Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Historical Research -- Historical Characters

As a writer of historical fiction, I've done more research during the last four years than I ever did in high school or college, that's for sure. Between the food and clothing, not to mention horses, wagons, weapons, titles and precedence, there is just so much to learn .

When we "build" our historical world, most of it is right there in the history books so we only have to take what we need from that. Sometimes we find things -- like the fact that Claridge's was not actually a hotel in 1811, but a bed and breakfast, and famous Gunter's where everyone goes for ices, did not exist -- and we need to change the facts to adapt them to our story. (In my own little historical world, my fictional Bainbridge Hotel is the place to be.)

Same goes for historical figures. Sure, I can read every little thing about the Prince Regent from the history books, and by all accounts he was not a very well-liked man. From his Peers to his subjects, Prinny was probably the most despised of the modern monarchs. He had lost the respect of his people early on by marrying a divorced Catholic woman, and then drinking and spending money like it was nobody's business. So naturally, every book written about Prince George would come to the same conclusion that he was just a randy drunken wastrel.

Of course, we weren't there, so we can't know first-hand who the Prince actually was. We can't know why he acted the way he did. But we can probably guess. He was spoiled. He was a Prince trained to take over the greatest Monarchy (at the time) in the world. He was brilliant, and had the best tutors, could speak several languages, and was raised to be a King.

Okay, so given all that, don't you think that you would have gone a little bonkers too after you graduated college? (Yes, I'm being semi-cheeky here.) But what else was there for the man? He had no friends (well, good friends he could count on), his brothers were creeps, he couldn't work, he couldn't join the army, he couldn't really do anything except be a royal spoiled brat. Well, I suppose he could have been a nice kind generous man, but he wasn't.

When I began writing his character I took all of the above into consideration and came up with my own theory of why he was the way he was. I explain a little bit of it in THE LADY'S FATE. And although I'm not a psychologist by any stretch of the imagination, I can see where Prince George became the man they all hated. He was given the world, but piece by piece, they took it away from him. Including his wife, (whom he loved dearly), and truthfully, I think that's what made George so mad. I think that's why he rebelled the way he did. I mean, really. Parliament made him divorce his wife. I think I would be a little ticked off too, and try to get back at those who did it to me.

I tried to show George's more "human" side when I wrote him. I like George. I can empathize with his feelings over his situation. So I tried to show that he wasn't really "all" bad. Just a little.

In the case of Dudley Ryder, Illora Ryder's father in ROMANCING LADY RYDER, I chose to take the whole family into the book. There are too many articles about the Ryder family on Wikipedia, but I read them all and then concocted my own "Ryder family". See, Richard Ryder had been married, and had fathered six or seven children, however, he married later, which gave me the perfect opportunity to "invent" him a first wife, with Illora as the result. My first Lady Ryder was no longer with us, and Richard, had indeed married a woman named Susan, so I could fit another piece in to my "world-building puzzle".

In the case of the Ryder family, most of them were politicians, so I could use that in my plot line. I realized I was walking a very tight rope with this story, it is hardly plausible for the era. No self-respecting uncle would allow a girl to go traipsing about with an English gentleman, unescorted; never mind, play at spy. BUT, it's my story and it was fun to write.

The same with the Russian aspect of that same story. I took great liberties with Ambassador Novolsiltstov. Yes, he was the Czar Alexander's right-hand-man, but whether he lived in England for any length of time, I do not know. However, what you should know is that the Czar did move certain paintings and historical artifacts out of Russia in fear Napoleon would take them. It's these little details I find in doing research that can add so much to a story. So that's why they're there.

Naturally, in writing historical fiction, we do not need to have any historical figures in our books if we so choose. In building our "worlds" we can do whatever we want. However, I think it behooves us to have at least one or two somewhere in there. They add a little flavor, whether from our imagination or not, and ground us into the time frame.

What do you think?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Reading the Reluctant Grooms Series

I had a question from a reader ~

In which order do you read the books in your series?

Good question. I never thought about it before because I know how they came about and where they all fit into the larger design.

So, in case anyone else wants to know, here is the list

The Lady's Masquerade
The Captain's Lady
The Lady's Fate
A Wife for Winsbarren
The Duke's Divorce
Love Finds Lord Davingdale
Romancing Lady Ryder
The Earl's Engagement
Lady Cadoret's Longing
Lady Olivia's Undoing
The Lady's Secret
The Seduction of Mr. Summerville

The titles in red are the ones I have yet to write although The Captain's Lady has 47,000 words, and the rest have all been outlined. I'm hoping to finish up the series in the spring of 2014. Lady Olivia's Undoing and The Lady's Secret are both novellas and the prequels to The Seduction. Too many things happen to too many people before the end of the series, if I tried to fit it all into one book, it would be 125,000 words.

Anyway, there's the list in case you wanted it. I'll post it on my sidebar as well.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

HIstorical Research -- Contractions

The last book of Regency romance I read was authored by one of the best-selling New York published writers in the world. Her romances are legendary, she's created dozens of characters, two or three series, and has hit the #1 spot more times than I care to count.

I hated that book.

The plot was flimsy, the main character was only interested in getting her man into bed, and the sex was...well, let's just say I skipped over that part. (If you've read one sex scene, you've read them all.) But the one thing that peeved me off to no end was that the author used contractions in her dialogue.

Can't Wasn't Don't Didn't Doesn't Shouldn't Wouldn't I'd We'd I'll You'll etc etc

Were not in much use by the aristocracy until the late 1830's. It seems they thought "proper" English kept them apart from the lower classes. And even though my etymological dictionary said that most of these words were being used from the 18th century, you will find, only the "lower classes" used "cant", or contractions.

Surprisingly, in digging into this research, the use of contractions originally started with publishers, newspaper men, and printing press operators. In order to fit so many words to a line, so many lines to a page, they decided to form contractions of these particular certain words. (There is a website to back me up on this, but I've lost it. It has a really funny name like WordSplunk dot com or something like that. If I ever find it again, I'll put it on my sidebar.)

Now some readers think that my non-use of contractions makes the story stilted and hard to read. And I say to them -- If you want a hard read, try Jane Austen. No contractions there. However, if you're going to write about 1811, you need to speak like you're in 1811 if you have dialogue in your book. No two ways around it.

There is one caveat to that statement however. None of us were living in 1811 so we can't really know how they actually spoke. All we have are letters and writings of the time. And if that is any indication of the language then, for me, there are no contractions in my stories. (Or very very few. I have been known to use You'll and I've on occasion.)

So, any word nerds out there? Do you think historical dialogue should be with or without contractions?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Not So Secret Project

Well, my brother returned to RI, via PA, with my mother along for a 3 day weekend. I have her dog to take care of as well as my own. Lucky for me, my brother likes to play with heavy equipment. He dug out all the ivy and opened up the canopy of trees over-hanging the clothesline. Doing this gained me an extra ten feet to put my fence, which is now up (thanks to my brother and father), and the dogs and I are enjoying the fine sweep of lawn to play ball in.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was working on a new character. A French aristocrat who is mentioned once in the beginning of the book and only to make a very brief appearance at the end of it.

Anyway, this new character is for a project I'm involved in regarding my daughter's school. They hold an auction every year, and the secretary thought it might be fun if I auctioned off a "character" in one of my future novels. After spit-balling it around for a couple of days, we decided I should write a short story about "them" instead. The winner of my "prize" from the auction would be the main character and I would write their "love" story. Set in Regency England. Naturally. I had it all worked out. It was going to be very cool.

Well, the auction happened, and one of the teachers won the bid (at $430- I might add) and gave it to her assistant as a present. So the story is about "Dianne" per se, but because "Adelaide" actually won the prize, the story is going to be more or less about the two of them. And how they "teach" and "learn" and "grow" with each other and the kids (because this teacher/assistant combination has been together for 14 years!) So it is kind of a love story, but not. You know.

I'm still on the fence as to whether I'm going to publish this story commercially ~ (I was going to publish it privately -- looking into this again at the moment. Lots to consider here.) ~ There is an historical element I can attach the story to to make it viable as "genre" fiction. As well as a very smallish sort of love story just to keep it fun (I'll tell you about the "tree" scene soon.)

However, because this "project" is a little more "public" than I'd originally intended, I'm going to keep a page under my header entitled "A Not So Secret Project" where I'll keep a page of links and my research notes, as well as photographs depicting the era. (Just in case any OLM readers are interested.) I'm hoping to have the "tentative" first pages of the still untitled novella up by the first of June so you can all get a look at what I'm writing.

I'm very excited about this project. It's going to be a lot of fun to write. And best of all, when it's finally published, we're going to have a book signing. I figured out how to make a small copy paperback for not too much money, so we can actually do a physical book signing. Yay!

So, that's what's on the writing table.

On the publishing table, I've been re-editing/revising all the paperback editions of my books (as well as the e-versions as I go along). I finished all the novellas separately as well as the COLLECTION. FATE and MASQUERADE are done, and I'm page 90 of DIVORCE. Which leaves ENGAGEMENT and then I'll be finished with that chore. Hopefully in time for beach reading. Another Yay!

And just a small bit of promotion here -- I recently lowered the prices on the e-versions of A ROMANTIC REGENCY COLLECTION, THE LADY'S FATE and THE DUKE'S DIVORCE. Across all channels, so wherever you shop, if they're not $2.99, they will be soon.

Have an exceedingly fine week.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

When I was a kid, I would watch Merv Griffin every day after school with my grandmother. On one particular show he had Danielle Steele as his guest. (This was back in the late 70's.) She came onstage in a flowing diaphonous jump-suit type of garment, with her hair all done up in a fashionable style. At one point in the interview, they went for a virtual tour of her house. (You know how they do that.) Well, she had maids, and kids, and a pool, and tennis courts, and cars, and all kinds of things that rich people have. BUT, she was a writer.

So in my mind, because I wanted to be a writer too, I would have all these things. I'll pause now so you can get your hysterical laughter under control.

I am a writer. Today is Mother's Day. This is what I'll be doing today.

Finish cutting the grass at the old house.
Weed-whack the old house.
Iron uniforms for school next week.
Wash the walls where I peeled wallpaper for Monster's new bedroom.
Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll get to paint at least one wall.

Danielle Steele I'm not. But I wouldn't trade what I've got for all the diaphonous jump suits in the world.

Happy Mother's Day.

PS ~ It is the end of Mother's Day. This is what I actually ended up doing today.

I (and my helpers) raked the various piles of leaves at the old house and moved them to the berm.
Monster and I pulled up ivy at the new house and brought it to the old house to also put on the berm.
I moved some logs to the berm to shore it up.
Went to Lowe's to get a 6 ft. post and a bag of cement. (I'm building another fence for the dogs.)
While in Lowe's, I received a phone call from my mother who told me my eldest brother had arrived for a week for her Mother's Day present. 
After lunch I dug out 21 clumps of grass to transplant to the old house. Then I dug up some irises and moved them to the front. Then I transplanted the purple thing that isn't a butterfly bush to the front. And the mum, and the other half of the irises. Then I sat down and I haven't moved since. 

Hope you had a great day. For my reward I had a pretty decent corned beef on rye. For my mother's day present, my dad took my daughter to Lowe's yesterday to get me a hanging basket. Instead they decided on fence posts. Lucky my brother arrived. He can help me build the fence.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Historical Research -- Reading Books

Now I've read probably thousands of historical romance books, but I don't consider that as research. Reading books for research consists of stuffy literary histories, maybe a few biographies, letters, authors of the time (Jane Austen, the Brontes etc.)

However, all this actually does is give me a headache. Flipping back and forth through a 500 page volume trying to take notes is not what it's all about. I need the facts, I need them now, and I need my research to be easy to comprehend. Sometimes, you can find everything you need to know on the internet, but that isn't really research -- Okay it is, but I generally refer to that as "light" research.

To fully understand whatever it is, you need to immerse yourself in. What I've begun doing, what I've found most enlightening actually is the "childrens" section in the library. They have everything, and it's easy to read, and easily comprehendable. Biographies, battles, even some classics that have depth and meaning.

When I was doing research for THE CAPTAIN'S LADY, I needed all kinds of things -- ships, manifests, slavery, North Carolina, Boston, abolitionists, the underground railroad -- etc. etc. A LOT of stuff.

I started with the classics Uncle Tom's Cabin. Gone with the Wind. (Yes, this was set later than I would have liked, but I wanted to get the "feel" for how I wanted to portray the slaves and land-owners.)

But then I got stuck in the abolishonist movement. William Wilburforce was instrumental in England, but what about in the America's? Harriet Tubman, of course, Frederick Douglass, John Brown. And yes these people were all decades later than when my story takes place, but the plight of the slaves and those who helped them are timeless. So I took those books from the children's section and read those. Easy, light, factual, everything I wanted. I hate getting bogged down.

And then on to the other things I needed. How to sail a boat, what crops grow in North Carolina (besides tobacco), pirate ships in North Carolina, architecture...everything was there in the children's section.

Now some might say I'm taking the easy way out, and I'll be the first to admit it. But if you're writing three books a year, you need to have "easy" on one list or another. Why not make it research. After all, I'm not writing about "history", I'm writing about fictional characters who are in history. If I get the facts right, the characters won't have to worry about what they're doing there.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Intimate Portrait -- Thomas Merrit, Earl of Davingdale

This is an ongoing series for the blog.

Thomas Merrit, the Earl of Davingdale is one of my favorite characters. He's a good decent honest man, who's had incredibly bad luck thrown his way. I touch on a little of his father's ruining the family name with
his gambling away the family fortune, and of course, his nefarious ex-girlfriend, and then we have his injury in the war. Three things I think would keep a lesser man down, or at least in his cups.

But the one thing Thomas has always had is his Uncle Harry. Deep in the heart of this curmudgeonly uncle lies all the truth Thomas ever needed -- to just believe in himself. Even when the chips were down, at their lowest, and nothing he thought would ever come right, Uncle Harry always cheered him on.

When Thomas meets Ophelia for the first time by smashing her to the ground, he is stunned to find a rather plain bespectacled woman as the holder of his heart. Love at first sight. One of my favorite themes. Ophelia is sweet, and kind, and doesn't treat him like an invalid, or as someone who is "less than" because he can't use his arm properly. Thomas wants to know her better, to figure out if she truly is "the one". Because as we know he's been burned in the past, but there's just "something" about Ophelia. She's not like the other women Thomas has known. Quite possibly because she's not from Society.

The idea to come up with this story came from the movie Serendipity with Kate Beckinsale and John Kusack. They meet briefly, both think they fell in love at first sight, and then are parted. Serendipitous events cause them to almost meet again, but not until the end of the movie are reunited.

With Thomas and Ophelia, I only had 3 days to bring serendipitous events to life. And what better way to bring it to light than by having Thomas literally bump into her. I thought it was fun. Of course, the overturned carriage was a stroke of genius, what man can resist a damsel in distress, and then the night of the ball when Thomas snubs the woman he's been looking for is classic fairy tale romance.

Thomas and Ophelia have one of the simplest plot lines I've ever written. The only thing they have to overcome is time. There are no wicked step-mothers, no evil villains in France, or ugly backstories. Just two people who meet one day, fall in love at first sight, and are parted. Simple it seems, but to make it work at the end, we needed for the both of them to finally see each other for who they really are. And could they live with that reality?

Naturally. I wrote the story and happy endings are my specialty.

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Historical Research -- What I'm Doing Now

I've been sick the last few days and forgot to write up a post about historical research for today. However,
I'm better now and right smack dab in the middle of creating a new story. Something BIG, (which I really can't tell you about now) but it's not one of my forthcoming books. This is an entirely new creation for something else entirely.

So, to begin, I needed to create a brand new character. I needed a French aristocrat. Knowing next to nothing about the French aristocracy, I played with Google and Wikipedia. My two favorite web-sites.

First, I needed to know how the French addressed their nobles.

Then I needed to decide which title he would have. I decided on Marquis.

Then which province he would have held under his title. I wanted something near the ocean. So I went here and chose Aunis.

I then realized I needed to know just what exactly they did in Aunis and found a wonderful little place known for farming and salt.

Then it was on to the larger topic of the French Revolution because I needed a reason for my character to escape France.

In reading up on this, I found a man, the Marquis de Condorcet who would be perfect for me to base my character's life on. Learned, with all the right political leanings, he chose to leave France after the Revolution. I believe I hit the jackpot with him.

Mind you, all this flipping back and forth on the computer, not to mention reading all the articles (and getting sidetracked on whether I needed to actually know what the flag looked like -- Fun Fact: Aunis is under the duchy of Aquitaine) took me just under two hours. But now I have the backstory of one of my characters.

And believe it or not, this man in my story is dead and is only mentioned in a paragraph containing five sentences. He is not relevent to the story at all. However, if I did not do this research, the story would have no substance. I could have just written him any old way. But I didn't. I chose to give this man a life, a backstory, a history, if you will because that was what was needed.

In shaping my main character, Dianne, I need to have all the pertinent information, and this above mentioned man is her father. So it would behoove me to get it right. Or at least as right as I can get in fiction.

Now, onto Dianne's mother....

Anne Gallagher (c) 2013