Posts Tagged ‘blog tour’

Victorian Obsession: Opium

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Oooh, opium. So dangerous. So addictive. So… legal?

Welcome to the last day of the Traitor in the Tunnel blog tour! Today, I’m talking about the Victorian Obsession with Opium, below. It’s a thrilling and multi-faceted story, and I hope you’ll agree.

Victorian Obsession: Opium

What do you think of when I say, “opium”? Poppies, addiction, maybe the British Empire or hookahs? Well, what about babies? Let me explain.

Opium was, of course, one of the great money-spinners of the British Empire. The British grew opium in British East India and sold it in China, where there was huge demand for it. That’s why the stereotype of the opium-addict is often that of a gaunt Chinese man lying beside a hookah. But, as with all stereotypes, that’s only part of the picture.

Opium use was totally unregulated in England until the Pharmacy Act of 1868. This means that the first half of the nineteenth-century was basically a free-for-all in terms of drug use: anyone could sell it, and anyone could buy it. And as in China, opium merchants in England did a roaring trade.

One of opium’s most popular uses was in an alcohol tincture called laudanum, popularly used to calm the nerves, help sleep, and generally soothe the user. It was considered totally respectable, so ladies as well as gentlemen felt free to take it – and that’s what the British did, in vast quantities. And since opium was so effective and pleasant for adults, they also gave it to children.

Some of the widely marketed “soothing syrups” for infants in the early nineteenth century were mixtures like Godfrey’s Cordial, which was made of opium, water, treacle (a sweetener), and spices. Other brands included Steedman’s Powder and Atkinson’s Royal Infants Preservative. These were immensely popular for use with ill babies. It makes sense: when children are ill, parents want them to feel better. Opium lessened the pain, and the sweetness of the syrups made sure the babies accepted them.

Obviously, opium syrups were not good for babies. Even ignoring questions of addiction and brain development, babies given frequent doses of these syrups tended to be small and stunted, and were often described as “wizened”, or looking like little old men. The reason? They were too sleepy to eat, and became malnourished as a result.

It’s impossible to know how many babies died of starvation as a result of opium syrups. But during the mid-nineteenth century, doctors suspected this was the case. Opium syrups were popular not just with parents of sick infants, but also unscrupulous nurses (who wanted children in their care to sleep a lot) and working-class parents (who were too exhausted from long working hours to deal with fussy babies). These are the most difficult deaths to trace, although it didn’t stop people from speculating.

And this is the double standard of Victorian opium use: you could sit in your elegant drawing-room and denounce the sinful ways of Chinese opium addicts, lazy nurses, and the working poor, all while sipping a glass of sherry-and-laudanum to help you get a good night’s sleep. It’s a bitter irony. Rather like the taste of laudanum itself.

For more neo-Victorian fun, I hope you’ll join me tomorrow, at my real-life launch party for The Traitor in the Tunnel. The details:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

from 3 to 5 pm

Novel Idea Books, 156 Princess St., Kingston

I hope to see you there!

 

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Victorian Obsession: Technology

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Hello, friends. I’m typing this post on my four-year-old MacBook, my five-year-old cellphone by my side, and Florence & the Machine anthemizing (I know that’s not a word, but it’s so apropos) on my can’t-remember-how-old-it-is CD player. Who, me? Behind the times?

Much of the time, though, I think I live in the nineteenth century – and even compared to the Victorians, I’m a bit of a Luddite. For today’s stop on the Traitor in the Tunnel blog tour, I’m at the Booksmugglers, talking about the Victorian Obsession with Technology. Yes, our techlove pales in comparison to theirs. Click on over and see for yourself!

 

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Victorian Obsession: Death

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Hey hey, let’s hear it for Death! (Or, at least, the Victorian Obsession with it.)

Today, the Traitor in the Tunnel blog tour stops at The Story Siren, where I talk about Victorian funeral rites in all their elaborate glory. Go on – you know you’re curious about that photo, at least.

Also, southeastern Ontarians, you are warmly invited to my book launch party this weekend! The details:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

from 3 to 5 pm

Novel Idea Books, 156 Princess St., Kingston

I hope to see you there!

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Victorian Obsession: Purity

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

Hello friends, and welcome to the second day of the Traitor in the Tunnel blog tour! Today, I’m talking about Purity. Because it’s such a vast topic, I’m focusing on two particular types: Purity of Food, over at Steph Su Reads, and Purity of Women, hosted by the Bookmonsters. (On a side note, isn’t it amazing how quickly “purity” ceases to look like a real word?) I hope you’ll click over and read all about this Victorian Obsession.

These bloggers have also reviewed Traitor, if you’re curious: Melissa at I Swim for Oceans calls it a “maze of a mystery that will keep you on your toes“, and Kristen at the Bookmonsters says it’s “a must-read“. Thank you so much, bloggistas!

Finally, The Traitor in the Tunnel officially goes on sale today! I ran into my local indie bookseller yesterday, and he told me the copies had JUST arrived. I may just have to prowl downtown today, purely to admire them on the shelves. If you happen to see Traitor in your travels, please give it a fond pat from me!

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Victorian Obsessions: Phrenology

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Welcome to the first day of the Traitor in the Tunnel blog tour! Did you know that the bumps on your head reveal your personality? At least, some Victorians thought so.

Read about the Victorian Obsession of Phrenology, my favourite pseudo-science, at I Swim for Oceans.

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A very modern Victorian

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Hello friends! This week, I’m writing a series of short essays for my Traitor in the Tunnel blog tour, which starts at the end of this month. The tour will feature some of my favourite YA bloggers, including the Story Siren, I Swim for Oceans, the Booksmugglers, Reading in Color, Steph Su Reads, and the Bookmonsters. Hurray!

My theme for this blog tour is Victorian Obsessions and some of my research for it led me to a series of poems I haven’t thought about since I was a PhD student: Modern Love, by George Meredith. Modern Love is actually a sonnet sequence – a chain of fifty connected poems, each with the same rhyme scheme and all on the same subject.

That’s already ambitious. Yet Meredith goes further. Most sonnet sequences are about love – the development of a romance, the triumph of true love, pure and passionate. But Meredith turns this around completely, because Modern Love is about the breakdown of a marriage; his own marriage. Here’s the first 16-line sonnet, “By this he knew she wept with waking eyes”:

By this he knew she wept with waking eyes:
That, at his hand’s light quiver by her head,
The strange low sobs that shook their common bed
Were called into her with a sharp surprise,
And strangled mute, like little gasping snakes,
Dreadfully venomous to him. She lay
Stone-still, and the long darkness flowed away
With muffled pulses. Then, as midnight makes
Her giant heart of Memory and Tears
Drink the pale drug of silence, and so beat
Sleep’s heavy measure, they from head to feet
Were moveless, looking through their dead black years,
By vain regret scrawled over the blank wall.
Like sculptured effigies they might be seen
Upon their marriage-tomb, the sword between;
Each wishing for the sword that severs all.

This sonnet blows me away every time I read it. It’s ruthless and violent, fiercely radical and brutally effective. I’d never guess that it was written in 1862; to me, it sounds more like 1962. And it’s a great reminder – especially to me, since I’m now writing about “the Victorians” and invariably generalizing a bit – that every era has its startling exceptions.

What do you think of the poem? Are there other exceptions (Victorian or otherwise) that it calls to mind?

As well as a blog tour, I’ll be having a launch party in Kingston to celebrate the publication of Traitor. Hurrah! The details:

Saturday, March 3, 2012, from 3 to 5 pm

Novel Idea Books, 156 Princess St, Kingston

If you’re local, I’d love to see you there!

 

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Notorious Victorians, farewell

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

This is it, the last post in the Body at the Tower blog tour, and it features the Edinburgh Seven. Sound like a group of revolutionaries of some sort, doesn’t it? And they were. They were rich, educated young ladies who had the nerve to decide that they wanted to study medicine. Obviously, trouble ensued. You can read more about their story at Booksmugglers.

Then, Booksmuggler Thea reviews Body, calling it “another winning, impeccably well-written historical mystery”. Huzzah!

Thanks so much for joining me on this blog tour. Regularly scheduled blogging returns on Thursday, when I continue my English adventures. See you then!

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Victorian rebels

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

The Notorious Victorians blog tour stops today at Laura’s Review Bookshelf to consider Victorian Rebels. Florence Nightingale was a lady who defied her parents, got her hands dirty during the Crimean War, and revolutionized modern nursing as a result. Not bad!

And over at Teenreads, I’m dispensing bad advice. Ever wondered How Not to Be a Writer? I’ve got tips for you!

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The whole Mary & James thing

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Okay, so the #1 question I get from readers – and this is by a long shot – is, “Will Mary and James get together?” Naturally, I don’t have a simple yes-or-no answer for you. James is back in The Body at the Tower but the path of true love is never entirely smooth, know what I mean? I go into a bit more detail in an interview with Cecilia at the Epic Rat, but it contains some spoilers for both Spy and Body. If you can’t stand spoilers, feel free to email/tweet me your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them in a discreet and tantalizing manner.

Cecilia also reviews Body. It’s a great review but it, too, contains spoilers for Spy. It’s a cruel world out there for innocent readers.

I’ll see you tomorrow for more Notorious Victorians!

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Happy bookday, Body!

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

I will refrain from gag-inducing metaphors of birth & infancy. Suffice it to say that today, the second Agency novel, The Body at the Tower, is published by Candlewick Press. I’m one-third disbelief, one-third out of my mind with excitement, and one-third “Stop it, Ying, you’re such a nerd”.

Fortunately, it’s not all about me. The Body at the Tower blog tour is at Steph Su Reads today, where I guest-post about Notorious Victorian Joseph Merrick – aka the Elephant Man – and the way he used celebrity as a survival strategy. His is a tragic but also smart and fascinating story.

Steph then reviews Body: “damn if the pages didn’t nearly catch on fire…” *evil cackle from smug author*

There is no real-world launch party today, but stay in touch: I’m planning an online launch party in September. Details to follow.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to celebrate.

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