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.

IMG_5221
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.

 

Catching Up with Reflections Bloggers

Inspirational Regencies Represent!

The Romance Writers of America had their annual awards ceremony this past weekend. Inspirational Regencies were well-represented when our very own Kristi Ann Hunter won the Golden Heart award for unpublished Inspirational manuscripts. You can check out the other winners, including the Rita for best published Inspirational romance at the RWA website.

Here a Book, There a Book, Everywhere a new Book!

In addition to her anticipated Regency (coming out in August!), Camy Tang just released a contemporary romantic suspense in an anthology titled Sealed With a KissShe’s also busy working on two series for next year: a romantic suspense and a regency set.

Speaking of August releases, keep an eye out for Vanessa Riley’s new Regency tale: Swept Away.

Ruth Axtell has stepped a few years past our beloved Regency to delve into the equally stunning Victorian world. Her novelette, Victorian Spring, is available now and the start to a fabulous new series.

Friend of the blog, Kristy Cambron released the first book in her WWII series. The second one comes out in April.

And a Crazy, Wonderful Life It Is

In addition to sending books out through her agent the hopefully-soon-to-be-published Susan Karsten is super busy. A son getting married, two girls headed off to college, and a 25th anniversary to celebrate make for a full and wonderful life!

Laurie Alice Eakes recently returned from the RWA conference.

 

What about you? We’d love to know what’s going on in your life!

The Parasol, a Necessary Regency Accessory, by Susan Karsten

Parasols were introduced to England from China. The earliest ones were silk and often shaped like a pagoda.

pagoda parasol

This elegant accessory was mainly to shade a lady’s delicate, fair complexion.  Jaunts through warehouses for accessories would have included buying parasols to match particular outfits.

matchy matchy

The frames were bamboo, cane, or steel. Funny for us 20th-21st century ladies to realize that suntans were extremely unfashionable until the 1920s, when Coco Chanel helped to popularize the suntan. Prior to that, only women who had to labor outdoors were tan. After the 20s, chic, wealthy women were outdoors because they alone had the leisure time for outdoor games like tennis and golf.

Bam!

Wear your sunscreen, ladies!

The First Signs of Autumn

Vanessa here,

I stepped out on my porch to a slight breeze. The air kissing my cheek had abandoned all hints of Atlanta’s signature heat. After a summer of mostly Seattle like-weather full of rain or horrid humidity, I looked up to spy rain clouds. Nothing. Only sunshine beamed overhead. I guess summer has passed. It’s autumn’s turn to color my world.

And what colors! Soon reds, yellows, oranges will surround the deep emerald greens of my evergreens.

Fall Leaves Wiki Commons
Fall Leaves Wiki Commons

In Madeline’s Protector, I used the change to warm-coloured, cozy Autumn to contrast the hero and heroine’s chilly relationship.

     If Madeline’s eyes were daggers, she’d be a widow.

“I suppose you won’t show me your hall of Hampshire sculptures.”

Her lovely jade eyes clouded, and she looked away.

He balled up his leather evening gloves. “Pray let’s start over.”

She gazed at her dainty slippers. “Why? Are you afraid to disappoint my father?”

Now that strike hit close to home. “I like to pass tests. That’s what my father impressed upon me.” Justain swallowed a deep breath. “What will it take to restore your opinion?”

She stuck her chin in the air. “To get this visit over as soon as possible.”

He peered through the window. “The leaves are starting to turn. I hope the good folks of this county take the time to admire the colours. The hillside’s striated in three shades of red. This is stunning country, not the moors of Devon, but beautiful.”

“Why are you tormenting me with a place I’ll never see?” She released a heavy sigh. “The tree roots cling to different sections of the steep ridge adding to the variety. Watch the sunset.” She pointed to the clouds. “Sometimes the sky tries to match the hues of autumn.”

Perhaps as the sun came closer to earth, it’d thaw the frost between them. “Magnificent,” he said. It was simply beautiful. “God’s paintbrush, I think you called it.”

I asked my brethren, my fellow Regency writers, what lets them know Autumn has arrived, and they were kind enough to share:

Naomi Rawlings

Trees - Wiki Commons
Trees – Wiki Commons

The first sign of autumn for me is the leaves changing. We almost always have cool
nights and warm days where we live, but it seems as though the leaves start
changing the beginning of September. Right now, half the leaves across the road
are already yellow. School starting is another good indication. In Michigan,
school doesn’t start until after Labor Day . . . right about the time I notice
the first bit of color on the trees.

Personal Note: Why does school start so early? Back in my day….
Susan Karsten

For my family, fall arrives on the heels of an interesting weather phenomenon. Almost every year, there’s a day on which we feel fall arriving. The scenario is this: we’ve had week after week of hot (80s or more) weather, then we’ll have an out of the blue cold/cool day. Sometimes the cool day has come while we are at the lake. On those occasions, we somberly ride around on our boat, feeling summer slip away and remarking on it.

Boating in Autumn Wiki Commons
Boating in Autumn Wiki Commons

For me, individually, fall arrives when I notice crunching leaves underfoot. That takes me back to the days when I walked to and from school, crunching through elm leaves. Other signs around here are the apple orchards opening their salesrooms, the Canada geese assembling at the nearby wetlands, and for my husband’s business, there’s often a flurry of activity in the real estate business around this time.

Apple Orchard - Wiki Commons
Apple Orchard – Wiki Commons

Kristy Cambron

The first sign of fall for me is not Regency
related. I admit that I love a good college football game and when my team takes the field for that first game, autumn is officially here! It’s okay to
break out the sweaters, drink apple cider, and write books where heroines walk through a fiery-skied and leaf-blown twilight! : )

 

 

 

Laurie Alice Eakes

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year. Only one of my books is set over the summer, to autumn time, and they, as I do, look for the way the days cool off sooner and get hot later, especially since I moved to Texas. I love the way the breeze goes from hot, to a hint of coolness. Back in Virginia, the humidity dropped and the smell of the air turned crisp. I haven’t yet noticed a difference in the fragrance to the air here (in Texas).

Kristi Ann Hunter

Happy Birthday Wiki Commons
Happy Birthday Wiki Commons

For me, the first sign of fall is a sense of new beginning. I moved around a lot growing up so when the weather turned cold always changed, but the new start was always there.

Even though I’m out of school there is still a sense of the new year actually starting in September. Could possibly maybe have something to do with my birthday…

 

 

 

Do you love Autumn? Share an Autumn memory with us, then get out and enjoy the colors.

A New Regency

What does it feel like to be on the brink of having a new regency published?

For a writer, it’s a mix of emotions when she gets back the galleys from an editor. Likely the author hasn’t looked at this manuscript in at least six months if not longer, and by this time, she is deep into another story. Chances are she’s written or edited more than one story since writing that manuscript.

So, the emotional link to that story is gone. It will hopefully be revived as she puts aside whatever other works in progress she has, and dives back into the story that is on a publisher’s schedule.

At this stage, the author must be able to accept an editor’s changes or suggestions–not always easy, since she has turned in a polished work. Now, the author reads an outsider’s opinion of her work. Didn’t they get it? Why don’t they like my hero/heroine/plot device/fill in the blank?

One must realize one’s editor is not one’s enemy, but a friend who wants to see the best possible story before it goes public.

So, bite the bullet and analyze one’s characters as dispassionately as one is able to at this point, and then try to make any changes necessary.

I’m down to the final twenty pages of this process before the manuscript gets emailed back to the editor. The next time I see my story, it will be only for a final proofreading. Then a few months later, it will be the real thing, available to readers.

It’s a long process from initial idea to final product, whether one self-publishes a book or has it published through a publisher. Lots of birth pains in the process. But what a relief to read a story that flows, where the characters are believable and the plot escalates, keeping the reader reading.

I hope my next regency, A Heart’s Rebellion, will prove such a story.Axtell_final

The Steward ~Guardian of the Noble Estate (farm), by Susan Karsten

Do we. as regency readers, fully understand how, and from where, the wealth of the average wealthy nobleman arose? Mostly, from farming. Yes, there were those who had ships, investments, mines, you name it, but farming the family land was the most common way to wealth that I am aware of. Some lords were good managers of their estates, but even the good managers needed stewards, especially when they owned multiple agricultural estates and spent much time in London.

Picture an estate of as large as 11,000 acres. For the owners to have any leisure-time, they needed to employ a ‘right-hand man’ to look after the management of the estate. The man in question was the agent or land steward.

 Duties: The estate had a number of heads of departments, such as the head gardener, head gamekeeper, etc. The agent was responsible for all of these departments, paying the wages of the workmen and keeping regular logs and accounts of work done. He kept a detailed set of books recording repairs to buildings, fences or roads, as well as information regarding game, livestock and crops. He was also in charge of collecting the rent from the estate’s tenants, and for this reason he could be an unpopular figure.

The agent  spent a lot of his time touring the estate on horseback, dealing with tenants and estate workers face to face. He was required to keep a terrier, a book recording the boundaries and tenancies of the land, which included the rent roll. A good agent needed a head for figures, meticulous record-keeping skills, an all-round knowledge of farm work and land maintenance, and an aptitude for dealing with people. That the job could be dangerous is clear from records of assaults on agents by tenants, and at least one steward murdered on an estate.

A steward’s house near the main gate of an estate.

The most important position on an estate was the steward, who was the chief administrator and, in earlier times, the lord of the manor’s deputy. The steward wielded considerable executive authority.  He transacted all the legal and other business of the manor estate, kept the court rolls, etc.

The steward was usually resident on the Estate.  The steward was responsible for finding tenants for farms, negotiating leases, recommending and supervising improvements, and collecting and disbursing estate revenues His influence certainly also extended into the domestic realm of the estate.

Those of us who write, or read regencies, can easily see how the dishonest steward often crops up as a plot element in our fiction.  They can be made into a convenient villain.

For the most part, however, they were honest men, working for a living, surely taking pride in the nurturing of the property.

Have you ever read a regency with a lordly hero disguised as a steward? Any regencies with wicked stewards? Please respond in the comments. Thanks, Susan

Market Towns: The Mall of the Regency

Kristi here. Imagine for a moment that you are a resident in a small town in Regency England. You have a small garden, perhaps a farm. Maybe you are in trade and live in town. No matter where you live, one thing is sure: At some point you are going to want or need something and you’ll have to buy it from someone else.

Where would you go if you needed a few more chickens or a bushel of apples? The market, of course.

If you lived in a large town, such as London, there were several markets to choose from, open all week long. But, if you lived farther out, you had to travel to a market town.

New charter (1553) replacing the original charter (1196) and allowing the town of Stratford on Avon to hold weekly markets.  Click picture for more details.
New charter (1553) replacing the original charter (1196) and allowing the town of Stratford on Avon to hold weekly markets. Click picture for more details.

Market towns had existed in England for centuries. There were, in fact, strict rules as to which towns could hold a market and which couldn’t. Towns had to apply for a royal charter if they wanted to hold a weekly market. If a market town already existed within a day’s walk (there and back) the town could not hold a market.

Chichester Market Cross
The Market Cross in Chichester (Wikimedia Commons)

Many towns had a market cross in the middle of the designated area. The actual meaning of the crosses is unknown and theories are as varied as the cross designs. Possibly the religious landmark was to curry God’s favor on the proceedings. It could also have stood as a reminder to the vendor and the buyer to deal fairly with one another. Still another option is that it hearkened back to the original, informal markets that grew up on the grounds around the churches.

Whatever the reason, some of these market crosses became very elaborate, more along the lines of pavilions or buildings than mere religious icons on a tall pillar. Some towns even constructed their roads with the markets in mind. One example is Stow on the Wold in Gloucester whose narrow side streets were designed to make managing herds of sheep easier.

Since many people lived spread out across rural England, market days (typically Saturdays) were their only opportunity to acquire what they needed, unless they could go directly to someone local to barter or buy. Farmers and craftsman would bring their wares to town and set up stalls along the extra wide main streets.

Norwich market
Norwich Market, 1799 (Wikimedia Commons)

As leisure travel increased in the Georgian era, some market towns, such as Norwich, became fashionable shopping destinations. Permanent stores grew up around the market places, but transitional and temporary stalls were still used for the weekly market.

Today, many of these towns still hold a weekly market, though you’ll more likely find purses and technology accessories than a chicken and a sheaf of wheat.

 

I went to the Regency Ball and all I got…

Vanessa here,

I’m still in high cotton (Southern Phrase for High Ropes) and very tired after last week’s conference bonanza. I was privileged to attend the national conference for Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the conference of one its specialty chapters, the Beau Monde.

Beau Monde Pin
Beau Monde Pin

The Beau Monde chapter focuses on all things Regency.  It was started in 1993 and attracts members worldwide. This year in lovely sweltering Atlanta the conference kicked off on Tuesday, July 16  (bag stuffing with tons of swag goodies) and then held a series of workshops on Wednesday, July 17.

I am always impressed by the caliber of the knowledge of the classes and these were no exception. From the Grand Tour with Regina Scott, Military History with Susanna Fraser, The Underworld with Erica Monroe, Playing Whist, and Regency Dancing, and so much more, I well pleased.

 

Amy Pfaff, Candace Hern, Vanessa Riley enjoying a session.
Amy Pfaff, Candace Hern, Vanessa Riley enjoying a session.

I bought the conference recordings. This much knowledge has to be replayed over and over again.

Now, I made a promise and a competition with my readers to choose the pattern and style of the Regency ball gown I would make for this conference. Begrudgingly, I stuck with it. I was able to finish it with a few hours to spare.  Thank you for not choosing the harder pattern.

Before you ask: I used a sewing machine, I’m a Regency Chick not a masochist. While I did not use a zipper, a twentieth century tool may have been involved in closing the gown (Velcro – think lots of tiny hooks).

Vanessa's Finished Ball Gown of Grey Silk Taffeta
Vanessa’s Finished Ball Gown of Grey Silk Taffeta

I have a lot of images and video of Regency dancing at the Soiree that I’m still sorting through but I thought I’d leave you with some images of the conference:

Laurie Alice Eakes in a burgundy and floral ball gown. We went to our book signings in these dresses.
Laurie Alice Eakes in a burgundy and floral ball gown. We went to our book signings in these dresses.
Kristi Hunter and I enjoying the music.
Kristi Hunter and I enjoying the music. Thanks for making me dance.
The professional Regency Dancers getting ready to teach the steps to the dances.
The professional Regency Dancers getting ready to teach the steps to the dances. Do they know what they are in for?
More Beau Monde Beauties
More Beau Monde Beauties

photo3

Ella Quin, one of the fabulous conference organizers.
Ella Quin, one of the fabulous conference organizers.
Erica Monroe and I took a turn about the hotel. Onlookers called us princesses.
Erica Monroe and I took a turn about the hotel. Onlookers called us princesses. Didn’t have the heart to correct the titles. 🙂
The dancing was quite strenuous and moved quickly. How did they have time to talk? How were they not winded?
The dancing was quite strenuous and moved quickly. How did they have time to talk? How were they not winded?

I went to the Beau Monde and left with sore limbs and a bunch of new friends. Oh, and my dignity. The dress looked perfect and held together.

Be blessed.

Vanessa Riley is the author of Madeline’s Protector.

If all young men leapt off a cliff, Madeline St. James wouldn’t care. Yet a chance meeting and a bullet wound change everything. She must trust that the Good Shepherd has led her to marry a dashing stranger, Lord Devonshire. Can they forge a true bond before the next disaster strikes?
See the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2OnXfFNwps – See more at: http://www.christianregency.com

 

An Article All About… You!

It’s the first official day of summer! As we all know, summer is a time of freedom and fun, which occasionally leads to forgetting something.

Which we did.

We forgot to schedule a post today.

So we’ve decided to let you write the post! We always want to get more acquainted with our readers so that we can provide the kind of blog you want. Take a few moments and answer the questions below so that we can make Regency Reflections the best blog it can be.

Thanks!

Kristi Ann

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And You Think Your Street Needs Repairs

And You Think Your Street Needs Repairs

To go on holiday, or even to market from farm or country house, the Regency traveler needed to make that journey on what were called roads, yet usually resembled nothing more than rutted tracks. In other words, the roads in Regency England barely managed to qualify for that nomenclature.

Roads were made of stones roughly broken into the size of bricks and laid in a bed of earth. They weren’t crowned (higher in the middle). Imagine the disaster that caused in a wet country like England, especially in the winter. Rain fell. Mud oozed between those stones, and the stones shifted, creating ruts and an unstable surfaces over which horses stumbled and coaches bounced. In many counties such as Cornwall, the roads simply did not exist beyond mere tracks. Around Bristol, the roads became impassible in the winter.

ipostch001p1

As a result of these bad roads, coaches often turned over, causing injury and even death to the passengers. Bridges collapsed under the weight of coaches, plunging the occupants and their luggage into the rivers below. And no passenger could count on actually riding the entire journey. Often they had to exit the coach and walk so the horses could haul the vehicle up a muddy or rutted incline. In winter, passengers sometimes froze to death in unheated coaches, as the conveyance slogged through frozen ruts of mud or over ice-slick stone.

Dilapidated bridge photo courtesy of Angela Breidenbach
Dilapidated bridge photo courtesy of Angela Breidenbach

Then Thomas Telford came along. From 1815, to 1829, he improved the road between London and Holyhead at the cost of 1,000.00 pounds per mile. His road was grated with a slope from crown to edge to ensure drainage. Stones about ten inches deep were laid upon this surface. He laid stone chippings atop this layer. Finally, a steam or horse-drawn roller compressed the top layer. The chippings compressed thus locked into a smooth mass.

John Macadam improved on this technique even further. Macadam used hand-broken stones around six ounces apiece to form a thin layer. Traffic itself compressed these angular stones into a smooth surface.  Or, if one still did not wish to travel on the uncertainty of the roads, one could take a canal boat to many locations.

My thanks to the wonderful traditional Regency author Emily Hendrickson (www.emilyhendrickson.net) for allowing me to use much of her research on road conditions and improvements in the Regency.