Hearts Through History Romance Writers

My Thanksgiving

I hope everyone (in the US) had a great Thanksgiving holiday. I am recuperating!

Paul and I are empty nesters. Our daughters, Staci and Cori, and their families live about thirty minutes away and our son, Ari, lives in Boston. For the holidays they all move back home for the weekend. They decided ten years ago, when Ari went away to college in Boston, that holidays would be spent here, all together, and all weekend. I didn’t argue.

This year Ari brought his girlfriend Kate. It was the first time she was meeting the family. Also, my brother  and sister-in-law, Alan and Eloise, came in from California. It’s not often we all get together but it certainly made the holiday sweeter.

Thanksgiving buffet

It’s lots of planning and cooking but there are no surprises. They crave the same menu, beef brisket or roast leg of lamb (this year we did both), sweet potato souffle, noodle pudding, salad, some green vegetable. Paul decided to make pumpkin cheese cake and chocolate meringue pie. For breakfast it’s french toast made with challah, an egg bread.

Thank goodness they come with their own plastic containers to take the left overs home when they leave. I’ve been known to make extras of things so they can bring it home. For some reason, they don’t want this menu during the year, only for the holidays.

After dinner we were already planning for our Chanukah gathering. Cori told us how Thanksgiving and Chanukah were similar both speak about religious freedom. For the Pilgrims it was fleeing from England for the right to worship who they wanted. For the Hebrews it was against the Selecuid Empire (Greek) for the very same reason.

Uncle Ari and Olivia in a headstand battle

We spent lots of time watching movies, playing games with the kids, and eating. The grandchildren wanted some activity so we went to Sky Zone, an indoor trampoline park. Alan, Eloise, Paul and I watched from afar as everyone else jumped, flipped, and had a great time. The girls went home afterwards. Staci had lesson plans to write and she needed to get the kids to bed early for school. Cori had to get things ready for Chris’ business trip on Monday morning. Ari and Kate went back to Boston. Alan and Eloise flew home to San Diego.

It’s quiet and time to plan. We’ve been online ordering holiday presents. We only have three weeks before the kids will be back and we can do it all over again. Maybe I’ll change up the menu and make chicken or salmon. Naw, why change a good thing. It’s perfect just the way it is.

Happy Holiday everyone!

Did Medieval Parents Love Their Children?

A couple of weeks ago I ended up in an interesting conversation after a meeting.  As per usual, I’d been talking about history to random people, and one of the guys in the meeting made the statement that before the modern era, child abuse was rampant.  He stated that it was everywhere and that the plight of children was a horrible one.  This struck me wrong.  But I like and admire this guy so I didn’t say anything.  But I walked away from the meeting agitated and disturbed and thinking “that can’t be right”.  So of course I went home and started pouring through my history books to see what they had to say.

575px-David_with_musicians_and_dancing_childrenThe notion that the lives of children were fraught with abuse and neglect most likely comes from two sources.  First, child labor was commonplace until the 20th century.  And of course we’ve all seen those fascinating old photographs of children in deplorable conditions in factories.  We’ve all read Dickens and seen the horrors of early industrialization.  But the Industrial Revolution is a relatively recent thing, only a couple of centuries old.  What about before that?  What were the lives of children like before industrialization? (more…)

How my characters got their names

While you’re writing one book, ideas for other stories pop into your mind.  So you make notes. 

The idea for Colorado Silver, Colorado Gold came from the location of Durango, so looking into Durango history, I chose the 1880s.  To the location and time I added some general plotting.  But a story is told through the character, so they must have names. 

I already had the name of my heroine, Julie (a cute blonde girl that I used to work with).  But Julie is not really historical for that time, so making the backstory (all that happens to you character before the book starts that make them who and what they are) that her father was a fan of Shakespeare, so named his daughters Cordelia (King Lear) and Juliette (with Romeo).  I don’t actually say this in the story, so if you caught the Julie and Cory connection – good for you.

 Once I had the heroine’s name, I needed a hero for her.  One that would contrast and eventually connect with her character.  My hero’s name is Wes, to underline ‘the west’ where the story takes place (and short and easy to type – always a consideration).  I didn’t want Wes to be short for Wesley (too Princess Bride), so made it a contraction of his last name, Westmoreland.  Again the sub text of connection with the wide open spaces of the west.

Julie’s Uncle Frank is named after a nice guy I used to work with.  Other character names seem to just pop up full blown.  Landham Kennedy, the villain’s name came just that way.  There were a lot of Irish immigrants in the United States which accounts for the Kennedy.  But I don’t think Landham is his real first name, but one he took when he came west.  I see Kennedy and his friend/hanger-on Rickman as hiding their southern roots of being poor white trash.  Both Clare and her brother, Lieutenant Sullivan also had ties to the wave of Irish immigrants in the 1840s.

 Wes’ friend Kate Valdez is obviously part Mexican, which would be realistic for a woman in either California or Colorado.  Kate just sounded like a good, solid name for an old friend.

 In case you’re interested, the title comes from the silver and gold mined in Colorado, but also my heroine (with the silver blonde hair) and my hero (with the golden blond hair).

Do you have any unusual stories about how your characters get their names?


How I come up with names for my characters

    When I started to write Kentucky Green I had an idea of the time (1794) and place (Kentucky frontier) for the   setting as well as some vague plot ideas.  But the hero and heroine only become real to me when I find out, or give them their names. Part of the names came from my family history and part comes from my study of history.  Like they say, write what you know.

 For my hero’s back story (all the stuff you know about what made your character who and what they are at the start of the book) I gave him a Scottish grandfather, so his last name is McKenzie. Grandfather, as so many Scottish immigrants to America settled west of the Appalachians Mountains, where the land reminded them of the hill of Scotland.  Grandfather married a Shawnee Indian woman, so the hero’s father was a half-breed, so my hero is ¼ Indian, and therefore subject to some racial prejudices.  Looking at historical characters of the time, Daniel Boone stands out – not only was he a person active at the time and place I wanted to set my story, Boone was also noted as being much more open minded and known to treat people for who they were, not for their race.  So I imagined that my hero’s father and Daniel Boone went hunting together.  (my family history tells of  one of my great, great, however many greats grandfather used to go hunting with Daniel Boone.  So, if Boon treated my hero’s father well, so it was obvious that he would name his son after a friend, which was a common way to name at that time.  So my hero is Daniel Boone McKenzie. (more…)

The First Book I Wrote

The first book I wrote was actually Kentucky Green.  I know a lot of writers tell about the story they wrote in the first or second grade and how they always wanted to be a writer.  But that’s not me.  I always wanted to be a history teacher and ended up with a couple of history degrees and taught US History and Western Civilization at the community college.

For me, teaching history was really story telling.  All about people and places and events.  How people lived, what was important to them.  Everyone said ‘you know all these stories, you should write a book’.  Since I’m a rotten typist (and only an average speller) writing didn’t sound like too much fun.  The thing that finally drove me to write was when my husband bought a computer/word processor (remember when they called it word processing?) which took away my excuse.

So being an academic, I took a writing class and learned about genres, and how popular the romance genre was.  The instructor said to write what you like to read (well, duh!).  I’d always read historical novel, and looking back I can see that they contained a strong romance even if they weren’t ‘romantic’.