Friday, 21 November 2014

The Great Piazza - before and after

In the first picture we are under the Great Piazza arches. Kitty's house in The Finish is the one in the background on the corner. In real life this was occupied by John Bradley's gin shop (which features in The Finish) and above it by Mother Gould's brothel, which is the model for Mother's Shadbolt's brothel. In the second book in the series, The Surety, Kitty moves to a house in the Great Piazza, whose door would have been roughly where we are standing in this picture.

Here is that building in the background of the first picture, today. It's been rebuilt because in March of 1769 it burned to the ground (and we see that happening in The Finish). That said, they rebuilt it in the same style as the original. The buildings to the left of it in this picture are the original 18th century buildings.

The third picture shows the Great Piazza, Covent Garden as it is today - this too has been rebuilt.

Covent Garden before and after

At the end of the summer I took a walk around Covent Garden to take some photographs for the 'before and after' posts I'm going to make.

Here's the first - St. Paul's Covent Garden. The face that you see in the square is actually the back of the Church. There is no door here, although it looks as if there should be. The entrance is on the other side, in the Churchyard. Built by Inigo Jones for the 4th Earl of Bedford in 1631, it is also known as the 'Actors' Church'. Here's the 'before' by Hogarth.

And here's the after. 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Venus Squared - The Finish, re-envisioned

So there I was busy posting The Finish and it's sequel The Surety on the Harper Collins website Authonomy and I suddenly had a brainwave: there will be a quartet of books, each being part of the Venus Squared series.

Here are the titles and their subtitles:
The Finish - The Progress of a Murder, Uncovered
The Surety - A Candid Account of Crimes Committed
The Debt - The Circumstances of Depravity, Bemoaned
The Trade - The Atrocious Life of a Whore, Described

If you've a mind to read a little of both The Finish and The Surety, then get on down to Authonomy where you can join up and read for free. Here's the link to my page: Angela Elliott on Authonomy

If you read and review, then the best books are also read by editors at Harper Collins on a regular basis. It's an opportunity to get my work in front of a major publisher.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

What it was to be a woman in the 18th century

There have been times in my life when I have wished I had never been born female - not in a transgender way - but insofar as it has always seemed that men have the better deal. Despite the fact that women have more freedom in all aspects of life than ever before, men still don't appear to suffer the same societal pressures as women. The media certainly propounds the belief that women should look young, pretty, slim - all the time. Wear stylish clothes, have perfect make-up and hairstyle - all the time. Have a perfect home, stylishly decorated and furnished. Attract a man with cash, and aspire to a certain lifestyle. Achieve success in your career, have children, and juggle your family responsiblities.

No woman is perfect, but that doesn't stop us trying to be so.

Imagine then, that you are female and born in the 18th century. Society is patriarchal and misogynistic. Men run the government, the army, and all business.  If you choose to marry, not only must you adhere to all the society mores we have now vis a vis appearance etc.. (save the bit about a career) you have no vote, and are 'owned' by first your father and then your husband. When your father dies any inheritance you might come into passes straight to your husband. You simply have no money of your own. Interestingly, if your husband dies then you gain control over your finances until such time as you remarry, which is often why fairly well-to-do women chose to remain widows. This only works if you have no adult son. In this case, he inherits from his father and you are beholden to him. You must at all times defer to either father or husband, and later your son. 

You will probably have many children and have no recourse to the kind of care we now take for granted. You will give birth at home, in great pain. Like as not your child will not survive to five, let alone adulthood. If you are poor you will be treated like a drudge and have to work  like the proverbial devil to keep a roof over your head and food in your children's bellies or face destitution. The poor law existed to give certain assistance but only to dissuade you to make a claim on the parish and certainly not to help you survive.  You will have little or no education, but there is at least a chance that you will have married for love. 

If, on the other hand, you are rich, you will squander money on frivolity, but at least you will be able to read and write. Like as not you will have married to seal the fate of a family dynasty. Whether rich or poor you may be well treated or badly beaten by your husband. (Nothing new there then.)

There are two other options: you go into service and become a domestic servant, or you become a prostitute. Either way, you are doomed to live a hard life and suffer an early death.  As a servant you will be obedient, subservient, humble and hard-working. As a prostitute you will answer to your pimp or bawd, hand over most of your earnings to them and suffer disease and multiple abortions/births/miscarriages. A few prostitutes became noted courtesans. A few were either kept by their beaus as a mistress, or they married them. Almost all had syphilis or gonorrhoea. 

The only good thing about being a prostitute at this time was that if you were a fairly astute business woman you might be able to gain financial independence. You might be able to live a relatively comfortable 'old age'. At least the enlightenment had fairly free views on sex. One must maintain decorum, but behind this facade, anything goes. 

What then of our heroine Kitty Ives? Where does she fit in all this? Well, she comes from formerly well-to-do farming family in Norfolk.  When her father dies her mother has no income and cannot manage the farm on her own. Kitty comes to London to seek her fortune and is immediately preyed upon by Mother Shadbolt, who promises her an easy life of it, with clothes and balls and all the things a young girl might want from life. Of course what happens is that she is prostituted to pay for the things Mother Shadbolt supplies: the room Kitty occupies, the food she eats, and the clothes on her back. This then was the life of a prostitute. It has to be said, it still goes on to this day. Women enslaved into prostitution. 

For Kitty, the only way out is to meet a rich benefactor, or die. To find out what happens to her, you have to read The Finish - go to the website, and sign up for the newsletter. Be in at the start of The Finish.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Eye Candy

In the 18th and 19th Centuries lovers exchanged miniature eye paintings as tokens of their affections, such as that in the V&A. They were usually created by using watercolour on ivory. The interesting thing is that, whilst the lover could identify their beloved by the look in their eyes, anyone else coming across the painting would be unable to tell who it was. Or, at least, that was the theory. Here at The Finish we have created our own 'lover's eye'.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

A new Video

Just trying out Animoto to create videos for The Finish my 18th century murder story. Not perfect, but a good start.

The Finish by Angela Elliott

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Devil's Own Handiwork

"I have experienced much hardship and been forced to view death on many occasions. I was therefore, not bothered by the corpse flies. Thankfully, the all-pervasive aroma of spice somewhat mitigated that of decay and corruption. All the same, I entered the room with my handkerchief at the ready. The man was frozen at the point of death upon the bed. There was much blood, all congealed and writhing with maggots. I could make out little else with the curtains shut and so I drew them open. When I turned I could hardly bear to view the putrefaction. He had died in an attitude of abject terror. His eyes were almost entirely eaten away and his mouth showed a grimace so horrific and his posture that of a supplicant forced to bend to another’s evil will, that I thought I looked upon the Devil’s own handiwork." Extract from The Surety, the second book in the Kitty Ives series. Kitty, an 18th century Covent Garden prostitute is forced to solve the murder or swing from the gallows.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

At her toilette

"La Jupe relevée" by François Boucher, 1760 - and the dog is doing what dogs do. 18th century women did not wear knickers. In fact there was no underwear as we know it until around the 1920s, when skirts started getting shorter. Even in the prim and proper Victorian days, women had bloomers that were open at the crotch.

Elegant lady

"Elegant Lady at her Toilette" by Michel Garnier

63,000 prostitutes

The number of prostitutes in London during the 18th century could have been as high as 63,000 at any given time. In this picture we can see the link boy, who was a street urchin with a burning torch who would light the way - but who would also aid a harlot in her business by robbing the gentleman or enticing him into a dangerous location

Peristaltic Persuaders

Um... constipation anyone? An 18th century remedy:
To Make Forty Peristaltic Persuaders
Turkey rhubarb, finely pulverized, two drachms
Syrup, by weight, one drachm
Oil of caraway, ten drops (minims.)
Make into pills, each of which will contain three grains of rhubarb.
Two or three to be taken according to the constitution.

Kitty's brothel now

I took this just before Christmas. It's of the exact building where Kitty Ives lived and worked as a prostitute in Covent Garden. Well, not the exact building because that burned down but this is a replacement in the style of the old building. Research has shown that this building was occupied in 1769 by, on the ground floor, John Bradley - gin distiller and shop, and a brothel upstairs. Next door on the Little Piazza was Lovejoy's bagnio, a portrait painter, and the Hummums Turkish Bath. In the corner was the Bedford Arms pub. After that came the privy passage which was gated through to Charles Street beyond. The London Transport Museum occupies the site now.

Hogarth's Covent Garden

Here our old Friend Hogarth has given us a view of Covent Garden and the Church, St Paul's. See the big building in the background to the right as you look at the pic? That's still there.


The criminal world in the 18th century had a language all it's own known as 'cant'. These were slang terms. Whilst they covered everything you can imagine, these are just a few of the terms used in the sex industry for Madams, pimps and prostitutes:
Madams were known as:
buttock brokers, Abbess, Aunt, Mother

Pimps were known as:
Beard Splitters, bulls, cockbawd

Prostitutes were known as:
covent garden nuns, drabs, doxies, casevrow, crackish, fens, bats, blowers… and my favourite quicunque vault.

Lucy Locket

The 18th century rhyme: Lucy Locket lost her pocket. Kitty Fisher found it. There was not a penny in it, only ribbon round it - refers to a 'pocket', which has two meanings - it was the purse which had a drawstring top and was tied around a woman's leg, into which she placed her money, but it was also a euphemism for her private parts.

Lead based face powder - a recipe

Here's a great recipe for lead-based powder. In the 18th century it was considered highly fashionable to whiten your face, and have sparkling eyes, made so by belladonna drops.

Recipe for Lead Powder

Several Thin Plates of Lead

A Big Pot of Vinegar

A Bed of Horse Manure


Perfume and tinting agent

Steep the lead in the pot of vinegar, and rest it in a bed of manure for at least three weeks. When the lead finally softens to the point where it can pounded into a flaky white powder (chemical reaction between vinegar and lead causes lead to turn white), grind to a fine powder. Mix with water, and let dry in the sun. After the powder is dry, mix with the appropriate amount of perfume and tinting dye.

Covent Garden stalls

In the 18th century Covent Garden stalls were often no more than baskets of vegetables. There would not have been any tables or stalls as we know them today.

The most exciting city

By the mid 18th century London was the biggest, most exciting city in the world. But it was also the dirtiest, most foul and unkempt city. Houses were often ramshackle. Raw sewage ran in the streets. Crime was endemic.


In September 1752, Great Britain changed from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar. 11 days were omitted from the calendar. The day after 2 September 1752 became 14 September 1752.

The first day of the year also changed. Prior to 1752 in England, the year began on 25 March (Lady Day).

The first year was short - it ran only from 25 March to 31 December.


In The Finish I refer on occasion to a 'macaroni' - far from being a meal, a 'macaroni' was an 18th century term for a foppish and highly fashionable young man.

The Magdalen Hospital for Penitent Prostitutes

The Magdalen Hospital for Penitent Prostitutes was founded in 1758 to give 'guidance to the fallen'. I was a place of respite based on silence, isolation and hard work. The18th century rich would flock to the Chapel to listen to the popular preacher William Dodd sermonise, and to observe the penitent prostitutes. In 1777 William Dodd was executed for forgery and the Magdalen Hospital fell out of favour, although something akin to it continued, in name only, until the 1950s.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Finish - what's it all about

The Finish is my new novel featuring Kitty Ives, an 18th century prostitute, who plies her trade in Covent Garden. When a man is found dead in her bed she fears she may swing from the gallows. So begins Kitty's quest to uncover the identity of the murderer. 

We are in Covent Garden in 1769. It seethes with all manner of life. It smells. It is dirty and beautiful at one and the same time. It is home to the whores and harridans, aristocrats and artisans, actors and a drunks alike.

Sedan chairs

Sir John Fielding, the magistrate, called Covent Garden 'the great square of Venus'. He said, 'One would imagine that all the prostitutes in the kingdom had picked upon the rendezvous'.

Bread and Cheese

Seems innocent enough, save that he is paying her for more than just bread and cheese! By John Collet, 1777

Covent Garden

Here we have Covent Garden around the time of our story about Kitty Ives, an 18th century prostitute. The Little Piazza is the covered walkway and buildings at bottom right. The house in question is the one on the corner of the Little Piazza and Russell Street, to the middle of the right hand side of the square.

Playing footsie

The Finish is an episodic story set in the 18th century - insofar as I am sent it out to beta readers in sections, as I wrote it. This means something happens in each episode, which builds to the overall story. It's been exciting to write like this.

Picture by James Gillroy


Casanova blows up a condom while prostitutes look on. Condoms have been around for centuries. They were usually made from animal intestines and called (in the 18th century) cundums. They weren't so much to avoid pregnancy as to guard against disease


As many as one in five young women in London were prostitutes in the 18th century. This picture is called Connoisseurs by Thomas Rowlandson

The scene of the Crime

Covent Garden. 

The Finish is my new novel set in 18th century Covent Garden. It tells the story of Kitty Ives, a prostitute, who is forced to solve a murder when she wakes to find a dead man in her bed. If she should fail she will swing from the gallows. 

This is is almost the exact view Kitty has from the brothel where she lives on the corner of the Little Piazza and Russell Street

Monday, 24 March 2014

Writing tips 2

A gentleman by the name of Nicholas Rossis contacted me for help with a series overview for his books, which are No.1 in the Amazon rankings.

Here's what I said. You can get his books at

Think about these points:

Characters Good v. Evil
Drivers (usually emotional)
What happens if they fail.

You have to be fairly functional and matter of fact in a series outline. You lay out exactly what it is as a series.

e.g. The Pearseus series an epic fantasy/sci-fi story told over x number of books.

I've used this because you've kind of described it as such to me already. So use that. Just how would you tell someone about it, as a series if you were having a conversation about it? That's what you should say in your series blurb.

Consider what your theme is, not what the books are about. I say this because each writer, no matter the book, writes about the same theme every time. This is something integral to you as a human being. It's what drives you. Each story you tell is an investigation into your theme, but told differently each time.

For instance, I realised fairly early on in my writing career that the over-arching theme of everything I write is survival, and the things people will do to survive. Sometimes, it's mixed with secrecy - the things we keep secret so that we can survive. It doesn't matter what I write, or what style I write in, or the subject matter, it's always about survival.

Most stories are actually about survival in some form or other. Knowing this makes it easier to formulate an over view.

Also, consider this: you will find lots of references to there being 21 stories, or 30 stories, or 7 stories etc… in the world - and that all stories fall into one of the categories they cite. However, I've found there is actually only one story. Wow! One story, I hear you say, how come all books are so very different? And what is this one story?

Well, that one story is the quest. A quest for true love. A quest for treasure. A quest for a new planet. A quest to capture someone. A quest to win the war. A quest to survive in the face of a storm, or ghost, or enemy. It's always a quest. THE quest.

This being the case you simply look at your series in terms of the quest. What is the theme? What is the quest? Forget individual story arcs etc… just focus on the theme and the quest.

I'd say you're fairly safe with it being about survival and the things people will do in order to survive. Don't forget humans are hot-wired to survive in three ways - as individuals, as families and as species. We fight first as individuals - for ourselves. We fight second for family/tribe/country. We fight third for the species.

So, you have an introduction that tells people what the two books are - a series (with potential for more I assume), and that it is about a bunch of people on a quest to survive against all the odds on a hostile planet. During the duration of their occupancy they come up against various enemies/problems etc… which test their resolve over a long period, giving the reader the opportunity to get involved with the 'world' you have created.

Writing tips 1

Lately, I've been contributing to various LinkedIn writers' groups. On these groups I offered to give tips for writing blurb for their books. I've shared that advice below.

If you follow these guidelines below, exactly as I lay them out, you will create the perfect selling blurb.

1. Who is your main character? If it's an ensemble story then you need make that clear. For now though, let's suppose it's one guy.
2. Who is your main character's opponent, or opponents? Yes, he can have more than one opponent - these are the bad guys.
3. What is your main character's goal? Often it's not obvious. It's probably to strike out on his own and make a life - okay so there are sub-goals: robbing the bank for instance, but these should not get in the way of the main goal. This is often as simple as survival.
4. What is the emotional torment that your main character wrestles? This gives him an internal life and the reason for doing what he does.
5. What will happen if he doesn't achieve his goal? This gives him the desire to make things work - to achieve his goal
6. Where is it set?

Okay, so those are the most important things you have to put across in any selling blurb. (And if you do it right then you can do it for ideas too and then store these short paragraphs away and pull them out when you need a new story). 

Here…. I'm going to make a story up, using these six guidelines so you can see how it works.

When Arnie Dragonslayer (1) is called in by the mayor of Dragonsville (6) to slay (3) a Dragon (2) that has been plaguing the land for decades, he readily agrees, despite the fact that he has failed to kill a single dragon in the last two years (4). Each month a virgin is given up to the beast. Sadly, there is only one virgin left in the land; Princess Sweetcheeks. When Arnie meets the Princess he falls in love with her (again, 4). He can't abide the thought that his darling will be slaughtered by the foul beast, so he connives to replace her another. Even as he does this though, his conscience eats away at him (another 4 - ramping up the emotional torment). If he fails to kill the dragon then an innocent, yet not so virginal, woman will be killed (5). Yet even as Arnie races to save the woman, Princess Sweetcheeks is in the arms of another (2). What should Arnie do? Save the dragon's victim, or fight the Princess's new suitor?

So, there you have it. I just made that up as I went along, using the guidelines above. It's just an example, but you can see how you have to think to create a piece of information that will make a potential reader sit up and take notice. Hopefully, anyone interested in dragons and virginal victims will, by now, want to find out how Arnie copes with all this. (BTW, I'm not into dragon's but I've used this metaphor before in workshops to show students how to write this kind of thing and it works for the purpose of an example).