March 10, 2014

Writing Process: A Blog Hop

Posted in author, blog hop, books, interview, NaNoWriMo, reading, writing at 2:47 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Tinney Heath, author of A Thing Done, invited me to participate in this blog hop and answer four questions about my writing process.

What are you working on?  Presently, I have two projects going:

Snow White and the Queen is a middle-grade fantasy novel, offering a new twist on the traditional fairy tale. Hidden from the Queen and raised in the dwarf kingdom, Snow White leaves the kind but memory-challenged dwarfs to discover her identity.  Mischievous elves, a devoted will-o-wisp and a loggerheaded huntsman all help Snow White become what she was always destined to be.  I finished the first draft of this story in January. I’m on my third or fourth revision. I hope to be sending it out soon.

The Stepsister is a steam-punk Cinderella story narrated by Drusilla, who is so obsessed with science and her father’s death that she is oblivious to the daily doings of the rest of her family. It’s the Cinderella story, told from a new perspective, with surprising plot twists that come, in part, from the steampunk world.  I’m about half-way through the first draft.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

My fairy tales offer more in the way of character development than that found in traditional fairy tales.  When I read, I am most interested in character, and when I write it is the same.  I focus on the development of personality, which then makes the behaviors of characters both understandable and believable.  Although I follow the basic fairy tale plot, both of my stories include additional conflicts and subplots which, I hope, give the stories more depth and make them more interesting.

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I would like to read.  I love adaptations of fairy tales, so I wanted to try my own hand at that.  My favorite of these so far is Marissa Meyer‘s The Lunar Chronicles, which I recommend to everyone.  I love historical fiction too, and my first three novels are all in that genre.

How does your writing process work?

I write linearly.  First chapter, second chapter, on and on to the end.  In my head, I know the big scenes and what will happen at the end, and I write to those places.  I have both electronic files and paper notes in which I keep my tentative outline, research details, and other things that I don’t want to forget.

I work best when I have a block of two or three hours to write.  Unfortunately, as a teacher and a mother, I don’t get those blocks of time every day.  My goal is one afternoon or one morning a week.  Each semester, that is a different day, and I try to schedule and stick to that block of time. No cleaning, no errands, no appointments.  Three hours, once a week is for writing.  The rest of the week, of course, I think about the story I’m creating. Walking to work, I think.  Lying in bed, I think.  In the shower, in the pool, in the car driving my children to all their activities, I think.  When my writing time comes, I’m ready to go.

In between those blocks of time, I sometimes do revisions and small additions to what I’ve already written.  These quick-edits can be done in a shorter time period and they keep my story pretty clean.

In my once-a-week writing session, I average about 1000 words.  This isn’t much, but it adds up over time.  My adult novels each took about three years to write. My children’s stories have taken less time.

In November, I participate in NaNoWriMo, which increases my word count considerably.  I devote more evening and weekend time to writing, and spend less time cleaning, cooking, and being with my family.  Since it is only one month a year, I don’t feel as guilty.

The Blog Hop

tinneyMany thanks to Tinney Heath for tagging me. Tinney’s A Thing Done, tells the story of the  jester who became a pawn in the feud between two noble families in thirteenth century Florence. Her story is suspenseful, beautifully written, with exquisite historical detail.

I now tag Anna Belfrage and Christopher Cevasco, whose writing processes I look forward to reading about.

anna belfrageOn March 17, visit Anna Belfrage:
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing and time-consuming interests, namely British History and writing. These days, Anna spends almost as much time writing and researching as she does working, which leaves little time for other important pursuits such as cooking and baking.
Anna Belfrage is the author of The Graham Saga – so far five of the total eight books have been published. Set in seventeenth century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, The Graham Saga tell the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him.
Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.

chris cevascoOn March 31, visit Christopher Cevasco:
Christopher writes fiction inspired by history. His short stories have appeared in Black Static and the Prime Books anthologies Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War and Zombies: Shambling through the Ages, among numerous other magazines and anthologies. From 2003 to 2009, he was also the editor/publisher of the award-winning Paradox: the Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction.  He is seeking representation for a recently completed historical thriller about Lady Godiva and is currently working on a novel of English resistance and rebellion in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest.

Learn more about Christopher at his website: http://www.christophermcevasco.com/blog/

February 1, 2014

Author Interview: Marci Jefferson

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 5:37 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

marciToday I’m welcoming Marci Jefferson to my series of author interviews. Marci is the author of Girl on the Golden Coin, a novel of Frances Stuart, which will be released February 11th. I met Marci at the Historical Novels Society Conference I went to in June, and I’m pleased to have her join me here today.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Marci.

Marci: Elizabeth, it was wonderful to finally meet you in person in June and I’m delighted to be your guest today! Thank you for having me, and for helping me get the word out there about my debut novel.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us a little about Frances Stuart and your novel, The Girl on the Golden Coin?

marci bookMarci: Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war. Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

Elizabeth: What first attracted you to Frances as a main character?

Marci: I first learned about the Royal Stuarts during a stay in London over a decade ago. Someone happened to point out the Banqueting House, stating that’s where Charles I was beheaded. Since, up to that point, I thought kings ordered all the beheadings, I felt compelled to study the Royal Stuarts independently, to understand their fascinating rule. Frances Stuart initially stood out as a woman who embraced her personal liberty in defiance of kings. A few years later I read The Other Boleyn Girl and became obsessed with the desire to do for the Stuarts what Phillippa Gregory had done for the Tudors. I picked up my independent studies again and soon realized Frances Stuart’s independent streak matched the collective spirit of the Restoration age. Since she also happened to be the model for Britannia, I realized there was no better subject for a novel of Restoration England.

Elizabeth: It seems I read somewhere that Frances Stuart was a bit of an airhead.

Marci: I’m certain you did read that! But reading her letters you realize that just wasn’t true. At first I saw her as many historians saw her, as a simple girl who eloped to avoid sleeping with King Charles II. When I read what the French ambassadors and poets and diarists thought of her, I realized she was a very complex person. As I studied the historical events and the kings she interacted with, I realized how close she was and how involved she might have been. By the time I finished the book and realized the sacrifice she made might have saved England from disaster, I had developed a deep respect for Frances Stuart. She was very intelligent, but I believe it suited her purpose to let people underestimate her.

Elizabeth: You did a great deal of research to write this story. Were there certain areas in which you allowed your imagination and creativity to run free?

Marci: Yes, Elizabeth, sometimes I let that research take over my life! But I’m glad you ask about imagination. Believe it or not, I had to push my imagination into overdrive for each and every scene. For each historical fact I learned, I uncovered a new set of questions. It is one thing to know what happened, but another to decide how it made a character feel, and yet another to make the reader feel it through the right choice of words. I couldn’t let Frances Stuart walk down a hall without knowing if her footsteps would echo or fall softly into carpet, whether she was nervous or bored, how the walls looked and even what it smelled like. You can’t glean that sensory or internal detail from floor plans or historical records. Even after years of research, this is ultimately a work of fiction, and therefore a heavy dose of my own imagination.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process or schedule?

Marci: I work part time as a Registered Nurse, so most of my writing is done on my days off. This is much easier now that both of my kids are in school. Other than that I squeeze it in whenever I have a chance. Thankfully my husband and children have been very patient with me.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us what you are working on now?

Marci: A novel about Marie Mancini, who was Louis XIV’s first love. It will be royally wicked!

Elizabeth: Sounds intriguing. Enough about your writing—tell us about yourself.

Marci: Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing myself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, I realized I’d neglected my passion for history and writing. I began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught my fancy. The plot for Girl on the Golden Coin evolved slowly after a trip to London, where I first learned about the Stuart royals. I am member of the Historical Novel Society. I reside in the Midwest with my husband, making hair-bows for our daughter, trying not to step on our son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Marci: Tea all the way and every day!

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Marci: Ocean

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Marci: Shopping

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Marci: Violin

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Marci: Fantasy

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Marci: Darcy

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Marci: Death is easier to write, but love is easier to read.

Thank you, Marci, for visiting.

You can learn more about Marci Jefferson and her book, Girl on the Golden Coin, at  www.marcijefferson.com or follow her on Twitter: @marcijefferson

Girl on the Golden Coin is available at:

Barnes & Noble

Books a Million

IndieBoundAmazon

January 1, 2014

Best Books of 2013

Posted in author, books, reading, writing at 12:58 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

2013 was an excellent year of reading for me, one of the best in recent memory. I read 111 books last year, finally surpassing 100, my goal since I started keeping track of my books each year.

Normally, I list my favorite books in the order that I read them, but last year was a year in which I discovered some new  (to me) authors, so I’m going to start with these wonderful writers.

First, I discovered Susanna Kearsley, writer of time-slip historical love stories. Her books are beautifully written with wonderful characters, in interesting historical time periods, and clever ways of getting modern-day heroines to discover or re-live past events. The books I read by Susanna Kearsley this year were The Rose Garden, The Winter Sea, Shadowy Horses, The Firebird, and Mariana. Mariana is probably my favorite although it is a close call with The Winter Sea, which you need to read before The Firebird which is perhaps in third place. Or maybe it’s a three-way tie. Wonderful, wonderful books that leave you floating on a cloud of contentment. The emotion I felt at the end of Mariana was so powerful I actually burst into tears, I was so overwhelmed. She’s still alive and writing, and I’ll be reading everything she publishes.

Next, I discovered Georgette Heyer, a writer who published in the 1930s-1960s. Her books are Regency “romances” and I use that term to show that the love story is central plot but neither Kearsley nor Heyer have detailed sex scenes and they are not “sleazy” romances. Heyer’s books are hysterically funny, and nearly always involve getting the heroine and her love interest into a tangle that seems impossible to unwind. The situations are clever and funny – they remind me of Shakespeare comedies or 18th century French drama. I read everything our public library had by Heyer and got some for my Nook as well: These are her books I read in 2013: April Lady, Sprig Muslin, The Nonesuch, Arabella, Bath Tangle, Black Sheep, The Corinthian, A Civil Contract, Cotillion, Frederica, Friday’s Child, The Grand Sophy, The Reluctant Widow, Sylvester, The Unknown Ajax, The Black Moth, and Envious Casca. I read them so fast, one after another, that I can’t remember which is which. I most likely will re-read some of them. What a pleasant thought!

Marissa Meyer is the other author I discovered this year. She doesn’t have a lot of books under her belt (she’s younger than me by quite a bit), but what she’s written so far is spectacular. She is the author of the Lunar Chronicles. The first book in the series is Cinder, a science-fiction re-telling of the Cinderella story. The second book is Scarlet, which continues the Cinderella story while adding elements of the Little Red Riding Hood story. These books are aimed at the female young adult market, but if you don’t read them because of that, you are missing out. My boys and husband enjoyed them. Fast-paced, funny, and really, really clever. The third book of the Lunar Chronicles comes out in February. Cress adds a Rapunzel-like character to the story. The final book of the series is Winter and won’t be released until 2015. When she’s finished with the Lunar Chronicles, I’ve read that Meyer is under contract to write the story of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. She’s an incredibly talented writer. I can’t wait to follow her career.

As this blog has started to go long, I’m attempting one-sentence summaries for the rest of the books.

Other Young Adult titles that made my list:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Can a book about teens dying of cancer be funny and uplifting? Yes, it can.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by by Mary E. Pearson

In the near future, a dying teen is given new life, illegally, by her parents who save ten percent of her original brain and put it into a fabricated, superior body. Deep philosophical questions about self and morality handled in an exciting story.

Children’s books. Don’t overlook a book because it is intended for children. Some of the best books I read each year are marketed to children but are worthy of an adult audience.

Splendors and Gloom by Laura Amy Schlitz

Historical fantasy set in 19th century London pitting orphans and a rich girl against a sorcerer puppeteer and an enchantress. Exciting and clever. A Newbery Honor book.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a captive gorilla who gives a death-bed promise to save a baby elephant. This book is so beautiful that I am almost in tears remembering it. The first-person voice of Ivan is brilliantly constructed. 2013 Newbery Award winner.

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

What happens when a squirrel survives being vacuumed? It gets superpowers, of course. DiCamillo wins again with quirky characters and creative storytelling, incorporating protagonist Flora’s favorite comic book format into parts of the action.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

When her father goes missing and robbers destroy their home, a young girl tries to solve the mystery from the homeless shelter where they now live. Mix in clever clues and the poetry of Langston Hughes, and you’ve got a book that is gripping, smart, and eye-opening.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I re-read this twice a year with the my children’s literature class and it gets better with every reading. If you’ve never read it, you should. The 19th century language takes a little getting used to, but the story is a classic for a reason. Long John Silver is a brilliantly created character and if the plot twists are easy to follow it’s only because they’ve been copied by other writers for the past 150 years.

Adult novels:

A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

This book was criticized by many, but I found the writing incredible. Rowling’s characters are brilliantly drawn and there are so many of them! The story itself is hard to read because of the painfully honest way she portrays everyday personal conflict. It isn’t Harry Potter, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Taken on its own terms, it is very nearly perfect.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

In the late 19th century, three sisters try to survive on the meager wages they earn in the ballet school of the Paris Opera. Each of them has different dreams and designs for achieving them. Their characters are well drawn and intriguing. Dance, pain and poverty, love and sex, and finally, a murder, make this a gripping read.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

This is the story of the servants who work for the Bennet family of Pride and Prejudice. Austen’s story is but a shadow against this new novel, mirroring, only slightly, the events taking place among the servants. The story could have been dark and bitter, profiling as it does the difficult lives of the lower class, but Baker makes clear that love and hope exist for everyone.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This story is narrated by the 13-year-old son of a Native American who is brutally raped not far from home. His parents disappear as parents and the boy seeks to understand the crime, discover the criminal, and revenge his mother. Erdrich so perfectly captures the mind and actions of a teenage boy. Painful, gripping, exquisitely written.

Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go

As I was reading, I thought it was one of the best books of the year. It is a dual time period piece following a modern-day character who must discover if he is a descendant of a certain woman in order to inherit a fortune—but he must discover this in a certain time period. The other story follows the beautiful but doomed love story of the woman who might be his great-grandmother. Fast-paced story, intriguing characters, absolutely horrible ending. Or is it? I wanted so much to talk to someone about the ending, but nobody I know has read this book.  So, read this fascinating story and let me know what YOU think of the ending.

Adult Nonfiction

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

This isn’t the most well-written book, but I found it utterly fascinating. In his auto-biography, Daniel Tammet, an autistic-savant and a synesthete who recited 22,514 digits of pi and who was able to learn the Icelandic language in a week, writes about his life, his abilities and his disabilities.

Well, my summaries lengthened as I wrote, but I guess that’s OK. I hope I’m given you some titles for your TBR pile. Let me know what you think.

Wishing you a happy New Year and a 2014 full of good reading!

December 7, 2013

Book Release and Interview: A.M. Bostwick

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 12:00 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

abigail bostwickYou are invited to the book release party of The Great Cat Nap by A.M. Bostwick and published by Cornerstone Press. This event is  Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30pm at the CPS Cafe on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

I’m going to be there, and I hope you will too. Come, bring a friend, buy a book, listen to the author talk, eat some cookies—it’ll be a lot of fun. I’m lucky to have the author with me on today’s blog. The A in A.M. Bostwick stands for Abigail. Welcome, Abigail!

Abigail: Thank you for having me, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth: Tell us about your book.

abigail bostwick coverAbigail: The Great Cat Nap is a middle grade novel, all told from the point-of-view of a cat. Ace is the feline companion of an editor at a small town newspaper in Lakeville, Wisconsin. When famous show cat, Ruby the Russian, goes missing, Ace is on the story. But Ace bites off more than he can chew when he agrees to play amateur detective and find the lost show cat. Ace has to call on his feline friends, a few dogs, and even a couple bad-tempered rodents in an effort to solve the case. He’ll need to break a cat out of the pound for priceless information and fight a single-pawed battle with animal smugglers to get answers! Ace likes his milk neat, and his jelly donuts thick with icing. My hope is that this book will appeal to not only adolescents, but mainstream mystery readers, feline and animal enthusiasts as well as adventure lovers.

Elizabeth: Where did the idea come from?

Abigail: Well, I’ve always been an animal lover. Some of my earliest memories involve cats or dogs! And some of the first stories I ever wrote as a child were about cats. When I first sat down and seriously tried to write a book, I wanted to have fun with it. I wanted to escape. I drew on my experience as a lifelong cat owner (my own black cat, Boots, inspired Ace) as well as my years as a newspaper reporter to write this novel.

Elizabeth: Did you have to do much research to put the story together?

Abigail: Not a lot! I already knew a lot about small town newspapers, politics, hard crime and felines! Not to mention dogs and their relationship with cats. After that, it was a lot of creativity and imagination – thinking about how a cat might react to situations differently than a human might, how their relationships work to humans and animals and what they would do if they had strong motivation to solve a problem.

Elizabeth: Is this your first experience being published?

Abigail: It is! And it is so thrilling!

Elizabeth: Have you written anything else?

Abigail: I have. I began writing as a child. I’ve always been an avid reader and a writer. Earlier this year, I submitted my first manuscript to agents. I signed with a great one, and am currently working on revisions for a young adult novel to be submitted to publishing houses in 2014. Another novel I wrote earned an award in a contest from the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America earlier this year. As a writer, Ace was my first character, though The Great Cat Nap was not the first novel I wrote. The first novel I wrote was terrible! However, it taught me a lot about not only the writing process, but MY writing process.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Abigail: Staple myself to the chair! I do my best writing in the early morning, usually at my office desk or with my laptop on the sun porch in summer. Getting into my character’s heads is one of my favorite things about the writing process. I spend a lot of time trying to understand what they want, what drives them. Seeing the world through their perspective. I do love characters who get into trouble! I also read a lot. If you want to learn to write, I feel you need to read. And read everything – the great, the good and the bad. Take it apart, find what works and what doesn’t.

Elizabeth: What can you tell me about working with the student-run publishing house Cornerstone Press?

Abigail: It’s been fabulous! I can’t tell you how much it means to have my first-ever novel published by the very university that I graduated from. It’s been a real honor, and so humbling to have my manuscript chosen out of so many. The students and staff have been so supportive, encouraging and wonderful to work with. A real class act.

Elizabeth: Enough about your book, tell us about yourself.

Abigail: I’m a writer, reader and a runner. Besides writing, my other love in life is art. I also adore animals, and spending time with my family and my friends. I live in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where I am an occasional contributing writer for the Tomahawk Leader and live with my husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Abigail: Tea.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Abigail: Ocean.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Abigail: Depends on my mood!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Abigail: Piano.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Abigail: Goodness…depends on my mood! Again, I love both!

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Abigail: Heathcliff.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Abigail: Death scene.

If you’d like to learn more about Abigail Bostwick and her The Great Cat Nap, come to the book release party: Thursday, Dec 12, 6:30, CPS Cafe, UWSP.

You can order copies of The Great Cat Nap from Cornerstone Press or buy them at many central Wisconsin bookstores.

Contact Abigail at Abigail.bostwick at gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @bostwickAM.

Don’t forget: Come to the book release party for Abigail Bostwick’s The Great Cat Nap: Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30pm at the CPS Cafe on the UWSP campus.

December 1, 2013

Author Interview: Cindy Thomson

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 2:07 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

cindy headshotToday I’m welcoming Cindy Thomson to my series of author interviews. Cindy is the author of  Grace’s Pictures, the first in the Ellis Island series of Christian historicals. Brigid of Ireland was her first historical novel and tells the story of a pagan girl embracing Christianity in 6th century Ireland. Cindy is also the author of two nonfiction books: Celtic Wisdom: Treasures from Ireland, and co-author of Three Finger: the Mordecai Brown Story.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Cindy. Can you tell us about your most recent novel, Grace’s Pictures?

cindy book coverCindy: Thanks for having me, Elizabeth! Grace’s Pictures is set at the turn of the twentieth century in New York City. It was a fascinating time when immigration was reaching record numbers, the difference between the extremely poor and the extremely wealthy was vast with a small number of people in between, and a time when the police department was still corrupt. But there was another side too with folks reaching out to help by forming immigrant aid societies. During this time the Brownie camera was introduced, which brought photography to the common person for the first time, making it possible to take quick snapshots out in public. I imagined that could cause some trouble. Here is the blurb:

Grace McCaffery hopes that the bustling streets of New York hold all the promise that the lush hills of Ireland did not. As her efforts to earn enough money to bring her mother to America fail, she wonders if her new Brownie camera could be the answer. But a casual stroll through a beautiful New York City park turns into a hostile run-in with local gangsters, who are convinced her camera holds the first and only photos of their elusive leader. A policeman with a personal commitment to help those less fortunate finds Grace attractive and longs to help her, but Grace believes such men cannot be trusted. Spread thin between her quest to rescue her mother, do well in a new nanny job, and avoid the gang intent on intimidating her, Grace must put her faith in unlikely sources to learn the true meaning of courage and forgiveness.

Elizabeth: Grace’s Pictures fits into several categories: historical, romance and Christian. Is there one genre you feel best describes it?

Cindy: Others have also described it as suspense. I just call it historical. It has not been advertised as romance, although there is a love story.

Elizabeth: What first made you interested in historical fiction?

Cindy: I have always been interested in genealogy. I write for genealogy magazines. It’s been said that one in four Americans can trace at least one ancestor through Ellis Island, so I chose this setting because I think it speaks to our history as Americans. The sacrifices our ancestors made for us by overcoming huge obstacles (Grace grew up in a poorhouse in Ireland) helps us appreciate our lives today. Grace comes to America a frightened immigrant, and she has to deal with some scary circumstances. Learning how to overcome them along with the negative messages in her head, lies her father told her about herself, transforms Grace in the end.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Cindy: I try to make my stories as historically accurate as possible. There are some historical figures in the story such as Jacob Riis, the author of How the Other Half Lives, who helped expose the conditions in the tenements. At the beginning of the story Grace has her picture taken on Ellis Island by Augustus Sherman. If you have seen any of the photographs of Ellis Island immigrants, chances are they were Sherman photographs. He was an Ellis Island registry clerk who took these photographs as a hobby. The immigrant aid societies of the time were doing important work, and while Hawkins House is fictional, it represents the efforts many people were making. The police department was just as corrupt as I portray, and the Hudson Dusters were a real gang of cocaine addicts.

Elizabeth: What are some of your future plans for the Ellis Island series?

Cindy: Thanks for asking! The second book, Annie’s Stories, is due to release next July. Annie is the housekeeper mentioned in Grace’s Pictures. Grace and Owen make an appearance in this book. In Grace’s Pictures I feature the new Brownie camera. In Annie’s Stories I feature the new children’s book of the time, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. There is a strong bookish theme in this story that I really enjoyed exploring.

In addition, I’m working on bringing the stories that Annie’s father wrote for herdescribed in the novelto readers. The first one will be exclusively for my newsletter subscribers. (You can sign up here: www.cindyswriting.com.)

I’m also plotting out a novella that will be connected to these stories, and again, my newsletter subscribers will the first to know when it’s available.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Cindy: Basically, in the morning I go through email, post on Facebook and Twitter, and follow up on marketing ideas. After lunch usually is the time I start writing, but truly it depends on my schedule and deadlines. Deadlines force me to work whenever I need to. I did a large part of a rewrite on my last book while I was on a long airplane trip (to Ireland!)

Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

Cindy: I’m a former teacher who writes full-time from a fabulous home office. I’m really blessed to have this loft workspace where I look out on trees. Like I said, genealogy is something I enjoy, but it’s so very addictive I have to be careful it doesn’t suck up too much time. I love to read a really good book. I’m also a huge baseball fan. I have three grown boys and a daughter-in-law, and a keen interest in all things Irish.

Elizabeth: Where can readers meet you in person?

cindy book talkCindy: I attend many Irish festivals in and around Ohio. People who are interested in Irish culture are often interested in reading about it. Plus they are so much fun! I am available to meet with book clubs, either in person or via Skype or telephone. On this page readers can find out how to have me come speak to their group or club: http://www.togather.com/cindy-thomson

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Cindy: Tea

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Cindy: Wow. Tough one. I seriously can’t choose. That’s one thing I love about Ireland. You are never far from either.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Cindy: Oh, come on! Both!!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Cindy: For me it’s to listen to because I can’t play. I would say piano, but then again, there is nothing like an Irish fiddle. (Natalie MacMaster, anyone?)

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Cindy: I truly read across all genres.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Cindy: Darcy.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Cindy:Love!

To learn more about Cindy and her writing at:

www.cindyswriting.com

www.facebook.com/cindyswriting

www.twitter.com/cindyswriting

Buy her book here: http://bit.ly/17ZXbnO

Thanks to Cindy for joining me today!

October 31, 2013

Guest Blogger Yves Fey: A Fin de Siècle Halloween

Posted in author, books, guest blogger, Halloween, Paris, reading, writing at 8:48 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Yves Fey, author of Floats the Dark Shadow is my Halloween guest blogger.

A Fin de Siecle Halloween

Parisians have adopted Halloween, dressing their children as various monstres, fantômes or sorcières, sometimes even as Egyptian momies, but it is not truly their holiday. Instead they have a more somber sort of Day of the Dead on November 1st — La Toussaint, or All Saint’s Day. Graves are visited and bouquets of autumnal chrysanthemums left in displays praised as worthy of tourist visits.

fey Cabaret_du_Chat_Noir_par_Robida

Le Chat Noir (click to enlarge)

Nonetheless, if the clock struck midnight in Paris on Halloween and you climbed into a passing coach for a magical mystery tour of the city in all its fin de siècle glory, you could have treated yourself to a long night on the town, conjuring suitable shivers to celebrate the holiday.

First, you could visit the most famous of black cats, Le Chat Noir, signpost and mascot of the Paris cabaret, and the veritable symbol of Montmartre. Le Chat Noir is considered the first modern nightclub, where the patrons imbibed their potables while watching a show. There were comic monologues, singers, and the famous “shadow plays.”

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Le Rat Mort (click to enlarge)

Having seen the Cat, which only lived until 1897, one might wander over to Le Rat Mort, which maintained its existence for a good deal longer. Legend says the rat was punished by death for having disturbed some clients engaged in a most private tête a tête. Or perhaps other body parts were engaged. Despite its unappetizing name, the club was quite spacious. Artists populated it by day, at night it was one of the most favored lesbian haunts.

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Cabaret du Neant (click to enlarge)

From their names, Le Chat Noir and Le Rat Mort are quite suitable for Halloween veneration, but there were clubs far creepier in context. Le Cabaret du Néant, or Nothingness, would now most certainly be the darling of the Goth crowd. There the tables were coffins. Trompe l’oeil tricks turned flesh and blood humans into skeletons before the delighted eyes of the patrons with a visual illusion called “Pepper’s Ghost” (I can’t help it, I hear Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band start to play).

More skeletons dangled from the ceiling of Nothingness, taking the form of crazed chandeliers. The lighting cast a greenish pall over the inhabitants, and waiters dressed as undertakers invited them to partake of such delicacies as a microbe of Asiatic cholera from the last corpse. Perhaps you should move on?

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Entrance to L’Enfer (click on enlarge)

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Interior of L’Enfer (click on enlarge)

I suggest you finish your Halloween tour in Hell. Promising damnation, Satan will gesture you through a mouth of gigantic demonic fangs and into L’Enfer’s interior of plaster souls writing on the ceiling. Inside, the walls ooze metallic lava from their crevices. There is the occasional belch of sulphuric smoke and rumble of thunder. At your blood red table, you can order a seething bumper of molten sin, with a dash of brimstone—black coffee with cognac. According to William Chambers Morrow, who visited the club in 1900, the club’s drinks promise to “season your intestines, and render them invulnerable, for a time at least, to the tortures of the melted iron that will be soon poured down your throats.”

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Le Ciel (click to enlarge)

Feeling parched? Le Ciel, Heaven, is right next door, filled with fluffy clouds and star-spangled ceilings. There you’ll be served by gauzy angels (doing a bit of moonlighting from the Moulin Rouge). They’ll serve a star dazzler to cool your throat. But why would you go Heaven on Halloween? Just down another bumper of molten sin and remain invulnerable.

About Yves Fey

fey bookcoverMy first introduction to Yves Fey was when I was asked to review her wonderful dark mystery Floats the Dark Shadow by the Historical Novel Society. You can read my review here.

Floats the Dark Shadow is the first of Yves’ series set in the dynamic and decadent world of Belle Époque Paris. It recently won several Indie awards–a Silver IPPY in the Best Mystery category, a Finalist Award in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in mystery, and it was one of four Finalists in both History and Mystery in the Next Generation Indie Awards.

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Yves Fey

Yves began drawing as soon as she could hold a crayon and writing when she was twelve. She holds a Bachelor’s in Pictorial Arts from UCLA, and a MFA from the University of Oregon in Creative Writing. In her varied career, she has been a tie dye artist, go-go dancer, baker, creator of ceramic beasties, illustrator, fiction teacher, and finally, novelist. She’s won prizes for her chocolate desserts, and her current obsession is designing perfumes inspired by her characters and by the magical city of Paris. A Libra with Scorpio Rising, Yves’ romantic nature takes on a darker edge. She hopes these shadows bring depth.

A world traveler, Yves has visited Paris, England, and Italy. She lived for two years in Jakarta, Indonesia, with many trips around Asia. She wishes she could live in Montmartre like her heroine, but feels lucky to reside across the bridge from San Francisco, with her husband and their three cats, an Asian Burmese dubbed Marlowe the Investigator and two rescued girls, half Siamese and half tabby, The Flying Bronte Sisters.

Under her own name, Gayle Feyrer, she authored two historical romances for Dell. The first takes place in the lush and violent world of Renaissance Italy. The second is set amid the earthy glamour of Robin Hood’s Sherwood. Under the nom de plume Taylor Chase, she wrote two historical romances for Avon. These novels explored the turbulent realm of Elizabethan England, an era of brash and bawdy manners contrasting with elaborate courtly protocol, of vice and venality contending with a questing romantic spirit. These books will all soon be available again under her own Tygerbright imprint.

To learn more about Yves, her books, and fin de siecle Paris, visit  http://yvesfey.com

October 17, 2013

Your Opinion is Requested

Posted in books, reading at 8:40 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

I encourage you to take the The Historical Fiction Survey for 2013.  Its creators are M.K. Tod and Richard Lee.  It isn’t a pretend survey that is trying to get you to buy something.

Its creators are really interested in how readers make decisions about buying and reading books. You can see last year’s results at The Historical Fiction Survey for 2012.

The survey creators are hoping to poll a wide range of readers, so if historical fiction isn’t your cup of tea, that is fine.  You can still take the survey and give your opinions on what sorts of books you like to read and what encourages you to buy a book, among other things.

It doesn’t take long, so let your opinions be known and take The Historical Fiction Survey for 2013.

 

October 1, 2013

Author Interview: Anna Lee Huber

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 1:53 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Anna_Lee_Huber_Headshot_1

 

Today I’m welcoming Anna Lee Huber to my series of author interviews. Anna is the author of the Lady Darby mysteries which take place in 19th century Scotland. The first was The Anatomist’s Wife and the second is the newly released Mortal Arts.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Anna. Can you tell us about your Lady Darby mysteries?

anna Anatomists Wife CoverAnna: My Lady Darby mysteries are set in 1830 Scotland and feature Kiera, Lady Darby, a gifted portrait artist and the scandalous widow of a famous anatomist. When a woman is murdered at her sister’s estate in the wilds of northern Highlands, Kiera is forced to team up with gentlemen inquiry agent Sebastian Gage to find the culprit. In future books they will also join forces to solve cases of murder and mayhem.

Elizabeth: When plotting your story, how do you balance the elements of the mystery and the development of the romance between Lady Darby and Mr. Gage?

Anna: Since the Lady Darby novels are at their heart mysteries, the mystery definitely must come first. I usually plot all of the main parts of the mystery—the turning points and major discoveries—and then I weave in the other elements, like the romance and individual character development, trying to match the tone and theme. I continue adding greater detail for all the story elements until I feel my plot is complete.

Elizabeth: Lady Darby is an artist, and it helps her see the world a little differently than the other characters. Does Lady Darby get this from you? Are you a painter or involved in the visual arts?

Anna: I am not a visual artist, though my husband and one of my brothers are. I’m constantly picking their brain about little details. What I am is a musician and a writer, and I’m often struck by how similar the artistic mind is, no matter the medium of expression. It’s amazing how much translates from one type of art to another—the mindset, the worries, the worldview. It definitely gives me greater insight into Lady Darby.

Elizabeth: What first made you interested in this time period and place as a setting for your novels?

anna Mortal_Arts_coverAnna: I love the 19th century. It fascinates me. And I adore England and Scotland. So I knew I wanted to set my historical mystery series then and there. But I didn’t choose the exact year and location until after I crafted Lady Darby’s backstory. Once I realized that she had unwillingly accrued knowledge from her anatomist husband by being forced to sketch his dissections for an anatomy textbook he was writing, I knew that 1830 would be the perfect year. It’s just after the trial of Burke and Hare—Edinburgh body snatchers turned murderers—and two years before the Anatomy Act of 1832. This time period gives me lots of juicy bits of history to explore, as well as exploring the fear and unrest felt by the general public regarding the trade of body snatchers and the actions of anatomists. I chose to set The Anatomist’s Wife in the Highlands because I needed an isolated location, and because I simply love the beauty and melancholy of the terrain. Mortal Arts take place just north of Edinburgh, and I chose this spot because it suited my plot.

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

Anna: My stories are not based on real historical figures, though sometimes they are woven into the periphery. Instead I use the details of history to build and inform my plots, trying to remain as historically accurate as possible. I also try very hard to make my characters true to their time period, with some fictional license. I like to include a Historical Note at the end of my novels to explain what’s real, and what historical facts I might have altered in some way.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Anna: My writing process is continually evolving, and I suspect it always will be. Once I have an idea for a plot, I do intensive research into the history surrounding it and brainstorm possibilities. Then I plot my novel, starting with the main points—inciting incidents, turning points, etc.—and progressing to ever smaller details. By the time my chart is done, the story is pretty well fleshed out. I also create a character arc and diagram for each main character and for Lady Darby and Gage’s relationship, taking into account motivation and fears, and other important psychological details. Then I write each scene, each important bit of information discovered, each emotional moment on an individual index card. I prefer to do it that way so that I can shuffle them later if needed. I don’t like to over-plot. If I feel like I’ve gone into too much detail, then I feel like I’ve already written the story and it bores me to do so again. I also like to leave room for spontaneity. After all that, I’m ready to write.

Elizabeth: Where will we next find Lady Darby? What are you working on now?

Anna: I am finishing Lady Darby Book 3, A Grave Matter, which is due out in July 2014. After the events in Mortal Arts, Kiera retreats to her childhood home in the Borders region to heal. But when a man is murdered and an old grave at an abbey disturbed, she must once again team up with Gage to solve the crimes.

Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

Anna: I grew up part of a large family in a small town in northwest Ohio. I wrote my first story in the fourth grade and have pretty much been writing ever since. My second love is music, and I graduated from Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN with a Bachelor’s degree in Music with a minor in Psychology. My husband and I own a web development company and currently live in northern Indiana with our troublemaking tabby cat, Pita. When not writing, I love to read, sing, travel, and spend time with my large extended family.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Anna: Tea

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Anna: I like rocky coasts, like Cornwall or Maine.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Anna: Depends on where I’m hiking. If the terrain interests me, I’d choose that. Otherwise, shopping.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Anna: I play the piano, but I absolutely love the violin. I’ve always wanted to learn to play. If I was choosing a concert to attend or a CD to listen to, violin would likely win out.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Anna: Mystery

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Anna: Darcy

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Anna: Either if it’s emotionally intense or moving, but I if I had to choose, a love scene.

For more information about Anna and her books, visit her website:

http://www.annaleehuber.com

or find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnaLeeHuber

or Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnaLeeHuber

The Lady Darby mysteries are available on AmazonBarnes & NobleBooks-a-Million, and Indiebound.

Elizabeth: Thanks to Anna Lee Huber for visiting today.

Anna: Thank you so much for having me!

September 28, 2013

Most Popular Books for Children

Posted in author, books, reading at 11:22 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

A little over a week ago, I asked these questions: What was your favorite picture book as a child? As a parent? What was your favorite children’s chapter book? How would your children answer?

I asked this of some friends and acquaintances and posted it on two Facebook discussion groups. Some of my respondents listed one favorite for each category; others listed many. My Facebook groups are historical fiction groups, so this poll is biased toward historical fiction. Like me, many of my friends are women over 40, so this list is biased in that way too.

The results of my biased poll are in! To be included, a title or author had to be mentioned at least three times.

Most Popular Picture Books/Authors:

Dr. Seuss got more votes than anyone else.  Congratulations Dr. Seuss!

Other oft -mentioned books and authors:

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The Berenstain Bears books by Stan and Jan Berenstain

A is for Annabella by Tasha Tudor

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

The My Bookhouse books by Olive Beaupre Miller

Most Popular Chapter Books/Authors for Children

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder got the most votes for this category. Congratulations, Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Other oft-mentioned books and authors:

Beverly Cleary (in particular, her Ramona books)

Enid Blyton’s books

The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene

The Winnie the Pooh books by A.A. Milne

The Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Warner Chandler

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Doing this poll brought some new authors and books to my attention. I don’t know Enid Blyton and have yet to read any of the My Bookhouse books. I look forward to filling this gap in my knowledge of children’s literature!

Is your favorite author or book missing from the list? Feel free to mention them in the comments below.

September 1, 2013

Author Interview: Lori Crane

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 9:21 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

loricrane

 

 

Today I welcome Lori Crane to my series of author interviews. Lori is the author of The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge and the series Okatibbee Creek: Okatibbee Creek (book 1), An Orphan’s Heart (book 2), and the soon-to-be-released Elly Hays (book 3).

loricraneokatibbeeElizabeth: Welcome, Lori. Can you tell us about your Okatibbee Creek series?

Lori: The Okatibbee Creek series is a collection of stories about the strong women in my family’s history (1750-1900 US). The books are based on real people in real circumstances, overcoming real obstacles.

 

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Elizabeth: What first made you interested in these characters?

Lori: As I did genealogy research, I found my third great grandmother, Mary Ann, had lost an unbelievable SEVENTEEN family members to typhoid and the Civil War in an eighteen-month period. The more I looked into the details, the more I became impressed with the sheer amount of strength she possessed. She became the heroine of the book Okatibbee Creek. When I found her young niece was orphaned at the same time and was moved from state to state with relatives, I was hooked on her story which became An Orphan’s Heart. I looked back in time to find the source of strength for these women and fell upon Mary Ann’s grandmother who lost almost everything to a hostile band of Indians during the War of 1812. That is the coming book Elly Hays.loricraneelly

Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?

 

 

loricranestuckeyLori: The Okatibbee Creek books are all real names, dates, and places. The only fictional parts are their personalities and daily lives, which we can never know. The Legend of Stuckey’s Bridge is based on a Mississippi legend. If the legend is true, then the dates and places are true, including Old Man Stuckey’s brief stint as a member of the notorious Dalton Gang. Most of the people are fictional since there was no cast of characters in the original legend.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process and how do you go about doing historical research?

Lori: When I’m engrossed by an historical character, I put together a timeline of events and then go back and weave a storyline through them. Sort of like putting puzzle pieces in an almost-finished jigsaw puzzle.

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Lori: I’m working on a sequel to Stuckey’s Bridge called Stuckey’s Legacy. The main character is total fiction, but I’m placing him in real 1920s people, events, and places to get the true flavor of the roaring twenties.

Elizabeth: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

Lori: Besides being an indie author, I am a full-time musician and play a dueling piano show on Norwegian Cruise Lines. Being at sea four to eight weeks at a time gives me plenty of time to write. When I’m home, I live a quiet life in the country in western Michigan with my trophy husband and a host of animals, including our newest addition Eva. She’s a four-foot ball python.

Elizabeth: Yikes!

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Lori: Tea. I’ve never tried coffee.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Lori: Since I spend twenty weeks + a year on the ocean, I have to say mountains.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Lori: Hiking.

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Lori: Piano since I was five.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Lori: Either, as long as it’s captivating.

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Lori: Heathcliff all the way. Of course, probably not in real life.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Lori: Death scene. Nothing says love like dying in someone’s arms.

To learn more about Lori and her books, visit her websites:

Website: http://loricrane.com/

Blog: http://loricrane.wordpress.com/

Lori’s books are available at: http://www.amazon.com/Lori-Crane/e/B00ATIQW8M

 

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