Thursday, October 27, 2011

Magical Writing -- Magical Living

Susan Edwards ~ Myth, Magic & Wonder

When I first started writing historical romances, there wasn’t any magic or paranormal in my stories. After all, I wrote straight historicals. Right? Wrong! In keeping with Native American elements and beliefs, my hero’s mother had the gift of sight (White Wind Nov 2011). Okay, that was part of their world, this connection to the land, animals and spirits. In looking back, my second book also had this aspect and my third.... See a theme growing here?
In each book, I was pulling in more of the Native American spiritual/mythology into a non-paranormal world. Up to this point, I still hadn’t really considered those type of traits or gifts as magical or paranormal.

But a funny thing started to happen by the time I was writing my tenth and eleventh book. I was now ACTIVELY seeking more of the mystical elements to include in my world yet what I used still fit into the historical/Native American world. I was just using more of it, going deeper with it and expanding it. My books were immersed in paranormal and yep, might as well say it, magic! I was towing a fine line between Native American and Paranormal--and loving every minute of it for it was truly a creative process.

By the time I finished book eleven, I was hooked. I loved what I was doing within my boundaries and now I wanted to really write using paranormal and magic freely. I did so with book twelve, Summer of the Eagle (April 2012) which features a race of people who could DO cool things.

What changed from my early books? Well, the internet certainly opened more doors and with it, more possibilities! Then came the world of internet and the wealth of information at my fingertips! Suddenly I wasn’t just writing about characters in a historical setting but about the magic of living with an open mind to possibilities.

And possibilities is where I believe magic truly lies. The magic in my writing spilled over into my life as I discovered the magic that surrounds each of us, each day if we only open our eyes and mind.
Don’t believe me? Go for a walk and don’t just look at your neighbor’s houses or cars. Focus in on the beauty of the neighborhood trees, the flowers, the tiny blooms we seldom pay attention too. Lift your eyes as you walk to your car from the asphalt to the sky. Maybe you’ll see the faint shape of the moon looking down at you.
Spend a few moments gazing out your kitchen window. Can you see the birds perched on a tree or bush? How about that tiny hummingbird sitting on that very thin branch? What about the fact that we wake up to a new, bright day. Everyday. And that new day is filled with possibilities: a caring word, a child’s hug and kiss, a long awaited phone call (The Call)? So much is possible yet we seldom give it thought. The freedom to just be.

And if you are a writer, how about the magic of sitting down at your computer to write, doing something that we love (even if it is work at times). We create worlds that whether or not there is magic or paranormal elements, there certainly is magic. Connecting with even one reader in a meaningful way (even to just give that reader time away from the mundane world) is magic. And in the true style of connecting back to the Native American world that I love, I bring you back full circle: to your books and mine and the magic they contain.

So even if you do not write in the paranormal or magical genre, you have the chance to write magically. And if you are not a writer, you can live magically. Smile at a stranger, offer a few kind words. Who knows, you might bring magic into the lives of others. And you know what? It just keeps going. The magic we call life.

And for me, there is another bit of "magic" in seeing my books return to life (and to readers who have been asking for them) in the form of E-Books.  I've lived through the magical process of seeing my books republished including new covers!  Talk about magical feelings!  I love the new covers, and the new look, the new life that has been breathed into this series.

What’s magical about your life? Your writing? If you could do anything, be anything, write anything, what would it be, and why?  What is magical about it to you? Inquiring minds want to know <g>.

PRE-ORDER NOW White Dawn, White Dusk, White Shadows and White Wind.  Available November 21 2011  Carina Press

Check out my website at for updated news and excerpts along with a member only area for my readers. You can also sign up for my newsletter

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ten Reasons I Love the Regency Era

Hello folks!

The countdown is on! Unless my math is off, Lady Seductress's Ball, releases with Carina Press in 55 days!!!!  (Release date = December 19, 2011)

I am totally psyched about it. Lady Seductress's Ball is a Regency-era erotic romance novella, which is why I've chosen to write the ten reasons I love the Regency era, and in no particular order!

  • Men in tight breeches
  • Mr. Darcy--need I say more?
  • Proper ladies behaving badly
  • Riding horses in the park
  • Giving mothers a fit of the vapors
  • Sex in carriages
  • Broad shoulders and well muscled chests filling out the velvet fabric of an evening jacket
  • Parties nearly nightly
  • Gorgeous homes
  • Undies not required...
Tell me, why do you love the Regency era?



Lady Seductress's Ball  -- Releasing December 19, 2011

As the wife of the elderly Earl of March, Olivia Covington has never known the intimacies of the bedroom. Though her curiosity is piqued by the shocking whispers of society ladies, she is too wary of causing scandal to indulge in an affair. But Tristan Knightley, Earl of Newcastle, tempts her to throw off propriety.Tristan wants Olivia for his own, and has sworn off all others until he can rid himself of the obsession. He is sure once he has a taste, he will tire of her, and can return to his rakish existence. Unable to wait to have her in his bed, he invites her for a tryst at Lady Seductress’s Ball...

Eliza Knight is the multi-published author of historical and erotic romance. Visit her at Friend her on FB, and Follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gothic Horrors

Ah, October! My favorite month of the year. Not just because I love the crisp air and the brilliant leaves, but because I’ve been crazy about Halloween for as long as I can remember. To me, it’s the ultimate imaginative holiday, from the vintage whimsy of the jointed cardboard skeletons my teachers used to pin up on bulletin boards to the eerie sophistication of candlelit Gothic mansions.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence my romances are set during the regency, a time when horror was wildly popular. Gothic novels were the bestsellers of the era, so fashionable Jane Austen

Illustration from the 1830 edition of The Mysteries of Udolpho.

satirized them in Northanger Abbey, giving its heroine, Catherine Morland, such an enthusiasm for the genre that she confuses fact with fantasy. The Gothic novel craze began in 1764 with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, a work that introduced the brooding setting and supernatural elements that became staples of the genre. Ensuing page-turners like Eliza Parsons’ 1793 The Castle of Wolfenbach and Anne Radcliffe’s 1794 The Mysteries of Udolpho further established the Gothic archetypes: the swooning virgin in peril, the tyrannical and lust-crazed villain, and the gloomy foreign locale—often an isolated abbey or monastery, the better to highlight the villain’s lechery and exploit the anti-Catholic prejudices of the time. Matthew Gregory Lewis’s 1796 The Monk was so popular and so lurid (its main character, a monk seduced by a cross-dressing instrument of Satan, rapes and kills an innocent girl who turns out to be his sister) its fans included such legendary transgressors as Lord Byron and the Marquis de Sade.

The dishy and inventive Dr. John Polidori, author of The Vampyre.

The Gothic movement culminated in a classic that remains popular today, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. The story was penned in 1816 at a rained-out Geneva house party, after the far-off eruption of Mt. Tambora threw so much volcanic ash into the atmosphere that all of Europe suffered a cold and gloomy “Year Without a Summer.” Confined by the weather to his rented villa, Lord Byron suggested a ghost-story contest that was supposed to showcase his talents and those of his most prominent guest, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Instead, not only did eighteen-year-old Mary shine, but so did John Polidori, Byron’s young personal physician. Polidori's contribution to the contest was “The Vampyre,” the forerunner of the romantic vampire genre. (Sadly, Byron's guests were a tragedy-plagued group, and poor Polidori was not immune; he died five years later, age 26, having apparently committed suicide by drinking prussic acid.)

And no discussion

The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781.

of the era’s horrors would be complete without mention of the Anglo-Swiss painter Henry Fuseli. Raised for a career in the clergy, Fuseli hid his drawing from his father by using his left hand, a subterfuge that left him ambidextrous. In an interesting twist of gothic interconnection, he might have been the father of Mary Shelley—if he had not already had a wife. Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was so smitten with the married Fuseli that she practically stalked him, eventually going to his wife and proposing that the three of them live together; Fuseli’s wife, understandably, was not interested, and barred Miss Wollstonecraft from the house.

Blind Milton Dictating to His Daughters, 1793. What could be more horrific than having Milton as a father?

Fuseli is probably best known for his 1781 oil painting The Nightmare, which depicts a sleeping woman with an incubus perched on her abdomen and the object of her dream, a grotesque horse with staring eyes, peering in from behind a curtain. My favorite in the creepiness department, however, is Fuseli's Blind Milton Dictating to his Daughters. Not only are Milton’s pale eyes disturbing (Fuseli seems to have been the master of the horrifying stare), but Milton’s daughter anachronistically wears a red ribbon tied around her neck—a gruesome fashion of the times that was meant to call to mind the victims of the French guillotine.

How do you feel about all the gothic horrors abounding at this time of year? Do you have a favorite creepy book or movie? I’d love to hear about it!

Alyssa Everett's debut regency, A Tryst With Trouble, is available now for pre-order from Amazon. Her second, Ruined by Rumor, will be out in May. She hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.

Which time era do you avoid?

You know when you have one of those massive barrels of sweets – usually at Christmas over here in the UK. Quality Street’s the nation’s favourite and they have a great selection of sweets in them. Nut clusters, caramel cups, toffees, fudge etc etc.
And then Christmas is over, and you are left with a handful of sweets that no-one wants. Orange, Strawberry and COFFEE creams. BLEURGHK.
Now this is obviously only indicative of what my family like – I’m sure there are lots of people who love these flavours, but it does seem to be coffee that is the least favourite, if the brilliant Revels Roulette adverts are anything to go on.

And where am I going with this??? Well, as you probably know, or don't - I run a Gay Historical Review blog called "Speak Its Name and I have to review the books that I'm given, or are available. I don't have the luxury of saying "I don't like...." and pushing them back into the sweetie barrel, because that wouldn't be fair.
But I have found that I AM being unfair - and that about half the books I have to be reviewd are Westerns, and that's probably because I've been skipping the westerns in favour of other time eras. I hate to say it, but I’ve found that westerns are my coffee creams.
And I’m sorry about this. I don’t think there are more westerns written than any other gay historical — although, this might be the case, I’ve not done a fact-finding mission to find out — it’s just that, because I’m not mad on the genre, I tend to put them to one side and then I end up with a ton of them to do at once–which doesn’t do anything for my temper or the balance of the site.
I don’t know when I stopped being a fan of the western, either. I used to love them as a child and even went to the cinema to catch classics such as True Grit, and I was such a huge fan of Rawhide (Gil Favour for the win) but now I tend to avoid most of them, except for homoerotic goodness such as The Searchers. (Yes, really. If you don’t believe me, go and watch it again, John Wayne’s character is most certainly bisexual at the very least.)
The very worst western (for me) and one that will make me run screaming from the sofa is anything Mexican. Don’t ask me why. I like Mexico. I like Mexican food. I'm really fond of Speedy Gonzales. But give me a western set in Mexico and I bite the coffee cream in half and spit it out.
I like coffee to drink, and I LOVE strawberries and oranges so nothing really makes sense.
And my aversion to western gay fiction makes no sense either because there’s been a good few that I’ve really enjoyed. Mark Probst’s “The Filly” is a beautifully written restrained piece of fiction, Jamie Craig’s “Those Who Cherish” was highly enjoyable, and Kiernan Kelly’s “In Bear Country” duet of books have everything necessary for a reader, adventure, romance and a good historical feel.
So I don’t know why I’ve got this westernphobia. Perhaps it’s because for every good book, there’s three not so stellar with more cliches than tumbleweeds, but then that’s true of every kind of fiction really isn’t it?
Perhaps in future for reviews I’ll take a tip from the Russian Roulette advert and just pick a book blindfold and not allow myself to push the least favourites to the back of the drawer.
Is there any genre you find yourself avoiding? Is there any logical reason for it (unlike me!)
Erastes writes gay historicals, and her first book for Carina is "Muffled Drum" (set during the Austro Prussian War) out now. Her second will be "A Brush with Darkness"
Neither of them are westerns.

Friday, October 14, 2011

For Better or For Worse.

My family is celebrating a wedding this weekend. No, it isn’t mine. I’ve been happily married for some time. However, I must admit that when I accompanied the bride-to-be to David’s Bridal, I almost tried on the Kate Middleton wedding gown replica. Despite my enthusiasm for royalty, Reader, I resisted.

In honor of this momentous family occasion, I present you with some fun historic wedding trivia.

Let’s begin at the beginning.
The word wedding, according to Women in the Middle Ages by Frances and Joseph Gies, originated from the Old English word wed, which meant pledge and referred to the ring and money a groom gave to his bride at the church door.

How do I love thee? Let me beat it into you.
One notable historic proposal is William the Conqueror’s proposal to Matilda of Flanders. He approached her father, Baldwin V about the marriage and Baldwin readily agreed. When someone finally told Matilda about it, she said “No.” Not a man to let little things like being a bastard or “no” stop him, William rode to Flanders. He intercepted Matilda on the way to church, pulled her from her horse and, according to some sources, beat her. Amazingly, after this oh so romantic proposal, she agreed to marry him. Bruises heal, but a diamond is forever.

Speaking of diamonds.
The Krupp Diamond, weighing in at a whopping 33.19 carats, was purchased by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor in 1968. It was her favorite ring and the most valuable one in her collection. For a mere $2 – 3 million you can own it too when Christie’s auctions it off in December.

If anyone has just cause why these two people should not be married…
After the invention of the telegraph, distance became no barrier to marriage and the first “on-line” weddings were performed.  In 1876, William Storey was a telegraph operator stationed at the remote Camp Grant in Arizona where there were no ministers. His bride, Clara Choate lived in San Diego where there were plenty of ministers to perform the wedding service.  Unfortunately, William could not get a leave of absence to travel to America’s Finest City. His solution? Bring the bride to Camp Grant and have a minister in San Diego marry them over the telegraph. The plan worked, with the minister reading the vows which were transmitted by telegraph to the bride and groom who wired back their responses. The wedding was legal and the technologically advanced couple lived happily ever after.

Remembering the big day or Photoshop the Bonaparte way.
Napoleon’s mother, Maria Letizia refused to attend the coronation of Napoleon and Josephine due to her dislike of the future empress. As a result, when Jacques-Louis David created his massive painting to commemorate the day, he simply added the old gal in. Although not strictly a wedding, a marriage did take place in the early hours of the coronation day. Napoleon and Josephine had originally been married in a civil ceremony that was not recognized by the Catholic Church, thus preventing her from being crowned alongside Napoleon. To sidestep this problem, a second religious ceremony was performed in the wee hours of the coronation day. My guess is, Napoleon’s mother didn’t attend that ceremony either.

And don’t forget, if at first you don’t succeed…
One can’t discuss historic weddings without mentioning Henry VIII. The eternal optimist, he married six times but only two of his wives were lucky enough to outlive him. His last wife, Catherine Parr mourned her chubby hubby for only a few months before marrying Thomas Seymour, the man she’d been forced to give up for the King. Thomas was her fourth husband.  Here’s to never giving up on love!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

So, who have our heroes slept with?

We’re all aware of the sexual double standard. It was still in effect when I was young, although we did escape it for a few years during “the sexual revolution” of the 1960s and 1970s. The double standard was even more rigid in previous centuries in Europe and North America. It held that boys will be boys, even if we don’t want to know all the details of their sexual explorations, but girls had better be virgins. Period. In theory, males were supposed to engage in sex only within the context of marriage, but in practice, they had a great deal of freedom to act as they wished. In contrast, girls were chaperoned until they were married, at which time, their husbands took over managing their behavior.

Punishments for sexual activity were harsh for young women and almost non-existent for young men. Aside from the obvious fact that a young woman might end up unmarried and pregnant, even if she didn’t conceive a child, she’d be scorned as a fallen woman. Her chances of marriage would disappear, robbing her of most opportunities for a decent life.

This historical imbalance between the sexes has to have an impact on our books if we write in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Our unmarried heroines will either be virgins or have had very little sexual experience. However, our heroes are expected to be talented at giving a woman sexual pleasure. Where did he get his knowledge of the female body and sexual response?

In reality, a man could have had experience with young women, but that would likely mean that he’d have taken their virginity without marrying them. Not very heroic. In fact, that would be a really nasty thing for him to do.

He could have enjoyed the services of prostitutes. If he treated them better than their other clients did, that would certainly speak well of him. However, he could easily have contracted a sexually transmitted disease from a prostitute. He might not realize he had until later, after he’d infected his new love, our heroine. In earlier centuries, there would have been fewer medical treatments for those diseases.

The hero and heroine could come to each other with no experience. This would make for a charming book, as the story would unfold with the two of them discovering the joys of giving each other pleasure. Such a plot would require a great many pages to pull off, though. It simply wouldn’t be realistic for the two of them to share a few kisses and then fall into bed. It might work for the man, but a woman experiences a certain amount of pain the first time she makes love. A man with little experience in giving pleasure to a woman would be unlikely to make it good for her. Back to square one.

So, how do we get around this problem?

We could make the woman experienced: for example, she could be a widow. That’s not the standard story line in romance, but it would make for some fun. You could even pair her with an inexperienced man. I did that for my first Spice Brief, the Well-Tutored Lover. It was a fun story.

The other solution I use quite a bit is to give the man experience with widows and adventurous wives. He could get them pregnant, of course, and he could catch a disease from one, but at some point we have to liberate ourselves from reality in order to write fiction. With this scenario, the reader can imagine him how he was as an innocent, young man, eager to please his older and more experienced lover. It gives him another dimension and makes him more lovable.

We can also have fun by inserting the hero’s previous lovers into the current story. What if the hero’s former lover shows up with her daughter at the ball where he’s put himself on the marriage market? She might suggest he marry her daughter and move in with her and her husband. I just did that in a book. Without missing a beat, my hero replied…

“Think of the economy. I could deflower your daughter and cuckold your husband without leaving the house.”

I think it worked.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

My go-to research sources

My personal research collection is huge and ever-growing. I buy new sources for every new manuscript I start. I can't walk by a used bookstore without casually strolling in and checking out their history section. And I never go to Portland without blocking out several hours for a trip to Powell's. I've even taken day trips there, at least a three-hour drive each way, for the sole purpose of a pilgrimage to the City of Books.

Yet there are a few sources I keep going back to, manuscript after manuscript:

Life in Wellington's Army, by Antony Brett-James. An indispensable book for anyone using the Peninsular War as a setting or as part of a character's backstory, packed with details of everyday life.

Redcoat: the British Soldier in the Age of Horse and Musket, by Richard Holmes. Covers a much wider time range, but also good for everyday life and the logistic and bureaucratic constraints soldiers lived under.

Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee, by John Elting. Everything the first two books give you for Wellington's army, this one covers for Napoleon's.

Life in the English Country House, by Mark Girouard. I always go back to this book to figure out how to house characters from the gentry and aristocracy. Full of information on everything from medieval castles to Victorian country houses.

Jane Austen: the World of Her Novels, by Deirdre Le Faye. Illuminates all sorts of details of genteel Regency life by explaining what Jane Austen and her characters ate, how they traveled from place to place, what they wore, how they amused themselves, etc.

In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy 1760-1860, by Judith Schneid Lewis. Got a pregnant character in your Georgian, Regency, or Victorian novel? This book will tell you what she expected, and what was expected of her, when she was expecting.

English Women's Clothing of the Nineteenth Century: A Comprehensive Guide with 1,117 Illustrations, by C Willett Cunnington. What the fashionable heroine wears, and how she wears her hair, from 1800-1899.

English Society in the 18th Century, by Roy Porter. (As is often the case, Porter's 18th century includes the early years of the 19th because of political and cultural continuity. It's often referred to as the Long 18th Century.) Lots of detail about everyday life at all levels of society.

Lobscouse and Spotted Dog: Which It's a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels, by Anne Chotzinoff Grossman and Lisa Grossman Thomas. A mother-daughter team cook their way through the Aubrey-Maturin series, as authentically as possible. Great fun to read, and a good source for the kind of food your Regency characters would eat, especially the "Jack Ashore" chapter.

That's my list. What are your favorites?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen

Unpacking my much loved books to store them on my shelves here in Florida, the task took longer than anticipated because I got distracted each time I rediscovered an old favourite. One such was a small tome entitled “The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen”. Flicking through it, I came across extracts from her letters to her niece Anna Austen, written in 1814, offering tips in the novelist’s art.

Listen to this advice about writing what you know:

We think you had better not leave England. Let the Portmans go to Ireland, but as you know nothing of the manners there, you had better not go with them. You will be in danger of giving false representations. Stick to Bath and the Foresters.

On practical plotting:

Your aunt C. does not like desultory novels, and is rather fearful yours will be too much so, that there will be too frequent a change from one set of people to another, and that circumstances will be sometimes introduced of apparent consequence, which will lead to nothing. It will not be so great an objection to me, if it does. I allow much more latitude than she does – and think nature and spirit cover many sins of a wandering story…

And on the need for consistency in characterisation:

I like your Susan very much indeed, she is a sweet creature, her playfulness of fancy is very delightful. I like her as she is now exceedingly, but I am not so well satisfied with her behaviour to George R. At first she seemed all over attachment and feeling, and afterwards to have none at all; she is so extremely composed at the Ball, and so well-satisfied apparently with Mr Morgan. She seems to have changed her character.

On finding a situation that works, and the right sort of character-chemistry:

You are now collecting your people delightfully, getting them exactly into such a sport as is the delight of my life; - 3 0r 4 families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on – and I hope you will write a great deal more, and make full use of them whilst they are so very favourably arranged. You are now coming to the heart and beauty of your book…

Not much different to the advice writers get two hundred years on. The more things change, the more they stay the same.