It’s difficult to phantom that another year has flown by. It’s time to say goodbye to 2016 and welcome 2017.
This past year has been a busy one with the release of The Price of Passion, a Portrait of Perfection, and A Christmas Mission. In addition, I did new covers for The Legacy Series and continued to update the old text with updated versions.
The poor and trampled upon The Price of Innocence continues to receive its critics on Amazon, but strangely enough, on other retailers, it does far better. The iTunes version has over 349 reviews averaging at 4.5, while Amazon has plummeted to 3.2 with 103 reviews after my BookBub advertisement. I take it on the chin because I know there are many who love the series but may be too shy to review. (The advertisement, however, gave me a huge sales spike for the series so I can’t complain.)
With my various releases under my real name and two pen names, I’m now up to fourteen books. Unfortunately for some, I have kept my Nora Covington novellas (Thorncroft Manor, Whitefield Hall, and Blythe Court) exclusively in Kindle Unlimited. Eventually, I plan to pull them from KU in 2017 (because of reported problems on page reads at Amazon’s end) and release them on all venues. That also includes my contemporary romance, Conflicting Hearts.
There are often times when I swear I’ve written enough books, but then my brain comes up with another story and I continue to live through my characters. Escaping into another world is as therapeutic for authors as it is for readers. I liken myself to the movie Anonymous, where the main character states, “The voices! I can’t stop them. They come to me. I would go mad if I didn’t write down what the voices say.” Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. Really, though, I’m not that schizophrenic.
In 2017, I hope to release three works again – perhaps four, depending on my ambition. Lady Isabella is finished and off to editing. It’s scheduled for a February 1 release date. Afterward, Lady Charlotte will portray her own scandalous ways, while in the background I’m going to work on my time-travel world back into the Victorian era. Frankly, I’m writing this one for my own escape, but hopefully, you’ll take the journey with me and enjoy a rather light-hearted fall back into time.
I do plan on at least three books in the series of Ladies of Disgrace but doubt that I will get to the third in 2017. However, you never know.
Of course, I am sure that you have your personal thoughts about the year past and the year ahead. Each of us reflect on our lives at year’s end and gaze hopefully into the coming months ahead. As my readers who have enjoyed my stories, I am forever grateful that you have allowed me to entertain you with my ramblings on paper this past year. May you close out this year with happiness and enter into the next with hopefulness.
Lady Isabella is in editing! Release is scheduled for February 1, 2017. I have been editing using Grammarly and ProWriting, checking the placement of commas, rewriting sentences, fixing grammar, and will soon send it off to an expert editor who knows better than software programs. Victory Editing has been booked to do the final pass in early January. Afterward, my first lady of scandal will be released in eBook and Print. I may do audio as well.
Since all of my ladies of disgrace will be in red dresses, I thought I would do some research on fashions for the 1930’s. Here is an interesting look at the modest fashions of the day for new holiday frocks. To read more, follow my Ladies of Disgrace blog (FOLLOW HERE) for interesting posts about my progress and upcoming books in the series. You might enjoy the various topics on the era’s fashions, makeup, and hairstyles.
When I’m almost finished with the first draft of a book, I start to get giddy. Especially when I think to myself — this is a good story. Even if some readers do not enjoy it, I’ve learned that if I enjoy it, it usually comes out okay. However, if I write something and struggle with the process, it doesn’t do as well. I suppose it has to do with inspiration, though I don’t often understand the muse that drives writers.
I have two more chapters to complete! It’s currently at 35,000 words, so I’ll be close to my goal of 40,000. Word count often fluctuates, too, when you begin editing.
Here is a list of the final chapters, which I hope continue to pique your interest. Also, if you haven’t been following my Ladies of Disgrace blog, you’ll be missing out on all of my research from horse racing in the United Kingdom to makeup and hairstyles of the 1930’s. You can find me at LADIES OF DISGRACE on WordPress.
In the past week, I’ve been diligently working toward the finish line of Lady Isabella.
Written in the first person, I often enjoy this point of view. I realize that it keeps the thoughts of other characters hidden, but I needed to explore the emotions and inward thoughts of this young character.
Currently on Chapter 14 and reaching 28,770 words, I’m hoping to bring this book to the final closing by the end of December. Muse willing.
In the meantime, here is a peek into the chapter titles to tease your interest.
Punishment Well Deserved
Preparations for Change
Hidden in France
Goodbyes and Hellos
Polished and Finished
Dinner for Two
No Room at the Inn
A Secret Rendezvous
Hats and Horses
Lines are Drawn
The Out-of-Tune Aria
Winners and Losers
I Do – I Don’t
Sugar and Spice
Of course, more chapters are to come. My plan is to release these new books in eBook, print, and eventually audio.
On another note, thank you to my readers for the successful run on BookBub with the free giveaways of The Price of Innocence. I’m grateful for the new followers of The Legacy Series saga — Books 1-4.
Additionally, my second short-story Christmas novelette has been released this past week — a Christmas Mission (Two Sisters Determined to Heal the Past). It’s available for download on all major retailers.
My recent promotion on The Price of Innocence has once again skyrocketed the book into bestseller sales ranks, giving it more exposure than usual. It appears that I am having a repeat of my 2012 experience when I participated in May with a free giveaway.
Since this book was first released in 2009, I have consistently advertised it as historical fiction, with romantic elements. It is not historical romance. If you’re looking for traditional feel-good romance, that is not The Legacy Series. If you read the series, proceed with caution. It’s not the normal cookie-cutter story to sweep you off your feet. It is a family saga that covers twenty-plus years. My characters face hardship and challenges. The story is filled with reality; and its themes are the price we pay for innocence, deception, love, and passion.
The Price of Innocence has been reviewed by Writer’s Digest (read here the critique), Coffee Time Romance, NightOwl Romance, Mama Kitty Reviews, and others. The book was my debut novel. It has been read worldwide and accepted by many fans who followed the series to the end.
Lastly, I want to thank all of my new readers for downloading the book. Whether you love, hate, or average me out, it’s been wonderful meeting you all. I’m not offended if you find the story difficult. Read according to your tastes. However, like any author, I am blessed and graciously thankful for those who have supported the series and sent me communication letting me know how the story moved and touched their hearts. It has taught me the power of how readers can get emotionally involved with characters regarding their struggles, love relationships, and overcoming family discord to find happiness.
And thanks to BookBub! They are a great source for getting books in front of readers.
I love being an author. One of my favorite scenes from the movie Silver Lining Playbook is below that puts things into perspective and keeps me smiling. I do apologize for the strong f-word language, but it makes a humorous point that not everyone will love your books, even if you’re Ernest Hemingway.
My visit to Lyme Park while visiting Manchester UK this October was for the purpose of taking my book, Blythe Court, and standing in front of the estate and snapping a picture. Lyme Park is on the cover, as well as “The Cage” on a hill in the background. Of course, most of my readers are probably more interested in the fact that Lyme Park was Mr. Darcy’s Pemberley in Pride & Prejudice with Colin Firth.
Getting to Lyme Park is fairly easy coming from Manchester. I took a train from Piccadilly Station to Disley, which took approximately 36 minutes. When I exited, there is a steep climb up to the roadway. The directions I received from the National Trust was to turn left and walk a half-mile. There is a sidewalk the entire way but the road is extremely busy with cars and trucks whizzing by your side only a few feet away. When I came to the entrance, it turned into a 200 yard downhill walk to the gatehouse. There is no fee to enter the park itself, and if you’re on foot, like me, they have a shuttle who will drive you the mile walk to the manor house.
(Note: Click on the picture to enlarge.)
Like anything else, you usually have preconceived ideas of what you are going to see. When I arrived, I pictured one grand entrance door into the house itself. There is an archway you walk through that enters into a courtyard. This is the North Entrance. The house is a huge rectangular shape but the center is an open courtyard instead of the interior of the home. There are a few steps off to the left that lead to the entrance itself. There is a ticket office and giftshop off to the right of the courtyard. If you walk to the other side and exit the courtyard, it brings you to the gardens.
The house is managed by the National Trust so I took a few minutes to understand how these estates, which the families cannot afford to keep any longer, end up in the National Trust and are preserved. The guide told me the history of how the estate came into the hands of the Trust. It was an interesting education, but I won’t go into detail here. You can visit the website and learn more about the process. Richard II in 1398 granted Lyme to Piers Legh and his wife, Margaret, as a reward for heroic deeds in battle. The main home began in late 16th century but was rebuilt and updated by subsequent generations. (As a tidbit of information, during the 1700’s they were Jacobites and loyal to the “rightful” occupants of the throne, holding meetings in the house.)
Once you get your ticket, the amazing tour begins. I climbed the stairs and entered into the grand entrance. There is no large foyer of any type. Instead, you step into the entrance way and face what they call the Entrance Hall, which is a huge room that takes your breath away. It was used for in the Edwardian period for daily reading of prayers, after-dinner games, and conversation, and for the Servants’ Ball on New Year’s Eve. You can take pictures, but here it’s the no touch – no sit rules because much of the interior is filled with the original furniture. In each room stands a volunteer guide, who can give you information. Also, on nearby tables are booklets with extensive history regarding the room should you wish to learn more. These stay in the rooms are to be read as you pass through them.
There are many stunning rooms in the manor house, but this one is my favorite – The Drawing Room. Elizabethan and Jacobean room is very different than the Entrance Hall. Dark paneling and the rich interior is accented by a beautiful stained glass window. I spoke with the guide who stated that this was the room that the ladies retired to after dinner for tea, while the gentleman stayed behind for cigars and drinks to discuss their mistresses. Let your imaginations wander!
As you step through the door, you enter into The Stag Parlor. It’s a small room with a beautiful tapestry hanging on the wall. Here is this room where the gentlemen plotted the return of the Stuarts to the throne. They retired from the dining room here to have port and plot.
The next room is the Dining Room, and again you are stunned by its beauty and stately silver settings. The Edwardian Chippendale-style chairs are from the early 19th century. The fully set table is adorned with silver cutlery, fine china, and crystal. It is one of those rooms that you stare at for some time, imagining the dinners and the guests. Just outside the dining room is the Ante-Room, where the family and guests proceeded to the Dining Room from the Library.
The next room is the Library, which contains medieval manuscripts and 15th-17th century books. Look, but don’t touch. The room itself is beautiful.
The next room is the Saloon (not a place to drink) but a room for receiving guests. It leads out to the grand staircase, which is impressive and grand indeed. The woodwork is dark, the carpeting red toned, and it leads upstairs to the Long Gallery.
The Long Gallery is an impressive room that goes from one end of the house to the other, with a fireplace in the center. Unfortunately, my shaky hand didn’t take a very clear picture for which I apologize, but you will get the enormous length regardless. The brochure states that it was used for, “gentle exercise in bad weather and to display family portraits, but it has also been the setting for the family’s theatricals.” It’s been redecorated over the centuries.
Beyond this point, there were a few bedrooms but not many to see. Frankly, they were much smaller and less impressive, except for one gorgeous mahogany poster canopy bed. Quite a few rooms upstairs are closed to the public.
I also toured the downstairs, where the servants ate and the butler and housekeeper ran the household. There is a list of the household staff and how many it took to run the household before the Great War.
Afterward, the garden grounds were perfectly manicured. The day, however, was cold and windy with a few raindrops, so I didn’t take an extensive walk among the grounds. Below are pictures from the South Entrance.
This concludes my tour of Lyme Park, and yes I have a picture of myself holding my book Blythe Court. If you happen to visit by train, I only have one word of caution. If the volunteers tell you to take Red Lane back to the station rather than the main road, I can only say – BEWARE. It has a few strenuous uphill climbs and a rather frightening steep decline down the hill through the woods to bring you to the train platform. If you are young and in shape, no problem. If you’re older, take care.
I hope you enjoyed this long post as much as I enjoyed visiting Lyme Park.
Today I had a wonderful and inspirational experience visiting the home of Elizabeth Gaskell in Manchester, UK, at 84 Plymouth Grove. Her most memorable works were Cranford (1851-53), North & South (1854-55), and Wives & Daughters (1865). She also authored many other works over the years such as short stories and novellas.
After arriving at the home, I was greeted by informative volunteers placed in each of the rooms ready to give visitors the background on the house and the fascinating lives of its former occupants. The home itself is actually Georgian in design, but the interior, of course, in the mid-1800’s was Victorian. Elizabeth and her husband William moved into the home in 1850 (it was built in 1838). The home has welcomed many to its doors, including Charlotte Bronte and Beatrice Potter, The narrator told us that the doorbell knob had been pulled by others, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Ruskin, and Charles Dickens who had stayed at the house. A few of us ran out the front door and pulled the same doorknob to hear the ring and touch the apparatus!
Apparently, the home fell into disrepair and remained empty. It was acquired by Manchester University in 1969, and then by the Manchester Historic Building Trust in 2004. Money was raised to restore the building, and it was reopened in 2011. Today, there were quite a few visitors.
Elizabeth married William Gaskell in 1832, who was a Unitarian preacher. His study, located to the right of the front entrance, is filled with books that reminded me of Mr. Hale, the preacher, in North & South. I found it surprising to learn that Elizabeth’s husband was very much like the character of Mr. Hale because he brought poor students into his home to teach them one-on-one. Elizabeth’s husband had also been an inspiration and guide in her developing stories.
The house itself is a beautiful restoration of the residence. Many of the artifacts are original, and you are allowed to touch, sit, and take pictures to your heart’s desire. Elizabeth sat in her dining room to write, though, she did use other places in the house. However, her writings indicate that she spent the majority of her time at a round table in the dining room near the window. The dining room itself is quite large, which a long dining table in front of the fireplace. At the table, were photocopies of original letters from Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte to Elizabeth, but their handwriting was difficult to read. Thankfully, there were readable transcripts of the letters.
In addition to these wonderful historic correspondence pieces (see below), Elizabeth’s writing for her last work, Wives & Daughters, is there for you to pick up and read from her small writing desk. It is a photocopy of her original work. She died in the home before finishing this story. It was serialized and her notes indicated that she intended another portion. Apparently, the movie version added an ending they felt was consistent with plans for Roger expressing his feelings.
Elizabeth and Charlotte Bronte were close friends. One of Charlotte’s letters to Elizabeth is below regarding what she thought of Elizabeth’s story, Cranford. Click on the picture to enlarge and read.
Below is a slideshow of the interior of the home.
Yesterday, I also went to the British Library in London and saw Jane Austen’s writing desk and a page from her manuscript from Persuasion. What surprised me the most was the size of the paper and the small handwriting! After speaking about it with a tour guide a Gaskell’s home, he stated that paper was an expensive commodity during Jane Austen’s day. I estimate the size of the paper about 5″ x 8″ if not smaller. It was fantastic to see Jane’s penmanship, though tiny, it was readable as the name of Captain Wentworth jumped off the page, making me smile.
Needless to say, these two visits were wonderful. Seeing the home and manuscripts were inspirational, to say the least. I hope you enjoy this post about some of your favorite authors.
One more picture – Elizabeth Gaskell and Charlotte Bronte – two talented authors who have made their mark in history.
Stay tuned for my next post on my visit to Lyme Park. I have a picture of the infamous lake that Colin Firth took a dip in for Pride & Prejudice. It was another wonderful and memorable visit.
As some of you may know from my past endeavors, I like to do book blogs as I write. They are informative tidbits of information regarding my research behind the book and also a therapeutic respite for me while writing.
I’ve decided to start a blog elsewhere to track my journey and hope that you will come and join me as I work my way through the various characters of fallen women in different eras. I’m stretching a bit and jumping into the 1930’s to give you Lady Isabella. While living in the turmoil of English scandals and fearing the rise of the Nazis in Europe, she finds herself personally struggling with the consequences of her own indiscretions.
Please join me over at Ladies of Disgrace at this link on WordPress to follow by email. Ladies of Disgrace.
“An English lady without her piano, or her pencil, or her fancy work, or her favorite French authors and German poets, is an object of wonder, and perhaps of pity.” (The Habits of Good Society: By Unknown Author, originally published 1872. Copyright 2012 Forgotten Books).
Chapter VI is another fascinating look into life in 1872 as penned by someone who lived during the time period. In order to be a member of good society, young ladies should possess a skill besides dancing. Women are discouraged from being talkers. “We are not, we English, a nation of talkers; naturally, our talent is for silence.” (Perhaps that is where the stiff upper lip mentality comes in because one never talks of their misfortunes or petty irritations.) Since the female population should not be prone to excessive conversation, they must compensate through some form of talent to be shared with others.
Music, of course, is the number one choice because it soothes the soul. The piano keeps it’s pre-eminence as the instrument acceptable for society, because the harp, by 1872, is no longer fashionable. A guitar is more compatible for a man to play rather than a woman. The writer of this book, however, thinks it to be a monotonous instrument. A zither is another acceptable musical form, which is Bavarian in origin. It is considered soft, romantic, and unsophisticated. The violin is unsuitable for young ladies, even though there have been women who have cultivated the playing of the stringed instrument.
Possessing the skill to play an instrument is imperative but also choosing the right piece of music to perform. Loud thumping scores should be avoided, as well as mournful pieces or music that is too rapid. A young lady, when sitting down and using a piano, should never complain that the instrument is out of tune because it is considered rude and an insult to the owner. A single piece is sufficient rather than dominating the instrument for long periods of time thereby preventing other ladies the opportunity to play.
Singing is a form of accomplishment. One must not be too young or inexperienced before singing in public. The voice must be trained and have tone. You should choose a song that suits the audience. A simple one for a homely group. On the other hand, if your audience is more sophisticated and you possess the talent to impress, a more complicated piece is suitable for the occasion.
Accomplishments give a lady something to do. Beyond music, “Sketching and archery stand first among out-door amusements. They are healthy, elegant, and appropriate…” The writer seems to think that if more young ladies were accomplished, they would not appear so bored at public parties.
(Picture: George Goodwin Kilburne – A Young Woman at a Piano 1880)
A lady – beautiful word! — is a delicate creature, one who should be reverenced and delicately treated. It is therefore unpardonable to rush about in a quadrille, to catch hold of the lady’s hand as if she were a door-handle, or to drag her furiously across the room, as if you were Bluebeard…” (The Habits of Good Society: By Unknown Author, originally published 1872. Copyright 2012 Forgotten Books).
Recently on my author Facebook page, I’ve been posting videos of period dramas with romantic scenes of waltzes. Some of my favorites are from The Young Victoria, War & Peace (2016), Cinderella, and Crimson Peak. They look so romantic with women in gorgeous gowns being swung around the room by handsome men.
According to The Habits of Good Society, there were rules to be followed if you were considered to be an “accomplished” individual on the dance floor. The introduction above focuses on how men should gently treat the lady. Apparently, if a man is too brusque with a woman while dancing, it may be an indication of how he is in his personal life.
A man should always smile when taking a lady’s hand, and bowing should still be in style.
“To squeeze it, on the other hand, is a gross familiarity, for which you would deserve to be kicked out of the room.”
I’m sorry, but it’s difficult not to laugh over at that rule. Even though the quadrille is a bit outdated in 1872, it is still danced albeit a bit slowly. Too slowly it becomes ridiculous.
The waltz, of course, is the preferred dance of this time period. In fact, the writer of this book wishes he could rave for days about it. He begins by explaining that position is the first importance, as well as the placement of the man’s hand where it should be – at the center of the lady’s waist. The lady should turn her head a little to the left. Oh, and it’s considered atrocious for a lady to lay her head upon a man’s shoulder! Position, therefore, is of utmost importance.
These points are fascinating:
In Germany the waltz is rapid but it slackens the pace every now and then.
The Russian waltz men perform like the Austrians and will dance around the room with a glass of champagne in the left hand without spilling a drop. This reminded me of the scene in Crimson Peak where the waltz was done with a candle in the man’s hand that remained burning throughout.
To be graceful in England, one must waltz with the sliding step.
It’s up to the gentleman to steer, keep his eyes open, and watch where they are going to avoid collisions in a crowded ballroom.
Violent dancing (too fast and reckless) can cause injury. The author apparently had seen an occasion where the gentleman broke his ankle and the lady gashed her head.
There are quite a few more references to various dances, including the Polka. Instructions are detailed. The overall sense, of course, is skill, ability, and following the social norms of treating the female with respect.
Back to the waltz. Here is one of my favorite scenes.