Monday, May 31, 2010

Back to it and an exciting announcement!

I must apologize for the lack of posts over the last several weeks, however, on May 12th I was admitted to the hospital with a badly infected gallbladder and had emergency surgery the next morning. It has taken me a few weeks to recover and gain not only my strength back, but my concentration as well. In the meantime, I have appreciated all of the prayers, thoughts, and well-wishes and I promise that this week I'll be resuming my regular posting schedule.

With that said, on the morning that I was admitted to the hospital, I received an email from Eliza Knight at History Undressed, expressing her desire to review So Faithful a Heart and post an author interview on her blog. Despite my 102 degree temp, I quickly answered her email and ordered a copy of my book to be sent to her address. After I got out of the hospital, I emailed her and asked if she had received it and she replied that she had and that the review and interview would be posted in July! I'm truly excited about this because Eliza is a well-known author of historical fiction, as well as an editor and chair person for several historical fiction romance contests. This will be a tremendous boost for my novel. In the meantime, if you've not yet read, So Faithful a Heart, it is now available on And for those of you who have, PLEASE go to my Amazon page and post your reviews!

It's great to be back!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

So Faithful a Heart now AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!

So Faithful a Heart: The Love Story of Nancy Storace & Wolfgang Mozart is now available from! You can get there by clicking the link on the left side bar or by going HERE. It is also available internationally for the first time!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The details aren't merely the icing, they're the whole cake!

I spent over ten years in research in preparation for writing So Faithful a Heart. The idea to write an historical fiction novel on the subject of the love between Mozart and Nancy Storace was born out of the subject for my master's thesis which was on Nancy Storace, her life, career, and relationship with Mozart. After I finished graduate school, I continued doing more in-depth research about Mozart and Nancy as well as 18th century European culture, fashion, society, marriage, religion, music, literature, art, politics, and general history. I studied the languages, terms, attitudes, customs and class structures in order to gain a deeper insight into the characters and the things that motivated them. I wanted my characters to be as real, believable, and accessible as possible and at the same time not simply be 21st century people with 21st century attitudes in an 18th century setting.

I'm sure many of you have had experiences when you learn that someone, perhaps younger than you, perhaps not, has been watching you and gleaning from your life, your work, and your actions without your even realizing that they've been doing so. This has been the case with a young woman who, when I was a grad student, was an undergrad in the same department. A few years later we were reunited through a choral group in which we both sing in the alto section, and then after that we became friends on Facebook.

A couple of months ago she purchased a copy of So Faithful a Heart and read it, and then when I opened this blog, she became a regular reader of it, too. A few days ago, when I posted a link on Facebook to another blog entry, she commented on the link that she loved this blog and that she enjoyed getting to read more of the "behind-the-scenes" information and research that went into the writing of So Faithful a Heart. She said one thing in particular that really touched me and affirmed that the painstaking research and trouble I took to gather as many details as possible wasn't for naught.

I love that you know the world your book is set in, inside and out. I love when I am confident that fiction authors know more about their created worlds than their audience does. You KNOW what's around every corner, who's involved with whom, and what's going on behind the scenes. Immersion is awesome. Details aren't the icing on the cake for me--they ARE the cake.

Thank you, Rebecca. Readers like you make it all worth it!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Places: The Viennese Cafe

In So Faithful a Heart, I feature a cafe that was popular among the theater goers called the Milano, where Mozart and Nancy, as well as their friends and colleagues go to relax and socialize after rehearsals and performances. The Milano was a very popular cafe, located on the Kohlmarkt, in the building which is now the popular Kaffeehaus and bakery, Demel.

The following history is from Wikipedia.

Legend has it that soldiers of the Polish-Habsburg army, while liberating Vienna from the second Turkish siege in 1683, found a number of sacks with strange beans that they initially thought were camel feed and wanted to burn. The Polish king Jan III Sobieski granted the sacks to one of his officers named Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki, who started the first coffee house. After some experimentation, he added some sugar and milk, and the Viennese coffee tradition was born. This achievement has been recognized in many modern Viennese coffeehouses by hanging a picture of Kulczycki in the window. Another account is that Kulczycki, having spent two years in Ottoman captivity, knew perfectly well what coffee really is and tricked his superiors into granting him the beans that were considered worthless.

Vienna's first coffee house was opened by the Greek Johannes Theodat in 1685. 15 years later, four Greek owned coffeehouses had the privilege to serve coffee.

The new drink was well received, and coffee houses began to pop up rapidly. In the early period, the various drinks had no names, and customers would select the mixtures from a colour-shaded chart.

The heyday of the coffee house was the turn of the nineteenth century when writers like Peter Altenberg, Alfred Polgar, Karl Kraus, Hermann Broch and Friedrich Torberg made them their preferred place of work and pleasure. Many famous artists, scientists, and politicians of the period such as Arthur Schnitzler, Stefan Zweig, Egon Schiele, Gustav Klimt, Adolf Loos, Theodor Herzl, Alfred Adler, and even Leon Trotsky were constant coffee house patrons. In Prague, Budapest, Cracow, and Lviv (Lemberg) and other cities of the Austro-Hungarian empire there were also many coffee houses according to the Viennese model.

From 1950, the period of "coffee house death" or Kaffeehaussterben began, as many famous Viennese coffee houses had to close, perhaps due to the popularity of television or the appearance of modern espresso bars. Nevertheless, many of these classic Viennese spots still exist, and tourism and a renewed interest in their history have prompted a comeback.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On a personal note: A review from the not-so-distant past

Yesterday I received a letter from a dear friend who had just finished reading So Faithful a Heart. This friend was actually my undergraduate voice professor and in a very tangible way, the one who "started it all", years ago, when he assigned me Susanna's Act IV aria from Le Nozze di Figaro. From that point on, I was hooked, and now, over thirty years later, it has culminated in this novel. I don't think that either he or I ever dreamed that something like this would be born from his assigning me a standard piece for soprano, but here it is. I just wanted to share a little of what he wrote in his letter.

The time and energy to produce a work so well researched and so entertaining is a credit to you and your partner. It was very difficult to separate hard facts from the beauty and engaging presentation of the story. I think you truly caught the spirit of the time and the characters. The book is a good read. I'm glad that you included the romance of the helps us understand the human side of people we admire and adds another dimension to their incredible lives. It must be a very rewarding feeling to have completed such a challenging project.
But my favorite line of all came at the very end.

Take care of yourself and keep in touch. I'm very proud of you. 

Thank you, Mr. Brown.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The 18th Century: Women

The 18th century brought with it the beginnings of a new era for women as some of the more progressive nations in Europe began to regard women as more than property. However, progress was slow, and even though some new ideas regarding a woman's rights as an individual came into play, it took another two-hundred years before women in western society were considered equal citizens with men in most western nations.

Modern society has a tendency to romanticize life in the 18th century, especially for women, but for most women it was far from the happy ending that is found in the typical Jane Austen novel. All girls were the property of their fathers until they married, when they became the property of their husbands. If a father died leaving unmarried daughters, then they were most generally at the mercy of another male relative, or sometimes a male friend who became their ward. Rarely was a woman emancipated, and if she was, she was most generally looked down upon by society as a woman of questionable moral character.  If a girl married, it was usually between the age of 16 and 19. If she entered her twenties unmarried, her prospects for marriage were considered slim. If she reached the age of 25 and was still unmarried, she was considered a spinster, and her prospects for marriage were nearly impossible. Keeping in mind that the mortality rate for women in childbirth only increased as a woman aged, marriage became impractical and dangerous at a certain point. She became more valuable to her father, who by that time, was often a widower and needed her companionship and services as a homemaker and often as a surrogate mother to her younger siblings.

Most women in the 18th century were uneducated. Only girls of the middle and upper working classes and nobility were fortunate enough to learn to read and write, speak several languages, play instruments, and learn the art of becoming a "lady".  Educating a woman cost a tremendous amount of money and therefore the investment was never for her personal edification, but was made in order to make her more appealing and attractive to a future husband.

Here is a link to an interesting, interactive website entitled Make Your Way As A Woman In Eighteenth-Century England.  It begins with the following scenario:

You are a woman in 18th -century England. This is a tumultuous time in history. The population is rising and urbanization is changing the way that people live and work. But this is part of your environment. You are a white, 21-year old woman who hails from modest, middle-class parents. You live in a small village outside of London, but you have never traveled there. You work hard with your parents in keeping the household running.
You hear a knock at the front door. You recognize the voice of Mr. Snodgrass Bumfrey talking to your father. Mr. Bumfrey is a merchant who will soon inherit a shop in this village from his ailing father.

Do you remain and allow your father to present Mr. Bumfrey to you as your future husband or take your meager savings and slip out the back door to make a new start in London?

As you follow the prompts, it will take you through the typical scenarios of a woman's life in that period in England.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Things: 18th century women's undergarments

The chemise, or shift was the basic women's undergarment from the middle ages to 1900. For most of the 18th century the shift had a drawstring neck and arms with a hem at mid-calf or just below the knees. Ruffles could be added to the neck and sleeves.

18th century stays or corsets were lightly or fully boned and created a conical shape, while flattening and lifting the bustline. There are two major styles of stays in the 18th century. The first are formal stays, which were cut very high in back and have shoulder straps to limit mobility and ensure perfect posture and great bust support. The second are working stays, which are cut lower in back and have removable or no shoulder straps. These allowed for greater mobility and provide excellent lower back support.

Stays were considered so essential to a women's wardrobe that there were charity funds throughout England and the Colonies to provide women with stays. The term "loose woman" refers to prostitutes who left their stays unbound, or women too poor to own stays.

Jumps were soft, front-lacing stays that were worn during manual labor like washing or farming, in very rural areas, or when a woman was pregnant. They had four bones, two in the front and two along the sides. Sleeves could be laced on through eyelets or left off entirely.

Panier supported skirts first appeared in England in 1709 and in Paris in 1718-19. Over the years there were many variations. In England paniers were sometimes called improvers.

An important style change occurred about 1772 when the overskirt became drawn up by invisibly placed inner tapes producing a ruched festoon bustle. It was called the polonaise skirt and was supported by special basket hoops. Basket paniers could be made into large pockets or left open at the bottom. It was said that the fashion arose when maids picked up the sides of their Panier skirts and pushed them into the pocket slit openings to enable them do their work more easily. The drawn up skirt revealed the petticoats and these then became an important fashion. The chest was forced forward and gave a pouter pigeon effect.

Hip pads were a poor or working woman's solution to paniers, and were worn for informal occasions by wealthy women. They add some extra volume to the hips without getting in the way of washing, cooking or gardening.

Petticoats were worn under the stays for warmth, and for modesty when wearing hoops. Under-petticoats were made from warm, utilitarian fabric. Sometimes a decorative hem was added to match or complement the outer petticoat and gown.

Stockings were made from silk, cotton, or wool, and were tied just above the knee with a satin ribbon, cord, or soft leather strap.

In Susanna's Act II aria from The Marriage of Figaro, she makes fun of Cherubino as she dresses him up like a girl.