Clothes and character : does fashion matter?

Blogging Inspiration and Regency clothes

AI generated picture of three cats dressed in historical costume.

AI generated image by GrumpyBeere at Pixabay

Joanna recently blogged about blogging, and where we could find inspiration. All very helpful but I envy the fact that, as an historical novelist, she has photographs to share from costume exhibits at the museums she has visited.

Lovely dresses, shoes, uniforms as well as what her characters wore beneath them. So much fascinating detail to write about.

Regency fashion is such an important part of the pleasure in reading books set in an era when clothes and character are inextricably linked.

As someone who has always written contemporary novels – and with a very low personal fashion threshold – I tend to find dressing my characters a bit of a challenge. Continue reading

For the love of owls : Sophie Weston reprise

owls,. Little owlDear Readers: Sophie is currently hors de combat with a broken arm so we’re republishing one of her inspiring nature blogs: this one is about owls (from 2019). Enjoy.

First you should know: I love owls. When I was at college, I lived for a time in a cottage opposite a field. We had a visiting Little Owl. I first encountered it when I came home at dusk to find Something sitting on the stone wall that surrounded our garden. I thought a child had dropped a stuffed toy and I reached to retrieve it. Until it OPENED ITS EYES.

It was a Little Owl. And they are really small, as you see. 1.5 bricks tall, max. But the message was direct, unmistakeable and compelling: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT.

I’ve been a huge fan of owls ever since. Continue reading

Divided by a common language? Britspeak vs USspeak

divided by a common language, half and half apple“Divided by a common language” was, I thought, something that Churchill (more from him below) said in relation to the UK and the USA. Checking, I found I was wrong. It was George Bernard Shaw, echoing Oscar Wilde. Never mind who said it. This week, I’ve been finding out how right it is.

It happened like this…

I had submitted a contemporary urban fantasy novel to a New York publisher. The editor came back asking for the full MS. (Cheering in Maitland Manor, natch.) But this publisher specifically asked that all submissions be in US spelling. That made me think.

question markWhat if the US editor doesn’t understand my Brit language? After all, my MS had pavements and lifts instead of sidewalks and elevators. I decided I’d go through the MS and change all the offending words and phrases from British English (BrE) to American (AmE). Wouldn’t take long, I thought.

Er, no. Continue reading

Bristol research: Cricket, Cary Grant, Banksy…and Dracula?

It’s not often Cricket, Cary Grant and Dracula come up in the same conversation. Oh, and Banksy. But they do here, following my Bristol research trip.

Why Bristol research?

Bristol research curved terrace

Why not? It’s my home town so a research trip really appealed! It’s the city where I spent the first decades of my life. I am currently writing a book, set in the Regency, with scenes around the docks and in what was then South Gloucestershire, now just outside the city centre…

But more about the book at a later date

For today’s blog, I want to share with you my delight in a Bristol research trip where I discovered an area of the city that I only knew by name. Montpelier. Continue reading

When IT Goes Wrong

Hiding face looking at computer screen when IT goes wrong

Image by mrkaushikkashish from Pixabay

The biggest news in the UK at the moment is all about when IT goes wrong. Well, really it’s about the appalling injustice, destruction and simple chaos that can follow when IT goes wrong and the management who commissioned it are still believers.

And that, of course, brings us very quickly to the people who use the IT in question. And who might have been responsible.

It’s a big issue and, oddly enough, one that I started to grapple with umpty-um years ago in my first single-title novel. Not that I realised that was it was any sort of issue at the time. I just had a story and some characters and a cracking setting on an imaginary Caribbean island.

When IT Goes Wrong Spontaneously

As anyone who has sat at their desk and watched the rolling beach ball of doom spin can attest, IT can go wrong at any time.

Sometimes it’s the user’s responsibility. Fat finger syndrome is common to just about everyone on the planet.

For instance, I can’t count the times I’ve pressed two keys simultaneously. The unfortunate machine freezes.

I sort of sympathise. The poor thing can’t say, “Oh come ON. Make your mind up.” Though perhaps one day it will, come to think of it. Continue reading

Christmas and New Year Greetings with Christmas books

The Libertà hive has got into the habit of relaxing over Christmas and New Year. Probably reading Christmas books! Which means no blog, sadly. The next “proper” blog will appear on Sunday 7th January, 2024.

In the meantime, we hope all our readers had a very happy Christmas and we wish you a prosperous and healthy New Year. Busy fizz

And if Santa didn’t bring you any Christmas books, there are some that the hive would recommend. (Since hive members wrote them, we would, wouldn’t we?)
What’s more, our cute cat loves them… Continue reading

Accidental Historical

Earlier this month one of my all time favourite authors, Leigh Michaels, proposed a new category of books: the Accidental Historical.

She has  coined it to cover republished books which she wrote some years ago. Back then, they were correctly described as contemporary romantic fiction. But we have had a digital, social and media revolution since then.

After pondering this for a bit, I think Amazon, other online stores and ALL publishers of ebooks in general would do well to adopt it.

Leigh Michaels

cover of novel, Brittany's Castle, showing a welcoming room with a tall Christmas tree, ablaze with lights and beautifully packed presents at its foot. Leigh Michaels is a multi-award winning author of contemporary and historical fiction, mostly romantic. She’s published in more than 25 languages and 120 countries the last time I looked. She is also a teacher and mentor for other writers. For a while we shared the inspiring editor Jacqui Bianchi, whom I have quoted here before.

And I have loved her books ever since Jacqui recommended them to me. Several of the books are on, not just my Keeper Shelf, but my Never to be Taken Out of This House Under Any Circumstances shelf.

I have had to wrench my copy of A New Desire  out of the hands of a departing guest. “If you want to read it, fine. But you have to come back here and read it in situ.” She did. She was 25.

And this is the nub of the matter. The book my visitor was so determined to read was first published in 1989. It was ten years older than she was.

Enter the Accidental Historical. Continue reading

Mosaics: just a few coloured stones laid on the ground?

Roman mosaic Nennig, Germany

Vibrantly coloured Roman floor mosaic, Nennig, Germany, 3rd century AD

In my recent travels, mostly exploring Mediterranean history (including Romans and Greeks) I’ve seen an awful lot of mosaics like the ones in Italica. I’ve even watched curators working to restore a mosaic in Pompeii.

But I’d never thought much about the fundamentals of creating a mosaic.

Mosaics are just a lot of coloured stones laid on the ground in a clever pattern, aren’t they?

Nope. There’s much more to it than that.

Engineering mosaics to last

If the coloured stones (tesserae) were simply laid on the ground, even if they were grouted together with mortar, they wouldn’t have lasted long. And many of them, as we know, have lasted for thousands of years. They had to be hard-wearing. They were going to be walked on.

semi-dome, christ pantocrator, capella palatina, Palermo

Capella Palatina, Palermo, Sicily

Not all of them, of course.

Some mosaics were for wall decoration as you can see in my earlier blog showing some of the incredible religious mosaics in Sicily.

Like this one here where the colours and all that gold really sing.

Hidden layers

Floor mosaics have lots of hidden underpinnings. (Wall mosaics probably have a lot less. Not sure on that, but it sort of stands to reason, doesn’t it?) In the museum in Ecija near Seville (called Astigi by the Romans) there are wonderful floor mosaics plus an explanation of how they were made. In pictures, I’m glad to say. Continue reading

In Praise of Kindness

Rearview of a man and woman clearly standing between others, all of whom have left arm round one person's waist and right arm on another person's shoulder.

A writer friend tells me that her local coffee shop has put up a sign “Kindness is the new superpower.” Several of us, all writers, had met for a cheery lunch and we all beamed. We all beamed.

For some reason, I have clung to it ever since. Possibly it is because of the international news. Or it may be that Christmas always makes me pause for thought. But this year, the world has never seemed in such need of kindness. Or so very far from showing or receiving it.

Kindness and  Conflict

box tied with white ribbon, a giftThe OED defines it as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. That sounds a bit pallid to me. Maybe it has been polluted by association with phrases like “kind of”. . It certainly doesn’t sound earth-shaking.

I always thought, probably mistakenly, that it had something to do with “kin”, with treating a stranger like a member of your family. For that is what has to happen if there is any hope of a workable future to follow this Palestinian Israeli conflict. With such atrocities on both sides, the only hope is kindness on both sides.

a chair with a wicker set stands on a a grassy slope, with a man's black jacket over its back. On the seat is an accordion, the strap looking as if the player has just put it down. Lying on the ground beside it is a pear-shaped stringed instrument, the size of a guitar, with a body strap, as if it, too, has just been taken off.At the moment that looks hopeless. But not everyone hates.

Jewish conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian-American Edward Said set up the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 to bring together musicians from both cultures in a joint project.

Maestro Barenboim wrote a heartfelt piece in October this year. “Both sides must recognise their enemies as human beings and try to empathise with their point of view, their pain and their hardship,” he says.

Kindness to Read

Continue reading