Guest post from Susanna Fraser: Team Wellington vs. Team Napoleon

Susanna Fraser is a new author of historical romance learning the publishing world while juggling a day job and a family. Her first novel, The Sergeant’s Lady, was released August 23rd from Carina Press. She’s my critique partner, and I can tell you firsthand that her book is fantastic. Plus, look at this sweet cover:

Thank you for inviting me to be a guest on your blog! Today I decided to skip the usual discussion of how I became a writer, what inspired The Sergeant’s Lady in particular, and so on, and talk about an unexpected side effect of historical research.

You get crushes on dead guys.

Or, I do, at least. It’s sort of like actor/character crushes, only instead of Team Edward and Team Jacob, you get, say, Team Napoleon and Team Wellington. And I’m on Team Wellington. In a big way. He isn’t the only man of the era I admire–I wouldn’t kick Michel Ney out of bed for eating crackers, f’rex–but Wellington is on top of my time travel Free Pass List.

When I started researching the British Army of the Napoleonic Era, I was predisposed to dislike Wellington. I’d picked up a vague impression that he was a cold, heartless elitist. But when I actually met the man on the pages of history, I discovered that he was a level-headed, reserved man in a world that favored the expansive and emotional, that he worried more about seeing that his soldiers’ needs were met than making himself loved…and that he was totally an elitist. I could never agree with his politics, and I can’t even wrap my common American brain around his views on class.

But still. Six months or so into my research, I read some anecdote where Wellington was waxing snarky on some underling–I think it was the one where a commissary officer complained that one of the divisional generals had threatened to have him hanged if he was late with the rations again, and Wellington coolly responded something to the effect of, “Then I should be on time tomorrow if I were you. Picton is a man of his word.” I thought, “Dang, but I like that elitist Tory sumbitch.”

And the next time I encountered his portrait–it may have been this one–I thought, “And he was kinda hot, too. Actually, not even kinda. Just hot.” Something about the long nose, intense eyes, and general air of confidence and competence is hella sexy to me even when it’s an oil painting of a man of my great-great-great-great-grandfather’s generation. He wasn’t unusually tall, but he was long and lean in a way that the men’s clothes of the era totally flattered. And he’s on a horse. The Old Spice Guy is totally right about the hotness of that.

Would Wellington have liked me, though? Well, he seemed to like his women friends, platonic and otherwise, to be intelligent and politically savvy, and I like to think I’m both. On the other hand, no amount of admiring his hotness, snark, and brilliance as a general could ever make me agree with his politics–I mean, come on! He opposed the Reform Act of 1832! Talk about being on the wrong side of history!–and I don’t get the sense being disagreed with was one of his turn-ons. So even if the TARDIS shows up on my doorstep tomorrow and the Doctor offers me a trip to 1812 or so, I doubt my husband needs to worry about my fidelity too much. (Unless it’s the Ninth Doctor, yum…just kidding, dear!)

Tell me your favorite historical crush, or how crazy you find the concept of having the hots for a dead guy. One commenter wins a free download of The Sergeant’s Lady, a book I’m sure Wellington would’ve disapproved of for its cross-class love story…though he did read the romance novels of his day. On a voyage back to England from India in 1805, his reading list included novels with the suggestive titles Illicit Love, Lessons for Lovers, Fashionable Involvements, Filial Indiscretion or the Female Chevalier, and Love at First Sight. There’s a mental image for you…the future victor of Waterloo lounging in his cabin with a love story.

I have to admit, Susanna’s Wellington crush has totally rubbed off on me. Yeah, I’d hit that. Of course, I’ve always been a sucker for a big nose. I have to disagree with her about the Doctor though–it’s Eleven all the way for me.

You can buy The Sergeant’s Lady here. Plus, Susanna will be giving away a free download of the book to one commenter on this post!

So comment away: tell us about your top historical crush, whether you’re on Team Wellington or Team Napoleon, or who your favorite Time Lord is!

Updates on various things

Hey all, I seem to have injured one of my wrists a bit so I’m trying to cut back on my computer usage for the next few weeks. This means I won’t be posting to my blog as often or replying to e-mail or comments as promptly as usual, and I’ll probably be absent from Twitter and Facebook almost entirely. Thanks for your patience! I promise I’ll be back as soon as possible!

I’ll be posting to Favorite Thing EVER on Tuesdays as scheduled, and don’t forget, Susanna Fraser is guest blogging here on Wednesday! And of course the In for a Penny short story will go up September 1st as scheduled.

Update on Dorchester (my publisher): I’m sure some of you have heard that my editor Leah Hultenschmidt was laid off last week. The book is in copyedits already, and I’ve been told this won’t affect the publication timeline. I’ll keep you posted as I hear more.

On a personal note, I’ll miss Leah a lot. She’s a fabulous editor and a wonderful person. It sucks that this happened to her, but I’m excited to see what she does next. ♥

New contest, Favorite Thing EVER, and a rant

This month I am giving away a signed copy of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair! Check it out! I love that book a LOT, and the series just keeps getting better.

Promo photo of Thursday with her car

I just started his new book Shades of Gray, too.

I also made my second post over at Favorite Thing EVER, on The Online Etymology Dictionary. I also talk about Regency words for blowjob and how I CAN’T FIND ANY GOOD ONES.

I am reading a biography of Ann Yearsley, the working-class poet “discovered” by Hannah More: Lactilla, Milkwoman of Clifton by Mary Waldron. I’m really enjoying it; the author has the perfect mixture of affection and humorous clearsightedness about her subject and it’s got lots of great information about smalltown life in late 18th century England. But it just said this:

Few even of the agitators for political reform or supporters of the American revolutionaries would have contemplated doing without their servants. Most people–even, it must be said, many of the poor themselves–would have agreed with Bernard Mandeville, writing in 1723 about the charity school movement, which had begun in 1699: “Going to School in comparison to Working is Idleness, and the longer Boys continue in this easy sort of Life, the more unfit they’ll be for downright Labor, both as to Strength and Inclination. Men who are to remain and end their Days in a Laborious, Tiresome and Painful Station of Life, the sooner they are put upon it at first, the more patiently they’ll submit to it for ever after.”

I just don’t think that’s a fair transition. I agree completely that very few people (maybe no one) were free of class prejudice in Georgian England. (But then, the same is probably true of modern America.) But unless you’re going to get argue we should get rid of social class altogether and redistribute the wealth, which this author doesn’t seem to be doing, saying that having servants was unprogressive seems to me to completely ignore the reality of 18th (and 19th) century life.

1. They didn’t have vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, washing machines, microwaves, sewing machines, central heating, food processors, electric lighting, or much in the way of processed/prepared food. Very, very few people had any kind of indoor plumbing.

Chardin's 'The Laundress'

Maintaining even a small middle-class family home was a full-time job for more than one person. Doing without servants entirely would have meant turning the women of the household into unpaid drudges who worked every minute they weren’t sleeping and slept five hours a night. How progressive!

Even women who had servants spent huge amounts of time in household chores. Even the Lucas girls in Pride and Prejudice (a VERY upper-middle-class home, with presumably more servants than most) helped in the kitchen (or so Mrs. Bennet says with some degree of plausibility, even if she’s being catty).

2. Domestic service was a huge part of the economy. Not employing servants meant depriving working-class people of jobs without, as far as I can see, empowering them in the slightest.

3. There’s no connection between employing servants or not and supporting mass education or not. Servants can go to school as children just like anyone else.

Anyway. Sorry, awesome biography author! I do love your book.

YA appreciation, part 2/2

And now, some YA I love so much I still have it on my shelves (or in the case of the last one, “bought the day it came out, fairly recently, and is NOT on my shelf as I have loaned it to a co-worker, but WHATEVER IT COUNTS”):

1. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. An Elizabethan-set retelling of Tam Lin with a no-nonsense heroine, scary but compelling fairies, and a guilt-ridden hero she has to save from paying the fairies’ tithe with his own life.

2. The Gawgon and the Boy by Lloyd Alexander. My favorite of his books (although I love the Westmark books too, and I adore the Vesper Holly series), probably because it feels the most personal. It’s about a boy who is recuperating from a serious illness and has to be tutored by his intimidating elderly relative, a woman who turns out to be awesome and teaches him all kinds of cool stuff.

I think what I love best about this book, though, is that the main character writes Mary Sue fanfiction, among them an on-going Sabatini pastiche called “The Sea-Fox” (his imaginary girlfriend, of course, goes by “the Sea-Vixen”):

“You idiot,” she said, “why did you kick down my door? It was unlatched; I was waiting for you. At least,” she added, “you could have knocked.”

The Sea-Fox nodded acceptance of this gentle reproof. He pointed at the town below, where his loyal crew were guzzling ginger ale and stuffing themselves with mangoes. “Kingston is mine. And yours,” he said.

3. The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death by Daniel Pinkwater. About two high-school boys who sneak out of the house at night to go to midnight old-movie showings, and end up fighting a mad scientist. This book was my lifeline through large parts of high school because it captures with such brilliant parody just how crazy families and high school teachers can be. I used to laugh uncontrollably through the entire first chapter. It’s still pretty damn funny.

4. The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan. Here’s what I wrote in my Goodreads review: “I adored this! Funny, absorbing, touching story about what it means to love someone, what it means to be a family, oh and also teenagers fighting magicians and demons with knives and guns and one-liners. I cried in the happy way at the end. It’s been a while since I read a story that grabbed me so much I wanted to read it over again as soon as I finished it.” I’ve been following the author’s blog since long before she was published, and she is just a generally awesome and funny person. I would probably read her grocery lists, if she wanted to publish them.

And just to cap it off, a favorite blog: What Claudia Wore, devoted to the fashion of the Baby-Sitters’ Club.

What’s your favorite YA book/series?

YA appreciation, part 1/2

One of my favorite book blogs, the Book Smugglers, are having YA (young adult lit) appreciation month right now, and they have set aside today for other bloggers to talk about YA.

I love YA books. I loved them when I was younger than the target audience, I loved them all through middle school and high school, and I continued to love them right up to now. It’s hard for me to pin down exactly what makes YA so magical, but I think part of it is that the majority of it is written by people who aren’t in the target audience.

Caveat: Of course, this doesn’t mean that, say, black literature would be better if it was all written by white people. But all adults have been young adults at some point in their life, so it’s different. And of course, sometimes this results in really awful books. We’ve all picked up a YA book and thought…Has this author ever met a high school student? And there have been fantastic YA stories written by young adults, which bring something unique to the table.

But for a lot of adult-written YA, it means the author is thinking very carefully about her audience while writing.

For me, writing is about storytelling. And that means telling a story to someone. The readers are just as important to the process as I am, and the experience of reading the book is something we create together.

For some reason (I blame the Romantic movement), a lot of people have this idea about art as something that the genius creator does all by himself (yes, in this version the creator is usually a “he”), and then he lets other people see it. They are supposed to passively appreciate his vision in the manner it was intended.

Joss Whedon’s “I give my viewers what they need, not what they want,” is a classic example. We won’t get into my issues with Joss Whedon, but suffice it to say, my goal is the give my readers what they want.

It’s like making a chair. If I’m a furniture maker, and I spend twenty hours making a beautiful chair, and then someone else spends twenty hours sitting in it, it doesn’t really matter how much passion and joy and genius I put into the woodwork if they aren’t comfortable in it, and I can’t tell them, no, you really are comfortable, if they’re not. They know best about that. Together, we created the experience of that chair.

I think YA authors, because they are so conscious that they are writing for someone else, get that more often than other writers.

Stay tuned: tomorrow I’ll post about a few amazing YA books that are on my shelves right now.

I'll have Gisborne excommunicated!

Hey everyone, just wanted to let you know that I’ve joined the blogging team at Favorite Thing Ever! (It’s…well, it’s NOT a review site, because we ONLY talk about things we love. Have you noticed I like talking about things I love? This is SO the site for me. Tagline: “Hope you like gushing, because we’re about to embarrass ourselves.” ♥ Anyway, it was started by a couple of my friends, one of whom wrote a sweet Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book about a pink stuffed bunny fighting the Zombie Apocalypse, and I was lucky enough to get asked to contribute!)

My first post is on the 80s BBC series “Robin of Sherwood”, which you all told me to watch way back in March! Well, I listened (generously enabled by Gwen and her Apartment of Snacks) and I have gushed! I really really love that show you guys. You should read my post, there’s a clip of the Sheriff of Nottingham saying “A ferret! That’s brilliant!” (Me and Gwen now say this to each other fairly frequently…I am still a little disappointed that the Sheriff didn’t send a literal army of ferrets to attack Robin’s camp.)

Important Update

News for this weekend:

1. This is the big one: some of you have probably already heard this, but the news was released on Friday that Dorchester, my publisher, is making major changes. Don’t completely trust the article, though: my understanding is that they are shifting to a focus on e-books and trade paperbacks (the larger format you see literary fiction in), but that while the transition is happening, they will be doing e-books first with the paperback following 6-8 months later.

What I believe this means for A Lily Among Thorns is that the e-book will be available in January as scheduled but the trade paperback won’t be released until June. I will let you know as soon as I have more definite information–my poor editor has a lot on her plate right now so it may be a few days!

2. Since I am apparently going to be an e-author, I finally gave in and signed up for Twitter and Facebook! My twitter is here:

And my facebook is here:

Friend me and I will friend you back? Or, er, “follow” you, as the kids say on Twitter. Also, okay, this is embarrassing as I am technically a Young Person (well, I’m 28), but I find myself utterly mystified by Facebook. Any insights you have into what I am supposed to do with it would be much appreciated!