Thursday, September 30, 2010

Anne Gracie on Dorothea Brande AND on her new book, The Accidental Wedding

Let me introduce my guest blogger, the most excellent Anne Gracie, who's going to talk about Dorothea Brande, one of the most influential writers on writing.

Oh.  And we get just a peek at Anne Gracie's newest book, which is worth the price of admission all by itself. 

Anne Gracie will be GIVING AWAY A COPY OF HER NEW BOOK, The Accidental Wedding, to some lucky person in the comment trail.

(Forgive me for shouting.  It's just cool, is all.)


Anne Gracie here.

Jo kindly invited me on as a guest blogger because I have a book coming out this month.

But Jo's blog is mostly about writing, so it doesn't seem quite fair to do a "Rah, rah, buy my book" kind of blog. Instead I thought I'd talk about training your muse and Dorothea Brande.

Dorothea Brande was a writer and writing teacher in New York in the 1930's. She wrote a book called Becoming a Writer which is now a classic and is still in print. It was the forerunner to books like Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" and others.
But Dorothea isn't the slightest bit new-agey.  Her book is small and slender, her advice practical and quite pithy.  The writing style is spare, elegant, and a little old-fashioned in places.

Dorothea is as romantic about the writing process as a dog trainer is about training dogs — with good reason; she's on about training your muse to perform on command. But she also acknowledges there is magic involved — and that you can teach it to come to you. And it’s true.

I can't do justice to her whole philosophy here, but this is my own nutshell version of Dorothea, which I've used on and off for more than ten years.

1) The morning pages.

Anne Gracie's actual notebook

First thing in the morning, before you "engage with the day," before you talk to anyone or eat or read the newspaper or check your emails  (you can pee)— write. 

Write for a minimum of 15 minutes — it doesn't matter what you write.  Let your imagination flow freely. Write down your dreams, ideas, random thoughts, snatches of dialogue, stream-of-consciousness, ideas for a story -- don't restrict yourself.  It's best if you're still in that half-dreaming, half awake state.

Don't try to revisit what you have written, don't even reread it. All that matters is that you write every morning for at least 15 minutes. The point is to train the unconscious to come to the fore and express itself, and for your imagination to begin to flow and blossom.

When you've finished, look at your schedule for the day, find a time when you can write for at least 15 minutes, and make an appointment to write.

2) The appointment to write

No matter what, you must keep this appointment. If you're in the middle of something, you must stop and write. If you're ironing and have one more shirt to iron, stop and write. If you're in traffic, pull over and write. Accept no excuses or delays — more on that later. 

You can either continue with the free flow writing, work on a piece you've already started, write scenes or bits from a novel you're working on, start a short story — it doesn't matter. Again, it's only 15 minutes. Of course you can choose to go longer, but 15 minutes is all that's necessary to keep "the flow" going.

Why keeping these times are important.

I don't know about you, but my unconscious is always full of reasons why I can't write now and why it would be better to put it off and do it later. Keeping this appointment to write trains that expert in procrastination — my unconscious — that there's no point coming up with excuses. This trains the muse to perform on command.

In the early days, the unconscious whines and wriggles and spouts excuses by the dozen. Stay firm, write your morning pages and keep your appointment to write, and soon you'll find it easier and easier to write when you can — and to write well.

What Dorothea has done for me:

I used to believe I didn't dream a great deal -- only the odd strange one (brought on by cheese or something the night before ), but once I got into the swing of the morning pages, I recalled more and more dreams. It was amazing. And with the freedom to write anything, any way, my writing became fresher and freer and wilder, which fed into and enriched my books.

As the morning pages became routine, some miraculous part of my brain started to anticipate the writing and there are times I wake up and find scenes unrolling in my head like a movie, ready to be written. 

A number of pivotal scenes in my books have come to me that way.

Here's an example — the scene here is very close to the scribbled down morning pages scene in my notebook.

I must confess I don't always keep up the routine. Usually I "do Dorothea" religiously for a few weeks and once everything starts flowing, the routine gradually drops away. When I slow down or get blocked or have had a period of not writing, I return to Dorothea to get me back on track.

And there's much more to her book than I've mentioned here.

Before I go, here's the promo for my new book:


An injured man, a desperate woman...

She saves his life. He fakes amnesia...


Anne Gracie, THE ACCIDENTAL WEDDING  Berkley Sensation, October 5th 2010,  ISBN 978-0425233825

Thanks, Jo, for letting me visit.
Anne Gracie

Monday, September 27, 2010

Jeannie Lin at Word Wenches

I know it feels as though I will never post again.  I have been dilatory, which is such a lovely word it almost makes dilatory seem a delightful thing to be.

Anyhow.  I am in full frantic-panic mode about The Book Deadline and therefore largely silent.

I will just say we have a lovely interview with the author of Butterfly Sword over at Word Wenches.  Here.  Very interesting, and not just to those of you enthralled by the Tang dynasty.

Is there anyone not enthralled by the Tang dynasty?  So few periods of history are named after fruit-flavored beverages.

Monday, September 20, 2010

All that glistens is not . . . goldfish

You've probably asked yourself, from time to time, if there are any Shakespeare  Thomas Benjamin Kennington quotes about goldfish.

Did Shakespeare say, "That which we call a goldfish, by any other name would be as bright"? 
Or insult some catiff with a, "Thou wimpled, reeling-ripe goldfish-licker!"

He did not. 
Goldfish didn't make it to England till nearly a century after Shakespeare's death.  We got Shakespearean dogs and cats, camels, carp, marmosets, mackerel, and whales . . . but no goldfish.

Basically, the goldfish is the carp who made good.

Read the rest of 'Everything you wanted to know about Regency Goldfish but didn't realize it'
over at Word Wenches . . . here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why the English?

Jennie at Dear Author, reviewing Caroline Linden's book, You Only Live Once, says,

". . . reflections on the French Revolution made me question (not for the first time) the anti-French, anti-revolution bias in historical romance.  (my bolding)

It’s a bias that has interested me for a while, mostly because I’m not sure what is at the root of it.
Is it a general disdain of the French common to…most everyone but the French?
Is it based on the weirdly pro-British slant in historical romance (I say weird because it’s usually American authors writing these books)?

Is it based on actual disdain for the bloodthirstiness of the revolution?"

I've thought about this subject some.

Bit of Backgound here for anyone who lives on Mars and is tuning in through subether radio:

Historical Romance has a dozen few favorite settings.  The most tenacious of these may well be 'The Regency'.  Regency Romances are set, roughly, from 1800 to 1817. 

Engaging in fussy historical quibbledry here: 

The French Revolutionary Period ran from 1789 to 1799.  From the Bastille to Napoleon's coup d'etat. 

The Napoleonic Era was 1799 to 1815.  From the coup d'etat to Waterloo.

Anyone still able to unglaze their eyes at this point will see that Regency Romances are set during the Napoleonic Era. 

to put it another way . . .

To me, this kinda sums up the Old Regine.
To a character in a Regency Romance, the French Revolution, (Aristos fleeing the mob, heads rolling like ten pins,)
is ten or twenty years ago.  It happened when they were at school.  Some of the protagonists weren't even born when the Bastille fell.

The French Revolution was, (as my kids would put it,) "so last week."

Regency characters are fighting the Napoleonic Wars.
Different animal.

The Napoleonic Wars, unlike the French Revolution,
can be presented, simplistically, as a straightforward conflict of right and wrong.   (Which may be why Regencies are set there.)

France is an invader and conqueror.  England is defending itself and other nations in Europe.
"Them bad French invaded Spain.  We go rescue Spain."

The Regency spy surveils, and the Regency soldier comes home from, 'a just war'. 
My character Annique, in The Spymaster's Lady, has been loyal to France through the Revolution.

I propose that she may plausibly change her loyalty when Napoleon begins a series of wars of conquest.

Her moral dilemma is exactly about the difference between the philosophical basis of the French Revolution and philosophical basis of the Napoleonic Era in France.

My character Maggie, in The Forbidden Rose, makes a choice typical of the French Revolution.

She's not choosing between nations or philosophical systems, but rather is forced to one side of an internecine class war.

Annique responds to a moral conflict that didn't exist in the Revolution.  Maggie, to a conflict that was resolved by the Napoleonic Era. 

Eight years apart, it's an entirely different war.

As to why books get set in England, instead of,  say, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Croatia, or France . . .

I figger it's the same reason kids go out to play soccer or football instead of making up a new game each time.  You arrive on the field and you got yer lines already painted, the goal posts are up, and everybody knows the rules.

We write books set in Regency England because the readers are familiar with the Regency and folks are familiar with Regency England because so many books are set there.
It's one of those feedback loops.  A viscous cycle.  Sticky.

Readers come to a Regency Romance armed with all sorts of background.  They know Almacks, Bond Street, Vauxhall Gardens, and Gunter's.

Just about nobody knows the Chinese Baths, the Palais Royale, the Tivoli Gardens of Paris, or the Cafe Foy.

The Chinese Baths of Paris in the 1790s

A writer who sets a novel someplace . . . novel,
faces a massive origination fee.  She has to describe the Chinese Baths.  Explain what the Cafe Foy is.
While that author is describing, explaining, and making real the setting, she's not telling the story.

And the writer doesn't necessarily know all this stuff.  It's long, irritating, and difficult work to do research outside the English-speaking world, because, (you guessed it,) the references are not in English.

Finally, when we're writing Romance, we do not generally look at the French Revolution because you'd have to be barking mad to set escapist literature in the middle of folks getting their heads chopped off.  I mean . . .  really.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Giveaways at Romance Reviews and Today and Everyday

Yes.  There are folks out there who would rather have you as a reader than own a copy of Forbidden Rose.  I am sure this is misguided on their part

Here is Romance Reviews being part of BlogFest 2010 and giving away a copy of Forbidden Rose and Larissa Ione's Sin Undone.
(Forbidden is in great company, isn't she?)

Romance Reviews gave me a lovely review here, which was very nice of them even before they decided to include my book in a contest.  Their new site address will be here.
They have excellent taste in giveaways.


This blogfest thingum just seems to have let loose a raging torrent of folks who want to give you Forbidden Rose.

Jeanette at Today & Everyday is attempting to rid herself of a signed copy.
I do not quite know how she got hold of one since there are very few signed copies of TFR out there.  Maybe a dozen at most.

(I will be signing TFR in Vancouver in October.)

Nonetheless, passing over her error in judgement in tossing Forbidden Rose to the Four Winds, I will mentiion she is offering it in the company of:

Murder and Magick by Isabel Roman (signed)
Truly Madly by Heather Webber
Scorched by Sharon Ashwood
Love You To Death by Shannon K. Butcher
Demon's Kiss by Eve Silver
Naked Dragon by Annette Blair
none of which I happen to have read yet, but we got some intriguing possibilities, do we not?  
Eve Silver wrote Sin's Daughter, among other books, and always has such lovely covers that I am entirely green with envy.  

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Shooting your way out . . . with a flintlock

Hello folks,

A treat for you today.  I've invited an expert in antique firearms to talk about a subject near-and-dear to my heart -- pistol packing spies.

Random armed person of the Eighteenth Century
The problem with carrying dueling pistols and military ordinance in 1789 or in 1811 is that the general run of turn-of-the-Eighteenth-Century weaponry was big.
And heavy.

Not the sort of thing you could comfortably cart around in a purpose-sewn pocket in your jacket or cloak.

Not this small
Recognizing this sad fact, gunsmiths of the time made smaller weapons, intended for sneakier people.

It is those guns that I want to look at today.  So let me introduce my guest, 'Arizona'. 

Jo:  Welcome, Arizona.  We're glad to have you and your expertise with us.  Tell me about sneaky little guns in the era of the French Revolution and Regency.  These would have been ladies' guns?

Arizona:  Yes, they were.  Ladies had some firearms built specifically for them in the 1700's to early 1800's.  They were called "Muff Pistols".  These were small handguns which were easily hidden in a lady's muff, or handwarmer.  They were also small enough to hide within the voluminous clothing women wore in those days.

Jo: Did men carry them?

Arizona:  Though they were called ladies', or muff, pistols, many men carried them as they were considered to be what our small .380's and such are today.

Jo:  I notice men called them 'pocket pistols' when they carried them.  *g*  They weren't like modern guns, right?

Arizona:  These were flintlock pistols.  Percussion caps were designed in 1805, so it would be unlikely an actual percussion firearm would have been immediately available.

You will note, as you consider the various designs below, that firearms don't seem to have changed much since the early 1700's through the early 1800's.  That is true, though the "lines" of the firearms became more elegant and less "blocky". 

A little aside here, what we, today, would consider too large for one's pocket was indeed a "pocket pistol" during the period we are talking about.  Men wore greatcoats which had rather large pockets.  Thus, a pistol we would consider far too large for a pocket today would indeed fit into a man's greatcoat pocket.

Jo:  Can you show us some examples of these small Regency-era pistols?

Arizona: Here's a VERY good description of muff pistols, and the pocket type in particular.
Lady's muff pistol
From the 18th century small concealable pistols for self protection, were manufactured in Europe in large numbers. The picture shows a flintlock example manufactured in 1820 from Birmingham England.

While there were several notable firearms manufacturers, there were far more "cottage industry" gunsmiths who would make pretty much anything you requested.  Almost every medium to large city had several such gunsmiths.  The only comparable situation today is Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, where everything from matchlock firearms to AK-47's are made in home workshops.  Ammunition is made in the same way.

Measuring just over 4 inches (11.8cm) these lightweight guns were intended mainly for women. As they could easily be concealed in a Ladies hand warmer, they gained the name of Muff pistols.

Like many of this type of weapon it is fitted with a sliding safety catch to prevent accidental discharge.

Jo:  Ok.  How does my heroine load her pistol?

Arizona:  The shooter loads the firearm with black powder followed by a round lead ball.

This is usually done from the muzzle end, though, with some muff pistols, you unscrewed the barrel, seated the powder and ball, then screwed the barrel back on.
The ball was normally wrapped with a cloth patch, (though a piece of paper could be used in a pinch).

Once the powder was measured and poured down the barrel and the patched ball placed on the crown of the muzzle, a ramrod was used to force the ball down to the chamber where it was tamped against the powder, creating the charge. 

On larger pistols the ramrod was in it's familiar place under the barrel, for those who have seen "Kentucky Rifles" and other muzzle loaders.  In the case of smaller pistols, such as muff pistols, they generally came in a case, with a small powder flask, some balls, and a ramrod, which was generally kept in the case.

Remember, these were not thought to be used in a battle.  Rather, they were a last ditch self protection instrument, to be used when all else had failed.  You generally wouldn't have time to reload them, thus there was no need to keep the ramrod with the pistol.

Jo:  This took a while, this business of loading a pistol?
A three-barrel flintlock pistol

Arizona: Muzzle loading firearms were extremely slow to reload. Even experts were reported to need 15 seconds to reload a smooth-bore musket, with a much longer reload time for any rifled firearm. 
So some flintlock pistols were produced with anywhere from two, three, or four to as many as 24 barrels.  (The larger capacity firearms were of later manufacturer.) 

This photo and some of the information are from the Flintlock wiki, here.

Jo:  Wow.  Not something to carry around with you like a handkerchief, those bigger guns.

Arizona:  No, they were generally pretty heavy and rather large and bulky.

Most of the flintlock pepperboxes and multi-barrel pistols were of six or fewer barrels.  This was more due to the method of ignition (powder in the pan, which could be easily ignited by sparks from another barrel) than inability to design and build such a handgun. These designs tended to be costly to make and were often unreliable and dangerous.

While weapons like double barreled shotguns were reasonably safe, weapons like the pepperbox revolver would sometimes fire all barrels simultaneously, or would sometimes just explode in the user's hand.

It was therefore often less expensive, safer, and more reliable to carry several single-shot weapons instead.

Jo:  Right.  Carry a couple guns.  This sounds like such excellent advice I will have to have Doyle give it to somebody one of these days.
You have some audio-visuals for us?

Arizona:  The first You-Tube video shows how the flintlock works. Here.

This video shows the loading and firing sequence of a flintlock pistol.  Here.
And this one is an excellent example of loading and firing a flintlock musket through the use of paper cartridges.  Here.

Here to the side is the firing sequence for a flintlock.

Jo:  Let me add some more excitement --
See and hear the action of a frizzen, here
See and hear the action of the hammer here.
See and hear the gun fire here.

And some more interesting firing of period weapons here.

Now, Arizona, you have some pictures of the actual period pistols.

Arizona:  Here is a link to a small(er) double barreled French Flintlock Coat Pistol, ca 1750.  Another link to a French "Greatcoat Pistol" here.  And another small pistol.  Here.  This one shows some of the markings a royal arms dealer would have placed on their wares.  Here.

Jo:  That's beautiful workmanship on those.  And we see how the double barrels work.

I know there are number of folks who want details on the anatomy of a flintlock and the exact firing sequence.  I've put this below the cut . . .

Delve down below the cut and you will learn the origin of phrases like, 'flash in the pan,' and, 'to go off half-cocked'.  When we talk about 'lock, stock, and barrel', the 'lock' is the flintlock.
Cool, huh?

You will also become acquainted with the word 'frizzen' -  which is not the past perfect of an unfortunate day at the hairdressers.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Surrey International Writers Conference CONTEST

There are just five more days to enter the Surrey International Writers' Conference contest.