Make Yourself A Victorian Doll

We here at Olivia Waite have a long history with paper dolls—not merely the basic kid kind, but the fancy and detailed presidential kind you can buy at the Smithsonian. Jane Austen paper dolls. 1920s flapper paper dolls. We had sharp scissors and infinite patience for fiddly tabs and zigzag edges. But the magic of the internet provides instant gratification, infinite customization, and increased safety for our scissor-scarred thumbs. So it is with great delight that we point you toward today's discovery: The Victorian Doll creation page on Doll Divine.

Here is my first try, which is pretty much me in Victorian gear—note that I am something of a bluestocking:

Here I am with blue stockings:

Here I am as a vampire:

And as an adventuress:

Leave your own creations in the comments, or on my Facebook wall!

Announcing: Hearts and Harbingers!

We here at Olivia Waite are proud to announce that we have a second book forthcoming from Ellora's Cave! "Hearts and Harbingers" is an offbeat Regency romance about an impoverished gentlewoman, her gambling-addicted brother, and a devastatingly charming marquis. Oh, and I have I mentioned how much I love the cover?

The cover of Hearts and Harbingers by Olivia Waite: a woman in a lavender gown (falling off one shoulder) in a clinch with a shirtless (and muscly-armed) man.

On the very outskirts of polite society, Millicent Harbinger has always found a way to cover the gaming debts of her wastrel brother Duncan. His most recent losing streak is bound to ruin them, however, and her brother's solution is to arrange for Mill to marry the odious Lord Wart. In desperation, Mill decides to sell her virtue anonymously at a well-reputed brothel and kill two birds with one stone: she will have enough money to cover the debt, and her status as a fallen woman will dissuade Lord Wart from claiming her as his bride.

Jasper Goldeby, Marquess of Holder, takes one look at Mill's piercing green eyes and purchases her favors at triple the asking price -- a fortune that could support the Harbingers for life. The night Mill and Jasper share astonishes and transforms them both -- and Jasper quickly realizes one night could never be enough. Can Mill trust her heart enough to take the risk of becoming a marchioness despite her reputation? Or will Duncan's opposition and Wart's animosity destroy the lovers' hopes forever?

Please Enjoy My Horrible Author Bio

We here at Olivia Waite can talk blithely about anything, especially ourselves—but like everyone, as soon as we're asked, "Sum yourself up in ten sentences or fewer," we freeze right up and the only facts that come to mind are thinks like our place of birth and Social Security number which even we are not gullible enough to put out there on the internet. So it was nice to read this lovely piece on author bios in The Millions and realize this sort of anxiety is universal. What if I have no writing credits or fancy awards to name-drop? What if my employment history does not sound quirky and well-rounded when put in the form of a list?

And in the spirit of sharing, here are a few of my first attempts at writing my own author bio, discarded for what ought to be obvious reasons:

Olivia Waite has had a pretty uneventful life, all things considered. Except for four years of college, she has lived her whole life in the same city in which she was born—and those four years didn't take her abroad or even out of state. She regrets nothing.

A concrete wall displays neon blue letters that read YOU ARE HERE.

Olivia Waite wishes she could tell you she wanted to be a writer as soon as she learned about books, but this would be a filthy lie. She wanted to be a paleontologist because it involved both dinosaurs and long words that were hard to pronounce and that all the grown-ups found impressive. By third grade she'd changed her mind and wanted to be a librarian, but her mother told her that librarians don't make any money. Being literal-minded and a little too credulous for her own good, Olivia thought her mother meant that librarians were unpaid, and so she abandoned this path in despair. Once in college Olivia floundered through a series of retail positions in the book world and teaching assistantships in graduate school before it occurred to her that making money wasn't really her highest priority anyways.

A pin-up painting of a sexy blonde librarian perched pertly on a stool in a white dress holding books carelessly. The hem of the skirt has gotten trapped in the pages of a book -- how'd that happen? -- and is lifted to show a lot of leg in a black stocking and garter. She wears red heels, of course.

Olivia Waite was offered a publishing contract on her second-ever query letter. She knows that revealing this information will expose her to scorn and ridicule, but she also feels she deserves punishment because she does not have the obligatory mile-high stack of rejection letters. In short, she feels like a fraud. She also tends to play the martyr more than she should. You can send snark and vituperations to—but don't worry, her next book will probably be unpublishable and then she can start collection rejections like all the other hopeful authors.

A picture of a llama with eyes nearly closed and one ear folded over, looking really startlingly, recognizably smug.

Olivia Waite likes sex, likes reading about sex, and likes writing about sex. Maybe it's because she was raised Catholic; maybe it's because of all the naughty things the ancient Greeks and Romans got up to in all those classical texts she studied; maybe it's because she's just a naturally prurient person. Either way, writing erotic romances allows her to talk about sex, indulge her love of happy endings, and legitimately research porn and corsetry on the internet. Win!

A woman with pale skin and red hair wears long black gloves and a sparkly, curvy corset in dark gold peacock colors.

Today in Kickass Opera

When the Seattle Opera invited us to learn how to make stage blood as a tie-in event for its latest production, I knew Lucia di Lammermoor was going to be awesome.

Let's say you're a young woman of good family in the early nineteenth century. You're grieving your mother's recent death, and your family is on shaky political ground. You've met a dude named Edgardo who looks like an Oompa-Loompa but sings like an angel, and you've been secretly confessing your love to each other despite the fact that your brother Enrico considers him your family's greatest enemy.

But your brother has Edgardo sent into exile and is pressuring you to marry some other dude named Arturo for political reasons. (He seems okay, but you're promised to Edgardo!) Your brother even has a letter from Edgardo (a forgery) saying he's already betrayed you. Enrico threatens to curse you forever if you don't make the marriage to save his life.

So you reluctantly agree. And then! Edgardo bursts in on your wedding day, just after you have signed the contract, and curses you anways! You can't win! What on earth do you do next?

If you're Lucia, you go brilliantly, spectacularly insane -- kill your brand-new husband, strip off your bloody wedding gown in front of a stage full of horrified guests, and slit your own wrists while the audience gasps in shock.

It's almost a proto-feminist narrative, in the way it depicts the ruin of one woman's life as a catastrophic failure on the part of the men who love her. Neither Edgardo nor Enrico are particularly heroic in this story. They're childish and stubborn and it is clear they let Lucia down.

And then Edgardo stabs himself with a stiletto when he learns of Lucia's death. So we as an audience forgive him. The brother stays offstage and goes unpunished, which is disappointing, though presumably his life is pretty near ruined by the whole thing. Take that, you selfish bastard.

The staging was simply luscious. The costumes! And the set! Why stop at one spiral staircase when you can have two?

Decadence, thy name is two spiral staircases.

Real Heroines Wear Bustiers

Some things I've discovered while re-watching episodes of She-Ra (thanks, Hulu!):

  • She-Ra doesn't start out on the side of good. She's a Force Captain for the Horde. And then she learns how the Horde really treats the people of Eternia, and she doesn't like it. So she turns rebel. This is a pretty awesome character arc for an eighties heroine.
  • He-Man sounds a lot like Adam West.
  • Maybe it's that I'm an erotic romance author currently editing an erotic romance manuscript, but -- there are a lot of things in this cartoon that look like a penis. Swords, of course. Certain cartoon plants. That giant roaring thing on Beast Island with the mushroom head. He-Man's haircut totally looks like a penis.
  • What is it about space operas and the idea of rebellion as a moral good? Is it because of the way Star Wars made us feel before Lucas joined the Dark Side under Palpatine?
  • She-Ra has a horse, Spirit, who becomes a flying unicorn named Swiftwind. This is awesome. Unfortunately, Swiftwind also speaks in a deep manly voice, which is kinda creepy.
  • I don't care what the mythology says: we all know She-Ra and He-Man should be a couple.
  • The Horde's great weapon in episode three is powered by "the energy of willpower." Come on.
  • Pantslessness is very much the norm on Etheria.
  • He-Man's sword magic is unleashed "by the power of Greyskull," while She-Ra's is "by the honor of Greyskull." This is irksome. Men always have power, and women are stuck with honor, or its synonym: reputation. Men are praised for what they do (objective standards), and women for what how they seem to others (subjective standards). If they were uncomfortable giving power to the show's female lead, couldn't they at least have gone with something less obviously gendered? Courage, perhaps? Or justice? Sigh . . . I wish eighties culture didn't let me down so often in retrospect.