Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Special Valentine's Day Continuation of LADY SEDUCTRESS'S BALL

Valentine’s Day is 20 days away… Ah!!! That leaves less than three weeks to prepare!  Chocolates, flowers… a special date!  But what if you lived in Regency times? What would you do then? Today I give you a special treat… A short continuation of LADY SEDUCTRESS’S BALL--Tristan and Olivia celebrate Valentine’s Day together for the first time since exchanging vows…

Oliva sat upon the satin embroidered chase, Tristan had purchased for her bedroom, and stared out the window at another somber winter day. Snow covered the grounds nearly a foot deep, and ice crystals dripped in frozen lines along the branches of the trees at Knightley Manor. They hadn’t been able to go outside for nearly three days and she was beginning to grow antsy.

Tristan was in his office working on paperwork, and she’d lazily slept in, with nothing better to do.

She leaned her head back on the chaise. What day was it? How long until spring? She yearned to go out in the sun.

With the realization of what day it was came another revelation—tomorrow was St. Valentine ’s Day.

She bit her lip and drew her brows together. Did Tristan celebrate St. Valentine ’s Day?

Oh, what did it matter? They could start a new tradition, and she certainly needed a distraction from the ensuing boredom of remaining indoors while her husband worked. Not that their nights were boring—they were anything but. Passion filled Knightley Manor when the sun went down. Tristan knew exactly how to make her scream with delight, writhe with pleasure.

But the days were reserved for his work, and anything she might care to do. Away from the city, left little on the list when a foot of snow covered the grounds.

She alighted from the chaise and dug around in her trunk of ribbons and bobbles. She would make him a card, and she’d plan a lovely dinner. Could she entice him to come out of his study for the day? She nibbled the tip of her finger. It was worth a try!

Taking the ribbons and beads with her, she left her chamber in search of their housekeeper. It was time to seduce her husband away from his work!


The following day, mid-morning…

Tristan leaned back in his leather arm-chair, seriously considering tossing every bit of correspondence into the fire. He did not want to be working. He wanted to be in the arms of his Olivia—the woman he still could not believe was his wife. He was a lucky man. Fate had seen to that.

A whisper of paper caught his attention. What was that? He leaned forward, looking around his desk. Had something fallen? His gaze fixed on a colorful beribboned paper in front of his library door. Someone had slipped it underneath.

“What in Hades?” He stood from his desk and marched over to pick up the creation.

Olivia’s jasmine and vanilla scented perfume wafted from the paper. Ribbons tied in bows with little bobbles dangling from their ends edged the sides.

Written on the center was this…

The rose is red, the violet's blue
The honey's sweet, and so are you
Thou are my love and I am thine
I drew thee to my Valentine
The lot was cast and then I drew
And Fortune said it shou'd be you

~Gammer Gurton's Garland (1784):

A smile instantly etched his face. He wrenched open the door expecting to see Olivia standing on the other side, an impish smile on her face, but there was no one there. But there was another note…

Meet me in the drawing room…

He sucked in his breath. His wife had planned a seduction! His blood raged through his veins, and elation filled him. If anyone had ever told him he would be this in love, he would have laughed in their faces. With quick steps, he made his way to the drawing room.

But instead of Olivia, there was another note beside two glasses of champagne, almonds dusted with cocoa and sugar and his favorite honey cakes. He picked up the note.

My love,

Do you know what day it is? It is the day of love—St. Valentine’s Day. Today we celebrate our love. Partake in the champange and treats while you wait in our special spot.
Your ever-loving wife,

Their special spot?

Tristan racked his brain… Then he knew exactly where she wanted him. He sat down on the chaise longue. Took a long sip of bubbly champagne and waited. Within minutes, Olivia crept into the room. She wore a silk wrap, and her hair was down around her shoulders just the way he liked.

“My seductress has arrived,” Tristan drawled. He leaned back, his gaze raking over her.

Mais oui, and I plan to show you on this special day exactly how much I love you, in the very spot we made love for the first time as man and wife.”

Slowly she untied the length of silken cord and let the wrap drop in a pool around her feet. Tristan thought his heart might stop beating. She wore a knee-length nightrail made of light pink lace and silk—more lace than anything. Her flesh peeked through the lace, teasing him, igniting his ardor.

He blinked. Swallowed. Then beckoned her to come to him. Olivia took dainty steps, her hips swaying enticingly.

“Happy Valentine’s Day…” Tristan said slowly as he slid his hands up her bare thighs.

“Oh, my love… You have made my life complete.” Olivia sank onto Tristan’s lap, her thighs straddling his hips.

Their gazes locked for several moments as emotions and desire heightened, thickening the air. But he could wait no longer. He claimed her lips in a searing kiss, his tongue gliding inside to taste the sweetness of her mouth.

And I leave the rest to your naughty imaginations J


Eliza Knight is the multi-published, award-winning author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. While not reading, writing or researching for her latest book, she chases after her three children. In her spare time (if there is such a thing…) she likes daydreaming, wine-tasting, traveling, hiking, staring at the stars, watching movies, shopping and visiting with family and friends. She lives atop a small mountain, and enjoys cold winter nights when she can curl up in front of a roaring fire with her own knight in shining armor. Visit Eliza at or her historical blog, History Undressed, which was recently mentioned in a feature article in The Wall Street Journal.

Invitation to Pleasure

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...

24,000 words

Available now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Carina Press and other e-tailers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Breaking the Rules

Also known as editor pet peeves and reader déjà vu. You know the ones I'm talking about, usually to be found in the opening of the story.  Like where the heroine's studying her appearance in the mirror, describing her golden tresses and baby blue eyes to herself, or opening with the weather ala 'It was a dark and stormy night' or that dreaded dream sequence... Uh, oh!! I didn't...did I?

Um, but in my defence, I never intended to keep it. This is how the story came to me, everything, from the characters to the plot to the ending, it all started with this dream. So, I told myself, I'll write it down for reference and delete it later. But the time was never right... I'll just keep it there a little longer, and then I shrugged and told myself my editor was sure to put a bold red line through, I'll leave the hard work up to her. To my surprise, and secret delight, my little dream stayed untouched and I became that author, the one who broke the rules and got away with it :)

So... what are your pet peeves and are there exceptions where you've seen (or made) it work? Or maybe never even realised it was a pet peeve, you were so caught up in the story, and only thought about it later?

Here's a peek at my little streak of rebellion...

There must have been a hundred of them. Black-hearted Kerrs with mud-streaked cheekbones, matted braids falling down naked chests dark from dirt and sun and hair. But the eyes. Black as night, black as their hearts, black as the devil’s soul.
Breghan ran faster, tearing through the summer-thick foliage. She could hear them rapidly closing in. The high-pitched grunt was neither human nor animal.
Branches rustled at her left, then at her right. Stubby fingers reached for her, scratching, clawing, poking, until all that remained of her gown was shredded ruins.
And then they went for her hair and face.
“No,” she screamed, swatting in every direction before she fell to her knees and covered her face with her arms. “Leave me be. Please, please… let me be.”
The cruel fingers fell away.
The grunts stilled.
Breghan swallowed her sobs, slowly lifting one arm, then the other, afraid to look and afraid not to.
The leader of the pack stood there.
A shudder trembled through her. The stories were all true. He stood at least seven feet tall, blocking out the sun with his width. What she could see of his face was horribly disfigured, the skin puckered and mottled red. This one’s eyes were not black. No, the Kerr’s eyes were blood-red and burning bright with the wild rage of a fire-spitting demon. Only one of his names was the Devil of Jedburgh.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Regency Prophecies

Now that it’s 2012, a great deal of attention, much of it tongue in cheek, is being paid to the prophecies of Nostradamus and to their New World counterpart, the Mayan calendar. But did you know that during the late Georgian period and into the regency, headlines were gripped by similar prophesies of the imminent end of the world? One English prophetess even claimed at the interesting age of sixty-four that she was pregnant with the Messiah.

The end of the 1700s were a time of great change, with events like the French Revolution and the rise of radicalism leading many to think in apocalyptic terms. In 1791 a former naval lieutenant named Richard Brothers began preaching that an angel had warned him of the fall of Babylon, otherwise known as London. According to Brothers, God told him in July of 1791 that he had intended to "punish the world with desolation" but had "suspended his judgment for a time" as a personal favor to Brothers: "I pardon London and all the people in it, for your sake: there is no other man on earth that could stand before me to ask for so great a thing." But this was only a temporary reprieve. God still planned to destroy all the nations and make Brothers the Ruler of the World at sunrise on November 19, 1795.

Brothers believed that the descendants of the ten lost tribes of Israel were living in western Europe, and it was his personal mission to identify these "hidden Jews" among the British people so that they could return to Jerusalem to live in post-apocalyptic peace and righteousness. Brothers concluded that he himself was a descendant of King David through James the brother of Jesus, and thus was "nephew of the Almighty." Following the last judgment, he would rule over Israel and work miracles like Moses, using a rod he had fashioned from a rose bush.

Richard Brothers, self-proclaimed Moses and Ruler of the World.

Seized with millennial zeal, Brothers wrote the king, his ministers, and the speaker about his intention to share his dire predictions, which included the death of King George III and the overthrow of the British monarchy. He also asserted his own God-given right to the throne, and claimed in his 1794 pamphlet that God had so far spared the king and his family only due to his personal intercession. Given the revolution taking place in France, British officials had had enough. In 1795 Brothers was arrested for treason. One of his followers, a member of the House of Commons, brought the case before Parliament, and was able to have Brothers privately institutionalized in an insane asylum. Though some of Brothers’ prophesies came true—he warned, for example, of the violent death of Louis XVI of France—most of his followers deserted him when November 19, 1795, came and went, and God inexplicably failed to destroy the wicked and elevate Brothers to global supremacy.

Many of Brothers’ followers transferred their allegiances to a new voice crying in the wilderness, the prophetess Joanna Southcott. The daughter of a devoutly religious farmer, Southcott was born in Devon in 1750. She lived most of her life as a member of the Church of England and worked for years as a maid and as an upholsterer, but in 1792 she began hearing voices and jotting down verse prophecies in a form of automatic writing. She tried turning to the Methodists and then to other Dissenters, but they rejected her. She then approached a Church of England clergyman named Pomeroy, who received her kindly but remained unconvinced, despite the accuracy of several of her predictions. Pomeroy was particularly concerned by Southcott’s belief that she was the “Bride of the Lamb” mentioned in the biblical book of Revelation, "a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." When Southcott published her prophecies, Pomeroy was horrified to find himself cited as a sympathetic authority, and burned many of the writings she had given him.

Still, Southcott’s ministry prospered, especially when she began issuing (some said selling) “seals,” paper tokens given to her followers in recognition of their status as believers. In 1809 the possession of one such seal by a con-woman and convicted murderess, Mary Bateman, proved a brief black eye on Southcott’s ministry, but after she received a legacy from one of her followers in 1812, Southcott was able to devote herself with even greater energy to her divine calling.

Joanna Southcott, who believed the birth of her child would herald the End of Days.

In October, 1813, sixty-four year old Southcott was told by her prophetic “voice” to prepare for her wedding. The voice added in 1814, “This year in the sixty-fifth year of thy age thou shalt bear a son by the power of the Most High.” The news fit Southcott's vision of herself as the Bride of the Lamb, since the book of Revelation promised, "And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days."

Southcott announced her impending blessed event to her followers, saying her baby would be the “Shiloh” mentioned in the biblical book of Genesis and his birth would usher in the End of Days. A number of medical men even confirmed the pregnancy. Though Southcott’s disciples greeted the news with great joy and showered the supposed mother-to-be with gifts, the general public remained skeptical. In a letter to his friend and publisher John Murray, the ever-snarky Lord Byron called Southcott “this new (old) virgin of spiritual impregnation,” adding, “I long to know what she will produce; her being with child at 65 is indeed a miracle, but her getting anyone to beget it, a greater.”

Though Southcott originally expected the birth in July of 1814, no baby appeared. Eventually she and her followers settled on October 19, 1814, as the joyous date. October came and went, and still no baby. By November, poor Southcott was coming to the awful realization she had been mistaken, telling her friends, “Now it all appears delusion.” After making a will declaring that she had been deceived by the Devil, she returned all the baby gifts and went into a rapid decline, dying on December 27. Though Southcott had requested her body be kept warm for four days after her death in case she should be resurrected, at the end of that period she was autopsied and buried.

With no Shiloh, the thousand two hundred and three-score day countdown to the end of the world was put on hold. Though Southcott left behind a sealed walnut box of prophecies with instructions that it be opened at a time of national crisis, and then only in the presence of all the bishops of the Church of England, it was eventually opened in 1927, and with only a single bishop present, the suffragan Bishop of Grantham. It proved to contain little more than books and souvenirs, the 56 objects including an ivory dice cup, a broken horse pistol, a 1796 lottery ticket, and an embroidered nightcap.

Yet a stubborn group of Southcottians, the Panacea Society, refused to give up hope. They claimed to have the real Southcott box, and promised that Shiloh would be born and the Day of Judgment would arrive in the twenty-first century. They even predicted the year.


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

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Once Upon A Time: Where Villains Rule

Once Upon A Time is a terrific series is about cursed fairy tale characters who are living in modern times without any memory of who they really are. The show goes back and forth between past and present to give you a view of who the characters are and what has happened to them. And, the fairy tales all have their twists. There's no HEA.

The Evil Queen is a great villain. The kind you love to hate. The actress does a great job at portraying the queen as quite a bitch. Yet, in regard to the character, there appears to be a reason for her hatred and desire for revenge that has not been revealed yet.

 A big plus to writing a villain is not to make them totally evil or heartless. She does seem to want to love her adopted son, even though she's not capable of overcoming her selfishness. As a writer, I think, she does need to suffer a defeat soon. A villain shouldn't win all the time. Just as you want to see the hero win, you want to see the villain fail. To me, the best stories have the heroes and the villains suffer defeat and recoup before the end. We all know a story almost always ends with a villain's destruction. In this series, Emma, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, who is the heroine, will win. So far, she holds her own with the Evil Queen but the more episodes I watch, I realize that isn't enough. Your hero should claim a bit of victory, so the reader  and in this case the viewer cheer his success and anticipate the villain's retaliation. You don't want your reader to become frustrated because the villain never loses until the very end of the book. For one thing, they may skip to the end.

So far, the Evil Queen/Mayor of Storybrooke remains undefeated. I think viewers are hanging on, waiting for her fall.  She needs to stumble soon.

If you are watching this series, what would you like to see happen to the Evil Queen?  And is Mr. Gold going to turn out to be a good guy or the villain? I'm not sure.

Patricia Preston 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Food in Fiction

Today we're privileged to have talent Carina Press Author Julia Knight visiting the blog and talking about her latest release, The Viking's Sacrifice.

Over to you, Julia.

 I hit a bit of a quandary in my latest book. It’s a story about Saxons and Vikings in the 9th century, and obviously in a historical, you need to really be grounded in the ‘when’ of the story. How to do that? I found two ways, but the one I’m talking about today is food. Because, let’s face it, Vikings didn’t eat ready meals or Big Macs, but subtly showing what they did eat, how and why, working it into the story (in moderation—I don’t list recipes, honest!) really helps to show what is different, that we aren’t in modern times any more, and also, food is something that is a reflection of the society it’s in, in many respects—the rituals of food, such as Christmas dinner, and all its worldwide variations.

For instance, did you know that Vikings often measured wealth in cows? Their word for money actually derives from their word for cattle. Not because of the meat. Despite my mental image of Vikings wolfing down large slabs of meat and quaffing ale all year round, beef, mutton etc. were seasonal. Your Viking would calculate how many animals he could feed for the winter, and during Bloodmonth would slaughter the rest. As dairy products were more prized than meat, each cow slaughtered was an economic loss, almost an admission of failure if you will.

So if they weren’t eating roast beef every night, what were they eating? Dairy produce, mainly. Not milk as such, but things they made out of milk. Cheese—they used the whey to pickle meat—butter, buttermilk and something I’m meaning to actually make for myself. Skyr—a not-quite-yoghurt, not-quite-soft-cheese often sweetened with honey.

All of which comes as a bit of surprise to my Saxon heroine, but it did help ground us in the ‘where’ of the story. It also made me very hungry when I was researching!

Anyway, as recipes seem to be popular in romance blog land, here we have a recipe for skyr, which is still popular in Iceland. It probably won’t turn out exactly the same—to make skyr, you need, er, skyr—but I’m told it’s a reasonable likeness. As it uses skimmed milk, it’s low in fat (useful in the post Christmas ‘OMG where did my waist go?’ fug). The slightly less healthy, but tastier method of eating it includes topping with honey, or you can mix with fruit. And it sounds easy enough even I wouldn’t get it wrong!

10 l skimmed milk, preferably not pasteurised
8-9 drops OR 1 1/2 tablet rennet
10 g skyr, for the bacteria starter. If not available, use 1 tbs live culture sour cream or buttermilk.

1. Heat the skimmed milk up to 86-90°C, and cool slowly for about 2 hours, down to 39°C. Stir a little scalded milk into the starter to make a thin paste and mix into the milk with the rennet (if you are using dry rennet, dissolve in a little water before adding).

2. Close the cooking pot and wrap in towels or a thick blanket. The milk should curdle over a period of about 5 hours. If it curdles in less than 4 1/2 hours, the curds will be coarse, but if it curdles in more than 5 hours, the skyr will be so thick it will be difficult to strain. When the milk is curdled, cut into the curds with a knife. When you can make a cut which will not close immediately, then you can go on to the next stage.

3. Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth or a fine linen cloth and pour in the skyr. Tie the ends of the cloth together over the top and hang over a bucket or other container so the whey can drip off. If the skyr-making has been successful, there will be little whey, and it will not float over the curds, but will be visible along the edges of the sieve and in the cuts you made into the surface. You can judge the quality of the skyr from the appearance of the curds when you pour them into the sieve. If the skyr is good, it will crack and fall apart in pieces, but should neither be thin nor lumpy. Do not put a layer thicker than 7-9 cm into the sieve. Keep the sieve in a well ventilated room, with a temperature no higher than 12° and no lower than 0° Celsius. The skyr should be ready to eat in 12-24 hours.

4. The skyr should be firm and look dry when ready. The whey can be used as a drink, to pickle food, or as a replacement for white wine in cooking.

The Vikings’ Sacrifice is available now from Carina Press, Amazon and all good e-book retailers. You can find out more about Julia’s books at

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A New Year and a New Release!

Happy New Year everyone!  2012 is starting out with a bang for me. On January 30th, Mask of the Gladiator, my novella set in ancient Rome will be released. In honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve pulled together a few fun historical New Years facts for your reading pleasure. So grab a noisemaker and raise a glass of champagne to New Years and new books!
Are you still lamenting that at the stroke of midnight you did nothing more than watch the ball drop on TV? Well, if you were living in early ancient Rome, you’d still have time to plan a big bash since New Year fell on March 1st.  The move to January 1st didn’t take place until 46B.C. when Julius Caesar introduced a new solar-based calendar.  While his calendar solved a number of time-based math problems which led to date drift, it didn’t solve them all. One day, this would lead to Britain being out of whack with the rest of Europe but more about that later.

Speaking of moveable celebrations, Wep-renpet was Ancient Egypt's New Year.  The feast date was calculated based on the rising of the star Sirius and the annual flooding of the Nile and could vary from year to year. Judging from tomb paintings and a few choice papyri passages, it seems the Egyptians rang in the New Year by partying like it was 1999 B.C.
While on the subject of parties, people in the Middle Ages partied like it was 999. January 1st marked the Feast of the Circumcision which the common people celebrated as the Feast of Fools. During this celebration, which had its roots in the old Roman Saturnalia, people mocked the church by appointing a Lord of Misrule and behaving very badly. The Parisians were the worst behaved of all, and because of them, the annual celebration was banned in 1451. Is it any wonder New Years is so closely linked with champagne?

And, like the year, we come full circle back to the Julian calendar.  At one time, Britain marked the New Year in March while the rest of Europe pulled out the party hats on January 1st.  The disparity began in 1582 when the protestant Henry VIII refused to switch to the newly updated, fresh off the Guttenberg printing presses Gregorian calendar.  This decision, coupled with date drift, resulted in the New Year falling in March. Realizing it was no fun partying alone, Britain finally relented and adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1751.  
I hope you enjoyed this brief trip through historic New Year celebrations. While you’re opening and hanging up your new calendars, don’t forget to mark the January 30th release of Mask of the Gladiator. Until then, have a great January everyone!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Please, don't tell me what your character is thinking

I judge a lot of contests for aspiring romance writers.  In fact, it’s a rare time of year that I don’t have a computer folder full of entries to read, some for a second time.  Over and over, I find the same weakness, and it’s something that I don’t hear addressed often in craft lessons.  Luckily, it’s one that often can be easily avoided.

 Before I launch into the words of wisdom that will make your scenes compelling and your characters memorable, let me remind you of the One True Rule of writing fiction -- there are no rules.  The only absolute in writing is that there are no absolutes.  If what I say below doesn’t make any sense to you, feel free to ignore it with my blessing.

Here goes:  Please don’t tell me, your reader, what your characters are thinking and feeling.  I’d rather you show me.  Aha, “Show, don’t tell.”  We’ve all heard this advice, and it applies here.

Whenever you write something like, “she thought, wondered, mused, pondered,” or other verbs that describe how a character thinks, you may be telling what’s going on in her head, rather than showing it.  For example, I often see passages like, “She hoped her make-up had survived the long flight so that she’d look her best when she met her new boss.”  Here, the author is telling me what’s going on in her heroine’s head rather than show it.  How about the following, instead?

“She glanced in the small mirror, but it didn’t do much to reveal how her make-up had survived the long flight.  And with no opportunity for major work on her face, she’d have to do the best with what she had.  Darn.  Her stomach was already in knots.  She’d just have to lift her chin and give her new boss the most confident smile she could muster, under the circumstances.”

I submit that that shows someone hoping her make-up is up-to-snuff for the meeting with her new boss.  You’re showing what’s going on in her head rather than telling it.

Similarly, “What, she wondered, was he thinking?”  If we’re in the character’s head we’d better know who’s doing the wondering.  In fact, we’d better be wondering right along with her.  “What was he thinking?” gets the same point across and with more immediacy.  “She wondered what was in the treasure chest” is better as “What could be in the treasure chest?”  The first reports to us about her wonder.  The second allows us to wonder along with her.

The same general principle applies to showing versus telling emotions.  When you tell us the character is angry, hates someone, loves someone, is grieving, you take us out of their feelings and prevent us from experiencing them directly.  For example, “She hated the hurt look in his eyes,” might be better as “Hurt filled his eyes.  Pain so deep, it cut into her.  Still, she couldn’t look away.  She’d caused him that pain, and she’d have to take that knowledge with her.”  Note that at no time have I mentioned her emotions.  The emotions are there, but if I’ve done my job, the reader experiences them directly instead of having them pointed out.

Similarly, “The loss hurt so much.  She’d miss her beloved grandfather for the rest of her life,” isn’t as convincing to me as “She stood near the hearth, staring at the chair her grandfather had always occupied as he’d read stories to her.  First, sitting in his lap, then at his feet, and finally as an adult in her own chair next to his.  This room would always resonate with the sound of his voice.  In fact, if she stood very still, she might hear it even now.”

I’ll share a little secret from my psychology training that I find immensely helpful in my writing.  In general (but not by any means always), when you ask someone to explain their behavior, they point to the environment around them.  For example, if you ask a spendthrift friend why she just spent thousands of dollars on a purse, she’ll likely say something like, “It’s perfect.  Just like the one my favorite movie star carries.  I had to have it.”  If you ask a careless driver why she just went through a red light, she may very well say something like, “It was really yellow.  Honest.”  If you ask someone why she cheated on her taxes, she’ll probably tell you something like “Everyone does it,” or “What are the chances I’ll get audited?”

Here’s an example from my book Always a Princess that, I hope, will illuminate what I’m talking about.

 “But that doesn’t make any sense.’ He barely kept himself from shouting, took a few breaths, and tried to calm himself. Although any reasonable person could hardly remain calm in these circumstances. As heir to the earldom of Farnham, he was the bloody catch of the whole bloody season, but for some bloody reason he wasn’t good enough for a guttersnipe like Eve Stanhope. If she was a guttersnipe. He still had no bloody idea who she was.”

 You’ll notice that my hero realizes that he’s shouting and that he’s not calm, but then, he attributes his anger to the situation he finds himself in and to the heroine‘s behavior.

 You can’t always use these techniques, and sometimes, there’s no other way to convey what’s happening in your story than to simply say, “He was furious” or “She couldn’t make heads nor tails of what he was saying.”  I do think, however, that we can all make our writing stronger by trying to get as deeply into our characters’ heads as we can.

Friday, January 06, 2012


Today is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, aka the day I start feeling guilty about the fact we haven’t yet taken our Christmas tree down! (Don’t worry, it’s an artificial tree, so not a fire hazard, and we have an excuse--Mr. Fraser and I have both been unsuccessfully fighting off a cold since we got home from our holiday travels.)

Epiphany isn’t well-known in present-day America outside of liturgical churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the churches of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and the Episcopalian Church. In the Western churches, it celebrates the visit of the Three Kings to the infant Jesus, while the Eastern churches observe it as a remembrance of Christ’s baptism.

The regional and national customs associated with Epiphany are far too long to list here. (If you don’t believe me, check Wikipedia!) The writer in me would love to do something with the Bulgarian custom of an all-male dance in icy waters. I also think they have the right idea in New Orleans, where Epiphany is the first day of Carnival season, which runs through Mardi Gras. As someone with a mild tendency to seasonal affective disorder, I find the unremitting dreariness of January something of a slog without the festivities of November and December to distract me, so I’m all for more holidays to drive off the darkness!

As a Regency writer, I might write characters who observe Epiphany by drinking wassail or eating Twelfth Cake. (Though I’d probably do a little more research first to find out how often such traditions were still observed then, since I know Christmastide in general was less of a big deal in the Regency than it was hundreds of years before in the medieval era or a few decades later when Christmas started taking on its modern pattern under the Victorians.) But if one of my characters had a sudden realization of a critical truth, he or she would not describe that moment as “having an epiphany.” Per the Oxford English Dictionary, that usage dates to the latter half of the 19th century, and it didn’t become commonplace until the 20th.

How did “epiphany” come to mean both a Christian holiday and an “aha!” moment? The word comes from the Greek “epiphaneia,” which means “manifestation” or “striking appearance.” Originally, it referred to divine visitations of various kinds--e.g. in the OED listing I saw one example where I think a modern writer would use “avatar.” Over time, the definition grew to also include internal visions, the striking appearance of an idea that might change your life.

What about you? Do you observe Epiphany? Have you had any recent epiphanies? And have you taken your Christmas decorations down yet? If not, take heart--according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, some traditions give you until Candlemas on Feb. 2!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Oh How I Hate Those Eggs and Ham

NOT a Regency Breakfast
I read a lot--and I read primarily gay historical romance for review for my review blog "Speak Its Name" and I admit I do like a good Regency. Gay romance goes well with Regency. The clothes and the manners and the insta-conflict for "you could be hanged for this" work well when it's done well, and mostly there are more good Regencies in the genre than otherwise.

But what annoys me hugely is that authors do their research for the Napoleonic War, the clothes, the manners, the slang, the carriages blah-de-blah-de-blah and then....

Their characters sit down and have a meal. And 9 times out of 10 I'm gnashing my teeth because it's just all wrong.

Authors seem forget that like clothes and music and fashion and the docking of horses' tails--food changes with the ages. What people ate in medieval times (mostly meat) wasn't what they were eating in Victorian times and not what we were eating today.

I've read several Regencies recently where the protagonists sit down for breakfast and they have "ham and eggs." This is so wrong for so many reasons. I wonder if it is because that's what Americans used to eat for breakfast, or they think it's an ancestor of "eggs and bacon" which is what us English would like to eat every day but reach for the bowel-scraping muesli instead, or what--I don't know.

They tended to have a lot on offer--at least in the richer households. Jane Austen's mother noted the quantity of food on offer : "Chocolate, Coffee and Tea, Plumb Cake, Pound Cake, Hot Rolls, Cold Rolls, Bread and Butter and dry toast for me." Clearly they had no problems with carbohydrates! There would also be--perhaps a more masculine foodstuff--MEAT in abundance: eggs, cold fowl and partridge, ham, tongue and anchovy.

The Supersizers (an excellent series of food related historical programmes) list breakfast as follows in their "Go Regency" segment: Toasted bread (done over the fire,) seed cake, turtulong, marmalade jame, hot chocolate, tea.

It also irritates me hugely when tea is guzzled down by the bucketload and there's no mention of the little locked box (the tea caddy) to keep the thieving servants away from the precious commodity!

So come on, historical authors. If you can research the nitty gritty of a military campaign, if you know exactly how many buttons a lieutenant had on his jacket, if you know what a reticule is for, then for goodness sake - get the food right!**

**none of the Carina authors are guilty of course!  :D

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Counting the cost of Christmas

Well, the festivities are all over for another year. Now all we have to worry about is those pesky credit card bills. In case you're feeling guilty about overspending, it might make you feel better, (or worse!), to know that you could well have shelled out more than it would have taken to keep a modest home in London running two hundred years ago.

According to Venetia Murray's book, High Society, when Mary Berry became engaged to General O'Hare she prepared the following estimate of their future expenses for her fiance.

£123 for one pair of horses inclusive of coachman's wages for 8 months of the year
£25 Annual repairs to carriage
£40 Two men servants
£55 An upper man servant
£58 4 women servants, a housekeeper, a cook, housemaid and lady's maid
£80 Liveries for men servants and coachman
£200 House rent and taxes
£50 Coals
£25 Candles
£25 Beer
£100 Wine
£480 Housekeeping
£800 To you
£200 To me

That equates to roughtly $4,000, so if you spent that much this year, just think, in Regency days that would have kept you in style for up to a year! A sobering thought.

Happy new year everyone.