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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Novel Time

Even in the make-believe world of fiction, time matters. In my Regency novellas, time plays a prominent role.

In Lady of the Stars, my time travel, when the heroine, Caroline, suspects she's traveled into the past, she asks Richard, the hero, what the day is. He answers the day is Wednesday, July 9, 1817. I checked. July 9, 1817 was a Wednesday. Here's the calendar for 1817.

I selected that date on purpose. Astronomy is a prominent part of Lady of the Stars. Caroline and Richard fall in love as they observe the stars. Bright moonlight washes out the stars, so part of the storyline had to occur when there was no moon to interfere.

From Lady of the Stars: "The clouds thinned that very day, and the next five nights were clear and moonless, perfect for observation."

These five nights occurred on days 4-9 of Caroline's sojourn in the past, July 12-16. According to the calendar, the new moon occurred on July 14. The new moon rises at sunrise and sets at sunset, so was not in the sky to interfere with their observations.

Romantic Times Book Reviews gave Lady of the Stars a 4 star review (contains spoilers). From the review: "a quick read and a delightful short romance." Thank you, Romantic Times. Lady of the Stars was also a finalist in the 2010 EPIC EBook Competition in Science Fiction Romance.

Pumpkinnapper, my Halloween comedy, also makes use of the moon's phases. The story starts on September 28, 1816, at the moon's first quarter. Here's the 1816 calendar.

The times for Pumpkinnapper were more complicated because most of the action occurs in the dark after moonset. I found the times for moonrise/moonset using the US Naval Observatory website. The times are valid only with the correct latitude and longitude, which I found at the NGA GEOnet Names Server (GNS) .

At first quarter, the sun rises about noon and sets around midnight. Corrected for the latitude and longitude of Lindsell, Essex, England, using the above sites, moonset on September 28, 1816, occurred around 10PM.

Each day, the moon rises and sets about an hour later. The Pumpkinnapper climax occurs on the night before full moon, the night of October 4-5, when the moon sets after 3AM.

Here, Hank, the hero, waits until he can go to Emily's, the heroine's, house to try and catch the pumpkinnapper: "Hank glanced at the clock on the mantle above the fire. Only midnight. Moonset was at three, so he couldn't leave for at least another hour."

Why did I pick the dark after moonset? All kinds of things happen in the dark.

Pumpkinnapper is a finalist in the 2011 EPIC EBook Competition in Historical Romance.

In Mistletoe Everywhere, my Christmas novella, the climax occurs on Christmas Eve, 1814: "The almost full moon’s light glinted off the snow to bathe the area in a silvery glow." December 24, 1814 was two nights before the full moon. 1814 calendar here.

And in my upcoming Gifts Gone Astray, the climax occurs on the night of July 2-3, 1817: "The waning moon, a little past full, sailed high in the now-clear sky." The full moon occurred on June 28.

Do you like this level of detail in your stories?

Thank you all,
Welcome to My World of Historical Hilarity!


Noelle Pierce said...

I LOVE that your books have that kind of detail, and having a great love for astronomy myself, I appreciate it even more. I went through something similar with my first book because of stargazing scenes, too. I also had to make sure the constellations I discussed were visible from Northern England in 1821 (so I didn't have them staring at Scorpio or something). I know most people won't notice or realize it, but it makes me happy to know it's correct.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I love the sound of your books, Linda, and I'll definitely check them out. Especially since my own first Regency novel comes out in May, although mine doesn't contain anything about astronomy!

Jenny Allworthy said...

Great post!

In Pride and Prejudice, the Netherfield ball takes place on Tuesday the 26th of November. My first born arrived on Tuesday Nov 26, 1991.
Spooky, isn't it?

Yes, some of us love to have the details right.

catslady said...

I'm amazed. I don't think it would have occurred to me that you had researched actual dates as to the position of the moon. I'm impressed!

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Noelle. I like lots of detail, so I try to put detail into my books. And since Scorpio is low in the southern sky here at about 42 degrees north latitude, I doubt anyone can see it from northern England.

Rosemary, thanks. And always nice to meet another Regency author.

Thanks, Jenny. The details can make you or break you. As for Tuesday, Nov. 26, you must have been thinking about PRIDE AND PREJUDICE a lot when you were pregnant!

And thanks to you, too, catslady. Most people don't give a second thought to how much work writing and research are. Everything just comes out right the first time--NOT!

Grace Elliot said...

Really interesting post, thanks. Love the detail you went to, gives the book such authenticity.

Linda Banche said...

Thanks, Grace. Glad you enjoyed it.

Cozy in Texas said...

I like to learn something in a novel, history, travel, etc. It's great that you've done so much research. Reader's definitely appreciate it.