Thursday, December 20, 2012

Getting Started is the Easy Part...

New ideas are always compelling. They crowd in on me as I excitedly string together each plot point until I have a whole new novel. I sit down at the keyboard and dash out page after page after page...and then nothing. I stare at the blinking cursor and nothing. I go away for awhile...a few days perhaps, a week, and then I open the document again. I re-read pages, crack a smile at something particular amusing or sometimes brilliant, my fingers hover over the keys. I type a sentence or two and then something distracts me. I have a thought so I dash off to look it up on the internet which turns into a three hour affair and before I know it's time to go and I save my paltry few lines.

Rinse and Repeat.

I've been thinking a lot this week about what sparks my imagination and why I can't seem to focus. I have two really great WIPs right now and yet I just can't get excited about them. I'm assuming that I can't get excited about them because if I were, wouldn't I be practically salivating to write more? Why is that I can research and plot a helluva story but when it comes down to writing it I fail so miserably? I know I'm a good writer. Countless numbers of people have told me. Agents have told me. Editors have told me. So why can't channel that positive feedback into finishing something already? I don't want to take ten years to finish like I did with Rebel Heart. I always thought that I didn't take Rebel Heart seriously because I didn't take myself seriously. I was a hobby writer, it was something to amuse me when I was bored. But perhaps that is the answer. Maybe that is all that I am. A hobbyist. I practice a hobby that I do well when I'm bored or I have time and nothing else is demanding my attention.

But I don't want that. My husband sees me as a published writer. He thinks it is my calling. But how can it be? Do I simply lack focus or am I trying to make my talent into something it cannot possibly be (or maybe doesn't want to be)? Somehow I'm thinking that agents and editors don't take kindly to one hit wonders. They want someone who can sell on down the line, for years to come. A cash cow.

Perhaps I should take heart. I never stick with one thing for more than a little while. Jobs? Nope. The longest I've been in a position is 2 1/2 years. I got bored at month 6. Even with the "dream job". I often asked myself if I was just flighty? Not exactly a good thing. I can't go through life being that, but for the record, when it comes to people I'm loyal to a tee. I have only a small group of friends, the inner circle, so to speak, and while I'm not the best correspondant, I'm faithful to the end.

So what is wrong with me? It was suggested to me once that I may be highly intelligent which accounted for my ability to achieve tasks quickly and get bored easily. I laughed at this person. Me, highly intelligent? I can barely add and subtract. I've basically refused to go to graduate school because it requires taking the GRE and I would probably fail the math section. So that leaves...ADHD perhaps? I've often wondered if I have it. I'm certainly well acquianted with it as my husband was diagnosed a few years ago. Brief episodes of hyperfocus? Check. That would definitely account for the single minded focus I get when developing a new novel. For craps and giggles, I took an ADHD test online and it advised me to seek a medical professional's opinion. Hmmm... But aren't we all a little bit flighty? Right? Anyone?

What keeps you from writing? Any tips or tricks that keep you typing away when it's the last thing you want to do?

Monday, December 3, 2012


Hello all...

I know I've been MIA for a couple of weeks. Along with the Thanksgiving holiday and all the ensuing craziness, my poor hubby had pneumonia and then I had bronchitis!

Now that I've properly sanitized everything and have stopped hacking up my lungs, I'm turning back to writing. I've resurrected Rebellion interestingly enough. I'm just going with it and hoping that I can write myself out of the rut. I'm still working on A Scandalous Bargain too. I've already decided that I need to complete at least one of these by June or July so that when I attend either the Historical Novel Society or RWA conferences, I will have something to present to agents and/or editors. I'm still trying to decide which conference to go to--the HNS conference is going to have the cream of the crop in terms of agents. I'm also a reviewer now so it makes sense to represent. But still, St. Petersburg is a long drive and flying is way too expensive. So I've been looking at the RWA conference since it is in Atlanta. That's only a three hour drive for me plus you can always snag a cheap hotel in ATL via Hotwire or Priceline. And honestly, I write historical romance or at least historical women's fiction and RWA has got the line in on those two genres.

On another note, Rebel Heart is now available for Nook. Check out the link on the sidebar for the details and if you decide to give it a read, don't forget to post a review.

I'll be back later in the week with another installment of Cecilia's world...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Cecilia's World

I'm pleased to present my newest heroine Lady Cecilia Compton St. James, Duchess of Stanhope. Quite a mouthful, eh? She is the center of my current work-in-progress A Scandalous Bargain. The novel opens in 1753 with a thirteen year old Cecilia being married off to Lord Aubrey St. James, the Earl of Stafford. Soon after the wedding, she is sent to Paris to be educated at the Abbaye Royale de Panthemont. So let us start off there.

 Abbaye Royale de Panthemont was a convent founded in 1217 that eventually developed into a high class finishing school for daughters of the aristocracy. The current buildings were begun in 1747 as a result of a re-building campaign undertaken by the abbess Marie-Catherine de Mezieres Bethozy (say that three times fast). Despite having several wealthy patrons, the construction stretched out for decades. The chapel was consecrated in 1756 and finished in 17663, while the convent was not completed until 1783, just in time for the revolution. Since Cecilia is a lodging student during the major construction period, I made sure to mention it. It is the abbess who informs her that she is to return to England after her husband inherits his father's dukedom. Cecilia is not totally ignorant of the ways of love and sex, and yet she notes that all is not sanctimonious at the convent. Indeed convents had a rather nasty reputation for being dens of sin and vice. Italy seems to be the worst offender when it comes to salacious activity, but France had its own stories. In fact, the Marquis de Sade wrote about the Abbaye in one of his books, Juliette. "The prettiest and most immoral girls in Paris come from the Panthemont convent."

Since de Sade was rather scandalous and maybe not entirely truthful, I chose to err on the side of caution when Cecilia muses about her experience in the convent:

The convent was not so sheltered that she did not understand what went on between a man and a woman. There were married aristocratic women lodging here who were free in their speech--and hatred for the demands their husbands had placed upon them. Then there was the occasional student or even novice nun who fell pregnant and Cecilia was sure that the conception of such children was not immaculate.

Despite the rumors, the convent had several wealthy and famous students grace its halls before it was disbanded by the Revolutionaries in 1790. The Countess de Polastron was educated there before becoming the lover of the Count d'Artois (so maybe the rumors were true). Josephine de Beauharnais allegedly stayed in the convent when she was attempting to separate from her husband. Thomas Jefferson's daughters Martha and Polly lodged there in the 1780s--but only after TJ had received assurances that they would not be converted from their protestant faith. Nonetheless, Martha still wanted to convert and Jefferson was forced remove her and her sister before they fled the country on the eve of the French Revolution.

You can still find the convent in the 7th arrondissement of Paris though it bears little resemblance to the original buildings that once occupied the site. Today it is a protestant church named the Reformed Church of Luxembourg-Pentemont.

That's all for now. What subjects do you most enjoy researching when you are working on a book?

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Buccaneer Love Match

Mary Leiter, future Baroness Kedleston
I'm still knee deep in stories of the Gilded Age but instead of cautionary tales of social marriages gone sour, I thought I would detail the love match of Mary Leiter and George Curzon, Baron Kedleston.

Mary Leiter was the daughter of Chicago businessman Levi Leiter, who co-founded the Marshall Fields department store empire. She was one of the second generation Buccaneers who was highly educated, beautiful, and adept at all those social niceties so coveted by young ladies the world over.
After spending time on Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., Mary (who was BFFs with first lady Frances Folsom Cleveland) did the obligatory tour of Europe before landing in London in 1894. There she met George Curzon, an enterprising journalist, world traveler, politician, and heir to the Barony at Scarsdale. They both seem quite enamored of each other, but strangely enough, they went their separate ways at the end of the season. Mary went back to Washington and George continued to gallivant the East Indies.

George Curzon, Baron Kendleston
But absence must have made the heart grow founder, for George turned up in Washington the next year, and the couple was married soon after on April 22, 1895 at St. John's Episcopal Church. Of course they hared it back to England, where George went from one political victory to the next, and soon the couple was headed to India as the Viceroy and Vicerine in 1898.

They lived in India for many years, where Mary was known for her society shindigs and philanthropy. The couple had three daughters--Mary, Cynthia, and Alexandra--all of whom either slept with or were married to the famous socialist Oswald Mosely. As was their future stepmother. Um, gross?

Sadly, Mary suffered greatly from a miscarriage and never fully recovered. Apparently she underwent some sort fertility related surgery as well in an attempt to conceive a son for dear George's barony. She died in London in 1906 at the age of thirty-six. George was so distraught that he erected a memorial chapel for her remains on the grounds of Kedleston Hall.
Margaret "Daisy" Leiter by
John Singer Sargent
Back briefly to the Leiter family, who were quite extraordinary in their own right. All the sisters went British. Nancy Leiter became the wife of Lt Colonel Colin Campbell and was known as America's most beautiful woman for a time. She met Campbell while visiting her sister Mary in India.

The other Leiter sister Margaret, better known as Daisy, was also a successful buccaneer. She married Henry Howard, the 19th Earl of Suffolk (and 15th Earl of Berkshire) in 1904.

In 1931, the Leiter family was divided when Daisy sued her brother Joseph over his mismanagement of their father's multi-million dollar estate. The lawsuit dragged on for eight years and racked up over a million dollars in court and attorney fees. Though Joe's tastes were extravagant (he famously purchased some 50 dozen pairs of silk socks and at one point tried to buy the Great Wall of China), the court refused to intervene since he had managed to increase the estate's working capital from 12 million to 17 million. However, when a special audit was conducted six weeks later, Joseph voluntarily resigned. When he died the next year, his personal estate was worth a million dollars. Daisy was still living in London when a 1937 Time Magazine article documented the trials and tribulations of the fabulous Leiter family.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Gilded Age or My Homage to the Vanderbilts

Biltmore, ca. 1900
I've always been fascinated by the Gilded Age. The clothes were luscious (if you didn't mind being trussed up like a turkey), the houses were huge, and being socially mobile was all the rage. I grew up taking day trips to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina (I highly recommend a visit to both the estate and the city...fabulous architecture, awesome food, and good beer...what else could you want?) and so my childhood fantasies were filled with thoughts of the Vanderbilts. Even though I have visited the estate mulitple times, I never get tired of it. In fact, my hubby and I paid a visit back in April and I was finally able to see the gardens in all of their spring glory thanks to a particularly warm winter. They've added many new features including period clothing to some of the rooms and we were lucky to catch the opening of a new history exhibit that satisfied my obsession for all thing Vanderbilt.

For those of you not familiar with Biltmore, it was built in the 1890s by George Washington Vanderbilt, the grandson of the original Robber Baron, Cornelius Vanderbilt. I don't really think he did anything besides inherit millions of dollars (OK, apparently he managed the family farm in upstate New York). He was rather sickly and upon a visit to the Asheville area, he decided that a mountain estate was just what he needed for his health. He commissioned Richard Morris Hunt (my favorite architect of the era) to design the house and Frederick Law Olmstead (yes, that Olmstead...of Central Park fame) to do the gardens. Ten years later, George moved into the palatial estate, along with his wife Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, a pedigreed old New Yorker who was raised in Paris. Her fabulous portrait by Boldini hangs in the house. She was quite tall apparently!

The house today remains intact and owned by Vanderbilt's grandsons. It is also the largest privately owned residence in the US and I am always marveled by how the family has turned such a palatial estate into a million dollar business.

Lovely family portrait of the Marlboroughs
by John Singer Sargent

As I grew older and my interests began to extend to all things British, I became fascinated by another Vanderbilt--Consuelo, the Duchess of Marlborough. She was George's niece, the daughter of his brother William Kissam Vanderbilt and the pugnacious Alva Erskine Smith, who from all accounts was someone you did not want to cross. I've been reading To Marry An English Lord: Or How Anglomania Really Got Started and it details all of Alva's machinations to obtain entree into New York society (it's a tongue and cheek account of the time period...very funny). Consuelo was named after her mother's BFF, Consuelo Iznaga, who was one of the original "Buccaneers" -- she married the Viscount Mandeville who eventually became the 8th Duke of Manchester.

It was fitting that Consuelo Vanderbilt became one of the second generation "Buccaneers". She married Charles, the 9th Duke of Marlborough, though sadly, their marriage was loveless at best. She gave him "the heir and the spare" and checked out around 1906 with their divorce being finalized in 1921. She went on to marry the French aviator Jacques Balsan, who incidentally, was the brother of Etinenne Balsan (one of Coco Chanel's early lovers). Small world!

Consuelo was recently used as a model for Cora Cash in Daisy Goodwin's novel "The American Heiress". Many of the incidents (domineering mother, a secret engagement) in the book were ripped from Conseulo's own autobiography "The Glitter and the Gold".

That's enough for today. I might detail more on the other Buccaneers (including Consuelo's aunt-in-law Jennie Randolph, mother of Winston Churchill) at a later date.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Back in the Saddle

I am happy to report that I got through my malaise and started writing again. "A Convenient Misfortune" started calling out to me and so I gave in. For those of you keeping score, it is my American Revolution novel set in Charleston, South Carolina.

I was very lucky to attend college in Charleston and those formative years were great for writing. I often would spend Sunday afternoons riding past two hundred year old houses, getting inspired, and writing in my head.

Charleston is a lovely city--you must visit if you ever have the chance. I highly recommend going in the off season though; it can be a zoo during the warmer months. And the weather is not that great--it's a giant walk-in sauna. It's a very European city; I'd say that it is one of the most European in the US (next to New Orleans). Settled in late 1600s, Charles Town was named for King Charles II. As a royal colony, it had "Lords Proprietors" who managed it. Vast plantations were established outside of the original walled city and many grew rich as a result. Settlers came from the West Indies to further build their fortunes, while French Hugenots fled France and found religious refuge in the colony.

With such illustrious connections to Britain, you can imagine the divide that occurred during the American Revolution. Many of Charles Town's most prominent citizens sided with their mother country, but a good portion also became Patriots. Arthur Middleton, the vastly wealthy owner of Middleton Place plantation signed the Declaration of Independence, while prominent attorney John Rutledge and his brother Edward (who signed the Declaration as well) attended the Continental Congresses.

For all intents and purposes, the war wasn't visited upon the residents of Charles Town until 1780 when the British invaded and occupied the city. General Henry Clinton took up residence at Drayton Hall and quickly set to work rounding up those Patriots who were considered difficult. Arthur Middleton and Edward Rutledge were exiled to a prison ship in St. Augustine, Florida, while Issac Hayne, leader of a rebel brigade, was executed for violating the terms of his earlier parole.

Such a rich history is a boon to any novel and I'm lucky to be intimately acquainted with it. "A Convenient Misfortune" opens in April 1775. The heroine, Arabella Westbury, arrives in Charles Town alone. Her father was appointed as the assistant minister to St. Michael's Church, but unfortunately he dies on the voyage. Now an orphan, Arabella must make her way in the world on her own. She finds it difficult to live in a society with divided loyalties, but she eventually secures a position as a governess to Marianne Bennett, the youngest sister of one of Charles Town's most eligible bachelors. Murder and mayhem follow. Just kidding. High drama and hijinks ensue. Yes, that's better.

"A Covenient Misfortune" is long overdue to be finished. I started working on it during my senior year in high school and then throughout my college years. I've taken turns at revising and re-writing it in between working on "Rebel Heart" but this is the first time that I have focused entirely on it. I've actually started re-writing it completely. It has a good, finished (mostly) story line, but my writing style has changed over the years. So I just decided to start from the top and see where it takes me.

I'm looking forward to sharing more with you as the time passes. There is more information about this novel under the "Works in Progress" tab.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Success By Any Other Name....

Well the results are in and I am pleased as punch to say that during the free promo this weekend, 1917 copies of "Rebel Heart" were downloaded. Yes, I will admit that I calculated all the money that I technically "lost" by making the book free, but at the end of the day, I'm still thrilled by the idea that 1917 people have my book in their hands. If you were one of those people, I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for your support. Please (don't make me beg) take a few minutes to review the book on Amazon or Goodreads once you have finished it. Despite author meltdowns and sock-puppets, I still believe a review counts for a lot. Plus I would like to know my reading public's thoughts. There's always room for improvement (unless of course you thought it was perfect...definitely feel free to share that!)

With what I think was a fairly successful launch behind me, I cracked open "Rebellion" to see where I stood. I don't know if it is the bad mood I've been in or what, but I was very disenchanted with the whole thing. I hate when that happens! Nothing seemed to read correctly or the characters annoyed me or something was just.not.right. And even though I started plotting out a potential sequel to 'Rebel Heart' yesterday, I'm not feeling completely sold on going in that direction either.

This could easily be a photo of me. I was blond as a kid
and often prone to pensive stare-offs

So what do I do? Do I take a few days to ponder something wholly new? There's always a late Victorian novel or even though "Rebel Heart" didn't find a home in the English Civil War, it's still a good time period. I still have a Revolutionary War novel that is in various stages of completion.
What do you do when nothing seems write right?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Are Online Reviews Really Worth It?

Any self-published author understands the importance of reviews. I am particularly cognizant of this now that I've got "Rebel Heart" up for sale again. Earlier this morning I was thinking over a conversation that I had with another author regarding the importance of reviews. He mentioned that it was a little bit distressing when readers don't take the time to review your work after you've spent so much time writing and editing it. I tend to agree with this sentiment. It might take a few minutes at best to jot down a few lines and rate a book on Amazon or Goodreads. I try to do it now for everything I read just because I understand the importance of the exercise. But it also occurred to me that many of us self-published authors have to do free promos in order to our book out there and in the end, some folks just won't take the time to review something that they got for free. There's no sense of ownership there. No sense of outrage if you read the book and hated it but because you didn't pay for it, everything's copacetic. Or similarly, no sense of wanting to pass along a glowing report because money wasn't well spent.

But maybe no reviews is a positive thing as the flip side for every author, whether self-published or traditionally published, is being able to handle the bad reviews. Every few months or so, the Internet starts buzzing about another author implosion. By that I mean an author reads a few bad reviews and feels compelled to either post rebuttals to those reviews or raise an army of supporters to attack the writers of the bad reviews. The latest in the long list of offenders is NYT bestselling author Emily Giffin. She's the author of the wildly successful books "Something Borrowed" and "Something Blue", as well as several others. When I was hitting the Chick-Lit circuit pretty hard, I read both books and enjoyed them. They were better than some of the ones that I read during the same time period.

In honor of that admiration, I ended up following her on Facebook. Since I liked her under my writing fan page, I don't get her updates as frequently because I have a tendency to forget about that news feed. I accidentally ended up reading this morning about how she made some comments regarding the fact that she was disappointed about her latest book only making it to #2 on the NYT Bestseller List. I can't find her original comments, but apparently some people got very upset about her "whining" when there are so many out there that who would kill to even be on the NYT Bestseller List. These people ended up making some comments (in their reviews of her latest novel) about how they found her to be ungrateful and weren't sure if they wanted to read more of her books. Whereupon her husband started a comment battle on the worst of the reviews and called someone "psycho" and it pretty much went down hill from there. Now the review is peppered with deleted comments (by Amazon and the author) and the fall out is still going on Facebook.

This is certainly not the most egregious of author melt-downs (Alice Hoffman had a pretty bad one), but it raises the question: are reviews really worth it? I don't know the answer to that question. But I do know that the vast majority of the world's population probably doesn't take criticism well, and then a good portion of that majority would be tempted to defend themselves. Free speech is a great thing, some would say the cornerstone of America, but is it too much? To some extent, yes. It assumes that people are inherently good. But in reality, people go too far; as I have had said on this blog and probably on my Facebook, people should be respectful, even when they dislike something. But unfortunately, the Internet has provided a medium for even the most passive aggressive, deeply angry person to take our their frustrations, whether the target deserves it or not.

I think where Ms. Giffin erred was in stirring up the Facebook world by mentioning what her husband had done. I think this shows a grave lack of unprofessionalism or perhaps a misplaced trust in her fans and followers. Had she not said anything, the furor probably would have died down. It will be a hard lesson learned, I'm sure. But just looking down the long line of posts from Ms. Giffin, it seems like she is a decent person. I noticed that she was giving away copies of her latest novels to deserving people as a part of a pay it forward project. I hope that her seemingly good nature will eventually repair the damage. In the end, it seems like this incident was a series of unfortunate judgment calls. We're all human, unfortunately.

So what do you think? Are reviews really worth it? Should Amazon and Goodreads take better care to not allow slanderous or overly aggressive reviews be posted? Or should be just resign ourselves to the fact that mean people are an unfortunate symptom of our culture?


After further research, it appears that there is a little more to the story. I believe the original, offending review wasn't very offensive at all. Sadly, I think this was a situation of one person confessing their disappointment in the new novel and then being hacked to bits as a result. Not cool. And then another reviewer was raked over the coals because she downgraded her original review based on the hullabaloo. I don't think I would have done that, but the poor girl apparently ended up receiving nasty phone calls and e-mails tell her to go off herself. Really folks? Is there not a shred of maturity left? As of yet, there has been no official apology from Ms. Giffin--just a lot of "can we change the subject please?" I think she may benefit from a Facebook vacation at this point because she's dug a pretty deep hole for herself. And if Ms. Giffin cannot handle one rather tepid review I think about poor E.L. James and the amount of criticism she has received for "50 Shades of Grey" and yet not a peep out of her. Of course, she's laughing her way to the bank at night, so I imagine that fact may provide some comfort.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Rebel Heart" is Back!

Good morning, folks!

I'm pleased to announce that "Rebel Heart" is back up for sale on Amazon. I did decide to do KDP Select only this time around, so it will be 90 days before I can get it published to other platforms. To celebrate the re-release, "Rebel Heart" will be available for FREE this Friday, August 24th and Saturday, August 25th. So mark your calendars for those dates or if you prefer, help a starving novelist out and go ahead and purchase the book. OK, so I may not be starving thanks to the day job, but you get the picture.

I did get my very first review from the Romantic Historical Fiction Blog last week. Four out of five stars, so very exciting! I'm currently getting the novel out to other reviewers so I will post about those as they come in. And don't forget, if you read "Rebel Heart" please take the time to review it on Amazon or on Goodreads. It's very important for those of us who self-publish. And remember, if you have criticism, please be constructive and respectful about it. Perhaps it's just me, but any author, skilled or no, takes the time to put themselves out there, and at the very least, their time and effort should be recognized even if their execution is off. **steps off soap box**

How about you guys? Are you preparing to publish anything or are you just trying to get through these dog days of summer?

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Little of Bit of Light Reading for a Monday Morning

I don't have any earth shattering updates or anything, so I thought to share the "100 Novels Everyone Must Read" article that recently appeared in The Telegraph. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have only read 8 (OK...8 1/2) of the listed 100 books. I obviously have no head for the classics. Or rather I think my reading interests lie solely in historical fiction, so if a book doesn't fall into that category, then it's just out of luck.

Original cover page for "Anna Karenina"
So what about you? How many have you read? What do you think keeps you from reading these supposed classics?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Rebel Heart" and Other Updates

Just a quick update for all of you, my very lovely readers. I have taken "Rebel Heart" off sale temporarily. Several typos were brought to my attention and so I wanted to correct those before offering the novel for sale again. I hope to have it back up this week, but this time, I am using Kindle Select. So for the first three months, it will only be available to Kindle users. Once that time period is up, I will be publishing to Barnes and Noble for all of you Nook users, and possibly Smashwords again. Thanks for your patience with me. I want to have the best product to offer you all.

In other news, I have been accepted as a reviewer for the Historical Novel Society. I believe my first review will be up in November. I'm super excited about this opportunity. I've also learned that their 2013 conference will be in St. Petersburg, Florida, so I'm hoping to attend next June. I'm also hoping to attend the Romance Writers of America conference next year since it is in Atlanta--which is an easy three hour drive for me.

So what about you all? Any news or updates you would like to share? Are you planning on attending any conferences this year or next?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Are We Going Too Far for the Market?

Here's some food for thought. I was trawling around on the Internet and stumbled upon an article in the Independent Mail discussing an upcoming series of re-worked classics. The "re-working" consists of the insertion (mind the pun) of erotic scenes into such beloved stories as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre.

My first reaction to reading this was "Oh no they didn't."

I don't want to debase anyone's reading preferences, but seriously? I know re-workings are all the rage right now. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, etc can all be found on today's bookshelves. I've never read either, nor the other multitude of paranormal tales interlaced with classic stories.

Have we come so far as a society that we must re-write Pride and Prejudice to include erotic sex? Therein lies the issue: the point of these novels was the simmering sexual tension beneath everything. What's more, the company behind these re-workings as a true devotee of both Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, I would not even think to degrade their works by adding these scenes. It's just wrong.

The article cites the enormous success of Fifty Shades of Gray as reason for these re-workings. I haven't read Fifty nor do I intend to. I did however read an absolutely laugh out loud (which is rather funny since I've lost my laughing is actually a long high pitched wheeze) review on GoodReads. If you are easily offended by language, don't click over. I generally feel like reviewers should be respectful in their reviews, even if they are negative, but I'm making an exception this time. Please forgive.

Ok, so I digressed off point. Fifty of Shades of Gray was originally a fan-fic. And so to use that as a measure of whether or not to make classic novels erotic is just a bad judgment call. It's one thing to have some fan fiction fun for your own amusement and quite another to give it a world wide audience (i.e. a publishing contract, movie, etc). Sure, I used to write Jane Austen fan fiction when I was in high school, but I never would have had the audacity to  change the names and publish it. Of course, I've never been a huge proponent of re-writes or add-ons. I can kind of see finishing unfinished classics, but the multitude of authors cashing in on making Jane Austen a super sleuth, continuing on where one book left off, or filling out other secondary characters from classic works has never really appealed to me. It's nearly impossible re-capture the same panache and style as the original author. And personally, some things are better left to one's imagination.

So how far is too far? Should we relegate re-workings of any author's work to the internet world of fan fiction or should a larger platform be made available?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Travel as Inspiration

Nothing gets the writing juices flowing better than a good trip abroad. Perhaps that is why I like to travel so much. I have a tendancy to favor European climes however, which unfortunately makes it difficult to do on a regular basis. I usually take an international trip every three to five years and in keeping with that schedule, I am eagerly planning a trip to England and Ireland next spring. Originally, the hubby and I had planned on going last month for my aunt's wedding, but the finances didn't pan out. Then we had hoped to go this fall, but Hubby is going back to school to finish his degree. So NOW we're looking at the end of March/beginning of April as to coincide with his spring break.

I've already laid out a list of potential site seeing trips while we visit (I can sense Hubby rolling his eyes), with an eye for stimulating my writing mojo. You see I hope to have Rebellion in the can and out on submission, so I should be in line for something new and extraordinary. I figure the following places may help:
Blenheim Palace has long been on my list of places to visit. I know, I know... I ought to be ashamed given that I majored in historic preservation (read: architectural history) in college. Most notably associated with the 1st Duke and Duchess of Marlborough (John and Sarah Churchill), Consuelo Vanderbilt Churchill, and Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is sure to get my imagination firing on all 4 (or 6) cylinders. I'm looking for unique personages in little done time periods for my next venture so maybe something Georgian will spring up as a result of this foray.

Ah, Castle Howard. Another to-be-not-missed English landmark. I'm really hoping that we will be able to make the trip north to Yorkshire. I have seen this place from a distance (I think...I've seen so many great English houses they all run together after a while) but I've never taken the tour. It's another architectural wonder and I'm looking forward to seeing it. Of course, it has appeared in dozens of movies including my favorite The Buccaneers, a late 90s BBC adaptation of the Edith Wharton novel. While we're in the area, we also hope to visit Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

File:Castletown House - - 1008007.jpgWe're also hoping to make it over to Ireland which will be fitting since we will be within a few weeks of our 5th wedding anniversary and we honeymooned there. I had originally planned on doing some heavy research for Rebellion but since I am going to play armchair historian for that one, we will be bumming around Dublin and making a few excursions out of the city. Now I am keen to visit Castletown House, not only because it was the model for Lord Edmund's palatial Irish estate, but because it is connected with the Connolly family. If you are a student of history, you will know that Thomas Connolly was married to Lady Louisa Lennox, one of the famous Lennox sisters, whose great-grandfather was none other than King Charles II. Plus it's just an all around cool house. If money allows (e.g. sell Rebel Heart sell!), I really, really, REALLY want to stay at the Carton House which is the former home of the Duke of Leinster, who was married to Lady Emily Lennox, Lady Louisa's elder sister, and mother to Lord Edward Fitzgerald (the inspiration for James in Rebellion).

So what about you? Where do you go to stimulate your writing juices? Do you have any big trips planned for the upcoming months?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Whereupon I Dithered...and Then Changed My Mind

"Indecision may or may not be my problem."
Jimmy Buffet

So I have yet another announcement to make.

I just couldn't do it.

"Doing" it constitutes changing the entire MS of "Rebel Heart" into 1st person. I could have done. I started to, but in the end, it just didn't feel right. I passed the first few chapters onto one of my writing partners and after being told that she didn't mind the POV change, I started to waffle a bit. Then I went back to AbsoluteWrite and polled some more folks--the consensus was overwhelmingly "do what you think is best."

So my best is taking a stand (so to speak) and keeping the 1st and 3rd person layout of "Rebel Heart." Yes, this is an unusual style, but let's face it, I've never been a run-of-the-mill type of girl. And to highlight two very pertinent comments made on the forums--I'm self-publishing because I don't fit into the predetermined molds and I can't cater to everyone. At the end of the day, I have what I think is a great story with compelling characters. It's been vetted a bazillion times (OK, not that many...) by different beta readers and writing partners (who are, for the record, wholly unrelated to me by blood or friendship).

So by many standards, I do believe I am ready to go. And with that mind, I hope to have "Rebel Heart" available for sale by next Friday, July 13th. It's either going to be an auspicious or infamous day to publish! I have gone ahead and posted the first chapter as a freebie. It has it's own page up top, so check it out if you have a chance.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank all of you, my humble and loyal readers, for bearing with me during my periodic regular mood fluctuations, moments of temporary insanity, and general wishy-washiness. I keep writing because of the feedback I get from you guys (and my betas/writing partners), so it is no small thing to me when you take the time to comment. Keep them coming and hold on tight--things are about to get interesting!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The POV Question

My final edits of "Rebel Heart" are coming along quite well. I spent most of last week and this past weekend going through line-by-line and looking for accidental POV shifts, repeated words, useless voice tags, etc and I believe that the manuscript is much tighter as a result. I've got roughly 100 pages left before I'm done and then the major work will commence.

After polling you guys and the forums at AND AbsoluteWrite, I have decided to stick to one POV instead of having the 1st and 3rd shifts. To be honest, it's still a hung jury. Many said, "Do want you think is best!" while others said, "You just don't use 1st and 3rd in the same story." To add to it all, very few people seemed to understand what how things really were. Some thought that I had multiple POVS, all written in 1st. It occured to me that if people couldn't even wrap their heads around the way that I describe the writing style, then it might not bode well for the actual readers. The way I have written the manuscript makes plenty of sense to me and I think the shifts are not at all confusing. I was inclined to take the gamble and leave the manuscript as is, but let's face it, I don't have the courage it takes to be a rebel. I think so much of your success as a self-publishing author comes from reviews and if I get too many people saying that they think the novel is written weird, then I'm up the creek without a paddle.

So I really stressed over the weekend or rather yesterday, thinking that I would change everything to 3rd person so that I could keep POVS for Alex and Richard Ashby. But as I tried to re-write Julienne's part in 3rd person, I realized that it just wasn't working. Sure there were sections that sounded better in 3rd, but overwhelmingly, the result of a few edited pages was just "off." I didn't like it at all. So I made the excrutiating decision to delete the forays into the minds of Richard and Alex, and just stick with Julienne's 1st person view. It makes more sense to be honest, especially since the majority of the novel is already written this way.

Soon I will be tackling how I can convey the things about Alex and Richard that will be left out as a result of having their POVs deleted. Richard is turning out all right (I started working on him first) although I was very concerned that without a direct line into his head, the reader wouldn't be able to see his dissent into madness. Now Alex is going to be difficult because he has a lot of backstory, not to mention the fact that he is a spy. So conveying that through Julienne's eyes is going to be difficult. But I like a challenge and it certainly has stirred up my creative juices (thank God!), so even though I spent most of yesterday banging my head against the wall, I'm kind of happy to be feeling something in regards to my writing.

So how about you guys? Have you had to make gut wrenching decisions when it comes to your writing?

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Book Movie Connection

It's Friday and I'm in a cracking good mood, so I thought I would have a little fun on the blog today.

So... Do you ever think about what your book characters would look like if it was dramatized? Maybe I have too much time on my hands, but I think a lot about who would play who on the big screen. Plus it's easier to describe my characters to people by saying, "If Julienne was a real person, she would be this actress..." So if I was casting "Rebel Heart," I would so be demanding that these actors play some of the roles!

Let's start with Alex because let's face it, I've spent my fair share of time visualizing what he looks like. For the longest time, I thought he would look like a love child of Daniel Craig and Paul Bettany.
But I was recently having a conversation with one of my co-workers about hot British actors (the only type, right?) and one of my perennial (but often forgotten) favorites came up.

Rupert Penry-Jones. Oh yes, I do believe this is Alex. And he's perfect, right? Period drama actor already, blondish hair, etc. This was taken from the most recent version of "Persuasion". I think he really gave Ciaran Hinds a run for his money.
And now for Julienne... For whatever reason, I've never thought of any actress parallels for her. So I'm going to have to dig deep for this one. I love Michelle Dockery (from Downton Abbey) and she can play prickly to the tee. But she also has that rare gift of playing vulnerable. And she can ride a horse! Ha! But I'm not sure if she can do spy--I have a sneaking suspicion she can. I also like the look of Vanessa Kirby from the newest adaptation of "Great Expectations." She's got Julienne's lighter color eyes.

From "Enchanted Serenity of Period Films" blog, which quite awesome
if you're a period films geek like me!

But I also think I should give a nod to Julienne's nationality and pick an American as well. So who could handle her... My hubby would say "Emma Stone! Emma Stone!" But I think she lacks sufficient gravity. Leighton Meester has a nice look to her...she would look good in a hoop skirt. I love her as Blair Waldrof (closet "Gossip Girl" watcher here) but I don't know if she has the sufficient acting chops to pull off a period drama. Of course, I think she really limits herself with the roles she plays.

Lastly, there's poor Richard Ashby. You won't be able to help feeling sorry for him when you read the novel. Poor BSC British aristocrat that he is. Toby Stephens would rock. And oh! how I love him. I think he may be a *bit* too old (don't worry Toby...I have a thing for older guys!) but I suppose it would depend on how he is styled. He is absolutely, hands-down my favorite Rochester from the myriad of "Jane Eyre" adaptations. He does angry so well. He smoulders pretty well but not as well as Matthew MacFadyen. He definitely can act the heck out of a period drama. He does moody and contained well and Richard is definitely moody and contained.
Toby Stephens as Rochester. From Charlotte Rubarb's Tumbler.
So that's all for actors. Next time I will write about some of the places that inspired me while writing "Rebel Heart."

And what about you all? Do you ever have fun with casting your novels?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Taking the Plunge...

Well folks, I have a pretty big announcement to make. If you follow me on Facebook you probably already know, but if not... I've decided to self-publish "Rebel Heart." I'm still working on some last minute edits including an epic war with myself on whether or not to make the whole thing 3rd person (instead of having Julienne's part in 1st and Alex's part in 3rd). What do you guys think? If it's clearly delineated, would you be miffed by the shifting tenses?

As you can see, I went ahead and designed a book cover. After two days of fiddling fighting with Gimp, I finally got this result via Mircrosoft Powerpoint of all things! I'm pretty pleased it, to be honest! I'm hoping to have everything edited and up for sale by July, so stay tuned for more updates. I will of course document the ins and outs of this process as I go along. I'm sure it's going to be a wild ride!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Getting Started...and Finishing

In between huffing and puffing during my run this evening, I got to thinking about writers...specifically how I got my start. I started writing when I was twelve. I used to think I was special, but via the power of the internet, I've discovered a lot of writers who also started early in life. Well boo. I think I preferred feeling special!

Andrew Andrews, I do adore you!
Writing was my happy place growing up. It was where I could retreat after a bad day at school. I was perenially picked on in those days because I was a little plump. All I can say is that the concept of bullying has progressed in the years since I left public school. Anyhoo... I was much happier in the Antebellum period with my characters. My first novel was entitled "Secrets in Savannah" and featured William Bradford (named after my middle school crush, of course) who was actually the "Savannah Shadow" who was modelled after "The Scarlet Pimpernel."

Except instead being set during the French Revolution, "Secrets" was set in Antebellum Savannah. And instead of secreting aristocrats out of Paris, my hero conducted slaves through the Underground Railroad. And naturally, there was the independent, willful heroine Drusilla Jessica who somehow married William via a marriage of convenience and was certain he was the devil because he owned slaves in the first place (but he was secretly paying them on the sly). Wow--I had an imagination! But now that I think of it, this was a pretty good idea. Maybe I should revisit it someday!

I still remember the day that my crush found out about my dark secret (i.e. that my hero was modelled on him). I was terrified...I was sure my life was over. But lo and behold, he was flattered and somehow I became a temporary celebrity amongst my classmates. I should have charged money for all the folks who wanted me to name characters after them!

I sometimes wish I could go back to the days when writing was my hiding place. It's more of a chore these days--as I have mentioned it's turned into a "got to finish this so I can maybe hopefully pursue publication." I wish I could go back to the days when it was easy...when I was blind to the idea of ever seeing publication. I know I've got to find my mojo again; to just ignore what happens once I finish that last word.

So how about you? When did you start writing and what are your obstacles to finishing your own works?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Taking Time Out

How's it going?

Are you guys being busy writing beavers? I have been doing a little writing the last few weeks. I happily completed roughly twenty pages on "Rebellion" so yay! me.

I have been reading a lot lately, which has been a nice change of pace. It seemed like a year ago when I was deep into editing "Rebel Heart", I could barely read a book. There are definitely some drawbacks to being an author...especially one who is still learning some of the basics. Even though I've been at this since I was a young teenager, I've had to back track and take care of some of the "no-nos" of writing. But as I was learning, I was also applying to other author's novels. Oh geez... I couldn't get through a full book without wanting to throw it against the wall because they were breaking all the rules or the premise was not compelling. It was very strange to not read--I've been a voracious reader all my life. There's nothing better in life than racing through my to-do list just so I can sit down keep reading through a compelling piece of fiction. I've read five books in the last two months, so it looks like I've gotten my reading mo-jo back.

I've still got a "to be read" pile a mile long (friend me on Good Reads if you're there!) but I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Here's what I'm reading (and hoping to read) right now:

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor

This is a great book. Or rather I devoured it in college and I'm hoping that it will have the same effect on me now. Especially since it takes place during the Restoration--I call it research! It's about Amber St. Clare...a 17th century Scarlett O'Hara. She's a survivor, that's for sure! She wants her man and she'll stop at nothing to get him.

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

I've been wanting to read this since it came out in April. My local library finally got their copy and I've done my time on the hold list. It's about a personal maid to Lady Duff-Gordan who survives the Titanic. As you may or may not know, Lady Duff-Gordan designed ladies' lingerie (scandal!) and so I'm assuming the maid is somehow involved with that or becomes a dressmaker. I'm definitely looking forward to reading.

"The Gilded Lily" by Deborah Swift
Another Restoration era novel that I'm looking to run down. I think I might have to splurge and get it off of Amazon as my library doesn't have it. Boo! It's about two sisters who steal away to London and the ensuing struggle (because we all know what happens to girls when they go to London!)
So are you guys reading anything interesting or are you all being good and sticking to your writing?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Beauties of the Stuart Era, Part Deux

Ok, I'm wrapping up the week not only with the final post on my series of very cool portraits of long dead folks, but also with a trip to Charleston for some much needed relaxation.

File:Queen Mary II.jpgSir Godfrey Kneller painted the "Hampton Court Beauties" as a commsion for Queen Mary II. For those of you who don't know the ins and outs of the British monarchy, Mary came to the throne jointly, with her husband William of Orange, as a compromise of sorts. For those of you stateside, the College of William and Mary was named after these two ruling monarchs.

Mary's father was James II (the younger brother of Charles II), a committed Catholic and well the English weren't so fond of having a Papist for a monarch. James was overthrown following the birth of a son (and heir, technically) in what was termed the "Glorious Revolution" although it was fairly bloodless. Mary's husband William was the son of James's sister (yes, that made them first cousins), so it seemed fair that both he and Mary would rule together. They apparently had a fairly good marriage, no children unfortunately, and when Mary died of small pox at the age of 32, William supposedly said that he was now "the miserablest creature on earth." He continued to rule for another ten years before succombing to pneumonia.

Mary Stuart was quite the beauty in my opinion. I've always fancied her portraits. I suppose it makes sense that she would commission the portraits of some of the most beautiful women in her court, although one of her ladies of the bedchamber cautioned her not to do it. There are eight portraits altogether.

  File:Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St Albans.jpg
Lady Diana de Vere started out life as the daughter of the 20th Earl of Oxford. She married Charles Beauclerk, the 1st Duke of St Albans. Charles was the illegitimate son of Charles II and his mistress by Nell Gywn. He was quite the looker! They had twelve children together and Lady Diana eventually became a lady of the bedchamber to George II's queen consort, Caroline of Ansbach.

Lady Margaret Cecil was first married to Lord Stawell and the later to Richard Jones, the 1st (and last) Earl of Ranelagh.

Carey Fraser started out in Charles II's court, the daughter of one of the king's physicians. She eventually married General Charles Mordaunt, the 3rd Earl of Peterborough.

Portrait of Isabella, Duchess of Grafton (c. 1688-1723) and her son Charles Fitzroy, later 2nd Duke of Grafton (1683-1757), full-length, a landscape beyond        Isabella Fitzroy (née Bennet), Duchess of Grafton, by Pieter Schenck, after  Sir Godfrey Kneller, Bt, circa 1685 - NPG  - © National Portrait Gallery, London
Lady Isabella Bennet was the daughter of an earl and married the Duke of Grafton, who was the illegitimate son of Charles II. How do you like that? This portrait was done by Kneller, but is not apart of the original Hampton Court Beauties series since the duchess's son is pictured as well. The engraving however was done after the original Kneller portrait, so you can get an idea of what it looked like. She was quite attractive, in my opinion!

Francis Whitmore was the daughter of Frances Brooke...who was one of the sitters for Lely's "Windsor Beauties" series. Frances married Sir Richard Middleton and became Lady Middleton.

Mary Bentinck, Countess of Essex
Lady Mary was the daughter of the 1st Earl of Portland and eventually became the wife of the 2nd Earl of Essex and later the Rgt. Honorable Conyers Darcy.

Lady Mary Compton married Charles Sackville, the 6th Earl of Dorset. Sadly she died at the young age of 22....but not before having two children, of course!

And last but not least is Mary Scrope. She was known as the most beautiful woman at court (I don't see it...) and she married John Pitt.

Happy weekend to you all. Do you have any writing related activities planned? Or are you all just, as I say, chillaxin'?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Beauties of the Stuart Era

Like I promised on Monday, I am back with a post regarding Sir Peter Lely's series of painting entitled the "Windsor Beauties" as well as Godfrey Kneller's "Hampton Court Beauties."

Some of these paintings are on display at Hampton Court Palace in England as I write--they are a part of an exhibition called "The Wild, the Beautiful, and the Damned". I really hope that my hubby and I will be able to make it over to see it before it comes off exhibition in September.

Sir Peter Lely's series was commissioned by Anne Hyde, the wife of the future James II, also known as the younger brother of Charles II. I find it interesting that Anne was the money and brains behind this project since she herself was not the most attractive woman at court.

Anne Hyde: it's the eyebrows and the weird curly hairs on her forehead

Ten of the sitters are attributed to Anne's original commission. The Countess of Orsory and Madame Henrietta (Charles II's little sister) were later additions to the pool, apparently.

Barbara Villier Palmer, Countess Castlemaine and Duchess of Cleveland

The notorious Barbara Palmer was Charles II's mistress for many, many years, though that is not to say that they remained faithful to each other. Five of her six children were claimed by Charles. He eventually palmed her off by making her a duchess and granting a couple of estates to her. Oh and titles for the kids.
Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond

Frances Stuart also known as "La Belle Stuart." As mentioned in previous posts, Frances refused to
become Charles II's mistress. Instead she eloped with her cousin Charles Stuart, the Duke of Richmond. Confusing right? The King was very displeased and the couple was not allowed back at court for some time. She had a happy marriage by all accounts but unfortunately became a widow several years later when her husband drowned while on a diplomatic mission to Holland.

Jane Needham Middleton
Not a lot is known about Jane. She married Charles Middleton in 1660 and was connected to both the 1st Earl of Rocester and the 1st Duke of Montagu. So I guess you could say that she "got around" although that was more of the rule than the exception for this time period. Interestingly enough, she was known for emanating a peculiar, sour smell. Oh 17th century hygiene!
Elizabeth Wriothesley Percy
Elizabeth was the 11th Countess of Northcumberland and chantelaine of Syon House. Her husband was so jealous that he reportedly took her abroad and dumped her in France to keep her from the wiles of Charles II. Interestingly enough, after her first husband's death, she married Ralph Montagu, the 1st Duke of Montagu. I wonder what Jane Middleton thought about that?

Some of the other beauties were:

Mary Bagot, Countess of Falmouth and then
Countess of Dorset (lucky her!)
Anne Digby Spencer, Countess of Sunderland

The Countess was no friend to the future Queen Anne. The then Princess dubbed the lady the "greatest jade that ever was". Ouch.
Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham
Lady Denham was the mistress of James, Duke of York at one point. Supposedly her husband had her poisoned but a later autopsy revealed this was not the case.

Frances Brooke, Lady Whitmore

Lady Whitmore was the sister of Margaret Brooke, Lady Denham. She learned a lesson from her unfortunate sister, choosing to rusticate in the country instead of involving herself in court intrigues.

Elizabeth Hamilton, Comtesse de Grammont

The Comtesse was known as "La Belle Hamilton" before Frances Stuart became "La Belle Stuart".

Henrietta Boyle Hyde, 1st Countess of Rochester

That's everyone for now. I think I will delay the post on Kneller's "Hampton Court Beauties" until later this week, so keep an eye out for that.