Category Archives: Historical Fiction

M is for Making More Memories

I wish I was better about taking pictures.

Seriously, I have a phone that never leaves my person. It has a great camera that I don’t use.

Masks Ren Fest 2014I’ve just discovered that the first pics that are on this phone are from the exact period when I began my writing adventure — November 2014. That Thanksgiving, we went to Texas Renaissance Festival, not garbed (shamefully), and I took a picture of a mask that my son, Joshua, liked. I took a few other pics that weren’t terribly notable. I should have taken more, but we didn’t dress up. Such a silly reason to not take pics.

But yeah, that’s when all this started, inauspiciously, when I decided I could write stuff, sure, what the heck? And I already had Giovanni, so I gave him a love. Sarah, whose name means princess, a medieval scholar with messy hair and a stutter (I had to make her imperfect somehow).

Bologna 1604 Fontana BookBy January, I had taken this picture of Bologna from the period when my book is set. It’s from a book called Lavinia Fontana: A Painter and Her Patrons in Sixteenth-Century Bologna by Caroline P. Murphy. I’m pretty stoked to find this picture on my phone. It means that between Thanksgiving and January, I had already decided that I wanted to make my novel a historical romance rather than a modern one. Alas, though, my characters struck me as terribly modern. How do I reconcile this?

It just so happened that season one of Outlander was being shown. I refused to watch it until I read the book. So, that was on my bed stand when the lightning bolt that my contemporary characters could time travel to the Renaissance hit me. I think I spent that Christmas break in a state of extreme manic creativity.

It was Bologna because of the University. It was 1578 because I had found that book about Lavinia, and that was when her painting career took off, and there had been a plague a couple years before that I thought I’d build a story around. I developed a character named Emilia, given the same name as Lavinia’s first child. Caroline Murphy’s book was a veritable goldmine. Still is.

By January 25th, I had Niccolo, Emilia’s beloved. I know this because I shot this picture of a resource I found in the library at the University of Texas.

Notary Source Jan 2015

I’m not sure why he ended up as a notary, and I’m still looking for the resource that told me notaries wore black, but those things stuck. He became my dark, mysterious man, as much as a Pollyanna like me can write a dark character. Especially since I absolutely adore him.

20161222_162318.jpgWell. This wasn’t what I was going to do my M-is-for post on at all! But perhaps it’s appropriate that I record these spontaneous decisions I had made that didn’t seem important at the time.

I suppose a great way to frame this blog post is to show a picture of my son, Joshua, standing outside a mask shop in Venice. We were in Italy researching the book series. Who would have ever thought my silly ideas for some scribbling would turn into this?

Yeah, and I guess I had forgotten how old (and fabulous) my phone is. (Samsung Galaxy 6, people…)

What did we learn today, kids? TAKE MORE PICTURES! Make More Memories. They may turn out to be more important than you can ever imagine.

Oh, before you go. I have a postscript to yesterday’s blog about the actor who’s my Giovanni muse. I woke up to this on my Twitter feed this morning. Can I just say how much I love being a writer?

Alberto Tweet



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Filed under #AtoZChallenge, Chatting with the Readers, Historical Fiction, Trip To Italy 2016

J is for Jade Tablets

All right, I’m totally cheating.

I’m not writing about jade tablets. I’m writing a book review today. The book has jade tablets in it. Hence, I’m covering my “J” requirement.

Now, before you judge, I could have written about Journeymen, since that’s the title of my series. I could have done some shameless self-promotion here. But this struck me as more important.

The book I reviewed is My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas, which I read for our local library’s romance group. Ms. Thomas, it turns out, is a local author here in Austin, and she came to the meeting to talk about the book.

And so did I.

It was my first time attending this group, which was nervewracking. You see, I’m an ex-extrovert. (This could have been my “X” topic. Still might be…) I don’t really attend many public functions anymore, even though when I do, I love them. But somewhere in my process of becoming more seasoned, I have become shy. Anxious, even, especially when it comes to meeting people.

But I’m so glad I went last night.

The group was a lot of fun, Ms. Thomas was extremely gracious and insightful, and she encouraged me to get into some writing groups here in town. As a rather bashful new author, I really appreciated that.

I figure the least I could do in return would be to recommend her wonderful book that I just finished reading for the group. And since the letter “J” is in the book once or twice, I have a great excuse to feature the review here in my A to Z blog challenge.

So thank you, Sherry Thomas, for writing a great book and being an awesome example of how authors should treat their fans. Check out my review of her book on my Reviews page. I hope it will be the first of many.


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Filed under #AtoZChallenge, Book Reviews and Recommendations, Chatting with the Readers, Historical Fiction

Still Here…

You’ll be happy to know that the rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated.

Seriously, though, I’m a bit confused about myself, which, at my age, is troubling indeed.

You see, I’m a teacher. You know, one of those people who take summers off, right? Yeah, well, I have never taken a summer off in my adult life. I always work summer school to stave off poverty, and as a way to teach English now at then instead of my usual history classes.

This year, though, everything changed.

First, I changed jobs, to a district much closer to home, and I teach English for special needs students. Since I changed districts, my old district decided they didn’t need me for summer school.

Wow, a summer off! Lots of time to write! Get that second novel done while I wait for the first one to be edited! Blog like a mad woman!

Yeah, no.

I turned into an absolute slug. Proving, I’m sad to say, that I have no self-discipline.

So now, I’m just finding my groove again, starting to write with some regularity, and getting back into shape, mentally and physically. Because slug.

All that to say, hey, I’m back. And one of the things I really want to do is to start monitoring all the research I’ve been doing. Which, as it turns out, was the one way I was productive all summer.

That and gaming. Sigh . . . I’ve all but left a trail of slime behind me.

So, you may notice a new page on my site called Bibliography. I thought I’d go ahead and keep a running bibliography online of the research I’m doing. Hopefully it will become a decent resource for those of you looking at the same eras as me. And you can get an idea of just what goes into the preparation for writing historical fiction.

I feel pretty bad about wasting a summer off like that. Maybe I needed it, I don’t know. But for some reason, the less time I have to write, the more time I actually spend writing.

And if that’s not confusing, nothing is.


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Filed under Chatting with the Readers, Historical Fiction

D is for Drabble

Sounds like what I do to my shirts when I try to eat crab legs with drawn butter.

No, it’s actually a writing thing. A drabble is a microfiction story of 100 words. It tests a writer’s sense of brevity and ability to use words that bring the biggest impact.

Considering I’ve just written a 132,000 word novel, I have apparently lost that ability.

However, I’m in a Facebook group called 10 Minute Novelists, and they have recently started doing a weekly drabble challenge. Katharine Grubb, our fearless leader, provides three random words (drawn from her kids’ Apples to Apples game), and we develop a drabble.

Unable to pass up a challenge, I make it even harder for myself. My drabbles have to be historical fiction.

So far, I’ve only done a couple, but now that I’ve handed off my novel (Lord have mercy), I think I’ll keep trying this. It really does build the important skill of making every single word count.

You want me to do that, trust me.

So, for your drabbling pleasure, allow me to share a couple that I have written. I’ll move these over to its own page on my website when I have a bit more of a collection. Your challenge is to try and guess what the topic is for these drabbles. Yes, they are based on historical events. Let me know if I did a good job providing clues in the story.

The Crown

The storms of three springs cleansed anew these fields once baptized in the blood of men and horses. Today, the fields are a maiden’s shortcut home after charming the mother goats of their milk. A gilded glint gives the maiden pause. Kneeling, digging, she unearths a broken filigreed crown.

Should she give it to the leaders, to have this royal remnant interred with its rightful king, secretly buried in Leicester village? Or worse, given to the Welsh usurper as a trophy?

No. Kings, dead nor living, need no artifacts that could feed her family for many stormy springs to come.

Forty-Six Seconds

The newsboy emerged from his hiding place behind the tavern, tripping over the bumpy cobblestones that made up the dark alleys of San Francisco. He took off his cap and dusted himself off, particles of concrete and fallen buildings floating and covering his knickers and jacket. Peering through the destruction, he could make out the Pacific Ocean, like a streak of blue sky on a stormy day, at the bottom of the hill. He clutched some newspapers under his arm, which he had used to protect his head. It was, and would remain, the longest forty-six seconds of his life.

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Filed under #AtoZChallenge, Historical Fiction