Friday, April 27, 2012

CHANGE. The Good. The Bad. The Ugly.



We’ve all know that there are two things we can rely on in life: death and taxes. Well, for writers, there is another.


Change is all around us and it is a part of life. We see change in the seasons and the weather. People come and go in our lives, jobs change, our health changes, new businesses spring up, others fall victim to the economy. Or even the death of an owner (our town’s yarn shop) can cause unwanted and sad changes.

Sometimes change is good, other times, it is not welcome. Either way, it is a part of our daily lives whether we want it or not.

Most people do not like change because change is scary but I have always embraced change whether it is a new home or rearranging my house or even a new job. Change freshens my life. It is a renewal of heart, mind and soul–a breath of fresh air to chase away the stale and stagnant.

For writers, it is a part of our careers for if we do not change, then we dry up and fade away like a pile of autumn leaves. In the publishing world, what’s selling now will eventually fade away to be replaced by something new and fresh. Or perhaps something old will be reborn. Like historicals, angels, time travels and ghosts. Think of the writing world as a big circle with cycles and seasons. Nothing remains the same.

I, as a writer, must be open to not just riding the winds of change, but to grow as a writer and a person. While writing White Vengeance, book 11 in my White Series, I felt as though I was slogging through muck. Each word, each scene was a struggle. I loved the characters, loved the story, but something was happening to me as a writer–I was growing and changing yet my White books were not. At least not much.

My stories all had a bit of the mystical with the use of visions, gifts of sight and other aspects of Native American culture. As the series grew, I wanted as a writer to explore the mystical aspects of Native American beliefs and go deeper into the mystical world yet my books were historicals, not paranormals. Suddenly, I had a choice: continue to fight the change happening within me as a writer or give in and grow as a writer.

So I gave in and let myself write what I wanted for that last White book. And I had a blast. Writing was fun again. Things were happening that I never imagined. I allowed
myself to listen to that inner need to change and it revitalized the entire book. I loved the book, the characters, the writing. The change in me, my writing attitude was a wondrous feeling. I knew then that as a writer I had to embrace change–let myself grow. I gave myself permission and the freedom to grow and change. It was a scary step but one I have no regrets in taking
I also realize in writing this, that Change was responsible for the birth of the White Series. When I wrote White Wind, I didn’t have a series in mind. Just one book. My next book was set on the Oregon Trail. I had the Jones family all set to head west and I needed a wagon master. For Jessie of course.

Enter a half-breed with issues who needed a past, reasons for his conflicts and of course, I turned to his family. Well, I decided to give Golden Eagle & White Wind (Sarah) a second son and named my wagon master, White Wolf. Okay, so now I have two connected books. Still not really a series.

But it became clear that Wolf’s family needed to make a showing in White Wolf. I already knew that Wolf had a powerful warrior brother named Striking Thunder as this was revealed in White Wind. Then I, in my “Godly” role of Creator, gave the two brothers, two sister. Nice even number of children for my original hero/heroine.

Well, it became quite clear that these children all need some major changes in their lives in order to grow and become the adult characters I envisioned! A series was born with the simple act of allowing myself to be open to change.

Change is still happening in my writing. My SpiritWalker series was born of the changes that took place in writing White Vengeance. I’m currently nearly done with my second SpiritWalker book that demanded many changes in my writing. I’ve also taken this new series to contemporary settings and surprise, it changed again.

There are more than just SpiritWalkers in this world. My SpiritWalkers are at the top of the “myth” chain of special humans but there are a whole host of other beings walking my world. Some good, some bad and some truly ugly beasts. None of any of this would have been possible if I had stuck to the same old thing.

Today, change has made me a better person. Even the disaster of losing my retail business is revealing the good. That change wasn’t just bad. It was ugly in so many ways yet due to my positive outlook and my belief that change is ultimately good even when it looks horrid, I’ve come out ahead.

So what is changing for you? Is it a good change? If it’s bad or ugly, is there good that you can see and hold onto? How do you view change? Is it refreshing or something you resist? If you resist change, why? I believe we should all think about change, see and analyze changes around us and allow change to make us better people.

What are your thoughts?

Susan Edwards
Susan Edwards ~ Magic, Myth & Wonder
White Series
SpiritWalker Series

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Drawing Room

A middle-class drawing room (Victorian era)
Before I became a voracious reader of the Regency era, an amateur researcher, and writer, if someone had told me they entertained their guests in the drawing room, I would have thought they were having an actual drawing party--crayons, pencils, chalk, markers, paper--the whole nine yards.

Why was it named the drawing room? It actually stems from the term withdrawing room or chamber. A host would take their guest to the withdrawing chamber to entertain them, or those of the household would withdraw their for privacy to relax.

Ladies might disperse after dinner to the drawing room for conversation, sewing, reading, a small (or many small) glasses of something tasty, while the men took to the cigar room for drinks, cigars and man-talk. (And I HAVE to add here, that while I was at the Romantic Times Convention a couple weeks ago, I went to a Jane Austen Happy Hour, where they let us taste several Regency era beverages--I enjoyed sherry and port! Give it a go, if you haven't already.) 

The Blue Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace
Perhaps the entire dinner party might converge upon the drawing room for some games or to listen to music. Or the family, if they aren't entertaining might take to the drawing room to listen to some music, read to each other, or just "be".

But mostly, the formal drawing room was used to entertain guests, and for those calling on you during the day--they would be taken to the drawing room where you'd receive them.

An eligible maiden, would entertain her suitors (with a chaperone of course) in the drawing room. She might also gossip with her friends in the drawing room over tea.

Today's drawing room, might be called a living room. I remember growing up, when we visited my grandparents, they had this WHITE room, I mean, everything was white. We weren't allowed in there unless it was a special holiday, we were dressed up and no shoes. It was very special to go into their white room, and we sat prim and proper on the very white couch.

Eliza Knight is the multi-published author of sizzling historical romance and erotic romance. Visit her at or

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Beauty of Buttermere

My marriage of convenience regency, Ruined by Rumor, arrives May 21. In it, the heroine and her best friend discuss a young lady who's been (to use the regency term) "ruined." My heroine mentions the Beauty of Buttermere—a real-life regency celebrity, famous for having been the victim of a heartless seducer.

Mary Robinson was the pretty daughter of an innkeeper, so pretty that when she was fifteen, she caught the eye of a travel writer who was visiting her village in the Lake District. He described her in such glowing terms in his guidebook that she became something of a tourist attraction, earning the nickname “the Maid of Buttermere.”

Ten years later, in 1802, Mary met a smooth-talking man more than twice her age. He claimed to be the Honourable Alexander Augustus Hope, officer, gentleman, member of Parliament and younger brother of the Earl of Hopetoun. He was actually a con man named John Hatfield. He'd been married twice and was already engaged to a third woman, though the second of his two wives was still living.

Mary Robinson, drawn from life by James Gillray.

Hatfield was staying at an inn in nearby Keswick, where some denizens of the town were inclined to doubt he was really the brother of an earl, since he was given to occasional vulgarities and questionable grammar. But he also had a fine carriage, and he franked his letters—meaning instead of paying for postage, he merely signed his name, a privilege accorded to members of Parliament. Since doing so under false pretenses qualified as a capital offense—it was not merely forgery, but treason—people were inclined to take his claims at face value. And since the relatively cosmopolitan citizens of Keswick accepted Hatfield as the brother of an earl, the humble villagers of Buttermere never doubted him for an instant. He wooed and won Mary Robinson, and the two were married in a church wedding on October 2, 1802.

The marriage of a nobleman’s brother to an innkeeper’s beautiful daughter was the kind of storybook romance beloved by newspaper editors, and the news soon made its way to Scotland, where acquaintances of the real brother of the Earl of Hopetoun realized that an imposter was posing as Colonel Hope. Meanwhile, the people of Keswick had learned of the wedding, too, and since Hatfield had been drawing spurious bank drafts there and was supposed to be engaged to a young lady of their town, they realized he was (at the very least) a scoundrel and not to be trusted. One of the spurned young lady’s friends immediately wrote to the Earl of Hopetoun. Hatfield's lies were about to catch up to him.

Mary began to suspect—too late—that something about her new husband was not entirely on the up and up. Soon afterward, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Hatfield was taken into custody, but he escaped and bolted for the coast, then to a hotel in Cheshire. He left behind a dressing-case, and beneath its false bottom poor Mary discovered letters from his wife and children, addressed to him under his real name.

Hatfield was eventually caught in South Wales, questioned in London, and sent to the Cumberland assizes to be tried for forgery. Mary wrote the magistrate who questioned him in London, “The man whom I had the misfortune to marry and who has ruined me and my aged parents, always told me he was the Hon. Colonel Hope, the next brother of the Earl of Hopetoun. Your grateful and unfortunate servant, Mary Robinson.”

At Hatfield’s trial, witnesses included respectable citizens who knew the real Colonel Hope and those who had known Hatfield under his real name. A letter was produced, written by Hatfield and endorsed in lieu of postage Free, A. Hope. The jury returned a verdict of guilty. Hatfield was hanged in Carlisle on Saturday, September 3, 1803. The jurymen later admitted that they had been reluctant to see Hatfield condemned merely for franking a letter, but they overcame their scruples because of the heartless way Hatfield had seduced and betrayed poor Mary Robinson.

In the end, the public’s sympathy was entirely with Mary, and despite the scandal of her invalid marriage, fortunately she was seen as more innocent victim than damaged goods. In 1807 she married a respectable farmer named Richard Harrison, and they went on to have four children together. Still, she remained famous both for her artless beauty and for her victimization, with William Wordsworth calling her in his poem The Prelude, “Unspoiled by commendation and the excess/Of public notice—an offensive light/To a meek spirit suffering inwardly.” To the newspaper-buying public of the regency, the beauty of Buttermere was the epitome of virtue seduced and betrayed.

Ruined by Rumor, Alyssa Everett's regency romance, will be published by Carina Press on May 21 and is currently available for reviewers on Netgalley here. She hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Beware the Ides of April

Tax day is nearly upon us. If you haven’t already fired up the Turbo Tax software, then you have some homework to do this weekend. While you’re slogging through numerous forms more complicated than quantum physics, take heart, our tax system is much better, and far more forgiving than the ancient methods.  Today, I’m going to give a very, very quick and dirty history of ancient civilization and medieval English taxation.

If you were living in the ancient world, you would be squeezed not by Rome or Thebes directly but by “tax-farmers”. Men who’d bid to obtain the office and whose job it was to make you pay. These men were loathed across the ancient world because if they came up short, they were required to make up the difference themselves. Since they were not usually from the ruling classes, they didn’t have the social clout to make the rich pay. As a result, they tended to squeeze every last denarii out of the middle class and the poor. Later in the empire, the office of tax collector became hereditary, so some people were bound by birth to be the most unpopular person on the block. When the Roman Empire finally collapsed in 480 AD, the knowledge, learning and complex civil service of Rome disappeared, but taxes remained.

Under the Anglo-Saxons, land was taxed and the proceeds paid to the king. When the Vikings showed up, the money was used to either fight them or pay them to go away (the “Danegeld”).  Once the Normans arrived, William the Conqueror instructed his men to find out what everyone owned and how much they owed him. Thus, the famous, or should I say infamous, Domesday Book was compiled. Landowners were taxed based on how much land they held, but, if they were friends with the king, the king could grant them exemptions. As time went by, too many exemptions meant too little tax money, and the monarch started getting testy. The testiest monarch was King John, but his nobles weren’t having it. They rose up and forced him to sign the Magna Carta which forced the king to get permission from the nobles before he could raise taxes.

So, when you’re filling out your 1040 this weekend, be thankful the Vikings aren’t at your door, King John isn’t seizing your land, and you weren’t born into a tax collecting family in ancient Rome.

Monday, April 09, 2012

A Few Tips on Writing Love Scenes

I’ve been writing romance since 1990.  Even in the beginning, I wrote hot.  That’s what I liked to read, and I sometimes would poke around the middle of a new book looking for the love scene.  As I created my own story, I most looked forward to scenes of physical of intimacy between my characters, ranging from the first innocent brush of hands, to the first kiss, to the first scene where they almost make love, to the first time they consummate their passion.  And then, of course to repeat performances because they just can’t get enough of each other.

Twenty-two years is a long time to have been doing something, and over that time, the romance genre has branched out and experimented, boldly going places where our foremothers didn’t imagine.  A subset of the genre has ventured into the frankly erotic, and I’m one of the people who’ve followed it there.  My Carina titles aren’t erotic, but they’re hot.  Romantic Times even characterized Miss Foster’s Folly as a “scorcher.”

Today, I’d like to offer a few tips on writing the physical side of love.  They’re not exhaustive.  I don‘t have time or room here to give a complete course on writing love scenes.  As always, you should certainly ignore my ideas if they don’t feel right for you.  In any case, here they are.

1) Climaxes aren’t the main point.  That may sound odd, but I once wrote in the margin of a contest entry “to many climaxes.”  Several times in the chapters I read, the main character would become overcome by lust and dash into the bathroom or somewhere else private to give herself some relief.  It wasn’t convincing.  What we need to experience as readers is the realization that our characters have committed to making love to each other, followed by the first touches and then the climb to full arousal.  In fact, the plateau right before the ultimate moment has the greatest potential for showing how excited the characters have become.  Draw that moment out in great detail and follow it with the ultimate reward, and you’ll have satisfied readers.  It’s possible to linger too long in the plateau phase, but I’ve seldom seen that happen.  Rushing things is more common.  Ask for feedback from other writers if you’re having a difficult time with this.

2) Euphemisms and other problems with language.  Back in the olden days, we weren’t allowed to use crude words for things.  “Manhood” and “hardness” were pretty much necessary as was “her most sensitive scrap of flesh” because the real words for these things didn’t appear in romance novels.  Of course, even back then, we all laughed at things like “his purple-tipped dart of love.”

Now, we use more straightforward language, but we still have a problem with the use of language during high arousal.  Namely, just about nothing rational we can say will accurately reflect what goes on in someone’s mind as s/he approaches climax.  While we certainly don’t think of “my most sensitive scrap of flesh” or “my throbbing organ,” we also don’t really reflect on those body parts by their more down-to-Earth or clinical terms, either.  Mostly we think in simple concepts, our intellectual brains having tuned out long before.  We might think “harder, lower, there, don’t stop” but that’s about it.  Similarly, we don’t talk a whole lot but only make noises that are pretty much impossible to translate to the written word.  Trust me on this.  I’ve tried.

I think, in the end, we have to compromise between what’s real and what written language allows us to convey.  So, while we won’t use long, flowery descriptions of body parts and what who’s doing to whom, we will have to give our characters a little more coherent thought than what actually takes place during sex.  Similarly, although our characters won’t speak in long sentences with subordinate clauses, we can allow them a little bit of teasing or telling the other how very turned on they are.

This issue is something I’m still grappling with in my writing, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and any solutions you may have come up with.

3) She did/he did.  While we’re writing love scenes, it’s easy to slip into a rhythm of describing our characters’ actions and reactions to the acts of love.  It comes out something like:

“He pressed a kiss to her earlobe and then another against the corner of her jaw.  She sighed and dug her fingers into his hair to urge him downward.  He moved lower, now caressing her neck and skimming his fingers over her ribs.  She arched her back and stretched at the pure, sensual pleasure of his body moving over hers.”

That’s extreme, but I used to write in something similar to this rhythm until an editor finally told me to cut it out.  I’ve also seen it in other people’s writing.  As a matter of fact, I think this pitfall is what results in what readers see as “tab A into slot B” love scene writing.

Of course, inserting emotion in bits between the lovely caresses will help to fix this problem.  Express her joy that this magnificent man loves her.  Show her surprise that anything could feel so good.

For a different rhythm, you can insert a sentence fragment or even a one-word sentence.  You can also change the sentence structure.  Above, I could have written, “Moving lower, he caressed her neck while his fingers skimmed over her ribs.”  Be careful, though, not to have characters do two things at once if doing both is impossible.  For example, a woman can walk slowly toward her lover while removing her bra.  If she tries “Removing her panties, she walked slowly…” she’s like to end up flat on her face.

Give these a try while you're writing your next love scene and let me know if they help.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Help me name my next heroine!

I turned in the manuscript for my next Carina book, An Infamous Marriage, less than a week ago, so I’m taking the first half of April off from writing. But that doesn’t mean a break from thinking about my next (as yet uncontracted) project.

I’m still in the earliest research and brainstorming stage, but I’m planning to write a novella, working title Widow’s Choice, set in the same milieu as my debut book, The Sergeant’s Lady--i.e. with Wellington’s army on the Iberian Peninsula. Only this time neither the hero nor the heroine is an aristocrat.

The hero already has a name--Elijah Cameron--and as soon as I thought of it I knew I couldn’t possibly call him anything else. The heroine remains nameless...but you can help me change that!

I’m still working out the details of her backstory, but I know she’s an English country girl, possibly a farmer’s daughter or a former dairymaid. She’s very pretty in what I think of as a classically English way--chestnut hair, blue or gray eyes, and rosy cheeks. She’s the kind of woman you’d expect to meet walking down a lane like this, if you happened to be walking down it 200 years ago:

English Countryside

So I want her name to capture that essential Englishness, and in a way that sounds distinctive without sounding upper-class. Here are my ideas for her first and last name. The last name list is much longer because, as I sometimes complain to my critique partners, The Big Book of Historically Accurate Regency Baby Names is more like a pamphlet. Let me know which combination you think would best fit my character, or feel free to suggest alternatives. Right now I’m waffling between Jenny Steptoe and Rose Longshaw, but I’m willing to be persuaded.

First Names:


Last Names:


Susanna Fraser writes Regency romance with a focus on the Napoleonic Wars. The Sergeant's Lady and A Marriage of Inconvenience are available now from Carina Press.

Monday, April 02, 2012

A Brush with Darkness - out now!

My second novella for Carina Press came out on the 21 March. It's my first paranormal--and possibly my last--there are many people doing the genre better than me. It's called "A Brush with Darkness" and is set in 19th Century Florence.

Why Florence? I hear you say. And the God's honest truth is, I haven't a clue! I've been to the city, but then I've been to dozens of European cities and Florence was lovely but no lovelier than Venice or Amsterdam. However, as the story is about an ancient vampire matriarch, her "grandson"? and a very talented up and coming painter, the medieval gorgeousness of Florence seemed to be right for the setting.
I wanted to emphasize the corruption of Florence too, as it was terribly corrupt for many, many years despite it being officially a democracy - the Medici--bankers to the Popes--ruled the city from behind the scenes, Not that A Brush with Darkness is political but I simply hint at what might be going on.

Michel is the protagonist of the story and he narrates in first person. His father died, after having lost his buisness to a partner and Michel, his mother and sister are now dependent on the "good graces" of that business partner, Michel's patron, Signor Bettano. It is Bettano who introduces Michel to Signora Guildeccia who wishes him to paint a relative of hers, the exquisitely beautiful Yuri. Who is he? Is he her son? Her lover? Her grandson? Michel can hardly imagine.
The story explores the light and the dark of corruption and of relationships of many types--sometimes the worst of us do the best things, and sometimes the best of us sink into horror we can never recover from.

Here's an excerpt for you. Michel is ordered to attend a ball with his patron:

After initial introductions to our host and hostess, Bettano left me with instructions to be available when called, and he swept into the glittering throng with a greasy smile on his fat face.

Standing sullenly near a corner out of sight of my patron, I wondered how long it would be before I could escape, how many glasses of champagne it would take before he stopped trying to find me every time he wanted to show me off.

As I lurked, a voice spoke from the other side of the column. “Don’t move. He’s looking this way.”
I flattened myself against the marble instinctively. The voice spoke again. “Now. Round the back. This side, he’s moving.” I obeyed without thought, sliding around the pillar, the stone cool through my jacket.

The man had his back to me, scanning the glittering dance floor, broad shoulders filling black velvet. He turned and my knees weakened.

The smile on his face had made Lucifer throw himself from the gates of heaven in unrequited passion. “Well done. Now I have you. He has been claimed by Count Dimillio, and he will not escape from him and his ever-so-grateful family for at least an hour.”

He took my hand to shake it, but instead pulled my glove off before taking my hand in his. The touch shook me to my core—impossible to describe and yet I can feel it still—it was as if my arm were suddenly boneless. It seemed I had no control over the muscles and sinews which held me together. 

If he had let me go, I was certain I would have poured to the floor like quicksilver. The nerve endings in my hand seemed to burn under his touch; his cool skin singed my flesh.

He used my hand to pull himself closer, keeping my hand in both of his. His fingers danced over my knuckles, entwining and tangling with mine until I could not tell which belonged to me and which to him. My cock, which had stirred on first seeing his face, now seemed boiled in its prison of cloth. 

The lust sweeping through me was a guttural, visceral rumbling, seeming deafening to my ears, making the blood drain from my face.

“A pale and silent artist,” he said in the lowest of tones. “A rarity, then. How will you pose me without words?” His eyes reflected the glitter of the room, the pupils so large I could hardly make out the colour of the irises. The flames of the candles accentuated the highlights in his golden hair, and he seemed more alive than anything I’d ever seen before—light radiated from him.

The impulse I felt to pull him closer was unbearable. I imagined I could feel the heat of his body even though we were still inches apart. He leaned forward—he was only a little taller than I, but that night he seemed to tower over me like a god.

“Are you as hard for me, I wonder?”

The words should have shocked me, but they did not. I was and I wanted him to know it. I knew nothing more of him than his face and his voice, and yet he owned me completely.

Softly, he pulled my hand down, down, and my breath was held in a prism of sound, suspended by a cobweb. One swift cut and my heart would have stopped. His mouth opened and a deliciously moist tongue ran its course along his pale, slender lips. He pressed my hand to his trousers, and my palm encountered such rigidity beneath the velvet that I gasped, the breath returning to my lungs like a forest fire, scorching and burning

Buy here from Carina Press  $2.69 - a bargain! - and I hope that if you try it, you enjoy it! 
I am offering one free copy to one lucky commenter - simply ask me anything in the comments and I'll pick a winner and will email them on Friday 6th April.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Perfect Impostor

For me, tomorrow is the day that writers both anticipate and dread. My latest baby, The Perfect Impostor, hits the digital book shelves. What will people think? Will they appreciate all the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating it? Will all those lonely hours pounding away at a keyboard, doing research, wrestling with edits, agonizing over every last comma, speech and internal thought process give pleasure or will readers simply shrug, wonder what I was on when I wrote it and look for something else?

Why do we do it?

Because we're writers, that's why. Because there's never been an easier time to go through the physical process of writing a novel. I attempted my first tome almost forty years ago. Promise not to laugh but I had to bash it out on an electric typewriter, using carbon paper so I could make a copy and white fluidy stuff to correct errors. There was none of this copying and pasting business, moving chunks of text around, correcting errors as I went and...well, you get the idea. My point is, you had to really want to do it.

Then there was research. Remember encyclopedias? No, not the on line type but the heavy dusty books that used to line shelves in houses and libraries. If you wanted information about a particular location, or house, you had to write to the local tourist board or National Trust and ask nicely. And I don't mean you sent an email. You actually had to put pen to paper, buy a stamp, find a post box...

Yep, times have changed. Modern technology had made the whole writing/research process, not to mention editing and communication a whole lot easier. But one thing will never change. That feeling of fear/anticipation that grips this particular writer on the eve of publication.

The Perfect Impostor a sparkling Regency mystery/romance now available from Carina Press and all good online ebook stores.

Stop by my website at where you can read the first chapter of The Perfect Impostor. I'm running a contest there. Just answer a simple question and you could win a copy of the book.

Good luck!