Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Looking out over the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, it's easy to see why Phoenicians decided to build their city here. Tipaza became a Roman colony during the time of the emperor Claudius.
The sea breeze and abundant shade trees make for a pleasant stroll through the city, even on the hottest summer days.
You can still sit in the amphitheater and imagine the plays.
This is a backstage dressing room.
And the stairs leading into the theater. The man in red was our expert tour guide who was kind enough to take us through the entire site even though it was closing time.
The most interesting things at the site are the details. This urn (above) could have stored water, oil, or grains. Throughout Tipaza there are bits of mosaic and red paint which give some notion of how colorful the city must have been.
In the roads, there are trenches which carried hot water to the buildings from a geothermal source. There are also places where ruts made by chariot wheels have survived 2000 years.
The squares carved into the stone are where door hinges would attach.
The arch above is one of many ovens on the site.
These are the ruins of the Basilica of Saint Salsa, which is named for a 4th century Christian woman who was stoned to death after throwing a serpent head idol into the sea. Notice the mosaic in the foreground.
There is also a stele of Albert Camus at the site. The tomb of Cleopatra's daughter is not far from Tipaza.
I would love to hear your historical travel stories. Do you like to visit ancient ruins? What is the oldest place you've ever visited and what was your favorite thing about it?
Monday, August 30, 2010
When I was younger there was no internet and we went about getting books the old fashioned way – searching at a book store. Some made use of the library (and still do). I am not a library person. I am not saying there is anything wrong with libraries because they are wonderful, exciting places. The problem is me, and not getting books back on time. I tried one year to save money and read only library books. I am not sure I saved all that much after the fines were paid. My friend, on the other hand, reads only library books, finishes them in a timely manner, and gets them back when due. I envy that in her. I’ve tried to be like that, I really have, but I guess I am not organized enough.
So, since borrowing from the library is out, stores were the next best option. There used to be two in the mall, and five more that were part of various strip malls within close driving distance. The last mall bookstore closed two years ago and a local Christian bookstore closed, then reopened last year under new ownership. The rest are gone, but there is a B&N down the road, and Borders a little further away. While it was sad to see the others go, I am glad for the B&N, Borders and the one remaining Christian bookstore. There is also a used bookstore that carriers new releases written by local authors. I love this store too. (Note: I’ve never met a bookstore I didn’t love).
The bookstore as we know it began to change when the B&N’s and Borders came to be, which is not news to anyone who reads. But, as the B&N and Borders were growing the internet became more popular and Amazon was discovered by billions, and readers had new options for finding and purchasing books (among other products). I’ve been to Amazon often and don’t even want to think about how much money I’ve probably spent over the years. Have I mentioned my addiction? Where it used to be only paperback and hardback books were available, now you can purchase new or used, paperback, hardback, e-book and audio. Ever option is available for most of the books. I’ve recently added audio books to my reading preferences. Since I seem to be spending more and more time on the go, I love having a book waiting for me in the CD player in my car and I don’t take a road trip without one ready to go and another waiting to be “read”. At home, I still rely on the old-fashioned way of reading – paper.
E-readers are becoming more and more popular, and I can understand the draw, but I don’t own one and don’t see myself purchasing one in the near future. It goes back to holding that paper product in my hand and cracking the binding for the first time when I open the book to discovery a new world and meet new characters. And, an e-reader cannot replace my audio books (at least to my knowledge).
Readers now can discover new authors and genres through websites and blogs, instead of searching the bookshelves for that wonderful find. This is great for all authors out there, especially those who are with the smaller publishers who aren’t granted shelf space in the larger bookstores or those who are with publishers who only e-publish.
But, with all of the technology the bookstore as we know is disappearing and this makes me very sad. I have heard that Border’s is suffering and now I read an article that Amazon may be purchasing B&N. What will that mean for the store? Will the day come that there are no more bookstores? The idea is too scary to contemplate, at least for me.
One of my favorite outings is going into one of my local bookstores and searching the many shelves for interesting books. After I have my stack, I wander into the café, order a calorie filled coffee drink and spend some relaxation time reading first chapters and such before I decide which ones I am going to purchase. My husband and kids often accompany me on these trips and we split up the moment we were inside because none of us like the same thing. But, we meet back in the café, all with books in our arms and talk about why we are drawn to the books we are considering. I love these trips and I really hope the bookstore doesn’t become extinct because trying to choose my next reading material on the internet, by myself, with a generic cup of black coffee is just not the same.
Do you own an e-reader and how do you prefer it over paper? Do you still frequent bookstores or do you prefer the internet? How do you discover new authors and books? Is it still that trusted friend or do blogs have equal influence? I am very curious as to the trends of the readers out there. I can read all about what the industry sees happening, but how do you, as a reader, decide what to read and how to read it?
Amy De Trempe
Duchess of Decency
Friday, August 27, 2010
This year, my son and I took a cruise vacation the week before his school term began. We just got back last week. This wasn’t our first cruise, but it was one of the best! I should probably admit to being a bit of a travel snob and fairly spoiled as far as traveling goes in general. Most of this comes from the years I’ve spent as a meeting planner/travel manager for an IT consulting firm.
Usually when I travel, it is for business. Because I’ve contracted large groups and brought a number of people to a certain hotel or venue, I get treated like royalty. I am given the nicest room with the prettiest view. And waiting for me inside my nice room, there’s always a big basket of fruit, cheese, wine and a glowing note from the management telling me how wonderful I am. Best of all, it’s all free. Yep, being a meeting planner does wonders for your ego.
However, when I travel for vacation and I’m footing the bill, I get none of those perks; not usually anyway. I end up with a small room, with a less than desirable view. There’s no gift basket awaiting me. No note gushing about what a delight I am to know. In fact, they don’t even know who I am. Vacations are very humbling affairs for me.
But not this one.
This time, we went all out. In other words, we splurged. I reserved a suite and arranged for a limo transfer from the airport. We pretended we were celebrities. My son barely rolled down the tinted window enough for his hand and waved at the pedestrians along the streets of Miami, as though he was rich and famous.
We went parasailing, kayaking, snorkeling, and spent a day at the Atlantis Resort in Nassau. When we were tired, we rested on our balcony overlooking the Caribbean and just breathed in the fresh air. On board the ship, we won progressive trivia and Twilight trivia (although my son won’t admit to the latter), taking away the amazing prizes of a mug and highlighter.
This year my mother and my brother Ryan joined us for the cruise, which was a first time for them. It was so wonderful having them along for the ride, and the four of us have already put a deposit down for a cruise next summer.
I am so addicted to my iphone, that at first it was difficult not being able to send or receive emails in international water or ports. We were essentially cut off from society for a few days and I got the shakes. But in the end, not being able to communicate with the outside world was nice too.
But all good things must come to an end. School begins. Deadlines loom. Ex-es wait in the wings to ruin your day. And work calls for you to return. My late night evenings will be put on hold until next summer vacation. My days of waking up at 5:00am have returned in full force.
I am already dreaming about next year’s vacation.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I think some of the best news has come from Kristen Nelson’s blog just after nationals where she summed up the industry news. You can find that post here http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2010/08/rwaorlando-florida-day-2-after.html
I’m so excited to see that maybe there is a turn in taste in the industry. Not that paranormal is a bad thing, just that I’m looking forward to something different. Of course, it bodes well for me that westerns may be bandied about here soon, considering I have a four book western series I am trying shop around. Wish me luck with that one lol.
But as a reader, I must say our pickings for variety have been rather slim, especially in the historical genre. Even you paranormal and regency die—hards, must admit the truth in this.
So when I read this info I got really excited and started searching the book stores each week to see if anything has changed. So far, I only see regencies and paranormals but that’s not to say that soon enough it won’t change. So while I am looking forward to some exotic location in a story, I want to know what do you, as a reader, wish to see different in the industry. This doesn’t even have to pertain to the genres of books. This could be a change in the covers or anything else you can think of. So tell me what would you like to see different in the industry or are you completely happy with how things are at this moment in time? What say yo
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Let us take, for instance, the indispensable valet. This man, this aide to our historical hero served his time with little public recognition for his exhausting efforts. He was expected to have a competent knowledge of the habits of polite life and be thoroughly acquainted with etiquette and fashion. I got my first glimpse of the duties of a valet from reading romantic fiction, but what was he really expected to do?
Valet - early 1800’s
* 21 to 31 pounds per annum with livery
* 31 to 47 pounds per annum without livery
* master’s cast off clothes
1. Attend to the personal accommodation of his master both at home and when traveling. Suggested routine:
* clean boots and shoes, brush clothes and complete all other work prior so as to reach the dressing room prior to the master awakening
* see that the housemaid has lit the fire and cleaned out and dusted the room
* lay out the washstand: fill the ewer with clean water, provide towels, brushes, toothbrushes and powers, razor and strop
* air dressing gown and slippers by the fire
* lay out suitable attire for the morning, assist with dressing and combing of hair
After the master departs
* return chamber to neat and tidy state in preparation for his return
* valet remains on call at all times to assist his master
* ensure sufficient linen for the length of journey is packed, as well as personal grooming implements
* unpack master’s dressing-room needs and if no footman in attendance, attend the masters accommodation below stairs also
2. Take care of his entire wardrobe:
* remove grease spots from clothing
* revive faded black cloth
* clean leather, gloves, gold lace and embroidery, polish buckles, and chains
* apply blacking to boots and shoes
* apply varnish to straw or chip hats
3. Attend to the general business of the dressing room:
* wait on the master while dressing and undressing
* manage razors and shaving (not all gentlemen shaved themselves)
* manufacture personal soap suited to the master’s taste
* maintain scalps (hairpiece)
* always be in attendance
* keep his master’s confidences
* self-possessions and ease of manners
* assist in waiting at table at all meal-times
* devotion to mental improvement during leisure time will recommend him to his master
Honestly, after reading about the poor put upon valet I’m fairly exhausted. They really had a tough life being at the beck and call of their masters. I might like to read about regency life but I'm getting the idea I wouldn't like to live it.
Lady Wicked w/a Heather Boyd
The Servant’s Guide and Family Manual, … 1831
The Complete Servant, by Samuel and Sarah Adams, MDCCCXXV (1825)
Domestic Duties; or Instructions to Young Married Ladie …, by Mrs. William Parkes 1825
Monday, August 23, 2010
You might be wondering how it tasted, and I have to say, it wasn't too bad. Will I make it again, though? Definitely not :)
Friday, August 20, 2010
She is the author of On Writing Romance, published by Writers Digest Books. She teaches romance writing online at Gotham Writers’ Workshop (www.writingclasses.com) and has taught at the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and at writers workshops across the Midwest. She is currently an adjunct professor in the school of communications at the University of Iowa. Her website is www.leighmichaels.com.
I followed up my historical fiction habit by reading history, social commentary, diaries, and period literature. So when I started writing Regency-era historicals, I felt reasonably well informed about the Regency period – the etiquette, the language, the manners, the food, the titles. I’m not fool enough to think I know it all, of course, but I did believe I was alert and knowledgeable enough to recognize potential pitfalls in time to look them up.
It came as a bit of a shock, therefore, when I got the copy-edited manuscript of my first Regency historical and realized how many of the phrases and terms I’d thought were ancient were not used until well after the Regency period. Here are a few of them, and the dates when the authorities in the dictionary business say they first appeared:
brandy snifter – 1844
pick-me-up – 1867
footloose – 1873
sadist – 1888 (I’d have sworn the Marquis de Sade was Georgian, not Victorian, so it never occurred to me to look him up to make certain. Color me red-faced.)
hairstyle – 1913
French doors – 1917
love nest – 1919
hideaway – 1926
pablum – 1948 (Okay, I admit this one really hurts. I was off by a hundred and thirty years?)
My ego is wounded and my self-esteem has slipped... But at least I knew enough not to let my Regency heroine use ego and self-esteem to describe her state of mind!
Now it’s your turn... In your reading, what anachronisms have you discovered in historical novels? Are there any modern-day references that you know perfectly well don’t belong in your historical, but you still have to struggle to avoid using them? Please share.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Here in North Texas, we've had weeks of triple-digit temperatures, day after day after day. Two days ago, we finally had a cool front blow in. Within about an hour the dropped to the mid 80's, and I did a little happy dance. Granted, the cold front only kept it that cool for a couple of hours. After that, we returned to a lovely 99 degrees.
Yeah, that's where it has rested since then, too. Just under that 100 degree mark.
I know there are people who live for this kind of weather. My brother and sister-in-law have been virtually living at the lake during this stretch of time. One of my sisters has spent as much time at a friend's pool as she has at her own home.
But me? I try to stay inside, lock myself in the air conditioning and lock the heat out. Even then, the air can barely keep up with the heat, and I sit beneath a ceiling fan, sweating, dreaming of snow.
You see, I would be happy living somewhere that the temperature never rose above 50 degrees. I'd rather cover up with a blanket than strip off everything that I decently can. I prefer needing a fire to needing to run the A/C.
So why do I live here? Honestly, the only reason is because this is where my family lives. If not for them, I'd be in Alaska or Canada, or maybe Maine. Iceland might work. Siberia, anyone?
Anyone else wishing winter was right around the corner?
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
But this summer, these traditional markets were harder to find. I had the impression that everyone had seen American advertising and wanted to emulate it.
These My Look is my favorite store name, bar none. But I also saw plenty of familiar American logos where the sign and the store didn't quite match up.
McDonald's was everywhere.
As was Pizza Hut and Burger King, sometimes in the same building.
And I'm not sure where I've seen this guy before, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't at a place where they served chwarma and kebab.
I would love to hear your foreign shopping tales. What was the most unusual shopping experience you've had, and have you ever noticed a store sign that stuck with you long after you left the store? Thanks
Monday, August 16, 2010
I think this workshop is great for anyone, regardless of whether you are a writer, work outside the home, a stay at home mom/dad, or whatever you do that fills your days and nights. Regardless of occupation, we all get busy and the healthy stuff often gets pushed to the backburner. At least this happens to me all of the time.
Some of the points highlighted really hit home too.
"Sedentary career leads to poor health and weight can go on. Find an exercise program you like and stick with it.” Of course, this is not news to me, and probably not you either. But, I need to be told over and over before.
“When you sit for a long time you tend to shut down. By the end of the day you can end up shutting down 50% of your fat burning properties.” (yikes)
They had several tips on how to become a healthier writer, or person for that matter, and I have decided to set some goals. I am also going to track my progress from conference to conference. If I do this from January to January, I am just setting myself up for failure – especially since January is little over four months away, which makes Christmas four months away – uh oh – never mind – I am not going to think on that right now.
So, here is what I am going to do:
- Lose 25 lbs.
- Exercise at least 4 times a week
- Keep calories between 1200 and 1500
- Remember to pay attention to inches and not so much the pounds on a scale. Muscle is heavier than fat and if you are toning, you may not be losing weight. (Heaven knows I preached that enough back in the day when I managed a health club while in college)
- Put together a daily and weekly schedule and STICK WITH IT (family time, church attendance and activities, devotional time, writing, blogging, work, theater, football games, massages, cleaning (assign a room a day instead of being overwhelmed with the house on the weekends) Leave laundry to weekend because it really doesn’t take as much time to switch stuff out, etc. Allow for interruptions and changes in schedule for family, but try to keep the changes few and far between)
- Healthy food – at home – not a restaurant or fast food (I am guilty of fast food)
- Put money in a piggy bank that I did not spend eating out (will be used for meals at next conference). I’ve learned that if I give the money another purpose, goal or reward for not spending it (instead of simply planning to put it into savings) the incentive is stronger to not spend.
- Be aware of my posture and get massages regularly (the massage was one of their specific suggestions, which I latched onto as a must).
- Avoid Starbucks like the plague – unless I deserve it as a reward for doing ALL of the above.
- Walk at least four times a week (is not included as part of the exercise 4 times a week). Not only do I need the cardio but I am looking forward to another trip to France in the spring and all we do is walk (which I love being able to see the city that way) but if I am not ready for it, it can be a killer.
How about you? Do you set goals like this on a regular basis? Are you a New Year’s Resolution type of person? If so, how long does it last? I’ve tried and tried to follow these goals before and of course, get sidetracked by life. But hopefully, with the next conference in mind and knowing where I want to be, I will have a target I can focus on and stay with.
Friday, August 13, 2010
The Not So Perfect Pitch
There were a handful of workshops at the National RWA conference that focused on perfecting your pitch. Your friends listened to you go over it and over it. You practiced in front of a mirror. You had your 25-or-fewer words memorized to the letter. You envisioned the agent being completely bowled over by the sharp, quirky details of your amazing story.
But then nothing happens like you planned.
The first time I pitched was three years ago at the Southern Lights conference in
That’s great, Abigail. So why don’t you tell her what you’re actually pitching?
Before pitching a second time a couple of years later, I had decided to go with a pen name. I planned on starting the pitch telling the agent why I picked her when I had a choice between so many. But when the agent introduced herself to me, I completely blanked on my name.
I’m not the only one. Historical romance writer Valerie Bowman forgot her memorized notes and had to scramble to dig them out of her bag.
And another? Historical romance writer Lis’Anne Harris (lisanneharris.wordpress.com) sat down for her first pitch appointment with five other people. When the agent said, “tell me about your story,” not a word came out. Nothing. Even after the poor agent asked her leading questions to get her to snap out of the oncoming panic attack. The entire ten minute group pitch consisted of the agent trying to get Lis’Anne to relax. Thankfully, the agent requested a partial from everyone, but Lis’Anne has no desire to ever pitch again.
What about you? What kind of memorable things have happened to make your perfect pitch not so perfect?
Thursday, August 12, 2010
When I first started this manuscript years ago, I had a decent plot but it fell apart somewhere in the middle. And to be quite honest I bull-sh**** my way through the middle to get to the action. So I knew I would have to re-write the entire middle section of my story. But before I could do this, I would have to revisit my GMC. For those of you who’re unfamiliar with the term GMC means goal, motivation, and conflict. So how does that tie into revisions? Easy, if your characters goals aren’t strong enough to carry you through to the end, then you need to strengthen them, change them, or do a complete overhaul. Not fun.
Sometimes all it takes is a change in their situation, which is the course I took. I striped out two of my middle chapters, tossed them away and started over giving my character a new goal. And tada! That one little change in character was enough to carry through the rest of the manuscript.
Now their goal is what they want, their motivation is why they want it. So perhaps a revisit into their past is needed to see why they want this new goal and this usually brings about new conflict. Conflict is good. We like conflict.
If you’re happy with your characters GMC and your middle chapters still sag, my suggestion is to revisit every scene and determine whether you need it or not. Sometimes the best rewrites come from cutting huge sections of your manuscript. Ouch, I know it hurts but sometimes it’s for the best. Every scene must have a purpose, a reason to exist, and move the story forward. But if you’ve written an entire scene for getting said character from point A to point B, then maybe you should rethink your reasons for writing that scene. Sometimes, summarizing time in one or two sentences is all the reader needs to understand the passage of time. Try cutting that scene, make the necessary revisions to the next scene to let the reader know the character is now in a new setting, and see how much tighter your story seems.
Now at this point you need to go through and check each scene, make sure it reveals something to move the plot forward, or reveals something about the characters. But make each scene count. If it doesn’t, cut it.
Strengthening your ending is crucial, you don’t want to hook your reader, drag them through the “saggy middle” and then have the story fall apart at the end. I read a lot of action thrillers from authors like James Rollins, excellent writer btw, and my goal has always been to bring the thrill of that kind of action to historical romance. So I really wanted to beef up my ending. So, another rewrite was in order. I cut the necessary scenes and started over. Breaking the story down into sections helped me see what I needed to do, and get it done quickly versus looking at the manuscript as a whole and going through it from beginning to end. Try it and you’ll find rewriting is easier.
My last piece of advice for rewriting a manuscript is to zoom in a little closer but print out a hard copy of your manuscript. I know the tree huggers are loving me today but honestly sometimes we can’t see our mistakes on the computer like we can on a piece of solid white paper. Get out your red pen and BE the editor. Really look for weak spots in your writing, where you can show versus tell, what you can cut because honestly we often end up with flabby prose. Cut any unnecessary words like stood (up) when all you need is stood, let go = released. Now I’m going to leave you with a short list of deadwood phrases to look for. Do a search for these and your writing will instantly look so much tighter. So I leave you with these and will ask, what else can you add to my list to help others make their rewrites easier?
a majority of -- most
a sufficient amount of -- enough
according to our data -- we find
after the conclusion of -- after
along the lines of -- like
as is the case -- as is true
ascertain the location of -- find
at such time as -- when
at the present time -- now
at this point in time -- now
be deficient in -- lack
be in a position to -- can, be able
by means of -- by
come to a conclusion -- conclude
despite the fact that -- although
due to the fact that -- because
during the time that -- while
for the purpose of -- to, for
for the reason that -- because
for this reason -- thus, therefore
give consideration to -- consider, examine
give indication of -- show, indicate, suggest
has been proved to be -- is
if conditions are such that -- if
in a number of -- several, many
in all cases -- always
in case -- if
in close proximity to -- near
in excess of -- more than
in large measure -- largely
in many cases -- often
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
My only hope is music. I'm not saying I'm capable of producing anything remotely resembling a tune. But I have a fearsome collection of songs on iTunes to fix me up.
Heartstarters - for when the sweet oblivion of a few more hours of sleep is distracting me from my commitment to full-time writing:
A Little Less Conversation - Elvis Presley + Elvis vs JXL
A Change Would Do You Good - Sheryl Crow
Viva la Vida - Coldplay
Sunrise - Norah Jones
Message to My Girl - Split Enz
The Kiss - Karmina
Angst and Loneliness
No Aphrodesiac - The Whitlams
More than This - The Cure
No Ordinary Love - Sade
Dark Mood - for when I'm happy and have to think sad thoughts
Hole in the River - Crowded House
Darkness - Darren Hayes
Blood Theme (from Dexter) - Daniel Licht
And last but not least, songs for those all important intimate hero and heroine moments
Caramel - Suzanne Vega
Colorblind - Counting Crows
I Like the Way - Darren Hayes
Of course, what influences me might not work for you at all. So if you've got favorite songs that you want to give a shout out to please post your selection with the mood they suit. I'm always on the look-out for more great artists!