Sunday, July 31, 2011

Let's Hear it for the Heroine

We’ve talked a bit recently on this blog about the process of writing historical fiction and the importance of getting the facts right. But do we? Take Admiral Lord Nelson, for example. Now there’s a man worthy of the hero accolade in ever I knew of one and yet he was only five foot six tall. That wasn’t considered below average in his day and yet have you ever read a Georgian or Regency romance with a hero that short? Thought not.

How about an ugly hero come to that, or one with a squint, male pattern baldness, missing limbs or bad breath. I’ve yet to read of a hero who’s human enough to possess any such realities of life. I'm sure there are some. Go on them, set me straight. But until you do, I'm sticking my neck out and saying that I’ve seldom encountered a hero who doesn’t top six feet, have a muscular physique, a full head of thick hair and thighs that look damned good in tight breeches.

Why is that, do you suppose?

Personally I reckon us girls ‘invent’ the sort of man we wouldn’t mind bumping into in a dark alley and then just add the features that do it for us. My heroes are always…well, tall dark and handsome. How stereotypical is that? In my own defence, some publishers do kinda insist upon hunky heroes, presumably because romances are predominantly read by woman and they’re supposed to fall in love with the guy.
Which leaves the poor old heroine to take the brunt of any physical shortcomings on offer. I mean, if every single historical romance had a handsome hunk playing the male lead and a drop dead gorgeous female with an hour glass figure sharing the limelight, things would get pretty boring. I’ve read books that feature heroines who are timid, (don’t try that one at home), plain enough to fade into the woodwork, myopic, flat-chested and even disabled. Daphne duMaurier’s wonderful novel The King’s General is a fabulous example of how that can work when handled with skill and sensitivity.

I’ve written a novel featuring a (shock, horror) overweight heroine. It’s a contemporary and tackles the misery of obesity, the scourge of the modern age. I have high hopes of finding a publisher for it but wouldn’t have dreamt of making the male lead a fattie.

See what I mean? It’s still a man’s world.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Are You Harboring a Writer Within

Susan Edwards ~ Myth, Magic & Wonder

"What made you decide to write Native American Historical books?" 

This is a question I am often asked. I always smile, simply because I never wanted to write anything!  At least  nothing more than chatty letters to friends or my great-grandmother (who loved receiving letters).

Okay, I’ve surely dated myself somewhat here because I grew up without computers, emails, social media or text messages! I also skimmed by high school English, actually, school period! It just wasn’t my thing.

But, I had two things going for me that led to my current writing career. First and foremost, I was, and still am, an avid reader of romance (write what you know). Second, I am a natural storyteller.

I remember stories I told as a child, a teen, and even a young adult. However, they were not written on paper or told to others. They were in my mind and I lived them. I created them, rewrote them, went back to scenes and rewrote them. Once a "story" was perfected, I went on to a new story.  I called myself an incurable daydreamer.  It wasn't until I was in my 40's and had already sold my first book that I discovered that my daydreaming was actually storytelling!  All the elements we writer require in our books were in my dream worlds.

Does all that sound like a writer? Yep. So this little story starts when I was married with two young children in the late 80's. My current passion during that time was Native American Historical genre. I consumed these books about strong heroines and handsome warriors like an ocean swallowing a beach! One day, in my typical "daydreaming" or "story creation mode", I came up with a heroine who meets a young, virile hero at stream. Hero was Native American and this "story" kept intruding on my thoughts--more so than normal.

I could see these two characters so clearly: she was running away from an evil uncle, and my hero was a troubled young warrior. Before I knew it I had a nice little scene going of these two people so in love and so right for each other. And so insistent that I do something I’d never done before: take them out of my head and give them life on paper (good thing I had a computer by this time). Okay, I thought. I’ll write a nice, steamy love scene. I could see it, feel it, so no problem, right?

Wrong! Before I could write about these two people, I had to know more about them.
  • Why was my heroine alone in the wilderness?
  • Why was she fleeing her uncle? What did he want and how bad did he want it?
  • What troubled my warrior and why was he in the same vicinity as my heroine?
  • Why was he drawn to my heroine aside from her blonde hair? Why her and only her?
  • Was he willing to risk it all for her?
Before I knew it, I had back story, and four chapters! Several people read it and told me I had to finish the story. The rest they say is history! The writer within was born!

I choose this topic for my first blog here at Romancing the Past because I never, ever considered writing to be a hidden talent.  I figure my old English teachers if they ever found out had to have been shocked to their core!  It was only when I listened to that inner voice telling me to step out of my comfort zone that I made an amazing discover about myself.

The path from that first time of committing a story to paper has not been easy. It took 7 years of writing and rewriting and learning the craft of writing and submitting and rejections before an editor asked for a full manuscript. Add another year before I had my first offer, then yet another year before that first book, White Wind was on the bookshelves in 1996. Nine years total!

15 years later and once again I’m anticipating seeing my first book hit the shelves with a new cover in its new digital format with Carina Press. The excitement and anticipation is the same, as is the worry–will readers like my baby! Some things do not change!

So in retelling this story, it is my hope that someone reading this makes a self-discover of their own. Are you harboring a writer within? If so, what are you doing about it? I’d love to hear your "writer within" stories.

Coming November 2011, look for White Dawn, White Dusk, White Shadows and White Wind. Check out my website at for updated news and excerpts along with a member only area for my readers. You can also sign up for my newsletter.  Note: New covers should be available for view during August!
Original White Covers

Monday, July 25, 2011

Writing a Historical Romance -- The Process

Deciding to write a historical romance is not as easy as picking up a pen and pad or scooting your chair up to a computer.

Despite historical romances being dubbed, bodice rippers, a lot more goes into the writing than simply a lot of hot sex, and "Oh, my lord," and "Yes, my lady!"

Like any other fictional tale, a historical romance has to have a plot, a vibrant setting, larger than life characters with goals, motivations and conflicts. And on top of all that--you have to research your time period. A writer of historical fiction has to know their time period like they know the one they live in now--the setting, the clothing, the dialect, foods, mannerisms, etiquette, laws, ruling parties, transportation, phrases.

So if you've decided you want to write a historical romance, I suggest doing the following:

ONE: Pick a time period--and thoroughly research it. There are books you can purchase that will actually give you a good idea of what life was like in certain time periods. Beyond books there is the internet, reenactments you can go to, traveling to where you story takes place, talking to researchers and historians. Taking horseback riding, fencing, dancing lessons. Trying on historical clothing. Whatever it takes to get inside your period and your characters' heads to make the story more authentic.

For Regency, I like: What Jane Austen Knew and Charles Dickens Ate by Daniel Pool; Georgette Heyer's Regency World by Jennifer Kloeste.

For Elizabethan England: Elizabeth's London by Liza Picard.

For Medieval Times: Knight, by Christopher Gravett; Life in a Medieval Castle by Joseph and Frances Gies; Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages, by Frances and Joesph Gies.

For all periods: Costume: 1066 to the Present by John Peacock.

I have TONS of other resources if you're looking for a certain time period, email me or leave a comment below.

TWO: Read fiction in that time period. The best way to learn about writing in a certain genre, is to READ in that genre. See how an author seamlessly weaves the history into the fictional prose. Also reading helps to widen our own vocabulary. 

THREE: Develop a plot -- what is your story? What is the purpose of your story? Why should the reader care? Come up with a good hook. If you're a plotter, this is where you loosely plot out the story. If you're a panster, this is where you loosely plot out the major points of the story--or at least where you hope to end up. Remember too, that in a romance, the focus of the story should be the relationship between the hero and heroine (or hero/hero, etc...). Show the progression of the romance so that it is believable to the reader. Make each scene meaningful, and in doing so, make sure that each scene moves the story along.

FOUR: Get to know your characters. You can't write a story--let alone the first paragraph of one, if you don't know your characters. How is the reader supposed to "get them", connect with them, empathise with them, if you don't? 

Great craft book resources I recommend:
  • On Writing, by Stephen King
  • On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels
  • How to Write the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass ----> I actually use his checklists at the back of each chapter for each book I write.
  • The Writer's Journey, by Christopher Vogler
  • Got High Concept? by Lori Wilde
  • Thesaurus/Dictionary -- these ARE your friends. Make sure you are not only using words correctly, but that you aren't using the SAME descriptive words OVER and OVER again. I like because it will also give you the etymology of a word so you know if it was used during your time period. is also a keeper!
FIVE: Start writing. Don't forget to hook the reader in that very first sentence, that first page, that first chapter, and every page thereafter. Show don't Tell. Be active not passive.

SIX: Thought you were done? No... Just because you typed "The End" does not mean you are finished. Now you have to edit your story. I HIGHLY suggest having a critique partner or two or more take a look at your story. Having a fresh pair of eyes to catch mistakes you might not have seen is a plus. Also, they can give you feedback and insight on your scenes.

SEVEN: Once you are confident that the story is the best it can be, take the plunge and submit it!

Remember above all, writing a historical romance isn't throwing in a few historical phrases here and there, you actually need your story to be authentic from all angles. If we stripped the history out of your story, would there still be a story? The answer should be no--because the history is essentially one of the main characters.

Happy Writing!

Eliza Knight is the multi-published author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. Most recently, she was featured in The Wall Street Journal as a self-styled expert on historical undergarments. Visit her at

Coming 12/19/11 to Carina!  Lady Seductress's Ball (cover coming soon...)

Olivia has suffered a loveless marriage to an elderly invalid.  Never knowing pleasure, she wants to experience first hand the delights of lovemaking.  When a titillating invitation arrives to Lady Seductress’s Ball, the temptation is overwhelming.  Her thirst for pleasure could finally be quenched, and with a man she fiercely desires.
Tristan wants Olivia for his own, and has sworn off all others who clamber for a place in his bed.  After trying to seduce Olivia without success, he attempts one last amorous tryst—a night filled with passion, love and adventure, that will leave them both yearning for more.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Those Big Bad Border Boys

We all love to hate to love us a bad boy. The border reivers of medieval Scotland, however, might just be the exception. These lads put the original bad into bad boy, they used to ride out in groups (gangs) with little expectation of any reprisals for their dastardly actions.

The strip of land between England and Scotland was known as the Debatable Land. Raiding and warfare was rife between the English and the Scots, and more than one Scottish clan (and, to be fair, the English Border families did the same) used this chaos for their own merry-making shennanigans. I make good use of these reivers in my medieval romances, but so far only as the villians. I've not yet figured out a way to turn one of these lads in a romantic hero.

My favourite bad lad has to be Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie. He had a protection racket going on long before the Mafia came along. He made a fortune in collecting 'fees' in exchange for not raiding and killing families - this practice was known as Black Rent and earned Johnnie the nickname of 'Black Jok'

Sir Walter Scott gives us a somewhat romantic ballad of the tale of Johnnie Armstrong, when he was summoned by King James. Now, in truth, King James had promised him safe conduct, and ruthly had him and his men attacked and hung as soon as they arrived at the meeting spot. Not very honourable, but then one must assume poor ol' King James had his hands full with these troublesome reivers and was at his wits end.

Here's snippets of Sir Walter Scott's The Ballad of Johnnie Armstrong

So, to start with, King James had been doing a little cleaning up through his devious means (he'd just summoned both Cockburn and Scott and had them executed) before summoning Johnnie, so poor ol' Johnnie should have suspected something

                Is there never a man in all Scotland,
                From the highest state to the lowest degree,
                That can shew himself now before the king?
                Scotland is so full of their traitery

But Johnnie had never been before a king before, and he was slightly smitten with the idea

                The king he writ a lovely letter,
                With his own hand so tenderly,
                And has sent it unto John Armstrong,
                To come and speak with him speedily

                When John he looked the letter upon,
                Then, Lord! he was as blithe as a bird in a tree:
                ‘I was never before no king in my life,
                My father, my grandfather, nor none of us three

And it all ends very badly with King James declaring...

                Away with thee, thou false traitor!
                No pardon I will grant to thee,
                But, to-morrow before eight of the clock,
                I will hang thy eightscore men and thee

Johnnie, being Johnnie, didn't go down without a fight,

                Said John, Fight on, my merry men all,
                I am a little hurt, but I am not slain;
                I will lay me down for to bleed a while,
                Then I’le rise and fight with you again

And perhaps, most surprisingly of all, Johnnie had a wife and son waiting at home to receive the bad news of his death. Seems even the baddest of the bad found some romance in his life

                But when he came up to Guiltknock Hall,
                The lady spyed him presently:
                ‘What news, what news, thou little foot-page?
                What news from thy master and his company?’

               ‘My news is bad, lady,’ he said,
                ‘Which I do bring, as you may see;
                My master, John Armstrong, he is slain,
                And all his gallant company

The villian in my upcoming medieval is based on Johnnie Armstrong's character and his reiving gang. The borderland history is so full of colourful characters like this to strike my muse. One day, perhaps I'll attempt to turn one of these big bad border boys into a hero

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Ladder Of Success

The first objective to attaining success is determining exactly what success means to you. What would it take for you to feel that you are a success? In our society, we often view success as making lots of money, having power/talent/beauty and being recognized for such attributes.

However, success comes in various levels and doesn't always have to mean wealth and fame. Accomplishment of a goal is well worth pursuing. Success can be harvesting vegetables from your first garden or the completion of a manuscript. There is no greater excitement than the "I did it!" moment.

But, the thing is to keep your success in perspective so you will always enjoy the moment and look back on your successes, no matter how small, with pride. Success can become failure if you expect too much of it, if you start comparing your success to what others have accomplished, and if the worry of failure overshadows all else.

For a writer to make the NYT bestseller list is to be considered a huge success. However, unless they make the #1 spot, they are still not tops, and if they do, how long does their book stay there? Long enough? And what about the next book? Will it be a success too?  You see, success is never predictable. It has no stability. It can vanish in a moment and we can be at the bottom of the ladder instead of the top.

So, while you climb the ladder, celebrate your achievements as something that has made you happy, made you feel good about yourself and your capabilities, given you a good memory to cherish and the will to stay on the ladder.  It doesn't matter where you are on the ladder. You can go up and down as much as you want.

The main thing is to enjoy the climb.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

History Can Be A Bit Hazy

Hello everyone. My name is Georgie Lee and I write historical and contemporary romances. My first novella set in ancient Rome will be published by Carina Press in January 2012. I don’t have an official title or cover yet, but when I do, I will definitely post it. I am thrilled to be posting my first blog and want to thank all the great writers who invited me to be a part of Romancing the Past. 
I am a rabid non-fiction history reader and have been for years. I enjoy delving into other time periods and I get great story ideas from true life tales. Is it the sweeping world events that catch my attention? Sometimes, but most of the time, it is the obscure references tossed off by scholars; the blonde ancient Egyptian Queen, or the missing list of mistresses. These are the sentences that make me sit up and say “Oh, that would make a great story!” The problem with being inspired by obscure references is the fact that they are obscure.  The source material is sketchy or non-existent and it is often difficult to find more details than a passing mention here or there. While this may be the perfect opportunity to create a fictional story, it makes it difficult to really delve into an interesting subject.
Thankfully, I set my Roman novella during the chaos surrounding the assassination of Emperor Caligula. His life and death are well documented by both ancient and modern historians. However, I still managed to find an obscure detail to chase after; the physical looks of Caligula’s German Guard. There are many descriptions of their outfits but I’ve been unable to find a reference to their hairstyles. Did they wear it in the Roman fashion, as I suspect they did, or longer? I don’t know and I couldn’t find the answer, so I made an executive decision.
 I’m not always so accurate with the historical facts in my stories because I’m sensitive to reader expectation.  For example, in my Roman novella, I have Caligula use the well known thumbs up/thumbs down signal to determine a character’s fate in the amphitheatre. In reality, historians continue to debate the correct meaning of the thumb signals. Some sources say up for mercy, some say down for death, some say sideways and some say the exact opposite of all of these.  However, movies have made the thumbs up to signify mercy and the thumbs down to signify death the expected standard.  Since I didn’t want to pull readers out of the narrative, I decided to go with reader expectation and have Caligula give the thumbs…well, I don’t want to ruin the story for you. I hope you’ll read it to find out what happens and that you’ll join me on the 14th of every month to see what I have to say. If you’d like to  learn more about me and my novels, or see which historical fact is currently striking my fancy, please visit my website or follow me on Twitter @GeorgieLeeBooks.

Monday, July 11, 2011


This is going to be all about fans.     

Er, fans.


C'mon now.


                  One way or another.

Fans have naturally sprung to my mind for a number of reasons:

a. Here in the historic Hudson Valley and scenic Sound Shore

it's been hotter'n than a romance novel cover.

 (Oh, look. There's one now):


b. Social media has been giving me absolute fits the last several weeks.

Oh, you don't understand "b.", you say.  Aside from there being nothing more social than a bunch of broads playing mah jongg in a pool, you will have to take your lack of understanding up with evil boy genius Mark Zuckerberg.


Wait!  Not that Mark Zuckerberg.

Yeah, that one.
Because, quite frankly, I don't  understand Facebook, either.

Well, now you're just being silly.

That's better.

On second thought, there's a reason why the social media giant's logo is a big, blue "F."

 Was toodling along pretty well with my plain old "profile," oblivious to the fact that I was about to crash, kind of like a Model T       in a tailspin at Indy. 

 Or wherever those Nascar folks go. 

(Gotta love a sport where the cars dress up like cookies.)  


And then it was strongly urged upon me that I should have a PAGE.  A fan  page. You know.  For fans.


Several things passed through my mind:

a. A singer they seem to play a lot as muzak in retirement villages in Florida;   

b. Lancelot

    Um, Lancelot 


(Now that's what I'm talking about!) and other men in tights;


c. Identical cousin Cathy Lane's hairdo on the old Patty Duke Show;

         (You know, "While Cathy adores a minuet [seriously?], the Ballet Russe and crepe suzette, 

our Patty loves to rock 'n' roll, a hot dog makes her lose control, what a wild duet.") [What? No 'Nick at Nite'          in your house?];

d. This guy:
ken018.jpg (357016 bytes)  and,

e. being a person who occasionally likes to sprinkle pixels on a blank screen as if they were croutons, 


well, you know the drill.

Yes, digressing again. (This is my writing process in action, folks.)

In any event, the dire consequences of converting my "Profile" to a fan "Page" has thrust  (yeah, I said it) me into a social media hell that has left absolutely no time for anything else related to the computer.

Or pixels.

That's p-i-x-e-l-s.

Or even croutons.

Certainly not enough time to tell you all about The Language of the Fan. You know, one of the fun ways people communicated before there was Facebook.

Maybe next time.

Oh, would you look at that. Gotta go.

Taryn Kincaid is the author of an erotic paranormal romance, Sleepy Hollow Dreams. Her debut historical, Healing Hearts, a Regency romance, is available now from Carina Press, Please come visit her in social media hell, on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and at her blog at