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.