Peru Poser: Humour or Porn?

I said that Joanna’s blog last week reminded me of an encounter of my own with a Secret Room in a Museum and some unusual cultural artefacts – in fact it turned out to be a Peru Poser: Humour or Porn?

Peru Aunt Lucy“Peru?” I hear you cry. “Home of Machu Picchu, the Inca Empire and Paddington Bear’s Aunt Lucy? That Peru?”

Yes. That Peru.

“Well strike me pink with gold knobs on. What on earth was the woman doing there?”

Um – would you believe work? Also expanding my experience of other cultures and seeing the world. Continue reading

When is it Art and when is it Porn? The Pompeii Poser

Warning: this blog contains images of full-frontal female and male nudity; if you are likely to be offended by those images, please do not read on.

On a recent TV programme on BBC4, Andrew Graham-Dixon mentioned (just in passing) that, in the nineteenth century, it was illegal for a woman to pose in the nude for a male artist. Really? Didn’t anyone tell Ingres?

Ingres: Odalisque with a Slave (1839)

Ingres: Odalisque with a Slave (1839)

Graham-Dixon was showing TV viewers nude paintings of ordinary Danish women. He said they would have created a scandal if they had been shown in public. So it was OK to put nude figures into classical poses, but not into modern-day, realistic ones?
Ingres’ Odalisque or Botticelli’s Birth of Venus was art but a Danish working woman was not? Continue reading

Royal Wedding to Come and Others I Have Known…

Royal Wedding April 2011I remember watching the last Royal Wedding on television (well, bits of it) in April 2011. To be honest, I was surprised at how moved I was.

There is something heroic about that promise, “Until Death us do Part.” Especially so, when the two people making it have actually chosen each other.

Royal Wedding 1922After all, in the past, many royal weddings took place between people who were not much more than pieces on someone else’s chess board.

In 1922 my grandmother went to see the procession for the wedding of the Queen’s aunt to Viscount Lascelles. She came home, shocked, and told her sister that the young princess’s eyes were red with crying. Princess Mary was 24, her bridegroom 39. He looks grim in the wedding photograph. Continue reading

Empathy with characters: good AND evil? glad OR gory?

Empathy with characters:
what is it and who has it?

Empathy? Roughly, it’s feeling what another person is feeling, from their point of view. Even if that other person is fictional.
So readers may identify with the heroine in a romance, or with the spy in a thriller, or with the detective in a crime story.

Writing Regency romances, my aim was always that my [mostly female] readers would identify with my heroine and fall in love with my hero.

But readers don’t all react in the same way to our characters and our plots. And I’m beginning to wonder if age is one important factor in that. Continue reading

Subtext and Space Between the Words

Roman Holiday subtextI’m intrigued by subtext and, in particular, the space between the words in a novel. 

Yet perhaps the most perfect example of this is not in a novel at all, but in a movie. It’s the little miracle that is Roman Holiday, starring a luminous Audrey Hepburn as a stifled princess. Gorgeous Gregory Peck plays against type as a distinctly dodgy expat newspaperman. They don’t have a Happy Ever After ending, either. Yet its perfect, mostly because of that extra layer of meaning.

Why Subtext in Roman Holiday is Interesting for Novelists

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RIP writer Sara Craven, our friend Annie Ashurst


autumnal path at Westonbirt, RIP Annie AshurstIt is with great sadness that we mark the passing of our very dear friend, Annie Ashurst,
who, as Sara Craven, was a worldwide bestseller and beloved by thousands of fans.
Annie will be much missed by her many friends in the RNA and elsewhere, for her wit,
her brilliant mind (she won Mastermind) and for the kindness and support she offered to so many. She was also, of course, a terrific writer from whom we all learned.
RIP dear Annie

Halloween imports we could do without? A Damely rant

fireworks for halloween and bonfire night

Bonfire night and Halloween will be over by the time you read this. [And yes, I do know that the proper spelling is Hallowe’en, but the internet doesn’t cope well with apostrophes, so I’ve had to use the non-apostrophe spelling variant.]

Bonfire night, for all its somewhat gory associations, is at least a British tradition.

But Halloween? That Trick Or Treat abomination that seems to be everywhere? Rant time. 
halloween, trick or treater

By Don Scarborough (family photo) CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

A classic American Trick-or-Treater. Note that huge bag for the haul of goodies. Continue reading

Writing for a Reader – a personal journey of discovery

Writing for a ReaderWriting for a reader is how I finished my very first book. That probably sounds strange, after my heartfelt blog about writing for one’s own inner reader. But the truth is that, although I’d been writing all my life, the very first book I finished was written for a particular reader.

And the key word here is FINISHED.

My First Time Writing for a Reader

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A Highland Regiment has History, with Added Badger

highland dancing as practised by regimentsIf asked to name a Highland Regiment, many people would think of The Black Watch, though it’s by no means the oldest; that title belongs to The Royal Scots.  But Sophie’s recent post about the reel of the 51st (Highland) Division reminded me of two other famous regiments that we have come to know by the amalgamated title of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

There were originally two separate regiments: the 91st (Argyllshire) Regiment, raised in 1794 by the Duke of Argyll; and the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment raised by the Countess of Sutherland in 1799.

Raised? What did that entail? How much choice did recruits have? Continue reading

Busy Week at Casa Liberta, Workshop and Wilde

busy weekWe’ve had an exceptionally busy week at Casa Libertà.

Joanna had serious train travel and a full diary, while still reluctantly convalescent. Sophie had much writing – blogging, a magazine article and catching up with belated Amazon reviews of recently-read books – together with a trip to see Wilde’s A Woman of No Importance. 

Above all, we were running up to part two of our Sparkle editing workshop, otherwise known as Bling it Up. So we spent Friday on a full day’s dress rehearsal before Saturday when the curtain went up. Continue reading