A short but fun one today:

Passed along by Syd McGinley, this interactive Victorian role playing game will allow you to see if your character would have been welcomed at the Gentleman’s Club or cruelly cut at the Ballroom.

http://www.mccord-museum.qc.ca/en/keys/games/game_0/

 

Recommended by Erastes, a very nice vintage book blog

Bali Hai’s Blog

and two links found at physorg.com

“Gay rights movement born in 19th century Germany, scholar says”
http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-02-gay-rights-movement-born-19th.html

“Eighteenth century writings of first gay activist discovered”
http://www.physorg.com/news96733007.html

And in keeping with this week’s more entertainment-based theme (what, we’ve got games and everything!) but for Brits only, I’m afraid, unless you can get your browser to conceal your location, a moving TV programme about Frankie Howerd – “Rather you than me.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b009s7gv/Frankie_Howerd_Rather_You_Than_Me/#recommendSource=tv_episode_page

Drama starring David Walliams as the comedian Frankie Howerd, looking at the relationship with his long-term, long-suffering manager and partner, Dennis Heymer.

~

If you have an article which you think fits with our subject matter (gblt and historical and/or writing) and you’d like us to share it with our readers, just send it along to alex@alexbeecroft.com

“Historical” by our definition means pre-Stonewall, so pre-1969.

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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?

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…)

Speak Its Name
 

Aftermath
 

Expectations riding on a generation of young Englishmen are immense; for those who’ve something to hide, those expectations could prove overwhelming.

When shy Edward Easterby first sees the popular Hugo Lamont, he’s both envious of the man’s social skills and ashamed of finding him so attractive. But two awful secrets weigh Lamont down. One is that he fancies Easterby, at a time when the expression of such desires is strictly illegal. The second is that an earlier, disastrous encounter with a young gigolo has left him unwilling to enter into a relationship with anyone. Hugo feels torn apart by the conflict between what he wants and what he feels is “right”. Will Edward find that time and patience are enough to change Hugo’s mind?

Gentleman’s Gentleman
Lord Robert Scoville has lived in a reasonably comfortable Victorian closet, without hope of real love, or any notion that it’s right there in front of him if he would only open his eyes and take notice of his right-hand man, Jack Darling. Jack has done his best to be satisfied with the lesser intimacy of caring for the man he loves, but his feigned role as a below-stairs ladies’ man leaves his heart empty. When a simple diplomatic errand turns dangerous and a man from their past raises unanswerable questions, both men find themselves endangered by the secrets between them. Can they untangle the web of misunderstanding before an unknown attacker parts them forever?

Hard and Fast
Major Geoffrey Chaloner has returned, relatively unscathed, from the Napoleonic War, and England is at peace for the first time in years. Unable to set up his own establishment, he is forced to live with his irascible father who has very clear views on just about everything—including exactly whom Geoffrey will marry and why. The trouble is that Geoffrey isn’t particularly keen on the idea, and even less so when he meets Adam Heyward, the enigmatic cousin of the lady his father has picked out for him… As Geoffrey says himself: “I have never been taught what I should do if I fell in love with someone of a sex that was not, as I expected it would be, opposite to my own.”

 
From Josh Lanyon, author of Adrien English Mysteries

“Dashing spies, bold Regency bucks, and the flower of English manhood vie for readers’ attention in this smart, original and engaging trilogy.This is not your mother’s historical romance!”

 
Excerpts:

Aftermath by Charlie Cochrane

Easterby laid his hand on Hugo’s shoulder, not knowing any words that he could share. He felt that he should be making some wise pronouncement either to offer comfort or to persuade Lamont that all his guilt and distaste was stupid, but he’d no idea what would work in either case. By accident he hit upon exactly what Hugo required; not gabbling words or advice, pious or otherwise, but a quiet companionship. All the comfort that Hugo needed, he found in that light touch upon his back; all the counsel that he sought was in the gentle breath playing upon his cheek. After a moment or two, he looked up at Edward and smiled wanly as if he was broken in heart and spirit. “I know it’s a simple choice, but it’s one I can’t make. Part of me says I should say farewell here and now, taking myself away from you and all the temptation you bring. And the other half says you’re the thing I treasure most in all the world and I should just stay with you and risk everything.” He shrugged and merely patted Easterby’s back. “I’m sorry. It’s me. I’m hopeless and that’s all there is to it.”

Edward remembered all the college stories about Lamont that he’d heard when he first come up to Cranmer—Lamont being held up as the shining example, the man that all other men should aspire to. Seeing him so distraught, so lacking in any confidence in his own powers, was untenable. “You’re not hopeless. Far from it.” He tried to catch Hugo’s eye. “It’ll be all right. It will.” The words sounded so vapid, so utterly useless, but somehow they sparked a slightly happier smile from Lamont.

Gentleman’s Gentleman by Lee Rowan

Jack said nothing. He didn’t dare. The truth was stirring in him like a living thing, but he simply did not know what to say. No, he wasn’t mistaken. I would love to have you take advantage of me! That would hardly do. In fact, he was grateful for his lordship’s integrity. How wretched it would have been to serve under an officer who expected sexual favors, if the attraction were not mutual.

But was it mutual? Jack could not deny what he himself felt. And hope stirred again, a tenuous thread of possibility. A man who would not take advantage might be exercising self-restraint, not indifference. Did he dare speak?

Lord Robert was still fuming, oblivious to Jack’s dilemma. “He must have thought me absurdly naïve. I suppose I was. It had never occurred to me that anyone would stoop so low as to make such an assumption about me. Or about you!” He looked up, his eyes full of some unspoken emotion. Anger? Guilt? “My dear fellow, I am deeply sorry. You must believe I never intended to subject you to anything like that. I can’t do a damned thing about my own nature, and I’m grateful beyond words for your tolerance. I had no idea you would be offered such an insult.”

“Insult, my lord?” Jack’s chest felt tight, and his heart was suddenly pounding. Here it was, then—the chance of fulfillment or the destruction of all he had come to know.

“That you were my—that I would—” Lord Robert flung a hand into the air, helplessly.

“The only insult Captain McDonald offered,” Jack said carefully, “was the assumption that I would be willing to lie with him.”

It was Lord Robert’s turn to hesitate. “I’m not certain I understand.”

Their eyes met once more, and Jack could not look away. “He was not mistaken about my nature.” And, since at this point there could be no going back, he added, “Nor my feelings for you.”

Hard and Fast by Erastes

I stepped forward to him. “Your nature,” I said, between gritted teeth, “has been nothing but unnatural since the first moment we met.”

He didn’t move a muscle, didn’t take his eyes from mine; for all his apparent fragility, he certainly didn’t appear to be intimidated by me.

“Perhaps,” he said, almost idly, as if he weren’t being towered over by a furious and insulted major, “it takes one to know one.” It was as if our intimacy had not taken place and we were swapping insults in a card room.

I grabbed him then, with hands long schooled to denial; not to take what they wanted, not to fire at civilians, not to touch what it should not touch. I crushed him to me; I heard his cane fall to the floor and felt him waver in my arms as he struggled to support himself. All this in a moment, and all I had registered from him was the sudden intake of breath. No complaints, no barbed wit, no exultation—nothing that I had expected.

I felt nothing of the giddiness I had heard poets sing about. I felt like Hercules, his last task completed. I felt fierce and victorious, swept away with the madness of the moment. His hair was against my cheek, the scents that had haunted my dreams were more real and more delicious than I had remembered. He clung to me; his right arm around my neck for support, his left arm snaked around my waist. I shuddered in pleasure as he turned his face a little and his skin touched my face. Gooseflesh sprung around all over my body as he touched my cheek with his lips.

There was no thought in what happened next; I remember every second of it, but I remember most clearly of all that I made no decisions in my actions. Everything I did was ordained …

 

Perhaps other members might follow this, and we could have  series of posts on the same theme – all of us work differently I am sure.

I was hooked on The Past from the first time I read The Pickwick Papers. I was extraordinarily young, I remember, about 7 or 8. I probably didn’t understand one half of the book, but I loved the illustrations and I adored the jokes, the characters, and so much else.

It’s a very lively book and like many of Dickens’ novels travel is an important theme; as a child I was fascinated by donkey carts and hired hacks, post-chaises, post-coaches, or people walking from one end of the country to the other. Pickwick is probably still my favourite Dickens and the jokes don’t get any less funny with time.

As I grew up I read voraciously, and my mother being a fan of historicals, I used to read everything she did. Her favourites were Victoria Holt and Norah Lofts but anything about Kings and Queens were hoovered up by her and me.  I developed an appreciation for the difficulties of the genre and knew that one day I wanted to write.

When I finally started, I realised just what a Herculean task it was – it I wanted to get it right. By this point I’d read a lot of “not so great” historical fiction – modern acting and speaking heroes and heroines ponceing around in a Disney-esque past where all the English roads were tremendously flat and one could travel, like Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood, from Dover to Nottingham in one day.

So how do I write? Probably not in a correct manner. I know people who won’t write a word until they’ve researched the era to death, sometime researching for a year before they write a word – but I admit that I tend just to jump in with both feet and work through it as I go.  This does to lead to interruptions, which can often be frustrating such as when, for my latest WIP I spent hours looking for the price of whores in the 19th century. You would not believe how hard that information was to find. Sometimes it’s easier “how much was a letter in 1815” or “or long did it take a ship to get to Venice?” or “daily newspapers?” but sometimes my Google-Fu fails me and I have to ask friends, yahoo groups and (shock!) sometimes have to resort to going to a library!

For me, the characters are the important parts of the story and although I have an inkling of who the two main male characters are, I may not even have names for them when I start to write. This might sound reckless in the extreme to others who have huge character outlines written down before they start, but I like it because it means that the reader is learning about the characters at almost the same speed as I do.  I didn’t know how stubborn Ambrose was going to be in Standish until he grew that way and I didn’t know about Fleury’s doctor until he told Ambrose the story. Any author who says that this process of characters dictating the process is hogswash simply haven’t had it happen to them and I feel sorry for them!

I am a bit of a “jigsaw” writer too. If there’s a crux scene that I know will appear in the book (even if I’m not sure of the steps that will take the characters there) I’ll write that scene pretty early on.  This is a good way of avoiding being blocked in your novel and for me it’s the equivalent of eating the best chocolates out of the box and dipping into the bottom layer and eating my favourites there too.  In addition – and up to now, I always write the last scene/chapter early on too. I copied the idea from JK Rowling and I find it works well; It anchors me, and gives me a finishing line. Some of my other friends worry about ending and panic about how they’ll get the loose ends tied up, but I find writing the final scene early on helps enormously.

What I’m constantly aware of is the senses. I don’t simply concentrate on the thoughts and the feelings of the character because humans aren’t like that – they are affected, all the time, by external forces – and this can be used in historical fiction to good effect. Simply by having your character observe what is (after all) perfectly normal for him – the carriages/horses/sedan chairs, the muck in the streets, the smells of shops as he passes, the noise of street sellers, the tang of smoke in the air, the cries of prisoners from the barred windows of the prisons – all this can create a wonderful ambiance without you having to info dump on your readers at all.

Anyway – that’s my process. Scrappy, untidy, not at all organised but a lot of fun. I look forward to reading my fellow Macaroni’s processes.