Posts tagged with: research

Intermission

The time between finishing one book and starting another is always odd for me.  Part of my brain wants to cling to the last book while another part wants to move on to these other people and their problems and hopes and dreams. With Sentinel out, I’m starting Warrior, Will Davis’s book, and I’m at that funny in-between stage again.  

I’ve spent two novels and two novellas with Will, so I know him pretty well, but I’m still working on getting to know his Audra.  

Northcott-RenegadeAnd then there are all these other people.  Nemesis, the next novel, is plotted. Avenger, the next novella, partly is.  And of course each book has a main couple and supporting characters, many of which overlap.  But not all.

As though they weren’t enough, Griff and Val from Renegade peer over my shoulder and say things like, “You know, we had some interesting times off-page and between books.  Maybe you should write about those.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t,” I tell them.  “Don’t get carried away because you’re in the free stories on my website.  It’s someone else’s turn now.”

They aren’t pouty, but they are persistent.  So is Mel from Guardian, who likes to remind me that Stefan, her mage physician fiancé, is supposed to see if he can help her mom.  This is by way of suggesting maybe I should write that.  You know, NOW.

And then there’s Tasha, the heroine of Nemesis, who keeps muttering things like “I can’t believe you’re matching me up with that guy.  He hates me.  I return the favor. It’s never going to work.  You’ll see.”  

Mixed into all that are various plot ideas for Avenger, which pop up at odd and inopportune moments.  To get anything done (like, oh, the first draft of Warrior), I have to bring order out of this chaotic swirl of ideas.

BillysIsland_Jan2014So I’m dealing with this clamor in my head in three ways.  First, I’m doing the research for Will and Audra’s book.  Warrior centers on an archaeological dig, so I have to learn about the procedures for that as well as the cultures they’d be uncovering (although, this being fiction, I can taken considerable liberties with the history).  

When I’m into my research, I get ideas.  Which help shut all those other books out of my brain for a while so I can home in on the couple who currently belong front and center.

Second, I’m writing in non-linear order.  As a scene comes to me, I write the bare bones of it, no matter which book it belongs to.  I figure that will not only keep me from losing it but stop it from popping up again.  This is a new thing for me, but it’s working well so far.  I’m  still doing my usual scenes-in-proper-order thing with the beginning, too, but I’m also hopping around.

fargoneThird, I’m reading.  Escape also narrows the focus.  It’s as though my subconscious works out my plot or character problems while the main part of my brain cruises through a story that’s not my responsibility.  

I just finished Laura Griffin’s new release, Far Gone.  I’ve enjoyed her Tracers series.  Though I’m not sure whether this book is actually part of it, I liked Far Gone a lot.  It’s about a detective trying to get her brother out of trouble while her career hangs in the balance, an FBI agent trying to nail a mass murderer and stop his next attack, and the case that brings them together.    

One of my favorites of the Tracers series, 2013 RITA winner Scorched, was recently back in stores.  I have the ebook, but I grabbed a print copy.  I like it that much.  The Tracers work in an advanced forensics lab, and Scorched features a forensic anthropologist and a Navy SEAL.

NotoriousA_200As my focus narrows in on Warrior, I’ll read less new material.  Books I haven’t read before will be saved for rewards at various writing or research milestones, and I’ll fall back on familiar favorites like my picks from the In Death series or maybe Nora Roberts’ The Search (a serial killer book but it has dogs and, at least in the beginning, comic relief) her Chesapeake Quartet, or Patricia Rice’s Mystic Isle or Rebellious Sons series.

When you finish a big project, do you ever have trouble letting go and moving on?  If so, how do you handle it?  If you reward yourself at the end of a project or along the way, what’s your reward system?  Have you recently read a book you’d recommend as an escape or a reward?

 

Road Trip! (Part 1)

Hi, everybody!  As you read this, Jeanne and I are on a research trip in coastal Georgia.  As the blog posts, we’ll be getting a good night’s sleep in preparation for our Okefenokee Swamp trip tomorrow.  After that, we’ll work our way north.  Jeanne, what’s on your agenda?

 Sleep.  Ha!  Seriously, Nancy, my plan is to take it allllll in.  I’ve passed around the edges of the swamp before, travelling through various parts of Georgia, but never IN to the Okefenokee itself.  I’m really excited about the trip.  I’m looking forward to seeing some hawks and other swamp birds, hopefully some herons and bitterns.  We’ll see who/what shows up.  I’m a real bird watcher, so it’s going to be fun to see that.  Hoping NOT to see any alligators.  Really.  They can stay far away from wherever we are.  It’s going to be fun to see some of the sights you’ve seen and posted on your website, on various blog posts about the swamp, and the way you’ve lovingly described it in your fabulous books!! 

SuwaneeCanal_Fog_2014

I haven’t seen the Okefenokee in early spring, so this trip will help me when I get to the books that are set at this time of year.  It will also introduce Jeanne to the wonderfulness of the swamp! *g*  Here’s a photo I took as we headed down the Suwanee Canal early in the morning in February.

Isn’t that spooky?  We can bet the mages will be heading into a landscape much like that at some point.

The mages headquarters, the Collegium is near Brunswick, a town that dates back to the 1700s. I’d like to see some of it. There are historic houses and shops, a waterfront, a marsh (not a 400-square mile swamp, but promising anyway), and various recreational opportunities.  I suspect Stefan and Mel will end up buying a house there at some point.Here’s a link to the website.

  I’ve actually been to Brunswick, lo these many years ago, but don’t remember anything about it.  But I love new places, so I’ll enjoy catching a glimpse of life in South Georgia.  Grins. 

Sav_Riverboat_Sept2012Some of my mages also live in Savannah, and it’s a great location with its historic squares, old houses, and scenic River Street.  Two members of Griff’s team in Renegade are based there.  Lorelei has a shop on River Street, and Tasha’s headquarters for her design and remodeling business will likely be there, too.  Unless I totally fall in love with Brunswick and relocate her.

Tasha has a log cabin on the Big Satilla River, but that’s for getaway weekends, not her working  base.  Maybe she has a condo instead of a house in the city.  This trip will help me decide.

Savannah is going to be aweeeeeesome!  This is actually my part of the trip.  I’m deciding between Savannah and Richmond, VA for one series of books, and pretty much have decided to set another set of books IN Savannah itself.  These books are a couple of years off, but hey, you can never do your research too early.  

Nancy’s already agreed to be a good sport and visit some of the nice, spooky old cemeteries in Savannah proper with me.  Bwahahahaha!

The dh and I actually like visiting old cemeteries.  Many years ago, before the boy, we visited one in Savannah.

I’m taking my small backpack with digital camera, spare batteries and extra memory card, the yellow pad I’ve used to take notes on my swamp trips, and an easel, big pad and tape recorder in case we get ideas we want to develop.  Maps of Brunswick, Savannah and the swamp are also going along, as is bug repellent–very important in the Okefenokee in April.  As is sunscreen.

I’d never taken a research trip with another writer until I went to England and roamed about with Anna Sugden.  I’d be looking at what I’d come to photograph, lost in how the setting would work with the story, and then she’d nudge me and say, “You might want a photograph of those flowers.” Yes, indeed, a nice little detail I did want a photo of, for reference.  But I was so busy filtering through the story forest that I missed the tree of the lovely detail.

It’s going to be an adventure!  I’ve not taken a research trip with another writer either, Nancy.  You’re one up on me having had a good roam about with Anna S.  Still, it’ll be a fine sight better than when I took a research trip to Chicago with my husband a then-3-year-old.  Eeek!!  That wasn’t as productive as I would have liked.  Ha!  I already know this will be MUCH more the thing!  And yes, maps, camera, extra memory, the cord to upload the photos….verrrrrry important!!  I’ve only had a memory card fail once, but…  So, I upload as soon as I can.  

Nancy and I have already worked out a great place for a seafood dinner.  Rewards for our labors as working authors, don’t you know!  Slurp!!

Have you ever been to the swamp, Savannah, or the Atlantic coastal US?  Do you like seafood?  What’s your favorite?  Do you ever go to the cemeteries when YOU go sightseeing? If you were going to a place to learn about it, what would interest you most–shopping, food, history, recreation, or a combination of some of those?  What place would you choose just to explore?

We’ll check in as we get a chance along the way and catch up at night, when we’re in the hotel with its nice, free WiFi.

A Style to Which I’d Like to Become Accustomed!

Chatsworth 1I don’t think it’s any secret to regular visitors to the lair (or to my website where I tend to salivate with embarrassing regularity – not a sentence I write every day!) that I LOVE old houses.

One of the really fun things about writing historical romance is designing houses to suit the aristocratic setting. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a lot of big houses in England and Scotland.

You really don’t want to go with me – I dig and delve into every corner, I pester all the attendants, I try and get into the places you’re not supposed to go, and I tend to arrive at opening and then they have to drag me kicking and screaming out of the gates after closing.

Bliss!

I’ve got two Sons of Sin releases coming up soon – in July and late August this year. The first, an e-novella called DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES will get its day in the sun next month when I hold a launch party. The next A RAKE’S MIDNIGHT’S KISS (Richard Harmsworth’s story) will suffer an infamous lair launch in September.

Days of Rakes and Roses final-72In the meantime, I’m busy writing the third book in the series which will be Cam’s story. I’ve already had some lovely people telling me they’re looking forward to this and I must say it’s lovely seeing Mr. Control losing it when he falls in love with his very inconvenient bride!

Cam’s story isn’t out till 2014 so I thought I’d give you a bit of background to DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES, the novella which comes out 2nd July from Grand Central Forever Yours. And in the process, I thought I’d share some luscious pictures of the house that features in that novella as well as in Cam’s story.

DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES is the story of Lady Lydia Rothermere, Cam’s very proper sister, and the childhood sweetheart she’s never been able to forget – yup, lovers reunited is pretty much the theme of this one.

Chatsworth 2While most of the action takes place in the very glamorous London season on 1826, it opens ten years earlier in a prologue set at the family seat of the Dukes of Sedgemoor, the very extravagant Fentonwyck in Derbyshire in the English Midlands.

A ducal seat in Derbyshire?

Could Fentonwyck possibly be based on the actual ducal seat in Derbyshire, Chatsworth, where the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire live?

Does Grumpy Cat scowl in the morning?

Chatsworth 3This gave me a lovely excuse to dig through my photos and research materials on Chatsworth which I was lucky enough to visit in 2007. And then an even better excuse to share some of the pictures with you.

It’s a glorious house and with justice called “the Palace of the Peaks” (it’s in the Peak District National Park). And the gardens are breathtaking.

Here’s a link to Chatsworth’s official site, just in case you want to join me in salivating!

No? I agree! Salivating is better done in privacy, isn’t it?

IMG_0039In my imagination, I’m actually living in Chatsworth right now (well, the Fentonwyck version of it anyway!). Because Cam’s story has a marriage of convenience theme, much of the action takes place in the glorious English countryside as Cam and his new bride, Penelope, wrestle with falling in love against their better judgement.

At least I’m having fun being on this wonderful estate. Too bad for my characters, although at least there’s quite a bit of bedroom action so there’s SOME fun involved, snicker. And check out this photo of the State Bedroom at Chatsworth!

If you were lying back and thinking of England here, you’d at least have a very nice ceiling to contemplate!

You can read the blurb and an excerpt for DAYS OF RAKES AND ROSES here. And don’t forget to pick it up on 2nd July – it’s a bargain at only 99 cents!

So do you like old houses or modern houses? Have you been to Chatsworth? Do you have a favorite old house somewhere in the world? And should I write a four-poster into Cam’s story? That, of course, is the most important question! If there’s going to be much hanky panky, perhaps I should give it a suitably ducal setting!

Meet Foanna!

Shhh! Wanna know a secret? I

t’s just in the lair so DON’T TELL ANYONE WHO ISN’T A BANDITA BUDDY!!!

When the Romance Bandits met that fated day back in 2006 after we all finaled in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest, there were two Annas. One was the wonderful Anna Sugden and the other…WASN’T AN ANNA AT ALL!!

That’s right. Anna Campbell is a pen name the way Batman is a pen name for Bruce Wayne.

When our mysterious Aussie Bandita sold her first book CLAIMING THE COURTESAN to Avon in April 2006, some master criminal (well, another author anyway!) had just published a romance under Foanna’s real name. To be fair to this other author, it probably was her real name too. What was our caped crusader to do? Come up with another name. So she put together one grandmother’s Christian name and one grandmother’s surname and voila, Anna Campbell was born.

All well and good until our heroine started to hang around with those naughty Banditas who had their own REAL Anna. So being the exotic, multilingual creatures we all are, someone (Jeanne Duchesse, we think) decided Real Anna would be Vrai Anna and False Anna (she’s not sure she likes that designation – she’s really quite an honest gal!) would be Faux Anna which got shortened to Foanna then Fo. And it’s stuck.

So there’s the story of Foanna. Now here’s her exclusive members only interview!

Q1: How long have you been writing and how has your writing changed over time?

Fo: I’ve been writing all my life. I started my first novel in grade three (around seven or eight). Given that was an Enid Blyton rip-off, my writing has changed considerably since then! For a start it’s a lot hotter than it was in grade three! 

Q2: What drink does Sven bring you when you’re hiding in the cave?

Fo: I ask him for margaritas but he’s a sober Scandinavian type so I just get endless cups of tea. Perhaps he’s got me mixed up with English Vrai Anna!

Q3: When you’re not in the cave, where in the lair do you hang out the most?

Fo: Oh, I love the blog. I don’t think that’s any secret. I love reading all my Bandita sisters’ posts and meeting all our wonderful guests. The only part of the blog I don’t like is that it’s turned my TBR pile into something the size of Mars!

Q4: What’s the hardest thing about writing?  What’s the most rewarding?

Fo: I struggle with first drafts, getting that story down on the page. The most rewarding part of writing is all the wonderful friendships I’ve built with readers and writers all over the world. I love to hear from readers. You can email me on anna @ annacampbell.info (no spaces) or you can find me on social media like Facebook or Twitter.

Q5: Do you have a special nickname for any of the lair inhabitants?

Fo: Fellow boozers?

Q6: What’s your favorite Lair activity? 

Fo: Refer question 5!

Q6:Who do you enjoy writing more — hero or heroine?

Fo: Both provide challenges. I must say there’s something really interesting about being inside the hero’s head and his voice for some reason always comes much more easily to me than the heroine’s. Not quite sure why!

Q7: Favourite thing you’ve researched?

Fo: I’m a research junkie! I love it all. One of the things I particularly love is incorporating elements of the wonderful English stately homes that I’ve visited into my stories. For example, the house that plays a pivotal role in MY RECKLESS SURRENDER is Burghley House in Blenheim Palace’s grounds. The beautiful house on the cliffs in Cornwall in CAPTIVE OF SIN is based on Manderley in Daphne Du Maurier’s REBECCA. I WANT THAT HOUSE! In my next book (out 25th September), crumbling Castle Craven in Devon is based on the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland, one of the most atmospheric settings I’ve ever visited.

Q8: Most interesting fact/research you discovered?

Fo: Oh, too many to list! To go back to my debut, CLAIMING THE COURTESAN, reading about the courtesans was fascinating. A strange coincidence was that after I’d written the book, I discovered a courtesan in the Regency period whose life in many ways mirrored Verity’s. Her name was Elizabeth Armistead and she married into a noble family and by all reports was a lovely, gentle, loving woman. That really made me feel that I was on the right track.

Q9: What’s your favourite Lair snack?

Fo: Paolo!

Q10: What’s in your writing cave to inspire you?

Fo: Postcards from exotic places. Books. Cups of tea. Flowers. A music system (which is why the other Banditas make me close the door!).

Watch out for the first book in the “Sons of Sin” series, SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED, which is out from Grand Central Publishing on 25th September!

Odds and Sods

by Anna Campbell

As most of you know (because so many of you very generously popped over to support me on my blog tour and various other promo efforts – thank you!), I’ve recently had a book out. MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION hit the stands on 26th April and I’ve been talking to readers all over via interviews, blogs and in person.

One question that often comes up is where do I get my ideas. And I always answer (because it’s true) that I get ideas everywhere.

To give you an example, a couple of days ago I was reading the English National Trust magazine – I have a friend who very kindly sends them to me and they’re a goldmine of quirky social history – and I came across the sort of thing that might well spark a story idea.

The National Trust has recently bought a wonderful early 18th century (well, I say wonderful but it sounds a bit creepy, frankly!) house in Northumberland in the north of England called Seaton Delaval Hall. It was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh who designed the cold but very impressive Blenheim Palace which formed the inspiration for much of Cranston Abbey in MY RECKLESS SURRENDER. By the way, Vanbrugh combined successful careers as architect and playwright – not a double that immediately comes to mind! He was also a spy and spent time in the Bastille.

Hmm, I can see a blog coming up on him too! See what I mean about ideas being everywhere? Anyway, back to my piece on Seaton Delaval Hall!

When I read about it, Seaton Delaval Hall struck me as an unlucky house. They had a huge fire in 1822 because jackdaws nested in the chimney shafts (bit more dramatic than “I went to bed with the bar heater on,” huh?). The family line died out as a series of heirs fell off the perch (for example, the original builder, Admiral Delaval had no living son and his nephew inherited) much like jackdaws in a lit chimney. After the fire, the house wasn’t inhabited until the 1980s. There’s even a ghost – a white lady who apparently pines for a Delaval heir who couldn’t marry her.

Here’s a link to the National Trust site for the house: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-seaton-delaval-hall

When I was reading this NT magazine, I came across a fascinating bit of history that really set my synapses firing. In the grounds there’s an impressive mausoleum (pictured below) containing the remains of John Seaton who died at the age of twenty. Here’s the quote:

“John, the heir of the Seatons, perished in 1775, having been kicked in a vital organ by a laundry maid to whom he was paying addresses. Thus died the last of the Delavals by the foot of a buxom slut. Over the broken remains of so much hope…his father raised a temple.”

Oh, dear! Ouch!

Not the way you want your aristocratic line to come to an end (I’d say ‘sticky end’ but that might be gilding the lily!).

Now these few lines are interesting for a whole stack of reasons.

Did she kick him where we think she did? I suspect she might have!

What happened to the maid? I haven’t been able to find out – I hope she wasn’t charged although given the power structure of 18th century England, she probably was.

Then there’s the very revealing language. Surely calling a lower-class girl defending herself against a predatory sprig of the aristocracy a ‘slut’ is a bit of a misnomer! Again, a sad indication of the position of women although I love the descriptive detail of ‘buxom’ – it gives you a vivid picture of her! More power to her left foot!

Was this action the tragic end of a long and loving relationship? Cue chance to put in a very nice picture of Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees in the POLDARK series.

Or was our heroic laundry maid like Verity/Soraya in CLAIMING THE COURTESAN before the start of her career as a courtesan? Preyed upon rather than preying upon?

More importantly, could our feisty washerwoman be the heroine of a romance novel?

You know, I think she’s got potential!

Or could our wincing would-be rake be the hero? He’d need to be a bit more robust but I could definitely imagine a bit of sparky dialogue over the washing line if we wrote him as a sexy beast.

Could our laundry maid be a runaway aristocrat? Charis without having enlisted Gideon’s help? Grace trying to make a living after they repossessed the farm? The laundry maid isn’t that far away from previous heroines I’ve written and she shares the strength of character which I like to give my girls.

At this stage, I have no intention of writing MY RECKLESS WASHING MACHINE or CLAIMING THE CLOTHES PEGS but you can see how a quirky incident like this sparks ideas that go on to spark other ideas and so on until you’ve got the basis for a book.

So while I’m digging around looking for inspiration, I’m turning to you! Do you have any quirky bits of family history – hopefully not a randy great-uncle who was done in by one of his squeezes! – that strike you as funny or strange or romantic or scandalous? Any ghosts in the family? Any skeletons? Any feisty laundry maids? Come clean, as they say in the best laundry romances!

Historical Research and Twelfth Night

posted by Nancy

Today we welcome Lair regular and debut author Barbara Monajem! Barbara’s novella, Notorious Eliza, is out from Harlequin Undone, and her single title debut, Sunrise in a Garden of Love and Evil, will be out from Dorchester this spring. Barbara’s here to chat about her love of history.

When I was a kid, we stayed up late on New Year’s Eve, and at the stroke of midnight, the whole family went onto the front porch and banged pots and pans. While staying up late was in itself a real treat, getting to make a huge racket in the middle of the night was FABULOUS. I never questioned why. It was fun, and therefore good.

It turns out we were driving away evil spirits. Whoa! How cool is that?

I never would have known if it weren’t for historical research. I love doing research,
because it leads me down so many unexpected paths, most of which have nothing to do with what I’m writing at the time. It’s like being in a maze, but instead of meeting a lot of frustrating dead ends, I meander happily from one path to another, wandering in ever-widening circles, far, far from where I began.

Then reality sets in and I go back to what I was researching, but the trip was fun. And productive! A few weeks ago, I researched wassailing in connection with a recipe blog on the Harlequin community. My goal was to find a few recipes to compare with the one I already had. Instead, I got a great history lesson and pots of fun ideas.

What sprang to my mind (before tripping in research world) was carolers in Victorian garb going door-to-door, rosy-cheeked from the nippy winter air (and perhaps the frequent imbibing of wassail to keep warm). But there’s much, much more. Wassailing has pagan origins (no surprise — don’t all fun celebrations?) and it’s been going on in one form or another for a long, long time. Door-to-door wassailing was a way of cleansing houses of evil spirits so as to start the year out right. Householders would deck their doorways with greenery. (Hence, here we go a-wassailing, among the leaves so green… Think holly and other evergreens, like we use for Christmas decorations now.) There was an exchange of sung verses at the doorway, and the wassailers would parade through the house, GOING INTO EVERY ROOM (what a cleaning nightmare for the house-proud, before and after) making a huge hullabaloo with pots, pans, musical instruments, and so on, to drive the evil spirits away.

One of my life’s great mysteries solved, all because of historical research.

In return for driving out the poor, beleaguered spirits (I can’t help but see a paranormal in this), you would feed the wassailers snacks and, of course, your home-made wassail. I won’t even start on all the bizarre ingredients your wassail might contain. Regardless, a house-wassailing scene, with all its comic possibilities, definitely belongs in a story. Or a not-so-comic situation involving thieves or smugglers, or a search for missing documents, or secret rooms where the evil spirits – or maybe irritable but well-intentioned ghosts – lurk until the foolishness is over.

Then there was the not-so-nice version, where groups of men would come a-wassailing and wreak vengeance (think curses — more paranormal stuff! — or vandalism) on anyone who didn’t give them enough to eat and drink.

Then there’s apple tree wassailing, which took place on Twelfth Night. (And still does in some locations – how fabulous is that? I would be in Somerset or Devon right now, begging to come along, if I had the time and money and guts.) It’s a night known for turning life topsy-turvy, for being the opposite of what you usually are, and for doing what you wouldn’t at any other time (which is of course ideal story fodder). Villagers selected a wassail king and queen, who would lead a procession from one orchard to another. The oldest tree in each orchard was given a taste of the wassail made from its fruit, to encourage it to produce abundantly the next year. A huge racket was made to drive the evil spirits from the trees. People got to kick back and have a grand old time before settling down to the business of the New Year. (And it was nighttime… perfect for illicit romance, as long as you could find someplace warm. 🙂

I don’t have an apple tree, but this year I’m paying homage to my antiquated pear tree, which deigns to produce now and then, and to the oaks and pecans which provide so well for our squirrels.

As for Notorious Eliza, the idea came partly from research (sort of) and partly from real life. A friend, who does fabulous trompe l’oeil work, painted scenes with a classical feel to them on his dining room walls. The same friend suggested I read William Manchester’s A World Lit Only By Fire, which contains, among other things, much mind-boggling info about the Borgias and their orgies. Put those together, and I had a ballroom with obscene murals on its walls. Add a heroine who paints nudes for a living, and a hero insisting on covering up the murals so he can marry and bring home a respectable wife, and… whee! A story which practically wrote itself.

Happy Twelfth Night and Day to you!

Barbara is giving away a $10 gift certificate at Barnes and Noble to one commenter today, so tell us: What’s your favorite obscure fact? Your favorite holiday custom, the one you can’t wait to celebrate? Or a bit of historical trivia that you were surprised to learn was true?

Chasing Grandmama….

By Jeanne Adams

I’ve been chasing my husband’s Swedish grandmother. Now doesn’t that sound exciting?

Relax, people, she’s been dead since the 1960s. I mean that “chase” thing metaphorically. You know. Genealogical chasing. I know, I know, it’s one of those crazy things I do when I’m supposed to be doing important things like laundry, or paying bills, or taxes.

Hunting the dead. Pretty serious. The Internet has made this brain-frying pasttime a lot easier, but it’s still frequently a puzzle. Take Grandma Adams, for instance. She imigrated from Sweden. Her name was Linda Carlson.

Yeah, you guessed it there were hundreds of Carlsons that came to the USA. Literally, hundreds. They came from all over Sweden. Lots and lots and lots of Carlsons. And Andersons. And Dahlstroms. And Olsons. And they named their children Gustave and Olaf and Linda and Emma.

Guess what? Those names I listed? They’re all kin in some way to Gramma Carlson Adams. And did any of them leave any trace of who they were or where they were from? Ohhhhhh, no. They came here and got jobs and got married, but they changed their names to Roy, and John, and Elle.

So, it’s kind of a puzzle. Truth be told, I actually like puzzles, which is why I do genealogy research. Of course, it’s also why I frequently tear my hair out over the aformentioned research.

Ironically, when you get to the whole Adams side of thing? Pretty easy. Just head north on I-95 to Boston. Hang a left, go to Quincy, Massachusetts and pick a graveyard. Can’t swing a dead…ancestor…without hitting an Adams relative. Lots of documentation. We genealogy buffs love that documentaiton stuff.

Of course, we have to give a nod of thanks to the Mormons too. They are wicked crazy about preserving genealogical data. They’ve almost single handedly worked to save all the Ellis Island records.

Problem is, they just store it. They don’t authenticate it or check it. There are no genealogy police, at least I don’t THINK there are…. (Of course, there supposedly are no fashion police either, but given my atavistic inability to wear white shoes after Labor Day, I believe they do exist.)

Ahem. But I digress.

Here’s the problem. People go to Ancestry DOT com, they find their family tree and voila! they import hundreds of years of data, stuff other people have posted.

Geeee, isn’t it great?

Not so much.

You see, they don’t check the facts. (Remember Joe Friday? Just the Facts?) Well, there are a ton of entries in one of my family trees where people have added “facts.” Problem is, those facts – usually extra children no one had ever found before! Wow! – aren’t cross-checked. Like, did that kid’s birthday fall before the mother turned sixty? What about the four kids on one family tree I just ran across that were born…(drum roll…wait for it…)after the mother was dead!

Miracle birth indeed.

Fact checking is important. Source documents are important. Really. Really. Important.

So, despite the temptation to accept that Lovisa Carlson who came on the ship Chrisitana out of Stockholm is Gramma, as several people have tried to suggest, I’ve resisted. I know better. I checked the dates. I checked the parents names (which, miraculously, I know!) So, nope. She’s not the one.

Its hard to reisist in writing sometimes too. You know, they show stuff on TV – surely THOSE folks did their research right? They got the science right, surely? – or someone writes something in a book and other writers copy it because, well, surely THAT author did his research, right?

Seriously, now. You don’t believe that, do you? When I was researching stuff for Dark and Deadly, I had to call my local arson investigator. After I convinced him I wasn’t a psycho – hey, it wasn’t easy, I was calling to ask him about bombs! – or a firebug, he gave me some interesting info. You can start a fire with a molotov cocktail, but you can’t really blow something up. Not really.

Hmmmmm. Not at ALL what I expected. I mean, I’d seen the shots on the movies where someone throws the lit bottle full of gasoline and BLAMMO! Turns out, you get a big whammo, but its all show. Fire. No blammo.

And that bit where someone shoots at a car and it blows up? It so doesn’t work that way. Really. You actually have to hit the battery to get that effect. Guess what? That means you actually have to know where the battery IS. I had to go look under the hood of my car to remember where it is on my car. Got another “guess what” for you. It isn’t the same on every car.

So, if you wanna shoot one? You gotta know where the battery is on that make and model. Same thing with the gas tank, which, I’ve been told is just as hard or harder to hit than the battery.

So no blammo with a bullet unless you’re really, really, really good and you have to know your cars.

Who knew?

But like the kids that get added to the Family Tree Maker and AncestryDOTcom lists after the poor woman’s dead, if you don’t check your sources, you get it wrong.

Of course, there’s also the issue of getting it totally right, but no one believes it – ask me sometime about the helicopter in the beginning of Dark and Dangerous sometime! – which is a whole different blog. Snork.

One of these days come soon, I’m going to figure out the whole Gramma Adams riddle. The information, as the X-Files likes to say, is out there. I’m pretty good at research. I’m gonna find her. And her brothers and sisters. Allllll fifteen of them. Yep. And hey, they’re dead, it’s not like they’re going anywhere! Haha! (Sorry, genealogical humor there. Oh, the other one is the bumper sticker: I brake for Graveyards, which I do)

So, what about you? Where do your people hail from?

Are they long time Americans (1600’s for my family)?

Are they Swedish? Grins.

Or, are they Irish, Scotch, Indian, Latvian or Persian? Or something entirely different?

And have you ever caught a writer in a research mistake?

Grins….c’mon…spill!

I Love My Job

By Kate

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been immersing myself in research for my new Bibliophile Mystery series. Last week, I spent two days at the annual Antiquarian Book Fair in Los Angeles, where booksellers from all over the world meet to buy, sell and trade their treasures.

I attended two workshops on book collecting and restoration, then wandered through the hundreds of stalls and kiosks perusing exquisitely bound editions of William Shakespeare and Walt Whitman and Jane Austen. There were books on display that were so ancient, they looked like petrified forest mushrooms, as well as a collection of clever, three-dimensional, accordion-style books designed by a contemporary Parisian artist. First editions of mysteries by Raymond Chandler and Earl Stanley Garner sat alongside a nicely preserved, full set of Agatha Christie’s mysteries.

Then this weekend, my research brought me to San Francisco where I spent the last two days wandering around my heroine’s neighborhood, getting the lay of the land, soaking up the local color, searching out the perfect location for a murder—or two, and driving up to Sonoma County where my heroine was raised.

Oh, and the wine tasting I attended was a necessary part of my character development. 😉

I’m also taking a two-day class on bookbinding at the San Francisco Center for the Book. That’s right, I’m not just writing a book, I’m making a book!

Shortly after I return home, I’ll be descending into the deadline cave where I’ll stay for the next month in order to finish my book. But for now, I’m writing this post while sitting at the restaurant bar, sipping a lovely cabernet and nibbling on bread dipped in olive oil as I wait for my steak and potato. Sigh. The things we do for our craft!

If you could choose the perfect spot to do research, where would you go? Are there books you choose simply because you love the setting? Do you find yourself drawn to a particular occupation of the main character? And how do you like your steak prepared? Or would you prefer the vegetarian selections? 🙂

P.S. Vote for Trish!!!

Gerri Russell on Building a Career

interview by Nancy Northcott


Your first book, The Warrior Trainer, was a January release. Now you have your second, Warrior’s Bride, on the shelves. Yet your success was a long time in coming, as you told our own Anna Campbell in the September issue of The Romance Writer’s Report. How did you persevere to reach this point?

Partly it was having faith in what I wanted, partly it was being too stubborn to give up. I had to ask myself every day if I wanted to be published. If I wanted to publish, then I had to do what it took to get there—and that was to write every day regardless of the rejections, regardless of the self-doubt that crept in every so often!

What advice would you give the new writer just starting his or her first manuscript?

This will probably sound strange coming from someone who took twelve years to sell, but don’t be in a hurry. Learn your craft, write the best book you can, and take a deep breath. Nothing happens fast in this business, so it is important to send out the very best product you can to the right publisher or the right agent. Don’t waste your opportunities by sending out a product that isn’t ready.

Both of your published novels are set in medieval Scotland. What draws you to that time and place?

The mystery, simplicity, and opulence of the Medieval and Renaissance times have always fascinated me, as have knights and heroes of old who fought for and defended what they believed in.

My family and I are all so captivated by the time period that we have worked as living history re-enactors at the Shrewsbury Renaissance Faire in King’s Valley, Oregon, for the past eight years. It’s a wonderful learning as well as bonding experience for us all.

Why Scotland? I love that the woman are not as restrained as their English counterparts. And who doesn’t love a man in a kilt, armed to defend, with a soft burr in his speech?

Both books also have mystical overtones related to stones. How did you settle upon that as a connecting thread?

That’s the funny thing about research. Once you start down a certain path, interesting things happen. I started The Warrior Trainer with no idea it would have any companion books. And as I started to research more about Scottish stones, the more stones I read about. That’s when I decided to do the Stones of Destiny Series. I chose three wonderful stones that each had remarkable histories associated with them. You’ll be reading about the Stone of Scone, the Seer’s Stone, and the Charm Stone in each of the three books.

Tell us a little about the hero of Warrior’s Bride.

Douglas Stewart is the bastard son of Robert II, Scotland’s king. His father has forced him from childhood to do his bidding, and he’s earned the name the Black Wolf of Scotland as a result. His latest demand—marriage to a woman of little consequence. Wolf would refuse his father this last demand, except that he’s holding Wolf’s brother hostage, threatening to hang him for treason is Wolf doesn’t obey.

The heroine of Warrior’s Bride is Isobel. How do she and the hero clash?

Warrior’s Bride is a traditional marriage of convenience story. Wolf and Isobel clash over their forced union. Isobel wants nothing to do with marriage, watched how marriage drove her own mother to insanity. Fearing the same end, she fights Wolf at every turn. But sometimes the heart leads even the resistant places they don’t want to go. . . .

Your route to publication was a little unusual, with your first book winning the American Title II contest. What advice would you give authors who’re thinking of entering a national internet contest?

Advice . . . or more warning . . . Be ready for the contest to totally consume your life—writing and otherwise. In order to succeed in this online venue, you need to be a master at promotion. You’ll need to be creative, willing to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, push past your comfort zone in ways you never knew you could, all while being an ultimate professional.

You’re also a two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart competition for unpublished writers, a contest that’s now open to entries. What do you think authors who are entering should know or consider?

The Golden Heart is a wonderful opportunity that gives you lots of exposure if you final. But it is critical to remember that the Golden Heart is just that, an opportunity, one that does not guarantee you will sell. Selling a manuscript is part talent, part perseverance, and part luck!

Your launch party for Warrior’s Bride benefited the Early Childhood Programs for the Bellevue School District. How did you decide to do that?

I received so much support from my community while in the American Title contest and I wanted to give something back. Literacy, at all levels, has always been a cause near and dear to my heart, so together with Barnes and Noble we arranged it so that proceeds from sales would benefit Early Childhood Programs in the local school district—programs that supported literacy.

Not only did we raise over $500 in donations from sales, but attendees also purchased books donated straight to the district exceeding the donated amount. It was an incredible evening—a memory I will treasure forever.

Thanks for being here, Gerri! Gerri is giving away one copy of each of her books. To enter the drawing, simply leave a comment on the blog. To learn more about Gerri, visit her website, www.gerrirussell.net.

What times and places do you love, and why? Has your reading ever led you down an unexpected road?

RESEARCH CAN BE FUN!

by Suzanne Welsh
As any of the Banditas or any romance author will tell you, we try to use facts to keep our books authentic. This requires research. Sometimes that is as simple as looking up a word in the dictionary. Sometimes it is as complicated as interpreting a doctor’s long-winded explanation of a disease process so that the author, and therefore the reader, can understand this over the course of a scene or a manuscript. Sometimes it’s just plain fun!

Recently another of my critique partners, Jo Davis, asked me to accompany her to a fire station in Irving to meet and take pictures (I was the photographer!) with the team of firefighters she previously interviewed for her series coming from NAL Signet next year about a team of? you guessed it, firefighters.

What was a girl to do? Say “no” to spending an entire afternoon with real life heroes? My mama did NOT raise a stupid daughter. I of course said, “sure!”

Here we two mild-mannered romance authors are walking up to the fire station, greeted by Captain Steve Deutsch, when suddenly the guys get a call to an accident out on the highway. They usher us into the station to wait for them while they climb onto the fire engine, (which we learned is not a ladder truck) and off they go.

Now when you leave two writers alone in a strange place what do they do? Well they behave for all of five minutes. We peeked into the pantry, which was loaded with things like can after can of Campbell’s soup, Gatorade, popcorn, a giant box of Oreos and the most massive canister of TUMS we’d ever seen!

Next we wander out into the engine bay where they have a second vehicle they use for chemical fires and two pontoon boats ready for hauling to the nearby lake if a call should require it. There was a treadmill out there along with a weight lifting station, with more weights than I’ve ever seen.

Our curiosity a bit satisfied, we wander back into the meeting room/kitchen and await they guys’ return. Luckily it was a minor accident and they were back fairly quickly.

Let me introduce you to the guys of A shift. Captain Steve, is a handsome, whip-cord lean man with a deep voice and a keen intellect behind wire-rimmed glasses. Wally Harris, the driver, is a good-looking man, tall and broad of shoulder. He not only drives the truck, but mans the controls for the truck’s water pumps, a job which requires skill and a knowledge of physics. Nick Franco is a firefighter, cute and happy to tell the lady writers some great stories. Not a beta man among them, ladies!

One of the things Jo wanted to learn more about was the thermal imagining camera. A fancy gizmo the firefighters use to help them distinguish different objects or bodies in dark smoky rooms or raging infernos. So once the guys returned, Wally made himself a steaming bowl of Spaghetti-O’s. (Yes the lunch of heroes!) Captain Steve pointed the thermal camera at him and showed us how it gives them the temperature of Wally’s body vs. the bowl of hot food vs. the cold bottle of water on the table. Way cool!

Another thing Jo, the ever-curious, wanted to know was what all equipment they’d take into a house fire. So the guys let her try on some of the equipment. The heavy jacket and the air-tank. (We learned it’s a tank with room-air equivalent oxygen, or about 21% oxygen, not pure oxygen. Room-air is what you and I usually breathe. As a nurse I already knew what room-air was.) Jo also had to put on the mask, and attached to all this was the thermal imaging camera, a flashlight and the radio mic. Geesh, how do these guys walk, much less crawl into and out of fires or rescue people?

Then the piece-de-resistance. Wally hooked up one of the large hoses to the engine and Captain Steve had Jo hold onto the hose. They started with 50 lbs of pressure and water came gushing out of the hose. Then the captain had Wally crank the pressure up to 100 lbs of pressure. Jo nearly flew off the concrete drive! (The captain and Nick got a kick out of that when we returned inside for another Q&A session!)

I got to ask a few questions about Meth labs for my own work in progress (WIP), and the guys gave me some stories that would frighten most of us if we knew what was really out there. Then they explained that an engine pumps water while a ladder truck has one of those big ladders with the buckets on them.

So a big thank you to the guys and Jo. I haven’t had that much fun doing research ever!
Have any of you had a great day or experience doing new research?