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Fiction The Highwayman

Rejoice and Resist – a Holiday Box Set for Repressive Times

I’m pleased that a new novelette featuring my highwayman will appear in Rejoice and Resistthe upcoming holiday box set from the Final Draft Tavern. The story is titled “The Highwayman Takes an Office,” and takes place four months before the beginning of Daring and DecorumIf you’ve read the novel, you’ll remember Robin mentioning vague reasons for decamping from London to Devonshire. That’s explained here in fuller, more gripping detail, since Robin is pressured on a number of fronts and faces a difficult decision. Also, one reader of D&D questioned how the highwayman so successfully avoided both murder and capture by the authorities. That’s explained here, too.

The box set includes stories from a variety of genres, and historical periods spanning four hundred years, from 1666 to the late 21st century. Some include time travel and paranormal activity, some are realistic; some are romance, some are horror, some are political. But they all feature characters pushing back against the repressive regimes of their day. (In mine, Robin participates on the fringes of a mass protest against the Treason and Sedition bills of 1795.)

Here’s an excerpt from the beginning of “The Highwayman Takes an Office,” with a fuller description of the box set below that. Also, don’t forget to join us at our pre-launch party on Facebook, this coming Monday afternoon/evening. And if you share the event on Facebook, you’ll be entered to win a $5 Amazon gift card (our answer to not having a Russian troll farm to spread the news for us).


In this excerpt from the beginning of the story, Robin and the gang have just finished holding up a carriage.

Our horses chuffed and blew as we drew to a halt in a wood north of the Mile End Road. Red Jack gave his own whistle of relief as he pulled alongside me.

“All righ’?” Tom asked, reining in on Jack’s other side.

“Oh, plummy,” said Jack, holding out his gloved hand so we could see it shake.

Sam brought his horse to stand in front of us, pulling down his black cloth mask to speak. “I thought you’d bought it, I did.”

“It were close, weren’t it?” said Jack.

“Too close,” I said.

Tom gave a laugh. “But did ye see the lamps on that lordling when his stick misfired?”

“Aye,” Jack said, “how could I help it? He was staring right at me.”

Jack had rewarded the coachman’s foolhardy attempt at self-defense by leaping onto the box and clouting him on the pate with his own pistol. Now the fellow was lying in the ditch, no doubt attended to by the carriage’s footmen, while we made our escape, gold and valuables in hand.

“Here,” Tom said, pulling a flask from within his coat. He looked at me, receiving a nod before passing it on to Jack. We usually didn’t tipple on the job, but Jack deserved it after his recent experience. He pulled his mask down and took a long swallow, his face pale in the tree-dappled moonlight.

Tom watched him, his brow furrowed. “Why didn’t you plug him in the first place, eh, before he could fire on you?”

“Tom…” I began.

“I don’t know.” Jack shook his head. “It’s been so long since anyone’s drawn on us.”

I leaned over and put a hand on his shoulder. “You’re a buff cove, Jack. You kept our streak alive.”

“Aye, the streak.” Tom hawked and spat on the ground. “That bloody streak’ll get us killed, it will.”

We’d been two years on the highway and never killed a man. Tom had put a ball through a footman’s arm early on, but soon our reputation for genteel behavior had spread. The Burgundy Highwayman and his noble lads never harmed their victims if they could avoid it; even the prettiest young misses had nothing to fear from them. In time, being robbed by our gang became something to boast of, the young ladies rhapsodizing over the highwayman’s flashing eyes and gallant speech as he demanded their baubles.

“Tom, but for the streak, our marks would often draw on us.”

“Streak or no, Robin, the marks are growing bold,” Sam said.

“Aye, you may be right. But come, time to change togs and move on. We’ll share out the regulars farther along.”

I dismounted Juno, my black mare. Off came the tailcoat of claret velvet and the French cocked hat. Out from my saddlebags came a greatcoat, and in went the coat and hat, the latter becoming somewhat crushed, an unavoidable hazard if we wanted to fool any who might give chase. Last, off came the mask, just a square of black cloth.

Around me, the lads did likewise in practiced unison. The quick getaway, an immediate change of dress, never more than one job in a night, and a constant shift in location: through measures such as these, we had kept ahead of Bow Street’s runners. Many a highwayman had gotten his neck stretched through greed or a fondness for a favorite spot, not to mention a fondness for drink and boasting of his exploits in his favorite flash house. Coming up through the criminal ranks, I’d heard all the mistakes, and I was determined to make none of them.

But Sam was right, our marks were showing more resistance. Two years made a long career for any highwayman, yet we were still far from that goal we all most desired: what those in the life call doing the trick, achieving independence and leaving the criminal life for good. This was not the time to turn from the methods which had brought us this far. Yet tonight’s events made me wonder just how much longer we had in this game before it ended with the blast of a pistol or the rough caress of the hangman’s nooses around our necks.


Come share a drink in the Back Room of the Final Draft Tavern, where for nearly a millennium, the Marchand family and their cat, Whiskey, have led travelers through time and space: rebels and dissenters, heroes and villains, artists and lovers. These seven short stories feature characters united through the ages by resistance to tyranny, and celebrating the right to speak truth to power. Rejoice and Resist will amuse and entertain, but also inspire you to call out oppression, demand human rights, question the status quo, and stand up to be counted.

Travel backward and forward through time with multiple authors and fiction genres: drama, horror, women’s fiction, historical fiction, time travel, historical or contemporary romance, and paranormal. Shoot through the lens of a photographer or the pistol of a highway brigand; meet death with a ghost-writer, or a president and his cabinet with a deck of cards; brave life in a new country, or just in a new era of civil rights; or conceal yourself in time with an orphan of the apocalypse.

Whatever role you take in the struggle toward justice, step through a secret passageway and pull up a barstool, let the closest Marchand pour you a libation, and celebrate the holiday season with the Speakeasy Scribes.

Find out more about The Final Draft Tavern on our Facebook page, which includes historical tidbits and excerpts from all the stories. 

Image of a 1920s bar

Categories
Fiction The Highwayman

Daring and Decorum: Release Day and Acknowledgments

It’s release day for Daring and Decorum, so I thought I’d share an expanded version of the Acknowledgments.

Here are the acknowledgments as they appear in the novel. Thanks to everyone who helped bring my novel to the world!

Daring and Decorum by Lawrence Hogue available now


My first debt goes to all the writers who inspired me, Ellen Kushner chief among them. Privilege of the Sword showed me what was possible in combining a comedy of manners with melodrama, all while imagining an alternative Europe where people were pretty much free to love whom they chose. Emma Donoghue’s Life Mask introduced me both to late-eighteenth-century England and to ways of imagining how those of non-conforming sexualities might have fit into it. Nicola Griffith: both she and her vision of St. Hilda, as told in Hild, are my heroes. Though I came to it after I finished this book, Heather Rose Jones’ Daughter of Mystery inspired me to keep seeking a home for my own novel. You should probably read these #ownvoices before reading my attempt at historical representation of women who love women, which must inevitably rely on imagination (and research).

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Fiction News The Highwayman

Blog Tour Update

The blog tour for Daring and Decorum is going well, and a couple of new dates have been added.

Here’s what’s new and upcoming:

  • Cover of Blind Tribute by Mari Anne ChristieTomorrow, 7/28, I’ll be part of Mari Christie’s Facebook release party for her new Civil War novel, Blind Tribute. The event lasts from 5-9 p.m. ET, and features several authors of historical fiction, with Mari kicking things off and closing it down with a livestream. I’ll be in the 5:30-6 slot, with some excerpts and research bits. Hope you can join us!
  • Author Jennifer Senhaji will host an excerpt from D&D in which Elizabeth rebuffs Anthony, Lord Burnside’s, hesitant advances. She knows he doesn’t have the will to defy his parents, who will never approve of him marrying a vicar’s daughter. Date to be decided. Hope you’ll check out Jennifer’s site.
  • Jessica Cale will host a backstory extra on her author site this Saturday. The story takes place four years before the events of Daring and Decorum, and gives deep backstory on Rebecca. This is the most Gothic part of Rebecca’s whole tale, and involves bleak moors, a crumbling manor, lots of blood, and a couple of dead bodies, not to mention a bumbling country constable.

And here are links to the blog stops that have already taken place, as well as a couple of other tidbits from works in progress.

  • Picture of a castle, a woman and cups of teaElizabeth had a very successful tea with the Duchess of Haverford, managing to dodge some of Her Grace’s more impertinent questions.
  • Anthony’s lovelorn letter to Elizabeth appeared on Mari Christie’s website — is it any wonder he burned it, rather than sending it? Good thing, too; if it got out that she was involved in secret correspondence with a nobleman, it could ruin her reputation.
  • Cover of Stevenson's "The Beggar's Benison."I was very pleased with the response to my article about the Beggar’s Benison, that freaky Scottish sex club, over on Jessica Cale’s DirtySexyHistory. (NSFW, obviously.)
  • I was back on Jude Knight’s blog last Sunday, with an excerpt in which Rebecca and Elizabeth confront a drunken Anthony and two of his wastrel friends. Hmmm, I wonder how that drunken lord came to be sprawled on the pavement in front of Bath’s Assembly Rooms? (Not solely from his inebriation, I assure you.)
  • There was some intriguing gossip about my highwayman (known in London as the Burgundy Highwayman) over at the Teatime Tattler yesterday.

Image of a 1920s bar from The Final Draft Tavern on Facebook

  • At The Final Draft Tavern Facebook page, I offered up a bit of my research into 18th-century highwaymen, including how I think Robin stayed away from the Bow Street Runners and also avoided killing anyone in the course of many carriage robberies. The Final Draft will be publishing a holiday box set featuring my story, “The Highwayman Takes an Office,” along with stories by six other writers.
  • Jude Knight offers up excerpts from works in progress on Wednesdays, and invites other authors to join in with an excerpt of their own on the same theme. Yesterday’s theme was “transport,” and I submitted an excerpt from Silence and Secrecy (the second in my highwayman series) showing the comings and goings at a village coaching inn, where Rebecca and Elizabeth have gone to escort an arrogant professor of botany out of town. Check out her post, featuring an awkward carriage ride, and then you’ll find my excerpt in the comments.
  • I reviewed Mari Christie’s Blind Tribute, which I thoroughly enjoyed, over at Goodreads.

That’s it for now. Hope you find some of these excerpts and other bits enjoyable.

Categories
Author Spotlight Books The Highwayman

Daring and Decorum Blog Tour

Daring and Decorum book coverDaring and Decorum will be featured on several blogs and websites over the coming weeks, ramping up to its release on August 1. Mostly this is bonus material, like letters characters never sent, character interviews, and more. This is my first blog tour, so I’m just dipping my toe in the water — some writers do ten or more guest spots for a single release.

The tour starts tomorrow. The schedule is below, but first, thanks to the wonderful women of the Final Draft Tavern, the Speakeasy Scribes and the Bluestocking Belles for hosting me on their various sites.

  • Monday, July 17: Elizabeth will visit with the Duchess of Haverford on Jude Knight’s website. Look for Lizzie to try to sell some watercolors, while Her Grace gleans whatever information she can about her visitor’s relationship with a certain highwayman, for obscure purposes.
  • Wednesday, July 19: Mari Christie’s website will feature an extra that doesn’t appear in the novel, a letter from Anthony, Lord Burnside, to Elizabeth. The missive is quite improper, being a private communication in which Anthony makes some very indiscreet disclosures, which explains why Anthony never put it in the mail. (Also on Wednesday, Mari will be here with a spotlight on her new Civil War novel, Blind Tribute.)
  • Sunday, July 23: I’ll have an article on Jessica Cale’s Dirty, Sexy History focusing on an eighteenth-century Scottish sex club devoted to the “convivial celebration of the phallus.” The Prince of Wales was its most prominent, not to say its largest, member.
  • Wednesday, July 26: The Bluestocking Belles’ Teatime Tattler will feature some intriguing news about the sudden departure from London of the highwayman (known in that town as the Burgundy Highwayman), and a bit of gossip about the rogue’s actions in Devonshire.
  •  Sunday, July 30: Jude Knight will have a Spotlight feature on Daring and Decorum, including an excerpt in which Rebecca and Elizabeth are accosted by a drunken Anthony and two of his wastrel friends.

And a final tidbit: you’ll find an excerpt from a new story, told from Robin’s perspective, over on The Final Draft Tavern Facebook page. The story will appear in a holiday box set, due out this fall. The stories by seven different authors are set in different periods, from the 17th century through modern-day and onwards into an apocalyptic future. All feature the tavern as it evolved through time (sometimes appearing as a coffeehouse, as in my 18th-century story), and also the radicals and reformers who frequent it as they struggle against whatever repressive regime was in power. The holiday theme makes its appearance in various ways, sometimes sardonic, as you’ll see in this excerpt. Hope you’ll check it out!

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The Highwayman

Print version of Daring and Decorum now available

Book promo for Daring and Decorum: Racier than Jane Austen, Better Written than 50 Shades of Grey.For those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the print version of Daring and Decorum, it’s now available for pre-order through your favorite local bookseller, Barnes and Noble, and through Amazon.uk. It’s not up on Amazon.com yet, but will be soon. (Come on, give BN or your local bookshop some love!) It will make my week if you pre-order, because this helps the book climb the sales-rankings on the day it’s released.

If you haven’t read the preview yet, you can find that here.

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On Writing The Highwayman

The Highwayman’s Quarry – Thieves’ Cant

The Thieves Den -18th-c engraving by William Hogarth

“Mill the gig with a betty, then we’ll strip the ken and backslang it out of here. I’ll lumber the swag at the stalling crib and we’ll be up in the stirrups.”*

One of the fun parts of writing a story set in the underworld of 18th-century London is getting to use Thieves’ Cant, or flash speech. What is Thieves’ Cant? It was a secret language attributed to criminals, mostly in Great Britain, beginning in the 1500s. Whether thieves actually used this language to disguise their activities, or whether it was invented by writers of pamphlets about thieves’ culture and dictionaries of their language, there seems no telling; probably there was a little of both. The speech became popular in Elizabethan theatre, and in the 18th century the Bow Street runners (early police) were said to be familiar with it.

Many of the terms are still used today: crib, crack, fence, gams, and grub all meant roughly what they do in today’s slang (or maybe the slang of old Hollywood gangster movies). Now we call an alcoholic a lush; back then the word meant either an alcoholic drink or the state of being intoxicated, and a drunken man was a lushy-cove.

A buz-cove (pickpocket) caught in the act.
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Fiction The Highwayman

The Highwayman’s Quarry – Architecture

Writing fiction set in the late eighteenth century, it’s easy to imagine every building falling into the Georgian period of architecture, something like this image of the Crown and Anchor:

Crown and Anchor
London’s Crown and Anchor Tavern, haunt of many a radical and reformer.
Categories
Fiction The Highwayman

Daring and Decorum Has a Publisher

Photo of pens and contract with Supposed Crimes

I’m so pleased to announce that Daring and Decorum will be published later this year by Supposed Crimes, a small publisher focusing on LGBTQ genre fiction. Among their stable of writers is Geonn Cannon, the award-winning author of the Riley Parra series and more.

I haven’t made a big deal about the central relationship in Daring and Decorum, mainly to avoid ruining the potential surprise for readers when the novel is finally available (that’s a crappy marketing plan, I know). But if you’ve been following along on posts like this one, or this one, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the novel focuses on a relationship between women.

I chose Supposed Crimes for two reasons: they wouldn’t have a problem with a historical romance featuring two women falling in love with each other, and they wouldn’t have a problem with a man writing it. As their About Us page says:

‘Supposed crimes’ refers to the idea that homosexuality was once outlawed. Thus, our authors are being subversive by writing. As times change this becomes more tongue-in-cheek. Yet, Christians writing lesbians and men writing lesbians are still subversive ideas in this industry.

I’m glad to have found a welcoming publishing home here.

Why do I write about women falling in love with each other? Many, many reasons. But mainly, I just want to make readers as happy as these Legend of Korra fans when they saw Korra and Asami getting together at the end of the series.

That’s how happy I feel for my characters — and it’s how happy I feel to know that their story will be released to the world.

Categories
On Writing

Endless Cups of Tea

Kameron Hurley has a great new post, “The Madhatter Teaparty: Rescuing Your Characters from Endless Cups of Tea,” about the problem of novels becoming too talky.cup-of-tea

Plot kicks my ass. It kicks my ass up one end of a story and down another, because honestly, all my characters want to do is snark at each other over tea. Or whisky. Or coffee. Or bug juice. Whatever. Any excuse for them to sit around flinging zingers at each other and discussing what they are going to do next works for me.

Snarking at each other — or perhaps politely teasing each other — over tea is about all my characters do (when they’re not being robbed by cross-dressing highwaymen or dueling with swords). In some novels, it’s literally all they do (see Rachel Cusk’s Outline). Jane Austen was criticized for exactly this. Even her publisher said that Emma “wants incident and romance, does it not?”

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On Writing

Writing Fiction Ate My Nonfiction Brain

(So I only waited nine months to write my first post of the year — long story for another time.)

I was writing an article for KCET.org recently when I realized that my brain doesn’t work quite the way it used to. This should have been a return to familiar ground, since the article was about the ways California’s indigenous peoples affected their environment before Europeans invaded, which is the topic of my first book (and thanks to my friend and former conservation colleague, Chris Clarke, for asking me to write the article).

ButGIF of frustrated writer in the middle of it I realized I was having trouble getting the ideas in the most sensible order. I was taking a compare-and-contrast approach, which should be simple. And yet my brain kept bouncing from one idea to another and then back, the differences and the similarities running into each other like bumper cars driven by three-year-olds. It was a godawful mess in the beginning of the process, and even in the middle, though I did get it straightened out in the end.

This never used to happen to me. And then it hit me, maybe writing fiction uses my brain in a whole different way.

When I’m working on a novel, I want that state of cacophony. As I’m writing a scene, I want the characters and their actions to bounce off each other, conflicting, forming new possibilities. I can’t just focus on one character and then move on to the next. I have to know what all the characters want, all at once. I also have to know where they are, what they’re doing, how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking. At any given moment, I have to be ready to draw from all of the fiction writer’s tools: action, dialogue, description, internal monologue, idea.

Of course, this can’t just come out as a random spew. Fiction is still linear, so actions have to follow each other in a logical order. Descriptions of setting need to be structured and selective. Dialogue has to have an order to it as well, even when it’s non-directive. But to get that magical thing that happens with fiction — to make it immersive — I have to have that cacophony going in my brain first. Maybe writing fiction is like making a stew (or a gumbo or a salad) while writing nonfiction is like creating an intricate five-layer cake. (Or something.)

Sometimes, if I’ve done enough work in advance on a scene, it feels like it’s writing itself. But most often it’s like I’m picking bits out of the air as my mind skips around among the possibilities. I might go from “What does Character X say next?” to “What does Character X do five chapters later?” and then back again by way of “Exactly what shade of green is the meadow where she’s standing?” or “Wait, is there really a street lamp here in 18th-century Bath?” So I spend a lot of time musing, writing a sentence or two, more musing. It may not be the quickest way to write (I’ve never won one of those word count writing challenges) but it all feels productive.

I actually had to train my brain to write this way. When I first tried writing fiction seriously, way back as a sophomore in college, I would get frustrated not automatically knowing what the next sentence should be. (This was so long ago that I don’t think “pre-writing” was even a thing yet.) I should know what comes next just as easily as I know which idea comes next when writing a term paper or an article, right?

GIF of crumpled paper hitting trash canEven when I was writing “narrative nonfiction,” the narrative was drawn from my own experience. I’d narrate what happened, with a big focus on where it happened, and then link that to whatever idea I was exploring. It wasn’t completely linear — sometimes those links were metaphorical — but it required me to keep my thoughts in order much more as I wrote. When I dabbled in fiction during these years, the requirements of building a whole fictional world from scratch were daunting. My linear, nonfiction brain just wasn’t up to the task. I’d begin a story, but everything felt flat, the characters seemed like cartoons, nothing moved.

Ironically (or perhaps understandably), it wasn’t attempts at “serious fiction” that helped me retrain my brain; it was writing completely frivolous fanfiction based on a video game. (You can check out the results here.) This was low-stakes and fun to write, plus there was the crutch of using the setting and the scenarios developed by Bethesda Softworks, allowing me to focus on characters and dialogue and action — all the things that had proved so difficult for me when creating something completely new. (Even the first novel in my current series isn’t completely invented, but a mashup of Jane Austen and a famous Alfred Noyes poem. You’ve heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. This might be called Sense and Sensibility and Cross-Dressing Highwaymen. But few works of fiction are completely new, especially in this post-post-modern age.)

Photo of writing journals
Photo credit: Abizern on Flickr.

The main thing I learned in writing that fantasy fanfiction was the patience to let my brain work itself into a productively cacophonous state. And now, four years and 400,000 words later, maybe that’s the only way my brain works anymore (or maybe I’m just getting old!). But since I just crossed the 50,000-word mark in the second of my Highwayman novels, maybe I shouldn’t be too worried.