My new book, My Baby Chased Away the Blues, comes out on July 8th, with Nine Star Press. Preorders start July 5th here.
It’s 1925 in Los Angeles, and motor patrol officer Del Randolph keeps making one mistake after another. Struggling to keep his job with the Los Angeles Police Department, Del is also lonely and heartbroken after his last lover left him.
But then he meets Ev, a gentle but cynical invert, and has his heart stolen again. Del knows he’s no great catch—he isn’t smart or particularly handsome or rich—but he’s determined to show Ev how much he loves him.
Unfortunately, his misguided attempts at winning Ev’s affections might end up destroying their relationship instead. Del joins a hapless gang of bootleggers to try to make some money but quickly winds up in trouble. Soon he’s in debt, breaking the law, and lying to Ev about all of it.
Using the correct slang for an era is absolutely key in capturing the feel of the time and making the characters’ dialogue sound right. There are a lot of slang lists floating around the internet already, but I thought I’d add this one to the mix. All of these terms are ones I have come across in primary sources from the 1920s and 1930s. I’ll be adding to it periodically.
awfully: very (e.g. “would you mind awfully?”)
blamed fool: an idiot
cake of soap
chummy pair: two close friends
cool your heels: wait
devil: common swear word (e.g. “why the devil did you do that?”)
famously: good/well (e.g. “he got on famously with them.”)
fast set: group of fashionable people
good egg: a good person
“had a hankering for”: wanted something
hell: common swear word (e.g. “the hell of it is”)
honey/hon: a good thing/person (e.g. “we thought that was a honey”)
hot dog kennel: roadside refreshment stand
howling: great (e.g. “a howling success”)
“I’m-from-Missouri attitude”: very critical and skeptical
“in a funk”: depressed/sad
jig time: fast (e.g. “it’s on the job in jig time”)
“keep your trap shut”: keep your mouth shut
lamb: a sweet person
mental capacity: intellgence
old bean: a man
old bus: an older car
“on the level”: true
a scrap: a fight (e.g. “a dandy scrap”)
shiftless: unreliable (e.g. “shiftless fellows of no account”)
sister: a girl
skunk: a jerk
smashed to flinders: wrecked, like a car
sock on the nose: a punch
spooner: a teenage couple
sport: an easy-going/accommodating person (e.g. “what a glorious sport you are!”)
“taken for a buggy ride”: fooled
tinsmith’s delight: a car
“why the heck”
“you could have knocked off their eyes with a barrel stave”: surprised
My short story “Another Saturn Monday” is now available in the Simmer anthology, at Dreamspinner or Amazon.
This story is a sci-fi fantasy, but I am more at home in historical fiction, and that’s the genre I’m working in for my next novel. And I am working on a new novel. It’s just taking a while mostly because I’m also in the middle of writing my dissertation. But I also do care about getting the history right, and that requires a lot of research.
The new novel–untitled as of yet, because I’m awful at titles–is set in Los Angeles in 1925. Yes, there is bootlegging, and speakeasies, and I try to slip in some of the great twenties slang. Building up the world that the characters live in is really fun, but also a lot of work. For example, when the two main characters decide to go see a movie, first I had to look in the Los Angeles Times archives to determine what movies were showing in July 1925 and ideally at what theater, then see if any of the movies were available on youtube so I could watch it myself and accurately describe it. (They go to see The Lost World, by the way. Stop motion dinosaurs!) I recently decided that another character enjoys fishing and camping, and so I want to try and read some issues of a contemporary magazine, Outdoor Life, so I can have him talking about current products and activities. Often these details only take up a paragraph or two, or maybe even just a sentence, but it takes hours to research them. Inevitably, you still get things wrong, but I want to do my best to represent the place and time.
So yes, a new novel is coming, it just might not be arriving quickly. But I hope the wait is worth it!
On Wednesday, April 8, I will be doing a blog release party on the Dreamspinner Press blog to celebrate the release of Untethered. It will start at 12 PM EDT and continue through the afternoon. I’ll be posting excerpts, more about the historical setting of the novel, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of my writing process. I’ll also be giving away two free ebooks to participants, so come join the fun!
I think one of the most challenging aspects of writing historical fiction is finding out all the mundane details of daily life. It is also one of the most fun. A little detail from the 1920s and 1930s that I find particularly charming is that instead of using watts to describe the power of an electric light bulb as we do today, people used the term “candle power.” So in 1931 you could buy a 3-candle floor lamp for $7.75, for example. Although “watt” as a unit of measurement existed, the use of “candle power” demonstrates that the transition to electricity was still under way, and people continued to look to an older system of lighting as reference in understanding and speaking about the new one.