When a Character Shows His True Colors

It’s been a busy month and I’m so excited to say I’ve finished the first draft of the fifth Countess of Harleigh mystery! I’m a plotter and an outliner, so I do quite a bit of work before I ever start writing the book. I’ve plotted the crime. I know “who done it” and who my suspects will be, how the investigation will proceed and who my characters are—or so I think. While all of these elements are subject to change, it’s that last part that so often changes when I actually begin writing the story. Characters I thought I knew—I did create them after all—often reveal themselves as someone completely different once they take up their roles in the story.

This time it was Frances’ father, Franklin Price. I’d anticipated him taking an active part in the investigation, yet every time I gave him an assignment, he performed it with a complete lack of interest. What? Franklin is not a lackluster character, but when doing something productive, he was clearly just going through the motions. Several chapters in, I realized that behind my back, he was taking shortcuts to justice. Much to Frances’ surprise, and mine, he tried to bribe an officer of the Metropolitan Police on more than one occasion.

This was NOT the man I created!

Yet I found him very interesting—much more so than when I was forcing him to act like my idea of Frances’ father. So, I decided to go with it and let him be the privileged scofflaw he wanted to be, and I had so much more fun with his character. I’ll have to go back and revise the beginning chapters—maybe bring in another character to pick up those assignments that Franklin blew off—but I always knew I’d be revising anyway.

In a recent virtual event, someone asked how much I know my characters before I start writing. The answer is, I think I know them very well, but I often discover something new about them in the first draft. It’s like the old saying; you never really know someone until you live with them!

In other news, it’s Agatha Christie’s birthday today! Coincidentally, it’s also Cozy Mystery Day. Do you have a favorite Christie novel? Next Tuesday, I’ll be part of a multi-author Facebook page hop and I may be giving away a couple of my favorite Christie novels–in addition to the Grand Prize of each author’s first in series book! Check us out!

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Author’s Note

When I turned in the fourth book in the Countess of Harleigh series, I wrote my first ever Author’s note. I needed one because I used some real people as characters in that book, and they take part in parties and events that are fictional. I also sent one of them on a trip that he really took 20 years earlier.

After writing that note, I wondered if I should have included notes in the earlier novels. I get lots of questions asking why I chose to do one thing or another—and I love getting questions—but more than any other choice, I’m asked why I don’t call Frances the Dowager Countess of Harleigh. There’s a story to that.

Everyone’s favorite dowager.

First, there’s a case to be made that she isn’t the dowager in the strictest sense of the term. She’s the widow of the previous earl, but not the mother of the current one. Under normal circumstances, she’d still be called the dowager, but that leads to the second reason.

This is the tricky part. There can’t be two Dowager Countesses of Harleigh, and Frances’ sister-in-law, Delia, the current countess, won’t be able to use the term dowager, if Frances gets to it first. Delia would not let that go uncontested, particularly because she feels she has a stronger claim to the title since she’s the wife of the current earl and mother of the next. I didn’t think Frances would care enough to fight Delia on this issue. But then things got even trickier.

The last reason is timing. After an early reader, an author I respect, told me that she thought Frances ought to be the dowager, I contacted Debrett’s about the matter. I’d already used their reference material in making the decision, but maybe I was misinterpreting it? Their determination—unless the title was from Scotland, she would almost surely be called dowager. Delia would just have to deal with that. I called my editor, who called production, who said, sure, we can change it. But it was too late. So, the main reason Frances isn’t called the dowager countess, is timing. Maybe in the next edition.

There you have my author’s note for A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. All that for one word! If you have more questions about anything in the books, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll be doing a Zoom event with Alyssa Maxwell and Murder by the Book Tuesday, September 1st at 8:00 pm EDT. I can answer your questions there too!

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And the winner is!

It was so nice to hear so many responses about moms! Thanks to everyone who entered the contest. I loved your comments. Using a random number generator to determine the winner, and that person is Vickie Williams!  Congratulations! You have won a hardcover copy of A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder! Please send me an email at Diannefreemanwrites@gmail.com and include an address where I can send your book.

Thanks everyone!

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Release Day & A Giveaway

Tuesday was release day for A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder and I celebrated by joining ten other Kensington Books authors for a release party on Facebook. Since there are no in-person events these days, I’ll be doing a couple virtual events too. BookmailThe first will be with author Jennifer Ashley on the Poisoned Pen’s FaceBook Live feed on August 15th at 4:00 pm (EDT). I’ve also done a book blog tour and a Bookstagram tour and the result of all this online activity is that I had a lot of book mail to send out!

I don’t want to leave the subscribers to my blog out in the cold, so here’s a giveaway just for you. A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder is the first time we meet Frances and Lily’s mother, Daisy Price. Daisy is ambitious, formidable, and difficult to please. She’s a lot to take, but she loves her children and in her own way, she does what she thinks is best for them. Frances and Lily struggle to remember that, just as Daisy struggles to remember that her children are adults.

Since the story covers the theme of mothers and daughters that’s part of thA Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder resizede giveaway. For a chance to win a hardcover copy of A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder, leave me a fun fact in the comments about mothers and daughters. It can be about you and your mother, you and your daughter, your mom, your daughter, or somebody else totally unrelated to you who is a mom or a daughter. When you leave the comment, click on the box “Notify me of new comments via email,” because you may be the winner! I’ll close the contest Tuesday evening (8/4), randomly draw a name, and announce the winner in the comments. If you forget to click on that box, check back Tuesday evening!

This is the first contest I’ve run on this blog, so I’m crossing my fingers that it will go smoothly, and that some of you enter! Good luck to all of us!

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rabbit hole

I’ve been stuck in a research rabbit hole this week, which is only one of the reasons this post is late. But I have had a few other distractions that kept me from my blog.

I turned in my outline for book five! The title alone is a bit of a spoiler, so I’m keeping that to myself for a little while longer. My outlines are basically a series of plot points and they allow me to work through plot holes before I’ve invested ten to twelve weeks writing a first draft. They can be tricky so I’m always relieved to complete one successfully. Now fingers crossed that my editor approves it!

Earlier this week I learned I’d be doing a virtual event with The Poisoned Pen! Since in-person events aren’t possible right now, I’m very excited to sit down and chat virtually with John Charles from the ‘Pen’ and author Jennifer Ashley. We’re scheduled for 4:00 pm (EDT) on August 15th. I’ll post a link to the event as it gets closer. And if you haven’t tuned in for any of the Poisoned Pen events, here’s a link to their archive on You Tube and Facebook.

I poked my head out of the research hole again, this time to celebrate, when I learned A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder has been nominated for a Macavity Award—the Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Mystery! The books are chosen by the members of Mystery Readers International, and I cannot imagine a greater honor than being nominated for an award by readers! Even better, some of my favorite authors are my fellow nominees! Here’s the full list of Macavity nominees: https://mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com/2020/07/macavity-award-nominees-2000.html

That very book, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, is on sale right now and throughDianne book this weekend for $1.99—ebook! So, if you haven’t had a chance to read it, now’s the time! You can find buy links here

And don’t forget, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder releases on the 28th, just over a week! You can preorder here!

It’s been very busy around here and while I have a little time, I’m heading back to do a little more research. It’s about late 19th century photography and it’s fascinating! When I understand it better, I’ll happily share, but for now, I’m just hoping I will understand it better!

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The Right Words

July 2

Writers are always trying to find just the right word or phrase to convey a specific mood or emotion. As a writer of historical fiction, I also have to make sure the word or phrase was used in that context during the era where I set my books. I’ll do this after I’ve written my first draft and at times, I’ve had to stop three or four times per page to check a word for historical accuracy. (Imagine my surprise to learn that ‘codswollop’ didn’t come into common use until 1958!)

Fortunately, there are several tools to help me do just that. There are several online dictionaries that include etymology. Sometimes I can simply Google a word to find its origin. And by far, my favorite place to go is the Phrase Finder. This may sound like work, but it’s actually one of my favorite writing diversions.

Victorians had some of the best slang. Has your character been drinking too much? He might be half-shot, sozzled, squizzed, or boryeyed. The phrase ‘three sheets to the wind’ came from the Victorian era, as did this lovely; ‘He has been measuring sidewalks upside down.’ If he’s in love, he might be crushed or spoony.
Here are just a few of my favorite Victorian slang words:

Gigglemug – always smiling
Afternoonified – smart, fashionable
Bags o’ mystery – sausages
Rain napper – umbrella
Suggestionize – to prompt someone

The only downside of this diversion is most of my characters are very proper aristocrats who would never use slang. But once I find a character who does, I’m ready!

Do you know any vintage words you wish would come back into use? July 2 post


News! The paperback version of A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is now available at your favorite bookstore or online retailer! And it’s now less than a month until A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder is released! I recently received some copies of the new paperback. As you can see, I was very excited!


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Country Homes & A Giveaway!

Audley and lake

One of my favorite bits of research for A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder was finding just the right British manor to use as a model for Risings, the country home of the Hazeltons—the Earls of Hartfield. Nothing says “England” to me like a stately home in the countryside; hundreds of years old and sprawling across the landscape. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a few and through the wonders of the internet, I was able to take virtual tours of many more and ultimately settled on Audley End House in Essex to be George Hazelton’s family home in Hampshire. If you are reading this on Goodreads, this would be the time to click over to my blog so you can see the photos of this fabulous house. Audley end house

You can find more of them here: You can also find copies of the floor plans here:

In Mischief and Murder, Frances needs a place in the country to hold her sister’s wedding and George steps up and offers Risings for her use. The home is currently in possession of his brother, the Earl of Hartfield, who is on an extended visit to the continent with his wife. George has agreed to keep up with the management of the place while is brother is away. He’s already arranged for a small shooting party, so why not add a wedding into the mix.

Audley inside hall

Entrance hall

I couldn’t resist the lure of a Victorian country house party and only wish I could attend one myself. Instead, I created one for my characters to enjoy. It’s October, so, of course, the gentlemen are shooting, but there’s no shortage of amusements for the ladies either—riding, a visit to the village, rambling across the extensive grounds, or challenging the maze. There are picnic luncheons and archery competitions, mysterious accidents, and murder! But of course, you knew that. What’s a country house party without a murder?

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder releases July 28th, (you can pre-order here) but you can win an advanced reader copy this month! Enter the Goodreads Giveaway to win one of five copies!

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder resized

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Summer Book Fun

I know it’s not officially summer yet, but June has always meant summer to me. Due to the pandemic, this one may be a little different. I hope those of you still stuck at home are hanging in there and those who are getting back to work, or never stopped working, please take care.
For the past two years, June has also meant a new book release for me, but this year the date was moved to July. So, it’s not officially book release time yet either, but as a creature of habit, I still set up some promotional fun for June. I hope you have some fun with it too!

If you are on Facebook or Instagram, are you following First Chapter Fun? This is a group run by the fabulous authors Hannah Mary McKinnon and Hank Phillippi Ryan.2020-06-11 Dianne Freeman Twitter post Every Tuesday and Thursday they read the first chapter of a new book. What a great way to learn about new releases and decide if you want to read them! I’m thrilled to say on June 11th at 11:30 EDT Hank Phillippi Ryan will be reading the first chapter of A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder! If you miss the live event, I’ll be holding a watch party on my page that you can watch at your convenience.

Here are the links for both Instagram and the Facebook group.

This is just a silly thing, but I love it. Since my husband and I have been stuck at home for awhile now, we’ve joined the puzzle craze. Here’s a small one I made using the cover of my upcoming book. I’m hoping if you click on the link below it will take you to Jigsaw Planet where you can put the puzzle together. In case it fails, I’ll also have it on my author Facebook page.

preview35pieceMischief and Murder

Finally, some good news for anyone who has yet to read A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder. My publisher has put the e-book on sale for $2.99 for the entire month of June! Having said that, various retailers will have it on sale at different times of the month and they aren’t sharing their schedules. Crazy, I know, but it will be on sale somewhere all month, so if you go to Amazon and see it for full price, check out B&N or Kobo.
Here are some of the links:




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Introducing Daisy Price

Since we celebrated Mother’s Day between my May posts, I thought I’d use this post to introduce Daisy Price. She’s my sleuth, Frances’ mom. The Countess of Harleigh mysteries are based loosely on the lives of the American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy in the late 19th century. Like most of those women, Frances would not have achieved that goal without the help of her mother. In fact, most of them would not have even held that goal without a good push from their mothers. Alva Vanderbilt

Book three in the series, A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder introduces Frances and Lily’s mother, Daisy Price. When it came to developing the character of Daisy, I immediately thought of one of the most notorious moms of the Gilded Age, Alva Vanderbilt. Alva was a strong-willed, highly disciplined, strategist. She planned her days like a general would plan a military campaign. The thought that her daughter, Consuelo might want to plan her own life, was immaterial. Alva would have her way. Consuelo would be a duchess and her training began at a very early age.

Alva, who was known to punish her children with a riding whip, supervised a rigorous education for her daughter. By the time she was eight, Consuelo could read and write in French, German, and English. She sat for her lessons with a steel rod strapped to her back to ensure proper posture. Alva supervised Consuelo’s social life—there was no contact with boys once she turned sixteen—chose all her clothing, reading material, the decorations for her bedroom, and even her thoughts. At one time she told her daughter, “I don’t ask you to think, I do the thinking, you do as you are told.”

Consuelo did put up some fight when it came to the choice of her husband, but ultimately, she gave in to her mother’s will. She married the Duke of MarA Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder resizedlborough and became the duchess her mother always wanted.

I knew I couldn’t make my character, Daisy exactly like Alva. For one thing, I didn’t like Alva and for another, fiction has to be believable. Alva, although a real person, was just too over the top. If Frances had grown up under her care, she wouldn’t be as strong and independent as she is. Daisy is a social climber and wanted Frances to marry well. But rather than brow-beat her daughter, she persuaded her that it was the right thing to do for her family. Daisy thought she was doing the right thing for Frances too. I also wanted to find something in Daisy to like, so while she can be very pushy, I think she redeems herself in the end. But up to that point, she does cause a lot of trouble for Frances and George.

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Introducing P.I. Kelly Pruett

Coffee cookies and a good book

Coffee, cookies, and a good book!

One of the best friends a writer can have is a critique partner. They’ve seen your best work and your worst. And then there’s the work you think is your best until they very gently, but persistently, help you to see that it really isn’t working and should be cut. A CP is there for the good days and the bad days. They celebrate and commiserate. And as a CP, you do the same for them.

For me and my CP, Mary Keliikoa, it’s time to celebrate.

In less than two weeks, Mary will release her debut mystery novel, Derailed! I couldn’t be happier if it were happening to me! I’ve known her protagonist, Kelly Pruett for quite some time now—I’ve even read book two in the series—and I can’t wait for readers to meet this tough, relatable, private investigator and see how she rises to the challenge of her first solo investigation.

Mary casual

Mary Keliikoa

Here’s my review of Derailed:

“After years of helping her late father with his private detective business, Kelly Pruitt is working her first solo case while juggling life as a single mom with a clingy ex-husband and a bossy ex-mother-in-law. The case was closed by the police as accidental death by commuter train, but the mother of the victim isn’t convinced. Neither is Kelly once she digs into the shady lifestyle of the victim.
As the investigation reveals more of the victim’s secret life, it brings to light the secrets Kelly’s father kept from her. The deeper she digs, the more her personal and professional lives converge until they meet in a very satisfying conclusion. Can’t wait for Kelly’s next case!”

Derailed releases May 12th! You can find out more about Mary or pre-order Derailed Here!

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