Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Sense Of The Holidays

As writers, we are told time and again to make certain we are using the senses in our work. The sense of sight, sound and touch are fairly easy for any romance writer to incorporate into a story. The other two, smell and taste, require a bit more effort.

But this time of year, the senses of smell and taste come into play, big time. There's a car commercial making the rounds right now, where all it takes is the scent of nutmeg to put a woman in the holiday spirit. Granted, a lot of the associations between Christmas and smell have to do with baking–the aforementioned nutmeg, along with peppermint, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon–all remind us of the cookies we so look forward to.

For me, though, the holidays wouldn't be complete without the scent of balsam in the air. It doesn't matter if the enticing aroma comes from a live tree or from Bath & Body Works, the tingle in my nose when I get a whiff is all I need to begin thinking about Christmas and this special time of year.

So take a few days off from writing and indulge in the scents of the season. But while you're relaxing, think about how you can use the sense of smell and taste in your writing. Close your eyes as you inhale the odors and try to write a paragraph in your head about the feelings that spring to mind as you indulge in the smell of balsam or nutmeg. Have a glass of hot mulled cider and describe the taste as you drain the glass.

A writer's mind is never quiet, is it?

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

America's Beginnings

Today's the anniversary of the day the Mayflower landed at Cape Cod, MA, in 1620. While not all of us can trace our roots back to these early, brave settlers trying to find a better life, we can offer up our thanks to these trailblazers. Of the 102 passengers on board, nearly half died that first winter in this new country before spring, and more would have perished if not for the help of the Wampanoag tribe, who taught these Europeans how to grow the crops needed for their survival.

My most recent book, Dance With Destiny, explores some of my family tree, and offers up an explanation for what has been a family secret and then a family mystery. My great-great-grandmother, Susannah Myers, lived on top of a mountain (or what passes for a mountain in Ohio) in southern Ohio with her husband, William, and their numerous children. When William joined the Army to fight the Civil War, he left Susannah and the children behind for four years. It was up to her to keep the children alive, well fed and warm. That was in addition to her regular chores of cooking, cleaning and laundry. In writing this story, I had to put myself into Susannah's shoes and imagine what hardships she would face. I kept asking myself the question–could I have survived the winter?

My answer was no. Although I'd like to think I could make it, that I could be a true pioneer and deal with whatever man and the elements dished out, I know my body well enough to know I'd have been one of the 50 who died during the first harsh winter the Puritans faced. I pay homage to these brave souls who tamed this wild country by writing about them.

So today's a day of thanks. Because of the modest success of the passengers on the Mayflower, more ships from Europe arrived on America's shores each spring, bringing vast numbers of people, including my ancestors, to this new world. They fought against tyranny during the Revolutionary War, they fought for freedom for all during the Civil War, they fought for the rights of women, they fought to survive and thrive. Their hardships and their struggles should never be forgotten. And it all began on this date, a mere 397 years ago.

On another note, there are only a couple days left to enter the rafflecopter drawing for the basket of Maine goodies, put together by myself and my friend and fellow Wild Rose author, Marin McGinnis. Our books, mine a contemporary novella, Love's In The Cards, and hers, a historical, Tempting Mr. Jordan, were both released this month and both are set in Maine. The entry form is on the right, or you can access it here:

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Drawing On The Past

Have you ever wished you could go back in time and write a different ending to something you've lived through? Haven't we all had moments like that?

I wrote two stories based on things from my past this year. One is a sweet story about a boy who used the soles of my shoes as drawing pads during nap time in kindergarten. The story line for Love's In The Cards builds on that experience and features the boy and girl all grown up. There's still time to enter the drawing for a basket of goodies from Maine, in celebration of this story, set in Lobster Cove, ME, in conjunction with my friend Marin McGinnis, who has a historical romance, Tempting Mr. Jordan, set in a coastal Maine town. We've gathered together blueberry jam, a lighthouse bookmark, balsam-scented incense, and other goodies, along with copies of our two books. The Rafflecopter to enter is on the right side of this post.

The other one is a bit more complex. Let me try to explain.

When I was a child, my dad told us his family's little secret. His grandmother was half-Indian! It was never a subject for discussion among his family, since his mother and her siblings were tormented mercilessly all through school because of the tainted blood in their veins. I latched onto the story, wore a fringe jacket and decorated my headbands with feathers. When genealogical records began showing up on the internet, I stepped in with both moccasined feet, trying to find my elusive ancestor.
I dug deep into the Myers side of the family, getting to know distant relatives who I never were aware even existed. My dad's one remaining brother and I had long discussions about my research and how everyone was searching for the same person, and so far, we came up empty. My uncle invented some off-the-wall scenarios about what may have happened. It brought us closer, but I still was far from an answer.

Then started peddling DNA kits. I waited for six long weeks after providing my sample, and when the results finally came in, I ripped open the mail. Imagine my disappointment when there was not a drop of American Indian blood! There were some surprises but the acknowledgment I had hoped for was nowhere to be found.

So where did the story come from? My great-grandmother, Missouria Belle, appeared on the 1870 census as a white female child. My dad remembered her as having knee-length black hair, even in her elder years. The Myers branches of the family had heard the same story and we were all devastated by the DNA results. If we all had heard the same story all these years, if our relatives were given grief in school because they were Indians, where was the Indian?

Dance With Destiny is my answer to all these questions. Whether it's right or not is anyone's guess, but at least it is an answer. I hope you enjoy getting to know my family.

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.