Don’t know about you, but here on the borders of Wales, we’ve got hail and sleet and rain. Not exactly inspiration in Spring, is it?
So today I thought I’d share images of places that inspire me in Spring, some here at home—some even in my garden, including the April snow scene shown right—and some further afield. The places abroad are wish list destinations for now, but they can still provide inspiration.
And maybe, one of these years, we’ll actually be able to visit them. I do hope so.
Inspiration at home
Gardens are wonderful. And, in Spring, when new leaves start to unfurl and buds break into bloom, we can almost feel the joy of new life. Continue reading →
Holidays? Wot holidays?
Just non-holidays, actually.
Towards the end of last year, Sophie blogged on the perennial school essay topic of What I Did On My Holidays. With Easter coming up soon, I’ve been thinking about holidays too. And I’ve realised how much I’ve missed over the last year of more or less permanent lockdown.
You might be feeling equally stir-crazy?
I haven’t been away from home for a year. But I should have been. I had holidays and trips booked. They had to be postponed or cancelled. So I’m going to muse on might-have-beens. Non-holidays, if you like.
After all, we writers use our imaginations all the time.
So why not holiday that way?
Lake District Non-Holidays (of the working variety)
Imagine walking down that beautiful hillside towards the water, smelling the freshness of the trees and feeling the breeze on your face. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to do that? Continue reading →
Those who follow this blog will know that I often bang on about cover failings. I want my covers to be historically accurate. For me that means: no Regency heroes with beards or designer stubble; no twirling round the dance floor wearing knee-high boots; ladies in Regency costume that isn’t swathed in a tablecloth (see left); and hairstyles and accessories appropriate for the period.
It also helps if the cover models look vaguely like the characters in my story, but that’s a rant for another day 😉
Historically accurate backgrounds?
I’ve recently been mocking up a cover for a book I’m writing. It’s set in London in the period between Napoleon’s exile to Elba in 1814 and his return the following spring. My hero is a serving soldier who’s enjoying his first leave for 5 years.
I thought it could be good to show uniformed soldiers in the background on my cover. I found the image shown right.
Good covers are massively important and buyers, increasingly, rely on visuals (the cover) rather than the blurb. That was the latest advice from an independent bookseller at a Society of Authors virtual meeting in early 2021. The bookseller recommended authors aim for clear, concise, beautiful covers, with fewer words and, hence, more impact.
Professor Snape (left) may not be beautiful—and that’s not a cover, either—but he’s certainly clear and concise. And if he made you feel guilty, he’s had impact, too 😉
Criteria for Good Commercial Fiction Covers
Apart from being clear, concise and beautiful, a Good Commercial Fiction Cover Will…
make the genre clear immediately
represent aspects of the story to draw the potential buyer in
shout out the title
shout out the author’s name
work well in thumbnail
and SELL THE BOOK
That’s a pretty tall order and lots of covers fail it. Not only self-published covers, either.
This blog (based on a recent presentation I did for the Society of Authors) aims to help self-published authors work with cover designers like me to get clear, concise and beautiful covers that will sell the authors’ books. Continue reading →
In this occasional series on costume, we’ve featured a lot of day wear, but never what ladies wore when they went riding. The image above shows the Berrington Hall stables and a green riding habit on a mannequin. The waist is around the normal place and it doesn’t have full upper sleeves, so it probably dates from the late 1820s or early 1830s though it could be Victorian.
The development of the riding habit
Judging by the Paris prints, the riding habit changed a lot in the early part of the 19th century. In the Regency period, they looked pretty much like pelisses, except with much more skirt. Here are two, dating from 1816 and 1817, courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum collection.
A while ago, I blogged about formatting ebook text. Quite a lot of people found it useful. So, as I promised then, I’m doing a follow-on blog about front matter—recommendations about what to include and how best to format it.
As with my previous post, these recommendations are based on how I format front matter for ebooks. You—or your book designer—may want to do things differently. Your choice. You have a good reason for doing it your way, don’t you?
Just before the start of the first lockdown — and doesn’t that seem a lifetime ago? — I spent an afternoon in the jewellery galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum, in London. What struck me was how much of the fabulous bling on display was royal, or had royal connections. At the beginning of the 19th century, a lot of money went on bling. And the ladies of consequence were happy to flaunt it.
In 1806, Emperor Napoleon was intent on securing an alliance with the Prince-elector of Baden as part of the Confederation of the Rhine. To cement the alliance, Napoleon arranged a marriage between his adopted daughter, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, and the elector’s heir. Napoleon presented the bride with this beautiful set of emerald and diamond jewellery. Continue reading →
Apologies to our visitors expecting our normal Sunday morning blog. Things got a bit complicated in the hive this week, and there was no time to prepare a proper blog.
Instead, for an improper (and late) blog, I offer a few pretty pics, especially for those who like our costume series. And normal service will be resumed next weekend 😉
That poor seamstress again?
My blogs have often mentioned the poor seamstress who made those fabulous gowns and, probably, received a pittance for her work. Below are some examples of embroidery from the Hereford museum collections. I don’t know whether these are the work of a seamstress or by a lady, sitting comfortably by her fire. They’re worth a look, whoever did them. [Click to enlarge]
If you’ve read your Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, you’ll be familiar with the term “half-boots”.
But what were they?
And what were they made of?
The pair on the right, from the marvellous V&A collection, is made of striped cotton with buff-coloured leather toecaps. The sole is leather and there’s a little heel. From the picture, it looks as though they, like the shoes I discussed in my last blog, are not made for left and right feet. They also look as if they’ve hardly been worn. If they were worn, it probably wasn’t in the rain and mud, judging by how clean and shiny they still are. Continue reading →
Why shoes? Well, a few weeks ago, I was ranting about boots. Specifically, the fact that, in images intended for Regency covers, all the male models seem to wear knee-high boots, even with evening dress.
This kind of boot, from the Wade costume collection at Berrington Hall, really doesn’t look appropriate for evening, does it? Imagine dancing with a man wearing those 😉
To be fair, the cover images don’t normally include spurs, as this original does, carefully separated by tissue paper to protect the boot’s leather.
I haven’t found a cure for the boot problem yet—other than cropping out the blasted things—but it gave me the idea of doing a blog about footwear.
And, for the record, an example of the kind of shoe the gents should wear with evening dress is below. (Yes, I admit they look more like slippers to us, but the V&A says they’re shoes.)