Jilly: The Mistress Problem

I’d really, really like to find a different form of address for the gentlewomen in my WIP, especially my heroine.

Lately I’ve been working on a sequence of set piece scenes toward the end of the book. The setting is a fantasy world, historical, before the invention of guns. Horses ‘n swords. Vaguely Tudor-ish, with a few creative liberties taken. The action takes place at the most important event in the city’s calendar. Everyone who’s anyone is present: royalty, aristocracy, military, and a lucky few gentlefolk. All the guests are addressed formally, even (especially!) when they’re hurling deadly insults at one another.

The problem is my heroine, Alexis Doe. She’s 25. Unmarried, but old enough to be a wife and mother. Of no acknowledged family (her name indicates she’s illegitimate), but invited as a guest of the Princess Dowager, scary and powerful grandmother of the Crown Prince. Alexis has no title, but her connections would carry a certain level of cachet and she would be addressed with respect. As far as I can see, she would be called Mistress Doe.

I did a fair amount of reading around, looking for possibilities, and I found a fascinating article describing research done by Dr Amy Erickson at the University of Cambridge (click here to read more about Mistress, Miss, Mrs or Ms: untangling the shifting history of titles).

Apparently both Mrs and Miss are abbreviations of Mistress. Continue reading

Jilly: Georgette Heyer’s Bath

We spent last weekend visiting the beautiful city of Bath. We stayed in a hotel that was once owned by the Duke of Wellington and walked into town to hear a friend’s choir sing in the stunning fifteenth-century Abbey. It seemed as though everywhere I went, I followed in the footsteps of a much-loved Regency romance. Sometimes it was Jane Austen; more often it was Georgette Heyer.

Most of the time it was Black Sheep. It isn’t my all-time favorite Heyer, but I think it has one of the best settings.

By the time of the Regency, Brighton had become the fashionable place to spend the summer and Bath, which had once been the ton’s favorite resort, had become a kind of posh backwater inhabited by invalids and those who couldn’t afford the expense of living in London. Which makes it the perfect choice for Black Sheep. Continue reading

Michaeline: The Pathetic Fallacy of Weather

A triptych with an outdoor winter storm, two birds, and three children enjoying the warmth of the hearth in front of the fireplace.

Winter weather captures a whole lot of story settings: the frigid cold, the hopeful life hopping around, and the coziness provided by our human technologies. We can create our own bubble of warmth even during the coldest winter. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

“It was a dark and stormy night” has been mocked throughout the 20th century, but I think it’s time to bring back the pathetic fallacy of weather for the 21st century.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about using weather in a story to help boost a mood in a scene. Tragedy accompanied by fog and gloom, horror to the tune of a thunderstorm, and an idyllic love interlude accompanied by sunshine and roses. Some people call it cliche, but I call it a device from our writing toolboxes that can be useful and fresh, depending on how you use it. (-: Perhaps the roses are overkill.

I very deliberately set a short story in February, just so I could take advantage of the weather. In the northern hemisphere, we start seeing the very first signs of spring – in my area, the ice begins to melt during the day, and pussy willows start to bloom. The earth is getting ready for new life, and my characters’ hearts were getting ready for a new season in their lives.

That said, almost every place I’ve lived, February is still the battleground for winter. I took advantage of a wild blizzard to do several things for my story.

First, it symbolized a cold and lonely past. Second, Continue reading

Michaeline: Five Warning Signs of a Haunted Hotel

Vanish ad from 1948 with a housewife staring down a ghost in a "modern" bathroom.

Haunted hotel? Stare down those ghosts and turn them into story fodder! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, my travels took me to The E— Hotel, and based on some observations, you could totally bring some ghosts to your next fictional hotel stay.

5. A visit to the lap pool is . . . refreshing, but a bit creepy. It’s tucked away in the basement, and as you walk around and around, you notice there’s one spot in the pool that’s a little dark in color, and the current runs a little swifter. It gets darker and deeper the longer you walk around and around, and then you realize, you are walking widdershins. Time to get out of the pool. Let’s try the one outdoors.

4. Ah, that’s better. Starlight! Beautiful summer night, with the heat lingering in the concrete. No lifeguard on duty, of course, but it’s not too deep. You Continue reading

Michaeline: Five Happenings to Spice up a Hotel Story

Story basis: a stranger comes to town; someone leaves town. Hotels have both contingencies covered. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Story basis: a stranger comes to town; someone leaves town. Hotels have both contingencies covered. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I’m on vacation for two weeks, and . . . well, there was this hotel. It was straight out of a story. It was old, and venerable, and quirky, and certainly was the sort of hotel that’d make a great setting for a story. What happened? Well, let me tell you. Continue reading

Michaeline: Summer’s Here!

Summer is for discovery! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Summer is for discovery! (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Summer’s been here for a few weeks, but I’m leaving for vacation in the States today, so I feel like FINALLY it is summer! Burgers and cook-outs and travelling to see exciting new things. Heat and sweating and cool crisp air-conditioning. And the chance to take a break; run away for the summer (why, yes, I’ve been listening to Hamilton. One of the great summer songs, even though it makes me cry every other time I hear it).

My WIP is in summer mode, too, and I hope my trip will inspire a flood of words and sunshine. I’m setting it in a summer camp, which is a rather weird choice because Continue reading

Michaeline: Jane Austen Used World Events Subtly

Mr. Collins and four four of the Bennet girls meet Mr. Denny and Mr. Wickham in Meryton, from the book Pride and Prejudice

Going into Meryton often meant that the Bennet girls got a chance to meet handsome young officers — officers who would have been home and courting the girls of their own counties if there wasn’t a war on. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Jane Austen used world events subtly, and you can too.

I know right now we are in a period of tremendous change. Just this week, we saw Great Britain vote to leave the European Union; today as this post goes live, Australia votes for their next government; and in Hong Kong, people are protesting Chinese dominance – a protest sparked by some guys trying to sell some books.

Jane Austen’s time was also turbulent. She was born just around time when the American colonies were breaking away, and the French Revolution started when she was a teenager. Her country was involved in the Napoleonic Wars from 1803 to 1815. Revolutions and other wars mixed society from top to bottom, creating new rich people, impoverishing other families, introducing refugees to Great Britain, and just generally roiling the social waters.

But she used those events to power her novels. Let’s concentrate on Pride and Prejudice. Merchants’ grandsons could afford Continue reading