erastes


I’m sorry that we are a bit late in announcing this, my fault entirely! Thank you to everyone who entered, there was a great response.

The winner of Ava March’s bundle is ELIN GREGORY

The winner of my bundle is KIRSTEN

(Here’s a screencap of my draw so you can see it’s all above board!)

Well done, both of you, Carina will be sending your prize very soon. (probably after they’ve recovered from RT….)

Thanks for playing and I hope you both enjoy all the books!

Alex Beecroft:

Music doesn’t seem to work that way for me. For a start, I don’t listen to much music these days, except when doing housework, and that tends to be trance music without any words. I did listen to a lot of 18th Century sea shanties when I was writing my Age of Sail books, and they were excellent for letting me know the kind of things that the sailors of the time thought and said about themselves and their lives. I also listened to classical music of the time, so I could hear the soundtrack of the officers’ lives. I think that gave the overall setting a bit more texture, but nothing really became part of the story in such a dramatic way that it could have said to have inspired scenes or plot points.

Oh… oh, I lie (or at least, I have just remembered something.) Actually I did watch a TV programme about the castrati, which featured male soprano Michael Maniaci, whose voice is amazing. Listening to him sing inspired me to make John Cavendish in False Colors a countertenor and gave rose to the scene in which Alfie persuades him to sing and is awed by the result.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8GnxqotJiw

KC Warwick:

The music running through my mind while I was writing ‘Prove A Villain’ was Vaughan Williams ‘ Fantasia on Greensleeves’.  ‘Greensleeves’ always reminds me of Elizabethan times, though I must admit that I smile to myself when I remember Michael Flanders’ wonderful monologue on  ‘Green Fleeves’, (this chap Anon’s writing some perfectly lovely stuff, but no one seems to know who his agent is…) Sorry, I digress.

Erastes:

I’ve never been one to constantly have music on, I’ve never owned a walkman or an ipod or anything like that. I seem to have entirely skipped the CD generation and most of my records are vinyl. And I have nothing from this century, either, to the horror of the children of a friend who visited once!

It seems entirely incongruous but while I was writing Transgressions I was addicted to Billy Holliday and would play her obsessively on repeat while writing. The era is completely wrong but the “he was my man and he done me wrong” soulfullness was entirely right at the time.

Mozart’s Requiem sparked a plot line in Standish where Rafe’s son dies and he holds an enormous funeral where he meets up with Ambrose again. But I never actually wrote that, because it seemed entirely out of character for Ambrose to allow such a tragedy to bring them back together. So I dumped the entire idea which broke my heart as I adore that particular requiem.

I can hear a piece of music and have it paint pictures in my head as to what is going on–there’s a piece of music  (Polovetsian Dances by Borodin from Prince Igor) which very clearly tells me the story of a war-hardened warrior and him falling in love for a young recruit all bare chest and no chest hair. I haven’t allowed myself to watch the ballet, because I know jolly well there’s no such plot line in it. But it has sparked a bunny and the notes have gone into my “to do later” file.  Probably around the time of Ghenghis Khan. Oh great. More research.

Charlie Cochrane

No – the title isn’t misspelled. (However – warnings for plot spoilers of Mere Mortals)

One of the things I wanted to explore in Mere Mortals was the sheer disposability of human life. I remember that Dickens’ expose of the terrible treatment of orphans in Oliver Twist helped to start the authorities to look at them, and to improve matters–and Kingsley’s Water Babies highlighted the plight of chimney sweeps, which again led to reform.

I’m a bit too late to reform the Victorian Age, though, but I did want to explore some aspects of life that make our modern hair stand on end.

Orphans were pretty much human detritus–we see that in Oliver Twist, of course. Boys from the orphanage are simply objects, not humans to be raised and cared for in the way they are today. When Oliver plays up, asking for more food (the cheek of it!) he’s sold off to a local tradesman–which would have been a step up, if he’d managed to keep the job. He certainly had more chance surviving out of the workhouse.

Greediest Boy In The School

In Mere Mortals, the three young men, Crispin, Myles and Jude, are a little more fortunate, at least in some respects. They are obviously natural sons of well-to-do men, and better still, men who (in the absence of DNA testing and the authorities we have today such as the Child Support Agency) who feel that they should provide the minimum of decent education for those sons. But that’s as far as it went. Once those orphans left their preparatory schools, there would be no money for further education–or apprenticeships. One of them dreams of being a barrister, and that would have been impossible without funding. They might, if fortunate, be placed in an office somewhere as a clerk, or perhaps in a shop, or even–like Jane Eyre–as a tutor, but without more education than they have (two of them didn’t even take their final exams) even this last was an unlikely option.

Thing is, that orphanages and workhouses were good places to find workers for employers, scrupulous and otherwise. Today there would be a national/international uproar if you walked into a school or orphanage and said “I’ll have three, please,” and took them off, no questions asked, but back in 1847 it was a real possibility. Especially if the owner of the establishment was unscrupulous too. If he was being paid for a boy’s education–but no-one had ever checked on that boy–why not let him go, continue to take the education money and pocket the difference?

If they were taken away, no-one would bother to check up on them once they had gone. Perhaps a schoolfriend might write, if he knew where his friend was going, but the headmaster was unlikely–once rid of his responsibility–to ensure that his ex-charge was being treated well. Look at Becky Sharp, you can be sure that her headmistress, once having got shot of the acid-tongued girl, couldn’t have cared less if the girl ended up as a white slave or white slaver.

And then–if the person who HAD taken these orphans got tired of them? Or they didn’t work well at the job they were given? Or didn’t suit in some way? It’s quite likely that their future would become a little less than rosy–and if they did disappear–who’d care? Who’d check?  All the employer/abductor had to say was “Oh, they ran away, ungrateful wretches, I’ll give another boy the opportunity he obviously didn’t want.”

and in the days before Social Services, phones, email, TV…Who’d know? Who’d care?

From David – to Jonathan (characters from Transgressions)

Oxford, 1652

Disguised, his true form, home of subtle planes,
When draped in cloth, chameleon when dressed.
But bare his skin and verity remains,
True beauty glows when all his shields divest.
This skin, which sallow-shudders to my touch,
Throat’s hollow siren, calls my mouth to kiss,
Lips, hands, those guardians of much,
Cannot prevent the press of mine to his.
If I could give him these adoring eyes
So he could see the glory that I see;
Pride would battle shyness and he would
Believe the golden prize he is to me.
My Jonathan, your blackest scowl is mine.
Forget thy past, and be my Valentine

I think I may have posted this before, but some people may not have seen it, and its slightly amended to suit the sender.

Alvisi to Rafe (characters from Standish)

Thou ‘minds me, love, of nothing more than autumn;
a grey November dull with sullen mists.
That vacuum secret month, when senses grow numb,
but yet this taboo spark for thee exists.
When in thy presence something o’ertakes me,
an acid etchéd line ‘twixt want and hate;
compulsion both to hold thee and to kiss thee,
or strike thee down and take thee to my mate.
Greater men than thee have made me harden,
other lips than thine have touched this skin,
so why should I attempt to seek thy pardon,
when other lips fulfil what you begin?
So sneer sweet Rafe, and on with this vendetta,
It only serves to make me want thee better.

So, I thought that rather than struggling to find something to write about each month, such as a SUBJECT and be all professorial about the subject of writing and of writing and researching gay historical fiction, I’d just write about my month–and the general ups and downs of Being An Author.

Now, I’m lucky, in many ways. Some people would probably look at my house, my clothes, my lack of jobbiness, my life and they probably wouldn’t agree with me, but for me, having the luxury of Not Being a Wage Slave anymore and treating writing as a Job is a dream come true.

My routine, now I’m settling down to it, is to go to Dad’s, make him breakfast, tidy up etc then I settle down with a pot of coffee and write for an hour – make lunch – then write for an hour if I can in the afternoon.

Trouble is, Dad has no internet access. I was able to connect now and then using the BT Openzone, but even that seems to have disappeared.  I could of course get him Broadband, although he has no use for it–but I could. I would feel a bit mean about it, spending his money on my work, and I know he wouldn’t mind. But I decided to try and manage without internet access – it only makes me procrastinate, I thought-so I’d be better off without it. I’m quite capable  of spending all day refreshing my friends page, planting virtual vegetables and breeding  virtual dragons, so it’s probably better if I don’t have it.

But the research is a pain. I find myself hitting brick walls and at first I got quite despondent about it–I felt i WANTED to know these facts NOW – I’d been writing like this for years and to suddenly change my whole way of doing things was quite hard, but gradually I’ve learned to work a way around it.

Firstly, to be a bit more confident about what I know.

Secondly, to consider whether the readers REALLY need the level of detail I am going to impart, and

Thirdly – if I still need to know that fact to WRITE IT IN BLOCKS, HIGHLIGHT IT and look it up when I get home. Or when I do a tidy up of the manuscript.

So far I’m doing all right. The cold turkey approach to research was hard to take at first, but it’s becoming easier and actually it makes me concentrate more on the story rather than obsessing over what kind of carpet is down, or whether there was a railing at Windsor Great Lawns in 1921. It can wait.

Have this cured my procrastination, though? Has it Buffalo. I just find other stuff to do, like staring out the window at the birds for hours.

Well, I suppose it beats planting virtual vegetables.

Erastes

Erastes is the penname of a female author who lives on the Norfolk Broads in England. She likes cheese and cats, but only one of those are nice on toast.

Or – as some might say, not the Good Word.This post may be offensive to some, so don’t click below the link if a certain C word offends you.

There’s been an interesting discussion on one of the author’s groups I belong to. It’s about a well-oiled subject which is brought up from time to time and that’s the usage of slang/coarse/”insulting” words for genitalia to describe genitalia.

One of the words discussed was the big “C word”. Now, that’s not a word you’ll ever hear me say. I flinch when I hear someone say it, and I don’t know why exactly, conditioning, whatever. I don’t have a problem with many words, although I don’t swear a good deal unless very cross.

Someone asked where the word came from – so I duly popped along to the two bibles I use for etymology, namely etymology online and the Oxford English Dictionary.

Here’s what they said. (more…)

Published 1821 (this version) I think there were earlier ones.

Be as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves.

AT GOOGLE BOOKS – full view – and available for download.

This is a quite fascinating book -and I love the idea that a parent would buy their son this book, shove it into his hands and probably consider that was their responsibility dealt with.

Here’s the contents. I don’t even know what some of this stuff MEANS.

GRAMMAR
Directions for Epistolary Correspondence…
HISTENOGRAPHY
ARITHMETIC
Reduction of Decimal Fractions
BOOKKEEPING
ALGEBRA
GEOMETRY and MENSURATION
DRAWING
GEOGRAPHY
CHRONOLOGY
IMPROVEMENT of the MEMORY
MISCELLANIES
Religion and Religious Sects
Behaviour and Manners
Heraldic Terms and English
Useful Receipts in Art
Miscellaneous Articles
I’m quite sure that there’s a wealth of inspiration to be found! Enjoy!
I was alerted to the book on the Inkspinners group, where one of the members, Joanna Waugh, converted some of the purchases to today’s money.  She says:

I took some time today and converted a few of the prices Kat shared with us from A Young Man’s Companion. I had to use 1830 values and a conversion date of 2008, but it still gives us an idea of the relative value of these items today. If I made any mistakes in the calculations, I apologize. I rechecked them before posting but I was never very good at math!

2 dozen of men’s 2-thread alted thread stockings…2. 8.0

£182.26/$338.02 or £7.60/$14.08 a pair

2 dozen of ditto 3-thread fine marble ditto… 4. 4.0

£318.95/$591.52 of £13.30/$24.65 a pair

9 six-thread superfine breeches, at 10s6d… 4.14.6

£358.82/$665.47 or approx £40/$74 a pair

6 four-thread superfine ditto, at 7s 6d…. 2. 5.0

£170.86/$316.88 or £28.48/$13.20 a pair

6 pair of silk ribbed stockings, stout at 14s… 4. 4.0

£318.95/$591.52 or £53.16/$98.59 a pair

6 pair of spun silk stockings at 5s6d…. 1.13

£125.30/$232.38 or £20.88/$38.73 a pair

15 yards of flowered ribband, at 2s…. 1.10.0

£113. 91/$211.26 or £7.59/$14.08 a yard

2 pair of chicken gloves, at 7s. 6d…. 0.15.0

£56.96/$105.64 or £28.48/$52.82 a pair

4 pair of fine lamb ditto, at 2s. 4d….. 0. 7.0

£26.58/$49.30 or £6.65/$12.33 a pair

2 fans, French mounts at 3s. 6d. …. 0. 7.0

£26.58/$49.30 or £13.29/$24.65 per fan

6 yards of Mechlin lace, at 12s …. 3.12.0

£273.38/$507.01 or £45.56/$84.50 per yard

1 Gauze cap and trimmings ….. 1. 2.0

£83.53/$154.91

Posted by Erastes

I’m proud to introduce you to Last Gasp – a four novella anthology of gay historical romance published by Noble Romance.

The book is available as an ebook at the moment, but will be out in print at some point, if not this year, definitely next.

When Noble Romance approached me about collating a gay historical anthology I was a little stumped, I knew I needed a theme but wasn’t sure what. Chris Smith suggested “civilisations on the brink of change–a last gasp kind of idea” which I knew was perfect.

The stories I had submitted — particularly the three I chose to accompany mine — surprised me. I was expecting the obvious “lost civilisations” like the Incas or the Deep South pre the American Civil War, but I didn’t get those.  After all, I suppose all civilisations are lost, aren’t they?

Still, I think you will enjoy the stories–they are all from eras and places on the globe that haven’t been dealt with before: Syria in the Edwardian era, the Yukon Gold Rush in 1898, Hong Kong’s first Opium war in the 1830’s, and Italy between the two world wars.

Here’s the blurbs of the stories:

Tributary by Erastes

It’s 1936 and a generation of disaffected youth waits in the space between a war that destroyed many of their friends and family, and a war they know is bound to come. Guy Mason wanders through Italy, bored and restless for reasons he can’t even name, and stops at the Hotel Vista, high in the mountains of Lombardy. There, he meets scientist James Calloway and his secretary, Louis Chambers, and it’s there that the meandering stream of Guy’s life changes course forever.

The White Empire by Chris Smith

Edgar Vaughan sincerely believes that six-thousand miles is enough to give him a fresh start. Escaping in 1838 from the drawing rooms of Belgravia and the constraints of his landed family, he takes up missionary work in the trading post of Hong Kong. On arrival, he finds the region on the cusp of war; the Chinese Emperor has outlawed the importation of opium — the key link in the trade of the East India Company. Between Edgar’s sense of isolation, the sight of the puling opium addicts, and one memorable encounter with a man in a peacock waistcoat, Edgar finds himself embroiled in the very marrow of the British Empire’s machinations. He finds himself torn between espousing the expeditious whilst protecting his new acquaintance, and doing what is right and risking the wrath of the British Empire.

Sand by Charlie Cochrane

“Safe upon solid rock the ugly houses stand: Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand.”

People come to Syria for many reasons; tourism, archaeology, or because they need to leave Edwardian England to escape potential disgrace. Andrew Parks is one of those, burying past heartache and scandal among the tombs.

Charles Cusiter has travelled here as well, as chaperone to a friend whose fondness for the opposite sex gets him into too much trouble at home. Out in the desert there aren’t any women to turn Bernard’s head – just the ubiquitous sand.

The desert works its magic on Charles, softening his heart and drawing him towards Andrew. Not even a potentially fatal scorpion sting can overcome the power this strange land exerts.

The Ninth Language by Jordan Taylor

Thousands of outsiders descend on Canada’s Yukon Territory during the 1898 gold rush, wreaking havoc on the landscape and the indigenous people who live there. Amid the backdrop of this once pristine land, a man struggling against the destruction of his home and culture finds himself indebted to one of the men causing it. These two strangers discover solace and wholeness where they least expect it: each other.

Want to know more? All four authors will be over at the Speak Its Name yahoo group today, sharing excerpts doing giveaways, asking questions and answering any questions you may have! We’ll also be offering a giveaway of the anthology during the chat – but I’ll also offer one here, to one commenter.  All you need to do is comment and I’ll announce the winner in 24 hours.

Hope to see you at the chat later – starts at 12 noon UK time!

TOP FACTS

* Sadly not yet published by Mills and Boon.
* Covers. Started naff – getting better all the time.

* Many buttons
* Interesting lube possibilities
IN A NUTSHELL

* There’s not enough of it, for a start.
* Some Gay Historicals address the very real problems of being gay in a time when it wasn’t just unacceptable, it was reviled and illegal. (Basically after Christianity kicked in) However, there were times when man on man love wasn’t just acceptable, it was a normal part of everyday life. (Οι Έλληνες είχαν μια λέξη για το έργο)
* Thankfully, due to pronouns they are not called things like “The Mediterranean Tycoon’s Depraved Heiress” (With thanks to the Random Romance Title Generator)

THE HEROES

Not too different from the heroes in other historical romances. They are generally aristocratic (tall and handsome goes without saying – plus they are ALWAYS – always hung like horses, this is the law.)

So, create your character: Rich? check. Commanding? check. Handsome? check. Cock of unusual size?  Check and double check.
OK, you can stop checking now. Hello! Stop checking!

THE, er,  OTHER HEROES

Now here you can play around a little. You can either make your other hero a match for your arrogant alpha in every sense of the word (and sit back and watch those sparks fly and those buttons go flying (gotta have flying buttons, more later) OR you can create a sensitive little soul. A downtrodden artist, perhaps, or an impoverished tutor. A kidnapped sex slave or an abused and rescued young man. As long as you get a vast gulf between your alpha and your omega, it doesn’t really matter. Any excuse to make that boy cry his little heart out because the rough tough alpha doesn’t know how to handle him. Or rather – he doesn’t know how to handle his feelings – he knows how to handle him all right. (hur hur)

The important thing is the desecration of innocence™ – but don’t worry. No matter how nasty the alpha is, your sensitive soul will fall in love with him as he tops from the bottom.

THE BEST THING ABOUT WRITING GAY HISTORICALS
* Buttons. Oh GOD the buttons. I’ve coined the term breeches ripper before, but for me waistcoat ripping is far more exciting. Also cravats. You can have a LOT of fun with cravats.
* UST. (No, no, not there, Unresolved Sexual Tension. Buckets and buckets of it. “I’m homosexual!++ Argh! God he’s pretty. I wonder if he’s homosexual too? How can I let him know? What if he’s not? All right… so he is – he’s sleeping with Lord [Whossit] – how can I get him?”A writer of gay historicals have immense fun torturing her characters – making every glance count, and when one’s passing the port (to the left, of course) at dinner, fingertips are just bound to brush against each other.
* It’s much easier to get men together on a day-to-day basis. Whereas a hetero historical writer will have to write about dances, and chaperones and perhaps elopements men can simply hang out with each other, ride in each other’s carriages (and no, that’s not a euphemism!) without anyone fainting or ruining anyone’s reputation. Of course it’s pretty difficult to get them into sexual situation, but that’s another post…
*I think I may have already mentioned buttons…
THE BEST THING ABOUT READING GAY HISTORICALS

* Buttons! Ok, Is it just me and the buttons?
* Appreciating that the author knows exactly what the difference is between a sailor’s whipping and a double fisherman but that you don’t need to know anything as silly as long as the hero gets tied up.
* Sponge baths.
* Cocks! (sorry, but it did have to be said.) Lots of ‘em. Members, yards, rods, poles, perches, arbor vitae, gaying instrument. (yes, really.)

TOP TIP: beige…biscuit…blasé bleeding anachronisms

Check check check. You may think that it’s all right to say your hero’s breeches are beige but it wasn’t so and any eagle eyed reader will Mock You. They will, however realise if you are trying and make a small slip-up, but they won’t appreciate sloppy (or no) research, modern day speech patterns and contemporary men in fancy dress.

WHAT NOT TO SAY

* “Where’s the lube?”
* He climaxed, spunk spurting over his fingers.
* “I want to fuck his sweet hairy ass.”

WHAT TO SAY

* “Spit, and have done, man.” (other lubricants are available…)
* GOOD LORD, SHAG HIM ALREADY!
* I’m learning something! Oooo… cocks….

Over to you…

* What gay historicals would you like to see?
* What cliches are you sick of?
* Do you want better covers?
* Anything else?



++homosexual is also anachronistic until the early 20th century, too.

(Previously published on Lust Bites)

I’ve been doing a lot of reading recently and one thing I’m beginning to notice more and more in the world of gay historicals is that some books are seeming very familiar.

It’s a bit of a worrying trend, and while it’s not “wrong” per se, it’s not exactly something I’m keen about, and something I really hope doesn’t continue.

What seems to be happening is, as writers think “what shall I write next?” or “I’d like to write gay historicals, but what about?”  some are taking pre-existing ideas and simply converting it to “the gay.”

This impatience with this trend has been growing in me for a while, and it reached a head this week when I was reading “Checkmate” which is about gay musketeers.  Now – if I had tackled this subject, I’d be very conscious of the huge fanbase of the Dumas books and the great (and the not so great films).  I think I’d probably write about one musketeer, on the fringes perhaps, who meets someone in the course of his duties–defnitely being careful not to take more than “he’s a musketeer” from the era.  But what the authors of this book have done is to have – no surprise – THREE musketeers who meet another man who (shock) isn’t a musketeer.  The three amigos are hard drinking, hard shagging types too – and one of them has a Dark Past™. Sounds familiar?

Now, while I haven’t read further than that, and I’m pretty sure that the plot won’t include the Queen’s necklace, the Duke of Buckingham and a mysterious ex-boyfriend of the musketeer with a Dark Past™ with a fleur-de-lys tattoo, you can’t be too sure…

"Bum for All and All for Bum!"

What I’m saying is that no book is original, unless you are some kind of mega genius, and within the Romance genre it’s pretty hard to do something that hasn’t been done before. If you are writing hetero-romance, particularly historical hetero-romance then it doesn’t matter what era you choose, Vikings, Romans, Pirates, Civil War – it’s all be done before.  But it doesn’t mean that you take “Gone With The Wind” and make your book about a feisty southern anti-heroine who has a crush on a man she can never have and gets married a bazillion times before finding the man she truly loves only to lose him.  Or in the case of gay historicals that you take GWTW and simply keep the main plot but make it gay.

I know that this sounds obvious, but as I say, I see more and more of it.  Without naming more names and offending more people, I’ve seen almost direct copies of films and books galore (including The Gay Witness, a contemporary book I reviewed for Jessewave recently) and it makes me a little sad.

Look – I’m not saying that any of my books are original. Standish is probably stuffed full of images and tropes etc that have stuffed themselves into my head during my life. Every Gainsborough film, every Austen book, every historical mini series, I’ve probably taken aspects from them and put them into the book. There’s a duel in the Bois de Bologne, complete with a misty dawn and horses clinking their bits. There’s Venice and love in gondolas. Transgressions has star-crossed lovers who end up on different sides in a Civil War.  Familiar aspects, yes – but the over-arching storyline is mine.

After all, people don’t write “The Straight Charioteer” do they?

As before, two men and a title. The rest is lunacy.

Robert Scoville and Jonty Stewart in The Shade on a Fine Day (Charlie Cochrane)

Tall, slim and devastatingly handsome Robert Scoville has only one rival for the title ‘Britain’s bluest blooded stallion’ – Jonty Stewart. Jonty has eyes as blue as Laurence Dalaglio’s manties and hair the colour of Strongbow cider. His chiselled good looks send women into ecstasy and men into Boots the Chemist for a facial kit.

Will their rivalry erupt into violence? Or will the dreadful secret they both hide – that they’d both rather run with the geldings rather than the mares – be revealed by sulky temptress Charlie Cochrane who wishes either or both of them would come and share her jelly babies?

Garnet Littleton and Jack Darling in Lessons in Prevarication (Alex Beecroft)

Charming but feckless rich boy, Captain Garnet Littleton is being
blackmailed for his affair with the First Sea Lord by the Sea Lord’s
corrupt manservant, Jack Darling. But when Garnet sends the Impress
service after Jack, dragging him on board ship and imprisoning him in
the hold, the tables are turned. Will he enact a bloody (and possibly
titillating) revenge on the man who threatened his life for so long?
Will they succumb to the fellow feeling of men who have both suffered
the stigma of silly names? Or will Garnet just put off dealing with the
problem for so long that Jack starves to death in the dark? Find out in
the psychological thriller, Lessons in Prevarication.

Orlando Coppersmith and Etienne Beauchene in Aftermath

When brilliant but moody Etienne Beauchenne, star of the Sorbonne Applied Mathematics department, loses his lover in a duel over the correct way to pronounce Moet et Chandon, he flees Paris for Brighton. There he finds Orlando Coppersmith, once a numerical genius but now a curator at the geological museum, heart-broken because his lifetime love has run away to join the Tiller girls.

Will Etienne’s steady hand make itself felt on Orlando’s Arsinoitherium? And will they discover that there is, indeed, life after math?

And this one has to be today’s winner, for the last line if nothing else.

Jack Darling and Garnet Littleton in Lessons in Prevarication

Jack spots Garnet across a crowded auction floor and falls desperately in love with his bloodshot eyes and his air of lank Byronesque lassitude. He can’t bring himself to broach the subject of his infatuation but goes home and writes letter after letter none of which he posts. Desperate for Dutch courage, he takes brandy laced with laudenum, finds the muse within him, writes and writes letter, none of which are perfect, but still he strives for the PERFECT words to express his love for the beautiful Mr Littleton.

Sadly, the drug takes hold, he forget to eat and drink and he’s found
crushed to death beneath a hundred weight of shifted papers he was too weak to push off – and clutching a badly drawn picture of Garnet.

The story is told in blank verse.

On April Fools’ Day, some of the Macaronis were playing at Speak Its Name, taking various pairs of historically romantic lovers, mixing them up and allocating them to the Macronis’ book titles (some real, some ridiculous).

We were inordinately proud of our efforts at plots and blurbs which ensued and would like to give the world the benefit of our lunacy.

For your delectation, batch one:

Nehemiah Gillis and Gideon Frost in False Colors (Charlie Cochrane)

When feisty Nehemiah Gillis opens ‘No Fail Nails’ in the sleepy backwater of Echidna Creek, how can he know that fate will deal him the equivalent of a smack in the puss with a wet sock full of sand?

How will stunningly handsome, if myopic, Gideon Frost cope when he enters the nail salon mistaking it for the local branch of Ladbroke’s?

And will their love survive the shocking discovery that Gideon doesn’t suit Kylie Pink?

Harry Thompson and Finbar Thouless in Transgressions (Alex Beecroft)

Uptight hell-fire preacher Harry Thompson is determined to stamp out
vice across the Bible Belt of America. So why is it that everywhere he
goes there’s a bank robbery, a rash of break-ins, a sex scandal and a
prison breakout? Could it have anything to do with his PA, the soft
spoken Irishman with the laughing eyes, Finbar Thouless? And why does he find himself so reluctant to find out?

David Caverly and Rafe Goshawk in Ransom (Erastes)

David Caverly falls asleep in a fairy ring and wakes 200 years later to find that he’s still hot and his hair has grown back and yay! no-one speaks in thees and thous any more.

While admiring his hot self in a river he’s discovered by Rafe Goshawk, who mistakes him for a river nymph and thinks “well, if it’s not human, it’s not TECHNICALLY infidelity” and much shaggage is had and no-one bothers to get David any clothes.

When Rafe’s live in lover, Ambrose disturbs their smexxing he curses them and the fairy king emerges from the river and takes them off to fairy land saying that only a Ransom of a true heart and sacrifice will save the pair of them.

Will Ambrose recant and work to save the man who has betrayed him AGAIN? What do you think?

It’s a problem that any historical author faces–or should do if they are doing their job and their research.

We all know that life wasn’t terribly political correct in times other than ours. I shall skirt around the fact that political correctness can be a) rather subjective and b) still a problem today.

But go back, even a very short time and you have to deal with all sorts of problems.

(more…)

While restructuring Speak Its Name, I found myself on a horns of a dilemma, and would like to throw the subject open to see what people think.

I was about to pull several books for not being “actual history” e.g. dealing with people who really didn’t exist e.g. 14th century Hollywood style King Arthurs or Robin Hood books, and then I noticed, that, with the upsurge of classical book fanfiction, this put characters like Mr Darcy (Pride/Prejudice) and James Fairfax (James Fairfax) in the same boat – that these are books are “historically famous people who don’t exist.”

So, what do you think?  Where does one draw the line?  When dealing with historical characters should they be in their correct time frame?  Would you consider a book about Robin Hood to be history even though he didn’t exist? If the answer to that question is “no” then what about Mr Darcy? What about Hamlet?

Should these go into a separate category such as “Alternative History”?  I know that the Historical Novel Society encompass A.U books such as the Novik Temeraire series, so perhaps I’m worrying too much, but it’s such a new genre, I’d like to get groundlines in place.

Additionally, what about real person slash?  If a character is proven homosexual, such as Wilde, I’d say that that’s no problem, but what about if you speculate that someone is gay or bisexual where there isn’t any evidence?

Thoughts?

I don’t mean the kind of fanfic that many of us have written in our time, the sort of fanfic in ‘zines and online where we aren’t making any money.

But the rash of fanfic that seems to be sprouting like mushrooms, particularly in the historical novel sections of bookshops.

Following successful sequels and prequels such as Scarlett and Wide Sargasso Sea, and the courts allowing sequels of Les Miserables,  a bandwagon has been cobbled together, people have leapt on it, and now we have derivative works/pastiches/call them what you will, all over the place.

Just look at this list of Austen “inspired” fiction. It’s staggering.  Now I know that Austen lovers hoover this kind of thing up, but what what do you think?

On a purely personal level, it gets me rather hot under the collar.  Most of the writers I know are slaving away with their books, sweating over plot, screaming when their own original characters misbehave, tearing their hair out over locations.  And then there’s THIS stuff.  Which is a bit of a cheat, imho.  Having written fanfic, I know how much easier it is.  I used to write Harry Potter fanfic and compared with original fiction it’s so much easier.  Want to know what your characters are wearing? No problems, JK Rowling has already given you the styles that were around.  Want to know what your characters look like?  No problems – the description is already there.  Want your character to travel from A to B? No worries, there are many devices. Just choose one. Floo, broomstick, apparating, and so on.  The writer doesn’t have to work a fraction as hard as the original writer because they are simply piggybacking on what’s already in place.

Now we have the Austen-horror sub-genre, which seemed to have started as a bit of a giggle, and now we have everyone writing it as fast as they can.

I can’t help but feel, why do I bother?

What inspired this rant?

THIS.  James Fairfax by Jane Austen!!!  and Adam Campan which is (as far as I know) the first gay Austen inspired novel.

Apparently, it has caused a bit of a flurry in the Austen plagiarist inspired writers’ camp because NO NO NO we can’t have homos in Austen-Land.  I don’t know where this kerfuffle is occurring however. Hayden Thorne pointed the book out to me and said that there has been an adverse reaction to it.  If it portrays gay marriage, then I’m not surprised, though.

I find myself very conflicted.  On one hand of course I’m pleased that there’s another gay historical, but on the other (and this hand is weightier) I feel that – gah! – if you are going to the trouble of writing it – make it original.

Lots of people write fanfic of original works, and the classics are very popular. Here’s a few figures (courtesy of Tracey Pennington) to show how popular they are on FanFiction Net.

Jane Eyre 166.
Wuthering Heights– 59
Les Miserables –1,771
Count of Monte Cristo–24
Of Mice and Men–66
Hunchback of Notre Dame–239.

Fanfic is fine. Fanfic is great!  I loved writing it.  I’m not saying for one minute that fanfic can’t be creative, but the one tenet that was dinned into my head was “you don’t make a profit from fanfic. You do not make a profit from OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK.” The best place for fanfic is in fanfic forums. Not on Amazon.

For me, whether it’s in copyright or not doesn’t come into it.  I had a great idea for one of Shakespeare’s plays and I really really wanted to write it, but I can’t now.  I just can’t.

After all – Lord of the Rings is out of copyright in a year or two. There are over 40,000 stories on FFN for that fandom.  What will we see in a couple of years?  Aragorn, Legolas and the Zombies?  The Haunted Hobbits?

Where does it end?

Join us starting Tuesday at Speak Its Name http://groups. yahoo.com/ group/SpeakItsN ame/ for a celebration of the relaunch of some popular m/m historical titles and a sneak preview of a new m/m historical anthology. We’ll have interviews, chats, excerpts, and prizes!

covers

Cheyenne Publications, a small GLBT-oriented press helmed by publisher and author Mark Probst, will be publishing the print versions of Erastes’ Frost Fair, Lee Rowan’s own Royal Navy series (formerly the Articles of War series), and Speak its Name, a trilogy that includes Charlie Cochrane’s first published work, Aftermath, Erastes’ Hard and Fast and Lee Rowan’s Gentleman’s Gentleman.

Leslie Nichol, head of Bristlecone Pine Press, will handle the e-book editions.  Frost Fair, Ransom and Winds of Change are available as ebook versions in all the normal places. Both publishers will be on hand to answer questions, so if you have questions about the nuts-and-bolts, here’s your chance!

Tuesday: Publisher interviews, Author chats with Erastes and Lee Rowan and excerpts from the three releases: Frost Fair, Ransom, and Winds of Change.

Wednesday:
Spotlights on Eye of the Storm and Speak Its Name Trilogy, coming September 14 and October 26.

Friday: What else is coming from Cheyenne Publishing and Bristlecone Pine Press — Hidden Conflict: Tales of Lost Voices from Battle.

* * * *

The lineup from Cheyenne and BCPP (and yes, print and e-books on the same schedule!)

August 1, 2009: Frost Fair, Ransom and Winds of Change (Royal Navy series)

September 14, 2009 Eye of the Storm (Royal Navy series)

October 26 2009 Speak Its Name Trilogy

November 11: Hidden Conflict: Tales of Lost Voices from Battle

December 7, 2009 Walking Wounded

January 1, 2010 Home is the Sailor (NEW Royal Navy novel!)

March 1, 2010 Sail Away (anthology, Royal Navy series)

If you’re not a member of Speak Its Name, all you have to do is request membership —  it’s invite-only to keep out the porno spammers.  (And hey, how many of us really want or need to enhance our male members or look at grainy pictures of ‘slutty housewives’? )

See you there!

image

There’s a post over at Reading the Past which discusses the presence or absence of actual historical characters and events in historical fiction and whether the absence of them in books defines historical fiction or not.

I’m rather of the opinion that—going by the HNS definition—that it doesn’t make any difference whether there are any actual historical figures or notable events in the book or not.  In fact—for every single historical book to have real life historical figures in it would actually be ludicrous, for it would mean if you were writing about ordinary people living their ordinary lives—say slaving away in the cane fields of America or grubbing a living in the sordid streets of the Potteries—to suddenly introduce a real historical person would be a huge jolt.  I mean, look at even everyday lives today, how many people can say that they’ve met someone of note? (And I don’t mean a Big Brother Sleb, but someone that history will remember, such as Nelson Mandela or Mother Theresa?

Granted there is a real life person in Transgressions, the clever and charismatic Matthew Hopkins of Witchfinder fame. (Ignore the Vincent Price version puhleeze, that’s soft porn, just about) But that wasn’t exactly a conscious decision to include him, image Jonathan just happened to be in the right place at the right time. And as for historical events, it would have been a little difficult to have two young men in 1642 NOT aware of the impending war. That being said, there is a true story which involves a farmer being asked if his land can be used for one of the battles and he said “Who’s fighting who, then?” (Communication not being a key aspect of the 17th century, and obviously not everyone knew about the war!)

But I don’t think it’s necessary at all to base your historical around real life events, or real life characters, and in fact its the stories that aren’t that I find most interesting.  If anyone has read “The Boy I Love” by Marion Husband you’ll see that it’s just a story about people, living their lives. In the same gentle manner that many of A J Cronin’s books are written, or Cookson’s. image

To expect every book to be set around a historical event is also ludicrous. People always pick the same events too.  I’d like someone to make a study of books written about the Titanic and add up how many people to date have sailed on the ill-fated ship.  I would bet that her complement of passengers has increased by at least three-fold. I’m surprised she managed to get out of the harbour without sinking!

That being said – It always surprises me, with the enormous wealth of GLBT characters in history, that there aren’t more books about real characters.

So what do you think? Should historical novels all include famous people? Famous events? Or do you think that the little stories are just as important as the big ones?

underpants-loin

Loincloths might still be around (roll on global warming) but they have been found in burial sites on the bodies of men living over 7000 years ago. Who knows what sparked man to start covering his bits – it would hardly be warmth, after all. It would offer some level of protection from thistles I suppose, but not if a sabre toothed-tiger was coming at you at groin level.

Tutankhamen was buried with 145 loincloths. This seems either a lot, or not enough, depending on your point of view of how long the afterlife is going to be. Of course by this time, the loincloth was worn under a skirt. Still – roll on global warming.

underweargreek

The Ancient Greeks obviously didn’t have to worry about sabre-toothed tigers, and consequently didn’t wear any underwear at all. Good for them! Φοβάμαι τους Έλληνες όταν είναι πηγαίνοντας καταδρομέας!**

The Romans did, though – big sissies. Possibly because their empire stretched into chillier areas. They’d wear something called a subligaculum, which in modern terms means a pair of shorts or a loincloth and was worn under a toga or tunic.

underpantsromanOh yes, I know – probably NOT an accurate picture of underwear but is anyone complaining I’m showing this picture again?

Pull on undergarments were invented around the 13th century, large baggy drawers called “braies” made from linen were worn by men under their clothes. This style of undergarment did not really change in design for 500 years, other than to be fashioned from better, finer fabrics and to have ornamentation.

They shrank considerable during the Renaissance as the familiar image of cod-piece and hose emerged. The hose themselves were an open garment – not like our tights or hose of today.

underpantsbraies

Tight on the legs and open at the front and back which could not be worn openly as the privities hung lose. As the doublet became shorter somthing else was needed! The braies shrank to show off the hose, and the codpiece was developed to protect the wearer’s modesty.

Or at least at first.

Gradually the codpiece evolved, became padded, shaped to fit and as some clearly showed were frankly showing off- and obviously exaggerating. Some of the most “impressive”are those belonging to Henry 8th and shown at the Tower of London, where other Crown Jewels are protected too!!

codpiece

What is interesting is that the fashion of today – that of showing off one’s designer underwear, is not a new thing at all. The rich would commission the most exquisite undershirts,and underwear- fabulously expensive fabrics and meticulously embroidered. Why, they reasoned, am I paying for such incredible work that will never be seen? This led to the “slashing” fashions that we see in the Elizabethan period, where the overclothes had slits in- the better to show off the gorgeous clothes being worn beneath.

underslash

After these excesses calmed down, and waistcoat shirt and breeches took the place of doublet and hose, men returned to wearing braies or “strossers” – during the English Civil War the only difference between undergarments and overgarments were the weight of the wool they were made from.

**I fear the Greeks going commando

Next time – from 1700 to the mid 20th century.

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/index.jsp

I’m sure you’ve already discovered this site – and for any historical writer it’s an essential bookmark and a huge wealth of resource. When I first found it it only had cases in a range of about 100 years, but it expands – and now there are cases from the 1670s to the 1910s. it’s a very easy site to navigate too, and has a lot more information than first appears.

When researching Standish I found so much that I didn’t know – the offence that Ambrose is accused of – that of “consenting to an assault of sodomitical intent” sounds incredible to our modern ears, but it’s true – the person having the sodomy perpetrated upon him, could be charged and could be found as guilty as the person performing the act.

Assault with Sodomitical Intent

This charge was levelled in cases of attempted or actual anal intercourse where it was thought impossible (or undesirable) to prove that penetration and ejaculation had actually occurred. This offence was a misdemeanour. See also: Sodomy. Prosecutions for this offence become markedly more common from the 1840s.

What I found interesting was that the burden of proof – penetration AND ejaculation had to be attested to by two witnesses – which would have made it more difficult to prove. However people often lied, I’m sure – leading to more hangings than were necessary, perhaps.

Sodomy

Anal or oral intercourse between a man and another man, woman, or beast. In order to obtain a conviction, it was necessary to prove that both penetration and ejaculation had occurred, and two witnesses were required to prove the crime. Both the “active” and “passive” partner could be found guilty of this offence. But due to the difficulty of proving this actual penetration and ejaculation many men were prosecuted with the reduced charge of assault with sodomitical intent. Details of sodomy prosecutions were censored from the Proceedings from the 1780s onwards. For more information on the gay communities of London see the Homosexuality pages.

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Gay.jsp

Don’t forget that a “lenient punishment” such as pillorying or imprisonment (usually in Newgate, as that prison was attached to the Old Bailey by an underground corridor) were hardly lenient at all, and could both of them mean a death sentence. Unlike Hollywood and the BBC portrayals of the Pillory, people didn’t always throw rotten fruit and vegetables to the general amusement of all. Rocks were often used, faeces and “cannonballs” of mud and stones. People died in the Pillory – John Waller (perjurer) was stoned to death – and the six convicted members of the Vere Street Coterie (men arrested at the White Swan, a Molly House, in 1810 – had to have the protection of 200 armed constables to prevent the crowds from killing them in the pillory.

And a sentence, even a small one, for a stay in Newgate depended very much on your financial circumstances.  The prisons of days before the reforms instigated by Elizabeth Fry and Dickens during the mid 1800’s were dreadful places. You had to pay an (unofficial) fee upon entrance to the warders – food wasn’t provided as a matter of course, you had to buy it – so if you didn’t have money you were in danger of starving to death.  Before you could be released you not only had to pay your fine (difficult if you were in prison and not earning money) but again, another strictly unofficial “release fee” to the warders. If you couldn’t pay this – you didn’t get out, simple as that. Of course if you had money, or a way to earn money within the prison walls, or kind friends and relations – anything was for sale inside the jail itself. Including a a cleaner or a maid, alcohol (Newgate had two bars) and sex of any type.

Here’s a small selection of cases: (more…)

Hello!

This week we have a bit of a research theme for the rendition of readers of redoubtable romances.

On Tuesday, Emily Veinglory will be sharing some resources for Victorian m/m writers.

On Thursday we’ll be exposing some of the seedier sex cases at the Old Bailey.

Come one, come all!

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.

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.

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…)

Thanks to all for entering – here’s the answers!  And here’s a link to the online version of the book if any one doesn’t have it bookmarked.

1. What would you be doing if you were cocking your organ?

Smoking a pipe. You didn’t fall for it, good for you!

2. “She’s an owl in an ivy bush” – is this a good thing?

Not a bad thing. She’d have bushy hair. But that obviously wasn’t attractive in the day.

3. “The flashman bounced the swell of all his blunt” – Is this something you’d want to do?

No, you wouldn’t – unless you were a thief used to frightening people out of their money!

4. What would you be doing if you were riding a horse foaled by an acorn?

Being hanged

5. If someone told you that your beau had been seen in his altitudes the night before, would you break off the association?

He was drunk – your call!

6. Someone’s just told you that your youngest daughter has sprained her ankle. Would you call a doctor or throw the baggage from the house?

A doctor in both cases, perhaps. It’s slang for being pregnant.

7. Is Arbor Vitae the Latin name for a tree? Or something else?

Woody! A penis.

8. You see a gorgeous man at the ball, and you overhear one rake say to another that the object of your attention is a great backgammon player. Surely that’s a good thing?

Definitely one of those. A sodomite

9. How many rolls ARE in a baker’s dozen?

According to Grose – 14. It must be the recession.

10. What would you wear to a Balum Rancum?

Nothing! It was a ball attended by prostitutes and everyone was naked.

11. Wow-wow Sauce – Invented by the Regency or by Terry Pratchett?

Regency – It contains port, wine vinegar, pickled cucumbers or pickled walnuts, English mustard and mushroom ketchup in a base of beef stock, flour and butter.

12. What’s a beau trap? An eager spinster? or something dirtier?

It was one of those paving stones that wobbled and squirted water up your legs.

13. Your husband announces he’s off to Bedfordshire. You don’t have any estates there and it’s dark! Where’s he really going?

To Bed!

14. Where would you dance at Beilby’s Ball?

At the end of a noose.

That was fun – I’ll have to do it again one day!

Yes – that’s him.

As a fun post I thought I’d ask you all some questions based on Captain Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811) and see how many you get right.

No cheating now!!

1. What would you be doing if you were cocking your organ?

2. “She’s an owl in an ivy bush” – is this a good thing?

3. “The flashman bounced the swell of all his blunt” – Is this something you’d want to do?

4. What would you be doing if you were riding a horse foaled by an acorn?

5. If someone told you that your beau had been seen in his altitudes the night before, would you break off the association?

6. Someone’s just told you that your youngest daughter has sprained her ankle. Would you call a doctor or throw the baggage from the house?

7. Is Arbor Vitae the Latin name for a tree? Or something else?

8. You see a gorgeous man at the ball, and you overhear one rake say to another that the object of your attention is a great backgammon player. Surely that’s a good thing?

9. How many rolls ARE in a baker’s dozen?

10. What would you wear to a Balum Rancum?

11. Wow-wow Sauce – Invented by the Regency or by Terry Pratchett?

12. What’s a beau trap? An eager spinster? or something dirtier?

13. Your husband announces he’s off to Bedfordshire. You don’t have any estates there and it’s dark! Where’s he really going?

14. Where would you dance at Beilby’s Ball?

Yes, this is going to be an opinionated post. That is: it’s my opinion. You may have your opinion, and I look forward to hearing it.

However, just because you have your opinion it doesn’t make mine any less valid. In 1794 if I had said that I considered the French Monarchy was a waste of space and you were of the opposite view, who was right? Was your opinion right? Was mine?

I like the Happy Ever After. Don’t get me wrong. I do. I WANT the Happy Ever After. I longed for Jack and Ennis to have ridden off to California and set up home. I want Romeo to get the note to say she’s NOT dead. Every. Single Time. I weep BUCKETS when I don’t get what I want. Everyone deserves to be happy.

I’m not here to overturn the barricades and to change the world, chopping at the pearl-adorned necks of those ladies who say that the HEA must exist. The HEA is a Good Thing.

With me so far? Good.

What I do object to is a label on my book saying “Romance.” Because this label tells me that I WILL get a happy ever after. Whether I’m ready for one or not.

It’s a safety net.

It’s someone standing in the theatre queue and saying loudly “The Butler did it.”

It spoils me. It’s just as much a spoiler as “Harry Potter doesn’t die.”

As someone recently said to me, a book is about the journey – and I totally agree about that. I buy a book that I don’t know with a sense of huge and tingling anticipation. It’s a virgin steppe, it’s an adventure. It could hold anything. It’s a treasure chest that only needs to be opened. It’s a river that will take me on a journey I can’t imagine.

I plunge into the current. I learn the world, I meet the characters. I fall in love and I’m swept away in the UST, the angst and the conflict. I hope and pray that the characters – who are so clearly mad for each other – will get together.

BUT.

I DON’T want to know that they will. I don’t want a little label on my book which tells me – even before I’ve opened the bloody book – that all will be well and that I don’t even HAVE to worry. Why give yourself high blood pressure? Why get invested in the story? Why fret? Look! There’s a label that tells you how the book is going to end. Hurrah!

Why then should I stress at your conflict? You might as well just tell me the end before I start. Oh, but you don’t have to. That little label “Romance” already has. Not hurrah.

Romance isn’t safe. It’s a leap of faith, a leap into the dark current of love and you risk all to hope you come out unscathed. When it ends well, it’s wonderful. When you risk all and lose? That can be wonderful too.

And what stories are remembered? Which ones live in the memory? Which ones live through time?

People don’t remember Caesar and Cleopatra, despite at least two of the best playwrights ever attempting to immortalise them. Despite them having their Happy for Now. Despite being “married”, and having at least one child. Or if they do, it is only because it is the pre-cursor to the greater and hugely destructive and doomed passion of Anthony and Cleopatra. That’s what people remember.

A lot of people don’t really care about what happens to Heathcliff after Cathy dies. The book ended there, for many many readers.

So who is going to remember the HEA’s of what is now marketed as Romance? In 100 years will we be still be reading and extolling “Tender Rebel” or “Captive of her Desires”? I doubt it.

But who is going to forget Tess, Juliet, Cathy, Madam Bovary, Anna Karenina, Scarlett, Jack and Ennis? Just because their stories ended badly, just because some American publisher or Board of some Romance Writers’ Association wants to slap a “Tragedy”, “love story” or “literature” label on them – does that make their romance any less valid?

I’ve had responses to my views before. “I couldn’t read those stories they upset me” – and that’s fine. But then if you haven’t read them, then you don’t get the right to criticise or deny the fact that they are romances. Great sweeping overpowering destructive violent romances, yes. But ROMANCES, over and above everything else.

I read a book a while back – written by one of the Macaronis, actually, but I won’t say who because if you are like me, it would spoil it for you. Right up until the last few pages I had no clue what was going to happen. In fact the author had convinced me that one of the protagonists was dead and I was weeping buckets. Brava!

If the book had been labelled Romance – I’d never have had that response. I would never have allowed myself to become so involved, to have invested such a huge amount of my emotion into it, because there would have been the safety net sitting there smiling and being SAFE. “It’s Ok,” it would have said, ” of course he’s not dead. See the label?” It would have ruined a great read for me, and would have been much less of a journey, an experience.

I’d like to see the categorisation changed; wishful thinking I know: it’s never going to happen, but in an ideal world I’d like people who want to be safe with their endings to have a sub-genre of their own such as “Romance – HEA” which guarantees the happy for the reader who doesn’t dare to dare. For the reader who wants to know where they are going when they get on the boat. For those who don’t want the current to sweep them away.

But just give me the genre of Romance, and I’ll take the risk with the protagonists. I’ll live every moment with them, I’ll cry, I’ll fear, I’ll laugh. And I won’t know what will happen until the protagonists do.

But I’ll HOPE. I’ll hope like hell.

And THAT’S what the journey is all about.

I’ve managed to get my mitts on a the most wonderful academic essay – “Prosecution for Sodomy at the beginning of the 19th Century” by D Harvey from The Historical Journal Vol 21 No 4 Dec 1978- pp 939-948 and it’s not only wonderful enlightening reading, but it also shores up a lot of the research I did when writing Standish and other regencies.

The trouble is, that I did the research for Standish so long ago, that I used the facts I knew, absorbed most of it like a sponge, weaved it into the book and then promptly forgot about the research. Not the facts, so much, but where I’d got them all from individually. I should have, I realise now, have cited them all in the back, so at least I looked like someone who had actually worked their socks off on the period, rather than some moron who made it up as they went along!! But, lesson learned, and I’ll certainly not make that mistake again. I did acknowledge Etymology Online and Rictor Norton both of whom I spoke to via email and both of whom couldn’t have been more helpful.

Anyway, this article: I’m going to mention some of the salient points, not bang my way through the article because I’m sure some of you will be as interested in the period as I am, and might find the facts surprising. Direct quotes are in italics

It was the case that in the first third of the nineteenth century, trials and executions for sodomy were much commoner than they had been in any earlier period

That is to say that fifty men were executed within that time, and trials, punishments and executions were more common than at any earlier period.

This reached a peak in 1806 when more men were executed for Sodomy (6) than for murder (5). Not huge amounts but rather telling when compared with the murder figures.

HOWEVER – these figures don’t take into account the Naval Courts Martial which of course dealt with these matters themselves and produced a steady flow of cases similar to that in the civilian courts. An average of two or three were sentenced to death for sodomy each year.

The article also goes to state (thank you article!!) that it wasn’t just the hoi-polloi and the rabble who were subject to the full force of the law, the aristocracy and wealthy were just as vulnerable.

It was a naval captain, Henry Allen, convicted of sodomy and hanged on board the Adventure on 15 May 1797 who had the unfortunate distinction of being the most socially prominent victim of his society’s intolerance in this period.

The most notable civilian to be hanged for sodomy in these years seems to have been Isaac Hitchen, one of a homosexual coterie at Warrington which was prosecuted in 1806; he was said to be one of the richest men in Warrington , worth £60,000.

There were also rumour concerning even more distinguished personages such as the earl of Leicester, afterwards Marquess Townshend, and King George III’s unpopular 5 th son, HRH field marshal the duke of Cumberland, afterwards king of Hanover. One of the most notorious scandals of the time was that involving the fabulously wealthy William Beckford, M.P. for Wells, and the Hon William Courtnay, afterward Viscount Courtenay and earl of Devon in 1784. Both Beckford and Courtenay spent the following TWENTY FIVE YEARS virtually ostracized by society and in 1811 Courtenay was forced to flee from his ancestral home at Powderham Castle and go into exile to avoid prosecution for sodomy. The nearest a member of the aristocracy came to indictment for homosexuality in this period was in 1822 when the bishop of Clogher, the Hon Percy Jocelyn son of the first earl of Roden, was caught buggering a Guardsman in a public house and escaped trial by jumping bail and fleeing to Scotland.

(!!!!!!)

So Rafe was lucky, really. I was not hard ENOUGH on him in a true historical context – particularly as he was not entirely English and NOT a member of the aristocracy.. But I imagined that he’d stay in Wiltshire afterwards. Perhaps. .

This single article might not show that men were in danger in their own houses, and I don’t think they were – not in the way that the police (such as there was) would break in to arrest them as they did do after the Labourchere Amendment – but they were very much in danger if they went into other “private” establishments to have sex.

The laws against buggery and sodomy have nearly always been known as “The Blackmailers’ Charter” (see the wonderful film “Victim” for that, filmed before sodomy was legalised) and this was no different here. A lot of prosecutions (as in Ambrose’s case) were begun with letters. Many men would succumb to blackmail rather than face their chances in court, for obvious reasons – a lack of social standing – being excommunicated from society must have been almost as terrifying as the risk of prison or death.

The article goes on to try and explain why there was so much more legal and punitive activity at this particular time and says that it is unlikely that increase of prosecution was merely an index of the increased frequency of homosexual acts. – After all, it’s not as if homosexuality was fashionable, like cuff frills.

The essayist purports that it wasn’t a case of more men being homosexual, but more that it was a case of urbanization, where they concentrated together and were able to form a sub-culture for the first time. And such a “large” proportion of homosexuals in a city (there were 20 houses of male resort in London, compared with 80 years later when there was only four) was more likely to draw attention to the authorities (and the people who would denounce them) than two men living quietly together in more remote areas.

Public opinion was violently against homosexuals at this time and the subject was an extraordinarily emotive one.

In the 1780s, when 15 Exeter homosexuals, ‘most of whom were men of rank and local situation’, were tried and acquitted, they were burnt in effigy by the mob, and in 1810 when 30 homosexuals were arrested in a raid on the White Swan, Vere St, London, those discharged for want of evidence were so roughly handled by the crowd as to be in danger of their lives.

The hardening of sexual stereotypes also, sexual slander became rife at this time, sexual knowledge become more widespread – more people were learning about such “Unnatural acts” which then led to sexual intolerance.

“Damn the fellow! Now I think of it, I never remember his having a girl at college!” remarked an acquaintance of a man who had brought a charge of malicious prosecution against a solider who had accused him of attempting an unnatural act.

There were other reasons, too, all of which helped – The Evangelical Revival probably helped spread the intolerance, the overhaul of the whole system of law enforcement, public pressure (letters to the papers, etc) which all helped to bring the “problem” to the public eye, calls were made to “do something about it.”

All of which goes a long way to explain why – instead of being more tolerant in the early 1800’s, things were actually a lot lot worse.

Never mind boys! It will soon be the Victorian Age..

*rolls eyes*

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