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The Writer’s Tag – A Sort of Resume

I love tags and memes.  Have I mentioned that?  So when I came across Lana’s post, and saw that she tagged any reader who wanted to do it, I was immediately interested.

The tag covers all kinds of subjects, which is why it feels like a unique writer’s resume–but a fun resume.  🙂

What genres, styles, and topics do you write about?

Genres – Mostly Crossover!

Half the stories I write or plan to write are genre crossovers.  The story set in the tropics in the year 1781 looks at face value like a high-seas and island adventure with the necessary pirates.  But it’s actually a mystery, one with an island setting (and therefore called “Island Mystery” at the moment.  Aren’t I clever? 🙂 )  The semi-western story has the trappings of a typical pioneer story–but it’s actually a fantasy-of-manners set in the 1820s–30s west/southwest.  And with an emphasis on politics.  My British political novel looks like…well, a political novel–and it is, but it’s technically alternate history and social critique.  And my steampunk story looks like any number of genres, but is a solid combo of steampunk, social sci-fi, hard sci-fic, and social critique.

Now that I think about it, a lot of my stories could be listed under “social critique” as well.

The funny thing is, I didn’t plan on writing genre crossovers–I just thought, “Hey, what if X historical event happened differently?  And I’m annoyed by Y, so let’s make that a plot point as well.”  Or whatever.

The only problem is how to market these stories.  I read an article that recommended putting it like this: “It’s a (particular genre), but folks who like (other genre) might also enjoy it.”  Except that my crossovers thus far have been so solidly blended that to market one genre would ignore another key foundation of the story.  I’ll figure it out, hopefully before I publish anything.

Styles – It Varies

Really, this varies with the story setting and time period.  If the story is set in 1830s America, I try to match the general style of language in letters and diaries from the time.  If the story is set in the 1890s (such as my steampunk story), I try to match the style of novels written during the turn of the century.  I read a lot of period fiction written during the same decade of my story to get an idea of the style of the day.

However, the writing styles I aspire to generally are Dickens, Bronte, and Tolkien.

Topics – Rather Obscure

If any of you readers know of stories with these kinds of topics, feel free to say so!

Settings in the 1820s–30s

British, American, Irish, you name it–a lot of my stories are set in these decades. I think it’s my tendency to explore the ignored questions/aspects of history; compared to the more popular Regency, Victorian, and Wild West eras, the 1820s–30s are slightly obscure.  Which baffles me, because interesting things were happening socially and politically in both England and America!  On the other hand, I have a taste for social mechanisms and political complexities, so this could be a personal preference thing.  Speaking of…

Politics

I cannot keep politics out of my stories.  I’ve tried.  It keeps slipping in.  Of the 10 novels I’m planning/writing, only 3 don’t feature politics…and even then one of those three might make political statements in the subtext.

Tejanos (Mexican Texians)

This began after I watched the 2004 film The Alamo and re-read the American Girl Josefina stories.  Now, at least five stories feature Mexican characters!

Multitudinous Character Casts

Blame Dickens and Tolkien for this one.  I’m not afraid to cut characters who end up being superfluous (though they often reappear in a different story), but I definitely start with a large cast.

Couples who marry long before the story ends

This happens in nearly every story!  It’s just more interesting to see how the couple pursues their goals with a significant other.  Anyway, romance in my stories often contributes to the main plot–usually as a further exploration of a character’s values, goals, and motives–but at the same time isn’t the ultimate point.

As such, I’ve wondered whether to keep who-ends-up-with-whom a secret.  One the one hand, it’s almost pointless if the couple gets together before the end.  On the other, I do like to be careful about spoilers.  What do you readers think?


How long have you been writing?

Officially since I was 12 or 13; un-officially all my life.  I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember, usually adventures with the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings characters.  One of my favorite stories to play was having these characters stumble into our world around the time the movies were released, and me and my other friends having to keep them hidden–otherwise, fans of the movies would freak out and mob them, or blackmail them, or try to turn them into celebrities.

When I was little, I did write and illustrate a six-book series (in the style of the American Girls books) starring me and my 100-Acre Wood friends.  These stories were published by School Scissors & Stapler, Inc., despite having no plot whatsoever, only vignettes that somehow connected in my six-year-old-mind.  🙂

Then at age 12, I got a idea about a some kids who stumble into another world (so original!) and journey across the mountains with grown-up comrades.  It seemed like the best idea ever, so I began to write it down, and never looked back.  Even though that story never panned out, it gave me the discipline and momentum to write more stories!


Why do you write?

Because I have stories in my imagination that I want to read someday!  I also love exploring my own thoughts and ideas and intriguing concepts through writing (one of many reasons why I cannot write a short story–simply not enough time to flesh out a concept!).

I also love creating and playing with characters.  They provide a good mirror of reality, and often help me see life in a new way.


When is the best time to write?

I grab any time available.  I prefer to write in the early morning (don’t laugh; I do prefer this even if my habits are night-owlish) and definitely prefer silence and solitude.  However, I’ve learned to tune out my surroundings–closing my eyes helps and helps me focus on my mental image–and stick earbuds in to block noise.  🙂


What parts of writing do you love, and what parts do you hate?

Love:

  • That flash of inspiration for a character idea/story idea I know is good
  • On a similar note, the thrill of a new idea
  • Ideas coming together, especially after a struggle to get them there
  • Creating and developing characters
  • Writing a scene I know is awesome!
  • Writing more than I thought I would during the allotted time
  • Getting other people interested in my ideas and getting great feedback
  • Exploring my own ideas, clarifying my thinking through writing, and inspiring myself by it!
  • Writing characters I absolutely love
  • Writing fun or fluffy scenes as a break from dark or dangerous plot threads

Hate:

  • Short stories.  Not enough to work with, people; come on, give me concepts to flesh out!
  • Having to write scenes that are boring, but necessary to the plot
  • Having to cut a plot or character I like (though I often re-use them in another story)
  • When the characters won’t talk to me and explain what they want to do in the story!
  • Non-writers assuming that (a) I’ll have a book finished fairly soon and (b) I’ll definitely get it published
  • Repeated questions about when the book will be finished and published
  • Consistently having to say “no, not finished yet” to the above questions
  • Knowing people are judging/confused about this
  • No, I’m not annoyed by that; why do you ask?
  • Having a whole day/hour/block of time to write and NO IDEAS
  • Writing slower than I expected to

How do you overcome writer’s block?

One of two ways: muscle through it, or take a break.

I  start with the first and often ask, “Okay, what is the problem?  Why is writing this character so hard/planning this segment so difficult?”  After a little thinking, I’m usually able to realize that I’m forcing the character into a box rather than letting him do his own thing, or that I don’t know the character well enough, or that there isn’t enough conflict in this part of the story, or that a plot thread doesn’t contribute to the point.  Identifying the problem shows me what to focus on instead, e.g. I need to get to know this character better, or to remove those ideas that don’t contribute.

If I’ve tried all that and remain stuck, I take a break.  I’ll get unstuck eventually.   🙂


Are you working on something at this moment?

Yes, the semi-western (with a working title of Gentle Fire).  I also jot ideas for other stories as they come!


What are your writing goals this year?

Well, I intended to finish a draft of Gentle Fire  by the end of the year…but the year is half over and I’ve barely started.  Not sure whether to keep that ambition and get as close as possible to the goal, or to drop it in favor of something more attainable.  Beyond that, I’m really not sure; new health problems have cropped up, and I need to manage the symptoms and work around difficult nights/days.  So I generally take it day by day, e.g. today, I’ll do a little character development and draft the rest of that scene, and then we’ll see.

Okay, I tag Julia and Bella, if they’re interested!

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Artwork Wednesday – Fabric Crafts

I did something different this week: I took a break from paint-and-pencil artwork and instead did sewing and weaving crafts.  (It was good to take a short break from drawing.)

I have a little hobby tree that I decorate seasonally each month: pink hearts and flowers for February; birds and flowers for spring; lighthouses, shells, anchors, compasses and other nautical details for summer.  Some themes I create aren’t strictly seasonal but look good during autumn or summer, such as the farmer’s market theme featuring herb labels and felt sunflowers and miniature vegetables.

This is one of my autumn themes.

And this is the theme for January: just a plain, white look with a lace garland, white sparkly round ornaments, icicles made of wire and beads, and snowflake jewelry charms.

Last week, I decided to create a southwestern theme for my tree, and I decided to weave a tree skirt in southwestern colors (inspiration taken from the Josefina books.)  I dug out the handheld loom, weaving needle, and weaving fork that we used as kids, and rifled through our yarn stash for appropriate colors.

We do have a yarn stash.  Approximately 163 balls and skeins, some left over from the craft projects we did as kids, and some gifted to us by elderly friends who were more than happy to pass on their own stashes of yarn to us.

Anyway, I threaded the hand loom and wove stripes in various colors and widths.  Weaving was incredibly relaxing, so much so that I really didn’t mind re-doing my attempt 2 times. Re-doing the project paid off, and I finally mastered the trick of keeping the edges of the blanket more-or-less straight and neat.

Almost finished!  Actually, this loom isn’t big enough to weave enough fabric for the tree skirt.  So I wove two rectangles, intending to sew them together to make one large block.

Here are the two pieces.  To get the fabric to fit snugly around the tree, I wove two narrow strips and sewed those strips between the rectangles, leaving an opening in the middle of the whole piece for the trunk of the tree.

The finished tree skirt!  I left one strip and one side un-sewed (in the the lower right-hand part of fabric) so that I could slip the fabric around the tree trunk.

Continuing the southwestern theme, I tried my hand at colcha (New Mexican) embroidery.  The basic instructions are in the Josefina’s Craft Book, a book which we fortunately kept after American Girl discontinued the AG cook and craft books series (*grumble grumble*).

Anyway, I found some loosely-woven linen in our fabric stash (accumulated the same way as our yarn stash) and used leftover yarn from the weaving as embroidery thread.  And started with a simple design: a heart.

Eeish.  Well, this is the first time I’ve tried colcha.  And I had the wrong kind of yarn; I used what was on hand, which was synthetic-wool blends, and the technique really requires 100% wool yarn.  I’ll have to get some later, because I thoroughly enjoyed colcha, enough to continue doing it.

When possible, I love making ornaments that can be used for several different themes and seasonal decors.  Pink flowers, for instance, can be used for February and spring; miniature sculpted vegetables can be used for summer decor, autumn decor, and a farmer’s market theme.  (And my southwestern theme.)  So when I sewed miniature quilt squares for the tree, I assembled colors and patterns so that the squares could be used for at least two seasonal themes.

These would work for spring, summer, or autumn.  Or for a homespun theme, a farmer’s market theme, or a Fourth-of-July theme.  (The denim in the lower left-hand block came from old jeans.)

And these would look good for spring, summer, or Valentine’s day.

I hand-sewed all the blocks together.  It’s actually easier for me, since I’ve been sewing by hand since I was a kid.  And it would have been a lot of work to drag out a machine for miniature quilt squares.

Once I sewed the four blocks of fabric together, I cut backing fabric from an old pillowcase and sewed the backing to the square, right sides together as if I were making a bag or pouch.  Then I turned the square right-side out and whip stitched the whole thing shut.  (You can see the stitching best on the right-hand square).  Since these quilt squares are just for decoration, I didn’t put any batting between the top layer and the backing.  It would have been a waste of fabric and time.  But I did quilt the squares to hold the two layers together, and then added a thread hanger at the top.

I’m going to end up making 108 of these.  It’s good to be sewing again; it’s just as relaxing as weaving.

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Picture Saturday: Year-End Art Meme!

First off, a schedule change: I might move my Picture Saturday posts to another day of the week, as I often have a lot of time to draw on Saturday and Sunday.  It makes no sense to post before I have the most time to draw, but I haven’t yet decided which day to show the week’s artwork.

On a totally different note, I went through my folder and sketchbooks the other day and found a shamefully large number of unfinished sketches.  So I’m going to make an effort to finish those before taking on too many new drawings.

And leaving “too many” unspecified creates a handy loophole to exploit.  🙂

Until I get the old stuff finished, all I have to show this week are two paintings.  The first is a freehand…

…meaning, remember, that there’s no line art.  I adapted the landscape from a photograph on my “West, Pioneer!” Pinterest board, and I think the painting turned out pretty well.

The other painting is this…

…one that I rendered in colored pencil, but thought would also look good in watercolor.  And I like the watercolor version better than the pencil version.  Not bad for my first time painting a Mexican character!

But since that’s not much art, I decided to create a year-end art meme.  Feel free to fill it out yourself if you want, but I officially tag Julia, Bella, and Treskie!

Rules:

1.) Insert a picture of your artwork (or quote, if you’re a creative writer) from this year to answer each question.  If, however, you don’t have a picture or scan, or don’t have one of good quality, you can describe the piece.

2.) Drawings and paintings aren’t the only artwork to showcase–you can include pictures of sculptures, jewelry, sewing, knitting, set design, dance, quotes from your writing, anything that requires creative energy.

3.) Tag someone else!

First piece of artwork/writing/performance done in 2016

A colored pencil sketch of the yellow and green rings from The Magician’s Nephew.  I like the way the lighting on the green ring turned out.

Last piece of artwork/writing/performance done in 2016

This one.

Unless I sketch something else right before midnight.

A new medium/style/technique you tried this year

White pencil on toned paper!  I love this mixed media combination because it creates easy shadows and highlights, and it’s easy to sketch on because the colored paper hides accidental dark marks better than white paper would.

For those of you just joining us, those characters are Sydney Carton and little Lucie from A Tale of Two Cities.

A pose you’d never drawn before (or just something in your creative field you’ve never done before)

Actually, I drew several new poses this year:

This is Charles Darnay from A Tale of Two Cities.  I drew a lot of TTC fanart this year.

I discovered with this picture that colored pencil also works on toned paper.

The piece of artwork that others liked the most

Probably this one of Micheal Maguire that I drew for Gingersnap.

Your personal favorite piece from 2016! (Explain why!)

This one, hands down.  It’s my personal favorite because, come on, it’s cute!  (Can I say that even though I drew it?)  Also because I managed to draw a baby that actually looks like a smiling baby and not some weird, more-horrifiying-than-cute humanoid face.  And thirdly, because I drew two of my characters in a pose I’d never tried before, and it turned out “surprisingly okay,” in the words of Sherlock.  🙂

3 things to improve in your artwork in 2017

1.)  Well, I want to improve my colored pencil technique.  It often ends up sketchy when I wanted it smooth, and I often can’t get smoothly blended colors or really dark shadows.  Maybe I need to learn better control?  I dunno.

2.)  Learn sketch more quickly.  The jury’s still out on whether I can but just get caught up in drawing/perfecting details, or whether I truly need to learn this.

3.)  Further polish my watercolor technique.  Specifically, learn to layer color better and to paint a little more loosely without refining details into oblivion.

I’m a perfectionist, in case you couldn’t tell.

Other things to improve: more complex poses, more varied facial expressions on fanart and my character drawings, more figures in one drawing, and more complicated backgrounds.

3 new things to try in 2017 (such as styles, mediums, poses, backgrounds, character to draw, contests to enter)

1.)  More fluid and watery watercolor technique (without obsessing over depicting perfect details).

2.)  Draw and refine my characters’ appearances, facial expressions, and activities.

3.)  Drawing and painting bokah (out-of-focus backgrounds) with an in-focus foreground object.

What do you enjoy most about creating?

The moment when the messy sketch begins to look like the image or character I want!  And of course, the finished product!

 

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Picture Saturday

For the second week in a row!  Hooray for consistency!  (How long that will last is another matter entirely.  🙂 )  This week’s art collection is an interesting mish-mash of fanart and drawings of my own characters.

68-melencholy-thoughts-sydney

I got a sudden urge to draw Sydney again, so here he is.  Not sure if this is a scene from the book (didn’t have any particular scene in mind) or just one that could have happened, given his character.  However, I think I’m overdue for a happy Sydney picture now, perhaps one with little Lucie too.

These drawings with a candle as a light source look dramatic, but wow, it takes a long time to cover the page with graphite.  🙂

69-scrooge-michael-caine

Slightly crooked drawing of Michael Caine as Scrooge from Muppet Christmas Carol.  Funny that a Muppet adaptation of Dickens’ classic should be the closest to the book, but the studio pulled it off.  Also, Caine’s portrayal of Scrooge is my favorite.  He gives a believable performance of a greedy and bitter man, but with some humanity in him and capable of changing for the better.

Drawn while watching, naturally, Muppet Christmas Carol last night.

70-luke-helping-his-mama

Remember that drawing I posted a while back of my character Durant, holding his baby nephew, Luke?  Well, here’s toddler Luke “helping” his mama with the laundry.  (The story has a semi-western setting, which is why the laundry equipment is old-fashioned and sitting outside.)  Luke is not the only child; he has an older brother named Alex, but I haven’t drawn him yet.

71-mary-first-sketch

And here’s Luke and Alex’s mama and Durant’s older sister.  This sketch was really just to capture her face and features; I picture her vividly, but actually getting that on paper is another matter.  I mostly like how this turned out; the forehead looks weird, but everything else looks okay.  Her gaze is lowered because she’s knitting or sewing or something like that.

Also, Mary likes red gingham.  She uses it for everything, curtains, tablecloths, throws, and her apron.

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This is the picture I didn’t finish last week that really belongs with the other Josefina pictures.  The objects are Josefina’s treasures: in the back, her memory box, where she keeps things that remind her of her Mama.  From left to right of the back row: lavender-scented soap, a silver thimble, a dried primrose, a chunk of turquoise, and the doll, Nina.  Then the front row: a blue hair ribbon, the necklace Tia Dolores brought, a swallow’s feather, a silver heart, and a toy pig.

I tried to go for realistic shadows/lighting, but didn’t quite make it; I’m still learning how to use colored pencils.  🙂

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Picture Saturday: At Long Last!

Picture Saturday is back after a shamefully long hiatus!  (Yes, I was sick, but still.  I could be dying in the hospital, and I’d fuss about abandoning my blog or not helping out around the house.)

While re-reading the American Girl Josefina series, I suddenly wanted to draw Josefina holding a candle and wearing a mantilla.

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And the girl actually resembles Josefina, so yay! I love the Josefina stories.  Yes, they’re for kids, and the writing could definitely be better; the other day, I was enjoying Meet Josefina and mentally editing it at the same time.  But Josefina is adorable: so sweet and caring and earnest and gentle, yet quietly lively.  She’s close to her three sisters even though all four of them have different personalities (I should have referenced that in the sibling relationships discussion of the Writer’s Camp.  Oh well).

Initially, I drew detailed clothing and sleeve folds, a necklace, a braid with ribbon, and other nice touches.  And then had to obscure almost all those details with the shadows.  Buh.  Speaking of shadows, I was going to smooth the pencil strokes so the light and shade looked smoother, like a sepia photograph.  But I changed my mind at the last second because the sketchy strokes contribute to the atmosphere, somehow.  Not sure how, exactly.  Art critics, feel free to chime in.  🙂

 

63-rosebud-freehand

I drew this with no line art, though I did look at a reference photo for a guide.  Drawing without line art was a tricky exercise, but a good one because it forced me to study the shapes in the photo carefully before sketching with the colored pencils.  And colored pencil is not easy to erase.  So I had to be really sure of the shape I wanted and how the light and shadow would fall on it.

 

64-desert-sunset

Another no-line-art-drawing, this time on toned paper.  I think I will re-do this one in watercolor at some point; fluid color rather than sketchy color should look good for this landscape.

 

65-primrose-sketch

Sketch of a primrose, and still with no line art.  That technique really teaches more spontaneity and resourcefulness–I often had to figure out how to disguise the wonky angle of a shape or how to cover a smudge of green that ended up in the wrong place.

But for the next couple of pictures, however, I did draw line art.  Drew it rather quickly: sketches for three different pictures in one night while watching Jurassic Park with Chris.

66-josefina-with-hollyhocks

This is Josefina picking flowers at the edge of the desert. I wish the books had a few more illustrations of her house and daily life: the 1820s Mexican setting is unique and fascinating to me.  To fill the visual void, started drawing fanart like this.  🙂  I also created a Pinterest board called Josefina’s World for pictures of the New Mexico landscape and rancho life.

On a random note, I am inordinately proud of the rabbit brush (the yellow flowers) on the far right-hand side of the picture.

 

67-by-the-stream

Josefina again, sitting on the bank of the stream.  Considering that the stories mention her enjoyment of going down there, she would surely have a favorite spot somewhere by the water.  Her skirt is actually a darker blue/indigo on the paper, but the scanner didn’t pick up the hues correctly.  No idea why; I drew the tones pretty darkly.

I have a third Josefina fanart drawing in the works, but I didn’t finish coloring it this week.  So stay tuned for next week!

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Life Lately: Reading, Reality, & Nostalgia

My blog is once again a sad, quiet place inhabited by cyber-tumbleweeds. Ideas for posts hit me in a abundance, but whenever I put fingers to keyboard, my brain acts like it doesn’t know English.  Or good paragraph structure.  Or how to log in to my dashboard.

When the grammar/literature side of my brain thus malfunctions, I turn to artwork.  Yesterday, I created a watercolor work-in-progress post, taking snapshots of my work space and of each step of the painting process.  (And scribbled a page of hieroglyphics that I would later translate into coherent explanations.)  But at the last minute, the watercolors bled into each other and caked up, ruining the painting.

Moral of the story: “Quit while you’re not ahead.”  Actually, maybe it’s “Don’t paint and post simultaneously.”  Maybe even “In order to further artistic skill and understanding, practice and use your selected medium more frequently than once in the duration of the moon’s rotation, and the chances of such utter and abysmal failure will lessen drastically.”

Or most likely: “Wait for the paint to dry completely before you add another layer.”  🙂

I have a couple of other posts drafted.  One is about Christine Daae and the deeper layers of her character in the musical.  Another is a post about Movie-Raoul and how Patrick Wilson was underused and underappreciated.  I’ll get them up as soon as I edit and tidy the concepts, sentence fragments, unconnected paragraphs, and random notes like “something about what she might have been feeling <insert picture later>.  <too sarcastic; don’t be biting>  <forgot what I wanted to say here, argh>.”

What I have been doing (instead of blogging) is reading, mainly non-fiction about my historical interests.  One of my favorite time periods is the British political landscape of the 1820s—30s.  This period is called the “Romantic Era,” because of the influence of Romanticism in art, literature, fashion, society—and politics.  I’d go so far as to say the 20s–30s politics laid the foundations for the politics and reforms of the Victorian Era.  Pretty significant, right?  As such, it annoys me when people either ignore the period or lump it in with the Regency or Victorian Eras.  No, guys.  The 1820s—30s was its own period, especially politically.

Okay, rant over.  For my birthday, I received Norman Gash’s Aristocracy and People; Britain, 1815-1865.  A nice, hardback copy to boot.

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Gash’s research is thorough and balanced; he presents all the arguments in a conflict, notes both the successes and mistakes of everyone involved, admits when information is insufficient or when records conflict, and supports his conclusions with a lot of facts.  He also includes an impressive bibliography; I accidentally annoyed my family the night of the party by browsing the bibliography before opening the rest of my presents.  Gash did not disappoint; the bibliography of Aristocracy and People was several pages.

On a different note, though still historical, I changed my desktop background.  If you recall from this post, the background was the Alamo compound under attack.  Here’s my new desktop:

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Yeah, this obsession is not ending anytime soon.  🙂  I recently ordered Three Roads to the Alamo by William C. Davis, and it arrived a couple of days ago.  This book is not about the battle for the Alamo or the politics of Texas independence, but rather about the lives of Crockett, Bowie, and Travis.  Davis too includes an impressive bibliography, with the list of primary sources much longer than the list of secondary sources.  Good show.  And I’ve started decorating the pages with Post-Its.  Which I tend to do with my non-fiction resources.

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I still need to get my hands on resources discussing the battle and the politics of the conflict, but Three Roads to the Alamo is a good place to start researching.

On yet another historical note, I started re-reading the American Girl books.  “Reliving my single digits,” as Mom says.  I forgot how good those books are–not in-depth by any means, but since they were written for 5 to 10-year-olds, they teach the basics of a time period and provide a starting point for more research.

Plus, they’re good stories.  Yes, rather simplistic sometimes, but I was struck by how reasonable the parents (usually) are in each set of books.  Josefina’s Papa, for example, is a reasonable authority figure: he is respected as the patron of the rancho, yet he listens to his children when they have something to say and often does little things to please and cheer them.  Felicity’s parents are also reasonable.  Though she often disagrees with them about what is proper, it’s clear that Mrs. Merriman works hard to keep the household running and to be a wife, mother, hostess, and neighbor.  A doormat of the times, she is not.  And Felicity herself matures through the series, becoming more patient and sacrificial rather than thinking of her own wishes.

It’s sad that the company now owning American Girl has stripped away much of the historical emphasis and resources.  In the ’90s, along with the dolls and their outfits, the company offered paper dolls as well with snippets of information about the historical fashions and customs.  There was also a line of cookbooks and craft books from each girl’s time period.  And companion books titled Welcome to [Girl]’s World, providing even more information about the time period than the “Peek into the Past” sections of the books.

Now most of those resources are gone.  Yes, you can still buy the girls’ stories and find the cook/craft books secondhand online.  But the whole foundation of the American Girl series has been chipped down to almost a side line.  In the recent catalogues, the first pages contain the Girl of the Year and Truly Me dolls, as well as doll salon sets, doll school rooms, and doll snack carts, all with hundreds of accessories and with sound effects built into the hair dryers and popcorn makers (I’m not making that up.)  The historical characters come now with fewer historical outfits and period-appropriate accessories (such as Samantha’s sampler and Addy’s old-fashioned ice cream maker and Kirsten’s spoon bag).  The dolls themselves have been recreated with thinner bodies and faces.

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See?  My doll from the ’90s (on the left) has a wider face and more “chipmunk cheeks”–she looks more like a child, a nine-year-old than the other doll.

Samantha will always be my baby, and I looked like Molly as a kid (round glasses and all, though I have brown eyes instead of grey)–but Josefina is my favorite.  She’s sweet and caring–she loves her family dearly–yet she has a spine of steel and she’s excitable on occasion.  And she has a child’s hope and interest in the world.  In Josefina Saves the Day, it’s adorable that she wants to buy a little toy farm, partly because it looks fun but partly because it reminds her friend Patrick of his home.

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It’s also cute that in this picture, she wears her hair in two braids instead of one!

As I re-read the Josefina books, I became enthralled with 1820s–30s Mexican culture.  So I ordered Welcome to Josefina’s World, which should provide a starting point for further research, especially if it has a good bibliography.

So that’s what I’ve been up to (and what I’ve been fangirling over), and hopefully, I’ll have slightly more coherent posts later in the week.  🙂

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