Hey, I’m working here!

I’m talking research again. Historical novels require a lot of it. Fortunately for me, my novels are set in the late 1890s. As history goes, that’s not so long ago and information is boundless. I can get lost in the newspaper archives for hours and yes, I sometimes lose my focus as well. Why am I interested in the cost of leasing a house in a town where none of my characters live? Am I researching or procrastinating? Does it matter? This stuff is fascinating and I’m sure to need it someday.


But my favorite research is for the cover image. I’m thrilled my editor actually wants my input. The cover is so much fun—fashions and hairstyles and hats—oh my! I don’t have much of a style of my own, jeans and tee-shirts are fine with me, but there’s something about pouring over vintage fashion plates; the sumptuous fabrics, the draping, the colors, the sheer artistry of design that brings out my inner fashionista.

Florio Summer day dressOne of my favorite places to search is the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum http://collections.vam.ac.uk/search/ . That’s where I found this fabulous confection. Doesn’t it just conjure the image of Eliza Doolittle at Royal Ascot shouting, “Come on, Dover! Move yer bloomin’ arse!”


As it happens, my main character, Frances doesn’t attend the races, at least not in this book, so I had to move on to more appropriate attire. Another of my go-to sites for 1890s fashion, is The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s digital collection, which contains fashion plates from the Costume Institute. https://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15324coll12  Fanchon walking dress for summer


Here I don’t have to settle on a typical outfit of the era. I can narrow my search to the year and even the season. Believe it or not, this is a summer walking dress. Significantly more covered than we’d see today.

Again the hat is simply a work of art. Do I wear hats? No, never. I can’t explain my fascination, but I love whiling away many happy hours browsing through these plates.

And I get to call it work.


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Thoughts On Saying Yes and Introducing Clarissa Harwood

Many years ago, in a dark, noisy bar, I was standing by the stage listening to a band, when a big burley guy approached and asked if I was Becky. As I said, no, a woman dressed in black leather tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I’m Becky.”

With that, he picked her up, flung her onto the stage, and handed her a microphone. Two spotlights illuminated her and she belted out a song.

I reeled back against the wall where I closed my eyes and gave thanks to my mother, my father, and God that my name wasn’t Becky.

Since that time, I’ve found that while I’ll never be comfortable on a stage under spotlights, it’s good to challenge myself, move outside my comfort zone, and say “yes” to opportunities. Authors 18, the debut author group I belong to, has offered me those opportunities and I’m happy to say this introvert has jumped on them. From small things like organizing a Twitter chat and running the risk that no one would show up, to doing a live radio interview! The fact that others in my group did it and survived, made me believe I could do it too. That’s one of the many benefits this group has given me.

My next challenge? An Authors 18 Facebook launch party! 10 debut authors will introduce you to 10 fabulous books. We’ll have fun, we’ll have contests. You could win books or maybe even fancy author swag. If you read, you won’t want to miss this!

January 17th, 8:00 pm – 10:30 pm (EST)  https://www.facebook.com/authors18/

FB Jan party pic

An Interview with Clarissa Harwood

I had the pleasure of interviewing two of the authors from the launch party. I posted Pamela Kopfler’s interview on my last blog. This week I’m talking with Clarissa Harwood about her debut novel, IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS, which released January 2nd.

Clarissa Harwood

England, 1907. Lilia Brooke bursts into Paul Harris’s orderly life, shattering his belief that women are gentle creatures who need protection. Lilia wants to change women’s lives by advocating for the vote, free unions, and contraception. Paul, an Anglican priest, has a big ambition of his own: to become the youngest dean of St. John’s Cathedral. Lilia doesn’t believe in God, but she’s attracted to Paul’s intellect, ethics, and dazzling smile.
As Lilia finds her calling in the militant Women’s Social and Political Union, Paul is increasingly driven to rise in the church. They can’t deny their attraction, but they know they don’t belong in each other’s worlds. Paul and Lilia must reach their breaking points before they can decide whether their love is worth fighting for.

Where did you get the idea for the book?

The genesis of the novel was a scene that popped into my head about twenty years ago: it was as vivid and detailed as if I were watching a movie. I saw a confrontation in a meadow between a studious boy who didn’t know how to play, and a fiery girl pretending to be Jeanne d’Arc, leading her army of brothers. That scene haunted me for many years before I finally gave in and started writing Paul and Lilia’s story. The scene doesn’t appear in the finished novel, but both Paul and Lilia refer to it and remember it as their first meeting.
No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

My protagonists’ choice of heroes says a lot about them. Paul’s hero is the Victorian founder of the Oxford Movement (and ultimately Anglo-Catholicism), John Henry Newman. Lilia’s hero is early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.
If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I’d be happy to spend a day with either Lilia or Paul, but Paul is harder to get to know and I could see myself becoming frustrated with his reserved nature. The two of us might just sit in opposite corners of a room reading books! It would be more interesting to follow Lilia around, hearing her speeches and watching the effect she has on the people around her: she’s very charismatic and passionate about women’s rights. Maybe she’d let me be her personal assistant!

Can you share a teaser from your book?

“How well do you know Whitechapel?” she asked.
He hesitated.
“Have you ever been there?”
“No,” he admitted, “but I don’t need to go to Hell to know I don’t want to spend time there.”
She laughed. “That’s a terrible analogy.”
“Don’t you think you could better achieve your ends by adding a little prudence to your fearlessness?”
“You sound like my mother.” She tapped her foot impatiently. “Why is it that men’s courage is called bravery but women’s courage is called recklessness—or, even worse, foolishness? If I were a man, would you urge me to be prudent?”
“I certainly would,” he said firmly. “Not everything is a question of sex.”
“That’s where you’re wrong. Everything is a question of sex, but because you’re a man, you don’t see it.”

If you’d like to connect with Clarissa you can find her on her website or connect with her on Facebook , Twitter , or Goodreads .  You can order Impossible Saints Here or your favorite retailer.


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Authors 18/Introducing Pamela Kopfler

As a debut author, I’m always looking for advice. It felt like I was writing my book forever and I pretty much had the writing part down. Once my book sold, I found myself in unknown territory–publishing. The one piece of advice I received more than any other was to join a debut author group. If I couldn’t find one, I should start one. Well, I couldn’t find one, so I started one. And it’s the best first step I ever took.

Authors 18 banner

All of our members are in the same situation, but at different stages. We’ve learned from each other, shared tips, given and received support. Over the long months building up to our 2018 releases, we’ve become a writing family, and today one of our own is releasing her book! I couldn’t be more excited for Pamela Kopfler and BETTER DEAD.

Since I write historical mystery, one thing I thought I’d do with this blog is introduce some new Mystery and Historical fiction I’ve enjoyed. So with no further ado:

Here’s the book!

Pamela KopflerA feisty B & B owner believes her cheatin’ husband deserves to choke on his divorce papers and spend eternity roasting in hell after nearly bankrupting her Louisiana bed and breakfast. At least, she’s half-right when he turns up dead, but she’s dead wrong when she accidentally calls him back from the grave. Unfortunately, he has unfinished business. Unless she wants to be stuck with her ghostly ex forever, she has to wedge him through the pearly gates by cleaning up the mess he left behind—a smuggling ring he started behind her back at her B&B. Now she has thirty days to solve her not-so-dearly-departed’s murder or she’s stuck with him for life. Or worse, she may be doing life.

Amazon   B & N   BAM

Here’s a short interview with Pamela.

Tell us about yourself. 
PK: My husband and I have a blended family of five, which is sometimes a circus and sometimes wonderful, but always a blessing. I count my days on earth by the lives dogs adopted. My current fur baby is a solid black standard poodle who thinks he’s the sixth child. Between you and me, he is.

How did you get into writing?
PK: I took the scenic route, as I often do. I was hosting a home and garden show on a local TV station, telling Southern anecdotal stories on a local NPR affiliate when I met Mr. Deluxe, my current husband. After a year of our long distance relationship, he popped the big question, but someone had to move. That someone was me. The only marketable skill that survived the move was my ability to write, so write I did.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
PK: Read a good book. Walk my big black poodle. Try a new restaurant or an old favorite. Paint. Cook. Decorate. Garden. Watch the Tigers or the Saints play. Travel. I don’t get to do these things as much as I’d like, but each interest fills the well that spills out stories.

Where did you get the idea?
PK: The inspiration for BETTER DEAD came during a writers’ retreat at Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana. The organizer challenged the authors to write a ghost story in the spirit of Lord Byron’s challenge to Mary Shelly to write a supernatural story at a retreat in 1816. Shelly gave us the classic Frankenstein. Pamela twisted Frankenstein and added a funny bone when she remembered a lament of many women going through divorce. It would have been easier if he’d just died. But what if he did die and he came back as a ghost? That thought sparked the premise for BETTER DEAD.


If you want to connect with Pamela, you can visit her website, or find her on Facebook,  Twitter, or Instagram



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A Piece of History

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I write historical mystery, which takes a great deal of research. Every now and then I come across a little historical gem that stirs my imagination and I have to write about it. One of the most intriguing of those … Continue reading

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My Pitch Wars Experience

Pitch Wars Interview with Dianne Freeman and her mentor, E.B. Wheeler

PW Interviews

Our mentors are editing, our mentees are revising, and we hope you’re making progress on your own manuscript! While we’re all working toward the Agent Showcase on November 3rd-9th, we hope you’ll take a moment during your writing breaks and get to know our 2016 Pitch Wars Teams.

And now, we have . . . 



Dianne Freeman – Mentee


EB Wheeler

E.B. Wheeler – Mentor

Twitter Website


Mentee: Why did you choose E.B. Wheeler?

When Brenda Drake released the mentor blog hop, E.B. Wheeler was the first name I clicked on.    The more I read of Emily’s bio and wish list, the more excited I became.  Help with sagging plots and character arcs – nice.  She likes mystery and history, so this might be a good fit.  I liked her sense of humor, and critiquing style.  I got to the end and started over.  That’s when this passage jumped out at me:  “Not sure if you have enough historical detail, or too much?  I’m your girl.”  I knew she was talking to me.  Reading THE HAUNTING OF SPRINGETT HALL, clinched it.  I really wanted to work with her.  I don’t know how it happened, but I got my wish.  And I feel very lucky.

Mentor: Why did you choose Dianne Freeman?

I loved Dianne’s manuscript. The story caught my attention and pulled me all the way through. It’s already a great story, and I could immediately see how to make it even stronger. In my interactions with Dianne, it was clear that she was enthusiastic, easy to work with, and ready to roll up her sleeves and get some editing done.

Mentee: Summarize your book in three words.

Deception, Death, and Debutantes

Mentor: Summarize your mentee’s book in three words.

Rollicking Victorian mystery

Mentee: Tell us about yourself. What makes you and your MS unique?

Edith Wharton really messed with my adolescence.  I was 13 when I read the Buccaneers.  It was an old copy my mom had.  The story sounded fascinating.  Five young women leave their dull lives in America, seeking excitement in London society.  Wow, that sounds like fun!

It wasn’t fun.  It was heartbreaking.

Even worse, I got to the last page and the story wasn’t over.  What?  Who publishes a book that isn’t finished?  I cried in my frustration.  My mom explained that Wharton died before finishing it, so I cried about that too. (I was a very sensitive kid)  I read more of her work, and found the completed novels held even more misery.  House of Mirth.  That should be a giggle-fest, right?  Wrong!  This continued for some time.  I read and cried about these poor late-Victorian characters, whose lives were wretched, and then they died.  In desperation, my mom introduced me to mysteries, and the crying stopped.

Life went on.  I grew up, went to college, studied business, but squeezed in as much history and English as I could.  I had a career in corporate finance, married my wonderful husband, and indulged myself with hundreds of books, most of them mysteries.  I took some writing classes, attended conferences, and partnered with a friend to write a book about ghosts along Route 66.

I always wanted to try my hand at fiction, and one day as I sat at my desk, staring at a blank screen, a little thought bubble popped into my head.  It was Nan St George from the Buccaneers.  I hadn’t thought about her for years.

“You should write about us,” she said.


“Us.  The late-Victorians with wretched lives.”

“Noooo, I don’t want to write about wretched lives.  Besides, that’s not really my genre.  I like the period, but I want to write a mystery.”

“A mystery would do.  It might be fun.”

Fun Victorians?  Interesting.

Nan wouldn’t leave me alone, and the more I considered the idea, the more I liked it.  What if a Victorian woman, stuck in the rule-rut, reached for something more?  What if her life became exciting, and she had to solve a mystery?  Yes!  I like it.  I’ll do it.

Thanks, Nan.

Mentor: Tell us about yourself. Something we might not already know.

I have some things in common with Dianne that I didn’t know about until we did this mini interview. I also had a (possibly unhealthy) fascination with dark Victorian literature in my tender years. I liked the agony of Edith Wharton’s novels and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s semi-Gothic flavor. Then I discovered Victoria Holt’s Gothic romances and Dumas’s Queen Margot, which had me up all night sobbing. Like Dianne, I don’t actually like writing such wretched, heart-wrenching stories, but there’s still something visceral and appealing about them, and they’ve influenced my writing as well.

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First blog post

This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.

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