Because I’ve been out playing this weekend–finally saw Lion King live with the family among other things–I played hooky from the computer. It’s hard to come back from the awesomeness of that music to words that must be pulled from my cranium. So today, I refer you to my Word Wench post on historical world building. Do you have favorite book worlds that you visit?
One of my many frustrations in researching Regency England is the difficulty of picturing 1812 against what I can see in the 21st century. The photo is of Big Ben in 2015. For the fun of it, here are some montages of London in the early years of photography. Those of you who are familiar with today’s London will see a lot that’s familiar. Do these kind of images help you picture what we write about in our novels?
Street life in Victorian London https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlNzeoyAokE
I’d mean to post a floor plan of a typical narrow London townhouse from the Georgian era–which would include the home I’m writing about for my current Malcolm/Ives story. But I couldn’t find anything copyright free. So I’m giving you this fabulous blog link with cut-outs and floor plans for a slightly larger house than I’m writing about. The photo is of Sion Road, because the area I’m writing about is now far too commercial to show what connected houses look like.
The St James area in 1830 was mostly old Georgian homes surrounded by palaces, a very mixed residential area. It’s fun poking through the house descriptions. But my marquess is having a tough time fitting his huge household into a house this narrow!
My historical romances tend to be set in rural areas, because it’s so much simpler to push the characters together with limited surroundings–and besides, I love the sprawling estates! Until I actually went to London and visited some of the town houses, I had images of spacious London homes too. Reality isn’t as fun.
The image here is actually Dublin because I couldn’t ferret one out of my files for London that didn’t contain shopping on the bottom floor. But this is what the older sections of London would look like. Mayfair–where most of our Regency character reside in the new houses–might have larger residences, but only for the wealthy.
Now imagine my busy marquess entertaining his political friends, housing his brothers and his sons, and throwing a new wife into the mix. Can we say “crowded”? What’s the smallest house you’ve ever lived in?
I’m slowly realizing that it’s the little things that add up when writing. So much of my writing is intuitive that I don’t always understand what I’ve done until I go back and read the book. Take, for instance, my current heroine’s perfume. I usually give my characters scents, and normally they’re just convenient additions to the sensory build-up of love scenes.
But in the case of the current unnamed WIP (See the Magic? Magic at a Glance?), I have a blind hero. So the heroine’s scent becomes a very important part of the book layering. If she’s not wearing it, he can’t know where she is unless he hears her voice or recognizes her footsteps. So he needs to notice if she’s not wearing it and wonder why.
That kind of detail—as simple and silly as it sounds—adds the depth and texture that makes a book seem “real.” Yes, I love a fast-paced, witty, dialogue-filled book, but if the author gives me details in one place, I want them to fill in the background elsewhere. The hero can’t stop limping in the middle of the book. (Note to myself <G>) If he does stop limping—then there must be an extra layer to explain it, and as a reader, I’m eager to find out what it is.
Do you enjoy, or even notice, the small details that play out in the books you read?
I have been published for thirty years. I’ve spent those years learning the craft of writing since I’ve never had a single class on “How to Write.” My classroom was and is the books I read. But sometimes… even a class in writing can’t distinguish the nuances a single letter can make in our insane English language.
Although in this case, I blame the French. I’ve never taken French either, although I know Latin and Spanish and can grasp base words. But not once in all these years have I ever stopped to figure out the difference between “coiffure” and “coiffeur.” Huge Duh!
Spellcheck doesn’t like “coiffeur” because it’s a French term, but it’s in Webster’s–if I’d just bothered to look it up. I’d tell you to guess what the difference in meaning is but you’d just look it up, wouldn’t you? So, how many of you knew the difference?
Ack, I’ve just discovered I’ve used the word “thru” in my manuscript! It’s a short cut I often use in texting and tweets and it spilled so unconsciously into my writing that I didn’t even notice until I started editing. Worse yet, Word and Webster accept it as a real word! Ack, ack, one more spelling usage bites the dust!
Pretty soon, we’ll be typing “U” for “you” and “R” for “are.” If you think books as we know them have come to an end, just wait until our pages read “Thru gr8t buks, UR able to lern wizeness.”
At least we’d wipe out that difficult “your” and “you’re” problem !
Self indulgent procrastinating moment here… I’m sitting in my garden, writing… well, staring at the cobwebs. It’s autumn and the spiders must be preparing for winter. There isn’t a twig, leaf, or armchair not covered by webs.
But in this photo, what the spider caught is a seed. Why on earth he’s spinning webs between my porch and my eccentric art table made of stone is beyond me. It’s not exactly food territory. But the little seed was capturing the sunlight and obviously, I needed distraction! And of course, when I tried to capture a spiraling web, a leaf caught in it and I forgot to hunt for more.
So it’s back to the Magical Malcolms and revisions and real work. How do you keep from being distracted by what you really need to be doing?
I spend my days writing new books and working on promoting them. In the evenings, I work on old back list titles. I edit scans (I can trim 20k words from 150k word books simply by deleting excess verbiage–source of another blog!), choose images for covers, and most dreaded of all–write descriptive blurbs. I defy you to reduce a 150k book to a 300 word summary!
The description on the old covers are copyrighted and can’t be used again. The question, of course, is who would want to? Just for fun, here’s the one from a 1980’s book:
Her heart pounded as his lips closed over hers. Never before had she been kissed like this…never before had she been so willing to surrender to love’s passionate promise.
Daughter of a New Mexico cattle baron and an enchantingly lovely Mexican aristocrat, Maria Connolly had inherited her father’s courage and strength and her mother’s pride and beauty. But with both her parents dead, she found herself alone and vulnerable as her person and her property came under siege by the local landowner who wanted to possess both. That was when Cheyenne Walker rode into her life, guns glittering on his hips, offering Maria the help and strength she so desperately needed… and the passionate embraces she so hungrily desired…
Does that make you want to run out and buy the book? I can guarantee I can’t write a blurb like that!
I have been cursing Microsoft Word 2010 since my husband downloaded it. The filing system is abominable and makes me work three times as hard to find the documents I need. Apparently, their tech genii believe everyone works on a few documents at a time and never need a hundred a day, all buried in long ago folders in obscure places. Just give me an index please!
But today, glory hallelujah, I discovered a new trick. I’m deep into revising one of my new Malcolm/Ives historical romances, and that requires jumping from chapter to chapter to locate related bits. I’ve been frothing at the mouth because the little arrows on the right that allow me to jump from bookmark to bookmark have disappeared. I know I can do Ctl+G, but that’s annoying when I’m doing a lot of jumping around.
So I googled and discovered the Navigation Pane! It’s not as good as my little arrows, but if you go to View/Navigation Pane, you get a lovely list of all your bookmarks that stays up on the left side as long as it’s needed. Now aren’t you glad you you read this? <G>
And because I’m too lazy to hunt an image of celebration, I’m adding the Dixie Rebel cover. It’s gone free for a limited time, as has Evil Genius. Go ahead, indulge.