Family Ties

With the passing of my grandma-by-marriage this week, I’ve given lots of thought to family. My own and my fictional ones in the books I write.

At the age of 98, 99 if she had made it to September, Grandma Jane lead a filled, full life. She left her earthly bonds surrounded by her family. Her son and daughter. Two grandchildren with their spouses. A great-grandson. We sat with her as she struggled for each breath, her lungs full of pneumonia, her age against any chance of fighting it.

My husband and I are now three hours away from our family. My husband’s sister called us a few days ago and said Grandma was in the hospital. She was sent back to the nursing home. Two days later, she was back in the hospital fighting for her life with aspiration pneumonia. Sister called us at 9 pm. to say they were in the ER and they would keep us updated. At midnight, she called to say Grandma was not expected to survive the night.

We threw off our pjs and whipped into our clothes. We grabbed a duffel bag and threw enough in to it to go for a couple of days. (God forbid you are ever in this situation, have a go-bag) We reached the hospital at 3 am.

Grandma left this world at 11 am that morning.

Nurses are angels on this Earth and don’t let anyone tell you differently. They had to know it was hopeless, but they came in time and time again when we asked them to take blood pressure readings. They asked if we were okay numerous times. They brought us coffee, tea, and cookies as the sun rose and the darkness fled from the windows. They went above and beyond to give us comfort in a time that no comfort could help. They did all they could to make an impossible time bearable.

So, what does this have to do with writing?

I have a bad habit of erasing my characters’ families. It is easier to write if they are only children with deceased parents or only one or a grandmother raising them. I didn’t start out giving this much thought when building my stories, but…how our characters interact with their families says so much about them. The inside jokes. The teasing. The memories. The stories.

I didn’t plan on so much family when I started writing my story for the next Authors of Main Street anthology until I realized I could use my family history to give Maggie a family history and the legend of the traveling cinnamon cookies.

From me to you–hug your family, keep them close, hold them in your hearts forever.


Jill James, romance writer

Daffodils and a Grand Dame

is (1)The world is coming together to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral. That is testimony to humanity and what living history means to so many.

There are many parts that cannot be recreated with exactitude. That leaves room for creating something beyond compare – a testament to human creativity and the search for beauty in today’s world.

I think that’s beautiful.

gary-smith-daffodils-flowers-covered-in-snow-norfolk-ukIt reminds me of the daffodils peeking out from this week’s snow here in Wisconsin. Hope and something wonderous rises despite adversity. Not because of it, but in spite of it. The daffodils in my garden are never the same, year after year, even though they come from the same bulbs. This year they are shorter than last, yet just as plentiful. That may have something to do with the snow. It might have something to do with age. It doesn’t matter – the daffodils blooming now always bring a smile.

isAnd in the fall, I’ll plant more bulbs, eagerly waiting for them to usher in Spring 2020. I am also now saving to  visit Notre Dame Cathedral in 2026 or 2127. With any luck and a whole lot of human heart put into action, that grand dame will open her doors once again.

 

Happy Eastertide for those who celebrate. May hope rise in all our hearts today and throughout the year.

Leigh

Interview with Lizzi and Aleksandra!

Hello All! How about an interview with Authors of Main Street author Lizzi Tremayne, and an interview with Aleksandra Lekarski, heroine of The Long Trails series!

First, an interview with Aleksandra!

Where are you from?

I was born in Vienna, but my family ran to the United States when I was just an infant. We ended up trapping in the wilderness of Utah Territory, where I live now.

Tell us a bit about A Long Trail Rolling.

It’s the story where I meet the love of my life, nearly lose my life, and get to do something no girl has ever done before, ride the Pony Express!

What did you think the first time you saw Xavier?

Wow…chocolate brown eyes, deeply tanned Latino visage, gorgeous smile, and what a hunk.

 

What was your second thought?

Well…(looking down at my shuffling feet)…I…sort of…drew my shashka* and held it to his throat?

interview

Did you feel it was love at first sight?

I think it was, but then my training to protect my family’s secret kicked in. I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, and it took some time for me to realize he was really the man of my dreams.

 

What do you like most about him?

Hmmm…that’s a hard one. It would have to be the way he holds me when I think the world’s going to end, and murmurs love words in Spanish…he’s incredibly sexy. Did you know, ‘te quiero’, in Español, means both ‘I love you’, and ‘I want you’?  That’s how close they’re linked to a Latino. J

 

How would you describe him?

Well, my sexy Latino lover is strong, sensitive, and loves me to bits (despite my stroppy temper and reluctance to let anyone else have any say). You should hear how he talks to frightened horses, and rides.  Mmmmmmmm…  He does have a few issues with trust…well, a lot of them…and a history of abuse from his stepfather, who he thought was his father until just recently.

 

How would he describe you?

Do I really have to answer that? (Big sigh.) He’d say (I’ve heard him say, anyway) I’m lovely (he can’t get enough of my golden curls that reach past my derrière), an unparalleled rider (I was trained by my father in dzhigitovka, Cossack defense riding, now similar to trick riding, smart (I speak five languages and do math in my head), sensitive, generous to a fault, and a lot of fun. But…he’d also say I’m opinionated, bossy, inclined to always want to do things my own way, and difficult to get to know. J But he loves me anyway.

What made you choose teaching as a career?

Well, when the Pony Express shut down because the Pah-Ute Indians burned down most of the stations for over a hundred miles (not that I blamed them) and I could no longer ride for them, masquerading as a boy, Xavier and I went to Virginia City and got married. Since the Pony wasn’t running, my choices were to teach, work in a livery stable (which didn’t impress Xavier) or clean house.  Guess what won?

 

What is your biggest fear?

That someone will discover our family’s secret and give it to the tsar of Russia, and he will use it to run over all of Europe, and then Papa’s death was for naught.

 

How do you relax?

What’s a relax? Oh, like when I’m injured so much I can’t keep going? I like to lay back in Xavier’s arms and be cuddled and kissed…and other things, but this is a clean blog. J

 

Who is your favorite fictional character and why?

Wow, that’s a hard one. We didn’t have many books, out there in Utah Territory…let’s see…that would have to be Vanessa March, in Airs Above the Ground, by Mary Stewart. The book wasn’t written when I was alive, but a little time travel let me read it. Vanessa’s a classy, feisty veterinarian with real heart. She’s great under pressure and I adore her.

interview

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Papa told me again and again to never get excited in a fight. If I kept breathing, my brain would keep me alive. It’s worked, so far. Thanks, Papa!

 

*shashka: Cossack short, hiltless sword

 

And now, here’s an interview with author of The Long Trails and Once Upon a Vet School series’, Lizzi Tremayne!

Interview

 

What movies or books have had an impact on your career as a writer and why?

That would have to be Airs Above the Ground, combining a great heroine (I like the same things about her that Aleksandra does), veterinary medicine (my dream from seven years old) and the Lipizzaner horses, (also my dream from even earlier). This was the first Historical Romantic Suspense I ever read, and at a young age. I seem to see her in most of my heroines! I’ve been hooked on Historical Romantic Suspense ever since. Phillipa Gregory’s books have taught me a lot of history and I love her way with words and her ability to make the history live. Diana Gabaldon combines many genres in her work. I love her books and she’s shown me I can write the books in my heart that cross genres and get away with it!

Interview

What event in your private life were you able to bring to this story and how do you feel it impacted the novel?

Possibly this wasn’t an actual single event, but it was a relationship. A man I adored had ‘attachment issues’ from abuse in his young life. As much as I wanted to try to ‘fix’ him, I learned it was something I couldn’t do. He had to want it enough to make the changes that could have let him be happier in his life.  Xavier, however, had no such choice. J As my character, I could encourage him to look at his issues for what they were. I could use my bit of control freak on this poor fictional character to make him fix himself. He’ll still have trouble with it through this book, and in other books in the series, but he’s genuinely trying to get better and face his fears.  He’s winning. J It was Xavier’s major issue in the story, so it impacted it by becoming his Achilles heel.

interview

 

Tell us a bit about your publisher: how did you hear about them and what influenced your decision to submit to them?

Well, I’m my own publisher. It’s called Blue Mist Publishing. I’ve pitched to several publishers and agents. Most have requested, but in reviewing my submissions, decided they didn’t know where to place the story, as it crossed genres. As a publisher might have encouraged, I’ve entered plenty of contests. I have won some, placed in others, and put the ribbons on my cover. In the course of all this, my writing’s improved, and I will continue to work on my craft till my dying day!

 

 

A Long Trail Rolling

interview

She didn’t expect to become a target…but she is one now.

 

Aleksandra is alone and running to prevent her father’s killer from discovering their family secret. Disguised as a Pony Express rider in 1860’s Utah, Aleksandra winds up in even deeper trouble when she rides full speed into the Paiute Indian War. With Xavier, her compelling Californio boss, can she escape the Indians on the warpath and evade the man who’s already killed her father—and set his sights on her?

.

Free on Kindle Unlimited or buy here: https://lizzitremayne.com/LongTrailRoll

 

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#horses #AmerInd #sword #awarded #OldWest #PonyExpress #historicalfiction #Adult #YA #recipes #history #historical #historicalromance #historicalromanticsuspense

“But why do you write about history?” They Ask….

Many have asked why I write about history.

“Writing about history takes so much time, you know, all that research!” they say.

Let me introduce some of my history… about history.

I love the Old West. I love New Zealand. I love stories of “the old countries”.  I have relatives from Denmark, Scotland, Russia, and the American South, all of which interest me no end. My genealogy charts are getting more branched as I continue to delve!

  • I grew up on Highway 84 in La Honda, CA…
  • where the Younger Brothers used to hang out after big heists…
  • where the Stage ran through…
  • and the Peek-a Boo Inn (yes, it was what it sounds like), the eleven bars, three churches and one store were the standard, back in the day. La Honda and some of its history is now featured in the third story of The Long Trails series, in  A Sea of Green Unfolding)history

Then I went away to university, finished veterinary school…(had to be a hoss-doc, didn’t I?)…

  • and lived in Placerville, CA on the Pony Express Trail.history

So, I was rather steeped in the Old West from a very young age.

Well, things led to things and I made my way to New Zealand, where I’ve lived for the past 27 years and have just published my fourth book. They comprise three 1860’s historical fictions in The Long Trails series and the newest, a contemporary novella, placed in the middle of the new Once Upon a Vet School series.

“But I hate reading about history,” some others say.

I love and write history, but rather than vomiting facts and figures all over the pages in what authors call “info-dumps”,  I offer it in a palatable way, by letting my fictitious characters interact with real historical ones in real historical settings. In essence, offering history in a tasty mix. It might just make history buffs of some people who didn’t think they’d ever go there!

History is good, but what about Food?

Recipes, oh yes, did I mention recipes? history Each of my books contain a recipe, pertinent to the story and time. Food. Always important, but I digress…

In case you were wondering what my historicals are about, have a read!

The Long Trails Series

Tales of factual fiction, adventure stories rich in historical detail, following the escapades of Aleksandra, Xavier, and Tatiana as they travel across continents and seas through the 1860’s.

Book One: A Long Trail Rolling history

She didn’t expect to become a target…but she is one now.

Aleksandra is alone and running to prevent her father’s killer from discovering their family secret. Disguised as a Pony Express rider in 1860’s Utah, Aleksandra winds up in even deeper trouble when she rides full speed into the Paiute Indian War. With Xavier, her compelling Californio boss, can she escape the Indians on the warpath and evade the man who’s already killed her father—and set his sights on her?

Book Two: The Hills of Gold Unchanginghistory

No one will stand in their way—and live.

As the Civil War rages, secessionists menace California. Aleksandra and Xavier are trying to get back home—through the oncoming Civil War, the mining camps of 1860’s Nevada and California, and the Sacramento floods—to Xavier’s Californio Rancho de las Pulgas. Embroiled in the Confederate’s fight to drag the new state from the Union and make it their own, can Aleks and Xavier survive?

Book Three: A Sea of Green Unfoldinghistory

When you’ve lost everything, the only way to go is up—isn’t it?

Follow the young couple’s journey to adventure in the turbulent wilderness of 1861 New Zealand. Tragedy strikes in Aleksandra and Xavier’s newly found paradise on their California Rancho and von Tempsky’s invitation draws them to a new life in New Zealand—where the land wars between the European settlers and the local Maori have only just begun.

Book Four: Tatiana   Due out 2018!history

When the tsar holds the reins, nothing is certain—even life itself.

Stableman’s daughter Tatiana rises to glamorous heights by her equestrienne abilities—but the tsar’s glittering attention is not always gold. She and her husband Vladimir become pawns in the emperor’s pursuit of a coveted secret weapon. While Tatiana and their infant son are placed under house arrest, Vladimir must recover the weapon, or risk losing his wife and young son. With the odds mounting against them, can they find each other again—half a world away?

Find my books here!

Tatiana is my WIP (Work In Progress) right now. Does anyone have anything they’d especially like to see in the story? 

Can’t wait to hear from you!

Take care,

Lizzi

Casket or Coffin? The rivulets down which writers may find themselves…and does it really matter?

Not to be getting morbid on you this early in the piece, but really, it’s important. Getting the detail right makes a difference to the discerning reader. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, a writer may have to leave the main stream and travel down smaller and smaller rivulets until the detail becomes clear—and correct, to the best of their understanding.

I’ve known this for quite some time, but was reminded the other day, when writing a scene for one of my 1863 historical fictions. In the interest of avoiding word repetition—by using varied words to say the same thing, I used the word coffin in one line, and casket in the next…and then, as I often do, began to wonder whether substituting one for the other was appropriate…for now, and as well as 1863. As my best friend, a techie, tells me whenever I ask him a question, “Google is your friend.”

So I went online…once again.

As any writer of historical works will tell you, do your research before you begin. I do, I do…but ‘when in the course of human events, it become necessary’ to figure out the plausibility of, for example, substituting ‘casket’ for ‘coffin’, one must hit the proverbial books again.

In this case, it turned out that mere word substitution was definitely not OK.

The name selected for the burial container of your historical heroine’s uncle implies vastly different things, with respect to the period in which he lived, his cultural affiliations, and his social status as well. The number of sides? Coffins have six or eight, while caskets, in North America, at least, have four, and are designed to look like a bed—apparently, to ease the mourning process—sheltering those left behind by making the deceased seem less dead than they are. (Really? No amount of makeup could have made my grandfather look alive, to my eight-year-old eyes.) Are they shaped like the deceased, as in the anthropoid shape of a coffin, wide at the shoulders and narrow toward the feet, or rectangular like a casket? How many layers?  And the composition of those layers? While common in England a few centuries ago, a tri-layered coffin, with the middle one of lead, would have been difficult to manufacture for burial of one’s loved husband while crossing the Sierras in a covered wagon. There certainly wasn’t the space to carry a spare.

So you see why it takes a writer so long to finish even a simple paragraph?

Likewise, some readers are pretty particular about their hobby. Take, for instance, horsey people. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been riding since I was seven, and luckily, made a career out of my love for horses. I’m not a snob in general, but when I pick up a book that has a horse in it, and its characters do something a horse person would consider just plain stupid, I tend to drop the book. Say, if a character does something like whip their reins around a hitching rail (your horse will rip their mouth to shreds if they panic and pull back), wrap the reins or lead rope around their hand (good way to lose fingers), or drive a pair or team from the wrong side of a carriage (the reins are buckled together at different lengths, specifically for the side on which the driver traditionally sits). I don’t want to read any more.

Some may call it snobbery, but it’s really more that the author has just lost credibility in the reader’s eyes. If they couldn’t bother to research enough to get that simple detail right, what else could be a lie in the story?  Research, research, research, and then run it by a person in that hobby. An author won’t always get it right, but they earn points with me for doing their best.

Detail, detail, and more detail.

During The Great Flood of Sacramento, having your fictional steamboat pilot tying his boat up to the dock would have local history buffs jumping up and down in hysterics, because the pier was beneath three stories of water.

The piles for said docks were just not that long. There was an awful lot of water filling up Sacramento, not to mention the whole Central Valley of California.

In fact, there was so much water that Leland Stanford had to go to his inauguration in downtown Sacramento in a rowboat. I can suppose his wife would not have been amused. Imagine the difficulty that would have posed for management of her crinoline, and keeping her ankles covered.

HOWEVER, and this is a big one…one can research and research…and then put it all into the story.

No, you say? Whatever can you mean? I’ve discovered all this information, and I want to tell the world, now that I’m an ‘expert’ on the topic!

It won’t fly. It just won’t.

If a reader wanted a history book, they would seek out a history book.

If one is writing historical fiction, the historical detail must be used with delicacy. Subtlety. It is far too easy to launch into historical exposition, and bury the story in pet research.

I know. I did it. And I must constantly prevent myself from doing it again.

Other authors ask why I released a 3rd edition of A Long Trail Rolling.

“Move forward,” they said. “It’s your first novel, get on with the next book!”.

I couldn’t.

This may have been my first book, but it was also the launching pad for my first series. The suboptimal reviews I’ve received (from the first edition) have complained of historical exposition, or history book-type rants about what I loved from my research. As Stephen King says, “Kill your darlings”. To those of you who offered these comments, thank you—it’s helped my writing evolve.

Writing historicals can be an exercise in trying to get out of the research and into putting words down on the page—for me, anyway—but maybe I’m just easily distracted. It’s also my excuse to keep delving deeper into the period in which I’m engaged. I love it, but it’s a bit of an addiction, this research. I can’t seem to get enough, and it will probably remain a compulsion, best kept under control.

Maybe we can start a new club. RA—Researchers Anonymous.

Maybe I’ll write a contemporary. A short one. I might finish it a lot faster…

Oh yeah, I’m doing that…soon…for Authors of Main Street’s next Christmas Boxed Set!

Here’s a teaser for that story…horsey girl in veterinary school…what she gets up to—and beyond.

 

   

I’m getting set to release Book Three in The Long Trails series of historical romantic thrillers, called A Sea of Green Unfolding, in digital and paperback.

During the run-up to release day, I’ll be offering digital copies of Book One of the series, A Long Trail Rolling, for only 99c, and preorders for A Sea of Green Unfolding at a discounted rate until release day!  Come on by my author site to sign up for my newsletter to stay informed!

Thanks so much for reading, I’ll see you again soon!

xx

Lizzi

Lizzi Tremayne