Archives for the month of: August, 2014

This month I put together a short story in response to a prompt about summer. The story took place at La Jolla Cove, and involved parrots. Amount of research done: None. I know these things. If the story expands to something longer, I may have to learn how to surf. Yeah, that will happen.

I have a novel on hold while I work on other projects, but for that story I had to research medical treatment for soldiers returning from France after battling Napoleon’s forces. There’s nothing that really addressed that specific detail from that time. Wellington hated to waste time and resources on the wounded, and pretty much left them all to themselves. I also had to research chaplains in that time, and luckily discovered much more on that subject.

I’m pretty much spoiled by the modern age. I want to type something into Google search and have exactly what I want pop up. What do you mean, I have to subscribe to History Journal to get the information? Why are you telling me about Russia when I asked about the French farmers? Who are all these people in wigs and why are you showing me their portraits?

I have this friend (ahem) who writes erotic romance in the Regency period. The first book in the series of short novellas is about to be published, but the second one requires some research. Like was there a French resistance to Napoleon’s army similar to the one in World War II? If not, how quickly can I – I mean, she – create a plausible time travel situation?

A couple of the hits for the subject recommend books – actual, written in ink on paper books – that might have the clues to what I need to know. To help my friend. I may be taking a trip to the local library when it opens again on Tuesday. Won’t that be fun? Where did I put my library card?

Of course, I have another resource called Scribophile. I can post the problem there in one of the historical research groups and see if anyone has the answer. Because Google is more about Napoleon the Man.

And when I searched for Part of France that Survived Napoleon Best, I learned more than I wanted to about the Russian campaign. Scorched earth policies and a winter of massive proportions ended that plan. But I didn’t know that Napoleon abandoned his army when retreating, leaving them in the worst part of winter, at -38 degrees (Celsius). Three-fourths of the army froze to death in one night. That’s 75 out of every 100 French soldiers. Freezing is not a horrible death, really, from what has been written about it. Still, death is death, and no amount of thinking otherwise helps. I know there are more novel ideas here, and I will look for them another time. Oh, and here’s the page with the paintings.

Back to the French farmers. Searching for French country life, thinking I would work my way backwards to the 19th century, I discovered some beautiful patterns for drapes and furniture fabrics, and antiques for sale in Petaluma. I did uncover a great blog about a woman buying a nearly uninhabitable French farm house and renovating it. I bookmarked it so I can go back and read the step by step upgrading of the place. I love that she went there with her father, and he was totally against it. But she followed her heart, and did what she wanted to do. Now there’s a novel story!

Here’s the page that recommended a book. At the library.
And here’s the book itself: So it’s off to see if the library has it, and then plan a trip there on their next open day. You know, time travel is looking better all the time.

Have a great holiday weekend in North America, and a great day around the world. See you on Thursday.

Prompts can be fun. There is some danger involved, however. When you start out with a couple “throw-away” characters, there’s a chance they will want a longer story, and become part of your mental whirl.

What is a prompt? It’s a tool used to stimulate your creative process. There are many different types of prompts. One is to throw out a word or several words, and write a scene involving those. In Romance writing, I ask that the two lovers discuss the word. Salad turned out to be a great discussion topic.

Other prompts involve setting up a scene, and letting your imagination run wild. I posted a thread on Scribophile titled How I Misspent My Summer Vacation. And that’s where the danger came in for me. I was writing a short piece taking place on the beach at La Jolla Shores, California. The male main character has demanded that I write more of this story. He kept me awake one night telling me his story. But I have too many other projects going on, so he will just have to wait.

Here are a few random prompt generators that might work for you.

Another type of prompt is the visual one. At a convention some time ago I attended a writing workshop, and we were handed a stack of prints of various subjects. We picked one, and had 15 minutes to write. I got a pretty good one and an excellent story idea that I may be back to soon.

Here are the visual prompts I have posted at Scribophile.

I love to play games and any game that involves writing something is exactly what I want. I used to go to a group in San Diego called Word Play, an excellent evening of writing exercises and companionship. Sadly, it’s a bit far with the price of gas these days. That’s where I learned about the Exquisite Corpse game. Originally it was a drawing game and or a poetry game. Here’s lots of information from Wiki: but the version that I learned involves writing about three lines of a story, with the very last word at the beginning of the 4th line. Then the paper is folded down so that only that last word can be seen. The paper is passed to the next player, who does the same thing, picking up with that last word as the first word of their story. The results are as fun as Mad Libs, and really give a writer a boost in positive energy shared.

I had the pleasure of moderating a writing workshop at the San Diego Gaslight Gathering a couple years back and taught the attendees to play the game. We managed about three rounds. Here are the results of the first one:

“The bells from Henly Tower woke the town as usual. Annie rubbed sleep out of her eyes and swung out of bed. Below, scents are a powerful aphrodisiac for the weak at heart. It would be better to have touch with a hint of power and fear. For a beauty of a dead fingernails clung from the drapes as she walked by and chewed on the tongue of a bat. Yes, it was the perfect night for a trip on the dirigible. Who knew feathers continued to haunt him. Why did he kill the chicken? He didn’t actually even eat the meat. IT just never shut up. “Bwaak,” it said, and then died. He plucked it and filled the pillows. The garbage disposal got the rest. Feet, feet are kicking me as I resentfully become awake. My wife continues to th4rash back and forth in bed. I look over at unfamiliar surrounding, up at the sky, overcast, chilly, and I wonder, really is it gonna really rain leaked through the edges of his hat, defeating its purpose entirely. He felt badly for the pointless nature of his protection, and politely ignored the trickle of water sneaking behind his ear. He put on the most miserable face he could muster. He ruminated the lady. Why, she wondered, was it so difficult to find a decent mad scientist in London? Perhaps Monsieur Fabre would be sufficiently insane as the crow flies. He sat in the morgue wondering what lingered in the casket, what evil was in there? He brought up his lit candle to the edge of the room, looking high, low, inside, outside. She wouldn’t grasp her emotions any longer.”

These exercises, it is to be hoped, have given you an idea for a novel. Now what do you do? If you are a pantser, or one who writes by the seat of their pants, you just start. If you are an outliner, you jot down point A and point Z, and sketch in all the in-between points. I am a mutant hybrid of those extremes. I can start out with the idea and nothing else, but at some point the possibilities of how the story might go must be put onto paper so they aren’t lost. Here are some excellent ideas about outlining. (Love this one)

I hope you had fun and learned something to take away into your creative space. I’ll be back on Sunday.

Tropes and formulas are a part of the Romance world. Searching Google will give you lots of plots and arcs and Very Important Elements for any romance novel. Using these formulas might just earn you some criticism about tropes and writing the same story over and over.

You can blithely ignore those critics. At the Romance Writers of America (RWA) meeting I attended yesterday, those of us who were not lucky enough to go to the National convention in San Antonio just last month were treated so some Publisher Spotlight notes that not only made us more jealous of those who went, but gave us lots of important information. And I am going to share some of it with you today.

Harlequin single title lines are not easy to break into, but the Harlequin series, under the Spotlight title, is a little more understanding of both authors and readers. And they insist on the formula. Not the same story over and over, but the same elements. Think of it like a foot race. All the entrants have to hit the same marks to meet the race requirements, but they can do it at their own time, in their own way.

The readers drive the desire for these same elements. A tortured hero, a flawed heroine, a reason for them to work together, a reason they shouldn’t fall in love, and a way to overcome all of that for the Happy Ever After (HEA). Here is Harlequin’s “format” for the perfect story:

Larry Brooks, the Storyfixer, wrote a great blog a couple years back on discovering that Romance writers are as competent and motivated as any other writers, and maybe more dedicated than most. And I am going to buy a copy of his book, Warm Hugs for Writers, to give to all my Scribophile friends when they doubt themselves.

Shoshanna Evers posted this Secret Formula in 2009, and now is a published author. Wait, can it be a secret if you post it on the Internet?

At the RWA meeting, we discussed a lot of what is hot and what is fading from view in subgenres. Personally, I am just going to keep writing what I want to write, and I will find my readers through good stories. But the next wave is Historical Romance, particularly medieval. And paranormal is on the way out, apparently. I am sure there are more readers like me who just realized the wealth of books out there about Alpha Male Wolf heros that make me a little melty. And even a lion shapeshifter has caught my attention, in Dark Age Dawning #3, Daybreak by Ellen Connor (who turns out to be two talented women!).

About Dark Age Dawning, I picked up a copy of the third book, and started reading it without the slightest intent of looking for the first two novels. Not only has that changed a few chapters in, I am going to find everything they ever wrote and read it.

Dystopia worlds have been a big deal for a while, where magic makes everything dangerous and beautiful. The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones are big reasons for this trend. But the genre has been around for a long time. Animal Farm being one of the earliest, and The Handmaid’s Tale one of the best. Here is Julia Gandrud’s 8 Point Dystopian Plot Formula.

Think you need a little more help getting this formula under your belt? Look for your local RWA chapter and find out which workshops are available. You can take some of the on-line workshops from any chapter, if it suits your needs. There are also many other sources of learning, from community college creative writing to Scribophile forums, but some of those are not exactly Romance friendly. But here’s a great plot mapping idea from Tracey Montana and Adrienne Giordano at the Romance University (whose motto is R U Ready? Love it).

Like Adrienne says at the end of the blog, I’d love to hear how you use the formula, and how you map your plot! Maybe you’d like to write a guest post for me on the subject! Maybe we can trade posts! I know if I followed through on half the ideas I come up with, I’d be rich and have all the time in the world to write. See you on Thursday.

I located an amazing board on Pinterest where corsets and stays and chemises are shown in real life. I love this one of a chemise.

And more pretty things to go under the actual gown:

And another statement that the drawers were just not the thing:

So we pretty much see how women got on for most of the month, but what about when Aunt Flo came to visit? You know, that time of the month. LONG before maxi-pads and tampons. I have found a place where this seems to be the conclusion: They used nothing. I am not sure that works for Regency women, but for rural and lower classes, it could be just part of life.

However, some interesting points there include that women began menstruation much later than today, used no contraceptive, so were pregnant and not menstruating most of the time, and also breastfed so again, they put a stop to it. Plus many had no idea of good nutrition, and were malnourished or overweight or sick most of the time. So when they did have their monthly courses, they uses pads that were held in place by a belt of some sort. This is speculations, but not a bad guess.

Everyday stockings would be similar to the ones on this page: but they would not do for a fancy dress ball. Most of the history of stockings and hose skip right over the Regency period which probably means nothing much changed during that time. Finally, someone mentioned the garters!

Now to shoes, the finishing touch. The women could pick dancing slippers, boots, and heels, according to this wonderful site: Here’s a complete history of the shoe:

The final package:

And just for fun, I leave you with this until Sunday.

Some weeks ago, I posted three photos of models who were in the running for the basis of my heroine in a Regency naval-based Romance. I had long ago picked my hero, thinking he would be a pirate, but he’s turned into Captain Christopher “Kit” Dash. Here’s his Pinterest image:

In the story, Kit is a tall man with broad shoulders and long legs who has some issues living on a ship that uses very little space for any one thing. So I felt that the woman who wins his heart will be a sturdy woman, beautiful and curved, but also taller than the norm, who feels solid in his arms and in his bed. This is Lila Auclair:

I’m getting to know Lila, even though actually writing this story isn’t in the forecast, so I decided to get what I know about her written out and saved for the time to come.

Novel Approach: Miss Auclair, welcome. Would you tell us a little about your childhood?

Lila Auclair: My younger days passed tediously, I wouldn’t dwell on them. Suffice to say that my father is a French fisherman, my mother was Scottish, from Stonehaven. They met when his fleet blew in during a storm. He stayed a while, as some of the boats were damaged. Then he went back to France. Mama didn’t speak French, but she thought he meant to come back. Well, in the course of things, I entered the world. We lived with her parents on a small farm, and she died when I turned twelve.

NA: That’s very touching. How did you end up in France? Boulogne-sur-mer, was it?

LA: Yes, I went to find my father, and found instead his family. Mostly fishermen, but some farmers too. I stayed with an aunt and helped my cousins run the farm. I have learned to make the very best goat cheese in the whole world. Would you like to try it?

NA: Oh, maybe later. Thank you. I read somewhere that Boulogne-sur-mer hosted a fleet of smugglers. Are you sure your father fished for a living?

LA: Having never met the man, I can only tell you the stories my mother told me. I have been reassured by my aunt that he did indeed fish at some time in his life. He has gone to fight Napoleon, so we do not know if he will return to the farm.

NA: Your father still does not know of your existence? How does that make you feel?

LA: How should it make me feel? I have no claims on him, and want only to live in France with the Auclair family. My aunt wrote a letter to him, to tell him about me, but I do not know if he received it. There has been no reply.

NA: What was your mother’s family name?

LA: MacFarlane. Hannah MacFarlane, daughter and only child of Edward and Mary Gordon MacFarlane.

NA: How did you happen to meet Captain Dash?

LA: My cousin Pierre took fresh vegetables, flour, and chickens to the British ships that patrol the channel. The captain asked him to bring more, everything we could spare. So we took two boats out, with goats and wine and honey, and much more. Just as we had off-loaded our boats, and Pierre started back in his, a French ship appeared, and the captain ordered his crew to attack. I could not get to my boat safely, so he sent me below. To his cabin.

NA: Well, that’s all the time we have today! Thanks for your candid answers, Miss Auclair. And thanks to everyone for reading. I’ll be back on Thursday with more about ladies’ clothing.

LA: Oh, I’d like to read that one.

NA: I don’t think the ship has WiFi.

I may have mentioned that I write Regency Romances. Published nothing so far, but come pretty close a time or two. Under and assumed name so my sister won’t be ashamed to acknowledge me in public, I am writing erotica. I have a fun scene where the hero dances the heroine outside and into a hedge maze, and does unspeakable things to her. That’s why I wrote it down, instead of making a recording.

One reader was amazed that the hero could simply pull her sleeves down her arms a bit, and all her glorious bounty lay exposed before him. “Didn’t they have bras?” she asked. No. No, they did not.

I’ll let Uncle Wiki fill you in on the history of the brassiere. Suffice to say bras were not used until the late 1800s, and the Regency era really slipped into the Victorian era about 1820.

What did the women do to keep the “girls” in line? There were several options. Much depended on the social status of the woman. Regency women dressed like an onion, in layers. First there was the chemise, also called a shift. Often this was the nightgown, too. Over this light and easily washed shift, would go the stays. The breasts were lovingly placed into the stiff cotton twill garment, and a wooden (usually) busk (yardstick) is inserted in the front, in a pocket designed just for that use. The stays were expected to flatten the stomach, but lift and separate the bosom. This is more flattering than the Georgian flat from neck to toes style, and much more comfortable than the Victorian corset.

The shoulder straps, as you can see here: can be undone from the front and tucked in the back, if your ball gown had a wide neckline. So my hero could easily have pulled the stays down the slender heroine, with no impediment.

Shall we finish dressing our Regency Heroine? Why not! Over the stays, her ‘tiring woman or abigail places the petticoat. The bodice of the petticoat would be of a cheap, coarse fabric, and the had open sides for eas of dressing. Strips of fabric tape tied it all closed. The chemise would not be ankle length, but the petticoat was designed to fill out the shape of the dress, so that the wearer’s legs could not be easily perceived under her gown. It went to the hem and had at least one ruffle, properly called a flounce.

Drawers, you ask? Oh, no. Only fast women and prostitutes would wear drawers!

But that’s a step backward. Here are a few more wonderful links on the subject, and next Thursday we’ll look at the outer layers, and that wonderful hobby, laundry! Have a good week.

The most exciting parts of traveling are the day you leave and start the adventure, and the day you roll home with tons of laundry to do and weariness you wouldn’t trade for anything. So let’s jump off of Cypress and head on to Gambia. Where the Gamers all live.

241. Gambia. Mid-week, I mentioned my love of horses in fiction, novels like The Black Stallion making up a large part of my story-spinning daydreams. Alhaji by Ebou Dibba is the story of a 16-year-old boy who owns a dream horse, and what happens when he is offered a lot of money to sell the animal to a rich man. Horses aren’t just property, nor is any animal who shares our lives.

242. Germany. Yeah, missed it completely. So much great literature here, but I think Three Comrades: A Novel of Germany Between the Wars by Erich Maria Remarque is a good choice. Trying to keep alive and employed in a country devastated by war and treated as less than human by the rest of the world, these three young men keep each other going, and are the most vulnerable to love. There’s apparently a Russian version that is equally well received.

243. Grenada. What if you emigrated to a beautiful island in the Caribbean just in time for a Communist Revolution to break out? Why, you’d probably write a book about it. That’s what Kay Howard did. Memories to Die For: An American Family’s Terror-filled Adventures on the Island of Granada. Reviews are mixed, some complain about the ethnocentric Americans looking down on the native inhabitants, and some enjoying the page-turning pace of the adventures. It’s worth a look.

244. Guinea-Bissau. As a country on the coast of Africa, Guinea-Bissau has lots of needs, such as clean water, improved economy, and good health care. Or is that California? Anyway, I admire the woman who set up clinics to treat many diseases that were rampant in the country. I don’t know if I admire the fact that she came to do God’s work, which meant creating a written version of the language and translating the New testament into that language. That feels a bit heavy handed to me, and a bit of the culture might have just changed completely. Still this book is God’s Needle: How Lily Gaynor Brought Hope and Healing to the Land of the Witchdoctors. It could have been much worse.

245. Kosovo. I have the pleasure to be acquainted with a woman who sponsored a family from Kosovo. Their experiences while leaving the war-torn area are horrific. And one can only rage impotently at the brutality and death the children of the family witnessed. My friend calls the children her grandchildren, and they are her spiritual family. We say one person can’t do very much alone, but there are so many examples of what one person can do that we have to stop saying that or believing it. I picked The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley because it’s a true story and it’s an accidental book.

246. Kuwait. Once more a book is set between two wars, these the Gulf wars with poetic names like Desert Storm and Desert Shield. In the intersection of the lives of five different people, lies a crime of abuse against a young woman. The reviews of Small Kingdoms by Anastasia Hobbet (what an awesome name!) are mostly ecstatic to have found the book. Wise and well paced, said one. Another quoted wonderful lines and noted the pages. Looking forward to this read.

247. Nauru. One of many people who “discovered” this island called it Pleasant Island. During World War II, the island was invaded by Japanese soldiers, two-thirds of the population taken away without communication to those left behind. Captivity and starvation on the island, exile off the island, the people survived, and Jemima Garrett wrote their story in Island Exiles. Not found on Goodreads, so here’s a Google link.

248. Netherlands. So many choices, but as an avid fan of Gregory Maguire, I had to go with Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Yes, the reviews are mixed, and yes, he might belabor a point or two, but his retelling of Cinderella has to be worth the read, as well as giving us a glimpse into seventeenth-century Holland.

249. Sint Maarten. Oh, how I love islands. The privacy, the luxury, the sand and the sea. A Time to Love by Barbara Delinsky is referred to by one reviewer as Lifestyles of the Rich and Horny. Okay, I’ll buy that. Rich girl with a broken heart meets celebrity photographer, and lust ensues.

250. South Africa. There are people who can’t wait to leave the place where they were born and grew up. Then they realize they will be taking with them everything they inherited from that place. Imaginings of Sand (Afrikaan’s title would translate to Sand Castles, I believe) by André Brink tells the story of a woman who escaped, but her loyalty to her family calls her back. The reviews complain a bit about a man writing as a woman. So I guess my book about a bisexual male in Regency England would not work? I wouldn’t worry about a man writing as a woman, I would comment on a person doing well as a writer. But that’s me.

251. Sudan. I want to mention a children’s book, A Long Walk To Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park. I have to read this one, just to see how the two stories come together. But I also like the true story Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir and Damien Lewis. All the reviews are 3 to 5 stars, the first one saying that if you are a Politically Correct sort of person, this book is going to piss you off. Not for the faint-hearted and life changing follow.

252. Switzerland. I picked The Raven and the Rose by Susan Wigg because it takes place in the Monastery of St. Bernard, where the beautiful and intelligent dogs were bred and trained. But there are half a dozen books with that title or near enough titles, and even an author named Rose Raven. If ever a book called for a subtitle, this would be it. However, our story takes place in the time of Napoleon, which I know covers a few decades, but the hero known as the Raven is sent to kill a royal bastard of Louis the XVI who might be able to derail Bonapart’s plans. The Rose, the natural child of the king, knows nothing of her heritage, and, well, it’s been a long war and the Raven could use a little R and R. (See what I did there?)

Well, that’s the world, so now we need to go somewhere else. How about a quick trip out through the Solar System?

253. The Sun. Full disclosure impels me to admit I am a huge fan of David Brin, I will sit in on any panel he is on at a convention, and I love the Uplift War sagas in the extreme. So of course when thinking of a book that takes place on the sun, I thought of Sundiver. I really loved this murder mystery set in space on the most unique ship I have ever encountered. Reviews are mixed, but that’s humans for you. Not obsessed with current technology, and Brin does have a way of making things just work. The concept of the food dispensers doesn’t come with diagrams and synthesizer discourses. It simply gives food.

254. Mercury. I learned something very interesting while researching this book. Before Lord of the Rings came out, there was a very similar epic (similar in basics, not in detail) called The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison. Tolkien himself even acknowledged its influence on his books. That makes it a must read for me. Most reviews are 5 and 4 stars and very complimentary, so let the enchantment continue.

255. Venus. The Radio Planet by Ralph Milne Farley (who also writes as Roger Sherman Hoar) deals with the invention of matter transmission by radio, allowing the hero to encounter monsters, dinosaurs, and giant insects! This is the third book in the Radio Man series, and has that macho, weapon-wielding Earth man bit we grew up with. Two out of three reviews gave it high marks.

256. Mars. (We did earth, remember? Look back a few weeks, I’ll wait. Ready now?) John Carter of Mars is the perfect series for the Red Planet, and the first book in the Barsoom series is A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is the plot that turned up in the movie John Carter. Now I have to go watch it again. I don’t care what the reviewers said, this is a great story.

257. Jupiter. Well, yes, but there’s no real land mass on Jupiter, so we’ll visit the moon Callisto. And in a style much like Edgar Rice Burroughs’s, Lin Carter presents Jandar of Calisto. You know, battling mean aliens, saving the beautiful princess, and being the first in a series. Good reviews, worth a look.

258. Saturn. We turn from the epic sagas and such to much more “hard” science fiction. Robert L. Forward was a scientist and an aerospace engineer. His books, like Saturn Rukh, are cited as having scientific credibility. Some fans of sci-fi want to read the fluffy stuff and let the facts fall where they may. That’s why space ships were making noise in space long after we knew that wouldn’t happen. But if you can challenge yourself to read this interesting premise of four people being paid to research Saturn’s atmosphere and the possibility of turning that ball of gas into useable fuel, you won’t be disappointed.

259. Uranus. Another gas giant. Oh, stop giggling. Goodreads has never heard of this book, although there are a bazillion titles by the author, Edmund Hamilton. And Amazon has it as a double book, so that’s the best I can give you. Treasure on Thunder Moon is a story of someone on the edge of being too old for their chosen profession, but getting one more chance to pilot a starship and find untold wealth. No reviews available, love the pulp fictionesque cover.

260. Neptune. Well, let’s just put in on the moon called Triton, shall we? Neptune Crossing by Jeffrey A. Carver is a First Contact tale, and not just meet and greet sort of contact. Allowing an alien to set up housekeeping in your personal brain. Exciting idea to some, claustrophobic to others. A good, hard-science read, maybe a little weak at the end, but maybe that’s to allow a sequel some day.

260A. Pluto. Please take any debates about the planetaryness of Pluto outside. I don’t care. I grew up with 9 planets, and I am happy to be a Niner. I only made this 260A because otherwise I am over my limit of 20 books per week. So there. And what a wonderful book to mark this last stop on the way out of the solar system! Whisperer in the Darkness by H. P. Lovecraft. Did you know Mr. L actually discovered Pluto? In his dreams and imagination? Of course, he called it Yuggoth. And while he was writing this story, the planet was discovered.

Honorable mention to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s First Lensman novel,
And Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit – Will Travel.

Next Sunday, I’ll be back to writing things about writing, and my new mid-week day is Thursday. See you then.

Every writer I know is also a great reader. I don’t think I would be driven to tell stories if I hadn’t lost myself in the pages of some great adventure. I might have pursued another creative outlet, but in “the autumn of my years” I have no regrets.

I can actually look back at my life through the books I read at different times. My sister read to me, and I loved it then, and still do. If you want a job as book reader, look me up when I’m rich and famous. In Kindergarten, my teacher handed out mimeographed (inhale! Can you still smell it?) pictures of a “bookworm” so cute you would gladly let him eat your library. For every book we read out loud to the class, we could color in one segment of his long body. I read a little story book about The Three Little Pigs. Later, with classmates, we would act out that classic tale of thinking things through and killing wolves.

A few years later, I had one illness or another, and my mother bought me a glossy hard covered book, Black Beauty. My sister was also horse-mad, and I picked up some of it from her, but never had quite the opportunity she had to be around actual horses. A wide variety of pets did embroider my life, and I have always been a fan of the various creatures we humans live with. And so it will come as no surprise that I picked up books like The Yearling, The Black Stallion, Big Red, and Lad: A Dog. And any and all sequels to these. We lived in a rural section of a small town, with no sidewalks, and no parks very close. I went to a private school so I knew none of the kids in the neighborhood, if there were any. These books and the characters in them were my best friends.

In high school, I got into some serious literature. Shakespeare, of course, and many assigned books I had already read when they were handed down from my sister or brother. I remember being excited by the pirate novel, The Silver Oar by Howard Breslin due to the comparatively mild sexual scenes. But I never knew you could write about that stuff!

I got in with friends who were fans of TV shows about World War II, and read The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone, and Von Ryan’s Express. I read a bunch of non-fiction, too, doing my first ever research for my writing. I wrote fan fiction, and I am not ashamed of it. But no, you will probably never see any of it.

Before I graduated, my group of friends had morphed into Star Trek fans, and I was reading Asimov’s Foundation series and wondering why I just didn’t like much of Robert Heinlein. And I was writing fan fiction for Star Trek. I had a good time, but I lamented the fact I couldn’t write original stories. I would love to go back and tell myself, be patient. This is just part of the learning experience.

Some years later, my sister (she really is my guardian angel, and I love her dearly!) shared a book with me. An historical romance by Kathleen Woodiwiss. The Flame and the Flower is credited as the first modern romance novel, and my sister and I devoured everything she wrote, and subsequently Rosemary Rogers added fuel to our burning pasisons. I wandered off the track to explore Barbara Cartland, Edith Layton, and Georgette Heyer. I found my perfect writing model in Mary Balogh, and Regency romances.

I’ve spend the years exploring lots of humor, science fiction, and historical novels. But my writing heart first and foremost is in the Regency period. That whole “universe” is open to any writer, to create and play and populate. It’s my home and my spirit is happy there.
This is my last Wednesday post. I’ll be back on Sunday to wrap up (finally!) the world tour, and then next week I’ll post on Thursday. My schedule is such that Wednesday is too much of a push for getting a good post up, most of the time. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful week.

I don’t work as a bookkeeper. I admire accountants and other organized people. The only organization I have is Romance Writers of America, ha ha ha. Going down the list of countries I had visited in this trip, and the list of countries of the world, I noticed some huge discrepancies. Did I really miss Albania and Belgium? Sheesh. Well, I am going on with the list of some others at the end of the lists, and then will double and triple check where I still need to go. Let’s get agoing!

221. Montserrat. A romantic island with an actual volcano, and an actual ruined city. Called the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean due to the resemblance to the Irish coast, and the number of Irish inhabitants that settled there, it’s certainly a beautiful and diverse community. So let’s take a walk on the wild side, and read a bi-racial m/m romance that gets hotter than lava. Hot Summer Nights: Montserrat by Remmy Duchene had no reviews as yet, but some of his other titles received 4 plus stars reviews.

222. Nicaragua. Jumping around will continue, but this isn’t too far to go. You will recognize the author, most likely. Salman Rushdie traveled through this country and wrote a look at the culture and society he found there from the lower layers, looking up. A glimpse of the Sandinista years, one reviewer docked a star since the book is no longer relevant to the modern country. I hope that rule isn’t applied to very many novels, it’s a little wacky. The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey.

223. Palestinian Territories. Not to be too prejudiced or anything, but my Why Can’t We All Just Get Along philosophy stumbles a bit in the Middle East. Answering violence with violence is bad. And there’s no right answer. Here’s a look at the Palestinian point of view when the state of Israel popped into existence and some non-Jews had to leave. Wouldn’t you think after centuries of being treated that way, the Chosen People would have taken a higher road? Well, I wasn’t there and I didn’t experience the hatred, so let’s just leave that alone. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa tells the story of a family forced to leave the land they loved and cherished, and the events that befell them in a refugee camp. Originally published with the title Scar of David, this powerful novel will not leave you unchanged.

224. Pitcairn. Here we have our pick of scandal from the past, or more recent. In the past, a mutinous crew of oBritish sailors fled to this island with a few native women and men, and settled into the carefree life of staying alive on a tropical island. In recent times, a culture of incest, sex slaves, and lack of status for women blew up and attracted unwanted attention for the islanders. But what about the decedents of Christian Fletcher? There should be hoards of Mel Gibson at his best, look-a-likes running around half naked. And there should be British culture and afternoon teas and so on. Think about what it takes to mutiny against the way of life you freely chose to follow, to possibly doom someone to death through starvation and dehydration in a dinghy, and to then hide from possible repercussions on another island. Serpent in Paradise is a good look at life on Pitcairn from the prospective of an outsider, Dea Birkett. One wonders how much of the way of life she observed that was later revealed in the sexual abuse and rape trials, and why she chose to stay quiet on the facts. But it could be for reasons we’ll never know.

225. Saint Barthelemy. This island was briefly under Swedish rule, and is the only Caribbean island with such a history. Electricity came to the island in the 1960s, and now St. Barts is know for its exclusivity and posh tourism. They have come a long way from slavery. A series of mystery novels centered around Charles Trenet of the Gendarmerie Nationale starts with Murder at St. Barts, by J. R. Ripley. One reviewer says it is more of a parody than a mystery, and the murderer was obvious way too soon. But, hey, it’s St. Barts!

226. St. Helena. Yes, THAT St. Helena. Regency readers and writers immediately know who went there and who died there, and that controversy will always follow infamous figures. There have been back and forth arguments between learned men for a few decades about whether Napoleon Bonapart was poisoned or died of natural causes. Consider that in a time of uncertain medical care and rampant diseases, at the age of 51, without a history of any illnesses or injuries, the deposed emperor surrendered his life over a short time to an ulcer. Possibly he did have stomach cancer, which killed his father, but read for yourself the evidence presented by Ben Wieder in Assassination at St. Helena Revisited.

227.St. Christopher and Nevis. In Romance writer circles, lately, there’s been some conversations about Nora Roberts. There’s no denying the lady has done marvelous things for the genre, and for women in particular. Some of us want to be Nora when we grow up. So I thought it would be cool to showcase her book, The Reef, which takes place on the island of St. Kitts. (When you get to know the islands really well, you can call them by their nicknames) Reviews span all numbers of stars, most interesting are the ones from daughters who remember their moms reading these books. The legacy continues.

228.St. Pierre and Miquelon. It’s pretty obvious that the smaller islands travel in pairs. These two are northwestern Atlantic Ocean islands, not so very tropical or sunny. I could not find one book about the islands, but stumbled on a movie based on a true history of the island. The Widow of St. Pierre is a French film, and tells a story that while wonderful and engaging, has a not so happy ending. And because it’s true, it can’t be rewritten for a few more centuries. Still, the movie looks good and won a few awards, and it’s all French. Just like the islands.

229. St. Vincent and Grenadines. Back in the warm part of the globe, I thought I had made up my mind, but then revisited the choices. Sometimes on Goodreads, a book will be listed, but when you click to read more about it, you get a message that the book could not be found. I could not let go of one title, A Tiny Slice of Caribbean Life: Portrait of a Vincy Woman by I. Rhonda King. A small book with a touch of the old vanity press feel to it, the golden moments between the covers are presented as dialogue between two rural women on the island. You can’t find a better way to get the feel of the place than that.

230. The Most Serene Republic of San Marino. The smallest country, population wise, in the Council of Europe, the longest existing constitution, founded as a monastery, and one of the richest countries, there are no books which take place here! Not. One. No books and the wildlife, no travelogues, not one. Why is that? Is it the lack of an ocean? The low crime rate? The fact most people never heard of it? Well, it’s going on my list of places where I will set a story someday, and in the meantime, read the official web page.

231. Slovenia. Lots of books here, as long as you read Slovenian. Luckily, a nice person (Mae Gerhard) drew pretty pictures so we can at least get an idea. And the book title is in English, so that’s a good sign, right? No reviews to go on, but The Golden Bird by Vladimir Kavčič is a collection of Folktales from Slovenia. I love this stuff, and who knows, it might be a source of inspiration for the next great Romance novel.

232. South Georgia and Sandwich Islands. Beautiful islands are in high demand by governments of near-by countries. Robert K. Headland worked as an officer in the British Antarctic Survey, when somehow he managed to be stationed on South Georgia. Not exactly a tropical island, as it’s very close to the Antarctic. Used for whaling ships once upon a time, someone noted that “A rotting whale could fill with gas to bursting, ejecting a fetus the size of a motor vehicle with sufficient force to kill a man.” But it’s not all fun and games on South Georgia. And Robert K. Headland shows us that in his beautifully illustrated book, The Island of South Georgia. No word if dead pregnant whales are being considered for use as weapons.

233. Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands. Once called Spittsbergen for the volcano, an early explorer believed he had found the entrance to Hell. Sadly, the islands are much more mundane than that, but still remote and harsh. This was a whaling port in the Arctic, but whales were never left to rot, apparently. NASA has a base there. The capital city is Longyearbyen. Tourists come for the glaciers and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Goodreads had nothing to offer, so I went to the Wiki entry and looked for ISBNs. That brought up Spittsbergen Svalbard: A Complete Guide Around the Arctic Archipelago by Rolf Stange. Mostly photographs, still everything you need to know about the islands.

234. Tokelau. The island name means North Wind in the islanders language. If I hadn’t made that notation on my notes, I would think I finally went around the final bend. I know I read something about the book Where on Earth is Tokelau by Maxwell H. Heller when researching from my place of employment on a break. I know there was information on how and why Mr. Heller went there and what happened. Can I find it from home? Not on Wiki, not on Goodreads, not anywhere. Then I remembered, I was going to the Wiki pages on the country itself, not looking up the book. Whew! There are lots of articles written about the islands, because it’s a shark sanctuary, they adjusted their time zone recently, and they are a sunny, untouched Pacific paradise. That last is up to debate. But yes, the book is listed there with the subtitle, A Doctor’s Experiences in the South Seas. All’s well.

235. Trinidad and Tobago. The true Caribbean, says one tourist web site. Well, yes, there was slavery, and Tobago means tobacco, and the islands are beautiful. Chris Columbus showed up and bam! The natives no longer owned the land. Hostile Takeover engaged. The Book of Trinidad by Gerard Besson (and possibly Bridget Brereton) is a unique record, following the dictate that “We must remember, and we must remember everything.” You’ll find recipes, travelogues, newspaper articles, official records and some historians’ papers. You will know Trinidad and Tobago when you close the book.

236. Turks and Caicos. Paul G. Boultbee has penned a number of books about the beautiful islands of the Caribbean. I have very little to go on, regarding his book, Turks and Caicos Island. It’s a sunny and relatively dry set of islands, popular with pirates and salt collectors. There has been scandal in the government, just like a big country, and an annual concert with big celebrities. They have no post office, and nobody seems to mind. There is a particular breed of dog in the islands, not so much a breed, really, and a mix called the potcake dogs. Wouldn’t it be cool if each celebrity and millionaire tourist who visited the island contributed to the care and health of these special dogs? Oh, the book. Yes. Here’s the link.

236. Vanuatu, Republic of. Formerly called New Hebrides, someone decided they weren’t done with the old Hebrides yet, and changed it to Vanuatu. That means Home Stand in the native language. Survivor was filmed there, both US and Australian. No one wrote a story about that, and I think that’s a shame. The original European government was a combined English-French Condominium. I can’t see these two folks living happily together in one building, let alone an island. And the natives were banned from getting citizenship in either ruling country, which sucked. And is a greater shame than the missing Survivor books. So I’m going with The Birds of Vanuatu by Heinrich L. Bregulla, since he isn’t political.

237. Wallis and Futuna Islands. French ruled islands near New Zealand, Three Kingdoms, and nary a book on any of it. Why not write your own? The Travel Journal of Wallis and Futuna contains information on the islands and lots of blank pages so you can record your thoughts, feelings, and how much you spent.

238. Albania. The Ottoman Empire wants this country. The country doesn’t agree. The Siege by Ismail Kadare records the facts and the fiction of the event. A stunning novel by a powerful, award-winning writer.

239. Belgium. I’m cheating a bit here, as the book takes place in France and Belgium, but the subject is one of extreme interest to me. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracey Chevalier (wonder if we’re related?) follows the escapades of a deliciously appealing scoundrel, a painter who designs the famous tapestries that now hang in the Cluny Museum in Paris.

240. Cyprus. Could go with Othello, but I think not. Better a tale where going to Cyprus tears your life apart. Sigh. No, maybe a book about finding your past and putting it all together on Cyprus. Okay, I need to wrap this up. So you’re getting both. The People In-between: A Cyprus Odyssey by Gregory S. Lamb and Small Wars by Sadie Jones. Enjoy!

And I’ll see you on Wednesday. Maybe next week we can wrap up the whole world.

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