Monday, 14 January 2019

Suicide for authors in the Romance genre!

Unusual hero for a Georgian era novel? 

I suppose he is, and no, he's not some romantic Bedouin tribesman who rides to the rescue of a fair maid or abducts her for his personal pleasure, nor is he a Barbary pirate. He's a young man of honour who swears fealty to a man who saved his life from one fate, though the greater fate prior awaiting him was, in part, more dire than death. And what transpires is not your average romance... errr, love story between two couples. 

Ooops! I must categorise my writing in correct terminology. I pray you heard not my whispered curse at that juncture...

Hence, writing out of the box for me is a passion in how far I can stretch the ubiquitous rules for historical romance novels, which have long since warn thin for me as a reader and writer. The standard boy meets girl, contention arises to keep H/H apart (you know the formula) and all is finally resolved for the HEA (happy ever after). I do read them but find myself often waiting for a riveting scene, something out of the ordinary, and it may be but a few words, and those words are insightful, memorable, and if written well they later vindicate suspicion of foreshadowing: that sense of evil this way comes, or sense of a presence watching. waiting...       

That's the kind of writing I admire and what I strive for, because if you don't read every word, a clue or nuance of other can be missed and the whole utterly misconstrued. After all, reading is all in the words, one can't fast-forward in the visual context and hope nothing of importance was said or enacted.  High stake problems, social restraints and failure motivate desire for change, and such can and will drive a novel forward, whether in narrative or dialogue. 
Stop for a moment and consider desires that transcend sage mind, where emotions spin out of control, where envy steals forth in all its ugliness, where a heroine or hero will take risks to achieve her or his aim for the life they want. Imagine a heroine who believes she cannot have that of which she desires and will literally take herself off to a nunnery rather than do as others would have her abide to. A young hero who vanishes to live a differing experience and learns more than he bargained for en route. In the great scheme of writing I do break the rules of romance from time to time, because too often stories are so alike I feel I've travelled on the same road, seen the same sights and nothing exciting or heart-wrenching happened along the way.

How dangerous is it to break romance rules and gallop off on wild and exciting trails of discovery, or break with tradition? Answer: It can be suicide for an author to go off the beaten romance track and indulge a Romance train wreck in which a sub hero dies, or the hero is killed! But sometimes events conspire against the author, characters determine their own destiny, and here is where the same old argument arises in what constitutes a "Romance Novel" as opposed to "Love Story".

The former Romance Novel is strictly romance all the way with little irritating asides, a touch of fear, abduction, murder, mystery, damn near rape, or forced sex in marriage, forced marriage, widowhood, and angst of one sort or another, plus friction, envy, rivalry, hot hot sex with a ghost, or no sex at all and all must have a fairy tale end. And Lo and Behold, the HEA supersedes the shocking elements, or how base the sex was, whatever... 

With a Love Story one can do almost any damn thing listed above one likes, and even kill the hero or heroine in the last scene shot. That's the most memorable end, is it not - remember Harry's Game the TV drama, or Heathcliff's haunting in Wuthering Heights?  But whoa, that's the suicide bid, the end bite where a reader can turn against the author. And even if the novel has a secondary HEA, that may not pacify the reader, and it does not classify it as a Romance novel, not  even a teeny weeny or grand Romantic ending. Oh, no, no, it's merely a Love Story as die-hard romancers will ram down your throat on social media until you wish you could puke all over their over zealous pomposity!

And another thing: What is an author to do in the marketing scene, for there is no category for Love Story, only Romance. So where in the devil is a Love Story to fit in at Amazon or at other on-line bookstores? 

At one time LOVE STORIES had labels on the end of bookshelves in libraries and old bookstores, and Mills and Boon were listed as Romance. That way fans of M&B didn't stand about mooning over a sloppy fairy tale and thus get in the way of the more discerning reader of Love and or Romantic Adventure Stories - Lady Chatterley's Lover - Angelique series -Frenchman's Creek, et al.    

And it gets worse: Why does the historical romance category leap from Vikings, to Mediaeval to the Regency (9 yrs) and then to Victorian. And yet the Stuart era inclusive Scots, and the Georgian era in its entirety stretched across three centuries. Anything in between Mediaeval and the Regency is frozen out, uncategorised, and becomes General Historical Romance (basically Mission Impossible) thus the Regency genre, the most popular historical era in history (9yrs in total) is oversubscribed with anything from Mediaeval to Victorian as authors maximise marketing placement resulting in CHAOS. 

But back to the hero, the unusual, and the penning of risque love affairs... ah, do I have your attention? Some authors are more daring than others, and scarred heroes and spies returned from the Peninsular Wars, "Wellington and Napoleonic" era, have been the rage for several years now, and it would be great to see more modern-day authors risking all for love with unusual historical heroes! 

Damn it, research history, seek out the unusual and run or ride with it, and to hell with boring formula romance, Be daring, beguile, and write out of the box, Discard the sweet twee novel, and go for full-on cinematic glory where God forbid another author has gone before...           





Monday, 7 January 2019

Lady of the Tower

My words have taken flight with dark deeds of human nature, its envy, its jealousy, its lustful desires, unforgiving in its brutality;

my mind is bruised, tears welled, and yet, and yet, one moment of happiness eases the pain of yesteryears;

the going back through the words of others, those who saw, those who died before the ink dried, and those who loved and again returned,

none could forget, some couldn't forgive, thus they rallied,

and avowed to avenge the one a king had put to death.

BOOK RELEASE DAY - Finally finished after two years of searching for every scrap of evidence I could dig up in avoidance of bullshit "Victor" propaganda, which so many historians and authors who take words as writ by others as proof of past events. Not so, John Childs author/prof/biographer of Percy Kirke. Nor I who never takes anything for granted where history is concerned, instead I think, puzzle, and question the motives of the movers and shakers of their day. I investigate, dig deep into archives, pit one person's words against another's, look for discrepancies, look for the hidden clues and follow your nose as a bloodhound on fresh scent of its prey.

Back cover blurb:

In the aftermath of Rebellion and the Duke of Monmouth’s defeat, Thomasina Thornton rides to the battlefield wearing her dead brother’s clothes. Desperately searching for her brother-in-law, a Dutch officer, she’s aware of the dangers of posing as a curious lad. Fear and dread of capture materialises in stark reality with the arrival of a new officer and detachment of cavalry. As innocent bystanders and robbers of the dead are herded together, her freedom is at an end. Never had she envisaged the man who had momentarily held her gaze within the splendour of Axebury Hall would now hold her life in his hands. Nor can she perceive love and romance could or would blossom between them in that moment when threat of death, and worse, floods her thoughts.

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Mr Darcy's Home County.

So here we are in Derbyshire - Mr. Darcy's home county!

Derbyshire is a mix of High Peaks and glorious dells where rivers wend through steep valleys to reveal undulating slopes and flat river plains. In like to much of England, the county has numerous bridges from small pack horse bridges to the grand multi-span arched bridges. Often as not the moorland and peaks are shrouded in mist which lends the upper slopes to sense of a Gothic landscape erring somewhat creepy and mysterious to strangers, and can lead to finding oneself lost even with modern road signs. Whereas, in the Georgian era there were but milestones and no doubt as today, they were part shrouded in moss or ground ivy because locals knew their way around and no one bothered to clear away the creeping flora! Wooden signposts on high ground were prone to collapse in high winds of yesteryears, unlike the later mid-Victorian Iron signposts.   


There are several grand estates within Derbyshire, not least the country seat of the Duke's of Devonshire at Chatsworth House, and Hardwick Hall, both houses within the Cavendish family hands at that time!

Painting of Chatsworth circa 1785

Chapter 43 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen:

Elizabeth, as they drove along, watched for the first appearance of Pemberley Woods with some perturbation, and where at length they turned in at the lodge, her spirits were in a high flutter.
     The park was very large, and contained great variety of ground. They entered it in one of the lowest points, and drove for some time through a beautiful wood stretching over a wide extent.
     Elizabeth’s mind was too full for conversation but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for a half-a-mile, and there found themselves at the top  of a considerable eminence, where  the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground , and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. It banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned.

In my JAFF novel I chose Buxton as the main country spa town nearest to Pemberley, in part because Jane Austen mentioned High Peak which is a long way north of Matlock. And although it is claimed Jane Austen stayed at The Rutland Arms in Bakewell, thus Mrs. Gardiner's Lambton is based on Bakewell, Buxton seemed closer to Pemberley's imagined location; based on the fact it couldn't be Chatsworth as Elizabeth and the Gardiners' had ventured to see Chatsworth and other en route.    

Chatsworth today. 

 Chapter 42 Pride and Prejudice JA.
In that county there was enough to be seen to occupy the chief of their three weeks; and to Mrs. Gardiner it had a peculiarly strong affection. The town where she had formerly passed some years of her life, and where they were now to spend a few days, was probably as great an object of her curiosity as all the celebrated beauties of Matlock, Chatsworth, and Dovedale, or the Peak. 

All in all Jane could have used several small market towns as her template for "Lambton" but Buxton gives greater scope for novelists due to its link with the 5th Duke of Devonshire. Aside from which, if Mrs. Gardiner's parents were of trade, as was Mr. Gardiner, the chances were they had dealings with Chatsworth, as would tradespeople of Bakewell (either Bakewell or Buxton = Lambton), both places in relative proximity to Chatsworth, barring a closer relationship betwixt Buxton and Chatsworth. 

A beautiful Crescent was built within Buxton by the 5th Duke of Devonshire. At the rear was a grand stable complex with a dome. The latter was built to house horses and equipage of the rich whilst the aristocracy who resided within the crescent partook of the Buxton waters, just as many people partook of the waters in fashionable Bath & Cheltenham, and other spa towns. It was essentially the Bath of the North, at its highest elevation of approx 1,000 feet above sea level

The Devonshire Dome. 

Derby itself is south of the county. 

Derby's Georgian heritage is apparent within its architecture!

And Matlock through which Jane Austen travelled, and here one can see older architecture mingling with Victorian Gothic. 

Needless to say, wherever authors choose to set their JAFF characters, north of the county seems best for P&P, close to Chatsworth and close to High Peak.  

If you wonder why I do larger text it's because many people have said they can't read small or faint text on blogs. So please forgive me if your sight is very good... 


Sunday, 11 November 2018

Travel in Jane Austen's day!

It's all too easy to imagine travel of yesteryear as a time consuming mediaeval plod, and yet, in some respects travel during the latter half of the 18th century and early 19th was expedient when it came to mail coaches, post-chaises, and private drag companies;  the latter who were paid to ply the highways and byways of Georgian Britain on commissioned travel by clients, as did private drags owned by wealthy gentlemen and the aristocracy. Strange as it may seem, many wealthy men thoroughly enjoyed driving their own conveyances equally as well as their coachmen. It was also fashionable to drive curricles (high-top ) or a low-slung Tilney. 

For example, the mail coach runs! 

Travelling by mail coach from London to Bath, the average time on the road inclusive change of four-in-hand horses every 10-15 miles was 11 hrs. The greatest contributing factor to speed was ostlers at inns, who prided themselves on fast-changeovers of horses, thus the relief team were already harnessed ready to go, and the switch of horses could and was achieved in twelve minutes or less depending on weather conditions.    

From Exeter in Devon to Hyde Park Corner: the travel time of the mail coach was 15 hrs.

Private and Post Chaise Horses required two hours of rest per forty miles driven at a more leisurely pace than that of mail coach teams.   

Lighter weight chaises with two-in-hand (pair) were capable of matching mail coaches for speed but again required an hour of rest per 20-25 miles depending on terrain.

There's a bit of a myth on the author circuit teams of horses were for hire to anyone who stopped at any inn (or horse for hire establishment) and wished to change horses and drive onward, hence that statement is factually incorrect unless the owner of said horses was familiar with the person wishing to hire one and that person had credibility. What some inns, and often as not a local smithy (blacksmith/farrier) hired out, were emergency horses with a postilion if a horse had gone lame etc., and that postilion would later return with the horse/s when the conveyance was driven to its destination. Horses were extremely valuable during the time of the Napoleonic wars, and notably in short supply due to acquisition of equines for military service to replace those killed in action or shot when need be. Horse breeders of quality equines tended to be the aristocracy, or those providing horses for the Royal Mail and coaching companies.   

All coaching companies paid dues to keep a string of teams at various coaching inns en route, and canny innkeeper's kept a few spare horses if their inn was located close to a steep hill. Brake horses were ridden to the top of steep hills when coaches were due, and before descending the hill the brake horses were attached to the rear of the coach, the postilion in a position to assist the coachman with extra brake power. Likewise on the same hill ascending, two extra horses were attached to the pole to assist the team and then unhitched on reaching the top, especially important during inclement conditions and snowfall. Some farmsteads offered the same service of brake horses, the times of coaches passing through was pretty much on schedule barring mishaps.

Snippet of earlier history: The First stagecoach started up in 1610 from Edinburgh to Lieth. During the years of the English Civil War travel by coach averaged 7-8 days from London to Exeter. But as time progressed and Charles II was restored to the throne, more coaching routes were developed and travel times were lessened with better design of coaches and the renowned Flying Machine. In the years 1667-1670 announcements were commonplace:

"All those wishing to pass from London to Bath (to take the waters) or to any other place on their road, let them repair to the Bell Savage on Ludgate Hill London and the White Lion in Bath, at both places which they may be received in a Stage Coach every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which performs the whole journey in Three Days (if God permit), and sets forth at five in the Morning.
Passengers to pay One Pound five Shillings each, who are allowed to carry 14 Pounds Weight - for all above to pay the halfpence per Pound."  

Wars involved men travelling the length and breadth of the British Isles and overseas, not least those who became mercenary soldiers in the 30 yrs war, and those who fought in the Spanish, the French, and Dutch wars within the Low Countries on the Continent.
Thus the distance between "Land's End" at the most southern point of England in the far southwest of Cornwall, and to "John o' Groats" at the most northerly aspect of Scotland, represents the whole length of the main island of Great Britain. By road and highway it is 874 miles (1,407 km) betwixt the two and takes modern-day cycling enthusiasts 10 to 14 days; the record for running the route is nine days. 

Not all travel by horse was taken along highways! 

Dorset Ravine

A man and horse taking more diverse routes across country via bridleways, drover roads (ravines), and along old Roman roads in the 1800s and early 1900s matched that of the cyclists of today, and  with no change of horse en route. Hence the distance between the two extreme ends of the Island of Great Britain could be achieved in less time than imagined in yesteryear Britain. 

Pack-horse Drover Bridge

Although the main Roman roads ceased at the border between England and Scotland (Hadrian's Wall), where old drove roads and bridleways had afforded relative safety for lone travellers, so too the same sense of safety was preferable to riding the main highways with the threat of highwaymen. 

Many Drover roads were ancient track-ways traversing north, south, and east across England, and to the far west across Wales. Thus riding these routes across country, and over moorland, saved valuable journey time as opposed to conventional roads and highways.  

The same feats on horseback today require long diversions due to modern road systems, many of the original tracks are long since built on, and old Roman roads such as Ermine Street/Dere Street, known today as The Great North Road on which Dick Turpin rode with his famed Black Bess, now lie beneath tarmac. 

This is part of Watling Street (Roman way)

Part of Old Watling Street -
 registered as a green lane and bridleway.

Part of the Old Foss way  

Of other Roman roads there are many, not least The Foss way (220m), and Watling Street (200m), again great stretches now major modern roads. Of famous bridleways-cum-drove roads the most famous is The Ridgeway, an ancient track-way dated pre Roman times stretching longer than 87m, which is merely the wild section running along the Ridge of the Wiltshire and Berkshire Downs, above the famous Uffington White Horse. The Ridgeway remains as a track-way from start to finish. 

Although much of a second track-way, the Inkfield Way was built upon in more modern times and all but disappeared within the Home Counties, but in 1972 by slight deviations it was re-connected to The Ridgeway, hence once again providing a route almost as its original route from the Dorset coast to East Anglia. So, all in all, travel for lone riders, even troops of soldiers, much greater distances could and were travelled along the old track-ways than the more conventional routes which traversed town to town, city to city. 

Whilst coaching inns provided provisions for travellers, so too, along these old routes were taverns and inns aplenty in small villages. It's quite astonishing to think  Oliver Cromwell's great feat of marching his army and heavy cannon from Scotland to Worcester, covering 25 miles a day (1651). This feat is well documented. Whereas his cavalry and foot marched 40-50 miles a day to catch up with and to trail Charles II's Royalist forces from Scotland to Worcester. Charles had a head start of several days, thus the mammoth feat of Cromwell's men, all told, was one of endurance riding and marching, much of it along ancient routes and the great North Road (Dere Street), and thence to engage in battle within less than twelve hours of respite. And, what is more, Cromwell's men won the Battle of Worcester. 

Map of Roman Roads traversing England.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Jane Austen Fan Fiction novel

A Traditional Sweet Regency Jane Austen Fan Fiction Novel -
A Pride and Prejudice Sequel.
Believe me, this was hard work and I admire any author who picks up the gauntlet and writes a JAFF novel. I explain why in the Introduction to the book!

Book's blurb/premise.

~ Nothing is ever quite as one might imagine ~

The new mistress at Pemberley is quite sure all Darcy’s friends, and his neighbours, will be keen to make his wife’s acquaintance. But several weeks later and no callers, who is Belle, and can it be true, Darcy has a mistress and a love child? As tensions rise and turmoil ensues, the three married Bennet sisters are reunited at Pemberley and duly set out to unravel the mystery of Darcy’s past. But when Belle and Bonnie arrive at the house, Darcy steals the ground from beneath Elizabeth’s feet. Likewise a letter from Longbourn heralds such favourable news everyone falls utterly speechless: until Lydia explodes “Heavens above, what a giggle!” 
I confess I have never aspired to emulate any other author's writing voice (style) and for me this was a fun exercise in writing a Jane Austen Fan Fiction novel which I am of mind has become one of French Farce proportions, and dare I say, it's a modest Homage to some of Jane’s delightful characters from Pride and Prejudice, characters beloved by readers across the globe so I pray I've not in any way besmirched the names Bennet, Darcy, or Bingley.  

I did place this at Amazon as a pre-order copy with a temporary unedited draft whilst the novel was in the hands of my editor, and come the deadline day to upload the edited copy Amazon had a glitch on the system and the previewer was down as well. The problem being the uploads (enacted several times) would not overwrite the draft copy. To cut a long saga short the book went live with the wrong file, and Amazon tech guy couldn't upload the file either. I was advised to unpublish and republish, which I have now done. Typically a reviewer sought to point out the fact it  was republished, and assumed it was solely to negate two negative reviews at Amazon com. Well I would have been foolish to lose several reviews, two of which were 5 and one a 4 star on the UK site, and all merely to negate two malicious reviews at Amazon com. Though I will thank the two reviewers, Mrs Darcy and Kindlelover, because every review helps in revealing the "dark side" of those who stalk authors for whatever reason best known to them.  Aside from that I have since been granted the Jane Austen Readers' Award. So am a bit chuffed!            

Available worldwide at Amazon - e-book, paperback, and Kindle Unlimited: 

Amazon UK    Amazon com