Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taking a new road

I debated about blogging about this, because I try not to blog a lot about my writing career. But a timeline I recently saw said on the road to self-publication the first thing to do is tell family and friends. So here I am to say I'm going off in two new directions next fall: I will self-publish my historical novel, "The Gilded Cage." Yes, I know there are other novels by that name, but it's so apt. I've had some success with similar novels before, about extraordinary women of the American West, but this is different. It's a fictional biography of Bertha Honore (Cissy) Palmer and her husband, Potter Palmer of the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago.
I'm fascinated for two reasons: I grew up on Chicago's South side, Hyde Park/Kenwood to be specific, close to the grounds of the 1893 Columbian Exposition--rumor has it that the 1892 house in which I was raised was built for the exposition. As I delved into that story, I became more fascinated than ever at the amazing amount of talent showcased there, everything from scholars like Frederick Jackson Turner and Henry Adams to sculpture by St. Gaudens and art by Mary Cassett--to the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, the original Ferris Wheel, and the scandalous "Little Egypt" where there was--gasp!--belly dancing.
And Cissy Palmer herself was an unusual and strong woman. Born and married into wealth, she was among the first to see the connection between wealth and philanthropy. Yes, her husband gave generously to various causes, but Cissy was the one who attended women's meetings, supported women's causes, traveled among the shanties of West Chicago to distribute help, worked at Hull House, Jane Addams' famous community shelter for immigrant women. The crowning glory of Cissy's career came whens she was elected President of the Lady Managers of the Exposition, responsible for the design, decoration, maintenance, and operation of the Women's Building.
I've turned the entire story into fiction, invented scenes and dialog and characters while sticking with the people who were really there. Most notably, I've injected a note of decorous romantic attraction, which I'm sure never existed. It all comes to a head the last night of the exposition.
The manuscript is with an editor and the idea with a cover designer. All plans can go awry of course,, but I hope to publish in October--so make your list of Christmas gifts. It will be in e-book and trade paper simultaneously.
And I'm equally excited about the book that Texas Tech Press is publishing in November: Texas is
Chili Country. I absolutely love the cover they've designed for it. The book is a light-hearted but documented look at the history of chili and the popularity of chili cook-offs today, with the granddaddy of them all at Terlingua each November. There are photos and recipes galore, along with chapters on beans and beer. Yes, I know--purists will not stand for beans in their chili, but they're often a side dish. And who can have chili without beer? I was lucky to have the cooperation of several good people in the compilation of this book, and I really look forward to some chili cook-off signing parties.
For those of you who like Kelly O'Connell and her Fairmount neighborhood or Kate and the Blue Plate Café, don't despair. There will be a third Blue Plate mystery in March or April 2016. Kelly will be back sometime, and so will Susan Hogan of The Perfect Coed.
As I said, plans can go awry, but there are my goals. Over the summer, I'll be blogging about Chicago history and chili recipes. Nothing like diversity in your writing.

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