Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Inside Her Ladyship's Hat Box

It's time to have a look inside Her Ladyship's Hat Box and see what one of you might win today:

Just as I suspected: a hardcover edition of Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, one of my favorite Pride and Prejudice continuation novels; What Jane Austen and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool, a fascinating collection of facts about daily life in 19th-Century England; a lovely Bronte Sisters' blank journal waiting to be filled with all manner of personal thoughts; and a cheerful Keep Calm and Carry On bookmark to help avoid the panic of losing your place in your current read.

If you would like to win the lot, in comments to this post name something you'd like to see given away here at Disenchanted & Co. (or if you can't think of anything, toss your name in the magic hat box) by midnight EST on Friday, March 1st, 2013. I'll draw one name at random from everyone who participates and send the winner the books, the journal, the bookmark and a surprise. This giveaway is open to everyone on the planet so all are welcome to join in.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Welcome to Forthcoming, the first of the regular features I have planned for the new blog. As I mentioned, each Saturday I'll be posting some peeks of what to expect each week at Disenchanted & Co.

If you're a regular at Paperback Writer you're probably familiar with the magic hat I use for giveaways. For the Toriana series I've acquired something similar: Her Ladyship's Hat Box. I suspect HB might be magic, too. When I moved it this morning, in fact, I heard a mysterious thump from inside. Could be there's something already in it, waiting to be given away next week . . .

Presently I'm hard at work on my next Toriana novel, and among the cast of characters is a newly-widowed lady. During our own Victorian era strict adherence to the rules of mourning became an inflexible and pervasive part of English culture. In my universe, however, the Torians have evolved mourning in a very different direction; one that has become something of an artform. Stop in next week if you'd like to know the hows and whys of mourning like a Torian.

Graveyard Photo credit © Chrisharvey | Agency:

Friday, February 22, 2013

Her Ladyship's Magazine

For me part of the fun of writing an urban fantasy set in an alternate historical era is definitely the research. I've been a history lover since the first time I read Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, which drew some very interesting parallels between the fourteenth and twentieth centuries. Truth be told there's nothing I like better than sifting through the past to find inspiration for my fiction.

Writing about an alternate Victorian-era America meant revisiting real publications from the latter half of the nineteenth century to find character, timeline and world-building sources. One of the most valuable was Godey's Lady's Book, a popular periodical written by and marketed to women of the time.

The Publisher defined his publication as "The Book of the Nation" and had this to say about it in 1851:

The publisher of the Lady's Book having the ability, as well as the inclination, to make the best monthly literary, and pictorial periodical in this country, is determined to show the patrons of magazines to what perfection this branch of literatire can be brought. He has now been publishing the Lady's Book for twenty-six years and he appeals to his subscribers and the public whether the "book" has not improved every year, and he now pledged his well-earned reputation that, in the Morality and Superiority of his literature, and in the Purity and Beauty of his engravings, The Lady's Book for 1851 shall exceed every other magazine.

Mr. Godey wasn't modest with his self-promo, but at times it was probably deserved, as he often published some fascinating writers. Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Washington Irving were all published in the Lady's Book.

In the Toriana universe my protagonist Kit reads the Rumsen Daily, a local newspaper sold by boys on street corners each morning, and Godley's Gazette, which is my version of Godey's. The Gazette, published four times a year by Louisa Antionetta Godley, advertises articles, stories, advice, embroidery patterns, recipes and household spells. Exclusively written by women and female mages for "the most genteel of Torian ladies" the Gazette is quite popular among well-to-do merchant's wives as well as some of the younger women of society, but is regarded as "too modern" and "somewhat vulgar" by the older, established matrons. Having access to real issues of Godey's has given me an excellent guide on the sort of content I should have in my fictitious magazine, and that in turn lends more realism to the universe.

If you're interested in checking out the real Godey's, here are some fun links:

This UPenn page links to online scans and transcriptions by the Princeton, the HathiTrust, the New York Public Library, the University of Michigan, Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive spanning 50 years of Godey's issues.

Hope Greenberg from the University of Vermont has a marvelous Godey's site with many samples from the magazine as well as three complete issues from 1855 that you can flip through and read online.

85 blog posts about Godey's Ladies book

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

From the Toriana Sketchbook

I've always sketched or painted characters, objects, settings and other elements from the novels I write; often this helps me translate something imagined more fully into story reality. This is an important part of my process, particularly when it's something I've coined or invented. I've dreamed up so much to build the Toriana universe that I'm on my fourth sketchbook now.

In the months ahead I'd like to share some of those sketches and paintings with you. If you'll forgive me in advance for being a painfully average artist, I think it'll be fun to show you some of Toriana through my eyes.

Without further to-do, here's one of the first gadgets I invented for Her Ladyship's Curse(click on image to see a larger version):

The BrewsMaid is an automated tea maker used by common people and heated by steam piped from a building's boiler and circulated through a steam dog (a kind of hot plate/burner.) It has two valves; one to access the boiler feed pipe and the other to regulate the flow through the steam dog to adjust the temperature from boiling (to make tea) to warming (to keep the kettle hot.) Fill the kettle, suspend the heart-shaped infuser inside, switch it on by adjusting the valves, and in a few minutes your brew is made (and no, I couldn't resist the pun.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sorting it Out

Now that I've unveiled the Disenchanted & Co. weblog I should cover what I'll be posting here in the months ahead. I want to focus primarily on my new series, so you can expect all related/official announcements, cover art reveals, novel excerpts, secrets from behind the scenes and all sorts of Toriana- and author-centric emphemera. There will also be some fun contests and giveaways as we get closer to Her Ladyship's release date in August. At present I expecy to post at least twice a week here, and of course I'm still blogging away daily at Paperback Writer.

Stop in each Saturday for some hints of what's ahead on the blog, too; such as next week, when you can take a peek inside one of my Toriana world-building sketchbooks:

Friday, February 15, 2013

Off to Market

I generally don't begin working on promotional items seven months before a release, but I'm on a mission for Her Ladyship. I want to recreate items from the story (like the keylace in my previous post) and bring bits of Toriana to life for the readers. Working with that kind vision requires a little time and thought; I have no patterns or instructions so everything will be an experiment to design and make by hand. Sometimes, however, inspiration strikes and I run with it.

Like last week, when I found a small remnant of a grapevine pattern, a swatch of fabric that was roughly 4" X 30"; too little really to be useful for anything. The pattern made me think of vineyards, which led to some memories of a French market, and I decided to buy it and do something with it. Cost: a whopping thirty cents -- proving that inspiration doesn't have to be expensive. As soon as I unrolled the remnant I could see it as part of a bag made of other strips, all cobbled together with some unbleached muslin to make a market tote. So I grabbed my scrap bag and began piecing.

Muslin (especially unbleached) has a natural vintage look and feel to it, and quilts beautifully. I pieced some pretty scrap trims and and muslin strips on either side of the grapevine print, batted and bound it with some leftover cream binding and began to quilt.

In Kit's world everything that common people use is handmade and (whenever possible) recycled, so it was easy to imagine the sort of bag she might make and carry to market: sturdy, serviceable and washable, but with touches of vibrant color (Kit doesn't like to give into her feminine side, but it usually comes out anyway.) Over time she'd patch any holes in it rather than make new; Kit can't afford to be wasteful. I wanted the bag to reflect those ideas, and so far it's coming together nicely.

Making the market bag allows me to work in character and discover more about Kit's personality and preferences. If this were my bag I'd bead it with crystals and lavish on the lace, but Kit doesn't have the time or funds for such fripperies. Crystals might snag her skirts while she's shopping or drop off at an inconvenient time; they're also too fancy for a market bag.

Once the bag is finished I'll stow it in Her Ladyship's promo bin and move onto my next project, which will probably be a reproduction of Kit's nightstone. I found the perfect gem for it a few months back and, once I can figure out how to properly execute the design in my head, will be making it into her pendant.

You don't have to be crafty or a quilter to bring items from your story to life. Write a letter in character, make a meal they have in the story or put together a shelf of books they'd enjoy reading. If you like drafting, make a floor plan for their home or business. Those of you who decorate well might collect some swatches of material, paint, wallpaper and so forth and create a design diary for one of your settings. It's all there in your story and your mind's eye; all you have to do is use a little imagination and ingenuity to bring something from the worlds you build into our world.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Imagined Made Real

Part of the fun of world-building is reimagining all the stuff that goes into making a world: people, terrain, societies, architecture, language, foods, transportation, religion etc. While I always enjoy inventing a world from the ground up, it's creating little details that are the most fun for me, i.e. How do they say Hello? What do they eat for breakfast? Where do they sleep? What sort of games do they play?

Even the smallest detail can be an opportunity to get creative. For example, while working on the universe for my newest series, I had to come up with an alternative to the key ring that was gender-specific (in other words, men and women both carry keys, but they use different things to do so.) I actually researched the way people have carried keys throughout history before I made up key-carriers for my universe: my guys use a type of fob, while my ladies keep them on a keylace -- a length of lace worn around the wrist like a bracelet.

As details go this one is quite small, mentioned maybe three times in the entire novel, but it's one of those things I think is cool. Naturally when I found the idea-ology word keys, I realized I could actually make my keylaces. Which led to a day of playing with all sorts of trims and ways to wear them, and then that morphed into a series of keylace BookLoops:

I'll probably keep fussing with and refining these until I have the perfect assemblage because it's not quite there yet, but I still like how the first batch turned out. They have that shabby, cherished quality that I envisioned. They also have a practical use as bookmarks, and will work nicely as unique promo items to hand out when the book is released.

It's not always possible to turn something you've imagined into reality (unless, say, you have a few spare millions and your town doesn't mind you building that five-story two hundred ton time travel device in your backyard.) Focusing on the little details can put making real the imagined within your reach. It doesn't have to be an object; you might recreate the outfit one of your characters is wearing, or actually write a letter or song or poem for one that your character has written in the story (I filled a journal with love poems written in my imagination by Jayr from Evermore.) Draw on your creative strengths, too; if you've conjured up a new sort of critter, draw a sketch of it, sew a stuffie version of it, or sculpt it in paperclay. The point is to bring something from the page into your reality.

Have any of you ever created something you've only imagined? Tell us about it in comments.

Added:  All of the shabby chic trims I used for the keylace BookLoops were purchased from homesteadtreasures on

(Originally posted on Paperback Writer)