Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 Round-Up, Part 2

Kate Allan

2005 proved to be a really good year for me.

My first book, The Lady Soldier, came out, and went to a second printing. Later in the year, the same publisher, Robert Hale Ltd offered me a contract for my Regency-set romantic comedy, Perfidy & Perfection.

F. A. Thorpe offered for large print rights for The Lady Soldier, and I'm looking forward to seeing the book in its new format in 2006.

In August, I donned period costume and read from The Lady Soldier at the Jane Austen Fayre at Down Grange in Hampshire.

I gave a practical workshop on 'The Six Senses of Writing' to Watford Writers Circle and in September, I spoke to York University London Alumni Group about being a York History graduate and an author.

In May, I appeared at Lincoln Book Festival discussing The Lady Soldier and gave a practical writing workshop on 'The Six Senses of Writing' to Verulam Writers Circle in St Albans.

Writing Magazine also featured me as a new author in 2005 - a good year!

Joanna Maitland

This has been a successful year for me. A Regency Invitation, published by Harlequin Historicals®, came out in November. It consists of three stories, all set at Lyndhurst Chase, the hunting box of Major Anthony Lyndhurst.
If you are interested to find out how three authors managed to collaborate in such detail when two were in England and one was 12,000 miles away in Australia, we created a blog of the emails we exchanged. It shows the detailed process of devising the outline plot, the characters and the setting. It shows how we went about writing each other’s characters and ensuring that they still rang true.

You can find the blog by clicking here

Be warned, though! It’s quite long and, to make sense of it, you’ll probably need to start with the oldest posts first. If you visit the blog, do let me know what you think.

I was delighted that A Poor Relation, originally published in the UK in 2001, was reissued in November 2005, in Volume 5 of The Regency Lords & Ladies Collection published by Mills & Boon®.

Maisie Hampton

This was a good year for me. Love's Measure, my second Regency romance, came out in May.

I also discovered that it was to become an audio book, which will be released in January 2006. It's an unabridged single-voice reading by Christopher Scott, and will come out with Soundings (ISIS publications)

Nicola Cornick

2005 was an excellent year!
A Regency Invitation came out in the US in November 2005 from Harlequin Historicals. The three linked novellas were set around the House Party of the Season and featured stories by Elizabeth Rolls and fellow blogger Joanna Maitland!

Regency Scandal
Lady Allerton's Wager and The Notorious Marriage were reprinted in one volume in the UK in October.

I was also thrilled to have a short story, A Season for Suitors, in the HQN Christmas Anthology, which came out in October.
Over the last few years, many readers had asked me about Sebastian Fleet, who was a character in The Earl's Prize and Wayward Widow. When would Sebastian finally meet the woman of his dreams?
I am very happy to report that A SEASON FOR SUITORS is Sebastian's story - at last!

Jane Jackson

2005 has been a successful year for me.

The large print version of my novel, Tide of Fortune came out in the autumn.

I have sold two new books to Robert Hale Ltd. The first is Dangerous Waters, and the second is Devil's Prize.

Look out for them in 2006!

We hope 2005 was a good year for you. Why not tell us your highlights? We'd love to hear about your best moments from 2005.

Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Round-Up

As we're drawing to the end of the year, we thought we'd review the highlights of our writing lives in 2005.

Fenella- Jane Miller

2005 was a wonderful year for me. In April, my first book, The Unconventional Miss Walters, was published by Robert Hale.

I sold A Suitable Husband to Hale, and it will be out in March 2006.

I also sold two stories, The Return of Lord Rivenhall, and A Country Mouse, to D C Thomson for My Weekly Story Collection. They will be out in December 2006, and sometime in 2007 respectively.

Amanda Grange

My tenth historical romance, Lord Deverill’s Secret, came out in April, and the large print version came out in November.
In June, the large print and audio versions of Harstairs House came out. The latter was particularly exciting for me, as it was my first audio book.
But the most exciting part of 2005 was the fact that my eleventh novel, Darcy’s Diary, came out in August and sold out before the date of publication. It went to a second printing in September, and a third printing in November! I’m so pleased it’s done well, because I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen, and Darcy’s Diary was a labour of love for me. The large print rights were sold in the autumn, and the large print version will be out in February 2006.

The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) gave me many good moments, too. I gave a talk at the summer conference, which was held at Royal Holloway near London. Fellow authors and co-bloggers Kate Allan and Melinda Hammond were also on the authors’ panel.

In November, I was very pleased to see the publication of The Scarlet Queen by Jacqueline Webb. I read this book in my capacity as a reader with the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, which aims to foster new talent. I loved the book, and the publishers did, too. It’s an Edwardian mystery romance, bristling with humour, set on a dig in Egypt. It would suit anyone who likes the Amelia Peabody books.

Miss Bridget Jane's Diary, a Regency spoof of Bridget Jones’s Diary, continued its publication as a regular column in the Historical Novel Society review magazine.

Miss Bridget Jane started out as a winning competition entry in the All About Romance website Purple Prose Parody competition, and although she’s completely different in style from my other literary creations, I love her. She continues to muddle her way through her job as a Regency companion, having trouble with her love life in the shape of Lord Horty, and sneaking down to the kitchens periodically to raid the cooking sherry.

So all in all, 2005 was a brilliant year for me.

Louise Allen

I had a really good year in 2005. I had three books out with Harlequin Mills and Boon: The Model Debutante, The Marriage Debt and Moonlight & Mistletoe (the latter in Christmas Brides).

I went to the RNA conference, which gave me a chance to meet up with fellow writers. The photo shows a view of the conference venue, Royal Holloway near London, UK.

Lynne Connolly

This was a very good year for me. I signed with Triskelion and started writing in a new genre - urban gothic – as well as my historicals.

I signed with Mundania to re-release the Richard and Rose books, a series of historical books set in the Georgian era which follow the adventures of lovers and, later, married couple, Richard and Rose. The books will be out in 2006, starting in April. They are, in order:

"Yorkshire" (This was an Eppie finalist) - due to be reissued in April, 2006
"Devonshire" (received a Rio nomination - Reviewers' Choice award)
"Harley Street" (this won the Eppie for Romantic Suspense)
Two more new instalments will be released, too. "Eyton," and "Darkwater."

Triskelion chose me as one of the authors for their print programme as well as their ebook list, so watch out for my books in bookstores next year.

And finally, "The Chemistry of Evil" from Triskelion Publishing was finalled in the Romantic Suspense category.

So altogether a very good year!

Melinda Hammond

2005 was a great year for me. I had two books published: A Lady at Midnight and Dance for a Diamond. I also sold Gentlemen in Question, which will be out in 2006, although I don’t have an exact date yet.

I attended the RNA conference in the summer, and met up with writing friends including fellow blogger Amanda Grange, and Stephen Bowden, who is presently writing a Regency.

Come back tomorrow to find out how our other bloggers fared in 2005!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Christmas Sales and Cheap Books!

Well, I ploughed my way round the sales and came home with two new jumpers and
a pair of shoes - bliss!
I'd had enough of the shops by then, though, so I went online to buy the books I wanted. Whilst I was at Amazon, I noticed that some of the Amazon Marketplace sellers were selling a few of our books at less than half price. So if you want to pick up a bargain, this is the time to do it!

Lord Deverill's Secret

Cassandra Paxton is trying to sell her Brighton town house, but someone is trying to kill her.

What secret is Justin, Lord Deverill, hiding, and will Cassandra survive?

To find a bargain, new copy of Lord Deverill's Secret by Amanda Grange
click here

Dance for A Diamond

Antonia Venn sets up her own dancing school in a bid for independence. Into Miss Venn’s academy comes the lively Isabella Burstock. Antonia’s efforts to keep Isabella’s high spirits in check naturally bring her into conflict with her autocratic half-brother, Sir Laurence Oakford.

To find a bargain, new copy of Dance For A Diamond by Melinda Hammond
click here.

Tide of Fortune

Kerenza Vyvyan's estranged family has been missing for a year on a trading voyage to the Mediterranean. When her father returns to raise the ransom needed to free his wife and elder daughter, he demands that Kerenza sail back with him. But the commander of the ship is Nicholas Penrose, the man who broke Kerenza's heart.

To find a bargain, new copy of Tide of Fortune by Jane Jackson

click here.

The Lady Soldier

Spain, 1812. Jem Riseley is the perfect soldier in Wellington's army: brave, skilled and daring but also a gently-born lady!
A battlefield promotion provides Jem with the means of escape from a sadistic major, but leaves her with the problem of Captain Tony Dorrell. Jem must convince the handsome but jaded captain, who knew her as a lady, that she's the man she seems. When the pair are trapped behind French lines, Jem has to battle the enemy as well as her rekindled desire for Tony.

From the dangers of war-torn Spain to scandal in London's elegant drawing rooms, Jem will fight to preserve her secret. However, the reappearance of an old adversary causes Jem to confront her past in order to save her own, and England's, future.

To find a bargain, new copy of The Lady Soldier by Kate Allan

click here.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

There's no accounting for taste!

I woke up this morning realising why I haven't added a new print author to my autobuy list in the last two years.

I've always said that authors have to sell to agents and publishers, not to
the reader, at least initially, until their work takes off.

It's this "big concept" idea. The idea that bursts out of a book, that
pushes the author on to the best seller lists, and makes that author the
next big thing - until the next big thing. So writers who have found the
Big Idea have sold, and explode on to the scene, only to putter down in the
next couple of books.

That works very well - but only once or twice. With my reader hat firmly on
my head, I can say that I've been taken for an exhilarating ride for a book
or two, only to find that poor plotting, clumsy prose or repetition of an
idea has made me abandon that author and go back to the writers I trust to
give me a thoroughly good read.

When I look at my list of favourite authors, classical or modern, the ones
I go back to, the ones on my keeper shelf, have a good, rounded list of
attributes. They can tell a good story, they have vividly drawn characters,
they have prose you can linger on and enjoy, and they have well constructed
plots with no gaping holes in them.

Looking at my keeper shelf, I see Jo Beverley, Dorothy Dunnett, Laura
Kinsale, Susan Elizabeth Philips, Nicola Cornick, Jane Austen and the writer I read more than any other, Charles Dickens.
Not one which has emerged in the past couple of years.

I love the historical, including the much maligned Traditional Regency (not the
Regency Historical although I love that too). I'm lucky, in that there are many backlists I haven't fully explored yet, but the Regency genre has no Big Ideas, merely providing me with a good read I can lose myself in for a few hours. That is
what I look for in a book.

Historical inaccuracy drives me demented, which is the main reason I haven't found a historical author I want to stick with in the last few years. To the historical, maybe more than other genres, a proficiency with elegant prose is also important, and something I appreciate, something I look for and have been repeatedly disappointed by in the last few years.

Having gained my MBA and worked at the sharp end for several years, (in
fmcg marketing), it's only too clear where this attitude has come from. It's the fast sell, the instant sell through, and the concept of piling high and selling fast. It works for food, because food is gone in a few weeks. It works for books, or rather, it does initially. But a good food retailer must also provide consistency of product if there is any chance of longevity of brand. I suppose the food retailers are better at it, because in many ways the book market is new to this idea, and demonstrates some amateur approaches to it. I worked for companies that knew the difference between a core brand and a variety, and have worked for many years with the concepts. I have done some strategic planning, and in that it is far more important to develop a good product portfolio than it is to concentrate on the Next Big Thing. That was the job of the product managers, a step down the management tree to the general management level, where I was working. It seems the book market is fast forgetting that. You need your new product, but you also need an author who can improve and develop.

All this doesn't just depend on the writer. It also depends on investment in product, and this is another area many publishers are skimping on. All writers have to promote their books. This is all well and good, but writers are writers and not marketers. They can come up with ideas, but to expect a writer to come up with a consistent marketing plan is like asking a product manager to write a novel. They will probably be able to do it, but it won't be as good, or as efficiently done, as a professional can do it. It isn't just lack of ability, and very often has little to do with that, it's to do with lack of expertise and knowledge. Why should a writer know anything about product placement, portfolio management and the other factors? And even if you do know, there is little a writer can do without access to the numbers.

Promotional activity depends on the results, and without results, all promotional activity continues to be a shot in the dark. You only get the really useful numbers if you're prepared to pay for them. A company like Nielsen in the UK collects sales figures at various levels - distribution, manufacturing, and retail, and produces them in market sector reports. A good strategic manager collects Nielsen, together with market research figures and government figures to produce an overall report, and that is the only way effectiveness can be measured. But - when I was a market
research manager, my annual budget was in the millions. Pounds, not dollars. As far as I can gather, no consistent data exists, no regular Usage and Attitude surveys to provide hard numbers to back up hunches. Or if they are, they are strictly in house. Which means publishers aren't sharing, which means short term thinking prevalent through the industry.

Don't forget, fellow authors - when you sell your first book, you are not selling to the reading public, you are selling to agents and publishers. When the public gets to know you, then you can create demand and write what you want to write, but until then, you are not selling to the public. So you need to research your market, find out what editors are looking for, what's hot. Now I am in no way advocating that you tailor your book to the market, but if you happen to write something that is becoming hot, you want to know when to present your work, don't you? And if you write in more than one genre, you might want to favour one over another when it comes to sales.

Naturally, if you've written a brilliant, mould breaking visionary work that will take the world by storm, ignore the above. It just doesn't apply to you. And yes, I do mean it. JK Rowling proved it could be done.

The reader can only demand what he or she knows exists, a basic tenet of marketing that pushes understanding and philosophy. It's vital to take into account what publisher and agent wants, as well as your own ideas.

But watch the e-publishing market. So many new voices and styles are coming from the e-publishing world. Writers like Angela Knight, MaryJanice Davidson, genres like the urban gothic are turning the market for e-books and print upside down. Sales are currently low compared to the print market; the e-publisher has a few hundred years to catch up on. But new readers, more used to reading off their phones and pda's are making their demands felt and by using the internet, writers can communicate with readers like never before. Most of my books are published electronically (as well as being available in print) and that's by choice.

Lynne Connolly

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Regency Christmas Present

A very happy Christmas to all our readers, as they say in the most august of organs!

Here is my cyber-Christmas present to you all. It’s a gorgeous bonnet, made of finest Leghorn straw and tastefully decorated with flowery ribbons. Sorry if it doesn’t suit you, Stephen!

Compared with the other straw bonnets I have seen, this one is incredibly fine. You can barely see the weave, even at close quarters. Unfortunately for ladies of fashion, it was very difficult to get Leghorn straws during the Napoleonic Wars, so they often had to make do with much inferior, and coarser, home-grown versions. A bonnet like this, being the real thing, would have been much prized even if it had had to be smuggled into England. This one dates from about 1810 so it might possibly have been smuggled. Sadly, we’ll never know but I like to think it was. Yes, I’m an incurable romantic and one day I may find myself writing about smugglers. Alluring thought, for me at least. [If you want to see this bonnet, and quite a few more, it is in the Wade Collection at Berrington Hall, a National Trust property near Ludlow. Viewings by appointment only.]

If you fancy a different colour on your bonnet, you can of course change the trimmings. Lydia Bennet did it all the time, so you can, too.

A Christmas question: how would you decorate this bonnet? Ribbons, flowers, maybe a dead pheasant or two? Perhaps something special for Christmas, like holly? The Regency authors would love to know.

Second Christmas question: if you were a Regency lady (or gent!), what gift would you give to the loved one in your life? Embroidered slippers were very popular, I believe, though not with Mr Beaumaris. Perhaps you can think of something even better?

I hope everyone is having a wonderful and peaceful day. And now I must go and minister to my roast goose (yes, really).

Joanna Maitland

Saturday, December 24, 2005

New competition on the Regency Authors UK site

There's a new competition on our sister site,

Regency Authors UK.

If you want a chance to win a signed copy of Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange, then visit the site and enter the competition. It's easy and it's fun!

The competition closes at midnight January 20th, GMT.

At last, a cover for 'A Suitable Husband' !

After weeks of eager anticipation a black and white sketch of the cover for my next Regency, A SUITABLE HUSBAND ISBN 0709080298, out in March 2006, has arrived. I love it - and a bookseller friend told me, I'm not sure this is true, that if the author's name is above the title, and larger, then you have arrived! From the sketch it would appear that my name is to be above, but not larger, so perhaps I am halfway through the door.
On Thursday 22nd I featured in a centre page spread in the East Anglian Daily Times. It was a good article and even the photographs were acceptable. I shall go everywhere with a copy in my bag and thrust it under the noses of all my friends. I am waiting expectantly for the Nationals to ring!!!
I discovered that William Pitt, in 1800, was well known to drink port a pint at a sitting and no-one objected to him running the country, and he did it well. He must have been permanently inebriated- I might risk a small glass of white wine- seeing as it's Christmas.
Fenella,24th December

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Christmas Moggy and Cowheel Soup!

There’s not much sign of a white Christmas around here at the moment and I’m hoping for even a little sprinkling of frost to transform the autumnal greens and browns of the garden into something a more wintry white. Maybe it’s something to do with my Viking ancestry, but it doesn’t really feel like Christmas to me without the cold!

At this time of year I do tend to become obsessed with food as well as with the weather. My grandmother always makes Yorkshire Moggy, which is traditionally served at breakfast on Christmas Eve. Since it mainly consists of ingredients such as lard, sugar and golden syrup I can’t really recommend it as a healthy eating option. It does, however, seem equally as edible or inedible as the cowheel soup that was apparently taken at Christmas country balls during the Georgian and Regency period! Given that you would be wearing your flimsy muslin gown and travelling in a draughty carriage, I suppose you needed something warming to greet you on arrival. A soup containing shin of beef, onions, mushroom ketchup, eggs and walnuts plus half a pint of Madeira wine sounds just the job.

A very happy festive season to everyone!


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fascinating maps

Is everyone as fascinated by maps as I am? I can spend hours happily poring over an old Ordnance Survey map, but even better is when you have several different dates of map for the same area.
The London Topographical Society's A-Z of Regency London and A-Z of Victorian London are brilliant for seeing how the town spread out and the central areas changed. In the Regency volume, there's Carlton House fronting onto Pall Mall with its gardens behind - you can visualise the Prince Regent strutting his stuff inside and admiring his fabulous conservatory. And then by the Victorian edition it has all been swept away, to be replaced by Carlton House Terrace and a row of imposing clubs.
I've been having fun with road maps and a directory of stage coach services plotting my current hero's lengthy journey from London to Newcastle upon Tyne - 31 hours on the road, if you were lucky and there were no delays.
The Newcastle coach set out from the Bull and Mouth which was in the shadow of St Paul's. All the stages set out from inns, some of them with wonderful names - the Belle Sauvage, The Swan with Two Necks or the Bolt In Tun. I can feel a London pub crawl coming on - purely in the interests of historical research, of course!
Marry Christmas everyone

Louise Allen

Christmas at Pemberley - Part 2

This extract is taken from Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange. It is from the end of the book, when Darcy and Elizabeth are married and living at Pemberley.

Thursday 25th December

We awoke to a smell of baking, and after breakfast we attended church. The weather was fine, so Elizabeth, Jane, Bingley and I decided to walk to the church whilst the rest of our guests were conveyed there by carriage.

‘This reminds me of the walks we took when Jane and I were newly engaged,’ said Bingley, as we crunched the frost beneath our feet, ‘although then it was not so cold.’

‘You and Jane were in the happy position of being acknowledged lovers. You could spend your time talking to each other and ignoring everyone else, whilst Elizabeth and I could not even sit together,’ I said.
‘But you managed to become lost in the country lanes whenever we were out of doors,’ said Bingley with a smile.
‘The lanes were very useful,’ said Elizabeth.

‘And our mother helped you a great deal, by insisting you occupied that man,’ said Jane.
‘I have never been so mortified in my life,’ said Elizabeth, but she was laughing as she said it.
We came to the church and went in. Our guests were already assembled, and no sooner did we enter than the service began. It was lively and interesting, full of the good cheer of the occasion. Lady Catherine complained about the hymns, the sermon, the candles and the prayer books, but I am persuaded that everyone else was uplifted by the service.

We had a splendid dinner, and afterwards we played at charades. Caroline chose Colonel Fitzwilliam as her partner, but Elizabeth thwarted her efforts to claim his attention later in the evening by inviting him to open the dancing with Anne. They made a lively couple, and disproved Lady Catherine’s dire warnings that Anne would suffer a coughing fit.

Kitty danced with Mr Hurst, and even Mary was persuaded to take to the floor, though she protested that dancing was not a rational activity and declared that she would much rather read a book.
When all our guests had retired, we went upstairs.
‘Tired?’ I asked.
Elizabeth lifted her hand above her head, and I saw she was holding a sprig of mistletoe.

If you'd like to read more extracts from Darcy's Diary, you can find them on my website.

Amanda Grange

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas competition winner!

We've had hundreds of entries to our Regency Authors UK Christmas competition, and we're delighted to announce the lucky winner picked at random, who will be receiving a parcel with the following:

A signed copy of Tide of Fortune by Jane Jackson
~ When Karenza Vyvyan's estranged father returns to raise the ransom needed to free his wife and elder daughter held hostage in Tangier, he demands Karenza sails back with him, but the captain of the packet ship, Kestral, is the man who broke Karenza's heart. ~

A signed copy of The Earl's Intended Wife by Louise Allen
~ Hebe Carlton had no idea of her own charm until Major Alex Beresford arrived on Malta. She made no attempt to cast out lures but his attentions made Hebe blossom. And then a letter arrived, telling that his proposal of marriage, made before he had ever met Hebe, had been accepted at last. ~

A signed copy of The Lady Soldier by Jennifer Lindsay
~ Jem Riseley is the perfect soldier in Wellington's army: brave, skilled and daring but also a gently-born lady. A battlefield promotion lands her with the problem with Captain Anthony Dorrell who knew her as a lady. She must convince him she's the man she seems and battle her rekindled desire for him. ~

A copy of Maid of Honour by Melinda Hammond
~ Lucille Chambers reluctantly agrees to act of chaperon to her sister but her attempts to protect her bring her into conflict with the notorious Dominic Vanderley and she finds it's her own honour which is threatened. ~

A copy of The Midwillow Martyrs by Janet Mary Thomson
~ Martha Cavanagh, the minister's daughter is experiencing the first pangs of love but the object of her affections, Gabriel Lawless, is a rebel and becomes involved in treason. ~

~ Bodleian Library Honeysuckle and Rose address book ~

~ A set of official Pride and Prejudice movie postcards ~

~ 'My heart belongs to you' keyring ~

Thank you to Louise Allen, Jane Jackson, Fenella-Jane Miller and Melinda Hammond who helped me put together the prizes for our inaugural competition.
So now, drum roll please... trrrrrrrrrrrr....
The lucky winner is:
Sheena Maclellan
Well done, Sheena, and thank you to everyone who entered. Look out for more competitions on the Regency Authors UK website in the new year!

A Regency Christmas

Many of our Christmas customs date from Victorian times, but some were prevalent in the Regency era.
It was customary to decorate the house with sprigs of holly and mistletoe, if they flourished in that particular part of the country. Greenery was wound around the banisters, and tucked behind pictures and mirrors.

Gift giving was also a normal part of a Regency Christmas. One of Jane Austen's nieces, Emma Austen Leigh, kept a record of her Christmas presents, and they give an insight into the type of gift that was popular at the time.

In 1813, she had a tambourine from her papa, a compass case from her mama, a straw box from Miss Ramsey and a parallel ruler from her aunt.
As she grew older, the nature of the presents changed, so that in 1817 her presents consisted of a pair of gold earrings from her mama, a turquoise ring from Fanny, a gold locket from her aunt, and a silk purse from Miss Ramsey.

Friday, December 16, 2005

CHRISTMAS CRACKERS. Melinda Hammond ponders on a hero for the yuletide festivities

Well there’s no escape from it: Christmas is here so I thought it might be fun to think about which of my literary heroes would make a good companion for Christmas Day and perhaps you’d like to add yours.

I think many of our favourite heroes would be a dead loss on Christmas Day. Apart from Sir Percy Blakeney, I feel many of them lack the social graces required for what can be, after all, a difficult time. Mr Rochester might be persuaded to dress up for a game of charades, but think of Heathcliff: he would just sit in the corner and glower – he certainly would not enjoy the corny jokes from the crackers. Then there’s Darcy. I can’t imagine him enjoying an eggnog with Mrs Bennett.

Of course, I have a soft spot for my own Rafe Bannerman from The Highclough Lady. I love the thought of him bringing Verity Shore to her new home on a snowy night, and having to walk her the last half-mile or so through an icy blizzard (living on the edge of the Pennines I can admit that this scene is drawn from life!) Rafe Bannerman is a tough man who does not suffer fools gladly and he is never in the best of moods early in the morning, but he is considerate enough to choose a really lovely present for his lady and sufficiently good-humoured to enjoy the Christmas festivities.

Of the rest, Georgette Heyer’s Damerel (from Venetia) would be fun on Christmas morning .... but what do you think? Why not take time out from the Christmas shopping to add your own favourite hero or heroine…..

Happy Christmas!

Jane Jackson

I’m delighted to have been invited to join this blog. I’ve never blogged before so my learning curve is more of a vertical line. I live in Cornwall in the village where I grew up. As my four most recent books have been adventure-based romance in which the sea plays a large part, I’m ideally placed to explore the wild rugged cliffs and coves that feature in my stories.

It’s all been a bit hectic lately. I had just finished writing "Dangerous Waters" (pub. Robert Hale in February 2006) – I’ll tell you more about the story next time when I hope to have a photo of the jacket cover - and begun writing a detailed scene-by-scene breakdown of a new story when my agent emailed to say she had sold a book I wrote four years ago. That was the wonderful news. The not-so-wonderful news was that it needed to be cut by 24,000 words. I was half way through that when the proofs for "Dangerous Waters" arrived, so they had to be attended to immediately. Then it was back to the cut. I'd almost finished when agent emailed again asking for an outline and first chapter based on an idea I'd sent her a few weeks previously. So, with the proofs completed, my original story has been set aside for the time being while I work on the new idea. The title is "Devil’s Prize". It has a wrecking and smuggling background during the war with France. The story, featuring two brothers as different as Cain and Abel, is beginning to take shape and the characters have sprung to life as living, breathing people. I’m really excited about it and will post more as it unfolds.

Meanwhile, it will soon be Christmas. I’d like to wish everyone a happy time, with some peaceful moments in which to enjoy a quiet read!

Best wishes from Jane Jackson.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Guest blog - Olga Sinclair

Today, we have the first in a series of guest blogs. Watch out for more guest blogs on the 15th of every month.

Our guest blogger for December is Olga Sinclair, whose book Gretna Green, Scotland's Gift for Lovers, makes fascinating reading.

Elopements often feature in Regency romances, but Olga's book tells us about the realities of marrying at Gretna Green.

'As every writer of romance knows, lots of couples rushed up to Gretna to marry, especially in Regency and Georgian times, after Lord Hardwick introduced his marriage act in 1754,' says Olga.

'This said no persons under the age of 21 could marry without parental consent in England, whereas, in Scotland, over the age of 16, a lover and his lass could marry if they wished. It was done simply by a declaration between the couple, in the presence of a witness. That was what sent couples rushing up north to marry, and the shortest distance from London to Scotland was up the Great North Road to Gretna Green.'

Olga decided to write the book when she discovered an interest in Gretna Green, but realized there was no book that told her what she wanted to know.

'It took two or three years to gather the information,' she says. 'There were changes in marriage law. There were also hundreds of couples who were refused permission to marry - some of the most interesting ones come from the aristocracy. '

Gretna Green includes the stories of Sarah Anne Child & the Earl of Westmorland (1782) and Kitty Barnes & Thomas, Lord Cochrane (1812)

For more details, visit Olga Sinclair's website

Another Regency actress - and playwright

Nicola's post last week about the remarkable Regency actress Louisa Brunton reminded me of another Regency actress I'd come across during my research for a theatre scene in The Lady Soldier. I discovered a woman who sounds quite remarkable in terms of what she achieved in her career in the theatre - Miss Jane M. Scott, daughter of the founder of the Sans Pareil theatre (now The Adelphi), John Scott, a merchant who had made his fortune with a blue washing dye.

As I researched the history of the Sans Pareil I came across reference after reference to Miss Jane Scott as an actress and also as the writer of numerous pieces, plays and comic operettas each season from the theare's opening in 1806 and into the second decade of the 19th century. Who was this women who was so successful a playwright in her time? I tried to find out some more about her life and found this very difficult. I was also unable to find any portrait or likeness of her. Then I stumbled across the reason why:

"Miss Scott developed strong symptoms of [the] dramatic disease and though her extraordinary talent was undoubted by her father and friends, it was delicately hinted that the greedy public not only expected intrinsic merit for their money, but also that it must be hallowed o'er with beauty to secure the first impression. Now Miss Scott, in addition to some natural defects had the smallpox and rickets unfavorably, but as genius comes in all disguises, she really had great talent, both as an actress and a writer."
(The Theatrical Observer, December 11, 1844).

Here's a very short excerpt from The Lady Soldier where I was able to reference Miss Jane Scott and, in a small way, give her a little importance back in her own time:

‘What is it we are seeing at the theatre this evening?’ Jem asked in the carriage as it clattered over the street cobbles.

‘A play,’ Tony replied his voice dry as a biscuit, his head lolling against the squabs.

‘Il Giorno Felice, or in English, The Happy Day,’ Lady Ardenbrooke said. ‘It is a comic operetta.’

Jem spluttered at the irony of it and fanned herself quickly to cover up her reaction.

‘You don’t have to watch the play, Jemima,’ Tony drawled as he stared out of the window. ‘Simply sit and look pretty for a few hours. This evening’s offering is written by a woman - more’s the pity! The sooner they get the new theatre opened at Covent Garden, the better. It’ll be some fustian pantomime-’

‘Written by Miss Jane Scott,’ Lady Ardenbrooke interrupted and rapped her fan on the door handle. ‘I have seen several of her works. She is an accomplished playwright. Tony, you’ve not been in London for years, do be quiet if you’ve nothing useful to say.’

(c) Jennifer Lindsay, 2005

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Whither the Regency?

Recently in the USA, the “Traditional” Regency sector has all but died. Signet and Zebra are closing their lines, and Harlequin/Mills and Boon have undergone a massive restructuring, and the Regency line has gone. Does this mean the end of the Regency?
Far from it. As doors have closed, more have opened. E-publishing is providing new opportunities and the UK market is as strong as ever. Writers of Regencies are still there, working away, and their books are still coming out on a regular basis. If you haven’t read any of Amanda Grange’s books, or Nicola Cornick’s, just to take two examples, you’re missing a treat!
Now, we’re allowed beyond the bedroom door. Is this a good thing? Well yes, and no. On one hand, there have been a spate of books where the protagonists can’t walk past a bedroom door, or a wall or a sturdy library table, for that matter. On the other hand it has given the writer the freedom to show all aspects of a relationship, and hopefully that will lead to more mature treatments of the subject.
As we know from the writings and caricatures of the period, the Regency was an immensely sexy age, especially in the upper echelons. The middle class was, and always was, more careful of the proprieties, always condemning the working class and the upper class, so Jane Austen, who for the most part shows the upper middle class, reflects that concern. However the aristocracy disported themselves with abandon, and it was partly a reaction against the debauchery that led to the strict propriety of the Victorian era.
So let’s celebrate all aspects of life and enjoy the freedom we have to read and write about what we want. Social comedies with glittering displays of wit, and heated romances with a couple getting to know each other in every way possible. And let’s celebrate the Regency!

Monday, December 12, 2005

One-sentence stories

Can you write a story in one sentence?

The Times Literary Supplement recently ran a piece about one-sentence stories, quoting Augusto Monterroso's "The Dinosaur". The TLS says: "The story is legendary in Latin America, and Italo Calvino regarded it as a model of pregnant brevity. Here's a tenatative translation:
'"When s/he awoke, the dinosaur was still there."'

So how about writing a one-sentence Regency story?

Here's mine:

She wondered how she had ended up in the rake's carriage.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

What do Regency authors do with their time….?

Thanks, first of all, to Mandy, Kate and the other authors for allowing me to join the authors’ site and to post here. I’m fairly new to blogging, so it’s very exciting.

Those who have already read A Regency Invitation will know that it finishes with a plea from Nicola and Elizabeth that I extract my digit and produce the prequel. Well, I have now started it. It will be my seventh Regency for Mills & Boon. But please don't hold your breath for it, because it's going very slowly. I hadn’t realised quite how difficult it would be to write a prequel and to make sure that everything I say in it dovetails with the later (already published) book. In future, I think I shall write linked books in the correct chronological order. Better for my stress levels.

I spent a very rewarding day at the Herefordshire Museum earlier this week. It contains a hidden gem of a costume collection. By working at the collection as a volunteer, I get to see the costumes at close quarters and also to quiz the costume curator about their history. What more could a Regency author want? It’s bliss.

Here, for example, is an absolutely fabulous evening gown of pale pink silk taffeta, dating from 1805-1810. RNA members may have seen this in the News, but since the photo there was only black and white, I make no apology for including it again here, in colour. It is slightly faded—it’s possible to see from under the hem that the pink was a more intense shade originally—but it is a really delicious confection.

I should add one word of warning, I suppose. Not every day as a volunteer is spent drooling over exquisite gowns from two centuries ago. I spent more than half my day entering stacks of data on to the Museum’s database. And the items I was listing weren’t gowns. Sadly, they were only samplers.

Joanna Maitland

Friday, December 09, 2005

Happy Christmas and Oh Well!

Things have been happening, some exciting some less so but all part of the life of a writer. I have sold a Regency to D C Thomson for My Weekly Story Collection, A Country Mouse, and strangely, received the cheque without signing a contract. I have also sold the large print rights of The Unconventional Miss Walters to Thorpe but, alas, no sign of either contract or money.
I have also been booked to do three talks in January, one to a local W.I., the other two to library reading groups. As an ex-teacher I am used to standing in front of a captive audience and hopefully these groups will be as polite as the children usually were.
My first newspaper review appeared on Wednesday but I forgot all about it and missed it; let's hope it was as complimentary as the ones on Amazon. A feature writer from the East Anglian Daily Times is coming this morning to interview me which means I had better run round with a vacuum cleaner and empty the cat litter tray! I'm even baking a cake on the premise that if he is well treated he will be more disposed to be kind.
On the down side an agent politely refused to represent me for a contemporary novel I've written so that's another manuscript that can go into 'the cupboard' to moulder with the rest of the abandoned scribbles accumulated over the last thirty years.
Fenella-Jane Miller

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Dazzling Regency Actress...

I was recently reading about the Regency theatre and the career of actresses on the Regency stage, and I came across Louisa Brunton. Louisa is the real life inspiration for characters such as Cicely in Clare Darcy’s book of the same name and many other Regency heroines who as actresses go on to marry a rich and titled hero.

Louisa was born in 1785 and went on the stage when she was eighteen years old, winning rave reviews in the Theatrical Inquisitor magazine, where she was described as ‘extremely handsome and striking.’ She appeared in many performances at Covent Garden Theatre until December 1807, when she retired from the stage to marry the Earl of Craven. She was accepted in society although they apparently looked rather askance at her previous profession! The Earl was said to dote on her and after his death she lived at his Berkshire estates in great style, travelling to and from church in a carriage drawn by four matching pure white horses! It sounds as though she retained a taste for the theatrical even when she was a respectable Countess!

Nicola Cornick

Last weekend it's 1805 again in Czech Republic

Yesterday I had a pleasant surprise in my inbox - an email with a link to some super photographs. Some I have reproduced here but you can see the full set at BBC News. (Laura V – look away now.)

Last weekend around 4,000 military history enthusiasts from 23 countries gathered in the Czech Republic in the cold December snow to re-enact a battle in front of around 30,000 spectators – the Battle of Austerlitz.

Two hundred years ago this year Admiral Nelson enjoyed his great victory at sea at the Battle of Trafalgar, but 1805 was also the year of another great military victory – that of the Battle of Austerlitz, regarded as one of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte’s greatest military triumphs.

December 1805 was cold and snow-laden too. Napoleon had seized Vienna and was now keen to bring on a decisive victory against the allied forces of Britain, Austria and Russia. He was outnumbered but he tempted the amassed Austrian and Russian forces into spreading their lines by luring them to attack his right flank. He then struck hard at their centre, splitting the allied forces. The allies surrendered and the peace treaty gave France almost total control of Italy and established a French protectorate over most of Germany.

With acknowledgments to BBC News for photographs and journalism.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas at Pemberley

I thought I'd use my blog today to post a Christmas extract from Mr Darcy's Diary.
One of the things I liked most about writing Darcy's Diary was the opportunity it gave me to explore the life of Lizzy and Darcy beyond the confines of Pride and Prejudice. In the last chapter of Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen hints at the Christmas house party that took place at Pemberley following the marriage, and I decided to write my version of events. I loved imagining how all my favourite characters would interact.

Saturday 20th December
Elizabeth and I rode out with Jane and Bingley this morning to see a property some ten miles from Pemberley. It is a fine house, with good views. We looked around, and Jane and Bingley were much taken with it.

‘If we find nothing better, I think we will buy it,’ said Bingley.

‘I do believe you are learning caution,’ I said to Bingley. ‘A year ago you would have taken it straight away.’

‘Impossible for me to do so now,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘If I have learnt anything from you, Darcy, it is that I must not take a house without first enquiring about the chimneys!’

‘I reprimanded Bingley for not asking any sensible questions when he took Netherfield,’ I explained, when Elizabeth looked mystified.

‘It is a good thing he did not ask too much,’ said Elizabeth, ‘or else we might never have met.’

We rode back to the house, where we found Mrs Bennet deep in conversation with Mrs Reynolds, ascertaining how much the curtains had cost, and what were the exact dimensions of the ballroom.

Anne was in the drawing-room with Mrs Gardiner, and their laughter reached us as we entered the room. Anne is looking much better than formerly. There is an animation about her that was wholly missing when she was confined with Lady Catherine, and, I own, when she thought she would have to marry me.

‘Did you like the house?’ asked Mrs Gardiner.

‘Yes, very much,’ said Jane. ‘It is a little smaller than Netherfield, but it is still a good size house.’

‘Smaller than Netherfield?’ asked Mrs Bennet, coming into the room. ‘That will never do.’

‘But it is an easy distance from Pemberley,’ said Jane.

‘To be sure, that is in its favour. Then I might visit you both at once. I can stay with Lizzy first and then, dear Jane, I can stay with you. It is a long journey into Derbyshire to visit one daughter, but an easy distance to visit two. I dare say I shall be here all the time.’

‘I thought the park was rather small,’ said Bingley, with a glance at Jane.

‘And the attics were poor,’ she said.

‘Oh, if the attics are poor I should not contemplate it,’ said Mrs Bennet. ‘You had much better stay at Netherfield.’

Monday 22nd December
Possible spoilers - don't read on if you don't want to know what happens to Anne de Bourgh in Darcy's Diary

It was a wet day today. After dinner, Lady Catherine retired early. Kitty and Lydia were engaged in trimming bonnets, and Mrs Bennet was telling Kitty that when she was married she must make sure she had a house as fine as Pemberley. Mr Gardiner and Mr Bennet were playing chess, whilst Mrs Gardiner was looking through a book of engravings.

‘Would anyone care for a game of billiards?’ asked Colonel Fitzwilliam.

‘Darcy and I will play with you,’ said Elizabeth. ‘Anne, will you join us?’
Anne agreed, and the four of us went to the billiard room. We had hardly entered it, however, when Elizabeth excused herself on account of a headache, and asked me to help her back to the drawing-room.

As the door of the billiard room closed behind us, her headache seemed to disappear.

‘I think Fitzwilliam and Anne will do better without us,’ she said.

I looked at her in surprise.

‘He needs only a little encouragement to realize that he is in love with her.’

‘Fitzwilliam and Anne?’

‘I think they would suit well. Her eyes follow him whenever he is in the room, and she can scarcely talk about another subject without somehow mentioning him. For his part, he has always been fond of her, and it would be a suitable match as well as a love match. He needs to marry an heiress, and Anne is to inherit Rosings and a considerable fortune besides.’

I was even more surprised.

‘How do you know he needs to marry an heiress?’

‘He told me so.’

‘When did he do that?’

‘At Rosings, when we were all there together last Easter. I suspect it was to put me on my guard, and warn me that I must not expect an offer from him.’

‘What arrogant men we are! Both of us thinking you wanted an offer from us!’

‘Perhaps I did want one from the Colonel,’ she teased me.

‘My love, I warn you that I am a jealous husband. I will ban my cousin from Pemberley unless you tell me this minute that you did not want an offer from him,’ I teased her back.

‘Very well, I did not. But Anne, I think, does.’

‘It might not be a bad thing,’ I said. ‘In fact, the more I think of it, the more I am pleased with it.’

‘Lady Catherine, too, will be pleased.’

‘So you are encouraging it to please Lady Catherine?’ I asked her innocently.

‘Mr Darcy, you are becoming as impertinent as your wife!’ she said.

‘But I am not so sure Lady Catherine will approve,’ I said thoughtfully.

‘She cannot complain about his birth.’

‘Perhaps not, but he is a younger son, and impoverished,’ I reminded her.

‘But Anne’s fortune is big enough for two.’

‘My cousin has no house.’

‘He will live at Rosings,’ she said.

‘Sending Lady Catherine to the dower house.’

‘Whereas, if you had married Anne, she would have been the mistress of Pemberley,
and Lady Catherine would have continued to be the mistress of Rosings.’

We both of us imagined how Lady Catherine would react when she learnt that she would have to move to the dower house.

‘Do you think Anne will find the courage to stand up to her mother?’ I asked.

‘It will be interesting to see,’ said Lizzy.

If you'd like to read more extracts from Darcy's Diary, you can find them on my website.

Or come back to the blog, as I'll be putting up another extract before Christmas.

Amanda Grange

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Cabbage Pudding & Lobster Loaves

Being a food lover I always take an interest in what my characters are eating - but what did Regency recipes taste like?

I started buying original cookery books complete with greasy fingermarks and handwritten notes- The Housekeeper's Instructor or Universal Family Cook (1807); The New London Family Cook or Town and Country Housekeepers' Guide, replete with such useful information as how to dry artichoke bottoms (why?), and A New System of Domestic Cookery formed upon Principles of Economy (1829) with instructions on boiling a turbot. Many dishes sounded familiar, but were they? So few had quantities in the recipe it was difficult to tell.

Last weekend I began to find out, by attending a fascinating one day course at Hampton Court Palace. It was the first one on Georgian cookery run by members of the team of cooks who research and recreate historical recipes in the Palace kitchens. We weren't cooking in the historic kitchens in front of the public thank goodness, so our blushes were spared as we wrestled with raising pastry cases by hand (chocolate tarts) and tried to gouge the centres out of bread rolls without putting our thumbs through the sides (prawn loaves).

Did you know that minced meat was a status symbol on the Georgian dinner table? It was done by hand with a sharp knife, minced and crushed so finely that it ends up more like fine pate than modern mince - and it took over an hour to mince a pound of meat. And a fine array of spices was also a sign of your wealth, so you wanted your guests to taste plenty in their food: we had an eye-watering sampling of three different sorts of pepper, none of them familiar in the modern cruet.

We learned how to break a sugar loaf with a special axe and how to grind and sift it to achieve different grades of fineness - and that sugar of the period had too much molasses in it to allow cooks to make a meringue. We boggled at the pounds of butter being used to fry the stuffed prawn loaves and learned what modern subsitutes are best to reproduce Georgian gravy.

Best of all was tasting the results: Cabbage Pudding made with highly spiced minced meat around a handful of green grapes, wrapped in Savoy cabbage leaves and boiled; prawn loaves dripping with butter and utterly delicious; chocolate tarts browned on top with a red hot shovel and finally, pap.

Pap sounded disgusting, but is actually a delicious mixture of rice flour, double cream, sugar and rosewater thickened like a custard and my husband is in the kitchen cooking it as I write!

If you want to see the Hampton Court cooks in action in full costume they are producing an authentic Georgian dinner every day in the historic kitchens, 27th December - 2 January inclusive (but check first before making a special journey!). They will start in the morning making their own breakfasts and then continue preparing dinner all day until serving themselves the finished meal in proper style about 4pm

Louise Allen

Friday, December 02, 2005

DANCE FOR A DIAMOND - how a story was born

The popularity of the current TV series Strictly Come Dancing shows just how much we enjoy dancing, and as I watched the dancers gliding round the floor during the first series I started thinking about the origins of the waltz. Today waltzing is considered very tame, but it wasn’t always so.

At the end of the eighteenth century there were more revolutions going on in Europe than the bloody one in France. Attitudes were definitely changing, but until the early 1800s dancing for the English gentry and upper classes was restricted to the country dances and formal courtly processions, with no more than handholding between the sexes. Think of the scandal then when the waltz hit town. Suddenly the man and woman were embracing on the dance floor, spinning round the floor breast to breast. Is it any wonder that society tried to keep such indecent behaviour out of the ballrooms?

The origins of the waltz are obscure. Some sources claim it comes from the Italian Dance the volta (which had been danced at the court of Queen Elizabeth) others from the German folk-dance the Landler. It made its appearance at Almack’s in 1812 but was not universally accepted, and as late as 1816 the Times was protesting against the “voluptuous intertwining of the limbs.”

This started a train of thought for me, beginning with a young woman who sets up her own dancing school in a bid for independence. Thus Antonia Venn was born. Of course every young lady aspiring to join the fashionable world would want to learn the waltz, so into Miss Venn’s academy comes the lively Isabella Burstock. Antonia’s efforts to keep Isabella’s high spirits in check naturally bring her into conflict with her autocratic half-brother, Sir Laurence Oakford.

As the story developed, I realised that it was following the early form of the waltz, which began with a slow movement, “la Marche”, followed by the quicker “Sauteuse” and ending with the “Jetté”, an energetic third movement.

So when you hear people decrying modern dance as disgusting or immoral, you might like to remind them that it’s all been said before.

Melinda Hammond

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas!
We're having a Christmas give-away on our sister site, Regency Authors, so if you'd like a chance to win a load of books for Christmas, call in and enter the competition!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Darcy and Byron

Thanks to Stephen for his comment about Darcy's open-necked look being made popular by Byron, although, as Stephen points out, this was some years after the scene in Pride and Prejudice - and Byron appears to be wearing a little more in the waistcoat department.

We should perhaps think ourselves fortunate that Darcy didn't end up with a turban!

And talking of Byron . . .

Was he the archetypal romantic hero, or Mad, bad and dangerous to know?

Born in 1788, he inherited his title from a great uncle when he was 10 years old. Along with his title, he inherited the beautiful Newstead Abbey.

He led a life of dissipation at Cambridge before setting out on the Grand Tour. He left England for good in 1816, driven abroad by scandalous love affairs and financial difficulties. He died helping the Greeks to win their independence.

Byron is probably most famous for Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812).

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Men's costume in Pride and Prejudice

The new film of Pride and Prejudice is controversial in terms of women's dress, but the men fare better. This is perhaps because men's fashions didn't change so much.

Mr Bennet is wearing an old-fashioned tricorne hat. Like Mrs Bennet, he clings to the styles of his youth. But the rest of his clothes would pass muster in the 1790s or in the first two decades of the nineteenth century.

Bingley fares better. As a young man with 5 thousand a year, he is well dressed.

Darcy here is well dressed, as befits a man of his station.

We have no idea what he's wearing here. Is it a coat? Is it his dressing-gown? And where is his cravat? Quite frankly, when he looks like this, who cares?

What do you think?
Is this a wonderfully romantic image, or is it a liberty too far? Do you think he looks so wonderful you don't care about accuracy, or do you think that Darcy would never go out in a state of partial undress? Does this shot make the film for you, or does it ruin it?