Status Update – Contemporary and Historical

Feb 26, 2017

Psst! Here’s the next historical, coming out next month!

Funny, but several times in the last week or so I’ve found myself in conversations with other writers about which genres we like to write the most, which come more easily to us, and how these days, it’s necessary to write more than one genre. This is shop-talk at its finest for me! I love talking about this stuff. So I’ll share with you.

First of all, yeah, a lot of writers agree that it’s really important to write more than one genre right now, especially if you’re an indie author. The market has become so unpredictable (especially these last few months, whew!) and readers read across such a wide variety of genres and subjects. In past years, one genre or another, say, paranormal, would be popular for years (remember all those vampire novels about ten years ago?). Reading tastes would stick around for years as opposed to months.

Months, like now. These days, genres rise and fall, become popular, then lose that popularity on much shorter cycles. One month you might find that your motorcycle gang books are selling like hotcakes, and three months later, you can’t give them away. It’s funny how genres work like that.

Personally, I’m still waiting for historical romance to gain the ascendancy again. I prefer writing and reading historical romance. It’s funny too, because a lot of people say they can’t identify with the problems and plots of historical people, but I find that I identify with them more and feel more comfortable in those worlds. But I’m also weird. We all know that. And even though I’ve been writing historical westerns for the past five years, guess what? I really long to write British Victorian novels! Yep! And by the end of this year, I’m gonna start writing and publishing them too, so watch out!

But here’s the thing. I’ve had some amazing reactions to the contemporary romance novels I’ve written. A lot of them have sold better than my historicals. And that’s primarily because contemporary just sells better than historical. That’s the way the market is right now. And while they’re not my favorite, they’re a very close second. I do like writing them.

The funny thing is, I never thought I had any contemporary romance stories in me. I didn’t think I could write them at all. But I kicked myself in the pants a couple years ago and wrote Summer with a Star, and the rest is history. I really enjoyed writing that book. (Although I ended up publishing it at an incredibly stressful time in my life, and yes, it has a lot of typos. Alas.) Since then, I’ve found a contemporary voice that I’m comfortable with. I kinda think I write contemporary stories the way I would write a historical one, if that makes sense. But there’s a lot you can do with contemporary characters that you can’t do with historical ones.

Although I’ll get out my soapbox and say that the range of activity for historical heroines is WAY narrower than life really was for those ladies in many of the novels I’ve read. People in general don’t quite understand what life was really like back then (understandable, since very few people have degrees in history) and many people believe the myths about what life was like, even when someone points out the reality to them.

But that’s a post for a different day!

Weekend Excerpt – Chaos Theory

Feb 25, 2017

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a big chunk of the shenanigans I’ve been up to! And we’re less than a week away from the release of Chaos Theory (at last!). So here you go! Will Darling is in big trouble….

Will had driven past Clutterbuck’s Flowers several times, and he knew that the family, Melody included, lived in an apartment above the shop. Scott had told everyone on his team about how amazing the apartment was—two apartments in one, really—but he hadn’t mentioned the location of the entry. It took Will several minutes of wandering around the building, feeling more self-conscious by the minute, before Melody’s sister stuck her head out one of the second-floor windows and said, “Can I help you?”

Cringing internally, Will raised a hand to shield his eyes and looked up. “Is Melody home?”

“Maybe.” Calliope’s tone was a dead giveaway to just how badly he’d upset Melody.

“Can I talk to her?”

“Maaybee.” Calliope drew the word out, her mouth twitching to the kind of grin that made Will feel like an insect specimen skewered with a pin.

He paused, waiting for Calliope to say more. When she didn’t, he asked, “How do I get up there?”

Calliope chuckled. “You’re staring right at the door.”

Will lowered his eyes to find a plain, unassuming door directly across from where he stood. The window had been painted to resemble a stained-glass flower arrangement, which is why he’d assumed it led to the shop. Calliope drew her head back into the apartment, and Will marched for the door. It was unlocked, so he went through and found himself walking up a narrow flight of incense-scented stairs.

Soft sitar music was playing on the other side of a closed, painted door when he reached the top. He raised his hand to knock, but the door swung open before his knuckles could make contact.

“You’d better be here to apologize,” Calliope said in a low voice.

“I am.” Will nodded.

Calliope’s expression lightened to a broad, teasing smile. “In that case….” She stepped back, holding the door open and gesturing for him to come in. “Hey, Mel! Look what the cat dragged in.”

Will supposed he deserved it. Dickery like his deserved humiliation as punishment. That didn’t stop him from freezing in his tracks as he crossed through the modest-if-colorful front entryway and into a gigantic, two story high room. The décor was bright and exotic, what he would call hippie-eastern chic. Oriental art vied with thick, green plants for just about every space on and around the walls. But it was the erotic, almost obscene mobile hanging from the ceiling that caught his attention and had his jaw dropping. Male and female bodies circled and entwined above him in a dance that was…distracting.

“Well, hello.”

Even more distracting was Luna Clutterbuck, Melody and Calliope’s mother. Dressed in a silk wrap-around skirt and flowing blouse, the bangles she wore jingling, she swept across the room and enveloped Will in a hug before he could raise his arms to stop her. He tensed instinctively, then battled to force himself to accept the hug.

“Oh dear,” she said as she stepped back and held him at arm’s length. She didn’t elaborate, she just sighed and said, “I’ll get Melody so that you can work this all out.”

Luna floated off, disappearing through a doorway that looked like it led to a corridor. He heard footsteps going up stairs moments later, followed by Luna’s call of, “Melody, you have a visitor.”

Will glanced to Calliope to see if he could judge just how huge of a villain he’d been reported to be. She didn’t look nearly as peeved as he would have been if his sister had been insulted. In fact, she looked as though she was having a hard time not laughing.

Moments later, Melody appeared at the edge of what appeared to be a loft on one side of the room. She had changed into a long, green skirt and short-sleeved shirt, and her curly hair hung in a wild mass down past her shoulders. She arched a brow and leaned against the loft’s railing. “Hello, Darling.”

Will frowned. She was going to make this as difficult for him as possible. Not that he didn’t deserve it. “I’ve come to apologize.” There. Might as well deal with the issue head-on.

Melody chuckled. The sound was low, coming from her chest. With her standing a full story above him, looking down on him, she was like a fairy queen in the kind of story that had been banned from his house growing up. She made the hair on the back of Will’s neck stand up. Other things too.

“Is that so?” she asked.

He took a breath and clasped his hands behind his back, standing at attention. “I spoke to you in an unbecoming manner, and I’d like to apologize for it.”

Melody burst into giggles, leaning against her arms on the banister. “What, are we in some sort of historical novel now?”

“No.” He frowned.

“Because you sound like Mr. Darcy coming to apologize to Elizabeth.”

Will’s frown deepened. “Who?”

Melody pushed herself to stand straight. Calliope leaned away from Will, one brow arched. “Seriously?”

Will glanced sideways to her, wishing there was a polite way to tell her to go the hell away. “Did I say something wrong?”

“Do you really not know who Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth are?” Melody asked from above.

Since Calliope was looking at him like he’d told her one plus one equaled three, he was glad to look back up at Melody. “I take it they’re a couple.”

Calliope covered her mouth with one hand to stifle her laugh. She shook her head and crossed behind him, heading toward the hall where Luna had disappeared. “He’s all yours, Mel,” she called up to her sister before vanishing around the corner.

Status Update – Worry

Feb 24, 2017

Yes, even this version of Merry was a worrier.

Okay, raise your hand if you’ve ever had a moment in life where worry suddenly (or not so suddenly) overwhelmed you. … Yeah, I’m pretty sure that everyone is raising their hand right now. I think worry is an unfortunately common part of being a human. Because we have so much to worry about!

Personally, I’m worried about money—because I had my taxes done yesterday and I owe so, so, so very much, and because there’s some drama with my financial advising—I’m worried about books and book deadlines and the fact that sales have been down at the time of year when they’re supposed to be up (it’s not just me, it’s across the board, and I have strong theories about why), and I’m worried about the state of our country, the high level of stress and conflict with people close and far, and where we’re going. So basically, I’m worried about all the standard, ordinary, normal things that people worry about: Money, Career, and The Future. I’m lucky I’m not in a relationship, or I’d be worrying about that too!

And that’s sort of the point. We all worry about the same things, more or less. I think if you asked any person anywhere to make a list of the top five categories of things they worry about, we’d all end up with the same five things, only in different orders. But what gets me is that in the midst of our own, personal worry, we always seem to think that we’re alone, that we’re the only one worried about those particular things.

I mean, how can I worry, knowing that I grew this one year? The Lord brings us miracles in the smallest and biggest ways!

Fortunately, we’re not. We’re all in the worry boat together. And as I deal with all of the things that are winding me up and stressing me out, I keep telling myself that. My worries about money seem big to me, but I will not have a problem getting through them. Other people might, and while that doesn’t invalidate the worry I feel, it puts things into perspective. Taxes slapped me upside the head this year, but I planned and prepared for it. Others might not be so lucky.

The same goes for my career. I am always going to be a writer, and I will always continue to write. The market may be down right now, due to outside forces, but those forces will resolve themselves and people will be more interested in reading than watching TV once there’s less drama to focus on. Not to mention that I have some super fun and exciting books coming down the line! Plus, it’s not like my catalog of books will get smaller. So that problem will resolve itself too.

As for the future of this country? If there’s one thing that being a historian has taught me, it’s that life, the universe, and everything goes on. Whatever state we’re in at any given point, it changes. That’s just the nature of the game. Also important to remember is that it’s not my job to worry about the big picture. I can do my little part, then leave it up to others, and ultimately the Big Guy upstairs.

So does that stop worry? Heck no! Of course not! *LOL* But it regulates the flow, so to speak. Although I may back off of the internet for the weekend. We’re never going to stop being worriers, but we are allowed to take vacations from worrying, if only for a moment here and there.

Status Update – Victoria: Episode 6

Feb 23, 2017

I know, I’m way behind on this and on the blog in general, but it’s been one of those weeks where everything suddenly piles on you at the same time. You know those weeks. I got three emails within 20 minutes on Tuesday night with important, nay, dire business stuff that I had to deal with. Fortunately, most of it is taken care of, and we can now sit back and talk about Victoria.

Read this book this winter. It’s chunky and academic

I’ve give episode 6 about an 80% on the accuracy scale. Pretty darn good! It’s historically accurate that Victoria had mixed feelings about finding out she was pregnant so soon after the wedding, but also that she kind of ignored it and ran off to do stuff anyhow. What I find interesting about the way the show portrayed that is how good of a job they did showing the “old school of thought” about pregnancy, as evidenced by Victoria’s mom, and the new ideas that were just beginning to emerge at that time. Because there WAS a huge change in thought about pregnancy and childbirth in the middle part of the 19th century. Ironically (or not, this is me we’re talking about) I just read a social history book about Europe since 1750 this winter, and there was a whole chapter dealing with changes in the way childbirth and childrearing was thought of. That’s a whole other blog post, but the gist is that people were healthier in general and medical science was (sloooooowly) advancing to more reasonable ways of treating women’s health issues.

But the main thing I wanted to talk about with this episode was the historical reality of the slow but definite transition of power from wild, young Victoria who had no idea what she was doing and had to rely on ministers to Albert subtly slipping in and influencing things. Because he did. And England was better off for it by far!

Incidentally, Robert Peel started the Metropolitain Police Force, which is why cops are called “Bobbies” over there. 😉 (c) Government Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

So Robert Peele. Yes, Victoria hated him at first. Because he wasn’t fun, like Melbourne. Albert really did like him, though. They had a lot in common, in that they were both “not fun” men. And while I think they overplayed Victoria’s resistance to new technology, they certainly didn’t exaggerate Albert’s love for it. Remember, this is the guy who would organize the Great Exhibition in a little over a decade. Albert had his pulse on the modern world (which is one reason the upper classes of Britain hated him so much).

Albert not only influenced Victoria to like Peele eventually (he did, she did), but he convinced her to like a lot of other things too. My favorite scene in this last episode, one I think is very historically accurate, is where they sit down at the desk together to tackle all of the documents of state. That was a subtle moment in the show, but it was pivotal in the history of Britain. Because Albert very quickly became Victoria’s most indispensable and trusted advisor. Anyone who scoffed or suggested that Albert was really running the country…was right.

I’m interested to see where they go from here with the show. Because many historians agree that the number one most important thing Albert did for the British monarchy was to convince Victoria to back out of actual governing and just be more or less a rubber stamp. There is a lot of agreement that if he hadn’t accomplished that, the monarchy would have been abolished, like so many other European monarchies were in the 19th century. But in a very real way, Albert’s savvy understanding of the modern world saved the crown.

Status Update – BIG

Feb 20, 2017

Big-sized stuff!

So! After all the discussion the other day, I stopped in at Costco on my way home from church yesterday, just to check it out. I went in as a guest, not intending to buy anything, just looking at what they have.

Well, two things became apparent to me pretty quickly. I *could* get a Costco membership so that I could get some of the things that, frankly, looked delicious that I can’t get anywhere else. I could get giant slabs of salmon that I could cut up and freeze, and they had some prepared chicken salad that looked good, some great cheeses, a few frozen thingies, and some snackie things. They have all the cleaning products I use, and I could basically buy them once a year and be good. But the more I walked around, the more I thought to myself “I can get these things anywhere.”

The other big thing I noticed—which is something I already know about Americans—is that Americans like things BIG. I mean B-I-G! It wasn’t just the giant shelves filled with emperor-sized bags of chips or tubs of salsa. It wasn’t just the massive TVs (for sale) that greet you when you walk into warehouse stores. It wasn’t even the huge carts people were wheeling around the stores. It was the gigantic trucks I saw in the parking lot. I ended up following one massive, monster truck out of the parking lot and down the road a little…and it had one person in it. Tiny cab, gigantic truck.

Just enough fish & chips (& mushy peas) to satisfy this weary traveler without wasting anything

So what is this fascination Americans have with largeness? Because when I was in London last summer, the “big” thing I noticed was that everything was small. Or rather, everything was to scale. The cars were compact and suitable for city driving (and I should note that even watching British TV, like, chat shows, not dramas, the cars out in the country are small too, unless they’re working farm vehicles). The portions of food at the modest-sized supermarkets were just right for consumption without waste, and same with the portions served at restaurants.

This is not a judgement of any kind, it’s just an observation about what appears to be a national character thing. I’ve always been told, too, for example, that in Paris, people shop for what they’re going to eat that day as opposed to making a trip to the grocery store to stock up for the week or longer. It seems to me to be a different philosophy of need and a different way of viewing what is necessary.

Now, I think part of the American way of thinking must come because in a lot of areas, that once every other week trip to Costco is all you’re going to get, since you live so far out in the middle of nowhere. Europe doesn’t have that many middles of nowhere left. But the Costco I went to yesterday was in suburban Philadelphia. You could drive through no more than two traffic lights in any direction and hit another supermarket. And you have to drive for a while before you hit remote country (although we have a lot of “nearby country” just outside of the suburbs). So the practical aspect of bulk shopping can’t be as important here as, say, having a huge family that eats a lot. But I dunno if that scenario applies to everyone either.

At the end of the day, I’ll be honest and say that the European “less is more” system is more appealing to me. That’s just the way I am. But then, as far back as college, I’ve been told—by Europeans—that I’m more British than most British people, and definitely more British than American. So at the end of the day, I think I’ll skip the bulk store membership and keep making my daily trips out to more local shops.