Nine Ladies Dancing

Bleak Midwinter Quiltbag Funfest!

I should have done this yesterday for the Nine Ladies Dancing day of The Bleak Midwinter Quiltbag Funfest over at Quiltbag Historicals, but as usual I’m a day late, if not a dollar short. Jones, who is not really a lady, trying to wriggle out of dancing at Lady’s Nailsbourne’s ball, near the beginning of The Flowers of Time.

Do bob on over to the facebook group if you have a moment and like queer historical fiction. Different writers are posting snippets of their work for all the twelve days, and there’s an eighteen-book giveaway draw ending on the 6th of January.

Lady Nailsbourne’s Ball

The ballroom was sweltering. Jones went to push her hair off her face and then remembered and stopped. Her feet hurt in the ridiculous tiny shoes and the corset was pinching her. Her long gloves were making her elbows itch.

The Flowers of Time

Although that might have been the conversation.

She gritted her teeth and nodded once again to the young man who was attempting to engage her interest with a tale of his morning’s fox hunt. “How fascinating!” she attempted to simper. Her simpering skills clearly needed work, because he flinched.

Luckily at that point, the music stopped. They bowed to each other with ill-disguised relief and then Jones remembered she was supposed to curtsy. Too late now. He held out an arm and she took it delicately in order to be escorted back to her chaperon.

She disguised a snort.

Fat lot of good Aunt Caroline would do to protect Jones’ virtue.

Despite herself though, she smiled at the older woman as she rejoined her small group of older ladies. Her escort, Mr Danvers, handed her off with a mutter about going to get her some punch.

She hated punch.

Aunt Caroline gave her a nervous smile. “Frances, my dear! You looked so graceful. Your partner was clearly extremely taken with you!”

Jones raised an eyebrow at her. Her aunt patted her arm in subtle admonishment and hissed. “Stop that! Nice young ladies do not raise their eyebrows! Especially one eyebrow at a time!” before replastering the smile on to her face.

This wasn’t working. She’d known it wouldn’t work and she’d told them it wouldn’t work. But she’d promised Pater that she’d try and she always kept her promises.

Danvers returned with the punch and presented it to her as if he had pulled a rabbit out of a hat and expected applause. She thanked him politely and he retreated, clearly as relieved as she that his obligation to her had been discharged.

“Aunt, I need some fresh air, I think. May I go out to the gardens? Or to the terrace?” The ballroom had been hot with the heat of hundreds of wax candles in the chandeliers when their party had arrived and as the space had filled and the dancing started, the temperature and the odour had risen and risen.

“My dear girl, of course you may. Do you wish for company?” Her ringlets trembled a little as she raised her lorgnettes and peered through them inquisitively. Aunt Caroline was positively cheering for Jones to be importuned into a compromising position by a likely young gentleman and so to have her married off before the season ended.

It was the point of the whole exercise.

“I’ll be fine, Aunt. Only for a few minutes.”

“I believe the terrace is that way.” Aunt Caroline pointed with her glasses and Jones began to make her way through the crush to the large open doors, attempting not to slop her punch onto her gloves. People were sorting out partners for the next dance and she avoided making eye contact with anyone as she moved forward through the jostling crowd. The musicians kept the music going…a piece by Bach, she thought. The music was actually outstanding, a small positive in what was an exceedingly trying evening.

It was a blessed relief to step into the cooler air of the terrace. There were liveried footmen standing on either side of each of the tall French windows that let on to the terrace. They didn’t return her small smile. She wasn’t comfortable here. Ignoring the servants might be the done thing in polite society, but it went against all her instincts.

She smoothed the fine silk of her dress down her middle in a nervous gesture she couldn’t quite suppress and stepped past them out in to the cool of the night. It wasn’t actually all that dark…there were lanterns at strategic intervals along the retaining wall that threw pools of soft light that didn’t quite meet between the sconces. Lady Nailsbourne had had her gardeners place potted trees and bushes all along the expanse. It was lovely. A perfect place for a romantic liaison, should she be seeking one.

Which she was not.

Buy The Flowers of Time

The Flowers of Time. A non-binary explorer. A determined lady botanist. Mystery, monsters and romance in the 1780s Himalayas.

Asexual Awareness Week

So! It’s Ace Week! My perception is that asexuality hasn’t been spoken about all that much until quite recently. But since 2010, Asexual Awareness Week has done it’s best to remedy that.

An asexual person experiences little to no sexual attraction and/or sexual desire. Like most things, this is a spectrum, from people who are repulsed by sex to people who enjoy sex but only with people they are emotionally attached to and all sorts of variants in between. You can read about the asexual umbrella here.

Valerie J. Mikles has put together a post with some links to asexuals in fiction, including a link to Claudie Arsenault’s Aromantic and Asexual Characters Database. I recommend having a browse through both for some really good reading.

Finally, a quick mention for my own The Flowers of Time. Jones is demisexual…she experiences desire for Edie, although we never find out in the book whether that translates in to more than simply wanting to give Edie pleasure. This is largely because I didn’t know when I was writing it :).

I have made A Small Secret Smile, the 2,300 short sequel to Flowers free this week at Payhip if you use the coupon-code FREESECRET at checkout.

Happy Ace Week, everyone!

Lost in Time Audiobooks!

I have been very remiss blogging about this… but there are now three Lost in Time audiobooks available from Audible!

Lost in Time and The Flowers of Time came out last month… and today… we are proud to introduce Shadows on the Border, the sequel to Lost in Time.

Both Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border are narrated by the inimitable Callum Hale. I cannot emphasize enough wonderful and on-point his interpretation of the characters is and how brilliantly the foggy, war-tired atmosphere of post First World War England comes across in his narration.

I am currently working on the third book set in the 1920s, so look for that in both ebook/paper and audio some time next year.

Back in the 1780s, Zoe Brookes has done a wonderful job with the The Flowers of Time and has struck just the right note with Edie and Jones… in particular Jones, who as a non-binary character is very close to my heart.

Again, look for more Jones and Edie next year, if I can get my works-in-progress ducks in a line!

I am so pleased with all three audiobooks. I feel very lucky to have found narrators who ‘got’ each of the stories and brought their own expertise so brilliantly to bear.

The Assembly Rooms and Fashion Museum at Bath

The second scene in The Flowers of Time has Jones and Edie meeting for the first time at Lady Nailsbourne’s ball, at her house in London. Jones is pretty far out of her comfort zone, poured in to a smart dress and corseted within an inch of her life. It’s 1780 and neither of them wear wigs-they had gone out fashion for ladies a few decades before-but they would probably have had hair pieces to bulk out their own hair and have lightly powdered them an off-white colour.

I dragged my family to Bath one day last year and we visited the Assembly Rooms and the Fashion Museum tucked in the basement of the building. I was looking for inspiration. I found various dresses that were definitely worthy of Edie and one or two that I could see Jones wearing.

I had already written the scene and I was really cheered to see virtually the dress I’d described for Edie on display. It’s the fourth one along in this montage, with a light pink gown over a contrasting petticoat. I can also see her in dress numbers one and three, puttering around painting. I can picture Jones in two and five, extremely uncomfortable and feeling very out of place. If you want to find out more about the different kinds of fashionable gowns for ladies at the time I recommend this post by Costumeholic.

We then found this working man’s frock coat from about 1790. It’s a little later than the story, but working men’s fashions wouldn’t have changed that much and I can see Jones comfortable in something like this as she travels around exploring and later as she does her science experiments.

Ordinary work-a-day clothes tend not to survive because they were worn ‘til they wore out and/or were ‘made over’ for other people and purposes, so this is very unusual. Clothes were incredibly high value and very expensive before the advent of factory production, so your average working class adult would probably only have two sets at a time.

I had a bit of a to-and-fro with my lovely editor about the use of bodies to describe the stays that Edie wears on her travels and in the end we decide to keep it. Working women who dressed by themselves without the help of a maid to lace them still wore a kind of corset called a pair of bodies. This was for practical reasons to support the back and bosom as well as to give them a bit of help with their figure and they generally laced up the front as well as the back. There is a fascinating reconstruction of an ordinary person getting herself dressed in the morning here on YouTube from Crows Eye Productions and I based Edie’s morning routine on this.

On our visit I also took some pictures of the Assembly Room itself. It has a sprung floor and my minions were happy to demonstrate.

It was quite chilly the day we went and it was difficult to imagine the room packed and sweaty; but with hundreds of candles and people it would soon have become unpleasantly warm.

We only live an hour away from Bath and there is so much to see, I thoroughly recommend a visit if you are in the area. It was wonderful to be able to pop up there and gather some more fuel for my story-mine.

thanks all round

And that’s the end of The Flowers of Time blogtour! Thank you so much to everyone who has hosted me, it’s been a pleasure and a privilege to visit. Here’s a recap of the topics and where you can find me:

Plus! All these lovely people came and talked to me over the last few days on intersecting topics:

It’s been a lot of fun and an immense privilege to host such a wonderful set of people and I’m so grateful that they took time out of their busy lives. Thank you!

PS. If you’d like to buy The Flowers of Time that would quite frankly make me extremely chuffed.