Reprinted from a blog on Casablanca Authors
I’m sure, like me, you were shocked and saddened by the events that took place in Paris a last week. For me, it was almost surreal because for the past few weeks I’ve been heavily steeped in the events leading up to and during the French Revolution. I feel like I spend a good part of each day in Paris, even if it is the Paris of the past.
As writers, we often have to limit how much research we can include in our books. I find out so many cool things, but I can only use about a tenth of them and only those that fit in the story. So I thought I’d share here 5 of the fabulous facts about France I’ve discovered through my research.
Chocolate and Coffee=Yum!
If you love your mocha latte at Starbucks, you are not alone. Parisians have been adding chocolate to coffee since at least the 1700s. Know what the prisoners drank in the Bastille? Coffee with chocolate.
At one time it probably did house political prisoners who did nothing more than anger the king or look at a nobleman the wrong way. But by the time of its fall in 1789, the Bastille held only 7 prisoners, who all deserved to be there. One was the marquis de Sade, who was moved to an insane asylum before the prisoner was stormed. Many aspiring writers made an effort to be imprisoned in the Bastille because being able to say you were a prisoner there gave you a certain cachet and could make your career. If you had money, your stay didn’t have to be unpleasant. A few livre bought furniture, books, paper and pen, a fire, and don’t forget that coffee with chocolate.
The Eiffel Tower
Here’s something I love about the French. They are masters of resistance. When Hitler visited Paris during World War II, the French cut the lift cables on the Eiffel Tower so Hitler would have to climb the steps to go to the top.
The French are Polite
The French very much have a café culture, especially in Paris. During the French Revolution, the café you frequented mattered. Jacobins drank coffee in one café while royalists in another and those in favor of a constitutional monarchy in another. The stereotype of the French is that they’re rude, but there’s a coffee house in Nice where it pays to be polite.
The French Fry Almost Wasn’t
It was illegal for humans to eat potatoes from 1748 to 1772. The bad harvests that led to famine (and ultimately to the French Revolution) made the potato, which had been considered a food for livestock only, more appealing. In 1794 Madame Merigot published The Female Republican Cook, which was the first potato cookbook.
What are some interesting facts about your favorite city? One person who comments will be randomly chosen to win the digital bundle of my series about 3 French brothers, the Sons of the Revolution. The bundle includes The Making of a Duchess, The Making of a Gentleman, and The Rogue Pirate’s Bride. Winner announced and contacted on Sunday.
I’m what writers like to call a pantser. It means that I tend to write by the seat of my pants rather than following an outline or a synopsis. I didn’t choose to write this way. It’s my process, and it works for me.
Most of the time.
The problem is that when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work. This spring I was working on a novella for the anthology Dancing in the Duke’s Arms. I had an idea of how I wanted the story to start. I usually do. It’s almost like a movie plays in my mind, and I sit down and write the opening scene. The movie doesn’t continue, of course. Like every other writer, I get stuck and have to think about what should happen next, character motivation, plot structure, and all that. But I had an idea for this novella, and I couldn’t shake it. In the opening scene, a princess lies in a pig pen, hiding from assassins.
That’s where I started, and I kept on writing until at the end of the second chapter I realized I hadn’t started in the right place. The book didn’t begin with the princess in a pig pen. It began when she made a run for it. So I started over. The good news is I could use those scenes as bonus material on my website. You can read them here.
I didn’t have to start over when writing my newest novella in A Gentleman for All Seasons. In that novella, the movie started with a dandy whose carriage is stuck in the mud. He can’t get the horse to move, and he risks dirtying his clothing if he tries to free the wheel. Along comes a young lady, and she frees the wheel for him. What’s a gentleman to do? Flirt? Perhaps. Turn up his nose? That too. Invite her to dinner? Absolutely!
It’s never fun to start over, but as I always tell my daughter, it’s more important to get it right than to get it done quickly. Have you ever had to start over after beginning a major project? One person who comments wins a digital copy of my Christmas novella All I Want for Christmas is Blue.
(Winner chosen randomly and announced Sunday.)
Yesterday was the release day for The Sport of Baronets, a prequel novella to my new Regency horse-racing trilogy. Two days ago, I turned in the second book in that trilogy to my editor. I’m not quite sure where the entire month of October went.
Anyway, now that I’m (temporarily) not on deadline, I’m ready to look around the real world again. Sunlight! Trees! People who don’t wear corsets! They’re all around, y’all. And this week, I’m letting myself enjoy the little things.
Sure, my Regency characters live a pretty good life, apart from all the emotional wringers I put them through. But do they get to…
…gorge on supposedly-for-Halloween candy?
No. They do not. Peanut butter hadn’t even been invented then, so my Regency characters each have a hole in their heart just the shape and size of a Reese’s. I’m not sure how anyone wrote a novel 200 years ago. The last third of my just-turned-in book was entirely fueled by Halloween candy.
…turn on a light when, thanks to the return of standard time, it gets dark out at 5 pm?
No. They do not. Even though I know from the movie National Treasure that Benjamin Franklin invented Daylight Saving Time (history is everywhere!), it’s never become a plot point in my books. My characters in The Sport of Baronets enjoy some long late-spring days, but when the sun goes down, they have to settle for oil lamps and candlelight. Which they seem to regard as both forgiving and conducive to romance. Oh, you characters.
…sit in a nice glider rocker while watching The Great British Baking Show?
No. They do not. Which is sad for them, for there is no greater bliss on earth than sitting in a nice glider rocker while watching The Great British Baking Show. At least to me, the day after a book deadline. Bart and Hannah of The Sport of Baronets would surely like the show, but they have to make do by watching a horse race. And for the chair, they use a jockey’s weight balance for…um, you know, you’d just better read that for yourself.
The Great British Baking Show airs on PBS on Sundays. Set your DVR!
National Treasure is pretty fun, especially the historian’s horror when they chuck the Declaration of Independence into the street or paint it with lemon juice.
Halloween candy should not be eaten to the exclusion of all other foods, even on deadline.
Um…I think that’s all the wise pronouncements I have for today. What’s up with you all? Did you have a good Halloween? What are you most grateful for that poor ol’ historical romance characters don’t get to experience? Do you like National Treasure and/or The Great British Baking Show? I’m feeling chatty, so just let me know what’s on your mind.
Ever had one of those weeks when you’re not quite sure what day it is? Or one of those years with months that zip by, so you’re constantly saying, “[name of month] already? How is this possible?”
That’s been 2015 for me. Just in the month of October, I’ve done page proofs for a novella and a novel, copyedited a different novel, and am racing toward a deadline at the end of this month. Ack!!
Yes, I drink a lot of coffee.
Since I’m more than a little scattered today, I thought I’d cheat on my post and share an excerpt with you all. This is from my upcoming novella The Sport of Baronets, which will be out on November 3 (less than 3 weeks away!). It’s an enemies-to-lovers prequel to the Romance of the Turf trilogy, set in the Regency horse-racing world.
* * *
When they reached the top of the ladder, Bart drew in a deep breath. He loved the scent of the hayloft, like clean grass and the warmth of late summer. Like foals untangling long legs for their first gallop, or colts sure and fleet of foot.
Beneath the stable roof, the ceiling sloped, its rafters and beams and trusses all exposed. The short span of wall above the platform and below the roofline was dotted with squat windows, which made it necessary to stack and shape the hay carefully.
Something that had been undone since Bart’s last visit to the hayloft the day before. Facing them was a fallen tousle of hay, haphazard as though it had been kicked about and shuffled.
Hannah tapped at a tangle of straw with one boot. “This is—”
“Not acceptable,” Bart finished. “I know.”
Her mouth opened, then closed again, and she gave a little shrug. “Not quite what I was going to say, but I bow to your authority. Since this is your stable.”
And the work of your wayward groom, she did not say, but Bart felt the awareness within himself, heavier than words. Whether Northrup had been careless or malicious, Bart should have checked more. Trusted less.
That was what they were here to do, at last. “His chamber is over the tack room. There—that door. Do you see it?” The smaller rooms next to Northrup’s, portioned out for under-grooms and stable boys, were empty at the moment. Some had been empty for the past year.
Hannah looked into the empty rooms with a sniff. “If you kept the number of grooms you ought, you would never have had any trouble with Northrup.”
“Is that some sort of I told you so? Because those cause freckles.”
She clapped her hands over her nose and cheeks. “I would disagree, but in my case, you are right. Everything causes freckles.”
“And I had as many grooms as I could. I had no hesitation about trusting Northrup, because I have known him longer than I’ve known…”
“Me, for example?” she suggested. “And you see how correct you were about me. As you divined within an instant, I am an evil Gorgon who wishes only to cheat you and lie to you.”
“There’s one honest statement from you, at least.” He found a hay rake and began drawing the untidy scatter into neat piles. “As it turns out, I did not turn to stone, and therefore you must not be an evil Gorgon.”
“That might be the kindest thing a Crosby has ever said to a Chandler.”
He fumbled the hay rake, and it clattered to the floor. “Is it? And what is the kindest thing a Chandler ever said to a Crosby?” He stumbled to right the rake. When he stood again, his face was flushed.
She blinked back at him. Her eyes were like a forest, dark about the pupils, then tawny and shading to a deep and verdant green.
“I’m going to search his belongings,” she said, which was when Bart realized he had been staring at her. Just a bit.
Well, it was only because he hadn’t seen her in a long time. One must study one’s foes to understand them. Or…something.
“That’s not an answer,” he muttered, pushing through the doorway to Northrup’s chamber after Hannah. Or maybe it was all the answer he deserved.
* * *
If you liked that, you can read all of The Sport of Baronets‘s first chapter on my website. And I’d like to give one of you an extra peek at its hero, Bart–aka Sir Bartlett Crosby, a baronet who first appeared in my Matchmaker trilogy. Bart is not the most outgoing or socially adept fellow, but he has a talent for working with horses. Training, driving, racing–you name it; he’s in his element.
I’ll give a print copy of the first Matchmaker book, It Takes Two to Tangle, to one random commenter on this post. Just let me know about a character with a talent you really enjoyed reading about. Was there a heroine who was a writer? A hero who threw pots? A butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker? Do tell, and maybe we’ll all add some must-reads to our TBR piles. The giveaway is open internationally, and the winner will be announced on Sunday.
I was privileged again this year to attend the annual Buns & Roses Romance Tea for Literacy. The event benefits the Richardson Adult Literacy Center. Part of the fun is driving up with my friends Sophie Jordan and Lily Dalton. Here we are right before Sophie slammed her thumb in the car door.
We always have an adventure. Last year Sophie got a speeding ticket. It’s no wonder then that after we arrived, we needed naps and sustenance.
Saturday many of the authors signed new releases at Barnes & Noble. Diane Kelly gave me one of her Brigits, the dog that features in some of her books.
We partook of more sustenance, which may have included yummy cake balls, and the next day it was work, work, work and lunch with some of my favorite readers.
Finally, it was time for tea. We all dressed up.
And listened to Tessa Dare’s wonderful speech.
And waited with bated breath to see the bear. Each year a new bear is sold. This one is a Scottish lass.
There’s an auction, including a quilt with all of our names on it, and another booksigning.
All in all, it’s a wonderful event, and I feel so fortunate to be asked to be part of it.