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Category: Former Riskies

The making of Regency Books from the awesome Regency Redingcote.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE reading about the making of books. Back in 2001, when I was still in grad school, I was researching a Regency era author. Here’s a link to an article I wrote for about the price of Romance.

And boy, it probably won’t come as any surprise to authors that publishers in those days took advantage of authors. There wasn’t any need to track royalties because publishers acquired the copyright outright. No license. No advance. No foreign rights. No translation rights. If your book ended up selling lots but you sold the copyright for 5 pounds, you were limited to counting what was left of your 5 pounds because you were never going to see a penny of that sales money. That circumstance might put you in a position to sell your next book for more money. Maybe.

It wasn’t uncommon to pay for publication yourself, if you had the money, or seek a patron. That’s why you can find so many 18th and 19th century books with a lovely dedication to Lord SoandSo, who defrayed or may even have entirely covered the publication costs. I’ve also seen books that were published by subscription, that is, get enough people to buy the book in advance, and voila, you could publish it. Yes, Kickstarter isn’t all that new an idea.

Digital publishing is the first truly significant change to the business of book publishing in centuries, really. For the first time, any author with internet access can put their book into the stream of commerce. Speaking quite literally, it can be done for no money out of pocket, but for time, electricity and possible internet charges. Yes, I know it would be unwise to put out a book with no cover, no editing or proofreading, but it can and has been done.

Authors have always risked anonymity, of course. If you publish a book in the forest of Books and nobody reads it, do the words between the pages actually exist?

For the first time since humans moved away from oral traditions as the primary vehicle for story-telling, ANYONE meeting those minimum requirements (access to a computer and internet) can write and publish a book.

Amazon’s change in percentage paid to the author created a set of conditions where Do-It-Yourself publishing can actually be profitable to the author as well as cheaper for the reader. I am, of course, setting aside all those pesky issues of quality, discoverability and talent, because that’s not quite the point I’m making.

My point is that for centuries publishing has been a business that didn’t change all that much.

And now it has.

So, what would Jane Austen think of publishing today? Would she have self-pubbed Pride and Prejudice?

Risky Carolyn Interviews Joanna Bourne

Today, I have the wonderful RITA winning historical romance author Joanna Bourne here to talk about writing, cats stuck in trees and her new book, The Black Hawk.

She’s giving away a book, so yay! Make sure you leave a comment and/or question for Jo.

There’s also an excerpt, hard-hitting questions from yours truly and over-all interview awesomeness.

The Book

1.  Tell us about your book!

In the years they’ve known each other, Adrian Hawker — spy for England —and Justine DeCabrillac— spy for France —have been friends, allies, secret lovers and open enemies. Sometimes all at once. None of this, except the enemy part, is made easier by their countries slugging it out in Napoleon’s endless wars.

Now that the war is over, why are they still dodging knives and bullets? Who wants Justine dead, and Adrian blamed for it?

You can buy The Black Hawk at Amazon.

The Interview

I’m merciless, as you’ll see. Got more questions for Jo? Ask in the comments.

2. So, what made you decide to write about birds? That’s a very unusual theme for a Romance author. Are you an avid birder? We get Golden Eagles here when they’re migrating. One time one ate our neighbor’s rooster and came back the next day to finish. Has anything like that happened to you or a rooster of your acquaintance? Is something like that what sparked the idea for your Romance?

Do you know . . . I don’t understand titles. I just don’t.

I keep giving them titles for the books, and I think they are very good titles. Like, The Tycoon Spymaster’s Blackmailed House Guest. The publisher, however, doesn’t use any of my titles. They are polite about it, though.

(That’s a pretty awesome title. I wonder why they didn’t pick that one?)

So I was sitting on the computer typing in good suggestions like Harry Potter and the Deathly Spy, or Sense and Sensibility and Spies, or Where the Wild Things Are, Including Spies, or Spies and the Women Who Love Them, and the editor mails me.

“What about Black Hawk?” says she.
“You want to name it after a helicopter?”
“What helicopter?”
“The Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter,” says I.

Turns out nobody in New York publishing, or at least nobody she can buttonhole in the hallways has ever heard of a black hawk helicopter.

(Huh. That is SO strange.) 

There’s a hockey team with this name. When I wonder why a Romance genre book is named Black Hawk, I also say . . . Why a hockey team? Are hawks found in the frigid wastes of the north?

Anyhow, I did not really think about birds while I was writing the book and I had to go back quick at the end and add a few references to ‘Black Hawk’ so folks would not be utterly bewildered by the title. I do not like to bewilder folks if I can help it.

We do not have golden eagles. We have turkey buzzards which are large and remarkably ugly. They’ve never made off with a chicken from me, because I do not actually have any chickens. Possibly I counted them before they were hatched at one time. The buzzards sit in a tree in great numbers and watch me as I pass. Waiting.

(One time a Red-Tailed hawk got IN our chicken coop. He was waiting for dinner to come to him, I guess. He flew out when my son came in, as he was, I suspect, more dinner than he wanted.) 

I worry that the turkey buzzards will get the cat. But they don’t.

(The buzzards will wait until your cat is, uh. Never mind.)

3.   What did spark the idea for your book? Do you have a favorite scene?

I had just barely set The Spymaster’s Lady on the shelves.

THEM: When is Adrian’s story coming out?
Me: He’s a minor character. Really, I wasn’t planning to write a story about him.
THEM: When is Adrian’s story coming out?
Me: He’s not suited to be a romantic hero. He has ethical issues.
THEM: When is Adrian’s story coming out?
Me: I have this timeline problem that means I can’t write his story when he’s young. It doesn’t work.
THEM: When is Adrian’s story coming out?
Me: November 1.

Here’s a bit of The Black Hawk:

She’d always been pale as the moon. Skin you could almost
see through. He used to lie beside her in the candlelight and
trace the line of a vein up her arm to the pulse in her throat, then
down to the mound of her breast. Or he’d follow one thin track
up her leg to the silky, soft nest he never got tired of playing in.
She was opaque now, as if the light in her had retreated to the
core of her. It was gathered up there, keeping the chill out,
keeping her life’s heat in.

Fate carries a sting in her tail. He’d wanted Justine back in
his bed. Now she was. But look at the price of it.

Doyle came up beside him. “Luke says she has a good

“It’s his job to say that.”

“He’s too busy to lie.”

“Friends will always find time to lie to you. A heartwarming
thought in a cynical world.” He set his knuckles against her
cheek. Skin fluent as running water, sleek as air. He felt the
vibration inside from her blood pulsing.

Even after all these years, he’d still wake up in the middle of
the night, hard as a rock from dreaming about her. He’d never
stopped being hungry for this woman. “I wanted her back, and
here she is. Fate’s a perverse bitch.”

“Always.” Doyle slipped his hand inside the blanket, to Justine’s
shoulder, testing the temperature. “She’ll make it. She’s
hard to kill.”

“Many have tried.”

Her hair spread everywhere on the pillow. Light-brown hair,
honey hair, so golden and rich it looked edible. He knew how it
felt, wrapped around his fingers. Knew how her breasts fitted
into his hands. He knew the weight and shape and strength of
her legs when they drew him into her.

. . . The last time they’d exchanged words, she’d promised to kill

4. I know that you and I share the trauma of a beloved cat being stuck in a tree. (Dear Riskies, my cat was 30 up a tree for 3 nights. Raul of Summit Tree Care rescued him for me. It was a terrible experience but then Raul was my hero. Jo was kind enough to send me consoling emails during the ordeal.) 

Your story doesn’t have Raul the Tree Climber, but maybe you could share a little about that. Cat pictures kindly accepted!  Will you ever write about a cat stuck in a tree?

There is a cat who lives at Number Seven, Meeks Street. A succession of cats, actually, over the years, all of them named by Adrian. I don’t know if the cat has ever appeared in a story, but it’s there.

Definitely, if I can ever manage to write that cat in, I will.

5. I love love LOVE the late Georgian era. Can you tell us a bit about why you write in that period?  Also, I love the way Georgian sensibilities linger in the Regency. Any observations about that?

I like to say I write between busks and bustles. That is, my heroines are in one of the periods of history women are not weighted down with thirty pounds of clothes and twenty minutes lacing themselves into and out thereof. Pretty clothes, comfortable clothes, and innately democratic clothes. Women right down the social scale could produce a reasonable facsimile of fashionable garments.

And it’s one of those times the basic assumptions of society changed. So interesting.

6. You write the most wonderful heroines. Can you tell us about the heroine of this book? If she had a cat, and it was stuck in a tree, what would she do?

Justine is a child of the French Revolution. Life is difficult. It’s made her tough. It’s made her a fighter. It’s made her do things she’s ashamed of. The only time she can let down her guard is with Adrian.

She’s loyal to everything that matters to her, because she knows it can all be swept away in a moment. She’s had that happen.

If Justine had a cat, she would be adamantly protective of that cat. She’d arrange for somebody to go up in the tree and get the cat down.


Blackmail, probably. Threats. Cunning plans. Bribery.
I don’t know how she’d do it, but somebody would go up that tree and rescue the feline.

7. When I read your first book, The Spymaster’s Lady, I remember thinking (among many other things) that you had completely nailed a heroine whose first language was French. To this day I am in awe of your use of language (in all your books). I heard later that you speak fluent French. True? This linguistic otherness is true of your other heroines, too. Tell us a bit about your take on that aspect of your writing.

I wouldn’t say I’m fluent in French. It’s more a workaday grasp of it.

In Spymaster’s Lady it’s important the protagonist is utterly French. This is how she sees herself. It sets her up to have something to lose. It makes her ultimate choice just that much more difficult. When she speaks in a very ‘French’ way it emphasizes this ‘Frenchness’ which plays an important part of the story.

Where the mere fact of being French is not one of the points of the story, it’s easier to use a lighter hand with the character’s voice.

I’m all for using the least possible dialect or accent to make the point you need to make. A little word choice. A little idiom. To make life easier all round, you try to give your folks a reason to be eloquent and fluent in English.

8. What’s next for you?

I’m just beginning on Pax’s story. We’re in the same fictive world here. I’m just beginning it, so I don’t know quite where we’ll end up, but it looks like it’ll be set half in England and half in France.

Book Giveaway!

Jo will be giving away a copy of Black Hawk to some lucky person in the comments trail, so leave a comment!

Rules: Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary. Leave a comment by Midnight (Pacific Time) Thursday 11/3.

My book by Brooks’s about Brooks’s sidetracked me right away. This story is about a Georgian-era sociopath. The woman, the Countess of Strathmore, is villified throughout even though it’s painfully clear she was a victim.

A: The Countess of Strathmore – Lady Strathmore married secondly Lieut. Robinson Stoney, who assumed the surname of Bowes, “than whom a more consummate villain never went through this world unhorsewhipped, and left it unhung.” Her history as the wife of this ruffian forms one of the most extraordinary romances of modern times.
See Lives of A. R. Bowes and the Countess of Strathmore by Jesse Foot, 1812 (Here’s a link to the book in Google Books) also Fordyce, History of Durham/
This marriage is believed to have suggested to Thackery the character of “Barry Lyndon.”

empahsis added. Because it’s true.

A Romance? No. Just, no. (Edited to add: Yes, I know Romance is not being used here in today’s sense. But to imply it’s a great story eviscerates the horror of what this man did and was.)

According to this account, as quite a young man Bowes married an heiress and once, in a fit of violent rage, pushed her down some stairs. She died shortly thereafter, but it’s not clear this was soon after (because of injuries) or some time after. Basically, we are to understand he was a violent man:

Anyway the Countess of Strathmore had been widowed for nine months…

Besides his Lordship having died so unexpectedly and in the prime of life the affairs of income were left perplexing and some of his own estates in Scotland were obliged to be sold and it was from serious reflection that the late Lord’s friends saw that a second marriage even with any body was against their and the children’s interest

Therefore when the Countess was addressed by Mr Gray they kept aloof and when she was abused and vilified attacked and defended in the Morning Print during the months of November and December previous to her marriage with BOWES in January they thinking that the abuse was useful to prevent the uiiion of Gray with the Countess suffered it to go on without the least opposition rather pleased at the treatment she met and for thus saying I have the authority to tell that the friend in Palace Yard and myself saw one of these attacks in manuscript before it was ever sent to the printer It was a letter condemning the Counters on her conduct towards her late Lord and comparing her with the QUEEN in HAMLET for being about to marry a second so soon after the death of her first husband and this letter was written and published under the signature of HAMLET

Bowes is plotting it seems…

The family now in the Square consisted of the Countess, Mrs Parish, the governess of the children, Miss Eliza Planta, sister to the governess and confidante of the Countess secretly in the interest of Bowes, the Rev Mr Stephens just now about to be married to Miss Eliza Planta, also in the interest of Bowes, the chief visitors of the family were Mr Magra a botanist and friend of Dr Solander and Mr Matra a consul at Barbary. These besides accidental visitors were the DRATMATIS PERSONAE at the Temple of Folly in Grosvenor Square.

Still plotting…..

Another stratagem he brought to his aid. Knowing that the Countess entertained romantic and visionary notions of things, he had a conjuror tutored to his wishes and got Miss P to make a party with the Countess and some others to have their fortunes told.

Not safe from his Clutches

The countess goes to visit her mother in Paul’s Walden, and Bowes sends her a letter that reads in part:

I am all impatience to see your Ladyship. I really cannot wait till Saturday. I must have five minutes chat with you before that time. You will think me whimsical but upon Thursday next at one o clock I shall be in the garden at PAUL’S WALDEN.  There is a leaden statue or there was formerly and near that spot (for it lives in my remembrance) I shall wait; and can I presume that you will condescend to know the place? Eliza shall be our excuse for this innocent frolic and the civilities shall never be erased from the remembrance of your faithful &c

 Then, it seems, Bowes contrives to undermine his competition, the Mr. Grey her family originally objected to, by have a letter sent to her by another woman, that reads in part:

One moment’s pause in the prosecution of your present cruel resolution may save me from destruction and make your character immortal. Cultivate Mr Gray’s affections because your late Lord’s friends and relations will accept of him as your husband but not of Captain S——. It is impossible that Mr Gray should keep these secrets from you. Mr Gray has had the address (which my simple and easy fool never could obtain) of first establishing his pretensions to you upon the confidence and zeal of your late Lord’s relations and friends Mr L—- Mr and Mrs O—– and Lady A S—–. It is with their warm approbation that he has wisely made his way to your heart. Plunge not therefore an artless hopeless desponding and forsaken maiden as I am into destruction and utter but restore some ray of comfort to the unfortunate.

Which is pretty dang devious . . .  But then the narrative blathers on a bit and then this:

Of the person of the Countess when 1 first saw her I shall as far as I recollect give a description. It was the morning after the duel that she entered Bowes’s apartment at the St James’s Coffee House. [More blathering, basically the author goes on to say the Countess was hot and and a great rack.]

A duel

WTF? What duel??  Anyway, there’s this duel with swords AND pistols. They were effing serious, these guys. They fought at the Adelphi Tavern and someone shot a mirror. One Rev. Mr. B—— was not badly injured but Bowes was not so well off, according to the doctor (the author, Jesse Foot):

[U]pon examination I saw the wound on his right breast from whence the blood was then trickling upon a closer inspection I saw two wounds on the substance of the right breast about four inches distance from each other in an oblique line with each other. As I was given to understand that swords had been used as well as pistols and as I saw the swords one of which had been bent I never have had any other opinion but that these two wounds on the breast were made by the point of the sword passing in at the one and coming out at the other. There was another wound but not so important. His opponent was also wounded and by the wound being externally on the right thigh it excited considerable pain from the anatomical nature of the part and though not dangerous required rest and care to prevent inflammation.

However, both the duelists recovered and denied both the duel AND the wounds.

It’s all about the money . . .

The duel, however, took place before the marriage with the rival Gray unaware Bowes intended to marry the Countess. For her money. they were married 4 days after the duel after which he took possession of her Grosvenor Square house and its contents.

The purpose of the trial when the witness I allude to was called to prove that Bowes was not wounded was to recover estates mdde over to Bowes by the Countess in May 1777, a few months after their marriage in order that he might raise money upon them and when the Countess escaped from Bowes in the year 1785 and swore the peace against him these estates were claimed from Bowes founded upon the proof that they were obtained from her not with her fair consent but by ill usage and compulsion.

Lady Strathmore’s mother dies of the shock of the marriage. Then Bowes basically takes what he can get from and for the Grosvenor Square house, gives Mr. Gray 12,000 pounds (to get lost??) and spends the rest and the house is soon deserted. They move a couple times and four months later (!!) the countess delivers a baby. So yeah. Either there’s a missing 5 months or . . . .

Spending the Money . . .

Anyway, stuff happens. Bowes is busy decimating his wife’s fortune and, it kind of seems, the fortune of anyone else dumb enough to lend him money. If something can be sold, Bowes is selling it. He’s like this Georgian Nigerian scammer, writing letters about how he’ll unload property X for a bargain rate and YOU CAN KEEP THE PROFIT!  (I put in the caps for effect.)

Also, he’s taking out a lot of insurance on Lady S’s life. That can’t be good:

I shall take it as a favour if you will the persons you employ in this business to write me occasionally to mention what progress make as well as to send me a list of the they may have procured for though Lady more is in PERFECT HEALTH yet as she is child. I am determined to insure her life if I can do it for three guineas and I trust you will use your utmost to have this matter properly accomplished for me with all possible expedition.

There are several more letters asking if the insurance had been obtained yet. 18,000 pounds worth. Then it gets a bit dull, what with all his letters asking for money really what’s the deal, you won’t lose a penny….  Then Bowes wants control of  his wife’s daughters by Lord Strathmore. They already have guardians, but he’s scheming to get his hands on their money. Any money, really:


The countess manages to make an escape and, it seems, gets legal protection from the duke of Norfolk and a court appointed bailiff. Bowes has also knocked up a maid. Actually, several maids. Then he plots the kidnap of his wife.  She’s in a carriage, on Highgate Hill, and he basically takes over the carriage.  The next day, they’re 195 miles from London. He has her for 11 days, and beats her and threatens to kill her if she won’t sign papers to stop the legal (separation) proceeding against him and agree to live with him as his wife. Several times. It’s horrifying, actually.

People are getting a bit upset about this, so he makes two servanst pretend to be him and his wife so that everyone thinks things are fine. What he does next is can only be described as torture.

She manages to escape and get back to London and the legal proceedings against her husband. He gets find 300 pounds, sentenced to 3 years in prison, and afterward post bonds of 15,000 pounds to stay away from the Countess for 14 years. She obtained a separation and a divorce.

While in prison, Bowes managed to seduce a young lady and lived with her afterward as well. He had five children with her while he kept her more or less a prisoner:

Upon the sickness of her children I happened to see her a few times but it was impossible to say one word more to her than what belonged to the case as Bowes was always present hurried the visit as much as possible locked the door and took the key in his pocket.

The countess died in 1800, and Bowes attempted to gain control of her remaining property, chiefly rents from properties he extorted from her.

It is my duty here to observe that Mr Scott who formerly had been Bowes’s counsel and to whose name Bowes had so often referred in his letters to his friend from Paris was the now Lord Eldon the Lord Chancellor before whom the revived litigation was to be heard he having succeeded the Lord Rosslyn and that Lord Eldon from motives of the nicest delicacy upon the hearings of the Lord Ross lyn’s LATENT ORDER called the master of the Rolls Sir William Grant to be present with him during the hearing of this cause. (emphasis added).

He spent a lot of time scheming and suing and behaving like the sociopath he seems to have been. He died on January 16, 1810 and was buried on the 23rd.

My final thoughts

1. I am damn glad I live in a time when the laws concerning women are more equitable.

2. I think we should all spend a moment or two remembering Mr. Bowes as the monster he was. He deserves to be held in contempt.

I want to start this post off with a major WOOT to Risky Elena for her title Lady Dearing’s Masquerade making the Kindle Top 100 Indie Bestsellers for October 2011 (via EBook Friendly), There she is at #72! Congratulations, Elena!

If you’ve not picked up this book, perhaps you should.

Not Wicked Enough ARCS

I came home today to find that I have ARCs for my February 2012 Berkley Historical, Not Wicked Enough. Just as that cover isn’t quite the final cover, the ARC is not quite the final book. For example, chapters 31 and 32 should be swapped. If you win one, feel free to read chapter 32 before chapter 31 (and mentally add in some missing transition) And yet, I am giving away THREE (3) ARCS right here on the Risky Regencies.

When Lily Wellstone heads to the Bitterward Estate to comfort her widowed friend Eugenia, she certainly does not have romance in mind. In fact, the playful but level-headed Lily is amused to no end when, en route, a Gypsy gifts her with a beautiful medallion, claiming it will ensnare the romantic desires of a stranger.

But fate has other plans in the form of Eugenia’s ruggedly handsome brother, the Duke of Mountjoy. One day at Bitterward and Lily can’t deny the sizzling attraction between her and the roguish duke. Nothing can come of it, of course. She’s not looking for entanglements and he’s practically engaged. But whether it’s her outgoing nature and the duke’s outlandish ways sparking off one another; or the mysterious gypsy medallion working “magic,”—hearts are stirring in the most unexpected and wicked ways. . .

How to Possibly Win one of Three ARCS

  1. If you are one of the winners, you must agree to write a review of the book. An honest review. Please post your review either at at least one of the following: your own blog, Facebook, Goodreads or one of the bookselling sites such as Amazon or Barnes and Noble. If you don’t have a blog etc, then you can send me your review and I will post it at my blog.
  2. Leave a comment to this post in which you make some mention of the number three.

The Rules

Void Where prohibited. You must be over 18. No purchase necessary. Please post your comment by midnight Pacific November 11. Three winners will be chosen from the comments at random, probably not later than Sunday Nov 12. International is fine, unless there’s a law somewhere that it isn’t. I will post the winners to the Risky blog, so you’ll need to check back to see if you won.

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