Romantic fiction rocks, judging by the enthusiastic turn out at this year’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards. Roars of delight, from the home team (publishers, friends, fellow writers-in-the-genre) greeted every winner’s name. Celebration was definitely the key word of the night.
Romance even made it into The Economist last week, (11th March 2023, p23). Although I have a couple of issues with the piece, it’s mostly good news. They report that sales of romance and saga fiction in Britain have risen by 110% in three years, to £53mn annually, their highest figure for a decade, according to Nielsen BookData.
print courtesy of 2023 Award Winner Louise Allen
Publishers, they say, “are starting to take notice.”
Well, some of them were cheering their lungs out the Monday before this article was published (see above) so that’s fair enough far as it goes.
Only – call me picky if you will – but even in my experience, they’ve been doing that for a good twenty-five years before the pandemic shut down the RNA annual thrash. Started to take notice? Continue reading →
Back matter is where the independent publisher can blow their own trumpet. It’s a great PR opportunity for an author to get readers involved and, crucially, buying more of the author’s books. So it’s worth doing it as well as you possibly can.
Back matter is probably the second-last thing an author needs to do before uploading her ebook. (The last thing is to update the Table of Contents.) Before doing back matter, you should have done all in the following list (click to see my previous blogs on how to do them):
After Joanna’s mind-bending jaunt through French and Female Language last week, I’ve been pondering Female Power and the Would-be Regency novelist. Or pretty much any sort of historical novelist, I suppose.
Today’s assumptions are different from those of the past, any past, and never more so than on the issue of female agency. In general we assume that such women of the past as are now largely invisible to history were also invisible in their own time, at least outside the domestic sphere. Basically men had cornered the market in how the world was run and women had no alternative but to do what they were told.
Recently, I was stopped in my tracks over female language. Specifically French female language. And then I thought about English, and how different it is. Or is it?
What do I mean by “female language”? Well… I suppose I mean the words and phrases used to signify that we are referring to someone female rather than male. It’s an issue in French, because it’s a gendered language. In English, we’re increasingly moving away from gendered language. For example, we don’t talk about actors and actresses any more, just about actors. And in cricket, we have batters, not batsmen. In the fishing industry, we have fishers, not fishermen. Back before the war, the women who painted china were called paintresses. I can’t imagine anyone using that word now, can you? Or—pace Jane Austen—authoress.
The issue arose because, in the book I’m currently working on, there is a reference to a female examining magistrate in Paris. Now, the French for judge is “le juge” and an examining magistrate (the one who oversees the pre-trial enquiry) is “le juge d’instruction”. So far, so fairly OK. One would address such a magistrate as “monsieur le juge”. But what if he is a she? Continue reading →
I suppose it was inevitable that February should become Romance Reading Month. There’s St Valentine doing his bit on the 14th to remind the world that romantic love is a) universal b) important and c) can be awkward. The material of good stories, in fact.
It seems to me that Valentine’s Day gets increasing attention every year. Partly this is because Bloggins’ Aniversary And Activity Day has long been the jobbing editor’s lifeline to fill an blank column or an empty four minutes on broadcast magazine programmes.
Clearly there’s even more and more slots to fill these days, what with social media ‘n’ all. And, frankly, St Valentine doesn’t face many candidates for rival celebration attention in the shortest month. Ground Hog Day anyone?
When I say I’ve got a little list, it’s growing longer by the day.
Obviously, I always have lists of things I have to do – last month it included “Pay My Tax”, but also check my Public Lending Right statement, to see how much I’ve earned from the wonderful people who borrow my books from libraries.
Times are tough. Your library is a free resource and they’re under threat everywhere, so do make the most of them.
Public Lending Right for those who have never heard of it – and if you’re not a writer, why would you? – was spearheaded by the Society of Authors, an organisation that offers advice to, and lobbies for the interests of authors.
If you’re an author but not a member, Writer Beware gives information about scam merchants who try to rip off authors with fake competitions and dodgy publishers – the people who ask you to pay vast sums of money to publish your book and, having pocketed it, do nothing to sell it. Check them out before you sign a contract.
Having lived in The Scottish Highlands now for four years, I thought it was time to celebrate Burns Night in traditional style. A Burns Supper, no less.
Now, I know I am not the first one to write about Burns on this blog. Scotswoman Joanna gave the lowdown on Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) and his comic poem Tam O’Shanter in an earlier post, which you can read here. She also gave us her own modern take on it, in a short story.
The first “supper”
This was in fact a memorial dinner. It was held on 21st July 1801 at Burns Cottage (built by Burns’ father and where the bard was born) in Alloway, South Ayrshire. The idea obviously caught on. A Burns Club was formed in Greenock and held a Burns Supper in 1802, and in 1810 London held its very own Burns Supper. Rabbie was doing well!
So, when our local pub, the Badachro Inn, decided to hold a Burns Supper, we had to sign up for it!
This blog doesn’t normally touch politics but today (Friday) I learned that Jacinda Ardern is resigning as Prime Minister of New Zealand. She has decided to leave the job after more than five years because, she said, she “no longer has enough in the tank to do it justice.” It’s a frank and honest statement. Possibly even heroic? But is it failure?
Can heroes admit to failure?
And then I started thinking about the heroes we write and wondering whether any of them would get away with making a statement like Ardern’s. Does an alpha hero (say) ever admit that he’s no longer up to whatever it is he does? That he’s a failure? Or that he would be if he continued?
Can’t say I’ve met many in the fiction I read, especially not in contemporary romances. Romantic heroes may occasionally fail at some task, sure. But don’t they usually learn from their failure and go on to bigger and better things?
And, even when they do fail, do they confess it to the world at large? Or do they keep that chiselled jaw suitably clamped and say nothing?
The key question, I suppose, is this: is a hero a failure—unheroic—if he admits he is no longer up to the job?Continue reading →
This Christmas a writer friend has given me a fascinating little book called What Writers Read. It’s one of those charity collections – in this case to support the National Literary Trust – in which a bunch of supporters get together to produce something to promote the cause and raise funds.
This time it is 35 essays by various writers, some of whom I have been reading most of my life, some I’ve never heard of, about their experience of reading their favourite book. And most of the pieces I have read so far are genuinely about the experience.
What Writers Read – Discovery
Oh, they talk about their chosen book, of course they do. But these are not puffs for the beloved tome. Even less are they weighty reviews, weighing plot, character and impact.
For instance, William Boyd on Catch 22 assumes we will already know the book. And on that basis, he gives us a chilling insight into his teenage self going home to a war zone. I sat up straighter in the chair, gripped by anxiety, as he described going round the book store at Heathrow. Continue reading →
What underwear did ladies have beneath their Regency gowns? Generally, not much. I’ve blogged before about see-through gowns and the Regency petticoat but what else was underneath?
The go-to reference book for underwear is The History of Underclothes by C. Willet and Phillis Cunnington which starts at the medieval period and finishes at 1939.
As you can see from the cover, it includes corsets and bustles and much, much more. And it includes underwear for men. That gent in the middle of the cover is wearing a Jaeger nightgown, dating from the early 1880s.
The lady to his right is wearing “cami-knickers in crêpe-de-chine” from 1922. (No, they didn’t look like knickers to me either!) The lady to his left is much earlier, of course. She may look fully dressed, but she isn’t. That’s corset, chemise and underskirt, dating from about 1780. And French!