Jilly: History on a Plate

Yorkshire Puddings

What recipes or dishes are entrenched deep in the history of your hometown or family or country? Like it or hate it, food that would transport you to a particular place or time before you could say Beam me up, Scotty?

After our adventures in Highgate Cemetery and at Shakespeare’s Globe, last week Kay and I spent a few days visiting Derbyshire. I wanted our trip to be a uniquely English experience, and I think I succeeded. I knew the pretty stone-built towns, gorgeous countryside and historic houses would be a safe bet, but I hadn’t thought about how much of what we eat is particular to our land and culture.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the judicious use of dialect, slang and cant can add richness and depth to a story world. Now I’m thinking I should pay more attention to my characters’ meals. I’ve given them food that’s appropriate to their time period, but I need to double check whether I missed an opportunity to make their meals local, distinctive or significant in some way.

For example, the Yorkshire Pudding, which Kay sampled for the first time last Sunday at a country pub on the edge of the Chatsworth estate, is history on a plate. Continue reading

Michaeline: Healing and Dealing

Black and white film still of a patient in bed (with a Japanese jacket) entwined with his nurse.

Caring for the carer. What’s your favorite healing trope? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Well, I’m going to start off with the back story. This has been a trying week. Next Monday is a holiday – Respect for the Aged Day, and hooray for old people and hooray for a day off! But this week? About the only way I crawled through this week was by thinking, “I get next Monday off! I can rest then!”

And then yesterday, the North Koreans decided to kick off the “Thank God It’s Friday!” celebrations with a little missile launch. They were kind enough to wait until 7 a.m. this time, and I have to say, almost everyone seems much more organized about the whole thing this time around. I was (ahem) interrupted in my ablutions, but when I finally finished and could see why my phone was beeping, I calmly proceeded to the hallway, and sat down in the darkness to text my loved ones. The all-clear was quicker. The news on TV had better info to offer us than simply, “OMG! Missiles!” As a matter of fact, the commercial channels were airing happy-sappy commercials within the hour (whereas last time, I don’t remember seeing any commercials). Normalization was quickly re-established once the all-clear alert came around.

I had planned to write a stupendous blog post how things are easier the second time around, but the creeping crud that I’ve been fighting off all week has become a bad cough, and my brain is seriously fogged out. So instead, I’m going to ask you for reading recommendations.

I remember reading a lot of Harlequin romances in my junior and senior year in high school, and it was a very common trope for Continue reading

Jilly: Dialect, Slang and Cant

Daft Apeth. Does the slogan on one of my favorite mugs (see picture, left) mean anything to you?

The internet (yourdictionary.com) defines it thus:
apeth. Noun. (plural apeths) A halfpennyworth. (Northern England, informal) An affectionate term for a silly or foolish person.

My mug was made by a company called Dialectable. I saw it in a shop window in rural Derbyshire and knew I had to buy it, because daft apeth was one of my dad’s go-to descriptions. It’s definitely English, unmistakably Northern, and while you might occasionally hear it today, it’s dated. The half-penny in question is pre-decimal, a coin that was de-monetized almost fifty years ago.

Told you that to tell you this: if I read the phrase daft apeth in a novel, I’d be immediately transported to 1960’s Derbyshire. For me, those two small words would be more effective than a page of description. For you? I’m guessing not so much. Continue reading

Elizabeth: What Have You Been Reading?

My TBR pile is currently a teetering towering work of art.  I’ve been doing my best to reduce it to manageable proportions, but it seems for every book I read from it, I manage to add 2 more.  At this point, I’m either going to need to move or add on a room sometime in the near future.

Fortunately, I’ve spent a bit of time in waiting areas, on public transportation, and trapped in conference hotels recently – all venues more suited to reading than to writing.  That’s convenient since, in addition to the aforesaid preponderance of unread books, my writer’s brain seems to have short-circuited with all the new information that I acquired in the past month.

So, here’s what I’ve read lately: Continue reading

Elizabeth: Vulnerable Characters

You remember Achilles, right? He had that “heel” problem.

I read two books this past weekend (it seemed much more appealing than cleaning the garage).  One was a keeper and the other probably not; one had a historical setting and the other was contemporary; but both had something in common:  a realistically vulnerable hero.

First off was Lori Foster’s Under Pressure, book 1 in her Body Armour series.  It was one of the freebies from the recent writing conference and, since I’d read and enjoyed her books before, I figured it would be a relaxing way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Though I’m pretty sure I’m not the target reader for this particular series, there were a couple of elements that I thought worked really well.  The first was the chemistry between the hero and heroine.  It can be difficult to capture instant (or very quick) attraction between characters, but in brief brushstrokes the author did just that.  The story features a resourceful heroine (Cat), a hunky bodyguard hero (Leese), and a nefarious Bad Guy threat.

As the story opens Continue reading

Elizabeth: Old Book Squee!

As I mentioned previously, I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, thanks in part to a number of recommendations from Argh Ink’s weekly Good Book Thursday posts.  While my intent was to whittle down my existing TBR pile, that hasn’t quite happened.  It seems like for every book I read, I wind up adding two more to the pile.  On the plus side, I won’t have to paint anytime soon – the walls are pretty much hidden from view – and I’m unlikely to ever run out of reading material.

Most of the books I’ve read this month have been mysteries and ten of them have been by Georgette Heyer.  While Heyer is probably best known for her Regency stories, I had not known until recently that she also wrote mysteries.  Fortunately for me, they are my favorite kind of mysteries:  interesting characters, witty dialogue, and 1940s Britain, all in a cozy / country house style without any of the grit or high-drama of today’s CSI type mysteries.

Really, what more could you ask for? Continue reading

Elizabeth: Painting a Quick Picture

Recently I’ve been reading my way through Georgette Heyer’s mystery stories, which has been detrimental to my daily word-count, but highly enjoyable nonetheless.

Since I have a mystery of my own that I’m currently working on, I’ve been reading mysteries by a variety of authors – Heyer, Marsh, Hammett, Tey –  deconstructing them to see how they were put together, as somewhat of a self-guided “how-to” master course.  Until a few weeks ago, I wasn’t even aware the Heyer had written any mysteries.  Once they were pointed out I had only intended to read one or two, just to understand the method and style she used, but it didn’t take long to get hooked and fill my Amazon shopping cart with additional volumes.

Reading hasn’t been all fun and games, especially for the poor corpses that insist upon turning up in each story.  Along the way I’ve managed to learn Continue reading