The Transaction

BeaumontMy March story for the TCWG, The Transaction, is based on the transgendering of the Chevalier d’Eon, who started life as a male and ended it as a female. After her death, doctors (why doctors, one asks?) confirmed that she was anatomically a man. Is that relevant? I haven’t included it in the story.
For those curious to know more, I recommend the book: Chevalier d’Eon and his Worlds: Gender, Espionage and Politics in the Eighteenth Century edited by Simon Burrows, Russell Goulbourne, Valerie Mainz, and Jonathan Conlin.

Who really is Tussaud’s Sleeping Beauty?

While researching for a short story set in the time of Louis XV, I came across Madame Tussaud’s Sleeping Beauty. This waxwork, sculpted in 1763 (according to Tussaud’s website), is the oldest in the Tussaud’s collection in London, and features simulated breathing. Tussaud’s say it’s modelled on Madame du Barry, Louis XV’s mistress. But, Du Barry was not Louis XV’s mistress until 1768.
I believe the Sleeping Beauty may be Madame de Pompadour, and not Madame du Barry. The dress the waxwork is wearing (original, according to Tussaud’s) is very similar to the dress Madame de Pompadour (who died in 1764) wears in a 1759 portrait by Boucher:

François Boucher 017

Curiously, the portrait is in the Wallace Collection in London, which is just around the corner from Tussaud’s in Baker Street.

Madame Tussaud herself was not born until 1761, so the figure must have been sculpted by her mentor, Philippe Curtius. She joined him in the waxwork business, and he left it to her when he died in 1794, thirty years after the Sleeping Beauty’s creation. Perhaps, during this time the original model of the waxwork was forgotten.

Just saying!

Negotiating with the Dead



I was inspired this month by Margaret Attwood’s ‘Negotiating with the Dead: a Writer on Writing’ in which she expands on the theme of Death, on a writer’s journey into the Other World, where the dead dance and the stories live.
It’s a book filled with marvellous ideas, like this one:

‘Dead bodies can talk if you know how to listen to them, and they want to talk, and they want us to sit down beside them and listen to their sad stories’

Accordingly, ‘Death at the Red Rose’ is a tale of a dead body, and I’ve started working on a play about an inquest for one of my OU assignments.

The 2013 Darwin Awards Are Out!

Originally posted on My Underwood Typewriter:

The Darwins Are Out!!!!
Yes, it’s that magical time of year again when the Darwin Awards are bestowed, honoring the least evolved among us.
Here Is The Glorious Winner:
1. When his .38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.
And Now, The Honorable Mentions:
2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and after a little shopping around, submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company expecting negligence sent out one of its men to have a look for himself. He tried the machine and he also lost a finger. The chef’s claim was approved.
3. A man who shoveled snow for an hour to…

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20 Works of Historical Fiction You Should Read Right Now

Originally posted on Qwiklit:

Historical fiction is not necessarily a “new” genre, but  many of the authors below have painstakingly recreated the past through years of academic and on-location research. As a window into the past, historical fiction is a healthy way to remove modern prejudices that affect our judgement of the olden days. Sometimes, it is easy to think that everybody was once simple-minded, brutish and downright inhumane, but these intimate portraits set in unfamiliar eras allow us to think otherwise.
This selection includes many skilled authors who boast many other quality works that should also be considered. At Qwiklit, we are merely showing you how certain authors have approached certain periods of time, and we are well aware there are dozens of other great selections worth looking at. Some recreate entire cities from the ground up, while others take conventional histories and turn  them on their head. Either way, the past can…

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Random Thoughts About Writing Historical Novels, by Stephanie Cowell

Originally posted on Writing Historical Novels:

This is my twelfth and last blog post for Writing Historical Novels. I have been so very happy to contribute to it and hope that my journeys in writing have added something to yours. So I’d like to conclude with a few random thoughts about technique, inner purpose and this profession of ours. I am writing to myself as much as to you.

ONE: THOUGHTS ON WHERE AND HOW YOU SET YOUR SCENES. As much as possible, set your scenes in a different place or, if in the same place, in a different time of day. Somewhere in my drafts I make a list of all the places a character could go so that as the plot is going forward and the characters deepening, we are also touring their world a little.  In my novel Claude & Camille I have at least 20-30 settings in Paris or its suburbs alone:…

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Stephanie Dray : Daughters of the Nile

Daughters of the Nile slide

From critically acclaimed historical fantasy author, Stephanie Dray comes the long-awaited new tale based on the true story of Cleopatra’s daughter.

After years of abuse as the emperor’s captive in Rome, Cleopatra Selene has found a safe harbor. No longer the pitiful orphaned daughter of the despised Egyptian Whore, the twenty year old is now the most powerful queen in the empire, ruling over the kingdom of Mauretania—an exotic land of enchanting possibility where she intends to revive her dynasty. With her husband, King Juba II and the magic of Isis that is her birthright, Selene brings prosperity and peace to a kingdom thirsty for both. But when Augustus Caesar jealously demands that Selene’s children be given over to him to be fostered in Rome, she’s drawn back into the web of imperial plots and intrigues that she vowed to leave behind. Determined and resourceful, Selene must shield her loved ones from the emperor’s wrath, all while vying with ruthless rivals like King Herod. Can she find a way to overcome the threat to her marriage, her kingdom, her family, and her faith? Or will she be the last of her line?

Read the Reviews

“A stirring story of a proud, beautiful, intelligent woman whom a 21st century reader can empathize with. Dray’s crisp, lush prose brings Selene and her world to life.” ~RT Book Reviews

“The boldest, and most brilliant story arc Dray has penned…” ~Modge Podge Reviews

“If you love historical fiction and magical realism, these books are for you.” ~A Bookish Affair

Read an Excerpt

Below me, six black Egyptian cobras dance on their tails, swaying. I watch their scaled hoods spread wide like the uraeus on the crown of Egypt. Even from this height, I’m paralyzed by the sight of the asps, their forked tongues flickering out between deadly fangs. I don’t notice that I’m gripping the balustrade until my knuckles have gone white, all my effort concentrated upon not swooning and falling to my death.

And I would swoon if I were not so filled with rage. Someone has arranged for this. Someone who knows what haunts me. Someone who wants to send me a message and make this occasion a moment of dread. My husband, the king must know it, for he calls down, “That’s enough. We’ve seen enough of the snake charmer!”

There is commotion below, some upset at having displeased us. Then Chryssa hisses, “Who could think it a good idea to honor the daughter of Cleopatra by coaxing asps from baskets of figs?”

The story the world tells of my mother’s suicide is that she cheated the emperor of his conquest by plunging her hand into a basket where a venomous serpent lay in wait. A legend only, some say, for the serpent was never found. But I was there. I brought her that basket. She was the one bitten but the poison lingers in my blood to this day. I can still remember the scent of figs in my nostrils, lush and sweet. The dark god Anubis was embroidered into the woven reeds of the basket, the weight of death heavy in my arms. I can still see my mother reach her hand into that basket, surrendering her life so that her children might go on without her. And I have gone on without her.

I have survived too much to be terrorized by the emperor’s agents or whoever else is responsible for this.

If it is a message, a warning from my enemies, I have already allowed them too much of a victory by showing any reaction at all. So I adopt as serene a mask as possible. My daughter blinks her big blue eyes, seeing past my facade. “Are you frightened, Mother? They cannot bite us from there. The snakes are very far away.”

I get my legs under me, bitterness on my tongue. “Oh, but they’re never far enough away.”


Daughters of the Nile cover

Available now in print and e-book!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads

Available now in print and e-book!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | Powells | IndieBound | Goodreads

Stephanie Dray Headshot

STEPHANIE DRAY is a bestselling, multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has-to the consternation of her devoted husband-collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

A writing prompt – an eradication of knowledge

This will be the theme for my December TCWG short story…
David Mamet once wrote: ‘The information age is centralizing knowledge, rendering it liable to despotic control. We can write letters and deliver them by hand. If, however, we communicate only over the phone lines, the flip of one centralized switch renders us isolated.. if information is centralized in government-controlled ‘computer banks’ liable to power outage or any electronic mishap, might one not intuit that, yet again, the culture is voting for/being impelled toward an eradication of knowledge?’
(from Three uses of the knife, 1998)

As we face a future where the ‘lights go out’, we should take stock of how much of our writing is stored on the web, in e-books, on our blogs, or other electronic formats.

All the more reason to buy the book (see previous post)!!

TCWG Short Stories 2013


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TCWG Short Stories 2013 has been published by the Telegraph Creative Writers’ Group in time for Christmas. A sparkling anthology (don’t miss the writers’ bio section!). Themes include Trees, Time, Newspapers, Flitting, and many others. We all write for the fun of it, and for the enjoyment of sharing our writing with others, and so the pleasure of writing bubbles up through the pages.
The Telegraph Creative Writers’ Group welcomes any writer, from anywhere in the world. Come and join us here!


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