Thursday, September 11, 2014

Regency Fashion - September 1814

Here we have the rather unusual back view.  Nice that we get the full glory of the hairstyle in this one.



Evening Half-gown from Ackermann's Repository

A plain frock, with full drawn back, composed of striped sarsnet Italian net of peach-blossom colour; full flounce of blond lace, headed with tufts of the same; a quilling of blond round the top of the dress; long full sleeve of white satin, inlet with lace. 

Hair in short full curls behind, and blended with flowers on the front of the head. Slippers of white kid. Limerick gloves.

I really like the sleeves on this gown. I believe the clue to the colour is the fact that it tries to represent the idea of a net over the fabric of the dress, because to me it doesn't say peach-blossom.

Until next time.....

Monday, September 8, 2014

Montacute House Continued

Our last view of the inside of the house.

 True to its medieval roots the house retains the screen, the wall that separated  the servants preparing the meals and those dining.

We saw it from the other side.
 Opposite the screen was once a smaller buttery with a cellar below it and a passaage on the west side which would have linked the Hall with the kitchen.  This is where the butler would have dispensed the beer and wine. During the Regency it became a Common Parlour, and much later enlarged into the dining room we see today.

Five of the chairs at the dining room table are Cromwellian "farthingale" chairs with leather seats and backs.
The fireplace dates from the renovations done in the Regency era.

Next time we will take a wander in the grounds and  have a closer look at the oriole window mentioned earlier.

Until next time....

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cover Reveal and Sneak Peek

This is the cover for my next book, Captured Countess. The book comes out in December 2014 and there are a few buy links below to get you started if you would like to pre-order.

I must say I am pleased with it. The story is set in London and Cornwall and a couple of other places. The cover shows a scene from the story, and I think it evokes the mystery of the Cornish location and the story itself.

Barnes and Noble Amazon.com(US) Kobo.com icon Amazon Canada Amazon U.K. Or available for Pre-order wherever you like to shop.

Never trust a spy! 

Nicoletta, the Countess Vilandry, is on a dangerous mission—to lure fellow spy Gabriel D''Arcy into bed and into revealing his true loyalties. With such sensual games at play and such strong sensations awakened, suddenly Nicky''s dangerously close to exposing her real identity.

Gabe knows that the countess has been sent to seduce him. The only question is to what end? He''s never met such a captivating woman—and he''s determined to enjoy every seductive second she spends as his very willing captive!  


A Friday Fragment

Looking into her eyes, he turned her hand palm up, his thumb massaging the tender flesh. "Such a pretty hand,"  he murmured. "So white. As delicate as a bird's wing."

And as easily crushed by his superoior strength. The threat was not lost on her.
 
 Until next time...
 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Regency Fashion September 1814



I hope you had a wonderful Labour Day weekend. It is hard to believe the end of the summer is upon us already, but this dress should be enough to remind us that while we are moving into the Autumn, the weather may yet surprise us.



MORNING DRESS September 1814.

From Ackermann's Repository
             
A ROUND robe of lilac or evening primrose-coloured sarsnet, trimmed entirely round the bosom with a quilling of blond lace, edged with chenille; sarsnet flounce, headed with tufts or quilling of blond, corresponding with the top of the dress; long full sleeve, partially drawn up and fastened with bows of silk cord; a lace cuff.

 The French hat, composed of white and lilac satin; the crown trimmed with tufts and bows of ribbon, and ornamented with a large cluster of flowers. Slippers of lilac kid. Gloves pale tan.

I really like this gown, and the French hat is very pretty, at least on the model. Now what would you say she is carrying? Parasol?  It doesn't look right.

She is definitely at the beach because those are ships off in the distance, but could it be a telescope?  Any thoughts?

Until next time

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Perseverance - Writer's Friend or Foe

When asked about success as a writer, I often mention perseverance as key.

Persevering to the end of a story is certainly something that every beginning writer needs to accomplish. There is nothing more satisfying than writing the end even if it is the first draft.

It certainly requires a huge measure of steadfastness to write book after book when no one is buying what you write.

Submitting those books to editors and agents despite the pain of rejection is a special kind of perseverance.

It's all good right?

Well, I have come to realize that sometime perseverance can be a bad thing.

For example, writing and re-writing to perfect prose, so that it is never finished, is a problem.  Some blame it on perfectionism, but I have come to realize that the same dogged determination evidenced above is part of this too.

And what about sitting hour after hour staring at the computer to meet a deadline or finish the word count set for the day. There are serious health aspect to this kind of perseverance. The body was built to move.

And what about the hours you spend never talking to anyone while you finish the manuscript. Even a writer needs to speak to real people one in a while.

So, persevere by all means, but in moderation. The goal isn't everything. How you get there is important.  And definitely have fun along the way.


The Gilvrys of Dunross

Until next time….

Monday, August 18, 2014

Montacute House Part VII


I frequently find myself gazing out of the windows when visiting one of these great houses.  Here is another view showing the garden and at the end of a wall, one of two pavilions which were designed as extra bedrooms.

I would love to have been one of the guests assigned to one of these rooms. Imagine the quiet. Though it would be a hike for breakfast.
I
A huge feature of Montacute is its Long Gallery. An important room, used for exercise by the family in inclement weather and I would guess, the odd ball.

It is in a room like this that I imagined Merry playing battledor with Caro's young son Tommy in More than a Mistress, though I had invested that gallery with suits of armor. I needed something for them to tie a string to.

Interestingly enough, several bedrooms lead off this gallery.

I took this picture to show the length of the gallery. These days I would think a gym would be pleased to have such a space for a running track.


At the southern end of the gallery there is an oriel window. It is hard to see it because of the drapery.

But here it is from the outside. Just beautiful


And here is another view. Not all of these gardens are as they were in the Regency owing to the the vagaries of fortune, but they are still beautiful to see.


Until next time....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

There's an App for That

Novel EngagementSo exciting. Romance Writers of America has put together a new app to help readers find their favourite authors and new romance novels.  The link to the app is in the logo.  I have also added it to the right margin in case you need to find it again.  This is a new venture and still a work in progress, but check out your favourite romance author or genre. Find new books.

Try it, and let me know what you think.  I'll pass along any comments.

Until next time

Monday, August 11, 2014

Regency Fashion August 1814

Hot days of summer here in the Northern hemisphere.  What are you wearing at the beach?

I bet it looks nothing like this.  Our ladies of 200 years ago might have had the prettiest ballgowns, but I bet you wouldn't swap your bathing suit for this one. Though to be honest it is  a walking dress too.  I liked seeing the cliffs in the background and the bathing machines lined up on the beach. And that must be a towel over her arm.

Reminds me a bit of a scene in my next book Captured Countess out in December.  Our heroine, Nicky, is learning to swim -- with the King.

All right, here is the official description. But I am not sure what Carcassian refers too? Circassians perhaps?

From La Belle Assemblee:
Carcassian Ladies’ Corset Bathing & Sea-side Walking Dress 
High dress of rich Indian or Parisian chintz, made in a form peculiarly novel and elegant; it is trimmed with chintz bordering to correspond, or a rich silk trimming. Long sleeve, with the fullness let in at the top. The collar is extremely novel and beautiful, and the trimming most tastefully disposed, so as to give the appearance of a shirt to the pelisse; it is loose in the body, but fastens in to the waist.  
We forbear a particular description of this elegant and convenient dress, as it must be seen to be properly understood; we have only to observe, that it is made in a form never before introduced, that it is equally tasteful and becoming; it enables a lady to dress herself in a few minutes without assistance, prevents the chance of taking cold by the long delay in dressing; and, when dressed, to look as completely fashionable as if she had employed the longest time at her toilet.  
The principal novelty, however, consists of Mrs. Bell’s new invented Circassian corset, which unites the advantages of being conductive to health and comfort, by being made of novel materials, free from superfluities, such as steel, whalebone, or any hard substance; so that ease, gracefulness, and dignity are given to the female form in a manner perfectly novel and original. It gives relief and protection to pregnant ladies, and at the same time adds dignity and beauty to the appearance.  
Head dress Chapeau Bras. Slippers of pale green; and gloves to correspond.

Now some of you may be interested in the comment on the corset.  Novel materials. One can only wonder. And the fact that she can dress herself after bathing means this outer shell comes off before she takes a dip leaving her in that corset and her chemise?

Until next time

Thursday, August 7, 2014

History versus Story

Or: Does it have to be right?



As the writer of period stories this is an issue I often struggle with. How accurate do I need to be? How much creative licence can I take in my stories.

Over time I have vacillated from the utter fear of getting it wrong, and embracing the concept of: story trumps all.  But as we all know, a pendulum, when it stops swinging, always ends up bang smack in the middle of its arc.  Oh, I do love a good metaphor.

Over time I have come to recognize that I am writing stories for entertainment. Stories set in an earlier time period whose history we know about. Some of that history was learned long after the events actually happened, some of it well known at the time.  Genre fiction has the expectation that it will transport the reader to another place and leave them with a feeling of having had an enjoyable experience.  It is not designed to teach or moralize or guide, any more than Two and Half Men was supposed to teach us how to behave or Big Bang Theory is intended to turn us into nuclear physicists.  Yes, these programs comment on aspects of life today and make us laugh not only at the characters on screen, but also at ourselves. In the first instance, they likely shock us, as we secretly wish we could be as bold as Charley, and in the latter, we might wonder at our own lost innocence as displayed by Sheldon. Or not.

It doesn't matter.  We are entertained.

A period novelist has to get major facts right about his or her era, as does a genre fiction period author. But the stories are character driven. The story is about the people on the page, not the political climate or the economic reality. Those are backstory. And like all backstory, needs to be fed in as and when required. In my opinion, a  fiction author needs to let the imagination fly free, while remaining within the bounds of her world. Somethings are easy to get right, the buildings, the clothing, even the flora and fauna which I have expounded on at length in this blog.

But are there hundreds of Dukes and earls running around in the Regency doing heroic or unheroic things? No. Certainly not.  We all know that. Readers and historians alike.

In my next book, Captured Countess, coming out in December 2014, there is a plot by Napoleon's agents to kill King George. Did it happen?  Well it might have. How do we know for certain it did not? Could some as yet undiscovered cache of documents reveal that it did? It is in the realm of the possible.

Did the characters who set out to foil the plot really exist? No, they did not. But the King was at Weymouth that summer.  Napoleon did plan to invade England. So the setting and the backstory is accurate, but the story is unashamedly all my own.

I often hear complaints that covers are not period accurate.  Here are two covers for books in the same series, "Rakes in Disgrace".

The cover for the Gamekeeper's Lady couldn't be more accurate for the Regency period, both in style and setting.  The second cover, for the second book, More Than a Mistress is way too early. The shoes, the gown, reek of a pre-Regency era, but the scene it represents.... is right out of the book. Both covers are evocative of the story.

Each book sold as well as the other, because in the end it was all about the story inside the cover.

So, to writers and readers I say, enjoy the story along with a soupcon of history. Use it to spice the broth so to speak.

I will address a few issues that I do think writers of period stories in my genre ought to get right and some others that I think might be borderline.

What do you think?

Until next time......

Monday, August 4, 2014

Montacute House Part VI


It is always fascinating exploring the nooks and crannies of someone elses' house, and Montacute House has a great many.  For a writer it is always handy to have pictures of odd corners. You never know when you might need a spot for your characters to lurk or meet.




  Our next stop, way of stairs and passages,  is the library, once the Great Chamber where the Elizabethan family would have received their most important visitors and dined in state.



 It became a library in 1791.




During the regency and after it became as we see it today, with the original Elizabethan chimney peice and frieze and the stained glass window.





 I particularly like this set of rolling steps which were u8sed to access the higher shelves of the book presses.










This next item, a porch of sorts was added to the library much later. It used to be the entrance to the parlour.
Intended to intimidate wrong doers who appeared before the magistrate, no doubt.

The motto says  "Do This".


Until next time

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fashion July 1814

I could not let July slip away without one more post on the fashion from the Regency Period.


From La Belle Assemblee:

Russian and Prussian Bonnet with Pelisse a-la-Militaire

I often put my heroines in something al-la-Militaire because it sounds daring. And let us facing we would all like to be daring, within bounds of course.

My first thoughts were, not so very Militaire and a bit hot for July.  But given the weather we have been having lately, well perhaps not. And does the military bit just refer to the colour, you know, Prussian blue?

Here is the description, it might shed a bit more light on the ideas of the designer.

Jacconet muslin high dress, with a rich letting-in of lace and embroidery of the same materials round the bottom: the body and sleeves of this dress are richly appliqued with lace. 
A most delicate blue sarsnet pelisse, trimmed a-la-Prusse, either with crape or satin of a dark shade. The sleeves and the front of the pelisse are slightly ornamented in the same tasteful manner; the back is full, and fastens round the waist by a fancy military girdle; an appliqueing of crape, to correspond in colour with the pelisse, is let-in round the bosom, and on each applique is a small satin flower. A rich lace ruff falls over. 
This walking costume is at present wholly confined to the highest class of our fair pedestrians, and we must say, it is equally distinguished for novelty and elegance; it also displays the figure to the greatest advantage. The captivating military bonnet which accompanies it, is highly characteristic of the elegant taste of its inventress: it bestows upon a pretty face that air which the French term piquant. 
We have observed of some hats which have formerly made their appearance under military appellations, that they gave a look of fierceness even to soft features: the reverse of this is the case with the Russian and Prussian Bonnet, which is one of the most generally becoming that we have ever seen.
 
The above dresses were invented, and can be obtained exclusively of Mrs. Bell, the Inventress of the Ladies’ Chapeau Bras, removed to No. 26, Charlotte-street, Bedford-square.

I'm not convinced. How about you?  It is certainly good to know that Mrs Bell has moved. I wouldn't want our heroines showing up at the wrong location.

Until next time

Monday, July 28, 2014

More RWA 2014

It is always great to come away from a conference feeling inspired. RWA 2014 did that for me.

Not only did a friend Molly O'Keefe win the RITA, the most prestigious award of all in the Romance Writers world, Go Molly but I attended several really great sessions that will help me moving forward.

And who could not enjoy San Antonio with its river walk wandering through the centre of downtown and all those marvellous historic sites (more about them later).  And all the local people I met were just so darn friendly.  I felt right at home.

And if there were a couple of snags, like leaving my phone at home - eek all those people I am supposed to call and now I don't have their numbers and yes, I did sit in something in my new white pants -- all easily fixed. Now Fedex and dh are now the best of friends, and it is quite easy to do laundry in your hotel sink. Hotel soap makes a great detergent.


Oh and it was hot hot hot. Weather I mean. But a shady tree and a marguerita with lots of ice works wonders. (With a nap to follow.)

Here I am wandering the city after a visit to "the Alamo" historic site. The new white pants are back in the hotel drying off.

And thereis nothing like bumping into your glamourous editor in your hotel pool. umm. Oh well, she knows the crazy things my head, she might as well know what I look like in my swimsuit.

And then there were the parties.  Thank you Harlequin Mills and Boon.

The historical authors were taken to tea in the King William district and as always the Harlequin Party was amazing. Red socks this year. They must have known I planned to wear a red dress, don't you think?

Anyway I was having too good a time to take many pictures, but here is a glimpse into a writer's life (once a year anyway).

And I have to say I was so lucky to share my experience with my sister Erika this year. We had a blast.

Until next time…..







Tuesday, July 22, 2014

RWA San Antonio

It is always fun to go to a conference in a City you have never visited before. This year RWA's (Romance Writers of America) conference  is being held in San Antonio.  And who hasn't heard of The Battle of the Alamo. So naturally the history buff in me just had to visit.

And as luck would have it my sister decided to join me on this adventure.  We arrived on Friday, and after a long day of travelling it was dinner and bed.  But Saturday we set out on our travels. The Alamo would be first on our list. But first is breakfast. It was recommended that we go to Shiloh's, a very popular deli. So we headed out and were surprised to find ourselves lining up.  Of course it has to be good if you have to stand in line.

And it really was an excellent breakfast.  And more so because, when we went to pay, the couple at the table beside us, who were fascinated our English accents, had already paid the bill. You can imagine our surprise.  That couple had already left and the gentleman had left a message.  "Welcome to Texas."  So as you can imagine, we will always feel very welcome here.


Our next stop was the Alamo itself.  We made the mistake of wandering around some of the other parts of the museum and exhibits and when we went to go inside, lo and behold there were hundreds of people in the line up, whereas there had been only a handful when we first got there. So we decide we would go on the next day.

And moved on to Market Square a traditional Mexican market with small stalls.





Thursday, July 17, 2014

Montacute House Part V

How about this for a view from one of your windows?

I have to say, they did know about pleasing the eye and that kind of pleasure has not diminished over the centuries.







All right, so you may think I am strange, after seeing this next series of pictures of a staircase. I just loved this staircase and if you are bored please feel free to skip.


Isn't that such an interesting corner?  That door just itches to be opened.

The steps are built of huge slabs of Ham stone.





They flow upwards in short runs, to stop one from getting tired, I assume. And look at the wide  surface of each step and the gentle rise.

One can imagine the elegant and stately progress. An easy glide in a long gown.
  Some interesting dimensions for those who have persevered.

The steps measure seven feet across.

They wind around a central pier that measures five feet by twelve feet, almost the size of a small room.

The walls are pierced by shell-headed niches at intervals. You can see one in the picture directly above this text.

Naturally, you want to see where these stairs go.  Naturally, I am saving that for another  time.

Until then.....

Monday, July 14, 2014

Regency Fashion ~ July 1814

Nothing like a party dress to put a girl in a good mood, don't you think?  This is one of the prettiest I've put up for a while.  I can definitely see one of my heroines wearing this out to dinner.

Oldenburgh Dinner Dress from the July 1814 LBA

French white satin slip, decorated round the bottom with a rich blond lace, and headed with a superb pearl trimming: a wreath of laurel leaves formed of pearls, in an angle in the front of the slip. 

The trimming is perfectly novel, and the effect of it is more elegant than can be conceived from the engraving which we have given. Over the slip is a short Russian robe of white crape, open front, edged round with a rich pearl trimming to correspond with the slip; the wreaths which ornament the robe is formed of pearls also, to correspond. 

The front of the dress is formed in a most novel and tasteful style, peculiar to the inventress, Mrs. Bell. The back continues full, and the waist very short. Crape long sleeve, trimmed with pearl bands at regular distances. 

Small lace cap, superbly decorated with pearls, and finished with tassels to correspond; a fancy flower is placed to the side. The form of this cap is extremely elegant, exquisitely tasteful, and becoming.

 A white satin Chapeau Bras, ornamented with a spread eagle on the crown, worked in chenille, is indispensable. 

The hair is worn up a-la-Grecque on the left side, where it is fastened in a full knot. Gloves and slippers of white kid. Plain ivory fan.

Until next time:

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Montacute House Part IV

It's ages since we started the visit to this house, so having left you in the parlour I thought it might time to rescue you and moved on. 

We enter the drawing room, that originally had served as a bedroom. It retains none of its Regency features with regards to decoration, but some of the pictures are from our era.

The hunting scene is from 1790

 The lacquer cabinet is from around the late 17th early 18th Century so could easily decorate a Regency drawing room. as could this Louis XIV Boulle writing-table. on the right.

I particularly liked this mahogany card table from around 1750. I thought it elegant. The top leaf would fold when not in use.

Until next time:





Monday, July 7, 2014

Three Tips for the Aspiring Writer

I don't often give advice. But this past week I was at the optician's  I let fall that I was a published author, as one occasionally does. The recipient of this information, a very nice man, offered that he had wanted to write a book, then decided that he didn't have anything to say that he thought others might find of interest.

Really? Don't we all have stories to tell? Even if it is only what happened at work today. It wasn't the time or the place to offer advice, nor was I asked for it, but here is some of what I might have said had I got it together.

I must say that unlike other authors I have met over these past several years, I had no thought of becoming an author.  Yes I liked the challenge of crafting a clearly argued memo, or creating a well thought out report on some item of business but an author?  No.  I was an avid reader.

Until one fine day; I wrote a novel. What a surprise.

All right so it was a very bad novel, but I finished it.

Tip # 1

Finish the book.
You will hear authors say that a finished book can always be fixed. I would suggest that while it is likely true for some, not my first one.  It was an exercise of undeveloped muscles. A training run. Never to see the light of day. You know all those things they say never to do in a book. I did them all. I had no clue, apart from writing THE END.

And then I took classes

Tip # 2

Learn your craft. Books on the subject. Classes. And above all reading books by authors you admire.

It took five more novels under my belt before I won my first contract. It was like winning the lottery.
 Amazing.

Also quite painful.  All those: thanks but no thanks. Interestingly enough all but one of those next books are now in print.

Tip # 3

Persevere

Don't give up. Don't second guess yourself. Or put yourself out of the running. Finish, polish and submit.

We all know the classic examples, Stephen King, J K Rowling etc. etc and Ann Lethbridge. Oh well, I couldn't resist (not that I am putting myself in their category, of course).

And a publisher is not your only option. These days, self-publishing or inde-publishing provides a whole other avenue of getting you're work out there. More on that another time.





Fashion for June

PROMENADE OR WALKING DRESS from Ackermann's Repository June 1812
A ROUND robe of jaconot or fine cambric muslin, with long sleeve and high waist, with fan ruff of lace, ornamented up the front with borders of needle-work or lace, and finished at the feet with ball fringe. 
A Spanish hussar cloak of deep amber sarsnet, lined with sea green or white, and trimmed with broad thread lace, put on very full. 
Hair disposed in bands and waved curls; a large square veil of white lace, thrown over the head and shading the face. 
Half-boots amber-coloured kid, and gloves a pale primrose. 
Small French cap of lace, ornamented with a small cluster of spring flowers, on one side, are often seen in this style of costume, and have an appropriate and pretty effect beneath the long veil.