THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE #Novel #Inspiration: The Board of Lady Managers, and Other Properly Dressed Ladies of the #Victorian Age

I mentioned the Egyptian dancers yesterday, and before I say anymore about them, I’d like to give you some context because at this time in our country’s history, American women dressed very differently than they do today.

An example of Victorian fashion. Credit: Photographer unknown via Wikicommons.

An example of Victorian fashion. Credit: Photographer unknown via Wikicommons.

They were expected to wear corsets and floor-length dresses. Skin was to be covered, and to allow a man to see even one’s ankle was to invite scandal. So, you can imagine what Americans must have thought when they saw the Egyptian dancers.

Although their costumes were downright modest compared with the costumes we associate with belly dancers today, the attire was scandalous in 1893.

At this time, America was still very much anchored in the Victorian Age. As you can imagine, polite society was shocked that these foreign women didn’t wear corsets, that their skirts rose above their ankles, and that you could see much of their natural form.

An Egyptian dancer. Credit: Photographer unknown via Wikicommons

An Egyptian dancer. Credit: Photographer unknown via Wikicommons

By contrast, proper Western women were expected to wear clothing that obscured nearly every inch of their natural form. The “proper” silhouette was something along the lines of a full, floor-length skirt, a minuscule waist (wrestled into shape by a corset, of course), maybe a bustle, and big, poofy, exaggerated sleeves.

While this American idea of fashion was extremely modest, it was quite an unnatural shape, if you think about it. But anyway, that was the expectation of the time.

So, when the Egyptian dancers appeared in their ankle-baring skirts and their tiny vests over thin little blouses and no corsets, that alone was enough to cause a great deal of outrage among the locals.

Add to that the dance itself, with its shoulder shakes and hip wiggles, the hip drops and rotations, the undulation and jiggles — all these vigorous, earthy movements — and it was simply too much for most citizens to bear.

Many people considered it downright vulgar, and you can imagine the public outcry that followed.

Complaints were lodged with the fair’s authorities, and the local newspapers were filled with letters to the editor calling for these dancing entertainments to be shut down.

And the criticism was pretty widespread – it came from regular folks, as well as the religious and civic leaders of the day.

The officers of the Board of Lady Managers of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Credit: The Field Museum Library via Wikicommons

The officers of the Board of Lady Managers of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Credit: The Field Museum Library via Wikicommons

The Board of Lady Managers, the fair’s women’s auxiliary group that is an important part of my novel, also opposed the performances and tried to ban them, but it’s worth noting that the board’s leader, Bertha Palmer, who was a very powerful woman in Chicago’s social circles (largely because she was the wife of Potter Palmer, one of the most powerful businessmen in Chicago), was quoted in the Chicago Daily News as wanting to work with the dancers, and not simply shun them.

This is her quote from that newspaper:

“In some ways they [the foreign dancers] are ignorant and I think we owe it to our cause that we visit these women and invite them … and spend time and money on teaching them our ways and manners.”

Those were her words and that was also the mind-set I borrowed to open the door for the heroine in my novel to get close to the dancers. It becomes the basis of her relationship with them.

I was also interested in exploring the lives of the Egyptian dancers. As a fan of belly dance and as someone deeply interested in its history, I wondered what could have happened if these women really had taken the time to get to know the Egyptian dancers.

I believe the American women would have discovered that the dancers had at least as much to teach, as they did to learn.

I’ll share more about that tomorrow 🙂

In the meantime, check out my Inspiration board on Pinterest.

ENTER TO WIN A FREE SIGNED PAPERBACK!

The Girl on the Midway Stage Novel Inspiration

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE is a lush historical novel rich with authentic period detail, discovery, and romance that will sweep you up in Dora’s struggle to understand herself, her quickly changing world, and her own unique journey to happiness.

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE #Novel #Inspiration: 1893 Chicago World’s Fair

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair was an amazing moment in history, and not just because it introduced a large segment of America to the wonders of belly dancing.

Something truly amazing was happening along the shore of Lake Michigan during that time. It was something that brought more than 27 million people from all over the nation, actually the world, to 600 acres of what had been a marshy swamp that developers and architects crafted into a complex landscape of nearly 200 new buildings, canals, lagoons, and parkland.

Most people know it as the 1893 World’s Fair, but its official name is The World’s Columbian Exposition because it was intended to celebrate the 400-year anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World.

(Yes, the organizers realized they were a year off, but – in order to make the fair the big splash that they wanted it to be – they decided to ignore that detail.)

So this World’s Fair was a city within a city, In fact, that was a nickname many people gave it: The White City – because a good number of the most prominent buildings, crafted in the highly ornate Beaux Arts style, were painted a brilliant and startling white. They were gorgeous and palatial and intended to inspire awe.

1893AdministrationBuilding

The Administration Building at the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair. Credit: C.D. Arnold via Wikicommons

As a side note, these building were also designed to be temporary. Although they looked impressive, they were made of plaster and never intended to last much beyond the fair’s closing date.

The 1893 fair was also only the third world’s fair in American history, after a centennial celebration of the nation’s birth in Philadelphia in 1876, and another in New Orleans in 1884.

And the folks behind the 1893 fair wanted this one to be bigger and better than anything that had ever happened before it. They particularly had their eye on the Paris Exposition, which had taken place only a few years before, in 1889, which had given the world what was then the tallest man-made structure in the world: the Eiffel tower.

Paris was a tough act to follow, but the 1893 organizers were determined. They intended to bring together the best minds, the best artists, the best inventors, and the finest innovators of the age.

And Chicago had to fight for the opportunity to do this. The city beat out Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, and even its greatest municipal rival, New York, for the right to host this fair.

That didn’t faze the shrewd Midwest businessmen behind the effort. They knew what an opportunity this would be for Chicago. They knew what it meant for future business, industry, and growth if Chicago could show that the city could outshine New York. They knew they had to prove to their own citizens, the country, and even the world, that Chicago was prepared to be the new center of American commerce in the Industrial Age.

1893Ferris-wheel

The original Ferris Wheel debuted at the 1893 World’s Fair. Credit: Author unknown via Wikicommons.

A lot of firsts took place at the Chicago World’s Fair:

  • It had the first Ferris Wheel.
  • It was the first fair to have electricity.
  • It introduced the first commercial movie theater.
  • It even introduced a moving sidewalk to transport fairgoers along the Lake Michigan bank.

Some other fun firsts were:

  • Cracker Jacks, though it wasn’t called that until 1896
  • The hamburger
  • Chili con carne
  • Juicy Fruit Gum
  • Breakfast cereals, including Quaker Oats, Cream of Wheat, and Shredded Wheat

Another thing to know about this fair was that it was intended to be very high-brow, very refined, and very respectable.

But anyone who has ever been to a fair knows that people don’t go simply to look at the exhibition hall collections.

EgyptianTheatre

The Egyptian Theatre on Cairo Street. Credit: N. D. Thompson Publishing Co. of St. Louis

They want to have fun.

And that’s where the Midway Plaisance came in. It wasn’t technically part of the fair. It was an amusement park tacked onto the fair’s backside. Literally. It was a mile-long park divided into sections where exhibitors presented mostly ethnic entertainments. There was a German village, an Irish village, a Laplander village. Native Americans, and Javanese.

But the attraction that was far and away the most popular was the one called Cairo Street.

A camel ride at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Credit: Conkey, W. B., co., Chicago, pub. (from old catalog) via Wikicommons.

A camel ride at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Credit: Conkey, W. B., co., Chicago, pub. (from old catalog) via Wikicommons.

It stretched about a city block, and it was pretty amazing. Imagine this: Fair visitors entered through a broad, low portal, into a brick courtyard of tiny booths and bazaars, filled with Arabs, merchants, Sudanese, donkey boys, performing monkeys, and snake charmers.

The mosque, complete with a minaret, had massive doors where regular services were held every Friday at noon. One of the highlights was the camel ride, where couples would get onto the seated camel and be thrown against each other as the camel rocked to its feet.

This was also where Egyptian women in gauzy garments with golden ornaments in their headdresses and tiny cymbals on their fingers danced in the attraction called the Egyptian Theatre.

Want to know more? Tune in tomorrow!

In the meantime, check out my Inspiration board on Pinterest.

ENTER TO WIN A FREE SIGNED PAPERBACK!

The Girl on the Midway Stage Novel Inspiration

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE is a lush historical novel rich with authentic period detail, discovery, and romance that will sweep you up in Dora’s struggle to understand herself, her quickly changing world, and her own unique journey to happiness.

 

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE #Novel #Inspiration: #Victorian Heroines

Why do women who break the rules always seem to suffer in Victorian novels?

BookStackDon’t get me wrong. I love the classics. The Awakening, Madame Bovary, Vanity Fair, The House of Mirth, and Washington Square are just some of my all-time favorites. I love the richness of the era, the lush writing, and the unique challenges created by that stratified society.

What I don’t love is that heroines who go against the grain don’t seem to get a happy ending.

It isn’t fair, and I don’t even think it’s true. Women — and men, too — who have the courage to follow their heart and their dreams can be happy. In fact, those are probably the only people who will ever find true happiness.

When I began writing the story that has become THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE, I didn’t know exactly how it was going to end, but I knew this: The woman who broke the rules and followed her heart was going to get a happy ending.

I’ll share more inspiration tomorrow. In the meantime, check out my Inspiration board on Pinterest.

 

 

ENTER TO WIN A FREE SIGNED PAPERBACK!

The Girl on the Midway Stage Novel Inspiration

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE is a lush historical novel rich with authentic period detail, discovery, and romance that will sweep you up in Dora’s struggle to understand herself, her quickly changing world, and her own unique journey to happiness.

Book photos by DeAnna Cameron.

Enter the JINGLY BELLS Goodreads #Contest

Just a quick note to let you know you can enter to win a FREE signed copy of JINGLY BELLS at Goodreads. 🙂

 

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Jingly Bells by DeAnna Cameron

Jingly Bells

by DeAnna Cameron

Giveaway ends November 01, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE #Novel #Inspiration: Cajun Creole Cuisine

I’ll be honest, the thing that initially drew me to New Orleans was the food. It’s also what I turn to whenever I’m missing that great city and can’t hop on a plane.

Really, it has become a bit of an obsession. I collect regional cookbooks, I’ve taken Cajun/Creole cooking classes, and I’ve hovered over many, many pots of roux, striving for that perfect dark chocolate color.

My family also throws a Mardi Gras party for 80 to 100 people every year, and I spend days planning the menu and preparing the food. Yeah, it’s a little over the top — but I love it.

So, it was probably no surprise to anyone who knows me that some of that Crescent City cooking made its way into this novel.

It was also my way of showing (instead of telling!) a little of Dora’s appetite for the spicy things in life.

One of my all-time favorite recipes is a chicken and sausage gumbo that I’ve tweaked over the years. If you’re a fan of this cuisine, too, I hope you’ll give it a try. Or better yet, share your own recipe with me in the comments!

Bowl of gumbo

A hearty bowl of chicken and sausage gumbo.

CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE GUMBO

Yields 6 to 8 hearty servings

Ingredients
  • 3 pounds chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 dried red chili peppers (more if you like it spicy!)
  • 1 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 ounces andouille sausage, diced
  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Crystal Pepper Sauce, to taste.
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces frozen okra, chopped
  • Cooked rice

Heat the oil in a dutch oven and brown the chicken on both sides, a few pieces at a time. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm.

Lower the heat and add the flour slowly and stirring constantly. Cook over a low heat and stir constantly until the roux turns a rich, dark brown. This usually takes from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on your heat level. Be extremely careful not to let the roux burn.

Add the chili peppers, onion, green pepper, celery, garlic, and sausage to the roux and cook about 5 minutes and stir constantly until the vegetables are softened. Pour in the broth and stir well. Add the bay leaf, Crystal sauce, the chicken. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is sufficiently tender.

Add the okra and cook just until warmed through, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and serve in a bowl over rice.

COOK’S NOTE: I usually use red bell peppers instead of green bell peppers, because that’s what I tend to have on hand. Tabasco can be substituted for the Crystal sauce. Add more broth if the gumbo is too thick.

See you back here tomorrow for more #novel #inspiration!

ENTER TO WIN A FREE SIGNED PAPERBACK!

The Girl on the Midway Stage Novel Inspiration

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE is a lush historical novel rich with authentic period detail, discovery, and romance that will sweep you up in Dora’s struggle to understand herself, her quickly changing world, and her own unique journey to happiness.

Gumbo photo courtesy of duplass via depositphotos.com.

Horse-drawn Carriage

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE #Novel #Inspiration: New Orleans

I’m a northern girl (Montana) who has lived in Southern California most of my life, but a special part of my heart will always belong to New Orleans. The first time I went was years and years ago with a friend, and I fell in love with the place. I go back as often as I can to experience the unique culture, the music, the food (the food!!!!), the architecture, the history — I even went once to get married, but that’s another story…

The French Quarter is especially dear to me because of its strong connections to history. One of my favorite things to do when I’m there is to walk those narrow streets at dawn, before the crowds are out, because on those misty mornings I can best imagine what it might have been like 100, even 200 years ago. It’s about as close to time travel as I’m probably ever going to get.

So, when I began to think about the kind of woman who could get caught up in the heady excitement of Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair and could also develop a kinship with the Egyptian dancers, I knew she had to have roots in New Orleans — roots that would play an important role in the story and an even greater role in her personal evolution.

I’ll share more inspiration tomorrow. In the meantime, check out my Inspiration board on Pinterest.

Or, enjoy some French Quarter views.

 

 

123111_FrenchQuarter (11) 122911_MaisonDupuy (2) 010112_JacksonSquare (2) 122811_FrenchQuarter (4) 122811_FrenchQuarter (19) 122811_FrenchQuarter (18)

ENTER TO WIN A FREE SIGNED PAPERBACK!

The Girl on the Midway Stage Novel Inspiration

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE is a lush historical novel rich with authentic period detail, discovery, and romance that will sweep you up in Dora’s struggle to understand herself, her quickly changing world, and her own unique journey to happiness.

New Orleans photos by DeAnna Cameron.

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE #Novel #Inspiration: The Legend of Little Egypt

Where did I get the idea for THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE?

I’ve been a fan and student of the art and history of belly dance since the day I walked into Angelika Nemeth’s Introduction to Middle Eastern Dance at Orange Coast College more than 20 years ago.

For nearly as long, I’ve also been intensely curious about how this beautiful and exotic dance migrated to the United States. Not long after I enrolled in that first dance class, I began to research the dance’s history (if you’re interested in that sort of thing, too, you can find my reading recommendations HERE).

Little_Egypt_DancerIn that research, one of the performers referred to time and again is a dancer named Little Egypt. I tried to find out more about her, but the deeper I dug, the more mysterious she became.

Legend has it she was a dancer who got her start at the 1893 World’s Fair and later gained fame in vaudeville. That fact hasn’t been documented, though. In fact, Sol Bloom, the man largely responsible for organizing the Midway Plaisance — which is the section of the fair where the Egyptian Theatre operated — disputes it. He states in his 1948 autobiography that no dancer by that name ever performed at the fair.

Such a mystery! Honestly, I found it too compelling to ignore and couldn’t help but try to dream up an explanation. Those daydreams, my friends, became the basis for this novel.

I’ll share more inspiration tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out my Inspiration board on Pinterest.

ENTER TO WIN A FREE SIGNED PAPERBACK!

The Girl on the Midway Stage Novel Inspiration

THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE is a lush historical novel rich with authentic period detail, discovery, and romance that will sweep you up in Dora’s struggle to understand herself, her quickly changing world, and her own unique journey to happiness.

 

 

Enter The Girl on the Midway Stage Goodreads Giveaway

It’s not out for a couple weeks yet, but you can enter a giveaway for a signed copy of THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE over at Goodreads. Check it out!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Girl on the Midway Stage by DeAnna Cameron

The Girl on the Midway Stage

by DeAnna Cameron

Giveaway ends October 10, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The Next Thing and a #CoverReveal

What’s been keeping me so busy this summer? I’m glad you asked! It’s incredibly exciting, actually. A few months ago, I received the rights back from Berkley on my debut novel, THE BELLY DANCER, as well as its follow-up, DANCING AT THE CHANCE. Whoo-hoo!

I’m now in the process of re-editing, reformatting, and re-everything-ing with both of them, and I’m nearly finished. I’m so close to finished with THE BELLY DANCER that I’m excited to announce it has a brand new title. Say goodbye to THE BELLY DANCER, and say hello to THE GIRL ON THE MIDWAY STAGE. Also, it will be Book 1 in my newly formed Dancer Chronicles.

And there’s a publishing date: September 6. Just a few weeks away! I still have more work to do, but I thought you might like a peek at the new cover.

The Girl on the Midway Stage by DeAnna Cameron

 

Do you like it? I hope so! I’ll have more to share about it soon, but in the meantime, I hope you’ll head over to Goodreads and add it to your To-Read list 🙂

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31434182-the-girl-on-the-midway-stage

Thanks and happy reading!

Of Summer Fun Giveaway Winners, Consolation Prizes, and My Next Thing

Thanks to everyone who entered the SUMMER FUN GIVEAWAY! It’s been a fun couple of weeks (nearly), and now it’s time to pick the winner. And she is…

Diana at l**********@y*****.com

Congratulations!

Please contact me in the next couple of days and we’ll sort out the mailing information.

If you didn’t win, don’t be sad! I’ve still got something special for you. Please check your email for your consolation prize 🙂

And in case you’ve been wondering if I’ve been idle this summer — you know, with all that binge reading and TV watching — I have not! In fact, I’ve been quite busy on My Next Thing. Want to know what it is?
Check back on Friday and I’ll show you 🙂