Why is this page called "hmmm...?" Well, didn't it make you wonder what you might find here? Ah, you see: precisely the point!

And this is what you'll find here: Links for writers. Links to writers. Links for Regency lovers and lovers of Romance. Links to things that are purely pleasurable or frivolous. Recommendations from me—things I'd like to share with my readers. In other words, things that make you go "hmmm... !"

And like everything else on this site, this areas is a work in progress, and will develop quite a bit over the next few months—so come back often!


~On the Regency~    

Regency Repository: Articles on Regency period arts, literature, fashion, personalities and more

Anne Woodley's Regency Collection: a wonderful resource for information on daily life during the Regency period

Cathy Decker's Regency Page: Includes a comprehensive index of links to other Regency sites

Jessamyn's Regency Costume Companion: A terrific costume/clothing resource for Regency

The Georgian Index: I especially like the information on London merchants, streets and places of interest

Austen.com: Links to Jane Austen sites on the web

~For Writers~    

Curious about whether you'll get rich overnight once you sell a book? Wonder exactly how authors might hit bestseller lists? Teh following are a few articles I've written on those very topics, as well as a few other links that might be of interest to authors or aspiring authors.

In which Julie reveals the Secret to Building a Wildly Successful Career as a Romance AuthorThis article talks about addresses the "money question" (How much do romance authors make? Do we get rich overnight? Can you instantly quit your day job? And all those other questions that make me fall down laughing), and discusses how a writing career is a profoundly entrepreneurial endeavor.

In Which Julie Anne Long explains Bestseller Lists
Ever wonder how bestseller lists are compiled? Or whether an author has any control over whether you hit that list? Check out this detailed article about velocity, print runs, distribution, and fate. :)

For a quick look at how you life will change once you sell a book, check out my
speech from the San Francisco Writer's Conference.

Romance Writers of America is the national organization for those of us writing romance, or aspiring to write romance.

Diana Gabaldon has some great advice for writers—click on "Writer's Corner."

In which Julie reveals the Secret to Building a Wildly Successful Career as a Romance Author

Would you like to know the secret to building a wildly successful career as a romance author? All right, then. Lean in and I'll tell you:

Marry a rich man first.

Ha! I jest.

Um, but then again, not really.

Let me back up. A while back a reader and aspiring romance author suggested I blog a bit about money – what kind of money do we romance authors make, in other words?– because apparently we authors are all pretty circumspect about it. The truth of the matter is, advances can vary widely and the concept of "money" is outrageously relative and subjective. For instance, the kind of advance that might send an author living in Cincinnati gleefully shopping for a brand new house might have a certain other author living in San Francisco (where studio condos near the freeway can run a cool, oh, half million bucks or so) carefully clipping coupons and contemplating the benefits of becoming a mail-order bride.

There are a million variables, of course. But do you have a trust fund? A rich spouse? Because it would be helpful to acquire at least one of those things before you set out to become a romance author.

OK, kidding aside, as I thought about ways to approach a discussion of money as it relates to romance writing, I decided that it helps to think of a career as a romance author as a profoundly entrepreneurial endeavor, like opening a shop or starting a restaurant. It carries with it attendant start-up costs, risks, speculation, uncertainty, time demands–and a corresponding deep satisfaction and joy, if it works out.

And of course you hope to make money at it–you hope to one day make a fabulous living at it, actually–but in order to get to that point, you need steely nerves, great organizational skills, a tolerance for ambiguity, boundless energy, an almost absurd sense of faith, a good deal of patience…and above all, love. In fact, love had better be your primary motivation for doing it. Because if you don't love what you're doing, you'll never get beyond the first stages of your career.

As an example of the entrepreneurial nature of the biz, let's construct a scenario involving make-believe author Jane Jones. Let's say Jane Jones just sold two historical romances, her very first sale. Hurrah for Jane! This is a triumph! And let's say her total advance is $14,000, or $7,000 per book. This is probably a very realistic advance for a first two-book contract for historical romances–neither very high nor very low. I'm not certain whether you guys know this or not, but an advance is typically paid out in chunks over the life cycle of the book: a percentage upon signing the contract, a percentage upon delivery and acceptance of the first book (which could be many months after Jane signs her contract), a percentage upon delivery and acceptance of the second book, and possibly, as is more and more often the case these days, a final percentage of the advance will be paid out upon a book's publication (which might also be many months after acceptance of a manuscript).

Let's say Jane's deadlines are nine months apart. In short, Jane's advance will be paid out over eighteen months to two years, or perhaps a bit longer. And as Jane's agent, who made the sale, gets 15% of this advance, the total advance she'll receive for her first sale is $11,900–again, paid out over this two years or so.

Let's say Jane gets 50% of that advance (this percentage is offered is for the sake of our story–percentages upon signing vary; often it's 30%) of her total advance upon signing her contract. So her first check is for $5,950. And it's taxable income, of course.

So…will Jane be quitting her day job at this point? (That's the question I get asked most frequently, probably: "When can I quit my day job?") Probably not, unless her hubby can afford to support her, or unless she has that trust fund we mentioned, or a pool of venture capital (LOL). In all likelihood, Jane will be working at her day job, possibly raising kids, dealing with pets and extended family, and writing, too, as well as attending conferences, answering emails, updating her website, coordinating promotional activities, etc. In other words, for the foreseeable future, Jane will have what essentially amounts to about three or four full-time jobs. LOL.

Now let's look at a few of those startup and ongoing costs. Does Jane have a website? If not, she'll need one. And a website might cost her nothing but time if she, or perhaps her kid, have web design skills. But if not, a decent, professional website might cost anywhere between, say, $2,000 to $10,000. How about a good photo for that website–taken by a professional photographer, and not her mom or hubby, both of whom thinks she looks beautiful no matter what? A professional photo could cost a couple of hundred dollars or more.

Will Jane be attending conferences this year, like RWA or RT? She'd better factor in a couple of thousand dollars per conference (airfare, hotel, registration, meals) unless she lives within driving distance.

What else? How about professional fees, the dues for belonging to local RWA and national RWA chapters, or Novelists, Inc., or other organizations? Depending upon how many associations you belong to, those costs can total several hundred dollars a year. Other fees include contest entry fees (for the Rita, Bookseller's Best, the Holt Medallion, etc.), which range from $25 to $40 per book entered, and then there's the cost of mailing your books to the contest coordinators.

Which brings us to postage costs, which can really add up. There's the cost of overnighting your final revised manuscript and your copyedited manuscript to your editor in New York, which will vary depending upon where you live, probably. (For me, it's about $50 each time, from San Francisco to New York). There's the cost of mailing contest prizes and ARCs and bookmarks to booksellers and book groups, and the cost of renting a P.O. Box, and various other postage-type expenses. Postage expenses can and do run into the thousands.

Then there are costs for promotional materials like contest prizes, bookmarks and web promotions (like web banners, serialized excerpts, bulletins)–you can spend a couple of hundred to several thousand dollars a year on those kinds of things. And then there are office supplies–paper, toner, envelopes. And so on.

In short, writing-related expenses are ongoing, and they add up pretty fast. For example, my expenses during my first "official" first year as an author several years ago, when I still had a day job, totaled more than $10,000. And let's just say my expenses haven't gotten at all lower since then. I know authors who routinely spend much more. And granted, these are tax-deductible expenses, but "tax-deductible" doesn't mean "free." You save a modest percentage. And all of your expenses must come out of your pocket first.

In other words, in the absence of pre-existing wealth, Jane might very well plow her entire advance back into her business, the way any entrepreneur might.

Another consideration: Advances are just that–an advance against royalties. And unless your book earns back its advance in sales, you won't see another penny from it in royalties. Royalties are a whole other beast, and you may not see any until up to a couple of years after your book is published, as publishers are allowed to keep a percentage as a reserve against any returns. In other words: only God and your publisher know when or if you'll see any royalties, ever.

There are other variables, of course. Jane might sell another book, in a different genre, during this time, which might enable her to quit her day job more quickly. But the best possible scenario for Jane is that her books do well, a new contract is forthcoming based on the strength of her sales, and her next advance will be appreciably higher. But in 90% of all circumstances, success in this field–in terms of both name recognition and financial compensation–is cumulative, something that builds over a span of years. And publishing is a very changeable industry. The one thing you can count on…is that you can't count on anything. You need to get comfortable with shifting sands, so to speak, and with taking it one day at a time.

Sabrina Jeffries has a great article on her site, if you guys haven't seen it yet: "The Big Misunderstanding About Money." She does a good job of explaining some of the money issues. And as Sabrina says, only a very small percentage of authors are making a fabulous living at writing. Most authors are just sort of getting by. Some make a good living, good enough to quit their day jobs. Others never quit their day jobs.

So as you can see, building a career as a romance author is an entirely entrepreneurial endeavor. And when you're first starting out, there's really no way of knowing whether the time, energy, risk and money you invest in it will pay off down the road. It's an enormous leap of faith. But if you love writing, and if you find yourself holding that all-too-rare brass ring in the form of a publishing contract…you kind of owe it to yourself to go for it. The beauty of being an entrepreneur is you never know where it might lead. And every NYT author once took that leap of faith, too.

~copyright 2006, Julie Anne Long



In which Julie Anne Long explains Bestseller Lists

Gather round, children. I’m going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, two (this is all hypothetical, mind you) historical romance titles—let’s call them STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT (a print run of 200,000) and A NIGHT FULL OF STRANGERS (a smaller print run of 75,000)— written by two different authors, were released by two different publishers during the same month. Both books were showered with unanimously ecstatic reviews, and both went on to rack up very respectable 65% sell-through rates (the percentage of a book’s total print run actually sold) —a publisher-pleasing figure, indeed. To ice the cake, both books were subsequently nominated for a whole slew of awards. All in all, by anyone’s definition, both books were resounding successes, and both authors (and their friends and family and publishers and agents) should be pleased and proud.

But here’s where their destinies diverged: One of those books appeared both on both the Nielsen BookScan and USA Today bestseller lists. The other book didn’t appear on any bestseller list.

Care to hazard a guess which one became the bestseller?

A NIGHT FULL OF STRANGERS. Yep. The book with the smaller print run.

If this seems counterintuitive, welcome to the world of publishing.

It all begins to make a little more sense, however, when you understand 1) the purpose of bestseller lists, and 2) how various bestseller lists are compiled.

In essence, a bestseller list (loosely defined as anywhere between 10-150 titles ranked by sales figures accrued during a particular timeframe, usually a week) such as those compiled by USA Today, Borders, Nielsen BookScan, or the New York Times are marketing tools invented either by booksellers as a means of promoting and selling books or by publications as a means of selling ad space. Publishers also happily use bestseller lists to promote titles—scan your bookshelf and note the prominence of the words “NYT Bestselling author” or “USA Bestselling Author” across the top of some of your favorite author’s books, and you’ll see what I mean.

Why is this marketing technique effective? Humans are social creatures, and studies done at Columbia University show that we tend to make decisions about what we like based on what other people like, whether we do it consciously or not. If a book is a “bestseller,” we tend to think it must be worth reading, since so many other people seem to have found it worth reading.

Authors, on the other hand, tend to view bestseller lists as goals—something we can “achieve”— and, whether or not we care to admit it, we also tend to view them as measures of our worth as authors.The problem with this is that the word “goal” implies something that can be gained through, say, hard work and focused effort and perhaps a series of defined steps— something controllable, in other words. After all, one becomes a piccolo virtuoso or an Olympic Equestrian or a Black Belt in karate or an MBA through application of consistent, determined, systematic effort.But such is the delightfully ambiguous nature of publishing that no amount of hard, ongoing, systematic work, nor unanimously stellar reviews, nor award nominations, nor copious self-promotion, nor those profoundly subjective factors “talent” and “quality”—will ensure an appearance on a bestseller list.

Here’s why:

The combined underlying factors influencing whether a book appears on a bestseller list such as BookScan or USA Today include the size of your print run, your distribution (where are your books are being sold?), sales velocity (how fast are they being sold?), consistency and timeliness in shipping (are your books being sold in bookstores a whole month ahead of release date by various retailers? Or are they shelved right on the date of release? Do they show up in stores late? Do they show up in stores at all?). And, because a bestseller list rank is determined relative to the ranks of other books, we need to factor in the distribution, print runs and lay down of all the other books released during the same timeframe as your book. It’s lovely if your reviews are good…but it isn’t imperative.

An ideal confluence of all of these factors might lead to your book’s triumphant appearance on a bestseller list. Then again, all of these factors are acutely sensitive to even the minutest changes, and one minor event might be the thing that either keeps your book off a list or launches it to bestseller list heights. And unless someone like Kelly Ripa spends airtime extolling the pleasures of your book, it’s nearly impossible to trace—or ever know—which event or events made the difference in either direction.

Let’s talk about some of the factors involved in bestseller list appearances. To understand how distribution affects bestseller lists, I’ll compare two bestseller lists, Nielsen BookScan (available by subscription) and USA Today (available online and in copies of USA Today). According to data passed on to my agent by a member of the Avon salesforce in 2004, most national and regional bookstore chains report sales to BookScan, but BookScan estimates—they guess, in other words—the sales for some booksellers, including one major chain and some independent bookstores. Online retailers like Amazon and B&N.com also report to Bookscan, as do Costco, Target and K-Mart. Significantly missing, however, are Wal-Mart, Sam’s, BJ’s, and all of the supermarkets, drugstores, etc., jobbed by Levy, Anderson News and the News Group, and so on. And Wal-Mart is an increasingly major player in mass market romance sales.

The USA Today list is compiled from sales reported by “4,700 independent, chain, discount and online booksellers,” among them Walmart. As of last year, according to a paragraph posted above USA Today’s online Top 150 list (which apparently no longer appears above the website list), the reporting stores included: Davis Kidd Booksellers (Tennessee), Doubleday Book Shops, Hudson Booksellers, Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Lexington, Ky.; Cincinnati), Little Professor Book Centers, Powell’s Books (Portland, Ore.), R.J. Julia Booksellers (Madison, Conn.), Scribner’s Bookstores, Tattered Cover Book Store (Denver), Waldenbooks, WordsWorth Books (Cambridge, Mass.), Amazon.com, B. Dalton Bookseller, Barnes & Noble.com, Barnes & Noble Inc., Books-A-Million and Bookland, Books & Co. (Dayton, Ohio), Borders Books & Music, Bookstar, Bookstop, Brentano’s, Schuler Books & Music (Grand Rapids, Mich.).

So some overlap exists between these two bestseller lists, and changes in accounts may occur, but significant differences remain between them. Depending upon what percentage of a book’s print run is distributed where (maybe your book is being sold at Borders but not Wal-Mart), a book may show up on the BookScan list but not on the USA Today list. It might show up on both lists. It might not show up on either list, even if sales are stellar and the print run large. And where and how an author’s print run is distributed varies author by author and publisher by publisher—and is continually subject to change based on an author’s sales history and other reasons unique to the publisher.

What about shipping and lay-down—in other words, when are your books showing up in stores and on shelves? These are the things that strongly influence sales velocity, and selling a lot of books in a short amount of time is how you make a bestseller list. But here’s the thing: you might know when your books are being shipped. Then again, you might not. Instead, anecdotal information might trickle in from a reader who was delighted to find your May release in her favorite bookstore…on April 5th. Or you might hear from readers who’ve tried desperately to find that May release in major bookstores and can’t—and it’s already May 20th. Or they might show up on the shelves the official day of release. Online retailers such as Amazon and B&N often ship early, too, but online sales constitute a very, very small percentage of overall romance sales. The reason for early shelving is that bookstores are, naturally, in the business of selling books. If a bookstore thinks they can sell a decent number of copies of your book and it’s sitting back there in the stockroom a few weeks ahead of its release date, odds are good they’ll put it out on the shelves. Other publishers seem able to exert a little more control over the preciseness of release date, but how this is accomplished remains a mystery, too. Anything can happen to prevent those books from making it into stores on time, too, or at all, from computer glitches to warehouse fires.

How much will you be able to learn from your publisher about things like distribution and shipping? Well, philosophies on how much and what kind of information to share with authors varies from publisher to publisher—and these philosophies are also continually subject to change. This is simply a fact of the publishing world that authors must come to accept. So you might be privy to precisely where your books are being sold (Wal-mart? Airports? Supermarket checkouts?); you might not. Or you might only ever have a very general idea of where your any of your books are being sold.

And how about print runs — is there a sort of “bestseller list print run” minimum threshold? Well, since bestseller lists are snapshots in time and books on those lists are ranked relative to all the other books released during that timeframe, any print run threshold will be determined by the print runs of other titles released during a given timeframe.

And, as I mentioned earlier, of course, every single factor contributing to the appearance of a book on a particular bestseller list is mind-bogglingly sensitive to life’s vicissitudes. A blizzard might close major bookstores across the Midwest the week of your book’s release, for instance. All the other conditions that facilitate a bestseller list appearance might be in place—distribution, timely shipping, etc.—but because of store closures, the book will instead sell somewhat erratically, denied that crucial initial velocity that launches a book onto a list. Ultimately, over its life, the book might ultimately sell very, very well…but it might never show up on a bestseller list.

As for The New York Times Bestseller list: unlike BookScan and USA Today, it doesn’t track sales of all books. The times has a unique and pretty proprietary (meaning, they won’t divulge precisely how they do it) approach to compiling their list. They send a list to bookstores indicating which books they’re tracking as potential future best sellers and ask booksellers to provide sales information on those books (and any other books the bookstores think will sell well or want to report on). The Times says this tracking list is drawn from information provided by bookstores, but publishers say they also call the Times as a matter of course to alert them to books selling with increasing momentum so that they can be added to the tracking list. They attempt to keep their focus on new books, too, which means perennial bestsellers, like, say, Catcher in the Rye, might show up on the USA Today bestseller list but not the Times list.

By this definition, it’s conceivable for a book to realize NYT bestseller list-caliber sales volume and still not appear on the list.

So do bestseller lists provide an accurate or comprehensive picture of the total sales of a given book? No. Are they accurate indications of the size of a book’s print run? No. Are they lists of the “best” (a subjective term, of course) books available for sale, or indicators of the quality or value of an author’s work? No. Is it constructive for an author to attempt a methodical approach to becoming a bestseller? Well…no. You simply can’t mount an expedition up a bestseller list the way you would up Everest. Because, as you see now, it’s quite simply beyond an author’s control.

What is within an author’s control? Probably the only thing truly within an author’s control is the quality of her work. You can’t go wrong if you use your intention to do your very best work as a sort of rudder to steer yourself through publishing’s unpredictable seas.

Regardless, making a bestseller list is cause for rejoicing. It’s a milestone in your career, after all, and henceforth you and your publisher will have a very effective marketing tool to use to sell your ensuing books. And if one Thursday morning you wake up to find your book on the USA Today list, you should happily trumpet the news far and wide, and at the very least, have some chocolate—the traditional food of celebration of authors everywhere.

Copyright 2007, Julie Anne Long

~For Romance Lovers~    

Romantic Times BOOKclub Magazinethe website for the ultimate magazine for romance fans

Beyond her BookBarbara Vey's terrific romance-oriented blog for Publishers Weekly.


~All About Romance

~The Historical Romance Club

~Romance Reader at Heart

~Romance Reviews Today

~Romance Junkies

~Romance Designs

~The Romance Reader

~The Mystic Castle


~Mrs. Giggles

~Curled Up With a Good Book

~Long and Short Reviews

~Pure Pleasure~    

The San Francisco Ballet: I decided to track my career as an author by the quality of the seats I have each season. LOL! Some day I would just LOVE to have box seats.

The San Francisco Symphony: Oh...bliss.

As Time Goes By: OK, you're all going to think I'm a big geek...but I've been addicted to this particular PBS series (a BBC import) for years now. It's old (I believe it started in 1992), they're no longer even filming it (I think the final episodes were aired last year)...but oh, it's just lovely. Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer play lovers who reunite quite accidentally after 38 years (they were separated during the Korean War). It's very funny and touching and subtle and beautifully acted, and the whole cast is great, but the chemistry between Dench and Palmer (probably in their 50's or 60's while this was filmed) makes this one of the sexiest shows I've ever seen—and it's not overtly sexy at all, at least not in a "let's all get naked!" way. I personally know dozens of ATGB addicts in the Bay Area. If you're an anglophile, I bet you'd love it. Check your PBS listings.


~The Magical History Tour~
In each issue of my newsletter, I expound a little bit on a nugget of Regency history found in one of my books. These are the archived "tours" to date. Sign up for my newsletter to get 'em while they're hot!
  In To Love a Thief, our story begins with our hero, barrister Gideon Cole, and his friend, Lord Kilmartin, standing in the middle of Bond Street on a hot day. Gideon silently reflects that he really isn't looking forward to "returning to Westminster chambers, to donning his wig and robes and eloquently pleading a case while beads of perspiration ran down the back of his neck." Wig, you ask? Yes indeed: wigs were a required part of the court dress in 1820, and they remain part of court dress for English barristers and judges today. The practice probably originated around 1660, when Charles II returned from France bringing with him the French fashion for powdered wigs worn in the court of Louis the XIV. Barristers wear "tie-wigs," which cover half the head; judges wear the frizzier "bob-wigs"; and, on ceremonial occasions, senior barristers, judges, and members of the House of Lords wear the shoulder-length "spaniel wigs."

And back in 1992, the House of Lords debated the merits of wig-wearing. One member, Lord Richard, griped that wigs were "insanitary, scratchy, and extremely hot." But when polls were in, it was clear that most of the legal profession as well as the public wanted barristers and judges to continue to wear wigs for a number of reasons, including the fact that they confer dignity and solemnity on court proceedings.

In the market for a barrister wig? Take a look at the Ede & Ravenscroft site, England's leading wigmakers (in business since 1689), for a look at these wigs and a for a little more on the history of court dress.
  In BEAUTY AND THE SPY, Susannah's trip to Barnstable is delayed by a little accident that takes place in the yard of a Coaching Inn, right when everyone aboard is about to go in for the "bad food," or so she tells Kit. During the Regency period, travelers relied upon coaching inn for food, changes of horses, beds, and to hire post chaises to take them to the ends of their journeys, which were naturally much longer than they are today. But the food at these was legendarily bad, and coaching inn proprietors were always trying to save a shilling or two by serving the same joint of meat to several different groups of arriving passengers. Check out this vivid description:

The table was covered with a thrice-used cloth, was set out with lumps of bread, knives, and two and three pronged forks laid alternately, Altogether it was anything but inviting, but coach passengers are very complacent; and on the Dover road it matters little if they are not. ...Presently the two dishes of pork, a couple of ducks, and a lump of half-raw, sadly mangled cold roast beef, with waxy potatoes and overgrown cabbages were scattered along the table.

Imagine trying to digest that in a crowded coach on a bumpy Regency period road.

Go to the Anne Woodley's Regency Collection, a wonderful resource for information on daily life during the Regency period, to read a great article on the the role of coaching inns in Regency Travel, as well as to see some amusing illustrations from the period that go miles toward explaining why Susannah and her fellow passengers thoroughly loathed each other by the end of their journey. (Reminds me a little of San Francisco's beloved MUNI).
  How NOT to behave... In TO LOVE A THIEF, as part of his attempt to polish Lily Masters into a diamond of the first water, Gideon Cole insists she study the contents of an odious little book on behavior. Such a "helpful" manual did in fact exist during the Regency, and boy were the guidelines specific. The book was called—and the title's a mouthful—The Ladie's and gentlemen's companion containing the newest cotillions and country dances ... ; to which are added, instances of ill manners, to be carefully avoided by youth of both sexes...(Norwich, Printed by J. Trumbull, 1798.). Lily's own personal hurdle was the rule about " Distortion of countenance, and mimicry," since Gideon often tempted her to roll her eyes.

Other helpful rules included such admonitions against "Swinging the arms, and all other aukward gestures, especially in the street, and in company," "Throwing things instead of handing them," and the vaguely ominous and and all-encompassing, "All actions that have the most remote tendency to indelicacy." One has to wonder what went on at dances if one had to be admonished against "indelicacy" and throwing things. If you think your own behavior could use a little polishing, take a look at the full list of rules.
  A flash in the pan: In THE RUNAWAY DUKE, Connor Riordan considers his boot pistol a "damned capricious weapon," and accounts himself lucky that the thing fires at all in a moment of, shall we say, extreme urgency (specifically involving highwaymen). The boot pistol in question was a "flintlock" pistol, so called because the lock uses a flint to strike sparks into the powder in a priming pan when the trigger is pulled. This powder would then ignite the main charge and fire the lead ball at highwaymen, or what have you.

But flintlock pistols, the height of weapons technology during the Regency period, were indeed "damned capricious weapons," because often the powder in the priming pan would spark but fail to ignite the main charge, which meant the pistol wouldn't fire at all—and this is where we get our expression "a flash in the pan," which colorfully describes an effort or person that promises great success...but fails. Read more about Regency period weapons. Read more about Regency period weapons.
  In TO LOVE A THIEF, Aster Park was landscaped by Lancelot "Capability" Brown, who revolutionized English landscape design in the late 18th century by steering it away from prim topiaries and formal gardens toward an illusion of wildness, complete with forests and serpentine lakes. He was nicknamed "Capability" by his clients (including King George III, the Dukes of Devonshire, Marlborough and Spencer, and the Earl of Warwick), as he was known for assuring them of their property's "capabilities." His work can be seen at Warwick Castle, Althorp House, Petworth and Chatsworth, and many other beautiful homes and gardens in England. Read more about Capability Brown.
  On Joseph Banks, vermin, cannibals & love among the natives: In my next book, BEAUTY AND THE SPY, spy Kit Whitelaw originally wanted to grow up to be a naturalist, and his role model was English naturalist Joseph Banks, who died in 1820—the year in which BATS is set. Now, Banks was my kind of guy: an intrepid adventurer who left an indelible mark on the natural sciences in England and on history in general. He traveled with Captain Cook (who was later eaten by cannibals, but that's another story) to Tahiti, Bora Bora, Australia and New Zealand, gathering plant specimens, eventually introducing, eucalyptus, mimosa and acacia to the West. A whole genus of plants—Banksia—is in fact named for Banks.

And sea travel wasn't for sissies back then, either. Only two of the eight who went on their expedition returned. Here's Banks on their provisions during the voyage: "Our bread indeed is but indifferent, occasioned by the quantity of Vermin that are in it, I have seen hundreds nay thousands shaken out of a single bisket. We in the Cabbin have however an easy remedy for this by baking it in an oven, not too hot, which makes them all walk off..."

Yum! He goes on to say the critters taste as "strong as mustard." (I couldn't shake the image of the vermin "walking off." As if they were all going out on strike.)

But the South Seas had their compensations, apparently. Here's Banks on Tahiti: Love is the Chief Occupation, the favourite, nay almost the Sole Luxury of the inhabitants; both the bodies and souls of the women are modeled into the utmost perfection for that soft science idleness the father of Love reigns here in almost unmolested ease..."

Holy cow! One wonders why he bothered to come back to England at all.

Anyhow, Banks supervised the founding of the remarkable Kew gardens in England, encouraged Captain Bligh to set sail on the Bounty (mutiny, anyone?), and supported the establishment of the notorious Botany Bay penal colony. Quite a legacy, eh? Read more about Banks's extraordinary contribution to science and see what he looked like, or check out what Wikipedia has to say about him.
  Regency Thievery 101: A Little About Fences (and not the white picket kind): In TO LOVE A THIEF, right after Lily Masters fails to, um, relieve Gideon Cole of his gold pocketwatch, she flees back to McBride, her fence in St. Giles, to trade in her day's worth of purloined objects for a shilling or two.

Now, everything, and I do mean everything, was up for grabs and convertible to currency by London thieves and pickpockets during the Regency period, from coal scuttles to bacon to silk handkerchiefs to pocketwatches, so much so that fences (like McBride) developed their own little specialties. One notorious fence, a certain Mrs. Diner, received only silk handkerchiefs from youthful pickpockets, storing mounds of them in a secret loft accessible through a trapdoor at her business. By carefully picking the owner's initials out of the silk, she was able to continually frustrate law enforcement. Other fences went mobile by hanging out on corners in places like Whitechapel with a barrow, in which they could collect larger items, like stolen foodstuffs, while stuffing smaller things down their bodices. Many fences (like TO LOVE A THIEF'S McBride, who was an apothecary), used other businesses as fronts—like a certain Mr. Brand, who kept a rag shop, specialized in stolen lead, which he packed in rag bags.

A lively, lurid accounting of the resourceful world of regency criminals can be found in Donald Low's book, The Regency Underworld.

  How NOT to behave... In TO LOVE A THIEF, as part of his attempt to polish Lily Masters into a diamond of the first water, Gideon Cole insists she study the contents of an odious little book on behavior. Such a "helpful" manual did in fact exist during the Regency, and boy were the guidelines specific. The book was called—and the title's a mouthful—The Ladie's and gentlemen's companion containing the newest cotillions and country dances ... ; to which are added, instances of ill manners, to be carefully avoided by youth of both sexes...(Norwich, Printed by J. Trumbull, 1798.). Lily's own personal hurdle was the rule about " Distortion of countenance, and mimicry," since Gideon often tempted her to roll her eyes.

Other helpful rules included such admonitions against "Swinging the arms, and all other aukward gestures, especially in the street, and in company," "Throwing things instead of handing them," and the vaguely ominous and and all-encompassing, "All actions that have the most remote tendency to indelicacy." One has to wonder what went on at dances if one had to be admonished against "indelicacy" and throwing things. If you think your own behavior could use a little polishing, take a look at the full list of rules.
In Ways to be Wicked, Tom Shaughnessy very matter-of-factly explains to Sylvie what a bawdy song is by actually singing one to her, as follows:

"Nell was a young woman so young and so fair
Who cherished her virtue 'til she met Lord Adair
Who took her for a ride in the warm summer air
And gave her a necklace of baubles to wear
Of baubles, of baubles, of baubles to wear,
He gave her a necklace of baubles to wear!

Now, I made that song up, but it's pretty representative of the, shall we say, innuendo-rich bawdy songs of the period. I mean—three guesses what "baubles" represent in that little ditty. But if you don't think you know what baubles are, or if you're looking for other creative and hilarious euphemisms for body parts, you can consult the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence edited by Francis Grose and Robert Cromie. It's a reference manual beloved by Regency authors, and you can find it in its entirety online. You can also find a few Regency slang words at Prints George.