Sunday, March 27, 2011

-The forgotten inventor- And Rivets!

Circa 1875 poster

We all have at least a couple pairs of jeans in our wardrobe and I'm sure one or both is Levi's brand. Today, Levi's are a household name, but few people think about the origin of these useful and even fashionable pants. While playing around in California history, (doin' research for my work in progress), I learned some fun facts I'll share with you.

The tailor, Levi Strauss, is typically given sole credit for inventing denim jeans with riveted pockets (back in 1800's California). But did you know he had a business partner?


Jacob Davis (born Jacob Youphes) was the guy responsible for the rivets that keep your sturdy jeans together whether you're digging trenches, panning for gold, or riding your horse into the sunset shouting "Yee-haw!"

Levi Strauss came to California to mend and make tents. He ended up with quite a bit of leftover fabric. He made pants out of it and they grew popular. He had a dry goods business that boomed in gold rush California.

Meanwhile, Jacob, who made things like wagon covers, tents, etc.,(with fabric he purchased from Levi's company) found copper rivets held horse blankets together quite well. One day a lady asked for some strong pants for her large husband. He used the rivet method with great success. He wrote to Levi Strauss to suggest they hold the patent for riveted pants together. So, they went into business as partners.

The next time you yank on those Levi's give a little wink and nod to Jacob, the forgotten inventor.


Now because I love words, I thought I'd include a little blurb about the origin of the word "jeans." The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology says that it came in 1843 from the singular form "jean" for the strong twilled cotton cloth (1567), which comes from the adjective "jene" Genoese (1436), which was borrowed from Middle French, "Genes" Genoa, the city in Italy, where such cloth was made.

Oh, and because one of my favorite quotes is about rivets, I'll bug you further. It comes from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

"[At the coast Y]ou could fill your pockets with rivets for the trouble of stooping down--and there wasn't one rivet to be found where it was wanted."

Isn't that always the case? Pins and spare buttons are like that too. But I digress.

*(links to image origins in image captions)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writers Conference and An Award

I'm having a busy and educational week at the Catholic Writers Conference Online and it's only Tuesday. Whew! I'm learning about characters, what details to include, blogging, publishing, G.K. Chesterton, and so much more!

I'm also helping out this year with moderating chats and transcribing. It's scary because I fear I'll totally mess something up, but I enjoy feeling useful.

Maybe I'll become a better writer for all this. I hope so. Already I've had the opening of my work in progress, Twelve Keys, critiqued and I think I got excellent advice! Now I just need a minute to apply it. The kids still need to be homeschooled and fed, (though I'm sure they'd be happy eating cereal, drawing, and reading all day).

Perri at Lesser Apricots gave me the Stylish Blogger Award.

So, now I have to tell you 7 things about myself:

1. I currently have a small tribe of Playmobile people standing around on my kitchen counter for no apparent reason.

2. I love pizza, especially pineapple, but I'll eat any kind.

3. I love coffee, but I gave it up for Lent so I'm craving it, but on Easter I'll be celebrating with a nice cup at brunch!

4. I have two cats and two birds. It's a dumb pet combination. Don't try this at home.

5. I hate wearing shoes.

6. I love rain. Maybe that's from growing up in California where we constantly say, "We need the rain."

7. I rather read, write, or do practically anything else than go shopping... unless it's at a book store.

Now I'll pass on the award to 7 people. Too bad it's just 7, because I could give it to dozens and dozens! I know so many stylish bloggers. Now don't feel bad if I didn't pick you. Maybe I just thought you were so stylish, you already got the award. ;)
Oh dear, did I just offend the people I did pick?  Well, here goes anyway...

1.Kara at A Karabu Creation
2.Joylene Nowell Butler
3.Hannah at Musings of a Palindrome 
4.DRC at Writing Thrilling Fiction
5. Nissa at the Lina Lamont Fan Club
6. Kate Jonez
7. Shelley at Writ, Written, Wrote

Saturday, March 19, 2011

You Say email I say E-mail

The AP (Associated Press) just added 42 new guidelines. Among them is the change from "e-mail" to "email." I don't agree with this and neither does my spell-check! I always thought of e-mail as being a word akin to "X-ray" or "T-shirt." I personally like "E-mail." But nobody asked me.

Another change is that they are smooshing "web site" into one word--"website."

Links for you :)



Friday, March 11, 2011

Centaurs, Da Vinci Machines, and Gold Mining: Research Is a Blast!

My current w.i.p., Twelve Keys, has fantastic as well as historic elements and it has me studying many things.

My writer's notebook contains sketches of pocket watches, DaVinci designs and ancient whales, notes about "hasty pudding" (corn meal mush), the definitions of ravines, chasms, and gullies (because they are all different), and legends about everything from mythical beasts such as the goat-sucking chupacabra to treasure supposedly buried on California Mission land. (No scanner, so I can't show you my actual pages, but the pics in this post give you the flavor.)

Santa Barbara Mission

My research has carried me to "The Early California Population Project," a web site housing historic records of, you guessed it, California's early population. I also get to visit sites with lists of Native American names (so I can find a Miwok name for a character), sites devoted to old-west slang and costumes. The internet is a Wonderland!

Rose Hill Cemetary (Antioch CA)

I've the advantage of homeschooling my 4th grade twins here in California, so it's the year for CA history. :) I read them Sid Fleischman's By The Great Horn Spoon. (Great web site for that book too.) Now we're reading Seeds of Hope: The Gold Rush Diary of Susanna Fairchild, by Kristiana Gregory, and from the American Girls Collection, we're reading the Josefina books. For myself, I just picked up Daughter of Joy: A Novel of Gold Rush California by Joann Levy.

And my sources aren't just books and web sites. You'd be surprised what the people around you know. An online writer friend gave me tips about chupacabra and a friend's little girl knew more about ancient whales than most college professors. Well... I suppose if the particular professor's specialty was ancient sea life, it would be a different matter. :p


Then then there are films. I've been interested in traditional westerns and (woo-hoo!) "The Wild Wild West" (the 60's TV show, as opposed to the movie.) That thing's kickass! You've got this guy, James West, riding around in a train with his sidekick who makes all of these James Bond style gadgets for him. But it's kind of steam punk because it's, of course, old west. (Alas, Twelve Keys has no trains. They don't fit with my time period. But by a strange twist, the characters develop steam powered motorcycles. Go figure fantasy!)

And while my first book, Syzygy, brought me to San Francisco to look at buildings and ride on commuter trains, and into clubs to hear loud music--Twelve Keys, is getting me outdoors. I'm looking at hills, plants, and animals. What color exactly is a red-tail hawk's wing and how big is a coyote? These are important questions. :)

So, it's total immersion. I've even started wearing suspenders. I tried to get my husband to buy me a pocket watch (an item central to the plot), but so far--no go. LOL

"Wild Wild West" between scene thingy

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Word Clouding and Short Story Land

Word Clouding my w.i.p. (work in progess). Makes sense on a cloudy day.

I'm having fun with this one. It's called Twelve Keys. It's a fantasy. (What else would I write?) I'm still in the honeymoon stage of writing and haven't smacked into any walls... yet. I'm not ready to reveal any secrets except to say that it involves a pocket watch, a unicorn, a steam powered motorcycle, and one of the characters playing the ocarina. ;)

I also have a couple of short stories out in short story land waiting for a bite.
Question for novel writers:
Do you write short stories? Some novelists I've talked to say they don't bother. Is it useful to publish short stories and "get your name out there?" Do you enjoy writing short stories or flash fiction? Is it good practice?

I enjoy reading short stories and writing them too, so I shall continue doing both.
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