Friday, November 2, 2012

All is roses

Writers (oh how I love to generalize) are fragile, insecure creatures (who are at the same time egoistic narcissists, but they keep that on the DL) who go all to pieces at bad reviews and then start a downward spiral of sour-graping mixed with crushing self doubt.

Then they get a review like this, and all is roses again:

Bookshelves of Doom reviews Ladies in Waiting.

So thanks.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Carbon Free Sugar

Okay, I get what they're saying. It still tickles me.

Certified Carbon Free Sugar.

Not quite as bad as the fat free spring water, but still, funny.

Because of course, sugar has carbon.

And here is a nifty little experiment you can do (if you have sulfuric acid) which rather dramatically shows exactly how much carbon sugar has:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Winner!

Congratulations to MIKE! You won a copy of The Crimson Petal and the White, and a signed hardcover of Ladies in Waiting. I'll contact you shortly to get your mailing address. I can't wait to hear what you think of both books!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

August Historical Giveaway -- The Crimson Petal and the White

Life has been exciting lately, what with selling a house (for a rather depressing price, but hey, I got a little out of it and at least I'm not paying for a house I'm not living in any more, so I can't complain... too much) and the Little Guy starting kindergarten (he got a smiley face on his first daily report and was "respectful and curious") I got a little distracted so this month's giveaway is late. Let's run it from now until September 5 to give you two full weeks.

The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michel Faber, is one of my favorite historicals. Fierce, tender, scheming, literary whore Sugar goes from being pimped by her own mother in a Victorian slum, to being the mistress of a rich man, to... well, I won't tell you where she ends up, but it is a rich, juicy, complex, moving, completely satisfying book. It's the world of Trollope where Trollope feared to go. I love a good prostitute tale, and this is one of the best.

In the 17th century, and in the 19th, women didn't have a lot of options to get ahead that didn't involve sex. In both The Crimson Petal and the White and Ladies in Waiting, young women are surrounded by sex but trying to support themselves through their wits and talents.

This month I'll give one lucky winner a copy of The Crimson Petal and the White, and a signed hardcover of Ladies in Waiting. Just fill out the form below. Spread the word for more chances to win!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

There Goes My Mascara

Foolish, foolish girl! You knew the ending of Code Name Verity would make you weepy (as did several parts before the end.) Why on earth did you read it right before going out? Why did you doom yourself to a day of puffy eyes and damaged mascara when you could have just saved those last twenty pages until you were snug in bed?

I don't review, but I probably should start mentioning books I really enjoy. Code Name Verity was amazing. Though I am seriously annoyed at the author for making prominent use of Nelson's dying words “Kiss me, Hardy” – which I was using to comic effect in my work in progress, set just a few years before Code Name Verity. Curses! One might say I should keep it, since Morning Star won't come out until 2014. Everyone will forget, right? Well, not if Verity wins a Printz, which it probably will. Oh well. I can keep my character's name Hardy, and just make a Thomas Hardy joke instead.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I feed the seagulls like a tourist...
 I had to run away from home for a while. A few years, actually. I thought the mountains were calling me. I thought I yearned for seasons. I was wrong. I'm home now.

You know you're home when the smells almost make you weep. For some, it might be mom's cookies, a lover's aftershave. For me it is dead fish. Low tide on the salt flats, the fiddlers foraging, the mangroves airing their tangled roots. Iodine and ozone and imminent rain... the stranded unfortunates on whom seagulls feast... pelican guano, seaweed, red tide, baking in a just-shy-of-tropical sun.

I've passed through my Appalachian tribulations, and emerge a born-again Floridian.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

And the winner is...

Congratulations! You've won a copy of my favorite historical Forever Amber, and a signed copy of my own Ladies in Waiting. I'll email you soon to get your information.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered. The response was great and I plan to have another giveaway in August.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012


So let's make with the freebies, shall we? I don't know much about food and wine pairing, but I do know heaps about book pairing. For the next few months (and perhaps indefinitely if it proves popular) I'll be giving away a pair of books each month. One by me, and one personal favorite that partners it in some way.

Do you have a favorite book? Maybe not the BEST book you've ever read, but the ice cream of books, a comfort book that you'll re-read when you have the flu or think you've read everything else in the world already. Something fun... stimulating and soothing at the same time... maybe not great literature but still your darling favorite. For me, that book is Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. Trashy romance, but really, really good trashy romance. And well-researched, which for me is a must.

Since Forever Amber is the book that started my obsession with Restoration England (and my little crush on King Charles II) I'm giving away TWO books this month -- a SIGNED copy of LADIES IN WAITING, and a copy of FOREVER AMBER. Just fill in the form below by, oh, let's say July 17, for a chance to win.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Aphra Behn -- Playwright, Spy (and probably not a whore)

If Margaret Cavendish was one of the first widely recognizes female writers, Aphra Behn was one of the first professional female writers – she actually made a living from her writing. (Which as the writers among you know is hard enough even today.) She is the inspiration for the character Eliza in Ladies in Waiting.

Though it certainly wasn't common for a 17th Century woman to want to be a professional playwright – and even less common for her to succeed – it was certainly possible. The sexes were by no means equal, but women were somewhat better off than they had been for a while, and more professions were open to them. Dentists were officially licensed for the first time in this period, and a woman was one of the first licensees. Since King Charles II's restoration to the throne, women could now be actresses. Of course, the main occupations were still marriage and prostitution, so it was no great shakes, but still, better than it had been.

Not too much is known about Aphra Behn's personal life. Of course, she was briefly a spy for King Charles II in Antwerp, so secrecy might have become a habit for her. I'm sure she learned cynicism after the king – always broke – didn't pay her for her loyal service, and she almost wound up in debtor's prison. Her writing saved her, and apparently she didn't hold a grudge, because she remained a staunch royalist all her life. Of course, it could just be that she liked the alternative even less.

Her first play, The Forc'd Marriage in 1670, was a resounding success. Hit followed hit (though engagements in those days were generally very short) and today she is best remembered for the 1677 play The Rover. It was so well regarded that Nell Gwyn, the king's actress mistress, came out of retirement to play one of the female leads – a prostitute named Angelica Bianca.

Aphra Behn might have been married for a very short time, but it seems more likely Mr. Behn was a fiction to give her the slight protection a married woman or widow enjoyed. Miss, past a certain age, was a euphemism for prostitute. She, and other female writers, were still accused of being whores. Playwright Robert Gould said of female writers, Punk (whore) and Poetess agree so Pat,/ You cannot well be This, and not be That.

At least no one has called me a punk yet. At least, not to my face.

A shout-out to Prof. Neil Saccamano at Cornell, who introduced me to Aphra Behn in his 18th Century Literature class (which dipped its toe into the late 17th century too.) It is to him – and to Kathleen Winsor, of course – that Ladies in Waiting owes its genesis.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Margaret Cavendish (or why I don't write about characters who have babies, bake bread and die in obscurity, although that's what most of us have done since the dawn of humanity, including me, though I haven't died in obscurity yet, but give me time)

Sometimes, writing about a perfectly average historical figure works. You know, those girls who have no prospects and no powerful ambition to create them. Young women who, when attacked, cringe and hope for the best instead of picking up a sword. People who are accurate representations of 99 percent of their era. But it's pretty rare that those people make compelling characters. (One of the best, a truly outstanding novel, is The Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse. You absolutely must read it. Johanna is probably the truest to her time of any character I've ever read.) Most of the time, though, we want to read about the exceptions.

Two of the three Elizabeths of Ladies in Waiting are definitely exceptions, and they are inspired by (though not actually based on) two real 17th century women.

Zabby (does anyone like her name?!?) is the daughter of a Barbados plantation owner of middling aristocratic rank and great wealth. Raised more or less in isolation – at least, isolated from Europeans – she has studied alongside her scientific-minded father all of her life. As a teenager, she returns to England to study with her godmother, the real-life scientist, writer and philosopher Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-Upon Tyne – and the inspiration for Zabby's character.

Though their personalities are dissimilar (Cavendish, though bold in her opinions, probably had what today we'd call social anxiety disorder; she could talk to one person at a time, but became bashful and speechless in larger groups) both share a love of exploring the natural world. And because they have both wealth and leisure, they can indulge themselves. It was not unusual for an aristocrat to dabble, and a rich titled woman might well tend her home and babies and write poetry or plays or conduct scientific experiments, though generally for her own amusement rather than publication or profit.

Margaret Cavendish studied what was known as natural philosophy – a 17th century catch-all for physical, chemical and biological sciences. She argued with members of the Royal Society of London. She was an outspoken anti-vivisectionist. She was a prolific writer, producing volumes of autobiography, poetry, plays, science and philosophy. Today she is best remembered as the author of what is usually considered the first science fiction novel, The Blazing World.

Samuel Pepys called her “mad, conceited and ridiculous.” Which was just the sort of comment learned, opinionated, iconoclastic women could expect, through much of history.

Next: playwright Aphra Behn, the inspiration for Eliza.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Historical accuracy (and loving the haters)

I don't like it when people don't like my books – but I love it when they hate them. A writer wants to inspire passion, any sort of passion, to have the reader tell everyone they know about their book, and I'd much rather have a reviewer tell a thousand people how much they despise a book than have no one talking about it at all. I'm never going to be bothered by people's opinion of my work (though personally, I'm fragile, so please always tell me I look pretty, even if I don't.) The dear knows I don't like at least half the books I read (or start reading.) Bad reviews also tend to be the most entertaining, and the best thing about me (if I do say so myself) is that I think just about everything is hilarious.

But some people are saying Ladies in Waiting isn't historically accurate. Oh my, have you reviewers gotten my dander up!

A few reviewers have claimed that the female leads, with their unusual career choices and fairly strong wills, aren't realistic for the time. I feel compelled to point out that this isn't so. Yes, it was rare for women to be scientists or playwrights in the 17th Century, but Zabby and Eliza are based on real women of the time: novelist, philosopher and scientist Margaret Cavendish (who appears in the novel as Zabby's godmother) and playwright (and spy) Aphra Behn. So having two privileged girls who believe they can have what appear to be modern pastimes (or jobs) isn't particularly outlandish.

I've also been asked to provide some historical notes, about which parts of Ladies in Waiting are true, which fictitious. Those tidbits too will be forthcoming, and maybe I can update the paperback edition.

I'll tell you more about Aphra Behn and Margaret Cavendish soon, but in the meantime, here is a picture of Cavendish, the leading female intellectual of her day – bare-breasted! Because 17th century women knew how to be sexy and powerful (even if they mostly used sex to get what they wanted.) Plus, breasts aren't the big deal modern people seem to think they are.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

“Pure filth, constant coarse sex talk, bestiality jokes, heroine attempts to seduce a married man, etc.”

This review of Ladies in Waiting just tickles me. Take a look. I'll meet you right back here in a minute.

Will that sell books or what! Not so thrilled about the average-killing effect of a one-star rating, but hey, such is life. Can you imagine any better endorsement for curious teens than that headline? I wrote the dang thing and I want to re-read it.

Setting aside for the nonce that some of us don't think sex is filthy... (A friend of mine says if it's not filthy you're not doing it right, but she might have been talking about cooking, or gardening, or even child-rearing, I forget.)

Here's the thing – in Ladies in Waiting, no one has sex! Three young women who are relatively innocent, fairly smart, and have a pretty good idea what they want out of life (though they sometimes despair of achieving it) are thrust into a competitive, highly sexualized world where they make choices about whether to cling to their ideals.

The English court in 1662 sounds an awful lot like high school, right?

They are tempted, constantly, by sex and status, but stick to their guns. There is plenty of bawdry in Ladies in Waiting, but the heroines need something to resist, after all. Filth, pure or otherwise (and I do prefer mine pure) was a la mode in the Restoration, as evidenced by the poetry of Johns Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, by the plays of Wycherley and Etheredge, and by the example of King Charles II himself.

So apparently Ladies in Waiting is “ excuse to have lots of sexual talk and to get to roll around in the muck.”

Hmm... well, I don't need much of an excuse, do you? I think people should talk about sex. I think people should talk about everything. Talk about sex all you want, teen readers, just think hard before you do. (I'm a mother now, I have to say that.) Think, argue, joke, explore. Talking about things is safe. Reading about things is safe. Ladies in Waiting might titillate, but it won't corrupt. No book corrupts a thinking mind.

Life is mucky at the best of times. Ladies in Waiting has plenty of muck. Sex, sure, but death and greed and ambition and disease and obsession and maternal devotion and betrayal and true love. All very mucky.

Of course you're dying to know about the bestiality jokes, right? I couldn't remember a single one, then I did a few searches for various farm animals and came up with this blasphemous bit:

“You know what these peasant louts mean when they say a dance, don’t you? They dance in the haystacks, they dance behind the hedgerows, they dance with their sheep if there’s no skivvy about.”

Laws, I clutch my pearls!

XO my lovelies,


Monday, March 12, 2012

My Old Kentucky Home

I saw the first butterfly of spring today, a white butterfly, so according to local custom I'll have good luck all year long. (If I lived in Devonshire, apparently, I'd have to kill the first butterfly I spied or face a year of bad luck.) I like living in a place with folk customs. Here in rural Kentucky, where I've lived the last few years, I can tell exactly what kind of winter it will be by looking at the wooly bears, and know if there's thunder in February there will be frost in May. If I brush my hair outside and a bird gathers it to use in a nest, I'll go crazy. Florida, my homeland, where I'll be returning in a few months, for good, doesn't have many folk customs. Of course, most things in Florida are transplanted exotics these days, retirees from New York, pythons from Burma. There's not a lot I'll miss about Kentucky, but I think I might pine for its sense of perpetual prophesy.


I'm selling my house. If you want a rural retreat, surrounded by woods, with deer and turkey and bobwhite and arrowheads in the fields and good neighbors who check on you before the tornadoes, let me know.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My Historical Crush

Rousseau -- love the scruff

Admit it – you have a historical crush too. You've drooled over a bust of Caligula even though you know what a rotter he was. Maybe you have a secret thing for Jean Jacques Rousseau or save your ten dollar bills just to keep hottie Hamilton in your pants pocket. (If you're like me, you also have crushes on actors of the 1930s and 40s, who are not only long dead, but frequently gay. Ah, love... Sometimes all the better for being unobtainable...)

My historical amour is King Charles II of England. Here he is, looking a little weary after years of exile and poverty:

And a little snappier here -->

Charles was absolutely not the beau-ideal of his day. Men (and women too) were supposed to have small, neat features, rosebud lips, blue eyes, light hair, fair skin, delicate hands and feet. Charles' sensuously curling mouth, strong nose, bedroom eyes and black hair might make him a leading man today, but in the seventeenth century he was considered positively ugly.

Charles was also HUGE for the time, at about six foot two, perhaps even taller. Which is great for a potential love interest for me (I'm five foot ten) but awkward for Charles when he was being hunted by Cromwell's forces after they'd beheaded his father. As one of the tallest, darkest men in England, he was easy to spot, and just barely escaped his father's fate.

Maybe its my maternal instincts that draw me to Charles. His father (King Charles I) was executed, his kingdom ripped from him. He had to beg and gamble at foreign courts just to survive. After he was restored to the throne, Parliament blocked nearly every good thing he tried to do. His wife couldn't have children, his mistresses had too many children, his best friend schemed to betray him, plague and fire ravaged his kingdom... I just want to cuddle and comfort the poor king.

Another big thing in his favor, Charles really seemed to love women – not just sex, but women, their company, their minds. Which is rare enough in any age.

Tell me about your historical crush!

(Oh, and congrats to Hallie for winning a copy of Ladies in Waiting. Hope you love it!)

You'll meet Charles II – the lover, the scientist, the bitter king and the loyal friend – in Ladies in Waiting, out in May.


Monday, January 2, 2012

A Swell Review of Brightwing

Thanks, Booksie, for your great review of BRIGHTWING!

Booksie says: "Sullivan Lee has written a quirky crime novel with engaging characters.  Against all odds, readers start to have sympathy for Lucy and Edgar, and by the end of the book are hoping they can find a way to live their dreams.  Along the way, the reader learns about the Everglades ecosystem, and the techniques the Indians used to survive in this hostile environment.  This book is recommended for suspense readers."

If you'd like an e-copy of BRIGHTWING to review, drop me a line at lauraleesullivan //at// hotmail //dot//com and tell me what format you need. (Amazon and Goodreads reviewers too!)

And don't forget to enter HERE for a chance to win a signed ARC of my bawdy YA historical, LADIES IN WAITING.