Friday, October 16, 2020


 

Our Round Robin Blog for October 17, 2020 asks: What is/are your favorite book(s) of all time in your favorite genre(s) including children’s books, non-fiction books or magazines?

 

Hmm. Let me see. Have you got time? This is so difficult to answer. There are so many good books out there. Going into a bookstore is an adventure. I never know what I will come across. Never mind the title and story, what will the pages be like to smell or touch?

As Helene Hanff says in 84 Charing Cross Road of one of the books she received, ‘I’m almost afraid to handle such soft vellum and heavy cream-coloured pages. Being used to the dead-white paper and stiff cardboardy covers of American books, I never knew a book could be such a joy to the touch.’


Like Helene, I still have books that are a joy to touch. An old, first edition copy Kipling’s Thy Servant a Dog, an illustrated copy of The Wind in the Willows and Nicolas Bentley’s Tales from Shakespeare, are just a few that I pull out from time to time not only to read but to smell and touch.


Quite apart from their tactile properties, what about the content? Horses have always been a passion of mine, so from my childhood reading my favourite book is Anna Sewell’s classic Black Beauty. I don’t know how many times I have read it. Close behind it is Rumer Godden’s The Dark Horse, set in 1930’s India and based on a true story.

Reading came first and foremost in my family and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have books around me. My mother collected Mazo de la Roche’s Jalna books while my dad was a fan of the Brother Cadfael books. I discovered Regency romance with the publication of Georgette Heyer’s Frederica in 1965 and have been a fan of that genre ever since. Frederica remains a firm favourite as I still find it as fresh and funny as the first time I read it.

I enjoy reading thrillers too, and at one time owned all the Dick Francis racing thrillers. Out of all his titles Smokescreen, set in South Africa, was my favourite. More recently I’ve become a fan of   Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels and am working my way through his titles. There’s the law and then there’s justice and I can’t help liking Reacher’s sometime rough take on that.

Non-fiction is not at the top of my list, but I have recently become reacquainted with Stevie Cameron’s Blue Trust: the Author, the Lawyer, the Wife, and Her Money, which reads like a novel and is the story of tax lawyer Bruce Verchere who included amongst his clients the author Arthur Hailey. I found this an intriguing as any thriller, loaned it to a friend and never saw it again. If I really enjoy a book, I will read it again and again, so I am very happy to have this one back in my collection.

As far as magazines are concerned, any edition of National Geographic will keep me happy. I think the most iconic cover for me, and for many people, is the image of the young Afghan girl with green eyes. I don’t often buy magazines, but if I am going to indulge these days I will always buy the Hello! Magazine, either the U.K. or Canadian edition. If I am visiting the U.K., I will always bring back with me a copy of The Lady Magazine which has been in continuous publication since 1885 and was a
favourite of my grandmother’s.

I’m off now to check on my fellow bloggers’ favourites and don’t mind betting that several will end up on my wish list.

 


Anne Stenhouse  
http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor 
http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Diane Bator 
http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines 
http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Dr. Bob Rich 
https://wp.me/p3Xihq-26c
Fiona McGier 
http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Helena Fairfax 
http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Beverley Bateman 
http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright 
http://www.rhobincourtright.com

Friday, September 18, 2020

Subtlety or Intuition?

                     

Most novels have an easily understood point to make to the reader, do your stories ever have more subtle or intuitive themes?

This month’s topic is something of a tricky question. Writers, especially newbie writers, quite frequently worry how much of themselves they are revealing in their writing. It therefore follows that to write subtle or intuitive themes would suggest the author has those qualities and is writing from their own point of view or at the very least understands them in order to introduce them in their writing. 

Looking at all my stories, the heart of them concerns love, loyalty, and fidelity between my characters whether they are already married, as with Lord and Lady Buxton in The Buxton Chronicles, or become married which is the theme of all my Regency stories, Brides of Banff Springs and even my contemporary western romance, Loving That Cowboy.

During the Regency era in which I set most of my novels, women were not only expected to get married, but expected it of themselves with few exceptions, Jane Austen being one of them. Aristocratic families married not so much for love as economics. How does one enlarge one’s estate and holdings? Marry the heir or heiress next door. While that might sound cold it was just the way of things amongst the upper class. Once an heir arrived to complete the happy or not union, the lord was free to take a mistress (if he ever gave one up) and his lady, discreetly of course, took lovers while everyone turned a blind eye to their extra-marital shenanigans. Or, as in the case of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire who, later in her marriage to the emotionally distant Duke, was forced to accept his mistress Lady Elizabeth Foster into a ménage à trois which delighted the gossip-mongers of the day.

While love and marriage is not so much a subtle theme, it is nonetheless at the heart of most romances. The ‘aha’ moment of when the characters finally admit they have fallen in love is what romance readers look forward. If the characters are not married by the end of the book then you darn well know that a wedding will take place soon after. It’s the Happy Ever After that seals the romantic deal.

Subtlety is the art of making use of clever or indirect methods to achieve something while intuition is the ability of immediate understanding. If all our characters or story themes were based on intuition, would we ever have a story? A subtle approach offers much more scope for both characters and plot, and hopefully a happy ever after result for the reader.

I wonder what my fellow bloggers have to say on the subject? Hop on over to their blogs to find out.

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Judith Copek 
http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator 
http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier 
http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Dr. Bob Rich 
https://wp.me/p3Xihq-22c
Anne Stenhouse  
http://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Helena Fairfax 
http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Rhobin L Courtright 
http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 


Friday, August 21, 2020

What Elements Make Your Writing More Realistic?

 


This month our Round Robin blog asks: To make a story seem and feel more realistic to the reader, what elements do you include in your stories?
 

Oh, where to start? There are so many elements that I like to include but I will start with the setting. I work as much at creating my setting as I do my characters’ backstories. The setting is, after all, the stage you set your characters on.

Because my stories are mostly Regency romance, I tend to have a mix of city and rural settings. My characters spend summers at their country estates and the Season, aligned with when parliament was in session, in London, with the busiest time being between Easter and when parliament adjourned in July. By then most people who could afford to were keen to get out of town because of the smell.

Country estates are lovely to create and many of my imaginary ones come from illustrations in books like Country Houses From the Air or The English Country House and the very useful Georgian and Regency Houses Explained. I have floor plans for country houses and smaller but no less impressive town houses. From these I can create my settings with a measure of accuracy and viability. What might be included on any of these estates as far as farms and crops are concerned, are all gleaned from internet searches for letters and records of the big houses, some of them going back hundreds of years, and depend on what part of the country (being England, Scotland, or Wales) the estate is. Building styles change somewhat from county to county depending on what materials are available, or how wealthy the lord of the manor might be.

Typical Cotswold Stone house Jones&Campbell

Weather with all the light and shade that comes with it, plays a part in my settings, too. For information on that for a particular year I start with a visit to https://premium.weatherweb.net/weather-in-history-1800-to-1849-ad/ and to pin-point where my characters are for what special days to create a timeline I consult https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/?year=1818&country=9. The weather can affect so many aspects of my character’s mood. If it’s warm and sunny, then likely she is too. If it’s raining, all sorts of events can transpire from that. Think Marianne Dashwood getting soaked in the rain in Sense and Sensibility. Rain heralded my hero’s arrival in Folkestone in my book His Dark Enchantress. It fit his mood and the seriousness of the situation in which his wife, my heroine, had been abducted.


AVAILABLE HERE

Plants and flowers play a part, too, and for this I use a Reader’s Digest book of English flora, plus Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. It pays to know what plants grow in which part of the country because someone will surely call you out if have a daffodil growing where it never would or a lark singing in central London as this is a bird that likes open countryside.

How I dress my characters also comes into play and for this I use an Illustrated Encyclopedia of Costume, Fashion in Jane Austen’s London and just because, The History of Underclothes. YouTube can be particularly useful as well, especially clips like Undressing Mr. Darcy. I guess I’m a bit of a nerd because I do enjoy research and if I come across a particularly interesting snippet, it makes my day. Whether I can use it or not in a book becomes another thing altogether.

Now I’m off to see what elements these authors include in their writing. I hope you’ll take a look at them, too.

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
 Judith Copek 
http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator 
http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich 
https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ZR
Beverley Bateman 
http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier 
http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin L Courtright 
http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 

Friday, August 14, 2020

A Last Resort

 

AVAILABLE HERE


If you're looking for a light, funny, read for this weekend, try Brenda Sinclair's A Last Resort. 

What author wouldn't appreciate the use of her editor's getaway cabin in lush British Columbia? Emma Sullivan can't wait for the peace and quiet of the forest surroundings in which to finish her current work in progress.

Ha. She hasn't allowed for one man and his dog. Enter Lyndon Reynolds and Jake. From there work slows for both of them, until she discovers the man can - but I'm not telling what Lyndon can do. Get the book and read it for yourself.

Their growing romance is hampered by the arrival of an unexpected third party and some pertinent threads about home and family get thrown into the mix. 

And just to give you a taste, here's a little excerpt:

Emma’s traitorous heart skipped a beat at what sounded like a compliment. So, Lyndon was divorced. Perhaps he’d rescued Jake for company since he was single. Misplaced modifier. Lyndon was single, not Jake. Jake probably was also. Oh, for Pete’s sake. Authors seldom missed spotting poor grammar, even when it was their own. Finding himself single again, Lyndon adopted a cute rescue named Jake. She mentally shook herself as she silently rephrased her thought. Once an author…

Sinclair is nothing if not prolific. This is her 30th book. She writes both contemporary romance and western historical romance. For a list of her books and to see what she is up to now, visit her website at https://www.brendasinclairauthor.com/about-brenda/.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Sophie's Choice by A.M. Westerling

AVAILABLE HERE 


I have always enjoyed fellow Books We Love author A.M. Westerling's books. Her latest, Sophie's Choice, a Regency romance, is the first title in her Ladies of Harrington House series. The other ladies are Sophie's sisters, Leah and Catherine. I look forward to reading their stories.

What first appealed to me about Sophie’s Choice was that it is set in Cornwall, one of my favourite English counties. I have fond memories of summers spent there as a child and later touring for my own satisfaction from the heights of Rough Tor on Bodmin Moor to the tip of Land’s End and all the neat little fishing villages up and down the coast.

The story involves smugglers and smuggling, for which Cornwall was notorious but I’ll leave you to discover that on your own. I really enjoy Westerling’s style, this snippet is about her heroine, Sophie:

The gravel pricked against the soles of her feet, delightful in its intensity and for the first time in weeks she felt alive, well and truly alive.

Haven’t we all done something like that at one time or another? And what about this for a description of a hero?

He was handsome, to say the least – tall, dark and lean with a rapacious air about him as if he would pounce on his prey at any moment.

That ‘rapacious air’ gave me the chills in the best kind of way and I was immediately drawn to Lord Bryce Langdon.

Along the way to their happy-ever-after ending, it’s a romance so of course there is one, Sophie squabbles with her sisters in a very memorable and realistic way. Think Lady Mary and her sister Lady Edith in Downton Abbey, or any of the March sisters in Little Women. Here are Sophie and Leah:

Leah, suitably chastened, slumped down against the squabs but not without a final dig at Sophie. “Oh, what a handsome groom Weston would make, he of the red spotted face and rat’s teeth.”

And this is what Sophie feels about her sisters:

Sophie gritted her teeth. Leah’s forward ways grated, however Catherine’s blameless demeanour wore thin as well.

There is depth of feeling in the portrayal of the Harringtons and they come over as a well-rounded family in an era when that wasn’t always the case.

The story evolves at a steady pace with quite a few unexpected twists and turns. If you are looking for an enjoyable weekend read, look no further. I fully recommend it.


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Thoughts on Editing




So here we are in May 2020, already. To celebrate spring, we also have a brand-new logo, thanks to Connie Vines. Our Round Robin topic for the month is on editing. All books go through multiple edits. What have you learned are your problems, and what irks you about editing? Some writers tackle it with gusto, some writers sigh and get on with it, and other writers (unfortunately) seem to think they don’t need it.

Hey guys, sorry to have to tell you – but you do. It is a fact that every author who wishes to produce a professional product needs editing. It doesn’t matter how great the story is. The author is cheating his or her audience if they do not put out their best work, and that includes paying attention to the editing. Editing is so much more than weeding out typos, so let’s take a look at the different types of editor an author needs.

Firstly, there are the Developmental Editors who have eagle eyes for plot holes, weak characterization and will find the problems with any and every aspect of the story. They look at the structure, pacing, timelines and presentation of a book.

Next come the grammar police. These are the Copy Editors who look for consistency in your writing from the use of commas and exclamation marks to quotation marks and spelling.

Want someone extra picky? That would be the Line Editors who go through work, just as their title says, line by line. They look at word choices, sentence construction and the meaning of each sentence. A Line Editor will likely suggest how you can tighten your writing to make it flow better, which makes it easier for the reader to follow.

Last, but not least, is the Proofreader. A good proofreader will pick up on spelling mistakes and typos in general. They should also notice if an author has inadvertently changed a character’s hair or eye colour. Yes, despite everything, this still happens. If there is a reason for it, say a green-eyed girl wearing blue contacts, that’s fine but the reader needs to know that reason, which is fine. However, if there is no explanation then this would be an error for the author to correct.

Many new authors still rely on good friends, family members, or beta readers, but these are not editors. The best these good folks can do, unless they are professional authors themselves, is offer feedback. What they liked or didn’t like about your story, what worked for them or not. They may like your least favourite character and vice versa. They may make suggestions that make an author cringe that they had missed that particular point. When I wrote Shell Shocked, one of my beta readers pointed out that the dog didn’t enter the story until the mid-point in the book. As it happened, she was right, so I had to introduce the dog, who was an essential element, much sooner in the book. 

One of my biggest problems in every book I write is crutch words. These need not necessarily be the same words for each book, but they are there. In one book, my hero’s face could have frozen with all the grinning he did. In another, my heroine had a bad habit of sighing. But, hey, this is what first, second, third and however many drafts are required, are for.

In that first heady rush to get the words on the page, I tend to use past tense as in had, was, were. When I start my editing process these are the first words I weed out and re-write the sentence they appear in. There are times when they are necessary and nothing else will do.

It doesn’t matter how many edits my work has, what always annoys is me that when I get my print copy, I invariably find an error. Never mind all the good stuff, I just have a nose for that wrong word or missing period. So far I haven’t found one on any of my first pages, unlike the ‘heard of cattle’ and ‘he tossed his reigns over the hitching post’ I have come across. I once mentioned this to a Harlequin editor I met at a workshop. She just laughed and said we’re all human and errors will always occur. I should take heart from that but, being a nit-picking Virgo, my errors will always bug me.

I hope you’ll join me in visiting the following authors to see how they feel about editing.



Saturday, April 18, 2020

Is There Humour In Your Writing?



Our topic for April is: How easy or difficult do you find including humour in your writing and/or have you ever incorporated a true life humorous event in your own life or the life of someone you know in a book you were writing?  

This is a great topic. I would love to say I inject humour into all my writing but that just isn’t so because I find writing humour incredibly difficult. It isn’t that I don’t have a sense of humour. I do but, as I tend to be a visual person, ie: I learn best by seeing and doing, it follows that I find visual humour, such as slapstick comedy, the funniest. That is not easy to write and if humour does find its way into my writing, it’s more by accident than design.

Being funny, and humour as a whole is subjective. I remember a movie from the early 80s called ‘The Gods Must Be Crazy.’ Very briefly, a Kalahari bushman encounters civilization and its stranger aspects. It was a low budget $2.5 million South African film which netted about $20 million. I couldn’t stop laughing at it but my kids barely cracked a grin.

So, what is humour? Like the example above, what one person finds funny another won’t. It’s a bit like beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Humour is defined in Webster’s as having the quality of being amusing or comic. Wit, on the other hand, is defined as having a natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humour. Forms of wit include the zinging one-liners aka Violet, the Dowager Duchess of Grantham in Downton Abbey. Other forms of humour can be satirical, self-deprecating, surreal, or plays on words as this by John Lynn: his legacy will become a pizza history.

But in every instance, I come back to the slapstick comedy routines favoured by Victorian music hall and vaudeville audiences. These I remember, not from personal experience until the advent of the BBC TV series The Good Old Days, but from hearing my aunts and uncles talk about them and sing songs when I was little. One of my father’s favourite acts, Wilson, Keppel, and Betty, did a sand dance routine which still makes me laugh. You can check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sn83cCEpZV0

Before we had a TV in the house, we listened to radio programs such as Hancock’s Half Hour, Round the Horne, and Much Binding in the Marsh. Later there were TV programs with the comedy duo of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, Fawlty Towers and Monty Python. These were all English programs but I Love Lucy and the Carol Burnett Show were amongst my favourite classic comedy shows.

And then, of course, there were Donald McGill’s saucy English seaside postcards of the 50s and 60s. They were risqué humour at best but that didn’t prevent one of his postcards, featuring a bookish man and an embarrassed pretty woman sitting under a tree, with the caption: "Do you like Kipling?" / "I don't know, you naughty boy, I've never kippled!", holds the world record for selling the most copies, at over 6 million. (source: Wikipedia.) That was the upside. The downside was a police raid on stores in Ryde, Isle of White, confiscating 5,000 of his postcards for indecency.

I love reading books that make me laugh out loud. Elizabeth Dearl’s Diamondback and Stuart J. West’s Zac and Zora series are recent reads that did exactly that. They are the positive side of humour. The negative side of humour is all about deriding, belittling, demeaning and ridiculing which are all aspects of bullying. Nothing funny there.

I find it impossible to write things that make me laugh. What I think I do manage from time to time, is more wit than humour  As for including real-life situations in any of my stories, the closest is a scene in my book Loving That Cowboy where Cameron Carter and his brother Mackenzie remember a fistfight behind the barn. Their father comes across them and, rather than try to stop them, he hauls them in front of their mother and insists they finish their fight in front of her. We didn’t have a barn, but my two boys were once in a similar situation. The chagrin they experienced was too good to waste and it fit perfectly in that story.

Thanks to Skye Taylor for suggesting this topic. I hope you visit my Round Robin blog partners and see what they have to say.