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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Myths, Fables- all teach lessons


My August release, Spirit of the Mountain is available already in print format at my publisher. The Wild Rose Press. It's my first attempt at a paranormal, but to me it feels like a historical. I did major research into the Nez Perce or Nimiipuu tribe to be able to write this story about the daughter of a chief who is asked for in marriage by a warrior of the Blackfeet(Blackleg) tribe which at the time of the story were according to the words of a current Nimiipuu "considered the same as how you considered the Huns". I used this fear and hatred throughout the story when the heroine is talking and thinking about living with the Blackleg(the name the Nimiipuu called the Blackfeet).

I not only researched books on their day to day living conditions, their society, and their beliefs, I also read as much as I could in their own words. Myths and legends books and any snippet I could get that was in English but translated directly from their words. It helped me to get a feel for their speaking and cadence to their dialogue.

Here is a Nimiipuu story that I copied from the Nez Perce loop I'm on. As you can see by reading the story all of the stories handed down through the generations were like our fables. They taught a lesson.

Nez Perce boy legend

A long time ago there lived in our Blue Mountains a boy who was an only child. His parents had pampered and spoiled him until he was quite selfish and disagreeable.

His parents died and he was obliged to live with the rest of the tribe as an orphan. Because of his selfishness he was not well liked and the other children did not like to play with him. Some of the children learned that the camp was to be moved and made plans to get rid of the spoiled boy.

No one told him that they were moving and that morning they took him out to the high cattails to play hide-and-seek. They would hide and then call, "Who! Who!" Part of the time the boy was following his own echo. The children slipped away and hurried back to the camp in time to go.

The boy wandered about listening to his own echo for some time before he decided that the others had left. When he found his way back to camp it was deserted.

He was hungry and by rummaging about he found some roots that had been left. Still hungry, he decided to try some fishing. With a thorn on an improvised string he made from fibers and hair left at the camp, he placed a worm on the thorn and fished. Thus he secured fish.

Not wishing to eat it raw, his mind turned to fire, and investigation proved that someone had banked a bed of coals and he soon had a camp fire going.

Night was approaching. Where would he sleep? At last he remembered the little stone and mud igloo down by the stream where the people had taken their sweat baths. He crawled into the igloo and slept quite comfortably.

In the morning, he decided to try fishing, but this time a strange thing happened. When he felt something on his line he pulled steady and hard. Slowly it came, but it was not a fish. It was a boat loaded with many provisions and an extremely homely old lady. The old lady spoke to him, "Don't be afraid little boy, I will not hurt you. I am your Grandmother Experience. I have come to help you."

Grandmother Experience lived with him, after that and helped him do many things - make bows and arrows to kill game, gather food, build shelters, and many other things.

Time went on and the boy lived with the grandmother and grew up big and strong, but wondered where his people were. He commenced traveling about in hopes of finding them. One day he did find them and they marveled at the change he had undergone. He was no longer a spoiled selfish boy. Grandmother Experience had made a self-reliant, pleasant young man of him.

If you'd like to read an excerpt of my book Spirit of the Mountain you can visit my website: www.patyjager.net and click on paranormal. While you're there enter my website contest.
I'll be blogging for six days straight at Seriously Reviewed starting tomorrow, Sunday July 25th. Come on by and read about my hero and heroines from my last two releases. The last day I’m giving away a pdf of Doctor in Petticoats my historical western that released in June. And starting on Sunday August 8th I'm doing a six day blog tour with a contest. Check out my blog to learn more.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sex in the City

Despite modern-day beliefs, working women in medieval times were not just relegated to going into unpaid domestic service or running a household. Many skilled tasks were carried out in craftsman’s house or workshop. Wives and daughters were often called upon to assist in the tasks at hand. Though the regulations of many guilds expressly forbade entrance by women, exceptions were made for female family members of a guild member. By the late middle ages there were many cases of widows continuing to run the business after their spouse’s death. Many times men expected their wives to carry on even to the point of providing in their wills that any apprentices must serve out their term under the tutelage of the widow.


Trades carried on by such widows ranged from small crafts to large merchants trading in all kinds of goods. To manage such large businesses, these women had to be knowledgeable and hearty. One such was Alice de Hortsford whose ship was confiscated as the property of someone else by the marshal. Alice stood before the crown justice and proved title to the ship. The court ordered the vessel and goods returned. After the death of her wealthy merchant husband, Rose of Burford petitioned the royal court at least five times to recover a loan made to the King. When it became apparent that the crown was either unwilling or unable to repay the debt, Rose came up with the suggestion that the loan might be settled by removing the tax levy on the import of her goods. The crown felt that was more than reasonable and Rose brought her goods in tax free for several years.


However, widows were not the only female business owners. Married women many times had occupations distinct from those of their husbands. Many unmarried women supported themselves as shopkeepers. Especially in major cities, girls were often apprenticed to a trade just like boys. Whereas a nobleman might leave a dower in his will so his daughter might be married or put in a nunnery, an urban craftsman or merchant would leave a sum so that his daughter might be married or apprenticed to a trade. Women so apprenticed could ply the learned trade so long as they remained unmarried, as femme soles. Even though most guilds had rules regarding women other than wives and daughters, there is hardly a trade that women did not ply. There are records of women ironmongers, butchers, net-makers, chandlers, glovers, cobblers, haberdashers, purse-makers, bookbinders, spinners, smiths and many others.


Though their wages were sub-standard and many times men were loath to admit it, women were an important part of the labor market in medieval times.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bad Boys - And TheWomen Who Tame Them

Last month, I posted a tribute to bad boys. Judging from the comments, I was right - romance readers and writers love our bad boys. Bad boy characters are appealing on a variety of levels. They’re highly sexual, they thrive on challenges, including women who challenge them, they don’t run from a fight, and in a great romance, they harbor a protectiveness for the heroine that brings out the best in the man.

But what about the woman who inspires a bad boy to be a man? What makes a heroine who tames a bad boy, and does it in a way that doesn’t make me go, “Yeah, right, that would happen…what was the author thinking?”

A bad boy’s heroine is just as sexual a creature as he is. Often, though, she doesn’t know it yet. Grease’s heroine, Sandy, certainly wasn’t attracted to Danny Zuko for his brains. She may have been innocent, but there was an inner Rizzo, waiting to get out – in fact, Sandy might have been more sexual than Rizzo, the outwardly worldly character. She certainly seemed to know what she wanted with more clarity than the bedhopping leader of the Pink Ladies. In my novel, Destiny, Emma is a romance-loving innocent, longing to be swept away by a brooding lover like Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester. Her abduction changes all that. Her captor, Jack Travis, soon teaches her that an alpha-male with a heart is hard to resist, and that surrender to her heart can be very satisfying.

A bad boy’s heroine might have buried her desire, but it’s still there, presenting a challenge to the hero to bring it to the surface. In Claiming the Courtesan, the heroine, Verity, is noted as the most desirable courtesan in her circles, but she’s actually turned off her own responses. For Verity, sex is a skill, not a pleasure. Until Kylemore unleashes the power of love and with it, the pleasure of her sexual interactions with the hero.

Bad boys love challenges. Physical challenges. And intellectual challenges. Even Danny Zuko, who certainly wasn’t known for his brains, fell for the smart girl. At their ideal, the bad boy is as proficient mentally as he is physically. In Sherlock Holmes, Robert Downey, Jr. essays a character who’s athletic and brilliant, so it comes as no surprise that the love of his life, Irene Adler, is as brilliant as he is. The fact that she’s chosen to put her brains to use as a thief rather than a crime-solver seems a natural pairing of opposites. A bad boy wants a girl who will match wits with him and spar with him, not simply nod in meek agreement.

To be believable, a bad boy’s heroine has to be strong, gutsy, and ultimately devoted to the hero. In Destiny, Emma Davenport, a powerful senator’s daughter, has lived a sheltered life, but that doesn’t stop her from running away to a forbidden marriage, matching wits with the arrogant captor who snatches her from a train, and ultimately, saving his life. Emma’s strong will, keen intelligence, ingenuity, and guts are irresistible to the alpha hero. Like Emma, Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark is courageous, strong willed enough to challenge the swashbuckling Indiana Jones, and smart enough to challenge his intellect when he’s morphed back into Dr. Henry Jones, the professor. She doesn’t rely on her beauty or flaunting her sexuality, but there’s no doubt of the chemistry between the hero and heroine.

Romance is filled with feisty heroines and the bad boys who love them. One of my favorite new heroines is Catherine Marks, Leo’s love in Lisa Kleypas’ wonderful Married by Morning. Her sharp wit intrigues bad boy Leo long before he realizes she’s actually a beauty who’s taken great pains to drab down her looks. Catriona Kincaid in Teresa Medeiros’ Some Like It Wicked is a perfect heroine for dissolute former war hero Simon as she challenges him and inspires him to be the man he’s meant to be.

Who are some of your favorite women who tame bad boys from romance and film? What do you love most about them? I’ll choose a random commenter to win a pdf of Destiny.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Artemisia Gentileschi

I’ve discovered another great book – LADIES FIRST: History’s greatest female trailblazers, winners and mavericks by Lynn Santa Lucia. “LADIES FIRST is a fascinating account of some of history’s most inspiring women….Adventurers and athletes, politicians and scientists, artists and educations, revolutionaries and criminals—LADIES FIRST celebrates some extraordinary women who have singularly and collectively cleared a path for other females to follow,” so says the inside flap of the book. The book offers biographies and insight on more than three dozen women, from Pharaoh Hatshepsut (ruler of ancient Egypt) to Razia Sultan (warrior queen of India) to Hildegard of Bingen (Renaissance woman) to Marie Curie (two-time Nobel Prize laureate) to Sally Ride (America’s first female astronaut) to a whole bunch of other fascinating women

Today’s post is about Artemisia Gentileschi: Italian early Baroque painter, who defied convention and torture, lived from 1593 to 1653. (111)  (Self portrait at right)

Artemisia Gentileschi was born to the Italian painter Orazio Gentileschi who took her under his wing after her mother died when Artemisia was twelve. She shied away from landscapes and portraits as the female painters of her time often painted. Instead, Artemisia crafted religious and historical paintings.

By the age of seventeen, she had already accomplished her best known work SUZANNA AND THE ELDERS (1610). Still she was denied her ‘professional academes’ because of her sex.

In an effort to enhance her training, her father hired his friend, Agostino Tassi to help train Artemisia. Tassi, however, proved to be a lecher and lout when he tried to seduce her. When his efforts failed, he resorted to raping his young student. After she reported the rape, Tassi offered marriage (!), however, he remained a lout when he reneged on the promise. Orazito sued on behalf of his daughter for breach of contract.

Tassi was eventually found guilty of the rape and sentenced to serve a one-year jail term. However, during the seven month trial, “Artemisia was tortured to make sure that she wasn’t fabricating her allegations.” (113)

As if a cathartic and symbolic attempt to deal with the physical and psychic pain, she painted JUDITH SLAYING HOLOFERNES (1612), not with the usual horrified Judith, but with a Judith of grim determination. It was a scene she painted many times in her life. (I want to know if Holofernes bares any resemblance at all to Tassi or one of her torturers).

Just a month after the trial ended, Orazio married Artemisia off to another artist in an effort to restore his daughter’s honor. The couple had several children, but only one, a daughter, survived to adulthood. Artemisia eventually left her husband.

She moved about Italy the next few years, living in Rome, Genoa and Venice. In 1630, she settled in Naples, where “her patrons included all the crowed heads of Europe at the time.” (113)

In 1638, King Charles I requested she come to England and Artemisia traveled to London, meeting up with her father, who was already painting for the king. Orazio died before finishing his work on the ceiling of Queen’s House in Greenwich, London and it is speculated that Artemisia finished the job in honor of her father. (115)

She returned to Naples in 1642 and remained there until her death in 1653.

Ignoble of the art world, her works were often attributed not to her, but her father. Recent interest in her works are rectifying this matter. It should not be overlooked that Artemisia Gentileschi was the first female to become a member of the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno in Florence.

Learn more about Artemisia at:

Artemisia Gentileschi - The University of Arizona

Okay, leave a comment before July 23rd and I'll draw a winner for LADIES FIRST, a book I've found to be a wonderful research tool.  (I may not announce the winner until after I return from the RWA National Conference)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anna Kathryn Lanier
Where Tumbleweeds Hang Their Hats
http://www.aklanier.com/
http://annakathrynlanier.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Love's Fortress


I'm in the middle of making a video for my upcoming release, Love's Fortress, Book Seven in my Regency series Brothers In Arms. Well, I'm not making the video. Creations by Kendra is making it. But we're going back and forth about images and such.

I know Terry talked about historical accuracy in the last post, so I hope I'm not being redundant. But my emails with Kendra have that very topic on my mind. The thing is, she found an excellent royalty free photo of a castle/fortress. My hero's war experience on the Peninsula, particularly the second siege of Badajoz, are very important in the story. So Kendra wanted to put an image of a fortress in the video. Great idea. But this image is not Badajoz. I told her to use it. It's a great photo and it gets the idea across with a visual pop, even if it's not Badajoz.

And that is how I treat my writing, too. I do a great deal of research. I have a Master's in history. I used to teach it for ten years. But if I think of something that will convey a major plot point or character development, I'm going to use it. Because I'm writing historical romantic fiction and, for me, the story and characters are more important than exact historical accuracy. Don't get me wrong. Whenever possible I try to stay true to my time period and research. But sometimes it's necessary to step outside of the box to create a story contemporary readers will enjoy.

I tend to do more research than is required, but not much. My writing style is to craft the story first and figure out what I need to know and restrict my research to those particular topics. If I don't, I get lost in the research. I love research! But if I want to actually get a book written, I have to shackle my insatiable curiosity concerning all things historical. For Love's Fortress I did some research on the early Methodist Church, a topic I'm wholly unfamiliar with. Or was, anyway. But I ended up cutting that aspect out of the book. I'm sure I'll use it in another book, however. I already have a plot bunny bouncing around it.

So how do you feel about book videos in general? What about historical accuracy in book videos?

Love's Fortress will be released in ebook at Ellora's Cave next week, on Friday, July 23. Below is my dedication and acknowledgements, and if you follow the link it will take you to the blurb and an excerpt. I hope you'll all check it out! I'll post a link to the video in the comments section when it's finished.

Dedication

This book is dedicated to today’s wounded warriors, service men and women who have been severely injured in the line of duty. May you find as much happiness as my fictional hero. And to those who have dedicated their lives to making that happiness possible for these real-life heroes, I salute you. For more information see The Wounded Warrior Project at http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.

This one also goes out to Bernard Cornwell and Sean Bean, whether they want it or not.


Acknowledgements

I have to give credit where credit is due. Thanks go out to my siblings, who all helped in the creation of this book. My older brother Will, who first told me about the Forlorn Hope also named this book. My oldest sister, Jeri, who named my last Brothers In Arms (Love In Exile), and who helped me figure out how Gideon was injured in a brainstorming session at the beach with our other two siblings. That session included my sister Charlotte, who is an active service member. She told me about The Wounded Warrior Project.

I created a playlist for this book because my three main characters were all so different and setting a mood when I was in each of their heads helped me stay true to each one. But the most important song was The Beatles’ Blackbird, which was Gideon’s song. I’d like to think that by the end of the book he’d found his moment to be free.

And to Jules, you were invaluable while I was writing this book. Your encouragement and advice helped get me to The End.

As always, none of it would have happened without the love and support of my number one fan, my husband. Every one is for you, honey.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Much Historical Accuracy?

I joined several other authors for tea this last weekend, and one of the things we discussed was how much accuracy do we want or need in historical romance.



Being a history teacher, i like stories to be as accurate as possible. At our tea we generally agreed that as long as the plot doesn't turn on a historical inaccuracy, error or anachronism, then it was acceptable. What I strive for is authenenticity for the time period I'm writing.


But again, because of the teacher background, I include Author's Notes in to explain anything Imight have changed or altered that the reader might question.

All this is easier to show by example, so here are the notes from
Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold.


Author's Notes


Writing fiction can be difficult for the historian. The fiction half of me says 'what if' when the historian half of me says 'but it happened this way'. So I have compromised, bending history ro fit my story and hope these notes will be of insterst to those readers who want to know the factual history.



Although the Pinkerton Agency is more wll know, the Wells Fargo Company did, in fact, have its own detective force. Among these notables wer Fred Dodge and James Hume. dodge once held down a job as a deputy in Tucson while working undercover for Wells Fargo. James Hume, the cheif of detectives, was one of the pioneers in the field of scientific investigations, catching the notorious stagecoach bandit Balck Bart, by tracing a laundry mark on the bandit's handkerchief. Wells Fargo also employed a corps of young boys to ride messages around San Francisco at twenty-five cents a message.



In the 1880s thre were no laws rstricting the conduct of a law enforcement officer. A detective of that era wasn't constricted by such concepts of forcible entry, illegal search and seizure or jurisdictions. Wes's activities in pursuit of his job would have benn considered legal and acceptable.



For the purpose of my story Ihave made some changes and additons to Durango's fire. The fire actually started on July 1st, but Ihave moved it ot several weeks later. A stiff wind fanned the blaze which burned over seven blocks. Half a million dollars in business and residential property went up in smoke as the residents tried everything, including dynamite to stop the fire. The actual cause of the fire was never determined, so I have supplied one out of my 'what if'.



The two major smelters that operated in Durango eventually consolidated due to the business climate in the late 1890s. The way Wes shows Julie to refine gold using quicksilver was one of the standard small scale methods used at the time. Today more is known abaout the hazards of mercury poisoning.



For events in Philadelphia, those familiar with histry will recognize that I have anticipatd history by a few years, and have borrowed the concept of Hull House in Chicago which opened in 1889 as a model for the Bradley Center. I similarly borrowed the idea of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1910 for he scandal involving Julie's sister.



And last, condoms make from latex rubber haave benn available since the 1840s and were called, appropriately enought, 'rubbers'. The primary prupose was for the prevention of sexually transmitted disease with the side benefit of contraception.




So, how do you feel about historical accuracy in your work? As a reader, how much do you care about historical accuracy and authenticity?

Monday, July 12, 2010

And the Title Is...(drumroll...)

I’m putting the finishing touches on my WIP (work-in-progress). Can’t wait to get it turned in to my editor to see how she likes it. Jenny has amazing insight in to what makes a good story and she is gentle yet truthful with her suggestions on my manuscripts. I always know she will take my story and make it better.

But the next step she’ll want to know is if I have any title suggestions. And with that my brain screeches to an undignified halt and gets mired in mud. (Some call it “creative constipation” but I’d rather not go there.) But oh, the agony and the ecstasy of it—wonderful to finish a manuscript and send it off, and … well, you know the ugly truth now. (I know—just had to throw those titles in )

The story takes place in the 1880s in San Diego, California. It involves a dispute over prime grazing land, a treasure, a woman on a mission and a man trying to keep her from getting killed in the process. Not enough info? Well, then I’ll add that along the trail, they fall in love. (This is a romance, after all )

If you need a little more inspiration, these are two pictures that remind me of my hero and heroine--Kate Hudson and Brendan Frazier.

So, the proposal is this…(I know, I know. I’ll stop now.)

Leave your title suggestion(s) here in lieu of a comment. I’ll pick the top two and those “winners” will get an autographed copy of my most recent book, Texas Wedding for their Baby’s Sake. This in no way promises use of the title upon publication (alas, authors have only minimal input on such things), but it should be fun, seeing what suggestions come up.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stage Fright

Stage Fright. It has been called an actor’s worst nightmare. But actors are not the only people who experience stage fright. And with the upcoming release of my second novel, Coming Home, it’s something I have to start thinking about – again. I spoke with the director of my local library, and she wants me to do a book signing/reading when Coming Home is released.
I’ve done it before, when In Sunshine or in Shadow, my first novel, came out. I thought nothing of it at first. Get up and read in front of an audience? Sure, I'd love to, I replied. And at that moment, an inner trembling seized my entire body. What have I gotten myself into?

And now I’m feeling those butterflies all over again.

I'm sure other authors have felt the same way in similar situations. Many writers shy away from the limelight. But I was luckier than most, because I was able to consult an expert. A friend of mine, who is also an actor, had been advising me about writing an actor hero, so it seemed natural to ask him about stage fright and what to do about it.

Here's what he told me:

There is no magical formula for dealing with stage fright. Anyone can suffer from it, from the actor stepping onstage for the first time, to the greatest actors. And if you forget a line, you try to improvise.

As far as my reading was concerned, my friend suggested I practice reading in front of family, people I know and trust. That was the key: imagining I was reading to one person I love and trust. He also advised me to take deep breaths, and to take my time.

Everyone has their own way of dealing with stage fright. I made sure I brought my lucky (stuffed) leprechaun, Seamus O’Reagan, to my signing that day, just for an extra confidence booster. But the tips worked. My reading went off without a hitch.

I also sold every book.

Here’s hoping my next signing will be as successful!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nineteenth Century Medicine . . . and More

My love for the late nineteenth century has led me to collect an array of reference books. Today I would like to share with you some passages from DR. CHASE’S RECIPES OR INFORMATION FOR EVERYBODY. Quite a title, eh? That's only the short version. Inside the frontspiece says An Invaluable Collection of About Eight Hundred Recipes and he goes on. I make fun, but this is a helpful book published by Dr. A. W. Chase in 1866 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In it he covers everything from medicine to tanning hides. Dr. Chase has compiled a wealth of information on the times. I would think his book would have come in very handy for anyone in a remote area who had to be almost totally self-reliant.

Having had TB years ago, I was impressed and amazed at Dr. Chase’s advice on the disease. At a time when most TB patients were shut up in darkened rooms with no exercise or fresh air, Dr. Chase suggested a walk outside in a clear environment, beginning with a few yeards and working up to a half mile or so each day. He also suggested a diet which made total sense today. Let me share some other quotes with you:


Page 77 and 78 list several treatments for Ague. One is "Ague Medicine Without Quinine. Mrs. Wadsworth, a few miles south of this city, has been using the following Ague mixture over twenty years curing, she says, more than forty cases without a failure. She takes Mandrake root, fresh dug, and pounds it; then squeezes out the juice to obtain 1 ½ tablespoons, with which she mixes the same quantity of molasses, is divided into three equal doses of 1 tablespoon each to be given two hours apart, commencing so as to take all an hour before the chill."

I have no idea how you know the chill is coming an hour before it arrives.
Page 116 lists treatment for "Burns—Salve for Burns, Frost-bites, Cracked Nipples, Chapped Lips, etc. Equal parts of turpenine, sweet oil, and beeswax; melt the oil and wax together, and when a little cool, add the turpentine and stir until cold, which keeps them evenly mixed. Apply by spreading upon a thin cloth—linen is best."

Dr. Chase’s book contains food recipes, substitutions, calculating interest, tanning, dyes, training a horse, and building furniture. Some of his treatments sound worse than the disease. Others treat incurable diseases of the times, and I wonder if they merely offered hope to the hopeless. However, if one could only take one or two books on the trip West, I think this one would have been a good choice.

The ads on the inside cover interest me. I love reading old ads, though. Can't help myself. Imagine an all-night drugstore in 1866! And Walgreen's thought they'd come up with a new idea.

If any authors need a remedy from this book, just email me and I’ll check out what Dr. Chase says. My email is caroline@carolineclemmons.com and I'll be happy to explore for you.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

How do You Celebrate July 4th?


July 4th was one day that we always closed the shop and took off from work in our family business. On this national holiday we have always had a family get-together. There's something about the 4th. There are so many great ways to celebrate. Some places have parades during the day. In other communities there are softball games, picnics at the park, music under the stars, to name a few activities, followed by fireworks displays.

When I was young we would have a family picnic out in the desert sand hills. Where I live that was a very big deal back then. My grandparents did the same when my mom was little. Some families still like to do that. We'd have a campfire and fix hamburgers. After dinner we'd use the hot coals to light a punk, and use the punk to light the fireworks. I vividly remember one time when my sister was holding a Roman Candle in her hands and it started to shoot balls of flame in all directions. My dad dove for the ground as one went right for him. If I remember correctly that was the end of holding Roman Candles in our family. A good thing. We always cleaned up the area so no trash was left behind, including those used sparklers.

Did you ever step on a spent sparkler in your bare feet? Not a good thing. These days, we watch the fireworks displays from my mom's house or the foothills on the church grounds. There's always a neighbor nearby shooting off small rockets. It makes for an exciting if noisy backyard party. We follow up by watching the celebrations on TV that are taking place in D.C. and Boston. It's amazing what they can do with music and fireworks.

The 4th always begins as a day of taking it easy and ends with rousing celebrations of our national heritage.

How do you celebrate the 4th? Leave your story in a comment. I'd love to read about it. And have a safe and happy 4th of July.

Jeanmarie Hamilton
www.JeanmarieHamilton.com

Friday, July 2, 2010

Places that Inspire – Isle of Skye

Today, I’m holding my latest anthology, Secrets Volume 29 Indulge Your Fantasies (which contains my novella Beast in a Kilt,) in my hands for the first time. Definitely a thrill! So I wanted to talk about the place that inspired one of the settings.


One of the most important parts of writing most fiction is bringing your setting to life for the reader. Even if you’ve never been to a place and you’re writing about it, you must find a way to bring in specific detail to transport the reader. You can do this through research, reading detailed travelogues of people who have visited the place and looking at photos. But the best way remains to visit the place.

In my historical paranormal erotic romance novella, Beast in a Kilt, the heroine lives on the west coast of the Scottish mainland, one of the most breathtaking places in Scotland (there are many, of course, but this is one of my favorites.)

My visit to Isle of Skye, especially the northwestern portion of the Trotternish Peninsula, is actually the inspiration for the heroine’s home. To show what it's like, I want to share photos and an excerpt from my novella. In this scene, the heroine is searching for her shape-shifting selkie older brother. (A selkie is a seal shape-shifter.)
---
She threw on her fur-trimmed, black woolen cloak, slipped down the back servants’ stair and headed toward the rocky shore of the North Atlantic. She glanced back at the five-story tower house perched on a cliff above the sea, hoping no one saw her. The harsh sea wind yanked at her cloak and ankle-length, belted plaid arisaid. She tucked them tighter about her as she descended. Shivering, she inhaled the familiar scent of brine and fish. A touch of rain hissed through the air, wetting her face.

Gazing first north, then south along the jagged shoreline, she saw naught but gray boulders and seawater reflecting gray sky. Mist wreathed the mountains and islands in the distance. Nothing moved but the white-capping waves, thundering against the crags, and the screeching birds, darting this way and that. No seals to be found lounging on rocks.

“Brodie!” She picked her way among the large stones and called out again. Nothing. “Blast!” He was no doubt having a grand old time. And she was being bartered off to a barbaric beast. She stumbled along the narrow trail to the cave her brother sometimes used and stepped inside.

“Brodie?” Her voice echoed, but no response. Empty, dark and dank. Less appealing than the unfriendly weather. She returned outside. “Brodie, get your arse back here, damn you! And take responsibility for the clan. I need your help!” Wind tore at her clothing and chilled her to the bone. The rain fell harder, stinging her eyes. It was turning into a gale.
Nicole North - Beast in a Kilt, Secrets Volume 29 Indulge Your Fantasies

---
What I tried to do here is put the reader into the setting (the landscape and weather) via the heroine. As the heroine experiences the setting, so does the reader. One of my favorite things about this setting is the islands in the distance, the Outer Hebrides, including Isle of Lewis, and the way the mist lurks about them. It is very enchanting and mystical.
What is one of your favorite settings that you've written about and how did you research it?
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. (Release date July 25, 2010)
Nicole