Sunday, November 30, 2014

Substituting Scarlatti

I've been of a mood to post some music today, but it's not the right time for some of the pieces I want to share. Here's a beautiful piece by Scarlatti, though, that shows why he ended up being a very fine substitute for Schubert (at least for now) in "A Constant Love". I make no claims that Georgiana plays nearly so well as Vladimir Horowitz, because, I mean, he's Vladimir Horowitz, but the level of difficulty indicates the skill level she's willing to attempt.


It also sounds completely reinvented on the piano, compared to how it would have sounded when first played, on harpsichord.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Regency waltz


One of the things I wanted to do in the published version of "A Constant Love" is fix the waltz.

When I was researching the story, I did a fair amount of reading on balls and assemblies, and how the waltz had become an accepted dance in town. What I hadn't really realized, though, is how very different it is from the modern-day or even Victorian waltz. When I finally came across a depiction of the Regency waltz, it was too late to work in without causing confusion, so I left it for the initially published version.

The Regency waltz was in four distinct parts -- the Marche, Pirouette, Sauteuse, and Jetté, and it was positively racy for the time. Like, I am in perpetual shock that they danced their cotillions and quadrilles and then did this. It would have only been slightly less shocking if the master of ceremonies had announced, "And now, ladies and gentlemen, you shall be entertained by the musical stylings of one Mr. Jay-Z." But these were strange times, that period of time when the war was ending and the Prince Regent was leading the way in debauchery, before the Victorian era ushered in a whopping dose of prudishness, and so it seems this version of the dance could only live in that late Regency era.

This site describes it best, but what also fascinates me about the Regency version of the waltz is that it seems to be lost to time. We have descriptions of it, but in all the Regency dances and movies out there, no one has attempted this actual dance. I think it would take a certain amount of historical study just to figure out how it might have been done. There are waltzes with other dances or modern interpretations of the waltz done to them, but not this version of it. The closest thing I could find was one couple at one dance doing possibly the Pirouette during portions of it (make like Lydia Bennet and look for the gent in the red coat):



Austen never includes it in her work, so I think it unlikely we should see it in any movie adaptations, but even these are a often a little behind the times (as much as I love them). The highly popular "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot" really would have been a dance for a previous generation, and even then gets slowed down. I suspect it would have left the real Lydia Bennets of the world exclaiming: "Lord! Play something we can DANCE to!"


So I've decided to include the Regency version of the waltz, even if it is a bit of a mystery to me. I did have to make some interesting decisions regarding the waltz, though. Typically a lady would dance one set of two dances each with a gentleman, and if she danced two sets with him, that was a sign of some amount of attachment. Three sets wasn't done.

Yet ACL has multiple instances of ladies dancing a third time with a gentleman, with what is basically the fifth dance being a waltz. Everything I've read about it indicates it is special, and requires special approval from the lady's chaperone, and I can't see that approval being given unless the lady has danced at least one set with him already, or he is somehow otherwise known to their party. Particularly the racy Regency version of the dance; parents and guardians would not want a young lady dancing in this way with just anyone. So I decided on those grounds that it would be okay to have that additional third pairing, and that the waltz almost didn't "count," although it did in showing an even greater degree of supposed attachment.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two great videos

These are two I rewatch occasionally if I need a little grounding in the Regency era. First up is a BBC documentary where they attempted to recreate the Netherfield Ball. It really makes me realise how very much of that world has changed and been lost in our time. One of the things I sort of struggle with in writing JAFF is determining how much detail to include. Austen wrote assuming that her readers knew every detail of that world, so there was a lot she could leave unsaid. But as I learn things, I often want to include them, so I've always tried to include some detail and explanation, but not so much it gets in the way of the story.



The second is the Supersizers Go Regency. If you haven't watched any of these, be warned, they are addictive. Two hilarious people spend a week dressed up in the fashions of an era, eating the food. What really strikes me about the Regency one is the chasm between English and French cuisine at the time (not that the chasm has narrowed in modern times, but still).

When Mrs. Bennet assumes Mr. Darcy has a French cook, she's not just making a comment on his wealth, but also a comment on his very Englishness (it's why I've given him traditional English female cooks, while Mr. Hurst most certainly has a French chef, even if he likely can't quite afford it). I read a very good commentary on Emma once that explained Mr. Knightley and Frank Churchill as opposites, reflecting your very traditional old roast beef of England sort (Mr. Knightley; I mean, even his name is knight-ley), contrasted with a sort of frivolous poncy French type whom everyone truly believes would ride into London just to get his hair cut. The war with France hardly surfaces in Austen's work, despite it being a constant presence, but it does in aspects of commentary like this.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Working cover

This is my working cover for ACL for Kindle. What do you think?


So very much editing

Welcome to my nascent blog! As I sometimes go away for very long periods of time to write, I wanted to create a place to post some updates on progress.

I am presently in that dull point of writing -- editing and publishing. I have my outline all ready to go for the third story in the "Constant Love" series, and really want to start writing, but am being responsible and working on my editing projects to stay on track.

Those are: editing and publishing the second story in the series, "A Change of Legacies," and... working on a Kindle and paperback edition of "A Constant Love"! I am both excited and terribly nervous about the latter, but so many people have encouraged me to publish it, and have said they've reread it, that I thought it a worthwhile endeavour to make it available in these more convenient formats.

But there's a lot of work to do. I made a number of errors in title and address that needed to be corrected, there were a few adjustments that I wanted to make to better foreshadow the later stories, and, sadly, I decided to remove Boccherini references from the story. Character copyright is a muddy area, and I did not want anything in the story to overlap too much with the character of Jack Aubrey, from Patrick O'Brian's novels and the movie (although anyone who has read the novels will know that the idea of Jack Aubrey serving as one of the romantic leads in a story called "A Constant Love" is completely laughable -- he and Captain Stanton are opposites in a number of particulars, although both successful fighting captains and players of stringed instruments). I had originally included Boccherini as an homage, but on the off chance that it would not be taken that way, I thought it best to remove.

This caused some frantic searching for replacement composers: Bach and Beethoven, for Captain Stanton (both have plenty of meaty cello parts), and Scarlatti replaces Schubert for Georgiana. The latter actually ended up being a pleasing change -- although I adore Schubert, he's really too early to be realistic (he'll certainly be making an appearance later in the series), and going with a much older composer created the possibility for a connection to Lady Anne Darcy. (Why would Lady Anne be a proficient harpsichord player, when Lady Catherine plays no instrument? I'm going to get to that eventually!) Critically, Scarlatti also had a Fandango -- although no Fandango to my mind replaces Boccherini's masterpiece, it was a suitable replacement so far as the plot for the story.

So, there are still more editing passes to go -- I want the published version of ACL to be really clean and error-free. But I am hoping to have it on an Amazon shelf near you by the end of the year!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

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Writing Elizabeth as a widow

There's one final Mistress blog post out today! I'm at Catherine Curzon's blog talking about writing Elizabeth as a widow.