I’m proud to announce the reissue of The Winter Trail, published by Loose ID. I’m very grateful to the team at Loose ID and especially Keren Reed, my editor, for helping revamp this second edition. And once again, April Martinez has created a beautiful cover.
The Love’s Pursuit series starts with the story of Ash in Barn Dance, moves to A Summer Pursuit where Jake and Ash meet and fall in love, and then finishes with The Winter Trail. All the stories are stand-alone, and can be read in any order.
In The Winter Trail, Ash and Jake have left New York, and are now living happily in the Cascade Moutains. They rescue Evie from a blizzard, which traps her at their peaceful homestead, much to her consternation. It’s not long before Jake and Ash realize Evie is another piece in their jigsaw of life. Persuading her of this, however, is another matter.
Behind the scenes
The Winter Trail was the first novel I ever wrote, and as a result it was a little raw. I self-published it, but when Loose Id accepted A Summer Pursuit for publication, I submitted The Winter Trail to them, which they also accepted.
When I revamped A Summer Pursuit, I realized The Winter Trail also needed some changes. I wanted the deeper characters I had created for A Summer Pursuit, and I wanted to change some aspects of the background. The original story is bascially intact, it was just a matter of improving it.
This edition of The Winter Trail is longer, sexier, and I’m much happier with the new ending. Those hanging threads from A Summer Pursuit have a much more satisfactory resolution now.
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.
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:
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.
Duke Lindsay is going to die. He knows it’s only a matter of time. The war that was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime has turned into a terrifying nightmare that has crushed his once carefree spirit. With no family to care what becomes of him, and all his friends dead, he has nothing to live for.
Until Corporal Driscoll comes along.
Driscoll forces Duke to obey him, to be a man, to stay alive. As they undergo hardship and fight bitter battles side by side, Duke comes to realise Driscoll cares for him in a way no one ever has before. With Driscoll’s help, Duke finds in himself the man he was always supposed to be.
From the ashes of war, an enduring friendship begins to blossom.
As my friends could tell you, I’m not particularly obsessed with bathing and cleanliness. I shower daily but I don’t linger, and I’m not fond of baths. So why are my characters so bloody obsessed with bathing? It’s a question I started to ask myself when I finished my fifth book (not yet edited, coming in August). Okay, I am fond of a good scene in a bath, et voila…
I love writing historical fiction. I love finding a new era that fascinates me, and creating characters that fit into the setting. I love delving into the era and making my story fit into it.
I hate the smells.
Yep, back in the day there was none of the plumbing luxury we enjoy today. You know, you turn on the tap and presto, out comes water fit to drink! You jump into a glass box and way hey, out comes steamy hot water which combines so beautifully with sudsy grapefruit scented shower gel! You sit on a polymer resin seat with a hole in it and whoosh, away flushes unmentionable body waste!
In the Olden Dayz (until reasonably late in the nineteenth century for poor folks), bathing was irregular. A daily wash, which probably only meant your face and hands, came out of a jug of water. If you were lucky enough to be rich you didn’t have to haul your own hot water up two flights of stairs, or share a weekly bath with every member of your family. If you were poor and lucky, you lived near a bathhouse that was reasonably priced for your once-a-week ablutionary pleasures, and you got to share a bath with your neighbours as well.
Drinking water came from the river contaminated with… God only knows. Check your local river and shudder—and remember our rivers, nuclear waste aside, are a lot cleaner than they were in, say, 1781, when corpses and skin flakes were possibly the least nasty things to be found. Sewers were street gutters, and flushing the loo meant emptying the poo pot out of the window into the street.
And speaking of streets, in reality they were often knee deep in rubbish, dead dogs, and horse poop. I do recall reading a passage where Benjamin Franklin* complains about treading in people poop while walking the streets of Philadelphia at night (from memory he used the word ‘turds’ and paints a vivid image of them squashing underfoot). In my world, there is no ever-present smell of urine or dead animals, and rubbish is regularly taken away. In reality it would have been from the richer neighbourhoods, but I imagine the smells would have lingered.
Which brings me to smells.
None of my characters smells bad**. They are clean clean clean people who never have stinky armpits, smelly groins, or stained pants**. They do have bodily functions, but there is ALWAYS a toilet available and it’s off screen. I never mention it, but they also have toilet paper (it is referred to by Rabelais in the sixteenth century which is good enough for me, even if he does recommend the neck of a goose over paper wipes). And last but not least, THEY ALWAYS TAKE BATHS. REGULARLY. NO EXCEPTIONS***.
So, dear reader, when you come to the sweaty scenes, rest assured the boys and girls are squeaky clean and utterly lickable!
*I think it was Benjamin Franklin. It might have been some other 18th century Philadelphia resident. I’m not going to cite, I’m not at university now, hurrah!
**Except when they are meant to for the purposes of the plot.
***Except when they can’t for the purposes of the plot.
If you found my website, you probably already know that men in ancient Greece were at it with each other. But do you really know what it was all about?
The most common, and principle form of relationship for a man was a pederastic one, an older man, the erastes, with a younger man, the eromenos. These relationships could last for life, and were viewed as more important socially and career-wise than a man’s marriage to a woman. A bit like today’s private school old boys but with more shagging—at least I think the Greeks had more shagging.
Ancient Greek men did acknowledge that women could love and be loved, but this love was seen by many as an inferior as women were less developed and mature than men. Ahem. Achilles, mature? Achaean Psycho if you ask me. Not to mention Prince Pouty. But I digress.
Pederasty was as much about furthering the education of a younger man as it was about sex. But being who I am, the sex is the bit that interests me! So what did they do? Anal and oral sex were seen as shameful, reserved for slaves or prostitutes. (There was even a law in Athens that declared a man who had allowed himself to be penetrated could not be a citizen—and neither could a woman.)
The customary form of sex between two lovers was intercrural, which is a form of frottage involving one’s beloved’s thighs. (AKA Princeton style, the Oxford rub, and the Ivy League rub for reasons which I think are obvious. Snark.) There are even poems to the beauty of a lover’s thighs—how romantic were those Athenians? A lover has told me how beautiful my inner thighs are, but I’m yet to see a poem…
Of course, there’s nothing that says it has to be two men. Those among you in a hetero relationship/liaison/one night of luurve could try it with your lady friend. The important thing is that your partner, whoever he or she is, doesn’t object to having their bits covered in jizz at the end (or you could use a condom but that does sound dull).
Alexander the Great did it, Oscar Wilde supposedly preferred it to oral, and even Abraham Lincoln seems to have tried it. Not that the latter two would particularly get me in the mood, but how about Wilde’s lover Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas instead…
Not being a boy, I’ve never been the “on top” person myself, but I’m told it’s totally hot. So come on lads, get your Greek on and try a bit of intercrural!
Disclaimer: I could go into more detail about homosociality, cultural motivations, the enduring nature of the erastos/eromenes relationship across cultures and eras, and the varying status of women in Ancient Greek cultures, but hey, I’m done with uni. I just want to talk about the sex now.