Friday, August 24, 2012

The Grand Tour, Part 9: Ah, Roma!

We have left sweet Venice, and more than one heart, behind, and have reached what many consider the pinnacle of our time in Italy:  none other than Rome itself! I must admit to some trepidation.  Mrs. Starke reports that the inns near the city are all infected with a horrid sickness she calls Mal’ aria. She also advises that we are not to step outside our hotel at night because of the fogs and noxious vapors that arise. 

Yet being around so much history cannot help but impress.  Even the gate we ride through into the city, the Porto del Popolo, is magnificent, towering stories above us in ornamented stone and braced by columns. It seems that Rome was once so full of marble columns topped by busts of famous people or gods that the government actually put a tax on them!  Sadly, many have fallen now or been taken away.

Oh, but it seems we are surrounded by antiquities!  We have all been inspired to purchase notebooks and began sketching.  See our impressions?



After a day or two of fountains, churches, and palaces, we hire a guide specifically for Rome, and he beckons us closer.  Going out by night dangerous?  Oh, no, no.  The best way to see the ancient sites is by moonlight, which softens the ravages of time and sets the stones to glowing.  Under his guidance, we tiptoe through grottoes, vast coliseums, and hallowed halls alike, awed by the former glory, afraid to wake the slumbering ghosts of the past. 

And of course, we must purchase souvenirs!  So many of our countrymen and women have passed this way before us that a rousing trade has arisen in brooches, plaques, and sketches of all the wonderful sites.  See the lovely brooch I found to bring home?
I hope we can find a particularly burly porter when we head off to Sicily!

[For those of you still in the twenty-first century, check out this site from the University of Oregon.  The interactive map allows you to see what Rome looked like in the late 18th century, with photographs of the same sights today.  Really cool!]  

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Friday Miscellany

We’re moving into the second half of August now, which means a flurry of activity for moms all over. Regina is busy getting her son settled in college, which is why she’s not here today; I’ll be doing the same next week for my son, so I’ll be away then. We’re both taking off the last week in August to enjoy the last of summer, so Nineteenteen will be on a brief hiatus that week, returning to its regular schedule on the Tuesday after Labor Day. Just so you know.

In the meanwhile, I thought you might like to see my new bumper magnet, courtesy of The Republic of Pemberley’s CafĂ© Press shop:
I also indulged one of these:
Fun, yes? Definitely worth visiting for the Jane enthusiasts on your gift list.

Have a splendid weekend!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No Slang Like Old Slang, Part 4

It’s time for another round of No Slang Like Old Slang…Unless it’s New, the Nineteenteen game show where you have to identify whether a word or turn of phrase was used in the 19th century, or has a later (20th century) origin. I’ll post the answers in the comment column…have fun!

1. All right (implying agreement); “When Elizabeth said ‘all right’ to going for a little jaunt in Harry’s fancy new phaeton, I don’t think she expected it would include racing Lord Fotheringly through Hyde Park.”

2. Bad show! (an exclamation of disapprobation). “Bad show, Harry, so carelessly letting Elizabeth get thrown from your phaeton like that!”

3. Smarmy (hypocritically effusive); “Of course, if Elizabeth hadn’t been so smarmy over Harry’s inheriting all his great-uncle’s money, she wouldn’t have ended up on her backside in the middle of the carriage drive.”

4. Dead-pan (expressionless) “My grandmother manages to be completely dead-pan when playing whist with her friends, even when extra kings somehow start appearing in play.”

5. Ersatz (fake or substitute, usually of lesser quality): “Alas, the pearls Aunt Minelda wore to the Duchess’s ball were ersatz.”

6. Posh (sophisticated, aristocratic); “Aunt told me afterward it was because the Duchess’s parties were anything but posh, and she couldn’t be bothered to get her good pearls out of Uncle’s safe for them.”

7. To the nth degree (extremely); “Of course, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy herself to the nth degree whenever she goes.”

And second, it's time to announce the winner of the drawing for a copy of Courtship and Curses from last week's commenters...Lana Williams, can you please drop me a line via the contact form on my website so that we can arrange to get your book to you?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Courtship and Curses-related Stuff and Some Thoughts on Writing Historical Fantasy

First, link time! Tricia Tighe of Damsels in Regress, another history and writing related blog we follow, has an interview with me and a review of Courtship and Curses which you might enjoy.

I’ve sometimes thought about why I write what I write. I guess it’s something all people who create wonder about—what draws us to write this particular book, or paint that particular painting, or put this specific sequence of notes into a song. For me and my love of historical fantasy—well, the history part is obvious: the past is one of my biggest passions, and always has been. But no matter what I try to write, an element of fantasy always creeps into it. I can’t help it, it just happens; I attribute it to the fact that the very first chapter book I read as child was called The Little Witch, and it imprinted on me somehow. I have a couple of ideas for straight historical books…but you know what? It wouldn’t surprise me if some fantasy elements still managed to worm its way into those stories while my head is turned. Sneaky stuff, that magic.

Of course, some historical settings just seem to beg for the addition of magic. I think it’s because when we study history, we’re looking at the “big”, dramatic aspects of the past. And things just doesn’t get much more dramatic than 1815. Think about it for a moment: England was breathing a sigh of relief at not being at war for the first time in nearly twenty years, only to wake up one morning to find that Napoleon had somehow slipped away from house arrest on Elba and had marched across France and retaken his throne without firing a single shot. Moreover, the anointed and crowned King of England had gone mad, and his drama queen of an eldest son was now in charge. Writing about larger-than-life events and historical figures (*coughDukeofWellingtoncough*) just calls for larger-than-life plotting…and what’s larger than life than magic?

So Courtship and Curses got written because I wanted to play with 1815 and with the character of Lady Parthenope (Persy and Pen's mom) as a teen herself. I chose not to make her the heroine of the story because I tend to write about characters trying to find their place in the world, and Parthenope is one of those fortunate individuals who seems to have been born knowing where she belongs. So she is there to support Sophie, my heroine, who is having a heck of a time finding herself after losing her mother and sister, her ability to walk without a cane, and her magic. Combine that with the events of 1815, and there's quite a bit to write about!

On a related note, this is why I tend to feel that historical fantasy dating any later than 1945 doesn’t work well—the events of modern times just don’t have that larger-than-life feeling to them, even though, realistically speaking, many of them are far “bigger” than the events of 1815. It’s all a matter of perception.

Okay, I’m getting boring and serious here. Are there any points or periods in history that you think would make a terrific historical fantasy story?

Don’t forget—all commenters this week will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of Courtship and Curses. Just sayin’….

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Courtship and Curses is here!!

Today my third young adult history fantasy hits the shelves!

Courtship and Curses is a stand-alone book that shares the same world as Bewitching Season and Betraying Season…and in fact is sort of a prequel, as we meet Lady Parthenope Hardcastle—whom my readers already know as the mother of Persy and Pen Leland—as a young woman making her own debut in society.

But the main story belongs to Lady Sophie Rosier, only daughter of the Marquis of Lansell…and a witch who has lost her mother (and teacher in all things magical), her ability to walk without a cane…and her magic. Or has she? When a series of murderous magical “accidents” begin to befall important members of the War Office—including Sophie’s father—just as Napoleon returns from Elba and is preparing to re-ignite war against England, Sophie needs all the help she can get to navigate her first London Season, stop the assassin, and figure out just what she feels for Parthenope’s cousin, Peregrine Woodbridge…and what he feels about her.

Kirkus Reviews called Courtship and Curses a major homage to Jane Austen…but really, it’s an homage to Georgette Heyer, who singlehandedly established the Regency romance genre and continues to delight readers ninety years after the appearance of her first novel. If the divine Miss Heyer had written a YA fantasy, I hope it might have resembled Courtship and Curses…and I hope that you’ll pick it up when you’re next looking for a fun read.

What reviewers are saying:

“[A] cheery Regency fantasy….Doyle’s gift, on display in earlier historical fantasies (Bewitching Season, 2008, etc.), lies in creating vivid female characters and the bonds between them.”—Kirkus Reviews

"Doyle has a talent for writing historical fiction…”—VOYA

Where you can learn more (and read the first chapter!)

Where you can buy it:

Barnes and Noble: hardcover and Nook

Your local independent bookseller

Amazon: hardcover and Kindle




The Book Depository

And of course, since this is launch week, I’ll also be giving away a copy to a randomly drawn commenter on today’s or Friday’s post…so stop back in on Friday, too, when I’ll be talking about writing historical fantasy.

Last week, during our 500th Post discussion, we offered either a copy of Courtship and Curses or The Captain’s Courtship to a randomly-drawn commenter…and that commenter is Faith E. Hough! Faith, please drop me a line here to let me know which book you’d like and to arrange mailing.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Public Spectacles, Amusements, and Objects Deserving Notice, August: Doggett's Coat and Badge

August could be a sweltering time in London in the nineteenth century.  Anyone who could got out of town, to their country estates, to the seashore, to the Lake District.  The Picture of London, which for many years was an annual volume of places to see and things to do in the capital, called the month a “dull season for amusement.”  So what was a young lady or gentleman to do if the family chose not to rusticate?

On August 1, one might head to the Thames for the annual race called Doggett’s Coat and Badge.  It had been instituted in the 1700s by Thomas Dogget, an Irish comedian who also jointly managed the Drury Lane Theatre.  In keeping with the times, he endowed a wager:  a crimson coat and a silver badge to the winner of a rowing race up the Thames, from The Swan at London Bridge to The Swan at Chelsea, a distance of 4 miles and 7 furlongs that could take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours to row, depending on the tide and the weight of the boat. 

Only six men could compete, and only if they were watermen within the first year of finishing their apprenticeships. You could put in your name and the Fishmongers Company, who had agreed to administrate the race, would draw the name of the six lucky rowers.

And not just any rowers.  Watermen were like taxi drivers.  Their job was the row people from one side of the river to the other in boats that ranged from sculls to heavy-bottomed wherries.  Many had set routes or locations from which they rowed: Wapping Old Stairs, Westminster, and Putney, for example.  One of the winners was from Pickle Herring.  I want to find that spot. 

The Thames is a tidal river, meaning that the current and depth changes constantly over the day.  Rowing upriver could be extremely challenging.  People crowded the bridges, flocked to spots that overlooked the river, even thronged on larger boats and barges just to watch the prodigious feat.

The winner got his own parade and a banquet at the Fishmongers Hall.  And the badge?  It was a huge piece of silver, about the size of a dinner plate, that you wore on your upper right arm.  It was engraved with symbols representing the House of Hanover, as Doggett had been a big supporter of King George.  The race is still run today, although generally in late July.  Below is the picture of the winner from 2010, Daniel Arnold, along with previous winners, courtesy of the Fishmongers Company's press release.

As you can probably tell, then as now, winning was considered quite the honor. 

Especially if you were from Pickle Herring.