo, a famous L.A. nightclub, she decided to help.

Dorothy Dandridge and Eartha Kitt had already performed at the Mocambo, so Fitzgerald wouldn't have been the first African American to sing there. But the club's owner felt the heavyset Fitzgerald lacked the glamour to draw crowds. So Monroe approached him with a proposition — if he booked Fitzgerald, she promised to sit at the front of the house every night and to bring along other celebrities. Monroe made clear the amount of publicity this would garner, so the club owner agreed to hire Fitzgerald for a couple of weeks in March 1955.

During Fitzgerald's run, Monroe kept her word to sit up front, and Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland showed up on opening night. However, such celebrity firepower wasn't that necessary — Fitzgerald's shows sold out, and the owner even added a week to her contract. This successful engagement changed Fitzgerald's career trajectory. She later told Ms. magazine, "After that, I never had to play a small jazz club again."

As the song goes, that's what friends are for! What a beautiful friendship. For the complete story, click here.

Did you know about this surprising friendship? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Band of Angels

I happened to read about this movie while doing a little research and thought it sounded interesting. I love historical interracial love stories, and this one is based on a novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren. This is TMC's synopsis of Band of Angels, produced in 1957 and starring Clak Gable, Yvonne De Carlo and Sidney Poitier.

In antebellum Kentucky, the beautiful Amantha "Manty" Starr arrives home from finishing school in Cincinnati just after the death of her father, kindly plantation owner Aaron Starr. During the funeral, it is revealed that Manty's mother, who had died years before, was one of Starr's slaves and that Manty, now considered chattel of the estate, is to be sold by a slave trader to whom Starr had been deeply in debt.

At a slave auction in New Orleans, a wealthy gentleman named Hamish Bond pays a huge sum for Manty, intending to treat her as a lady in his household. Because she assumes she is to be a kept woman, however, she rebuffs his offer of friendship. Michele, the head housekeeper, who is herself in love with Hamish, secretly gives Manty a ticket to Cincinnati, but Rau-Ru, an educated slave who helps Hamish manage his business affairs, prevents Manty from boarding the boat. 

Later Hamish confesses that he is tormented by his past, and Manty, who now sees another side of Hamish, kisses him. The next morning,
Hamish takes Manty to his largest plantation and offers to free her. She hesitates but decides to remain with Hamish. Soon afterward, Hamish learns that war has been declared. While he visits another of his plantations, Manty accepts the attentions of his wealthy white neighbor, Charles de Marigny, which leads Rau-Ru to accuse her of betraying her people by attempting to live as a white woman. When de Marigny attacks Manty, however, Rau-Ru strikes him, and subsequently is forced to run away to the North. There he becomes a Union soldier under the command of Seth Parton, a self-righteous minister who had courted Manty when she was at finishing school. 

Hamish returns to the plantation and, in defiance of Union general Benjamin Butler's order, sets his own crops ablaze in order to keep them out of Yankee hands. As his fields burn, Hamish confesses to Manty that in his younger days, he had been a ruthless slave trader. With some reluctance, Manty leaves Hamish to begin a new life in New Orleans, and there she encounters Parton, who threatens to tell her new sweetheart, Ethan Sears, that she is black unless she makes love to him. Horrified, Manty returns to Hamish's New Orleans home, where she learns that he is on the run for burning his crops. 

Rau-Ru, who despises Hamish for having treated him with kindness, which he calls, "the worst kind of bondage," discovers where his old master is hiding and holds him at gunpoint. When Hamish tells Rau-Ru that he rescued him from a slave trader's bullet when he was an infant, however, Rau-Ru decides to let Hamish go. At that moment, Union troops arrive and Rau-Ru, while loudly proclaiming that he has captured Hamish, quietly slips his former owner the handcuff keys. Hamish escapes from the Union soldiers as Rau-Ru leads Manty to the cove where Hamish plans to rendezvous with an old seafaring friend. Bidding farewell to Rau-Ru, Hamish and Manty embrace and then board the boat that will take them to safety.

Ever seen it? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, May 2, 2022

Thoughts from Anne Lamott on Avoiding Perfectionism

Anne Lamott

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life...I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a lot better than you and have a lot more fun while they're doing it." Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life


All non-perfectionists can now breathe a sigh of relief! Don't you love Ms. Lamott's wise words on avoiding it? 

In her wonderful book on writing she shows us that perfectionism is detrimental, because when striving for it in our manuscripts, we try not to leave too much of a mess to clean up.  

But she points out that the clutter we leave behind can hide precious treasures that we'll discover later. And those treasures can be put to good use by providing more material to work with once we go back to revise and edit.

Being too tidy, according to Ms. Lamott, suggests that something is as good as it's going to get. 
The important thing is to finish.  Plow ahead, make a mess! Don't worry about every little detail or whether or not it's polished enough.  That comes later, at revision time.

Have fun with that first draft; avoiding perfectionism allows a really great story to unfold!  Do you struggle with perfectionism? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 25, 2022

Ten Great Writing Tips from Jeff Goins

 

If I could just get over my perfectionist tendencies!

I'm always on the lookout for great writing tips. Here are some wonderful ones from bestselling author Jeff Goins
Jeff Goins

Have any advice you'd like to share? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 18, 2022

10 Best Things About Spring

Where I live, it was about 35 degrees and snowing this morning. It's April 18, and that was just wrong! It's spring, and I'm ready for it to feel that way. I can't wait for warmer weather, to wear lighter clothes, and to ditch my winter coat once and for all (until next winter, at least)!

There's lots to love about spring and it's my second favorite season after summer! I found this article by Nicola Monro and thought I'd share it today:

No matter where you are in the world, one thing everyone loves is when the spring season comes around. Spring is a great time of year; the world seems to be renewed. Here are the to 10 most special things about spring that many people agree on.

spring

  1. Love – Spring is the time for love to flourish – it’s just the way nature works. Studies have shown that more people fall in love in spring than in any other season. Love makes the world go round, so if you’re looking for a lifetime partner, get searching this season!
  2. Open Windows – Spring is a time when you can open all your windows and let the fresh air and mild breezes flow in. Spring allows you to freshen your home and makes you feel energetic, positive and rearing to get going with life!
  3. Return Of Birds – The birds return when spring starts and you get to hear their beautiful chirping and songs from outside of your window. Bird watchers love this season when birds return from other climates which are entering their cooler seasons.
  4. Clothing – Spring allows the transition from heavy clothing to lightweight clothing. It allows you to mix and match outfits, and try new colorful outfits that flatter your body you have been keeping healthy and exercised throughout the winter months.
  5. Sunshine – Spring is when the sun shows its face again for longer periods of time and heralds warm days ahead. It’s a season that isn’t too hot or cold and the temperatures are ideal for playing sports or engaging in outdoor activities and pastimes. The sky is blue and the light clear days reflects your inner happiness.
  6. Happy Colors – Spring also brings out the beautiful colors of the earth. From the blue sky and luscious greenness of the grass to the myriad of blossoming flowers, spring is a rainbow of colorful delight.
  7. Spring Cleaning – No one likes to clean, but for some reason when spring rolls around we have an urge to spring clean, renew and throw out those unwanted items. Spring gives us motivation and a desire to move on with life.
  8. Holidays – Spring is a great time to go holidaying. The weather is right, the mood is right, and with all those week-ends, there is little to stop you. Many Americans take holidays to tropical islands and destinations to soak up the sun before it gets too hot.
  9. Baby Animals – A time of rebirth, baby animals are in abundance during the spring season. Baby ducklings, baby rabbits, baby birds- just cute baby creatures everywhere!
  10. Express Yourself – Spring somehow makes you want to express the joyful and optimistic side of yourself, to show off your best side. So dress up, step out, and smile for all the world to see.
What do you love most about spring? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 11, 2022

Easter Symbols and Traditions

Easter is this coming Sunday, April 17. A few years ago I found an Easter egg dye kit stuffed in the back of my pantry. At the time, it was several years old because my kids had outgrown that tradition. Way back when, they enjoyed dying the eggs, but never ate them. 

In addition to outgrowing the fun of dying Easter eggs, they've outgrown the myth of  the Easter Bunny. However, one thing remains: they still enjoy eating Easter candy!

Ever wonder how these traditions came about? Here are some fascinating facts from History.com:



The Easter Bunny
The Bible makes no mention of a long-eared, short-tailed creature who delivers decorated eggs to well-behaved children on Easter Sunday; nevertheless, the Easter bunny has become a prominent symbol of Christianity’s most important holiday. The exact origins of this mythical mammal are unclear, but rabbits, known to be prolific procreators, are an ancient symbol of fertility and new life. According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests. Additionally, children often left out carrots for the bunny in case he got hungry from all his hopping.

Easter Eggs
Easter is a religious holiday, but some of its customs, such as Easter eggs, are likely linked to pagan traditions. The egg, an ancient symbol of new life, has been associated with pagan festivals celebrating spring. From a Christian perspective, Easter eggs are said to represent Jesus’ emergence from the tomb and resurrection. Decorating eggs for Easter is a tradition that dates back to at least the 13th century, according to some sources. One explanation for this custom is that eggs were formerly a forbidden food during the Lenten season, so people would paint and decorate them to mark the end of the period of penance and fasting, then eat them on Easter as a celebration.

Easter Candy
Easter is the second best-selling candy holiday in America, after Halloween. Among the most popular sweet treats associated with this day are chocolate eggs, which date back to early 19th century Europe. Eggs have long been associated with Easter as a symbol of new life and Jesus’ resurrection. Another egg-shaped candy, the jelly bean, became associated with Easter in the 1930s (although the jelly bean’s origins reportedly date all the way back to a Biblical-era concoction called a Turkish Delight). According to the National Confectioners Association, over 16 billion jelly beans are made in the U.S. each year for Easter, enough to fill a giant egg measuring 89 feet high and 60 feet wide. For the past decade, the top-selling non-chocolate Easter candy has been the marshmallow Peep, a sugary, pastel-colored confection. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based candy manufacturer Just Born (founded by Russian immigrant Sam Born in 1923) began selling Peeps in the 1950s. The original Peeps were handmade, marshmallow-flavored yellow chicks, but other shapes and flavors were later introduced, including chocolate mousse bunnies.

For more great facts regarding the signs and symbols of Easter, click here.

Happy Easter in advance! Is any of this information new to you?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, April 4, 2022

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

In life, as in writing, it's important to see humor in even serious situations. In literature, humor eases the stress level in tension filled scenes to give the reader a chance to catch his breath.

American Heritage Dictionary defines comic relief as follows: n. A humorous or farcical interlude in a serious literary work or drama, especially a tragedy intended to relieve the dramatic tension or heighten the emotional impact by means of contrast.

Wikipedia says, "William Shakespeare deviated from the classical tradition and used comic relief in HamletMacbethOthelloThe Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet. The Porter scene in Macbeth, the grave-digger scene in Hamlet and the gulling of Roderigo provide immense comic relief... In popular culture, the character of C-3PO, featured in all six Star Wars films, is also considered to be used as comic relief. He is often found criticizing the desperate situation the other characters find themselves in, or being rescued from predicaments by his counterpart R2-D2."

In real life a good laugh is important, too. According to About.com's page on Stress Management:
  • Laughter gives us a physical and emotional release
  • Good belly laughs work out the diaphragm, contract the abs, and exercise the shoulders
  • Laughter takes away focus from negative emotions like anger, guilt, or stress in a more positive way than an ordinary distraction.
To learn more about the health benefits of laughter, click here!

Here's my prescription for a happy, stress free life: Smile, laugh, hug often--oh, and read some good books with lots of comic relief! What's yours?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Kate Warne: First Female Private Eye

 

Kate Warne disguised as a man during
the Civil War to blend in during counter
spy investigations.
As a kid some of my favorite shows were about cops, private eyes and spies, like Mission ImpossibleThe Man From U.N.C.L.E., Hawaii Five-O, and Mannix. And once, because of a job related incident while a librarian, I was questioned by the FBI and then subpoenaed to be a federal witness, which was a fascinating experience. 

Although I'm too wimpy to fire a gun or chase bad guys, I have a fascination with people who do!    

I'm working on my second Black Ops Detective Mystery which features Tracy Black, a female private investigator.

 This is temporary departure from writing historical fiction. However, since I'm a history lover, I wanted to learn about the very first female private eye. Her name was Kate Warne (1833-1868), and here's part of her story from Wikipedia:
Described by Allan Pinkerton as a slender, brown haired woman, there is not much else known about Warne prior to when she walked into the Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1856. Born in New York, Warne became a widow shortly after she married. Warne was left as a young childless widow in search of work. In answer to an ad in a local newspaper, Warne walked into Pinkerton's Chicago office in search of a job. There is still debate whether or not she walked in with intentions to become a detective or just a secretary. Women were not detectives until well after the Civil War. Pinkerton himself claimed that Warne came into his agency and demanded to become a detective. According to Pinkerton's records, he
"was surprised to learn Kate was not looking for clerical work, but was actually answering an advertisement for detectives he had placed in a Chicago newspaper. At the time, such a concept was almost unheard of. Pinkerton said " It is not the custom to employ women detectives!" Kate argued her point of view eloquently - pointing out that women could be "most useful in worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for a male detective." A Woman would be able to befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspected criminals and gain their confidence. Men become braggarts when they are around women who encourage them to boast. Kate also noted, Women have an eye for detail and are excellent observers."[2]
Warne's arguments swayed Pinkerton, who at 10 o'clock on the morning of August 23, 1856, employed Warne as the first female detective.[3] Pinkerton soon had a chance to put Warne to the test. In 1858, Warne was involved in the case of Adams Express Company embezzlements where she was successfully able to bring herself into the confidence of the wife of the prime suspect, Mr. Maroney. She thereby acquired the valuable evidence leading to the husband's conviction.[4] Mr. Maroney was an expressman living in Montgomery, Alabama. The Maroneys stole $50,000 from the Adams Express Company. With Warne’s help, $39,515 was returned. Mr. Maroney was convicted and sentenced to ten years in Montgomery, Alabama.
For the rest of her story click hereHad you ever heard of Kate Warne? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 21, 2022

Dr. Joyce Brown: First Black Female Conductor


March is Women's History Month, and today I'm taking a look at musical prodigy Dr. Joyce Brown, Broadway's first African-American female musical conductor. I'd never heard of Dr. Brown, but was introduced to her by my Goodreads friend Damon Evans. Thak you, Damon! The following is an excerpt from ESPN.com:

[The musical production that Dr. Brown conducted beginning on its opening night] was "Purlie," which debuted in 1970, and explored the life of traveling preacher Purlie Victorious Judson set in the Jim Crow era. The play was nominated for Tony's Best Musical award that year. This was quite the feat for Brown, as conducting was and remains a highly male-dominated profession.

When asked how she felt about making history with "Purlie," Brown -- who played piano, violin, cello, trumpet, saxophone and organ -- told the International Musician Magazine in 1970, "I would have gotten the job anyhow because the competency is there." She also declared in the New York Daily News in '70: "I'm a member of [the American Federation of Musicians] Local 802 [Union] in good standing. I've worked hard. And I'm reliable. I was picked for the job."

Purlie's pit orchestra was racial diverse -- simply because the New York City-raised daughter of Jamaican immigrants was bold enough to ask for it. As she told the International Musician: "I requested an interracial orchestra -- and a congenial one. And, I got it," but acknowledged that this was "not as usual."

"To see the black people in the pit [at all] was a big deal," highly acclaimed Broadway conductor and Joyce Brown protege Linda Twine said.

Simply being a black woman waving the baton was not the only reason audiences were so enthralled by her. She moved with the effervescent spirit of a well-rehearsed one-woman show.

The New York Daily News wrote in 1973 that Brown "manages so much body English when she leads that the audience can't help being aware of her." Three years earlier, that same publication, under the headline "Joyful Joyce," stated that she "sings all the lyrics along with the actors and does refined bumps and grinds as she leads the band. Her pearl earrings do not bounce off only because her ears are pierced."

For the complete article, click here. It's a shame she seems to be forgotten. Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 14, 2022

Aging Gracefully

I don't know about you, but I think there's a lot of truly "questionable" plastic surgery going on out there making some in the spotlight appear like they need to hide in the shadows. I won't post any of those pictures, but I'm sure some unfortunate celebrities come to mind.


I have, however, posted some photographs of lovely Loretta Young. I've mentioned before that she is one of the most beautiful women to have ever graced the silver screen. If I assume correctly, Ms.Young never "went under the knife." I've read that as a Catholic, she didn't drink and lived a clean life. Of course there's the matter of her first child, Judy Lewis, but that's another blog post.


These photos aren't dated, but I believe the one on top was taken sometime in the 1930s, so Ms. Young would have been in her twenties. From the small print in the bottom photo, I'm figuring it was taken in 1999, which would put her at 76. Loretta Young was gorgeous at every age!

Can you think of any other celebrities today who are choosing to age gracefully?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, March 7, 2022

Jim Beckwourth

 I just finished watching Taylor Sheridan's historical fiction series 1883, the prequal to his hit series Yellowstone. I haven't had a chance to watch all of Yellowstone yet, but 1883 is an excellent series that I highly recommend. One of the characters, Thomas, is a black Pinkerton agent/former Union and Buffalo Soldier played by actor LaMonica Garret. Thomas plays a major role in moving a group of German immigrants to the Western frontier. If you love historical drama, you'll love 1883!

I don't know that much about African Americans who contributed to the settlement of the American West, but today I'm blogging about one sent to me by my friend Mary, whose name was Jim Beckwourth. Take a look at some of his story that's available on the Jim Beckwourth site:



Jim Beckwourth was an African American who played a major role in the early exploration and settlement of the American West. Although there were people of many races and nationalities on the frontier, Beckwourth was the only African American who recorded his life story, and his adventures took him from the everglades of Florida to the Pacific Ocean and from southern Canada to northern Mexico.

He dictated his autobiography to Thomas D. Bonner, an itinerant Justice of the Peace in the gold fields of California, in 1854-55. After Bonner "polished up" Beckwourth's rough narrative, The Life and Adventures of James P. Beckwourth, Mountaineer, Scout, and Pioneer, and Chief of the Crow Nation of Indians was published by Harper and Brothers in 1856. The book apparently achieved a certain amount of popular success, for it was followed by an English edition in the same year, a second printing two years later, and a French translation in 1860.

Beckwourth's role in American history was often dismissed by historians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many were quite blatant in their prejudices, refusing to give any credence to a "mongrel of mixed blood." And many of his acquaintances considered the book something of a joke.

But Beckwourth was a man of his times, and for the early fur trappers of the Rockies, the ability to "spin a good yarn" was a skill valued almost as highly as marksmanship or woodsmanship. And while Beckwourth certainly had a tendency to exaggerate numbers or to occasionally make himself the hero of events that happened to other people, later historians have discovered that much of what Beckwourth related in his autobiography actually occurred.

For his full story check out Jim Beckwourth! I wasn't familiar with him. Were you? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, February 28, 2022

Frederick Douglass' Irish Book Tour

Black History Month is coming to a close, and many, including me, wonder why the month of February was  chosen to celebrate it. Well, it's because the birthdays of the great black abolitionist Frederick Douglass and President Abraham Lincoln fall during this month.

Speaking of Frederick Douglass, I found an interesting article in The Irish Examiner that discussed his lecture tour in Ireland back in 1845 to promote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. I never imagined him going on a book tour, let alone to Europe! 

Irish author Colum McCann used this part of Douglass' life in his novel TransAtlantic, a National Book Award Winner. Here's more from The Irish Examiner:

The renowned Irish novelist Colum McCann emigrated to the United States in the mid-1980s. He spent almost two decades publishing big, imaginative novels about characters like ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev as well as the high-wire artist Philippe Petit in his masterpiece Let The Great World Spin before returning to write about Ireland and its history in his novel, TransAtlantic.

At the heart of TransAtlantic is Frederick Douglass’s story. Douglass visited Ireland for several months on a lecture tour to promote his best-selling autobiography Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, and to raise awareness and money for the abolitionist movement in the United States. The timing of his visit is noteworthy – Douglass arrived in Ireland in autumn 1845, just as the Great Famine was sweeping through the country.

“I thought it was an incredible story – and one we needed to hear, especially in Ireland,” says McCann about the spark for his novel. “Here was the story of a man, 27 years old, a visionary, an abolitionist, yet still a 'slave', arriving in Ireland just as the Famine began to unfold. He had already published his memoir but there was an Irish edition forthcoming. And he landed among the gentry of Ireland, largely the Anglo-Irish. He toured around the country. His few months in Ireland were among the happiest in his life. ‘I breathe,’ he said, ‘and lo! the chattel becomes a man.’ ”

Douglass, who was born in 1818, escaped a live of slavery in Maryland by making a break for the north where he became an anti-slavery activist. Interestingly in later life, he was on the ticket as a vice-presidential nominee for one of the candidates in the 1872 US presidential election race, a century and a half before Kamala Harris became the first person of colour to get the job.

His Irish lecture tour was a success: he spoke to packed crowds in several cities, including Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Waterford.

In Cork, he spoke at the Imperial Hotel to an audience that included John Francis Maguire, the founder of this newspaper (The Irish Examiner). The hotel has a plaque commemorating his visit. Douglass did not, however, critique the handling of the Famine during his lectures, which is perhaps a surprise given he was a human rights activist.

“At first I was surprised that he did not speak out about the Famine and the conditions that the Irish were forced to suffer under British rule,” says McCann. “He remained largely silent about it. But gradually I began to understand why – he was in Ireland in order to further the cause of the three million of his people still enslaved in the United States."

For the complete article click here:

I found this fascinating! Did you know Frederick Douglass toured Europe to promote his autobiography? Thanks for visiting and have a great week! 

Monday, February 21, 2022

The History of Presidents' Day

 Happy Presidents' Day! Hope you're enjoying a day off. My two college students are not. But they're managing to cope.

If you've ever wondered about the history of Presidents' Day, here's some information from History.com:

Presidents’ Day is an American holiday celebrated on the third Monday in February. Originally established in 1885 in recognition of President George Washington, it is still officially called “Washington’s Birthday” by the federal government. Traditionally celebrated on February 22—Washington’s actual day of birth—the holiday became popularly known as Presidents’ Day after it was moved as part of 1971’s Uniform Monday Holiday Act, an attempt to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers. While several states still have individual holidays honoring the birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other figures, Presidents’ Day is now popularly viewed as a day to celebrate all U.S. presidents past and present.

For more on the history of Presidents' Day, click here.

Are you off for Presidents' Day? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!