Friday, June 14, 2013


My guest is author, Mia Marlowe, who is a prolific writer. Her topic today is how to regroup and refill the creative cup.  
For the past couple years, I've been writing like a house afire, producing 4-5 full length novels plus the occasional novella in each cram-packed 12 month period. Since I have two publishers (Sourcebooks and Kensington) to please, plus releasing a number of self-pubbed novels, it’s been necessary. However, now that I’m ready to start another couple of contracts, it became clear that I needed a bit of time to regroup. We also had an anniversary and 4 years of me being cancer free to celebrate. My DH of many years suggested we run away together.

So toward the end of May, we did.

We booked a 12 day cruise around the British Isles. The weather was on the coolish side, and we made good use of our umbrellas more than once, but it proved to be just what I needed. We rested. We played. We soaked up the sights, sounds, smells and tastes (ask me about haggis, neeps & tatties sometime!) of the UK. I know I’ll use so much of what I experienced in my upcoming books.

Still, I felt a bit self-indulgent about the trip. I should be able to conjure up Regency England and 16th century Scotland purely out of my internet/library research and imagination.

But then at our last stop, I realized there’s no substitute for actual experiences. And we writers aren't the only ones who need to prime the creative pump from time to time. When we visited Claude Monet’s house just outside of Rouen, France, I was treated to a peek inside that genius’s head. His home was very simple, and not at all spacious considering that eight children and two adults lived there. Perhaps that was its charm. Monet wasn't distracted by a plethora of “things.” He had what he needed to be comfortable and no more. The lack of extraneous “stuff” freed him to be creative. 

It gave me a fresh appreciation for our Boston condo. At 1100 square feet, it’s not going to win any prizes for expansive living space, but it provides all that’s needful. And it’s easier to keep clean than a big place, which is important when I’m deep in my “bookhead” and can’t come out for mundane things like housework. 

But the real treat at Monet’s home was his garden. It was a riot of color. Fortunately for us, Europe is experiencing a late spring and all the irises were in full bloom. I’d never seen so many different colors. In addition to his French garden, he also created a water garden, diverting a bit of the Seine onto his property to meander through his stands of bamboo and drooping wisteria. It was heavenly.

I discovered even Monet needed more than his imagination. He needed the shifting play of light on the surface of the smooth water. He needed the twitter of birdsong and the soft ruffle of the stream. He needed the intoxicating fragrance of green growing things.

If an acknowledged creative genius needed those things, how much more do I?

So now that I’m home again, I’m ready to start my new stories with fresh vigor and sensual memories I can bequeath to my characters. My imagination is fully primed and ready to churn out experiences my readers can enjoy through my words as if they’re wearing in my heroine’s shoes.

Speaking of trying on someone else’s life, let me invite you to slip in Lady Georgette’s...



For King and Country, Three Notorious Rakes Will Put All Their Seductive Skills to Work.
After All, The Fate of England's Monarchy is in Their Hands.

Since the death of his fiancée, Nathaniel Colton's polished boots have rested beneath the beds of countless wayward wives and widows of the ton. He's careful to leave each lady smiling, and equally careful to guard his heart. So seducing Lady Georgette should pose no problem. But the beautiful reformist is no easy conquest, and Nate's considerable charm fails to entice Georgette to his bed. To woo her, Nate will have to make her believe he cares about someone besides himself--and no one is more surprised than Nate when he realizes he actually does. Excerpt


Connie Mason is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 50 novels. She was named Storyteller of the Year in 1990 and received a Career Achievement Award from RT Book Reviews in 1994. She currently lives in Florida.
Mia Marlowe is a highly acclaimed new voice in romance whose debut novel released in Spring 2011 from Kensington. She lives in Boston. Together, they are working on the next book in the Royal Rakes series, Between a Rake and a Hard Place, which will be in stores in January 2014. For more information, please visit

You can also find Mia on Twitter and Facebook!  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Historical Writer’s Dilemma: How Accurate Must You Be?

My guest is historical author, Anne Cleeland. Fascinating lady and one who writes an excellent tale of adventure, danger, spies, and suspense set in regency England. Today she shares some of her thoughts on research and writing historicals. 

I am lucky enough to have two series debuting this summer—and neither of them draws from personal experience. I’m a lifelong California native, but I’m writing a Regency adventure series and a British detective mystery series—that features an Irish heroine, no less. It almost goes without saying that precise accuracy will be abandoned in the interest of telling a good story, but how much license should be taken, and at what point do you run the risk of having the reader abandon your implausible ship?

There are no easy answers, but along the way I've attended a few panels on the knotty problem of how accurate you should be when writing historicals, so for those of you who read or write historical novels, I thought I’d pass along what I've gleaned.
In the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, neither Elizabeth Bennett nor Mr. Darcy wear gloves to the formal Netherfield ball—an omission that would have been unheard of at the time; both would have gone home rather than attend bare-handed. In Downton Abbey, one of the streets in the town has a double yellow line—not exactly Edwardian. The movie Braveheart tells us that the future Edward III was the product of a liaison between William Wallace and Isabella of France.  The problem is, Wallace was executed seven years before Edward was born, and Isabella of France was nine at the time Wallace was executed.

Are the stories any less compelling? The answer probably depends on your perspective. If you teach history—or are just a purist in general—these liberties are unacceptable and your disbelief is no longer suspended.  On the other hand, if you are not familiar with the era, you may not even notice these types of errors, but you may also come away with a distorted view of historical fact.   The trick to writing a story from an earlier time period is to find the right balance between dry-as-dust history and an engaging story, and how accurate you need to be—at least in my opinion—depends on your target readership.

If, for example, you are writing “hot” Regencies, strict accuracy is necessarily abandoned unless you write about the demi-monde, because nice young ladies didn't fool around (and were never given an opportunity, even if they were so inclined.)   I know some may want to argue about this point, but remember that Jane Austen served as a reporter at the scene, so to speak, and in her books it was a scandal if an unmarried woman wrote a letter to a man she was not yet engaged to. “Nice” women of the time were chaperoned within an inch of their lives until they were handed over to a husband with the correct pedigree.

So it seems that the question is not whether to take liberties with historical accuracy, it is how much liberty to take. My own rule of thumb is to never write anything that would “jolt” the average reader out of the story’s time frame—not the average history professor, just the average reader.

Here are some things to ask yourself: 

  • How much accuracy do you like to see from your favorite historical writers? Can you think of any other examples where an anachronism “jolted” you out of the story?


A Deadly Game of Deception...

Notorious and beautiful, Vidia Swanson works as an "angel," trying to coax incriminating secrets from powerful men who may or may not be traitors of the Crown. Her latest target is suspected of stealing gold from Wellington's troops, but matters take an alarming turn when Vidia realizes that her spymaster thinks she is the one who is tainted—a double agent working for Napoleon.

Backed into a corner, she can only hope to stay one step ahead of the hangman in a race to stop the next war before it destroys her—and destroys England. Tainted Angel offers up a compelling game of cat and mouse in which no one can be trusted and anyone can be tainted. EXCERPT 

"A world of spies and traitors where no one is quite what they seem and the truth is only true for a moment...a thrilling take that will keep you guessing until the very last page."—Victoria Thompson, author of Murder in Chelsea


Anne Cleeland holds a degree in English from UCLA as well as a degree in law from Pepperdine University, and is a member of the California State Bar.  She writes a historical fiction series set in the Regency period as well as a contemporary mystery series set in New Scotland Yard.  A member of the Historical Novel Society and Mystery Writers of America, she lives in California and has four children.

Monday, June 10, 2013


When you pick up a book or watch a movie a certain suspension of belief must take place to make the story real for you, the audience. The writer has to touch the audience’s emotions and make them care. Otherwise the world isn't real and you can’t buy into the characters, and therefore the story.

An audience is a tricky thing. While they willingly suspend belief when reading or watching a story, if the writer doesn't stick with the rules set out in the initial world building or the characters act contrary to those implied rules, your audience becomes irate. Writers, regardless of the medium, have to maintain a strong plot and character continuity especially in series. In a book, this is usually the point where I tend to toss the book across the room in disgust, “You have got to be frickin’ kidding me!”

My husband and I were having a discussion on the matter of suspending belief and writers, especially Hollywood writers, who have no regard or respect for their fans. Well, to be honest, it was more of a…heated debate.

As I mentioned last week, I've been watching the first season of Grimm. I really like it because it’s a mix of my favorite genres—police procedural, suspense, kick ass action, romance, paranormal, and a touch of fantasy. I’m a season behind Dan. I've actually seen parts of season two. I know more of what’s going on because when my husband gets disgusted with certain things writers pull, he has to tell me why something isn't working. 

Grimm season premiere promo
In season two of Grimm one of the main characters, Juliette, has lost her memories of Nick. This is a result of a spell. What is unsettling, to my husband, is the way the writers have changed the character’s core personality because it plays false to the original world and character building. 

Season one the writer’s spend quite a bit of time establishing Juliette as a strong and confident woman. She’s funny, feisty, supportive, and she’s likable. In season two she becomes a wimp and unlikable. If you read some of the show’s fan forums it’s apparent that Dan’s disgust is felt by many of the fans. They don’t like her anymore and they want her gone.

I suggested that part of the core change would understandable. If these two characters were living together for three years and their lives were so closely entwined, if separated it could leave her feeling out of sync —at least subconsciously. That sort of dichotomy could, logically, assault her sense of confidence and self worth and cause fear and other personality changes. She may not know what happened consciously but unconsciously pieces and sense of time are missing. Dan maintains there have been no foreshadowing or psychological clues of that sort of disorientation happening. He further maintains, as do many of the fans, that if she can remember everything but Nick, her basic personality should remain the same and have the benchmarks that would have drawn Nick to her in the first place.

I do understand his frustration. I've felt the same about popular shows. Like Lost (purgatory? Really?) and this season’s Bones. C’mon, this latest villain is a computer “genius” with more power and capability than is possible in the real world, even with a team of people at his disposal. The idea of one man having all that power, genius or no, is ludicrous. The writers have played false to the initial premise of their world building and the intelligence of their audience.

Star Trek wall poster
Another is Star Trek and the latest version of the stories for the last two movies. Basically, J.J. Walker has rewritten established franchise history. I've been a long time fan of the Star Trek franchise. I spent a great deal of the first movie thinking or saying to my husband, “wait a minute that never happened. How can they do that?”

What happened, of course, is Walker (with writers Orci and Kurtzman) created an alternate timeline version of Star Trek.  He made a choice to develop an alternate reality created by time travel. They needed the original story elements and characters (and fanbase) but wanted freedom from the franchise continuity constraints. Okay, I get it. It’s still disconcerting.  I can suspend belief under those circumstances.

Dan and I laughed midway through our debate over people in movies, TV shows, and books. These aren't real people and yet we discuss them as if they were. It’s all fiction and meant to entertain. Writers feel justified in taking leeway with established characters in the name of entertainment.

Howling Dane
Fans are a tough audience, though, and loyal. They feel betrayed when writers step out of sync with their favorite characters or world. When that happens, even if the story is good, they are distracted by the inconsistencies. They’re not buying into the story or the characters. Chances are the writer has lost not only the trust of their fans but also a portion of their established audience.

I don’t think that’s a place I’d like to be as a writer.

What are your thoughts?