Monday, December 30, 2013

If You’ve Ever Written Historical Fiction–Or Want To

Enemy of the King  3You will appreciate the staggering research that goes into penning anything set in the past. None of us were born knowing this stuff, unless you’re vividly recalling a former life. Even after all the enormous preparation required before typing a single word, more research is inevitable as new scenes demand added detail. I have yet to discover one that doesn’t. Such has been the case with my recently completed historical romance novel, Traitor’s Legacy, the sequel to award-winning historical romance novel, Enemy of the King. Both stories are set during the high drama of the American Revolution.  Yes, I studied the entire war before launching into my focus on the Southern Front because I needed to know how it all fit together. You can’t just dissect one facet of an era, but must see all the parts, or you will be like an ant seeing only the bottom of the elephant’s foot.
I finally finished Traitor’s Legacy right before Christmas, and intend to get this to my Wild Rose Press editor in the new year. Would you believe I succumbed to illness soon after? Could be I wore myself out. I hope my editor will fall all over it, but we shall see. Those of you eager to read this new story must wait until I have a contract and more information. Much thanks for your support.
Colonial Williamsburg reenactor on horsebackBack to the research. You may ask, do I enjoy these forays into bygone days? For the most part, yes. I find myself engrossed and often come across information that enhances the story, spawns a plot line, or even a new book. But there are those times when I’m exhausted and fervently wish someone could simply answer my question and save me hours of laboring to unearth what’s needed. And historians do not always agree with each other, so I am left to gain an overall consensus of an episode or the particulars of life in that time period. I also continually consult an etymology as I write to be certain my word usage is appropriate. (Image of reenactor from colonial Williamsburg)
Visiting the settings featured in my stories is a huge aid and I do so if possible. I toured all the North and South Carolina sites in Enemy of the King. In Traitor’s Legacy, the primary setting is Halifax, NC. I had a wonderfully informative tour and guides there, plus visited and revisited Colonial Williamsburg and historic Yorktown, as both locations figure into the story. Living in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia makes these treks feasible. Scotland, not so much. For British settings, I am dependent on family and friends who’ve visited, or live there, and research. Always research.
Through the Fire cover Final4I am grateful for all the assistance I’ve received along the way. For my Native American themed stories, I’ve had the help of historians and reenactors (also for my American Revolution themes). Anthropologists, archaeologists, language experts, and the Shawnee themselves have been invaluable in my NA Warrior series. Copious reading material has been generously gifted to me, or purchased from museum bookshops, or borrowed from the library. Family accounts I’ve come across while doing genealogy enter strongly into my work. Some online sites are hugely helpful, but didn’t exist in my early writing days.
My knowledge of herbs is extremely useful in doctoring my characters, or sedating, even poisoning, them if necessary. Herbs were vital to every aspect of life in times past and the reason I give herbal workshops to various online writing groups. Authors need to know more about herbs and herbal lore to lend authenticity to their stories. Some of this knowledge is also important to have for ourselves today, and can be lifesaving.
Native American WarriorMy point in all of this, is a plea for appreciation of the tremendous effort poured into writing historical fiction of all lengths. Even shorter works require much research. I challenge anyone who thinks this is easy, to go for it, If you already know writing historicals is an arduous path, but long to venture into the past, then do it for the love of the journey.  It’s the only way I know of to time travel.
For those of you who are interested, here’s the link to my Kindle Page at Amazon. Amazon has all of my work. Other online booksellers have a number of my stories, but not all. I’ve indie published some of my titles, but many are with the Wild Rose Press, an excellent publisher.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

"I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." ~Charles Dickens

Holly Tree“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”  ~Charles Dickens
“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”  ~Harlan Miller
“Christmas is the day that holds all time together.”  ~Alexander Smith
‘Twas Christmas broach’d the mightiest ale;
‘Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft could cheer
The poor man’s heart through half the year. ~Walter Scott
Christmas ball in tree“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”  ~Laura Ingalls Wilder
“May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all year through!”  ~Author Unknown
“It came without ribbons!  It came without tags!  It came without packages, boxes or bags!”… Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!  “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.  Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!”  ~Dr. SeussHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Little house in the snowy woods, Christmas“At Christmas play and make good cheer,
For Christmas comes but once a year.”
~Thomas Tusser
“Sing hey!  Sing hey!
For Christmas Day;
Twine mistletoe and holly.
For a friendship glows
In winter snows,
And so let’s all be jolly!”
~Author Unknown
“To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.”  ~E.B. White, “The Distant Music of the Hounds,” The Second Tree from the Corner, 1954
“Oh, for the good old days when people would stop Christmas shopping when they ran out of money.”  ~Author Unknown
ChristmasTree in Snowy Woods“May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The gladness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love.”
~Author Unknown
"Christmas is the gentlest, loveliest festival of the revolving year - and yet, for all that, when it speaks, its voice has strong authority."  ~W.J. Cameron

Saturday, December 7, 2013

To Carol Or Not to Carol

Caroling, a Christmas tradition contemplated with fondness and nostalgia can, in reality, be an exhausting ordeal for the carolers as well as the carolees. One December, many moons ago, my husband cleaned up our big old farm truck so the young parents and children from our church could brighten that wintry evening for the elderly and shut-ins.

Bundled against the frosty air, we clambered into the back of the truck. Some of the less agile women and small children had to be lifted by a few of the husky men and pitched into the bed, still smelling of manure--the truck, not the women and children. Then my husband revved up the motor and off we lurched into the starry night, singing merrily. As our crowd of carolers overwhelmed the smaller homes and apartments, some of the shut-ins had to be assisted out of their cozy chairs, or warm beds (at least one was down for the night, or so they’d thought) to stand on frigid porches, leaning on canes, clutching a shawl to their shoulders, to smile and wave, expressing their pleasure that yet another group brimming with Yuletide cheer had remembered them. I wondered if they later requested that the church remove their names from the list of shut-ins.

Those individuals with ample room invited us in for refreshments, insisting we share the trove of cookies we and other groups had brought them. It wasn’t long before the children launched into sugar highs and we adults, who hated to disappoint our hosts, began to feel rather ill from all the  treats we’d consumed–worsened by the jouncing truck.

And then there was the problem with our route. Not having planned it very efficiently, a member of our zealous band would suddenly remember some neglected soul across town which meant a long chilly ride in the teeth of the biting wind. Despite our exhaustion and rising queasiness, we felt compelled to push ever forward, dragging our fussy children along, to bring the joy of Christmas at last to the needy folk in the nursing home. As we trooped up the hall, I overheard one elderly resident, weary but resigned, comment, “We’ve had carolers every night this week.”

And that, my friends, is the last time I ever went caroling. But for those of you who insist on this holiday undertaking, I suggest giving your route some thought beforehand, limit the number of homes you visit. Here’s a wild thought, maybe even call ahead to see if people actually want carolers. I don’t, unless you’re wearing costumes like the ones in A Christmas Carol and sing those lovely Old English tunes. Also,  find some other transport besides the back of a freezing cold  farm truck, and bring treats you actually want to eat because they will be offered to you.

And God Bless us everyone.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Two Christmas Romances for .99 through Dec. 20th

AWarriorforChristmas_7288_300A Warrior for Christmas took me by complete surprise. I expected the usual tale of a former Indian captive transcending his past to live the life of a gentleman, but Beth Trissel’s exquisite writing skill made me love this story…No reader of historical romance will want to miss A Warrior for Christmas, even if it isn’t Christmas.” ~Two Lips Reviews (Five Lips and A Recommended Read Rating)
Colonial American historical romance novella A Warrior for Christmas is reduced at Amazon,Barnes & NobleThe Wild Rose Pressand other online booksellers.
Blurb: Reclaimed by his wealthy uncle, former Shawnee captive Corwin Whitfield finds life with his adopted people at an end and reluctantly enters the social world of 1764. He plans to return to the colonial frontier at his first opportunity–until he meets Uncle Randolph’s ward, Dimity Scott.
Deaf since a childhood bout of Scarlet fever, Dimity Scott intends to be cherished for herself, not her guardian’s purse, even if it means risking spinsterhood. Then the rugged newcomer arrives, unlike any man she’s ever known. Dimity has learned to manage her silent world, but unaccustomed to the dangers of the frontier, can she expect love and marriage from Corwin, who longs to return to his Shawnee life?~
Christmas Mistletoe IsolatedIn A Warrior for Christmas, I sharply contrasted Corwin Whitfield’s hard-won life as an adopted Shawnee warrior in the colonial frontier (the setting for many of my books) with his new privileged life in a well-to-do estate outside of Philadelphia After wealthy Uncle Randolph reclaims Corwin following a treaty with the Indians that requires the return of white captives, he’s given a swift course in etiquette and hustled back into the fashionable world of colonial high society. Expectations that Corwin will learn to manage and ultimately inherit the family estate and undertake the care of his uncle’s ward, Dimity Scott, clash with his restless desire to return to the frontier. Any hope that he might take the unexpectedly appealing Dimity with him dissipate when he realizes the odds of her survival in such a rugged land. Dimity is deaf–risky in the frontier where every sense must be tuned to danger.
If you wonder how Dimity and Corwin communicate in an age before traditional sign language and other advances for the deaf existed, so did I. But the results are surprising and not a little bit wonderful. And then there are the charming traditions of celebrating Christmas in colonial America. A Warrior for Christmas is a story I very much enjoyed researching and writing.~
Somewhere the Bells Ring larger cover sizeHauntingly beautiful Christmas romance novella, Somewhere the Bells Ring, is reduced at Amazon,Barnes & NobleThe Wild Rose Press, and other online booksellers.
Everything changes when a ghost requests her help.
Caught with pot in her dorm room, Bailey Randolph is exiled to a relative’s ancestral home in Virginia to straighten herself out. Banishment to Maple Hill is dismal, until a ghost appears requesting her help. Bailey is frightened but intrigued. Then her girlhood crush, Eric Burke, arrives and suddenly Maple Hill isn’t so bad.
To Eric, wounded in Vietnam, his military career shattered, this homecoming feels no less like exile. But when he finds Bailey at Maple Hill, her fairy-like beauty gives him reason to hope–until she tells him about the ghost haunting the house. Then he wonders if her one experiment with pot has made her crazy.
BAILEY FROM SOMEWHERE THE BELLS RINGAs Bailey and Eric draw closer, he agrees to help her find a long-forgotten Christmas gift the ghost wants. But will the magic of Christmas be enough to make Eric believe–in Bailey and the ghost–before the Christmas bells ring?~
The old Virginia home place where my father was born and raised and I grew up visiting over the holidays has inspired more than one story I’ve written.  I spent some wonderfully memorable Christmas’s in that beautiful plantation home (circa 1816) but the ones I’m most sentimental about were in the late 1960′s. Drawn to that era, I set my Christmas romance, Somewhere the Bells Ring, in 1968 during the tumultuous age of hippies, Vietnam, and some of the best darn rock music ever written.
Chapel Hill - old VA family home place
Not only did that nostalgic time period beckon to me but also an earlier one, 1918 and the end of World War One.  Not in the way of battle scenes, but in the form of a wounded soldier recently returned from war-weary France who lives in the house. Having a Marine Corps Captain grandfather who distinguished himself during the thick of the fighting in France during The Great War and then tragically died when my father was only three definitely influenced this story–dedicated to the grandfather I never knew, but grieved all the same.
Richard-in-North-and-South-richard-armitageBut the biggest influence was the poignant dream I had years ago about a young woman visiting this house during the Christmas holidays and the mysterious gentleman she met. That dream nagged at me every Christmas until I finally wrote their story.  If you enjoy an intriguing mystery with Gothic overtones and heart-tugging romance set in vintage America then Somewhere the Bells Ring is for you.
“An intriguing, gripping ghost story with a focus on romance rather than terror.” ~Reviewed by Stephanie E with Fallen Angels Reviews
Romancing the Book: “Ms. Trissel captivates her reader from the moment you start reading the first page. She has written a compelling love story that spans some fifty plus years and keeps you entertained every step of the way with the story within a story…I fell in love with her characters and look forward to the next delightful story ready with Kleenex box in hand. A must read for every romance fan.” ~Reviewed by Robin
BellsSizzling Hot Book Reviews: “As I read on, I didn’t put it down. I even went back and re read it! For all it is melancholy, it is a sweet story of past and present loves and how they parallel. The feelings of each of the main characters are written well and though only a few days pass in the story, it covered years of emotions, and glimpse of a family through the years. When I finished Somewhere the Bells Ring, I felt a sense of peace and calm, a wonderful thing at any time, but especially during the hectic Christmas season that is the setting of this story.” ~Reviewed by Beverly

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Deck the Halls with Rosemary

Historically, rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavor ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration.
“Down with the rosemary and so,
Down with the baies and mistletoe,
Down with the holly, ivie all
Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.”—HERRICK.
Rosemary Christmas TreeRosemary Christmas Trees
Although an herb, rosemary is often shaped into lovely miniature Christmas trees. The plant is well suited for this purpose as its essential oils produce a scent similar to pine trees and it has a natural evergreen shape and needle-like leaves.
If you purchase a rosemary plant whether as a Christmas tree or for your indoor herb garden, remember it needs good light and moderate watering. Allow the soil to dry before re-watering to avoid root rot. The most common cause of death for potted rosemary is over watering. In spring transfer your rosemary to a clay pot. The clay will help wick excess water out of the soil. Fertilize monthly to maintain health. To this advice I add that you can also kill them by allowing the plant to dry out, so don’t do that either.
Because rosemary is native to the hot, dry hills of the Mediterranean, growing it indoors can be a problem. You may find you get more dense vigorous growth if it is kept outside during most of the year. Trim the plant periodically to preserve the Christmas tree shape.~

Saturday, November 30, 2013

"The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you." ~John E. Southard

Thankfulness and gratitude quotes for all the year:

“We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 “Those blessings are sweetest that are won with prayer and worn with thanks.” ~ Thomas Goodwin

“Sometimes we focus so much on what we don't have that we fail to see, appreciate, and use what we do have!” ~ Jeff Dixon

“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.” ~ John Henry Jowett

"The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you."  ~John E. Southard

"As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world." ~Terri Guillemets

"For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 “Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”  ~William Faulkner

"The struggle ends when the gratitude begins." ~Neale Donald Walsch

"If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness.  It will change your life mightily."  ~Gerald Good

"Wherever I have knocked, a door has opened.  Wherever I have wandered, a path has appeared."  ~Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens

"Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul."  ~Henry Ward Beecher

"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude."  ~Cynthia Ozick

"For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!"
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"God speaks in the silence of the heart.  Listening is the beginning of prayer."  ~Mother Teresa

 “Rest and be thankful.” 
~ William Wordsworth

“Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.” 
Henry Clay

“Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighborhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful!” 
Elif ShafakThe Forty Rules of Love

“Gratitude is the real treasure God wants us to find, because it isn't the pot of gold but the rainbow that colors our world.” 
~ Richelle E. Goodrich

"Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings."
~ William Arthur Ward

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Legacy of Old Homes and Actual Site of the First Thanksgiving

While doing research for the sequel to my colonial American historical romance novel Enemy of the King (postponed after the idea for light paranormal romance novel Somewhere My Love came to me) my mother and I toured several of the lovely old James River plantations.  Two of these, Berkeley and Shirley, most influenced the home in Somewhere My Love, ‘Foxleigh.’  While visiting Berkeley, originally called Berkeley Hundred and named after one of its founders, I was especially impressed by the wealth of history behind this beautiful home and stately grounds. That sense of the past just flowed over me, and I particularly remember a kind and informative guide, an older woman. But there were others.

The magnificent terraced boxwood gardens and lawn extend a quarter-mile from the front door to the James River.  The mansion itself wasn’t built until 1726, but the plantation’s history reaches much farther back into America‘s roots. I didn’t know that Berkeley was the actual site of the first Thanksgiving in America on Dec. 4th, 1619.  Most of you probably don’t either. (*Image from Williamsburg Weekends)

On December 4, 1619, a group of 38 English settlers arrived at Berkeley Hundred about 8,000 acres on the north bank of the James River near Herring Creek in an area then known as Charles Cittie. It was about 20 miles upstream from Jamestown, where the first permanent settlement of the Colony of Virginia was established on May 14, 1607. The group’s charter required that the day of arrival be observed yearly as a “day of thanksgiving” to God. On that first day, Captain John Woodleaf held the service of thanksgiving.

During the Indian Massacre of 1622 nine of the settlers at Berkeley Hundred were killed, as well as about a third of the entire population of the Virginia Colony. The Berkeley Hundred site and other outlying locations were abandoned as the colonists withdrew to Jamestown and other more secure points.  After several years, the site became Berkeley Plantation and was long the traditional home of the Harrison family, one of the First Families of Virginia. (*Image from Berkeley Plantation First Thanksgiving Festival)

Benjamin Harrison, son of the builder of Berkeley and the plantation’s second owner, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and three-time Governor of Virginia. William Henry Harrison, Benjamin‘s third son, born at Berkeley, was the famous Indian fighter known as “Tippecanoe,” who later became the ninth President of the United States, in 1841. His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was the 23rd President.

Many famous founding fathers and mothers were guests at this gracious and elegant estate. For more on Berkeley Plantation and a fascinating glimpse into early America visit:
And if you have the opportunity to visit in person, by all means go.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Early American Christmas Cards and My Colonial Christmas Romance

Ever wonder about the history of Christmas Cards in America? Here’s what I found.
From Something Olde: Christmas Card History
“In the late 1700’s merchants sent their customers best wishes for the new year. The cards were created on lithographs and hand-colored. A lithograph is an etching on a stone that can be reproduced on paper. Sending Christmas cards first became popular in England over 150 years ago.  In the 1840’s John Calcott Horsely was a curator at the royal museum.  He was late sending his usual holiday letters to his friends and relatives for Christmas.  He asked the artist, Sir Henry Cole, to design and hand-color 1,000 cards.  He wanted the card to show people being fed and clothed to remind his friends of the needs of the poor during this season.”
Holiday Cards
The first American to print and sell Christmas cards was Louis Prang of Roxbury, Massachusetts, who began publishing cards in 1875.
(In 1953) President Dwight D. Eisenhower is given credit for sending the first “official” Christmas card from the White House. An art print also became the standard Christmas gift for the president’s staff, a practice continued to this day.
From Idea Finder:   “A relatively recent phenomenon, the sending of commercially printed Christmas cards originated in London in 1843. Previously, people had exchanged handwritten holiday greetings. First in person. Then via post. By 1822, homemade Christmas cards had become the bane of the U.S. postal system. That year, the Superintendent of Mails in Washington, D.C., complained of the need to hire sixteen extra mailmen. Fearful of future bottlenecks, he petitioned Congress to limit the exchange of cards by post, concluding, “I don’t know what we’ll do if it keeps on.”
Not only did it keep on, but with the marketing of attractive commercial cards the postal burden worsened. The first Christmas card designed for sale was by London artist John Calcott Horsley. A respected illustrator of the day, Horsley was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, a wealthy British businessman, who wanted a card he could proudly send to friends and professional acquaintances to wish them a “merry Christmas.”
From The History of Christmas Cards: At Christmastime, many people would send letters to friends and family far away, and children at boarding school would decorate paper and write letters to show off the writing skills they’d improved upon that term at school. However, the first official Christmas card was created in 1843 in Britain.
Sir Henry Cole, director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, would write letters to family and acquaintances at Christmastime. He and others could buy decorative paper on which to pen greetings and good wishes, but he found it to be a cumbersome task. So Cole commissioned an artist friend, John Calcott Horsley to create a card with a simple message that could be duplicated and sent to all his acquaintances. Horsley lithographed and hand-colored 1,000 copies of this first commercial card. It was a three-panel card – the center panel showed a family celebrating and the two wing panels depicted people feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. The card bore the simple greeting, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You,” which would become the standard sentiment of the mass-produced Christmas cards.
“Christmas cards were quite elaborate and though the lithograph printing process helped in producing cards, they first became popular among the upper-class in England. However, the development and improvement of the postal system, making sending cards more affordable, was a big part of the rise in the popularity of Christmas cards. Early cards were not necessarily religious Christmas cards but favored images such as beautiful flowers, birds, scenery and other pretty things.
In 1875 Louis Prang brought the commercial Christmas card to the United States. Prang, a German lithographer, had developed a new innovative way of printing that made the process of creating Christmas and other cards much simpler and more affordable. Like British Christmas cards, Prang’s cards included various images that were simply pretty and tasteful, not truly having much to do with Christmas or even necessarily winter. However, some cards did include holly, snow and some other wintery or Christmas images. His cards became extremely popular in the U.S.; his company printed almost five million cards a year by 1881.”
Well, you get the idea. In my holiday release, A Warrior For Christmas, (also in audio now!) I journeyed farther back in early America to the colonial time period and the holiday celebration in a wealthy household.  However, the hero, a former Shawnee captive, would rather return to his adopted people in the colonial frontier.
Blurb: Reclaimed by his wealthy uncle, former Shawnee captive Corwin Whitfield finds life with his adopted people at an end and reluctantly enters the social world of 1764. He plans to return to the colonial frontier at his first opportunity–until he meets Uncle Randolph’s ward, Dimity Scott.
Deaf since a childhood bout of Scarlet fever, Dimity Scott intends to be cherished for herself, not her guardian’s purse, even if it means risking spinsterhood. Then the rugged newcomer arrives, unlike any man she’s ever known. Dimity has learned to manage her silent world, but unaccustomed to the dangers of the frontier, can she expect love and marriage from Corwin, who longs to return to his Shawnee life?~
***A Warrior for Christmas is available from all major online 
booksellers including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.