Nancy: Is That a Book on Your Wall?

There comes a time in every story’s life when, in order to grow up into a book, it will undergo revisions. And just as my writing process has evolved over the years and tends to require variations based on the needs of each book, so too has my revision approach changed over time. One constant, though, is at some point, I need to look at the story differently by literally changing its appearance.

I’ve used the standard tricks over the years. Change the entire manuscript to a different font. Color code each POV or type of scene/action occurring. Print out the document in hard copy. For my current revision  fiasco project, I needed a new trick. Cue the music of worlds colliding as I realized I might have just the right tool sitting in the toolbox I used for my “day job” career.  In that career, I managed projects creating business proposals made up of multiple volumes of information, sometimes with hundreds of pages in each volume. These proposals had strict margin, font, and formatting requirements; included graphics, tables, and charts; and usually had page limitations per volume as well.

Teams would write, revise, and review the documents online, but by the time we got to our first round of document reviews and revisions, it was time to hang that puppy…er, proposal…on the wall. It’s such an industry-standard practice that companies with enough capital (and interest in investing in the department that brings in the business) install rails on the wall that are sized to slide 8.5×11-inch pages in and out of them. And it’s such an important step to get the big-picture visual of the proposal’s progress that if the CEO walks into a war room (the affectionate name for conference rooms where teams work on these projects) and does not see the proposal on the wall, someone in my position could get fired over it.

In other words, multi-billion dollar companies take this tool seriously.

I’m not suggesting there’s a lot of cross-over between what works for such companies and what works for novelists. I’m just willing to look far and wide for ways to get through the #E(*@+%! revision process. It’s that kind of thinking that gets you a wall full of a book manuscript and a spouse sleeping with one open in case you’ve really snapped this time. Continue reading

Justine: Mixing History and Fiction

373px-Paul_Delaroche_-_Napoleon_Crossing_the_Alps_-_Google_Art_Project_2

“Napoleon Crossing the Alps” by Paul Delaroche, 1850

As a historical romance writer, I’m very fortunate in that when I work on a book, I get to research interesting facts about the time period, and then try to incorporate them into my stories. (Okay, some people might find that tedious, but I love it!)

My six-book series, The Beggars Club, begins the first week of March in 1815, just as Napoleon is escaping from Elba and making his way to Paris in advance of what is now called his Hundred Days.

Napoleon was cunning in planning his escape. He, along with his mother and his sister, Pauline, one of his most ardent supporters, threw a party on the eve of February 26th, 1815. During the fête, which was quite a distraction, Napoleon sneaked out of his compound and to the harbor, where he met up with seven ships, 1,026 men, forty horses, two cannon, and a coach. Bypassing the Royal Navy, who were supposed to be on the water keeping watch, he landed at Golfe Juan, near Cannes, and had a singular goal: get out of the area of Provence (which was generally hostile towards him) and cross the mountains to Dauphiné, where a more sympathetic population awaited.

Also important to Napoleon was money, and unfortunately for him, while winding his way up a steep and icy track after Grasse, he lost two mules carrying 1/10th of his treasure down a precipice.

I have been able to take this little-known fact and weave it into my first book, His Lady to Protect, which comes out in spring 2019. My heroine’s uncle, a Napoleonic sympathizer, learns of this loss and decides to use his niece’s dowry as a contribution to Bonaparte’s fortune.

What I would love to know, but haven’t been able to determine, is whether anyone ever recovered that missing fortune.

Another event that happened the first week of March in 1815 were riots against the Corn Laws. No, they were not about corn. At that time, all grain was referred to as “corn.” What wealthy landowners (some of whom were also members of Parliament) were attempting to do was to restrict the importation of grain in order to keep domestic prices high, which would naturally favor them. In advance of the vote, which happened on Friday, March 10th, riots occurred in the city, and several members of the House of Lords had their houses broken into and vandalized by angry mobs who opposed the measure. As you can image, the repercussions of such actions were swift and harsh.

In an interesting twist, news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba and his march towards Paris reached the London papers on the same morning as the vote, and the threat of another long and bloody war with L’Empereur cast aside much of the protests about the Corn Laws, which passed Parliament with little fanfare.

Of course, the passage of those laws would come back to bite England the following year, when the effects of Mt. Tambora’s eruption in 1815 caused one of the coldest summers on record in 1816, leading to massive crop failures and rampant famine.

The riots in advance of the Parliamentary vote also play into my book, creating a diversion and conflict one evening when my H&H are attending a party.

So, do you like it when authors are able to combine the real world (or real history) with their fictional one? What’s your favorite example?

Michaeline: The Fable of the Green Pumpkins

I’ll warn you upfront: this will be a difficult fable if you are expecting me to hand you the moral. I’m not sure what it is, myself, but maybe it’ll give you what you need in your writing journey this month.

Two green jack o'lanterns in the day.

Sometimes, the timing is off. (Eileen Duskova)

That said, let me tell you the fable of the green pumpkins. Pumpkins are not easy to come by in northern Japan. You can get them, but you have to look for them. I usually grow my own, and this year, I planted my pumpkins too late. Even though the frost was very late, the poor pumpkins just ran out of time. When the first frost finally rolled around in the middle of October, I was delighted to find that I had about four good-sized pumpkins, even though they were green. I took the biggest two to the porch, because I figured all pumpkins are black in the dark. It probably wouldn’t matter.

I knew they were early, and that they’d not last for a full week. And in the daylight, they were the wrong color. It was OK, though. I think even orange jack-o’-lanterns look a little sad and gutted in the daylight. What mattered was how they looked at night.

And, on the plus side, Continue reading

Nancy: Copenhagen (and Denmark) Blues

Black Diamond on the Water. This extension of the Royal Danish Library opened in 1999. It plays a key role in Nick’s story.

As you no doubt gleaned from last week’s post, I’ve recently been an intrepid world traveler. Well, OK, I traveled to one other country, but I crossed six time zones and spent three days on each end of the trip battling severe jet lag, so it feels like it’s been quite a trek, and I’m happy to be home safe and sound and finally getting back on east coast time.

Because you can take the writer out of her cave but you can’t take the cave out of the writer, or something like that, I spent some of my three weeks in Denmark being a tall, dark, and handsome, thirty-year-old, half-American/half-Danish, mixed-race man. In my head, of course. (I might be able to pull off a lot of things, but tall and thirty are not on that list). I’m talking, of course, about my fictional character Nicholai* Jens Olesen, Nicky O to his American friends. This was my first trip to the country since I’d conceived of the Copenhagen-set mystery series, so I did my best to view it from Nick’s eyes. In addition to helping me solidify my vision of what Denmark means to this character, it also revealed important things about the character himself.

A Few Things About Nick

A Very Danish House with Thatched Roof. This is the kind of house where Nick probably spent some of his summers.

He’s much more American than Danish. Technically, as his (now deceased) father was a Danish citizen and his mother is American, I think he can still claim Danish citizenship (but it’s complicated, so more research required!). As a child, he spent a couple of months every summer and some additional weeks most Christmas vacations in DK, has visited frequently as an adult, and did some of his graduate work in the country, so he definitely has a foot securely planted in this culture. But the majority of his time has been spent in America, and when he’s placed in that character crucible and pressure is applied, his American mind-set and life approach is going to show, for better or for worse.

After his father’s death, his visits to the country will never be the same. Sadly, because of our age and the extent of my husband’s family that lives in Denmark (that’s everyone related to him except his parents, siblings, our daughter and I), every time we’ve traveled to Denmark, there are relatives we’ve lost since the previous trip. It’s especially noticeable when we cross off towns where we used to go from our must-visit list, because the loved ones we used to see there are gone. As Nick’s story begins with him being in Denmark for his father’s funeral, there are going to be lots of opportunities for him to be haunted and heartbroken by memories triggered from seeing old, familiar places. This is an important part of character development I have to keep in mind when I start the deep-dive into Nick’s soul.

A Few Things About Denmark That Impact Nick’s Story… Continue reading

Nancy: International Woman of Mystery

At the time this post hits the internet, I’ll be off on an adventure in a far (from me) city, soaking up local culture and doing serious research for a long-promised future series. I’ll give you more details about my trip next week, but for now thought I’d share a few pictures, interspersed throughout this post, that might give you a clue about where I am and what I’m researching.

If you can’t figure out my travel destination from the pictures, maybe this scene, which appeared on the blog a long time ago and might or might not end up in book 1 of that future series, will provide another hint. Happy reading, and I’ll be back next week to tell you all about my travels and the stories they’ve inspired!

Murder Clues

When I slid into the passenger’s seat of Pernilla’s tiny black Puegot a little after nine that night, she didn’t spare me a glance or a word. Just floored the gas pedal and sent us zooming down the side streets of Vesterbro before I could even click my seatbelt into place. I took her dark mood to mean she’d neither forgiven nor forgotten the sins I’d committed against her over the past 72 hours. Continue reading

Michille: Romance Story Ideas

 

amazingstorygeneratorCreativity has abandoned me. I hope it’s temporary. I googled ‘romance writing prompts’ to jump start my creative mind and got some interesting results.

The Write Practice. 20 Romance Story Ideas.
These are interesting and a little twisty with a gender-bender thrown in. A cop and a jewelry store owner who it tripping his alarm on purpose. Humans and aliens communicating through a plant. There is only one tried and true – the hero who has sworn off love falls for the spunky rookie with a joie de vivre. Continue reading

Michille: A New Approach

HeronI am contemplating taking a new approach to my writing. I have a four-book series that I’ve been working on. I go to conferences and workshops and take online courses and I get excited about the revisions that are needed. And then I sit down to do them, start working through the list of what needs done and I get so overwhelmed that I just quit. In order to do A, I have to stop and hit D, L, Q, and P, and then come back to A. Repeat, repeat, repeat. And I stop.

In order to get my writing mojo back, my new approach is going to be starting a whole new story. The picture is a Great Blue Heron that I see when I hike at a park near my house. It’s my spirit animal so I’m keeping it close for motivation. Part of my motivation for this new approach is that I believe I am a good writer. I read. A lot. And most of what I read is crap, has crappy elements, or has my pet peeves sprinkled throughout. I’m going to write a book that I would like to read. My starting point is a list of what the story will have and a list of what it won’t. Continue reading