Sunday, December 4, 2016

Living History

Welcome to all the blog hoppers coming over from Marin McGinnis's site and Caroline Warfield's site. Glad you hopped over here. I've got a huge bundle of books releasing tomorrow, and if you're a history buff, you might just find something here to enjoy. Settle in with a cup of tea and let me introduce you to the Fitzpatrick family of New York City.

I'll be the first to admit I was born two hundred years too late. I would have loved to be a part of early America, to go west on a covered wagon, to interact with native Americans, to visit a gold field, to become a spy during the Revolutionary War. Never mind that I'd have to go to the outhouse to do my business, or haul wood into the house in order to cook, or take care of the sick and injured rather than run to the emergency room. I prefer to think of American history in the best light. That's why I write about it.

The Cotillion Ball series began as a "light-bulb moment" in 2011. While I love to read about the Regency period in England, and the fancy dresses and balls where men and women connected and fell in love, I wanted to stay in America. And I thought, surely, the Cotillion was introduced to the country at some point, since several of my friends participated in it when they were in their teens. Some digging into the background of the ball later, I realized I had the setting for my series. It would take place in New York City, in 1855, a year after the ball concept was introduced to the city's high society.

But, of course, my nine Fitzpatrick children could not stay put in New York, not when there was a big new world to explore. Each of the nine books features one of the children as they come of age and figure out where they belong. And figure out who they belong with. Let me tell you a bit about each one.

The Reluctant Debutante kicks off the series with Ginger, an outspoken suffragette, who finds love with a half-Ojibwa Indian.

The Abolitionist's Secret features Heather, who gets thrust into the role of being a freedom fighter but yet falls for a slave owner.

Banking on Temperance is the first book to feature a Fitzpatrick son. Basil moves west, to St. Louis, to open a branch of the family banking business and runs headlong into a woman who is bound and determined to get her family to Oregon.

The Tempestuous Debutante is about Jasmine, Heather's twin sister. She wants the balls, and an aristocrat husband, but finds herself drawn instead to the stableboy on the aristocrat's land.

Blinded By Grace features another brother, Halwyn. He's been working in his father's bank for years, and has no time for marriage until one of his friends needs a husband in order to claim her trust.

The Duplicitous Debutante is all about Rosemary, the quiet, studious one in this rowdy family. She has for years used a pen name for her western books, which everyone thinks are written by a man. She's fine with the anonymity, until a new publisher takes over the helm.

Expressly Yours, Samantha is all about the Pony Express and the youngest brother, Valerian, who rides for them. One of his fellow workers on the Express is a girl masquerading as a man, until Valerian unmasks her.

A Widow's Salvation features the oldest daughter, Pepper. Her husband died in the first battle of the Civil War, leaving her with three young boys to raise on her own. She begins volunteering at the Army hospital, tending those who also fought in battle, and meets an unhappy, overworked doctor.

The Forgotten Debutante is about the youngest daughter, Saffron, who is only seven when the series begins. She reaches adulthood during the height of the Civil War, and has to wait for the conflict to end completely before she can reconnect with the man who gave her the first kiss of her life.

As an added bonus in this collection, An Unconventional Courtship, the novella about how the parents of this lively brood, Charlotte and George, met and married is included in the bundle.

Ten books in one neat and tidy bundle, for your reading pleasure, and at one low price. How can you go wrong? Here's the link to the bundle, available on Amazon:

And, if you haven't already done so, please sign up to receive my newsletter. I send it out a couple times a year only, when I have a new book. Each time I do, I offer gift copies to the first five or ten people who contact me. It's your chance to win a book, and it's absolutely free. The form's on the right side, at the very top of the page.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

NaNo Fatigue

Before I can be accused of a falsehood, I want to admit I did not participate in the official NaNo this year. However, that doesn't mean I spent the month of November in a turkey-induced fog. I was up against a deadline that I rashly proposed to my new publisher and had until the end of November to turn my manuscript in to them. When I get to the polishing stage, words are more often deleted than inserted, so I knew there was no way I could do NaNo and commit myself to writing 50,000 words in a month's time.

But I met my deadline, with even a couple days to spare. Now comes the waiting game, while the manuscript, my shiny new story, gets reviewed and either accepted or rejected by the publisher. Fingers are crossed, but if it's rejected by them, I have other avenues available to me. I know that now, after four years in this business.

I do have a bit of writer's fatigue, though, which many writers experience in December, after a frantic month of NaNo writing. I'm taking the month to just do some research for my next series. I have a lot of ground to cover, since the subject matter isn't something I'm all that familiar with, other than a love for antique, heirloom roses. And rose hip tea. I'll take my time and become as comfortable as I can in an 1800s greenhouse exploding with hybrid roses. And Scottish lochs. Lochs and Roses. Should be a fun way to spend December, instead of existing in gloomy, snowy Ohio.

I also have three releases in December, which must be promoted. First up is the big bundle of all the books in the Cotillion Ball series, followed by Love's In The Cards, my contemporary Christmas novella. Then, I'll end the year with another historical, Dance With Destiny, cover still being designed, about a half-Ojibwa Indian and the white family he assists while the husband is off fighting the Civil War. My family had a story handed down over the years about having an Indian somewhere in our genealogy, which was mentioned by many who were researching various branches of the family tree. A DNA test a year ago put an end to the rumors, since it showed no trace of American Indian blood. But if so many had heard the story, and my ancestors shared claims of school harassment due to their Indian heritage, there must be some grain of truth to the story. Dance With Destiny offers up one explanation. I hope you'll enjoy it, and my other efforts from the year.

And next year? Hopefully, my story will be accepted by my publisher and I'll get to promote it. And I hope to write two of the new series. See you on the moors!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

It's been a busy year for me and my family, so there's no better way to end it than to take a step back and be thankful.

I'm thankful my family is relatively healthy.

I'm thankful I'm able to write what I want and to try out new genres and publishing platforms. A Regency Yuletide is my first foray into the world of indie publishing. And my first foray into writing a Regency. It won't be the last.

I'm thankful Pat, the sister who lives with me, remembers to be quiet in the morning so I can write. Mary, my dog, still hasn't learned that lesson.

I'm thankful I can end the year on a high note, with a contemporary Christmas novella, a super bundle of all the Cotillion books, and an American historical set at the outbreak of the Civil War, all coming out in December.

Dance With Destiny Cover?

For those of my fellow authors who are taking part in NaNoWriMo, the month is nearly over, and you can be thankful your goal is in sight, but your work isn't done. Here are a few words of encouragement from Stephen King.

So, how about you? What are you thankful for?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Combing Colonial Williamsburg For Answers

I am pleased to have as my guest today a good friend and fellow historical author, Elizabeth Meyette. She has written several books centering on the Revolutionary War in America. Since any historical author will tell you doing exhaustive research to make your work authentic takes almost as much time as writing the book, if not more, any new tricks on how to cut down on the time needed are appreciated. Today, Elizabeth shares with us what she had hoped to accomplish on a work vacation to Williamsburg, VA. 

Welcome, Elizabeth!

On a recent visit to Colonial Williamsburg, I was immersed in the patriotic fervor of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers). We spent a week visiting historical sites, chatting with tradespeople in shops, attending reenactments, and visiting Yorktown. A perfect “work-cation” for an author.

My goal for this research trip was to answer five questions I had while working on my WIP, Love’s Courage. This is the third book in my American Revolution series. Jenny Sutton and Andrew Wentworth are secondary characters in Love’s Spirit, the previous book, and they hounded me with their story until I finally sat down to write it. Now they give me the stink-eye if I linger at breakfast too long. #amwriting!!

So here are my five questions and what I discovered.

Were there bakeries in colonial cities?
Since this book involves George Washington’s Citizen Spy Network, where could messages be exchanged? My idea was to have messages hidden in loaves of bread, perhaps placed intentionally on a certain shelf behind the counter or displayed in the window. When Jenny arrived, she would ask for the certain loaf using a code word. After a few times, the baker would recognize her and immediately hand over the secret loaf.
Answer: There were no bakeries. People baked their own bread in the kitchens behind the main house.

Was a man’s hat called a tricorn?
During a critique session, my critique partners had never heard the term “tricorn.” I explained that it was the three-cornered hat men wore in the colonial era. I thought it was a very common term used in historical fiction. I’m sure I saw it somewhere—I couldn’t make that up!
Answer: When I visited the tailor shop, the tailor informed me that they did not use the term “tricorn” until the 19th century. So Andrew would not have “thrown his tricorn on the pier.” He would have “thrown his cocked hat on the pier.” Well,…okay, but I really like tricorn.

Where was the pier in Yorktown in colonial day?
Love’s Courage opens with Jenny sailing away on the Destiny, to return to her ailing father. Andrew is desperately trying to stop the ship from sailing so he can either join her or talk her into staying in Williamsburg. I had never visited Yorktown, and I wanted to know the topography, the “feeling” of the area, and the lay of the land. We spent an entire afternoon searching for an answer to this question. We visited the Waterman’s Museum, Black Dog Gallery, and the Yorktown Tavern. No one could find the answer.
Answer: When we went to check out Cornwallis’ Cave, there was a wooden sign with an artist’s rendering of the colonial city. There was the pier! Right where I’d imagined it! While the pier’s location may not even be mentioned in this scene, it was important for me to know where it was so I could write the scene as accurately as possible.

Is there saltwater in the York River?
Trying to use all five senses in a scene can be tricky, and sense of smell is one of the most difficult unless someone is cooking or dead. I wanted to know if Jenny would smell the salty air of ocean water. Could I describe a “sea spray?” The Yorktown River is very wide here, but would it just smell like…well, a river?
Answer: We took a sunset cruise on the three-masted schooner, the Alliance, that evening. From the ship, my view of the shore was what Jenny would see (minus the contemporary buildings). I felt like I was standing in her shoes. Yes, a crew member explained, the York River is brackish, meaning a mixture of river and salt water.

Back to my first question, if there were no bakeries, where could Jenny exchange information?
If there were no bakeries, where could Jenny surreptitiously meet someone with whom she could exchange information? It had to be a public place that she had reason to visit.
Answer: I found the perfect spot—the apothecary shop. This was my favorite shop of all. In colonial days, most people had gardens, making herbal remedies readily available. If they needed something more exotic, or a mixture of herbs in a tincture, they went to the apothecary shop. The apothecary wrote prescriptions that were more like recipes, and filled them. Since Jenny’s father was seriously injured, it was logical that she would visit the apothecary to get remedies for him.
The Apothecary Shop

So, my trip to Colonial Williamsburg and Yorktown was a rousing success. In addition to finding my answers, I was able to explore the Raleigh Tavern, drink chocolate in R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse and go on a nighttime ghost tour. Now, when I’m writing a scene, I can picture Jenny in the parlour, or riding in a carriage, or surrounded by the spicy aromas in the apothecary shop.

Thanks to Jenny and Andrew’s urging, Love’s Courage will be available in spring 2017.
Raleigh Tavern

About the Author
Believer in dreams-come-true and self-confessed chocoholic, Elizabeth Meyette is the author of four novels. The Cavanaugh House and its sequel, Buried Secrets, are mysteries set in 1968 in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. Love’s Destiny and Love’s Spirit, are historical romances set in colonial Virginia.
Elizabeth is an Amazon Best-selling author, a PAN (Published Authors Network) member of Romance Writers of America, a member of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Before pursuing her writing career full time, Elizabeth taught English, Journalism, and Library Science/Technology in Midland, Michigan. After retiring from teaching, Elizabeth embarked on her writing career full-time and, in addition to her four novels, has published poetry, magazine articles and her blog site, Meyette’s Musings. A friend said of her, “You haven’t retired, you’ve refired!” She is currently working on her fifth and sixth novels and three picture books.
Elizabeth and her husband Richard live in west Michigan where they enjoy the beauty of the Great Lakes. They have an agreement that she cannot cook on writing days after he endured burnt broccoli and overcooked chicken.  Fortunately, Richard is an excellent cook.

Elizabeth’s books are available at Amazon

Visit Elizabeth at:

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mining Stories While Reminiscing

My brother, sisters and their spouses are all coming to town this weekend. Usually we only have an annual get-together, but we've had a few health scares in the family this past year, and a death, so we are realizing we need to spend more time with each other, time that is a valuable commodity. Here's a picture of us from a recent visit.

Usually when we get together, someone will tell a story, reminisce about when we were kids and what crazy things we did. I've used some of my own experiences in my writing, most recently documenting a little boy who used to draw on the soles of my shoes during nap time in Love's In The Cards.

And I've used my own family dynamics with my own three sisters in Blame It On The Brontes. We were never really quite as bad, as mad with each other as I wrote in the book, but my memories of growing up with competitive sisters definitely came into play.

My feelings during my own bra-burning days were used when I created Ginger Fitzpatrick, my suffragette from
The Reluctant Debutante. I only wish I could have found a Joseph character as my prize for speaking out for injustice.

I'm hoping one of my siblings will tell a story, relay a memory, recall an event that will spur my creative genie and I'll have a new twist on a story for my work next year. My brother usually starts laughing halfway into his stories and can't finish them. Whatever happens, we usually laugh a lot, hug a lot, and cry a little.

Whatever you've got on your agenda this weekend, be it raking leaves, going to a movie, finally deciding who to vote for, or spending time with your own family, have a blast. As for me, since the clocks are being turned back on Sunday, I get an extra hour with the people I love most.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Setting As Character

I just received a lovely review of my soon-to-be-released novella, Love's In The Cards. Here's the part I liked best and the subject of this post: "However, in my opinion, the biggest star of the book is the setting of a gift card shop--a perfect example of setting as character. I was entranced by the ins and outs of a part of American holidays that is so often used but overlooked."

Every author takes workshops during his or her career, and one of the things we keep being reminded of is setting. Margie Lawson is of the opinion that every scene deserves a description of the location where the scene takes place to orient the reader. Here's what Stephen King says on the subject from his book On Writing:
"Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Overdescription buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium. It’s also important to know what to describe and what can be left alone while you get on with your main job, which is telling a story."

Love's In The Cards is a Wild Rose Press release and is based in the already well-established small town of Lobster Cove, ME. It's been one of their most popular lines for years and anyone writing for the line is presented with a map of the town and a description of the businesses there and expected to weave them into the story. My particular story is about two sisters who own The Treasure Chest, the local greeting card and gift shop. I worked for a year in a shop just like the one I described while I lived in Virginia, even down to the life-sized nutcrackers that got hauled out to the front of the store every morning and taken in at night. Based on the review I got, I did a decent job of describing the shop and how it was run.

I guess I learned something from both Margie and Mr. King.

Here's an excerpt from Love's In The Cards:

Penny sighed softly. Abbey made sense. They had to do everything possible to compete with the other shops, all chasing the same tourist dollars. Even if doing so meant having six-foot-tall nutcrackers flanking the door for the next six weeks. Penny’s eyes smarted with sudden tears, but she blinked them away quickly, telling herself the moisture merely came from a reaction to the cold weather. “I think we need new names for these boys, especially after last year’s debacle. I now have two reasons to despise the season.”
As she wiggled her nutcracker to his final position on one side of the entrance to their shop, Abbey grunted. “This is our make-or-break season, so your attitude has to shape up, Penny. I had hoped a year would give you enough time to get over last Christmas’s aborted wedding.”
Penny jerked her big statue a bit too hard to the left before she squared him with the frame. She bit her lip at the chastisement as she glanced at Abbey. Anyone could tell they were from the same family, with their dark hair, blue eyes, and slender builds. Often, they were mistaken for twins, even though Abbey had been born two years earlier. The only noticeable difference was Penny could sing in key, but Abbey had a tin ear.
“Even though I’m over both Max and Ricky, their betrayals still hurt. And the fact they both screwed up my Christmases makes me hate the season.”
“Well, if getting your head back on straight this year means we rename Hans and Gunther, let’s do so. What’d you have in mind?”
Penny squinted up at the lifelike plastic statues towering over them. “I don’t mind Hans, but I’ll name mine Solo, since that’s what I am.”

Abbey grinned and wrapped an arm around Penny. “Well then, may the force be with us as we head into our peak season. The weather’s finally turned cold, perfect for putting folks into the holiday gift-buying mood. Let’s get inside. I’ve got something exciting to show you.”
Love's In The Cards releases December 7, but you can pre-order it now:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Making A List And Checking It Twice

I know it sounds like I'm rushing the season, but I have two Christmas novellas out this year and I'm trying to keep things organized as I determine a marketing strategy for each one. You'd think it would be simple, since one's a Regency and the other is a contemporary. So, how come I filled out promotional information for one book and inserted the cover from the other? Fortunately, I hadn't hit the 'send' button yet, so I could correct the error.

But it made me realize I need to check things over carefully this season. My Regency followers would not be interested in the goings-on in present day Maine. And the inner-workings of a greeting card shop would hold no appeal to members of the ton. So I have to be very careful when I'm filling out information to promote my books that I remain faithful to one or the other all the way to the end.

The up side of this is I can offer readers a Christmas novella, despite their preferences. If you can't wait until Christmas, here's a little taste of each.

A Regency Yuletide 

Northern England, December 1822

Being of good English stock, Sophie Davenport loved the rain. At least most of the time, since it made the rolling hills of Carlisle a pretty, bucolic green in the summer. Today however, she took her knitting to the window seat in the library and gazed into the darkening countryside while her fingers flew, making stitches from the fine wool. It had been raining for days now, which, in and of itself, was not an uncommon event during the month of December. But this afternoon the gloom settled over her as if it were a heavy blanket. She had lost so much time by trotting to London for her first season on the marriage mart at the insistence of her Uncle Harry, that she was unable to tend to her gardens and her charitable pursuits this year. He had hoped to foist Sophie off to a gentleman of means, so he could be rid of both Sophie and her mother.
The season had been an abysmal failure, at least in Mother’s eyes. And in the eyes of Uncle Harry, since Sophie had returned home empty-handed. Not one man had danced with her unless you counted pimply-faced Freddie, her cousin, who had done so out of family duty rather than real interest. Sophie, however, breathed a sigh of relief at returning home without sparking the interest of a gentleman, since the men of the Ton were, for the most part, more interested in their own appearances than in hers. If she had to cast her fortunes in with someone, it would most certainly not be with a man who had a larger wardrobe than she.
Her fingers worked furiously, needles clicking together as she made quick work of the row of stitches. She held up her needle and stared at her progress, turning the blue yarn into a usable covering. If she could maintain her current output, she’d have one more blanket done before Christmas for the Female Visiting Society to hand out to some poor indigent. She nodded in satisfaction, running her fingers over her uniform stitches as the rain pelted the window.
“Sophia Davenport, I do declare your eyesight will fail if you keep attempting to knit when it’s so dark outside.” Her mother, Evelyn, bustled into the room.
Sophie set her knitting aside. Any other response would be futile. It was teatime after all, and Mother was a stickler for following the rules. “Yes, Mother.”
Their one maid, Annie, followed with the tea service. “Tis raining hard this afternoon, ma’am.”
“Yes, that it is, Annie.” Sophie rose from her seat at the window and poured the tea. Evelyn added a lump of sugar to hers, and then a spot of milk. “We certainly can do without another flood like the one we had last February. Thank goodness we’re situated on a hill and our little cottage has a sturdy roof.” She glanced at Sophie. “Your father planned for everything.”

“Yes, he did. Except for his passing.” Sophie sighed as she took a seat opposite her mother.

Love's In The Cards 

She had been so tongue-tied around him she couldn’t find the right words to say. And now she had two devastating long-term relationships under her belt. Should she try for one more? Perhaps the third time would be the charm. Her sister’s voice pounded in her ear. Suck it up, Buttercup. She took a deep breath. “Just how do you intend to make Valentine’s Day fun again?”
He locked his gaze on hers. “By spending time with you. By righting old wrongs. By apologizing to your mother for making the soles of your shoes purple.”
Penny’s breath caught in her throat. Delbert, her childhood sweetheart, had come roaring back into her life. Whatever should she do? Their half-eaten lobster burgers and fries sat on the table, giving her something to play with while her mind buzzed She maneuvered a French fry into the lake of ketchup on her plate. Even though she’d lived in Lobster Cove most of her life, she’d never tired of the taste the town was famous for. She swallowed a bite of the succulent white meat on a bun. “I’d really enjoy spending time with you, too, Del. How convenient that you’ll be in the same block as my folks, since Abbey and I do hang out there a lot. But right now is our busiest season of the year. And, as much as you hate Valentine’s, I hate Christmas.”
Del raised an eyebrow. “Why? Because there’s so much work involved at the card shop? Or because of your bad experiences?”
Penny attempted to corral her wayward musings, but sparks were being set off in her head every time she glanced at Del and goose bumps erupted on her skin. For the first time in almost a year, she experienced very female feelings toward a man. She didn’t need another Christmas casualty.

Merry  Christmas, one and all!