This excerpt is also from the anthology NORTHERN ROSES AND SOUTHERN BELLES. NO DECORUM is the only story in the book dealing with the Red River Campaign. Most of it occurs in Camden, Arkansas, a bustling river town at that time, second only to Little Rock in population. The book is available in e-book and print from The Wild Rose Press, www.thewildrosepress.com and also from the usual online sources. It finaled in the 2011 EPIC Book Awards.
Like many writers, Mary Ann Webber began writing fiction in elementary school. Writing took a backseat to life. She wanted it all – marriage, home, children, grandchildren, and a teaching career in Virginia and Arkansas.
During the years her writing was on hold, she collected books related to the periods she found fascinating. She often spends more time researching than writing. The Americas provide the backdrop for all her stories. Her favorite era is the thirty-five-year period between the Civil War and 1900. It’s called the Gilded Age and was actually named by Mark Twain.
Mary Ann also loves the Old Dominion (Virginia in the 1600’s) and works intermittently on a novel set in that place and time.
After taking early retirement, she moved to Dallas to be near her children and grandchild and immersed herself in writing.
Juliet hurled the broom across the front porch and immediately regretted causing such a clatter. She wanted to observe the man who’d topped the hill and now walked down the road toward the house and the church.
He couldn’t be Randolph. This man limped slightly, used a cane, and was very thin. Besides, Dolphie was shorter. Or did she remember him as shorter? Every step he took caused her perception of him to waver.
Now she could see the man’s shoulder-length-hair. He appeared to look at her, and his long dark beard parted, framing his beautiful smile. In spite of his limp, his speed increased.
With a shriek, Juliet left the porch and flew to the gate. Unable to call his name, she ran headlong to him. He tossed aside his cane and waited with his arms held wide. Laughing and crying, she embraced him and called him darling.
Randolph’s damaged leg impaired his balance and he tottered until Juliet slid her arm around his waist. “Wait. Get my came.” His voice croaked, and he had trouble with the words.
Out of nowhere, Samuel was with them. He handed the cane to Juliet and scooped Randoph up in his powerful arms. “Suh, you light as a feather. I carry you like a baby.”
“Oh bless you, Samuel. Bless you.” Tears ran down Juliet’s cheeks, as Randolph’s eyes closed. “We must get him inside. He’s in thin rags, and he’s very cold.” She cried as her husband went limp, and his head fell against Samuel.
“We gone take care of him, Miss Juliet. Don’ you worry. You know my momma can fix sick folks.” Samuel broke into a double step as he carried the sergeant.
He left Juliet behind in the road. Ambrose reached her before she collapsed and helped her into the house.
The guest room door stood open and they heard Patsy barking orders to Samuel. “You jus’ hol’ him right there ’til I get this bed covered wid this sheet. Now, put him down an’ we get these clothes off him. Easy, now you go get firewood and start a fire in this room.”
Juliet crept into the room, and Patsy gave her some orders. “Miss Juliet, go find Miss Martha and tell her to b’il water. That’s somethin’ a maiden lady can do.” She stopped and listened. “Where the Reverend?”
“I think he’s offering thanks to God for bringing Randolph home,” Juliet whispered.
“Well, you tell him the Lord done finished hearin’ his prayers. The Lord say for him to bring some warm clothes for this lamb.”
“Juliet,” Randolph’s voice was painful to hear. “Come here where I can see how beautiful you are.” He grinned. “Where’s our baby? All that work for nothing? They had a big prisoner exchange at Camp Ford and sneaked me into one of the wagons. I got a ride to Shreveport because I said I had a baby coming.”
Juliet grinned. “We’ll just have to start over.”
“Give me a couple of days.” Randolph’s voice faltered and faded with his last word. His eyes closed, and his body went limp.
Horror choked Juliet. She couldn’t draw breath into her lungs and her heart was bursting. “Randolph? Randolph?” Her head dropped facedown onto the bed.
“Now, Miss Juliet, you hush. I put a couple drops of my special medicine on his lips, and he gone sleep until tonight. You keep aggravatin’ him and yo’self, and I’m gone put some drops on you.”
Juliet raised her head. “He’s not dead?”
“Course not. Now you got time for a nap an’ a warm bath wid pe’fume in the water. You need to look lak you did las’ time he saw you. Not all poorly.”
Juliet sobbed loudly but Patsy’s unending admonitions continued.
Lawd, Miss Juliet! Here. I help you get youself up on the bed an’ you can hol’ onto him while he sleep.”
Wiping her tears on her apron, Juliet’s terrors abated somewhat. “Thank you. Patsy. I promise not to bother him.”
“That’s better. Here, take this mirror and hol’ it unda his nose if you can’t heah him breathin’.”
“Thank you, Patsy.” Juliet arranged herself beside Randolph and placed a hand on his arm while Patsy covered her with a quilt. “I won’t disturb him. I just want to lie beside him and watch him sleep.”
Patsy turned and spoke before she closed the door. “Come to de kitchen when you get hongry.”
Juliet rolled over and stared at Randolph’s peaceful profile. She couldn’t recall having this vantage point of his sleeping face before. Smiling, she remembered how she tried to steal glimpses of him across the church aisle on the day she first saw him. “I have you now, my darling Dolphie. I have you and you have me. We will always be together.”
STEAMPUNK is defined by Wikipedia as “subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction that came into prominenece in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. These include works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used – usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era London – but with elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles or analog computers; these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or a presumption of functionality.”
Steampunk Fiction focuses on real or theoretical Victorian-era technology, and includes steam engines, clockwork devices, and difference engines. The genre has expanded into medieval settings and often dips into the realms of horror and fantasy. Secret societies and conspiracy theories are often featured, and some steampunk includes fantasy elements. These may include Lovecraftian, occult and Gothic horror influences. Another common setting is “Western Steampunk” (also known as Weird West), a science fictionalized American Western.
Historical Steampunk Fiction usually leans more toward science fiction than fantasy, but a number of historical steampunk stories incorporate magical elements. For example, Morlock Nights by K.W. Jeter (who invented the term Steampunk) revolves around an attempt by the wizard Merlin to raise King Arthur in order to save the Britain of 1892 from an invasion of Morlocks from the future. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers involves a group of magicians who try to raise ancient Egyptian Gods in an attempt to drive the British out of Egypt in the early 19th century.
Fantasy Steampunk Fiction Since the 1990s, the steampunk label has gone beyond works set in recognizable historical periods (usually the 19th century) to works set in fantasy worlds that rely heavily on steam- or spring-powered technology.
- The Prestige
- Wild Wild West
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
- Iron Man
- Edward Scissorhands
- Castle in the Sky
- The Golden Compass
- Van Helsing
- City of Lost Children
- Hellboy, City of Ember
- Mutant Chronicles
- Here Be Monsters
- Howl’s Moving Castle
- Watchmen (set to open March 2009)
- Queen Victoria’s Bomb
- A Christmas Carol
- Around the World in Eighty Days
- Lair of the White Worm
- Sylvie and Bruno
- A Nomad of the Time Stream
- The Difference Machine
- Titus Alone
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
- Through the Looking Glass
Photos: New York Times:”STEAMPUNK MOVES BETWEEN 2 WORLDS.”
Title from Caroline Sullivan, THE GUARDIAN, 10-17-2008
Visit my blog at: http://maymeholcombe.wordpress.com/
Why do you write historical?
For me, a story is not escapism – it’s not even romance – unless it’s historical!
Why not escape high gas prices, faltering economy, war, and political races by entering a beautiful period in our past. Give me long skirts, fine manners, and the clip-clop of carriage horses on cobblestone streets.
Actually, I’ve always loved any period of history. I’ve even played around with stories set in the age of stone circles and dolmens. (Yes, there are dolmens in New England.)
What part of the Victorian era/setting do you write in?
My favorite era in history is the thirty-five year period between the end of the American Civil War and 1900. It’s often called the Gilded Age, and what sounds more romantic than that?
The Americas are my setting. There are thousands of untold events in American history which make wonderful settings for romances. I don’t understand why writers in this country look so often to Europe.
What is it about the era that most intrigues you?
After the Civil War, Americans changed the world forever by believing in the legend of the self-made man. Young entrepreneurs like Astor, Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller saw no boundaries. While they became the first millionaires, and eventually billionaires, they carried the American people along on a great adventure. They “Won the West” from their New York offices and made the United States a world powerhouse. What they started lasted throughout the twentieth century.
Where do you get your information?
Books about history are my greatest source. I have a collection of non-fiction books that zero in on specific events, people and groups. I use the internet to browse by topics – and find a lot of good information – but I usually end up ordering these reference books online – used, if possible.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a science fiction romance set in Texas in 1897. There are no cowboys in it. It concerns townspeople in a small community north of Fort Worth who try to cope with extraordinary events. The heroine is a school teacher who struggles to deny her love for the handsome son of the town’s banking family.
How many books have you written?
I’ve written two books. The first was a paranormal historical, A SPANIARD DEPARTS. Set in 1542, it follows the afterlife of Captain Rodrigo Romo, one of explorer Hernando De Soto’s minor officers. The book rambles all over the place and was well over 100,000 words in length when I stopped working on it. (I can’t truthfully call it finished.) I loved writing it – but I don’t see it ever being published. Actually, it would make a great video game!
My second book, A MAN AT THE DOOR, is a Victorian romance set in the mid 1880’s. The hero is a Manhattan stoneworker of Irish descent who improbably falls in love with a wealthy, shy spinster. This also grew into a whopping tome of over 100,000 words. I’m presently working to trim the fat and a few characters, and make it publishable. There’s enough left over for at least one sequel.
Do you write outside of the Victorian era, genre?
Yes. I hope to write a romance set in Jamestown in the 1680’s, and my short stories are, oddly enough, mostly contemporary.
What challenges have you faced in your career?
Like all writers, life itself is my biggest challenge. I wanted to have it all – home, children, grandchildren, teaching career – and this left little time for writing before I retired. I’m a late starter – but I’ve amassed many life experiences which, I hope, give depth to my characters.
What is your writing schedule like?
Hmmm. Hap-hazard is the word that comes to mind. My ideal schedule would be to write all night and sleep all day. Of course that doesn’t work in the real world.
Every now and then I make a reasonable and ambitious writing schedule. I work hard to follow it. Then I’m bumped out of bed by my undisciplined muse who whispers in my ear, “You won’t remember this great idea in the morning. Get up right now and write!”
The next thing I know, the morning paper is being tossed against my front door – and I’m needing sleep. How can I get a better muse?
Wallace Delois Wattles (1860-1910) began his most famous book, THE SCIENCE OF GETTING RICH, with these words:
“Whatever may be said in the praise of poverty, the fact remains that it is not possible to live a complete or successful life unless one is rich. You cannot rise to your greatest possible height in talent or soul development unless you have plenty of money. For to unfold your soul and to develop talent you must have many things to use, and you cannot have these things unless you have money with which to buy them.”
I’d call Wattles a genius – with a humorous streak! He said his writing was intended for “the men and women whose most pressing need is for money; who wish to get rich first and philosophise afterward.”
His work is in the public domain. I’ve downloaded three of his books at no cost.
My most pressing need at the moment is losing weight, quickly, easily, and painlessly. So, my first priority has been to study his book, THE SCIENCE OF BEING WELL.
Somehow, this 19th century man, who lived in poverty most of his life – until he died a wealthy man in Elmwood, Indiana – came to know many things now supported by cutting-edge science.
He writes: “The Power that Heals is in the patient himself, and whether it shall become active or not does not depend upon the physical or mental means used, but upon the way the patient thinks about these means.” In other words, he knew about the placebo effect.
Wattles also gives relaxation techniques, breathing exercises and biofeedback techniques – all in flowing Victorian language.
Here are some of his Chapter Headings:
8. Summary of the Mental Actions, 9. When To Eat, 10. What To Eat, 11. How To Eat, 12. Hunger and Appetites, 13. In A Nutshell (This goes into the rule of not eating until you have an earned hunger.) 14. Breathing, 15. Sleeping, etc.
The third readily available Wattles book is THE SCIENCE OF BEING GREAT. After I’m both thin and rich, I plan to tackle it!
“Lina” and Nancy Astor were obviously different sorts of women – their personalities, appearances and lives were worlds apart. But, in three ways, they were alike – each was born in the Victorian era, each married an Astor, and each became more famous and influential than her husband.
“Lina” was the former Caroline Webster Schermerhorn (1830 – 1908). She was a member of New York’s Dutch aristocracy, the descendants of the city’s original settlers, and she married somewhat beneath herself when she became Mrs. William Backhouse Astor, Jr.
For the first few decades of her married life, Lina was typical of her class and time – she was preoccupied with raising her five children and running her household properly. In 1862, she and her husband built a fashionable brownstone mansion. It occupied the land where the Empire State building now stands, and was next door to her husband’s older brother, John Jacob Astor III. The two families were next door neighbors for 28 years – but the brothers didn’t get along.
After the Civil War, New York grew at an astronomical rate, and keeping the nouveau riche would-be socialites in their place became Lina’s new cause. Her husband, a notorious womanizer, had little interest in Lina, their marriage, or the “social whirl,” so Lina threw herself into her new mission. She took on the burden of being the unchallenged grande dame of New York’s estalishment, and demanded that she be addressed as “The Mrs. Astor.”
Working with her distant cousin, Ward McAllister, a so-called social arbiter, Lina came up with “The Four Hundred,” the only people who counted, the only ones who belonged to New York’s “Fashionable Society.” Lina and Ward didn’t arrive at the amount based on the size of Lina’s rather small ballroom, but that’s still accepted as the origin of the magical number.
In 1883, Lina’s world began to crack around the edges. The barbarians (the Vanderbilts) were at the gates. For her housewarming party, Alva Vanderbilt planned a costume ball with “entertainments” given by young society figures. At the last minute she sent word that Lina’s youngest daughter, Caroline, couldn’t participate, because Mrs. Astor had never formally called on Mrs. Vanderbilt. Lina chose her daughter’s feelings over her own social position and took her calling card to Alva Vanderbilt.
This was only the beginning of Lina’s fall from power. In 1890, her brother-in-law, who had lived next door for so long, died. His son, William Waldorf Astor, inherited his father’s holdings, and by all rights, should be considered the head of the Astor family. He wanted his aunt Lina to stop using the “title,” The Mrs. Astor. Lina refused and the New York papers sensationalized the conflict.
After William Waldorf Astor was defeated in his bid for a seat in the United States Congress, he decided to leave New York and his disagreeable aunt behind and move to Great Britain. He later became a viscount, but he left a parting gift for Aunt Lina. He had his father’s mansion torn down and replaced with the first Waldorf Hotel. Lina was devastated. She told people “There is a glorified tavern next door.”
In retaliation, Lina and her son, John Jacob Astor IV, considered tearing down her mansion and replacing it with a livery stable. But the opulent new Waldorf Hotel revolutionized how New York socialized. Unwilling to live next door to New York’s latest sensation, Lina and her son tore down her mansion and replaced it with another hotel, the Astor. The two hotels later merged and became the first Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
By the time she moved into her new house facing Central Park, at the corner of 65th Street, Lina’s husband had died. She lived with her son and his family until her death at age 78.
A big influence in Nancy’s early life was Archdeacon Frederick Neve. Educated at Oxford, he came to Virginia to help poor whites in the interior mountains. Nancy worked with him as much as her father would allow and gained her first taste of a more charitable life.
The family also produced three sons, but they were eclipsed by their well-known sisters and little is known of them today. Early on, the lovely Irene was the sister in the limelight. She was the Gibson Girl who married Charles Dana Gibson. He was the famous illustrator and New York’s most eligible bachelor until he met Irene, who was dubbed a Virginia society belle by Northerners.
Outspoken Nancy went to New York to finishing school as well, but she was labeled a “rustic fool” by New Yorkers. Irene tried to alleviate this by taking Nancy everywhere she went. Unfortunately, this led to Nancy’s meeting and marrying Bob Shaw. Their marriage was a disaster. It lasted four years and produced one son, Robert Gould Shaw, III. The marriage ended after he agreed to the condition that his adultery would be stated as the cause of the divorce.
*I married beneath me. All women do.
America’s Gilded Age began with the legendary John Jacob Astor. He is called “the first truly diversified capitalist in America” by Brian Trumbore, editor of Stocks and News.com.
Astor founded the dynasty that was America’s richest family in the 19th century. The name Astor is still newsworthy. Recent headlines about the care of Brooke Astor, the 104 year old widow of John Jacob’s great-great-great-grandson, William Vincent Astor (1891-1959), prove the Astors are still high profile.
Born in Waldorf, Germany, in 1763, the first American millionaire was given the name Johann Jakob Astor by his humble parents. He landed in this country with a small amount of money and seven flutes, which he promptly sold. While crossing the Atlantic he heard about the American fur trade. Astor went to work in his brother’s New York butcher shop. He dreamed of supplying Europe’s need for furs and bringing back the musical instruments so prized in America. In a few years, Astor went into fur trading beyond the western borders of the young nation. Within a year he was in London selling the furs he had purchased in America and buying trade goods to take back with him.
Back in America, he somehow found time to meet Sarah Todd. She came to buy furs from him and he was intrigued to learn she actually cut and sewed furs. They married and had three children, Magdalen Astor, 1788; John Jacob Astor II, 1791; and William Backhouse Astor, Sr., 1792.
In the 1790’s Astor began investing in banks. By the age of 37, he was worth $250,000 – a fortune in 1800. He also owned a ship and imported wool and arms from Europe. In 1808, Astor founded the American Fur Company. One of his subsidiary companies established the trading post, Fort Astoria in 1811. It became Astoria, Washington. Astor succeeded largely through shrewd dealings with the Indian tribes and friendships with British officials who allowed him to branch out into the Northwest Territories.
By 1835, Astor retired from the fur trade to concentrate on New York real estate. A year later he opened the Astor House, a hotel on Broadway, adjacent to City Hall. It was called “astonishing” and a “marvel of the age.” During its 80-year history, both Abraham Lincoln and the future King Edward VII were guests.
WHEN THE ASTORS OWNED NEW YORK, Blue Bloods and Grand Hotels in a Gilded Age, is the title of Justin Kaplan’s new book. The Pulitzer Prize winning author’s title is no exaggeration, since John Jacob bought acres of Manhattan farmland back when New York covered only the lowest tip of the island. This land, a part of which lies beneath the Empire State Building, added a colossal fortune to his legendary millions.
Kaplan’s book focuses on the family’s mania for building luxury hotels. As the fashionable people moved steadily uptown in Manhattan, the Astors built more sumptuous hotels, such as the Waldorf-Astoria, and introduced Americans to indoor plumbling, central heating, gas lighting, incandescent lighting, telephones, elevators, and air conditioning – as well as silver chafing dishes and velvet ropes.
John Jacob Astor died in 1848 at the age of 84. He was the richest man in America.
Brooke Astor is the author of three books:
PATCHWORK CHILD: Early Memories. Harper & Row, 1962.
FOOTPRINTS: An Autobiography. Doubleday, 1980.
THE LAST BLOSSOM ON THE PLUM TREE: A Period Piece. Random House, 1986.
Since the death of William Vincent Astor, Brooke Astor has given away 200 million dollars.
WELCOME to a new series on the Tycoons,
the fascinating men who created today’s corporate world. Their heyday matched Victoria’s reign almost exactly – although some say their age ended when the Titanic sank in 1912.
The Tycoons created the industrial system that gave the United States the most powerful and dynamic economy in the world. Masters of organization, they were visionaries and risk takers who thought and acted on a grand scale.
The fortunes of today’s billionaires pale in comparison to the wealth of these men. As a percentage of the US economy, no other American fortune – not even Bill Gates’ or the late Sam Walton’s – would even come close to John D. Rockefeller’s.
In the coming weeks I’ll post articles on seven of these larger-than-life Victorian Americans. From different backgrounds, their lives were varied, exciting and colorful. I hope to offer some insight into each man.
Part 2: John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) The first millionaire in the US, he made his fortune in fur trading (establishing Astoria while he was at it) and real estate. We’ll cover not only the founder of the dynasty, but John Jacob Astor IV (1864-1912) the richest millionaire to go down on the Titanic.
Part 3: Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) This steel magnate founded what became US Steel and then founded libraries all over this country. He loved his native Scotland and built a Victorian mansion there in the ruins of an old castle – thereby giving the world (and Madonna and Guy Ritchie) the famed Skibo Castle – the most romantic wedding site imaginable.
Part 4: Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) This American industrialist was
considered ruthlessly anti-union. His partnership with Carnegie, in what became US Steel, is chronicled in the book, MEET YOU IN HELL. During the strike at the Homestead Steel Mill, Carneigie played golf in Scotland while Frisk toiled in the mine office. An anarchist broke in and shot Frisk twice in the neck and stabbed him several times with a poisoned dirk. He received medical attention in his office and finished the work day.
Part 5: Jay Gould (1836-1892) He was a soft-spoken man, called the DARK GENIUS OF WALL STREET. He made a fortune in northeastern railroads and was able to buy out Vanderbilt’s shares in the Erie Canal. He controlled Western Union, New York’s elevated rails and dabbled in gold futures. His reputation suffered when he posted bond for Boss Tweed.
Part 6: John Pierpont Morgan (1837-1919) Unlike the others, J. P. Morgan was born into wealth. He attended fine schools in Boston and, at 20, he graduated from a German University. The most famous tycoon in his day, his name is still linked with American finance and banking. Well respected, he worked to keep the financial world afloat. He once kept the US economy from sinking in a Great Panic by convincing millionaire friends and foes to agree to underwrite the government for a time. He financed the work of Thomas Edison and made the use of electricity a practical reality.
Part 7: John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) When he died at 98, he was worth $1.4 billion in 1937 dollars.
For many years (the good old days) he virtually controlled the US oil supply. His Standard Oil Company was renamed ESSO in the 20th century and updated to Exxon. Today it’s Exxon-Mobil.
By 1905, his worth was $240 million, and in that same year he gave away $13.6 million. Five years later, he gave Standard Oil stock worth $50 million to start the Rockefeller Foundation. As he grew older, he worked as hard giving away money as he’d worked acquiring it.
Part 8: Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) He created the first fortune topping $100 million, but he was a ruthless, unpleasant, ill-educated man who never learned to read and could only spell words phonetically. Born on Staten Island, he borrowed a $100 when he was 16 to buy a small boat, and then hired himself out as a ferry sevice to New York City. He acquired the name Commodore when he got into the steamship business. He started buying railroad stock and soon revolutionized the railroad industry. He was coarse, profane, tobacco stained and snubbed by polite society. Amazingly, the name Vanderbilt has a very genteel ring today.
Watch for upcoming episodes featuring your favorite Tycoons in the VICTORIAN FASTLANE!
THE HOUSE OF MORGAN
An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance.
By Alan Chernow
How Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould and J. P. Morgan Invented the American Super Economy.
By Charles R. Morris
DARK GENIUS OF WALL STREET
The Misunderstood Life of Jay Gould, King of the Robber Barons.
By Edward J. Renehan, Jr.
MEET YOU IN HELL
Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and the Bitter Partnership That Transformed America.
By Les Standiford
The Robber Barons’ Bum Rap
By Maury Klein, Winter 1995