February 2011


This Monday just gone saw the first local Romantic Novelists’ Association lunch of 2011. Good food, good company, always something to learn and always a great chinwag. This time we didn’t have a speaker. Instead we all read the first 250 words from one of our works (finished or yet to be) and discussed them. In total there must have been about 14 offerings, from authors with dozens of books under their belts to the newest newbies. 

What amazed me was how different they all were. All good, but as varied as chalk, cheese and chewed pen lids. Within that small amount of words (a double drabble and a half) the tone of the story was set, the writer’s “voice” was instantly recognisable, you could get a pretty clear idea in all bar a couple of cases about where the story was going to go and you knew the era/seeting even where there hadn’t been a Cambridge 1907 type heading at the start.

And – maybe most important of all – I think you had a ninety percent chance of knowing whether you wanted to read more. While all the intros were good, not all of them piqued my interest enough to think, “Read on, read on!” Which led me to think about submitting stories and the importance of them making an instant impact.

I remember, on the I Do and I Do Two projects, how we could pretty well tell by the end of the first page whether a submitted story was a ‘goer’. The same applies where submission calls ask for a chapter or three. It’s not helping your cause to say, “The first few chapters are a bit slow” or “they don’t represent the story as a whole”. They’re the first bit the editor will see and if he/she isn’t sold, what chance have you got of nabbing a reader? Do we have the patience to plough through three chapters of intro to get to “the good stuff”?

From Syd McGinley
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php

This is a map of the wheel-ruts of modern English. Etymologies are not definitions; they’re explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago.
The dates beside a word indicate the earliest year for which there is a surviving written record of that word (in English, unless otherwise indicated). This should be taken as approximate, especially before about 1700, since a word may have been used in conversation for hundreds of years before it turns up in a manuscript that has had the good fortune to survive the centuries.

~

Two links from Erastes:

from lgbtukmonth

http://lgbthmuk.blogspot.com/2011/02/secrets-out-on-hidden-life-of-gay.html

hidden life of gay victorians

and

glbt objects in the Victoria and Albert – (disappointingly only 21!)

http://www.untoldlondon.org.uk/article/get-our-free-lgbt-trail-british-museum

~

and some vintage cross dressers:

from the Bilerico project, a young male impersonator

http://www.bilerico.com/2011/02/boi_from_a_bygone_era_vintage_male_impersonator.php

and from the blog A Gender Variance Who’s Who, Ross Hamilton as Marjorie

http://zagria.blogspot.com/2010/05/ross-hamilton-1889-1965-female.html

I see I forgot to do a Friday post last week.  My apologies!  However, that does mean that I’ve got an especially good selection of links this week.  So, without further ado:

Ever had your historical character sigh and stare at the wall, only to wonder exactly what he was seeing?  Have a look at these historical wallpapers discovered in a renovated house:

http://ht.ly/3SdYn

I haven’t yet looked at the rest of the site, but that looks pretty interesting too.

~

This is an absolute must bookmark site for anyone doing stuff set in the Victorian era:

http://www.victorianlondon.org/

several thousand pages of Victoriana, available free to the general public.”

~

Some evocative photos of London during WW2

http://www.howtobearetronaut.com/2010/06/london-blackout-february-1944/

I liked these photos in particular, but I follow the Retronaut on Twitter because it’s consistently interesting and inspiring with regular little glimpses into different eras and historical subjects.

~

And now for something completely different – some writing resources!

Ever stuck for a new story idea?  This may help:

http://www.creativity-portal.com/prompts/imagination.prompt.html

~

Oh no! My historical gay romance character has put on a deerstalker and is insisting he’s a detective, what can I do?  I know nothing about plotting mystery novels!

Fret not, but check out

http://ticket2write.tripod.com/mysplot.html

~

And for a bit of fun, and in case you were absolutely yearning for a banyan of your own

http://www.lacma.org/art/ffpatterns.aspx

downloadable patterns for a man’s banyan, a sleeved waistcoat, an unsleeved waistcoat and a late 18th Century man’s coat.  (Well, I can’t be the only one in the world who saw this and went “I want one!” can I?)

Marbodus (ca. 1035 – 11 September 1123) was archdeacon and schoolmaster at Angers, France, then Bishop of Rennes in Brittany. He was a respected poet, hagiographer, and hymnologist.

I have to smile wryly at the last instruction in the last two lines. But then if the young lover had kept these to himself, we’d never had seen them.

Horace composed an ode about a certain boy
Who could easily enough have been a pretty girl.
Over his ivory neck flowed hair
Brighter than yellow gold, the kind I have always loved.
His forehead was white as snow, his luminous eyes black as pitch
His unfledged cheeks full of pleasing sweetness
When they gleamed bright white and red.
His now was straight, lips blazing, teeth lovely,
Chin shaped after a perfectly proportioned model.
Anyone wondering about the body which lay hidden under his clothes
Would be gratified, for the boy’s body matched his face.
The sight of his face, radiant and full of beauty,
Kindled the observer’s heart with the torch of love.
But this boy – so beautiful, so extraordinary,
An enticement to anyone catching sight of him –
Nature had molded wild and stern:
He would sooner die than consent to love.
Rough and thankless, like a tiger cub,
He only laughed at the gentlest words of a suitor,
Laughed at a sighing lover’s tears,
He mocked those he himself caused to die.
Wicked indeed, this one, and as cruel as wicked,
Who with this vice in his character keeps his body from being his glory.
A handsome face demands a good mind, and a yielding one,
Not puffed up but ready for anything.
The little flower of youth is fleeting and too brief;
It soon witherws, falls, and knows not how to revive.
This flesh is now so smooth, so milky, so unblemished,
So good, so handsome, so slipper, so tender.
Yet the time will come when it will become ugly and rough,
When this flesh, dear boyish flesh, will become worthless.
Therefore, while you flower, take up riper practices.
While you are in demand and able, be not slow to yield to an eager lover.
For this you will be prized, not made lsss of.
These words of my reques, most beloved,
Are sent to you alone; do not show them to many others.

From Pieter in the North to Sebastian in the South (from Cane and Conflict)

14 February 1861

I’m lying here in bed, not ‘my’ bed because that is wherever you are and we are many hundreds of miles apart. I know it was my choice to leave as I can’t fight for the South if war does come, but that necessity doesn’t make me miss you any less or my wish any greater that we were lying in each others’ arms.

It’s only by chance that I discovered today is Valentine’s Day, but it matters not; I love you with my whole heart each and every minute of each and every day.

I will come home as soon as it may be possible; months – years, I will come, I swear. I pray you will still want me when that day finally dawns. Know I will always love you, always.

Piet

Richard to Julian (from Smoke Screen)

14th February 1802

You were restless last evening and you got up and went to the balcony. You thought I was asleep but I missed your warmth almost immediately. I lay there and watched you, entranced as the moon slipped from behind a cloud and bathed you in its light. You’re always beautiful to me but in that moment you were ethereal and I had the insane idea that perhaps you weren’t of this world, that you were but a dream that visited me when I needed to know that love was real.

Then this morning I awoke to find you in my embrace, your arms wrapped around me. Then you opened your eyes, smiled at me, and whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.”

If you are but a dream then I am happy to forever share it with you.

I love you.

Richard

 

"..through rain and snow you stand alone by the water's edge..."

Seeing Poems Written by Yuan at the Blue Bridge Inn

On your return last spring
you stayed in the Blue Bridge Inn;
wen the wind sweeps down
from the Qinling Mountains, I head
the other way; each time I
come to an inn I dismount first
eagerly looing on the walls to see
If you have hung any poems there.
 

In Rewi Alley’s book, “Bai Juyi-200 Collected Poems,” there’s this intriguing note:

“Durng the early part of his official career, Bai made close friends with Yuan Zhen, young scholar and poet also in his twenties… the two poets’ relationship was most intimate.  Their friendship was famous in literary history, and it was said taht whenever the two went out riding together, crowds gathered to watch them pass…”
 
and yet.. many of their poems vanished, and
“whereas it had been the custom for outstanding poets to be granted a posthumous title, this hoour was denied Bai by the emperor.”
Alley believes this was because the poet wrote verses criticizing the government, and that might be true.  But I wonder.

 

Sending Summer Clothes to Weizhi(one of Yuan’s courtesy names)

Upper garment white in colour
woven fine as mist
cotton cloth for trousers
thin as a cloud; don’t think that
these are too light; please
wear them, for I fear you
will suffer from the heat at Tongzhou.

The two poets planned to live together as Taoist recluses after they retired.   Yuan Zhen died before this could happen.  Juyi wrote dirges and songs for the funeral.

Night deep–the memorial draft finished;
Mist and moon intense piercing cold.
About to lie down, I warm the last remnant of the wine;
we face before the lamp and drink.
Drawing up the gren silk coverlets,
Placing our pillows side by side;
Like spending more than a hundred nights,
To sleep together with you here.

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