July 4th, 1880 Victorian San Francisco

Jefferson Square Park was considerably more crowded by the time the first group of friends and boarders returned from watching the parade. The first to arrive were three of her boarders, Mr. David Chapman, and Mrs. Barbara Hewitt and her son Jamie, along with her maid Kathleen’s younger brother Ian. They’d all been invited to see the parade from the upper floors of the firm where Chapman worked.

Annie, watching the boys tell Kathleen and Beatrice about the parade, said to Barbara Hewitt, “They certainly seemed to have had a splendid time. How long did the march go on? I expected you all would get to the park earlier. Were the crowds just awful once the parade ended?”

Nate was now two hours late, and she was trying not to worry that more than crowded horse cars were the cause. What if he’d gotten cold feet after last night? Setting the date making their future together all too real. No, she was being silly.

“My goodness, yes. While the tail-end of the procession passed us around three, just getting across Market Street took forever.”

Annie turned to Jamie who had come up beside them, saying, “What was your favorite part of the procession?”

“Oh, the wagon with the mining camp. They were so jolly. There was a fiddler, and they were doing some sort of jig. You should have seen the cart that was supposed to be the North Pole with the ship the Jennette that is stuck up there. The ice looked so real, and there was a polar bear and everything.”

“My, that does sound wonderful. I gather there were a good number of bands. We could hear some of them as we left the boarding house. They must have been quite loud.”

“Deafening, some of them,” said Barbara. “Each trying to outdo the next.”

“Well, from where you were watching the parade, you were probably getting them coming and going,” Annie said. “I am just glad everyone had a good time. Jamie, why don’t you go and ask Mrs. O’Rourke to start distributing the food? I expect you and Ian are pretty hungry after all that excitement.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jamie said with fervor and ran back over to Beatrice.

His mother laughed and said, “You would think they hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast, but Mr. Chapman was so thoughtful––providing lemonade and sandwiches for us all. I don’t see Laura yet. Is Mr. Dawson bringing her?”

“No, Laura was invited by her friend Kitty Blaine to attend the procession, and I do believe they were going to attend the literary and musical events after the parade. As for Nate, I don’t know what has kept him.”

Barbara pointed towards the street and said, “Look, isn’t that Laura getting out of that carriage? Oh, and there is Kitty behind her.”

“Oh, Annie, Barbara, what an extraordinary treat today has been,” Laura said, running up and giving each of them a hug. “Kitty’s father rented a room right at the corner of Third and Market, so we saw everything. And since we were at the beginning of the procession, there was lots of time for us to make it to the Grand Opera House down on Mission for the later events.”

Annie reached out her hand to Kitty, who hung shyly in back of Laura, saying, “Miss Blaine, so pleased you were able to come to our picnic. And I know that Mr. Dawson would like me to convey his thanks to you and your father for entertaining Laura today. He should be here soon to thank you himself.”

“It was all my pleasure, Mrs. Fuller. Father knew I wouldn’t want to sit with him on the viewing stand, and literary events aren’t exactly his cup of tea, so he was delighted I would have a companion for the day. And John the coachman did an excellent job of making sure we weren’t bothered by the crowds.”

Annie smiled inwardly, having met “John the coachman” several times when she went out to ask if he wanted something to drink while he waited to take Kitty home from visiting Laura. He was a slow talking but very polite giant of a man, who appeared quite capable of acting as chaperone to his mistress. She didn’t imagine even the most high-spirited of July Fourth revelers would dare harass any young lady under his protection.

Annie told Laura and Kitty to go over to say hello to Mrs. O’Rourke. “She and Kathleen seem to have cooked up enough for an army.”

To Barbara, she said, “Why don’t you rescue poor Mr. Chapman from the boys, while I see if Kathleen will make up a plate for Kitty’s coachman? I know from experience he won’t leave his horses, but it looks like he is planning on staying until it is time to take Kitty home.”

A few minutes later, Annie stood for a moment to look at the scene laid out before her. Beatrice had turned over the sturdy wooden crate she’d used to transport the plates and utensils for the meal and was sitting on it in queenly dignity under the shade of the oak. Meanwhile, Kitty and Laura were laughingly trying to sit upright on the ground in their fashionable attire, while eating from their heaped-up plates. Kathleen, whose dress was a bit more serviceable in the shape and volume of its skirt, was sitting quite primly, eating a ham sandwich and listening to Ian and Jamie, who were trying to eat and talk at the same time. David Chapman had piled several of the extra blankets up for Barbara to sit on and was holding her plate while she delicately picked at her potato salad.

All around her in Jefferson Square were similar scenes. Small children darted and shrieked around women in gaily colored outfits and men in their more somber hues. She heard snatches of songs from a group with a guitar, noticed an impromptu game of croquet at one corner of the park, and saw that the members of one of the parade’s bands were asleep under a tree in apparent exhaustion, their instruments at their sides. There were a couple of hours before the sun would sink behind the dunes to the west, but the shadows were long, and the light through the dark green shrubbery and evergreens of the park already began to take on the soft haze that meant the evening fog was massing along the coast.

Annie felt suddenly chilled, and she pulled up her shawl and walked over to Beatrice to ask her to make up two plates, one for her and the other for Nate. Surely he will be joining us soon. –– Deadly Proof: Victorian San Francisco Mystery Book 4

Hope you are all having a lovely 4th of July. I am deeply into the editing of my next two books in my Paradisi Chronicles series. But I am happy to announce that the Violet Vanquishes a Villain, the novella that comes right after Deadly Proof is now available as an audiobook.  Also, I have started the research for the next book in the Victorian San Francisco series.  

M. Louisa Locke

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2017 Goals #1: Writing More Blog Posts

newspaper-clip-art-1201187650_b7db851855Once I start to think about goals for a new year, I start to think about goals I failed to achieve in the previous year. And one of those goals was to blog more frequently. Well, guess what? Having written only 6 blog posts of substance in 2016 (only about half the number I did in 2015), I think I can firmly say that goal wasn’t met!

However, being the analytical person that I am, I decided to blog a bit about why I think that happened.

First, when I began blogging in December of 2009, I was primarily detailing my own journey as an independent author, in a time when we were rare enough creatures to actually be quite interesting to others.

Second, I soon discovered a few selling strategies that were working very well for me that not everyone had heard of (for example, using free short stories to hook readers, tweaking categories to help make a book more visible, using KDP Select marketing tools), and as a result I felt that I had something valuable to share with other authors.

And in addition to blogs about my writing journey and strategies, I wrote pieces detailing the historical background to my mystery series, set in Victorian San Francisco. And as my readership for this series grew, positive reactions to these pieces followed.

And frankly, what writer doesn’t like to write about things that other people are interested in reading?

So what happened this year?

Well, first, indie authors are now a dime a dozen, and many indie authors are enormously more successful than I am in terms of books written and sold.

And, not only have most of my strategies been discussed to death in detail elsewhere, but they are no longer as universally applicable, so I feel I have to qualify every piece of advice I give.

In short, I began to find it harder and harder to believe that continuing to tell about my writing journey or providing detailed discussions of my current marketing strategies was of much interest or particular value––or couldn’t be found just as easily on some other author’s blog.

As a result, I found myself hesitating whenever I looked at my to-do list and saw “write a blog post” on it. And what I usually decided was that I would rather spend my time working on my next work of fiction. Or, if I was going to spend time doing something on social media, I would rather do something that takes less time.

Which brings me to the third reason I haven’t been blogging. I take too long on each blog, including the historical ones. Generally, it took me at least a day, if not more, to review what others are writing on a subject, put together my own marketing and selling statistics, or gather together the historical research I have done on a topic. Then at least another day, to write and edit the actual piece.

So each time I get to that “write a blog piece” on my to-do list, I ask myself how many chapters could I write on my WIP in that time? How many facebook posts could I compose? How many pages of someone else’s manuscript could I edit?

Well, you get the point.

Yet the truth is, that I know people still want to hear more about Victorian San Francisco…something I am uniquely qualified to write about. And at least once a week or more I find myself giving marketing advice on different group forums, or answering emails from beginning writers about things they should consider as they make the jump to independent authorship. In short, it does appear that there might be some people who would still find what I have to say on these subjects of value.

So, this year I have decided to try something different. I have decided to try to write a post at least every week. But to only let myself spend one hour researching and writing a draft, and one hour editing that draft, before I hit publish. This might mean simply taking an old marketing post and updating it, or breaking my posts up into smaller segments. Or just trying to be more succinct!

So here goes. Post number one of 2017! And I seem to have completed it in under two hours from start to finish. (Smile)

M. Louisa Locke, January 7, 2017

Oh, and by the way, Maids of Misfortune, the first book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series is still perma free everywhere and Between Mountain and Sea, the first book in my Paradisi Chronicles science fiction series is also 99 cents on Kindle for two days, (January 7-8).

A Victorian San Francisco Christmas

victorianchristmastreeBecause the most recent book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, Pilfered Promises, is set during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, 1880, I spent a good deal of time researching how residents of that city were celebrating the holidays that year, including looking for articles in the San Francisco Chronicle. What I found was that many of the traditions that we are familiar with today started in the Nineteenth century…including the importance of advertising special holiday sales!

“The Arcade: We are offering this week SPECIAL and EXTRAORDINARY INDUCEMENTS to buyers of HOLIDAY PRESENTS, especially in our SILK DEPARTMENT” ––San Francisco Chronicle, December 19, 1880

However, these traditions were actually relatively new. Before the mid-1880s, most native-born Americans, particularly Protestants from the Northeast, saw Thanksgiving and not Christmas as the key national holiday. In fact, throughout the 1800s, a number of Protestant denominations were very resistant to the celebration of the birth of Christ in any fashion beyond religious observances.

Not surprisingly, it was the Southern state of Louisiana, where there was a significant Catholic population, that first declared December 25th a holiday (in 1837), and Christmas wasn’t declared a national legal holiday until 1875. The huge influx of European immigrants to the United States, starting in the 1840s, many from Catholic countries, also played an important role in shaping the way Christmas began to be celebrated, especially in the larger cities.

This multi-cultural perspective certainly held true for San Francisco in 1880, which makes sense since at that date three-quarters of the city’s population of over 233,000 were immigrants or their native-born children.

The Stocking:

“But the presents would lose half their charm did they not come through the medium of the huge stocking, religiously pinned to the chimney side…” ––San Francisco Chronicle, December 25, 1880

To see the rest of this post, please click go to IndieBrag, where it is being hosted by a great organization of readers dedicated to finding and promoting outstanding self-published books. 

M. Louisa Locke, December 23, 2016

Victorian Shoplifters

Pilf_front_cover_1600x2400Pilfered Promises, the fifth installment of my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, is now available in print and ebook. This book takes my two protagonists, Annie and Nate Dawson, into the world of the modern 19th century department store, and on the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative blog, I have written a post about the surprising role of women shoplifters in the Victorian era. Please check out the blog post HERE.

Pilfered Promises can be bought on Kindle  iTunes  Kobo  Nook and as a paperback on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.

Get the chance to win one of two paperback copies by applying to the GoodReads Giveaway between August 8-22, 2016.

Murder and Mayhem: Four Historical Mystery Novels

 

M&M draft final flat

Murder and Mayhem is a boxed set of four historical mysteries written by members of the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative that will be only 99 cents between March 22-27.

These four mysteries range in time periods and settings from I. J. Parker’s The Hell Screen, set in Medieval Japan, to Anna Castle’s Murder and Misrule, set in Elizabethan England, to Libi Astaire’s Tempest in the Tea Room, set in Regency England, to M. Louisa Locke’s Maids of Misfortune, set in Victorian San Francisco.

*****

Normally costing you 19.96, this boxed set will be 99 cents until March 27, 2016 and can be found in the following bookstores: KindleKoboiTunesNookScribd and Page Foundry

M. Louisa Locke, March 22, 2016