Friday, November 20, 2009

Interview with Erica Vetsch

Today I'm chatting with my friend Erica Vetsch about her debut novel, The Bartered Bride from Heartsong Presents. She won the Barbour contract at the 2008 ACFW conference and I was privileged to be there and share in the joy and excitement.

Since I'm a research junkie, that's what we're talking.

Which do you like better, the writing or the research?
You know, each has their joys and trials. I love it when something unexpected and serendipitous happens while I'm writing a story. I'm going through that right now, where pieces I didn't even realize were out there, groundwork I'd laid in two previous books, are falling together into the third book in a series. That being said, I also love research. I'm a self-admitted history geek. I love all the interesting bits of information I glean when doing research. I never quite know how I can use them when I first see them, but I file them away for later.

I have yet to meet a writer of historical fiction that isn't easily sidetracked on research rabbit trails. How do you deal with that temptation? I don't always avoid the temptation, because story ideas are often spawned from something I didn't know I was looking for until I found it.

Have you ever gotten a good story idea from a rabbit trail? Oh yes. I have stumbled upon a couple of story ideas while reading old newspaper articles on one topic and something in another article in the paper jumps out at me from another column. I try to jot these ideas and bits down so I won't forget them for later.

What was your favorite time period to read about before you started writing? I love American History, westward expansion, Manifest Destiny, the Industrial Age, the Gilded Age. Egyptology and the British Empire have always intrigued me, too. Really, anything historical.

What period is your favorite to research in? The easiest for me to research is Minnesota History. We have, seriously, the best historical society ever. The MN Historical Society was founded when the state was still a territory. And the access scholars have to the archives is amazing. I recently went on a back-stage tour of the archives, and the collections are just stunning. And the state is so diverse in its history, I'm always finding something fascinating to me.

What are some of your favorite research websites? Hands down. Beyond that, I don't rely too much on internet research. I prefer to hold books in my hand, to be able to verify the accounts, and to know that the works were published by reputable, scholarly publishers. University and Historical Society presses are usually reliable. Wikipedia, not so much. I spend a lot of time at my local library, and I purchase books online and at historical site bookstores all the time.

If you could go back in time to one historical event, what event would it be? Wow, how do you choose just one? I'd love to witness creation, the birth of Christ, the building of the Pyramids, the signing of the Magna Carta, the building of the ark, the crowning of Elizabeth I, the invention of the telephone, the list goes on and on.

I know that you did a lot of research at your historical society about the ships of the Great Lakes. Any suggestions to pass along to writers researching on location at a local historical society? First, don't be intimidated. The curators at these local museums are ACHING for someone to take an interest in the artifacts and stories they have been entrusted with. They are dying to talk to you. So ask.

Second, ask if there is a publication, a book, pamphlet, DVD, anything, that is specific to the area. These history books, though not widely circulated, often have gems hidden in their pages that you can't find anywhere else.

Third, check the archives of the local newspapers. Nothing will give you a snapshot of the society you're studying like the daily news will. The language, the mindset, the social-strata, they're all there waiting to be discovered.

Do you have any research books that you consider invaluable and would never part with? There are different books I treasure for each subject I'm studying. For The Bartered Bride, one of my favorite books was actually a Paper Doll book. Fashions of the Gilded Age by Tom Tierney, published by Dover. One of the dresses I had my main character wear came out of that book. The real dress, from Worth's in Paris, is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. For each of the plates in the book, Tierney gives a detailed description, which makes it easier to portray in the story. I highly recommend any paper doll book by Tom Tierney for research.

Oh I completely agree about the Tierney paper dolls! Those are a treasure trove of costume research and very affordable too.

Please leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Bartered Bride. Erica, thanks so much for stopping by!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


So far this month has been one of writing milestones.

1: New personal best daily word count. Twice! First one was 1,525. Second one was 1,580.

2: Brainstorming sessions with a CP that were actually helpful. For both of us.

3: Finally finding the lie for the heroine of The Yellow Flag, my 1857 Louisiana historical. I've been trying to crack her open for two years.

4: Topping 10,000 on The Yellow Flag. This is the second time topping 10,000 has happened to me, but the first time doesn't count. I scrapped it all. But this 10,000 I'm keeping. The story is started in the right place.

I've come to the conclusion that having CP's is a good thing. It keeps me motivated to write so that I have stuff for them to read. I'm learning a lot too, which is always a good thing.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Amusing but true video

I know, I'm still being a bad blogger. Still lots going on that takes precedence.

Saw this video on Angie Hunt's blog and was highly amused by it. Saddened too because it's true.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review- The Blue Enchantress

The Blue Enchantress is the sequel to The Red Siren, and book two in the Charles Towne Belles series. Mary Lu brings her love of the sea and pirates to every book she writes, and this one is no exception.

One of Mary Lu's great strengths is characterization. Hope is a deeply flawed woman with a shameful past who would be easy to hate. Yet the reader is drawn into her story and filled with compassion for her, even though she richly deserves everything that's happening to her.

Having lived through a few hurricanes myself, Mary Lu's descriptions of the hurricane are spot-on. She easily captures the fear of everyone on board, and the superior arrogance of someone who's never been through one and doesn't think it can be that bad.

I also very much enjoyed the spiritual warfare angle. It began in The Red Siren and she continued to build on it in The Blue Enchantress. Spiritual warfare is something that's often overlooked in Christian historical fiction.

All in all a very enjoyable read with vivid characters, memorable settings and plenty of "meat". I eagerly look forward to the release of The Raven Saint, the final book in the series that will feature Grace Westcott.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

SoE review: Ransome's Honor

Ransome's Honor
by Kaye Dacus

Regular readers may remember that I am no fan of Jane Austen. However, I love Horatio Hornblower, and not just because of Ioan Gruffudd. That is part of what drew me to Kaye's Ransome trilogy. That and watching her perfect it, pitch it and finally sell it.

Click on the above link for a plot synopsis from CBD. I won't repeat it here.

The book was an absolute delight! I loved every page. All of the characters are fully developed and well-rounded. It's hard not to fall in love with William Ransome. I'm very much looking forward to getting to know certain members of his crew in the next book, Ransome's Crossing.

It was also refreshing to see a Regency heroine with guts and pluck who still remains true to what women were like then. That's another part of why I don't usually read Regencies. I know so much about the daily life of the period and the thought patterns and customs that few people can get it right enough to hold my interest. Kaye got it right!

I found William's character arc the most interesting, but anyone who knows me won't find that surprising. Sometimes one can hide in honor and duty, and William realized that. His character was flawed, but not to the point that it was off-putting. Same for Julia. By the end of the book each has realized their flaws and is working on overcoming them.

If you like Regencies or high-seas adventures, this book is not to be missed!

Monday, August 10, 2009

More on character thoughts

I just finished Ransome's Honor by Kaye Dacus. (excellent book, btw. If you haven't read it yet, do so post haste!) The hero, William Ransome, is a captain in the Royal Navy. That can be a difficult type of character to bring to life, yet Kaye did so beautifully and in such a way that I am convinced he's real.

So how did she do that? A large part of it, to me anyway, was in her use of inner monologue and thoughts. William always thinks like a sailor. When Kaye is describing things in his POV, she describes things as a sailor would. He views things in terms of his vocation and finds his strength in the familiarity of his ship and the sea.

To me this is one of the strongest ways to bring a character to life. When done well, it flows seamlessly with the narrative and dialogue. Kaye does it very well in all of her books, but I think it's most clear in the way she writes William Ransome.

Which brings me to my own character. Nick, one of my SEAL's. He's Russian-born, adopted by an American family and grows up in Colorado on a cattle and horse ranch, then joins the Navy. His thoughts are a mixture of horse terms, cowboy slang, love of the mountains, Russian phrases and an intense love of the sea. Once he stands on the beach for the first time and looks out at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean nothing else will do. As he progresses through his training, more and more of his thoughts take on the images of the Navy and the ocean, and the slang that goes with his chosen profession.

I hope it all makes for an interesting character and shows his progression from someone with little to no self-confidence, to an officer in charge of a SEAL team.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Losing history

The last living link to World War One, the war to end all wars, has died. He passed on July 25th and his funeral was yesterday. His name was Harry Patch and he was the last surviving veteran of World War One.

The Daily Mail has an article online, complete with pictures.

WW 1 was not the war to end all wars, as so many believed. Rather it was the war that started it all. Every conflict of the 20th century can trace its roots back to WW 1. Yes, *every* conflict. Even the fighting in the Balkans, the debacle in Bosnia, and the split of what used to be known as Czechoslovakia.

One of the books in my research pile is "King, Kaiser, Tsar" by Catrine Clay. Kaiser Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II and King George V were cousins. Nicholas' wife Alexandra was George's niece, Wilhelm's cousin and one of Victoria's favorite granddaughters. Victoria called her Sunny. These three men found their fates intertwined. Only one survived the war with his kingdom and throne intact.

I've often wondered how family could do that to each other. George refused his own niece asylum and Wilhelm financed the man who was ultimately responsible for the deaths of the Romanovs. Here in the South that sort of treachery against one's own family is unthinkable. This whole relative thing is one of the dynamics that makes the World War One so fascinating to me.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Spotlight on Europe

Today it's Surrender the Wind by Rita Gerlach! It just released on the first, so look for it! Here's the back cover blurb, taken from Rita's website.

Surrender the Wind . . .

A quick~match tale of unexpected love . . .

A fuse that burned rapidly ...

After a harrowing escape from the British, patriot Seth Braxton finds his father dead at Yorktown. Now battle scarred and grieving, he endeavors to settle down for a peaceful life along the shores of the Potomac by restoring the land his father loved.

Thinking he will forever stay in the secluded wilderness, he receives a message that he has inherited his grandfather's estate in faraway England. Seth is torn between the land he's fought for and the prospect of reuniting with his sister, Caroline, who was a motherless child at the onset of the Revolution, taken to England in order to spare her the horrors of war.

With no intention of making his stay at Ten Width permanent, he journeys to England to do his duty. When he arrives, he finds his sister in the throes of grief after being told her young son has died of a fever. In the midst of so much tragedy, he meets Juleah, the daughter of an eccentric landed gentleman. Her independent spirit and gentle soul steal his heart, and she becomes his wife and lady of the manor, enraging the man who once sought her hand and hoped Ten Width would be his own.

From the Virginia wilderness, to the dark halls of an isolated English estate, Seth inherits more than a crumbling ancestral home. He uncovers a sinister plot that leads to murder, abduction, and betrayal --- an ominous mix that threatens to destroy his new life and new love.

Rita is a fellow HisWriters member. Over the last two years we all had the privilege of watching Rita finish this novel, tweak it, submit it to just about every publishing house in the industry and garner enough rejections to wallpaper a bathroom! Then we all celebrated with her when Abingdon Press bought it. I will never forget her joy at getting that contract.

By going to her website and clicking on the "Surrender the Wind" link at the top of the page, you can go to Abingdon's website and read the first chapter of the novel. Rita also has the privilege of being the debut novel for Abingdon, and they have shown a great willingness to look at and buy novels with non-American settings.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Interesting article

I found this article on the website for Vision Forum. It's about the constant and worsening attacks on the Biblical family model, and in particular about the worsening attacks on Christian homeschoolers. As a homeschool grad and a newly married woman who plans to homeschool my own kids someday, it is of concern and interest.

The Return of the Child Catcher of Vulgaria

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I'm back!

Yes, this is my third post with this title over the last two years. It's been a busy spring. The last personal post was back in November, when I told my readers that I was falling in love with a man named Huston. He proposed on December 13th, and we were wed at Grace Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Louisiana on May 16, 2009.

He was laid off 10 days before the wedding and is still without a job. Next week will be one month. Prayers are coveted for a job for him, in God's timing and in the place where God wants us to be.

In the meantime, I've been settling into married life. I finally have my desk back, after being forced to take it apart after the hurricane last September. It felt so good to get it set up earlier this week! I'm once again in front of windows, with a lovely view of trees. This is my first time living in an apartment, but it's a very quiet complex and I like it so far. As much as one can like apartment living when all you've ever known is a house...

Anywho, the view is lovely and we're at the back of the complex and back off the highway. Looking out the windows here in the guest room gives me the feeling of still being secluded in the country. Which is my favorite thing in the whole world!

I'm still unpacking and arranging things, and just made cookies. Even Zoe is settling in nicely, though she is lonely and misses Aisling, the crazy orange tabby.

I haven't written anything of note in over 9 months now, but I'm hoping that will begin to change. I have my research books out again and characters are talking. It's hard to figure out my writing routine for this new season in my life, since my husband is always here right now. Not exactly conducive to me getting lost in 19th century Russia for hours on end.

So I hope to get back into the swing of things and back to my regular postings. I will continue the Friday Fact starting next week, and get back to Spotlight on Europe. There have been quite a few European historical releases in the last few months!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Warning- Political post!

I'm not one to post much about politics on my blog because I'm one of those very passionate people who is very easily drawn into debate and argument over it. But I just can't keep quiet about this.

I'm extremely conservative. I discovered yesterday that the current "in" word for my brand of conservative is paleoconservative, which means "old". I am NOT a neoconservative, even though I voted for Bush. I don't like being called a neocon either because I think their views are warped and dangerous.

Whenever the guard is changing on Capitol Hill, accusations are thrown around like darts, truth is distorted and the blame for all the world's ills are laid at the foot of one man. I'm not going to sit here and defend everything that Bush has done. I don't agree with a lot of it. But please people! This is getting out of hand.

I remember when things changed from Bush to Clinton and I don't remember the newly-energized conservatives being this nasty about Clinton's legacy. Which is one of deceit and immorality. That man did more harm to the office of president than Bush could ever do. An affair in the Oval Office is far more devestating than relying on possibly faulty intelligence to get rid of one of the most evil men the world has seen since the deaths of Stalin and Hitler.

We don't know all of the informtation that Bush was presented with for every decision he's made in the last 8 years. Much of this information we will never know and we do not need to know. We don't know all of the information he had that led us into Afghanistan and Iraq. We will never know. Obama will also make decisions based on information we will never know.

As for the economic mess we find ourselves in, it is just foolhardy to lay the blame at the feet of one man. The blame is collective and it goes all the way back to 1992 and a man known in Arkansas as Slick Willie, who began to de-regulate the banking and stock industries within weeks of taking office. When you take away the rules things fall apart. That's almost a law of nature. Society cannot exist without rules and boundaries. Chaos only creates more chaos. That is a law of nature.

It's not Bush's fault we're in a meltdown. It happens and it would have happened if Gore or Kerry was president. It would have happened if Obama was president, or Bob Dole. Look at the facts, people! Who de-regulated the industry? Wasn't Bush. He just got stuck with the problem. But that doesn't mean he created it.

Obama does not have the magic wand to fix all of this. The problem has been ignored for too long. The blame for that does partly go to Bush, but it also goes in equal measure to Congress for allowing the de-regulation to take place in the first place. And also to Clinton and his advisors for cooking up the plan in the first place. The US is not a monarchy. It takes a joint effort to pass every law. Just because the president signs it doesn't mean he's responsible for its consquences. Every senator and congressman who votes "yes" on a dangerous or flawed piece of legislation carries just as much blame for it as the man who signs it.

Obama is inheriting a mess created by the man whose wife will be dogging his every step for the next 4 years at least. How on earth is installing Clinton cronies going to fix or change anything? These are the people who started all this mess in the first place. Every administration inherits problems from the previous administration. That is the nature of our system. Obama has a whole boatload of stuff to deal with leftover by Bush AND Clinton. Even a few problems from Bush #1. He will not be able to fix all of it. I have my doubts that he can really fix any of it because of his complete lack of experience. But that's another issue entirely...

Don't lay the blame on Bush for this. Tell your congressman and your senator to stop being so irresponsible with your money, to pay attention and to stop messing with things. And for that matter tell those who voted yes on the bailout money that it was the worst thing they've ever done.

It's going to take a long-term plan--and by that I mean 10+ years--to fix this problem. It took 15 years to create it. It's not going to be fixed in a matter of months.