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  • The inspiration for Tullia Buffo – The Return of the Courtesan, Victoria Blake

    To celebrate the release of The Return of the Courtesan, today we are hosting a guest post from Victoria Blake, discussing the real-life her inspiration for the courtesan, Tullia Buffo.

    VERONICA FRANCO

    The Return of the CourtesanImagine a woman with the intellectual heft of Mary Beard, the verbal brilliance of Kate Tempest and the sexual frankness of Girl’s Hannah Horvath. Imagine a woman who single-handedly supports three children, a large extended family and a household of servants. Imagine a woman who is a respected poet and member of one of the leading literary salons of the day. Imagine a woman who is a great supporter of other women, who tries to encourage the authorities to set up a refuge for women fallen on hard times. Then imagine a woman who would have no problem mixing it with the panellists of ‘Have I Got News For You’ and a woman who refused to sink her head beneath the parapet when the trolls raised their hairy heads.

    Such a woman was the Italian Veronica Franco.

    I should also perhaps mention that she lived in Venice in the sixteenth century and was a courtesan or cortigiana onesta an “honoured courtesan”. Thus the source of her income was arranging to have sex for a high fee with the elite of Venice and the many kinds of people who passed through the city which included a king, Henry III of France.

    The fact that she could read or write at all was in itself remarkable. In Venice in the 1580s fewer than 4% of women had any public schooling and only 10 -12 percent were literate. Literacy amongst men was only 30 percent. So this was a remarkable woman by any standard. Her intellectual life began by sharing her brothers’ education by private tutoring and then continued when she was taken up by the patrician and poet and celebrated patron of letters, Domenico Venier, who ran a literary salon at his palace, Ca’ Venier. He protected and encouraged her and published her and by her mid twenties she was well known as a poet.

    Her prominence however brought forth great jealously from the young men who also wanted Domenico Venier’s patronage, including Maffio his nephew. In 1575 he wrote a series of virulent, misogynistic verses mocking and defaming her: ‘Your mouth is as foul as rotten mud…your breasts hang low enough to row a boat on the canal…Your eyes bulge out of your head as if a priest were exorcising you of all your sins…’ And on and on in this vein.

    Franco however refused to be silenced. These outrageous slurs spurred her on. She refused to be shamed and she came out all guns firing, challenging him to a poetic duel. “I now challenge you to single combat: gird yourself with weapons and valour. I’ll show you how far the female sex excels your own. Arm yourself however you please and take good heed for your survival …”

    Go Veronica!

    It wasn’t however only the young men in Venier’s circle she had to watch out for. In 1577 she was put on trial by the Inquisition for witchcraft. It was in the aftermath of the plague of 1575-6 which had torn through Venice and the authorities were having one of their periodic fits of morality. The courtesans were easy targets. She survived – just, but her reputation was damaged. She died at the age of 44 in a poorer part of Venice. But for a decade this remarkable woman had lived an independent, sumptuous life, and in her verse and her letters she comes down to us dignified, combative, witty and flirtatious. In an era where women in the public eye are often vilified for how they look there is a lot we can learn from Franco’s verses. I like to think she would have been out there taking part in the Women’s March earlier this year proudly wearing a pink pussy hat.

    I used Franco as the basis for Tullia Buffo, one of the characters in my book The Return of the Courtesan, but I gave Buffo a happier ending. One of the rewards of fiction is having the ability to re-write history. I wasn’t going to have Tullia die in a poor part of the city. I certainly wasn’t having that! I hope Franco would approve.

    The Return of the Courtesan is out now in Paperback and eBook. Make sure you follow Victoria Blake on Twitter and check out her blog.

  • Estelle Maskame Wins Young Scot Award!

    A massive congratulations to our young adult author, Estelle Maskame, who has won the Arts Award at the 2016 Young Scot Awards!

    Estelle attended the glittering Young Scot Awards Ceremony on Wednesday evening (27th April) at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. The event was hosted by Radio DJ Edith Bowman, and Estelle was one of three finalists up for the Arts Award.

    The Arts Award was presented by Scottish actor Kevin Guthrie and Chair of Young Scot, Dame Sue Bruce.

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    Since its launch in 2006, the Young Scot Awards has celebrated the inspirational contributions of thousands of young Scots who have made a real difference to communities across Scotland, recognising the amazing achievements of some of Scotland’s truly remarkable young people.

    Since signing a book deal for the trilogy at the age of 17, Estelle is now enjoying international success. Her DIMILY series has been published across the world in 11 countries so far, including the USA.

    Estelle is fresh off of a European publicity tour, meeting fans and press in Helsinki, Berlin and Madrid, with more planned trips for this summer. Estelle recently headlined at YAY! YA, Scotland’s first teen festival, and was also shortlisted for a Romantic Novelist’s Association Award for the Best Young Adult Novel 2016.

    The B&W Team were at the awards ceremony to celebrate Estelle being a finalist. We are all absolutely delighted for her and look forward to publishing Did I Mention I Miss You?, the final book in the DIMILY Trilogy in July this year!


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    Make sure you 'Like' Estelle Maskame on Facebook to see more pictures from the night!

  • Christmas Gift Guide

    Are you as excited as we are for the upcoming holiday season? We have a whole lot of Christmas inspiration for you, whether you’re already fretting about what gifts to give all those people who never seem to know what they want, or just want to get into the spirit!


     

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    DOGS IN SNOW

    Dogs just love the snow; it’s a fact. This wonderful collection brings dogs from all walks of life together, big and small, long and short-haired, to enjoy themselves in the wintry weather! Experience a whole new d’aww moment every time you turn the page – dog catching a Frisbee in snow? Check. Dog standing up in snow? You got it. Dogs hugging in snow? Nothing has ever been so cute. Dogs shovelling snow? No, of course not, they’re too busy playing in it!

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    WTF – WHY PARENTS SHOULD NEVER TEXT

    We’ve all been there. ‘There’s been a horrible accident. LOL Mum.’ These are the kind of mistakes made every day when a parent gets hold of a mobile phone. WTF is perfect for anyone with a particularly text-phobic mum or dad, so they can share in the tragic hilarity of them falling prey to autocorrect, misusing internet slang, or forcing them to fake-laugh at dad jokes.

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    9781785300172CREATE AND COLOUR SCOTLAND

    Colouring is cool. Inside the lines, outside the lines, in black and white or colour. What makes colouring cooler? Colouring Scotland, that’s what. Create and Colour Scotland lets your imagination run free as you colour in beautiful Scottish scenes, recreate some of Scotland’s famous faces and animals, create your own tartan and fuel any suspicions you might have about the existence of the Loch Ness Monster as you make your own fingerprint Nessie. Colouring and Scotland have never been more creatively intertwined!


     

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    F**K UP THIS BOOK

    You know those people who get angry when you borrow a book from them and give it back with one tiny bend in the spine? Yeah, this book is definitely not for them. This destructive therapy book works by encouraging you to take out all your frustrations and angst on it – run it over, tear it to shreds, take a hammer to it, answer its annoyingly insightful questions and feel all that stress melt away. Want to see a dog doing it? Of course you do.

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