Amid the slave stalls of the Cannibal Ghost Women

I can’t remember if I mentioned that I would be in New York visiting family this week–anyway, my uncle, who knows me well, took me to a used bookstore. My purchases:

The Secret History of the South Sea Bubble: the World’s First Great Financial Scandal by Malcolm Balen, about an 18th-century share scheme/fraud and the cover-up.

The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, a Regency slang dictionary. I hear this one quoted all the time and have wanted it fora while without ever actually buying it, although I do have James Hardy Vaux’s Dictionary of the Flash Language, specifically about criminal cant, which I’m very fond of. Here are a couple of cool entries I’ve come across in my preliminary scanning:

HOB OR NOB. Will you hob or nob with me? a question formerly in fashion at polite tables, signifying a request or challenge to drink a glass of wine with the proposer: if the party challenged answered Nob, they were to chuse whether white or red. This foolish custom is said to have orginated in the days of good queen Bess, thus: when great chimnies were in fashion, there was at each corner of the hearth, or grate, a small elevated projection, called the hob; and behind it a seat. In winter time the beer was placed on the hob to warm: and the cold beer was set on a small table, said to have been called the nob; so that the question, Will you have hob or nob? seems only to have meant, Will you have warm or cold beer? i.e. beer from the hob, or beer from the nob.

TO COAX. To fondle, or wheedle. To coax a pair of stockings; to pull down the part soiled into the shoe, so as to give a dirty pair of stockings the appearance of clean ones. Coaxing is also used, instead of darning, to hide the holes about the ancles.

PUSHING SCHOOL. A fencing school; also a brothel.


And my final purchase: The Dragon in the Sword by Michael Moorcock (whose name should probably have stopped being hilarious to me a long time ago, but hasn’t, because I’m secretly 12). Here is the back cover copy:


Trapped by a timeless existence, doomed to fight forever, John Daker is the Eternal Champion. Boldly he ventures into spheres unknown to search for his lost love, the beautiful Ermizhad—and the key that will free him from his fate.

On a dark ship piloted by a blind captain…amid the slave stalls of the Cannibal Ghost Women…through the tunnels of doom and the planes of hope…the Eternal Champion must now confront the heart of evil itself—a man named Adolf Hitler


Wow. Just wow.

One a penny, two a penny

So, in A Lily Among Thorns there’s a scene where my heroine asks my hero to buy her a hot cross bun from a street vendor. She then gets frosting on her face, and he has to wipe it off.

Or, there WAS such a scene. My English friend Cat informs me that hot cross buns used to only be sold at Easter! …And that frosting is a mostly American word, hot cross buns are made with icing. …And that actually, the cross was not made of icing back in the day, but rather a water-flour mixture, and was cut into the top of the bun. Oops. There’s always something, isn’t there? So I was looking for possible replacement pastries, and discovered that sponge cakes were already quite popular in that time period:

Ladyfingers were generally called “Naples biscuits.”
A sponge cake baked in a mold was called a “Savoy cake”.

And then I found this, on Lesley Anne McLeod’s website:

“A tipsy cake was a favourite way of using up a stale Savoy cake. A mixture of wine and brandy was poured over the cake until it could drink no more. It was then studded with almonds and a custard was poured around the base, which was garnished with ratafias or macaroons.”

OM NOM NOM. I want to eat that RIGHT NOW. Plus it’s perfect for my scene. The picture on her site is pretty elaborate, but I’m sure there were less fancy ones made with smaller moulds. It probably couldn’t be sold from a cart or basket like a hot cross bun, but there’s no reason it couldn’t be sold from a stall!

There was also a version called a “Tipsy Hedgehog” where the cake was shaped to look like a hedgehog and then a big spoonful of jam was put in front of its mouth to look like it was eating…

New contest!

This month I am giving away two signed books (it’s a package deal, if you win you get them both)!

Last weekend I went up to the San Juan Islands to visit a friend, and while I was there I got to see my friend Gayle! And in honor of the general awesomeness of summer, the San Juans, and friendship, the first book is a signed copy of her amazing futuristic/dystopian romance, Tsunami Blue. Here’s the back cover copy:


With her badass rain boots, her faithful dog, and the ability to predict the monster tsunamis that have reduced the US to a series of islands, Kathryn O’Malley isn’t afraid of much. Cut off from all society, she takes to the airwaves as Tsunami Blue, hoping to save something of humanity as the world around her crumbles. But Blue should be afraid—because her message reaches the wrong ears.

Now she’s the target of ruthless pirates known as Runners who want to use her special talents for their own profiteering—as soon as they can find her. Blue’s only shot at survival lies with the naked stranger who washes up on her rocky beach. A man who might just be working for Runners himself. Torn between suspicion and attraction, the two will have to navigate a surging tide of danger and deceit if they hope to stay alive.

And here’s my GoodReads review:

“I freaking loved this book! Full disclosure: Gayle is a friend of mine. But wow this book was awesome. I loved the world she created and all the cool little details she put into it–it’s not a place I’d ever like to go personally (too dangerous! I’m a wuss) but I can’t WAIT to read more books about it. And I loved the heroine SO MUCH. She was incredibly badassed and vulnerable and tough and she and Gabriel were truly partners–he was never her white knight. I loved that her DOG was trying to get her to stop swearing. Also, I cried about four times. Gayle can really bring the heartwrenching feelings of loss. And then I cried again when happy things happened later. So READ THIS BOOK AND BRING TISSUES TO DO IT, I guess is the message of this review.”

…My reviewing style is a little incoherent, but you get the idea.

The second book is a signed copy of the amazing Stella Cameron’s second Court of Angels book, Out of Mind. I haven’t read this one yet, but I’ve heard good things! Here’s the back cover copy:

Her uncanny sight reveals abuse and damage suppressed deep within—little wonder she’d rather close her eyes. Willow Millet longs to deny her family’s exceptional gifts—paranormal talents known to few, shared by even fewer. Benedict Fortune is one such—a connection that should have strengthened the undeniable bond between him and Willow. But her self-doubt has driven them apart.

Married instead to her business, Willow’s concierge we-can-do-anything service is thriving until it is hit by a string of bizarre and fatal accidents—every victim a client. Now her livelihood depends on two enigmatic socialites and their notoriously decadent parties. In this anything-goes atmosphere, Willow and Ben are thrown together again and their need for each other is as strong as ever, but they are challenged at every turn…

For dark forces are staking Willow—coveting her gift as a means of cheating death…and ruling New Orleans forever.

Enter to win this awesome prize here at my website.

Let's see Paul Allen's card.

My friend Cecilia got her new business cards! Aren’t they fantastic? I would be insanely, murderously jealous like in that scene from American Psycho (it won’t let me embed, sorry!) if my own fantastic business cards, designed by Gwen, had not arrived yesterday!

(I remain murderously jealous of Cecy’s photography skills; alas, my camera is not great and my ability to hold my hands steady is worse.)

I even have a silver card-case around somewhere given to me by my uncle. I’ll have to dig it up for conferences.

In other news, today I was looking up “fairy” in the OED to figure out if a different spelling was standard in the Regency, when I came across the first quote for “fairy” as a slang term for a homosexual man:

1895 Amer. Jrnl. Psychol. VII. 216 This coincides with what is known of the peculiar societies of inverts. Coffee-clatches, where the members dress themselves with aprons, etc., and knit, gossip and crotchet; balls, where men adopt the ladies’ evening dress, are well known in Europe. ‘The Fairies’ of New York are said to be a similar secret organization.”

1. Was this really relevant to the American Journal of Psychology?

2. Cross-dressing coffee-clatches! It sounds so boring and like so much fun at the same time. (No offense to my friends who like to knit and crochet—it’s just not my thing.)

3. Now I want an action movie called “The Fairies of New York.” It would be about a secret organization of sexy cross-dressing spies at the turn of the century.

This is not the post you're looking for

I should be actually posting soon–I got my business cards and A Lily Among Thorns bookmarks in the mail today, Gwen and I went to see the new Robin Hood movie, and I have a fabulous signed book to give away–but in the meantime here are two things I found hilarious while reading the first twenty pages or so of Lactilla, Milkwoman of Clifton: the Life and Writings of Ann Yearsley, 1753-1806 by Mary Waldron:

1. Someone wrote a scathing critique of Hannah More’s writing under the pen name the Revd. Sir Archibald MacSarcasm, Bart. OMG GENIUS.

2. In a footnote to a passage beginning, “Johnson thought of the imagination as that power of the mind to evoke what is not ‘really’ there and consequently as a potential threat to stability and order,” Waldron cites an article entitled “Some Limits in Johnson’s Literary Criticism.” I’m not sure I can really explain why this struck me as so funny. It just…I immediately pictured the author of the article making a list of possible titles, as so:

“Dr. Johnson Was Kind of an Asshole You Guys”
“I Kind of Think Johnson’s Literary Criticism Is Crap”
“No Seriously He Thought that ‘Imagination’ Was a Threat to the Social Order”
“He Said It Worked Against Morality and Religion”
“Also Did You Hear that Thing He Said about Women Preachers Being Like a Dog Walking on its Hind Legs”

“Dr. Johnson’s Thoughts on Books: An Epic Debunking”

Hmm, better, but not quite there yet, he thinks.

“Hester Phrale Should Probably Have Poisoned His Food”

No, no! You have to sound like a professional!

“Some Limits in Johnson’s Literary Criticism”

Ah, yes, perfect.

Of course I haven’t read the article, nor do I know a thing about the author or his feelings about Johnson. But this is what I will IMAGINE using my powers of IMAGINING things which are not “REALLY” there! Take that, Dr. Johnson!

A certain little attendant demon or sprite

I went to Third Place Books a couple of days ago to pick up one of my birthday presents to myself—a shiny copy of Homes of Family Names in Great Britain by Henry Brougham Guppy, printed on their book machine!

It’s basically a list he collected of English last names in all the different counties, and I wanted it for naming characters. Here are the first two paragraphs of the Preface:

“Most books have a history attached to their inception, and, although strongly tempted to inform my readers as to how I came to write this work, I prefer to follow the advice of a certain little attendant demon or sprite, call him what you will, that hangs, metaphorically speaking, to my coat-tails, and brings me up sharply with a prohibitive pull. It will be enough for the author to crave the generous judgment of his readers, and there are few men in this world on whom kindly appreciation and a little timely encouragement are altogether thrown away.

When, some thirteen years ago, whilst a young naval surgeon, I measured the water discharged of the Yang’tse, one of the largest rivers of the world, I little thought that it would be my future lot to be intimately concerned with problems of such widely different natures as the origin of coral islands and the distribution of names in Great Britain. The first of these problems I hope still to work at for many years to come, and particularly because in this matter English geologists have abandoned the safe road of observation and research for the doubtful track of airy speculation under the shadow of a name. A solution of the second complicated problem I now present to my readers, and I await their verdict with no inconsiderable anxiety. Their approval will encourage me in another work of a very different character, on which I am at present engaged, namely, on the homes of the oceanic races of men; but for the prosecution of this and my other works means are necessary, and, failing other aid, I appeal in these pages to the English people.”

WHOA. That’s a huge mess of rhetorical flourishes and professional politics right there. Also, I’d LIKE to pretend that he was doing research on the great cities of the merpeople, but I suspect (and superficial googling appears to confirm) that “oceanic races” is part of the Victorian racial classifications and means, like, Polynesian or something.

And in fact, reading the rest of the preface, the point of the book appears to be in large part to pin down racial differences within Britain. It gets creepier and creepier the more I read: he mentions that “if some disinterested person were to make a study of the distribution of family names in Ireland on the lines adopted in this work, he would provide the legislature with information of practical value,” and follows that up with this gem: “in truth the vexed question of Alsace and Lorraine might be more easily settled by a study of the family nomenclature than by the manufacture of smokeless powder.” Because of course the most relevant question in that dispute was whether the people who lived there had more DNA in common with the French or the German. You have to love those white male Victorians scientists.

Anyway, while I was at the bookstore, I decided to just take a look around…and ended up with:

1. Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley. (I adored The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie, the first book in the series.)

2. Ancient Whispers by Marie-Claude Bourque. (Marie-Claude is my friend and this book sounds fantastic!)

3. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs. (I loved the first two books in this series. Mercy is such a fabulous heroine!)

4. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher. (The Dresden Files #11, I think–I’ve been reading this series for years and adore it, and when I realized I’d somehow gotten two books behind, I had to do something right away!)

What’s the last book you bought on impulse?

A chip off the old family iceblock

Had a lovely geeky bonding moment with my co-worker today. We were talking about the Declaration of Independence, as you do, and then 1776: the Musical, which he wants me to see, and John and Abigail Adams, and that reminded me of something in my high school American history textbook, which I loved.

ME: It was really dramatic and it always gave everyone’s heights.
CO-WORKER: That’s hilarious.
ME: Like it said, “John Quincy Adams was 5’9″ and a chip off the old family iceblock.” [Disclaimer: I made up that height. It is probably wrong.]
CO-WORKER: Wait a minute. I had that same textbook!

Awesome! We agreed that it also had really good pictures to go with everything. (Another favorite turn of phrase was something like, “this poured holy oil on the flames of conflict.”)

In other news, my critique partner Susanna Fraser (the Kindle edition of whose book is now available for pre-order), has unveiled her placeholder website. Or rather, her husband has. I died laughing when I saw it. It is ADORABLE. It starts, “Susanna Fraser is an author based in Seattle. She goaded her husband into making this website for her, even though he is busy and preoccupied. This site is a demonstration of why you never hire family to design your website for you,” and goes from there…


So, tomorrow is July 4th. The anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress.

Here’s the second paragraph:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. “

If my research has taught me anything, it’s that in 1776, these truths were anything but self-evident. “All men are created equal,” governments “deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”—in England at this time period that was radicalism. “Democracy” was a dirty word to many. And I’m really, really proud to be part of a country that started out from that point. (Well, started out from that point in theory, at least.)

And now for something a little sillier (but that totally makes me cry—I’m a sap, I admit it!): Captain Kirk reading the Preamble to the Constitution.

Drinking strong beer with the freeholders

Doing some research about women in 18th-century elections, and came across two fabulous quotes. The first one is from a letter between two politicians during the 1754 parliamentary elections; the woman in question’s husband is involved in two separate elections in different towns in Dorset and she’s helping with his campaign:

“Mrs. Pitt tells me she has been a buck-hunting three days in the week at five o’clock in the morning, and drinking strong beer with the freeholders at that hour, to convince them she is an Englishwoman. She returns to-morrow to assist her worst half at the meeting of the seventh at Dorchester.”

And a commentary from before the same election, from Jackson’s Oxford Journal, about Lady Susan Keck, an important political hostess:

“I am far from thinking that the Ladies are unconcern’d in our Members [i.e. members of parliament/parliamentary affairs], or that they should sit primm’d with their hands passively before ’em, and their Mouths drawn up like the Purse of an old Usurer, whilst we are engaged in this important Business; but then neither would I have them swagger amongst the Men, and Holla, and roar, and fill out Bumpers with an Air more becoming Colonel Bully than Lady Dainty. Much less would I have Ladies of Distinction, out of an intemperate Zeal for their Country, send away from their Houses, not only Men, but even Persons of their own Sex, so disguised with Liquor as to merit the Stocks as an Example.”