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?




The Difference Between Magical Realism, Surrealism, and Slipstream

I've been reading Aimee Bender's The Color Master, and it's just fantastic, so I started doing some research on her, and I noticed that some people said she does magical realism and others say she does surrealism and all of a sudden slipstream was in there. So I did what I always do in these circumstances - research spree! Here's what I found:

What is Magical Realism or Magic Realism?
Okay, this one I already knew as I work with it in my own fiction. Magical realism or magic realism is a genre of fiction and film that blends magical elements with reality in a way that blurs the edges until seamless. The stories are generally, but not always, characterized by a unique tone and atmosphere of wonder, magic, mystery, or just a sense of strangeness.

Magical realism originated in Latin-America and is closely tied with Catholicism and religious blending often seen in Latin American culture. According to The Encyclopedia Britannica: “Magic realism, chiefly Latin-American narrative strategy that is characterized by the matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastic or mythical elements into seemingly realistic fiction. Although this strategy is known in the literature of many cultures in many ages, the term magic realism is a relatively recent designation, first applied in the 1940s by Cuban novelist Alejo Carpentier, who recognized this characteristic in much Latin-American literature. . ."

Notice it says that these techniques have been around and in many cultures for many centuries but it wasn't really designated into a genre until the 1940s and it was in response to these Latin American authors.

It goes onto say: "Prominent among the Latin-American magic realists are the Colombian Gabriel García Márquez, the Brazilian Jorge Amado, the Argentines Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar, and the Chilean Isabel Allende.”

For a really in-depth look at magical realism, check out my posts Everything You Want to Know About Magical Realism, Popular Magical Realism Books & Films and Tips and Tricks for Writing Magical Realism.

What is Surrealism in Fiction i.e. Surrealist Literature?
The Persistence of Memory, oil on canvas, by Salvador Dalí, …
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Surrealism, the movement came out of the period between World War I and World War II and was an expression of frustration with the way rationalism had destroyed the world. Thus these artists' and authors' creations destroyed reason with fantastical and nonsensical imagery and ideas. 

According to What is Surrealism in Literature, the poet Andre Breton founded and propelled the genre by publishing The Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924, Paris.

Surrealism deals a lot with Freudian theories like free association. Artists and authors try to blend the unconscious mind with the conscious. They use a lot of juxtapositions and contrasting imagery and metaphor. What is Surrealism in Literature also says that surrealism challenges readers to tap into the sub-conscious, think beyond what society has to say, and look inside one's self for answers. It creates fantastical, logic-defying, and dreamlike worlds using poetic styles and techniques instead of traditional linear plotlines.

Check out 10 Essential Surrealist Books for Everyone for some examples.

What About Slipstream?
Slipstream is another genre that came up in my research. According to Slipstream Goes Mainstream on the Wall Street Journal sci-fi author Bruce Sterling coined the term in 1989 to describe fiction that "slips" in and out of a variety of genres, most commonly sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, creating work that "makes you feel strange."

The article refers to many authors that are also known for their magical realism or surrealism, including Kelly Link, Aimee Bender, and Karen Russell. However in a USA Today interview with Karen Russell, the author says she's not sure if the term magical realism works for her writings, and that she finds it difficult to put any label on her work.

For more on this, the article Oh Slippery Slipstream has a much more in-depth analysis of the origins of the term in late 1980s sci-fi community that is quite interesting.


What's the Difference Between Magical Realism, Surrealism, and Slipstream?
Obviously, each genre/technique has a different origin story and thus different characteristics. Magical Realism comes out of Latin American countries where natives cultures blended their old belief systems with Catholicism over time. This led to a culture where the idea that magic can blend with reality is really not a strange idea at all. 

Magical Realism also maintains a sense of reality while Surrealism and Slipstream destroy it. It seems like there is a general feeling that magical realism is also lighter in nature. The interviewer in the USA Today interview with Karen Russell said Russell's work seemed like it dealt too much with death to be considered magical realism. As someone who writes darker magical realism, I'm not sure if I agree with this, but it's something to consider. 

Surrealism, like slipstream, defies logic, but it does it in a very specific way, by using contradictory imagery and ideas in an effort to spark something within the reader's or author's subconscious mind. In an interview with Aimee Bender on Distortion comes From the Truth, Bender says that both magical realism and surrealism apply to her work, but that surrealism is dealing more with juxtapositions and moving away from what makes sense. It also moves away from using traditional plotlines and timelines, which is something Bender is known for.

Now slipstream, also defies logic and reason, but seems to go even further, not having the specific constraints of surrealism. It was born out of the need for a word to describe a type of fiction that didn't quite fit into the sci-fi genre or any other genre because it borrowed from so many. The only thing that seems to link slipstream works together is that they are all very fantastical and defying logic. 

It's kind of hard to determine the difference between these genres mainly because when you seek out an example, you find books that are considered as being all three of these genres, and I'm no expert. Keep in mind that this is what I've concluded are the differences based on this research. I think to really find out for sure, we are all going to have to run and read some of these examples.

What do you know about these genres? 
What can your research or experience tell us? 

Victorian Criminal Identification before Fingerprinting: The Bertillon Record

Measurements taken for the Bertillon Record
It always makes me particularly sad when I have to cut out a scene that has a really neat bit of historical research in it. One of those deleted scenes from The Binding of Saint Barbara (my novel in progress as of July 2016), involved The Bertillon Record.

For those of you who like crime fiction or detective stories, you will really enjoy this. Before fingerprinting, they had a different kind of record system to keep track of people in the penal system.

These records involved taking down detailed information about the person, things like height, weight, physical, and facial characteristics, etc. It also included a photograph, i.e. the first mug shots.

According to Bertillon System of Criminal Identification on The National Law Enforcement Museum, a French criminologist named Alphonse Bertillon came up with the system in 1879, and it was introduced in the United States when the Illinois State Penitentiary warden, R.W. McClaughry, translated the system from French to English. It quickly became widely used.

However, by the turn of the century, fingerprinting was in use and being included in the Bertillon Record. After an incident of mixing up two prisoners with the same name and remarkably similar Bertillon Records, fingerprints began taking over the identification system.

Mental Floss has a fantastic article on The Bertillon Record as do these others:


Asthma in the Nineteenth Century


So if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you already know that as of June 2016, my novel The Binding of Saint Barbara is in it's final stages, and I have officially begun shopping it around. Eeeee, so excited. Anyway, it may surprise some that even in these late stages some significant content changes can still occur, and one interesting change that has happened as a result of my last edit is the decision to give one of my characters asthma.

The character I'm giving asthma to is guard Daniel McNaughton, who is based on a real person. In my book and in real life, this guard was the primary day keeper for the condemned ax-murderer William Kemmler who became the first man to die in the electric chair in 1890 Auburn Prison, Auburn New York.

The real Daniel McNaughton was an older gentleman, but in the story I have made him young and the initial object of Charlotte Durston's affection. He is a a man who is trying to make something of himself. His hope is to have this appointment guarding William Kemmler turn into a promotion. He has a personal stake in this because his father was a drunk and hardly could keep a job, forcing Daniel's mother to work until she died. Daniel has committed himself to giving no attention to women or courting until he has established a career that can support a family.


Plus, he wants a woman who is like is mother, strong and capable, neither of which Charlotte can manage, so she is the last person who attracts his attention. Nevertheless, in her efforts to stand out to him, she gets herself attacked by the condemned murderer while on Daniel's watch. This leaves Daniel's future in jeopardy as her father now wants to blame someone for the attack. It also forces Daniel to keep a special eye out to make sure Charlotte doesn't get into anymore trouble.

My first set of beta readers haven't responded to Daniel the way I thought they might. They don't really seem to have strong feelings for him one way or the other so I was looking for a way to make him more interesting or sympathetic and as I read back through the manuscript after my beta readers, I realized there are many scenes where Daniel is put into positions where he is out of breath, and it occurred to me that his situation would be a lot worse if being out of breath was a really bad thing for him. (Always make things harder for your characters!)

Now all his stakes are higher. His job is such a big deal because he's been hiding his asthma and normally wouldn't be able to get a job like prison guard because of it. Plus, every time he has to do something physically or emotionally intense, he's in danger of not only getting exposed but of getting an attack so bad he can't recover. It's added depth to his backstory and personality in general, not to mention an fascinating historical footnote!

Obviously, they didn't have albuterol inhalers in the nineteenth century, so what did they do for asthma? There were many interesting treatments like ozone paper, but the two main remedies for asthma were black coffee and stramonium, which was smoked through non-tobacco cigarettes and or from powders. The latter is what I used in the book. I have Daniel light the powder and inhale it that way.

I also learned that chronic coughing is an important symptom of asthma, which I didn't know and which actually led me to my doctor who said my post-bronchitis cough might actually be a sign of adult onset asthma, something that is common where I live in the Central Valley of California.

One account from Divine Stramonium: The Rise and Fall of Smoking for Asthma, which cited Marcel Proust: letters to his mother, 1956, was really interesting. It came from a letter by Dr. Adrien Proust father of the novelist Marcel Proust:

‘Misery of miseries or mystery of mysteries?’ That is the title of a chapter in one of Dumas’s novels, which would apply very well to me at the moment. Yesterday after I wrote to you I had an attack of asthma and incessant running at the nose, which obliged me to walk all doubled up and light anti-asthma cigarettes at every tobacconist’s I passed, etc. And what’s worse, I haven’t been able to go to bed till midnight, after endless fumigations, and it’s three or four hours after a real summer attack, an unheard of thing for me.



Here are the main resources I used to find this information and there's some really neat stuff about this in these articles so check them out:






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
    Be the first to read new releases, get VIP Reader only deals, and become a test reader! Sign Up Today!


    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. =)





     
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