Musical Inspiration for a Love Story
I've only recently been introduced to the concept of creating a playlist to go along with a book. I'd seen it done before, mind you, but I never really associated that idea with the way I write. Then my magnificent friend, Arlem Hawks, started asking our writing group what songs we thought matched up to our characters and their love stories. I happened to be starting work on Miss Devon's Choice at the time, and my hero in that novel is a musician. I was struggling to capture him on paper the way he was in my head, so I started listening to violin music. Suddenly, he came to life.
Every time I struggled with a scene in Miss Devon's Choice, I found a song I thought conveyed the emotion of a character or the overall feelings I was trying to create between the two of them. Before I knew it, I had a playlist I listened to every time I started to write about Christian and Rebecca.
Now that a few months have gone by since the book was published, I still find myself listening to that particular list. I'm going to share it here, and I think this will be part of my writing process for all future books, too.
For your reading AND listening pleasure, the Rebecca & Christian Playlist.
There are so many options now that we have the internet. But some sources are better than others!
I love the Regency time period. As I've taken my writing journey into this era, I've come across lots of authors who have said, "I'd love to write Regency, but the research scares me! I wouldn't know where to start." If the research is the only thing holding you back, you should know that there has never been a better time to write about the 19th century than in the 21st century. :-)
We have access to so many amazing documents and sources. I'm happy to share some of the best things I've found in my time writing. Keep in mind, though, that you need to do your best due-diligence. If your story hinges on a historical fact that a blogger mentions, dig a little deeper and confirm your source is correct.
Historical readers, yes, even those who read historical romance, have different expectations than people who read contemporary. They're reading historical for a reason, and one of those reasons is often the desire to know more about that time period and/or to immerse themselves in that period. You will often read, in negative reviews of historicals, that the readers hate it when something "pulls them out" of the story. This can be anything from using titles wrong (a sin of which I'm guilty, and repenting of), to having characters use modern language and slang, to having something show up in the story that hadn't been invented yet.
This isn't meant to scare you at all, but to reinforce how important it is for you to double-check your sources. Find beta-readers, or critique partners, or editors who are familiar with the genre and the time period. They'll help a lot. I can't tell you how many times my critique partners have helped me out by saying, "Um, that word wasn't actually used yet." Or the oh-so-helpful, "That weapon your bad guy is using? Yeah. That was invented forty years after your story."
Do. Your. Research. Please. Poorly researched stories get bad reviews. Simple as that.
One thing you might like to do is Follow my Regency Pinterest Board. I put lots of stuff up there as I find it for my own research, and I find following other authors helpful. Now, on to my list...
I am at a writer's conference in the Phoenix area. It got up to 106 degrees here today. Yeouch. Thankfully, the conference center thermostat seems to be set at about 50 degrees, so I'm cold more often than hot.
I love writer's conferences. I'm surrounded by people who do what I do, who understand the joys and pains of writing, and creating, and receiving looks of skepticism when they admit to people that they write stories. Writers are amazing.
The keynote speaker at the conference, Martine Leavitt, discussed the importance of perseverance. She referred to books, scientific studies, and her own experience as a writer and a teacher of writers. To succeed in the writing world, and any endeavor, you have to keep moving forward even when you're getting nothing but push-back from the world and people around you. I liked that. She also told us to wake up at 5:00 AM to write, every day. I didn't like that. But I'm willing to give it a try.
Today, at this amazing conference surrounded by people like me, I'm actually really struggling with the fourth item on Martine's "secret of success" list. Hope. I don't know if it's just a bad day, if it's mental exhaustion or physical exhaustion, but I feel really done in. I'm tired. I feel like a fraud. I don't think my writing is good enough. Really, I've had one of those weeks where these feelings have just been building on top of each other.
It's like someone keeps handing me bricks, and each one has a label. "You need more direction in this story." "You need to be a better mom and not write so much." "You've got a lot of editing to do if this story is going to work." "Your character has no direction." "You got this detail wrong." "You need to be healthier." Most of these bricks, really, I'm making for myself. No one is really being mean to me. But I just feel discouraged. I could carry one or two of these bricks for a while until I fixed the problem and found a way to put them down again, but I feel like I've got a bag full.
Thank goodness for supportive friends and a loving spouse. It would be a really, really hard week without them.
But really, if you wonder what creative types are like, this sort of thing happens to us a lot. I see it all the time in my friends' newsfeeds. They feel discouraged, down-trodden, exhausted, and like they aren't good enough to be creating their art/books/music. I read a study that said creative people are 3 times more likely to struggle with depression than people in other industries. Why are we so hard on ourselves? I don't know.
But if you know someone who is extra creative, who puts time and energy into making something, tell them how awesome they are. They could probably use the boost in confidence. :-)
And I'll be fine. I just need to get over this hump and get back to work. Y'all have a great day, and do something you love!
Five Authors. Five Romances. One Unforgettable Party.
I am excited to be doing another interview with one of the incredible authors behind the Regency House Party (RHP). It’s my privilege to interview Sara Cardon and share an up-and-coming author with my readership. If you love Regency, if you love stories where the romance is sweet and clean, then the books in this series are for you.
As a quick recap, the Regency House Party started as a weekly serial event taking place across social media platforms. Five talented romance authors worked together to tell love stories set in the beautiful English countryside. They built a good, strong fan base as they took turns posting chapters about their wonderful characters.
After the stories came to an end, these five authors went to work turning the online content into novellas, now available for order and pre-order on Amazon.
Sara Cardon participated in this event and her story, The Stable Master’s Daughter, will be available on September 25, 2018. I’m really looking forward to grabbing my ebook copy, but if you can’t wait, the paperback is available now!
Sara, what did you think about the idea for RHP when it was presented to you? Were you excited to work with other authors to create this Regency world?
I thought it was a totally cool idea. It was fun to brainstorm characters, setting, and possibilities. We swapped all kinds of ideas and jokes. We had an inkling it might be something great, but we kept saying, “If we have 25 engaged readers, we’ll count this a success!” It’s incredible to see how it came together!
What about the Regency era appeals to you?
There are a lot of contradictions to play with within this time frame. The manners are beautiful, but could be stifling. Britain was at war with France, but the upper class went on with high living. I love the contrasts.
Your story is called The Stable Master’s Daughter. That’s an unusual sort of person to be at a proper house party.
It’s completely crazy to have a person born into the working class among the elite. Marjorie knows it too. The invitation comes from the Countess, who is acquainted with Marjorie’s well-to-do aunt. Marjorie doesn’t usually brush shoulders with such an elite group, but the Countess thinks outside the box and is a scheming matchmaker.
What can you tell us about your heroine, Marjorie? What’s something you love about her?
Marjorie is whimsical, gracious, and resilient. She pours her heart into her art. She believes the lie that her worth is diminished because of her birth. At the house party, she confronts her beliefs, battles to align dreams with reality, and of course, falls in love with the wrong brother.
What about your hero? Miles is described as a man of “unyielding” principles. What sort of principles is he fighting to maintain?
Miles has things pretty well figured out—for himself and everyone he cares about. He has a template for life and rejects everything that doesn’t match up, making him quite judgmental. He believes to his core in being a gentleman. When Marjorie touches a place in his heart no one else has, he wrestles with what society wants and what he wants. He reexamines what being a true gentleman means.
I asked Jen what one of her favorite “extras” in the series was. What’s something “extra” you enjoyed while y’all were putting this series together?
The “extra” for me would have to be Thomas Webb. I have a love/hate relationship with him, since his part in the story came about out of necessity. One of the pitfalls of trying to incorporate other authors’ characters into my story is when I use them in a way someone doesn’t agree with, because it affects their story. I had a gaping hole where a bad boy character was removed. Jen offered one of her sweet brothers for the role, but I couldn’t do that. I also didn’t want a placeholder or a cardboard character to fill the role. So I felt as aggravated with creating Mr. Webb as the Countess probably was with having him show up at her house party, uninvited. Webb ended up being an interesting character and a great addition. It stretched me.
What are your future writing plans? Any more books in the works?
I have a couple books I’m working on. I have a captain in the British Royal Navy trying to woo a jilted woman. I just finished some research into the Napoleonic Wars and the details will bring it into sharp focus. And of course, I have a zillion other book ideas because creating is fun.
As a romance author, I take it you’re a romance reader too.
I’m a huge reader. About ten years ago, all I read was nonfiction and literary fiction. I was always drawn to a romance subplot, if there was one. The summer I discovered clean and sweet romances was the best summer of my life!
What is one of your favorite romances you would love people to discover?
Elizabeth Camden’s Against the Tide is a favorite. I love Kathleen Baldwin’s School for Unusual Girls series. Karen Witemeyer, Regina Jennings, Kasie West—there are so many great authors, and new authors I’m discovering all the time! I especially love authors who write smart women and good men—that’s what inspires me.
Thank you so much for your time, Sara! Links to the Regency House Party sites and books by all five authors are listed below. Check out these fabulous stories and make sure you follow the Regency House Party accounts for deals on their books and other great Regency reads!
Originally Published on December 5, 2017 on WordPress.
Hanging out on one of my favorite Facebook groups the other day, I read a plea for help. It went something like this:
I am a terrible author because I never have the time to write. I’m raising small humans and have a lot of other responsibilities. I want to write. But I haven’t published in forever and I will take at least a year or two or three or six to finish my current work in progress. Should I just give up and admit I will never be good enough? That I am not serious enough?
As you can imagine, the responses to this kind of question run the gamut from kindly sympathetic to abrasively rude. (Hint: rudeness never helps anyone.)
“Go easy on yourself,” said the kind people. “We all go through this!
“Write or don’t. Stop crying about it,” said the cynical.
I’ve been where that original poster is/was, and I had people heap both sorts of advice onto my head. But the best advice I ever got was in the form of a question.
“Why does writing matter to you?”
This is a huge question. It’s really the question every writer should pose to themselves during one of those long dark tea-times of the soul.
Are you driven by sugar-plum fairies to jot down witty tales? Is it therapeutic? An escape? Do you need a source of extra income? (Don’t laugh, some authors make it big.)
Determine why you write. Because when you hit that wall, you’re going to need to know the answer.“What do you mean, a wall?”
I mean when you come up against a very solid reason to give up writing, you need to know why you’ve got to go up and over that reason.
Your reason-to-stop-actively-writing might not even be a bad thing. There can be good reasons to step back. Like you get an amazing job with amazing pay and it fulfills you, or you get a new family member (spouse, child, pet) who needs all your time. Maybe you find another creative outlet (painting, blogging, scrap-booking), or you win the lottery and have to spend all that cash!
There are sad and serious reasons, too. Death of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a relationship, poor health, or having absolutely no time to breathe, let alone write.
These are the walls. You may run into many. But what is going to get you up and over them?
Ask yourself why you write. Now, write down the answer. Explain the answer the way you would explain it to your best friend, your mom, and a stranger on the bus.
Write it again. Write it using the most beautiful words you know. Or the simplest.
Is it real, your reason? When you read it to yourself, does it resonate?
Good. Now put it somewhere you can see it. Make a snazzy graphic and set is as the background on your phone/tablet/computer screen. Tape it to your mirror/fridge/lamp. Read it every time you stand in front of it. Make it your mantra.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a single sentence or a paragraph, it might not be profound, or it might sound generic. Doesn’t. Matter. It’s your reason. Own it.
I’ll share my reason with you. I don’t even care if you laugh.
I write because I’ve told myself stories since childhood and I want those stories to be accessible to the people I love. I write because the stories have always been there. I write because I know my stories bring me happiness and I want to share that feeling with as many people as I can. I write because I love to create with words.
Whatever your reason, it’s a good one. Love or money. (Or why not both?)
Confession Time: My Wall
My latest wall was my pregnancy and the first year of life of a tiny human being. All the joy of writing left during my pregnancy. I joked that the baby was using up all my creativity. But I secretly worried I would never find the desire to write again.
That was the indication that this wall would not stretch before me forever. I worried that part of myself was gone. I was concerned. I cared.
I remembered my reasons for writing. It took me nine months of pregnancy and twelve months of caring for a tiny person, and the rest of my family. That’s 21 months lacking the desire to write.
But it came back as a flood of ideas, hope, and energy. I didn’t even DO anything to get it back. It was just there, suddenly, and I knew I was ready to write again.
But that was a long dry spell. A long time staring at a wall.
There were other things going on in my life, needing attention, care, and love.
There are seasons to our lives.
“Write or don’t,” is the most ridiculous thing you can say to someone staring at that wall.
Why do you write? If your reason matters to you, it’s a good reason, and you will be back. The wall will come down, or you will climb over, or perhaps blow it up. But if you want to write, you will. Eventually.
Give it time. Plowing into that wall is only going to hurt you. Sit. Think. Wait. Study. Take care of what needs your attention. You’ll get that tingly feeling in your finger-tips again, when the time is right. And remember the wise words of a man who didn’t make it big in life, but loved what he did:
I write clean and sweet Historical Romance Novels, I live in the desert, I'm a mom of four, madly in love with my husband, and I love to read!
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Sally Britton's books on Goodreads
His Bluestocking Bride (Branches of Love #3)
ratings: 1062 (avg rating 4.21)
The Earl and His Lady (Branches of Love #4)
ratings: 1008 (avg rating 4.36)
The Gentleman Physician (Branches of Love #2)
ratings: 680 (avg rating 4.20)
The Social Tutor (Branches of Love #1)
ratings: 656 (avg rating 4.11)
Miss Devon's Choice (Branches of Love #5)
ratings: 517 (avg rating 4.45)