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. ♥

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…

Too busy for a clever subject line

As I mentioned in my last post, I am currently in the middle of revisions for A Lily Among Thorns. And revisions means fact-checking and research! Here are some hilarious tidbits I’ve come across over the last few days:

1. “The piety of Hannah More was ‘practical piety,’ and to her must be assigned much of the distinction this kingdom derives from that all-glorious sentence now so often read in so many parts of it — a sentence that, beyond all others in our language, makes, as it ought to make, an Englishman proud —


AWWWWW. From S.C. Hall’s biography of Hannah More in his A Book of Memories of Great Men and Women of the Age from Personal Acquaintance, available here.

2. From the Wikipedia article on Cockney English:

‘Some of the features may derive from the upper-class pronunciation of late 18th century London, such as the use of “ain’t” for “isn’t” and the now lost reversal of “v” and “w” (as noted by Dickens regarding Sam Weller/Veller). This element of Cockney as parody is often underestimated, it dates to a time when Cockneys earned much of their income from the rich, who they then derided at home or in the pub.’

Ooh, neat! And here’s a related one:

3. I discovered a new possible explanation for the origin of the British curse word “bloody.” Now there are so many explanations that the real answer at this point is probably “no one knows,” but this one seems pretty plausible and I like it! I can’t remember where I first read about this, so if another author talked about it on their blog recently, I’m sorry for stealing! Let me know and I’ll credit you/them.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:

‘But perhaps it ultimately is connected with bloods in the slang sense of “rowdy young aristocrats” via expressions such as bloody drunk “as drunk as a blood.” [cf. “drunk as a lord,” which is common in Regency romances.] Partridge reports that it was “respectable” before c.1750, and it was used by Fielding and Swift, but heavily tabooed c.1750-c.1920, perhaps from imagined association with menstruation; Johnson calls it “very vulgar,” and OED first edition writes of it, “now constantly in the mouths of the lowest classes, but by respectable people considered ‘a horrid word’, on par with obscene or profane language.”‘

4. Also from the Online Etymology Dictionary: ‘To be figuratively on the fence “uncommitted” is from 1828, from the notion of spectators at a fight.’ Isn’t that great? It’s completely not the image I had created for myself, which related more to the idea of a fence as a boundary between two things.

And now back to work! Don’t forget to come visit me at the B&N forum!

Angry heroines, part 1/2

There’s been a really interesting conversation going around about “unlikeable” heroines. I think it started over at Dear Author, and just yesterday a great post by Tracy Grant went up at History Hoydens. There was a quote in that that got me thinking:

“But more seriously, I think it [why anti-heroines are so intriguing] is in large part that they often are characters who break rules and defy conventions. That’s part of the appeal of anti-heroes as well, but I think there’s something particularly interesting about women who defy conventions in an historical setting in which there are so many restrictions on a woman’s role.”

This conversation feels especially relevant to me because Serena, the heroine of my next book, Lily Among Thorns, could potentially be considered an “unlikeable heroine.” I like her a lot, of course, but she’s prickly and defensive and not always fair, because she’s had a hard life and been treated badly by a lot of people and she’s angry. It seems like fairly often, that’s what “unlikeable” boils down to–angry.

I’m a pretty angry person. I’m also a happy person, and I think a compassionate one, but the compassion is partly something I’ve worked on and developed because it’s important to me, not necessarily something that came naturally to me as a kid. My natural response to a lot of things is anger, and I’ve always felt guilty and ashamed of that, because girls aren’t supposed to be angry. Or at least, girls aren’t supposed to express anger. But there’s a William Blake poem my mom used to quote to me growing up:

“I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath; my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not; my wrath did grow.”

I’ve had this experience so many times–I’ll be angry at a friend of mine for something stupid, something little, but I won’t want to tell them for fear of being a bitch or hurting their feelings, I’ll think, “I shouldn’t care about this, I’ll just wait and it’ll pass.” Sometimes that works, but sometimes it doesn’t. When I was younger, I lost a couple of friendships that way, because I didn’t say anything and didn’t say anything until the anger turned into resentment and after a while, that was all I could feel about that person.

In recent years I’ve gotten better about bringing something up (as tactfully and kindly as I can figure out how to do!) if it continues to bother me after a few days, but it’s still hard for me. I’m still afraid to do it, and I still feel so guilty for wanting to, for being unable to simply close the door on my anger and make it go away.

But if you don’t express anger, it doesn’t magically go away. It grows until it consumes you. If you aren’t allowed to express it, well. So many unlikeable heroines, anti-heroines, and villainesses come down to that–they’re angry, and their anger has come, in some way, to define them.

That is Becky Sharp’s real crime, isn’t it? That she had a tough childhood, that no one ever protected her or took care of her, and her response to that is to put herself first, to become hard–in contrast to Amelia, who’s compared to a “flower that smells the sweeter for being crushed.”

Villainesses like Milady or Becky Sharp, it seems like, accept that they can’t openly express their anger, so they express it in disturbing, hidden ways, through manipulation, passive aggression, sugar-coated insults, lies, and in some cases, violence and murder. It’s not healthy or admirable, but I’ll admit to an instinctive sympathy. I like reading about it.

But what I love even more is the unlikeable heroine, because often she does express her anger. Like Tracy Grant says, she breaks the rules, defies convention, and accepts the consequences. She insists on being true to who she is, and not pretending to feel differently.

And what I love even more than that is the hero who responds to that, who genuinely respects and likes the heroine’s anger. Sure, it’s a transparent fantasy of love and acceptance, but isn’t that what romance novels are for sometimes?

Are you comfortable expressing anger? How do you feel about angry female characters? And do you have any flaws (or things that could be considered flaws, anyway) that you like to see mirrored in romance heroines?

(I’m working on Part 2 of this post right now, in the form of a list of my favorite angry heroines. I can’t wait to hear about yours!)

Edit: Part 2 is here.


“Rose Lerner’s LILY AMONG THORNS, in which a young woman innkeeper who has worked hard to bury her past finds herself facing the man who long ago helped her escape her life as a prostitute and is now turning to her for her help; she believes the biggest threat to her independence are the sparks that fly between them until disaster threatens and she finds they must work together to fight for their freedom and their lives, to Leah Hultenschmidt at Dorchester, for publication in January 2011, by Kevan Lyon at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (World).”

This was in Publisher’s Marketplace yesterday! Yes! I sold another book!

Pretty much all the details I have so far are in that announcement–I just got the call from Kevan on Tuesday and I think I might have burst her eardrum screaming into the phone–but I’ll keep you posted!