Saturday, February 13, 2010

What Makes A Historical... Historical?

This topic has been mulling around in my head for a while. In light of having to address it with the submissions pool, I'm going to try and do it justice here.

A historical is so much more than placing a man and woman in an era gone by. The little things count -- more than you would probably expect.

There is a level of detail expected with a historical romance that is, by nature of the beast, overlooked in contemporary submissions. If we, as contemporary authors, put into our manuscript, "the silver pickup", we have a pretty good idea what that looks like. Yes, we can create more vivid visuals by mentioning a brand name, mentioning short or long bed, dually, or king cab. But if you're just moving a character from point a to point b, we don't necessarily need that level of detail. (Arguable, but work with me for a minute).

If you put in a historical, "They climbed into the carriage and rode away." It'll work. Maybe. But you'll have a lot more success with passing the story off as a researched historical with something like, "They climbed into the landau and rode away." Right there, the word landau, does so many things. It sets setting (1743-forward). It creates a visual (used for luxury). It gives a rough idea how many horses are in front(two), it illustrates the seating room. If you take it a step further, you can add in one word "into the five-glass landau" - and now you've added the visual of glass windows (although careful, you might have changed your setting.)

A common error I see in historical submissions is lack of enough detail to give the story a historical feel. I'm not talking about disertations on the setting/politics/class structure. I'm talking about little interwoven adjectives that make pictures pop.

Since my expertise is with ancient civilizations, let me go here to exemplify further.

Knights are a common theme as are Medieval settings. When you have characters in historicals, you must consider their perspectives (POV again).

What's a knight do for a living? War.

What are the tools he uses for war? Horses, armor, swords, spears, sometimes crossbows/arrows. Strategy.

Is a knight going to know the difference between a short sword and a bastard sword? Or the difference between a kite shield and a buckler? Or a lunge versus a thrust attack? You betcha. By sight. Without having to consider it. Second nature.

If he doesn't, chances are he's not going to survive his first battle to go on and become the fearsome knight brought to his knees by our mighty heroines.

Is a peasant going to know those things? Most likely not. A sword is a sword. They are shorter or longer. They kill -- usually friends and relatives when territories are taken over and the serfs pay for a liege lord's failure. Frankly, most peasants weren't allowed to have arms, depending on the era/feudal society and area.

And then we get into a whole different aspect of detail... era-specific tools and details. Just like one wouldn't find a zipper in the Middle Ages, we aren't going to find full plate mail immediately following the Dark Ages. The suits of armor you see in museums, aren't common until the 13th-14th century.

So if you're writing about knights "Armor" isn't going to cut it as an adjective. "Sword" isn't going to illustrate anything specific.

And if you're submitting something in this era to me, be prepared to go through that litmus test.

In conclusion -- when you are doing historical writing, research, research, research. Just like a veterinarian would know a Pomeranian by name, your historical characters are going to know the tools of their trade intimately. Use those details to illustrate the key details that draw a reader in and make them believe they are literally walking through a different era. Use it as an opportunity to show off the things you've learned when studying the era you write about. But do it effectively. Blend it in. Paint the picture. Don't make it stick out like a sore thumb.


Brand New Historical

I love Champagnes. But as I mentioned when I announced my additional work with the historical lines, I really love a good historical. So when Kismet's Revenge came across my desk, I did a few backflips. Author Katherine Brandon returns to her Kismet Series, with this spicy full length American Rose.

Marisa Alvarez looks forward to a day she'll remember the rest of her life. Instead of the marriage proposal and happily ever after she expects, however, she becomes one of only a handful of survivors of one of the bloodiest Indian uprisings in American history, the attack on Fort Mims.

Lucien St. Clair has been sent to Pensacola to learn the identity of a clever saboteur who calls himself "La Venganza." As he pursues the enigmatic figure, he is inexplicably drawn to Marisa, a treacherous woman whose beautiful face may hide deadly secrets.

But when acts of revenge escalate to kidnapping, Lucien will have to find a way to gain Marisa's trust, not only to save her life, but to win her heart!

Kismet's Revenge will be available on August 13, 2010.


Lucien lowered his tone and his head. “Who is La Venganza?”

“Why, Major.” Marisa fixed him with an arched brow. “Are we no longer continuing the pretense you’re here on business?”

From behind him, Ethan pointed an accusatory finger. “You knew! You knew General Jackson sent us to find La Venganza.”

Her laughter washed over him like a hot bath. “Of course I knew. Do I look like an idiot?”

Now he leaned forward, his face a breath away from hers. “I want the villain’s name.”

Taking a step back, Marisa folded her arms over her chest. “What villain?”

“You know exactly what villain.” His tone grew deadly, each soft syllable laced with a hard edge. “Who is La Venganza, seƱorita?”

“Ask your questions elsewhere. You’ll get nothing from me.” She waved a hand as if to shoo
him away.

In one smooth arc, Lucien grabbed her flying hand in his right fist. His left hand cupped her chin, forcing her to look into his eyes. The velvet of her skin, like a rose petal, seeped into his fingers. He’d never touched her bare flesh before now. Never felt her warmth or known such incredible softness in anyone.

But the anger that blazed in her eyes reminded him of stable fires, alligators, and blood streaming from a comrade’s forehead. Besides, she had a lover.

A lover who was a criminal.

“I will find La Venganza.”

With a shake of her head, she simultaneously broke out of his grasp and his gaze. “You’ll find nothing.” She flashed a superior smile. “You don’t even know where to look. La Venganza could be standing before you, and you wouldn’t know.”

From The End Zone

Good evening all. I'm behind in my blogging, but not without good reason. I have a bunch of authors announcing new titles, and I've been super busy!

Welcome author Doreen Alsen and her At The End Zone series:

Book 1, Mike's Best Bet, introduces us to the quaint sports bar, The End Zone.

Meet handsome football coach Mike. He knows his sports, he knows his bets, and when he places a wager with the music teacher (scoff!) he knows he'll win. Only perfect Miss Andi isn't quite as prima-donna as he believes. She might like classical music. She might serve on the ballet's board. But she's got a few tricks up her sleeve -- not the least of which involve insight on Mike's favorite team, which stacks the odds in her favor one-hundred percent.

As this mismatched couple navigates through a world of differences, their charismatic personalities are certain to keep you entertained.

Mike's Best Bet will be released through the Champagne Rose line, on March 26, 2010.


He took his hands out of his pockets and held one out to her. “Dance with me.”

She shouldn’t, she really shouldn’t, but she made the mistake of looking into Mike’s green-flecked eyes. They were so hot, they practically scorched her. Oh boy was she a goner. She put her champagne down, put her hand into his, and followed him onto the dance floor.

He put his hands on her hips and pulled her in close to him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and melted against him while the band played Duke Ellington’s Prelude to a Kiss.

Mike moved with all the elegance and grace of a natural athlete. The band’s alto sax lovingly crooned a hot melody that seemed made just for them. Andi sighed and lost herself in the moment.

It shouldn’t feel so good to be held by this man, but it did. He felt warm and solid and safe. Only traces of his aftershave lingered, so her nose caught elusive wisps of wood and spice. His thumbs rubbed up and down on her hips, which made her shiver. He didn’t know the song, but hummed along anyway, off-key. She couldn’t remember when she last had heard more beautiful music.

The music ended. For a long moment, they remained locked against each other, unaware of the applause that replaced the music. She looked up at him, then away. She didn’t want him to see more than she was ready to show.

Book 2, What Ian Wants, brings back our sexy professor Miss Andi left behind.

Ian's so unforgettable, it's hard to imagine anyone passing him up -- a fact waitress Gina can't help but notice. Only these two are so unsuitable for each other, so absolutely polar opposites, their excursions are comical to say the least. When they aren't at crossed-purposes, they're tender and oh so touching, they'll stay with you long after the last page is turned.

Look for What Ian Wants, in the Champagne line, on July 23, 2010.


He wore his eagerness to please like a cub scout wore his first merit badge. Her heart melted a little more. “Coffee sounds good, but don’t worry about it.” She reached in her purse. “I can get it.”

“No, I’ll get it. I insist.” He came from around the table and glommed onto her elbow, then pushed her into a seat. “Your feet must be aching. Just rest a second, and I’ll be right back.”

Stunned, Gina had no choice but to do as he said. Curious about the array of blue books, she picked one up, one he had already graded. It was all in French. The questions, the answers, his red pen comments, all in French.

She couldn’t understand a single word. She felt like a total doofus.

“Don’t mind those. I’ll gather them up and put them away.” He placed the large coffee in front of her, then moved into the booth and started to pick up the blue books. “I feel like I’m constantly grading papers. If I don’t keep up, they bury me.” Stuffing the papers into the open briefcase at his side, Ian dropped the lid. It landed with a soft thud. He looked at her, his eyes hopeful. “I don’t know how you take your coffee, so I brought both cream and sugar.” Jamming his hands in his pockets, he pulled out enough packets of sugar to put her in a coma, as well as a handful of creamers.

She reached for a creamer. “Just cream, thanks.” It made a hissing sound as she pulled the wrapper off the top. “What’s up?”

Ian looked away for a moment, pulled the glasses off his face and cleaned them with a paper napkin. “There’s no graceful way to ask this.” He studied his glasses before slipping them back on his face.

“Why don’t you just spit it out?”

“Right, then.” He nodded. “I need you to marry me.”