I read an interesting article in the May issue of my Romance Writers Report entitled, “Who Said Historical is Dead?” by Anabelle Bryant. It explored the rumors that historical romance is dead, a claim that the article’s author very firmly denied. She said it isn’t dead, rather it’s going through a transformation. One quote she cites by senior editor Esi Sogah at Kensington Books that supports this transformation caught my interest: “Watch for more romance set outside Europe, more romances with non-white main characters, and more heroes and heroines from varied class backgrounds.”
Bryant’s article got me thinking about my own reading and writing interests that have evolved throughout the years. Some of the first romances I ever read were by Jude Deveraux and Judith McNaught. These centered around medieval knights and the English aristocracy, and I devoured them. When Westerns ruled the romance market, I gobbled up novels by Jill Gregory and Patricia Gaffney until the market shifted yet again. Perhaps it’s simply my own perspective, but lately I’ve thought the world of romance publishing could use another shift. Or better yet, multiple shifts. I love reading about a handsome duke as much as the next girl, but I feel like the market is saturated with such heroes, and has been for a while now. There’s only so many variations of this story that can be repackaged before the staleness can’t be disguised anymore.
That brings me to my own writing and the sort of characters and settings that inspire me. Although Clingstone takes place during the American Civil War—admittedly, a setting that once saturated the romance market—my hero is deaf, and both he and the heroine inhabit the not-so-romantic working class. My hero is also the more nurturing parent figure toward the little boy in the story, whereas my heroine struggles with her maternal side, at least initially. As much as the romantic images of southern belles in gorgeous finery and soldiers in dashing uniforms appeal to my aesthetics, I’ve never been drawn to write about those types of characters. Mae and Creighton are imperfect characters inhabiting an imperfect world, and that’s what makes them interesting and authentic.
Historical romance is begging for a transformation, I agree. As a reader, I’ve always liked the underdogs. The stable boy secretly appealed to me so much more than the earl ever did. As an author, I’m now allowed to indulge in my own versions of happy-ever-after and what sort of characters get to populate them. If, like me, you prefer your heroes and heroines a little less flawless—dare I say, somewhat grubby and disheveled at times!—then I hope you’ll skip the nobleman the next time you need a little romance R & R, and instead make a move on the unshaven stable boy instead. After all, he might be a big pungent from mucking out stalls all day, but all that hard work builds great moral fiber.
Oh, and a strapping physique. We can’t forget that.
This book is mindbogglingly detailed, so much so that my eyes cross slightly whenever I reference something from it. Don’t get me wrong. I love how every page is filled with minutiae that can keep my brain swimming for hours and hours, but there’s a limit to how many details about dentils, modillions, and other classical moldings found in Neoclassical and Italian Renaissance architecture that the mind can safely absorb without flatlining. Unless, of course, you’re an architect and adore such things. I, for one, am not and do not, and so I like to limit myself with such descriptions. Less is more, as they say, but a few such details nicely sprinkled throughout can certainly add some rich texture to one’s writing.
A Field Guide to American Houses truly is a lot of bang for your buck, especially if you’re a historical writer and find yourself in need of such information. The sections are vast and varied: Spanish Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Georgian, Creek Revival, Gothic Revival, Tutor, Neoclassical…you get the idea. There’s even a pictorial key that you can reference roof lines, walls, windows, chimneys, porch supports, and other decorative details. If you’re writing a novel that takes place in 1828, and you want to describe the residential street in which your heroine is jauntily strolling down, you certainly don’t want to make the blunder of describing spindlework that would be found on Queen Anne houses built from 1880-1910. That’s just sloppy research right there!
Interested in learning about cantilevered porches or pediment windows to add authenticity to your next novel? A Field Guide to American Houses is still available for sale on Amazon by clicking here.
I’m a scrapper. I always have been. The more times I fall and embarrassingly land on my butt, the more determined I am to spring right back up and try again. I think I might even have a little Oppositional Defiance Disorder in me, because I seem to get more mulish with each rejection—at least, that’s proven true with my writing career. As I mentioned in my very first blog post, I tried to get my manuscripts published for nearly two decades before finally moving on and self-publishing, and I must say that decision has proven to be a happy one. But up until that point, each rejection letter from a publishing house or literary agent only got me more determined to spring right back up again, my little scrapper fists a-flyin’ everywhere.
Recently, I started thinking about my entry into the 2017 RITA contest but how I didn’t place, and I belatedly realized, Hey! I’m a scrapper! Scrappers don’t quit after one little contest! I quickly referred to the Romance Writers of America chapter websites and found several contests still open for entries. The contest winners will be announced anywhere from June to October, and I entered Clingstone into five contests total. The one thing that’s proven the most difficult in self-publishing is advertising and exposure in general, but if I can place in just one contest, that’s instant publicity I didn’t have before.
That said, scrappers unite! I know I’m not the only self-published author out there who struggles with advertising, and so here is the link to the current contests still open on the RWA website. I think you need to be a current member to participate in any of them, but if so then go for it!
Here's the book blurb for my upcoming release! Look for Watermark in summer 2017!
Whom could you trust if you were stranded fifteen hundred miles from home?
Misfortune has plagued Juno Brock for months. Recently widowed, a chance encounter with a dangerous criminal in St. Louis exposes her to information that can see her branded. Or worse, hanged. When a pirate attack on the Mississippi River maroons her in the wilds of Michigan Territory, she has but one choice: use her wits to secure passage on a boat traveling downriver and reunite with her family fifteen hundred miles away.
An arrogant mistake in his youth has set flatboat pilot Malcolm Moreau on a forked path of redemption and revenge. His successful livelihood transporting goods to New Orleans revolves around cargo, not passengers, but Juno’s recent encounter with his longtime enemy makes her the exception. A bargain is struck: safe passage to Natchez, Mississippi, in exchange for the information she unwittingly discovered.
What follows is a month-long journey where mistrust and resentment unfolds into an unexpected friendship filled with secret confidences and before long, attraction. Sometimes dangerous, often humorous, their voyage down America’s most infamous river and the outlandish characters they meet along the way will ultimately inspire a destination neither expected: love.
Spring is my catnip. At the first hint of it, I go slightly nuts. It’s what happens from living in the Midwest, I suppose. My hardy soul shrivels down to a stunted little nub in the wintertime, and so it’s really no surprise when I turn slightly schizophrenic upon sighting that first blade of green grass. My brain immediately explodes with wondrous outdoor project after outdoor project, with little attention left over for anything else: Mowing! Pruning! Mulching! Weeding! The ideas shoot off like pinwheels and Roman candles that demand my complete and utter devotion.
After about a month of this self-inflicted joy/torture, I get my fill of catnip and everything returns to normal again. But until that time, all of my good intentions suffer. This year’s spring victim? My writing. I have approximately six chapters left to write in my second book, and then some editing revisions to follow. If I’m diligent, I should be able to finish in about eight weeks, and yet…my concentration has already wandered to the Great Outdoors. I’ve already returned my goldfish to their pond, mulched and pruned about half my flowerbeds and shrubs, and next week I’ll need to wrestle my lawnmower from its shed to annihilate the dandelion army that is slowly overtaking my yard. Even the dogs are encouraging me to be off-task. They’ve lured me down to the river already to dig in the sand and frolic in the water (them, not me, I swear). I tend to be a bit of a procrastinator anyway and am often distracted by bright and shiny things…so maybe I’m part crow? That would explain quite a lot.
It’s times like these that I find myself grateful I’m not under a publishing house contract. Yes, I have my own deadlines and like to stick to them as closely as possible, but it alleviates some of the pressure to know that my pace is still my own. If I become a victim to spring’s off-task charms, so be it. Luckily, it’s always a temporary madness anyway.
That said, next week I plan on posting the book blurb for Watermark, my upcoming release, which now looks like it will occur closer to summer 2017 than spring. Stay tuned for more details! Until then, rest assured: The catnip will run its course, folks, I promise.
I love The Big Bang Theory. For those of you out there who aren’t fans of the show, there’s one episode in particular that resonated with me this week: “The Tangerine Factor,” which introduces a thought experiment referred to as Schrodinger’s Cat. It’s a paradox that explores the following concept: a box exists, inside of which is a cat. The cat is either alive or dead, but you won’t know which until the box is opened. Essentially, until the lid is lifted off and one looks inside the box, both realities exist equally. Put another, less morbid way, when faced with any uncertain outcome, there is a moment in which both opposing outcomes—one positive, one negative—exist in a person’s mind.
Tuesday morning was my Schrodinger’s Cat. The phone calls from the Romance Writers of America to the finalists started early that morning and were to be completed by 2 pm. For those few hours prior to the 2 pm deadline, my cat was just as alive as it was dead. The box was sitting there on my kitchen table in the guise of my phone. The lid was firmly closed. I was going to place in the contest. I wasn’t going to place in the contest. Both realities existed equally.
Then 2 pm came and went. I didn’t have to lift off the lid to know the cat inside was dead. In fact, it was starting to stink up the place a bit.
And yet, my disappointment is oddly minimal. I wasn’t especially surprised that I didn’t place in the RITA final round—the chances of doing so are slim, with only 4% of the entrants in each category placing—but it was fun to speculate and dream and gaze hopefully at my phone. In fact, the possibility of placing in the RITAs has occasionally popped in and out of my head since I first entered Clingstone in the contest back in November 2016, but I never banked any high hopes on actually doing so. I dreamed about it, certainly, but I dreamed about it much as I dream about winning the lottery when I buy a scratch-off ticket every Thursday. Or meeting Gerard Butler and having him whisk me off to Scotland. Both are equally unlikely, but oh-so-fun to visualize (the latter in a kilt, of course).
And so, even though Clingstone didn’t make it very far, I still really enjoyed being allowed to participate in the judging process. There’s a lot of fantastic romance novelists out there, and it’s nice to see their talents recognized in a contest like this.
But I cheer myself with the fact that there will be more unopened boxes in my future. And one of these times, like Penny from The Big Bang Theory, I’ll be able to shout, “The cat’s alive!” Until then, I’ll be content picturing Gerard bounding toward me across the highlands.
Wearing a kilt. Or not.
Well, it’s almost here! The finalists for the Romance Writers of America’s 2017 RITA® award will be announced this Tuesday, March 21 by 2 p.m. CDT. The names of all the finalists and their categories—i.e. historical romance, contemporary romance, paranormal romance, etc.—will be available on the RWA website tomorrow, so go check it out!
Kayla at KDH Reviews has very graciously included Clingstone in her blog post Ten Books I Loved More/Less Than I Thought I Would! Click here to read the full post.
My Favorite Research Books: How to Survive on Land and Sea, By Frank C. Craighead, Jr., and John J. Craighead
Poor Mae and Creighton. I wrote my heroine and hero into extreme situations of physical endurance, and at one point even subjected them to eating grubs in order to survive. So where did I find all that gag-worthy information about human survival and what people can and can’t ingest into their fragile human bodies? I suppose such facts can be googled easily enough, but there’s nothing quite like cracking open a nice little book like How to Survive on Land and Sea to fully realize the arduous logistics involved in basic human survival.
I purchased this book years ago. In fact, it was originally published by the United States Naval Institute in 1943, but I own the fourth edition published in 1984. I bought it at Barnes and Noble, probably sometime in the early 2000s, and undoubtedly in their bargain book section considering the date. And yet the survival methods found in this book are tried and true and not subject to change from one decade to the next. I bought it solely to research how my characters could survive in extreme situations, most notably if they were forced to forage for food.
This handy little book gives general guidelines about myriad survival concerns, including but not limited to: fire-making, methods of catching fish, edible plants, using celestial bodies to orient one’s direction, water procurement, and so on. Creighton’s knowledge of fashioning fishing hooks out of thorns and roasting cattail roots came from said pages. Again, all things we can google, but it’s handy having all that information in one single, easily accessible book.
In the course of writing my current historical romance novel, Watermark, I’ve referenced the water survival sections of How to Survive on Land and Sea several times. Such information is handy, especially if you’re going to toss your hero and heroine into the Mississippi River in March and need to know how long they can stay immersed in forty-degree water before they risk hypothermia. Hey, I don’t claim to take it easy on my protagonists! Adversity builds character, not to mention attention-grabbing plots.
Now, if only the ill-fated Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater had information like that which is found in How to Survive on Land and Sea. They would’ve known it was hopeless to climb on that silly stateroom door, and they would’ve huddled instead. It cuts heat loss in half, folks! Poor Jack didn’t have a chance.
Interested in learning more? This book is still available for sale on Amazon by clicking here.
The blog Romance Novels for the Beach has very graciously included Clingstone as one of its favorite reads for 2016! Check out the post by clicking here.
I've had Clingstone enrolled in KDP select for nearly a year now, but it’s time to branch out a little and publish on additional sites like Barnes and Noble nook. That being said, I wanted to utilize KDP’s free book promotion one last time before my enrollment expires, and so I’ll be offering the ebook edition of Clingstone free for five consecutive days: Wednesday January 25-Sunday January 29, 2017. So save those dates and jump on Amazon to get your free copy!
Copyright © 2016-2018 Marti Ziegler