Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Devil's in the Details

By Guest Blogger Erastes

"Without historical accuracy, my books would be fantasy. With only historical accuracy, they would be textbooks. For historical fiction, there must be a story, accurate in detail but brought to life through imagination and creativity"

Author Karen Cushman

First off - writing historical romance is FUN. It can be very sexy to play with a period not one's own.

The clothes are nicer. There are buttons, and OH how sexy it is to have buttons undone, or spats gently removed, stays unlaced, hooks and eyes undone with a kiss between every – single – one.

There are plenty of opportunities for getting your heroine (or in my case heroes) into scrapes and sexual situations. There are lots of phallic innuendoes, outrageous codpieces, biting thumbs, swaggering bravos with swords on their hips. There are fans, and the language of fans. For the Mollies, a handkerchief could say many things it was death to say out loud.

Conversations can become duels, hell - they can become real duels, and you can cover subjects such as slavery and piracy that would not really be acceptable in the modern romance novel.

But I'm strongly of the belief that you should attempt to get it as right as you can. There is nothing that makes me want to throw a book across the room than anachronisms, both in fact and in the characters' thought processes.

Let me say up front that there are mistakes in Standish, and they've been pointed out to me, and I'm grateful for it. Some were deliberate; I had the Carnival in Venice take place in the book, when in actuality it was banned at that period in time but I needed masques; some were typos, some were just careless assumption of facts I thought I knew. Lesson learned. I'm terrified of Transgressions going live, because whilst the Regency was a period I knew well, I knew (note past tense) next to nothing of the English Civil War period. And I know a LOT of English Civil War Re-enactors, and they are the most unforgiving when it comes to errors.

There are responsibilities that a historical fiction writer takes on. The main reason I like to see historical accuracy, particularly for the main events, is that some people will read a book and think that the facts are true.

For some reason there is a faction of romance writers - and readers - who seem to think that it's all about the escapism, and that accuracy doesn't matter. "It's only Romance" they say, as if it deserves lesser attention than any other genre. If the readers and writers are denigrating their own genre, is it any wonder that others don't take it seriously? Historical romance is probably the only genre that gets away with this inattention to details.

If you are writing a contemporary romance do you (unless it's a fantasy/sci-fi) twist the laws or physics? Doesn't it drive you bonkers if you are reading a story based in 1999 and your heroine is listening to a song that you know damn well wasn't released until 2005? Personally I wouldn't actually notice stuff like that, as I'm not really a creature of this age, but if I'm reading a historical novel and the hero in 1600 is using a sabre when it wasn't called that until many years later it just drives me mad.

"Aren't you being a bit anal?" I can hear you say. And no - I don't think so. I was talking to my friend and fellow writer T. J. Pennington the other day, and she put it far more succinctly than I had managed:

"Taking the time to get it right means that you respect the reader. And far too often in romance, the attitude is, "Well, it's JUST romance. It doesn't HAVE to be accurate.

Try saying that in any other genre. I dare you. Tell a mystery writer he doesn't have to get things like ballistics or forensics right. Tell a hard science fiction writer he can slough off on the math and the science because the audience won't notice. Newsflash, people - the audience notices. And they trust the writer to get it right. When the writer doesn't give a shit - or slavishly imitates what other writers do without checking to see if it's accurate (Georgette Heyer imitators, I'm looking at you!) - it brings the genre down."

Then of course, there's the sex. The fine line between getting it completely right and grossing out the reader.

You've spent several thousand words having your fiery heroine fall for her lusty Elizabethan hero. You've worked up a passable plot including a roguish ship's captain, a daughter of a landowner, an evil but devastatingly handsome English Lord. The heroine has escaped the unwanted attentions of her English suitor and is grabbing a little slap and tickle with the handsome rogue. Are you going to tell your reader that her bits are going to smell like ripe fish? Do you dwell on the likelihood that said rogue has suffered from scurvy and has rotten teeth and pitted limbs?

Of course not. That would spoil the mood, wouldn't it? For a start, the health and stench of individuals were only relative. If one person reeked, everyone reeked and therefore no-one noticed very much, so there's no great need to emphasise that.

There ARE ways of making your couplings clean, if you want to be fastidious (essential, really, for gay sex at any time…) Make your characters "faddy" about cleanliness, or have them in the swimming hole a lot. If they are on a ship, they can use the sea.

But as I said, neither of them are going to notice the other is smelly if they stink themselves.

I had to write a section in Newgate, and although I introduced the prison,-upon the characters' first entrance into it-as being so foul smelling that it made the visitor retch and the eyes water (which it did) such things become "normal" in time. I used to keep a horse on a pig farm, and after a week I couldn't smell them. So it would have been for the inmates of Newgate. To facilitate sex scenes within the prison, I made Ambrose be fussy about keeping clean – Lye and soap were available – for a price.

And I think anyway, if you are scrupulous as you can be about getting the rest of the details right, your reader will trust you enough to offer them this little deceit, and your selected pairing can boink away without giving any thought for the fleas and lice…

Did you spot all those anachronisms in the pictures:

1. The new BBC Robin Hood - So much wrong with this. The make-up. The halter neck top, the hairstyles ... the hoodie.
2. Kiera Knightley as Guinevere, very practical. Not.
3. Walking the plank. Invention of books and hollywood. Pirates didn't bother, they just chucked their victims over the side.
4. "Braveheart" - William Wallace in Woad and Tartan. Both of which weren't around in his day.
5. "Pathfinder" - Viking helmets didn't have horns!

Check out my website for some great historical resources.


Eloise said...

Thanks for such a thought-provoking article. It took me 'til the third picture to guess you were doing it deliberately, and yes, I'm sad enough I'd got them all once I'd clicked it was a deliberate act.

As one of the authors here can tell you, I get insanely worked up over bad science in books, movies and the like. Historical details do get me, if I know them too, although there are some standards of the genre that wouldn't bother *despite* knowing they're inaccurate: pirates need a good plank for people to walk, and last lingering kisses, heroic rescues and the like all work nicely with that element too.

I also find I'm forgiving of blurring things for a good reason - especially if it's explained before or after. Venetian masked balls would be a good example. Mentioning at the end that you know it's anachronistic, but you needed the setting will always mollify me - and probably many others, because you're still showing that respect. You know it's wrong, we know it's wrong, but you're not writing a text book, bending the facts to make a good story better ought to be acceptable to most reasonable folks surely?

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

I agree entirely. Incorrect details (unless the author did something deliberately, and says so) pulls me right out of a story.

There's an award-winning romance that I will someday try to read again, that has the hero in 1300s Scotland, in a drafty keep, somehow taking a hot bath. With his sword propped up against the tub. That's when I tossed the book across the room.

I was unable to get through the first episode of that new Robin Hood series. I was mostly going to forgive the clothing. It was the complete inability to get anywhere close to actual swordfighting in the fight scenes that killed it for me.

OTOH, some of the liberties Mel took with the William Wallace history, I could accept, because it made for a better movie. Not so much the tartan (sigh. Will we ever get rid of that myth?) but the affair with the princess, the re-ordering of the battles, etc.

I'm also fine with glossing over details that would be negative to a modern reader, such as smells, bad teeth, etc.--you're entirely right that they'd be "normal" to the characters, and thus not in their conscious pov.

Great post!

Gwen Masters said...

I loved reading this. I adore historical romances, but I can't write one myself -- if I'm too anal about the little details of someone else's work, it would drive me INSANE to try to write one of my own. I admire those with the courage to go so far back into history and not go mad while doing it.

I stick to the early 1900s and up, and I make sure to keep the setting either US or Australia. That way, I know I'm at least within a cannon shot of getting it right!

Oh...pirates didn't really make people walk the plank? No! *sigh* Can I keep my "Johnny Depp saves me from the plank before ravishing me" fantasy anyway?

*wicked grin*

Madeline said...

Captain Jack has bad teeth, doesn't he? *practices her fantasy signature* Mrs. Jack Sparrow*

Welcome back Eraastes. Congratulations on your new position as Director of the Erotic Authors Association.
I must say I felt very 'in the know' when you were referred to as 'he' early on in the proceedings.

This is one of the most fascinating posts we've ever had. I've read it once and it's still banging around inside my brain like the ball in a pinball game.

I love historical fiction but it's never occurred to me to try and write it. It feels like something forever beyond me. I'm a contemporary writer. But at the mere mention of buttons I felt a zesty thrill that made me sit up straight. Count me in. Tell me more about plot, please. How much does the era complicate the plot?

I'll be back. Kisskisskiss

Kate Pearce said...

I am a historical purist too. I have an honors degree in it and I like to think that I 'know' what I'm talking about. (not always)

Things that bug me in historicals:
words like 'okay' in a medieval, potatoes, tomatoes, biscuits for breakfast, 'kids' described as 'pumpkin', heroines who insist they are going to be (insert career here) when they can't practice that career in their time period, heroines who are so modern that they don't pay attention to the conventions of the time period they are supposed to inhabit.

I could go on...
oh I have

Every so often a little war breaks out on one of the historical RWA lists when someone uses exactly that argument of 'well if you want historical accuracy, you should have rotten teeth etc etc who cares if I change a few facts around."

Well-heck, lady-I care, It's my history. When I write my contemporary U.S. books I make sure I get the language and feeling to be as accurate as I can. I suspect if I wrote an American-set historical when the British won the War of Independence I might get slammed for that, and rightly so.

But maybe I'm just an old grouse who can't allow people to enjoy the story-it is supposed to be fiction after all...

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Oh, and BTW, there is some belief that the Vikings wore horned helmets, but not as battle gear. See, e.g., this article.

Erastes said...

Hi Eliose,

Thank you! I'm glad you liked the pictures, once I got started I couldn't stop - I particularly loved the Keira Knightley one. I believe (I haven't seen the film but am informed) she's fighting with a broadsword by Hadrian's Wall in the Winter - in gauze. Unbloody likely.

Bending the rules is often unavoidable (the lingering kiss on the plank for example) and can add to the romance - and I know that people will say that the word romance itself has trasmuted to mean "invention" but I still get pulled out of a story with glaring errors, that with a little bit of research could have been avoided.

It's all to do with what irrites, I suppose, like everything - it's subjective. You get insanely worked up about bad science - and I can understand that - but I know nothing about science and I sit and watch sci-fi films and read the books with a happy grin.

I guess that the anachronisms in Romance began with Malory's Arthur and grew from there!

Erastes said...

Hi Dayle,

Thank you!

Yes - argh! hot baths! Such a bone of contention. Unless you've got a veritable ARMY of water carriers from the kitchen to the room where you are bathing - very unlikely.

I think the new Robin Hood illustrates everything bad about anachronisms in that period.

Go back further than 1600 and there will always be necessity to modernise to a certain extent - language for one - but I don't want everyone striding around (particularly the women) saying "Cool - Will's got a new new play on - wanna hang?"

Ok that was too far, but I've read almost that bad.

And as for the helmets - I didn't know that. I have a good friend who is a viking re-enactor and I took her considerable weighty knowledge on that. Thanks - I'm always interested in new articles!

Erastes said...

Thank you Gwen *waves*

I don't consider myself a historical writer yet, at all. I read some historicals with a sense of awe as their knowledge of the HISTORY amazes me (specially when it's an American with a supreme knowledge of English history).

But I do love writing them (even if the research drives me bonkers)

Even the period you speak of can be fraught with danger - have you read "The Whitest Flower" by Brendan Graham? Not only a big fat Mary Sue but dreadful Australian details.

And yes, you can keep your Depp fantasy. Actually the historians are still discussing the plank issue, some say yes, some say no...

Erastes said...

Captain Jack has bad teeth, doesn't he?

All the better to kiss Will with. Snerk Snerk. Oh come on, he REALLY needs to.

Thank you Madeline, I really want to help push the EAA forward and start having an Association which looks after the writers’ interests or that’s the aim - one day!

And I know – I invented Erastes for a specific reason, now I find I don’t really need to hide behind a man’s persona, I’m stuck with the big Greek pervie. *snuggles him*

And yes – buttons! R Manley (who writes the most DIVINE historical porn (watch out for her story about sex in a carriage coming soon on Steamy Audio) is like me, a button-porn fetishist, and waistcoats! Why do you think Severus Snape is so popular? It’s not just Alan Rickman, it’s that coat he wears with hundreds of tiny tiny bootbuttons… R Manley can do an undressing scene that can make almost me come before her protags are even naked. Argh…. Cravats….

Seriously, once you research historical clothes and how they are put together, they become part of the fun. Men’s underpants are tricky though, there’s not a great deal of historical research on them. Can’t see why.

The era can help enormously –especially in erotic fiction because, although sex – and illicit sex – obviously went on, the ways that that was achieved was more interesting than simply saying “get your doublet, you’ve pulled.”

Even more so with gay historical erotica. I want to read a book which takes into account the moral/legal aspects of the time. Your man may very well be attracted to the village apothecary, or the monk in the next bed to him, but how does he feel? What are his thoughts on the matter? What sort of unbringing has he had? Hasn’t he been to church every day (probably) or at least every week and doesn’t he know the cardinal sins like the back of his hand? I don’t want him just to start snogging his intended without at least some of this coming out.

Have a go – even if it’s just a short story – I bet you get hooked.

Madelynne Ellis said...

I'm a costume purist (bad me). I remember one particular film I sat through totally distracted by the fact that the stripes on the woman's sleeves ran the wrong way. Okay,it was a pretty crap film anyway, but you know... I like my slang too, but sometimes I do deliberately take liberties.

Phantasmagoria, my current wip set in 1800 features a Phantasmagoria, something that only reached Britain the following year... The technology was available, so I don't think it's too much of a stretch to have a peer hold a private party a year earlier. I'm sure someone will disagree.

I don't expect everything to be be perfect, but I do object to people getting simple things wrong. Perhaps my biggest pet peeve is English titles. It's not that difficult folks. Check out this page for a quick brush up. Oh, and really, there weren't that many Regency Dukes.

Erastes said...

Hi Kate – Thank you for commenting!
I agree with you, I actually went blank when doing the article, but I should have thought of articles like potatoes and tomatoes and the like.

I was – thankfully briefly – a member of a historical novelists critique group and I couldn’t BELIEVE the amount of anachronisms that people thought it was all right to get away with. One particular writer, when pulled up on her anachronistic objects AND her modern day thinking heroine said “People I am writing for are experts in Regency and I’ve read about X and Y in many other published regencies”

Only proving to me that a genre can self-perpetuate its own errors as more and more people copy what they’ve read that suddenly it becomes canon.

And I agree with you – if we aren’t bothering to get the little details right we might as well slap an “Alternate Universe” sticker on the book and not care what else facts are wrong.

Erastes said...

Good morning Madelynne!

Nothing wrong with being a costume purist ! I have one particular friend who was foaming at the mouth at the new Robin Hood.

Someone may pick up on the Phantasmagoria thing, but I wouldn’t worry, it was well documented that the rich had private viewings of things not readily available to the normal person.

And OMG yes. TITLES. Every single bloody regency has to have Lord this and Sir that and Earl do dah, and they have no clue of the structure and the naming and the hierarchy. I deliberately have avoided titled heroes in my latest regency, and they are just well-off young men.

Thanks for the link – I’ll add to my links page if that’s ok.

Janine Ashbless said...

Poor old Robin Hood. He seems to be an anachronism magnet. There are innacuracies in every historical film but the ones that crop up in Robin Hood films are the kind that make educated people foam at the mouth and chew their own limbs off in frustration. "Prince of Thieves", anyone?(Lands at Dover - "Tonight we dine in Nottingham!" - and an hour later he's strolling up Hadrian's Wall... You walk bloody quickly Robin, but clearly forgot to pack a map.)

Mind you, when I watch historical films I'm the one muttering angrily "That forest is so wrong!There weren't any horse chestnuts in Britain at that period!". My grouse with that Arthur film with Ms Knightly were the Mediterranean cypresses growing in a howling Scottish moorland.

Go geeks!

Nikki Magennis said...

Oh dear, I think I'm out of my depth! I wouldn't know an anachronism if it bit me in my arse, and I think the Americans know more Scottish history than I do...

Well done to all the historical people. Looks like lots of fun, even with lice included.

Fascinating post, Erastes, thanks again! Now I just want Madelynne to tell me exactly what a fascinum is...

Erastes said...

Morning Janine! Welcome to Geek Heaven.

I was watching Privates on Parade last night, supposedly set in Singapore and environs and couldn’t notice all the oak tress in the “jungle”

So It’s not just you. Argh! Prince of Thieves! *stabs it *

I couldn’t help but notice that the Vikings in Pathfinder took horses to America. I’m not saying they DIDN’T but it’s bloody unlikely – and even more unlikely that they took them all BACK with them.

I wonder whether some historical writers look at films and consider them canon.

I remember when I was writing fanfiction and I read a story (fairly decent) about Lucius Malfoy. Throughout the entire book, the writer referred to him as Luscious. I left feedback on the story and said “You should attempt to get the character’s names right as this will annoy people so much they won’t read on.”

The author said “but I’ve seen it written both ways in fanfiction, and I prefer the look of Luscious to Lucius.”

I said: “But one must, surely, defer to the books?”

She said “Oh – I’ve never read the BOOKS.”

I think that sums up a lot of what happens in bad historicals too, the self-perpetuating errors...

Geeks rule.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Ah, Nikki.

Well now, a fascinum is an artificial male phallus (dildo, if you like) often used as a mania in ancient religious rituals, or worn around the neck to bring fertility or ward off the evil eye. Curiously, it's also the origin of the word fascinate.

Wraxall's fascinum, if I recall (ask Kristina) is made of jade, and used to deflower virgins, thus saving him the effort.

Oh, and Janine, you missed the Prince of Thieves excursion to Aysgarth Falls, which is also nowhere near Nottingham.

Erastes said...

I know exactly what you mean there, Nikki *wavity * I LUST over Renault’s gay Greek stories, when she was a south African historian, Ruth Sims writes the most wonderful gay Victorian love stories and she’s a grandmother li My mate RW Day is a Viking expert and lives in Virginia. The thought of me being an authority on anything boggles me.

And yes! Lice an’ all – it’s fun. I think one of the sexiest scenes I’ve ever seen on film is where the two main characters get dressed in Dangerous Liaisons.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Mmm, yes that scene in Dangerous Liaisons is particularly yummy. Mind you, so were several conversations on the stairs! I think it's something to do with how he stands with his legs apart.

Madelynne Ellis said...

Just thinking, isn't there a scene in one of the Sharpe books/films where he catches his lover's lice with a bar of soap! I think that's kind of sexy.

Erastes said...

I guess I should have the courage of my convictions and mention the lice. Perhaps in a post-coital moment...


Nikki Magennis said...

Lice porn. I'm stunned.

Madelynne, thanks! I looked it up yesterday and found this page, which was fun, but didn't explain it quite so clearly. Actually, that site has a lot of interesting things on it...off to investigate further...

Nikki Magennis said...

Damn, link not working.

Try this for a list of kinky Priapic terms!


Erastes said...

Well, Nikki, the blog is called Lust BITES.


How do I bite thee, let me count the ways.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Kristina will be here in a minute to talk about 'The Flea'

Portia Da Costa said...

Splendid piece, erastes! I'm in awe of people who write historicals and who strive to 'get it right'. Totally agree that it shows lack of respect for the reader if you don't try...

I keep thinking it would be a fun challenge to write a historical, but I would probably right royally cock up the research somehow, and commit a cornucopia of huge howlers. So, it's probably better for all concerned if I don't...

And thanks for the telly/film anachronisms. Brilliant stuff!

Madelynne Ellis said...

Thanks for the line, Nikki. Some of those terms are brilliant!

Madelynne Ellis said...

Duh! Link, not line...

Madelynne Ellis said...

Hey, while we're talking anachronisms, I'm just wondering what your take on deliberately anachronisms eg Plunkett and Macleane is? Annoying or fun in a knowing way?

Erastes said...

Hello Portia! thank you!

Give it a try, if you get inspired to do it, there are a lot of safety net communities around and most geeks are thrilled to bits to be asked for their knowledge.

I have utilised the Sealed Knot, The Manningtree & Mistley Association, The English Civil War Society and they've all been so helpful.

For the one I'm (supposed to be) writing at the mo, it's 1960's english suburbia and while not strictly "historical" the research to get it right is just as hard. For some insane reason known only to my dear mother, she suggested I use model trains to get my protags together and I know (knew) nothing about model trains.

I found a model train society on yahoo and joined and bloody hell - all I can say is that if you want to meet men, that's a good way to go.

If you don't mind they live at home at age 40 and wear kaguls.


Erastes said...

Plunkett & Macleane is one of my favourite films, fun fun fun and doesn't try to take itself too seriously. Others I love are Tom Jones & Far from the Madding Crowd - wonderful 1960's hairstyles! And Kubrick's fabulous Barry Lyndon, which is the best of it's type imo.

I recently caught something called the Abduction Club which is just as silly, but a nice bit of escapee fluff.

Portia Da Costa said...

Hey, erastes... I'm old enough to remember living in sixties suburbia... Northern suburbia, but if you've any questions you think I might be able to answer, give us a shout!

I am sort of sort of tempted to try a historical some time... maybe a novella... Don't know what period. Maybe Victorian because at one time I was v. interested in Victoriana in general. And I just read a 'hot historical' set around the time of the Great Exhibition. Now this was a very page turning book, but a bit mad. Quite a lot of attempt to be historically accurate most of the time, although some very twenty first century dialogue and introspection in places... I almost expected the hero to say 'cool' or 'whatever' sooner or later! LOL

Madeline said...

Oh this is just so darned interesting I can hardly stand it. I have to GO to all these links and I have to TRY writing an historical romance/erotica and and I have to...to GET some first so I know what to do...'cause reading them as a reader isn't the same as reading them as a writer, is it?
Thank you for the encouragement, Erastes. Felix and I discussed it this morning. Could I? What period? His pet peeve in historical stuff is the modern woman transplanted into the olden days. The 'liberated feminist' among the wenches. I'm one of those readers who thinks, 'Why I didn't know that,' and assumes what the author has written is true. But then, I used to think all those 'confessions' books were written by real housewives, etc. I'm so naieve...so maybe I'd make a good writer of historicals. Well, if this blog is meant to educate and titillate then it is doing it's job!

Angelia Sparrow said...

I despise books that get it wrong. More, I despise the attitude that genre means the story doesn't matter

"It's just romance, so accuracy doesn't matter"

or "it's just science fiction. it doesn't have to make sense."

As someone who writes romance, historical and SF, I believe it DOES matter.

My readers aren't dumb. I assume they are at least as smart as I am. I know many of them are smarter in certain areas.

So yes, I will get my geography and fashion right. I will get my attitudes right. I will get mys SHIPS right when writing pirates.

And if I choose to lust after my fictional ancestor (the last pirates in our branch of the Sparrow family were Dutch and 15th century), that's my business.

Madelynne Ellis said...

I love Plunkett and Macleane too. Also adore immensely the Poldark stuff with Robin Ellis, even though some of the costumes are so-oo 70's. The Abduction Club was fun. Ah, no, it's giving me ideas... very naughty ideas, and I have too many books to write as it is. Hurriedly jots down notes.

Wendy, you should try a historical. Except then I'd have to compete with you for slots ;-) And you too Madeline.

Erastes said...

I was having trouble with clothes mainly, because my young man is 17 and at home and his mother buys his clothes. It's 1963. If you look up 60's fashions ANYWHERE you get pages of Quant and Biba and god knows what, but not what young men were wearing when mummy dressed them.

So basically he wears jeans when he's not dressed up and black trousers (probably his uniform) with a jacket tie and shirt when he is...

He's going to go to Uni soonish, so I can let him get hipper... but would much appreciate any input.

kristina lloyd said...

Oh, Tilly, you’ve blown our cover. They think we hang out in Brighton having endless conversation about bondage, werewolves and footballers whereas actually we’re discussing 17C poets. John Donne’s ‘The Flea’ – proof fleas can be horny. May I quote? ‘Mee it suck’d first, and now sucks thee, And in this flea, our two bloods mingled bee’ … The flea also, er, ‘swells with one blood made of two.’ Very vampiric as well. Go on, Erastes, write a post-coital flea scene. Fleas are sexier than lice. (Okay, who’s going to be the 1st to quote me out of context?)

And, Madelynne, yes, the fascinum was jade, thanks. Inlaid with lilies. I just looked it up (honestly, it’s not etched on my brain). And Wraxhall explains Romans used to deflower their brides with these objects but his family isn’t that old so his is probably a forgery. Now that’s class – a *character* who cares about historical accuracy.

When I wrote Darker Than Love in the years BG (before google) it took me ages to work out the hierarchy of titles. Nice link Madelynne.

Great to have you back, Erastes. I think, in our line of work, we all take erotic liberties. I’m currently writing (contemp) about some people shagging in a tent in an Arctic winter ... and, well, you just wouldn’t want to, would you? But, hey, they *are* very horny.

Erastes said...

Good for you, Madeline!
Yes you could. It would be so bloody good if there were GOOD historical erotic stories being written.

I’m completely with Felix. It’s 1700 and Miss Mary wants to single handedly stop the slave trade, get a job as a doctor and sing on the stage….

Reading books written IN THE ERA rather than historicals is paramount, and I know that sounds obvious but it is.

It can help more than all the research in the world.

The greatest compliment I’ve had for Standish is “If George Elliot let rip with her sex scenes, Standish is what would have happened”

I don’t agree, I’ll never be anything approaching an Elliot, but to evoke a feeling,, however small that the book was written in that time, is what I strive for.

Erastes said...

Hi Angelia! I’m so happy that so many people are joining in! Who wants to WORK on a Wednesday when the boss is out anyway?

On the other side of that coin of course is the Dan Brown who assumes everyone is as thick as a plank (like him, perhaps) and need leading by the nose and told a load of crap they have to believe.

I did a crit on a novel a while back which was based in a port town in immediate post English civil war – I did a modicum of Googling, so I was generally au fait with the town of the age so I could read the books first couple of chapters without having to keep checking things up and there was SO MUCH wrong. Huge ships tied up at the dockside, the water of the Severn was described as crystal blue, it went on to describe a fort/courtroom (an integral part of the chapters as there was a court scene) when the court/fort had been blown to bits in the war a few years previous.

Very very basic googling brought me this information, and I was quite harsh with the author – she was very nice about it, I have to say. But the story was good, the characters were good and the publisher/editor she ended up with might not have known any better than her. It’s scary.

Seems Sparrow is becoming a theme around here…

Portia Da Costa said...

Oh, erastes, I'm completely blanking now on what my brother used to wear in the sixties. He was a bit younger than your guy though... I mainly saw him in his school uniform and short trousers and woolly jumpers my mum knitted in winter, and in summer, I remember little stripey tee shirt tops with collars. And sandals.

But that's no good really, is it? In 1963, he was only eight... :(

Lot of use I am...

Erastes said...

Kristina – hello!

Now I’ll have to add some fleas. I’m editing Transgressions and there were fleas and lice and all sorts and I don’t think I’ve been half as grotty as I should have been. I mention a damp bed at one point, but that’s about it.

When in doubt, Erastes, have a bed bath. There’s a scene where one character is wiping the mud off his lover, rather redolent of Indiana Jones (“where doesn’t it hurt?” – but “where isn’t it muddy?”) and I can introduce some fleas. …

As for the arctic shagging. No thank you very much. Not without a double sleeping bag. And he’d have to get out of his and into mine!!!!

Erastes said...

Portia - that's actually very handy - I can definitely introduce a hand knitted jumper, v neck and sleeveless. It's all he wears, in one scene perhaps - and the hem hangs saggily around his beautiful arse.

Nikki Magennis said...

Oh, I just realised that my 1950s novella counts as historical. I thought that would be brilliant for research, because I could interview someone.

Until I asked friends if they knew a 62 or 63 year old woman who grew up in a small Scottish village and wouldn't mind talking in great detail about sexual mores of the time.

Drew a blank. I think I was hoping to actually meet my character.

There's something lovely about the recent past though, the same yet slightly different...

I agree that in most cases one has to recolour history, if writing erotic fiction. But then, there have always been mavericks, haven't there?

Nikki Magennis said...

Re 1960s male fashion...my dad goes on about paper shirts, if that's any use! He said when you sweated, the paper would tear and the shirt would disintegrate.

The V&A have quite a good fashion section:


Erastes said...

Nikki - I'd certainly scout around, I have a few scottish friends on my LJ I can ask around if you like. Try searching for scottish groups on yahoo perhaps?

I ended up asking my dad about what he called a bottom in those days as he's roughly the same age as my older protag - and I didn't want him to start talking about Alex's "arse" if that wasn't a word a stockbroker would think - I was right, Dad calls it a rear or a bottom, not even bum bless him.

Erastes said...

Bah -Nikki - the link's not working - I'll try having a look tonight - thank you so much!

Alison Tyler said...

Hi Erastes,

Lovely post -- great discussion! When I checked last night, there were six comments... awesome to wake up to 46!

I don't know all that much about historicals, but I like what Angelia Sparrow said about being frustrated by people who claim:

"it's just science fiction. it doesn't have to make sense."

I have to say, my family has spent years discussing the time travel device in Terminator. (How could he send his father back in time to, well, impregnate his mother...)


Erastes said...

Hi Alison Good morning!

Terminator (in fact most time travel) makes my head want to explode.

But I am a bear of little brain.

Deanna Ashford said...

I agree with everyone else, great post Erastes. The new Robin Hood made me so mad I couldn't even watch it. I do try hard to get all my facts right when i'm writing my historicals, probably I've made mistakes but no one has picked me up on them yet. However, I find doing the research fascinating and often rely more on books than the net, as I've been told some of the information out there isn't altogether correct, so I'd rather rely on reading books written by experts on the subject.

Sometimes trawling around for minor information, like what food was generally eaten in AD 79 - it wasn't all stuffed doormice and roaste flamingo tongues - can be frustrating but it is also rewarding when you come up with the answers.

As far as language goes I think it is sometimes difficult to keep a balance between being too archaic, and putting the readers off, and being too modern.

Re underwear I have a book called the History of Underclothes, which was one of the few available on the subject. However, some of that is conjecture as no records were kept on such matters in early medieval times.

Bending the facts - I try not to do that but sometimes you do have to shift things around a tad just to make the book move faster.

Alison Tyler said...

That said, I'm working on a time travel story right now... I'm doing my best with the device.

Characters are only going back to the 80s. The 1980s! I hope I don't fuck up too much.

kristina lloyd said...

Deanna, was the Undies book by Cunnington? I had that on loan from the library for about a year. Really great. Plus, the surname sounds slightly rude. I think there were 2 Cunningtons. A little blue book. I mean, the cover was blue.

Erastes said...

Hi Deanna, Thanks so much!

I would be grateful if you could shed any light onto 1640 undergarments for me - I've been informed that they were similar to the outer breeches that they wore at the time, but were of a softer material - sometimes called Strossers?

I'll have to track that book down, by the sound of things...

Deanna Ashford said...

Yes Alison, it is written by C. Willett and Phillis Cunnington (Don't you think she would have considered changing the u to an a, sounds so much better)I got it from Amazon UK, but the price on the back is in dollars and it was published in the USA.

Saskia Walker said...

Two of my favourite bloopers (by favourite authors, I must add, so I forgave them, ;) were having a heroine running a couple more "blocks" in Regency London, and having a Victorian maid being proud of her "math." Slips like that always pull me out, but often I think they are slips, so I smile and let them go. Having your Regency Yorkshire described like the dusty dry midwest is a tad more unforgiveable ;) Too many Lords and Ladies is another one that bugs me. It's like everyone has to be nobility to get in the cast.

One of the problems is that it's tempting to use other historical novels as guides, making the issue cylical.

Great post!

Madelynne Ellis said...

60's fashion,eh? I just remember some of the relics in my dad's wardrobe when I was growing up. Let's see, the lime green, yellow, and navy blue paisley tie (I kid you not), which he apparently wore with a black shirt spotted with blue fruit - tasteful! I tell you what's quite good for 60's fashion, the music show Ready Steady Go, if you can get hold of it, cause it had a live audience. From what I remember most of the men were in single breasted suits, or v necked pullovers.

Kristina, yes, I'd forgotten about the lilies, and very cool to have a character who cares about historical accuracy.

Erastes, I don't think Standish is anything like George Eliot, but it's a good line. One of my favourite comments about A Gentleman's Wager was Pride and Prejudice with bumming!

The history of underwear book sounds interesting, I'll have to check it out. Can I also recommend Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh. Actually, I recommend all her books.

Deanna Ashford said...

In the chapter dated 1485-1625 strossers are mentioned. "Drawers corresponded to modern pants and were known as trousers or strossers."

Chapter dated 1626-1710 they talk of day shirts, half shirts(undershirts) and drawers. "Drawers are silk trunks, 13 inches long, cut full and square; they fastened with ribbons in front, have a small slit behind and are tied at the back. Alternatively there are also long drawers with stirrups - band which passed under the instep to prevent the garment from slipping up the leg."
Further quote "A paire of Longe Linnen Drawers to put under breeches was bought for 7s. for the Duke of Albemarle's effigy in 1670"

Hope this helps?

Erastes said...

Thanks Saskia and Hi!

I caught George Martin up with that too, he had a medieval style citadel of King’s Landing and part of it was built around a hill, and he said something like “when they emergered from the tunnel they found they had traveled at least 10 blocks underground”

Hmm. Unlikely there were blocks!

So it does happen to the best of us, and a few slips are, as you say, slips – but some books have far too much of it for forgiveness, particularly when it’s the putting too modern a mindset on the characters. Yes, there are mavericks but why do ALL of the heroines have to be modern wimmin! There were also mavericks who were demure ladies and did just as well.

I’ve read about cicadas in the Regency night, I promise you….

And yes. Lords and Ladies. Drives me BONKERS.

Oh - and DON'T GET ME STARTED ON HORSES BEING TREATED LIKE CARS and galloping for 20 miles....

yes - i have issues. that's why I'm here..

Erastes said...

Thanks Madelynne – I’ll have to introduce some colour into my boy’s wardrobe. The older man Ed mainly wear suits, bless him. And Vests! Oooo vests are so sexy.

OMG no, neither do I – and I never WILL be anything like Eliot, but it was flattering (and it was from a man, too, which was great) I love the bumming comment though, brilliant!

Thanks too for the recs *adds to enormous list of to be boughts…*

Erastes said...

Thank you Deanna – that’s wonderful! Not unlike what I picture – of course they don’t actually get DESCRIBED in the book, because they aren’t unusual, when Tobias strips David off, I think he’d only describe what he was seeing if David had a thong on or something.

*dies laughing*

It’s sad that most research doesn’t even get anywhere near the book.

unless you are Dan Brown – he very much gives you the impression “I researched this – damn you – and I’m going to tell you everything I know!”

Angelia Sparrow said...

Only work I've been doing lately is writing. My dispatcher is trying to find me a ride to Gary Indiana so I can get a new truck (as well as my effects from the old one).

So I have 2 10K stories to finish up. One set in India during the British Raj and one contemporary. But at least my futuristic truckers are done

I do a lot of SF conventions (and I get carded at every registration desk: no your real name). We showed the King Arthur trailer, which said "historically accurate" over Gwen's leather bikini. EVERY person in that room fell out of their chair laughing.

I'm learning more about sugar plantations and the War on the Barbary pirates and the War of 1812 and the Sepoy Revolt than I ever planned to know.

Alison Tyler said...

Out of curiosity, do you feel that anachronisms are more damning errors than the types of mistakes that appear in modern books? (An author stating that Closer to God was written by Nivana, say, instead of NIN.)

What makes these types of errors more problematical or disturbing than standard gaffs?

Erastes said...

*laughs* oh yes, Angelia – “more than I ever planned to know” so rings a bell – you should have SEEN the information I got about model trains – I posted one shy post “um what sort of train set would a 40 year old and a 17 year old have in 1960” on this train hobbyists group and I’m not kidding you I got about 40 HUGE answers. It was positively scary. And very confusing.

So I’ve toned down the train aspect. Specially as they said (despite the subject matter) that they would all like to read it, and that they were looking forward to being portrayed as sexy men, rather than,,, not. *chortles * So they’d rather be portrayed as sexually repressed in the closet gay men who fall in love with teenagers.

Yeah… right.

I like the sound of your Raj piece, that’s an era I hadn’t yet considered – like Madelynne I have too many project ideas! But OH! Those white white jodphurs…

Nikki Magennis said...

Alison - just riffing here...

It's about the fictive dream, isn't it? Suspension of disbelief? It's perfectly believable that someone would make an error like mixing up band names - but dropping a Rolex watch into a mediaeval film (look, I can't even spell mediaeval, sooo obviously out of my depth!) jerks us right out of the story and makes the whole thing look ridiculous.


Alison Tyler said...

I'm sure you're right, Nikki. I was just wondering.
(BTW, we published a book that had the error I mentioned, and we were besieged by musicians, fans, music store employees who told us how pissed they were. We fixed it in the reprint!)

Madelynne Ellis said...

Nikki, there's nothing wrong with your spelling!

I could understand the band thing if it was a deliberate character mistake, but I've read too many books/comics where please drive out of London and are in the middle of mountains within 5 minutes, or they drive through East Anglia on a motorway. Maybe I'm just too unforgiving in general.

Madelynne Ellis said...

I really need to check what I'm typing.

Portia Da Costa said...

I think I have that Cunnington book, Madelynne, plus several similar books on underwear history. Do you want me to bring it on Saturday?

Thinking on the fact that I have these books on historical costume... I *must* have wanted to write a historical at one time. Or maybe it was for the short stories I used to write...

ps. just checked. Definitely have it.

Erastes said...

Good Question Alison!

I think that a slip is forgiveable – such as I assumed I knew a fact in Standish, typed it in, didn’t bother to check it, it was wrong. *hides * There's another minor one word bodge that I DID know was wrong, but for some reason the edit I made wasn't there in the book - I've asked the publisher to change it, as it's a POD after all, not editions - but it would be too difficult, just to spare my blushes.

Same for the slips in modern books. Such as Tony Blair being in a year early or something, but if you base a whole section on an erroneous fact that should have been thoroughly researched, then that’s pretty unforgiveable.

I had the Arch de Triomphe in Standish, and based a large section of a chapter around it and my editor was dammning about it, saying it wasn’t built until so and so date, much later, so I had to go back, find my original research and state that my research showed that it WAS there, , started and small, and completely abandoned because of the anti-napoleon feeling in the world.

If I’d had it fully built that would have been rubbish and you could throw cabbages at me.

Erastes said...

Very good point Madelynne, when I do an American one, which I will when Fleury returns, (yay!) I will try and get the distances right - it's hard enough doing them here, at coach speed, specially.

You try trying to work out which train stations existed when once Beeching got his bloody mitts on the rail system

And yes! No Motorways here thank you! No bloody decent roads at all, in fact. And no direct train route from Norwich to King's Lynn!

*hates Beeching*

Madelynne Ellis said...

Oh, god! Coach speeds are a nightmare. I generally work on not very far a day and add a few for potholes, and the British weather.

One book I read recently had a message to from SW Scotland to Sussex, and then a coach come north with family and baggage in the space of 5 days in the middle of winter. Personally, I wasn't convinced.

I don't envy you the American research, modern day Egypt was bad enough. Will say that Lonely Planet guides are totally fantastic.

Incidentally, we used to have a poster in our toilet that detailed all the pre-British Rail, railway lines. It was quite fascinating.

Anonymous said...

This is sort of OT, but for werebooks I checked and doubled checked the dates of all the full moons.

(Erastes will know why!)

Madelynne Ellis said...

Yes, please. That would be lovely, Wendy.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Google isn't letting me use my blog password--Lee Rowan here. Great post!

I think of historical writing as happening in an AU to reality--we all know that many of Jack Aubrey's feats were actually performed by Cochrane, Pellew did not have a young gentleman named Hornblower aboard, etc. And in an AU, some things will be different--festivals at different times, fictional heroes winning battles instead of their historical counterparts--that kind of thing. To make language in an historical letter-perfect to the period would be damned near impossible--and unintelligible to most readers. I guess there's a certain cachet to having a book that's perfectly understood by only forty-three linguists, but the royalties would be pitiful.

I vote against lice whenever possible! That's a little easier with sailors--long voyages meant that nit-picking would eventually banish the little bastards .. at least until the next shore leave.

I don't even mind the rebellious females, particularly. I think any rational, halfway intelligent person would chafe at the restrictions of earlier eras. I don't mind a woman managing to get around some of them... within reason, and depending on the place and time. What drives me up the wall is the sheer number of 'unwomanly' misses who talk and think like their 20th century counterparts.

Which makes me think of Robin Hood. Aieee... BBC America is advertising it as "Star Wars dropped down in Sherwood Forest." What they don't say is that it's the second series of Star Wars, when Lucas abandoned plot and characterization in favor of hyperactive special effects. I can't even stand the 20th C slang in the promos, and I think Robin looks like he'd rather be out stealing hubcaps. Last ad I saw, the Merry Men had shurikens... I don't think so

Whoo, massage client here, back later.

Erastes said...

Pellew was REAL?????

You have (excuse the pun) taken the wind out of my sails, completely, Lee. Not having researched and staying well away from the Age of Sail I simply had no idea at all.


There are too many anoraks out there to trip you up, and you seem to have a depth of knowledge of the subject that staggers me - as you know.

I'd heard that Star Wars meets Robin Hood before, and the programmers were acting as if it was a GOOD thing. My two best online mateys refused to watch any more. It was a shame. I wanted SOMEONE to get to the episode where they had female saracen assassins in gauzy harem pants and yasmasks.

I also have a loathing of Uber Peasants. Those born-in-a-ditch heroines (Woman of Substance-itis) who learn everything effortlessly.

I guess the one major anachronism that fits in with your AU theme is that there are many things that a lot of people write about - so if all the people who were on the Titanic were lined up they would sink the boat 10 times over, or if all the people who were written about were REALLY at the Duchess of Richmond's ball they'd be squashed in like sardines! (Rafe would have liked that, I think)


Becky said...

Argh. Wish there was some way to respond to specific comments here. I miss LJ!

You know how I feel about accuracy. Even in fantasy, you need to research the elements that make up your fantasy world or it won't feel real to the reader. It's even more important in historical pieces. Otherwise, why bother.

Because I am an awful anorak, I have to point out that the article Dayle links to deals with helms that mostly predate the Viking age. The few Migration and Viking period helms in the article are artistic and religious, not archaeological, so if I was writing about that period, which I probably will some day, I'd steer clear of them completely.

Erastes said...

Thank you RW Day! You comments are appreciated because I know how hard you work to get your own stories right!

Jules Jones said...

Random remarks in no particular order:

"If you are writing a contemporary romance do you (unless it's a fantasy/sci-fi) twist the laws or physics?"

I shall smack you for that. Because you can't just twist the laws of physics willie-nillie in sf&f; you have to know what you're doing and why. People who do that in sf cross-genre romance without understanding what they're doing are every bit as annoying as the people who have their medieval English characters eating a pizza with a side order of chips, and for the same reason. Get it wrong, and to the people who can see it's wrong, it has the same effect as fingernails down a blackboard.

The point about ignoring the fleas and dirt because the *characters* would ignore the fleas and dirt is a good one. I'd actually find it a good deal more anachronistic to have the character constantly moaning about how awful it is to be trapped in a backwards age where one can't wash every day. Okay, it's not usually explicit as that, but you do sometimes get a feeling of the 20/21 century author intruding when it goes into "authentic" detail about how dirty it is compared to the present day, when the character has no particular reason to think about it.

There is no excuse for anyone with net access to not look stuff up. *Lots* of stuff. Doing a contemporary paranormal, I was looking up the details of the Listed Building scheme, current planning regulations for house wiring, septic tank systems, the social structure of dolphins in British waters (and a few other interesting details:->) and the geology of the Dorset coast, all from my desk in California.

Bending the details for the sake of the story, on the other hand -- there's a limit on what you can get away with, but if you know what you're doing and why, and it's for a good story reason such as the masque example that doesn't break the suspension of disbelief, I don't have a problem with it.

Alex said...

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but my ne plus ultra for teeth-clenching Yank anachronism &c is still the Regency romancer who uses the phrase 'Flaming tea-leaf' once per book (presumably because she's so proud of her grasp of British idiom) for what her characters also refer to as a 'pouf'.

My instant reaction was "should have used 'molly'", and that was what my friends said as well. Since we'd all identify as SF fans rather than historical buffs, we don't think it would have been that difficult for her to come up with something slightly less anachronistic. (headdesks)

Cheers, ("You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means...") Alex

Erastes said...

I am humbled.

I have written TWO sci-fi stories and haven't bothered about the maths or physics with either. They are space opera, and I know nothing about either maths or physics. Despite Heinlein being a God to me, he would consider me one of his anathemas, "Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best, he is a tolerable sub-human who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make a mess in the house."

One out of three for me then.

I agree completely with your point about fleas. But there's a difficulty, does one assume that the reader KNOWS how grubby the 17th century is? If David never mentions the fleas, which he wouldn't - if he was writing from his own perspective, is that ok? or will someone copy my no-flea book? it's difficult..

And again, yes. I've written ONE contemporary novella which was fanfic. Apart from all the fanfic details I looked up, I also did a HUGE amount of research in the contemporary world. Where is the Paris Hilton, what does it look like, are there any legends, are their tides in the Loire? etc etc etc. Even being in the UK doesn't mean I'm saved from checking details.

Thanks Jules, much appreciated!

Alex said...

Evil Collab points out that if erastes is reading this she might want to know that Alex W is the same entity as Pred'x, but I might also point out that she might have a less consuming interest in my shifting identities than I do. However, I am not now, nor have I ever been, Evil Collab's sock puppet. It's always worth getting that straight from the outset.

Anonymous said...

Captain Sir Edward Pellew, Viscount Exmouth, ma'am!

Not only was there a Pellew, the family is still around and there's a Pellew Museum in Cornwall. (I've seen Sir Ed's sword in the naval museum at Portsmouth--kind of eerie in a good way.) There used to be a site (currently inactive) that had the entire Pellew biography written by C Northcote Parkinson, a naval historian who also wrote the (fictitious) Life & Times of Horatio Hornblower. They really should make a film about Pellew--his real exploits wouldn't be believed. But he was a terrible nepotist--gave his kids too much help, too fast, and they weren't anywhere near as good.

Anorak? New term to me. And as far as the period--I've learned a little more than average but nothing near what somebody who's spent a week on a tall ship would know.

What bothers me in historicals, to get back to your theme, is when people don't realize that the mindset of earlier times was very different. Women were believed to have less intelligence and were supposed to suffer in childbirth because God said so--many people really believed that; they believed 'Red Indians' Australian Aborigines were less than human and it was all right to hunt them for sport, that Africans were descendents of Cain... there were 'freethinkers' who didn't accept the literal meaning of the ing James bible, but that was a pejorative, not the compliment I would take it for.

Hell, in the early days of steam trains and automobiles, there were those who believed a human would die if they went faster than 60 miles an hour.

Re: how much time it takes to get from point A to point B -- when I was in England some years ago, I was astonished at how long it took to traverse the distance between London and Portsmouth by car. It's difficult for Americans to realize the logistical differences in smaller countries with denser populations.

Just for grins--what's your "favorite" anachronism in the stories you've read?

Lee Rowan

Erastes said...

Hi Alex!

I have read one Heyer book in my life, and was utterly gobsmacked at the jargon. I didn't raise it in the main post because I'm NOT a Heyer expert. But I have read just about every "of the age" regency novel I have found and I've NEVER found any evidence of the jargon that goes on in The Black Sheep.

as far as I'm concerned I thought tea-leaf was a thief in rhyming slang.

I've a ton of text books to wade through, but will you know if i find it. I don't think i will!

Thank you so much for commenting, Alex.


Jules Jones said...

You certainly don't need to be a hardcore maths and physics geek to write space opera, and you *may* get away with making it up as you go along, but if you're not careful, you can do the equivalent of having Robin walking along Hadrian's wall. You need to at least think about what you're doing. E.g., the space opera series Alex and I write does not involve any calculations, but it does involve things like roughly mapping travel times onto present day transport as a rough guide to avoiding having one's heros taking an hour from Dover to Sherwood Forest via Hadrian's Wall and three days from one side the village to the other.

And then there's the example given by the incomparable Chris Boucher, script editor for Dr Who and Blake's 7, of the time he had to explain to someone who'd turned in a script that no, the villain could not just open a window on the shapeship and throw the weapon out of the window to get rid of it.

And no, being British doesn't save you from checking on the details. I have to run my stuff past Alex to make sure that my allegedly English characters are not speaking Norn Iron. I might sound RP in person, but there are a number of little giveaways in the grammar and vocabulary...

Deanna Ashford said...

Re cleanliness and fleas, lice etc it all depends on the times you are writing about and where the characters lived. For instance the Romans were quite fantical about bathing and cleanliness, even if they didn't have such a thing as soap. Most people in early medieval times might have been dirty and lice ridden, but the Christians who lived and ruled in Outremer (Their name for the Holy Land) for almost 100 years adopted Saracen customs, and bathed regularily. When not in armour they wore eastern style garments and often their wives were veiled. So any knight who had resided there for any time would most likely dislike the dirt and squalor of Europe.
Once again it is all down to research. You might think me insane but I find it so fascinating.
Wendy, if you get a moment can you let me have the names of the other books on underwear. Thanks

Madelynne Ellis said...

A tea-leaf is definitely a thief, and only a thief! Maybe the character is a thieving homosexual. Mind you poof, regardless of the spelling is dubious too if we're talking Regency. I think the earliest cited usage (according to Jonathon Green) is in a Old Bailey transcript from 1833.

I have never read any Heyer. I don't intend to at risk of being infected with her isms.

Going back to the fleas. Yes, I agree the characters are unlikely to warble on at length about them as they are so common, but you can set a lot of colour with a passing remark eg. maybe he's scratching cause one has given him a particularly vicious bite, or maybe they're catching the buggers just for something to do.

Jules Jones said...

Madelynne -- inclueing by the characters mentioning in passing stuff like having had a particularly nasty bite is the way it *should* be done, but all too often you get this great wodge of infodump, often of stuff the character wouldn't be thinking about.

Not just in historicals, either. It's a tricky business setting the scene, and it's all too tempting to explain stuff in detail in a way that ends up breaking the fourth wall. I run into it because I'm a Brit writing for an American publisher with a predominantly American readership.

Erastes said...

Thank you all for a great day! I promise that I will reply to any outstanding questions raised in the morning. If you want to chat further mail me on erastesdotcom@gmail.com

Thank you Lust Bites. You rock.

Dayle A. Dermatis said...

Re: "modern" anachronisms/mistakes. Yes, they bother me, too!

Re: the article about horned helmets. In truth, it was just the first one I found. I haven't done the research per se. I do historic re-creation with the SCA, and heard through the grapevine that recent research had shown they weren't completely off-base, so I thought I'd mention it. (I haven't seen Pathfinder, either, but I thought it was more of a fantasy historical rather than straight history.)

Speaking of which...all this discussion has made me very nervous about a Sophie Mouette book Teresa and I are planning. Shapeshifting Indian demigoddess/tiger in Victorian England. As we both do SCA, we don't know diddly about post-1600s anywhere. We're hoping to have a disclaimer along the lines of "This isn't real Victorian England. Don't persecute us for slight errors."

Language actually seems to be the hardest thing. We don't want it to sound like it was written back then--although, of course, we also don't want it to sound completely modern. There are times when the correct, period word actually sounds jarring to me, because it's so unusual.

But I'm sure we'll muddle through in the end... :-)

Erastes said...

Mopping up post!

Ah – but Jules. my space-boi series (well I say series, as there’s only two stories written about them so far, and only one sold) is in a galaxy of my own invention with no references as to how anything works or how far anything is from each other! It’s like gay Serenity. I admire anyone who does sci-fi seriously, Heinlein is my god, and has been since I was about 14, I think. I love the way he does an opera style and yet can still wibble on about logarithms for pages on end. I might dabble with my boys, but it will always only be character and plot based and no scientific yak. It would be awful to write something which was consequently mocked for being as stupid as walking from Dover to NottingHAM in one day.

And yes, I loathe infodumping, specially for no particular purpose other than to show that the non-english writer is showing that he/she’s done her research – there’s a book I read recently where the characters suddenly start waffling on about the War of the Roses, which pulled me out of the plot immediately.

I was lucky with my American publisher, they let me write Standish in English English and only once insisted I change a word, “bursary” which I didn’t really want to do, but you have to learn to lose some battles in order to win others, I suppose. I like to think that, as I always have done, if people don’t know a word they will either gather it from the context or look it up later.

Dayle – I don’t think you should worry about it too much, with weretiger goddesses it would be lovely to see it as a proper Victorian AU, much along the lines of Pullman’s AU Oxford in His Dark Materials, Victorian but with certain differences?

Lee I can’t believe that I didn’t realise Pellew was real, I assumed all of the Hornblower universe was made up. Stupid Erastes! Thank you for that –I’m assuming Cochrane was too, then.

Yes you’ve put your finger on what irritates me most intensely, the mindset. I actually don’t want to read stories about striding emancipated tomboy heroines, or poor relations who dare to think that they are as good as the people who are patronising them (look at Pip, Nicholas Nickleby, Smike) I understand that some people DO like this anachronism, that it’s all about escapism for me, but I don’t want that to be the only fare on offer.

As to my favourite anachronism? Hard to pin one down. I think I have to plump for a m/m book I read last year which was based just after the English Civil War and the hero used his father’s cavalry pistols to hold up coaches. It’s a borderline anachronism really – but it just irritates me – the whole scenario was more 18th Century than 17th. Plus the fact that the cover had a tricorn hat on the cover which made steam come out of my ears before I’d even read a word. It stays with me, I guess because I’d been steeped in the early 17th Cent for so many months and it just leapt out at me.

Nikki Magennis said...


I can't seem to comment on your blog, so I just wanted to say a massive thank you for sticking around all day yesterday, illuminating some of the darker corners of history, and being such a lovely guest! Merci, encore!


Kate Pearce said...

I'd like to second Nikki's thanks and mention in passing that if you were a man, I think I'd like to marry you-I'm sure Mr Kate Pearce would understand :)