Finishing the Book

Writing Weather

An author’s greatest joy (besides coming up with a strong idea for a story) is finishing the book. It may take only weeks or it may take months (or years!) but there is nothing so satisfying as coming to the conclusion of that first draft of a manuscript.

I have just finished a manuscript for a regency novel which will be published sometime in 2014. It’s a sequel to the first regency I’ve written in a while, Moonlight Masquerade, which will be published by Revell Books in March.

My Baby
My Baby with all its rough edges


This story, tentatively titled Duke by Default, took me to late spring and early summer 1815, right before the final battle of the Napoleonic Wars—Waterloo. The battle looms at the edges of my story. But mainly my story concerns the season in London, a bit of botanical gardens, and lost love and new found love.

Every writing journey begins with Chapter One…

After the initial euphoria of THE STORY IDEA the hard work of getting it written begins. Then comes the next phase, which I will shortly be undertaking: reading through that rough, ill-shapen, wordy thing called a first draft and making it into a diamond of the first water, to borrow some Regency parlance. This stage involves rewriting and reworking, checking up on all kinds of facts that I just skipped over in the first draft, deciding on names for a lot of the secondary characters which I left as blanks in the first stage.

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And ends with The End.

In a month’s time, hopefully this first draft will have transformed into a wonderful love story which will keep my reader on the edge of her seat, emotionally connected to my hero and heroine, and giving a deep sigh of satisfaction when reaching The End at the last page.

 

A Suitable Match, Serial Story Section 2 and a Chance to Win

MatchCoverThis is from 2013: Catch this great serial story. To kick off our second year of celebrating Inspirational Regency fiction, we are presenting the serial story, A Suitable Match. At the end of the month we’ll be giving away a fabulous prize package filled with items tied to the story. For a chance to win, find the item mentioned in this section and leave a note in the comments. Details and a list of prizes can be found here. 

Missed an earlier section? Read it here: 1

On the road between Somerset and London
April 1818

Dropping his clenched fists to his breeches, Miles, Earl of Twiford allowed a portion of his anger to subside. The earl stood there half-blinking at the sea nymph emerging from the overturned carriage, her wild ringlets falling about her sleek neck and shoulders.

Twiford shook his head. “Miss Blackstone? Yes, it is you.” He could feel a smile tugging at his lips. More of his fury leeched away. To think he was in high-dudgeon over the near harm to his favourite Arabian team that he’d momentarily overlooked the fact that there might be passengers within the coach requiring assistance.

Yet, as he gazed upon her again something pricked his heart. Wasn’t it ironic to bemoan the loss of a perfectly matched pair: horses, people. He wiped the dust from his chocolate-kid gloves. “Are you injured?”

Her pert mouth clamped shut as if trying to contain one of her tart rebukes. She waved an overly perfumed hand his way.

Pushing aside his manservant, Twiford lifted the creature from the carriage, her slim waist fitting nicely within his grasp. He set her to her feet but not without another blast of violet scent taming the remaining heat of his nostrils.

“Knighting!” She pointed back to the carriage. “You must get my maid out of there.”

With a nod to Drake, his servant of ten years, Twiford set her request in motion. “Where are you headed in such haste? Your noddy driver recklessly cut in front of my party. I suppose he deserved to get the worst of it, but he could’ve gotten you killed.”

“My cou… my driver? Where is he?” She spun away. The hem of her muslin skirts lapped deeper in the river mud. As she marched toward the front of her vehicle, her heart-shaped face drained of all colour. Her gaze descended upon the cresting waters. “Is he…?”

Twiford strode near and almost put his hand on her shoulder. What was it about her that made him vacillate from wanting to throttle Miss Blackstone to tracing the high arch of her neck?

She turned to him with chestnut eyes flashing. “What has been done to him?” She released a shaky breath, then leveled her shoulders. “As you remember, I am not weak or helpless. Spare no truth from me.”

Twiford shifted his stance. How well he did remember. She was a lady with a character more worthy than many of his ilk. “Your driver is in my last carriage. There’s a large, well- deserved bump on his skull, but he’ll live.”

The lady swiveled and headed to his vehicle.

Before he cut in front of her or even opened the vehicle for her, Miss Blackstone thrust open the dusty door. She gasped at the miserable sight, her bloody coachman lying prostrate on the leather seat.

This time Twiford grasped her shoulders to steady her. “He just needs to be cleaned up a bit. The injury looks far worse than what it is. How a man could nod asleep on such treacherous roads is beyond my comprehension.”

Jerking away, she leaned inside and mopped the driver’s brow with a crumpled handkerchief she’d tugged from her pocket.

“Miss Blackstone, he’ll be seen to at our next stop. The George and Pelican is very near. I prom–”

A thin woman pushed past and fell at Miss Blackstone’s feet. “I’ve got your jewels, ma’am. Nothing will be missing from this part of your inheritance. But how will we make your London appointments now? We can’t miss–”

“Knighting.” With a stern look, Miss Blackstone silenced her maid. “I’ll find a way. Blackstones always find away.”

Inheritance? The miss was heading to London? A bad feeling drummed at the pit of Twiford’s stomach. He cleared his throat. “Ladies, let me be of assistance. I am stopping the night at the George and Pelican.”

Miss Blackstone squinted at him as if she looked into a mirror, then fingered her sun-kissed tresses. “Oh, my.”  Gripping bundles of her errant locks, she tamed the wild chignon. “Why are you being so helpful, my lord?”

“We can have your driver seen to at the inn to which I shall drive you,” he added.

With another quick jab of a heavy pearl pin, Miss Blackstone secured the last of her curls then stood tall. The misguided airs of a duchess cloaked about her, and the lass seemed to look through him.

“We have never been friends, my lord. Why start now?”

He toyed with the edges of his withered cravat. His sins toward her and her father mounted high. Maybe too high. Twiford swallowed his guilt and took a step toward her. Providence had a new claim to his heart. It was time to start acting upon His leading. “Miss Blackstone, it is my duty to escort you, since I’m a party to this accident, too. Perhaps the opulence of my barouche blinded your driver and caused him to lose control.”

She folded her arms. Her noble chin lifted as her countenance shifted to the maid gathering an errant garnet cloak. “Your wit is still with you, Lord Twiford.”

“Yes, as is my sense of duty.”

“Duty? Yes, you were always about duty, but I thought that was only in service to a friend.”

Perhaps frightened by Miss Blackstone’s searing tone, the Knighting woman slipped back toward the toppled vehicle with an armful of papers and muslin.

Well, he’d earned every accusatory note in the lady’s address, but this day would be different. A small token to salve the old wounds. “Madam, I must insist you allow me to escort you to the George and Pelican.”

“I suppose I do not wish to be benighted on the road. Get our things, Knighting.” Miss Blackstone marched back to her toppled gig and ran her hand along the broken ribs of the roofing. “Lord Twiford will see us to the next stop.”

“Yes, ma’am.” The maid headed to the brush scooping up unmentionables.

“My man will help. Drake, pack their things on the second carriage. Miss Knighting and Miss Blackstone will ride with me.”

“Yes, my lord.” Drake, his most loyal advocate, shook his head then followed the maid plucking possessions littering the road.

Alone with the feisty sea nymph, smelling of his favorite flower, Twiford extended his arm.

She pried away from the wreckage and put her fingers to his sleeve. Her hold was light as if it proved painful to touch him. “Escort us only to the nearest inn. I will not impose upon you any more than necessary.”

“Must you always be so willful? Can you not accept that years can change a person?”

“Forgive me.” She brushed at the specks of mud on her skirt. The scent of violets washed over him with each strike. “But I seem to remember a few choice lectures from you, my lord, about birthright, and station.”

“Well, fools know words, too.” He laid his palm atop hers. “Let me see you all the way to London. After witnessing how well your man drives, it will ease my mind to know you are safe and well in the city.”

***

This was too cruel. Cressida had hoped for a chance meeting with Lord Twiford in a fashionable drawing room at one of the Season’s soirées. As the tall, broad shouldered man handed her into his carriage, she resisted the urge to swat more mud from the skirt of her old, three-seasons-past gown. Where was a hole to hide in when one needed it?

“Miss Blackstone, are you well? You’ve a worried crease on your pretty forehead.” Lord Twiford plucked off his fine leather gloves as he reclined on the opposing bench.

“I am well.” An odd shiver coursed her spine. Twiford was as opposing and menacing as she remembered, a large raven-haired man with an assessing stare.

She licked her dry lips. “Please do not be overly concerned.” Her limbs ached. Her head pounded. Her pride surely was trampled on the floorboards. She slumped into the seat back.

Knighting leaned into her. “Such a fine carriage, Miss Blackstone. It will be a very comfortable ride.”

“Shh.” Cressida kept her voice low, but Twiford never missed anything. He was always in Chard’s confidence pointing out her flaws. She wrung her hands, then forced them to be stilled in her lap. Oh, why couldn’t he have happened upon her wearing one of Madame Touse’s new walking dresses or after Cressida’s change in circumstances had been circulated? Then maybe those wide sky-blue eyes wouldn’t be viewing her with such speculation.

She lowered her lashes, blurring Twiford’s image with the weave pattern in the Padua silk lining the walls. “My lord, thank you … for your assistance.” A yawn escaped of its own volition. “But I’m sure you’ll be glad to be rid of us.”

“On the contrary, it’s good to have company on these long treks from the country. No one usually wants to go set up the Grosvenor townhouse, just enjoy its offerings. Hopefully, my mother and sister will stay long enough to bring it around. They left ahead of me and are already at the townhouse.”

****

The carriage swayed to a stop. Cressida stretched her arms and gazed out at the well-lit inn. Pivoting to the smiling lord, she sat up straight.

Lord Twiford rolled his shoulders, then tugged on his felt top hat. His grin shone in the dim carriage light. He lifted his hand to her. “Come along. Once I’ve had an apothecary see to your coachman. I could expect you to have some charity and dine with me, along with your maid for chaperone, of course, my dear.”

* Section 2 was written by Vanessa Riley, www.christianregency.com *

Did you find the hidden item? Note it in the comments below for a chance to win. 

Don’t forget that the readers will ultimately choose who truly loves Cressida, and whom she loves in return. Already have a favorite? Go vote for him! Want everyone else to vote for him too? Grab a voting badge from the Suitable Match Extras page

What surprises do you think await Cressida at the inn? Read the next installment!

THE CONTEST AND POLL ARE NOW CLOSED. Feel free to continue to enjoy and share the story.

Retro Read: The Country Gentleman by Fiona Hill

The Country Gentleman by Fiona HillAnn Guilfoyleis a wealthy and independent young woman in Regency England, with her life planned before her. She opens her drawing room to what she considers the creme de la creme of thinking people and she intends to marry the exact right man. Then financial tragedy strikes and she finds herself 200 miles from London trying to settle herself into country life, a fate worse than death for a woman who considers herself sophisticated and intellectual. She thinks she can only mock thegentleman farmer Mr. Highet and his “gargantuan” mother. In short, Ann is a snob who thinks this country gentleman beneath her, yet when a different tragedy strikes, this one of the heart, she accepts his offer of help and her attitudes and heart begin to change.
This is not a story full of suspenseful, page-turning moments. The pace is almost as leisurely as the country life about which Hill writes. Yet the way in which Ann grows as a woman is so heart-warming, along with the love story, I have always listed this book among of my top fifty Regencies and worth the reread from time to time.
You will likely only find this sbook in llibraries or used bookstores. I’ve seen it for as little as $.01, which is a pity, and it is a quarter of a century old, definitely among the clean, sweet traditional Regencies of old, with an author who is a master character-driven storyteller.

Smuggling in Regency England

Naomi here. We’ve talked quite a bit this month about taxes and money, both current and Regency related. But one thing we haven’t looked at was how the people of Regency England felt about those taxes, and even more importantly, how the people thwarted those taxes.

Isn’t it rather interesting to know that people have been evading taxes for hundreds of years? The concept is hardly new, though the methods and means have changed through the centuries.

So, now you’re asking, how did the English population avoid all those hefty taxes? Well, not all of them could be avoided (here’s a little list of some of the more odd Regency taxes). But duties or import taxes could be easily avoided through:

Smuggling.

That’s right. Smuggling, that dastardly century-old business. England being an island and therefore surrounded by water, imported and exported all its taxable goods via shipping. There are lots of places along the English coast where sailing vessels could harbor and unload their goods away from the watchful eye of the revenue agents.

What was smuggled?

Anything that was taxed–which was pretty close to every purchasable good imaginable. Tea and brandy were two of the biggest items, but that list would also include salt, leather, soap, chocolate, fabric, and cigars.

Furthermore, during the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars, French imports were banned from England. And France made things craved by the British upper class, like silk from Lyons and lace from cities such as Alencon and Arras and Dieppe and Le Puy.

And of course brandy.

If there’s one constant in smuggling throughout the annals of history, it’s this: smugglers always deal with spirits.

Where were the goods smuggled?

Though the whole of the English coast was subject to smuggling, smuggling occurred in greatest concentration along the English Channel. A quick little jaunt to France and back allowed for smuggling en masse in this region. The County of Kent, which lies nearest France and at it’s easternmost point is separated only by a few miles of water, was a smuggling hotbed. In the 1780s, the English government burned all the sailing vessels in the town of Deal, located just north of Dover, claiming there wasn’t a single sea-worthy vessel in the harbor that didn’t engage in smuggling.

Once on land, tea and brandy and cigars and the like easily made their way to the markets in London, and the overland smuggling was so elaborate that the English people had no way of knowing whether the tea they purchased had been smuggled in. In fact, some estimate that 75% of the tea in England was smuggled in during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

How did the smugglers operate?

Answering this question gets fun and creative and more than a little interesting. The British government did try to prevent smuggling, but keep in mind, the crown needed sailing vessels (most commonly cutters) and sea-worthy men to do this. And while fighting wars with America and France, the crown didn’t exactly have the personnel and vessels to shut down smuggling operations. In fact, it’s often said that the sailors on the kings cutters were people unfit for naval service. There are all kinds of stories of sailors sleeping on duty, and being hired despite old age and missing limbs and a host of other ailments that would make fighting off quick, able-bodied smugglers rather impossible.

The crown did have a preventative service in place, with enough revenue agents that smugglers couldn’t bring a large vessel directly into a harbor and unload illegal goods in broad daylight. Smuggling vessels were often painted black with black sails, making them invisible in the night. Often times smuggling cutters and sloops would drop barrels of brandy into the channel just off the shore, and then “fishermen” would take their smaller crafts out to retrieve the brandy and send it off to London. Sometimes these smuggling cutters would have a rendezvous time and place set up, and the smaller vessels would come and unload the cutter, then return to port under the guise of fishing.

In some towns along the coast, such as Hastings and Dover and the smaller towns in between, the smugglers almost acted like a modern day gang. The smugglers looked out for one another and engaged in illegal activities with each other. Even if the law abiding citizens of the town knew of the smugglers, they’d never turn the smugglers in for fear that their houses would be burned and their families killed.

And yes, sadly, such things did happen.

In other instances, there are stories of smugglers acting out of line and hurting a good, upstanding citizen, after which, the inhabitants of the local village got mad at the injustice and called down the law.

All in all, the topic of smuggling is much too involved to delve into with a single blog post. If you’re interested in further reading on this topic, you could try King’s Cutters and Smugglers: 1700-1855 by E. Keble Chatterton. (The ebook is free.) Or Smuggling in the British Isles by Richard Platt. Platt has a great smuggling website with a lot of information as well.

And you might be interested to know, I’m going to have a rather nefarious French smuggler and his gang play a major role in the sequel to Sanctuary for a Lady. Oh the fun we writers get to have as we explore the dastardly deeds of ages past!

What? A Cover Reveal

Vanessa here,

I am so excited to announce a few things. For “The Bargain” fans, the season finale is on its way. My editor is having one more look at it to make sure it sparkles when it shows up on your Kindle. It will also be available in Paperback, too. Today, I must share with you the cover for my next serial novel that will release in January 2016.

UnveilingLove_pulled back_72

Unveiling Love:

Winning in the courts, vanquishing England’s foes on the battlefield, Bradley Norton has used these winner-take-all rules to script his life, but is London’s most distinguished mulatto barrister prepared to win the ultimate fight, restoring his wife’s love?

Amora Norton is running out of time. The shadows in her mind, which threaten her sanity and alienate Bradley’s love, have returned. How many others will die if she can’t piece together her shattered memories? Can she trust that Bradley’s new found care is about saving their marriage rather than winning the trial of the century?

It’s available on Pre-Order now at Amazon:

This story of Bradley and Amora’s is very dear. Parts of their tale made me weep. I hope it lives up to my heroes like Jo Beverly, Beverly Jenkins, and Laurie Alice Eakes who weave suspense into their sweeping romances.

 

What is a serial novel?

Unveiling Love is a serialized story or soap opera told in episodes. Each episode averages three to eight chapters, about 15,000 to 30,000 words. Each episode resolves one issue. Emotional cliffhangers may be offered, but the plot, the action of the episode, will be complete in resolving the main issue.
My promise to you is that the action will be compelling, and I will tell you in the forward the length of the episode.

 

Parlez-vous Français?

Pride and Prejudice (2005 - Photo: IMDB)

Do you speak French? Or Italian? Perhaps you can even grasp the basics of Latin or Greek?

I can claim to know enough French to be just a wee bit dangerous. I could probably read street signs or order from a café menu in Paris but beyond that, I wouldn’t be the best translator to select for your next trip abroad.  (That’d be enough to get us a meal and a trip to the Louvre, but that’s about it.) College helped some, but I never left class  truly adept at the conversational side of speaking the language that comes from years of dedicated study.

Had you lived in the Regency, you’d not have had the opportunity to partake in any state-run system of education. And depending upon your wealth and station, your access to educational opportunities could differ (and languages studies along with it). Those with less social standing could possibly attend a local charity or church-administered school but for those with means, a boarding school, trained governess (for young ladies), or skilled tutors (for young men) would have administered the education of Regency Era youths.

Though the extent to which you received a Regency education would have largely depended upon your social station and your gender, there was a larger focus on classical language studies than we might see today. In fact, you’d likely have been fluent (or at least educated) in several languages. This was customary, especially with French, as it was the language of diplomacy of the day. To review letters and first-hand accounts of life in the Regency, it is quite clear that the education (and language studies in particular) exceeded many of the expectations of our current system: “Even the letters of Regency-era females who married at seventeen are full of references to the classics, poetry, and the effortless interspersion of French.” (Regency Reader, 2006)

Since we’re talking about education this month, I wondered what it would have been like to study during the Regency Era. How would my knowledge of French stack up against the young English men and women of the day? (Alas… I fear I may have already answered my own question, but we’ll continue anyhow.)

Oxford University (Photo: University Wallpapers)

Les Hommes (Men): Young men could have been taught in the home during their early years, though it was conventional for boys to pursue more formal education once they reached school age. Usually by the age of eight, young men would attend public schools such as those in Eton, Harrow, St. Paul’s or Winchester. Studies of the Classics, Latin, and Greek were standard, as were languages such as French and Italian. (Source: Author Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency World – This book has a wealth of information on education practices for young men and women in the Regency.)

There were university opportunities for gentlemen, though it’s a misnomer that collegiate studies were only available to the wealthy or members of the aristocracy. There were scholarly opportunities for young men of intellect, especially if they could prove worthy of a scholarship. The primary universities for an English gentleman were at Cambridge and Oxford, of which men would first attend at just sixteen or seventeen years of age. And though the educational opportunities at these institutions were virtually limitless, these jaunts at the university were seen as more of a prospect to advance socially than to focus solely on academia.

If a gentleman had neither the inclination nor opportunity to attend the university, he might begin his career in the military. Here the opportunities to expand his knowledge of languages would have been likely (through travel and some ongoing study), though the danger to one’s longevity in this type of career was quite obvious.

Photo: Wiki Commons

Les Filles (Ladies):  In contrast to gentlemen, young ladies of the Regency had more limitations on their educational opportunities than their male counterparts. Though they could be sent to attend an education provided by a boarding school, there were no universities available for females. Young ladies were largely taught in the home and had education in subjects such as French, drawing, dancing, music, poetry and literature, embroidery, and basic instruction in mathematics and the geography of the globe.  As a governess may have deemed appropriate, girls could also be taught the more practical subjects of sewing, darning, the keeping of household ledgers, and in some cases, basic cookery and duties of household management.

Singing? Drawing? Dancing and the modern languages? Perhaps we’ll have to stick to ordering from that Paris café menu or hiring a professional to assist us with a tour of the Louvre? After learning a bit about the extent our Regency Era young men and women went through in their language studies, I’m not feeling so dangerous with my grasp of French any longer. But then again – we have one thing our Regency Era counterparts did not, and that would be access to a snazzy Smart Phone App that would be sure to translate just about anything we need.

What do you remember most about the language studies from your school days? (And could you help me order a pastry at a Paris café, especially if in a true emergency?)

May the light of Christ guide our days, no matter which language we speak as we walk through them.

Au revoir mes amis!

~ Kristy