Stephanie Carroll has given us a truly amazing gift and I can't wait to see this one as a movie. A brilliant debut novel and I look forward to reading more of her writing. Thank you for a beautifully crafted tale. - Amazon UK Review

A White Room Won!


Shelf Unbound Magazine Notable Page Turners & Favorite Cover! Pg 36 & 40
“The best historical fiction makes you forget it’s fiction and forget it’s historical. Reminiscent of The Yellow Wallpaper, this book shows with alarming clarity what life was like for women before the modern age freed us of so many restraints … absolutely mesmerizing.”—Eileen Walsh, Ph.D. U.S. Women’s History, University of San Diego

USA Book News Best Book Award Cross Genre Category
A novel of grit, independence, and determination ... Despite the consequences, Emeline defies society’s expectations in her endeavor to help others, risking not only her marriage, but her reputation—and ultimately, her freedom. An intelligent story, well told.” 
—Renée Thompson, author of The Plume Hunter and The Bridge at Valentine


Appearance on Authors & Artists




A White Room Made No. 1!!!

I totally loved this book. It's been described as being similar to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper, ... Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Though I concur that all that is true, I go further by being reminded of why the Gothic writing work and home remind me of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of the Seven Gables ... and some of the works of V.C. Andrews, such as Flowers in the Attic. She gives us a gothic feel reminiscent of Daphne de Maurier's works. - Amazon US Review

Post Your Review Today!
If you enjoyed A White Room or Legacy, show your support and help me find new readers by posting a review on Amazon or Goodreads today! 

(On Amazon just click the "customer reviews" link next to the star rating and it will take you to the reviews where you can click "write a review.")

Thank You!!! 
Your time and support means so much to me!


. . . if you want some realistic historical fiction that deals with difficult issues, that doesn't allow a love story to overcome the plot, and that has you really feeling for the characters involved, go and read this right now. - Goodreads Review

Q&A on Central Valley Talk




Fans of The Yellow Wallpaper will love this debut from Stephanie Carroll because it's about a woman feeling her house is alive and that other people are living in it. I, for one, couldn't put the book down but was also reading with the covers up to my chin and all of the lights on. It's not because the book is scary but because I could absolutely understand why Emeline was losing it. I could have sworn that my own walls were watching me ... - Barnes and Noble Review

Check out the Fire Section!
In addition to being an author, I am also a fire dancer! Betcha didn't expect that, did you?




How to Bake a Victorian Ribbon Cake and How To Avoid Messing it Up!

As some of you know, I described a ribbon cake in my short story "Forget Me Not" featured in Legacy: An Anthology. I'm not a baker, but I've always looked at baking the way people look at art, with respect and appreciation.



So first I tried to do this on my own and ruined the cake, and then after getting the help of my husband, who actually knows what he's doing in a kitchen, I learned what mistakes to avoid, what changes to make, and also some interesting tid-bits all of which I will share with you so you can bake it too!

Answers to Questions Left From This Recipe

This recipe came from the Northamptonshire and Soke of Peterborough Cookery Book. I originally thought it was Victorian in nature, but I later learned it might actually be from a different era closer to the 1940s but the book doesn't actually have a date to make a final determination. Regardless, it was meant for bakers of a previous time, so it leaves out key information we are used to seeing in recipes, like oven temperature, bake time, pan size, etc. It also provides measurements in terms we are not used to like ounces. Through trial and lots of error, I figured out all the answers to these questions.
  • Size: Be prepared for this recipe to make a small batch. It must have been meant for a small cake or for the baker to double or triple as needed.

  • Measurement Conversions: 
    • 5 ounces: About 3/4 cups
    • 1/2 ounces: 1 tablespoon
    • 1/4 pound butter: 1 stick of butter 
    • Castor Sugar: This was just what we now call quick dissolve sugar, but before you run out and get some, which I did, know that we got away with using regular granulated sugar.
    • Cochineal: Is crushed beetles, horray! This is what used to be and sometimes still is used to color stuff. The Victorian also used stuff like lead and arsenic, so we're just going to use food coloring instead. Historical accuracy is not as important in baking as it is in fiction! 
    • Sandwich tins: round or square cake tins (use small ones if you use the amounts on the recipe without doubling). 
    • Bake temp: 350 Fahrenheit or 180 Celsius 
    • Bake Time: 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean

    How Much of Everything We Used
    We basically doubled everything that was in the original recipe, but we were kind of baffled by the small amount of flour it called for. After comparing it to a modern recipe, my husband suggested we make a few tweaks, which is why there are three additional ingredients below, marked by an (*). I just took him at his word after I messed up the first cakes.
    • Sugar: 1 & 1/2 cups 
      • We got away with using regular granulated instead of quick disolve
    • Butter: 2 Sticks
    • Eggs: 6 with yokes and whites separated
    • Flour: 3 & 1/4 cups
    • Baking Powder: 1 tablespoon
    • Salt: 1/8 teaspoon*
    • Milk: 1 cup*
    • Powdered Chocolate: 2-3 tablespoons
    • Food Coloring: I combined green and blue to make teal instead of pink because I was already using pink frosting
    • Vanilla Extract: 1 & 1/2 teaspoons*
    • Pink Frosting: 1-2 containers
      • I just barely had enough frosting to cover the size cake that I did (we doubled the recipe), so you might want to get two just to be safe unless you plan to do a small version.

    Mistakes I Made That You Can Avoid
    This is what you don't want your cakes to look like!
    They didn't rise because I didn't cream the butter properly.

    1. I didn't know that "cream the butter" meant to whip the cold butter as is with the sugar, so I melted it and just mixed it in. I just thought they wanted me to mix it!

    2. I didn't use a sifter to ensure that the flour or the powdered chocolate was uniform. 

    3. I didn't flour the pans. You need to spray a nonstick spray and then put a small amount of flour into the cake pan and shake it around the bottom and on the sides. A fine layer will stick to the pan. This will keep you from having to attempt Wikihow's How to Fix a Baked Cake Stuck to the Pan tricks for like an hour.

    Some Useful Tricks I Learned Baking this Cake!
    The recipe leaves a lot for the cook to figure out. That's probably because back in the day, women who baked just knew their way around a kitchen. To include all the information I'm including would just seem excessive and unnecessary to them.

    1. Separate the yokes from the whites. You can do this easily by using the back and forth shell method (that's probably not the actual method's title).

    2. If you've never turned egg whites into stiff foam peaks, you might want to watch this video to get an idea of what they mean because I know the first time I did it, I was like what? 

    My poor husband who had to come in from working in
    the garage to instruct his helpless wife on baking basics. 
    3. Whisk with the bowl tucked under your arm and your elbow up high, so you're using your arm and not your wrist. If you are like me, and are used to whisking with your wrist, this might be challenging at first, but imagine how much whisking and whipping those women had to do when they didn't have electric mixers and made almost all their own baked goods! They must have been buff! 

    4. Before you frost, you have to line the cake up. The cake layers will rise unevenly. Those who bake often have these wire cake cutters that you can use to make the tops and bottoms perfectly flat. If you don't (which of course I didn't) you either have to try to shave some off with a knife (but being the klutz I am, I wasn't willing to try this) or line the cake up and eyeball it while turning it to get it to look even. I did the latter, and it came out fine.

    5. Frosting was made to hide mistakes! The original recipe said to just put jam or frosting in between the cakes, but as you can see the sides browned and hid the color so my husband said just frost the entire thing.

    6. Traditional home made cakes are dense - in a good way! They are filling, so start with a small slice!

    Step-By-Step 
    Exactly As My Husband Showed Me (LOL!)


    We doubled/altered the recipe.


    We creamed the butter with the sugar. Don't melt it!


    We used a sifter to make sure the flour was all uniform, and we mixed in the baking powder and salt while we were sifting.

     

    We separated the egg yokes and whites and then whisked them both but kept whisking the whites until my arm was numb, and they had formed stiff peaks.


    We added the yokes to the mixer and then alternated adding the  milk and the flour/salt/baking powder mixture until it was all in. This is also when we added the vanilla extract. Finally came the peaked egg whites. Once all was mixed, we divided the batter into three dishes.


    Because I thought we didn't have any powdered chocolate (which we did) I ground up chocolate morsels and ran it through the sifter to make sure it was all uniform.


    We colored one third of the batter with the chocolate, one third with the food coloring, and left the last one it's natural color.


    We baked for 25 minutes at 350F.


    After letting the cakes cool in the pans on racks for about five minutes, we turned them upside down, and this time, thanks to our lesson about coating with flour, they came right out. We let them cool about ten more minutes.


    After eyeballing the cake (with the help of two boys who knew more about this than I did I might add) while rotating to make sure it was even, we put frosting in between the layers. I didn't put a lot because I was concerned I didn't have enough frosting with only one container of it. I was lucky enough to just scrape by at the end. I decided to frost the entire thing because of the browned sides.


    Frosting the outside was surprisingly easy. I had been battling with this cake for like six hours because of my mess-ups and recipe confusions, so I was expecting it to be difficult, but it just went on and looked good doing it too!


    Of course the final touch was my husband's recommendation, some chocolate morsels on top, which also gave it a nice crunch. You could do sprinkles or nuts or just leave it plain.


    Hey, hey, look at that. I managed to bake a cake! I have always been a big cake fan but man, I have a whole new appreciation for what cake can be and what it takes to make it!


    And look how pretty when it's cut! It was yummy too!


    Don't forget to look for the ribbon cake in "Forget Me Not" featured in 
    Legacy: An Anthology!


    OMG, I can't believe I made this freaking cake!

    My Favorite Reviews!

    Reviews
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    On "Forget Met Not" featured in Legacy: An Anthology
    "Can you avoid your own fate? Four sisters struggle with coming to terms with a family legend. Superstition and a little mystery surround this story about sisterhood, soul-searching and forgiveness, I found this story very unique and touching."


    On "Forget Met Not" featured in Legacy: An Anthology

    "Carroll takes a different approach to legacy through her short, "Forget Me Not."  It takes you on a roller coaster ride, starting with anger and frustration (partly because you don't understand what is causing it) to sadness and regret to even smiles and warm content.  It was ultimately a sweet story that closed with a sort of perfection (as odd as it may sound)."


    The plot complexity, historical and literary allusions, and depth of character in A White Room impressed me from start to finish. Very quickly, I moved from thinking, “This was written by a Navy wife?!” to simply appreciating the novel on its own merits. The story becomes as darkly layered as the strange, weirdly inventive Victorian furniture that crowds Emeline’s home, and Carroll plays constantly with the idea that things are never as they first seem. Her attention to the process of adjustment, and to the adaptability of a female character in a tough spot, seems particularly apt subject matter for a military spouse — and then Carroll takes it all up a notch, telling a tense, dark, but in the end very human story.”

    “This is a great story that touches so many aspects of late Victorian history in the US, I don't quite know where to begin! Emeline is a wonderful character, who is strong in the face of adversity, and sacrifices so much of herself to support her family. Here is a heroine to admire, and look up to. She is brave, resourceful, intelligent and compassionate."

    Art Nouveau sculture Loïe Fuller by 
    François-Raoul Larche
    (Worldwide Public Domain)

    “Carroll does a superb job of pulling the reader in from the start. We feel as if we are Emma, her thoughts and actions and worries so pervasive to our own minds.  Just as the house seeps in to our bones and we feel it closing around us as Emma does, as we feel the creepiness making the hair on our arms raise, just as we ourselves might go mad out of anger for Emma’s life, a redeeming break happens. The light enters in and Emma shines."

     “From the moment we meet the Evans family to the turn of the final pages on the Dorrs, the pages are filled with characters to remember for better AND worse, events that will both inspire and sicken, and a creeping madness that will make you second guess the sanity of many, including your own.  It's THAT riveting.  It's THAT enthralling.  It's THAT well written that you become involved in everyone's life by book's end and you'll never see where everything is creeping to...never.  That my friends is DEFINITELY a good thing. Why?  Well certainly not because the ending isn't satisfying, because it surely is, but simply because it keeps twisting just out of your grasp but without showing you that the twist is about to happen.  It leads you to believe one thing will occur with your full self and then WHOOSH, a believable yet completely unexpected little something shifts and you're bound to the page once again."

    “This book, like the furniture, like Emeline's sanity perhaps, is snaky, hard to pin down. At first, I thought it was simply going to be a send up on Gilman's 'The Yellow Wallpaper', but it's more than just a look at Victorian attitudes toward women and their mental health. There's an oppressive kind of mystery, right out of a Shirley Jackson story or a Stephen King novel, with a close knit small town fighting to keep their secrets. I was tense the whole time, even though this book isn't a thriller, but I couldn't stand not knowing what was happening, and if Emeline was sane or mad.  Emeline's salvation, her freedom from the house, comes almost by accident, and shifts this novel from an homage to 'The Yellow Wallpaper' to a kind of historical mystery or thriller." 


    “This book has a lot to offer in terms of history and a wide variety of themes. The writing in this book is gorgeous which really lifts the story up a notch. It’s also based around a very interesting main story, something that I have not yet come across in my years of reading. So that made me instantly take a liking to the story and ready to delve into this book. And I’m very glad that I did because this book was definitely worth it!"

    Check Out My Fire Poi & Fire Fans!

    Photo by PS Photography
    So I am also a fire dancer! What? I do fire poi and fire fans. My fire troupe Twisted Embers performs in the Central Valley of California and we consider ourselves and our fire art to be a bit twisted, hence the name!

    Photo by Randy Enriquez
    Poi is something that originated out of New Zealand and then became popular in Polynesian Dance and Hawaiian dance. Fire fans are something that are most known from belly dancing; however, finding the origin is a bit more difficult than the origin of poi. Today, many groups have taken these types of dance and put them to their own flavor of music which is what I do as well as my group, which has also incorporated fire staff, fire rope dart, fire hula hoop, and fire eating.

    Photo by PS Photography

    I started doing fire dancing a year or two ago after a friend showed me what she was learning, poi, and I realized it was something I had played around with in high school without knowing what it was. We used to tie glow sticks to the end of kitchen twine and spin it around. I took to it naturally back then and already knew a few tricks by the time I met the troupe. Muscle memory baby!

    Photo by Randy Enriquez
     After rediscovering poi and learning that you could light it on fire, I thought it couldn't get any cooler and then I saw someone do fire fans and I was just amazed. I just had to get some these things. I took to them with a much darker approach than most fan dancers and this lead to my choosing the performance name Rayvn, also inspired by the fact that I write Gothic fiction, like Edger Allen Poe, author of The Raven, which was a piece of poetry that greatly influenced me when I was younger-I actually played the raven in a junior high play.
    Photo by Randy Enriquez
     I don't have as many videos available as I would like but you can see some on my Youtube Channel for Fire not to be confused with my Author Youtube Channel. You can also see some more cool stuff at www.twistedembers.org and on our Facebook Page! Here are a couple of the videos I do like. =)





    Book Club Questions & Recipes (A White Room)

    Sherry's Rose Cottage, Tea Room, via Flickr cc.
    Stephanie Carroll is available to join your next book club meeting via Skype or by phone!

    Contact Stephanie to schedule a Skype call!


    Find Victorian Dishes & Cocktails for Your Next Meeting on my 
                            

    Book Club Questions

    1. What do you think the significance of a white room is? Why do you think the author chose do use “A” instead of “The” in the title?

    2. What genre or genres do you think this book could be considered?
    3. When you read the prologue, what did you think was going on? How did this set up the story for you?

    4. Did you relate personally to anything that happened in the book? Have you ever felt the way any of the other characters felt? If not, what scene resonated with you the most?

    5. What did you think was happening with the house as the story progressed? Did you think the house and furniture was really alive or was it all in Emeline’s head?

    6. What role did the house and furniture play? How was symbolism used here?

    7. Where else was symbolism used in this story?

    8. What was the significance of Lottie to the story and to Emeline in particular?

    9. Who was the villain or villains in this story? Was there a villain at all?

    10. How did your opinion of John change from the beginning through the middle and to the end? What do you think his experience of these events was like?

    11. The novel is told through Emeline’s perspective which is known as an unreliable point of view because she does not divulge everything to the reader – what do think that says about her personality?

    12. There are two quotes that start the book. Why do you think the author chose them?

    13. Which parts of the story do you think were specifically based on historical facts or events?

    14. How did you feel about the controversial direction the book took regarding women’s issues and abortion? Why do you think it went that way?

    15. What did you think when you discovered Emeline’s final moments with her father?

    16. How did you feel about Emeline’s most difficult choices regarding her best friend and her father? Do you think she should have or could have done something different in those particular circumstances? What about Lottie’s choices and circumstances?

    17. The book closed with a relatively happy ending – how could it have ended differently?

    18. What do think was the overreaching theme of this novel? 

    My First Reading of A White Room 2013

    Watch My Very First Book Reading from 2013!

    What I Listen to While I Work



    Check out my guest post on author Roz Morris' The Red Blog for her Undercover Soundtrack series, which provides a really unique look at authors and their artistic process via the music they listen to while they work.

    Thank you to author Mark Richard Beaulieu for putting together the music mentioned in this guest post together into a Youtube playlist for anyone who is interested!


     
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