Archive for the ‘Regency’ Category

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Smelling the Setting: My Novel Isn’t Smelly Enough!

December 1, 2010


I realized recently that my novel doesn’t smell right, by which I mean it doesn’t have enough smells.

The setting of my book is London, 1813–a time of a particular…er…olfactory ripeness when horses pooped in the streets, people rarely bathed or had clean teeth and everyone tossed their body wastes into the gutter.

In other words, if my dream were to suddenly come true and I was instantly tele-ported back in time to London of 1813–let’s say, in the crush of an Almack’s ball scene in high summer, for instance–I would probably take one whiff and pass out from the shock of it. My delicate modern day nose wouldn’t be able to handle all of that body odor!

Eau de London 1813. Ew, indeed.

Smells, however, can make a place come alive. Scent is a very powerful body sense, linked to taste. If I say ‘lemon’ your mouth can curdle. If I say ‘coal smoke’, my nose can feel that acrid burn. Bringing these essences to the setting enrich it, make it believable, livable, alive.

I’ve decided my novel isn’t smelly enough.

Is yours?

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Who is Your Writing Muse?

August 26, 2010

Do you have a writing muse? Here’s mine.

It’s Lady Caroline Lamb, the one who called Lord Byron ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ (he could probably have said the same thing about her!).

She had an affair with Byron in 1812—and was a thorn in his side ever after, doing all kinds of ridiculous, dramatic things to challenge him and re-capture his attention (like dressing up as a page, penning her own versions of his poetry, impersonating his writing so she might scam a portrait from his publisher, etc).

I wrote my Honours thesis in University on her Gothic/gossip novel ‘Glenarvon’ (which is based on Byron and other notable personalities of the Regency age). It was a bestseller but snubbed by critics (and her fellow aristocrats) as being too popular and trashy. It didn’t make her the darling of Society, either, that’s for sure.

(Byron read it and remarked: “I read Glenarvon too by Caro Lamb….God damn!”)

A remarkable, audacious, off-centre, rebellious, irrepressible and somewhat manic woman, it was through her inspiration that I crafted the first beginning of my current romantic-comedy-Regency-mystery whilst in University many moons ago.

I named my main character in my book after her: Caro.

Do you have a muse? Or a writer who inspires you? What do they say to you?

Leave your comments below!

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Self Promoting Without Cringing?

July 8, 2010


I’ve decided to try out Social Oomph to help manage my ‘on-line productivity’. Essentially, it lets you write Tweets ahead of time and program when they will be magically revealed…I’m using it to send out  the occasional ‘promotional’ blog tweet (for when I get back from holiday), highlighting some previous blogs/comics that haven’t been seen in awhile.

So I’m sitting here typing out a mass of promotional tweets…and I feel like my own ad-man. Its not a comfortable feeling. It’s like I’m putting adverts out hither and yon, so when your driving down the information highway you see:

Billboard #1: Hey Everybody! Come visit my blog!

Billboard #2: For a good time, come visit my blog!

Billboard #3: Did you see the sign? Did you visit my blog yet?

Billboard #4:Why haven’t you visited my blog yet?!

Billboard #5: Hey, You! Yes, You! You need to get your butt over to my blog!

Well, you get the idea…

It’s not just due to Social Oomph. Anytime I send out an ‘updated blog post!’ notice I experience the same feeling of self-consciousness….the Self-Promotional Heebie Jeebies…

I kind of just make myself write the thing, then close my eyes and click ‘send’…because of course I want readers. I write to be read, preferably now, when I’m alive. I’m certainly no Emily Dickinson, scribbling feverishly behind closed doors, hiding it all in a shoebox to be revealed after I’m dead…

And therein lies the crux. I want you to read this, but I don’t want to push it on you. I want you to know about this…but I don’t want to be impolite and bring it up all the time.

There seems to be a fine line between being a self-promotional Guerrilla Girl with the requisite moxie and derring-do to stand out from the crowd and be heard…and being an obnoxious, obvious pusher of ME ME ME. (How many promotional tweets is ‘too many’, for instance? Is one a day okay? Two?) It’s a line I don’t know how to walk very well just yet.  So I’ve been erring on the side of caution. (Perhaps too much caution?)

So far, I’ve been watching to see how others manage it, to get a sense of what’s considered okay or the norm. I also think building relationships is key, as is participating in the the writing community at large. You get to know and be known that way. Social media should be more than just pushing your own ideas; it’s a conversation. A dialogue, not a monologue.

When it comes time to publish my novel, whether as an indie or traditional, I know I’m going to have dig in and do even more self promotion. I hope it gets easier with practice. It seems to. Twitter and blogging have certainly made me build up my promotional muscles…and maybe Social Oomph will help me get an even more flattering self-promotional figure…

But if you’ve any suggestions on how I can do this without cringing, I’d love to know!

PS. This blog by Jody Hedlund (@JodyHedlund) inspired my own reflection on this matter.

PPS. Her blog is I also where I first came across the terrifying idea of hosting your own ‘themed book launch party’…

PPPS. If, by chance, one day I have to give my own ‘theme launch party’ I’ve decided its going to be an all out Regency Extravaganza with me in my best Jane Austen-esque ball gown, a buffet of Regency delicacies (like turtle soup), a whist card table in one corner (gambling optional), an open bar in the other (port, cordial & sherry mostly, with perhaps some home-brew Raspberry cordial), and quadrille dance lessons every quarter hour!

PPPPS  This is another helpful blog I’ve found re: authors using social media by C. Hope Clark (@hopeclark)

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Doing What Your Character Demands…

June 15, 2010

One of my characters has decided to come back to England from Turkey, causing me untold anxiety in the research department…especially since he’s due to give a ‘lecture’ about his travels to the Royal Society in about three scenes from now…

I have tried to negotiate this. How about a country I’ve actually been to, Mr. Elliot? Spain, perhaps? Morocco? Italy?

But no. This character won’t be dissuaded. It’s got to be somewhere suitably exotic to the English imagination of the times, a reasonable distance away, not an enemy of the state or under Napoleon’s control and preferably not the exact same itinerary as Lord Byron, who traveled abroad during the same approximate time period…

So Turkey it is.

I had no idea when I started this novel that I was going to be googling ‘Turkey in 1813’…and not getting much for it, it seems. Drat! So it won’t be handed to me on a silver platter…which means a more refined internet search, that will likely take me hours & hours and days and days. I might even have to order a ‘real’ book from the library. (Where is that Research Hot Line when I need it, eh?)

My novel is set in the Regency period. I have read a lot of history books on this era because it is my ‘thing’ (see blog: I ‘Heart’ The Regency). I can feel my way around Regency England quite well (and when in need of additional inspiration, there’s a plethora of Jane Austen adaptations to put me in the mood..) I also have a pretty good grasp on France during this time, given Napoleon’s dominance and the love/hate-on the English had for all things French.

But Turkey?

What is this character thinking?!

Actually, I already know what he’s thinking. He’s thinking:

Better get to work, writer! I’m giving a lecture to the Royal Society three scenes from now and you need to prepare my notes!

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Research Hot-line, Anyone?

April 27, 2010

My novel is set in England during the Regency and sometimes I struggle with getting the details right because a) I don’t live in England and b) I wasn’t alive during 1795-1837, respectively.

While I do have a collection of history and biography books about the period, and 9 times out of 10 I can find out what I want on the internet (thank you, Wikipedia!), there’s always that one little detail you want but can’t find no matter how many times you re-word in ‘Google search’.

I wish there was a Research Hot-line I could call. Excuse me, but how long is the strawberry season in England? Were doors made out of oak, primarily? Were umbrellas commonplace by 1813? Did London have sidewalks? Was there pea-soup fog or was that more a Victorian phenomenon?

I can get too hung up on the history. For gods sake, I tell myself, it’s not a PhD dissertation, its a fictional novel! Stop dithering and just make it up.

If I’ve got it wrong, and someone notices, I’m sure they’ll let me know eventually…

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I ‘heart’ the Regency

April 21, 2010


The novel I’m writing is a mystery novel set in 1813 in England…the Regency period.

Yes, I’m one of those people with a Regency fetish. Jane Austen. Mary Shelly. Lord Byron. Etc.

Sometimes I say my novel is a ‘Regency Soap Opera’ because the plot is a little outlandish…but its all within the bounds of the era. French spies. Mad genius poets. Too much alcohol. Radical politics. Dopplegangers.

That’s how it was, in a way. Genteel with a Gothic underbelly.

I think to write a novel, to devote yourself wholly to the kind of commitment it requires, you have to be a little crazy about its subject matter (or just a little crazy, period?). I don’t dress up in Regency garb and go to modern day re-enactments (at least, not yet!), but I do love reading and researching and day dreaming about it, and then transforming that material into a joy-filled homage.

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