Saturday, March 24, 2012

Update on various things

So far, this year has been a lot busier than I’d anticipated. Good, I suppose, except that I would have liked more of that busyness to be writing-related. Maybe that will be the second half of my year. *fingers crossed* Instead, I’ve been busy with day job stuff, family stuff and more fun (but still not writing-related) trip-to-Paris-planning stuff.

If I find inspiration for a new book while in Paris, can I claim the trip as a business expense? ;)

I admit I’m using blogging today as a tool to procrastinate. I’m in the middle of re-designing our website at the day job, and after spending all week slowly re-coding the old pages to the new layout, I needed a break. Tomorrow, I’m going to see the Hunger Games movie (woo!), so I feel a little guilty that I’m using my one free weekend day to slack off, but that’s what weekends are made for, right?

I do have a feel things of note to mention, but before I get to the actual updating, I felt this post needed a pretty picture. A few weeks back, I took a photography tour at one of my most favorite places, Big Cat Rescuse. It was a Christmas present (thanks, Mom & Dad!), and while the cats weren’t as active as I had hoped, I managed to get some nice shots. Everything, in my opinion, is made better with cats. Especially gorgeous ones like this cougar.

Now for the updates. The next few months are going to be busy for me. Not only will I be editing my next book and preparing for my Paris trip in May, but April is the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster. Because of this, I’m aiming to do some extra promotion for DESTINED, in the hopes that whatever interest the anniversary raises will trickle down to me in the form of new readers.

First bit of promotion: I’m donating a copy of DESTINED to Ruby’s Reads Birthday Giveaway Hop, which will be happening from April 12-24. When I have more details, I’ll be sure to post them here.

Second, I’m going to be doing my very own (and very first) blog tour. It’s a short one, due to the late notice (I only got the idea last week. Whoops!) and because it coincides with the Titanic anniversary, which is less than a week. The blog tour will run for 5 days, from April 10 – April 14. The wonderful Parajunkee is organizing it for me, and is currently finalizing the list of bloggers that will be involved. If this tour goes well, I’ll probably do a longer one for the release of my next book. (If I ever find enough time to get the damn thing edited!) Again, I’ll update here once I know more.

Third, I’m hoping to do a series of posts here that same week about the Titanic, as a kind of tribute to the ship’s maiden—and final—voyage. It will depend on if I have the time to write that many posts in advance, but my aim is to do something each day about that corresponding day of the voyage, along with a short spoiler-free snippet from DESTINED that goes along with the day featured.

In blog-related news, thanks to a post I stumbled across today over at Fiction VIxen’s blog, I discovered my own blog settings weren’t really optimal. I’ve remedied that, and now anyone can comment to my posts without having to log in or register somewhere first, and no one should have to use Captcha anymore. Hopefully these new settings won’t get me spammed to high heaven. I really want this blog to be user-friendly, and since I personally hate dealing with Captcha and don’t comment if I have to register first, it was pretty hypocritical to expect my own readers to deal with both roadblocks. I promise, it was never intentional. It must have been the default Blogger settings, and I never caught them before. So thank you to Fiction Vixen for inspiring me check it out!

Now that the updates are out of the way, I think I’m going to use the what’s left of my afternoon editing the still-untitled (I suck at titles) next book.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Titanic Tuesday: Myths & Legends

The Titanic has always been a subject of interest for people, even before the movie in 1997 brought it back to the forefront of public attention. And now, with the 100th anniversary of the disaster approaching, I imagine it’s going to be popping up everywhere again. Books, movies, documentaries, you name it. I’m excited, because I can never get enough Titanic (though I doubt I will be seeing the 3D re-release of the film, despite it being my favorite movie. 3D gives me a headache, and it’s been my experience that movies converted into 3D after the fact aren’t very effective. I prefer to watch it in its original format. I don’t need the iceberg coming out of my screen at me, or Rose’s hand reaching out towards me during the cargo hold scene – and you know they won’t be able to resist doing that.).

But with all the renewed interest and publicity, many long-standing myths and legends are bound to pop up again. “Facts” that get told over and over despite being untrue, passed along because people hear it often enough, they assume it’s reality. After all, we no longer have any first-hand witnesses living to set us straight, and even if we did, not all of them were always 100% reliable. Eyewitness testimony is hardly infallible, after all. Some people insisted to their dying day that the ship went down intact, and we know that’s not the case now that the wreck has been found. Others have conflicting stories about gunshots, officer suicides, where Captain Smith was, and how/if the third class was trapped belowdecks. For most of these, we’ll never really know the truth, because unlike Apolline in Destined (shameless self-promotion shout-out!), we can’t go back and see it for ourselves.

There are, however, many facts about the ship we do know, and myths that have been busted, yet still linger on. So I thought I’d take the opportunity in today’s Titanic Tuesdays post to point some of them out.

  • There was not a mummy in the cargo hold. I’m not sure where that myth started, but it pops up now and then, even today. Researchers have never found proof that such a thing existed on the ship. Some believe the story came about because one of the passengers, William T. Stead, told his dinner companions about the mummy, which was on display in London at the time, and after the disaster, memories became jumbled and his story about the mummy turned into a story that it was on board the ship (and due to a curse, the cause of the disaster).
  • The Titanic was not the first ship to use S.O.S. as a distress call. While it is true that S.O.S. was relatively new at the time (up until then, the standard distress call was C.Q.D.), the signal was used first by Germans in 1905, then adopted as a the new worldwide standard in 1908. It took time to catch on, which is why most ships took a while to switch over from the CQD they were used to.
  • The officers (or White Star Line) were not trying to make a speed record on Titanic’s maiden voyage. Her maximum speed, with all boilers lit, was only 21 knots, and there were already faster ships out there. However, all of her boilers were never lit, and she was following a longer, more southerly route in order to (irony alert) avoid icebergs. Also, if they had tried to get into port on Tuesday night, rather than Wednesday, as many rumors stated, it would have been a huge inconvenience to everyone on board. Just imagine the uproar from the elite in First Class at being brought to shore the night before they had made arrangements to be picked up or transferred to trains (not to mention all the hotel reservations starting on Wednesday)!
  • J. Bruce Ismay, managing director of the White Star Line, was not quite the villain many believe. His biggest crime was surviving. He did not sneak onto a boat to save himself. He helped load the boats along with the other officers, and according to witnesses, entered a half-filled boat as it was being lowered only after being ordered to. It makes you think, really: many other men survived without being vilified for it, and many who perished tried to get on boats with little regard to the others around them. It’s a shame that Ismay had to live out the rest of his life under such a cloud when he did not really do anything wrong by getting on that boat. If it truly was already being lowered, the seat he took would have remained empty had he not boarded. If he had stayed on the ship, he would have died, but no one else would have survived in his place. Sadly, if he had stayed on board, he would probably be considered a hero today, right up there with Captain Smith and Thomas Andrews.
  • Another common story about Ismay is that he was pressuring Captain Smith to go faster (again, the speed record myth). We’ll never know for sure if this was true, though some passengers claimed to have overheard him talking to the Captain about picking up speed. Still, Smith was too experienced a sailor to take direction from a businessman like Ismay. He would not have altered his course or speed just to please him.
  • The Titanic was not felled by a 300-foot-long gash in her hull. While the damaged portion of the hull is still buried in sand, it has been determined that such a large gash is not likely. Instead, scientists say that the sinking was caused by the steel plates buckling under the force of the iceberg as it scraped along the side of the ship, popping off rivets as it went. Some believe the quality of the steel used in making the rivets was sub-par, and therefore caused them to fail. As the rivets popped off, seams were opened and water rushed in.
  • No one ever claimed the Titanic was unsinkable. While the ship was described as “practically unsinkable” by Shipbuilder magazine, no one ever declared it as such. It was true that she was built so that she would be very difficult to sink, but as fate would have it, the iceberg struck in just the right way to remind everyone that something that large and heavy can, in fact, sink. Had Titanic hit the berg head-on, it is very possible she would have limped away damaged, but still seaworthy. The watertight compartments were designed so that the ship would stay afloat if any two were filled, and even if the four forward compartments were filled. Unfortunately, sideswiping the berg meant six compartments filled, sending more water into the ship than she could handle. And as anyone who has seen the movie knows, the bulkheads separating the watertight compartments only reached up to E Deck. Once the ship started going down at the bow, water flowed over the tops of the bulkheads and began filling more compartments. The compartment in the front of the ship, however, reached higher, and therefore might have kept water from flowing back into the ship had it been the only section of the hull compromised.

I was going to continue this with film-specific inaccuracies, but rather than get too long, I’ll leave that for another week.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Titanic Tuesday: When hobbies collide

In addition to my obsession with all things Titanic, I am somewhat of an amateur genealogist. It’s something I discovered a couple of years ago (thanks to the NBC show, Who Do You Think You Are?, which I highly recommend), and got pretty addicted for a while. This past weekend, my mother (who was also bitten by the genealogy bug) brought something to my attention: we might have had an ancestor of the Titanic.

As it turns out, the man in question (John Coffey) is most likely not related to us, or at least not directly. But his story is an interesting one, and I thought it would be a good post topic. As we’re coming up to the centennial next month, I’m aiming to be more regular with these posts, so now is as good a time as any to get back into it.

Coffey is a name on my mother’s side of the family, and we’ve been able to trace our tree all the way back to an Edward Coffey, who came over to the US from Ireland in the 1600s. So while we do have some John Coffeys in our family tree, they were all born in the United States long before 1912, meaning the John Coffey on the Titanic would only be a very distant cousin, if he were even part of our family at all. Still, it’s a nifty connection, and the closest I’ve come so far to tracing my roots to the ship.

John Coffey was born in Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, in 1889. When he was 23, he was living in England after working on Titanic’s sister ship, the RMS Olympic. He then signed on to the Titanic as a fireman (or stoker) in Southampton, but did not remain on board for the full voyage. Instead, he snuck off the ship at Queenstown with the mail. Since the Queenstown dock was too small for the ship, Titanic docked offshore and smaller boats, or tenders, ferried passengers and mail on and off. RMS, after all, stands for Royal Mail Ship, and there was quite a bit of mail to be brought to shore. Coffey claimed to have hidden under the bags of mail on the final tender leaving the ship, and was soon reunited with his family. Most believe this was his reason for deserting the ship: to get a free trip back home. But after the tragedy, he often claimed that he slipped off due to a “bad feeling” about the ship’s fate.

Not much more seems to be known about him (that I can find online, at least), other than he supposedly signed on to the Mauretania after the Titanic sank, and that he eventually passed away in 1957. I did find an old forum comment at from someone claiming to be his great grandson, but he didn’t offer any information publicly.

Another Irish passenger that has more information available, and connects more directly to my own book, is Eugene Daly. Daly was 29 years old when he boarded the Titanic in Queenstown, and was most known later for playing “Erin’s Lament” on his uilleann pipes (similar to bagpipes) while the ship left port. A third class passenger, he sat out on the bow and played, a somber farewell to his homeland. According to the Encyclopedia Titanica, his pipes went down with the ship, and he later filed a claim for them for $50. A set of pipes was salvaged from the wreck many years later that might have been his, but no one is certain.

Daly survived the sinking. He helped two women into a lifeboat (his cousin and her roommate) and boarded with them, only to be pulled out by an officer. (This from a letter he wrote to his sister) He later jumped overboard and swam to the overturned collapsible. He clung to it all night, as it was too crowded to get on, and later claimed he only survived due to the thick coat he wore. He was mentioned in many articles afterwards, testified in the hearings, and was one of the survivors to claim an officer shot two male passengers who were trying to board a lifeboat, then shot himself. There is a nice article written about him by his daughter here, if anyone is interested:

According to his daughter, he and his wife sailed back to Ireland in 1921 to tend to his sick mother, and the voyage had him in a panic. He vowed never to sail across the Atlantic again, and they remained in Ireland until the early 1960s, after the death of his wife. At this point, he was able to fly back to the US to live with his daughter, and therefore avoided having to get on another ship. Daly passed away in New York in 1965.

I have read accounts of many survivors who refused to get on another ship again, or who found themselves too nervous or panicked the next time they tried. I can’t really blame them for it. I’m not sure I’d be too keen of sailing again if I’d been there, either!