A Summer Pursuit – out now!

Jake and Ash A Summer Pursuit
A Summer Pursuit

I’m proud to announce the reissue of A Summer Pursuit, published by Loose ID. This second edition is bigger and better than ever, and I’m very grateful to the team at Loose ID and especially Keren Reed, my editor, for helping revamp it. There are more characters, more nineteenth century New York City, and of course, more hot action between Jake and Ash!

How A Summer Pursuit began

A Summer Pursuit started life as a prologue to The Winter Trail. It grew to four  chapters, which I interspersed through The Winter Trail, but it was not terribly satisfying to jump back and forward in time. I pulled it out to write it as a stand-alone short story, but when I got to eight chapters, I realised it was actually another book.

The original novel, published in May 2015, was 41,000 words. It is now 85,000 words, more than double the original length.

The revamp

Rereading the original novel, I thought it would benefit from deeper characterization and much more New York. It was such a pleasure to return to Jake and Ash’s world, and researching the city of 1853 was fascinating and fun.

The New York of 1853 was very different to the New York of today. There was no Central Park or Statue of Liberty, no Times Square or Empire State building. In fact, the tallest buildings were the churches. The streets were only paved up to Forty-Sixth St, and were dirt country roads after that. Bloomingdale was farmland, the Bronx was a village, and public transport around the city was horse-drawn omnibuses that ran on rails.

I particularly liked reading about the Five Points district, the stories of which are related in shocked and theatrical language by the virtuous citizens of the day. While there was no doubt terrible poverty and daily injustices in the Five Points, there was also fun, laughter, and excitement. It’s this side of this district I’ve tried to relate.

Being a wordsmith, I loved immersing myself in nineteenth century slang, which certainly kept me laughing. I found hundreds of terms for going on a drinking spree, being drunk, types of drinks, and vomiting after having drunk too much! As an interesting aside, Benjamin Franklin compiled over two hundred such terms back in 1737.

I can’t say I got everything right, but I certainly had fun trying.

A Summer Pursuit

If you are interested in more:

Read an excerpt of A Summer Pursuit here.

Purchase A Summer Pursuit from Loose ID or your favourite ebook store

The Winter Trail, the continuing story of Jake and Ash, is currently undergoing revision, and will be published soon by Loose ID.

Swearing in history; or, Avaunt, you beslubbering flock-pate!

 Ah, swearing, cursing, abuse. Where would we be without it? I’d probably lose half of my scintillating conversation.

But as writer of historical dirty stories  romances, it’s not always easy. I’m not the kind of writer who likes to use clinical words like penis or vagina, but words like dick haven’t been around that long. Well, they have, but their meaning has changed over the years

For example, the word ‘fuck’ has been around since 1502, according to the OED Historical Thesaurus of English.  But it was nothing more than a vulgar word for, um, fucking until 1874. Telling someone ‘don’t fuck with me’ literally meant ‘don’t have sexual intercourse with me’, which doesn’t have quite the same punchy implication.

Dick didn’t mean penis until the nineteenth century, and even then it had crossover with other slang terms, like detective. I’m sure we’ve all sniggered at vintage writers like Enid Blyton naming characters ‘Dick’. (I had a bit of a chortle recently when I read The Black Moth and Richard’s wife constantly calls him ‘Dickie’—I’m sure it was adorable when it was written, in the 1920s.)

So what’s a poor historical writer to do?

Well, you could ignore it, and let your characters bump dicks and bang pussies with abandon, as well as tell every cocksucker to get fucked or sod off. I love the dialogue in Deadwood and Black Sails where modern curses danced cheek to cheek with ye olde speak.

But I find it really tough to do something I know is so far out of period. I do hate being pedantic sometimes. Not that I’m that pedantic; if the thesaurus tells me a word was first recorded in use at 1720, I might push it back to the mid 1600s. My reasoning is that in the days when language changes took years to spread rather than becoming instant memes, vulgar words were likely to have been in common usage for some time before anyone bothered to write it down. Maybe I’m reaching, but whatever.

And while I’m on the pedantic topic, I’ll segue to something almost related. I find it staggering how few words there were for oral sex prior to the nineteenth century when you compare them to the number of words for shagging. Some historians have hypothesised that oral sex is a relatively modern phenomenon (ie from the nineteenth century). After it fell out of favour with the fall of the Roman Empire, that is. They give various reasons—lack of hygiene being a big one, but I figure if everyone smells as bad as you do, and your street is an open sewer, would you really notice? Another reason given is that oral sex was considered sodomy and therefore a criminal act. I doubt criminality stops anyone from doing anything pleasurable, and I have previously waxed lyrical on the overt and covert existence of sodomy in society for the last two thousand years despite it being criminalised. In any case, whether or not it was rampant among our forebears, I’m not going to deny my characters the awesomeness that is a good spigot-sucking.

Oral sex in the nineteenth century
Darling, I have a yen to go larking in your thatched cottage

One of my favourite sources for historical sexual euphemisms is timeglider, which has a series of timelines showing when vulgar words and phrases for sex etc came into use. These are based on the work of the awesome Jonathon Green, the famed slang lexicographer. Here are links for:

Wads of words for boy bits
Lashings of terms for lady parts
A plethora of phrases for rogering

It’s a fine line between historical accuracy and modern appeal. Use too much modern terminology and phrasing, and you lose the historical feel. Use too little, and a modern audience won’t be able to connect with it. While colourful, ‘Avaunt, you beslubbering flock-pate’ doesn’t quite have the manly impact of ‘fuck off, arsehole’; and ‘Begad, Lizzie, let me diddle your lady-ware and you may ride my rantipole’ may not encourage readers feel that heaven’s in the backseat of Mr Darcy’s barouche.