Curtsies & Conspiracies Special Extras (Finishing School)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Curtsies & Conspiracies released in

November of 2013

Here are some fun blog posts and resources that tie to this book. Research I did, chattering and amusement on the subject of brain farts and other issues.

A conspiracy is afoot – one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans.

Curtsies & Conspiracies was a New York Times Bestseller and received a top honor on the YALSA Amazing Audiobooks List (2015). 

This book got the highest I have ever been in one of the main NYT lists (only the manga has gone higher) and that was in hard cover children’s at #5. It released the same year as Etiquette & Espionage.

“Carriger’s second steampunk adventures exceeds the first…the fun, again, is in watching ever-practical Sophronia sneak and scheme her way into sometimes dangerous, sometimes riotously funny, situations…. We repeat: This witty, light-hearted series is not to be missed.”

~ Booklist, starred review

Writing Curtsies & Conspiracies

I ended up having to do a brain map of all the conspiracies in this book.

This is not normally how I work.

Until I had Scrivener in my life I tended to work with 3×5 cards (see Waistcoats & Weaponry entry coming up).

As an aside the original order of the books was also going to be alphabetical by title, which meant this one would have been the first book.

  1. Curtsies & Conspiracies
  2. Deportment & Deceit
  3. Etiquette & Espionage
  4. Manners & Mutiny 

I wanted to do this so I could keep them straight in my head because I was having problems with The Parasol Protectorate. (Now I picture the cover of each PP book and so know the setting, and thus remember which book is which.)

However, when I pitched the series they decided right away they wanted Etiquette & Espionage to be the first book. Not sure why.

They also embossed the cover of E&E and C&C but not the other two in this series. $ concerns, I’m pretty sure.

Things Pertaining to This Book

Research and Other Fun Behind the Scenes Tidbits

It was this book that spawned the music video! I blog all about it including how it came into existence, my suspicions as to its effectiveness, behind the scenes photos of the models and actors, and THE LYRICS.

Chapter by Chapter says,

Curtsies & Conspiracies was everything I expected it to be: Just like the novel that came before it but better. Way better.” 

I hope you enjoy this second installment in the Finishing School series. It was bear to write, that’s for certain, but it all came out good in the end.

Or did it?

Yours in infamy,

Miss Gail

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Love Bytes says:

“The pages just flew by as I go deeper and deeper into the plot, and stopping was very much out of the question once things started to get going. These werewolves could have been very boring (I mean, what is this, the 800th werewolf book I’ve read?) but I loved Carriger’s various takes on the shifters and their culture. It was not exactly all new, but it was just different enough to make me always want to know just that little bit more about them. I think that readers who enjoyed this series so far and going to end up really liking this one, and if they are anything like me, they are going to be clamoring for the next book.”


  • The 5th Gender (a Tinkered Stars sci-fi as G. L. Carriger). No links as yet…
  • Reticence, The 4th and final Custard Protocol book. August 6, 2019
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Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

Getting Dressed for a Dickensian Christmas (1853)

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

People Who Constantly Point Out Grammar Mistakes Are Pretty Much Jerks, Scientists Find

Book News:

Quote of the Day:

“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.”

~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? Wiki that sheez!

Curtsies & Conspiracies Visual Clues & Insider Trading Imagery (Finishing School Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Dear Gentle Reader, Curtsies & Conspiracies is now available in trade paperback size! Soon, of course, Waistcoats & Weaponry releases in hard cover.

It was such a fun book to write, although it feels like so long ago now.

In case you have not read it here is a peek at some of the things featured in Curtsies & Conspiracies….


Spy communication via embroidery.
William Oliver Painting via British Painting tumblr
Cross dressing and fake mustaches.
Stolen boleros.
Bolero  Cristobal Balenciaga, 1946  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Vicious wicker furnishing.
Mass destruction of petticoats.
Petticoat 1840-1855  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Subversive tea parties.
1850 April Tea Le Follet v. 34, plate 76
Transformation dresses.
Robe à Transformation  1865  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

There you have it.

If you’ve already read Curtsies & Conspiracies do you remember these moments? If not, before Waistcoats & Weaponry you might want to do a reread because Sophronia’s life is about to get a great deal more complicated.

P.S. Late tonight/early morning of Oct. 8 is a lunar eclipse in some parts of the world.

{What is Gail’s Book Group reading for October? Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers}


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1900-1905  The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Your Infusion of Cute . . .


Your Tisane of Smart . . .
Stuff You Should Know – How Blimps Work:

After newsreels captured the Hindenburg erupting in fire in 1937, the promising development of airship aviation was cut short. Today companies and militaries are taking another look at blimps and the unique qualities that may revive them.

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

“You have no right to expect that she will expose to you, or to any one else, her process of arranging the story, bringing out the characters, or concocting the dialogue. The machinery of her work, and the hidden springs which set it in motion, she naturally wishes to keep to herself; and she cannot be expected to lay them bare for the gratification of impertinent curiosity, letting them become subjects of idle gossip.”

~ The Ladies’ Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners or, Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book by Eliza Leslie (1864)

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National Poetry Month… Dimity Style (Finishing School Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Gentle Reader, April is National Poetry Month. As you may have guessed from my work I have a contentious relationship with poetry. Part of this has to do with my misspent youth. Some youths misspent their energy on crazy parties, doughnutting, cow tipping, you know. I wrote poetry. I am ashamed.

Nevertheless, here is my contribution to National Poetry Month, from Dimity in Curtsies & Conspiracies.

British Paintings tumblr: 1879 George Elgar Hicks – On the Seashore

Dimity said, “I wrote him poetry!”
Preshea let go of the young lord and continued on with her conversation. Dingleproops brushed at the spot where her hand had been, straightening his jacket.
“Dimity,” Sophronia said, horrified by such an admission, “you didn’t give him the poetry, did you?”
“Certainly not.”
Sidheag tilted back in her chair, grinning. “Well, let’s hear it.”
“Oh, no. I don’t think that’s a good idea at all.” But Dimity was already dipping into her reticule and pulling out a scrap of paper. She gave it to Sidheag, who read it with a perfectly straight face, her tawny eyes dancing, and then passed it to Sophronia.

“My love is like a red red rose
occasionally he has a red red nose
he could keep me warm in the snows
I wager he has very nice toes.”

Sophronia could think of nothing to say except, “Oh, Dimity.”

So there you have it. Scared of poetry? Make it silly!

Book Pertinent to this post! 

Defy Or Defend Dimity Delightfully Deadly Free Download DD2


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

At one of the first Nova Albion Steampunk Events

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

At Bouquets to Art, De Young Museum, SF

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

1905 inland-delta-tumblr José García Ramos, Leaving a Masqued Ball, 1905  (Source- commons.wikimedia.org)

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
The Ins and Outs of ISBNs

Book News:

Livre de Poche ‏@livredepoche jusqu’au 7 avril ! Pour jouer

Quote of the Day:

“The pen runs so easy when you have good ink, and smooth paper, and an easy desk to write on, and the consciousness of an audience of one, two or three hundred thousand readers.”

~ Around the Tea Table, by T. De Witt Talmage (1875)

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6 Questions About Curtsies & Conspiracies, Answered (Q&A with Gail Carriger)

Posted by Gail Carriger


This up coming Tuesday, November 5th, the second Finishing School book will hit stores, Gentle Reader. Curtsies & Conspiracies is available for pre-order right now.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November
Petticoats, treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why Pickleman treason
Should ever be forgot

Here are six questions people have asked me about this book.

C&C in Entertainment Weekly Oct. 25 via @jenbookchick twitter

1. Will there be romance in Sophronia’s future? It seems she has caught the eye of a young man from the Evil Genius Academy, and I was wondering if maybe there is a small romance for the two, or if he becomes a secondary character at least? (from Krystin)

Yes indeed, there’s a bit in Curtsies & Conspiracies. And the third book is called Waistcoats & Weaponry for a reason.

2. Will Sophronia’s roommates be the same for the next book, since it is a new school year? (from Elizabeth)

Yes but everything begins to change.

3. Will Sophronia have the same roommates since it will be a new school year in C&C? (from ext_1644455)

Since I answered this above, I am reminded by the question itself of something that is difficult to make clear both to modern readers and my editors. So I’m going to ask the question in everyone’s mind that they don’t know to ask when they ask these kinds of questions… as it were. And here it is:

4. How was Finishing School in the Victorian era different from boarding school now?

Finishing school, in fact all kinds of school for those too young (or too female) for universities, had no terms as we think of them. (Universities had “sessions” which loosely correlated to sessions in parliament, which were built around the hunting season. To make matters more confusing there were four session at Oxford and three at Cambridge.) So what happened was: younger students simply went to their finishing school and were sent back for a few holidays (if your parents wanted) and the rest of the time were in class. Think about the Squeers in Nickolas Nickleby, or the girl’s seminary in A Little Princess. Finishing Schools were basically a from of outsourced foster care. They weren’t quite school as we think of them. I try to get this concept across by never using the term “term” and having Sophronia matriculate with her year group rather then as a grade, per say. Basically there are no grades, no real moving up from one educational level to another. Young Ladies just got older and stayed in school until their parents decided it was time for them to come out into society and marry. In my school, there is a finishing test, but as you’ll see some girls are simply taken out and married off by their parents before any final exam takes place.

Under the Cloud’ by Arthur Kupreychuk

5. Could you make a male friendly version …maybe put a bunch of blood and guts and change the name to Chills and cutthroats lol (from docxen)

No. You could watch some TV or any high-earning blockbuster.

6. What has been your favorite part about writing Curtsies & Conspiracies? (via batalpaca in my Reddit AMA)

Oh the flirting, definitely. And there’s some cross dressing near the end. Nothing makes me happier then when a girl disguises herself as a boy for the purposes of infiltration.

Want more? I have a fun interview up over on Mysteristas. It includes the following:

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be?
A dark chocolate turtle: sweet but not too sweet, chewy in places, and full of nuts.


Your Moment of Parasol . . .


Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Brian Kesinger’s Tea Girls’s Photos via FB

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
How to virtually change your window view. 

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
VIDEO: Conversations with Booksellers

Book News:

Errant Easel says, “Only Curtsies & Conspiracies could exceed Etiquette & Espionage… As much as I loved Book the First, I was not prepared for how much I would enjoy Book the Second.”

Quote of the Day:

Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Music Video for Curtsies & Conspiracies (Behind the Magic)

Posted by Gail Carriger


For Curtsies & Conspiracies, the second Finishing School book I got a music video!

To be clear this isn’t really a book trailer. Not as you imagine them anyway. It’s an original song about Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing School with live action meets animation. Even if you aren’t into the books or don’t read YA, it’s a glimpse into my brand of humor and style of writing represented visually.

I thought you, Gentle Reader, would like some insight into how it came about.

Wait, What?

Bring. Bring. Bring. (OK, it’s my phone so instead it went: Quack. Quack. Quack.)

Gail: Hello?
LB: Chat chat chat.
Gail: Chat chat. *tea sipping* gossipy gossip
LB: So, we were thinking for C&C we’d do a music video.
Gail: Qua? (A sound not unlike her quacking phone.)
LB: No really. It’ll be fun.
Gail: *Suspicious.*
LB: Seriously, (do New Yorker’s say seriously? I can’t remember. Anyway…) it’s the same person who did ‘Call Me Artemis Fowl’, Artemis Rocks! He does this professionally, he’s great.
Gail: Ummmmm. I don’t know about…
LB: Different tone, we swear. Why don’t you send us some steampunk music and ideas and such?
Gail: Ooookkkaaayyy…

As you can see, at first I was nervous about the whole thing.

However, I did send some of my favorite steampunk music, a wide range considering how my taste varies (from Professor Elemental to Unwoman) as well as the intro to BBC Mystery. I reminded them how much I liked the Edward Gorey style animation of the Finishing School launch video, and that it was important to stay funny or at least quite silly.

We went back and forth about the lyrics, and they are a little challenging to make out in the video so in case you wanted to read them:

The Lyrics!

While at Bunson and Lacroix’s Polytech for boys
They emphasize the joys of deadly little toys
At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s School for proper young killing machines
The curriculum on the whole
Is certainly more droll

But all the things that go on,
She’d hate to know, hate to know
All the things that go on…

And if you find you’re irritable Uptop in the dirigible
Down below, the Sooties know a thing or two you mightn’t
On Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, nothing’s really what it seems
But the curriculum, you will find, may give you some excitement

But all the things that go on,
She’d hate to know, hate to know
But all the things that go on,
She’d hate to know, hate to know
All the things that go on…

Music & lyrics by Josh Fix


Some thoughts:

  • The “she” is Mumsey. Implied.
  • The singer we discussed at length. He’s sort of a Lord Akeldama character, but it’s possible he could be Tunstell singing about the past. But are his trousers tight enough?
  • The costumes are off temporally, but that has to do with the melding of Gorey style with the funky music and the 1930’s silent film captions.
  • Yes, I did help write the captions.
  • But the tumbling mustache was all them.
  • Yes, when I tweeted out the question about the Victorian sound a shooting cork would make, we were trying to come up with “Plip.” Plip was decided. Thank you to the suggestor of this most excellent word. You get a gold octopus kiss.
  • Yes, I do think Sophronia and the other two girls look a little old, but I believe that’s intentionally aspirational, as it were.
  • However, I do love Sophronia’s looks in the video. That’s more how I imagined her than the Natalie Portman/Kiera Nightly look on the covers. That said, I’m really happy with both, I don’t quibble much on such things. And, being a spy, Sophronia is . . . changeable in appearance.

I was constantly consulted on this project over not just music style and lyrics, but how things would be shot and which images would go where. I tried to stick my nose in only when strictly necessary. It’s amazing the amount of work that everyone put into it and it was an great experience. I really do hope you like the it as much as I do, I was surprised and delighted by the end result.


Some fun behind the scenes shots that my Little Brown publicist kindly sent to me to show you. I adore those skeletal look of the see-through parasols.

Want more behind the scenes sneak peeks? Join the Chirrup


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Teapot octopus ornament, handmade gift from a friend

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

DIY Pumpkins & Pantyhose

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
Amazon unveils matchbook. Please note that my books are not available for this service.

Quote of the Day:

“Tris: “I was reading.”
Sandry: “You’re always reading. The only way people can ever talk to you is to interrupt.”
Tris: “Then maybe they shouldn’t talk to me.”

~ Tamora Pierce, Briar’s Book

7 Fun Questions from Foreign Translators (Finishing School Behind the Magic)

Posted by Gail Carriger


Many times, Gentle Reader, I get asked what I do with my days besides actual writing.

So much. So very much.

In fact more of my fiction writing career is spent not writing fiction these days, then writing fiction. (Non fiction is a different matter, for example I have an article in the Huffington Post on 10 Ways to Steampunk-ify Your Halloween.)

One of the many things on the list is responding to occasional questions from my translators. These can be rather fun, so I thought you might enjoy a glimpse. Often they force me to figure out the English language or my own ideas in concrete ways. At other times the remind me how humor is different in different cultures, or so much the same.

To protect the translators, who are generally enthusiastic and awesome and lovely people, I’m not saying anything about which language is asking which questions.

FS C&C Foreign Editions

These all pertain to the Finishing School books.

1. “Crikey, don’t you two look as fancy as fleas’ eyebrows!” I wonder what this “as fancy as fleas’ eyebrows” expresses. Surprise? Admiration? Disapproval? 

Admiration mixed with mild mockery and envy. It’s a play on the 1920s phrase “bee’s knees” or “cats whiskers.” I just invented my own.

2. Could you please be so kind and describe me in more detail how exactly mechanicals move – are the tracks on the floor – like the train tracks?

You can think of it as a single track with one wheel, like a train track but less than half, only the track part on one side, no slats. The other way to think of it is like an upside down cable car with the cable set into the ground.

via Wiki Commons


I describe multiple tracks because each mechanical can run on its own single track (not because there is a pair for each mechancial) also this way multiples can run at a time.


3. “What, even her? You’d think she’d grog to the fact that you’d been pickled.” I’m not familiar with the usage of “grog” here.  Could you paraphrase it?

grog = suss = grasp mentally, understand, precursor to grock

4. Is there any special reason for the name SQUEAK deck? I know that it is right under balloons but does it really squeak?
It doesn’t squeak, people squeak when they talk when they are standing on it, if there is a leak. These decks are right under helium filled balloons. If there is a leak, people talking would have high squeaky voices, just as if you inhaled the helium from a birthday balloon at a party.
5. “Spiffing. I could do with a vacation.” I’m not clear what “do with a vacation” means.  Does this have some idiomatic meaning?
“I could use a vacation” or “I need a vacation.”
6. Could you please explain the phrase “my eye is pickled and the earthworm sulks at midnight”? Is this the Professor Braithwope’s funny way of saying that the alarm is terribly noisy? 
It’s code to turn off the alarm. Like an internet password. It doesn’t make sense.
7. “Music teacher, she thought, looking at the full skirts of Lady Linette’s lavender dress. And I’m Queen of the Vampires.” I can’t really understand the connection between “music teacher and “I’m Queen of the Vampires”. I wonder if this capitalization might mean the title of the song or something? 
It means that she is as unlikely to really be a music teacher as Sophronia is unlikely to be Queen of the Vampires. A way of saying the equivalent of “fat chance.”
Rumor is some authors crowd sources their translations. I don’t really have enough questions incoming to make that necessary. Besides I like doing it myself.  That said, I do sometimes wonder what others might say of my phrasing, or how others might explain it.
I can’t imagine being a translator, it must be such a tough job. Humor must be particularly challenging. I talked with my French interpreter, Helen, while I was there this year. She also translates. She flat out said, very kindly of course, that she wouldn’t want to do my books, too challenging. I took this is a backhanded compliment.

I do love the way the Japanese covers always take from a scene in the book itself. It’s just so much fun to see the words interpreted for cover art in a manga style.

I love when I get these questions in my inbox though, it’s not often I have to go back and examine what I really meant when I wrote a sentence. Or try to explain it in such a way that it makes sense to someone who doesn’t have English as a first language.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this little glimpse into life behind the scenes of translating a steampunk novel. You should see some of the ones for the Parasol Protectorate, they are a hoot and a half. (There, for example, is a phrase that would be hard to translate!) What with Ivy and her malapropisms, all that overly Victorian phrasing, and me making up words right and left many a translator was befuddled. Perhaps when I’m working on the Parasol Protectorate Abroad I’ll give you a peak into the past, if you’re interested.

For now, it’s back to the grind, working on the various book launches, contests, interviews, and other stuff. You remember what I said about most of being a fiction writer is now not writing fiction? Well October is one of those months.

Don’t you worry, I’ll get back to it soon. The final Finishing School book is waiting for me, I’ll be starting it in December. When that’s done it’s back to Prudence, at last!

Right now, I could really use a bit of a break, I have that treading water feeling.

And the translators are waiting, like nibbling little silver fishes all about.

Want more behind the scenes sneak peeks? Join the Chirrup


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

1890 Winter Ensembles, Delineator via thedailyvictorian tumblr

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

indypendent-thinking-  Shopping in the Edwardian Era

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

“A Story of Human Wrong, of Human Suffering; of Evil, of Good; of Sorrow, of Succour…The Weakness and Trust of Woman, and the Treachery and Infidelity of Man.” Or: The Unwanted Children of the 19th Century.

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
The Making of a Cover: Costumes & Props

Quote of the Day:

“Genius is not a quality, but only a quantitative difference in a combination of attributes contained in all persons.”

~ Dr. Ernst Jones

Silly Things an Alt-History Writer Researches, Gail Carriger’s Finishing School Series 1850s Victorian (Special Extras)

Posted by Gail Carriger


With your kind encouragement, Gentle Reader, I present to you the occasional series . . . weird things from my search history! A sampling of things I’ve done and researched the Finishing School series.

Tasks . . .

  • Made an outline (failure)

  • Made a mind map (success!)
  • Drawn a massive dirigible schematic plan
  • (Which made me get my Brambly Hedge books out of storage, great house plans in there)
  • Clipped printed and sketched characters
  • Noted additional world facts and thoughts
  • Formulated more complete series arc

Theodore Wendel – Lady with Parasol by Stream

Look up . . .

  • Oil Paintings from 1814, any with blue dresses in them?
  • Deadly plants that grow in England
  • Events in 1852 London
  • London Protocol (Treaty of 1852)
  • Fashion in 1852
  • Queen Victoria’s children and pregnancies
  • Wicker Hassocks
  • Evolution of Exams in Schools
  • History of Wedgewood Pottery
  • Internal schematics of early steamers
  • Etymology of the slang term peepers.
  • Serving tea & tea services
  • Introduction of military elements into lady’s dresses in the 1850s (used English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century)
  • Portraits in 1852

Working on some action poses with the Finishing School ladies from ace-artemis-fanartist (of course)

  • Opening of the season in London (family return just after Christmas, being associating in March, larger events begin in May) thank you What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew
  • A meal for mid March. (Things a Lady Would Like to Know March 16: Vermicelli Soup, Leg of Mutton and Current Jelly Sauce, Potatoes and Broccoli, Bakewell pudding)
  • Ways to tie a narrow cravat
  • Etymology of the word whizz
  • Expense and toxicity of oil paints before 1900
  • When did England officially abolish slavery? 1833
  • How to spell turbot
  • Location of British coalfields in the 19th century
  • History of drinking straws
  • Names of the parts of a piccolo

Want more behind the scenes sneak peeks? Join the Chirrup

Quote of the Day:

“A book is to me like a hat or coat – a very uncomfortable thing until the newness has been worn off.”

~ Charles B. Fairbanks

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