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So…Why Did I Write a Graphic Novel? A guest post by Judith Whitmore

Judith and I share a love of the Shakespeare plays, so I was excited to hear about her graphic novel based around Romeo and Juliet. Here’s her account of her book:

I was not a big Shakespeare fan in high school.  The Elizabethan language was difficult to wade through, and besides, I was young and living life in the fast lane…sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll.  Okay, just kidding about the sex and drugs, but there was lots of rock ‘n roll.  It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I gained an appreciation for Shakespeare’s amazing abilities as a storyteller.

I was working in London at that time.  A friend invited me to dinner and the theater to see The Royal Shakespeare Company perform The Merry Wives of Windsor.  I knew dinner would be nice, and then I could sleep at the theater.  Well, to my utter amazement I was enthralled with the production.  First, there were no Renaissance costumes or sets.  This show was set in the1950’s with fabulous set decoration and costumes from that era.  Second, even though I may not have understood every single line of dialogue, I understood enough to fully appreciate the intricacies of the plot and the humor.  I was hooked, and I did everything I could to get my children interested in Shakespeare.

Fast forward twenty years…I was still lamenting the fact my kids thought Shakespeare was boring when inspiration struck.  What if the stories were told in modern language that kids could understand!  I had a mission!

 

The Process of Writing a Graphic Novel

Taking Romeo and Juliet from a full-length play to a graphic novel required distilling the dialogue and narration into as few words as possible without losing any of the storyline.  This was the most difficult part of the project and required the expert skills of my husband who had been an editor.  We went scene by scene,    creating new dialogue and reading it aloud to see how it sounded.   It took about four months to come up with a first draft of the dialogue.

I have been in a writing group for years with excellent writers and editors, so each week I took the scene we were working on to my writing group for their critique.  I also asked my niece and nephew who were in high school to read the manuscript.  Who better than teenagers to help with modernizing the language? The next step was combining lines of dialogue into conversations which could be represented by one drawing.

judith romeo and juliet

Judith Whitmire’s Romeo and Juliet Graphic Novel Cover

At this point we needed an illustrator.  I contacted my friend Mark Bennett, who had recently retired from the art department at CBS, and asked if he would be interested in doing the illustration for this project.  He is immensely talented so my husband and I were thrilled when he agreed.  Mark created drawings for each dialogue group.  With a computer program, he inserted our dialogue into the drawings.   Once again I took the whole manuscript to my writing group for critique.  The computer program made it easy to edit the dialogue as necessary.

The cover art for Romeo and Juliet is a combination of original artwork from Mark Bennet combined with the work of a graphic artist from Flying Pig Media.  Kristin Lindstrom, who owns and operates Flying Pig Media, prepared the Romeo and Juliet manuscript to be uploaded at CreateSpace and Amazon Kindle.  Technical issues arose when uploading the drawings to Amazon, so I was relieved to have Kristin handling those details.

We are thrilled to be able to bring Shakespeare’s most famous tale to a new generation of readers.

You can find Judith’s graphic novel at Amazon:

Paperback –

Kindle –

Judith Whitmore is the best-selling author of the romantic-adventure
Come Fly with Me, a cookbook All Time Favorite Recipes, and Romeo and Juliet
Reimagined, an illustrated account of Shakespeare’s story co-authored with
her husband Wes Whitmore.
During Judith’s seven-year term as President of American Theater
Company in Aspen, ATC presented shows starring Julie Harris, Hal Holbrook,
Vincent Price, Shawn Cassidy, John Travolta and Charles Durning. Judith
later produced the musical Taking a Chance on Love in Los Angeles, followed
by the London production of Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town which she
co-produced.
Judith has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology, is a licensed
Marriage and Family Therapist, and is also a licensed Commercial Pilot with
a Learjet type-rating. Since 2003, she has been a regular volunteer makeup
artist at the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters.
During college, Judith sang background vocals for Capitol Records
and performed with a band in San Francisco. She never forgot the thrill of
performing, and several years ago she and two friends formed the trio, ACT
THREE. ACT THREE has performed concerts in California, Arizona, and last
year at UC Irvine and New York’s Carnegie Hall. Their first album will be
released this summer. All proceeds from ACT THREE performances are donated
to charities.

Visit Judith at:
judithwhitmore.com
actthreesingers.com

Paving the Way for Women Writers: Aphra Behn, 1640 – 1689 Guest post by Ruth Nestvold

  • Paving the Way for Women Writers: Aphra Behn, 1640 – 1689

    “All woman together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, which is most scandalously but rather appropriately in Westminster Abbey, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. It is she – shady and amorous as she was – who makes it not quite fantastic to say to you tonight: Earn five hundred a year by your wits.”     –Virginia Woolf

 

Aphra_Behn_by_Mary_BealeImagine there was a young Englishwoman in the 17th Century who went with her family to the colony of Surinam in South America. When she returned to England, she was hired by the Crown as a spy and sent to the Netherlands. After incurring debt there — because the English government didn’t pay her the money owed her for her services — she was sent to debtor’s prison. Once she was bailed out, she wrote and produced comedies (and one tragedy) for the London theater, becoming the first professional woman writer in English literature.

 

 

Portrait of Aphra Behn by Mary Beale


It sounds like the kind of adventure fiction most people would dismiss as being much too unlikely, doesn’t it? But much of this biography is documented through letters, not to mention Aphra Behn’s own work. Not only that, Aphra Behn achieved all this without being a member of the nobility. She may or may not have come from a “gently born” family that fell upon hard times, but either way, she was not born privileged. Most of the women writers of the 17th Century were from the nobility, and they wrote for their amusement and that of their friends and family, their oeuvre remaining small and genteel. By contrast, Aphra wrote for a living. Since it was her main, and perhaps only, source of income, she adapted to the tastes and the times. She wrote racy comedies in the style of her male contemporaries. When times grew hard for the playhouses in London, she reacted and began to write and publish prose fiction — a genre that was so new, in the 18th century it started being referred to as the “novel” (from the Italian “novella” for new or news).


She achieved all of this in an era when women had few rights. They were subject to their fathers, and then their husbands. But Aphra Behn was a widow, and as such, in control of her own property, free to make her own decisions.


The status of women was changing in the 17th Century, but it was a slow process. One of the most important changes for the emergence of Aphra Behn as a writer was that the theaters were opened up to actresses. After the Restoration in 1660, Charles II decreed that women would be able to take the stage. Before that, female roles were played by men. Many of the new actresses were women who intentionally used their position to find “protectors” among members of the nobility, such as Nell Gwyn, who became the mistress of Charles II. But others became involved in the business of the theater. Mrs. Betterton helped manage the highly successful Duke’s Company with her husband, Thomas Betterton, training younger actresses like Anne Bracegirdle.


Aphra Behn, never an actress, may have possibly made her way into the world of Restoration theater through family connections. Even working within the constraints of the Restoration’s male dominated society, Behn managed to create strong, independent female characters who made their own choices. Over the course of her nineteen year career, Behn wrote over twenty plays, as well as several novels and volumes of poetry.


While she wrote to please, since she had to in order to make a living, at the same time she staunchly defended her art in one of her more more memorable forewords to her play “The Lucky Chance”:


    “…I am not content to write for a Third Day only. I value Fame as much as if I had been born a Hero; and if you rob me of that, I can retire from the ungrateful World, and scorn its fickle Favours.”


Aphra Behn died in 1689 at the age of only 48. She was famous and celebrated at the time; Daniel Defoe, a pioneer in the novel and author of Robinson Crusoe, even called her “one of the giants of wit and sense.” But her fame was not to last. By the middle of the 18th Century, her reputation had dwindled to that of a lewd writer of pornographic works little better than Fanny Hill.

 

aphra

 

Inscription: “Here lies proof that wit can never be, defense enough against mortality.”

I first came across mention of Aphra Behn when I was a graduate research assistant working on my MA in English Literature — and was immediately fascinated. In my dissertation on the use of the female perspective in the novel, I included a chapter on Behn’s novel Oroonoko. If I had remained in academia, I’m sure I would have ended up writing many more articles on Aphra Behn. But I didn’t, so instead I wrote a novel.




In Chameleon in a Mirror, the main character is sent back in time to the 17th Century, where she gets to meet her (and my) idol, Aphra Behn. This gives her a chance to rehabilitate Aphra’s literary reputation. Even though we are not supposed to have causes in our fiction, I have to admit I hope that with Chameleon in a Mirror, I just might be able to do that a little bit myself.

To find out more about Aphra, you can visit my site on her, the Aphra Behn Page.

****
Ruth Nestvold has published widely in science fiction and fantasy, her fiction appearing in such markets as Asimov’s, F&SF, Baen’s Universe, Strange Horizons, Realms of Fantasy, and Gardner Dozois’s Year’s Best Science Fiction. Her work has been nominated for the Nebula, Tiptree, and Sturgeon Awards. In 2007, the Italian translation of her novella “Looking Through Lace” won the “Premio Italia” award for best international work. Since 2012, she’s been concentrating her efforts on self-publishing rather than traditional publishing, although she does still occasionally sell a story the old-fashioned way.

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Brighton Pavilion: Britain’s Own Kubla Khan

by Alicia Rasley

(My Tryst at the Brighton Inn is set outside Brighton. In fact, Natasha is on her way to Prinny’s birthday picnic at the Pavilion when she gets caught up in a murder.)

In 1786 George, Prince of Wales was 24 and newly married, illicitly, to his great love Mrs. Fitzherbert. He was also deeply in debt, hundreds of thousands of pounds owed for jewelry, horses, and especially his beautiful London home, Carlton House.  When the stress in the capital got too much, he would retreat to a farmhouse he owned in the seaside town of Brighton.

But this was the time leading up to that astonishingly creative period known to most of the world as “the Romantic era,” though most of us would call it the Regency. And this was the future Prince Regent, “The Prince of Pleasure.” A simple farmhouse wouldn’t satisfy his extravagant nature and luxurious tastes for long. So soon he hired the fashionable architect Henry Holland, who started adding to the farmhouse. And adding. And adding. Holland designed the first of the great buildings, the Marine Pavilion, in the clean neo-classical style Prinny favored. One of the special features Holland provided for his royal patron was a tunnel to the nearby home of Mrs. Fitzherbert, still the secret wife.

brighton pavilion

 

 

The Marine Pavilion in 1787

For most of the next decade, Prinny contented himself with furnishing the pavilion, spending thousands on art, fixtures, and draperies. This was hardly his only extravagance, but it was a major contributor to the impossibly large debt that he’d accrued by 1795. In fact, in return for Parliament paying off his debt, he was forced into a bigamous marriage with his German cousin Caroline. He could be forgiven, perhaps for later wondering if it was worth it, because his was one of the worst marriages of all time.

Once freed of his crushing debt, Prinny felt up to spending again. But few of us would argue with his choices. For example, one of his early decisions was to put a couple water closets in the main building, for those special guests who weren’t up to battling the sea breeze to get to the outdoor privies. He kept (this will not surprise you) three confectioners on his Brighton kitchen staff, and brought Holland back to create a special confectionery in the kitchens.

 

The Grand Saloon, where the Regent entertained guests, changed occasionally to show the particular trends in high-priced depavilion grand salooncorating. The room was remodelled in the late 1790s by the artist Biagio Rebecca, painted in dramatic colors with gilt-framing. While he did use some French artisans and artists, in the time of war, Prinny tried to be patriotic. Much of the furniture was built by such great British cabinetmakers as Chippendale and Seddon. (The “sociable” circular couch in the middle of the room is probably from a later period, as it appears in a print that pictured the room in early Victorian times.)

Fortunately, the prince’s taste wasn’t confined to European. A gift of some Chinese wallpaper  inspired the prince, and he conjured up a manically oriental design for the main rooms of the Pavilion. Biographer J.B. Priestley describes one feature, “Along the southern wing was an astonishing Chinese passage of painted glass, decorated with flower, insects, fruits and birds, and illuminated form the outside, so that guest could easily imagine they were passing through an immense Chinese lantern.”

By the turn of the century, Prinny turned his attention to the outbuildings, commissioning a new stable and a riding school. Even he was taken aback at the elegance of the resulting buildings, admitting that his horses were being “housed in a palace.”  In fact, the new additions posed a pair of problems. The facades were in an Indian style, clashing with the more classical house, and also, with a 65-foot high cupola, the stable outshone Prinny’s own home. This could not, of course, be borne.

Much of the time before his Regency were spent hiring and firing architects. First he hired Humphry Repton, primarily a landscape architect, submitted plans to unify the house and gardens with an Indian theme. Prinny declared this a “perfect” design, but Parliament didn’t agree, or at least didn’t agree to finance it. By the time he had the blunt, he’d moved on from the “mogul trend” and he reached out to a new architect, James Wyatt, to make his Gothic dreams come true. Imagine a neo-Gothic monstrosity rising out of the South Coast landscape! Well, you’ll have to imagine it, for before he could break ground, James Wyatt was killed, and Prinny had to search for new inspiration.  It took years after Prinny became Regent, but finally he turned to John Nash, who was a known quantity, having already remodeled Carlton House. (He had also once been a student of Repton’s, who could not have been pleased to be set aside this way.) Nash got to work, and by 1815, he had expanded the Pavilion and unified its exterior into a vaguely Indian shape.

Nash used the Pavilion as an opportunity to experiment. After all, the nation was paying the shot! He used cast iron to strengthen the walls and pillars while still creating an illusion of Oriental fragility in the minarets and domes. He built new kitchens and heated them with steam. The queen mother was so impressed by all this, she gave her reckless son fifty thousand pounds, some of which went to creating State Apartments suitable to host the Prince, the Queen, and other royalty.

For the rest of his Regency, and during his own reign, Prinny used the Brighton Pavilion both as a canvas for his creativity, and as a retreat from the barrage of criticism he faced in London. As author Victoria Hinshaw remarks, the Pavilion’s “constantly changing architecture and decoration reflect the restless personality of George IV.” He frequently summered there, and was engaged in constant improvements to the house and grounds. Even so early, the Pavilion was something of a tourist attraction, rising up on the edge of town like a vision of Kubla Khan’s palace.

nash designed pavilion brighton

 

 

 

The Nash-designed Pavilion

 

Royal sea-towns were nothing new. For example, Prinny’s father had made Weymouth to the west a popular escape. But Brighton was special, only a day trip from London, and even then possessing a raffishly louche mien that would have appealed to the fun-loving prince. There’s no doubt, though, that without the Pavilion, Brighton would be just another beach town. Instead, it became a fashionable watering-hole, and many nobles made the trip down in order to attend one of the Regent’s elaborate parties.

After he became king in 1820, Prinny continued to host admirers at the Pavilion, until poor health kept him confined mostly to London.

After he died, his brother William IV also came to use the Pavilion as a refuge, for as a sailor in his youth, he had affection for the sea-vistas. He and his queen became known for their informal get-togethers especially in the summers. The continuing royal patronage turned Brighton from a small town to one of southern England’s major cities, with more the 40,000 residents in 1831.

But his successor didn’t regard Brighton so fondly. Queen Victoria, Hinshaw reports, didn’t like the house. The decadent Pavilion couldn’t help but remind the prim new queen of her pleasure-obsessed uncle, and as her family grew, she found little use for this holiday home.  But she treasured it enough to let it stand, and in 1850 she sold it to the city of Brighton.  First, however, she stripped much of its elaborate furnishings; most of these have been returned, but some are still to be found in Buckingham Palace.

Soon the city reopened it as a showplace, charging a sixpence to the tourists to ogle the garish yet oddly tasteful rooms. Several times in the next century, the Pavilion was remodeled, once to turn it into a hospital for victims of the Great War. Though it must have posed an inviting target to the Luftwaffe, the Pavilion survived World War II and was extensively renovated during the post-war period. The renovators this time consulted period guidebooks and sketches as they tried to return the house to the one of Prinny’s vision. The house was almost finished when an arson in 1975 almost destroyed the Music Room. Author Leslie Carroll remembers visiting years later and finding that part of the house was still closed for repair. The Music Room was barely reopened when the epic storm of 1987 dislodged a stone from the minaret and once again damaged the salon.

However, private donations and contributions from the local and federal government have funded a massive renovation, and the Pavilion is now restored to its former glory.  To tide us over until we can all take a road trip and see it in person, here is a 9-part (!) class about Brighton Pavilion from the Open University: http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=399183

This is a great multimedia experience, with color plates, floorplans, and snippets of the sort of music Prinny would commission for his parties.

The Brighton Pavilion is, above all, an experience, onr that manifests the extravagant and romantic Regency period, and recalls the Prince who remains the most poignant symbol of that time. As the OU concludes, “The Pavilion itself has been called silly, charming, witty, light-hearted, extravagant, gloriously eccentric, decadent, childish, painfully vulgar, socially irresponsible, a piece of outrageous folly and a stylistic phantasmagoria. Whatever you decide about it, it has always been, beyond all dispute, an astonishing flight of the Romantic fancy.”

For a quick look at the Pavilion, author Ashley Kath-Bilsky suggests the videos made by the Brighton Museum, narrated by Andrew Barlow, the former Keeper of the Royal Pavilion at  http://www.brighton-hove-rpml.org.uk/RoyalPavilion/video-tours/Pages/FirstFlooroftheRoyalPavilion-VideoTour.aspx: “He gives some interesting back-story to the history of the Pavilion, i.e., the wood and wrought iron that was made to look like bamboo, or the 16 x 10 foot marble  bathtub that could hold 6,000 gallons of fresh or salt water.”

Brighton and Hove. http://www.timetravel-britain.com/articles/towns/brighton.shtml

Dale, Antony. Fashionable Brighton. London: Oriel Press, 1947.

The Marine Pavilion. Georgian Net. http://www.georgianindex.net/Brighton/marine.html

About the author: Alicia Rasley is a RITA-award winning Regency writer who tries to visit England twice a year. (In her dreams….) New book set near Brighton!

 

Check out the Amazon page for Regencies by Rasley.

v     Rakish heroes.

v     Reckless heroines.

v     Elegant stories.

Valentine Traditions: A Guest Post by Heidi Ashworth

Love letters have been written since ink was first put to paper.. However, billet-doux were not referred to as valentines until the early 1400’s when the Duke of Orleans, imprisoned in the Tower of London after the Battle of Agincourt, wrote a poem to his wife.  Sadly, she died before he was released from captivity, but the tales of his passion lived on..

 

The Tower of London circa 2015..  The blue cupolas were added on Henry the Eighth’s orders in honor of Anne Boleyn’s coronation..  Pretty romantic..

 

 Ever since, love letters and cards exchanged on the 14th of February were commonly referred to as Valentines in honor of the man (or one of them–see history on the plethora of St.. Valentines, HERE) who wrote a love letter to his jailor’s beautiful, blind daughter, prompting one to wonder how she could possibly read it with any sense of privacy..  But I digress.

The making and writing of Valentine’s Day cards thereafter became a tradition.  The wealthy could afford manufactured cards, some of which date from as early as the 1700s.  Factory workers painted color onto black-and-white images, leaving the composition of the words up to the giver of the card.  However, it would be hundreds of years before the mass production of cards created a market for Valentines amongst all walks of life.

During the Regency era, most cards were still handmade.  As such, not many survived..  However, there are quite a few examples of a special card known as the puzzle purse, perhaps because they were so much work for the creator that they were cherished in ways that a simple letter was not.

This photo shows the back of a puzzle purse that is preserved at the British Postal Museum in London.

 

There are many stanzas of poetry found on this card, one of which very cleverly reads:
My dearest dear and blest divine
I’ve pictured here thy heart and mine
But Cupid with his fatal dart
hath deeply wounded my poor heart
And has betwixt us set a cross
makes me lament my loss
But now I hope when this is gone

That our two hearts will join in one.

Once the paper is unfolded, the cross (it’s actually an X) that bisects the heart is gone and the lover’s hearts, drawn together on the inside of the page, come together..  To view the front of this card and read the rest of the poetry, click HERE.

This puzzle purse, dated February 14th, 1816, is quite beautifully illustrated.  The current owner, an avid collector, has baptismal certificates that are folded in the same manner..  You can read more about this particular card and learn how to make your own puzzle purse via these instructions.

 

These elegantly written cards differ from most ordinary letters during this time period.  Due to the exorbitant cost of delivery, people “crossed” their letters, meaning that they wrote across the page horizontally, then turned it and wrote across it vertically, sometimes even turning it to write across the letter diagonally.  You can see a replicated example of a crossed letter here.

Though there is no evidence that the men and women who peopled the Regency era held parties for Valentine’s Day, they did enjoy some rather romantic parlor games throughout the year.  Kissing games were quite popular, a fact that might come as a surprise to those who think of the 19thC as an era of utter moral rectitude.   You can read about these games on this  blog post, complete with a delightful period illustration.

As with many holiday traditions we enjoy today, the tradition of sending mass amounts of Valentine cards through the mail dates to the Victorian era..  This was made possible by the decreasing cost of postage and printing..  However, it wasn’t until later that Valentines were no longer confined to sweethearts and were given to friends, siblings, parents and teachers..  Today, Valentine cards are the second most widely mailed cards in the U.S., second only to Christmas cards.
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My latest release is one of three stories that makes up the anthology, A Midwinter Ball..  Each of the stories takes place around Valentine’s Day..  It is filled with romantic balls, dashing heroes and strong heroines.
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From the publisher of the #1 Amazon bestselling A Timeless Romance Anthology series in Clean Romance..  Join three bestselling regency romance authors, Heidi Ashworth, Annette Lyon, and Michele Paige Holmes, for three new Regency romance novellas in A MIDWINTER BALL.

 

The cover photo for this book was taken at a recent Jane Austen Festival in Bath and depicts a very accurate reproduction Regency-era gown.
 The printed shawl, the elbow-length gloves, the small train of her gown, are all picture-perfect Regency..

Whatever your Valentine’s celebrations entail this year, they are part of a very long tradition of love all around the world, including that highly romantic time period and place known as The Regency.

 
Heidi Ashworth is the author of numerous Regency romances, including the popular Miss Delacourt series..  She is a wife and mother who enjoys working in the garden, documenting her travels to Ireland, England and Scotland on her blog, the process of transforming her 1970’s California bungalow into an English country cottage, and eating chocolate..  You can learn more about her Regency romances on her Amazon page and website, read about her travels, her romantic home decor, her roses and her experiences as mom to a special needs child, on her blog, Dunhaven Place..  You can follow her on GoodreadsFBPinterest , and Twitter @AshworthHeidi..

Flirtation, the Victorian Way (of course it has to do with calling cards)

Here’s something historically romantic… or not. “Flirtation cards” men would (supposedly) hand out to lovely ladies in the Victorian times…. Apparently, “Can I see you home?” was the (admittedly more tasteful) equivalent of “Can we hook up?”
Warning– bit of bad-wording in the beginning, but I assure you, that’s from the modern author, not the Victorian gentlemen.

19thc acquaintance-card

 

lamp card
http://nymag.com/…/19th-century-men-were-awful-at-flirting.…
Notice however that the one about the lamp mentions “our lamp” and “our sofa”…. not sure what that’s about. And apparently lying about your millions started before our century!naughtier acquaintance-card