"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

With thanks to her ladyship and his lordship

For the past twenty-four hours, I've been soaring, all because of a research breakthrough.

It wasn't exactly holding up my progress. Nor can I claim to have suffered writer's block--I'm not really sure what that would look like in my case, as I seem always able to be writing something, and usually get paid for it.

But there's no denying that for several months I've been preoccupied with a mystery related to my novel-in-progress.

My characters are real people, with (for the most part) recorded histories. Yet why, I wondered endlessly, did my female protagonist enjoy an elevated position within her family, compared to her siblings? She was a renowned beauty, a sometime subject for painters and poets. Were they physically unattractive? (I had to rule out this possibility, given their lineage--their parents were gorgeous.) She was extremly healthy. Were they infirm or disabled? She married up. Why did they both die as spinsters? All three were their father's co-heiresses, not that he had much fortune to leave them.

I couldn't understand why she was so lauded, and they so obscure. It made no sense. Instinct warned that something was amiss, and given the morality of the times, it would have to be pretty damning. But I just couldn't prove it.

Until yesterday.

The evidence I sought found me, and originated with a pair of 17th century aristocrats.

I am extremely grateful to this countess, beautiful and musically talented but extremely snarky, for sliming both of my heroine's sisters in her diary. In the case of the elder, she exposed a scandal beyond my wildest imaginings. And in accusing the youngest of trying to steal her suitor, she let fly some choice invective, more than hinting about the rival's bad reputation. Outed!

His lordship here, a serial seducer who died a bachelor, was more circumspect in his own writings. But the editor of his letters kindly (and probably unintentionally) pointed to his presumed parentage of the youngest sister. This I had suspected, Mom was a slut and the girl's name was a dead giveaway. But a complaining letter from a discarded, neglected mistress, sprinkled with helpful dates, had me pumping my fist in glee. Outed!

My riddles neatly solved, thanks to these long-dead, long forgotten nobles, today I spent a very long time at Kinko's photocopying the pertinent sections of their respective writings, along with extracts from that massive 6-volume diary (written by an entirely different person).

Not to belabour the point, but this was one of those transcendant days when the rainshowers faded into the background, not dampening my soaring spirits one bit.

As well as attaining research nirvana, I was birthday shopping for My Chap--and I hit the jackpot there, too. Oh, is he going to be surprised, and pleased, come Saturday....

Song I Sung with the Loudest on my Car Radio: "I Need a Lover Who Won't Drive Me Crazy," Johnny Cougar. No reflection on the spouse.

Rose of the Day

Tuscany, the Old Velvet Rose. An ancient gallica rose, possibly originating prior to 1500, according to Peter Beales. The Old Rose Adventurer gives it a later date. From studying actual nursey catalogues dating from the 17th century, I know there was a velvet rose going back a long, long time. This is a wonderfully sensuous rose, with its deep rich colour, pure golden stamens, and velvet petals. In one of my novels, it was featured in a rather tense scene of passion and reconciliation.

Here it is again, as painted in the early 19th century by Pierre-Joseph Redouté:

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