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?

Nancy: Cover Redux: Paint It Black Edition

What would you think if your lover gave you a black rose?

Last week, we Ladies spent a lot of time looking at, talking about, and sharing book covers. By the end of it, I thought I was ‘covered’ out; then I quickly realized I have to engage a graphic designer for my January release, pronto. That sent me back to the interwebs, down rabbit holes and into quicksand pits. Eventually I emerged, a little worse for wear, but brimming with ideas not just for One Kiss from Ruin, but for the other books in the Harrow’s Finest Five series as well.

And one of those books might get a black cover.

Just like weddings, it’s all about love, romance, and the dress

As you might remember from my cover reveal last week, the cover of my series-launching novella features the heroine in a Victorian-era dress. A very pink dress. As a general concept, a woman in a period dress without her face showing has set the tone for the series covers. However, none of the other books in the series are the same low-heat (formerly known as sweet) level, so the innocence of pastels won’t be a hallmark of the series branding.

I already know the heroine on the cover of the first full-length novel in the series will be in green. The hero loves her in green, as it brings out the color of her eyes and makes him all swoony. And I found a stock image of a woman in an amazing green dress that I hope my designer can use (although that’s not necessary, as dress color is apparently a pretty easy thing to change). Then there’s the heroine of the third novel, who’s a fiery redhead, a femme fatale, and – so Society thinks – a merry widow. She wouldn’t show up to the event of the Season in anything less than a red dress.

As for my second novel’s leading lady, she would look lovely in blue. However, in the first few scenes of the book, she’s the mysterious woman in black. That black dress gets the hero’s attention, tugs on his – ahem, let’s keep it G-rated and say heartstrings, and is referenced occasionally throughout the book. I would love to have a cover with her in her black dress, holding her sparkling masquerade mask from the same scene, and maybe featuring another fun element that I’ll keep under wraps for now. But a black cover on a romance that’s not gothic or erotica? Is such a thing done? I’m so glad you asked, because I did some research, and here’s what I learned. Continue reading

Nancy: Another Day, Another Cover

 

Victorian Reader Drawn


This is the placeholder ‘cover’ I’ve had on my website for Too Clever by Half. This week, I can upload the real one!

I’ve been away from home and offline for the past several days, so I just caught up on the cover craze that took over 8LW this past week. That’s very fortuitous, as I now have a cover of my very own to share!

I wish I could say I had the designing chops (and confidence) of Justine, the whimsical eye of Michaeline, or the cover-judging savvy of Kay. Let’s just say I’m not one of those people who judges or buys a book by its cover. I had high hopes that I’d be able to have a quick conversation with a designer, turn the task over to her, and do a happy dance when the best cover I could ever imagine appeared in my inbox. (I can’t help that I sometimes live in fantasy land. Hazard of the fiction writing profession.)

So, when no cover fairies appeared to do my bidding for me, I began my long, arduous journey toward a cover for my soon-to-be-released (!) novella myself. I allocated a mid-level budget for the project, narrowed down the list of well-established and recommended romance cover designers in that price range, and finally chose The One. It didn’t work out. So I spent more months researching, returning to my original down-selected list, and contacting designers for scheduling information. I chose the second One. That almost crashed and burned as well. But the second time, I at least got a proof copy to consider.

The first thing I noticed about the proof copy was color. So much color. You might recall I was traveling in September, which is when the color bomb hit my inbox. I opened the email attachment in the middle of the night Copenhagen time, gasped, blinked hard, said something like ‘dear lord, that’s pink’ (possibly with a few expletives thrown in), and went back to bed for a nearly sleepless night.

Nevertheless, I persisted. From the ashes, and through some teeth-clenching emails and what felt like never-ending negotiations, a cover that started out as unworkable gradually became something usable, maybe even pretty. I’ll let you be the judge: Continue reading

Justine: Finding My Own Cover Models and Staging a Shoot (part 1)

photo shootThis will be the first in a many-part post (which will happen over several months) about finding my own cover models and doing a custom photo shoot for my future book covers.

It stems from a lovely conversation-in-the-comments the Eight Ladies had with Ron Miller from Black Cat Studios, who designs many (if not all) of Lois McMaster Bujold’s covers. He talked about the creative process and showed us, via a series of links, how he goes from a simple picture of his wife or daughter (frequent models for him) to the final cover.

This and other conversations on various Facebook groups got me thinking that it might be worthwhile to find my own cover models, because here’s the problem in historical romance: there is a lack of original stock photography (assuming one wants a lady or man in proper historical clothing…I could always go for the 80s prom dress look as some authors have done, but that doesn’t suit me). Continue reading

Nancy: The Big Reveal: Harrow’s Finest Five Series

If you’re a long-time follower of the blog, you’ve no doubt seen Harrow’s Finest Five mentioned in many of my blog posts. It seems like I’ve been discussing this series for years because, well, I’ve been discussing it for years! You might have wondered if the stories in this alleged series would ever see the light of day. You wouldn’t be alone – I’ve had the same question myself. But today, I’m happy to announce the first novella, which launches the series, is coming out this November!

Next week, I have so many things to share about that upcoming release: the cover, the back-cover blurb, how to sign up to be an ARC reader, and where to read an excerpt of the first book PLUS a free prequel short story and sample chapters from the next two books! And, if all goes according to plan, I’ll also be able to share the exact release date of the book.

In the meantime, though, it occurs to me that while you’ve heard of the series existence, I haven’t told you much about the whys and wherefores. Today, let’s remedy that, shall we?

What: Harrow’s Finest Five Series, seven (we’ll get to that shortly) mid-Victorian era romances centered around five old school mates from Harrow, one of the handful of boarding schools for boys from all the best British families (read: titled and wealthy). They were given their tongue-in-cheek name by novel 3’s hero, who is also the group trouble-maker and all around fun guy.

But let’s remember these are romance stories! So they’re as much about the fab women these men love as they are about our Harrow mates. Here’s the series tagline: Continue reading

Nancy: The Hardest Hundred Pages

A few weeks ago, I told you about the steady progress I’ve been making on my WIPs by working to a 20-page-per-week commitment with my writing coach. That’s approximately 6,000 new words per week. At that pace, I’d be able to write a 25K story in 4-5 weeks.

So now let me tell you about the 25K story it took me 2 years to write.

OK, I’m being a bit melodramatic. I didn’t take me 2 years to get through the new pages of the first draft. That took a few months, then the story went to critique readers who (rightfully) had some problems with the story. Then there were the inevitable months of compiling critique comments, formulating a revision plan, going back to the story drawing board, drinking before 4 PM, and reconsidering my poor life choices. And then I walked away from the story for a year.

Not to worry! I was not defeated, and the story wasn’t abandoned. I just needed to take a break. See other stories. Decide what I really wanted out of that novella. The answer was, a lot, and that’s why my time away from it was so important for fixing the story. My critique readers could give you lots of details about what was wrong with this book, like a heroine who was rather selfish, an out-of-the-blue physical encounter that would be a tough sell in a contemporary, let alone an historical, and that perennial first-draft favorite – wishy-washy goals.

But pulling back from all of that to take an big-picture view of my novella, I realized I’d written it too soon. It was under-proofed, under-baked, and just not ready for prime (or even critique) time. So how did I make such a mess of it? Oh, let us count the ways. Continue reading

Nancy: More Thoughts on Diversity

Unless you’ve been living under a rock AND falling behind on your 8LW reading, you’ve heard about Suzanne Brockmann’s stirring acceptance speech for her Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2018 RWA national conference. On Thursday, our own Kay summarized the speech and Brockmann’s career. This launched a discussion about writing diverse characters and including diverse experiences in romance fiction.

One of our Eight Ladies, Justine, disclosed in the comments her own trepidation about writing diverse characters in a meaningful, inclusive, and non-appropriating way. This sums up a lot the discussions the Eight Ladies have had on this blog and outside of it. And Justine threw in a twist – how do we respectfully and conscientiously diversify our historical romances? As I said in a reply to Justine’s comment, I have no answers or advice, just some thoughts and more questions of my own.

How bad would it be to write an historical world where women, and people of color, and characters with non-straight sexual orientations, and those with neurodiversities, and those with disabilities, are treated equally? Continue reading