Sunday, November 23, 2014

History of the Doughnut Hole

I know, it's an odd topic, but I just had to find out. You see, while I was researching my Pony Express story, I came across a little side story. Supposedly, the Pony Express riders were romantic heroes to the young ladies in the border towns. I'll buy that. The ladies used to stand in the streets with pastries and treats when the riders came through town. Whoever got rid of the most treats was considered the most popular girl. Unfortunately, a lot of pastry hit the ground, since the riders couldn't grab and hold onto it while at a full gallop. So, some enterprising young lady came up with the idea of putting a hole in the middle of a pastry to allow for an easier grab, making the first doughnut.

Could it possibly have been the case? I had to find out.

I hate to be the one to squash a romantic legend, but, in this case, the story is evidently false.

Doughnut remains have been found in archeological digs, so they've been around in one form or the other for centuries. The modern doughnut, though, is credited to the Dutch, who made oliekoek, a sweetened cake fried in fat. Its notoriety came about in 1847, when Elizabeth Gregory made some of her doughnuts for her son, Captain Hanson Gregory to take on one of his sea voyages. Captain Hanson  ran into some rough weather on board ship and was having trouble steering the ship while holding his doughnut. He impaled the doughnut onto on of the spokes of the steering wheel, thereby creating a perfect hole in the center of pastry.

Even this story has the earmarks of an urban legend, doesn't it?

Regardless of which story you believe, the results are the same. Doughnuts have holes in them for the simple reason of making them easy to grasp onto. For some of us, there's a tendency to grasp too many. And if impressing the Pony Express riders was the true reason for the doughnut's existence, we have even more to thank them for than merely delivering the mail.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Surgical Writing

As I prepare for surgery next week, and created my list of things to get done prior to admitting myself to the hospital, it occurred to me there are many similarities between what I'm doing to myself and what I do to my manuscript to get it ready for publication. A bit far-fetched? Possibly, but hear me out. I'm not known as the Analogy Queen for nothin'.

Surgery-–Prepare a list of things that need done before the event.
New Book–Prepare a list of things that need done before launch date.

Surgery–Be certain to arrive at the hospital all clean and shiny.
New Book–Be certain the book is polished and ready to go.

Surgery–Inform friends and family of the event.
New Book–Inform friends and family of the event.

Surgery–Line up friends and family to take care of daily chores in your absence.
New Book–Line up friends and family to read the ARC and write reviews.

Surgery–Get the word out about the outcome of the surgery and your expected release date.
New Book–Get the word out about the book and your expected release date.

See? Life, as with books, is about planning. Advance planning, and getting assistance when needed, is necessary for the best outcome, be it the launch of a new book, or the replacement of a worn-out hip.

My friends and family are poised and ready to pinch-hit for me until I can sit at my computer again. Bring it on.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Pony Express

I just turned in Book 7 in the Cotillion Ball Series. This one takes place in 1860, and is not situated in civilized New York City, but rather, St. Joseph, MO and beyond. It has nothing to do with the cultured confines of a ballroom or a Cotillion Ball, except for the time frame.

One of my favorite parts of writing American historicals is uncovering bits of history about which I know very little and doing research on them, and how they affected everyday citizens. The Pony Express is no exception. This time, I learned a lot about a little known slice of Americana.

I'll be writing about The Pony Express in detail over the coming months, as part of the buildup to the release of Expressly Yours, Samantha. There is so much to talk about, but today, I wanted to share with you the one thing that really jumped out at me, and how something like The Pony Express would never be possible today.

This route of nearly 2,000 miles was cobbled together by William Russell in only 67 days. Every ten to fifteen miles, a relay station was established, where riders could change horses. At about every eighty miles, a home station was set up, where a change of rider would occur along with a fresh mount. Wherever possible, existing structures were used, but in many cases, a relay station had to be thrown up using whatever materials were available. The route followed the Pioneer Trail, which in the summer was clogged with wagon trains heading west, and spanned the states or territories of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. And it wasn't just the route that needed to come together. There were horses to be purchased–500 to start with in each of the seven different divisions, and riders–80 to 100 for each division.

Can you imagine something of this magnitude, and spanning so many states, being put together today in a matter of months? It would never happen. There would be legislation developed, people to be bought off, lively debates would take place on the floors of the various state houses, and ultimately, nothing would be accomplished.

As quickly as it came into being, The Pony Express died out only eighteen months after it became an American icon. As soon as the telegraph line extended from coast to coast, the ponies and their riders were no longer an efficient resource for disseminating information, and the doors to The Pony Express were closed. It existed only 18 months, but its colorful legend is part of our American history. Some of the men who rode for the Express went on to fame and fortune in the Wild West shows, but most of them faded into oblivion. Samantha, and Valerian, are two of those who were part of The Pony Express for a time. I hope you'll enjoy their story, which will be released in March, 2015.

Here's a bit about the story: Samantha Hughes needs to get away from her wicked uncle, and, following her aunt’s death, she has one day to escape. A sign in the post office offers an avenue out. She can cut her hair, pose as a man, and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

 Valerian Fitzpatrick has defied his parents and stayed in St. Louis for the past year. He doesn't want the weight of responsibility his brothers have in the family business. All he wants to do is ride horses, and, fortunately, the Pony Express is starting up and looking for wiry young fellows. When Sam Hughes helps Valerian control a runaway horse, Joseph, Valerian’s brother-in-law, tells him their meeting was destiny. 

Over the weeks and months that follow, Sam and Val work side by side on the exciting Pony Express. Val assumes Sam is on the run from the law, and helps shield his buddy from the Pinkerton agents. He thinks this must be the destiny Joseph talked about. Although Samantha harbors feelings for Val, he has no idea she’s a woman. Until she suffers a stray gunshot wound and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. 

Friendship turns into attraction and maybe even love. When her uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again. She realizes the danger she’s put Valerian into, having him try to shield her from her uncle, and leaves him behind with a note to not track her down. Will he be able to find her again, or is he relieved to not have any responsibility again? 



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Be A Star

Those who know me realize they can't bother me on Monday and Tuesday nights, since that's The Voice time. The similarities between music and writing keep surprising me. The publishing business is as subjective as the music industry. What appeals to one ear will sound like chickens killing each other to another.

My latest manuscript got rejected recently by a publisher. In this instance, the manuscript was rejected because the editor didn't care for the way my characters talked. I realized this was the same thing as a country performer singing in front of a rap artist. It's easy to turn your back on something because it's not your flavor. It's more complicated to dig beneath the surface and find the true talent that is there.

Last season on The Voice, Usher made a statement that 'luck favors the prepared.' I took Usher's words to heart, and have put a publishing plan into place. I've been honing my craft for years now, so I think I'm prepared. In both musical and writing terms, I've trained my voice. I know how a book (or a song) goes together, what to emphasize and when. I'm ready for some luck. I'm prepared.

This season, Pharell, my new favorite Voice judge, made a comment that 'stars don't just sit still–they sparkle.' I have been working really hard on my sparkle this year. I've connected with acquaintances at meetings and turned them into friends. I'm volunteering my services at a local level and I'm giving a portion of my earnings to various charities. I've started up a joint blog site with several of my new friends called History Imagined, where we discuss–you guessed it–history and historical events. I am a guest on several different blog sites. And most recently, I wrote a column for USA Today's Happy Ever After column, and contributed to an article for RWR magazine. Sparkle, sparkle.

I'm doing everything I can to be the star Pharell talks about.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Our Private Worlds

I'll admit it–I caught the genealogy bug years ago. I methodically traced my family tree back to the Revolutionary War and to Europe. One of the things I kept noticing was the way the last names of various family members kept intersecting. I realized travel was hard, and there wasn't a large gene pool to draw from, so I kept track as cousins married first and second cousins. As more and more branches on the tree interconnected, it became a family joke that the inbreeding explained the occasional lunatic in the family–those who lived in their own private worlds.

Today, as I write this, I've just finished the seventh book in my American historical series. It takes place in 1860 and the story line is woven around the Pony Express. I've spent the last few months studying the movement of horses, and learning more about this portion of American history than I ever thought possible. I told a friend the other day that, after a morning of working on this novel, I was surprised to see cars driving by my door instead of horses. My private world has consisted of dirt roads, wide open prairie land and wild mustangs. Am I this generation's occasional lunatic? Or am I merely an author?

The book, Expressly Yours, Samantha, is about ready to be shipped out to my publisher. Normally, I take a break from my historicals, and intersperse a contemporary, just to lighten things up and to keep me grounded in reality. But, for some reason, the 1860s keep calling me. I'm thinking of taking a leaf from the old family tree and write about my great-great-grandmother, who had to maintain a homestead in the hills of southern Ohio and keep four children alive while her husband fought in the Civil War. Obviously, the woman could have used a strong man during these years. Who better to camp out in her woods than a half-breed Ojibwa Indian? So, I'm headed back into the 1860s, where I'll roam the hills and woods of southern Ohio with Susannah and Raoul. I'm headed back into my own private world again.

Here's the cover blurb for Expressly Yours, Samantha, set to release in March, 2015.

Samantha Hughes needs to get away from her wicked uncle, and, following her aunt’s death, she has one day to escape. A sign in the post office offers an avenue out. She can cut her hair, pose as a man, and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

Valerian Fitzpatrick has defied his parents and stayed in St. Louis for the past year. He doesn't want the weight of responsibility his brothers have in the family business. All he wants to do is ride horses, and, fortunately, the Pony Express is starting up and looking for wiry young fellows.

When Sam Hughes helps Valerian control a runaway horse, Joseph, Valerian’s brother-in-law, tells him their meeting was destiny. Over the weeks and months that follow, Sam and Val work side by side on the exciting Pony Express. Val assumes Sam is on the run from the law, and helps shield his buddy from the Pinkerton agents. He thinks this must be the destiny Joseph talked about. Although Samantha harbors feelings for Val, he has no idea she’s a woman. Until she suffers a stray gunshot wound and he has to undress her to staunch the wound.

Friendship turns into attraction and maybe even love. When her uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again. She realizes the danger she’s put Valerian into, having him try to shield her from her uncle, and leaves him behind with a note to not track her down. Will he be able to find her again, or is he relieved to not have any responsibility again?




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Research--Regardless of your genre, you need it!

Today, I'm pleased to have Heather Thurmeier stopping by. She recently released a new book, The Wedding Hoax, which involved copious amounts of research and television. I asked Heather to talk about how she handles one of my favorite subjects–research. I think, even if you're writing a dystopian society story or a contemporary novel, you need to do a certain amount of research to authenticate your stories. Research is not just for an historical writer. But, I'll get down off my soapbox now and let Heather tell you how she approaches it. The floor is yours, Heather!



I’m sure every author has their own set of resources when it comes to researching for a story. For me, I have my usual ways and then every book has a few new ones too.

For all of my books, the research starts with the names.  It’s not very often that I know my character’s final names when I come up with a book idea. Sometimes to pick their names, I will poll my readers to find out what names they love at that moment. Other times, I’ll go to baby naming websites and scour their pages to come up with a short list of names. My favorite site is Nymbler.com. I like that you can save names and then it generates ones that go with it. I find it helps with sibling relationships as well as finding names for the hero and heroine that will sound good together on the page.

Next is usually the setting for the book. If I’m writing about a place I’ve never been to before, then I usually start with real estate listings and tourism sites to give me an idea of what it’s like there. I don’t list places with too many specifics since I think it’s fun to make up restaurant names and things like that. But when it comes to some thing, like subway stops in Manhattan, I definitely look up what train line and exact stop I need. All of that information is easily available online, which makes my job so much faster and easier!

And it seems I’ve been drawing a lot of inspiration and research from TV. For The Wedding Hoax, that was definitely true. I can’t tell you how many episodes of Say Yes to the Dress (and Bridesmaid Dress) I watched. Oh so many! But it was great since Daisy is a wedding gown designer and Cole is a bridal magazine CEO. It’s been 14 years since my own wedding and watching new brides on TV talking about their weddings while they look for their dress was great research! And it was fun to watch too!

Happy Reading!

Heather's giving away this beautiful Daisy bracelet during her blog tour. Go here to enter: The Wedding Hoax and #Rafflecopter #Giveaway. http://bit.ly/ZEeY2t#romance @AmazonKindle @amazon



The Wedding Hoax 


Blurb:


A satisfying category romance from Entangled’s Lovestruck imprint…

To save their companies, they’ll plan the fake wedding of the century...
Meet the bride...

Daisy Willows is a wedding dress designer who longs for her own happily-ever-after. In the meantime, she’s struggling to keep her business going even as she covers her mom’s increasing medical expenses. So when a bridal show expo owner offers to help her out, she can hardly say no. And all it takes is Daisy pretending she’s back with her playboy ex. And that they’re engaged...
Meet the groom...

Cole Benton works for his father’s bridal magazine, which is on the verge of downsizing. All he really wants is a crack at an outdoor lifestyle magazine, and if he has to fake-marry Daisy to make it happen, he’s definitely in. Now Daisy and Cole are playing up their fake engagement, shopping for rings, and even kissing upon request. All of which is makes it a whole lot harder to remember that their big white wedding is a big white lie...


Buy Links:

Amazon: http://ow.ly/BnurJ

Nook: http://ow.ly/BnuST

Kobo: http://ow.ly/BnuCI

iTunes: http://ow.ly/BnvsN


Excerpt:

Cole adjusted himself in the boutique chair as Daisy came out in yet another stunning dress. He didn’t think it was possible to be attracted to a woman in a wedding gown, but apparently it was.

And it was maddening.
Damn it. He didn’t want to be any more attracted to Daisy than he already was. At this point, he wanted her to walk down the aisle in a white garbage bag so he didn’t have to see the shape of her curves, teasing him about what he couldn’t have but also couldn’t stop thinking about.

Nor could he stop imagining those undergarments she’d mentioned to the women at the bridal show. Was Daisy wearing something sexy under all that white lace and satin, too? A push-up bra? A thong?

He sat forward and leaned his elbows on his knees, ignoring the ache in his groin at the thought of Daisy in a thong. He didn’t even have to use his imagination. An image
of her lying on her stomach across his bed came to mind. Her skin had been smooth under his fingertips as he traced the lace of her thong to where it disappeared between two luscious hills of milky-white flesh. She’d shivered beneath his touch when he’d caressed the tiny crease where her bottom met the backs of her thighs. And when he’d playfully smacked her ass, the apples of her cheeks weren’t the only spot on her body to blush as she’d rolled away from him, giggling and smiling seductively.

If he’d realized that would be one of his last moments with Daisy, he would have savored it more, prolonged his own enjoyment to push hers further. What he wouldn’t give to see that spark in her eyes when she was on the cusp of going over the edge again. Or the pink tinge in her cheeks as his tongue tasted her.

“Cole!” Daisy’s voice was sharp, piercing his thoughts and shattering the nice memory he was currently enjoying more than the present moment.

“That one is nice,” Cole said on instinct, forcing himself to focus on the dress she wore instead of what she might be wearing underneath it. This dress was similar to the others— sleeveless, white, satin and beads, and expertly hand-stitched. He’d never really given Daisy a lot of credit for her work before, but he should have. She was a master of her craft.

She put her hands on her hips. “That’s what you said about every dress so far. Are you even paying attention?”

No.

“I’m trying to, but you know how I feel about shopping.” He laid his head back and rubbed his eyes hard, hoping to erase the memory of Daisy’s thong from his brain long enough to get through this torture without a raging hard-on.

“How could I forget? You’re worse than taking a child shopping. At least with a kid you can give them a snack or a toy to keep them busy.”

“I could go for a snack.” He shrugged.



Author bio:

Heather Thurmeier is a lover of strawberry margaritas and a hater of spiders. She was born and raised in the Canadian prairies, but now lives in New York state with her husband and kids where she’s become some kind of odd Canuck-Yankee hybrid. When she's not busy taking care of the kids, Heather’s writing her next romance, which will probably be filled with sassy heroines, sexy heroes who make your heart pound, laugh out loud moments, and always a happily ever after. You can find out more about Heather and her books by checking out her website at: http://heatherthurmeier.com.


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