Jane Austin’s Christmas

I’ve read quite a number of special Christmas romances set in the Regency period. My favorites have been Mary Balogh’s collection, and I looked for her new story every year. I don’t think that’s still happening, and I miss it. Even the short stories that appeared in anthologies would brighten the holiday for me. Checking the list on Amazon, there are a few that I seem to have missed, so I look forward to completing my collection.

Many people don’t think Christmas was more than a holy day in Regency England, and that was the key to the celebration. And what we think of as Christmas, with the tree, the decorations, the candles and all, came to fashion with the very dashing Prince Albert when he married the young Queen Victoria in 1840. (Although several notable persons of German origin did keep the customs before that) But there were many native traditions in England.

Oh, sure, the Puritans, bless their hearts, were against Christmas for the association with Roman Catholic ceremonies and the extravagant feasting and fooling around, sometimes in masks, the drinking, and the plays, and oh so many things to dislike. http://austenonly.com/2009/12/12/but-surely-christmas-in-england-didnt-exist-until-dickens-invented-it/ But the traditions simply went underground, they did not die out.

The Irish held on to the Yuletide customs as part of their struggle to keep their culture alive under occupation and suppression. The use of holly to decorate began long ago there, and remains a source of holiday cheer today. http://www.ireland-information.com/articles/irishchristmastraditions.htm

The Yule Log, the Decorations on a Tree, the Singing of Carols, all started long before the Victorians got involved. Pagans marked the Winter Solstice by bringing evergreens inside, bonfires were lit outside, and Saturnalia celebrations also used lots of evergreen plants. When Christianity bloomed in England, the holiday of Christmas and the same plants were given Christian significance. Except for mistletoe, because that nasty little parasite was druid through and through. The Church banned it until the early 19th century. http://austenonly.com/2009/12/14/jane-austen-and-christmas-decorating-the-georgian-home/

So back to Miss Austen, and how she celebrated. Her letters tell us more, but she did cover some traditions in the novels. And a book I must add to my collection is Jane Austen’s Christmas: The Festive Season in Georgian England. The back cover blub states “Miss Austen would have known elaborate house parties and fancy dress balls. The Mummers would surely have attended her home in Hampshire, as would the Waits, encouraging ‘good Christians’ to ‘awake’ on Christmas morning. She is also known to have enjoyed Christmas pudding, still then a fairly new dish, loved by the Georgian monarchy and copied by many families at the time.” http://www.janeausten.co.uk/jane-austens-christmas-the-festive-season-in-georgian-england/

So don we now our Regency apparel, dish up the Christmas pudding, http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1159/classic-christmas-pudding and ask Mary to sing a carol or two. I’ll be back on Sunday.

More About Names, Less About Something Else.

I want to write a series of Regency Romances based on the fledgling spy systems and all the fun and danger involved. I want to call it House of Cards, because the agents will all be identified with a particular Card. Guess what? There are already a stuff-load of books by that name. There’s even a TV show by that name. Who knew?

None of that really bothers me, but there is a Regency romance series called House of Cards by the lovely and talented Barbara Metzger. http://www.barbarametzger.com/about_barbara.htm Looking at the summary of the books’ plots, however, I don’t think there would be much chance of confusion if I went with it.

Of course, I need to get going on research on the espionage that flowed back and forth across the Channel at the time. These look like a few good books to start with: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1777550.Secret_Service?ac=1
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3264184-first-respectable-spy?ac=1
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1221773.Sir_James_Mc_Grigor?ac=1

And there are some really impressive blogs on the subject.
http://www.thedearsurprise.com/espionage-during-the-napoleonic-wars/
http://www.ospreypublishing.com/articles/napoleonic/the_hidden_hand_espionage_and_napoleon/
http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2010/03/spies-in-regency-england.html
http://www.napoleon-series.org/reviews/biographies/c_haswell.html

I was so afraid I wouldn’t have anything to do in my spare time. 8) But back to names, maybe authors should follow some naming rules when it comes to series. Like the ones that govern race horses.
http://horseracing.about.com/od/breeding/a/aanameingtb.htm

Naming Pure Bred Dogs is less formal, the name just needs to be unique. http://www.canismajor.com/dog/names1.html http://www.dogchannel.com/dogsinreview/choosing-akc-dog-name.aspx

And cats are no different. http://www.bengalpedigrees.com/showone.php?search=yes&ticanum=SBT090410068

If you are ever stuck for a book title, here’s a fun Romance Title Generator. I got the following titles from it: The Stone and the Diary, Lace Shores, The Prized Desire, Harps of Time, The Lips’s Guard, The Force of the Mists, Silence in the Voyagers, and the enigmatic The Worlds of the Legato Flying.
http://novelistvmd.awardspace.com/RomanceTitleGenerator2.htm

A couple more, just in case. http://www.kitt.net/php/title-romance.php
http://fantasynamegenerators.com/book-title-generator.php#.VAuThGN0_nk
The last one gave me this list of titles: Man with Black Hair, Servant of My Imagination, Honeys with Blond Hair, Ladyloves of Yesterday, Angels and Wives, Sweeties and Assistants, Chase of the Evening, Perfection of My Imagination, Talk About My Dreams, and Scared of My Girl. I have to stop now, I’m getting ideas to go with each of these titles!

There are character name generators, so it’s no surprise that there are plot generators as well. http://www.plot-generator.org.uk/create.php?type=1 The following is the result. I didn’t put in any items, I clicked the suggest button each time. I even got reviews with the plot!

Weak Annabelle
– a splendid romance
by Lottie Lust (okay, I did come up with the silly author’s name)
Clarke Ferguson is a weak, fat and charming scout from the city. His life is going nowhere until he meets Annabelle Gump, a flabby, beautiful woman with a passion for cats.
Clarke takes an instant disliking to Annabelle and the cowardly and sinister ways she learnt during her years in the seaside.
However, when a mugger tries to shoot Clarke, Annabelle springs to the rescue. Clarke begins to notices that Annabelle is actually rather considerate at heart.
But, the pressures of Annabelle’s job as a housekeeper leave her blind to Clarke’s affections and Clarke takes up boxing to try and distract himself.
Finally, when forgetful nurse, Mavis Butterscotch, threatens to come between them, Annabelle has to act fast. But will they ever find the splendid love that they deserve?
Praise for Weak Annabelle
“I fell in love with the intelligent Annabelle Gump. Last night I dreamed that she was in my teapot.”
– The Daily Tale
“About as enjoyable as being slapped with a dead fish, but Weak Annabelle does deliver a strong social lesson.”
– Enid Kibbler
“I love the bit where a mugger tries to shoot Clarke – nearly fell off my seat.”
– Hit the Spoof
“I could do better.”
– Zob Gloop

Maybe book names are the least of my worries. Here’s the link to my “Friend”’s book. See you on Thursday.

I See London, I See France

I located an amazing board on Pinterest where corsets and stays and chemises are shown in real life. I love this one of a chemise. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/217298750742808383/

And more pretty things to go under the actual gown: http://www.koshka-the-cat.com/regency_underthings.html

And another statement that the drawers were just not the thing: http://www.janeausten.co.uk/corsets-and-drawers-a-look-at-regency-underwear/

So we pretty much see how women got on for most of the month, but what about when Aunt Flo came to visit? You know, that time of the month. LONG before maxi-pads and tampons. I have found a place where this seems to be the conclusion: They used nothing. http://www.mum.org/pastgerm.htm I am not sure that works for Regency women, but for rural and lower classes, it could be just part of life.

However, some interesting points there include that women began menstruation much later than today, used no contraceptive, so were pregnant and not menstruating most of the time, and also breastfed so again, they put a stop to it. Plus many had no idea of good nutrition, and were malnourished or overweight or sick most of the time. So when they did have their monthly courses, they uses pads that were held in place by a belt of some sort. This is speculations, but not a bad guess.

Everyday stockings would be similar to the ones on this page: http://www.fugawee.com/Stockings/stockings.htm but they would not do for a fancy dress ball. http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2012/03/wearing-right-shoes-stockings-in-1811.html Most of the history of stockings and hose skip right over the Regency period http://www.stockingirl.com/hosieryhistory.html which probably means nothing much changed during that time. Finally, someone mentioned the garters! http://uffnervintage.blogspot.com/2010/01/hose-me-down-so-where-are-my-garters.html

Now to shoes, the finishing touch. The women could pick dancing slippers, boots, and heels, according to this wonderful site: http://www.american-duchess.com/shoes-18th-century Here’s a complete history of the shoe: http://all-that-is-interesting.com/fascinating-history-footwear

The final package: http://www.wemakehistory.com/Fashion/Regency/RegencyLadies/RegencyLadies.htm
http://www.kristenkoster.com/2011/11/a-primer-on-regency-era-womens-fashion/

And just for fun, I leave you with this until Sunday.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/tanyachen/wow-the-history-of-womens-shoes-is-really-insane-and-patriar

Interview with Lila Auclair

Some weeks ago, I posted three photos of models who were in the running for the basis of my heroine in a Regency naval-based Romance. I had long ago picked my hero, thinking he would be a pirate, but he’s turned into Captain Christopher “Kit” Dash. Here’s his Pinterest image: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694893848864/

In the story, Kit is a tall man with broad shoulders and long legs who has some issues living on a ship that uses very little space for any one thing. So I felt that the woman who wins his heart will be a sturdy woman, beautiful and curved, but also taller than the norm, who feels solid in his arms and in his bed. This is Lila Auclair: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666796/

I’m getting to know Lila, even though actually writing this story isn’t in the forecast, so I decided to get what I know about her written out and saved for the time to come.

Novel Approach: Miss Auclair, welcome. Would you tell us a little about your childhood?

Lila Auclair: My younger days passed tediously, I wouldn’t dwell on them. Suffice to say that my father is a French fisherman, my mother was Scottish, from Stonehaven. They met when his fleet blew in during a storm. He stayed a while, as some of the boats were damaged. Then he went back to France. Mama didn’t speak French, but she thought he meant to come back. Well, in the course of things, I entered the world. We lived with her parents on a small farm, and she died when I turned twelve.

NA: That’s very touching. How did you end up in France? Boulogne-sur-mer, was it?

LA: Yes, I went to find my father, and found instead his family. Mostly fishermen, but some farmers too. I stayed with an aunt and helped my cousins run the farm. I have learned to make the very best goat cheese in the whole world. Would you like to try it?

NA: Oh, maybe later. Thank you. I read somewhere that Boulogne-sur-mer hosted a fleet of smugglers. Are you sure your father fished for a living?

LA: Having never met the man, I can only tell you the stories my mother told me. I have been reassured by my aunt that he did indeed fish at some time in his life. He has gone to fight Napoleon, so we do not know if he will return to the farm.

NA: Your father still does not know of your existence? How does that make you feel?

LA: How should it make me feel? I have no claims on him, and want only to live in France with the Auclair family. My aunt wrote a letter to him, to tell him about me, but I do not know if he received it. There has been no reply.

NA: What was your mother’s family name?

LA: MacFarlane. Hannah MacFarlane, daughter and only child of Edward and Mary Gordon MacFarlane.

NA: How did you happen to meet Captain Dash?

LA: My cousin Pierre took fresh vegetables, flour, and chickens to the British ships that patrol the channel. The captain asked him to bring more, everything we could spare. So we took two boats out, with goats and wine and honey, and much more. Just as we had off-loaded our boats, and Pierre started back in his, a French ship appeared, and the captain ordered his crew to attack. I could not get to my boat safely, so he sent me below. To his cabin.

NA: Well, that’s all the time we have today! Thanks for your candid answers, Miss Auclair. And thanks to everyone for reading. I’ll be back on Thursday with more about ladies’ clothing.

LA: Oh, I’d like to read that one.

NA: I don’t think the ship has WiFi.

My Life in Books

Every writer I know is also a great reader. I don’t think I would be driven to tell stories if I hadn’t lost myself in the pages of some great adventure. I might have pursued another creative outlet, but in “the autumn of my years” I have no regrets.

I can actually look back at my life through the books I read at different times. My sister read to me, and I loved it then, and still do. If you want a job as book reader, look me up when I’m rich and famous. In Kindergarten, my teacher handed out mimeographed (inhale! Can you still smell it?) pictures of a “bookworm” so cute you would gladly let him eat your library. For every book we read out loud to the class, we could color in one segment of his long body. I read a little story book about The Three Little Pigs. Later, with classmates, we would act out that classic tale of thinking things through and killing wolves.

A few years later, I had one illness or another, and my mother bought me a glossy hard covered book, Black Beauty. My sister was also horse-mad, and I picked up some of it from her, but never had quite the opportunity she had to be around actual horses. A wide variety of pets did embroider my life, and I have always been a fan of the various creatures we humans live with. And so it will come as no surprise that I picked up books like The Yearling, The Black Stallion, Big Red, and Lad: A Dog. And any and all sequels to these. We lived in a rural section of a small town, with no sidewalks, and no parks very close. I went to a private school so I knew none of the kids in the neighborhood, if there were any. These books and the characters in them were my best friends.

In high school, I got into some serious literature. Shakespeare, of course, and many assigned books I had already read when they were handed down from my sister or brother. I remember being excited by the pirate novel, The Silver Oar by Howard Breslin https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17316760-the-silver-oar?ac=1 due to the comparatively mild sexual scenes. But I never knew you could write about that stuff!

I got in with friends who were fans of TV shows about World War II, and read The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone, and Von Ryan’s Express. I read a bunch of non-fiction, too, doing my first ever research for my writing. I wrote fan fiction, and I am not ashamed of it. But no, you will probably never see any of it.

Before I graduated, my group of friends had morphed into Star Trek fans, and I was reading Asimov’s Foundation series and wondering why I just didn’t like much of Robert Heinlein. And I was writing fan fiction for Star Trek. I had a good time, but I lamented the fact I couldn’t write original stories. I would love to go back and tell myself, be patient. This is just part of the learning experience.

Some years later, my sister (she really is my guardian angel, and I love her dearly!) shared a book with me. An historical romance by Kathleen Woodiwiss. The Flame and the Flower is credited as the first modern romance novel, and my sister and I devoured everything she wrote, and subsequently Rosemary Rogers added fuel to our burning pasisons. I wandered off the track to explore Barbara Cartland, Edith Layton, and Georgette Heyer. I found my perfect writing model in Mary Balogh, and Regency romances.

I’ve spend the years exploring lots of humor, science fiction, and historical novels. But my writing heart first and foremost is in the Regency period. That whole “universe” is open to any writer, to create and play and populate. It’s my home and my spirit is happy there.
This is my last Wednesday post. I’ll be back on Sunday to wrap up (finally!) the world tour, and then next week I’ll post on Thursday. My schedule is such that Wednesday is too much of a push for getting a good post up, most of the time. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful week.

Crowded Virtual House

At any time, I have multitudes of characters inhabiting my head. I carry story ideas that have been waiting their turn for 25 years or more. All romances, some erotica, some also science fiction, but the majority are Regency.

While I am working on the story, they come closer to the surface. I finished my Regency erotica Book 1, and the characters in Book 2 are clamoring for my attention. But I have a deadline for a story that will be part of an anthology, with a bartender and his boss lady. Also there’s a regular Regency romance with an agent, while the second book in that series has started but is waiting these other priorities.

That second Regency is at an interesting point, and I feel the characters glare at me now and then. I’ve talked about both characters in previous blogs. The main male character is a dandy, whom I interviewed, and the main female character is a Regency nerd, deeply engrossed in Roman antiquities.

I have a SciFi Romance that ground to a halt when critiques on Scibophile had more questions than comments about the planet that I had no answers for. I’m waiting for a chance to do some world building to figure out how the ecological disaster came about. Then I can get the MCs back on track for a happily ever after.

Eventually, thanks to my love of the Master and Commander, Aubrey and Maturin, books by Patrick O’Brien, I will deal with an inspiration involving a captain in the British Navy in 1801. I finally fixed on his name, something gallant but not already in use. Now the FMC needs to be discovered. She is an English woman who has relatives in France, living along the channel, who stayed after a visit to help out her relatives. What will bring them together? What will keep them apart philosophically/ What will each of them have to sacrifice for a HEA?

The best way to keep all those characters separated is through character sheets, especially very detailed ones. But on the fly, I just need a reminder of the basics, eye color, hair color and length, height, build, physical condition, obvious things people notice about the person. I need to find a way on-line to pull up a character card with basics and in-depth details available with one more click. Here’s my favorite character sheet so far: http://www.uncleanarts.com/writing/tutorial/tutorialcharacter.htm

Lately, I have developed a great collection of models and such on whom I base my characters or who resemble what I had in mind for the character. Pinterest is the best ever in this regard. Not only do I find characters but also houses or towns or whatever! Here’s the captain: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694893848864/

Here’s the hero in the sequel to The Viscount’s Mouse: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894257684/

And his love interest, my Regency nerd:

I could spend more time looking through Pinterest than writing, so I have to put limits on that activity. And if I haven’t completed my imagining of this character, it could be a choice between one model and another. So here’s your chance to help.

The love interest for the captain is a mid-twenties English woman of French heritage, in 1801. Vote for Link 1: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666716/
Link 2: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666730/
Link 3: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666796/

I’ll shared the winner next Wednesday. And Sunday, we’re back to travel by book!