Historical Romance

Historical Romance with an Inspirational Touch

Friday, May 29, 2009

Time to Weed

One of my favorite things to do is garden. I have several small gardens around my yard and each Spring I cannot wait to get outside and nurture the plants. I start with cleaning off the dead at the end of April and plant annuals and new perennials at the beginning of May. Then, I try to keep the weeds at bay. Unfortunately, I was not able to work in my gardens until today. As I pulled the weeds in an effort to find my lovely perennials I realized how much they represented my life.

Have you ever piled your plate so high that only a little bit of everything gets done and some things go to the wayside? With three children and their activities, a wonderful husband, full-time job outside the home, church committees, writing, extended family and friends, social events and the musicals, I’ve allowed myself to become so busy that I didn’t know if I am coming or going. In all of this, I’ve gotten away from reading: novels, devotionals and the Bible, with the exception of planning my Sunday School lesson and worshiping in church.

My life needs to be weeded as much as my garden. I need to limit the amount of time I spend on the unimportant and more on the important – prayer and family. Once the weeds are gone, my focus will return, as it did today when I realized what I had been missing. It may sound crazy, but this is often a time when I renew my spirit. This is when my mind doesn’t have to focus on what I am doing, but opens and I ask God the important question – what do you want me to do for You? Perhaps this is why everything has seemed overwhelming of late. I’ve been so busy doing that I forgot to be led.

Does this just happen to me, or have you had occasions where your life is so full of weeds you lose focus of what is most important?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Blog Block - Kind of Like Writer's Block

Earlier this week I was completely out of ideas for a blog. Instead of sitting, staring at a blank screen, I decided to admit my failings. I so admire those who can post blogs on a regular basis and almost envious of those who manage to post almost daily. When no ideas developed even after an infusion of caffeine, I turned to my critique partners for help. They offered several suggestions. Here is the first one.

a) I suggest you write on how to find the perfect name. That is going to be the subject of my next newsletter President's message thing - so it's on my brain.

Sometimes it is hard for me to write a character unless I have given them the perfect name. I have gone so far as to change a character's name three times while working on a manuscript. I've noticed that I am not really connected to that character until they finally have the perfect name for them. A name can make all of the difference in how a character is viewed. Last year a blog was posted on SecondWindPub.wordpress.com on November 10th entitled Names Define Your Characters. Until I read this post I had no idea that Scarlett O’Hara’s original first name was Pansy. Can you imagine that? I can’t. Just take a few of the famous lines Scarlett is known for: “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again” or “You'd rather live with that silly little fool who can't open her mouth except to say "yes" or "no" and raise a passel of mealy-mouthed brats just like her!” Can you see a Pansy saying those lines? I can’t. However, I can see a Pansy uttering “I’ll think about that tomorrow”.

I am not saying Pansy is a bad name at all and I actually like it. But when I hear the name I think of a nice, sweet, caring person. More of a Melanie type character who puts others first and sees the good in everyone. The name Scarlett brings an entirely different image to mind. Of course, my feelings are certainly influenced by Gond With the Wind because I've never known a Scarlett personally. Which brings up another question. Have you ever avoided using a name because a character is so well known? Or, have you ever avoided using names of people you know, or people you have known? Or, do you draw your character's names from people in your life or in your past? Which leads to the second part of her question.

b) But for you - you could discuss why you love the name Patrick so much. (Maybe your brother will read it.)
An explanation is needed. I did not even realize I was doing this, but every story I’ve written has a character named Patrick as either the hero or heroine’s brother. I didn’t even notice this until it was pointed out to me. I have changed all but one of the Patrick’s to another name. I have no idea why this name kept reappearing, but it is my brother’s middle name. Do you ever find yourself drawn to one specific name and use it in every story? And what is your favorite resource for finding the perfect name?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Critique Group – Cruel to be Kind?

I am part of a wonderful online critique group for historical romance authors and we just celebrated being together for one year. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this group of ladies and have grown as writer beyond my expectations. Our very first motto was Crit honest, but Crit nice. This was because the two of us who started the group had received some pretty negative comments. I am not saying that all the critique groups I have been a part of before were necessarily “cruel”, but sometimes when I get an edited chapter back, the lyrics from Nick Lowe’s song play in my head. “You have to be cruel to be kind, in the right measure.”

I feel very strongly about being a part of a critique group. However, as with all things, there should be a few guidelines. First, a critique group or partner should never be cruel. If you think they are, take a step back and first ask yourself if you are being overly sensitive. After all, someone just criticized your baby. Something you worked hard to make as perfect as perfect can be. You were positive when you handed the chapter to them it would be returned, a huge smile on their face and their sing-song voice asking, “when do I get to read more?” Instead you are wondering what act of desperation the reader attempted to get out of reading. You run your fingers over all the red ink just to make sure it isn’t blood.

Now is the time to regroup and actually read what has been written by your critter. It is best to have a bowl of chocolate next to you during these moments, or a glass of wine if that is your preference. Next, read through each individual comment and think about what is being said. Here are samples that I have received…

“This sentence reads awkward to me. Maybe reword.” Okay, that wasn’t so bad.
“I am not sure this is needed here. It stopped me cold.” I read back through and realized I info dumped where it wasn’t necessary and deleted those sentences.
“I don’t have a sense of where they are, the room. What does it look like, smell, etc.” I read what I had written. UGH. The entire scene was perfect in my head. I just forgot to include any description with all my lines of dialogue.
Those comments and others that are similar will help make a stronger, better writer. They are not destructive by any means.

Unfortunately, I have read some “cruel” comments. Not all of them directed at me, but these are some samples my writer friends and I received prior to the formation of our current group.
“I found this entire chapter boring.” Gee, thanks for the support!
“There are too many errors and far too many problems and I don’t have the time to fix them for you.” The chapter was returned without one thing marked. Thanks!
Those are critique partners you can do without. If they continue in the same vein after another chapter or two, I suggest ending the relationship and moving on to one that is more positive and constructive, even if it looks like they bled all over your manuscript.

A great critique group will breed success. Here is an example of what we have accomplished in a year:
Finals in several contests
Won three contests
Had four or five requests for full manuscripts, and
Six books were contracted
The group consists of 15 currently active members so I don’t think that is too bad for averages.

So, if you are an unpublished writer but not part of a critique group or have a partner, I strongly recommended you join a group that writes in the same genre as you. I love these ladies and don’t know where I would be on this path to publication without them. Thank you, Amy Love, Carol, Gail, Heather, Jerrica, Jodie, Jude, Julie, Kelli, Melodi, Michelle, Tammy, Terry, Vesna and Xelda.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Away from My Blog

I'll be away from my blog today and over at my publisher: http://secondwindpub.wordpress.com

Monday, May 11, 2009


Lately I have spent more time at the theater than I have spent writing. It happens this way sometimes. I love both the solitary life of writing, and the energy of creativity and talent in a theater. My last post referenced Little Women, Jo’s manuscript and travel. I had just finished costuming Little Women when I wrote that blog.

I recently finished costuming Man of La Mancha. I believe most people are familiar with the story of Don Quixote and if you are not, read the book or see the play/musical. It is a wonderful story. But, as I was sat and watched the beginning, which I watched each night, certain points of the dialogue really struck me. It happens right after Cervantes is thrown into the dungeon to await the inquisition and the Governor finds a manuscript in his trunk of costumes and props. This is Cervantes’ work, his writing, and he does not want it lost or destroyed. The “Governor” asks him if it is valuable. Cervantes' response is “only to me”. The Governor offers to ransom it but Cervantes has no money. Further, the Governor states that it is paper. Cervantes replies “manuscript”. The governor counters, “Still worthless.”

Worthless? No manuscript is ever worthless. Anyone who has written a novel, short story, poem, song, etc knows that their work is not worthless. At least not to them. The same goes for any artist. Perhaps that is why rejection is so hard. I know of no author who was not rejected before an agent or editor saw it as valuable and arranged for publication. But, the road to publication can be a long one and I think at one point or another a writer simply feels worthless. For some, it is the first rejection and others, the twenty-fifth. We also mustn't forget contests. Often, despite the helpful comments, the low score is what stays with you. With so much of what a writer could persceive as negative, thoughts begin to creep into your mind that you had been wasting your time when others see the work you slaved over, lost sleep over and polished to almost perfection as not worthy of publication, a decent score, or in other words, worthless.

If or whenever you get that feeling, kick yourself in the behind. Any creative activity for which you have a passion for is NEVER worthless. It does not matter if you are the only one who is going to read the story, see the painting or hear the music. If it came from you, from your heart, mind and soul, it will never be worthless.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Backups and Travel

My daughter recently played Marmee in Little Women in her high school musical. I am sure you all know the story, Jo is the writer, Meg the romantic, Amy wants the better things in life and Beth is simply content and dies far too young. All of the characters are wonderful in this well-known story, but being an author myself, I always understood where Jo was coming from. I even felt her pain when Amy burned her manuscript. There were no backups or flash drives, let alone computers, during the Civil War and once the copy is gone, it is gone forever. Even though it was a fictional story, my stomach still clenched each time I witnessed the younger sister toss the papers into the imaginary flames. Perhaps it brings back bad memories of when my hard-drive failed. I swore I had each chapter and sections copied to a floppy disc (did I just date how long I’ve been writing?). After I restored my hard drive, I went to load the book back onto the computer. Five chapters, from the middle of the book, were gone. I still remember they were chapters 19 – 24. I was sick, sick, sick. I remembered what happened in these chapters, but the words I had written were gone forever.

At one point in the story, Aunt March mentions to Jo that she considered taking her to Europe. Jo believes this is something she needs to do and will do anything, even if it means becoming a poised lady, to go to Europe. Her theory is that a writer needs to travel to become better. Rarely do we get to travel to the places we write about, unless you write contemporary stories that take place in your home town. My novels are historical with settings mainly in England. Pure is the Heart touches on Paris because it occurs during the French Revolution. However, my heroine, Elise, has escaped France in order to keep her head attached to her neck. A lot of the inspiration for this novel, and the places I mention, came from my first visit to France four years ago. Though we are over a century removed from the French Revolution, many of the most amazing places can still be visited and that is exactly what I did a few weeks ago.

Over spring break I had the opportunity to once again go to France. This time, I knew the story I wanted to write. It was planned to be a sequel to Pure is the Heart and take place during one of the most turbulent times in history. I had the advantage of knowing what I needed to find out and which pictures I needed to take and what books I may need to purchase. I could hardly wait to start this adventure and once again absorb the history of Paris, Versailles, Chartres, the cathedrals and the many chateaus in the region. Of course, that all changed when my inspiration took another direction. Instead of the sequel I planned, other stories formed. It just goes to show that the story in my head doesn’t always turn out the same way on paper, and sometimes our writing takes an entirely new direction due to our life experiences.

With Jo, she wrote “blood and guts” stories. After Beth died, she could not write a thing. Her inspiration and desire died along with her sister. Not until listening to the wise words of her mother, and her own inner reflection, did she pick up her quill and paper once again. This time, however, she wrote a story of four young women, Meg the romantic, Amy with the pout, and sweet, sweet Beth. .
What about you? Have you ever lost part of all of a manuscript for good? Do you desire to travel anywhere to research your stories and absorb the locations and history? Or, have you already had the opportunity to travel to some interesting place to enhance your story? And, have you ever started writing one thing and later switch genre’s because of alterations in your life?

Pure is the Heart

Forced to escape her home country or face the guillotine, Elise LeNoir makes her way to the estate of a family friend in England. Lord Hunter Westwood opens his home to the young woman and his heart soon becomes hers. Unfortunately, he is already betrothed, an engagement meant to unite two families, not two hearts. Even if Hunter were free, Elise is not in a position to marry. Not until she is forgiven. Though she prays, she will not feel whole again until she can bare her soul in the confessional. This task may be impossible as Catholicism is all but outlawed in England.

Pure is the Heart Excerpt

Elise sighed heavily. Hunter stood too close. “I am not the same girl who wrote you all those years. Then, I accepted the eventual match, chosen by my father. I knew my duty. That has all changed. I have changed. I can’t foresee marrying...”

“Without love?” Hunter asked, looking into her eyes.

Elise had not intended to add those last words, but he was correct.

“As I have chosen,” Hunter continued and took another step in her direction. Their eyes locked, his burned into hers.

Elise feared he read her feelings too clearly. “It is not what I meant.”

“I know,” he offered. Sadness lingered in his tone. “We both know that I have settled.”

Elise broke eye contact first, turning with haste.

Hunter gently grabbed her arm and turned her toward him.

Stunned, Elise looked up. Her heart began to pound. She should pull away, but she was locked in place by some invisible tie. His green eyes darkened with emotion, longing. She should pull away. Though the thought repeated itself in her mind, Elise made no move to remove her arm from his hand.

“Do you know what I wish? I wish that you find love.”

“There will be no love in my life,” she insisted.

“Do you know what else I wish?”

She didn’t want to know. His voice was thick with emotion, low and smooth. She was afraid of what he might say. That he might voice what she has been fighting herself.

“I wish I had canceled that ball as I had wanted to. I would be free now. Free to-”

“Hush,” Elise put her fingers to his lips. “This cannot be right.”

Hunter stepped forward and brought her close, his hand on her waist. “To love you, Elise. I do, you know, and probably did before meeting you face to face.” He studied her eyes. “Tell me Elise, if I were a free man, could you return that love?”

Elise struggled with her answer. If she answered him falsely she would free him to try and make a good marriage with Delia. Try as she might, she couldn’t lie. “Yes,” she choked out. Yes, she loved him, but even if he were free, she could never marry him.

Pure is the Heart Review

Pure is the Heart is a beautifully written story of love and redemption through one of the most fascinating periods of time in our history. The French Revolution was a brutal and bloody war, during which families were torn apart and lives were destroyed. Relations between the French and the English were strained to say the least, but DeTrempe shows us that love knows no boundaries. However, when French-born Elise meets English-born Hunter they have more obstacles than simply their nationalities to overcome. DeTrempe navigates these obstacles with expertise and heart, and leads us on a journey of finding God and redemption, as well as true love.
Jerrica Knight-Catania author of The Perfect Kiss

Loving Lydia

Loving Lydia, is a sweet, inspirationally touched romance, set during the regency era. When Lady Lydia, a moral, naïve young woman enters society, she is confounded by Lord Alex, a known reprobate rumored to have a dark side. Yet he captures her heart. When Lydia is sucked into his dark world, can he save her and their love?

Loving Lydia Excerpt

Alex followed Lydia into the gazebo, which had a number of lanterns lit in the event guests wandered this far. Stopping in the middle, Alex began to remove his jacket.

“What are you doing?” Lydia asked with some alarm.

“I can’t very well show you my burn with these tight sleeves.”

“Very well,” she answered stiffly and turned her back.

Alex chuckled to himself. It wasn’t as if he was completely disrobing. After the jacket was gone, he rolled up his sleeve. “You may turn around now.”

Lydia focused on his bandaged arm and Alex could tell she was trying hard not to look at his shoulders. Had it been any other type of setting and had he not been in pain, he may have laughed. The blush spreading across her cheeks was enough for him to remain quiet.

Gently and carefully she unwound the bandage. The burn was puffy and blistering and about the size of her hand. “There is no sign of infection, yet. There is a better risk of that happening if the blisters break.”

Very gently her fingers traced the skin surrounding the burn. She caused him no pain during her examination, but something entirely different. A longing developed. He wanted to kiss her, and not for the sake of shocking her. The feeling confused him.

Unable to stop himself, Alex raised his other hand to touch her face, gently brushing her soft cheek with the tips of his fingers.

Surprised, Lydia looked up at him. Alex didn’t give her a chance to speak but brought his lips to hers.

Loving Lydia Reviews

“This was a wonderful read. I had tears at the end. Alex is a true hero and Lydia is a perfect heroine with strength and convictions that stay true to character. Each of the characters is unique and well thought out and Amy's portrayal of the time period is dead on. The characters and storyline are wrought with just enough suspense and drama to pull the reader along. Thanks for the enjoying read.” Claire Collins author of Fate & Destiny and Images of Betrayal

“Surrounded by characters that are as real as your best friends, Amy transports her reader into the intrigue of Regency England. She leads you through London streets and backrooms that are filled with enough schemes and trickery to leave you gawking. Her storyline is sweet and tender but with enough mayhem to keep you thinking of her work long after turning the last page.” Carol A. Spradling, author of Cost of Freedom