Jane Austen’s Career


Pat here:

The heroine of the Regency historical mystery series I’m currently scribbling is a novelist. She’s not poor, but she has expenses her income can’t meet. So I was interested in how much she might earn as a beginning writer. Of course, Jane Austen instantly came to mind.

It’s a fascinating bunny hole to dive down. Did you know writers had to pay for publication then? It didn’t necessarily have to be upfront, but one way or another, they paid for the printing. If one was well known and had an influential patron who could recommend your books so a group of people would pay in advance, one might serialize and pay as you go. Neither my heroine nor Austen were in that position.

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Crafty Skills and Writing Thrills

Joanna here with this month's question for the Wenches:

Do you have a hobby or handicraft that's important to you? Does it ever find its way into your writing?


Mary Jo sWench MaryJoPutney_RiverofFire_200pxays:

Alas, I am not crafty, except perhaps in my plotting.  I learned basic sewing as a girl and made some of my own clothes because that's what girls did in that time and place, but I wasn't enthusiastic about it, and I was a complete loss at handcrafts.  I botched cross-stitch and never mastered crochet and had zero interest in embroidery.  I did learn to knit in college because it was a way to keep hands busy when we sat around and talked, and I even managed a few large needle sweaters.  But they weren't very good except for basic warmth, and I haven't knit since I got out of college. 


 With the exception of young Bree, the hero's daughter in Sometimes a Rogue, my female characters aren't very interested Wench NotQuiteAWifeMMin handwork, though they can mend things as required. And now that I think of it, Laurel, the heroine of Not Quite a Wife, crocheted baby blanket squares while on a long carriage ride, but that was more because poor babies needed warm blankets.  I don't think she was much interested in crocheting for crochet's sake.  <G>  So I guess you could say that my lack of handicraft interest has made its way into my writing!


  On the other hand, while I don't have much gift for crafts, I have my share of interests.  As an art school graduate and a professional designer, art and design creep into stories, most strongly in River of Fire, where all the major characters are artists and don't know how they feel unless they have a paint brush in hand.  <G>  And I love music, though again I have no particular talent other than being able to do some research, but it's fun finding a four hand piano version of Vivaldi quartets on youtube, then telling my characters to take it from there.  <G>  A nice thing about writing is all the elements we can weave into our stories!


Nicola offers us music:

It’s interesting how many writers are also creative in other artistic fields. I have absolutely no talent for painting or drawing, or sewing, Wench Unmasked - US publishedknitting or making anything with my hands. As a child I did make patchwork cushions in my sewing classes at school and I was also passably good at cookery, which I think is another creative talent. However it was music that I loved and singing was a hobby of mine from childhood.


 I studied music at school and learned the piano and wrote some (bad) songs. I joined my school, college and church choirs and was also a member of a local choral society that toured Europe one summer. That was very exciting. My first love was always church music but I have tackled just about everything except opera! My singing tutor was a very fierce Scots lady called Mrs Buchan who had been a professional singer and was a very inspiring teacher.


 A number of characters in my books are musical and have good signing voices. Some of my heroines are talented at the piano or other musical instruments. When I am researching a book I do enjoy seeing which pieces of music were popular in the period and choosing something that my heroine might be singing or playing in the drawing room after dinner to entertain the other guests. In Unmasked, the heroine Mari gives away the secret of her ancestry by singing a Russian folk song.  When I write musical characters I am always reminded of Mary in Pride and Prejudice who loved playing the piano even though she had little aptitude for it, and her father saying: “You have entertained us long enough!”


Susan is musical as well as craftsy:



Writers and some kind of creative handiwork are a natural fit — the creativity often spills off the page and Wench susan 1into some other expression like arts, crafts, gardening and so on. And if we're not craftsy otherwise, we can scribble and type a mile a minute, and that's a talent of the hands if there ever was one! 



I went to art school, so for years I did paintings, drawing, prints and so on, even while I thought about stories. I haven't made art for years (though I do want to return to it), but I always have some kind of handiwork going. I try different things rather than stick with one, so I am master of none and explorer of many. I've done lots of crochet and knitting, and usually have a knitting project going; I've churned out throws and scarves and such, and keep it simple (I love big circular needles and soft yarns, and have no patience for small-stitch projects). I've done beading, basket weaving, needlework, sewing, collage, murals, scrapbooking — it often comes down to my degree of patience for the thing. I especially love to refinish furniture and paint rooms. My routine after completing a book usually involves painting walls or redoing furniture. Give me a ladder, a can of paint, some music and I'm happy.


Wench susan 2Some of the art has worked into my novels – I've written about a painter, an illuminator, a sculptor, an art historian and so on. I also wrote about harp playing after taking lessons in Celtic harp years ago. I loved it, and better understood long-ago harpers and harp music. That definitely helped when I wrote The Angel Knight, Lady Macbeth and Queen Hereafter, and if I write about a harper again, I'll dust off my Irish harp and tune it up!  
Cara/Andrea brings us:
I have an art background, so I’ve featured a both a heroine and a hero who was an accomplished Wenches A Diamond In The Rough-medwatercolor artist. But I’m also the Wench “jock”, as I enjoy sports as a way of relaxing. A while back, I took up golf—I’m pretty athletic, but it was one of the hardest endeavors I’ve ever tried— the swing may look easy, and the ball is not moving, but trust me, getting the timing right takes practice and patience! However I really enjoyed both the cerebral challenge and walking the course. After a day of writing, I love going out in early evening and playing a few holes. I can’t tell you how many plot tangles I have unraveled on the fairways. There’s something about switching gears and doing something physical that clears the brain synapses!
On a trip to Scotland, I visited the Old Course at St. Andrews, where golf was popular during Rgency times, and then was lucky enough to play a round with the Duke of Roxburghe, who is a passionate golfer . . .which got me to thinking! I decided it would be great fun incorporate my new hobby into a Regency romance. I did a little research on clubmaking (there are some wonderfully quirky clubs, like clerks and mashies fron that era) and then penned A Diamond in the Rough.The heroine is a great golfer but must disguise herself as a boy and work as a caddie to be allowed to play at St. Andrews. She’s assigned to teach an English lord how to play the game in order for him to play a match to win back his ancestral home, which his wastrel father has gambled away. And well . . . the game is on, in more ways than one.
Jo comes back with a very down-to-earth hobby:
Wench josgarden2Gardening. I'm not sure I've ever written a garden-obsessed character, but my books often have garden scenes and named plants with significance. My
characters are going to have gardens as most people in the past did until the
worst town developments of the 19th century, which led to the allotment
movement — an awareness that people, especially the poor, need a place to grow
food and also to have touch with the land and growing things.

Most of my characters are wealthy enough to have estates and gardeners, but they still take an interest. Interestingly, my book-in-progress, The Viscount Needs a Wife, has a hero and heroine who don't. They're both London people, not fond of the countryside, and know nothing about how to grow anything. I like to be different!

Anne says (and this is so cool. I had no idea about the dolls):
Wenches myWrapBraceletsI nearly always have some craft activity on the go, whether it's hand-made Christmas decorations, small things for dolls houses, or various kinds of jewellery. I'm more slapdash than meticulous, but I do enjoy making small things.
I used to babysit a friend's daughter on a regular basis and as a result I developed dolls house disease. I made lots of tiny things for a dolls house that one of my adult students had given me when she'd learned I was looking after a little girl and had No Dolls!!
It was a weekly ritual — my little friend would arrive, we'd get out the dolls house and the box of contents and set the house up from scratch — different every time. At the end of the day she'd tell me what new thing the dolls house needed, in that very cute imperious way three and four year olds have. "I think the dolls house needs. . . a dolls house." Or "I think next week the dolls will go . . . to the races. They'll need hats." This was after Melbourne Cup day and someone had been watching "Fashions on the Field" on TV. So I made hats for tiny dolls.
Currently I'm playing with jewelry. Fiddling with small things helps me concentrate and you'd be surprised Wwenches DollHathow often, while apparently concentrating wholly on a necklace or bracelet, I solve a plot problem. I go through stages with the jewelry, too. Not so long ago I was making things using natural crystals, which I love, but was sidetracked recently when a friend suggested I make a beaded leather wrap bracelet — and I was off and playing.
Few of these things ever find their way into my writing. I wrote one story, The Virtuous Widow, a Christmas novella that included a dolls house, and that was inspired by my little friend and our dolls house games — she's mentioned in the dedication. Nothing since then, but you never know . . .
Wenches pat rice wickedPat rounds us off with some wonderfully practical hobbies:
I garden and I fix up old houses, so I’m going to guess those aspects of my life creep into my books on a regular basis. I believe readers have upon occasion remarked that they know they’re going to get houses and kids when they read my books. Apparently I’ve disguised the gardening fever better. Even in Formidable Lord Quentin, when the characters have plenty of fancy London houses that need no work, my protagonists end up in a neglected rural mansion battling rodents and bird nests. We have the kids and horses in that one, but no garden.
I outdid myself in Wicked Wyckerly, though—the heroine owns a farm and gardens, the hero owns a truly neglected mansion AND townhouse, and we have kids galore. But I’m thinking children probably aren’t a hobby!
So. What about you? What hobby brings you joy and makes you more creative? If you were to write a book, which of your avocations would sneak into the text?
Some lucky commenter will win a copy of any of my books they choose.










ReadModernLadyTableCityGIG Pat here:

I’m not entirely certain how the rest of the wenches find time to research and write their edifying blogs on fascinating subjects. When it comes my turn to blog, I’m usually musing on something much more pragmatic—like whether it’s better to leave off my glasses while doing housework.  I used to scrub the house every weekend, but now that I wear glasses, I don’t notice the grime on the kitchen cabinets or the dust on
Housekeeper the TV so there’s not as much to clean. It’s a miracle!

But it’s these little bits of reality that eventually get woven into the characters I write.  I make no pretense about it—I’m a character-driven writer.  Fitz (WICKED WYCKERLY) was chasing a six-year old shouting catchfart long before I researched the inns on the road to Brighton.  Blake (DEVILISH MONTAGUE) has been dueling in my head and Jocelyn stealing parrots before I knew where Wellington was in his battle against Napoleon that year. The characters and story almost always come before my research.
Wicked wyckerly final
That doesn’t mean I don’t research at all. If I am to have a character using a pen, I will most certainly determine the date and origin of the first inkpen—and that’s no simple matter since a fountain pen was designed in 1702, an American pen patent was filed in 1809, and a British one that was half quill in 1819, but it wasn’t until 1884 that Waterman produced a truly practical fountain pen.  While researching pens I might fall fascinated into quills and have a character produce odes to left wing feathers for their proper curve and crow feathers for their fine lines, cursing that the quills only last a week’s time. 

BUT, and I fear this is a very large exception—I will become so enamored of my character saying something like gobsmacked that it will never occur to me to check the origin of that word. Inventions, yes, words, no. Once upon a time I had copy editors familiar with Regency terms who might catch my idiosyncratic straying, but now copy editors rarely recognize when I turn a contemporary phrase into Regency language. I have no idea if Regency people ever used the phrase stubble it, (although I suspect Heyer did) but it works nicely when I really want to say stuff it. Nary an eyebrow has been raised over term or phrase.

I suspect part of my irrational use of both historical and contemporary language is generated because too many editors have questioned the real language of the period. Most Americans can’t pronounce marquess correctly, and editors have fits over gaol. If I give them sapscull, they’ll just change the spelling, so I do it for them.

But if I madly combine the real and the unreal, does it confuse the reader? Do you enjoy odes to quills or would you prefer that the heroine call the hero a sapskull and get on with the story?  And what character traits would you like to see portrayed in your favorite romance? Is near-sighted not romantic?

Travels with Wyckerly


Pat here!

The Wicked Wyckerly, the first of my Rebellious Sons series, will officially be released next week, but I’m brushing up for a blog tour and thought I’d start nattering here, no matter what the release date.

Which means free books! I have to do something with those boxes of books that have arrived on my doorstep.  I’ll give one away today and at each blog I attend next week.  So if you don’t win today, take a look at the sidebar and drop in to say hi wherever you can, please! It’s always nice to have friends around when I’m visiting.

I have an excerpt for the new book at my website at www.patriciarice.com if you want to test the Wyckerly waters. It’s not the first chapter because I’m always afraid readers will have my bad memory and think they’ve already read the book if they pick it up and the first page seems familiar.

I wish I did clever first lines so I could post one here, but it takes a paragraph or two before John Fitzhugh Wyckerly’s personality really kicks in—but personality he has, in spades. And hearts, clubs, and diamonds. Fitz is a mathematical genius who gambles for a living. You’ll have to pick up the book to read the opening since I don't have room to include it here.

The thing about Fitz is that he acknowledges his faults and wishes he could have been a true gentleman who took the Grand Tour Anne talked about a few weeks ago.  He also wishes he had been able to attend university, but his father decided a wine cellar was more important. So with no money or family support or education, Fitz became a charming gambler, the extra male needed to complete a dinner table, an idler who conceived a child while still under the illusion that love would make him better. It didn’t.

Card-party2 So he’s one more in a line of Wicked Wyckerlys when his brother breaks his neck in a drunken stumble, and Fitz is suddenly earl of a bankrupt estate and must assume a burden of responsibility he’s had no training to handle. It’s no wonder he panics and chooses to go after the horse he’s won in a card game instead of hanging around, waiting for his family’s creditors to heave him in gaol. 

Although, in actuality, aristocrats were spared debtor’s prison. Their creditors just had bailiffs haul off the furnishings. Brummel had to flee to France to escape his debts because he was a commoner. The Marchioness of Worcester, on the other hand, watched bailiffs drag off everything she owned, except the gown she wore, when her husband ran up a hundred thousand pound debt he had no hope of paying. Gambling was an addiction that destroyed families high and low, but in aristocratic circles, gaming debts had to be paid immediately. It was a matter of honor. Which meant that all the tradesmen that supplied the household usually went unpaid.

So my gambling earl would be well aware of the stakes involved upon inheriting an estate so deeply in debt. If he didn’t pay the tradesmen, they were likely to starve unless they went to court to have everything on the estate taken away. How would you like to be handed that mess?

However, making his living at cards taught Fitz a great deal about human nature, and he knows how to take advantage of opportunity when it knocks. And naturally, our fearless heroine, Abigail Merriweather, encompasses all the excellent traits he could desire in a wife—except the extortionate wealth the estate requires. Given that she’s desperately attempting to reclaim her four half-siblings from a guardian who believes they should be raised by a man, she’s a money pit worse than his estate.

Wicked wyckerly final But Abby is the woman he wants, and for the first time in his life, Fitz is in a position to go after what he wants, no matter what he has to do to have her. He just has to convince his stubborn Abby that he’s not so wicked after all…

Why is it we’re so fascinated with Regency England when in reality, much of the ton spent their time fiddling while the Continent went up in flames? I’ll pick one commenter for a free book based solely on whim!

And for the e-book lovers out there, MAGIC MAN will be released as an e-book at www.bookviewcafe.com on Friday!

Patricia Rice’s Wicked Wyckerly

Anne here, interviewing our very own Wench, Patricia Rice about her writing life and newest book, THE WICKED WYCKERLY. 

Most regular readers of this blog know Pat, but did you know that:
  — she's a  New York Times and USA Today bestseller

— she's written forty-seven books

— she's won numerous awards, dozens of RT Critics' Choice Awards including a Lifetime Achievement Award and I don't know how many RITA nominations. 

and she’s not killed any editors in the process. That she knows of.

Anne :  Pat, you've asked this of others, but I don't think I've ever heard you answer it yourself. How did you start writing?  Were you making up stories in kindergarten, or did you come to the trade later? Were there any particular writers who inspired you?
(Pause for Pat to to recover from the cheek of being fed her own question so early in the piece)

Pat: LOL! Turn about is fair play. Besides, it’s a fun question. I think I was probably editing stories in kindergarten—I remember marking up my picture books with red crayon. (yeah, yeah, everyone’s a critic)  I didn’t start seriously putting my own stories down on paper until about fourth grade, when I could get my hands on spiral notebooks. The next year, my father brought home a used IBM Selectric, and I was off and running—although teen tragedy and Nancy Drew mysteries were my genre then.

Anne : So, pretty much started in the cradle, then. Your latest project is a new regency series entitled Rebellious Sons. The first book, THE WICKED WYCKERLY, comes out on July 6th.  Pat, I'm so intrigued by the idea of featuring rebellious sons. What was the inspiration for this series?

Pat: Rebellion? I was tired of rich, aristocratic heroes who already have everything money can buy. I wanted guys who had to struggle for their dreams. Admittedly, it’s just a fun way to torture them, but making them work hard for their happiness intrigued me and offered opportunity for lots of heroic conflict.

Anne: I was lucky enough to read THE WICKED WYCKERLY in manuscript form, and I have to say I loved it. I smiled all the way through, chuckling from time to time, and I put it down at the end with a big happy sigh. I was hooked from the beginning, where the hero, Fitz, is in such a pickle. To quote you, "Poor chap, his irresponsible bachelor’s life has just come to a crashing, nearly fatal, end with the inheritance of a bankrupt earldom and the arrival of a six-year-old dispenser of flaming dragon dung."  Fitz is not your average romance hero, is he?
Pause for Pat to respond, waxing lyrical about the gorgeousness and brilliance of Fitz … or to fling the feeble question back in Anne's teeth.)

Pat: I think I like Anne’s response better than my own. <G> Fitz is brilliant, actually, a math genius with no education other than memorizing a book of insects he stole as a rebellious child. And the whole point of this series is to create a non-average hero! But he’s a hero, nonetheless. I mean, even in the very first pages, the poor guy has taken on the overwhelming task of tending a six-year-old with a vocabulary of curses better than his. I ask you, what kind of man would do that? And learn to do it quite well. My kind of hero!

Anne :  And he’s kind, though he tried to hide it, and he’s  a gambler, quite a good one. The heroine, Abigail Merriweather, is a great foil for both Fitz and his wild child.
 (Pause for Pat to respond to what is not even a question…)

 Pat:  I think I’m going to hand this interview back to you just to see where you can go with it…  Okay, I’ll play: Abby is blunt, honest, shy, and just about everything Fitz is not. Which means she also knows how to handle six-year-old termagants and is immune to Fitz’s practiced charm. She provides the grounding they need to stop flailing about and consider their not inconsiderable personal assets. How could Fitz not fall in love with a miracle worker, even if she chases him with a hoe and refuses his offer of marriage?

Anne :  Yes, it’s delicious fun watching them throw sparks off each other. If THE WICKED WYCKERLY was made into a movie, who would you have play Fitz, and who Abigail?
 (Pause for Pat to delete stinking rotten hard-to-answer question)

Delete. <G> I believe I told Sue Grimshaw that a short Katherine Hepburn might have the right attitude for Abby, but I can’t even remember what name I gave her for Fitz.  The part of my brain reserved for names is infinitesimal. Check her Borders True Romance blog  on July 7 to see if it’s there. (How was that for a neat promotional turn about?)

Anne : Sneaky, but smart (heh heh.) I really enjoyed the cast of quirky minor characters in the story, from the creaky, shopworn but immensely dignified butler who nothing could shock, to the illiterate blackmailer. Who was your favorite? 
(finally a question!)

 Pat:  The butler, hands down. That old man had put up with a succession of incompetent, illiterate earls, running the household with creative license for decades. Despite the opportunity to rob the place blind, he kept on working—maybe helping himself a little a long the way, but only what he’d earned!

Anne: The very first Patricia Rice book I read was Denim and Lace — a western romance and a fabulous book. Do you think you'll ever go back to writing westerns? I confess I miss them

 Pat: I confess, a lot of us miss them. But the book market tends to follow television trends, in my experience. Right now, we’re still suffering from vampiritis (is that an infection of vampires?). I’m not sure we’ll ever get back to the innocent times of sexy saloon ladies and handsome gamblers, unless they’re in outer space.  Hmmm….(idea balloon floating)

Anne: Steampunk westerns anyone? Pat, you’re a prolific writer who's written in a range of subgenres and weathered all kinds of changes in publishing.  Any advice for new writers?

Pat: Just the one I always use—perseverance is the only way to publication. You can’t sell what isn’t written. If I’d quit every time my book was turned down…oh wait, I would still be a CPA and would only have seen that first rejection. Instead, I can now paper one wall with rejection letters and an entire room with book covers. And work in my jammies, if I’m so inclined.

Anne:  And many more books to come, I hope. Can you tell us a little about the next book in the Rebellious Sons series?

Pat: THE DEVILISH MONTAGUE will be about Blake, whose superstitious family believes he’s cursed to die before he’s thirty and who seems to be doing his best to prove it.

Anne: Sounds lovely. All the best of luck with the launch of THE WICKED WYCKERLY. Anyone who can't wait to read it, there's a gorgeous teaser here.  

Pat:  Anne, thanks for prodding me into talking about Fitz and Abby! I just received my author copies of THE WICKED WYCKERLY, so I’ll give one away to whichever comment entertains us most. While we’re amusing ourselves, could we talk about what makes a man heroic? Does it have to be his ability to take care of his family with wealth?
Anne again: 
And I'll add, is there anyone else out there who misses western romances?