Where’s her perfume?

Rice_TheoryofMagic600Pat here:

I’m slowly realizing that it’s the little things that add up when writing. So much of my writing is intuitive that I don’t always understand what I’ve done until I go back and read the book. Take, for instance, my heroine’s perfume in THEORY OF MAGIC. I usually give my characters scents, and normally they’re just convenient additions to the sensory build-up of love scenes.

But in this case, I have a blind hero. So the heroine’s scent becomes a very important part of the book layering. If she’s not wearing it, he can’t know where she is unless he hears her voice or recognizes her footsteps. So he needs to notice if she’s not wearing it and wonder why.

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Things That Go Thump in the NIght

MerlinQuantum has asked for our “views/discussion of paranormal fiction, particularly with ghosts and time slip involved.” She adds, “It seems to me that plausibility is very important in grabbing reader interest, but main stream science is rather dismissive of this area. . .What do the Wenches think?”

Well, as always, the Wenches have an opinion, and we owe Quantum one free book for her excellent question, thank you!

From Pat:

I’ll let the other Wenches speak to their own beliefs, but I’m totally open to all possibilities, up to and including space aliens seeding this earth a gazillion years ago. <G> Science tends to be fact-focused, as it should be, and facts are very hard to come by when it comes to the more woo-woo aspects of our world. Scientists have their hands full measuring what they can see. Working with what they can’t see is currently beyond their abilities, and possibly, beyond the imaginations of the people who fund them.

I like to believe that people who claim to see ghosts, possess clairvoyance, or other unexplained oddities have neural pathways that we have yet to explore. And maybe one day we’ll understand what’s behind string theory and quantum physics and develop a better comprehension  of what reality means.

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Scientific Magic

Rice_MagicintheStars276Pat here:

Before I can put the first word to the page of a new book, I need research. The characters may be hopping up and down in my mind, shouting their ire, but they’re still too unformed for me to “see” them—and I don’t mean their appearance.

As a for instance—the heroine of the Magic book I’m currently plotting has already appeared in other volumes, so I know what she looks like, and I know something of her personality and background. I know what she wants. But I have utterly no clue how she can go after it because this is 1830, after all, and they don’t have the internet or Craigslist. I don’t want to give her away just yet, until I’m ready to write (yeah, I’m one of those authors who can’t talk about plot until after a book is written). 

Nachet_collection;_Barrel_of_old_Nurenberg_microscope._Wellcome_M0000205But this time, I’m not writing one of my Ives heroes (pause for silent weeping). He’s scientific, yes, but I needed a titled nobleman and the Ives family has more bastards than titles. I had some odd idea that he might be a physician, or possibly someone who works with microscopes. Until I can “see” what he does, I can’t do anything. So I started by researching microscopes.

Yes, they had microscopes in 1830, but they were pretty crude. Even in the 2nd century BC the Greeks knew that water bends light. By 100 AD, the Romans could create glass that was thick in the middle and thin on the edge and learned this lens could magnify an image. Although, since they called them burning glasses, I suspect they spent more time trying to create fire with them.

The microscope above is an old German monocular, probably from the early 1700s. The one below left is a solar microscope by Peter Dolland of London from about 1790, considered one of the finest makers of microscopes at the time. But think–solar…London. Does not compute, right?

It wasn’t until the 17th century that Leeuwenhoek invented anything close to a microscope, and that was only a single lens. Low quality glass and lack of light created distortions that prevented microscopes from real 1780-1790,_solar_microscope_by_Peter_Dolland,_London,_England_-_Golub_Collection_of_Antique_Microscopes_-_DSC04810usefulness until nearly 1870, unfortunate for my hero. Although several glass problems were resolved by 1830, lighting wasn’t, and that limits usage. So in my time period, the best use of microscopes was determining the existence of cells and their structures—interesting but not exactly hero material. My guy might be able to discover a bacterium if he uses glass manufactured by my fictional Ives experts, but how do I work that into the story in my head?

To tell the truth, I don’t know yet. I’m now researching arsenic and medicine and tuberculosis and my characters are about to pitch fits. Anyone want to make a story of all this? Or I could just make my hero a gambling lout who changes his spots… But then I’d have to research gambling! Anyone know any good books on any of these topics?

House of Lords

450px-Lords_Chamber_(landscape)Pat here:

In my defense, I  could have sworn the first of July was next week, and that I had plenty of time to research a lovely topic. But I’m now frantically flinging clothes into a suitcase for a trip scheduled this weekend and the calendar page turned and here I am at midnight, unprepared.

So today you get a brief history of the House of Lords, which has only been around in some form for about eight hundred years, give or take a century or so. Right, deep breath.  Parliament essentially began in medieval times as a group of advisors to the kings. By the 13th century, these advisors included representatives from various counties, cities, and rural boroughs. It wasn’t until the 14th century that the two houses of Parliament emerged. The representatives—currently elected—met in the House of Commons. The nobility and leaders of the church met as the House of Lords.

By the 15th century, the Lords Temporals, the “peers,” became almost entirely hereditary, no longer appointed by the king. These are the titles most familiar to romance readers: dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons. Since titles descended only to male heirs, the lords was quite unreasonably all male and still is today.

In the 16th century, good King Henry VIII took out the churches, which removed pretty 413px-Queen_Anne_in_the_House_of_Lords_by_Peter_Tillemansmuch all the bishops and Catholic church hierarchy, leaving the Lords Temporal pretty much in charge. I think there’s an entire encyclopedia of novels in this period alone. So, out goes the church and let the merriment begin!

Let’s skip over the nastiness of the Civil War when everyone got thrown out and it was a right wretched mess until 1689 when the Bill of Rights declared Parliament had authority over the king. Yeah, people! We may be down to a few dozen clergymen at this point.

So now we’re up to the time that matters in most of our romance novels, the 18th century. Scotland and England have been battling for centuries but finally, in 1707, they settle down and Scotland sends peers to the House of Lords. It takes until 1800 before they can get it together with Ireland, though. Lots of fun history here should I be writing this at some other time besides midnight.

It's before all the reforms in the mid-1800s that I'm setting my Unexpected Magic series, so a peer is still entitled to sit in the Lords upon inheriting the title. That's no longer true, but I'm not writing contemporary and don't have to worry about today's complications.

Essentially, the Lords supervises the Commons. The Commons does all the work, Rice_TheoryofMagic600deciding what their voters want, writing the bills, and the Lords get to sniff at it and decide whether they like the result. So really, one can understand why they spent a lot of time sleeping on the benches and playing cards. But I like my heroes more dynamic, so Lord Ashford gets to meddle in my next book. He probably likes to meddle at midnight, too, but I don't. So I'll leave y'all to tell me how far I went astray in my ramblings. Do any of you ever wonder what our heroes are actually supposed to be doing when our dukes and earls are out making hay or doing whatever it is romance heroes do that get them into so much trouble?

Baronetcy for Sale

Last week, I was deep into the final pages of the next Unexpected Magic book (with no sign of a title in sight, I Rice_WhisperofMagic276might add!) and still had no clear idea of how I’d resolve all the details of my conflict. You might say I’m a pantser—someone who writes by the seat of her pants. I like to be as surprised as the reader when I reach the end. Yeah, I know, stupid. But man, has that taught me how to edit!

But the point is—I had a brilliant brainstorm that would cap everything off so very nicely, except it involved all sorts of research. All writing came to a screeching halt as I dug into the origins of a baronetcy, who inherits, how, can a king just hand one to anyone he feels like, what are the requirements, can land be attached…  Argh!

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