The Mechanical Princess

April 24, 2012

There’s a lot to admire about Queen Elizabeth II as she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee this year.  My favorite fact about her became the subject of an article I tried to sell to a couple of different magazines, but alas, I think someone else beat me to it.  So here’s my version of Elizabeth’s adolescence, which she spent serving her country in her hour of greatest need:

Elizabeth was thirteen when her country began fighting World War II in 1939.  Many English children were sent out of the country for their safety, but Elizabeth and her younger sister, Princess Margaret Rose, stayed home with their parents.  They lived in a country estate just outside London, and were kept safe there from the bombings that raged in the big cities. The princesses made speeches on the radio to comfort the children who had been sent away, and they used their allowance to help support the war effort.  When Elizabeth turned eighteen in 1944, she wanted to do more.  After months of begging her father, King George VI, she was allowed to join the Auxiliary Territorial Services, one of the special military branches for women.

Princess Elizabeth serving during WWII, found through an image search on

Up until that time, most of Elizabeth’s schooling had been with private tutors in the palace.  When she started military training, she got a taste of what it was like to learn with other girls from different backgrounds.  Even though her father insisted she go home to Windsor Castle each night for her safety, she joined the group in everything else.  She wore the same uniform and took her turn cleaning up the mess hall at meal times.  During her training, she learned to drive and repair supply trucks—not the usual duties of a princess!  She even took her final driving test through the crowded streets of London and into the courtyard of Buckingham Palace, just to show her father the king that she could do it.

Elizabeth drove trucks until the war ended in May of 1945.  By then she had been in the Army for several months and had risen in her rank.  She never let the danger of regular bombings in London keep her from her duties.  Magazines ran pictures and stories of the mechanical princess both in Britain and overseas, and they encouraged other young women to find ways to serve their countries.  She, in turn, learned what life was like outside the palace, and learned she had skills she never imagined.


Author Interview: Shelley Adina

April 19, 2012

Please join me in welcoming Shelley Adina, the prolific author of the Magnificent Devices series and many other books for both young adults and adults. Welcome to Damsels in Regress, Shelley!

Thank you—and what fun to be here!

1. Lady Claire Trevelyan has become quite a strong character by the second book, Her Own Devices. How did her story come about?
The “fish out of water” story has always been interesting to me, probably because I felt that way every day in high school. So when the urge to write steampunk finally got too strong to ignore, I thought, “What’s the worst kind of ‘out of water’ experience a young Victorian lady could have?” Well, if she’s brought up to wealth and privilege, the absolute worst would be homelessness. And then I got an image of a girl getting mugged outside a Whitechapel train station … and that was the flash point. The story just came.

2. Tell us about your interest in steampunk, including what kind of research you did.

I’ve been a fan of steampunk since I was a kid watching “The Wild, Wild West” on TV in the sixties. The research is absolutely the most fun part. I mean, in how many other careers can you go to Comic Con or Fanime and have it be tax deductible? Here in Silicon Valley one of the coolest events of the year is the Maker Faire, where “makers,” or DIY folks, come together with all the devices, clothes, processes and so on that they’ve invented. Just looking at what other people have created can spur your imagination to go one step further and put that cool raygun in a scene.

Of course, the world you build also has to be grounded in what people know, so my 1889 London features real streets and bridges, real neighborhoods, and real fashion.

3. I know you’re an accomplished seamstress. Did you make any of the costumes that appear in the books?

One of my favorite things about writing steampunk is the ability to go to booksignings and speaking events in full costume. I’ll be teaching at Clockwork Alchemy 2012 in May, and you can bet I’ll be dressed to the teeth. To answer the question, though … there is one costume I describe that I have the pattern, fabric, and trims for. It’s just a matter of carving out the time to make it before May.

4. How many books will there be in the Magnificent Devices series?

My original plan was for three books about Lady Claire’s adventures, but then I was browsing on Deviant Art and saw a picture of a girl who is a dead ringer for the grown-up version of one of the Mopsies (10-year-old twin orphan girls in Lady of Devices). So it seems clear that Lizzie and Maggie are going to become teenagers and have their own stories. And then there’s Peony Churchill, who is running loose in the Canadas with dreams of being an aviatrix … that sounds like three more books to me, don’t you agree?

5. Absolutely! When will the next book be available?

I’m hoping that book 3, Magnificent Devices, will be available in September. The artist who does my covers,, sent me an image for book 3 that was just an experiment she wanted to show me … and it was so spot-on perfect that I bought it on the spot. Be prepared to swoon.

6. What kind of novels did you read as a teenager? Any favorites?

I come from Canada, which back then was heavily influenced by British writers. So I grew up reading Elizabeth Goudge, Enid Blyton, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, all of whose novels feature strong, interesting female leads who are appropriate for their time period. I think those fictional girls were Lady Claire’s literary ancestors.

7. What are you working on now?

I’m working on the last of my contracted novels for Hachette, which are Amish women’s fiction written under my Adina Senft pseudonym. Called the Amish Quilt trilogy, these books are about three Amish women who are working on a quilt together, and working through life issues with each other’s help. The first one, The Wounded Heart, is out now, and the second, The Hidden Life, is coming in June. The Tempted Soul will be out in March 2013.

Sounds great. Thanks for chatting with us!

Thanks so much for letting me come over—it was fun!

To find out more about Shelley and her books, check out the following websites. – Magnificent Devices – Amish Quilt – Moonshell Books & Editorial
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Book Review: Her Own Devices

April 17, 2012
Her Own Devices
Shelley Adina
Young Adult

When I finished Lady of Devices, the first book in Shelley Adina’s “Magnificent Devices” series, I knew one thing for sure—I’d definitely be back for more. How could I resist Victorian England, airship travel, and steam-powered cars? Or a heroine who, despite setbacks in her life, uses her brain to overcome difficulties, and eventually ends up leading an underworld gang? I couldn’t. So I was more than ready to read about seventeen-year-old Lady Claire Trevelyan’s further adventures in book two, Her Own Devices.

The story begins with Lady Claire starting her job as assistant to engineer Andrew Malvern. Here she hopes to learn and get a letter of recommendation so that she’ll be accepted into engineering school at university. But Andrew’s experiment with slow-burning coal isn’t working, so Lady Claire, with the help of a member of her gang, works on a solution. Adventures ensue!

Adina’s plot has smoothly placed twists and turns that kept me riveted. Along with the fun “what if?” aspect of steampunk, the story highlights the difficulties women in the late 19th century had when they wanted to further their education. Society’s constraints and the plain ignorance of men over a woman’s abilities played a key role. But Lady Claire doesn’t let it stop her. Despite the manipulations of her fiance/nemesis Lord James and the confusion over a budding romance with Andrew, Claire learns to stay true to herself.

This review is more of a recommendation for an entire series, rather than just one book. With any luck (and Adina’s hard work), the third book, Magnificent Devices, could be ready by September as an e-book. Check these out. I think you’ll be glad you did. Oh, and the covers are stunning, don’t you think?

Don’t forget to visit again on Thursday when we’ll have an interview with author Shelley Adina.


Odd Scraps for the Economical

April 13, 2012

America Frugal Housewife

Odd Scraps for the Economical

Look frequently to the pails, to see that nothing is thrown to the
pigs which should have been in the grease-pot.

Look to the grease-pot, and see that nothing is there which might have
served to nourish your own family, or a poorer one.

See that the beef and pork are always _under_ brine; and that the
brine is sweet and clean.

See that the vegetables are neither sprouting nor decaying: if they
are so, remove them to a drier place, and spread them.

Examine preserves, to see that they are not contracting mold; and
your pickles, to see that they are not growing soft and tasteless.

…presented to you from The American Frugal Housewife – Dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy, by Mrs. Child…

Ads from 1982

April 12, 2012

I spent Easter at my parents. After dinner I was sitting in the living room with my mom and I notice this little magazine on the floor.  The back side was up and it caught my attention for two reasons. First, it was yellow with age.  Second, the ad on the back paged seemed really out of date.  I had to investigate.  Turns out it was a  magazine from 1982!  The R & R Mixer ’82: Your Guide To the Latest Party Drinks and Snacks.

Magazine Cover.

I asked my mom about it and she said it was some magazine they got in Germany (when they were first stationed there, that note, they’ve kept for over thirty years!).  It got filed away somewhere long ago.  Recently my mom has been on a cleaning kick going through old files and boxes of stuff.  I promptly confiscated the magazine.  The R&R Mixer ’82 was published and circulated to the America Forces stationed in Europe.  Their editorial and administrative offices were located at 17 Bismarchkstrasse in Heidelberg, West Germany. (I love that little detail!  In 1982 Germany was still divided!).  It was a private firm that wasn’t connected with NATO.

The magazine contains articles and recipes on making drinks.  The first page opens with “…the R&R Mixer, a magic elixir your guide to notions and party potions…”  to be followed up a couple pages later with “…Wine, Wine–how divine; Champagne, Champagne–creme de la creme…”  They might be cheesy but they make me laugh!  The whole magazine is full of titles like these.

But that’s not the best part!  Nope, the best part are the advertizements in the magazine!  Oh my word.  I was cracking up at some of them and they all brought back memories!  So without further ado here are my top three favorite ads.

Third Place goes to…Dual-Standard Trinitron Sony TV. This amazing TV allowed us to watch TV not only in America, but in Europe!  A compatible TV!  Technology was progressing!

"With just one set, you can enjoy both America and Europe!"

Second Place goes to… Toshiba’s 50/60Hz microprocessor-controlled microwave oven!  Which also “plugs in on both sides of the Atlantic.”  You might have to have lived in Europe (as an American with your American appliances) to really get a chuckle out of this.  But, I remember having to buy “new” appliances because we couldn’t use the ones we’d bought in America in Europe.  And just a side note, that microwave looks like it should be in a museum!  And yet I remember using one just like it. (That makes me feel really old!)

"Computer-style programmable operation lets the Toshiba ER-789BT handle everything from defrosting to keeping food warm automatically."

and First Place: The Quintet – JVC’s new portable component system.  Now come on, raise your hand if you remember carrying your boombox around with you.  Heck I remember when I got a walkman and thought it was the greatest invention ever!  How the times have changed!

"Five great performers that play perfectly together. Now you can enjoy true high fidelity both at home and on the road."

I hope you’ve enjoyed these ads as much as I have.  They gave me a good laugh and brought me down memory lane.

Can ‘Casablanca’ Make Me Buy a Blu-Ray Player?

April 3, 2012

So the 70th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray/DVD Combo of the movie “Casablanca” came out last week. In honor of that, I decided to post a few of the old movie posters of this classic.

The first time I became aware of this film was when I was eight or nine. On a Saturday afternoon, my father sat watching “Casablanca” on television. As I walked through the family room, there must have been a love scene on or something, because I started pretending to play the violin. My father took umbrage and told me to hush because it was a good movie. Then I was told to sit down and watch. So I did. And I don’t remember a single thing about the movie except that I watched it with my dad.

Fast forward about 25 years. I love old movies. I always have. So I have no idea why I hadn’t already seen “Casablanca” when I became an adult. Maybe I hesitated because it wasn’t a musical. I don’t know. But I finally sat down and watched it one evening. I was riveted to the screen. When it was over, I remember saying aloud with some bemusement, “That was a good movie.”

The well-drawn characters. The suspense. The romance. The bittersweet ending, which paradoxically was emotionally satisfying. “Casablanca” won three Academy Awards in 1943 including the one for Best Picture. There’s a reason why. Check it out for yourself if you haven’t already.

I only own the film on VHS. I’d like a new copy, but do I have to buy a Blu-ray player?

The fabulous Claude Rains as Capt. Louis Renault with Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine.