Above painting: Louis Jean Francois - Mars and Venus an Allegory of Peace


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Friday, July 31, 2015

Words in History

Then and Now:  Word Definitions
  • evil
    • then:  uppity
    • now:  malevolent and immoral
  • fizzle
    • then:  act of producing quiet flatulence
    • now:  failing at things
  • cell
    • then:  jail
    • now:  phone
  • sly
    • then:  skillful, clever
    • now:  sneaky and deceitful
  • fathom
    • then:  to encircle with one's arms
    • now:  to understand after much thought

Thursday, July 30, 2015

July 27th thru August 2nd

What Happened This Week in History?

  • July 27, 1940-  Bugs Bunny debuts in "Wild Hare"

  • July 28, 1586- The first potato arrives in Britain
  • July 29, 1928-  "Walt Disney's ""Steamboat Willie"" is released"
  • July 30, 1729-  Baltimore, Maryland is founded
  • July 31, 2007-  The iTunes Music Store reached 3 billion songs sold
  • August 1, 1944-  Anne Frank penned her last entry into her diary
  • August 2, 1824-  In New York City, 5th Avenue was opened

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Steampunk Lessons from a Family History on Sawmill Operation ~ Part Two by Laurel Wanrow

History Undressed would like to welcome back guest author, Laurel Wanrow, with Part Two of Lessons from a Family History on Sawmill Operation. 

Last week, I introduced my grandfather, Herb Wanrow, and the operation of his steam engine-powered sawmill. To my surprise, according to my aunt, most times Herb would take the sawmill to people.

I’d never heard of a portable sawmill, but understood why Herb moved the operation when she reminded me that back in those times transporting the sawmill was easier than hauling the logs for a building’s worth of lumber to Herb’s farm—and back again! There was one caveat: the location had to have a supply of water. Usually the farmers in the area cut from their timber and dragged the logs with teams of horses or mules to a local water source, then put in a request for Herb to come out.  

However, I learned ‘easier’ was relative when my aunt relayed this story. Herb and his fireman would set off in the morning with the steam engine pulling the entire rig: sawmill on its wheeled platform, water tank mounted on iron wheels and a wagon filled with slabs. First, he’d stop at his parents’ windmill to fill the water tank—just as we would begin a car road trip with topping off the gas tank. With the twelve-foot long metal chamber full, they wouldn’t risk running out steam power.

The steam engine was powerful, but slow. Steering wasn’t ‘power steering’ but a chain running from the steering wheel to each front wheel to change directions. At three to four miles per hour, it took them most of the day to drive to one of the places they frequently set up, Lenning’s farm, five miles away.

I started to correct my aunt on this math, but she reminded me they had to stop to stoke the fire, add wood, and add water to the steam engine, which meant unhooking and bringing the water tank around each time. He’d pretty much use up that tank of water. My grandmother knew the route, so would catch them at noon, taking Herb his lunch along the road. He ate as he drove—fried chicken, pickles, bread and pie or cake. 

Once there, the all the equipment was unloaded and the sawmill set up again, including digging a pit for the sawdust to fall into, aligning the engine to the sawmill so the belt ran straight between the pulleys, and leaving room for the rails and log carriage. 

Then, Herb, could remove his coat and get to the business of directing the next set of customers on how to handle the logs while he operated the sawmill’s blade.

Seeing this really drove home the teamwork involved. Herb might have owned the rig, had the willingness to tinker and adjust, the ability to detect when it was working properly, and the skill to use up that cant efficiently, but he couldn’t do the work by himself.

A lot of steam stories seem to be romanticized, making machinery operation sound easy—the heat, fuel needs and labor to run them glossed over. Listening to my dad and aunt tell these memories of their family helped me to imagine many details for my steampunk story and brought up a few realities I wanted to get right.

Steam machinery is big and slow. I realized that once their equipment was out in the field, my farmworkers would not be returning it to the outbuildings each night. I gave them ‘equipment sheds’ in the fields for temporary storage, and even set the shapeshifter hero’s opening scene there, chasing one of the mysterious pests through the spindly legs of the stored clockwork machinery.

Water and fuel to heat it must be available. I didn’t give this a lot of thought in my early draft. I had boys levering a hand pump to send water to the tank of a two-story tall machine—through a hose. (What was I thinking?) When my aunt mentioned her dad used his parents’ windmill to fill his water sizable water tank, I asked, didn’t your farm have water? Not really, she answered, just a well with a hand pump…and to pump that amount of water by hand was unthinkable. The light dawned: the windmill did the heavy pumping. I immediately put up a windmill on Wellspring Farm (Easy for me say, er, write!) and added a rolling tank to supply the water, via pipes.

Most importantly, I didn’t worry about making all my characters knowledgably about mechanics. In my story, as in real life, not everyone has the same skill set, but everyone’s help is needed.

Herb Wanrow operated his sawmill every winter from the late 1910s to the 1940s. After a couple of seasons, he achieved what he set out to do: he was able to purchase a new car, a 1922 Star Car.  

~ ~ ~

Laurel Wanrow has dabbled in genealogy since high school, recording family history tales from both sides of her family, and her husband’s. She’s lucky enough to be caretaker for the Wanrow family cabin in the Rocky Mountains, built by her father and his parents, though the lumber did not come from Herb’s sawmill.

The Unraveling, Volume One of The Luminated Threads is Laurel’s debut novel, a Steampunk Fantasy Romance is set in Victorian England in a rural valley of shapeshifters and magic.

It’s available on Amazon in ebook and print if you’d like to hold that gorgeous cover in your hands. Laurel can be found on Pinterest, Goodreads, Facebook, @laurelwanrow and blogging at www.laurelwanrow.com. To be notified of new releases sign up for Laurel's Newsletter.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Words in History

Then and Now:  Word Definitions

  • truck
    • then:  goods used for trade in a cash-poor economy
    • now:  vehicle meant for hauling
  • wallet
    • then:  knapsack that carried enough provisions for a trip of a few days
    • now:  small billfold that holds money

  • negligee
    • then:  dress opened in front to show decorated petticoat
    • now: woman's light gown made of filmy fabric
  • humble pie
    • then:  pie filled with entrails of deer
    • now: make a shame-filled apology
  • smug
    • then:  well-dressed
    • now:  self-righteous

Thursday, July 23, 2015

July 20th thru July 26th

What Happened This Week in History?

  • July 20, 1987-  Production was completed on Prince's third movie "Sign O' The Times" in Minneapolis, MN
  • July 21, 2007-  The seventh and last book of the Harry Potter series, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" was released
  • July 22, 1376-  The legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin  leading rats out of town is said to have occurred on this date
  • July 23, 1829- William Burt patented the typographer, which was the first typewriter
  • July 24, 1985-  Walt Disney released "The Black Cauldron" making this their twenty-fifth full-length cartoon
  • July 25, 1850-  Gold was discovered in the Rogue River in Oregon
  • July 26, 1788-  New York became the eleventh State to ratify in the US Constituion

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Steampunk Lessons from a Family History on Sawmill Operation ~ Part One By Laurel Wanrow

Welcome guest author Laurel Wanrow to History Undressed!  Laurel has written a two part series about Sawmill Stories.  Below you will find part one and she will be back again next week to share part two with us!  Thank you Laurel for sharing with us!!

Steampunk Lessons from a Family History on Sawmill Operation ~ Part One
By Laurel Wanrow

While writing The Unraveling, I was asked why I chose to locate my steampunk story in the countryside instead of London or another city, the gritty setting of most steampunks. I thought on this, and finally came to the conclusion it’s because I’d never been to London.

Now you have to understand, I’ve never lived on a farm either. But my dad did, and I’d been to plenty of farms. It’s a case of write what you know…almost. Machinery and steam engines were new territory for me, but here I had family help again. My grandfather—my dad’s father—owned and ran steam engines. Through stories my dad and his sister told I could more easily imagine life on a farm working with those big engines than any adventure in London’s back alleys.

Let me stop here and give fair notice that this article is an oral history, not a research document. This two part series of sawmill stories is a recollection of the times and how I used family tales to enhance my novel.

My grandfather, Herbert F. Wanrow, was a first generation American born in 1889 to a farming family in eastern Nebraska. But Herb didn’t seem to take to that life. Typical of most young men, he liked fancy cars…but needed an income to get them. By the time Herb reached his twenties in the 1910s, he was selling farm machinery. Companies such as Gleaner, Oliver, Avery, Case and Meikle shipped the parts in crates by rail to their nearest town, Humboldt, and Herb hauled them home with a horse and wagon and put them together.

Selling farm machinery was seasonal work, so pretty quickly Herb put his money into purchasing a sawmill to keep work going into the fall and winter.

Pouring over our photos, I got a sense of scale for an operation that these days most of us only see the results of in Home Depot. My grandfather’s sawmill consisted of the large upright blade and its mechanical parts, all of which were mounted in a substantial wheeled platform. Under the platform is a pit, dug to accommodate the sawdust. To move a sizable log—such as the one Herb is leaning against—past the blade with the precision to produce lumber required a wheeled carriage set on rails. This log (once cut, the tree trunk was always referred to as a log) has passed through the blade three times already to ‘square it up’, or remove the bark. After the final bark slab is removed, it’ll be called a cant.

For all that, the sawmill is only half the equipment needed; like many machines of the day, it wasn’t self-powered, but operated with a secondary source. By 1923, self-propelling machinery was being patented, but that doesn’t mean everyone could or did use it. During this time, in this part of Nebraska, horses or mules still powered the farm implements. But a sawmill required more power, so Herb also bought a steam engine. Its power is transmitted to the sawmill with a belt that runs around the wheel-like pulley to the far right.

Herb set up his steam engine with a windbreak of slabs some distance from the sawmill and ran the long belt between the two. Feeding wood—usually the endless supply of slabs—into the firebox at the back was the work of one full-time helper, a fireman. Another helper filled the water tanks on the back and front of the engine from a water tank on a wheeled carriage…and kept that water tank refilled from the closest source.

For one entrepreneur, Herb (in the felt hat) ran quite an operation. Beyond his fireman, the hands helping were usually the customer he was cutting wood for, and his boys or hired hands. They rolled the log onto the carriage, and then turned it with cant hooks. Using the upright ‘dogs’ to hold the log in place on the rolling carriage, Herb moved log after log through the blade to produce cants. From them, he cut the rough lumber to fill his customers’ orders.

Only Herb did the sawing, riding in a seat along the cant. It was an art to size up and turn the cant to get the most efficient board feet out of it. Depending on what board dimensions the customer desired—thickness and length—Herb either advanced the cant with a notched cog for the next cut, or directed helpers to turn it. Helpers then carried off each board and stacked them so the weight of the pile would keep them from twisting. (My dad noted that in this photo, the stacks don’t look very good—but those fell to the customer to take care of.)

Herb Wanrow owned the only steam engine and sawmill in the area. Word of his skill as a sawmill operator spread and those stacks of lumber earned him a winter income. Next week I’ll share how my grandfather took his business on the road.

~ ~ ~

Laurel Wanrow has dabbled in genealogy since high school, recording family history tales from both sides of her family, and her husband’s. She’s lucky enough to be caretaker for the Wanrow family cabin in the Rocky Mountains, built by her father and grandparents, though the lumber did not come from Herb’s sawmill.

The Unraveling, Volume One of The Luminated Threads is Laurel’s debut novel, a Steampunk Fantasy Romance is set in Victorian England in a rural valley of shapeshifters and magic.

It’s available on Amazon in ebook and print if you’d like to hold that gorgeous cover in your hands. Laurel can be found on Pinterest, Goodreads, Facebook, @laurelwanrow and blogging at www.laurelwanrow.com. To be notified of new releases sign up for Laurel's Newsletter.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Video of the Week

Check out this video of the week:  A different take on the Declaration!
What do you think?

Friday, July 17, 2015

Words in History

Then and Now:  Word Definitions

  • enormity
    • then-  horrific or monstrous
    • now-  to great or extreme scale
  • peruse
    • then-  to use thoroughly
    • now-  examine carefully
  • fulsome
    • then-  rich or abundant
    • now-  flattering or complimentary
  • computer
    • then-  someone who did a lot of calculations
    • now-  an electronic device for storing and processing data

  • careen
    • then-  to tip or lean
    • now-  move swiftly

Thursday, July 16, 2015

July 13th thru July 19th

What Happened This Week in History?

July 13, 1837-  Queen Victoria is first monarch to live in present Buckingham Palace

July 14, 1987-  "U Got The Look" by Prince was released

July 15, 1922-  First duck-billed platypus exhibited in US for      public, at New York zoo

July 16, 1439-  Kissing is banned in England (to stop germs from spreading)

July 17, 1775-  First military hospital approved

July 18, 1994-  Crayola announces introduction of scented crayons

July 19, 1927-  TY Cobb gets his 4,000th hit

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


Welcome to History Undressed, guest author, Vijaya Schartz! She's with us today talking about one of my favorite topics--heroines who kick butt!


by Vijaya Schartz

It’s not a secret, I love writing strong women, and I do not make exceptions for historical series. Strong heroines are a must in a society, especially one where women are not recognized as having a soul. Reviewers call THE CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE series “edgy medieval.” Yep, lots of edges there, Magic swords, daggers, arrows, lances... you get the picture.

Contrary to common belief, there were many strong women in the Middle Ages, despite the fact that they were considered inferior by the Church… and by men in general. A few of these queens and princesses are remembered to this day. Eleanor of Aquitaine comes to mind, and she was, according to legend and sparse records, descended from the Immortal Celtic Ladies featured in the Curse of the Lost Isle series. So was Richard the Lionheart.

And I’m not just talking about knights wielding swords, but ladies as well. While respecting history is important, it is just as important for the reader to identify with the characters of the time. So my medieval heroines are particularly strong-willed, resilient, and knowledgeable. Since they are immortal, after a few centuries they are also wise beyond their youthful appearance.

But these novel plots are far from random. I did intensive research over the past fifteen years, since the first idea for this series sparked in my mind. It was on the plane trip back from a French vacation. Born and raised in France, I still have family there. More trips to Europe ensued to research the archives of many locales mentioning legends involving the cursed Ladies of the Lost Isle. There will be several books following the four already published:

Beloved Crusader, Book 6 in the Curse of the Lost Isle series, is a standalone, as it is the only book featuring this particular sister Fae. It is set at a dangerous time for Pagans, as Christianity embarked on the first Crusade. Like her mother and her sisters, this magic heroine is a fighter. She fights for what is right, regardless of race or religion. She is brave enough to change herself to change the world.

Leave a comment for your chance to win an ebook copy of BELOVED CRUSADER!

About the Book:

Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Books We Love Ltd.
Formats: eBook, Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-1771454193
Series: Curse of the Lost Isle Series, Book Six
Genre: Historical Romance

1096 AD – To redeem a Pagan curse, Palatina the Fae braves the Christian world to embark on an expedition to free the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem from the Turks. Pierre de Belfort, Christian Knight of Lorraine, swore never to let a woman rule his life, and doesn’t believe in love. Thrown together into the turmoil of the First Crusade, on a sacred journey to a land of fables, they must learn to trust each other. For in this war, the true enemy is not human… and discovery could mean burning at the stake.

Praise for Beloved Crusader

“Ms. Schartz’s writing is spot on – it’s tight and flows well, there are no superfluous passages. It’s a pleasure to read excellent writing. Her descriptions are perfect to the mood and moment, with exact word choices. Plotting and characterization were excellent as well and kept me reading. Thank you for the wonderful escape!” 5-stars on Amazon

Ind'Tale Magazine says: 
"... a vivid look at what life could have been for Pagans and Christians alike. Palatina and Pierre are so lifelike, one could expect them to step out of the page, chain mail jingling and swords flashing." 5 stars (exceptional - crowned heart for excellence) Ind'Tale Magazine July/August 2015 issue.


Heart pounding, barely containing her excitement, she watched his tall figure stride with purpose into her lair. The warrior dwarfed the stone arch of the entrance with his imposing presence. The flames of the oil lamps wavered, casting shifting shadows on the rough stone shelves, strewn with worn, heavy volumes of ancient knowledge.

He walked slowly, deliberately, like a predator stalking prey. His wet tunic molded muscular shoulders. Golden hair dripped on his square face, tanned by the outdoors. A northerner.

A large silver cross glinted on his bare chest through the open fold of his linen tunic. A Celtic cross in a circle. A Pagan symbol... also used by Christians.

Palatina sensed a hint of Fae blood roiling through his veins, and she probed the mind of the handsome man to determine whether or not she could trust him. To her surprise, she could not read his thoughts. Strange. Perhaps, his spatter of Fae blood protected him from her probing.

"Who dares disturb the peace of this sacred cave?" Her voice strangled in her throat from lack of use. Her tone sounded strangely formal.

A small rodent scampered into the rocky recesses of the large cave.

The man took a deep breath, released it slowly, then faced her at three paces, feet slightly apart, hands behind his back. Still seated on her elevated flat rock, she gazed on an even keel into his deep blue eyes... eyes that could make any woman forget her duties.

He tilted his head, and the square lines of his smooth face relaxed into an amused smile that dimpled his cheeks and bared perfect white teeth. "I was expecting someone older."

Flustered, Palatina frowned. Was that meant to be a compliment or an insult? She wouldn’t let him manipulate her. She may not have lived at the imperial court, but she had seen enough of the world through her water basin to avoid such tactics. She steeled her voice. “I asked for your name and title.”
He bit back his smile and nodded. “Pierre de Belfort, knight of Lower Lorraine, my lady.”

She must make sure he was the one. As the guardian of her father’s treasure, she could only release it to the right man, for a worthy cause... or suffer the wrath of the Goddess. The Great One punished the slightest mistakes with ruthless curses. “State your family line.”

His brow arched. “I am the bastard son of a lowly concubine, my lady.”

She could tell this man had learned good manners and received a good education. His braies and tunic were fashioned of the best cloth, and his boots of the finest leather. Besides, he was a titled knight. “But your father is a powerful lord, is he not?”

He narrowed his gaze upon her. “Aye, he was. Before he passed, he bestowed upon me the modest holding of Belfort.”

Of Palatina’s two sisters, only Melusine had married and borne children... first in Luxembourg with Sigefroi, a son of Lorraine, then in Forez with Count Artaud. This knight had to be related to her somehow, and if he were, he might know of her dark family history. “Any ancient legends or Fae ancestry in your family line?”

The knight’s jaw tensed and his daunting blue eyes hardened to cold ice. His hand gripped the sword hilt. “Who dares challenge my good name?”

Palatina shuddered at his outburst. Why would he bristle at the mention of legends and Fae? She blinked away her surprise and cleared her throat but no words came.

“I gave you my name, my lady. Now I demand to know yours.” His rich baritone voice echoed throughout the cave, filling it with warmth.

“My name is Palatina, Princess of Alba, daughter of Pressine of Bretagne and King Elinas of Dumfries.” She didn’t mention immortal, or Fae, or cursed... not even Pagan.

Beloved Crusader Available at

About the Author

Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims to also travel through time, as she writes without boundaries about the future and the far away past. Her love of cats transpires in many of her books… and she has more than twenty-five novels published. Her stories collected numerous five star reviews and a few literary awards.

For more information on Vijaya Schartz and her books visit http://www.vijayaschartz.com. You can Facebook and Twitter.
also find her on


Beloved Crusader Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, July 13
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Tuesday, July 14
Guest Post & Giveaway at History Undressed
Wednesday, July 15
Spotlight & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Thursday, July 16
Guest Post at A Literary Vacation
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Friday, July 17
Review at Book Nerd