Monday, October 20, 2014

Fun Times with Historical Romance

I've just joined a new group, the Historical Romance Network.  They've got some fun things planned for fans of historical romance, including something to celebrate* the end of Daylight Savings Time.  Check it out and join in!  Look for my "selfie" here or on Twitter.

And while you're visiting the Historical Romance Network website, check out the great video illustrating the variety in historical romance.

 I actually hate the end of Daylight Savings Time, so please join in.  I need all the fun I can get at this time of year! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Own Writing Retreat -- Fantasy vs. Reality

So this is the last (half) day of My Own Writing Retreat -- two weeks alone to work on my book.  This is the sort of opportunity I fantasized about when I had two little small children and was beginning my career as a published author.  If only I had time by myself, I would think, and nobody else's schedule to consider, how much I could write! 

Well, guess what?  It did not work out that way.  Yes, I had plenty of time to write, so I did make some major progress, although not a lot of new pages.  I discovered some serious flaws with what I'd already written, leading to lots of time rethinking and revising the foundation chapters (1-3).  I also realized I had to spend more time planning the rest of the book, and that was done. 

As I'd expected, it was easier to work without having to think about anybody else's schedule, so I could work, exercise, and eat when it suited me.   

But it was also very lonely.  What made that worse, I think, was not having a car.  I couldn't even drive into town and chat with a sales clerk.  It was like I'd been sent to camp for two weeks -- all by myself.

And then there was the day I realized I really needed eye drops and discovered the ones I had were past their best-before date.  With no car, what's a gal to do?   Fortunately, it was a lovely sunny day, so I walked into town, a hike of nearly nine miles.  Getting there wasn't too bad, but I was concerned I would do serious injury to my knee if I walked home, so I bought a helmet and a bike and rode home.  Mission accomplished, but not cheaply.  I should have rented a car for the two weeks.  However, that means I now have a bike, and I did go for some more rides, just not nearly as long. 

Also on the upside - I've lost a few pounds.  I don't eat as much when I'm alone and there was all that bike riding and walking.

Would I do it again?  Not for two weeks and not without a car. 

(What book am I working on?  Gerrard's story, the sequel to BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT out in Dec.)

Monday, October 06, 2014

First Chapters - Beginning a Sequel

I find first chapters come in two sorts -- either they come quickly and easily, or...not.  I often have the most trouble with first chapters when the book is a sequel.  The pacing can be nightmare as I struggle to introduce the characters and get the story going.

Why's that?  Don't I already know the characters, or at least one of the main characters?  Surely that has to make it easier.

Well, it means I know something about what makes at least the hero or heroine tick.

Unfortunately,  that also means I know too much.  There's a whole backstory from the previous book(s) and I'm as tempted as the next person to get all that history in. But if I do include it, well, let's be frank.  It can be as boring as listening to the most boring travelogue. Yet I do need some of that history.  This story and the characters aren't coming out of nowhere. 

So the challenge becomes, how much do I put in about what happened in the previous book(s) before it gets unnecessary and worst of all, boring?

I wish there was a formula, or some hard and fast "rule," but there isn't.  I have to go purely on instinct, by what "feels right."  One things for sure, though -- I want the story to move, to be exciting and engaging.  If I'm getting bored, I can be darn sure the reader will be.

It's hard cutting whole paragraphs and scenes.  It never gets any easier.  But if it's cut or bore the reader, well, out it goes.  With sequels, I usually have to cut more out of the first drafts and revise and rewrite and revise again until I've achieved a balance between material relating what happened in the previous book(s) and the action of the new story.

It's not easy, but hey!  What part of writing a book is?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Preparing for my Writing Retreat

I've got the opportunity to have a personal writing retreat.  For nearly two weeks, I'm not going to have to think about anybody else's schedule but mine -- well, and the cats, such as it is.

It won't be like a NaNoWriMo experience, because I've already started the book.  In fact, I've written eight chapters.  Then I went on holiday.  When I returned, I started revising the first chapter.  Then came a flurry of social activities, including a few at my house.  There was cooking, cleaning and baking to do, which meant another long break.  So I'm not "starting from scratch."  I'm getting back to a book already in progress.

Today and Saturday, I'm getting ready - going over my synopsis and notes, reminding myself about the characters and their story.  I'm also getting a few chores done, so I don't have much on my plate besides writing, feeding myself and the cats, and going for walks, because this retreat isn't just about writing.  It's also about getting back to regular exercise. 

Here's the schedule I hope to maintain during my retreat:

1.  Start the day with a hearty breakfast (hot cereal and fruit), feed the cats, and watch Canada AM until after Things I learned on the Internet Today (that's about 8 am).

2.   Begin working on the book.  Note I am NOT going to check my email or Twitter first.

3.  Work until I feel it's time for a break.  That could mean I work for an hour, or I could work for more.  When I take a break, I'll check email and Twitter,  have a tea, maybe do a bit of housework. 

4.  Back to work until I'm ready for another break and lunch.  I'm not setting a time limit or a page count, in part because at least in the beginning, I'll be revising.  It would be nice if I could get to the end of Chapter 8 by the end of the first week, but I'm not even setting that as a goal.  It's more important to feel I have a solid base before continuing.

5.  Lunch and a long break.  Since I've only myself and the cats to feed,  I can set my own times for meals.

I'm also having a Call the Midwife binge, so I'm going to watch an episode while I have lunch, then go for a walk and check email, etc.   This break will be at least two hours, and possibly three.
6.  Work a bit more, prepare for the next day.  At each break, I'll likely make notes, but I definitely will before I stop for dinner, so I can review the next morning before I start working again.

7.  Make dinner.  I'm going to make things that will also give me left-overs for the next day's dinner.  I also plan to do a bit of baking -- cornbread and pumpkin bread, not cookies. 

8.  After dinner, I may work if I feel like it, or take the evening off for more Call the Midwife and whatever shows on TV that appeal, like Gotham.  Then it's early to bed, and early to rise.

By the end of my retreat, I hope to have revised what I've already written and gotten a good start on the rest of the book.  Again, no specific page or word count -- I just want to get back into the book after a long break, build a really good foundation and (hopefully) move beyond. 

Here are my two "writing buddies." This is how they'll be spending their days while I'm working.   

Thursday, September 25, 2014

I've sold two more books!

Whoo hoo!  I've sold two more books to Harlequin Historical!  One is a sequel to BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT, coming this December.  That means I've got a medieval trilogy, starting with CASTLE OF THE WOLF, then BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT, and now a third story, about the twin brother of the hero of BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT.  I don't have a title or a release date yet, in no small part because I'm still in the process of writing the book. 

The second book is a Regency romance.  I've had the idea for that one kicking around for awhile, and it's always exciting to get to work on a book that's been brewing. No title or release date for that one yet, either.

Why change time periods?  I think it helps my creativity to have to switch it up every now and again.

I'll announce the title and release dates as they become available here, on my website and by Twitter, too.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Researching the Medieval Time Period

I've been asked more than once about how much research I do for my books.   It's hard to quantify something like that, especially after you've been writing about a time period for over 20 years.  

Generally, though, I do as much as I feel necessary to "put the reader there," without letting the research overwhelm the characters and the action. 

In the name of "putting the reader there,"  I've amassed several books about medieval times.  Here are ones I that I've found particularly useful.  (I've also written books set in other time periods.  Here's a link to lists of books for those time periods.)

LOST COUNTRY LIFE by Dorothy Hartley (absolutely one of the best for me -- it's about how folks actually did things, organized by months of the year) 

LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL CASTLE by Joseph and Frances Gies 

LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL CITY by Joseph and Frances Gies 

LIFE IN A MEDIEVAL VILLAGE by Joseph and Frances Gies 

MARRIAGE AND THE FAMILY IN THE MIDDLE AGES by Frances and Joseph Gies (yes, changed the order of the names on this one -- wonder why? And yes, apparently I buy any book they write -- because they're good!) 

CASTLE by David Macaulay 

LIFE IN THE CASTLE IN MEDIEVAL ENGLAND by John Burke (this one is past my usual setting, but interesting nonetheless) 


A MEDIEVAL BOOK OF SEASONS by Marie Collins and Virginia Davis 

THE ENGLISH: A SOCIAL HISTORY, 1066-1945 by Christopher Hibbert 

MISTRESS, MAIDS AND MEN: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century by Margaret Wade Labarge 

A SMALL SOUND OF THE TRUMPET: Women in Medieval Life by Margaret Wade Labarget 

FOOD & COOKING IN MEDIEVAL BRITAIN: History and Recipes by Maggie Black 

A MEDIEVAL HOME COMPANION: Housekeeping in the Fourteenth Century, translated and edited by Tania Bayard 

THE OXFORD HISTORY OF BRITAIN: THE MIDDLE AGES by John Gillingham and Ralph A. Griffiths 

MEDIEVAL WOMEN: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500 by Henrietta Leyser 

ENGLISH WEAPONS AND WARFARE 449 - 1660 by A.V.B. Norman and Don Pottinger 

THE COUNTRYSIDE OF MEDIEVAL ENGLAND, edited by Grenville Astill and Annie Grant 

WOMEN IN ENGLAND 1500 - 1760: A Social History by Anne Laurence 

MEDIEVAL PANORAMA: The English Scene from Conquest to Reformation by G.G. Coulton (this was published in 1938 and was, I believe, a school textbook. It's interesting to see how the perceptions on some aspects of English history have changed over time.) 

THE MEDIEVAL VILLAGE by G.G. Coulton (Like the previous, somewhat outdated, but still useful) 



THE KNIGHT IN HISTORY by Frances Gies (hey, what happened? Has Joseph died? I'm going to have to look this up now!) 

THE FOURTH ESTATE: A History of Women in the Middle Ages by Shulamith Shahar 

GROWING UP IN MEDIEVAL LONDON: The Experience of Childhood in History by Barbara A. Hanawalt (I haven't actually used this one much, but if I ever decide to write another medieval YA....) 


A HISTORY OF PRIVATE LIFE: Revelations on the Medieval World, edited by Georges Duby, translated by Arthur Goldhammer (this one has a lot about the society of countries other than England, and also tends to be too late for my time period, but fascinating nonetheless) 

CASTLES AND CASTLE TOWNS OF GREAT BRITAIN by David Mountfield (one of those books I got from the sale table and never regretted -- it has blueprints, for one thing!) 


CHRONICLES OF THE AGE OF CHIVALRY -- The Plantagenet dynasty from 1216-1377: Henry III and the three Edwards, the era of the Black Print and the Black Death ("eye witness" testimony), Elizabeth Hallam, General Editor 

ENGLISH CASTLES by Richard Humble 

THE HOUND AND THE HAWK: The Art of Medieval Hunting by John Cummins (I got this at The Cloisters in NY -- everything you ever wanted to know about hunting in medieval times.) 

PEOPLE OF THE PAST: THE NORMANS by Patrick Rooke (a kid's book - you never know where you might find some interesting tidbit left out of more "serious" histories) 

SAXON AND NORMAN LONDON by John Clark from the Museum of London 




THE HOUSEHOLD KNIGHTS OF KING JOHN by S.D. Church (This one was really fascinating -- knights were also what we'd call civil servants.) 


A MEDIEVAL FLOWER GARDEN by Anonymous, Pavilion Books 


Monday, September 15, 2014

Bride for a Knight Cover and Excerpt!

I've just received the cover for my next book, BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT.  Here it is, with back cover copy.  Isn't it lovely?
 The Promise of the Bedchamber...

After glimpsing a softer side to the stern Sir Roland of Dunborough, Mavis of DeLac is filled with hope for their arranged marriage.  So when the wedding night explodes with an exquisite passion, she dares to dream that their newfound bliss will last forever.

But the following morning, convinced he could never make this beautiful woman truly happy, Roland comes cold and aloof once again.  And as the newlyweds journey across England to protect Roland's birthright, it's up to Mavis to prove him wrong -- and unlock the compassion this noble has buried deep inside.

BRIDE FOR A KNIGHT will be out in print December 16, 2014 and available on Kindle on January 1, 2015.  It will also be available in other digital editions. You can pre-order now from Amazon.

It's a sequel to CASTLE OF THE WOLF,  but I always write each book to "stand alone."