On Our Nightstand #2

Here’s what the members of Corsets & Cutlasses are reading this week! 
But for BirminghamFrom Laura Golden: BUT FOR BIRMINGHAM​ : The Local and National Movements in the Civil Rights Struggle for my current WIP. Also, DUKE by Kirby Larson which is waiting patiently to be real aloud to my boys.
the wolvesFrom Sue Hill Long: ​ There’s a stack of books on my nightstand, but  on top is a book I read over and over again as a young reader: ​THE WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE, by the great​ Joan Aiken​.  Reading it takes me right back to cold, snowy nights growing up in Maine. I loved the extensive cast of villainous and heroic characters, the Edward Gorey cover art, and the delicious series of unfortunate events for poor Bonnie and Sylvia.​
charm & strangeFrom Katy Longshore: I’m about to start CHARM AND STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn.  I’ve been wanting to read it for months and the Thanksgiving holiday gives me just the reason. The premise is darkly compelling and my first glimpse at the writing inside has got me hooked.

curtsies & conspiraciesFrom Jessica Spotswood: I just finished CURTSIES AND CONSPIRACIES ​by Gail  Carriger. I love this steampunk series about an unusual girls’ finishing school – it takes  place on a dirigible floating above the moors and teaches the girls espionage! In this second installment (following ETIQUETTE & ESPIONAGE), Sophronia thwarts several kidnapping attempts on her best friend, gets the highest marks in her class, and gets several beaux. 
victorian lady travellersFrom Sharon Biggs Waller: ​As usual I’m reading several books at once. On my Kindle, I’m currently reading MY MISTAKE, a memoir by Daniel Menaker, who was an editor at The New Yorker  and Random House. I love reading behind the scenes stories, especially about publishing, and this book is full of them.  I’m also working my way through VICTORIAN LADY TRAVELLERS by Dorothy Middleton.  This book recounts the adventures of seven English and American women during the Victorian period who traveled all over the globe during a time when women didn’t travel.  This one is research for a work in progress.  I also started a middle grade historical called BROTHERHOOD, which is by my Viking publishing sibling Anne Westrick. This is a post-Civil War story of a teenage boy pressured into joining the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction. 
bellman & blackFrom Cat Winters: ​I’m reading (and absolutely loving!) BELLMAN & BLACK by Diane Setterfield. I adored the author’s Gothic debut novel, THE THIRTEENTH TALE, and this new book, the story of a man haunted by a childhood act of killing a rook with a slingshot, is equally dark and compelling.
What do you think, readers? Are any of these on your to-be-read list? What’s on YOUR nightstand this week?

Dining Suffragette Style

This week in honor of the impending Thanksgiving feast, we’re talking about food found on our character’s table.  Victoria Darling, my protagonist in a A MAD, WICKED FOLLY, is British, but she’s no stranger to feasting.  Last year, I wrote about how her fellow Edwardians ate, so this year I wanted to talk about how her fellow suffragettes ate.  It sounds funny that suffragettes would eat differently than the general population, but they did—a great number were vegetarians.

Famous veggies among the suffragette ranks included Charlotte Despard, Agnes Leonard, Florence Haig, Charlotte Marsh, Dr. Helen Wilson, Grace Roe, and Marion Wallace Dunlop (the first hunger striker), the Tollemaches (who were suspected arsonists), and Leonora Cohen (who broke the class case holding the Crown Jewels).

Marion Wallace Dunlop

Marion Wallace Dunlop

Why so many suffragettes chose vegetarianism might have been a sign of the times.  The vegetarian movement was very trendy in the late nineteenth century, and it was thought that meat caused disease. Animal welfare was on the rise with many people turning against meat eating, hunting, vivisection, and the wearing of fur and feathers (Murderous Millinery).  Therefore many women were already vegetarians before they turned suffragettes.  But there was also a practical reason.  In 1907, suffragette Margaret Cousins stated that women should switch to a simple grain, fruit, and nut diet in order to save time preparing meat-based meals.  Cousins wanted to help women become free in every way “for in the present absurd housekeeping arrangements a woman truly has no time to think, and if she should get an hour or rest and quiet, she is physically so used up that she has no desire to worry her mind with intellectual and social problems.”


Suffragette Maud Joachim wrote in her book My Life in Holloway Gaol (1908): “It is a strange fact that the ranks of the militant suffragettes are mostly recruited from the mild vegetarians, and the authorities have allowed us a special vegetarian diet.”

The prison choice Joachim referred to included two “jacket” potatoes, an egg, and cauliflower or other vegetable.  So foul was the meat choice that militant suffragettes, who’d been incarcerated before, advised prisoners to choose the vegetarian option.  Lady Constance Lytton, a staunch vegetarian, was horrified when she learned she was force-fed Bovril, a meat extract.


Eustace Miles and company at his meat-free restaurant.

Eustace Miles and company at his meat-free restaurant.

Lectures on the ethics of vegetarianism and cooking demos were offered at several suffrage branches, especially with the Women’s Freedom League (WFL).  The WFL opened veggie restaurants throughout London during World War I.  In the Edwardian era there were 34 vegetarian restaurants in London. Because no alcohol was served, many suffragettes could gather safely at such restaurants and discuss tactics.   A popular vegetarian restaurant with suffragettes was the Eustace Miles Restaurant, on 40 Chandos Street, in Covent Garden.  Sylvia Pankhurst loved this restaurant, and suffragettes leaving prison would have their first meal there. Popular choices at Eustace Miles included cauliflower au gratin, cheese fritters, French bean omelet, postponed mushroom pie (a mock steak and ale pie), and vegetable soup.   You can read all about Mr. Miles’ menu in his book: MUSCLE, BRAIN, AND DIET: A PLEA FOR SIMPLER FOODS available on Google Books 



What’s For Dinner?


The season of feasting is upon us. And this week’s theme here on Corsets, Cutlasses & Candlesticks is: What’s on your character’s feast table? I’m not going to mess around, here. I’m going to tell you right away about the most wonderful cookbook I may have ever read. I like to imagine this gem on the small shelf in the kitchen, beside the cookstove, in the Harding house in Whistle in the Dark.

Whistle jkt legal

It’s early 1920s, Missouri. And the cookbook is called 1925 Missouri Farm Women’s Cookbook. A book of its time, it assumes that, 1) women do the cooking and, 2) men do the eating.  Do not let your modern sensibility dissuade you from reading this treasure! You’ll find sections such as Fish and Oysters, Eggs and Cheese, Bread. Home Remedies, Soap, and Farm and Garden Hints. You’ll find recipes for sugar cured meat, pickled meat, cold pack ribs, and a Tasty Way of Doing Liver. Pressed chicken, creamed chicken, smothered chicken, rabbit pie. Want to discover A Way with Cold Beef? This is the book for you. It’s terrifically diverse! In the Soup section, a recipe for Bone Stock (one quart water, one pound bones, all kinds of meat scraps. Simmer very slowly all day and even all night) is followed by one for Swedish Fruit Soup (good for a change on cold evenings; eat hot with bread and butter).

As for my character Clem Harding’s table? Ma might make some Missouri Boiled Ham. With that, she might cook up a pan of Onions-and-Apples. She knows (as the cookbook points out) that frying apples with onions makes the latter more digestible and delicious. She’d put out Cream Cabbage and Brown Bread. She might serve a Candlestick Salad (crisp lettuce leaf, a round slice of canned pineapple, a half banana in the center of the pineapple ring, topped with a candied cherry), because I think it would make her smile to see her children smile, and maybe even get a laugh from Pap and Grampy. Certainly there’d be a Mincemeat Pie, made of a gallon ground lean meat, two gallons apples finely chopped, raisins, currants, cherries, gooseberries, vinegar and sweet syrup. Vinegar Pie or Mock Lemon Pie, and Clem’s favorite, Chocolate Cake. A candy called Christmas Delight, made with three whole pounds of sugar, some vinegar and coconut, raisins and nuts, citron and candied cherries and cinnamon. Somebody’d have to knead the pulled candy for a half an hour, so Ma would probably ask Clem to take a turn.  She’s pretty busy. And on the table, too, there’d be pickles. Spanish pickles, sweet pickles, pickled onions (sweet or sour), and crab apple sweets.

Stuffed? Ma knows that a bit of salt will often settle the stomach.

There’s more: the section titled Canning and Preserving starts off with the procedure for Preserving Children. Sounds treacly, but it isn’t. You’ll need 1 large grassy field, 6 children (all sizes), 3 small dogs (rat terriers preferred), deep blue sky, narrow strip of brook (pebbly if possible), hot sun, flowers. Mix the children with the dogs and empty into the field, stirring continuously. Sprinkle the field with flowers. Pour brook gently over the pebbles. Cover all with deep blue sky and bake in hot sun. When children are well browned, they may be removed. Will be found right and ready for setting away to cool in the bath tub. – Mrs. H. D. Brownlee, New Cambria.  See? Poetry.

Please, do yourself a favor and go and read this cookbook. It’s a testament to thrift and industry and the family table; just reading will warm you on a chilly November night. You may view it in its entirety here, courtesy of the Missouri Folklore Society. Please do. Because, if you read to the end, you’ll find out How to Cook Husbands. The final pages of instruction are (sort of ominously) missing, however, and I don’t know if the average cook should mess around with this one. Maybe you’re better off sticking to the recipe for scrapple.

Susan Hill Long


Cahill Witch Cover Edition + Contest!

Hi! Today I’m sharing various incarnations of the Cahill Witch Chronicles worldwide.

One of my favorite things is getting a box of shiny international editions – and one of my second favorite is stumbling upon the covers online. Authors don’t generally get much information about translations, so I am always super-excited to be tagged on twitter, tumblr, or Facebook. I always remember reading Richelle Mead’s (author of the VAMPIRE ACADEMY books) blog when I was just starting to write YA, about five years ago, and being enraptured by all the fun interpretations of her books from other countries. Before I was published I wrote down a list of author dreams, and one of them was having a shelf of foreign editions of my own. So when those boxes show up on my doorstep, I am always super grateful and take a moment to celebrate, because – dream achieved!

Ok. Let’s go!

Here are the US editions – BORN WICKED hardcover, rebranded BORN WICKED paperback, STAR CURSED hardcover.

BW US hardcoverlBW US pbk

SC US cover

I LOVED the original BW hardback. I think it captures the lush, romantic feel of the book really well. The girl looks a bit more like Maura to me than Cate, but I love that it incorporates the garden setting that’s so important in BW. It’s from a photo by French photographer Alexandra Sophie, who is just ridiculously talented. Penguin decided to rebrand the series in a different direction for paperback, with more of a focus on the paranormal, witchy element. I love the pink and the giant moon and the crows, since that imagery is woven throughout the books. (I am not sure Cate would actually HOLD one, though. Eep!) In the rebranded SC, Cate is alone outside and there’s a feeling of loneliness and isolation, which feels pretty appropriate for the book. It’s not my favorite SC cover though – stay tuned for that!

Here are the Turkish editions!

BW Turkish editionSC Turkish edition

They used the original BW hardcover image and then created their own for SC! Interesting take, no? There is a bit of a magical feel to it, though it strikes me as a bit more Christmas-angel than witch!

And here are the German and Italian editions!

BW German coverGerman SC

BW Italian editionSOV_Cursed.indd

THESE are my favorites! They used another photo by Alexandra Sophie for CURSED. I love how it continues the romantic, flowery motif. The pink title and the way the light’s captured in the Italian edition make me really happy! (Stay tuned for a giveaway of these editions at the bottom!)

Here are the French, Spanish, and Japanese editions of BORN WICKED – all wildly different!

BW French coverBW Spanish cover!!

BW Japanese cover

I love the fall colors of SOEURS SORCIERES and the way it features all three sisters. (It was a bestseller in France when it came out in June! Yay!) The wild red hair and roses in KATE Y SUS HERMANAS really stands out, I think. And I love the pink and the feathers of the Japanese edition! I can’t wait to see what all three of these countries come up with for STAR CURSED.

(The UK edition is going with the rebranded US covers. The Swedish edition has the US hardcover, but I haven’t seen a SC cover for them yet. And the books will be forthcoming in Israel (Hebrew), Brazil (Portuguese, I believe?), Indonesia (?), and Russian. I can’t wait to see all of those, too!)

NOW, if you’ve stuck with me this far, I have 4 prizes to give away! 2 copies each of the Italian and German editions of STAR CURSED to read or sit prettily upon your shelf. Open internationally until next Wednesday (11/20) at noon EST. To enter, just leave a comment telling me: which is your favorite cover for BORN WICKED? And which STAR CURSED? (Also, let me know whether you’d like to enter to win the German or Italian edition or both.)

Cover Girl

I often judge a book by its cover.  Doesn’t everybody?  We are a society obsessed with visual images.  They’re everywhere.  Television, movies, magazines, billboards, Smartphones, newspapers, t-shirts, graffiti.  Even the sleep mode of my e-reader uses a visual.  Images are appealing—they entice, excite, incite, soothe, disgust.  They demand attention.  It’s no wonder book covers provoke so much buzz and debate, both online and in person.

However, even though I consider myself a creative person, I know that my creativity does not extend very far to design.  The innovation and experimentation that must go into producing a book cover seems like magic to me.  So I await every book cover with thrilling anticipation and receive them with awe and delight.

My first novel, GILT, has gone through several design processes, and every single one gives me new insight into my own work.  I love seeing how my words and characters have inspired beauty and richness.  And I am amazed at being able to look at my work through the eyes of another.


Because I write about the Tudors, I fully expected the usual cover image of a beautiful Renaissance gown (possibly even two), worn by a girl with part or all of her head cut off by the top of the book.  It seems to be industry standard for the Tudors (who were, after all, famous for cutting off heads.)

But that didn’t happen.


GILT published in hardcover in May of 2012, and was decorated with a cover image not a gown, but an extreme close up of the face.  This cover is so different from anything I’d seen—either in adult historical fiction or YA lit.  I agreed with booksellers I met that this was a cover that would grab attention.  It didn’t matter to me that, although women occasionally painted their lips at the time, perhaps the lip color was anachronistic. (and I immediately went out and found a shade of lipstick to match.)

gilt pb

Design and marketing decided to go a slightly different direction with the paperback cover.  When this image first popped up in my inbox, my reaction was, “Did I write that?”  This image is so very sex-ay.  And here I thought I’d written a book about a dysfunctional friendship.  But like I said, it’s pretty enlightening to see your book through someone else’s eyes.


However, there were some quarters that felt the original paperback design would not be a good fit for the YA shelves.  So the designers went back to the drawing board and came up with a series design that I think is elegant, appealing and still visually very different from other books on the shelves.  To me, it begs to be picked up—like a gorgeous box on the shelf of an antique store.  And the embossed jewel and lettering just beg to be touched.  I’m delighted that this image stuck, and has been continued for all three books in the US.

Gilt UK

My publisher in the UK decided to take a different route.  I love this cover because it gives Kitty the spotlight, and even Kitty would agree that Cat usually takes that for herself.

I’m also absolutely thrilled that I get yet another cover for my novel.  It’s just been decided that GILT and TARNISH will be bound together  (with a teaser excerpt of BRAZEN) and published in paperback in March of 2014!  The omnibus will be titled COURTED and again, the cover is vibrant, eye-catching (and very different from all the others!)


What I love about all of these covers is that none of them screams historical.  There are no castles, no obviously Tudor gowns, no props.  And because the historical label can be a hard sell, I hope the covers draw a wider audience.

How about you?  What book covers speak to you?  Do you pick up or avoid books because they have certain images on the front?