Sometimes It’s Hard to be a Woman*

I love the era my books are set in – the fashions, the music, the movies, etc. I love it, but I also think that, though the 1930s are a lovely place to visit, I most definitely wouldn’t want to live there. I’ve been doing research on Book #3 in the Viv and Charlie Mystery Series, and I found all of the following ads in ONE magazine from June 1939. It was tough to be a woman then (and especially a woman of any color/creed other than generic WASP). Basically, a woman’s sole goal then boiled down to get a man and keep him happy. And keeping him happy was, apparently, the hard part.

If you don’t have a husband it’s probably because you stink.

Colgate

Maybe you’re lucky enough to have snagged a man… But then why has your husband giving you the bums rush lately? And why are the neighborhood ladies snickering behind their hands when you walk by? Well, it’s because you stink and you’re dirty, of course.

Lux

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(If you’re having trouble decoding that Lysol ad, here’s what women were expected to do with Lysol back then.  Yes, that’s the very same Lysol you spray on your toilet today as a disinfectant.)

Or perhaps your husband is unhappy and is about to leave you because not only are you dirty and you stink, but you are underweight and moody (probably from all that laundry you’ve been doing).

Ironized Yeast

Women are still told through ads that we aren’t good enough, of course. But I’d like to think it’s done today in a subtler and less man-centric way. Or maybe I’m just kidding myself…

*Apologies to Tammy Wynette. And you reader, because now you have that song stuck in your head.

Library Love

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I’m not the first to think that writing is an isolating occupation. I sit alone, usually with earbuds in, typing out a story that exists only my head. I now have a book out there in the world, and presumably people are reading it. I can see the book’s sales on Amazon (I still haven’t decided whether that’s good or bad to know such things.) But what I get the biggest kick out of is checking the OCLC – World Library Catalog to see what libraries in the US have my book on their shelves. I can even click on each location to see how many copies they have and whether they’re checked out (I let out a little squee of excitement when I find holds placed on it).

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I heart libraries. I always have. I’ve had and used a library card every place I’ve ever lived. I have very fond memories of begging my mom to take me to the tiny Ottoville Public Library on Wednesday nights (Wednesdays because that’s the only day they stayed open later than 5 PM). It’s still located in the same building, by the way, but it looks like late hours are now on Mondays. (I’m not sure if my book’s there. Can someone local check for me?)

So it thrills me a little that people all over the country are happening upon a book I’ve written on the New Arrivals shelf, picking it, and checking it out – just like I’ve done countless times over the years.

In Case You Missed Them

I’ve recently guested on some lovely blogs and thought I’d share those links here.

I wrote about “Writing a Woman Sleuth” on the History From a Woman’s Perspective blog.

I discussed research and “Writing an Authentic Historical Mystery” for the Recipe for Murder blog.

And finally, I related a favorite anecdote from my travels and The Magic of Coincidence (or Avoiding Jail Time in Rome) on the Dear Reader blog.

And here’s a bonus photo of THE DARKNESS KNOWS awaiting prospective readers on the New Arrivals table at my local Barnes & Noble (just because). Doesn’t it look pretty?

On the Shelf at BandN

 

A Very Brief History of Old Time Radio in Chicago

(I wrote this brief history of Chicago radio for my publicist at Sourcebooks, and I thought I’d share.)

Radio Tattler

Chicago was a major player in radio from the beginning of the medium in the early 1920s. AM band stations (which was all they had at the time) were and are known for their strength of signal. Because of the flat geography of the Midwest, it was possible tune in a Chicago broadcast from the east coast all the way to the Rockies. Chicago was also a central switching point for transcontinental network lines (like NBC, CBS), and production facilities in Chicago fed programming to the various time zones in the days before pre-recording technology. The networks were committed to 19 hours of original programming a day and a good portion of that came out of Chicago.

National favorite programs originating from Chicago included Fibber McGee and Molly and Amos ‘n’ Andy (both eventually moved production to Hollywood).  One of my personal favorite spooky shows Lights Out originated in Chicago.

The soap opera format was pioneered in Chicago by Irna Phillips on WGN in the early 1930s. Many soaps were produced in Chicago, among them one of the most popular soaps of the radio era, Vic and Sade. The Guiding Light started in 1937 in Chicago and played on radio for 15 years before moving to television to become the longest running soap opera of all time (72 years!).

There were live radio remotes from Chicago nightclubs like the Empire Room, the Edgewater Hotel, etc… that showcased sets from the top bands of the day like Benny Goodman (who was born in Chicago). “Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge” was a popular national musical quiz show broadcast live from Chicago’s Blackhawk restaurant.

Radio guides and fan magazines in the 1930s had three distinct gossip columns focusing on New York, Hollywood, and Chicago. That’s a screenshot above of a Chicago gossip column from a December 1938 issue of Radio Guide.

There were three major stations/networks in Chicago in the late 1930s. (WCHI – The station in The Darkness Knows is completely fictional. J)

  • WGN – CBS/Mutual Broadcasting (broadcast from the Wrigley Building)
  • WMAQ – NBC Blue Network (broadcast from the Merchandise Mart)
  • WLS (Standing for World’s Largest Store – aka Sears) was famous for its programming aimed at the farmers of the rural Midwest. The station was famous for The National Barn Dance with the “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry

Chicago itself was also a major stopping point for those traveling from NYC to LA. They had to change trains and stations while in Chicago. That meant a lot of celebrities stopped, at least briefly, in Chicago during that era and were interviewed on the radio and had their photos taken for the newspaper.

Comedian Jack Benny was from Waukegan (where I lived briefly) and mentioned it often on his popular radio program.

Chicago’s heavy involvement in producing original radio content petered out by the end of WWII. Most shows were produced in LA or NYC after this time. And radio, as a medium of original content anyway, died out with the growing popularity of television in the 1950s.

In Honor of #AudioDramaSunday

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It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of old time radio… I’m writing a mystery series around it after all. But the problem with old time radio is, well, it’s old. It is a finite resource. New episodes of shows like Lights Out, Jack Benny and Gunsmoke stopped being produced sometime in the 50s or 60s (or in the case of Lights Out, the 40s). The good news is that audio drama is experiencing something of a resurgence with the rise of podcasting in recent years. In honor of #AudioDramaSunday I’ve made a list of my current favorites below (and as you can see, I like to be scared). Check them out if you get a chance. Happy Listening!

Thrilling Adventure Hour – A stage show and podcast in the style of old-time radio

The Black Tapes – A serialized docudrama about one journalist’s search for truth, her enigmatic subject’s mysterious past, and the literal and figurative ghosts that haunt them both.

Tanis – A serialized docudrama about the myth of Tanis (tangentially related to The Black Tapes above)

Campfire Radio – Original horror

No Sleep – Original first person horror that originated from the nosleep forum on Reddit

Suspense – A revival of the classic old-time radio anthology with all new stories

Manor House – Original horror

Fireside Mystery Theatre – An old-fashioned, live radio show with a modern horror twist. Recorded live in Manhatten.

Come Back in Time with Me

Black Point

One of the things I love about writing historical fiction is that it gives me the excuse to take the day off and explore beautiful places like the Black Point Estate on Geneva Lake, WI. This Victorian Queen Anne “summer cottage” (I was told it can be called a cottage since it has no insulation and not habitable in the Wisconsin winter) was built by a beer baron in 1888 when Geneva Lake was known as the “Newport of the West” and remained in the family until it was donated to the state of Wisconsin about ten years ago. It’s only accessible by the general public via boat – which only adds to the romance of the place, in my opinion. It’s gorgeous and might just be the basis for a location in Book #3 of the Viv and Charlie Mystery Series (hint, hint).

If you’re at all curious for what may be happening to Viv and Charlie in Book #3, you can also check out my Pinterest board on the subject.

BookCon 2016

It was a whirlwind. A bit like getting married I suppose – you start and then when you have time to look up and breathe it’s already over. Two hundred ARCs of THE DARKNESS KNOWS are now signed and out in the world. I only misspelled a signee’s name once – my own name twice – in the process. Thank you to those lovely people in line who chatted with me and made me feel a little less awkward about the whole thing. Regardless of what happens with my writing career (and I hope it will chug along into a career) I will forever have the honor of acting blasé when I say in casual conversation – Oh, a book signing? Yeah, I had one of those.

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