My Life in Books

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 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17316760-the-silver-oar?ac=1 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.

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Crowded Virtual House

At any time, I have multitudes of characters inhabiting my head. I carry story ideas that have been waiting their turn for 25 years or more. All romances, some erotica, some also science fiction, but the majority are Regency.

While I am working on the story, they come closer to the surface. I finished my Regency erotica Book 1, and the characters in Book 2 are clamoring for my attention. But I have a deadline for a story that will be part of an anthology, with a bartender and his boss lady. Also there’s a regular Regency romance with an agent, while the second book in that series has started but is waiting these other priorities.

That second Regency is at an interesting point, and I feel the characters glare at me now and then. I’ve talked about both characters in previous blogs. The main male character is a dandy, whom I interviewed, and the main female character is a Regency nerd, deeply engrossed in Roman antiquities.

I have a SciFi Romance that ground to a halt when critiques on Scibophile had more questions than comments about the planet that I had no answers for. I’m waiting for a chance to do some world building to figure out how the ecological disaster came about. Then I can get the MCs back on track for a happily ever after.

Eventually, thanks to my love of the Master and Commander, Aubrey and Maturin, books by Patrick O’Brien, I will deal with an inspiration involving a captain in the British Navy in 1801. I finally fixed on his name, something gallant but not already in use. Now the FMC needs to be discovered. She is an English woman who has relatives in France, living along the channel, who stayed after a visit to help out her relatives. What will bring them together? What will keep them apart philosophically/ What will each of them have to sacrifice for a HEA?

The best way to keep all those characters separated is through character sheets, especially very detailed ones. But on the fly, I just need a reminder of the basics, eye color, hair color and length, height, build, physical condition, obvious things people notice about the person. I need to find a way on-line to pull up a character card with basics and in-depth details available with one more click. Here’s my favorite character sheet so far: http://www.uncleanarts.com/writing/tutorial/tutorialcharacter.htm

Lately, I have developed a great collection of models and such on whom I base my characters or who resemble what I had in mind for the character. Pinterest is the best ever in this regard. Not only do I find characters but also houses or towns or whatever! Here’s the captain: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694893848864/

Here’s the hero in the sequel to The Viscount’s Mouse: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894257684/

And his love interest, my Regency nerd:

I could spend more time looking through Pinterest than writing, so I have to put limits on that activity. And if I haven’t completed my imagining of this character, it could be a choice between one model and another. So here’s your chance to help.

The love interest for the captain is a mid-twenties English woman of French heritage, in 1801. Vote for Link 1: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666716/
Link 2: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666730/
Link 3: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666796/

I’ll shared the winner next Wednesday. And Sunday, we’re back to travel by book!

Intermission

I know we are on the home stretch of our journey Around the World, but this past week brought such relief to me and my beloved husband. He got a job. Not just a do-it-because-we-need-the-money type of job, but the perfect job, where they respect his knowledge and treat everyone like good people. He is looking forward to his first day at work tomorrow. So much excitement has not been good for my writing time, and so the research for the books to list has been allowed to slide. I hope you will forgive me and join in the celebration.

Of course, we have a few bills to pay, and catch up to do, but I can retire in 19 week (but who’s counting?) and still have oodles of money in the accounts. In my belief system, I don’t want to look too far ahead and dream of what I will do with the money, because that means I have already gotten that good. Okay, it’s complicated and all, but I try to live in this moment, when I am putting words down to share with people who like reading Romance and who like what I have shared before.

But if I DID think about the future expenditure of disposable income, here are a few of the things that come to mind. First of all, a trip to the United Kingdom. http://www.kensingtontours.com/Travel/Tours/United_Kingdom?gclid=CjkKEQjw_ZmdBRD1qNKXhomX_sEBEiQAc9XNUM9rkjEgaKtV4X0WD2SY2D4HSP446tgghiqPydbbxBHw_wcB

And then a special tour following after the delightful Miss Austen. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/how-to-tour-jane-austens-english-countryside-6228269/?no-ist

We need a new washing machine and a new refrigerator. http://www.kenmore.com/front-load-washers/nb-120000000223589?intcmp=ken_nav_laundry_frontloadwashers#meetMatch

http://www.kenmore.com/search=french-door?storeId=10154&catalogId=12604&viewItems=25&sLevel=0&levels=Kitchen_Refrigerators+%26+Freezers_French+Door+Bottom+Freezers&sLevel=0&redirectType=SKIP_LEVEL&intcmp=ken_refrigerators_vertical_french_door_image_101513&prop17=french-door

I want a truck. http://www.toyotasandiego.com/new-San+Diego-2014-Toyota-Tacoma-Pickup+2D+6+ft-5TFNX4CN7EX037352

Of course, we would love to move closer to the ocean some day. http://www.redfin.com/CA/Carlsbad/3719-Sandpoint-Ct-92010/home/6336432

We may need some help with lawn care. http://www.pinterest.com/pin/273171533617640866/

And the home office for my writing must have a secret door behind a bookcase. http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/28061441/list/How-to-Create-a-Secret-Doorway-Behind-a-Bookcase

We’ll want all the latest technology, eventually. Wait, will it still be the latest if we get it next year? http://www.designyourway.net/blog/inspiration/30-cool-high-tech-gadgets-to-give-your-home-a-futuristic-look/

Most of all, however, I want to be back on Medifast, exercising more, getting vet care for all the pets, and having the time to feed the birds fresh foods every day. That really will be the perfect life, and is the most likely to happen right away.

So if you are out Trick-or-Treat-ing and see a crazy woman who looks as happy as it’s possible to look and still be decent in public, chances are it’s me. My retirement date will be October 30, 2014, and there will be a huge celebration on the 31st. A light heart lives longest. Maireann croí éadrom i bhfad.

http://irish-sayings.com/cats/irishproverbs/?ModPagespeed=noscript

See you on Wednesday for some fun, and next week we’ll continue our journey Around the World.

Name That Time Period!

Can you tell how much I like to use this blog to grumble about critiques and so on? Today’s Issue-I-Need-to-Get-Off-My-Chest regards the use of names. I use the name Harris as a first name for a Regency Lord. Someone commented that Harris wasn’t used as a first name at that time. Oh, really?

Let us consult the Peerage. http://www.thepeerage.com/index_custom.htm (I know I could have used Burke’s, but I found the one above first. Here’s Burke’s:http://www.burkespeerage.com/) (Oh, funny little thing, you have to have a subscription to use Burke’s.) I went to the Custom Index for the Napoleonic Wars, because that’s the time period I want. Here are some of the names listed and the years of the battles. I believe the named person was mentioned in dispatches or some such.

Spencer Minchin, 1801. Stapleton Stapleton-Cotton, 1812. Israel Pellew. 1805. Hercules Robinson, 1805. Connell Scanlan, 1813. Adderly Beamish-Bernard, 1815. Whitwell Butler, 1815. Beaumont Hotham, 1815. Fletcher Norton, 1815. Watkin Owen Pell, 1813. Wroth Palmer Acland, 1809. Galbraith Lowry Cole, 1809. Prosper Aime Victor Combe, 1809. Chichester William Crookshank, 1809. Rowland Hill, 1813. Hardress Robert Saunderson, 1809. Baldwin Layton, 1814.

Harris Butterfield was born in London in 1835.

So, you are asking yourself, what’s my point? That a lot of typical surnames were used as first names, along with some pretty strange names. Come on, Wroth? Hardress? Anyway, at least person received the first name of Harris, even though it was later than the Regency. My point is, there’s every chance that at least one person in the Regency period could have had that name. At least I didn’t go with Throatwarbler-Mangrove.

In looking for the names of the period, I discovered a great site, Almanac, that had a great article on how names wax and wan in popularity: http://www.almanac.com/content/name-game And this site shows which names were the most popular in which decade: http://www.galbithink.org/names.htm

Mary and John were the ruling names for babies in the early 1800s, with boys giving way to William in 1840, and girls getting Elizabeth for a change in 1900. That’s pretty impressive. And no wonder by the time George M. Cohan came along. Mary was an old name, even if a grand one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmzxTtAe6bA&feature=kp

Want to find popular names in more recent times? Baby Center has the information: http://www.babycenter.com/babyNameYears.htm and so does the Social Security Administration. http://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/decades/

Have fun looking up all your friends and family. See you on Sunday.

Sexual Dealings

I am working on erotica set in the Regency period. Don’t ask me where the idea came from, but when I mentioned my need for quick income, a friend told me that self published erotica would be my best bet, and if the writing was good, there would be nothing to worry about.

So boom, the idea came to me, and now I am struggling with my heroine. Not the hero, he’s a good guy who had a bum rap in life through on fault of his own, and while he wouldn’t mind having sex with a beautiful 19-year-old, he won’t do it unless they are married.

My heroine, we’ll call her Ellen because that’s her name, has been raised mostly by her father and two older brothers. Father distrusts learning, so while she has had lessons in drawing, music, and French, she is not allowed to pursue her interests in philosophy, politics, and business.

My problem is, finding herself alone with a nice, attractive man, would she want to explore her sexual feelings? So off I go to Google sex drive and sexual desire. The best information comes from Canada! Who knew polite sex could be so arousing?

Ninety percent of adult women have sexual fantasies. I so wonder about the other 10%. Anyway, there are people who experience hyper-sexuality, but they usually have had some life experience that brings that on. However, just being overly impulsive can lead to sexual explorations.

Maybe she has observed the servants engaging in some sort of snogging. In looking for a slang term to use for snogging, I discovered one of the more comprehensive lists: https://sites.google.com/site/regencymurdermystery/slang and this: http://www.pascalbonenfant.com/18c/cant/ But there don’t seem to be any cant expressions for the simple act of cuddling and kissing. To bill and coo might just have been in use, according to this site: http://voices.yahoo.com/bill-coo-origin-history-lovers-expression-3089287.html

Most lower servants were prohibited from marrying, not only by the disapproval of the employer, but also by the low wages they earned. An absolutely wonderful person who has been very kind to me posted this on her blog: http://www.kristenkoster.com/2011/11/a-primer-on-regency-era-servants/ which is extremely helpful.

What I think will unfold is this: Ellen observes a footman and a maid kissing. She begins to follow them around, and eventually observes them actually clicketing. (Go look it up at the second link, I’ll wait.) And so, when alone with a man she finds attractive, she begins to explore this interesting pastime.

Thanks for helping me work through this dilemna. Back on Sunday for the next leg of our trip around the world by books.

Chance Encounters

I met my husband on-line. This was many years ago before the internet was such a big deal. We both belonged to a bulletin board system, a BBS, that specifically wanted people to get to know each other and make matches. I’d been on there for a couple years, and Mike had been on before that. He just happened to log on again, and we played in the nightly trivia game.

Many other things had to happen, and did, and we are still happy together, but I sometimes marvel that the chances of a moment brought us together.

I’m sharing most of the first chapter of my Regency Romance, The Dandy’s Wager. The chance encounter of Lady Elizabeth Underwood and Lord Robert Coleman in an old church yard sparks an attraction neither looked for. They are both there for a wedding, following which Elizabeth sneaks away in her quest for Roman artifacts and ruins. She is behind a hedge when Lord Robert and his friends come out to the yard. I hope you enjoy it.

The Dandy’s Wager

Voices from the other side of the hedge startled her out of her meditations. Smoke, too, drifted past the leaves. Some gentlemen had come out to the churchyard to smoke cigars. She shrank back to the wall, thankful for the lush coverage and concealment.

“Thank your brother for us, Rob,” one man called. “This wedding has inspired our mothers to push us toward parson’s mousetrap.”

A chorus of laughing agreement and ridicule followed. Then a different voice answered, “You know I tried to talk him out of it, Will. Being the last unmarried child, both my parents are on me now to settle down.”

Yet another man chuckled. “Perhaps we should just pick one of the pretty girls here today. None of them are hard on the eyes, and none too silly. If we have to marry, we can do worse than these, and we can make it interesting.”

A fourth man, at least Elizabeth thought this one had not spoken before, said, “We court then, wed them, and bed them–”

Shouts and comments interrupted him, mostly things she could not understand. Then Rob, the first speaker, said, “We must have heirs. Then our parents will be satisfied, and while the woman takes care of the child, we are free to return to normal life.”

“Gilbert, what say you? How can we make this interesting beyond the eventual bedding?”

“That’s simple. As long as we can each agree to which female we wish to pursue, the first one to marry will win the wager.”

Rob laughed. “A marvelous plan. Pick your intended bride and the first of us to wed will have twenty pounds from each of us.”

“Twenty pounds? And we still need to be leg shackled?”

“Indeed, Toby, a high price.” She thought this was the first speaker again, Will. “Surely 20 schillings would do?”

“Miss Twigg for me!” one of them called out. “And twenty pounds that she will marry me in three months!”

“Lady Elizabeth,” Rob pronounced, making her jump. “The only title in the bunch, and therefore my match.”

Elizabeth could not stop a gasp at this, but she covered her mouth in the next instant. The arrogance of the man!

“I will gladly try for Miss Sebastian. That leaves Miss Preston for you, Will.”

“She will do as well as any.”

A noise from the church put an end to this conversation. Elizabeth waited for the footsteps and comments to fade away. One more glance at the Roman well, and she hurried toward the gate.

She collided with something firm and unyielding as she rounded the end of the hedge. Her eyes traveled up several inches. Somber gray eyes studied her.

“Lady Elizabeth,” Lord Robert Coleman steadied her with a hand on her arm, but did not let her step back from contact with him. “You are in the habit of eavesdropping?”

“No! I wanted to see the well. Excuse me.” She managed to get her hands up to his chest and push herself away. She took a step back, and straightened her gown. Anything to not meet his disturbing gaze.

“If I promise not to court you, would you–” he hesitated and reached to take her chin in his firm grip. “Promise to not reveal what you heard?”

“I don’t know what you mean, my lord.” Elizabeth returned his look steadily. His hand, ungloved, burned against her skin, with heat and with steely strength. “But I vow I will not repeat a word of it, no matter what you do.”

He grinned and let her go. She walked around him, but before she passed the hedge, she looked back. A smile escaped her. “Perhaps I wish for you to court me.”

His eyebrows rose, causing a flutter in her chest, and giving wings to her feet as she hurried away.

***

The little vixen! Rob watched until the last flash of her peach muslin skirts were gone from his view. God, what a delicious pocket Venus she could be. Did she have any idea of the danger she flirted with?

He chuckled and glanced back at the well. Antiquities seemed an odd interest for a titled young woman. Intriguing.

Footsteps in the yard drew him out from behind the hedge. William St. James, his closest friend, had come back to look for him.

“Did you scare off the chit?” he asked, looking around.

“Apparently I did.” Rob clapped Will’s arm. “Come, let’s go wish the happy couple well and proceed to drink ourselves blind.”

They walked to the front of the old church. Rob’s brother, Viscount Miles Coleman, and his new viscountess Cassandra, nee Jennings, continued to talk to family and well wishers. The coach waited in the road, the flashy pair of bays showing signs of restlessness.

“Robert,” Miles flashed a strained smile while giving him a firm handshake. “Can you distract the crowd so we may leave? Cassie can’t stand much longer without collapsing.” He nodded amiably to William.

Rob looked at Will, smiling. “I don’t doubt we can think of something.”

“I know just the thing,” said Will, and he hurried off toward the church. He returned in a few minutes with his arms full of very young orange tabby kittens.

The women in the crowd sent up oos and ahs and moved in on Will. This shift opened the path to the carriage. Cassie smiled and took the arm of her husband.

“Thank you, brother.” She stretched up to kiss his cheek.

“I wish you both joy, sister. And if he does anything you do not like, be sure to send word to me. I will thrash him soundly.”

Bride and groom laughed, with Miles adding a low-voiced, “You would have to stand in line behind her uncles, you know.”

Rob managed a thoughtful look. “I suppose I will have to settle for thrashing whatever they leave of you, then.”

He watched them step into the carriage, watched the crowd realize the couple were making an escape, and watched the shower of flower petals follow the dust of their departure. An arm extended out of the carriage and coins rained down on the crowd.

William appeared, still clutching a kitten. “One left. Does she not touch your heart, Rob?”

He looked at the animal in horror. “Do you think I would allow orange fur on my black velvets or silks? Surely not!”

“I suppose I will take her, then. Perhaps Miss Preston likes cats.”

With a theatrical shudder, Lord Robert pulled a lace-edged handkerchief from his pocket and dusted the arms of his coat. But his thoughts turned to Lady Elizabeth and what sort of things she liked. With a surge of anticipation, he decided he would find out soon.

Maybe the Moonlight Causes It

Writing a novel or short story or anything in a historical setting lays many restrictions on the writer. For example, my female nerd in the Regency era has very little chance of being able to study the areas of Roman occupation of Britain that she would like to. And very little went on that we would recognize ourselves as archeology. Digs were just starting to be done with any record keeping worth noting.

Likewise, my star-gazing hero in another story needs to carry his telescope and other equipment with him wherever he goes to look at the stars. He would particularly dislike the full moon we have now, but perhaps the eclipse would have distracted him enough. Or perhaps he would be moved by the moonlight to kiss the woman he loves.

I’ve been distracted from all my writing this month by a resourceful, bold, mischievous young woman who convinces her older twin brothers to take her to a gentleman’s club. Being just as mischievous as she is, they take her to a brothel. Yes, it’s complicated. However, as this story is erotica, she does have her very first orgasm.

I made people laugh in my posts on Scribophile trying to think of what terms a 19 year old woman in Regency England would use in thinking about her lady bits. “Opening” seemed to be the right balance between flowery and crude. Then to go on describe the sensations of a climax certainly took research. On a side note, my husband wants a t-shirt that reads “Research Project.”

In my search for real-life revelations of this type, I found this wonderful article from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/18/the-elusive-orgasm-excerpt_n_1982509.html Don’t miss the slide show at the bottom of the page on the health benefits of orgasm. As if we needed any more excuses!

Moonlight played the role of calendar in times past, telling women when they should expect their “courses” and men when the tides would be to their benefit in commerce or battle. http://www.moonlightsys.com/themoon/ancient2.html

But if you stayed out in the moonlight, you would risk becoming a lunatic: http://novice101.wordpress.com/2008/09/30/lunatic-where-did-this-word-come-from/ The moon took the blame for much of the unrest and discontent in the past. In modern times, we just write a song about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mdc6jZRZxU and take advantage of the beauty to fall in love.

Have a good week, and I will return on Sunday.