Jilly: The Get Creative Feel Good Test

Would you take part in an academic study called The Get Creative Feel Good Test?

The payoff is that all participants receive a personalized Feel Good Formula based on their responses, intended to boost their creative habits. It’s open to anyone, anywhere in the world, provided they are over 18 years old.

The cost of entry is to answer a ten-minute online questionnaire.

The test is part of a study undertaken by the BBC, the Open University, and University College London, to explore how participation in creative activities can manage mood and boost wellbeing. All data is collected and stored on an anonymous basis. I don’t usually sign up to online questionnaires, but I took part in this one.

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Jeanne: Enneagrams

On Sunday, Jilly talked about the class we’re taking, Inside Out: Crafting Your Character’s Emotional Conflict, with award-winning author Linnea Sinclair.*

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Linnea Sinclair

One of the things that makes me such a slow writer is because it generally takes me 100 or more painfully typed pages to know my characters well enough to understand what they’ll do in any given situation. Up to that point (and sometimes, as with my current WIP, even longer) I head off in wrong directions and follow blind alleys and generally wander in the wilderness while I get to know them.

It’s not an efficient process.

Now Ms. Sinclair has given me a tool to (I really hope) shortcut that painful process–the Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram). According to the Integrative 9 website, the Enneagram is an archetypal framework that offers in-depth insight to individuals, groups and collectives.  Put more simply, it’s a psychological test that categorizes people into 9 different groups based on personality/character factors. Continue reading

Jeanne: How Much Research Is Enough?

The Screwtape LettersLast Saturday, I was hiking with a friend who was around for the full pre-publication lifespan of The Demon Always Wins. (I started working on it in May, 2012 and didn’t publish until September, 2018.)

She mentioned that she’s reading Dante’s Inferno.

In preparation for writing The Demon Always Wins, I read:

 

 

  • Dante’s Inferno
  • Milton’s Paradise Lost
  • The Book of Job (multiple times)
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • Books about the Book of Job.
  • Critiques of The Inferno.
  • Critiques of Paradise Lost.

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Kay: New Dogs, Old Tricks

Can you read the caption? “Andrina Wood at the console of a BTM computer. Tabacus: The Magazine of the British Tabulating Company, August 1958.” The photo was republished on the Twitter account of Mar Hicks, a professor and historian of technology. Many of the vintage photos I’ve seen show women at computer consoles working with a legal pad or paper notebook.

I’ve started a new book. For lack of any better ideas, I went back to a project I last worked on in about 2006—the adventures of my genius computer hacker and the FBI agent who arrested her.

I wrote two books of these characters before I switched to lighter storylines—there’s just something about your hero sending your heroine to prison that tends to get dark pretty fast. And it’s hard to write genius, too, if you’re not genius yourself. Using Sheldon Cooper as a role model, especially for a female character, has its limitations.

The reception I got for these books after I’d finished them was lukewarm. The first book is about stealing an election, a topic that every agent and editor I talked to said would be stale in months. And we all know how that turned out.

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Justine: Mixing History and Fiction

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“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: 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

Justine: Prepping for a Research Trip

49665157 - travel holiday vacation traveling laptop technology conceptIn a couple weeks, I’ll be headed across the pond for 10 days of research in London for my next couple Regency romances. It’ll be my third time in the lovely country of England and I have some very targeted sites I want to see. For the most part, I’ll be in London (renting a flat via Airbnb this time that puts me right in the heart of Mayfair, near Grosvenor Square and Hyde Park).

If you’ve never taken a research trip before, here are my tips for things to bring (or do) when you head out one one. Continue reading