Hello! Welcome to the third post in my blog mini-series: The Creation of a Novel, where I’ll be sharing behind-the-scenes information about my upcoming debut novel, Waltz in the Wilderness. I hope you’ll join me on this journey toward launching my story into the world and leave your questions and thoughts in the comments section below. I love connecting with readers!
So far I’ve written about two of the most common questions an author hears. If you missed those posts, you can find post one here and post two here. Today I’m sharing about the experience of retrieving mail from the San Francisco post office in 1854.
There is a scene in Waltz in the Wilderness which takes place at the San Francisco Post Office and which is based on true accounts of its operations during the 1850s. Through my research, I learned that while the San Francisco Post Office at this time had many windows for men, women were given a special window from which to retrieve their mail. If a woman was unable to retrieve her own mail, a designated male could stand in the women’s line and retrieve the mail for her. However, the etiquette rules that I have Eliza taking advantage of in chapter two are based on actual expectations: any gentleman standing in the women’s line was expected to give his place to any woman that arrived after him. So one can assume that it would take a male (assuming he were a gentleman) much longer to retrieve a woman’s correspondence than if she fetched it herself!
In any case, once the arrival of the mail steamer was announced by the blast of a cannon (yes, they really did that), people would rush to the post office and cue up to see if anyone had sent them a letter. As you can imagine, it took quite a while to unload those bags of letters from the ships and then sort them according to their addresses. Keep in mind that the people waiting had no way of knowing if the arriving ship held a letter for them or not, and mail was frequently misdirected—causing a delay—or lost entirely. So during this time period, it was very common for a person to wait hours in line at the post office and still walk away empty-handed.
Here’s the full description of Waltz in the Wilderness:
She’s desperate to find her missing father. His conscience demands he risk all to help.
Eliza Brooks is haunted by her role in her mother’s death, so she’ll do anything to find her missing pa—even if it means sneaking aboard a southbound ship. When those meant to protect her abandon and betray her instead, a family friend’s unexpected assistance is a blessing she can’t refuse.
Daniel Clarke came to California to make his fortune, and a stable job as a San Francisco carpenter has earned him more than most have scraped from the local goldfields. But it’s been four years since he left Massachusetts and his fiancé is impatient for his return. Bound for home at last, Daniel Clarke finds his heart and plans challenged by a tenacious young woman with haunted eyes. Though every word he utters seems to offend her, he is determined to see her safely returned to her father. Even if that means risking his fragile engagement.
When disaster befalls them in the remote wilderness of the Southern California mountains, true feelings are revealed, and both must face heart-rending decisions. But how to decide when every choice before them leads to someone getting hurt?
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Be sure to stop by tomorrow to read about my experience with participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and how it helped me develop Waltz in the Wilderness!
What’s the longest you’ve ever had to wait in line at the post office? Would you wait for hours just to find out if you even had a letter waiting for you?
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