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.~