Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Ruminations On RWA Nationals

I recently returned from the 2014 RWA Conference, and, after unpacking and trying to get back into my routine, I took some time to reflect on what my experiences were like. This was my third RWA conference, and each time, my choice of sessions, and what I considered important changed, as my career has progressed. During my first conference, I was in awe of the talented ladies who were in attendance. After all, I had entire bookshelves devoted to Nora Roberts, Jayne Anne Krentz, Eloisa James and Julia Quinn, among others. And here I was, in the same hotel, in the same room, breathing the same air as they were! I went to every chat session with these powerful women, and came away thinking what a fun bunch of people I’d landed into. I went home inspired.

By the time my second conference rolled around, I had a publisher and a debut book under my belt. This time, I had joined the ranks of author, just like those women I so admired during my first conference. I forged lasting relationships with some of the ladies from my publishing house, and began networking, which is so vital to being a successful author. I went home inspired.

This time, I had multiple publishers to meet and spend time with, and my days were carved up meeting my obligations from special interest chapters, publisher dinners, and meeting up with friends and fellow authors. I’m not quite ready yet for the Jumbotron, but I’m getting there. I came home inspired. Each year gave me a different experience, and each year I could tailor the conference to fulfill the goals I had as I moved my career along toward publication and developing my backlist. Which is the moral to my ruminations. It doesn’t matter where you are in your publishing journey, or what route you end up taking to get there, the RWA Conference will have some session, or some author, or some other industry professional who will meet your needs and answer your questions. Next year, the conference is in New York City, and it will be expensive. Start saving your pennies now so you can attend. You will come home inspired.

The sixth book in my Cotillion Ball Series will be released September 1. Here’s a taste of what to expect, as Rosemary Fitzpatrick takes center stage this time. roses2 In 1859, ladies of New York society were expected to do three things well: find a husband, organize a smooth-running household, and have children. Rosemary Fitzpatrick’s agenda is very different. As the author of the popular Harry Hawk dime novels, she must hide her true identity from her new publisher, who assumes the person behind the F. P. Elliott pen name is male. She must pose as his secretary in order to ensure the continuation of her series. And in the midst of all this subterfuge, her mother is insisting that she become a debutante this year.

Henry Cooper is not the typical Boston Brahmin. Nor is he a typical publisher. He’s entranced by Mr. Elliott’s secretary the moment they meet, and wonders how his traditional-thinking father will react when he brings a working class woman into the family. Because his intentions are to marry her, regardless. Rosemary’s deception begins to unravel at the Cotillion ball, when Henry recognizes her. The secretarial mask must come off, now that he knows she is a member of New York society. But she can’t yet confess who she truly is until she knows if Henry will accept her as F. P. Elliott.

The more time they spend together, the closer they become. But when Rosemary reveals her true identity to him, will Henry be able to forgive her or has her deceit cost her the man she loves?

For more information, visit Becky Lower’s website at http://www.beckylowerauthor.com

The Role Of Female Authors Throughout History

Remember how you reacted when you found out that poet George Sand was a woman? You were probably in high school and astounded by the revelation. How about Harper Lee? Come on, show of hands. How many of you were misguided into believing the author of To Kill A Mockingbird was a man? Or, more recently, do you remember when J.K. Rowling morphed into Robert Galbraith?

It seems women in the publishing world have been attempting to level the playing field for hundreds of years by creating pen names that are ambiguous. When dime novels—the first form of mass marketed books—came into existence in the 1800s, the playing field was no different. If possible, the odds were stacked even higher, as the topics in these books normally contained tales of swashbuckling heroes, gunslingers, gold miners or explorers, and generally harsh surroundings. Things that refined ladies would never know of, much less be able to write about.

The Dime Novel, or the Penny Dreadful, as these books were referred to in England, were the precursor to today’s paperbacks and e-books. Although these dime novels didn’t have as their primary focus the world of romance, they did set the stage for the romance industry, as they were responsible for introducing reading for pleasure to the masses.

Dime novels in America were rough-and-tumble books, mostly about the Wild West. The plots were sensational and melodramatic, making for great reading among the streets of relatively tame east coast cities.

These books were printed in a four by six inch format, and were about a hundred pages in length, with a die-cut cover image that usually contained a spot of color. And thanks to the advancement of the printing industry at the same time the growth of education in America was happening, the dime novel was able to take advantage of both and become a major force in publishing. They filled a void in American literature for several decades, as the education of the working class created a need for reading material. They were published as frequently as every two weeks, and the characters developed in them often went from one tale to the next. The first known dime novel was written by a woman—Mrs. Ann Stephens—and was entitled “Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter.” Risque, tantalizing reading in 1839, to be sure.

imagesWith millions of dime novels being printed each year, the search for quality authors and stories grew. The fertile imaginations of woman molded from the same cloth as Mrs. Stephens led to the formation of many memorable characters, such as Harry Hawk, the hero in the dime novel I created for my book, The Duplicitous Debutante.The author of the Harry Hawk series is a well-bred young lady, Rosemary Fitzpatrick, who invents the name, F.P. Elliott, to disguise her true identity.

The Duplicitous Debutante is the sixth book in the Amazon best-selling Cotillion Ball series, and will be available from Crimson Romance and through Amazon and other e-book outlets, in the fall of 2014.

Author Bio:

48988_1025007027_4423_nBecky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it present day middle America or on a covered wagon headed west in the 1850s. Contemporary and historical romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Contemporary and Historic RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at beckylowerauthor@gmail.com. Visit her website at www.beckylowerauthor.com

Can You See Me Now?

Eyeglasses were invented more than 700 years ago, by some unknown and unnamed person. Before that time, people who were either near or far sighted could do little to aid in their eyesight. Imagine heading out on a search for game and not being able to see more than five feet in front of you. Productive members of society had to quit working, writing, and using their hands after the age of about forty, and rely on the younger members of the tribe for sustenance.

Newsweek Magazine referred to the invention of eyeglasses as one of the most important in the last 2000 years. During the 1200s, Italy became known as one of the most advanced places for the medieval glass industry. The widespread use of glasses didn’t happen until the 1500s, when the city of Florence, Italy, led the way in producing affordable eyewear. Early spectacles were associated with wisdom and learning. Glasses in the 17th century were single lenses, usually suspended from a neck-cord. This visual aid, along with a pocket-sized telescope, called a spyglass, were often used at the theater, to spy on others in attendance.

In the 17th century, Germany took over as the leader in the production of quality spectacles. The frames were far superior to those coming out of Italy, although the actual lenses were still cloudy. Most of these early lenses were convex and the lenses were round in shape. It was not until the middle of the 15th century that concave lens, to correct nearsightedness, came into being, in Florence. Oval and rectangular lens became fashionable at the end of the 18th century. Frames evolved along with the lens, the earliest being constructed of wood, bone and leather. The earliest eyewear was made to be held, rather than affixed in place in front of the eyes. The first eyewear with sidearms came into existence in the early 1700s, in England. Today, eyeglasses are more popular then ever. Thomas Jefferson improved the bifocal lens, and now, trifocals are in existence. During the 1950s, with the use of plastic for the frames, eyewear began to become a fashion statement, a trend that continues to this day. But the true value of eyeglasses—that of providing clear vision—remains the true reason why glasses exist today.

Can you imagine life without glasses? A simple glance around any room will reveal that usually half the attendees have some sort of spectacles perched on their noses. And, if you are one of those wearing glasses and can glance around the room and see people, you can thank that nameless person who seven hundred years ago came up with a solution to faulty eyesight.

Blinded By Grace, which is being released March 3 by Crimson Romance, features a myopic hero. It’s not that he’s been ignoring the woman who has been in love with him for years. He just hasn’t been able to see her across the room from him. Here’s the blurb:

In 1858 New York City, Halwyn Fitzpatrick thinks he’s off the hook for attendance at the annual Cotillion Ball. He has no sister to shepherd down the grand staircase this year and no real desire to go through the rituals of courtship and betrothal himself. Besides, he’ll know the right girl when he sees her, especially now that he has new spectacles. But his mother has other plans for him. At 27 years of age, her son is in dire need of a wife.

Grace Wagner needs a husband by July, in order to inherit the trust her father has left for her. Her stepfather, though, has plans for the money that don’t include Grace, and the last thing he wants is for her to find a husband before she turns 21, thereby fulfilling the terms of the trust. She’s been in love with Halwyn since she was thirteen, but he hasn’t noticed her at any of the balls they’ve attended over the years. With the aid of his new eyeglasses, he spies Grace from across the room and they share a dance. Grace decides to present him with a business proposition that will satisfy them both. But, can a clueless knight in shining armor and a desperate damsel in distress find a way to turn a marriage of convenience into something more?

For more information, please visit my website, www.beckylowerauthor.com

Working From A Synopsis

Working From A Synopsis

I just began work on a new manuscript—the next in my Cotillion Ball series. This is a different approach for me, since I have already done a synopsis for the book and presented it to my publisher. I do have permission to stray from the synopsis as needed during the course of writing the book, but I must remain as close as possible to the story line.

 So, what do you suppose happened within the first chapter? I moseyed away from the synopsis already. I decided my hero should have a background in fencing. It would work beautifully for him, all that jabbing and parrying, since he has a volatile relationship with his father. And with the lovely young woman he eventually falls for. Metaphor in place in my head, I begin to do research on which Ivy League schools had fencing clubs in the late 1850s.

 You guessed it. Fencing didn’t become popular in the United States until after the Civil War. The 1880s, to be exact. My brilliant idea was in jeopardy. This book is part of a series that began in New York City in 1855. There was no way to jump right over the Civil War to satisfy my desire to make Mr. Hero a fencer. I contemplated having my hero placed in a boarding school in England when he was just a lad. Quick research on schools in the United Kingdom gave me two choices—Cambridge and Oxford. A member of the Cambridge Fencing Club returned my email saying she knew they were older than the Oxford club, which wasn’t formed until 1891, but she didn’t know how much older, and she’d have to do some digging. Dead end there.

 I moved on to the Museum of American Fencing. Andy Shaw is the curator there, and replied to my email in an appropriately succinct manner. He said Mr. Hero would have to have traveled to New Orleans, where there were fifty fencing masters in the 1850s. How to work that in?

 Suddenly, instead of my hero being a Brahmin Bostonian, he became part French. Definitely not a mention of that in my synopsis. When his mother died, he was a constant reminder to his father of her, since his dark looks were inherited from his mother. The father couldn’t take it and shipped him off to live in New Orleans with Uncle Jacques, his wife’s brother, when Mr. Hero was just a teenager. He learned to fence as a means to get his aggression towards his father under control.

 This fencing dilemma of mine worked to imbibe my character with multiple layers to explore. His animosity toward his father who he still desperately wants approval from, his love for Uncle Jacques and the French language, his fencing mastery, all work to make Mr. Hero more than a young man trying to please his father. I think it will work, despite the fact my synopsis has no mention of his French background. I only hope my publisher agrees.