9.29.2010

Tea with Oscar Wilde: Gail & Mary & Impressions of America

In 1882, poet and raconteur Oscar Wilde spent a year touring the United States, delivering instructive lectures on art and dress reform and shocking straightlaced American suburbanites with his flamboyant style, charm, and wit. Lord Akeldama would undoubtedly have approved of the dashing figure he cut—one report describes him dressed in purple Hungarian smoking jacket with matching turban, knee breeches and black silk stockings, coat lined with lavender satin, everything laced and caped and topped with a sky blue cravat. He wore his hair in long curls, and was frequently observed carrying a sunflower or lily.
Upon completion of his American tour, Oscar returned to England where he successfully toured a new lecture called "Impressions of America." In it, he gave us such timeless gems such as:

"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between."
and:
"America has never quite forgiven Europe for having been discovered somewhat earlier in history than itself."

As your proprietress Gail Carriger and author M.K. Hobson both write about the late 19th century (with Madame Carriger setting her tales in England, and Madame Hobson setting hers in the United States), they thought it might be amusing to have a look at Oscar's "Impressions of America"—and provide some impressions of their own.

"The first thing that struck me on landing in America was that if the Americans are not the most well-dressed people in the world, they are the most comfortably dressed."


M.K.: Oh, Oscar! You make it sound like everyone on this side of the pond was slopping around in stretch pants and t-shirts, a style which the majority of Americans would not adopt for another 100 years, corresponding to the rise in popularity of shops with "-Mart" in their name! In an era when the most sweltering of east coast summer days was not sufficient to make a gentleman shed his frock-coat, and women were subjected to bustles and corsets and layers upon layers of frilled undergarments, I find it hard to believe that anyone was comfortable, even comparatively.

G.C.: And yet there might be something in this observation, as whatever was worn then has given birth to what is being worn now. Have you seen the trousers on young men these days? (Or should I say "not quite on"?) Something must have caused it. I would suspect Mr. Wilde of alluding to American tailors. I understand that, without Bond Street's influence, coats were cut shockingly lose on this side of the pond.

"In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience."

M.K.: Those Americans, such brash and brazen creatures, so full of the ol' lèse majesté. But surely you must agree, dear boy, that Americans of the time were still very insecure in their identity, and constantly looked to England and Europe for direction—and, failing that, for titles. Oh, how American millionaires craved English titles for their daughters! And, true to the American spirit of commerce, they were willing to pay cold hard cash for them. In the case of beautiful Jennie Jerome, however, one might argue that England eventually got as good as it gave, as the money-driven union between the heiress and Lord Randolph Churchill in 1874 ultimately produced a young man (named Winston) who went on to a very useful career within the British Civil Service.

G.C.: Being an American of inexperience I shall hold my tongue on this subject.

"The next thing particularly noticeable is that everybody seems in a hurry to catch a train. This is a state of things which is not favourable to poetry or romance."

M.K.: Alas, Oscar, here we must part company. This is because I think trains are the most utterly romantic invention ever. I find the idea of rattling along at perilous speeds upwards of twenty miles per hour, behind a cinder-spewing coal-fired engine, quite exotic and interesting. I am glad, however, that you did not live to see the age of the automobile, which surely would have knocked the sunflower right out of your purple-satin boutonnière.

G.C.: Being firmly in the dirigible camp myself, which is reputedly even rougher on the wardrobe and hair, I cannot but agree with my compatriot on this matter. For all the brash crowing of public transport it has it's advantages, but only if one can travel first class.

"In going to America one learns that poverty is not a necessary accompaniment to civilization."

M.K.: Well, now we get down to classes, don't we? What Oscar is clearly being too polite to say is that America was considered a writhing snake-pit of crass commercialism—a land of backstabbing ledger-book princes—while in England, one's claim to class and sophistication had nothing to do with one's bank balance. To this point, it is perhaps worth quoting a passage from the New York Times, which, in 1898, noted that the aging Queen Victoria would break with a fine, longstanding monarchical tradition and become "the first sovereign of England who ever had anything to leave ... All of her predecessors upon the throne bequeated fine assortments of debts to their posterity, which Parliament was called upon to pay." Clearly, the ideals of the new American nation were not lost on the grand old Empress.

G.C.: Ah, the Victorians: such dignity inherent in holding property without money, and such embarrassment in having money without property. It is interesting that as a result of our own glorification and obsession with property ownerships that we have, most recently, lost all of our money in pursuit of it. Perhaps we American's are not so inured against Victorian standards as we believe?
And that, Gentle Reader, is your co-blog for the day! I do hope you enjoyed it. Your co-host was M.K. Hobson. She is the author of The Native Star a delightful romp set slightly later in time than The Parasol Protectorate series and in, as you may have gathered, the heathen Americas. It features parochial upstart witch Emily Edwards and the deliciously named Dreadnaught Stanton. There is also an appearance, near the end of the novel, of a lady who might be Alexia, had she come into her majority in New York under a different supernatural climate and political environment. The Book Pushers have a very favorable review of The Native Star with Dreams and Speculation weighing in with a more reserved take.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It took me a little while to get into it and I had a few problems with info-dumps, but it takes A LOT for me to even finish a book these days, I don't have the time. I not only finished this, I carved out time in order to do so. I adored the relationship between Emily and Dreadnaught, and I was absorbed by the skillful mixing of historical and magical details building a colorfully different and yet entirely plausible Old West. I mean, come on, zombie gold miners with a kill switch? Brilliant!

Your moment of parasol . . .


Gail's Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:

Your Tisane of Smart:
Archaeologists on Crete find skeleton covered with gold foil in 2,700-year-old grave
Your Writerly Tinctures:
New York Times Article on Memory and Books.

Liz says, "Soulless by Gail Carriger is simply too much fun! With all the potential for disaster in the storyline, this novel of vampires and werewolves (and parasols) avoids all the stereotyping of current vampire novels and entertains in a most wonderful and amusing way."
SPOILER ALERT! Fangs, Wands, and Fairy Dust reviews Changeless and discusses casting choices. I would like to point out she is spot on with Angelica Houston. She is exactly who I was thinking about as I wrote Alexia. On the other hand, I do find it funny everyone always sees Ivy as blonde.
Even bigger SPOILER ALERT! Really, DON'T READ THE BLURB ON AMAZON if you haven't read the other books first. I redeem myself with Bookthingo, "I felt that the tone and language, as before, was in line with the era and the steampunk elements fit in very well. The dialogue was sharp and witty and the descriptions, while giving a vivid picture of the situation, left just enough to re-create the wonders of steampunk in my own imagination."

Heartless: First draft with first readers. Final draft due Nov 1.
Timeless: Just an outline, making sure I pick up cookies and threads.
Secret Project F: Axed down and back with the agent.
CAKE in Space: Trunked.
See table of contents here, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded available for preorder, releases November 15, 2010.
Short story turned in. The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2 available for preorder, releases October 12, 2010.

Quote of the Day:
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination."
~ Oscar Wilde

9.27.2010

Monday Minutia: Interview, Books Inc, and Topless

New interview with Larissa, here's a sample:
Favorite Paranormal themed Movie?
I haven't seen it yet. I'm hoping it will be Adele Blanc-sec
(I will say I have a soft spot for the first Underworld movie.)

Oh yes, and for my next literary endeavor I present to you...
Ha! I love this meme.

Had a lovely time at the Books Inc Blameless event. I was a little late and frazzled, but attendees and staff were gracious despite this. There was a pleasing array of comestibles and drinks. Everyone laughed when they were supposed to laugh, asked intelligent questions, and paid gratifyingly rapt attention to my silly stories.
I am looking forward to being back there for Wordplay next month. Details are finally up on my website for that.

Your moment of parasol . . .


Gail's Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:

Your Tisane of Smart:
Animal Burrials
Your Writerly Tinctures:
My agent has some interesting things to say on the quality of queries in the SF/F genre.

Australia weighs in, "For me, one of the most fascinating aspects about this novel (alongside the romance and the action, which were great), was the fictionally-serious way in which it approached the whole issue of the paranormal."
SPOILER ALERT! Cindy blogs about all three of my books.
Even bigger SPOILER ALERT! Really, DON'T READ THE BLURB ON AMAZON if you haven't read the other books first.


Heartless: First draft with first readers. Final draft due Nov 1.
Secret Project F: Axed down and back with the agent.
CAKE in Space: Trunked.
See table of contents here, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded available for preorder, releases November 15, 2010.
Short story turned in. The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2 available for preorder, releases October 12, 2010.

Quote of the Day:
"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much."
~ Oscar Wilde

9.24.2010

Dear Lord Akeldama

Locus steampunk issue featuring yours truly and Cherrie Priest – we may, or may not, be the same person.

In other news I am deeply excited to report . . . dum da da dum . . . I have a NEW electric kettle. For a tea drinker you will all be aware that this is a grave, and possibly extremely hazardous move. The tea must flow! My dear old silver bullet was beginning to leak so I invested in the highly recommended glass fancy-dancy Capresso.
So far we are getting along swimmingly and the tea continues to flow.

And now, I bring to you some Dear Lord Akeldama
In which everyone's favorite indomitable vampire wields italics in your general direction.

@CapitolClio Asks what is to be done about men who wear pleated slacks.
Lord A: My darling pumpkin flower, nothing for it, immediate capital punishment. Ooo, snack time for meee!

@medusasmirror Wants to know how to wear a proper hat in a modern car.
Lord A: Darling, invest in a convertible!

@msdawnbaby Lord A, Need ur fab fashion advice. Choosing colors for my wedding. Navy & lavender, what wld u suggest 4 an accent color?
Lord A: Gold, my little perwinkle, lots of gold and sparkles! If you have a werewolf problem, silver is also good. Or champagne. Champagne goes with everything.

@charlesatan Dear Lord Akeldama, I'm a werewolf dating a ghost. Have problems getting intimate. Suggestions on how to overcome problems?
Lord A: Conversation makes for a scintillating start to any evening, and it's something everyone can enjoy. However, and I hesitate to darken your romance, but I'm afraid you may be doomed by compatibility troubles. After all, you go bone bending one a month, and she's got no bones left to speak of.

Anonymous asks: Fear of being bitten by vampires (no offense) & werewolves. What weapons do you recommend while still remaining fashionable?
Lord A: I have it on good authority that hair sticks make wonderful defensive weapons. I myself enjoy the occasion cravat pin of consequence and appeal. Your best defense, however, is in the company you keep, surround yourself with exquisite objects and dazzlingpeople and any attacker will be instantly distracted!

@Liliona Dear Lord Akeldama, I have lots of guy friends but they keep falling in love with me and when I don't reciprocate, they bail. What can I do?
Lord A: My little prickly pear, believe you me, I truly understand your dilemma. I prefer the "anything is possible" approach. Always keep your options open! Simply stating something along the lines of: "My dear, how flattering, but I am embarrassed to admit that I have more than enough offers to occupy my time at the moment. Perhaps, in some three or four decades, if you would care to enquire again? My tastes and or inclinations might have changed."

@fangbooks Asks if Lord Akeldama could share appropriate dance steps to use when celebrating another @gailcarriger addict declaring themselves?
Lord A: I shouldn't wish to suggest anything too brash: a small minuet with a final double hand flourish for punctuation should suffice. (I believe the crass modern age may refer to this as Jazz Hands.)

Your moment of parasol . . .


Gail's Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:
Loot from my Blameless book tour. Fans give me gifts! How cool is that?

Best. Fans. Ever.
Your Tisane of Smart:
Sydney Opera House from the front = Darth Vader?

Your Writerly Tinctures:
I Should Be Writing #153 interview with Mary Robinette Kowal is so good. Not just the interview, but Mur's beginning comment are so right on! Also if you like Austen, you should check out Shades of Milk and Honey.

In which Soulless wins over a book snob, "Perhaps it is my delight with etiquette, my love of Victorian literature, the allure of anything British, or just the sheer originality of a spinster supernatural dealing with vampires and werewolves while exhibiting the best of manners, but I truly enjoyed this book. The cleverness far outweighed the tongue-in-cheek cheesiness, and I am quite excited to read Changeless in the coming weeks."
SPOILER ALERT!
Even bigger SPOILER ALERT! Really, DON'T READ THE BLURB ON AMAZON if you haven't read the other books first. Series review from This Aint Livin says,"As if all this wasn’t enough, the books are, quite simply, really, really funny. Carriger has a light and deft touch and it makes the books super enjoyable in the grand old tradition of comedies of manners. They are crisp and very fresh, and if you’re looking for some simply fun reading, I would highly recommend them!"

Heartless: Rough Draft done. First draft with first readers. Final draft due Nov 1.
Super Secret Project F: Under revision.
CAKE in Space: Trunked.
See table of contents here, Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded available for preorder, releases November 15, 2010.
Short story turned in. The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2 available for preorder, releases October 12, 2010.

Quote of the Day:
"My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying."
~ Anton Chekhov

9.22.2010

The Very Beginnings of the Parasol Protectorate

But first: it's official! I'm more than delighted to announce I will be Guest of Honor at FenCon in Dallas Sept 23-25, 2011.

Today, I thought I might stretch back into time a little bit and blog about the Beginning.

Some time ago, three or four years now, Gentle Reader, and event occurred. Picture this, little Gail Carriger biding her time, humming softly to herself, in some unnamed hotel somewhere at some unnamed convention. She has just been to a panel on "Escaping the Slush Pile" and she is considering a new project.

She jots down some notes in a notebook. They read as follows...

"I was born without a soul."
Blah. Blah. Something about not being undead. Poke. Poke. No, decidedly alive. People make that mistake all the time, natural people, but the thing about the undead is they all have souls that couldn't die – too much soul, really.
Me, I've none at all. Born that way.
Preternatural (preter)
Supernatural (super)
Natural
"I" therefore is just a whole lot more representative in my case.
I have identity – a heart. I can love and feel, but I'm null.
Undead call me a soul sucker, werewolves = anti-change, ghosts = grounds.
? What supernatural creatures do I want in my universe?
Vampires
Werewolves
Ghosts
Remove Undead


There it is. The seed that became Soulless. I had entirely forgotten I wrote it in first person. After those notes there is a line break, probably signifying a week or so, then a switch in pen color and tidier handwriting, a surefire indication that the Author Beast has given the project consideration.

Then comes the heading "Some Additional Thoughts." Under that are world building notes, including some on Victorian government and earlier history detailing how the immortals integrated. Then there's some notes on Victorian romance novel structure, the beginnings of characters, including Alexia, Conall (who was Conall Goring, Lord Brindle), Ivy (who was Ivy Thistlewaight), Professor Lyall (who had no first name), and Lord Akeldama (who was Lord Ambrose, Earl of Serkan, although I have another side note that says Akeldama "field of blood" is more dramatic). After that, there's several pages of mini scenes in the sloppy handwriting of middle of the night, or just out of the shower, inspiration. (This is still how I write, sometimes jumping pages or even books ahead of myself to write a scene I see really vividly.) The first scene written is the one between Ivy and Alexia in the park, but after that most of the others are between Alexia and Conall or Conall and Lyall.

And that, as they say, was that.

Well, my dear Gentle Reader, I hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse into the creative process.

Some silliness from WorldCon.

Your moment of parasol . . .


Gail's Daily Dose
Your Infusion of Cute:
Tiny hats in Sydney.

Your Tisane of Smart:
And yet, strangely genius
Your Writerly Tinctures:
China groupies.

Beauty and Lace says, "What a refreshingly original story we find ourself immersed in here. Characters that are well formed and take on a life of their own within your imagination."
SPOILER ALERT! 3 for 1 review
Even bigger SPOILER ALERT! Really, DON'T READ THE BLURB ON AMAZON if you haven't read the other books first. In the Closet Bibliophile says, "Overall, I thought the book to be a wonderful piece of work and quite enchanting. There were so many wonderful scenes and the characters are always lovely. And, with killer ladybugs, quite a bit of tea, extremely well proportioned white wolves, swarming and Madame Lefoux in a mustache, I just do not know how I will pass the time until Heartless is released."

Heartless: Rough Draft done. First draft with first readers. Final draft due Nov 1.
Super Secret Project F: Under revision.
CAKE in Space: Trunked.
See table of contents here.
Short story turned in. The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2 available for preorder.

Quote of the Day:
"I write fiction because it's a way of making statements I can disown."
~ Tom Stoppard