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Tomorrow, I’m headed off to Worldcon — the 64th annual World Science Fiction Convention. There will be a couple thousand science fiction and fantasy authors, fans, illustrators, actors, and others there, including Connie Willis, Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Garth Nix, and Madeleine E. Robins (author of the Regency-set Point of Honour and Petty Treason.) There will be Regency dancing, we’ll find out who won the Hugos this year (I got to vote!), and there will be panels with names ranging from “I’ll Pull Out Your Eyestalks and Stomp on Them” to “Should Californians be Farmers?” to “Writing While Holding Down a Day Job” to “The Slytherin Question.”

Something for everyone, in other words. So in the spirit of mixing up Regency dancing and quantum black holes, here’s a different kind of mix-up for you to play with. If Mr. Spock had to marry one of Jane Austen’s characters, and it was your job to choose the one who would make him the happiest (and he her, of course), who would you pick? Caroline Bingley, Elizabeth Bennet, Miss Tilney? Miss Bates? Someone else? The choice is yours!

Or, if you prefer, find the lady who will finally keep Captain Kirk from straying!

Who will it be? Fanny Price, Emma Woodhouse, Elinor Dashwood? Mary Crawford? Lucy Steele? Elizabeth Elliot? Mrs. Dashwood? Someone else? Who would finally keep the captain with the ripped shirt on the straight and narrow?

Who would enjoy traveling about to other planets? Anne Elliot, perhaps? Who wouldn’t mind sleeping on beds covered only by thin metallic blankets? Who would be easily able to deal with Klingons and Organians and the like? Who wouldn’t mind raising children who rarely get to see a blue sky, a dog, or natural fabrics?

All opinions welcome!

Cara King, winner of the Booksellers’s Best Award for

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When one writes in the Regency era one must pay attention to fashion. In fact, the fashions of the Regency are one of the things I love about the time period. Usually, though, when I think of fashion, I think of the beautiful empire gowns for my ladies. When my editor’s revisions for my next Warner book, Desire in His Eyes (aka Blake’s story), included a comment, “describe how he looks” I realized I had to think about my Regency hero’s clothes. The question – would the breeches of his formal wear be white or black?

I have an aversion to thinking of my hunky heroes in white or buff-colored breeches and white stockings. I prefer them in boots up to the knee and form-fitting pantaloons, but no Regency gentleman would wear boots to a formal affair. Goodness, he’d be turned away from Almack’s in an eyeblink.

So I went on the web, to see what I could find. I used Yahoo and put in “Mr. Darcy Pride & Prejudice” and selected “Images”. As I hoped I got a lot of Colin Firth and Matthew MacFadyen, but none showing their legs. Not in formal attire anyway.

But I did find these, from a site called that is no longer in existence.

Which do you like better?

The boots?

Or the breeches?

Then I found these really charming illustrations from the 1895 C. E. Brock editon of Pride and Prejudice. Notice Mr. Collins is wearing black breeches and stocking. We know he isn’t stylish.

But the issue is the same. Boots?

Or Breeches?

Well, I described Blake, my hero in Desire in His Eyes, wearing buff breeches and white stockings.

But I got him back into boots as soon as I could.

Mariella, the heroine, got him out of them, though.

I have to admit, I’ve got nothin’ for my post today. I couldn’t come up with one single topic that was anything but totally boring. Maybe it’s the heat. It seems like at the end of summer, when it’s still hot (or very hot, as it is here–the temps have been in the triple digits for over two months straight now), and I’m longing for Fall but it’s nowhere in sight, I just get very lazy. It’s hard to concentrate on research and writing and work. One thing I’ve done far too much of in the last few days (okay, weeks) is read fashion magazines. I’m lusting for fall tweeds and boots and those cute cropped jackets, for dark lipstick and that elusive bottle of Chanel Black Satin nail polish (my new obsession).

So, I decided not to fight against my shallow current but go with it for this week’s post. I started wondering–who are some of the best-dressed women in literature? Some of the best descriptions of clothes and how they help define the womens’ characters? My method here was highly scientific–I scanned my bookshelves and pulled down books that I remembered as having some lovely fashions in them. Here’s what I found:

–Linda from Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love: Not just when she went to Paris and hooked up with Fabrice, who bought her that fab French wardrobe (“Linda had never before fully realized the superiority of French clothes to English. In London she had been considered exceptionally well-dressed…she now realized that never could she have had, by French standards, the smallest pretensions to chic”), but when she was a young deb, too. “Linda had one particularly ravishing ballgown made of masses of pale gray tulle down to her feet. Most of the dresses were still short that summer and Linda made a sensation whenever she appeared in her yards of tulle, very much disapproved of by Uncle Matthew, on the grounds that he had known three women burnt to death in tulle ball-dresses.”

–And Rose, Cassandra’s sister, in Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (one of my favorite books from adolescence): Later Rose gets engaged to Simon (the object of Cassie’s crush), and has a vast and stylish trousseau, but I loved the girls’ early efforts, when they lived in “romantic” poverty. In an effort to make their clothes look new, they dye them all green, and Rose has their stepmother’s cast-off teagown, “it had been a faded blue, but dyed a queer sea-green…” I pictured it as a sort of tie-dyed mermaid dress!

–Flora, from Stella Gibbon’s Cold Comfort Farm: “Flora’s own dress was in harmonious tones of pale and dark green. She wore no jewels, and her long coat was of viridian velvet…Flora knew she did not look as beautiful as Elfine, but then she did not want to. She knew that she looked distinguished, elegant, and interesting. She asked for nothing more.” (In the great film adaptation, Flore wore in this scene not green but a sort of metallic-gold lace dress. Elfine still wore white satin, though)

–Of course, Holly Golightly from Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffanys: “…she wore a slim cool black dress, black sandals, a pearl choker…there was a consequential good taste in the plainess of her clothes that made her, herself, shine so”

–Anna in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: “Anna was not in lilac, as Kitty had so urgently wished, but in a black, low-cut velvet gown…The whole gown was trimmed with Venetian lace. In her black hair was a little wreath of pansies, and there were more of the same in the black ribbon winding through the white lace encircling her waist…Now she {Kitty} understood that Anna could not have been in lilac, and that her charm was just that she always stood out from her attire, and that her dress could never be conspicuous on her. And the black dress, with its sumptuous lace, was not conspicuous on her; it was only the frame, and all that was seen was she–simple, natural, elegant, and at the same time gay and animated”

–And, from Girl of the Limberlost, Edith Carr (this was another favorite book when I was growing up, and, even though she wasn’t the heroine, I lusted after Edith’s ballgown at her engagement party. She bases her dress after a rare moth, the Yellow Imperial, that serves as a major plot point in the story): “…she stood tall, lithe, of grace inborn, her dark waving hair piled high and crossed by gold bands studded with amethysts and at one side an enameled lavender orchid rimmed with diamonds that flashed and sparkled. The soft yellow robe of lightest weight velvet fitted her form perfectly, while from each shoulder fell a great velvet wing lined with lavender, and flecked with embroidery of that color in imitation of the moth. Around her throat was a wonderful necklace and on her arms were bracelets of gold set with amethyst and rimmed with diamonds.”

And these are just a few. I left out Gone With the Wind, Wuthering Heights, and lots more. I didn’t even include any romances, because there are just too many (though a favorite is the green dragonfly-embroidered gown in For My Lady’s Heart, and the Maeve costume in Megan McKinney’s Lions and Lace). What are some of your favorite fashions in books, or stylish heroines?

This week, we’ve talked about classic books we should have read but didn’t, and books our Regency heroes would have read. (Advance apologies for no pictures; Blogger not so nice this morning).

Today I’d like to talk about books that no-one thinks everyone should read, except you. Yes, your Buried Treasure books, books that in your opinion are shockingly, shamefully overlooked in the canon of Great Literature.

I asked my Spouse which book he’d recommend, and after berating me for asking such a hard question, I answered for him, and he grunted a slight affirmative. It’s John HawkesWhistlejacket, which takes place in contemporary times and in flashback to when 18th century painter George Stubbs painted a portrait of a horse named Whistlejacket. It’s dark, intense, dangerously sexual, intricate writing that is not easy to read, but it is very, very compelling.

If posed the same question, I might answer Charles Willeford‘s Cockfighter. It’s a first person narrative by a mute cockfighter (and the story behind his muteness is amazing!), and again, it is incredibly written and powerfully compelling. Willeford is mildly famous for his Hoke Moseley series (Miami Blues, which was made into a movie), but his darker noir stuff is not as celebrated. If I could cheat, I’d also recommend his Burnt Orange Heresy, about art collectors in Florida.

In romance, I’d cite Kate Moore‘s Sweet Bargain, a traditional Regency with as much sexual tension as the most erotic of eroticas.

So what obscure book, romance or otherwise, would you recommend? And why?


Do you believe in fairies? Or, to be more specific, do you believe in fairy stories and/or archetypes?

Enough of the questions already. No, I don’t believe in fairies although my husband told me that once, when he was a child, a little man in green walked across the the landing outside his bedroom door. Yes, I believe in fairy stories or archetypes, purely because when I’m writing and it’s working, I’ll think Oh, of course, this is …. Cinderella…Sleeping Beauty and suddenly it all makes sense.

But the fairy story I ponder the most, and the one that fascinates me, is Beauty and the Beast. One of my favorite writers, Angela Carter, was intrigued enough by it to write several versions in her marvellous collection The Bloody Chamber. Cocteau made an amazing movie of it too. Beauty is a true heroine–no, she’s not some sort of kickasss type, but she’s her own person, which is both her strength and her weakness. If she’d asked her father to bring her home a length of silk or jewels, and not a white rose, she wouldn’t have started off the chain of events at the Beast’s castle. And she makes the decision to return to the Beast and brings about his transformation, her own heroic journey when she truly comes into her own.

I read a lot of illustrated versions aloud to my daughter when she was little, but I think this one by Marianna and Mercer Mayer was my favorite. This was long before I started writing myself. There was one illustration I found particularly captivating–Beauty, dressed in silk, sits at the window of a circular tower, surrounded by books, and with a bird, released from its cage, perched on her hand. She has a dreamy, contemplative expression on her face as though escaping into some inner world, the world of her imagination; she’s caged by the Beast, but she’s found a freedom beyond the stone walls of the tower. Now I see her as an allegory of a writer, invited into a fantastic world and bringing to it her own feelings and experience, and maybe that’s why that illustration in particular had such an appeal for me.

So what’s your favorite fairy story? Why? And do you think it influences what you like to read and write?


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