September 2008


Viking society – or rather Old Norse and Old Danish culture, since the ‘Vikings’ were merely the subset of that culture which went raiding – is well known for being extremely macho. A great deal of emphasis was placed on independence, toughness, and the kind of bloody-minded aggression that seems almost pathological to us in our gentler modern society. Would we, for example, praise a son who raked the equivalent of a dozen stiletto blades down his father’s back because he was tired of doing a job he thought was for milksops? Probably not. But in Grettir’s saga, this is seen as an early example of Grettir’s indomitable spirit, very suitable for a hero.

A man’s reputation was worth more to him than his life. I’m trying to remember the name of the saga, but hopefully better informed readers can tell me the one I’m thinking of; the hero has been captured and held as a servant by a strong household. Eventually, he contrives to escape without anyone in the household knowing about it. He’s on the brink of getting entirely away when he thinks to himself ‘what am I doing, sneaking out like a slave or a woman?!’ Horrified at the thought that everyone will know he behaved like a coward, he turns back, kills everyone, and then escapes, happy that this time he has dealt with the matter like a man.

This was a culture which valued men for their hardness, and where reputation was all. As a result, there could be no worse thing that your enemies could do to you than to publically insult you and call you soft. In fact, the Vikings were extremely touchy about the whole subject of insults.

To quote from Gunnora Hallakarva, whose essay is the best treatment I’ve seen on the subject:

The Old Norse word used in the law code and literature for an insult was níð , which may be defined as “libel, insult, scorn, lawlessness, cowardice, sexual perversion, homosexuality” (Markey 75). From níð are derived such words as níðvisur (“insulting verses”), níðskald (“insult-poet”), níðingr (“coward, outlaw”), griðníðingr (“truce-breaker”), níðstöng (“scorn-pole”) (Markey 75, 79 & 80; Sørenson 29), also níða (“to perform níð poetry”), tunguníð (“verbal níð”), tréníð (“timber níð”, carved or sculpted representations of men involved in a homosexual act, related to niíðstöng, above) (Sørenson 28-29). Níð was part of a family of concepts which all have connotations of passive male homosexuality, such as: ergi or regi (nouns) and argr or ragr (the adjective form of ergi) (“willing or inclined to play or interested in playing the female part in sexual relations with another man, unmanly, effeminate, cowardly”); ergjask (“to become argr”); rassragr (“arse-ragr”); stroðinn and sorðinn (“sexually used by a man”) and sansorðinn (“demonstrably sexually used by another man”) (Sørenson 17-18, 80). A man who is a seiðmaðr (one who practices women’s magic) who is argr is called seiðskratti (Sørenson 63).

Calling a man by any term which suggested he played the ‘passive’ or ‘feminine’ part in homosexual sex was considered an insult so severe that the person who had been insulted had the right to avenge it in combat. Just the insult itself might be enough to get a man outlawed.

There is no apparent equivalent derogatory term for a man who played the ‘active’ part in homosexual sex. Indeed in ‘Guðmundar saga dýra’ Guðmundar plans to rape a male captive in order to break his spirit. This reflects badly on the slave, but not on the rapist, who is merely demonstrating his manliness.

Both castration and rape of defeated foes was seen as a good way of making them more effeminate, and therefore easier to control.

In this context – where the penetrator is regarded as perfectly normal and admirable, but to be the one being penetrated is to be shamed, broken, treated as a slave and ridiculed thenceforth as unmanly – it’s hard to imagine many m/m relationships existing as between equals.

There certainly seem to have been the Viking equivalent of call-boys, but they were cheap and low status, and regarded as essentially slaves. In this the Vikings were very similar to the Romans – it didn’t matter who you fucked, but if you were to be regarded as a real man it mattered very much that nobody fucked you.

Despite this attitude, some ‘passive’ homosexual men may have gained a certain amount of power by practicing seiðr magic. This was a traditional form of women’s magic that seems to have involved ritual sex. No doubt the seiðmaðr were ridiculed as other ‘soft’ men were, but this may have been counterbalanced by a fear of their uncanny powers.

Aside from being ridiculed, insulted and regarded as being on a par with slaves, I’m not aware that ‘argr’ men were punished for it before the introduction of Christianity. Toleration with contempt seems to have been the order of the day.

To sum up, it’s a perfect society for a master/slave, BSDM sort of relationship, but there are big psychological and cultural problems for any couple who want to think of themselves as equals.

For a much fuller treatment of the subject, I highly recommend

Gunnora Hallakarva:
The Vikings and Homosexuality:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/pwh/gayvik.html

Hello again! I hope you enjoyed our Aussie week last week, this week we look at homosexuality and attitudes to it from two very differing viewpoints. I think – at least, I for one am looking forward to both these posts.

On Tuesday, Alex Beecroft will be discussing the Viking attitude to homosexuality and will probably point out what’s VERY wrong with my pictures here. What a shame Kirk Douglas didn’t pin Tony Curtis to a wheel and started chucking axes at him, hmm?


And on Thursday, Charlie Cochrane will be exploring E M Forster so there will be a lack of axes, I’m afraid.

Do drop by and don’t be afraid to add a comment!

In line with Margaret Leigh’s post on her native country, we thought we’d keep the theme running with a post on Australian cinema.

Never self-indulgent, always fascinating and sometimes as harsh as the climate of its country, Australian cinema has clawed its way to the notice of the film world, taking its place -rightly, imo – alongside any nation on earth.

Here are a few of my favourites. I’d love to know about yours.

Muriel’s Wedding

A comedy which deals with suicide, theft, cancer? Surely not? But yet, it deals with all these and more. A wonderful warped coming out film with a great score and magnificent performances from all.

Strictly Ballroom

Tongue firmly in cheek and camper than a line of tents, this is a “must watch” for me whenever it comes on the TV. I love the storyline, (even if the cliche of the “ugly girl” becomes lovely just by taking her glasses off is a little over-done) the dancing, the over-the-top characters, the histrionics, the the music. Oh and the section where Paul Mecurio is dancing in his vest? And the Pasa Double? Hubba hubba. *fans self*

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Not the campest of our offerings, surprisingly. A travelogue tail of female impersonators travelling from Sydney to Alice Springs (don’t ask) and the adventures and misadventures they encounter along the way. Far fetched? Yes. Over the top? Absolutely. Brilliant? Not a doubt about it. If you’ve never see it, it’s worth it just for Guy Pearce, perched on top of Priscilla miming to opera while trailing silver lame across the Australian scenery.

Gallipoli

Back when Mel Gibson was good, and beautiful and not a loon. The film makes you love the characters and then breaks your heart into little bitty pieces. There’s a lovely slashy subtext if you have slash goggles, which I’m sure you do.

The Proposition

What? you are saying, “Never heard of it.” I caught this on a criminally short run and felt happy to have seen it. It’s what the Aussies do best, gritty, dark morally ambigious drama. The blurb goes :”A lawman apprehends a notorious outlaw and gives him 9 days to kill his older brother, or else they’ll execute his younger brother.” So you know you aren’t in for a Hollywood edition of an Australian Western. Screenplay by Nick Cave, which might give you a bit of a clue, too. If you like Kurosawa or Eastwood-style westerns then get the DVD of this – hard to watch in parts but so worth it.

The Piano

Called at times, “a fairy tale for adults” this was filmed in New Zealand with an international cast but is essentially Australian made. Scenery, score, performances to die for together with angst and turmoil by the bucketload this film is just about the perfect viewing for my money.

Shine

Another “can’t miss” for me when it comes on the TV. A real “journey” film that will grab you right from the beginning and you crying, laughing, cringing and simply wallowing in the wonderfulness of it. Wonderful wonderful score (hmmm – i’m seeing a pattern here)

I’ve included a clip of Geoffrey Rush (deservedly won a Oscar for his performance as the mentally ill David Helfgott) playing Flight of the Bumblebee. Rush did all his own hand workfor the film, which, as someone who can barely tinkle the ivories amazes me almost as much as the man’s performance. If you watch an interview with the real Helfgott it’s uncanny how accurate Rush’s performance is. It’s the most heartwarming film I know, and even this one clip makes me tear up.

The Shearers’ strike of 1891 is a pivotal event in Australian history which was responsible for the inception of the Australian Labor party and is also commemorated in Queensland by Labor Day which falls in May.

Why it happened

There is a widely held, but erroneous view that the Shearers’ strike of 1891 started when, in response to falling wool prices, agriculturalists attempted to lower the shearers’ wage, which was already low enough at one pound per hundred shorn.

The average shearer today can shear between 200-250 sheep in a day, but he is working with the advantage of electric or ‘machine’ shears.

In 1891, shearers used hand operated shears. Imagine trying to shear 100 sheep using these:


Old Style Hand Shears


Hand Shearing

How it Started

On the 5th of January, 1891, Charles Fairbairn, the manager of Logan Downs Station near Clermont attempted to get shearers to sign a Pastoralists Association contract of free labor in an attempt to reduce the influence of the shearers’ union. None of the shearers would sign, and they all declined to work under any agreement other than the verbal agreement of their union which included “continuance of the existing rates of pay, protection of their rights and privileges under just and equitable agreements, and a “closed shop” to exclude scabs or Chinese labor.”[1]

The Worker A prominent republican paper of the time, issued by the famous William Lane, carried the following rallying line in one article: “you can take all social injustices and industrial inequalities and vested interests and strangle them one by one with your million muscled hands.” which reflected the radical republicanism of the times, especially in the city of Brisbane.

In February 1891, the center of the strike moved to Barcaldine, an advantageous place to mount a strike because it was the terminus of the railway line from Rockhampton and at the center of the Mitchell district, the richest pastoral area of the colony which held some thirty farms, including Beaconsfield Station, one of the largest sheep farms in Australia.

Within a very short time, the Shearers’ camps at Logan Creek and Blue Bush Swamp swelled to between 400-500 men.

By March of 1891 the battle lines were firmly drawn when the Pastoralists Association brought in ‘free laborers’. These free laborers were referred to as ‘scabs’* by the shearers’ and faced booing and jeers from the striking men, with many of them being persuaded to join the strike.

This was not to be tolerated, and the colonial authorities ordered troopers to protect the free laborers. Troopers rode from woolshed to woolshed, driving off the strikers. When striking unionists were arrested, woolsheds and crops were burned in retaliation.

Unionists marched at Clermont and Barcaldine under the proud Southern Cross flag of the Eureka Stockade Diggers and when the military mounted parades of their own in response, the situation grew so tense that shots were close to being fired.


The Eureka Flag

The End of the Strike

In June of 1891 troopers rode to the camp at Capella to arrest unionists involved in the jostling of George Fairbairn at Clermont Railway station. The Union office at Barcaldine was surrounded by 120 mounted infantry who arrested the strike committee.

The committee members were charged with sedition and conspiracy. They each received three year gaol terms, and the further punishment upon release of two hundred pound, twelve month good behaviour bonds.

It was a crushing blow to the movement, and by the end of June, the strike had collapsed.

The end of the strike, however, was not the end of the argument, so to speak. Calls for a political party to protect the interests of the Australian Worker became more insistent as time wore on, leading to the creation of The Australian Labor Party which still exists today and is currently the party holding majority in Australia with the election in late 2007 of Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

Whether the Labor party as we know it today would pass muster with the proud and indomitable shearers of 1891, is a matter for conjecture and not within the scope of this article.

The actions of the shearers in 1891, though, are worthy of commemoration. May 6th marks the anniversary of this turbulent and pivotal time in Australian History remembering the men who fought to see all workers in Australia get a fair go.

Meg Leigh (C) 2008

Suggested Reading:

1. http://members.ozemail.com.au/~natinfo@ozemail.com.au/1shearer.htm

2. http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/1891-Australian-shearers%27-strike

3. http://jackhowe.com.au/index.htm

*Scab is a derogative term still used in Australia today, to refer to anyone who agrees to come in and work on a site that is affected by a strike.

Waltzin’ Matilda, Waltzing Matilda…

G’day possums – this week we shall be mainly celebrating things of an Antipodean flavour. Nom!

On Tuesday, Margaret Leigh will be discussing the Australian Shearer’s Strike of 1891. Bonza!

And on Thursday we’ll be sharing some of our favourite Aussie films!

See you during the week!

Yes – we all do the research, it’s not all about hot men in costumes. It’s about the story, and the history and the politics and the socio….

Oh who am I kidding? Sometimes, you know? It’s just all about the men in hot, historical costumes.

Here are a few of our favourites, (in no particular order) men who look good (and know it) in a weskit and breeches – damp or otherwise. Some actors seem to specialise more than others in the historical film genre, and frankly – who can blame ‘em? Pictures under the cut to save people’s dial-up from collapsing. You’ll need to click on the thumbnails to see the bigger pictures too. (more…)

Romance is a strange genre.  It has a conservative center, radical margins and a huge meta-culture constantly angsting about the state and future of the genre.  One of the main preoccupations of the romance aficionado is what trend is about to end, and what will be the next big thing.  This speculation is propelled less by the admittedly enormous and insatiable readership, than the also considerable ranks of prospective authors–most of them desperate to be writing a book that is hot and happening, not last month’s fad.

The figure below is based on a recent survey of erotic romance writers hosted at the ERECblog.  The question was: What erotic romance sub-genre do you think might be the next big thing?

The answers here (read clockwise from the top) can be read as roughly: fantasy (4%), Historical (22%), GLBT (18%), older woman and femdom (7%), various types of threesome (11%)… and of course the conglomeration of the realistic (who can predict anything?) and romantic (I will write what I like no matter what!) who would not hazard a guess.

What erotic romance sub-genre do you think might be the next big thing?

What erotic romance sub-genre do you think might be the next big thing?

But regardless of how accurate anyone’s guess might be, it is nice to see gay fiction and historicals are currently on peoples minds.

Hello! We hope you are enjoying the more active Blog and we encourage you to comment if you read something you like (or don’t!)

This week we have the following fabulous finery for your fondest favour.

On Tuesday Emily Veinglory goes back to the future and asks: is the historical the future of genre-romance?

On Thursday we share some of the hottest costumed men on the silver screen.

I hope you enjoy them! Tell your friends!

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love – Pride & Prejudice

We’ve all seen them, the costume dramas where dancing takes place but have you wondered how accurate they are or how much fun they’d really be?

For a start, dances in the 18th and 19th century were complicated. I remember doing country dancing when I was at school and it took just about all my concentration to “strip the willow” or to do a “dashing white sergeant.” So I’m doubly in awe of Elizabeth Bennett – who knocks off a neat cotillion or quadrille – while pausing now and then to partake in witty banter. My bonnet’s off to you, my dear.

If you agreed to dance with a partner you would “stand up” for a “set” of 2 dances – and this was generally about half an hour. Plenty of time to get to know each other a little, and you can imagine why it was considered scandalous to dance too many sets with the same person. Not only was it selfish, and the partner didn’t get passed around (still not enough men to go around) but you would be considered to be getting too familiar and that led to trouble.

What is often omitted in these costume dramas (for obvious reasons that it would probably clash with the dialogue) was that there was usually a caller – same as there is in American Square Dancing (which sprang from these dances after all) who explained the changes in movement just before they were performed. Not an easy task, I can tell you!

La Coquette

If you can make head or tail of these dancing instructions you are better macaroni than me, Gunga Din. However – these people can – and here they are dancing it.

Can I express how happy the sight of men in breeches skipping makes me?

The Cotillion

The cotillion is a square set formation for four couples. The chorus (or figure) is danced between each “change” which means the dance changes slightly. There were generally 9 changes but they weren’t all danced at once or you’d be dancing all blooming night.

The Quadrille

Again, danced by four couples in a square (and if you’ve heard of riders doing a quadrille, well yes, this is where it came from – people wanted to try the complicated movements without horses) The head couple in a square would perform their movements and then these movements would be repeated by the other three couples in turn

The Mazurka

Dances from Europe travelled as soldiers returned from war, this one had spread from Poland and was particularly lively. Excuse the costumes here, as they are more Victorian – but the dance was made popular in Paris as early as 1775.

The Waltz

The waltz evolved from the stately turning dances of Alpine Europe, and like the Mazurka, spread during and after the Napoleonic wars. It was adopted by Almacks in the early 19th century but was still considered quite shocking by much of society that didn’t requent that club. Some hostesses barred it from their houses.

Ernst Arndt observed the waltz being performed in 1799:

The dancers grasped the long dress of their partners so that it would not drag and be trodden upon, and lifted it high, holding them in this cloak which brought both bodies under one cover, as closely as possible against them and in this way the whirling continued in the most indecent positions: the suppporting hand lay firmly on the breast, at each movement making little lustful pressures; the girls went wild and looked as if they would drop. When waltzing on the darker side of the room there were bolder embraces and kisses. The custom of the country: it is not as bad as it looks, they exclaim. But now I understand very well why there and there in parts of Swabia and Switzerland the waltz has been prohibited.

Again – this video is the wrong era for dresses etc – but you can imagine just how shocking it must have seemed after the “gentle on the eye” country dances where everything is neat and symettrical – this must have seemed like Babylonian chaos.

No sooner than this dance had been universally accepted, when a further horror was perpetrated on the genteel set…

The Polka

http://www.lahacal.org/film/polka.html

And then – it’s all downhill from there!!

“As well-bred as if not married at all”
~ Lady Mary Wortley Montagu on the Hervey marriage

Sweet, pretty Mary Lepell was one of Princess Caroline’s “Virgin Band,” as her Maids of Honour were known. The royal chaplain had complained to the princess that her maids were causing distractions during his sermons. When attempts to discipline them failed high panels were erected around their pew to prevent them making eyes at the gentlemen of the court.

Bishop Burnet perceived that the beautiful dames
Who flocked to the chapel of hilly St James’
On their lovers alone did their kind looks bestow;
And smiled not on him while he bellowed below.

~ Lord Peterborough

Lady Mary Lepell (known as Molly) won acclaim at court for her beauty and amiable character. She was unusually well educated for a woman of her day, and developed intellectual interests which she shared with correspondents and friends.

She met with the infamous bisexual Lord John Hervey at court and was very soon his companion.

Lady Molly was one of the most popular of the Virgin Band and was celebrated in verse by great men of the day such as John Gay, Alexander Pope and Voltaire. In 1720, Gay wrote of the couple, “Now Hervey, fair of Face, I mark full well, / With thee, Youth’s youngest Daughter, sweet Lepell!”

However, unbeknownst to John Gay, the couple had actually been married in secret for six months. Despite the later scandals of homosexual behaviour by Lord Hervey, it can be assumed because the match was secret, and both parties were relatively impoverished, that it was a love match. The proof that Lord Hervey was not simply a homosexual followed shortly afterwards as Lady Molly bore him four children in swift succession.

However Hervey appears to have bored of his wife and sought amusements in London and Bath, and it was there, in 1727, that he met the man who was to shape the larger part of his life, Stephen Fox, universally known as Ste. Lady Molly knew both Stephen and his brother Henry but her opinion of Stephen was not high. He was a country mouse rather than a town one and as she wrote to Henry Fox, “Ste is such a country gentleman that unless one could be metamorphosed into a bird or hare he will have nothing to say to one.”

She was, literally, abandoned–ordered by Hervey to remain in Ickworth, Suffolk, whilst he and Ste socialised from London to Bath, but this did not seem to dampen her love for her husband as her outpourings of letters seemed to prove. However, she could not help but sound a little bitter, adding in one, “yet I think I should in his case rather have desired, than forbid, one I loved to be with me.”

Even when Hervey went abroad with his amarato, she played the dutiful wife and wrote to Ste, rather than to Hervey himself asking for news of his ill-health. If she resented Ste’s affections with her husband she was sensible enough not to speak openly of it. This loyalty paid off, as upon Hervey’s return to England they were temporarily reunited, and nine months later, her fifth child was born.

This was the pattern of her life, and some have said, that her willingness to be so estranged from Hervey bored him more. Hervey’s relationship with Fox continued until 1742, after which Hervey retired to Ickworth and to his wife, to die.

After her husband’s death in 1743, Molly moved to a beautiful little house off St. James’ Park where she entertained some of the great names of day, such as Chesterfield, Horace Walpole and Thomas Carlyle.

She remained good friends with Stephen Fox until she died in 1768.

This week we have the following delights for your decadent delectation.

On Tuesday we learn a little about Lady Mary Hervey, wife of one of the most notorious Macaronis, Lord John Hervey.

On Thursday we learn about ballroom dances (and no, that’s not a Macaroni euphemism!) in the Victorian and Regency eras with many videos for you to learn and try at home! I find it amusing that the men in this picture seem to have eyes only for each other.

Lee

Lee

 

 

 

 

 

Hello!

I’m Lee Rowan, I write gay romance (mostly historical), and my apologies for this post coming in just under the wire.  The nights are getting chilly already here in Ontario, the list of outdoor jobs to do is longer than it should be… and we had a dry, sunny day, so there’s now a young oak tree waving proudly in the backyard and a stack of fence sections painted.

 

I’d rather introduce almost anyone other than myself.   Being raised in the pre-diva era, I find it much easier to wax enthusiastic about how interesting someone else is.  However, as a friend pointed out, seeing as my wife and I left our native country to move to Canada so we could be legally married, that does qualify as same-sex romance, so in that sense at least, it’s ‘write what you know.’ But the domestic adventures of a mathematician and a massage therapist-turned-writer don’t provide much real excitement, except when the dog’s eaten something she shouldn’t have or the cats  stage a re-enactment of ‘Ninjas Attack!’ at 2 am.

 

My stories are the sort of thing I enjoy reading, and to some degree come out of things I enjoy reading.  I’ve always been fascinated with sailing ships, and the A&E “Hornblower” series caught my attention a few years back… then someone introduced me to Patrick O’Brian’s magnificent Aubrey-Maturin series.  When something catches my interest, I tend to start reading any related material I can get my hands on, and when there’s a critical mass of information, the “what ifs” start turning into stories.

 

That’s where Ransom came from.   It seemed likely to me that young men raised on board ships from an early age would be inclined to become attached to their friends once the hormones kicked in. (As Dave Barry put it, a teenage boy can get aroused thinking about linoleum—and when there are no women around, a fellow midshipman is a lot prettier than linoleum, especially since it hadn’t even been invented yet.)  But just falling in love wasn’t easy, either—given the Articles of War and the death penalty,  a young man couldn’t just say “hello, Sailor” to his messmate without risking more than a punch in the chops, especially if the other young gentleman has dueled with and killed the last fellow who made an improper advance.   And the situation’s even more complicated if the smitten midshipman had been raped by that same man, Correy, and has a cargo of shame over it.  This setup did give David Archer a lot to overcome, but I think that’s what appeals to many readers—he does manage to survive and triumph.

David and the man he loves, Will Marshall, are accidentally caught up when their commanding officer, Captain Smith, is kidnapped.   Their abductor, a manipulative sociopath named Adrian, decides that David looks appealing and takes him out of the cell to demand sex.  When David refuses, he has Will beaten, and threatens to kill him.  After David capitulates, Adrian seems to change his mind and appears to choose the unknowing Will as his victim, then  orders David brought to his cabin:

(excerpt)

“…Never mind that Will had been alone, that he had no way of knowing that Correy was a bully who only attacked when he was sure of winning; Will simply stood up for himself, even though his life had been on the line.

In this situation, though, he’d dare not fight. William would risk his own life, but not theirs. He would ultimately be forced to submit, and Archer had no doubt that his determination would hold…but it would damage him, take some last bit of innocence he probably didn’t even know he had.
And that’s not a problem for me, is it? Not anymore.
At any rate, this was not Marshall’s demon. It was his own, and no one else could face it for him.

A fatalistic calm settled over Archer as he wiped his face, put on his jacket, was muffled and escorted above. His hands felt like cold stone, his mouth so dry he might have been chewing cotton. What was it Captain Smith had said, a thousand years ago, in the waggon? “There are some circumstances that put us entirely at their mercy. And sometimes there is no mercy to be had.”

“Let him think he’s won,” Will had said. “Play for time.” I hope to God the Captain’s plan is working. I hope he really has one.

Fourteen steps from the hatch to the quarterdeck. Down three steps. And the cloak came off and one guard knocked at the door and Adrian waited within with that smug, self-satisfied smile.

No mercy to be had.

I’ll just have to manage without it.

 

 

 

 

And he does, of course, very bravely, and (since this is a romance) Will comes to realize that there’s a lot more to the friendship than he first thought.  And there turned out to be more to their story than would fit in one book, which is where Winds of Change (and very soon Winds of Intrigue) come from.  The boys also had a shared-dream fantasy in my otherwise het trilogy Sail Away, as well as secondary roles in one of the m/f stories, and they exchanged Christmas presents and affection in a story in Heroes Unwrapped – the one don’t-ask, don’t-tell m/m story in LBR’s 2007 holiday anthology.  There’s at least one more book in their story arc, and they’re pretty persistent, so there’s no telling if they’ll show up again in the future.

         

 

 

 

 

I had a stroke of incredible good luck with Ransom.   Linden Bay Romance wasn’t the first publisher I sent it to, but the query package arrived just as they were considering expanding into m/m stories, and having a complete manuscript right on hand must’ve helped them decide the experiment was worth a try.   And I’m still amazed that Ransom won Linden Bay its first EPPIE award, in the first year that EPIC had a GLBT category.

Walking Wounded was kind of a kiss-it-make-it-better story.  I’d seen so much factual and fictional misery about the wars of our time, both in the former Yugoslavia and the mess in Iraq, and I wanted to write something with a happy ending and some happy sex. 

(excerpt)  He slipped the briefs down Kevin’s legs, marveling at that trim, masculine body—strong shoulders, beautifully muscled limbs, strong but not overdeveloped, neither too much body hair nor too little.  If he were set to design a picture of male perfection, he could not improve on what lay before him now.  The beauty of it took his breath away.   “Jesus, Kev,” he said.  He let his fingers drift through a sprinkling of chest hair that looked like pure gold where the morning sun touched it, and tried not to notice the little scars that hadn’t been there before.  “I don’t know where to start …  No, maybe I do.  I’ve learned a thing or two since the last time.”

 

“I thought you said you hadn’t —”

 

“I learned something that is almost better than sex.   Roll over.”

 

“That doesn’t sound like ‘almost,’” Kevin said, but he did as John asked, plumping a pillow under his face and glancing back over his shoulder.   It was, as John’s grandmother had once said in reference to something else, a picture no artist could paint.

 

John sighed.  “I will never get tired of looking at your arse.”

 

“Flattery will get you somewhere, but it’s not better— oh!”

 John had settled one hand on each cheek and begun to slowly rotate them, pressing lightly with his palms.  “For a while,” he said, “Quite a long while, I was so dissociated I hardly realized I had a body.”   He glanced around the room and located what he was looking for over on the storage chest.  “Stay put.”

 

 “That was nice, but —”

 

 “I’m not finished.”   He found the bottle of sandalwood-scented oil he’d bought ages ago, poured a little in his palms, and rubbed them together as he settled himself between Kevin’s legs.   He reached up to Kev’s shoulders, spreading the oil down, pausing for a deep breath of the intoxicating combination of scents, especially the part that was clean, healthy male… the man he had never thought to see again, to lie with again…  He was astonished at his own sudden lust.  He had gone without for so long that his body had gone into sexual hibernation, but right this moment he only wanted to throw himself on this beautiful man and fuck them both into a stupor.  

 

 And if he touched Kev’s arse right now, he would do just that.  Slow the hell down!  he told himself sternly.  Taking a deep breath he started at Kevin’s heels, kneading the soles of the feet with his thumbs.   Kevin groaned.

 

 “Does that hurt?”

 

 “Are you crazy?  It’s wonderful, don’t stop!”

 

 

WW is set in England because not only is it a country that participated in both those actions, it’s got legal domestic partnership.  It’s my only contemporary m/m so far, and the reason I mention it here is because this is the real ‘happy ending’ for Will and Davy, too.  A few readers have guessed from the hints in the story, and yes, John and Kevin are the same two souls, reunited in a world where they can be together openly.

Gentleman’s Gentleman was just sheer fun.  I’ve always loved the Sherlock Holmes universe, with dashing gentlemen dashing (literally) around in trains and carriages, solving puzzles and foiling the baddies.  Jack Darling was inspired by two things:  the inimitable Captain Jack Harkness on the BBC’s Torchwood, and a fireplug.  Our new home has a fire hydrant right beside the driveway, forged in 1952 by the Darling company.  A fine old English name like that is too good (and to perfect for the character) to let it just go to the dogs.   I think there will be other stories with Jack and Lord Robert, too—I was a huge Man from UNCLE fangirl, and the late Victorian era is perfect for cloak-and-dagger adventures and derring-do.  Gents is a romanticized version of the time, of course, but I think there’s room enough for all sorts of fiction and this is definitely escapist… a few streets over from 221B Baker, in that time of fog and gaslight when a gentleman’s personal gentleman was one constant in a changing world.

 

Gentleman's Gentleman

Gentleman

 

 

 

(excerpt)

Things were changing between them. Robert didn’t know what was going to happen. That was unsettling, but he didn’t mind. He could not imagine going to bed with Jack as a subservient partner. Or anyone, really—but especially not Jack. Their roles would have to be reconsidered, somehow.

They had already shifted; he suddenly found himself unable to think of the man beside him as “Darling.” Yes, that was his name, always had been, but in the privacy of Scoville’s his own mind it now sounded more like an endearment. He wondered what they would call each other when they were alone.

 

But they were not alone yet, so they went through the rest of the bath ritual, declining a massage but submitting to being sluiced down by the shower-room attendant. At least they had the choice of warm water or cold, and Lord Robert saw no point in subjecting himself to a case of goosebumps.

 

He permitted himself a quick peek at Jack’s nicely shaped backside while they were dressing. He’d seen it before—the Army left no secrets—but this was different, too. He was no longer just another soldier having a wash. Scoville wanted very badly to touch, and had to turn his mind firmly back to their mission. His mind was obstinately resistant to such discipline, and his body wasn’t doing much better. He pulled his trousers up with only seconds to spare.

 

Retracing their steps, they stopped at the desk for the room key and the briefcase. Scoville had his suspicions about the silver box that it contained and he felt certain Darling shared them. He hoped to hell he was wrong. He didn’t want to have to bother with any other business tonight. He wanted to sit down with Jack—better, lie down with him—and explore the future that was opening up for them. He really, most sincerely, wanted to be wrong.

 

Neither of them said anything on the way back to their rooms. Jack put the key in the lock, pushed the door open, and turned up the light. He froze, and turned to Scoville wordlessly, his jaw set and his eyes angry.

“Damnation.” Scoville followed Jack inside, pushing the door shut behind them.

 

He had not been wrong.

 

That was clear from the devastation that greeted them. The bed’s pristine coverlet had been ripped away, sheets and blankets knotted in a lump on the floor, the mattress pulled half off its frame. All the dresser drawers had been yanked out—not just removed, but thrown. They lay several feet from the dressers where they belonged. The little table, the nightstands, anything light enough to lift, had been overturned and flung. Chair and sofa cushions had landed at odd angles all over the place.

 

“The damned fool,” Darling said. “He threw a bloody tantrum.”

 

“That’s exactly what it looks like.” Scoville glanced around the wreckage. The door to the adjoining room was closed. “Shall we check your quarters? I’m not about to make the same mistake twice.”

 

“Yes, my lord.” Darling fished the briefcase key out of his breast pocket and unlocked it; he handed Scoville his pistol and took the second one himself.

 

“The room’s bound to be empty, you know,” Scoville said.

 

“I hope so, my lord.”

 

They moved toward the door, Scoville going left, Jack right. Interesting. In a crisis, they left the uncharted ground of what might lie ahead and slid effortlessly back into their roles of officer and noncom.

 

To no point, as it turned out. The intruder was long gone, but he had spent some time here; this room had been ravaged even more completely than Scoville’s. A long streak of bay rum stained the carpet and spilled onto the polished floor, a shaving mug lay in shards below the marble windowsill where it had been smashed, and their luggage was tumbled everywhere.

 

Jack walked over to the window and picked up a curved piece of heavy porcelain, the handle of his mug. “I got this when I joined the Army,” he said in a curious light tone. “It was advertised as nearly unbreakable.”

 

“We’ll find you another. And the hotel’s bound to have a barber.”

 

Jack let the handle fall; it hit the sill and cracked in two. “I could grow a beard.”

 

They were back in terra incognita. For some reason, Jack seemed truly distressed at the loss of a bit of cheap crockery. “I’d really rather you didn’t,” Scoville said. “I like your face just as it is.”

 

Jack shook himself slightly, and glanced around the room as if seeing it for the first time. “Shall I ring for assistance, my lord?”

 

“I’d just as soon ask for different quarters,” Scoville said. “But we can’t leave these rooms yet. Our visitor will be here in half an hour.”

 

“This room needs a mop and bucket,” Jack said. “The other doesn’t, not really. Let me ring for help, and we can get that room set to rights in fifteen minutes.”

 

“So quickly?”

 

“I didn’t think to bring a stopwatch, my lord, but yes, if we’re quick about it. Our guest needn’t see any disorder at all.”

 

That last sentence had an edge to it. “Good thinking.” Scoville pulled the cord for the bellboy himself. “Let’s not waste time. You and I can put the mattress back on the bed and bundle my things into this room.”

 

Jack grinned. “Not the exercise I’d been hoping for, my lord, but it’s a step in the right direction.”

 

Thank God he was back to normal. And, even better, flirting. “By the way, Sergeant, do you mind if I kiss you?”

 

“Not at all, my lord.”

 

Scoville had thought it would be a difficult thing to initiate; as it turned out, the only difficulty lay in stopping. The touch and taste of lips opening under his sent a jolt through all his limbs and straight down his body; he felt like a steel splinter beside a magnet. His self-control counted for nothing. One kiss wasn’t enough. A thousand wouldn’t be enough. And damn two layers of clothing all to hell.

 

Hands slid down his back, squeezing his arse, and they rocked together as he surged forward. Why had he expected Jack to be shy or diffident? He was a volcano. All that pent-up heat and power—how could he have hidden it so well? Scoville’s arms went around the man as their bodies melded together—no, they couldn’t do this, not now. They’d already rung for assistance. But he simply couldn’t stop.

 

“Bellboy,” Jack mumbled, turning his face away so his temple rested against Scoville’s cheek. “We can’t. No time.”

 

Scoville drew back enough to look at him. Jack’s mouth was reddened and soft-looking; his pupils were so wide his eyes looked almost black, and he was breathing hard.

 

So was Scoville. Reluctantly, he released the body pressed so sweetly against his own and took a careful step back. “You’re right. Let’s get to work.”

 

And speaking of fun, doing this project with Erastes and Charlie was tremendous fun–Erastes’ mad websearch skilz turned up that beautiful cover photo, which our editors accepted with glee, and Charlie reminded me of a fact I’d forgotten:  the “Scoville” scale is used to measure heat… in chili peppers.   I can just imagine what Freud would make of that!

 

I post here at The Macaronis from time to time, have a Live Journal, http://lee-rowan.livejournal.com,  a website: www.lee-rowan.net, and a Yahoo group that I do not give nearly the attention it deserves:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Action-Adventure-Romance .

My books can be found at http://www.lindenbayromance.com/storeSearch.html?searchBy=author&qString=Lee+Rowan  and on Amazon, and if you have any questions, complaints, or good Age of Sail book recommendations, I can be reached at lee.rowan@yahoo.com.

Thanks!

(Not quite ‘see below’, but if you click on the picture it will take you to the ITV Lost in Austen page.)

So, did anyone see ‘Lost in Austen’ last night? What did you think?

I admit I arrived a little late and the modern girl had already switched places with Lizzie Bennett. But as she was only being introduced to the family, I can’t have missed that much.

The premise of the programme, if you haven’t seen it yet, is that Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice switches places with a modern Austen fan. Lizzie gets to do something mysterious in the modern world, and the other girl, Miss Price, gets to live in Pride and Prejudice. Me, I’m curious to know what Lizzie is getting up to in modern London, but so far this hasn’t been addressed.

So, cue Modern girl blundering around in P&P, simultaneously knowing too much about the plot of the book, and too little about the rest of the society to be able to fit in. Naturally everyone is very curious about her, and her presence begins to disrupt the story in significant ways.

For example, Mr. Bingley appears smitten by her charms. I really hope that the ‘look, I’m wearing no stays’ boob shot isn’t meant to be the whole cause of his infatuation! Perhaps he starts off with ‘OMG boobs!’ and works up to being intrigued by a woman who’s so different from everyone else – as per the rules of most Regencies, except Jane Austen’s.

Cue lots of guilt and scheming on her part to try to get the story back on track. Meanwhile Jane is being lovely to her, Charlotte Lucas is proving to be as on the ball as she is in the original, Mrs. Bennett is see-sawing between far too sharp and her normal dim self, and Modern Girl is getting rapidly out of her depth.

I enjoyed it more than I expected, to be honest. There were some cringeable moments at the start, when it looks as thought the P&P characters are going to turn into caricatures of themselves. But then I thought it settled down and occasionally showed some real insight into the characters. In fact, Darcy’s dancing with Miss Price when he wouldn’t have danced with Lizzie was a stroke of genius, and showed him in a better light – as a friend of Bingley’s – than the original. Mr.Darcy does ride rather roughshod over Mr.Bingley in the original, and I liked very much that this gave him an opportunity to show that Bingley might get something out of the friendship too.

Is Modern Miss Price a bit of a Sue? I think that will depend on whether Darcy falls for her too. A modern girl who fell into P&P and ended up with Bingley would at least be original. Then Jane can marry Darcy and Elizabeth can become a high profile barrister in modern London… Or not. I haven’t read the book on which this is based, so, if you know, don’t tell me how it ends! I’m hooked enough want to tune in and giggle with nervous but thorough enjoyment next week.

Oh, being the dunce that I am, I hadn’t realized that it was adapted from this book

http://www.amazon.com/Lost-Austen-Create-Your-Adventure/dp/1594482586

which I do own and have read! I still don’t know how it ends, of course, because it could end in numerous different ways depending on how the reader plays it. And the TV programme could come up with something new anyway. Good stuff! Now I’m looking forward to next week even more.

I can recommend the book too, btw. I enjoyed it a lot.

It’s not that I don’t like modern art…

Ok, that’s a lie. I don’t like modern art. I don’t want a dog poo on a dish to tell me of the human condition and if an unmade bed is worth a lot of money then my entire house deserves to be framed and I should be the richest person on the planet.

I digress – and so early!

I like rich, deep paintings with thick varnish, deep colours; I like symbolism and a story you can get lost in. I like unusual pieces, and portraits that look straight back at me. So here are ten of my favourite art pieces with a homoerotic theme.

Placing this entire post under a cut, and if you click on it, you confirm you are old enough to view art. ;)

(more…)

by Mark R. Probst

I think you may be surprised by the answer to that question. Truth be told, just about every historical out there uses some modern language. If not modern words themselves, then at least modern usage. Language has evolved over time, and the further back you go, the more foreign the language becomes to us. So a dedicated author could, in theory, write prose that is fairly authentic to his chosen period, but imagine what the poor reader would have to go through trying to decipher such antiquated language. I know of one such writer, Patrick O’Brian, whose meticulous research actually results in novels that very well could have been written in the 18th Century. While I admire O’Brian’s superior achievement in authenticity, I personally had one hell of a time comprehending Master and Commander, due to the language. There are a couple of writers here at The Macaronis who write age-of-sail with a decided shift towards modern language usage, and their novels are quite a bit easier to digest.

So what the historical writer should strive for is a delicate balance between the authentic and the modern. It is desirable to use enough words and phrases that the reader will recognize as being appropriate to the era and therefore be sold on the illusion of authenticity, but at the same time blend in enough modern language so the reader will comprehend what he is reading. Of course it is the personal preference of the writer and editor how far to tip the scale in either direction. Some writers, like O’Brian, will prefer to be heavily weighted on the authentic end, while other writers may choose just the opposite and go way towards modern.

For The Filly I tried to discard anything that I knew readers would clearly recognize as anachronistic, as that is the first thing that will break the illusion, but rather than use 100 percent authentic language from the real Old West, I tried to emulate the language of the old Hollywood Western movies. But for the discussions between my two protags regarding sexuality, of course there was no point of reference from the old movies as the subject was taboo, so I shifted to what I imagined real people in that time and place would say to each other and how I though they might say it.

Now, the next subject I’d like to bring up is translation. If, for example, you are reading War and Peace or Les Miserables, the only way for you to authentically experience the language is to learn Russian and French and read them in their original text, otherwise you are reading a translation that is of course an approximation of what was originally written. If one were to write about ancient times such as the Romans, English as we know it didn’t exist back then so of course everything written will be an interpretation anyway. So if a writer naturally tells an ancient story in modern words, who’s to say he can’t write a not-so-ancient story in modern terms as well, and just consider it a “translation” from the old words that would have been used into modern words that today’s readers can fully understand? Hey, the Bible’s been translated into modern English, so why can’t an historical be written that way? There is no reason it can’t. In fact a few of the recent historicals I have read do just that. But I will warn the writer that if he does take that approach, he should be prepared that some readers just aren’t going to tolerate it.

It’s really all a matter of personal choice, but what makes the historical something special is that it creates an illusion for the reader that he is witnessing the past, and it is up to the writer to maintain that illusion, and the words he chooses can make all the difference.

A fourteen year old girl gets raped. A man attacks his parents with a blade. A thirteen year old is kidnapped and taken to a brothel. An abused woman tries to kill herself and her child. A nine year old boy murders a six year old. The news doesn’t get any better, does it? Or perhaps it doesn’t get any worse, because all these stories were printed in The News of The World, not from September 2008, but Sunday October 1st 1843. That gives the lie (which you didn’t believe, did you) to the story that Victorian times were halcyon days of goodness and peace. Pfft.

I have a small collection of old newspapers (original and reproduction) and they are a continual source of interest and information. Not only do they give you a factual background – assuming that you remember that, like all sources, they are written for a certain point of view and for a certain audience – but they give a wonderful flavour of the time they’re from. I never really thought anyone actually did seriously report that there’d been laughter in court, but the Daily Telegraph does, in 1855, in a paternity case concerning a Mrs Thatcher (I kid you not).

I would adjure you to be careful about the matter of accurate reporting; that’s something else which hasn’t changed much over the years. I refer you to The Daily Mirror of April 16th 1912 . “Montreal, April 15 – It is now confirmed here that the passengers of the Titanic have been safely transhipped to the Allan liner Parisian and the Cunarder Carpathia. The Virginian is still towing the Titanic towards Halifax.” So now you know the truth.

And it’s the little snippets which are so fascinating. Do you know what was showing in the London theatres on D-day? I do. You could have seen, among others, the lovely Robert Donat in Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Or would you have preferred (perhaps more apt for this blog) Ivor Novello’s The Dancing Years? I know, because my paper tells me so. And I bet the reports about ‘what’s on’ are more accurate than some of the news items.

I love the adverts, as well. A wonderful source of information on fashions, prices, ‘lingua franca’. Fancy your hero in a nice pair of men’s poplin pyjamas from Selfridges? They’d only cost you 5/- (that’s five shillings to you youngsters, i.e. 25 pence) in 1935. Now, writers beware, those adverts might just catch you out, if you have your hero reading the headlines on the front page of the paper, because for most of the time The Macaronis are writing in, the average British newspaper might well have had adverts/notices on the front of it. Research needed before you commit the faux pas.

You might also be caught out if your 1950’s hero can’t sleep and decides to get up and watch middle-of-the-night TV. Even in 1966, UK TV programmes ended at 11.20 pm and didn’t start until 9.00am the next day. (According to the Telegraph of Sunday July 31st 1966. Prize to anyone who

can spot why I have that particular paper.) Actually, as it was Sunday, ITV didn’t start until 11.00am. Still, if you had Southern region, you could watch the film ‘Captain Horatio Hornblower’ in the evening so it wasn’t all bad.

So, if you want to add a little authentic touch to your tale, why not get your hands on a newspaper from the time/location of your story? You can find some of them online, e.g. at http://archive.timesonline.co.uk/tol/archiveand specific issues can sometimes be purchased directly from the publishers. It’s cheaper to root them out at things like jumble sales, or buy reproduction copies. Or ask me if I’ve got just the one you want.

I’m off now to puzzle over what story lies behind “LENA-Balham tube 12 today-CLANCY” and whether “Bar assistant man, wants job” ever got one, or if the death of John F Kennedy the day before rather overshadowed the intrigues of the personal column.

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