Author Archives: Joanna

Earwigging : because writers do

Times are difficult, scary even, for all of us — especially the older or vulnerable ones — so I thought I’d add a bit of light-hearted distraction. To wit: earwigging.

I do it. Don’t you?
Doesn’t everybody?
Especially authors…

An Earwigging tale

Goblin Court typical English villageI was in a pub, on my own, having a quiet meal. There were four elderly gents — nattily dressed, clearly ex-military — sitting across the way, drinking various beverages and gossiping. They were not trying to keep their voices down, though they must have known other drinkers could hear every word.

One of them was even louder than the others, very keen to be heard. All The Time. And even when the others were trying to hold a conversation about something else.

Must admit that I took agin Mr Loudmouth.

Anyway, Mr Loudmouth told a joke that he had (he said) told at the wedding of one of his three daughters. It was an OK joke. The other three gents laughed dutifully. I wasn’t convinced they really found it funny.
Mr Loudmouth clearly thought it was very funny, though.
And he was very pleased with himself.

Mr Loudmouth’s Wedding

St Eval church, CornwallThen Mr Loudmouth told the tale of the wedding of daughter #3. Mr Loudmouth was glad that it was the last of the family weddings. They’d been such a trial for him, poor man.

The wedding took place in an oldy-worldy country church. The groom and his family were American, and so were much impressed by the quaint surroundings.

Mr Loudmouth, per tradition, delivered daughter #3 to her American groom at the altar where stood the vicar who had already officiated at the weddings of daughters #1 and #2.

There then ensued the following exchange —

Vicar: Who gives this woman?

Mr L is silent
(Father of the bride is supposed to say “I do” and then retire into obscurity.)

Rosie M Banks, love ennoblesVicar [louder]: Who gives this woman?

Mr L [whispering very, very softly]: I do.
[then shouting loudly]
AND THANK GOD FOR THAT!

According to Mr Loudmouth, everyone laughed. He had (he said) done a good job, because he wanted all the guests to enjoy the wedding and laughter was a good sign.

He clearly thought he had done wonderfully well. And he hadn’t — of course — retired dutifully into obscurity. He’d made himself the centre of attention.
I wasn’t surprised there.

Hmm.
Mr Loudmouth did not say what daughter #3’s reaction was.
Did she laugh?
Blush?
Show leanings towards patricide?

red wine glass from below

Image by Dirk Wohlrabe from Pixabay

Personally, I’d have tended towards patricide, though you may feel more undertanding for Mr L than I did.

I finished my meal and left.
I did not pour a glass of wine over Mr L’s head.

Tempted? Moi? What do you think?

Earwigging: and then?

Earwigging is grist to the writer’s mill. I haven’t actually used this story in a book — yet 😉
I thought I would share it with you first, though I fancy some version of it will end up in a book, eventually.

Think what a writer could do with Mr Loudmouth as a character. He has the makings of a good villain — and subsequent corpse — for a murder mystery, I reckon. Impaled on Cupid’s arrow, maybe?

Or he could just be turned into a pantomime villain who gets his comeuppance in a ridiculous way. I could see him, dressed in his immaculate wedding suit and shiny shoes, pinned to the ground by an old-fashioned pitchfork across his neck and covered in rotting hay and cow dung. Everyone else would, of course, be laughing.

What do you think? Perhaps you have a more fitting end for him? The grislier, the better?

Earwigging : other tales?

I’m sure you, too, have tales you’ve earwigged and then used, suitably amended or bowdlerised, in stories you’ve shared with friends, or more widely.
The madly ranting cab driver? The gossip on the top deck of the bus? Something overheard in the queue or in the pub?

Don’t keep your earwigged tales to yourself.
Please do share.
We all need a bit of fun right now.

 

Joanna Maitland, author

Joanna

Romantic Novelists’ Association at 60 : with RNA memories

RNA at 60 celebration balloons

The Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) reaches its Diamond Jubilee in 2020. Wow! That makes the RNA more venerable than pretty much all the other writers’ organisations. All the ones that we know of, anyway.

Snoopy at his typewriter

Possibly NOT an RNA member?

So the writers in the Libertà hive started reminiscing — as you do — about what the RNA has meant to each of us. We’re all long-standing members. And it’s an organisation that we revere.
But why? What’s so special about the RNA?

Basically, it’s the people in the RNA and the values they stand for. And the support and friendship that the association provides. Don’t believe any rubbish you hear about romance writers stabbing each other in the back. That was a bad joke from a writer in a non-romance genre — who honestly should have known better.

Rosie M Banks, readerWriters in the RNA are the most helpful, supportive, loving bunch you could ever meet. They know the romance market is vast. No single romance writer can satisfy all those readers out there. So it’s in all our interests to grow the market and help each other.

Which is what we do. What’s not to like? Continue reading

Historical Costume 1800-1820 : Parasols Up and Down

1820 pelisse robe © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

You may have seen the image above in my blog about pelisses, a few weeks ago. I’m repeating the picture here because of that parasol. Or is it an umbrella? It rather looks like one. In fact, apart from that tassel, the proportions look very modern.

Parasols : for the sun, not the rain

Parasols, especially early in the Regency period, had different proportions, as you can see from the examples below, all courtesy of the Hereford Museum costume collection.

On the left is a pale pink silk parasol, very small, with a long handle, a neat metal ferrule and a tassel. On the right is a pale pink lace parasol, again with a long handle. If you look closely — click on any of the images to enlarge them — you’ll see that the long ivory handle of the lace one is carved. Its ferrule has a ring rather than a tassel.

pale pink Regency parasol, Hereford Museum collectionpale pink Regency lace parasol, Hereford Museum collectionBoth Pale pink?

Do you begin to see a theme here?

There’s another one — also pale pink, but with a fringe this time — below. Continue reading

Historical Costume 1800-1820: Keeping Warm in a Pelisse

© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

1819 pink velvet pelisse trimmed chincilla © Victoria & Albert Museum, London

It’s winter. Dark and gloomy. Though, here in UK, it’s still quite warm. Or at least not as cold — yet! — as winter sometimes can be.

We have houses with central heating and double-glazing to keep out the cold and the draughts. Back in the Regency, they weren’t so lucky. Though, to be honest, I remember a house we bought in the 1970s that was incredibly draughty. I used left-over curtain material to sew a draught-excluder in the shape of a snake for the gap under the sitting-room door.

And I grew up in a non-centrally-heated house with a draught screen as part of the standard furnishings, about six feet high and with four brocade-covered panels. We had draughts and we definitely needed it. Continue reading

Epiphany: Gifts For Writers? Plus a Bargain Offer

Epiphany tryptich by Hieronymus Bosch

Epiphany — 6th January — marks the end of the 12 Days of Christmas, and the day when the Three Kings brought gifts to the infant Jesus. The tryptich above is by Hieronymus Bosch, dated to around the end of the 15th century. But, with apologies to those who prefer the religious meaning of Epiphany, that’s not what I’m writing about in this blog.

glitter, the bane of post-Christmas cleaningIn the UK, Epiphany can be a bit of a downer, an end to things. It’s when we take down our Christmas decorations, put the cards in the recycling bin, and chop up the tree ready for the bonfire. We go back to work, if we haven’t done so already. The fun and games are over. Once we’ve hoovered up all the pine needles and the glitter that gets absolutely everywhere, the house looks a bit drab, doesn’t it? (And, next year, glitter is definitely banned in the Maitland house!) Continue reading

12 Days of Christmas (slightly revised for Botswana)

A couple of years ago, Sophie produced a series of blogs around The Twelve Days of Christmas and books that the verses suggested to her. Many of you followed the blogs — which are still available here — and read some of the books Sophie suggested.
I was one of those who found new authors that way. And I am very grateful.

I’m not doing anything so erudite this year. But the carol came into my mind when I was sorting through photographs from a mate’s safari trip to Botswana. (Isn’t that a fabulous sunset, above?) I have permission to use the pics to illustrate the doggerel I’ve created, with apologies to whoever wrote the original carol. (For my Twelve Days Botswana version, there isn’t enough content for 12 blogs, so you get it all in one!)

Twelve Days of Christmas, Botswana-style:
you may wish to sing along as you read 😉

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

a raptor in a bare tree.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: Continue reading

An Antidote to Christmas Schmaltz?

Town Mouse does climbing SantasA few years ago, we featured polar bears (left) in our Christmas blog. They were fun, in shop windows and on market stalls. I thought they were almost as good as our burglarious santas.

Christmas polar bears in NovemberBut this year, even though we were nowhere near the end of November, the polar bears had grown. I found nine-foot high bears on the pavement in Piccadilly outside the Park Lane Hotel (shown left and below).

They were eye-catching, certainly, but in the middle of November?

What do we poor punters have to do to be spared Christmas adverts and — crucially — Christmas jingles for weeks and weeks in the run-up to the great day? Continue reading

Military Uniforms, Heroes, Love Stories

Lizzie Bennet with George Wickham in military uniformThis weekend, we four Libertà authors are reminiscing about things military.There’s something about a man in uniform, isn’t there? Even Lizzie Bennet was impressed (for a while) by George Wickham in his scarlet regimentals. But is it also true of contemporary military men? Continue reading

Writers and Teamwork : a Team of One? Or More?

fanfare of trumpetsThis week, I finished a book. Writing a book, that is. So I’m feeling smug. (No mention, please, of the fact that the agreed deadline for the MS was end of July.)
And when I finished it, I thought:
“I’m a completer-finisher. Eureka!”

She’s off again, I hear you groan. What on earth is a completer-finisher? Continue reading

Winchester, Jane Austen, Rifles and Rain

Winchester cathedral

By WyrdLight.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

On a recent visit to Winchester — which, to my shame, I hadn’t visited before, even though I lived in Hampshire for 20 years — I felt duty-bound to pay homage at Jane Austen’s grave in the cathedral.

Jane Austen’s Gravestone

It’s a plain black stone, set into the northern aisle of Winchester cathedral, among dozens of others. If you weren’t looking for it, it would be easy to walk over and past it. The cathedral, though, knows it’s a tourist draw so they’ve made quite a display of it, with several stands that tell visitors about Austen’s life, and about her early death in 1817.

Jane Austen's gravestone, Winchester Cathedral

The gravestone makes no mention of Jane Austen’s writing. Women at that time (and later) were usually described by their virtues and by their relationships with men; as daughters, wives, mothers, aunts. So it was with Jane. Continue reading