Erotica author, aka Elspeth Potter, on Writing from the Inside

Monday, November 30, 2009

Have His Carcase - Peter Wimsey on tv

I'm guestblogging today over at Crista McHugh's blog, on "Take All Chances."

Have His Carcase stars Edward Petherbridge as Peter Wimsey. The production is notable, for me, for the excellence of the sexual tension portrayed by Petherbridge and Harriet Walter, who plays Harriet Vane. Some of it arises from the book, most importantly their big fight, which can be summed up as "saving a woman from the gallows can put a big damper of your hopes of getting matrimonially laid." That scene in this adaptation is splendidly acted, especially by Petherbridge, who ranges from hurt to rage to a dreadful, sad weariness in less than five minutes. For that scene alone, this DVD is worth it.

There is demonstration of how Peter feels about Harriet which is mostly skimmed over or ignored in the novel; in the television adaptation, you see him touch her, more than once, but always in circumscribed ways. They dance in the novel, but the actors show desperation in the way Harriet pulls away from Peter before the dance is concluded. A lighthearted discussion of marriage proposals becomes less lighthearted, and Peter's joking hand on Harriet's knee attains new significance. In the final scene, Peter takes Harriet's hand and kisses her wrist, between glove and sleeve, a deeply sensual gesture that shows us all we need to know.

I think about how that kind of body language could be applied to prose; do those scenes affect me so deeply because I already had a visceral knowledge of the novels, or would they stand on their own? And would they be so meaningful if they'd been written out? Are there some things that really only work in the visual medium?

There are the usual minor changes to the novel. The only one that really disappointed me was riding the horse down the beach--Bunter replaces Peter, which may have been a matter of the actors' riding ability, or simply that the available stuntman had dark hair. So far as guest casting goes, Jeremy Sinden as Henry Weldon is wonderfully odious!

Book: Have His Carcase

DVD: Have His Carcase

Tomorrow's the launch of The Moonlight Mistress!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Strong Poison - Peter Wimsey on tv

The Edward Petherbridge adaptations of the Peter Wimsey novels follow the books less closely than the Ian Carmichael adaptations; there are still huge chunks of verbatim dialogue, but these later ones move scenes around a bit more freely, not really to the detriment of the story as seen on screen.

As far as casting goes, Harriet Walter makes a wonderful Harriet, even without a deep, husky voice and with bad makeup, neither of which is her fault. Ditto Edward Petherbridge, who is too old for the role but otherwise perfection in one of Wimsey's tailored suits. I could take or leave the actor who played Parker; he was good, but I didn't feel the warmth between Parker and Wimsey that I would've liked. Bunter, however, I adore. I can easily seeing Bunter being as young and cute as Richard Morant; otherwise, how did he charm all those housemaids throughout the books? The character must be close to 40 by Strong Poison (in Busman's Honeymoon, Peter mentions Bunter's "20 years service") but that didn't bother me as much as Peter looking ten years older than his supposed age. Perhaps because it's easy to imagine nothing ever changing Bunter.

A friend and I disagreed a bit on Petherbridge--she felt he doesn't do the "silly ass" act well enough, but I think that act is much less present in the Harriet books anyway. And with the more serious scenes, he's simply outstanding.

I think the adaptation of Strong Poison is worth watching for its own sake. It's a very static book--lots of courtroom scenes and sitting around--so some cutting for television was necessary, and really, they cut very little; the main thing I missed was Peter going to Charles Parker to ask him why he hadn't yet proposed to Mary. Freddy Arbuthnot's engagement was likewise cut. The bohemian party is considerably smaller and less raucous; they made up for this by having one of the women characters be extremely butch (as she is not in the novel, unless it's so subtle I never caught it; she might be gay, but I don't think she wore men's suits). Scenes are slightly rearranged so that we are reminded throughout of Harriet in prison. There's a slight but effective change in the ending: instead of Harriet looking for Peter to thank him and finding he's driven off, he waits for her in the corridor outside the courtroom; she sees him, but turns and walks away without speaking. Same result, more dramatic visual.

Bill the lockpick made it in, and Miss Murchison, who blossoms before our eyes, and Miss Climpson's seance. The actor who played Boyes in flashback had a really sexy voice.

All of the flaws were redeemed by the dialogues between Peter and Harriet in the prison. The camera work is very clever; at a couple of really intense moments, we see Harriet's face as she reacts to something Peter has said, but only the back of his head, so his expression is hidden. Carefully chosen moments, I would bet money. I could feel the energy between them.

Book: Strong Poison

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gaudy Night - Peter Wimsey on tv

The most recent Wimsey series, so far as I know (shown in America on PBS' "Mystery"), starred Edward Petherbridge and Harriet Walter. It includes Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, and Gaudy Night. I'll start with the last one because it's my least favorite.

I first saw the Gaudy Night adaptation when it aired in the United States for the first time. I remember being bitterly disappointed, because the bits that did make it into the screenplay were performed so exquisitely by the actors. But the bits that didn't nearly make me scream, and do make me pull the book off the shelf to read them before I can rest. (No, I don't have to search for those scenes within the novel...I just go from one to the next, neat as clockwork...sigh.) I will never understand why anyone could think Gaudy Night could be adapted in three episodes, when it is the richest novel of the whole series.

The screenplay uses whole chunks of verbatim dialogue from the novel, yet missing are most of my favorite things. The romance was sacrificed in favor of the mystery; there was method in their madness; but the little bits of romance they left in were just that much more lonely.

The dog collar was taken out, and the ivory chessmen. Viscount St. George and Reggie Pomfret make no appearance. Harriet spends no time working on Miss Lydgate's book, so far as I could tell. Jukes is gone completely, though Peter and Padgett's war stories are replaced by a tiny scene between Padgett and Bunter. The dog collar was taken out, and the ivory chessmen. The dog collar was taken out, and the ivory chessmen. The dog collar was taken out, and the ivory chessmen. [ahem]

There is no Peter sleeping in the punt!!! [ahem, again] That, I could see them cutting, because all of the interesting stuff there is inside Harriet's head. That whole scene in the punt, in which Harriet realizes and accepts for good and all that she is physically attracted in Peter, is made for print, not for screen. In the novel, it's leisurely and completely satisfying; we are allowed to linger on things like the hair at the nape of his neck and his ear, which in a camera's eye would have been strange and off-putting close-ups. To give the director credit, the camera lingers on Peter reviewing Harriet's evidence book, and then her watching him, and then Peter looking up and their eyes meeting for a moment of realization. It's gone in seconds. The actors manage to convey the meaning, I think. But it's not the same.

Thinking more on it, I think there's no way to make a perfect movie of Gaudy Night. It's just too beautiful as a novel. There's too much there, internally and otherwise. So I'm waiting for the virtual reality sensaround version.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Murder Must Advertise - Peter Wimsey on tv

Dorothy Sayers' Murder Must Advertise was adapted for television in 1973 with Ian Carmichael as Peter Wimsey. Other notables guesting were Peter Bowles as Major Milligan, Fiona Walker as Miss Meteyard, John Hallam as Ingleby, Christopher Timothy as Willis, and Paul Darrow as Tallboy. Mark Eden and Rachel Herbert are wonderful as Charles and Mary Parker (i.e., Peter's sister, nicknamed Polly). I liked the affection in the scenes between Peter, his sister, and his brother-in-law.

I pulled out my copy of the book while watching parts three and four, and was able to follow right along. A lot of the dialogue was reproduced verbatim, though occasionally lines were assigned to different speakers. For example, in the book Peter has a long speech, and in the tv version Peter begins his speech, then Charles takes a couple of lines of it, then back to Peter, which is more fair to the actors, and more interesting to watch. All in all, I like the adaptation very much, despite my belief that Carmichael is too old for the role, and not the right physique (they put a belt on the Harlequin costume, and a cape, to make it a bit more concealing). Age aside, he's wonderful with the "silly ass" who morphs into the detective, who's not so silly at all.

I love the whole plotline of the detective playing one role as an "ordinary" person working in an advertising agency, plus another role as a mysterious swain to a possible villain, plus having to find time for himself and his own life, and seeing how all these overlap.

Some minor characters were trimmed or their roles doubled by others, but not to the story's detriment. Charles and Peter took the place of two policemen at one point, and Peter is the one who sees someone fall under a train (and the additional person who fell under the train doesn't appear at all). Peterkin, alas, does not appear, I think because the BBC avoided using child actors whenever possible, but his voice is heard offscreen, so the "Tears, idle tears" line is pretty much intact. The only thing lost is one small, adorable scene with Peter and Peterkin and his "naeroplane."

Two other cuts were the Whifflets campaign, which is reduced to one mention in passing (as if it happened, but offscreen) and the cricket match. I can see how the Beeb didn't want to shell out for a location shoot with a full cricket match and a lot of extras. Instead, Charles arrests "Mr. Bredon" at Pym's.

I truly, truly loved the scene in which Peter tells Mr. Tallboy to walk home and not look behind him. In the book, he has a line after Tallboy leaves, about "the place of execution." In the adaptation, it's visceral. The door closes; Peter turns slightly away from the camera, then clutches convulsively at the mantel. He turns his back to the camera and crumples. Wow.

When Charles arrives to tell him all the doperunners have been caught, Peter drops his glass of (alcohol, presumably) and it shatters. Charles is talking about how they got them all. Peter walks quickly over to the drinks tray, quickly pours himself a drink, downs it quickly. His end line about "don't feel much like celebrating" is the same as in the book. Wow again.

Book: Murder Must Advertise

Thursday, November 26, 2009

An Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club - Peter Wimsey on tv

This adaptation of Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey mystery An Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club features Derek Newark, whom I rather liked, as Bunter. He and Ian Carmichael as Peter have a wonderful scene as they prepare to begin questioning the denizens of the Bellona Club about the General's death; Newark manages to look quite offended when Ian Carmichael tells him he's too tidy to be disguised as a journalist, a comment that's borne out later on when we meet journalist Salcombe Hardy.

Marjorie Phelps, one of my favorite characters from the series, is present in this adaptation to great effect, played by Phyllida Law! (She's the mother of actresses Emma and Sophie Thompson.) Anna Cropper gave a nuanced performance as Ann Dorland. I love seeing the portrayal of women in non-traditional roles.

I haven't much else to say about this one. As usual with the Carmichael adaptations, it sticks fairly close to the actual novel. The main difference is that the tv version is more direct in pointing up the World War I experiences of George Fentiman and of Peter, and actually shows George wandering around in a "shell-shocked" fit. Also, a poppy in the lapel for Remembrance Day becomes an important plot point. When I first saw this on television, I was young enough to have very little knowledge of the First World War; I think seeing reading these books and viewing this series were among the things that piqued my interest in the period. It's one thing to read about George's problems with his stomach, another to understand that his physical troubles were caused by exposure to poison gas and realize the true horror of his situation.

Book: An Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Nine Tailors - Peter Wimsey on tv

While I'm out of town for Thanksgiving, I thought I'd post my comments on various television adaptations of Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey novels. It's as good a way as any to occupy myself while I wait for release day for The Moonlight Mistress!

Those novels are a major part of my fictional consciousness. I read them for the first time in the early 1980s, then again in the late 1980s with a much deeper appreciation. I still re-read them, particularly certain ones, every few years, just as I re-read Jane Austen's works and C.S. Forester's Hornblower books (and as I expect to do with Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin books, once I've run out of new ones).

I have a collection of the Sayers adaptations on DVD, and periodically go back and watch, even though in all cases I prefer the books. What's relevant to my usual blog topics is I've learned some interesting lessons about different ways to present the same or similar material in a story depending on format, and different ways to think about narrative itself.

If you haven't read these classic mysteries, there are some spoilers in these posts.

The Nine Tailors is the oddest of the adaptations starring Ian Carmichael as Peter, because it strays farthest from the text. There's a lot of movement in the novel's dialogue, mostly breaking up long speeches among several characters in a scene, in ways that I don't think I'd notice were I less familiar with the books, or in some cases holding the book in my hand as I watch. There are also various small omissions and shifts to accomodate the medium and the budget. One event I really missed is Peter having to climb onto the roof of the church, but I could see how that would have been a challenge for the budget.

There's one big difference between this adaptation and the others. The Nine Tailors adaptation has some completely original material. An important element of the novel is the theft of the Wilbraham emeralds during World War One, which here is dramatized, taking about 25% of the total length. Carmichael, though a bit too old to be convincing as a callow young Peter, nevertheless carries it off with changes in his manner and speech, and the judicious addition of a moustache. The viewer is then dragged to the trenches with Peter and Bunter; Peter's traumatic experience is dramatized, as well as Bunter's subsequent arrival to be Peter's valet. At the same time, we see what happened to the villain Deacon, and how.

It's scripted; none of this business is shown in the novels at all; yet I confess I liked it. Better than I liked the rest of this adaptation, which I found rather dry. (Yes, I know there's a flood. Ahem.) The acting was all excellent, but for some reason, this particular adpatation didn't grab me like some of the others. Maybe I was just in a mood when I watched it. Maybe it's because I find large sections of the novel itself to be rather dull; by that point in the sequence, I want more of Harriet Vane and her glacial romance with Peter, and here I feel her lack acutely. Her absence in the novel is a presence, I think.

I did not feel the lack for all of the change-ringing neepery that fills the novel. It's interesting enough, but definitely would not translate well to the screen.

Fans of Blake's 7 will easily recognize the late David Jackson (Olag Gan) playing Jim Thody, the sailor brother of Will Thody. They may or may not spot Peter Tuddenham (voice of the computers Zen, Orac, and Slave) in Mr. Godfrey, who rings Batty Thomas; he's using one of his innumberable accents, but traces of his future characters can be heard by the keen of ear.

I'm really glad I bought this DVD when I did; it's difficult to find now.

Here's a link to the book: The Nine Tailors

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Introduction to Steampunk

I'm visiting the Romance Junkies Blog today, so please stop by!

Tomorrow at my own blog I start six days of posts about television adaptations of the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy Sayers.


Steampunk Recommendations

Fullmetal Alchemist is a wonderful Japanese steampunk series, available as both manga and anime.

Also in comics, Lea Hernandez' Cathedral Child and Clockwork Angels. Phil and Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius can be read for free online.

I really love The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage. And so should you.

If you'd like to get a good overview of steampunk fashion, check out Steampunk Workshop and the Flickr photo pool.

A quick guide to Steampunk style.

Do It Yourself is part of the fun, but if you want to spend money, try these fine vendors:
Clockwork Couture.
Victorian Trading Company.
Steampunk jewelry and accessories at

The Wild Wild West was full of improbable gadgets. I prefer the tv show, not the later movie...though the movie might have sparked new interest, so who knows?

I'm going to focus on earlier examples of the genre for the most part.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers.

The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick.

The Hollow Earth by Rudy Rucker.

Last, Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale is a much newer book that has some wonderful imagery and ideas, and includes a delicious male/male romance. I read this book wanting more of it, and still want more of it.

Steampunk Month at

A post by Meljean Brook that's an introduction to steampunk.

Done? Then move on to Dieselpunk.

I wonder when someone will start a trend of "SteamPink"?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Three Takes on the Marriage of Convenience

I recently read, in succession, three new books by Mary Balogh, a perennial favorite of mine in historical romance. The three books about three sisters each featured a Marriage of Convenience plot, and each one approached that basic plot from a different angle.

Warning: there are some plot spoilers in this post.
First Comes Marriage was the most traditional. The heroine's teenage brother, Stephen, has recently learned he's heir to an earldom. He and his sisters must enter aristocratic society, for which they are woefully unprepared. The hero, Elliott, is to be Stephen's guide, and since he needs to marry anyway, decides he will marry Stephen's oldest sister. The oldest sister carries a torch for another man, so the widowed middle sister, Vanessa, proposes that she should be the bride. The two marry fairly promptly and the story goes on from there.

Then Comes Seduction uses avoidance of scandal as the motive for marriage. The youngest sister, Katherine, was attracted to the hero, Jasper, but unbeknownst to her, he had drunkenly wagered that he could seduce her. He almost succeeds, but then his conscience stops him; he takes blame on himself and the matter is hushed up. However, three years later, they meet again, and he is attempting to court her when the scandal is revived and they are forced into marriage. This one features a mixture of plot elements: a burgeoning ambiguous attraction before the marriage combined with revelations of character that happen afterwards.

At Last Comes Love features the oldest sister, Margaret. In book two, the man with whom she'd been in love married someone else. In this book, he's widowed and back in England. Meanwhile, the scandalous hero, Duncan, has just over two weeks to marry for monetary reasons that also relate to the scandal in which he was involved years before. Again, Balogh combines elements of circumstantial forces (inconvenient lies, need for money, feelings of desperation) with courting; Margaret is attracted to Duncan, and demands to be courted, as both would like a "real" marriage to ensue. I still consider this book to be a Marriage of Convenience, because they are married long before the book is over, and numerous complications arise afterwards. To me, the essence of this plot is making something good out of circumstance, and this book definitely fits into that category. In some ways, it's similar to the second book but taken one step farther.

I'll be very interested to see if the fourth book in this series, featuring Stephen, also features a Marriage of Convenience plot.

Related posts:

Intricacies of Marriages of Convenience.

Why I Love the Marriage of Convenience Plot.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Edmund Blunden, "Report on Experience"

Report on Experience

I have been young, and now am not too old;
And I have seen the righteous forsaken,
His health, his honour and his quality taken.
This is not what we were formerly told.

I have seen a green country, useful to the race,
Knocked silly with guns and mines, its villages vanished,
Even the last rat and the last kestrel banished --
God bless us all, this was peculiar grace.

I knew Seraphina; Nature gave her hue,
Glance, sympathy, note, like one from Eden.
I saw her smile warp, heard her lyric deaden;
She turned to harlotry; -- this I took to be new.

Say what you will, our God sees how they run.
These disillusionments are His curious proving
That He loves humanity and will go on loving;
Over there are faith, life, virtue in the sun.

--Edmund Blunden

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Moonlight Mistress Excerpt - Arrivals

Moonlight Mistress is out December 2009 from Harlequin Spice. In this scene, Lucilla is briefly and unexpectedly reunited with her lover.


After Hailey was safe and cared for, Lucilla walked down the muddy path back to her quarters in one of the slapdash rear huts. She was dizzy from lack of sleep and reliving, in a near trance, the moments when Ashby had shifted from one form to the other. If only she could tell Pascal. For a few wild moments, she considered ways of sending him a letter--through the French command, perhaps, or to his relatives in Le Havre--before laughing at herself. He would not be pleased to hear from her, she was sure. He no doubt had quite a few pretty mademoiselles trying to catch his eye.

No, that was unfair; there was work to be done, and she felt sure the French army had not overlooked his usefulness. It made her feel a bit better to think of him occupied with engineering problems. She could even consider him with nostalgia.
He would love knowing that werewolves truly existed. She could encode that information in a letter, perhaps; it would not be like sending a letter simply because she wanted to do so. He would wish to discuss her discovery with her, and they could--no. She really had nothing to do with all this. She was neither an officer in the army or a person with any scientific standing that an army would recognize.

...Oh, she would give anything right now for a cup of tea, heavily dosed with Irish whiskey.

When she pushed open the door to her hut and saw the light on, Pascal standing there beside her bed, at first she thought she was dreaming. In one stride, he held her by the arms. A moment later, his mouth swept down upon hers. His mustache tickled her nose. That felt real. He drew back, looked down at her as if to confirm his welcome, then kissed her again before lifting her off the dirt floor and holding her tightly against him.

Lucilla stroked her hands up and down his back. Was he thinner than he'd been? She'd never before seen him in his uniform. The pale blue didn't really suit him, nor did the loose cut of his jacket. Of course, her own uniform added at least ten years to her, and included a silly hat and cape besides, so she supposed she couldn't criticize.

"Lucilla," he said. He kissed her cheek and set her on her feet. "I thought I would have to search you out."

"How did you--"

He shrugged. "I am a spy. Not in the field," he added, hastily. "I persuaded them that would be unwise. I have been working with data that others provide."

"But, here--

"I missed you," he said, with devastating simplicity. He cupped her cheek in his palm. "I had hoped you might miss me, as well."
Exhaustion and shock shattered over Lucilla's head like a shell exploding. Before she could burst into tears, she buried her face against Pascal's chest. She wrapped her arms around his waist and held on. "Yes," she said, muffled against his uniform.


c. Victoria Janssen 2009

Pre-order on

More excerpts.

More Snippet Saturday:
Vivian Arend
Ashley Ladd
Leah Braemel
Taige Crenshaw
Shelley Munro
TJ Michaels
Juliana Stone
Eliza Gayle
McKenna Jeffries
Jody Wallace
Lauren Dane
Juliana Stone
Kelly Maher
Shelli Stevens

Friday, November 20, 2009

Nifty Women Who Fought in World War One

Along the lines of "Nifty Stuff That Ought to be in Romance Novels," there are some famous women in World War One that would be fabulous sources for heroines.

I highly recommend Into the Breach: American Women Overseas in World War I if you'd like a good overview of the many non-combat roles women played in Europe during World War One. The book focuses on Americans, but I still think it's a good starting point for general research, as it's very readable and has an excellent bibliography.

Beginning in May of 1917, the Russian army had a battalion exclusively made up of women, commanded by Maria Bochkareva. About three hundred of the women were in combat; Bochkareva was wounded in the June Offensive.

Here's another great book that focuses on military women: The First, the Few, the Forgotten: Navy and Marine Corps Women in World War I.

There's a good Wikipedia page on Flora Sandes, a British woman who served with the Serbian army after becoming separated from her Red Cross ambulance unit, and was wounded by a grenade.

Hello Girls operated switchboards, often near the Front or under other dangerous conditions. Here's more. They were finally granted the status of veterans in 1978, though not retroactively, meaning they did not receive benefits for the period when they were denied. Here's another Hello Girl page.

Read more about women at the front.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My Philcon 2009 Schedule

I'll be at Philcon this weekend. My schedule is below.

Fri 7:00 PM in Plaza I
Victoria Janssen (mod), Stephanie Burke, James L. Cambias, Christine Norris, Tom Doyle

You don't have to go "all medieval on me" to write fantasy. What are the best examples of fantasy not based on European backgrounds to date?

Fri 8:00 PM in Plaza VII
Victoria Janssen (mod), Michael J. Walsh, KT Pinto, Caroline Cox, Lawrence Kramer

There are some books we read over and over again. What qualities do these books have that make them worth visiting again?

Fri 11:59 PM in Plaza IV
Oz Fontecchio (mod), Keith R.A. DeCandido, Lawrence M. Schoen, Phil Kahn, Hildy Silverman, Victoria Janssen

Reputedly, the worst story in the genre's history. Just try and read it without laughing.

Sat 11:00 AM in Plaza II
Christine Norris (mod), Catherine Asaro, Dina Leacock, E. F. Watkins, Gail Z. Martin, Victoria Janssen

All the Broad Universe authors in attendance give a short reading, creating a kind of “snack sampler” for the audience.

Sat 12:00 PM in Executive Suite 623

Sat 2:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two
Bud Sparhawk (mod), Catherine Asaro, Victoria Janssen, Rebecca Maines, Tom Purdom]

How has easy access to technology changed the way that we read, write and think? How is this reflected in the more recent novels of the field?

Sat 4:00 PM in Plaza II
Victoria Janssen (mod), Desirina Boskovich, L.A. Banks, Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Nina Ely, Stephanie Burke

What is the psychological appeal?

Sat 8:00 PM in Plaza I
Victoria Janssen (mod), Lawrence M. Schoen, Michael Swanwick, Stephanie Burke, Lee Gilliland

The treatment of sex in Science Fiction.

Sun 1:00 PM in Grand Ballroom A
Victoria Janssen (mod), Catherine Asaro, Robert Jeschonek, L.A. Banks, Oz Drummond

Is the crossover between Science Fiction/Fantasy and the Romance genre cresting or still on the rise? Where is it going? Is it affecting the whole field?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Edwardian/Belle Epoque Research Links

The Edwardian period in England officially lasted from 1901-1910 but is often extended through the end of World War One in 1918; another term, more applicable to the rest of the Europe, is La Belle Epoque, which stretches slightly longer. A great place to start reading about the period is the blog Edwardian Promenade. Be sure to check out the links.

Simple factual research is all well and good, but for story purposes, I think the little details are more important: what people wore, what they ate, what they did for fun.

Internet Archive on Great Britain, 1901-1910.
London Times Archive.
New York Times Archive, 1851-1980.

Victorian and Edwardian Photographs. This site has a huge range of photographic portraits that, to me, inspire a great many character ideas.

The Museum of Childhood has a section on Edwardian Lives from childhood on.

An enlightening article on womens' fashion 1900-1909. Check out fashions in clothing here, here, and here. A useful fashion links page.

This new site looks increadibly useful: East London Theatre Archive, which I found via Great War Fiction.

An overview of kitchens and cooking and some recipes. More recipes can be found here, divided by genre.

Neat information from World's Fairs, 1901-1910 at the National Fairground Archive, that I've always thought would make an original background for a novel.

Finally, though the design is cluttered, this site gives lyrics and/or sheet music and listenable links to a number of period music-hall tunes. For classical music of the period (and others), some available for download, visit the music library at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

And for fun as well as research, Suffrage on Stage. "Woman suffrage is the reform against nature. Look at these ladies sitting on the platform. Observe their physical inability, their mental disability, their spiritual instability and general debility! Could they walk up to the ballot box, mark a ballot, and drop it in? Obviously not. Let us grant for the sake of argument that they could mark a ballot. But could they drop it in? Ah, no. All nature is against it. The laws of man cry out against it. The voice of God cries out against it--and so do I."
--Marie Jenney Howe, "An Anti-Suffrage Monologue"

Related posts:

Basic Historical Research Online.

Historical Detail in Fiction.

Synergy in Writing and Research.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cherry-Picking Time

An editor to whom I'd previously sold reprints contacted me last week about possibly contributing to a new anthology.

Immediately, this made my heart sing. It sang even more when I found out I could write any subgenre of "hot romance" that I chose. Whee! Ideas ideas ideas! I've been missing writing short fiction, and the freedom it offers to experiment.

As I often do, I went promptly to my friends on LiveJournal, where my account allows me to post polls. I created a poll offering every story element that appealed: cross-dressing, circuses, space opera, the Crimean War, time travel, World War II, dystopias, cuisine, superheroes. After cross-dressing, the top choice was the Crimean War.

I adore writing things set in World War One, but I've also had a desire to set something during the Crimean War, mainly because I know little about it. I mean, there's Florence Nightingale and there's the Battle of Balaclava and the Charge of the Light Brigade. Half a league, half a league, / Half a league onward, / All in the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred. I want to go a little deeper than that.

Writing a story is a great excuse to learn more. I have a couple of books already, and until now they've been languishing unread. I ordered two more almost immediately. I'm already pondering where in the war to set my story - Balaclava seems an obvious choice.

But then there's the second element. Time travel was also a top choice. I've never done time travel. One of my favorite science fiction novels is Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, and though I don't aspire to anything so complex, I love the way she integrated time travel and scholarly study; Kage Baker's In the Garden of Iden has time-traveling agents as well, whose motives are more economic. Regardless of what I choose, time travel and a major event like the Battle of Balaclava would make perfect sense. And those two ideas are already percolating rapidly in my brain.


Related posts:

Synergy in Writing and Research.

The Research Book Dilemma.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Top 16 Romance Novels

I'm exactly one month late posting my sixteen favorite romance novels, but, they are anyway, in random order. And it was really hard and made me very sad, but I did it for you.

I limited myself to books published as romance, not science fiction or fantasy or mystery that included a romance in the story. I allowed one book per author. One of my requirements was that I'd read the book more than once and plan to read it again in future; the re-read requirement meant most of the newer books I've loved, by new authors or by old favorite authors, didn't make the list.

My List:

1. Judy Cuevas, Dance
2. Suzanne Brockmann, Frisco's Kid
3. Carla Kelly, Summer Campaign
4. Jennifer Crusie, Anyone But You
5. Liz Carlyle, No True Gentleman
6. Loretta Chase, Lord of Scoundrels
7. Laura Kinsale, The Shadow and the Star
8. Janet Mullany, Dedication
9. Marjorie Liu, Shadow Touch
10. Nita Abrams, The Exiles
11. Connie Brockway, As You Desire
12. Mary Jo Putney, River of Fire
13. Tracy Grant, Daughter of the Game
14. Jo Beverley, Christmas Angel
15. Mary Balogh, The Notorious Rake
16. Anna Campbell, Untouched

Amazon links for your convenience:
Frisco's Kid
Summer Campaign
Anyone But You
No True Gentleman
Lord of Scoundrels
The Shadow and the Star
Shadow Touch
The Exiles
As You Desire
River of Fire
Daughter of the Game
Christmas Angel
The Notorious Rake