Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Writing Fresh Love Scenes

by Ann Lethbridge

First a little squeeee, if I may.

The cover for my next Harlequin Mills and Boon book, The Gamekeeper's Lady out in hardcover in the UK in December, just found its way on to amazon and I'm thrilled. Mills and Boon have recently updated their cover design. I love the new design and I am very pleased with my first one in the new series. It will be issued in North America in mass market in 2011 and is the first of a two book series about twin brothers.

On with my topic. Having eight books in print along with numerous short stories means I have written upwards of twenty-five love scenes. Well, let's face it there are only so many things your couples can do in a love scene. So how do you keep them fresh and vibrant and well....sexy. I'm not talking erotica here, though I do aim for a high level of heat in my stories, but it is sensual tension that is key, whether you write hot or sweet or somewhere in between.

When you start writing the world is your oyster. You have the freedom to pick whatever place, circumstance, activity you can think of for your couples. But as time goes on your options begin to dwindle, or so I thought. Well yes, we can think of different places, outdoors, in a cupboard, etc. which is challenging to say the least, but is it fresh and more importantly is it enough?

Recently, I have given this some considerable thought, and one thing I have concluded is that making love has to make everything worse, either for one or both members of the couple. In the earlier stages of the book making love in whatever form, has to up the stakes and be one of actions likely to drive them apart emotionally. The more it aggravates a character's inner conflict, the better. Obviously if it is during the resolution, you are dealing with a completely different circumstance.

That doesn't mean that the moment itself isn't enjoyable for them both. It has to be the best they have ever experienced, if they have ever experienced it before. It must certainly be consensual. It also has to be well motivated and a natural outcome of their attraction.

For me, the other important ingredient, the dash of cayenne, the heat, is that it is fraught with conflict for one, or both members of the couple. The outcome must be disaster for someone, a loss of control, a reversal of a key principal, a step backwards in a particular goal. And the reader has to feel both the overwhelming desire and the worry about the problems that will ensue.

The lovemaking itself must be delicious, wicked, hot, pure delight, but for me it is the conflict it creates, the inner turmoil of the characters you have created, that makes it fresh.

I would be very interested to hear what ingredients you feel are key in keeping love scenes fresh.

Ann's story The Governess and the Earl In the Mills and Boon anthology New Voices is now available in stores and on line. You can find her at her website or her Regency Ramble blog

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Nez Perce Diet

Spirit of the Mountain, my August release is the first book of a trilogy about siblings who were made spirits by the Creator. While I made up the spirit world and their shape shifting and powers, the day to day living of the Nez Perce I tried to keep as factual as the information I could find.

At the time of my story the Nez Perce were nomadic, living off the land and its bounties. They had horses, but had yet to be introduced to cattle. Salmon, eel, and steelhead, were commodities of their region starting in May and early June and ran through the summer. They traveled first to the lower streams and worked their way to the high tributaries. The fish were caught, some eaten fresh others smoked and either stored for later use or used for trade. There was much rejoicing and ceremonies when the harvest was successful.

Kouse and other early roots were gathered during the spring while they were still along the lower streams fishing. They would meet at meadows in the high country once the snow had melted and gather roots. The women used sticks to dig the roots form the ground. They gave thanks to the Creator for growing the food that help sustain them through the winter months.

During the warm months they harvested wild plants, berries, pine nuts, and sunflower seeds. In the meadows they also gathered wild onion, carrots, and other plants. On the Forested mountainsides, they picked hawthorn, serviceberries, chokecherries, blackberries, and huckleberries.

Their diet also consisted of game animals and birds. They preserved what could not be eaten at once and had caches where they stored the preserved food until it was needed. So while they led a different life than the White man was used to, in reality they were not that much different in their methods of staying well fed.

Blurb for Spirit of the Mountain
Wren, the daughter of a Nimiipuu chief, has been fated to save her people ever since her vision quest. When a warrior from the enemy Blackleg tribe asks for her hand in marriage to bring peace between the tribes, her world is torn apart.

Himiin is the spirit of the mountain, custodian to all creatures including the Nimiipuu. As a white wolf he listens to Wren’s secret fears and loses his heart to the mortal maiden. Respecting her people’s beliefs, he cannot prevent her leaving the mountain with the Blackleg warrior.

When an evil spirit threatens Wren’s life, Himiin must leave the mountain to save her. But to leave the mountain means he’ll turn to smoke…


Wren’s eyes glistened with unshed tears. “My gift is to save The People. The weyekin who came to me in my vision quest said this.” She wrapped her arms around herself as if staving off a cold breeze.
Himiin hated that they argued when they should relish their time together. He moved to her, drawing her against his chest, embracing her. The shape of her body molded to his. Her curves pressed against him. Holding her this way flamed the need he’d tried to suppress.
He placed a hand under her chin, raising her face to his. The sorrow in her eyes tugged at his conscience. To make her leaving any harder was wrong. But having experienced her in his arms, he was grieved to let her go. Even for the sake of their people.
Her eyelids fluttered closed. Her pulse quickened under his fingers. Shrugging off the consequences, he lowered his lips to hers. They were softer than he imagined. Her breath hitched as he touched her intimately. Parting his lips, he touched her with his tongue, wanting to see if she tasted as sweet as she smelled.

Paty Jager
Buy Link: www.thewildrosepress.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Transcontinental Railroad

This past month has been a very busy one for me...it just seems to be one thing after another, including the RWA Conference in Orlando. So my blog day snuck up on me. I'm doing a very brief blog on The Transcontinental Railroad, an almost, just the facts, ma'am, and then not too many of them. I hope you enjoy it just the same!

Transcontinental Railroad
In It’s About Time: How Long History Took, Mike Flanagan tells us that the building of the Transcontinental Railroad took five years, six months and fifteen days, between 1863-1869. The Civil War disrupted the building somewhat.

The planning for a railroad that went from one coast to the other had been bounced around for more than a decade. Railroad developers and land speculators, along with commercial interests promoted the building of the rail line during the 1850’s. However, the nation was in a huge debate over the expansion of slavery and the idea never fully got off the ground as “sectional differences over routes delayed the start of the line.” (America: A Narrative History) The start withdrawal of the Southern states from the Union and the start of the Civil War allowed for the passage of the Pacific Railway Bill, which Lincoln signed into law in 1862. It authorized the building of north-central route jointly by the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific.

While construction was started during the Civil War, actual work didn’t begin until 1865, after the war ended. The Central Pacific started in Sacramento, CA, while the Union Pacific started in Omaha, NE.

According to America: A Narrative History (my college history book), “The Union Pacific pushed across the Plains at a rapid pace, avoiding the Rocky Mountains by going through Evans Pass in Wyoming. The work crews…had to cope with bad roads, water shortages, rugged weather, and Indian attacks. Construction of the rail line and bridges was hasty and much of it was so flimsy that it had to be redone later.”

The workers were made up of ex-soldiers, Irish immigrants and Chinese men looking to make it rich and return to their homeland to marry and buy land. By 1887, The Central Pacific had 12,000 Chinese laborers, who represented 90 percent of their workforce.

The Union Pacific had to build through mountains, namely the Sierras, and only built 689 miles of track compared to the Union Pacific’s 1,086 miles. On May 10, 1869, the two tracks were joined at Promontory Point, Utah, finally connecting the two coasts.

The railroad opened a new era in American history. Farms, ranches and towns sprouted up around the lines. The rail lines brought people, goods and animals to vast Western United States. What had taken months to travel, now only took weeks or even days.

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What's Hot? What's Not?

Last month, I attended the Romance Writers of America National Conference in Orlando. What a wonderful opportunity to meet authors, editors, and agents and learn to improve my craft and navigate the market. The current market was a major topic of discussion - aside from the rapid changes in the publishing industry as a whole, the subject of popular eras and settings seemed to pop up everywhere. So, here's my question: which eras are your favorites and why?

Let's start with my favorite time period, the years 1861 - 1899. In America, these were the years of the Civil War, Reconstruction, major Western expansion, and the Gilded Age. My two historical romances with The Wild Rose Press, Destiny and Angel in My Arms (coming in November) are both set during the Civil War. I've had terrific feedback from lovers of Civil War romance happy to find a novel with a Civil War setting during this time in publishing. Once popular fixtures of romance, novels set during the years of Lincoln's Presidency are rather hard to come by. I'm perplexed as to the reasons for this apparent aversion publishers have toward Civil War romance...for that matter, toward just about any romance set in America. Have readers truly turned away from American-set historicals? What are your thoughts?

During the years 1861 - 1899, Queen Victoria had a firm and steady grip on her throne. The Victorian age was one of great progress in England, Europe, and America. I have to confess a preference for Victorian-era romances over the beloved Regency romances. Perhaps it's because women were coming into their own, able to explore roles forbidden in earlier history. Even though Victorian women didn't enjoy the freedom to break through barriers that women do today, women of that era made unprecedented strides toward their rights and their status as citizens. In addition, technological advances led to the potential for extensive travel and exciting adventures, while the Victorian sensibility in clothing, architecture, and furnishings was elegant and elaborate. Victorian-era clothing for women was exquisite and feminine, while Victorian architecture (Gilded Age in the United States) produced structures revered for their beauty and unique charm.

Medieval history holds an appeal all its own. Rugged warriors and brave heroines, fighting for a cause, bound by loyalty and love - these are the stuff of legends.

What eras and settings hold the most appeal to you? Have you ever ventured out of your romance comfort zone and read a book with an unusual setting or set during a time period that you usually don't enjoy? What are some books set during historical eras that you'd highly recommend. I'd love to see your thoughts!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ah ha! Research Vindicated

I just returned from a vacation in Hawaii. Ten days in paradise, on a cruise around the islands. But I'm not going to make this a travel blog. Instead, I'm going to share my geek highlight. lol One of the evening shows on the cruise was a hula show. No surprise there. The dancers actually did traditional dances from around the Polynesian islands, including dances from Hawaii, Tahiti, Tonga, and New Zealand.

In December 2009, I had a book come out called Love In Exile. It's a Regency historical and the hero is half-Polynesian. His father was a naturalist who sailed with Captain Cook, and his mother was from the Friendly Islands, modern-day Tonga. On the cruise I had several important areas of my research for this book confirmed. Now, I know my research was correct. But it was so wonderful to be able to go and see that for myself.

The first thing was my hero's tattoos. Tattooing is an important part of Polynesian culture and
history. And my hero has a traditional tattoo--an almost solid, intricate design from his hips to just above his knees. (Yes, EVERYTHING.) One of the male dancers in the hula show had a similar tattoo! Well, I can't confirm the everything part, but his costume revealed the tattooing around his hips and down his thighs. I was jumping in my seat pointing to him as I shook my husband and said, "See? See that?" He made the appropriate responses, lol.

Next was the importance of family and naming. The cruise ship had a "Hawaiian Ambassador", in other words a native Hawaiian who gave lessons and lectures in Hawaiian culture and history. Malu, our ambassador, talked about how important names are in Polynesian culture. My hero's English name is Gregory, but the name his mother gave him at birth, before she died is Palu. And he only shares that name with people in England who he considers family. But it is the name he prefers. The idea of family is also an important aspect of Polynesian culture. Your name indicates your family, and extended family are included in your inner circle. Malu talked about the fact that her American mother wanted a small wedding, family only. Her Hawaiian father agreed. They had over 500 people at their wedding. :-) Palu is reluctant to discuss his Polynesian family when he is in England, and as a naturalist his research focuses on the plants and animals of Polynesia, not the people. His reason is because they are his people, and he refuses to treat them as subjects of research or to make them objects of curiosity to others.

This was the first time I've had research that I've done for an historical novel confirmed through travel. Has this happened to anyone else? What about readers? Something you've read in a book and then seen firsthand?

Friday, August 13, 2010

I love/hate technology

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Those of us who write historical novels, are comfortable in a world with less technology. The pace of the day was slower in Medieval times, the seasons gave a rhythm to life. My farmer ancestors knew spring was for planting and the birth of livestock, summer for caring for the crops and livestock, the fall harvest. And winter for rest and repair.

While this life sometimes sound simple, there are drawbacks. I really like my hot shower in the winter, and the cool one in the summer. Thank you, technology.

I don’t think I’d be a novelist without technology. When I was teaching history, people used to say ‘you know all these stories, you should write a book.’ But I’m not the world’s best typist, so without technology of a word processer, I’d not attempted it. Imagine typing a novel on a typewriter? No cut and paste to move sentences or scenes. No spell check. Any correction or addition might mean retyping the whole page.

An now most manuscripts are submitted electronically so no more trips to the post office and mailing the manuscripts.

So there are some good things about technology.

But there are some bad things. At least for me. I really hate it that I learn how to get the most out of a software program, only to have the company go and ‘update’ it so that half the things you used to do are not the same any more. So do you up grade or keep the old system as you’re under contract and don’t really have time to go through the learning curve with the new software?

And I’m sorry, my mind does not work like the mind of the person who designed those little icons. I’m sorry, I can read, what’s wrong with ‘print’ instead of a picture? Technology is great as you can save many pages of manuscript without storing it under the bed. But when your system is upgraded, will it still be able to read your old mss?

I always have trouble with the formatting – there is always some trick you need to get the pagination and headers and footers just right. And then when it looks OK on your computer screen, will it look the same on the some other machine? It would be nice if all software could talk to each other (especially here at my day job where there are three systems that don’t completely talk to each other).

So technology has helped me as a novelist, making it easier to produce a manuscript, to send it off, and now even be published in electronic format. But the down side is anyone with a computer now thinks they are a novelist, and flood the editor and agents with their manuscripts.

With a big sigh I’ve accepted technology. What other choice do I have? But the next time I hit the wrong key and delete what I meant to keep, I’ll still hate technology.

How about you? Have you ever ‘lost’ something electronically? Do you have to have the latest software? What you like or hate about technology?

NOTE: in fact I hate technology so much that I was unable to load any pictures in this blog, in spite of the fact I always have before. So it took three times longer to try and add photos and upload this blog than it did to write it. Sometimes, I really HATE technology.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Abbreviated History of the Irish Travelers

Irish Travelers are descended from medieval minstrels and poets who traveled Ireland telling myths and stories. At that time, they were respected and learned. Travelers have their own language, Sheldroo, which is linked to ancient Irish language before a written Irish language. At the time of English occupation, many Irish families were turned out of their homes. During that period, it was illegal for Irish to learn to read and write—only the English could attend schools and universities. How were uneducated people to support themselves? Some homeless Irish families drifted in with the traveling minstrels and eventually became the Irish Travelers. They camped in fields. Later they acquired tents, then the colorful wagons that resemble gypsy wagons--as seen at the left in a photo from Bunratty Folk Park, Ireland.

They are not gypsies, though. Gypsies are Roms and originated in India. Travelers are purely of Irish origin, although they have now spread throughout the Western world. I saw examples of their wagons in a couple of museums in Ireland and in Scotland. Amazing how much storage space was inside the colorful wagons like those above. Lots of drawers and cabinets painted in cheerful colors and bunk resembling a sailing ship captain's quarters. Legislation in Ireland has set aside special camping places for the Travelers. There is much controversy there over whether the Travelers' children should be forced to attend school or allowed to remain uneducated and speak Sheldroo. In the U.S., they are supposed to attend school. There’s a large base of Irish Travelers in White Settlement, Texas and another in Los Angeles, California. In White Settlement, many live in RV’s or mobile homes at a park owned by one of the Travelers. The children don’t attend school, or if they go, it’s only sporadically. Most of the families are Roman Catholic and the wives attend mass. They were/are also called Tinkers because there was usually one among them who repaired pots, pans, and metal wares.

My first introduction to modern Irish Travelers—also called Tinkers—came one January day when a terrible accident happened on the Interstate just west of Fort Worth, Texas. A group of boys had been driving the new, red, double-cab pickup one received as a Christmas gift and going west to visit their uncle west of Weatherford. The five boys—all related—were going so fast when the driver lost control that the pickup actually became airborne, sailed across a median, and landed on another pickup traveling east. All six people died. Two were brothers, cousins to the other three brothers, plus the innocent man driving to Fort Worth. Highway patrol, sheriff’s deputies, and police officers were so moved by the deaths of these young men from one extended family that many of them attended the funeral in White Settlement. As they read the bulletin each person was given, they learned these young men were all underage. Their drivers licenses were fake. The ages were from 13 to 16, not 16 to 21 as the ID’s had indicated. Sadly, fake ideas are not uncommon for modern Irish Travelers. This accident sparked several in-depth columns about Irish Travelers in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The photo above right is of a modern Irish Traveler selling various items at a roadside park in Scotland. The woman is the Traveler.  About three or four times a year, an Irish Traveler stops by our rural home and offers to pave our drive or repair our roof. The men are usually medium height and have startlingly clear blue eyes. If we were gullible enough—as one of our friends was—to let them resurface our driveway, they would use a mixture of fluid which might resemble asphalt, but actually would be oil which washed away in a hard rain. Another common ploy is to get a 50% deposit for roofing, then disappear.

I am not bashing Irish people! I’m of Scot-Irish descent and love anything to do with Ireland (and the UK). I’m identifying a stereotype. I’m sure there are some good people from the sub-ethnic group, Irish Travelers. As with many other subjects, we hear about the bad ones. For a couple hundred years, Irish Travelers have been thought of as con men and their wives as beggars. Some make good money. Others live hand to mouth. They’re accused of “selling” their daughters at a young age to marry much older men. Is that true? I don’t know. They’ve made national news because of their shoplifting rings. Are there honest Travelers? Of course there must be, just as there are honest and dishonest people from any group. I took the photo at left in Ireland. Sorry, but I can't remember where.

In my September book, THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, the heroine and her family were among those turned off their land by an English landlord. Rather than starve, they joined a band of Irish Travelers. How did they end up trekking across the U.S. into Central Texas? You’ll have to read the book to learn the answer. See, it was a trick question.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Texas Giant: Richard King of The King Ranch

Hello, Caroline Clemmons here filling in for Jeanmarie Hamilton, who has a home repair emergency today.

Because Jeanmarie and I each write Texas settings for our historical romances, I thught I'd include a post on Texas history. No groaning, please! I promise this will NOT be a pedantic treatise. Grades will not be taken nor test given. Probably. Okay, no tests. Let me tell you about Richard King, nicknamed The King of Texas.

In 1852, Steamboat captain Richard King embarked on one of the most profitable undertainkings of his life. He was a 27-year-old New Yorker riding the Texas prairie. He had fallen in love with the 17-year-old daughter of a Presbyterian minister and had begun contemplating other business ventures that might support a wife and family.  When King and a few companions reached Santa Gertrudis Creek about 45 miles southwest of Corpus Christi, King was impressed with what he saw.

He told his partner in the steamboat business that land and livestock had a way of increasing in value. Cattle, horses, sheep, and goats would reproduce themselves into value. Boats had a way of wrecking, decaying, falling apart, and decreasing in value and increasing in the cost of operation.

King met with his friend, Texas Ranger Gideon Lewis, and the two men hammered out a partnership to establish a small ranch on the banks of a creek in South Texas. King was to provide the capital while Lewis and his Ranger patrol would provide protection from rustlers and Indians. As his cattle operation grew, King located the Mexican owners of the original Spanish land grant to which he had staked his claim and purchased 15,500 acres from them for $300. Shortly afterwards he added 53,000 acres for which he paid $1,800. King was something of a visionary and dammed a small stream on the property. When drought hit the area--as it always does in any part of Texas--he was the only ranch with a good supply of water.

Over the next few years, the Santa Gertrudis ranch continued to grow, although King retained his share in the steamboat business.

 King and his foreman traveled across the Rio Grande to Mexico and bought cattle at low prices. On one occasion, after buying all the livestock in a particularly poor village, he offered to take the town's entire population back to the ranch and put them to work. This was the beginning of Los Kineros, the King People, progenitors of generations of intensely loyal Mexican tenant families who worked the King Ranch.

By the time the Civil War broke out, King was one of the largest landowners in Texas, if not the largest. With a wife and three children to care for, he had increased his holdings to support twenty thousand head of cattle and three thousand horses. He initiated a series of livestock breeding experiments that he hoped would result in better, more durable strains of horses and cattle.

After King's death in 1885, his son-in-law Robert Kleberg took over the operations of the ranch. Following in his mentor's steps, Kleberg and those family members who succeeded him turned the King Ranch into the world's largest livestock operation with branches in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Cuba, Brazil, and Australia. King's initial efforts lived up to his name, The King Of Texas.

Reference, IT HAPPENED IN TEXAS, by James A Crutchfield, Falcon Press, Helena, Montana, 1996.


Monday, August 2, 2010

The Legend of the Kelpie

My latest story Beast in a Kilt was released last week in Secrets Volume 29 Indulge Your Fantasies. It is a paranormal historical erotic romance. The hero in this story is a special type of shapeshifter-- a kelpie.

Kelpies are a part of Scottish folklore and legend. Centuries ago, Scots believed certain lochs or rivers were inhabited by these malicious water demons. A kelpie appears to be a normal-looking, beautiful white (or black) horse. This creature charms and lures weary travelers onto his back and then dives into the loch or river, drowning and eating his victims. Kelpies have the strength and stamina of ten horses. And some legends say these kelpies could shift into gorgeous human males if they wanted. In this form they sometimes seduced women.

Of course Torr Blackburn, the hero of my story, doesn't drown people or eat them, but he does shift into a beautiful white "horse" at night and feels an intense, violent rage at times. When he's hungry, he eats grass or oats like a normal horse. He loves swimming in the nearby loch to burn off energy or aggression, and he never feels cold, even in midwinter. In kelpie form, he does, as legend says, have the strength of ten horses; he can run all night if required. (I used this picture of Gerry Butler as Attila as inspiration for Torr. Yes, he does like to smirk. ;-) )

Traditionally, the only way to capture a kelpie is with a magical bridle. If a person can manage to place this special bridle over his head, the kelpie is enslaved. And that's exactly what the witch of the dark arts does at one point--the witch who cursed him in the first place. The only way he can escape the curse is to find true love.

I thoroughly enjoy researching and creating paranormal stories, whether they are shapeshifter, time travel or magical. I can let my imagination fly free and ignore the restraints of everyday rationality and logic. Paranormal romance is pure escape and fantasy, yet still believable.

When I visited Scotland, I saw this sculpture called The Kelpies at the Falkirk Wheel.

I created this paranormal world in my first novella in this series, Devil in a Kilt, Red Sage Secrets Volume 27 Untamed Pleasures. The novellas take place in the year 1621 in Scotland. A dark witch placed a curse on three men who are friends and Highlanders (Gavin, Torr and Brodie) the year before because her son was killed in a skirmish in which he and his friends were trying to ambush and kill our three heroes. The witch took her revenge by placing a different curse on each of the three heroes. Gavin, the Highland chief from Devil in a Kilt, shapeshifts into a hawk. Only one thing will break the curse for each man, love given and received, in equal parts with complete trust. I've recently sold the third story in this series, Scoundrel in a Kilt for a future Secrets volume. The 3rd friend, Brodie, shapeshifts into a selkie. More on that Scottish legend later. :)

Here's the blurb for Beast in a Kilt:
Scottish lady Catriona MacCain has loved Torr Blackburn, a fierce Highland warrior, since she was a young lass, but Torr only sees Catriona as his best friend’s little sister. When Catriona’s family promises her in marriage to a detestable chieftain, she desperately needs Torr to save her from a fate worse than death. But Torr is under the spell of a witch of the dark arts and is cursed to spend his nights as a kelpie water demon. He doesn’t believe himself worthy of the virginal Lady Catriona. However, she is determined to seduce Torr and claim him… body, heart and soul, if only they can banish the curse and defeat the enemies who have vowed to possess and enslave them both.
What is your favorite legend, Scottish or otherwise?