Trying New Things

So for the last couple of months, I’ve been querying literary agents for my new series. Although I’ve had some interest, I’ve racked up quite a few rejections. The most recent one, a kick in the teeth disguised as a pleasant form rejection, arrived Friday night. Although some writers prefer personalized rejections, I actually prefer the form ones. With them, you can preserve the illusion that they liked the book but it just isn’t right for them, instead of knowing for a fact that they hated it. I haven’t thrown in the towel yet, but I admit my enthusiasm for completing the second and third books in the series is waning the longer the process goes on. It’ll come back, I’m sure, but for now, I’m going to focus on other things to get the creative juices flowing again.

Ever since I was in England last fall, a new series has been percolating in my brain. It’s not a romance, although it will have romantic elements. It’s a cozy mystery set near Keswick in the northern Lake District, right about here:

When you write historicals, one of the most important decisions you make is deciding the time period. Victorian era is a given, but it did last a very long time. I like the middle of the era–1860s/70s. It still has vestiges of the Regency, when people dressed for dinner and wore elaborate gowns, but it’s also hurtling toward the 20th century. Railways are popping up–trains arrived in Keswick in 1865–and society is changing. 1869 saw the opening of the first residential women’s college in England, in 1870 married women gained the right to own property and elementary education was established, in 1871 trade unions were legalized.

I decided to set my series in 1870. The lakes are a popular tourist destination, and the new railway makes it easier to get there. Endless opportunities for new characters, which is essential for a cozy. I’ve uncovered maps and contemporary guidebooks (you may recall Mr. Black from my recent post about Skye, who also wrote a “Picturesque Guide” to the English Lakes in 1870) to get a feel for the area during the time period.

The next step, at least for me, is characters. I usually start with either a look, a name, or an occupation. My new heroine is Cassandra, and she closely resembles actress Emily Blunt. She’s a longtime widow with a teenage son, and runs a farm and a tea shop at the foot of Walla Crag. (It’s inspired by an actual place that offered salvation–in the form of tea, cake, and a bathroom, not necessarily in that order–after a long day of hiking. Should you ever be in the vicinity, do stop in!)

Anyway, her love interest is the local constable whose name I have yet to determine–feel free to offer suggestions–but he looks a bit like David Boreanz. Cassandra’s childhood friend, he’s back in Keswick after a stint as a policeman in Manchester, nursing the broken heart caused by the recent death of his wife.

Cozies have a reasonably large supporting cast of characters, so I am working on those. I also have the resident pet AND the dead body lined up, but you’ll have to wait for the book to meet them. 🙂

I’m going to get to work–I have quite a few characters to develop, after all, not to mention the plot–so I will leave you with a few questions I’m curious about:

Writers, how do you start a new book (or series of books)? Do you start with setting and move from there, or with characters? Or do you focus on plot first? How do you decide when and where to set your books?

Readers, do you like small town settings or cities? What kinds of characters do you like to see? Do you picture them in your head as you read, as I do when I write them, or is their appearance unimportant to you?

 

Would you like arsenic with that?

Happy Sunday, everyone! I’m back, finally, with a historical post.

The book I’m working on now is more mystery than romance–my penchant for killing people off in my books suggested I ought to go in the mystery direction, although so far I’ve killed off fewer people in this book than in all the others. Go figure.

Arsenic makes an appearance in the book, largely because it was hands down the most prevalent poison in the Victorian era. Believe it or not, many of the deaths from arsenic poisoning were actually unintentional. Arsenic was a component of many commonly used products, including cosmetics and soaps, fabric, and wall paper. 

Arsenic cleared the complexion of blemishes and produced the pale skin popular at the time. (Of course, they used lead too, which is another issue entirely.)

 

Arsenic was also the main component of lovely green pigments and other colors that adorned Victorian walls–wallpaper was very trendy (between 1834 and 1874, the number of wallpaper rolls produced in Britain rose by 2,615%), and the same colors were used on toys, clothing, even artificial flowers women wore in their hair.
Although doctors began sounding the alarm of the dangers of arsenic exposure in these materials in the early 1850s, they were dismissed as hysterical. It wasn’t until the demands of the market changed in the 1870s (and after Queen Victoria had all the green wallpaper removed from Buckingham Palace in 1879) that British manufacturers began to change their practices. It has even been hypothesized that Napoleon was murdered by wallpaper.

 

There was plenty of deliberate arsenic poisoning in the Victorian era as well. In 1851, Parliament passed the Sale of Arsenic Regulation Act, which required those who sold arsenic to maintain a written and signed record of sales (as we do in the U.S. now with pseudoephedrine), and it demanded that no one could sell arsenic to someone unless they knew the purchaser. It also required arsenic, with some exceptions, to be colored with soot or indigo before sale.

When I first started researching this, I discovered the 1851 act as originally written only restricted children from purchasing arsenic, but I also found several articles which noted an amendment to the law, added at the last minute, restricted women as well.  Unfortunately, I can’t find any proof of this, which is making it somewhat more challenging to write the book. I may actually have to darken the doors of my law school library. Update: Some days I’m unable to stop researching, so I found this snippet about the provision barring sales to women, which in the end was NOT included in the final legislation: “…sales would be restricted to those of full age though not, as Carlisle, the PMSA, and the Pharmaceutical Society would have preferred, to men only, the decision to discriminate against women being dropped ‘owing to the indignant remonstrances of ladies’.” Thank goodness for indignant remonstrances of ladies. 🙂  And now excuse me as I head off to rewrite three or four chapters…

James Marsh

Arsenic poisoning was so prevalent that it was one of the first compounds for which a toxicology test was created. Although a test to detect the presence of arsenic had been developed in 1775, in 1832, British Chemist James Marsh was asked to analyze a cup of coffee that had allegedly been used to poison a man. Marsh did so, but by the time of trial, the substance had deteriorated. The man, John Bodle, was acquitted. When Bodle later admitted he had actually committed the crime, Marsh was determined to develop a more stable test that could be successfully used in court. By 1836, he had done so, and the Marsh test was first used in France to convict Madame Marie LaFarge of killing her husband.

And now, just for fun, I will leave you with this clip from Arsenic and Old Lace

Sources:
http://www.historyinanhour.com/2012/09/08/the-dawn-of-forensics/
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2335464/Whats-poison-Easy-buy-tasteless-lethal-tiny-doses-arsenic-regarded-perfect-murder-weapon.html
http://nymag.com/thecut/2013/12/most-dangerous-beauty-through-the-ages.html
http://hyperallergic.com/329747/death-by-wallpaper-alluring-arsenic-colors-poisoned-the-victorian-age/
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1851/13/contents/enacted
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1851/13/pdfs/ukpga_18510013_en.pdf
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2335464/Whats-poison-Easy-buy-tasteless-lethal-tiny-doses-arsenic-regarded-perfect-murder-weapon.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsh_test

 

Author Interview: Liz Talley

So one of the reasons I haven’t been doing much with the blog of late is because I’ve spent the last month hanging out at the Winter Writing Festival put on by the Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood.  I’ve been getting tons of writing and editing done, and it’s great fun to hang out in the chat room with other writers.

One of the writers I met there is Liz Talley. I won copies of the first two books in her Morning Glory series, and they are adorable! I did no work the day I picked up the first one since I couldn’t stop reading. Liz has a new novella in the series–Prince Not Quite Charming–which released on Valentine’s Day.

Welcome to the blog, Liz, and congratulations on your first indie publishing venture!

Tell us a bit about you. Where do you live, and how long have you been writing?

I live in North Louisiana and I’ve been writing for eleven years.

What inspired you to write this book?

I often listen to country music and one day when I was singing along to Blake Shelton’s “Boys Round Here” I felt convicted that I needed to write a good ol’ boy with a big truck and a slightly over-inflated ego. Then give him a sharp city-slicker to deal with.

What does your writing process look like? 

I’m a hybrid writer who is much more organic than relying on a spreadsheet. I like an outline and that’s about it.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Laundry and baseball games 🙂

What are you working on now?

I’m writing on a stand-alone novel set in South Carolina involving three friends and a past mistake. I also have the last book in the Morning Glory series on the back burner and I’m also contemplating a Christmas novella – A Charming Christmas.

Who is your favorite literary hero? Heroine? Villain?

I’ll have to go with Jamie Fraser from Outlander for hero. Heroine – Bridget Jones. I think. There are so many, but I relate to her and she amuses me. But only in the first book. Not a fan of the waffling second and third ones.

How many books do you have under the proverbial bed? Will they ever see the light of day?

Two full-length Regency romances, including my Golden Heart finaling manuscript. Probably won’t ever make an appearance but that’s okay. They are very dear to me because they gave birth to what I am today.

Other than “butt in chair,” what piece of advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Protect your story. It’s yours. No one else’s so you own that and don’t change it for anyone unless he or she is a trusted editor who knows more than you do.

About Liz’s latest book:

A city girl can survive…

Or at least that’s what New Yorker Frances Genovese hopes when she agrees to stay in Morning Glory, Mississippi for a few weeks after her brother’s wedding. Though she may not know much about small-town living, she does know a thing or two about the new restaurant her brother’s building. But she didn’t bargain for a big country boy naysaying her vision. And she darn sure didn’t expect to be so attracted to the infuriating contractor. 

Clem Aiken knows two things: what it means to be a country boy and the target market for the new eatery. When he and Frances clash on her ideas, he figures there’s one thing to do – teach the sophisticated beauty what it’s like to live in a southern small town. Frances reluctantly gives Clem three days to change her mind about the restaurant design. After all, how hard can it be to bait a hook, fry chicken or go honky tonkin’?

Excerpt:

Someone cleared his throat, and she glanced up to find the man who’d poured a pitcher of water over her head a few nights ago. “You.”

“Me,” he said with a knowing grin.

“You’re Clemson Aiken?”

“At your service.” He executed a slight bow. “But call me Clem. And you’re welcome for saving your life the other night.”

Frances frowned, tapping her pen against the notepad. “Saving my life or trying to drown me?”

“You were on fire.” His brown eyes twinkled. She’d never seen eyes twinkle, but this guy had that going on. He was also tall. Six three. Or maybe six four. Tall drink of water with linebacker shoulders and a chiseled jaw. Her girl parts should be tingling, but the fact that he was a bit too full of himself put a stop to that. She’d heard the rumors about him. He was a ladies’ man, tipping girls into the back of his truck, romancing them with cheap wine and overpracticed lines. That was enough to put her off any twitch, tingle, or blip.

You can find Prince Not Quite So Charming at Amazon.

More About Liz:

A finalist in both RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart and RITA contests, Liz Talley loves staying home in her jammies writing emotional contemporary romance. Her first book starred a spinster librarian – Vegas Two Step – and debuted in June 2010. Since that time, Liz has published twenty-one more books with Harlequin, Berkeley and Montlake, reaching number one in kindle romance with her latest series. Her stories are set in the South where the tea is sweet, the summers are hot and the men are hotter. Liz lives in Louisiana with her childhood sweetheart, two handsome children, three dogs and a mean kitty. You can visit Liz at www.liztalleybooks.com or follow her on Twitter or Facebook to learn more about her upcoming books.

 

The Balancing Act

So I know it’s been quiet on the blog for awhile. In addition to writing, researching, editing, promoting, working the day job, attempting to keep the house clean (Ha! No, not really), chauffeuring the teenager all over town, and mourning the state of the nation, I will be serving as President of my RWA Chapter, Northeast Ohio RWA this year. I am finding it all has left me with little time to get any blogging done.

 

I will be back, but it will be sporadic until I get my life in some semblance of order. Until then, you can find me online on Facebook and Twitter. See you around!!

Winter Blog Hop – Merry Christmas!!

Wow–this Christmas season has been a bit of a whirlwind. Over the last 24 days of the Winter Blog Hop, we’ve seen new books and Christmas traditions, cat-butt coasters and ornaments, cookies and mince pies, buxom snow-women and silver bells. It’s been a blast and I thank all of my guests and my readers for joining me.

I’ll be taking the next week or two off of blogging but will (I hope) be rested and ready to start a fabulous 2017 full of new words and new challenges.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season full of love, laughter, food, and family, and a healthy, happy New Year.

 

Winter Blog Hop, Day 24 – Danielle Haas

Can you believe the Hop is almost over? It’s Christmas Eve! My son is spending hours every day just lying under the tree, staring at his presents. Most un-teenage-like behavior.

Today’s guest is Danielle Haas, a new friend from NEORWA. On her blog she’s sharing her thoughts on Christmas, so hop on over to share your own.
Best wishes to all of you for a lovely Christmas eve.

Winter Blog Hop, Day 23 – Clair Brett on Making Me Time

Hello all! Today’s guest is historical romance author Clair Brett. Clair’s debut novel, Dealing with the Viscount, releases January 31. Congratulations, Clair!

Clair is offering a few sage words on making some time for yourself and those you love during this crazy season:

Happy Holidays to you and yours! We are right in the thick of it aren’t we? I don’t know about you, but November and December are crazy busy. It seems like there is something every weekend and many nights. Not only does my family have to juggle the normal Christmas shopping, parties, and school events, but my husband and I are part of a non-profit that plans community-wide holiday events. Then there are the basketball games, work-related parties, and church responsibilities as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a worker bee and am very happy to volunteer to make things happen, but somewhere between cups of egg nog and event planning I get pooped. By the time Christmas comes I am ready to have my house back and my routine. I wish it wasn’t like this, and I can remember when it wasn’t. So, what do I try to do to put some me into the schedule?

  • Set aside time for ME! I try to make sure I keep getting my daily exercise; whether it is hitting the gym in the morning, or planning a walk with my friends I try to keep that as a priority. Along with that, I am going to add eating healthy and drinking lots of water. We all know when the cookie walk takes place you won’t pass up your favorite spice cookie, but making sure you are getting enough greens and protein can help.
  • Nothing is EVER perfect! Unless you are neighbors with Martha Stewart don’t sweat it. My Hardworking Husband has a yearly battle with a woman across the river from us for Christmas lights. It is all in good fun and he hasn’t drained the power grid yet, but when it starts being more stressful than fun, stop. (I will also admit to saying the “p” word when trying to fulfill my Christmas duties, but I try to keep it out of my vocabulary.) If you tried something then consider it a success if you enjoyed yourself and it made someone else happy. That is as close to perfect as you need to get.
  • Keep at least one or two nights each week of the crazy to yourself. Decide ahead of time what you have to attend and what days are open. Then choose at the very least one night each week to not plan anything! Order pizza, make popcorn, and just BE. You will thank me.
  • Make it a point to say thank you and smile when out and about. The stores seemed filled with bah humbugs during this time of year. Some are just having one of those days, others may be missing loved ones who can’t be there, others may be frustrated because of money, or the fact that their holiday isn’t going to be “perfect”, but regardless they could all use a smile and kind word. Let that person who seems in a hurry in front of you in line, or just saying have a nice day, may make a difference.
  • Last, don’t forget why we celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. No, I’m not going religious here, but if you do have a religion that celebrates during this time of year, keep that in your heart as I do, but if you don’t follow a religious belief, these holidays are for us to think about things outside of ourselves if just for a few moments. Our busy fast paced lives seems to hinder that a bit, but it is still there. Make a meal for a neighbor, better yet invite them to your house. Buy a gift from an angel tree, or sponsor a child. Go visit at a local senior living facility, there are a million things you can do that don’t cost anything but your time. I promise you, using some of those precious days doing for others, will pay you dividends you can’t imagine.

For more from Clair, check out her website at http://www.clairbrett.com/.

Winter Blog Hop, Day 22 – Tena Stetler

Today’s guest is fellow Wild Rose author, Tena Stetler. Welcome, Tena, and congratulations on your new release!

Happy Holidays! First of all a big thank you to Marin letting me join her Winter Blog Hop. If you’re interested in Christmas traditions and elves at the North Pole, check out my blog at www.tenastetler.com/my-blog.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a paranormal romance and cozy mystery author with an over-active imagination.  I wrote my first vampire romance at the age of thirteen, to the chagrin of my mother and the delight of my friends. Colorado is home; shared with my husband of many moons, a brilliant Chow Chow, a spoiled parrot and a forty-year-old box turtle. We love camping, hiking, kayaking and traveling.  Any winter evening, you can find me curled up in front of a crackling fire with a good book, a mug of hot chocolate and a big bowl of popcorn.  My books tell tales of magical kick-ass women and mystical alpha males that dare to love them.

This holiday season I’m celebrating my recent paranormal romance, A Witch’s Holiday Wedding, which released December 9th, 2016. It’s a sequel to A Witch’s Journey, which released in June of 2016.

A Witch’s Journey and the sequel A Witch’s Holiday Wedding are heartwarming tales of redemption, magic, wildlife rescue, true love and paying it forward.

I love to make new friends and chat with readers and authors. To learn more, visit me!

Website: http://www.tenastetler.com (You can sign up for my quarterly newsletter.)
Blog: http://www.tenastetler.com/my-blog
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/tenastetler.author
Twitter Page: www.twitter.com/TenaStetler
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/tenastetler

Here’s a little peek into A Witch’s Holiday Wedding.

Elemental witch Pepper McKay and former Navy SEAL Lathen Quartz have built Lobster Cove Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on enchanted McKay land. During a romantic interlude on Halloween night, Pepper happily agrees to become Lathen’s wife. What better day than Winter Solstice for their wedding in a town that loves celebrations and Christmas. However, planning a wedding and operating their wildlife center takes a toll on both Pepper and Lathen.

When the couple takes a much-needed break for Thanksgiving with family in Colorado, a Maine snowstorm fills the center with injured wildlife. Lathen finds himself drawn into a covert military mission, while trying to deal with issues concerning friends and family. Pepper wants to cancel the wedding. Is she having second thoughts? Will the nosy McKay ghosts, Lathen’s werewolf pack, Pepper’s parents, and her best friend help or hinder the wedding and holiday plans?

Excerpt:

Half an hour later, Lathen turned the truck onto the gravel drive to the cabin, slowed, and stared at the dark SUV parked in front of the cabin. Slowly he guided the truck behind the vehicle, noticing that the plates were government issue. What the hell is this?

Pepper leaned forward in her seat. “What’s a government SUV doing sitting in front of our home?”

“Maybe it’s the DIFW,” Lathen said hopefully. He turned off the headlights and cut the engine. The doors opened on the SUV, and four men in suits stepped out and waited.

Oh shit, this doesn’t bode well. He recognized one of the men, Lt. Commander Raymond Sale. Lathen jumped out of the truck as Pepper opened her door. “Pepper, why don’t you go on inside, let Tonk and Ember out, but keep them close. I’ll just be a minute.”

Pepper glanced from the men and back to Lathen. She opened her mouth to protest, but he shook his head and glanced toward the cabin where he could hear Tonk and Ember barking.

Available atAmazonKoboThe Wild Rose Press,  All Romance, and Barnes & Noble

 

Winter Blog Hop Day 19 – Happy Book Birthday to Me!

Today on the hop I’m featuring yours truly. 🙂  Today is release day for my third book, Tempting Mr. Jordan. I really love this book, which tells the story of Julia Tenwick (Jonathan’s little sister from Stirring Up the Viscount, all grown up). I hope you like it too! (And do scroll to the end of this post for a chance to win a Maine gift basket from me and Becky Lower!)

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Tempting Mr. Jordan

After four unsuccessful London seasons, Lady Julia Tenwick despairs of ever making a love match. With spinsterhood looming on the horizon, she and a friend set sail for America on one last adventure. When her travels take her to northern Maine, Julia meets a reclusive but handsome artist, whose rudeness masks a broken heart Julia feels compelled to mend.

Still haunted by the betrayal and death of his pregnant wife two years before, Geoffrey Jordan is determined never to risk his heart again. Certainly not with the gorgeous and impetuous aristocrat who intrudes upon his small-town solitude, and is far too similar to his late wife to tempt him to take another chance on love.

But when Julia and Geoffrey find themselves united in a reckless plan to save Julia’s friend from ruin, they discover that temptation is impossible to resist.

Excerpt:

Cranberry Cove reminded her of home, her family’s estate in Durham, where ton rules were abandoned in favor of lazy days riding, reading, caring for her pets, or playing the piano. It occurred to her that she had not played in weeks. Her fingers itched to touch a keyboard, and she flexed her hands inside her calfskin gloves. She vowed to play soon. She thought she had seen a harpsichord in the drawing room of Maria’s enormous house.

Reaching the end of the little lane on which Maria lived, she took a right onto Main Street. It consisted of several houses similar to the one in which she was staying, so she turned left onto Maple Street, which was much more interesting. There was a green grocer, a bookseller, a milliner, a tailor, a blacksmith—everything one could want in a village. The streets were clean—much cleaner than London—and the air was crisp and fresh, even if it smelled ever so slightly of fish.

Julia was staring into the newspaper office—a badly written but oddly gripping tale about missing lobster traps was plastered to the window—when she was nearly knocked off her feet.

“Oh, I beg your pardon!” She managed to right herself, wondering why she should be the one to apologize. She looked up into the hooded eyes of Geoffrey Jordan, who held a book in one hand. “Mr. Jordan!”

“Lady Julia.” He reached out to steady her, the touch of his hand on her arm causing a charge to shoot up her spine. “Please forgive me. Are you hurt?”

“Are you in the habit of running over tourists on your streets?” She freed her arm, flustered by her own reaction, and busied herself with adjusting her hat. When she regarded Mr. Jordan again, he was smirking.

“No, just the ones who stop in the middle of the street,” he said.

Julia opened her mouth to retort, but he held up a finger to silence her. “Nevertheless, I am sorry. I wasn’t paying attention. And the scintillating prose of our local newspaper could halt anyone in her tracks.”

She laughed. “It is not The Times, to be sure.”

His lips quirked up at the tips in something approaching a smile. Julia thought she hadn’t seen him do that before and found it oddly entrancing. “Where are you headed, Lady Julia?”

She forced herself to look away from his lips. “Um. Nowhere in particular. I was in need of a walk after luncheon, so I thought I would explore a bit.”

“The Universalist church, just around the corner, is particularly beautiful, and you will need to sample lobster from the establishment run by the Maclays, on the pier. It will melt in your mouth.”

The way he looked at her as he made the remark made her own mouth dry. Her cheeks burned.

“Um. Yes. That sounds lovely.” She gazed down at her feet until she collected herself. Raising her head, she found herself caught in his sights. She swallowed nervously. “Well, if you’ll excuse me, Mr. Jordan, I really must get back. Constance will be wondering where I’ve got to.” She brushed past him, her shoulder tingling at the contact with his arm.

“Lady Julia?” His tone was vaguely amused.

She stopped and turned to face him. “Yes, Mr. Jordan?”

His thin lips turned up at the corners again, and he pointed behind him. “I believe your house is that way.”

“Oh. Yes. Of course.” She willed herself not to stumble as she passed him, at least not until she’d cleared the corner.

You can find Tempting Mr. Jordan at these retailers: Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ iBooksWild Rose Press.

And don’t forget to enter the giveaway for this fabulous gift basket Becky Lower and I are offering. In addition to the items pictured, Becky is offering an ecopy of her new Wild Rose novella, Love’s in the Cards!fullsizerender
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Winter Blog Hop, Day 13 – Julie Jarnagin

author-photo-resized2It’s Day 13!

Today’s guest is USA Today bestselling author of sweet and inspirational romance, Julie Jarnagin. Are you looking for gift ideas for the readers in your life? Julie’s found some fun, unique items for any book lover! Hop over to her website to read all about them.

Free Kindle Cover Template. RomanceHere’s Julie’s latest release, Engaged by Friday:

Can a fake engagement lead to lasting love?

After her boyfriend dumps her instead of proposing, Mary Beth wants nothing to do with her ten-year high school reunion. Especially because if she shows up without a date, she’ll lose a bet with her high school nemesis.

Christian is too busy with his camping equipment startup to date—until his sister sets him up online. The chance connection could help his business—if he agrees to Mary Beth’s dramatic request that he pretend to be her fiancé. But when make-believe becomes something more, they must decide if this new love can last…

You can find Engaged by Friday at AmazonB&N, Kobo, and iBooks

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