Archive for the ‘Silliness’ Category

Plot bunnies

I’ve been out of bed for half an hour – awful night thanks to the cat who spent several hours thundering around the house and is now curled up on my lap sleeping the sleep of the totally knackered. And in the half hour I’ve been up I’ve been very severely plot bunnied. Normally the stealthy little so and sos creep up on me over months so i get multiple ideas that coalesce into something useful but often I’ve forgotten where they come from. Bt today they all happened so fast that I thought I’d share the thought process.

It’s all Nigella Lawson’s fault.

Photo from BBC iChef

Yes you can smile, you baggage!

So there I was under the cat, cwtched up to the dog, zombily sipping tea with Saturday Kitchen on the telly when Nigella said something about not wanting something to come to a ‘rollicking boil’.

Wham! There was a title AND a character. Rollo Boyle, Irish, of course, a groom turned off by his last master who moved up in the world and wanted someone posher and more servile to run his stable, so, totally pissed off, Rollo heads for home but ends up – wrong place, wrong time – hunted as a highwayman.

Charles Keeping of course, from his illustration series for Albert Noyes rollicking poem

Thump – now I’ve got that damned ‘riding riding riding’ hoofbeat rhythm running through my mind.

Naturally Rollo is a gentleman highwayman, rather than the reality which were mugging bastards who’d smash the fillings from your teeth if they saw the flash of gold. Maybe something along the lines of Jack Carstares in Heyer’s Black Moth?

There are better covers but this is the one on MY copy.

The Black Moth reads like the ecstatic outpourings of a dedicated fangirl – and that’s about right because it’s Heyer’s first book and she was only 19 when it came out. So much angst and passion!!

*considers* naaaaah I cant do that but I can have a bit of fun with the trope. Naturally Rollo must have a great love and make an amazing ride to save him but who could that be? Working on the principle of Sellar’s and Yeatman’s adage that history is what you remember, how many highwaymen do people know about – errrrrrmmmmm – YES Swift Nick!

So Swift Nick was Dick Turpin’s apocryphal sidekick and I don’t see why Nick, Dick and Rollo can’t be a love triangle. Come to that Turpin can be the villain, Rollo’s past employer be a receiver of stolen goods, and at the end Rollo and Nick embark on a ship from Bristol to the Indies where they can enter into happy matelotage.

Believe me when I say that if you read the Newgate Calendar some of the REAL guys did things that the average m/m reader would say ‘no too far fetched’.

And highwaymen were popular subjects of popular songs:

Did you ever hear tell of Rollicking Boyle,
A hero of great renown,
Who boldly bestraddled a galloping nag,
Eastward of London Town

Now when he rode on the highway,
He always had money in store.
And whatever he took from the rich
He freely gave to the poor.

He ne’er robbed a poor man of tuppence
And he ne’er took innocent life.
But the militia took to the road in his wake
Because he’d ne’er take a wife.

And probably a whole load more verses but my head is spinning now and I need another lie down.

Anyhow, yeah – that sort of violent invasive plot bunnying happens to me frequently.

So remember today, because if ever a book called The Ballad of Rollicking Boyle comes out you’ll know you can blame Nigella Lawson.

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First of all – Happy New Year!!

secondly – yes I wrote!!

So exciting because it takes me ages, but in this case I had the incentive to be quick because I was writing with the amazing Charlie Cochrane!

If you’ve ever wondered what might happen when you nail up a nervous plotter and a cheerful pantser in the same barrel, wonder no more. The result is below.

As promised, here for anyone who wants to download it, is our bit of mutual fanfic:

Spies, Planes and Automobiles

In which Miles Siward is dragged up to the nines on an edgy assignment that goes belly up, just at the moment when two gentlemen academics are on hand to pull his nuts out of the fire for him.

Download Here

I hope you enjoy it!

In case that doesn’t work, here it is again on Charlie Cochrane’s free fiction page, and theres a LOAD of stories there so well worth a look.

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The Google Doodle today was labelled Mundaneum and I couldn’t quite remember what it was. That’s been happening a lot lately. I guess I need more RAM? Anyhow I clicked on it and there it was on Wikipedia, in all its glory.

The Mundaneum – a paper version of the world wide web made in 1910 by two Belgian lawyers researching documentation science.

Everything was cross referenced against everything else according to a numerical system called the Universal Decimal Classification so it should be possible to follow routes of research by going from one numerical reference to another. There’s a museum in Wallonia where one can view what remains of the Mundaneum – parts were lost during WW2 and other parts have been damaged by neglect.

Reading about it, I remembered why I recognised it. In 1982, when I first started working for the museum, a modern version was being launched called the SHIC classification system that had been designed especially for museum archivists. SHIC = Social History and Industrial Classification. Every social history item could be logged with a series of numbers. Say one had a photo of some Morris dancers. That counts as part of Community Life – 1 – subdivided to Cultural Traditions – 1.1 – but if the dance was part of a Mummer’s Play only performed at a solstice then it would fall under Custom and Belief and Calendar Customs which would give it a code of 1.116 AND/OR as Community Entertainment – 1.66 – and if the photo was part of a newsclipping then it would also fall under dessemination of information which would take it into a whole new category. For example, smelling salts should normally be classified to 2.7, but smelling salts in a small bottle obviously carried around by one particular individual should be classified to 3.72. A scrapbook about a coal mining disaster would be classified to 4.2121.81, but a scrapbook recording the life of one particular individual would be classified to 3.12. A pipe rack would be classified to 2.68, but a pipe would normally be classified to 3.63.

Not confusing at all! Obviously.

Then the personal computer revolution kicked off with searchable databases and the SHIC system fell into disuse. I rather regret that somewhere in my head there’s a whole bunch of bits and bytes where bunches of info from the system is stored, hard to get at but still present. Local topography – 1.92 – crop spraying – 4.13. I wonder why I can remember those when I often can’t remember a doctor’s appointment or to pick up a prescription.

More RAM.

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Oh good grief

I can generally put my hands on things if I need them. I’m also a bit anxious about old things and much inclined to wrap them in acid free tissue and keep them forever, to the detriment of the tidiness of the house. But I think this is the first time something has turned up that we didn’t even know we had.

Look what we just found in a shed.

Luckily it’s a nice dry shed and they were well wrapped up so the moth hadn’t got into them.

It’s a uniform edition of Shakespeare bound in marbled calf with marbled end papers and it’s got PICTURES.

The big surprise was the date.

So 215 years old! And – AND – I know where they came from.

“H Godwin, Bookseller, No. 19 Milsom Street, Bath” in that copy while others are at No. 24.

So I Googled him and found this:

It is estimated that by the turn of the nineteenth century there were at least ten circulating libraries in Bath. The most exclusive one was undoubtedly Marshall’s at 23, Milsom Street, which opened in 1787. Originally it was jointly owned by Samuel Jackson Pratt and James Marshall, but by 1793 Marshall was the sole proprietor. The list of his subscribers read like a Who’s Who:
two princes (the Prince of Wales and Frederick, Prince of Orange), five dukes, four duchesses, seven earls, fourteen countesses, many other nobles and forty-three knights. Professional customers were three admirals, four generals and many service officers down to twenty-six majors and seventy-one captains, and also ecclesiastics: one archbishop, six bishops and 114 clerics.
Phyllis May Hembry, The English spa, 1560-1815: a social history (1990, p. 150)
Marshall’s library flourished between 1793 and 1799 but the rise in the price of books -up to 100%- was a serious threat to the business in general. Marshall increased his rates by 25% but ultimately even that didn’t save him from being declared bankrupt in 1800 as the number of subscribers declined. His son joined him that year and together they managed to revive the library, stocking up to 25,000 books, until it was bought by Henry Godwin in 1808.

{From the Painted Signs and Mosaics Blog which is well worth an explore.}

Google Earth informs me that 19, Milsom Street is still there:

Now housing the local branch of Austin Reed. I don’t suppose the upper stories have changed substantially since Jane Austen’s day.

I’m scared to look in the rest of the shed.

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I can’t begin to describe how excited and apprehensive I am to hear that HM Pickle is up for sale – on Ebay no less! There’s no reserve and only 5 days left in the auction.

Of course it’s not the real one. This is an excellent replica of the 1799 top sail schooner, known at the time as a Bermuda sloop. The original Pickle was 73 feet long with a 20 foot beam, displaced 127 tons and was armed with 8 12 pounder carronades with a crew of approximately 40 to man the guns and trim the sails.

Pickle served in the French Revolutionary War, firstly in the Caribbean, fighting pirivateers, pirates and the French squadrons, then in the Channel and the Mediterranean. Pickle was the vessel chosen to carry news of the victory at Trafalgar, and the death of Nelson, back to England. During th battle itself, Pickle had hung back with the other small ships, darting in to rescue survivors from stricken vessels and carrying messages where safe to do so. While assisting a French vessel that had caught fire and exploded one of Pickle’s boats picked up a woman from the French ship. She was clinging to a floating oar and had been blown right out of her clothes. She described how she had had to fight off French sailors who had tied to take the oar for themselves. One of the Pickles gallantly took of his trousers and gave them to her to wear. It seems a bizarre story until you consider that the Navy wasn’t nearly as ‘stag’ as the history books lead us to believe. I suspect that there’s a really good story in this anecdote but I don’t think I’m the one to write it.

I have a mini Pickle at home, built over three long cold winters by my husband, and very fine she is too. The Cat loves to sleep on top of her case.

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I see a lot of  How To Be A Writer posts and they always cheer me up.

The internet is full of other people who seem just as anxious as I am to nail down the process into a series of simple instructions. Wouldn’t that be great? Wouldn’t it be super if you could buy “On Writing” by Stephen King, follow it page by page and end up with a novel, very much as one might follow a recipe to make apple crumble [peach cobbler if you come from a place where apple crumble does not exist].

Sadly it doesn’t work like that. There are too many variables. Every single writer has something about themselves that nobody else can quite manage to emulate. Every single writer NEEDS to work in their own particular, unique and sometimes peculiar way.

Yesterday on the Women and Words site I saw a brilliant illustration of this. Jack Kerouac provided 30 ‘How To’ tips for people who wanted to know how to be a writer. Here they are in no particular order of importance:
  • Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
  • Submissive to everything, open, listening
  • Try never get drunk outside yr own house
  • Be in love with yr life
  • Something that you feel will find its own form
  • Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
  • Blow as deep as you want to blow
  • Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
  • The unspeakable visions of the individual
  • No time for poetry but exactly what is
  • Visionary tics shivering in the chest
  • In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
  • Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
  • Like Proust be an old teahead of time
  • Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
  • The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
  • Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
  • Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
  • Accept loss forever
  • Believe in the holy contour of life
  • Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
  • Don’t think of words when you stop but to see picture better
  • Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
  • No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
  • Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
  • Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
  • In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
  • Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
  • You’re a Genius all the time
  • Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven


Elmore Leonard’s “10 Rules for Writing”


So now you know! I bet that’s a sure fire recipe for writing something that looks a bit similar to Jack Kerouac.

Sure you can follow Elmore Leonard’s advice and that will be fine if you want to write stuff set in the same kind of places and periods as Elmore Leonard  enjoys writing about. But the tight terse laconic style that is fine for hard bitten PIs investigating contemporary crime capers is going to look a bit odd if you apply it to Regency romances.

I’d be inclined to read the advice – some of Elmore’s ten are spot on – but how the hell do you guess which bits readers skip? I know that I often skip the bits that other readers say are the best parts.  What do you think?  Sing in your own voice or try and lip synch to one of the great operatic tenors who write ‘how to’ books?


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Sex life meme

So grab the nearest book.

Find page 45.

The first sentence describes your sex life for the next twelve months:


“Behind the balusters of the forecastle a large number of soldiers, who were laying in wait there under a petty officer full of malice, were preparing to send us a murderous discharge from their muskets.”

Says it all really.

This is a bit of “How Half-Arse became Captain” from Memoirs of a Buccaneer by Louis le Golif. On the one hand it means I got a scary result in the meme – I’m wondering if penicillin would cure that ‘murderous discharge’, but on the other how cool is it that even at work, by absolute chance, the nearest book is about a guy called Half-Arse with a matelot called Pulverin?

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