Books, Recountings

why i love ‘frederica’ by georgette heyer (and you totally should too)

No one quite does it like Georgette Heyer. When I pick up one of her books and dive in, that’s it – I’ll disappear for a wee while, completely buried. Perhaps I’ll come up for air, but more often than not, it’s to grab another one of her works.

And here’s one of her books that’s a favourite of mine. (Most of them are favourites. Picking an absolute favourite is nigh on impossible. I do have least favourites *quelle horreur!!!* but that’s for another time.)

THE PLOT DOESN’T STOP FOR A MOMENT AND IS SPARKLING AND WITTY AND HYSTERICAL

So we have this rich bloke – a Marquis – in his ivory palace who gets everything he wants and is terribly bored with it. (I’m sure EVERYONE relates to this. *cough*) His relatives want him to introduce their daughters into society with lavish balls – at his expense, of course – but he’s all ‘lemme think about … ha! ha! No’ (but in FAR more distinguished and witty tones).

“Wretch! I shan’t allow you to take a rise out of me! I want to talk to you about Jane!”
“Who the devil is—Oh, yes, I know! One of your girls!”
“My eldest daughter, and, let me remind you, your niece, Alverstoke!”
“Unjust, Louisa, I needed no reminder!”
“I am bringing the dear child out this season,”[…]
“You’ll have to do something about her freckles—if she’s the one I think she is,” he interrupted. “Have you tried citron-water?”
“I didn’t invite you to come here to discuss Jane’s appearance!” she snapped.
“Well, why did you invite me?”
“To ask you to hold a ball in her honour—at Alverstoke House!” she disclosed, rushing her fence.
“To do what?” 

Enter Frederica Merriville who wants just a tiny favour from him. He is Not Bored By This. And offers to help her and her family (she has a Beautiful Sister and Frederica is determined that such Beauty is Not To Be Wasted) enter into society. And then suddenly – in almost a blink of his languid eye – the Merriville family is plunging him into one scrape after the other, and he’s got people banging on his door about a dog disturbing some Picturesque Milking Cows in central London, there’s the Merriville brother who is Convinced that the Marquis is VERY MUCH INTERESTED in the latest technology (he’s not), and a Fateful Hot Air Balloon ride.

And then, indignity upon indignity, his esteemed personage has to look after someone. On a sickbed.

Oh how will he cope?!

HOW WILL HE SURVIVE????

THE HEROINE IS PRETTY DOPE

There are several different types of Heyer Heroines, and Frederica falls amongst the ranks of Pheobe Marlowe (Sylvester) and Venetia (Venetia). She’s sensible, but she’s plucky and she has a sense of humour. She’s not as staid as some heroines, nor as silly as others.

I approve.

THE MARQUIS OF ALVERSTOKE IS ALMOST AS COOL AS THE COOLEST DUDE TO EVER DUDE

My all-time FAVOURITE of Heyer’s characters is one that barely appears in his book. (BUT WHAT AN IMPRESSION HE LEAVES!!) Imagine my joy and surprise when I realised that there was another character almost as wonderful as he!

“Perhaps,” murmured his lordship, “I yielded to a compassionate impulse.”
“A what?” gasped his best friend. 
“Oh, did you think I never did so?” said his lordship, the satirical glint in his eyes extremely pronounced. “You wrong me! I do, sometimes—not frequently, of course, but every now and then!” 

My brain sort of fuzzed over when I Saw The Truth in a reread.

‘HE IS LIKE HIM!!!!!!!’ I thought calmly. “THIS IS AMAZING!!”

FREDERICA’S YOUNGEST BROTHERS ARE THE BEST THING EVER

I have a soft spot for siblings in novels. Particularly when they are so SINCERE and OBLIVIOUS to everything else.

And her youngest brother, Felix – he’s da actual bomb (not in a Lord Legerwood way but in his own irrepressible ‘let me join this Hot Balloon adventure whatdoyoumeanIcan’tgoupwiththem??!’ way.) He *somehow* gets Alverstoke to do things that Alverstoke really doesn’t have the slightest inclination of doing. Like, going around a foundry. Alverstoke has never even thought of it. He’d probably rather recite the dictionary backwards whilst dining with ALL of his beloved relatives than- No. He’d probably hate both of them equally.

In a lazy kind of way.

ALSO, THE DOG

There’s this scene – hySTERICALLY FUNNY OF COURSE – where some of the Merrivilles are attempting to get out of a scrape by their actions of their dog.

All the outraged tradesmen are like: this dog is a coMMEN MUTT AND PROBABLY TERRIBLE AND SHOULD BE DESTROYED becauSE IT ALARMED OUR COWS AND PUT THEM OFF PRODUCING MILK!!

And the Marquis and his DOPE secretary are like: mmmMM THIS DOG? This dog that is a priCLESS BREED?? This dog from a FOREIGN COUNTRY?? o.0 YOU WANT TO DESTROY THIS DOG?

“I didn’t smuggle the dog into the country; I merely caused him to be smuggled out of Baluchistan.” 

ALSO, THE OTHER CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM

The whole cast. Are. The. Best. Even the two characters that are just MY GOSH UGH THIS IS FUNNY BUT I WOULDN’T WANT TO STAY IN THE SAME ROOM WITH YOU.

Even if it was an internet chatroom. ARE THOSE STILL GOING BY THE WAY???

This novel is a sheer, rippling delight from page one. It’s charming. It’s nigh on perfect. I love it. Read it. You just might love it too.

goodreads // open library

Books, On Writing

writing a first draft

It started because I’m as excellent at remembering birthdays as I am at maths.

(I am terrible at maths.)

Recently, I wrote the words ‘The End’ to Project If. I’ve been basking in the weight of ‘I must get this story told’ finally – FINALLY – rolling off my shoulders.

Sure, there’s so much more to do but for right now, the project is marinating and my mind is resting, relieved from the burden of a story made corporeal.

Here’s how I did it …

THE ‘I HAVE A REASON FOR WRITING THIS’ STAGE

There’s nothing quite like a big birthday coming up to make you panic. My dad was days away from his birthday, and I was in a different country. Now, I’m terrible at remembering birthdays and presents on a good day. I was aware of his birthday approaching, as I was aware of the Pyramids of Gaza – they and it existed, but it never troubled my mind.

Until it did. And then I realised that the only proper and meaningful gift I could give my parent was … a book. I mean, obviously.

True, he never has much time for leisure, and true, there are other things he’d probably rather do in that leisure time but dang it, it would be a meaningful gift (to me) and I couldn’t think of anything else befitting such an auspicious occasion.

It was decided then – I would inflict graciously pen an exciting adventure novel for my stunningly grateful parent.

THE PLANNING STAGE (REALLY THESE ARE ALL VERY IMAGINATIVELY TITLED)

I went to the local print shop – braving the weather conditions and nipping in before my classes started – and loaded up with lots of stationary. There’s nothing as wonderful as a good, honest pack of post-it notes. There’s something delicious about it. Something that promises of infinite possibilities.

First of all, I did a brain storm – I wrote elements I wanted in the story on post-it notes and slapped them onto the wall. And then the monster was born – an entire wall was covered. (Okay, so it wasn’t the entire wall!) Characters had a post-it note cluster, there was a time line divided into three acts, what the city would look like and how the plot was go – OBVIOUSLY there would be no plot holes. There was NO ROOM FOR ERROR AT ALL.

And then I transferred them from the wall and onto A4 sheets of paper which glamorously represented chapters.

And then, using FocusWriter set to ComicSans font (honest to goodness, any pompous notions of I’m writing the next big thing are effectively knocked out by that font. It’s aces. You can just concentrate on the story because it’s not going to be worse than ComicSans. I believe I have Hayden to thank for these tips.) I typed the fateful first words that are probably going to be completely butchered in the next month:

He didn’t think he’d ever betray his country.

PROJECT IF – PAGE ONE, PARAGRAPH ONE, FIRST SENTENCE. OBVIOUSLY.

THE TRUDGING STAGE (ONE MUST)

I wrote the beginnings of Project If whilst I was teaching in Moldova. I’d take up the A4 Chapter that I was working on and write the chapter from there – side note, I’m terrible at planning reasonable length chapters. They’d end up being 3,000 to 4,000 to 5,000 words and that’s a little too long for me, personally. But still.

I was teaching and planning lessons and marking papers and all that sort of thing, but I wrote and that was wonderful.

And then I came home and everything changed. Paradoxically, it seems that it’s when I have the most time for writing, I write the least. I had a few weeks in which I had nothing pressing to do – except for writing. And I wrote barely anything.

My brain is very contrary; when I started working full time AND ESTABLISHED A ROUTINE suddenly, I was writing a lot more and word count soared. It wasn’t record breaking; I wasn’t getting down 10,000 words a day, or a week … but words were happening.

And so, slowly, the word count creeped up. Day by day. Sometimes I did timed sprints. Sometimes I simply thundered as loudly as I walk on the keyboard. Occasionally, the plot would veer off into unthought of grounds, but you have to roll with it and fill the plot holes up later.

Being consistently creative, for me, requires a routine. And so I’ve found a sort of groove. And yes, it can mean that one moment I’m writing a gory scene in my lunch hour and the next, I’m having a pleasant conversation with a colleague. But hey – variety is the spice of life and what they don’t know won’t put them off their lunch.

THE FINISHING STAGE (LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL. BOOKS CAN BE FINISHED)

I stalled. I couldn’t help it. Stage fright whisked me into a land of worrisome panic. I delayed it day after day until I realised that I just had to do it. This wasn’t that ’30 day until you get killer abs’ app that I refused to complete on day 29 on the grounds that 1) I had put weight on and 2) no abs had happened.

I had to complete it. So I sat down at my desk, rewrote a section of the final chapter that hadn’t worked out too well, added a few more scenes and typed THE END. It wasn’t quite as speedy as it sounds, but it happened.

Typing ‘The End’ was exhilarating – there’s much further to go on a first draft, at least there is for me, but the story in its crudest, most basic form has been told. It’s all about rewriting and editing it and trying to make it look like I totally meant for that to happen. Yep. Totally.

THE EDITING STAGE (PANIC. JUST … PANIC A LOT AND THEN ROLL YOUR SLEEVES UP AND DO IT)

I’m about to plunge into this – by the time this has been posted, perhaps I will have already done so. It’s going to take a while, I suspect. I’ve planned out my list of edits – and there are five rounds to do in the second draft and just oh this is going to be so time consuming kill me now I mean don’t I’m joking but it’s going to be PAINFUL.

I’ve had a glorious week researching and planning out my next novel – Project Unicorn Poop is undergoing an overhaul. There’s only been one post-it note used. You need a large, empty wall for the Post-It Note plotting method, and I don’t quite have that any more. But another novel is happening because … well, I simply must.

And though it’s going to be a trifle tricky trying to edit one book and write the first draft of a second at the same time but … I’m going to do it. (Probably with total success. *ah-HEM*)

There’s so many stories to tell, you see.

Books, Life

i want to sniff my book

Listen. I’m nearing the end of Project If (as yet, still untitled) and Project Unicorn Poop is shaping up okay – I’ve just figured out what was wrong with one of the characters (he lacked conflict, if you must know) and I can’t wait.

I just cannot wait.

I can’t wait for draft one to be over and done with. I can’t wait to plunge into the editing, the butchering, the going over everything with a fine tooth-comb, the polishing, the looking for an editor to do the job for me, the second edits, the line edits, ALL THE EDITS and then the front cover and then the publishing.

It isn’t that I want to be famous. It isn’t that I want to make pots and pots of money through this – though, I’m sure, I wouldn’t refuse if you really insisted.

It’s just that I want to sniff my book. I want to see it done, in the hands of the person it was written for. I want to hold it and stare at it and admire it and tell people I wrote a story that I wanted to read and I wish – oh I wish – you’ll read it too.

I want to have something that I’ve birthed. (Not literally birthed. I mean, maybe that will come in the future but not right now.) I want to see a beautiful book and pick it up and be surprised that oh this is something I wrote – something I wanted to read but couldn’t ever quite find.

It isn’t for pride, it isn’t for fame, it isn’t for anything except a single thing: I want to take joy in what my imagination has produced.

Right now it’s in my head and imperfectly on a page. Right now it’s rough – like a block of marble that hasn’t been shaped and chiselled. Right now, not even a proud mother could come up with a positive adjective to describe it.

And when it’s finished, it won’t be perfect. I’m no Heyer, no Sutcliff, no Sayers, no Wynne Jones, no Wodehouse.

But oh – if it’s a tiny bit beautiful, if it’s a little funny, if it’s moving, if it’s a wondrous adventure, if it makes you see a glimmer of something you can’t quite name, or startles you into a laugh; if it’s something that I can be pleased with then, I would like to share it with you.

Books, I think I just rambled, Life

books and movies and entwives

Let me regale you with the adventures I’ve somewhat recently taken between the pages of books, thundering away at a keyboard, and – memorably – in a cinema seat.

YOUNG ADULT NOVELS AND I STILL DON’T GET ALONG

I DNF’d A Curse So Dark and Lonely – it wasn’t my cup of tea, andI forgot that YA novels and I aren’t always the best of friends.

ALSO I HAVE THINGS TO SAY ABOUT IT but they might have to hold until another time.

LORD OF THE RINGS – I’M READING THEM! LE GASP!

Though I have watched the movies, I hadn’t read the books. But now? I’ve read the first two and have almost finished with the last. Reader, I cried.

Just … Sam … Frodo … the bittersweet scent of change that permeates everything … the lore … the world … the friendships … ugh!

Also, I love the Ents and WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ENT WIVES I ASK YOU. WHAT. HAPPENED?!!!!!

TOLKIEN – THE MOVIE

I watched it. I thought it was pretty okay. I was confused for a bit because there was a man named Chris and I only worked out that it wasn’t C S Lewis near the very end of the movie. The actor did a fabulous job as Tolkien and though I enjoyed it, I thought that it lacked a wee bit of substance.

Like a cream tea without the tea. Scones and jam and cream without the jam. A body without bones. That sort of thing.

ENDGAME – MY EYES AND HEART ACHED

I went twice. My heart hurt. My eyes hurt. My soul ached at some points. And though part of me questions the treatment of one of the characters (Thor, FYI), I am – as a whole – satisfied with the ending of an era that has had a part in shaping my life.

I can’t help listen to this without a lump in my throat.

ROMANOVS – THANKS, I HATE IT.

I’ve been reading a book about the Romanovs – and though it’s wonderfully written and fascinating – I’m just about ready to throw in the towel. (Trowel?) I feel very done with them. I had hopes for one Tsar – that he might be a decent fellow. But then … UGH. A ranting entry in my diary, and (if I recall correctly) a rambling conversation with my sister (or was it a friend? I’ve blocked the memory. It was a terrible time.) later and I feel quite finished.

History is wonderful but I’ve only so many hours and I’ve got a hundred other books which are all clamouring to be read. I think I might give it a pass.

Also – my bookmark got knocked out and I can’t bring myself to go through it all again and find my place.

^VERY valid reason. Also an actual reason.

My next factual book will probably be On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society which looks incredibly interesting.

WRITING: FREELANCE, THE LARGE PROJECT, AND OTHER THINGS

I was doing some freelance on fiverr – it was an adventure, for certain. I’ve found that there isn’t enough time to complete freelance work AND to write my own projects. Honestly?

Procrastination + deadlines = sleep deprivation.

So I’ve called it a day on most freelance work.

Here’s something that I’ve recently discovered though: word sprints. Do them. It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, knowing that there is someone else writing and comparing word counts etc is enormously invigorating and words are always added. It’s great. Find someone who writes. And do it.

So far, I’m just over half way through IF – a project that was supposed to be an action packed mash of a Jackie Chan + John Wayne sort of adventure.

… it hasn’t ended up quite that way. I’ve ended up with a man bogged down in paperwork who then hurtles off on an accidental and reluctant adventure.

And then there’s Operation: Unicorn Poop which is tickling my funny bone.

BOOKS I WANT TO READ IN THE FUTURE

I want to reread my Georgette Heyers. Desperately. I’ve got a book on the Spanish Inquisition which I wasn’t expecting.

… but very much would like to read.

And then there’s The Poison Maiden by Paul Doherty which looks amazing and I want to read it straight away and My Plain Jane which I SWORE I wouldn’t read but … GUESS WHAT ARRIVED TODAY IN THE POST?

Also: a thousand other books but *sigh* life.

ALSO: expect a blog post about the MOST excellent ‘The Emotional Craft of Fiction’ and ‘Steal Like An Artist’ and ‘Keep Going’ because those three books are the bomb*.

*metaphorically speaking.

ALSO: LIFE

I haven’t yet saved the world or slain a dragon, but that’s alright. We can’t all be heroes but we can be kind to each other. It’s more achievable.

Happy Reading!

Books, Recountings

recountings: not-quite-georgette heyer and i’m a plant killer now

Now, you know I like Georgette Heyer. And I like everyone else who likes Georgette Heyer. And I especially like authors who like Georgette Heyer. And most of all, I like authors who write books inspired by Georgette Heyer. 

So – here I find a book – and I demand from the all the world to know: how did I not find this before?!!! 

THE WEAVER TAKES A WIFE

by SHERI COBB SOUTH

LET’S BE REAL … 

It wasn’t perfect. But most things in life aren’t. My azaleas, for instance, are slightly wilting. Is it because I placed them in the sun too much? Probably. Is it because I haven’t wooed them with Mozart? Most likely. I’m not perfect. They aren’t perfect. This book isn’t perfect. It doesn’t quite reach Georgette Heyer’s glorious heights – but there’s so. much. to. love. Anyway. 

(And She wasn’t perfect either. I’m listening to Sprig Muslin at the moment – it’s my ‘room cleaning’ book. I have many books for many different occasions. My ‘I’m sitting on the loo’ book is about the Romonovs and lemme tell you Peter the Great was WILD. But I digress … Sprig Muslin? Not my favourite. Possibly because of the narrator. Possibly because I’ve read negative reviews about it. Possibly because I’m not approaching it like C.S Lewis told me to – with an open mind.) 

Other things that aren’t so perfect:

  • the heroine’s father is basically selling her off for money to pay off his debts. So. Ew.
  • while there is character development with the heroine – she does a complete 180, but I wish it had been … slightly slower. Some things require time. For instance: your entire world view changing.
  • MY AZALEAS ARE BASICALLY DEAD OKAY?!!
I mean so is the other plant. oh my gosh. i’ve killed TWO PLANTS THIS IS BAD THIS IS VERY VERY BAD

Mr. Brundy. Mr. Brundy is the bomb.

I’m going to be straight up and honest with you: I’ve vast plans about marrying Mr. Brundy. Yes. They are a little inhibited by the tragic fact that he’s fictional … and also fictionally married [dang it] but true love always finds a way. Just like Mr. Brundy. And his heart. 

He takes one look at the heroine and BAM! Cupid’s dart doesn’t just strike him. Oh no! It bloomin’ well drops a nuke on his poor little heart pumping organ. Think Paris and Helen but with less … bloodshed, immorality, Greek gods, and arrows-in-heels happening. 

[As a side note … there’s this BBC adaption of Troy and I loathe Paris. He’s just so bleh and ugh and argh and *smash face on desk*-esque … if you know what I mean.] 

He – Mr Brundy, not Paris. Yuck and BOOO! – looks at his beloved and locks on her with all the focus of one of those dinosaurs from Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. You know – the killing ones: where you’d put a lasor on the target and pull the trigger and the dinosaur would just. Hunt. It. Down. 

He does that. But in a less dinosaur-y fashion. 

It’s a TAD unrealistic but … for this book? I’ll take it.

Mr. Brundy is an illegitimate orphan who’s worked his way up from the workhouses. He’s now one of the richest men in England. He’s honest and hardworking. He also can’t pronounce his ‘h’s. 

“Mr. Brundy,” she said with a nod, making the most perfunctory of curtsies to her father’s guest. 
He made no move to take her hand, but merely bowed and responded in kind. “Lady ‘elen.” 
“My name is Helen, Mr. Brundy,” she said coldly. 
“Very well- ‘elen,” said Mr. Brundy, surprised and gratified at being given permission, and on such short acquaintance, to dispense with the use of her courtesy title.” 


THE CHARACTERS AREN’T ALL DUMB (!)

I was worried. I’m not going to lie. At one point, I was cringing. You couldn’t tell. It was 2:00am and my kindle light was on low but my gosh, I was worried and cringing and inwardly mildly screaming. (Picture Darth Vader with his ‘NOOOO’ but he’s a disappointed but resigned mother hen looking at her son. She knows he’s not all there but she’s so invested in his life that she can’t help cringe and he’s hopping in slow motion and she’s all: nooooo, Kevin.]

But FEAR NOT … there’s a character with his head metaphorically on his shoulders and he Gets Help! so it’s okay.

[There are mild spoilers for the book. I’m sorry. I should have warned you.]

ONE WORD SUMMARY: 

Adorable.  

Pinch-its-cheeks-adorable. I adore it. You’ll adore it. Sometimes it’s a little too simplistic, but I was reading it at 2:00 am, so some of my impressions may be a leeetlle askew. (Also I wrote the majority of this review at a similar time on a different night. It’s when I do my best work. You probably can’t tell. HAHAHAHAHA.)

If you’re familiar with any of Georgette Heyer’s books – you’ll be familiar with some aspects of this storyline. You’ll forgive this book because this is such a wonderful take on a woman realising that it’s not all about appearances, and a man who learns to dance for his wife and ARGGHHH BE STILL MY BEATING HEART!!

kindle / goodreads