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Tag Archives: Baltimore Book Festival


eatingC.S. Lewis really nailed it. I’m someone who’s never thrown herself out of bed for eating crackers, and I’m a chronic eater/reader.

The idea for this post came when I was getting ready to watch Call The Midwife (brilliant series) and I was compelled to drink tea (nothing unusual about that) and eat a slice of bread and jam. Why? Because they’re the flavors of my childhood and that show evokes the time and place so brilliantly.

Chocolate and romance is something of a cliche, but check out this review I received for my book Improper Relations in which the reviewer says she:

… sat down in the snuggliest corner of my couch with a cup of earl grey and a piece of shortbread. Upon beginning the book, however, I realised that perhaps I should have started with a glass of claret and a plate of figs.

I consider that a terrific compliment to the book and I’m wondering if it’s possible to enhance your reading with the appropriately chosen food. Think about it: a very alcoholic hot punch, boiled ham, plum pudding for Dickens. Dickens was very keen on telling us what people were eating so you have many choices. For Austen, it’s not so easy. She rarely describes food: the nectarines and grapes and peaches served at Pemberly are there to remind us again that Darcy is super rich with an estate similar to Edward Knight‘s; and Lydia’s cucumber salad may be, as Freud famously said, only a salad.

hepburn I’ve just read a book with lots of ex-military alpha males with tats and I think a big rare hamburger with fries would have been excellent. Or else a huge all-American hot dog. Dripping with … condiments.

If you’re into food and books, and planning a trip to the Baltimore Book Festival this weekend, I’ll be at the Maryland Romance Writers’ tent at 7 pm on Saturday evening on a panel about Sex & Sensuality (condiments optional). It’s a great festival, books, beer, and naturally food, down at the Inner Harbor this year. And also check out the Maryland Romance Writers Online Auction. I’m offering a critique and tea-related goodness and there are all sorts of fantastic items. Check it out!

What have you been reading recently? What food would have gone with it? Or suggest an author-food match!

Jane-Austen-ring-in-boxFirst, if you haven’t heard, great news–the fundraising effort to keep Jane Austen’s ring where it belongs, at the Jane Austen House Museum, has been successful! I am very excited. As you know, I feel very strongly about national treasures disappearing into private ownership. I had a minor sort of rant about the possible fate of the ring when it first went on the block. (I’m trying really, really hard not to gloat in public. Give me credit for making the effort.)

I was originally planning a post today about a tie-in between my book Hidden Paradise and the movie Austenland. They’re both about Austen-themed resorts, except in my book there’s a load more sex. But I haven’t yet seen the movie and I read this truly awful review of it. However it is the one-year anniversary of my book, so why not buy it. Even better, why not come to the Baltimore Book Festival tomorrow and hear me talk about Austen and buy a signed copy. I’m on a panel at noon with Leslie Carroll and Diana Peterfreund talking about Austen and our Austen knock-offs, and reading excerpts on the Maryland Romance Writers‘ stage. I’ll probably be reading from Jane and the Damned.

I’ll still be around at 7 when I’m joining a gaggle of other authors for a panel called Fifty Shades of Hot, in which we talk about–no, not that book, but our own. Panelists are Damon Suede, Eliza Knight, Stephanie Draven, Kate Poole, and Megan Hart. (Incidentally, the 6 pm panel includes chocolate, so you might want to come early!)

The Baltimore Book Festival continues through the weekend, with food, music, beer, readings, and books. LOTS of books. It’s lots of fun and I hope you can drop by!

Today’s the day in 1814 upon which poet Francis Scott Keyes composed The Star Spangled Banner which was adopted as our national anthem in 1931. He was inspired by witnessing the end of the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, where the British retreated after shelling the fort for over 24 hours, and, so the legend goes, as the smoke cleared, Keyes viewed the flag still in place.


Keyes was visiting the British flagship the Tonnant, to negotiate for the release of one Dr. William Beanes who had been captured when the British invaded Washington. Letters from wounded British officers praising Beanes persuaded the British to release him, but they kept Keyes and his companions aboard ship, fearing they knew too much about the proposed invasion of Baltimore. Keyes, inspired, scribbled his poem on a scrap of paper and thus a legend was born.

Except … you must have noticed the words don’t quite fit. It’s difficult to sing, requiring you to squeak up tosome fairly high notes (most people have a range of about an octave and this requires a range of about an octave and a half). Keyes didn’t write the tune; instead he suggested that it should be sung to the tune of a 1776 drinking song called To Anacreon in Heaven, the theme song of the Anacreontic Society, a London drinking club. Anacreon, a 6th century BC poet, wrote extensively about women and wine. You can see more about the club and the text of the song at ColonialMusic.

I looked around for a version of the original on youtube and came up with this, which sounds historically correct tho there is no picture, the subtitles are odd and it sounds as though someone is splintering small pieces of wood during the recording (but don’t let that put you off). The song had a history of being recycled on this side of the Atlantic, with two earlier versions, Adams and Liberty–the Boston Patriotic Song and Jefferson and Liberty. It was a favorite of Keyes himself, who’d written another version in 1805, When the Warrior Returns, a tribute to Stephen Decatur.

If you’re in Baltimore or plan to visit, check out the Flag House (where the original star spangled banner that survived the battle was made) and Fort McHenry.

Also in a couple of weeks there’s a bombardment of books and authors at the Baltimore Book Festival takes place and I’m on various panels and reading on Friday afternoon/evening. More about that later.

What’s your favorite legend or reality of American history?


Baltimore is a strange, quirky sort of city. It’s the birthplace of Betsy Bonaparte who married Napoleon’s brother Jerome. Napoleon was not amused. Poor Betsy never got a crack at being a European bigwig though her extremely French ooh la la fashion sense appalled the fashionable set of Washington. I blogged about it here.

Baltimore brought us the Star Spangled Banner (which I blogged about very recently), Edgar Allen Poe, John Waters, the endearment hon (pronounced in the very odd regional accent), The Wire, and many other strange and wonderful things. And every year it brings the Baltimore Book Festival and I’ll be talking and reading there tomorrow on the Maryland Romance Writers’ Stage. It’s a huge three-day event which takes place in the Mount Vernon district. Lots and lots of books, beer, writers, kids’ activities, readings, food, and many good things.

I’ll be on panels talking about vamps, erotic romance, and keeping the history in historical fiction. We have some terrific guests including local writers like Stephanie Draven, Laura Kaye, and Christie Kelley. My out of town friend Miranda Neville will be there with me tomorrow and my other buddy Pam Rosenthal will talk on Saturday evening. We’ll all read from our books which you’ll be able to buy on the spot courtesy of Ukazoo Books (Baltimore is also rich in indy book stores).

There will also be drawings and giveaways and a bunch of us who are talking about vampires on Friday are doing a gift basket that has various treasures packed into a True Blood lunch bag (I think it would put me off my lunch, but there you go)–books, chocolate, jewelry, and one of my Austen mugs. I hate being involved in chocolate-heavy events. I just know I’m going to absent mindedly eat it.

So if you’re in spitting distance of Charm City, please visit the Baltimore Book Festival. You’ll have a lot of fun.

If you had to plan a book festival, who would you invite?


So I was all set to do this stupendous post about my corset. I visited the staymaker last Saturday armed with my camera and found the batteries had died. So much for that, but my staymaker is indeed hard at work making me a front-lacing corset, and I should say that it is a garment made of stout cotton for my equally stout body, without any ooh la la factor at all, as is the linen shift that I will wear with it.

By one of those strange internet associations I went searching on google for the term “liberty bodice.” Bet you don’t know what a liberty bodice is. Aunt Ada Doom in Cold Comfort Farm sends Judith to find hers when she decides to make a family appearance (great book and excellent movie with a terrific cast including Rufus Sewell as the earthy stud Seth).

The Way to Healthy Development
Free and unrestricted exercise is necessary to healthy growth and development. That is why most mothers choose the “Liberty” Bodice for their children. It gives firm yet gentle support, allows perfect bodily freedom, and transfers the weight of underclothing and “pull” of suspenders to the shoulders. The most hygienic garment made. Wears well and washes splendidly.

Yes, it was the late 19th-early 20th century unisex equivalent of a training bra, probably a direct descendant of the stays that were worn by children in the Georgian period and possibly also worn by elderly women, like Aunt Ada Doom, who’d decided to give up the discomfort of a corset (and by this period they would be uncomfortable). This article about a museum exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the garment, states the factory went out of business in the 1960s. Wow. You do have to wonder, though, about what sort of garments would be termed unhygienic.

Here’s a pair of children’s stays from the mid 18th-century, made of wool with boning and back lacing. Stand up straight, child! Yes, our manly heroes probably wore something like this (and a gown!).

So, tearing myself away from underwear reminiscences and explorations, let me move on to the beer. That, with books, is what the Baltimore Book Festival is all about, and it takes place this weekend. I’ll be there for a few hours beginning at noon on Saturday, reading from Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion, talking about historical romance (and serving tea!) and talking about Jane Austen. Stop by and say hello! I’ll also be raffling off this fine basket of Austen-vamp related items, which includes tea, a teapot, a gorgeous red and black silk scarf, and various other delectable odds and ends.

If you’re green with envy and hundreds of miles from Baltimore, I’m giving away very similar prizes in my most recent contest. If you receive my newsletter, you don’t need to do anything at all: you’re already entered for the drawing (you should have received an issue yesterday if all goes well). If you don’t yet receive my newsletter (and why not? It’s infrequent, mostly harmless, and occasionally amusing) sign up on my website and you’ll be entered for Austen-vamp prize #2. While you’re there you can also read an excerpt from Jane Austen: Blood Persuasion and check out my Blog Tour. I’ll do the contest drawing and announce the winners on October 27.

Do you have a book event in your town? What would your dream line up for a book event be?

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