Sunday, January 19, 2020

Ah, Winter

All in all, it's been a very mild winter so far. The weather folks here in NC said there has only been one day in January so far that the temperature has been below normal. Well, that's about to change. Starting this weekend, Old Man Winter has decided to show up.
It's going to rain and the temperature not getting out of the 40s. But it could be worse. I just checked the weather in Ohio, where I used to live. They will not have rain this weekend. Their precipitation is in the form of snow!

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? I had been planning to take a short road trip to a historic site in NC. But it's raining. Instead of doing research, I'll spend time editing my next manuscript. And my health club is having an open house and giving free chair massages. And I can always curl up with my dog, Mary, and stay warm and toasty as I finish the book I'm reading.

Things will still get done, just differently from what I expected. But my manuscript is coming along nicely, so it's all good. Here's the scene I worked on today. Hope you enjoy.
She began her morning with what she thought of as an easy sale. Entering a clothing store for women, she stopped to touch the fine silk gown in the window. Yellow had never been a flattering color on her, but this gown was more gold than yellow, so quite possibly…
No. She had no place to wear such finery anymore, nor did she wish to spend her money on such foolishness. 
“May I help you, madam?” The seamstress of the fine gown glanced up from her work. 
“You do lovely work.” Libby wandered further into the shop. 
“And you have a fine eye.” The woman smiled as she rose from her worktable. “Are you in need of a gown?” 
“I’m Libby Wexford, from the Gazette, and I am here to drop off some information regarding advertising in the paper.” Libby’s sales pitch faltered when she spied the red shoes. She picked up one of them, caressing it as if it were alive. “Oh, how lovely!” 

“As I said, you have a fine eye, madam. These just arrived from England.” The woman drew alongside Libby. “I have a few more pairs if you’d like to see them.” 
“No, if these fit, I’ll take them. No need to tempt myself with more. I’m sure these are the finest ones of the lot, since you put them on display first.” Libby hadn’t let go of the shoe. Instead, she unbuckled the shoe she wore and slipped the right red one onto her foot. “Perfect. May I pick them up later in the day?” 
“Yes, of course.” The proprietor of the shop only gave a cursory glance at the advertising information Libby handed her, but eagerly took her money. “I am Diana Radcliffe, by the way. I hope to see more of you, Mrs. Wexford.” 
“I’ll return this afternoon to retrieve my new shoes. Thank you for holding them for me.” Libby left the store and wandered down the wooden sidewalk. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

So It Begins

Over the years since my publishing journey began, I have approached editing in an ever-evolving way. Editing will never be my favorite part of the process, but it's so essential to get it right. I begin my manuscripts writing in Scrivener, a software program that allows you to keep research, language, description, and in the case of my latest work, pictures of fashionable footwear from the late 1700s all in one place so you can quickly and easily reference it as you write. When I finish the rough first draft, I go back and use Margie Lawson's techniques making sure there's enough blue, green, pink, yellow and orange in each scene. (If you're a Margie grad, you know what I mean.)  

Libby manufactured a tear, which she made a show of brushing away. “I’m afraid Mr. Wexford recently passed.” 
He mumbled an apology, handed her a key and took her money for the first week’s rent. Libby placed her fingers on her fluttering stomach. She’d told the truth, sort of. Mr. Wexford had recently passed. 
She thought she’d have a bigger battle on her hands, but evidently, widows were aplenty in Boston. The scuffle with Britain had been simmering for some years and was about to turn into a full-blown war.

Then I run through it again with my 'words not to use' checklist. I end up with an entire sheet of paper with heavy checkmarks all over it.
Finally, when I'm done with all that, I download the work into a word document and go through it again, adding to the scenes, fleshing them out.

So yesterday, I finally was able to dump my work into a word document. This manuscript has been very difficult to write, since family obligations forced me to ignore it for a couple months. By the time I got back to it, I had to read it again from the beginning to get my mind back in the game. There's still a long way to go with it, but I thought I'd share the opening scene with you. The book is the second in my Revolutionary War series, tentatively titled "A British Courtesan in America." Hope you enjoy.

Off the coast of England, 1777

Anjanette Shelby nibbled on her lower lip as her homeland faded into oblivion. She had successfully put England behind her, literally and figuratively. She breathed a sigh of relief, inhaling the salty air as she pondered what name she should give herself now. She was about to take on a third identity, but a girl does what she must to survive. The waves, and the wind, were propelling her toward a new future and she had an entire voyage across the huge Atlantic Ocean in which to come up with a new name. The slogan of her new homeland—Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness– resonated. She was entering a new life in the pursuit of happiness, so maybe she should call herself …Liberty? The name bounced around in her head as the waves bounced the ship around in the vast ocean. Liberty. Libby. Bertie? She’d give it some thought. 
“Excuse me, miss, but you dropped your handkerchief.” A man joined her at the railing, holding a scrap of cloth between his fingers. She glanced at him, and the hankie in his hand, briefly, before searching the waves slapping against the side of the ship. His opening salvo had been a pretty uninspired way of engaging her in a discussion, he was a pretty uninspiring man, and the hankie was pretty uninspired and basic. Not at all her style. 
“You must be mistaken, sir. I did not carry a hankie on deck.” She took a step away from the railing. “I must get back to my room, if you’ll excuse me.” 
He quickly placed a hand on her arm. She peeled his fingers from her arm, one at a time. “I said, excuse me.” 
He lowered his hand but stared at her. “There’s no need to be so angry. I merely wish to become acquainted with you. After all, we’ll be aboard this vessel for six weeks or so, and may as well find some way to liven things up, don’t you agree? You’re alone, it appears, as am I.” He cocked an eyebrow. 
“I’m looking forward to being alone, sir.” Anjanette stared back at him. She’d dealt with worse in her lifetime. He was no match for her, although her stomach quivered.
“So you are headed to a new life as a single lady, eh?” He shrugged. “I’m afraid you won’t be able to shed your past as easily as you’ve shed me.” 
“You have no knowledge of my past, sir.” 
He shrugged again. “You are correct. Except we all have one. And my guess is if you’re traveling alone to America, you must be running from yours.” 
She pivoted on her heel and left the deck, striding quickly to her room in the second-class accommodations. Why wouldn’t men just leave her alone? Even if what he said was true, she didn’t need to be told it. She was taking a risk, traveling without an escort, but she no longer had anyone. She no longer needed anyone. She’d have to confine herself to her room during the day and prowl the deck at night. That man, and others of his ilk, would be in first-class, so, with any luck, she could avoid running into him again. Her blood ran cold at the thought there might be someone on board who was aware of her background and reputation. Yes, it was best to stick close to her room by day, venture forth only at night and pray for a swift passage. 
Anjanette’s body finally unclenched after six weeks aboard ship. She took a long, cleansing breath as the last of the first class passengers departed the ship. It would soon be her turn to leave. She’d kept a low profile during the entire voyage, and successfully traversed the Atlantic without being uncovered. Her dresses, though well made, were modest and serviceable. She kept her hair in a chignon with no adornments. If anything, she’d become a chameleon, imitating the other second-class passengers to better blend in. 
She gathered her possessions and placed them back into her satchel. She fingered her favorite necklace, the last piece of jewelry her final benefactor, Atticus, had given her. 
“Thank you, darling, for giving me this gift.” She wiped the tears from her cheeks and took a deep breath. Atticus had given her more than a necklace. He had given her the means to declare her freedom. She packed away the necklace and packed away her old identity. Liberty Wexford was about to disembark and live out the rest of her days in colonial America. Suddenly, the cabin was too small, the ship was too small. She needed to breathe in the free air of America. 
The ship steward stood next to the ramp, ticking the names of the passengers off the manifest. He glanced at her and smiled. “Miss Shelby, I didn’t see much of you during the voyage. Did you fare well, or were you suffering from seasickness?” 
She returned his smile, schooling her expression to one of disinterest. She had no wish to flirt with this, or any, man. “Some, at the beginning of the voyage, but I had a lot of reading to do.” 
“Well, you’re free to go. Enjoy your stay in Boston, Miss Shelby.” 
Free to go. 
She glanced at the steward. “Can you recommend some accommodations?”
“Yes, there’s a really nice hotel, The Hartford, just up the street.” He motioned to the cobblestoned street leading away from the dock. “I can arrange to have your trunks delivered there.” 
“That would be wonderful. Thank you, sir.” 
He called after her. “Goodbye, Miss Shelby.” 
She glanced back at him and waved as she whispered, “It’s no longer Miss Shelby. I’m Liberty Wexford now.” 
Liberty’s steps were light as she touched the cobblestones. Were it not for the spectacle she would create, she’d fall to her knees and kiss the stones. She straightened her hat, shifted her bag from one hand to the other, and set off for the hotel the steward had suggested. After she found lodging, she’d find a job. Boston should look out. Libby Wexford just landed. 

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Moving On?

It's been a bad week for romance authors. Even if you're not involved in the national organization, the scandal that took place around the holiday made the national news. I won't go into it here, but many of us are questioning if we want to continue our affiliation with the group.

I came to adulthood during the height of the Vietnam war and attended many a political protest in my youth. And more recently, I participated in one last year. I've always fought for what I believed in but now I'm questioning whether to stay with the organization and fight to make it better or to leave.

On the one hand, you can't change anything if you aren't a member. Your voice becomes mute if you leave the fold. On the other hand, maybe the organization isn't worth saving, so you're beating a dead horse.

What to do?

My membership is up for renewal the end of February. Hopefully by then, I'll have an answer.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Time For New Beginnings

We're only a couple days away from New Year's Eve, and 2020 will be every bit as wild as 2019 turned out to be. While I don't normally make resolutions, since the couple of times I made them, I broke them almost before I wrote them down, this year will be a year of new beginnings, not resolutions. Here's my list:

My most important new beginning is personal. My brother-in-law had major health issues starting in August, and only came home from the hospital two days before Christmas. It's been a long, hard ride for him and he still has a ways to go. But he's out of the hospital, so we are counting our blessings.

Second, this coming year will see a new book from me for the first time in two years. It's the start of my Revolutionary War series and I'm loving this time period. It's made what's going on in our government today very personal since I have immersed myself in the streets of Boston and Philadelphia in the 1700s, and write about ordinary people rising to the challenge of creating a new country. I can't wait for you to meet my characters. There's Pippa and Daniel, Libby and Hawk, and an as yet unnamed woman from England who will become the new love of Patterson. Any help with a name will be most appreciated.

And last, after a health scare last year, I am going to get really serious about developing a more structured exercise program. I've been a member of a health club for over a year now, but it's so easy to let my three-times-a-week regimen slip in favor of meeting up with friends, or writing that next chapter.

In my area, we don't drop a Swaroski crystal ball from the roof of a skyscraper. No, here we drop an oversized pine cone from the ladder of a fire truck. And we don't wait until midnight. The cone drops at 8 pm. Much more laid back and sensible. I can barely stay awake until midnight on most nights.

So these are my new beginnings. What are you planning for the upcoming year? Whatever you have planned, and however you plan to celebrate, Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Happy Holidays!

I used my grandmother's collection of Christmas postcards on a recent post for History Imagined, a blog I contribute to once a month. What struck me as I was photographing the cards was how the word "Christmas" was abbreviated to "Xmas." We have been so shamed by this abbreviation in the past decades (Taking the Christ out of the holiday, etc.)  that it's fallen out of use. In fact, it's no longer fashionable to say "Merry Christmas." Instead, we should all say "Happy Holidays," so as not to offend other religions.

I realize that postcards didn't have a lot of room on which to print a message, but nonetheless, just like the Christmas postcard and, more recently, the proverbial Christmas card, the moniker of Xmas has fallen into disfavor. 

I'll keep these postcards as a reminder of Christmases past and will try to keep up with the e-card craze of today. So, however you celebrate, whether it's Christmas, Hanukkeh, Kwanzaa, or something else, have a happy holiday with friends and family, and a wonderful 2020. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Buffalo Plaid Time

This week marked the first day of the season when I had to haul out my heavy winter coat. If I were still living in Ohio, it would have been already in use for weeks. But this is North Carolina, where we just had a day when the temperature gauge got above 70 degrees. Now it’s dipped to the 40s, and it’s time to get serious about things. 

Fortunately, a few years ago, my sister bought me a jacket in my favorite buffalo plaid squares of black and red.

You could play a game of checkers on my jacket if you were so inclined. I have loved this combination for years, and would have it in every room in my home if I could. It’s available not just in clothing, but in pillows, dog beds, blankets, couches, bedspreads, draperies, etc. But I refrained from being a one-trick pony and only have the jacket. Although I did buy some wrapping paper this year that was buffalo plaid and the black squares were flocked, of all things. And I gave serious thought to buying a buffalo plaid sweater for Mary. Think of it­–matching outfits!

When I climbed into my new-to-me car today, and started it up, the heated seat and steering wheel automatically kicked in, because of the temperature, I guess. Wrapping my cold fingers around a warm steering wheel was an unexpected pleasure. So there are plenty of reasons to enjoy the occasional cold days this winter. 

I hope you can find reasons to enjoy the season, too! 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Stockings Are Hung

Any of you who follow this blog regularly will already know that I'd rather celebrate Thanksgiving than Christmas. Because we never had much growing up, my memories of Christmas are pretty bleak. So, during the last couple of years, when I didn't put up a tree or send greeting cards, it didn't bother me, even though it offended my friends for whom Christmas is the day they look forward to all year.

Which is why this year is such a marked contrast. Already, with weeks to go before THE day, I've got my gifts in the mail and the cards have all been addressed and sent. I purchased a little tree with fiber-optic lights and hung my special White House ornament collection on it. There's just enough room for these beautiful and unique ornaments, each of which have a special significance to the former occupants in the White House.

Why am I so ahead of the game this year? I asked myself that question as I sat last night watching my tree go through its light rotation. I came up with only one reason: My routine is back to normal.

I am a list-maker, as are so many of us. Each week, I prepare my list of what needs done in the next seven days and love being able to mark things off the list. I include things that are relevant to my work, and hold myself accountable for both my creative work and my side hustle job. But there are also things on the list like meeting up with a friend for lunch, going to my exercise class, and other mundane chores like swiffering the floors and taking my trash to the dump. If it needs doing during the next seven days, it goes on my list.

It's been hard this past year for me to adhere to my list, since life got in the way of my routine. But I'm happy that I was able to complete a manuscript that got picked up by a publisher, and I will have a new book coming out next year. And I'm happy that I've found a new and fascinating era from our past that I can delve into. The Revolutionary War affected every person, great or small, rebel or resistor, gun-toting farmer or Quaker pacifist. My work with this period of our past makes what's now going on in Congress especially memorable, and I marvel every day at the forward-thinking of the framers of our Constitution.

So, routine has been reestablished, the tree is up, the stockings are hung, and my little dog Mary and I are set to enjoy the milder climate of a North Carolina December. Wherever you choose to celebrate the season, stay warm and be happy.