Sunday, March 17, 2013

Lindsay Townsend: When should the heroine tell lies?

When is it OK for a heroine to lie?

In my medieval historical romance, To Touch the Knight, my heroine, Edith, is a liar. She lies to save herself and her fellow-villagers. She makes an illusion in order to survive. Does that make her evil?

To me it does not. But heroines in romantic fiction tend to have less leeway than heroes.

Take a hero who sows his wild oats. That is seen as normal, possibly even considerate, as he will then be experienced when making love to the virginal heroine. But how many hearts has he broken on the way?

Take a hero who is driven, obsessed, vengeful. 'Yum yum!', perhaps, is the response of some romance readers. But I wonder what happens when that engine of revenge is spent. What then? And if the hero is obsessed will he not remain obsessive? That energy, once he and the heroine are together, may be diverted into other things. He will no longer be a driven lover, but what?

Can the truly vengeful have a happy ever after ending?

What of the heroine who is driven and ambitious? Why is that seen as something to be diluted in her but not in the hero?

As a romance writer, I love a happy ever after end. To ensure it I look forward into my characters' lives, projecting them far into their futures. Will they still be content in old age? Will their different characteristics still mesh?

When couples remain and stay together they tend to end any disputes with tolerance and laughter, a mutual appreciation and understanding. This is what I like to show in my romances - the start of that process.

So, as To Touch The Knight progresses, Edith realizes she can tell Ranulf the truth. That trust from her is vital.

Ranulf also realizes that his grief for his late wife is also laced by guilt and resentment that he needs to lose.

Edith accepts him and realizes he believes more in the church than she does. She respects that, even as she begins to question her own hard-headed, practical way of always looking at the world.

Ranulf accepts that she told lies and accepts why she did so. He forgives her - though to Edith he has nothing to forgive.

I'm with Edith. How about you?

Lindsay Townsend

Friday, March 15, 2013

Clara Barton and the American Red Cross

By: Stephanie Burkhart

March is "Red Cross" month, and I've always had a soft spot for the Red Cross. I first "really heard" of the Red Cross when I was 17 and a senior in High School. Having just discovered the story of Czar Nicholas II and his family, I was moved to the core of my soul when I discovered Nicholas' son, Alexis, had hemophilia. Shortly thereafter, the Red Cross came to my high school. High school seniors were eligible to give blood, and I gave my first donation without hesitation.

My involvement didn't stop there. When I was 18, I joined the US Army. After my training, I was sent to Germany for my first duty assignment. I learned that the Red Cross provided "verification" if a loved one died. They also offered "safety" courses, and during my deployment to Hungary, they offered moral support activities as well.

The Red Cross is a force when it comes to helping others, be it disaster relief, blood donations, or educational programs. The organization was born in Europe after Swiss businessman Henry Dunant witnessed the Battle of Sulferino in 1859 during the Franco-Austrian War.

American Clara Barton was born in 1821. She grew up with a passion for helping others. At 17, she became a teacher. In 1855 she moved to Washington DC and worked as a clerk in the US Patent Office. During the Civil War she was "the lady in charge" (per Union General Ben Butler) of the hospital at the front of the Army of the James. She faced danger bravely. While attending to a wounded soldier on the battlefield a bullet tore through the sleeve of her dress, killing the man she was attending to.

After the war, she toured America, giving speeches, meeting several influential women in the US suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony.  1869 proved to be a pivotal year for Clara. She traveled to Europe, Geneva, Switzerland, and discovered Dunant's book, "A Memory of Sulferino" which explained his reasons and motivation for starting the "International Red Cross." Barton was in Europe in 1870, during the Prussian/Franco War, and ventured to the front lines again. When the war ended, she was awarded with the German Iron Cross.

Upon her return to the US, Barton wanted to organize a "Red Cross." In America, surprisingly, there was no interest. Most Americans thought they'd never face another war like the Civil War. Barton was undeterred. Barton convinced President Chester A. Arthur that the Red Cross could be very useful responding to crisis' other than war. The American Red Cross was born. Barton held the chapter's first meeting in May 1881. Barton was dynamo, leading the American Red Cross first major relief effort – the Great Fire of 1881 in Michigan.
Clara Barton

During her tenure as the head of the American Red Cross, Barton traveled to Constantinople, Armenia, and Cuba. Her last field operation was helping the victims of a hurricane that struck Galveston in 1900. Conflicting accounts have her resigning in either 1901 or 1904 due to her advancing age and criticism of her management. Barton passed away in 1912 of tuberculosis. She was 90.

In America, March is also National Woman's Mouth, and Clara Barton is a woman whose life inspires. She inspired her contemporaries and her legacy lives on as the heartbeat of the American Red Cross. Even today, women (and men) can admire her bravery on the battlefield and her courage to defy her society's norms.

Question for you: Are there any historical women you draw inspiration from?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 Dispatcher for LAPD. She served in the US Army from 1986-1997. She's married with two boys, is addicted to coffee and adores Lindt chocolates. Her latest book is "The Secret Door," Book 4 in the Budapest Moon Series.

Blurb: Can Zoltan save his witch from an evil werewolf with Sophia's help?

"The Secret Door's exciting action, paranormal elements, and romance will not disappoint a reader." - Joy Cagil, Amazon Reader
"I was quite pleased to find an original take on the werewolf mythology and was impressed by the author's choice of location and historical accuracy. The Secret Door is a fun read and is highly recommended." - 5 Stars, Jack Magnus, Reader's Favorite Reviews,

He looked her over seductively. His heart skipped a beat with desire. She rubbed the lotion into her hands and placed them on his stomach. He groaned, reaching out with his left hand and threading his fingers into her hair, jerking her head back so they were eye-to-eye. She set her jaw. His pulse pounded. Something intense flared between them, yet she kept her hands on his abdomen. Encouraged, Zoltan tugged her toward him, pressing her chest against his. Her nostrils flared and her brow furrowed in confusion.
He stopped, reminding himself he needed to offer a choice. "Do you want me to kiss you?"
"No." The sound of her denial was weak. He held her close.
"Do you want me to release you?"
"How should I solve my predicament?"
"I don't know."
"I do." He leaned close, her sweet fruity scent sending his senses into overdrive. He placed his lips on her jaw and kissed her.







Monday, March 11, 2013

Amazing women of the Victorian era Part I - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Some of us write to make sense of the world or deal with personal sadness. While writing wonderful stories of hope and fulfillment, Frances Hodgson Burnett struggled with depression throughout her life, which deepened after her oldest son, Lionel, died of tuberculosis in 1892.
Frances Eliza Hodgson was born in Cheetham, near Manchester, England. After her father died in 1852, the family eventually fell on straitened circumstances and in 1865 emigrated to the United States, settling near Knoxville, Tennessee. There, Frances began writing to help earn money for the family, publishing stories in magazines from the age of 19. In 1870 her mother died and in 1872 she married Swan Burnett, who became a medical doctor after which they lived in Paris for two years where their two sons were born before returning to the US to live in Washington D.C. There she began to write novels, the first of which That Lass o' Lowries, was published to good reviews.


She is best known for her children's stories, Little Lord Fauntleroy (published in 1885-6). Originally published as a serial in the St. Nicholas Magazine between November 1885 and October 1886, then as a book by Scribner's in 1886. The accompanying illustrations by Reginald Birch set fashion trends and Little Lord Fauntleroy, also set a precedent in copyright law when in 1888 its author won a lawsuit against E. V. Seebohm over the rights to theatrical adaptations of the work.
A Little Princess is a 1905 children's novel. It is a revised and expanded version of Burnett's 1888 serialized novel entitled Sara Crewe: or, What Happened at Miss Minchin's Boarding School, which was published in St. Nicholas Magazine. According to Burnett, she had been composing a play based on the story when she found out a lot of characters she had missed. The publisher asked her to publish a new, revised story of the novella, producing the novel.
Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.

My personal favourite was The Secret Garden
Burnett enjoyed socializing and lived a lavish lifestyle. Beginning in the 1880s, she began to travel to England frequently and bought a home there in the 1890s where she wrote The Secret Garden. The garden is the book's central symbol, inspired by Burnett's interest in Mary Baker Eddy's Christian Science theories. The secret garden at Misselthwaite Manor is the site of both the near-destruction and the subsequent regeneration of a family. Using the garden motif, Burnett explores the healing power inherent in living things. The story constitutes a struggle between common sense and the accepted wisdom of the day, in which common sense wins.
Initially published in serial format starting in the autumn of 1910, The Secret Garden was first published in its entirety in 1911. It is now one of Burnett's most popular novels, and is considered to be a classic of English children's literature. Several stage and film adaptations have been produced.
She divorced Swan Burnett in 1898 and married Stephen Townsend in 1900, and divorced him in 1902. Towards the end of her life, she settled in Long Island, where she died in 1924 and is buried in Roslyn Cemetery, on Long Island.

In 1936 a memorial sculpture by Bessie Potter Vonnoh. (her beautiful sculptures are well worth a look or a visit if you’re fortunate enough. A statue of Bessie Potter Vonnoh's was erected in her honour in Central Park's Conservatory Garden. The statue depicts her two famous Secret Garden characters, Mary and Dickon.

Bessie Potter Vonnoh (1872–1955), was one of the most successful women artists of her generation. She specialized in accomplished images of women and children. At a time when the field of American sculpture was dominated by men creating large, public monuments, she designed intimate works for domestic interiors and gardens, elevating the quality and appeal of small bronze, marble and terra cotta sculptures. Launching her career in the time of industrialization, urbanization and the women’s rights movement, Vonnoh contributed to the dramatic transformation of American society. Yet, while she came to embody the “New Woman,” her characteristic imagery—blissful domestic life—supported conventional ideas of women as icons of beauty and moral guardians of the home.

Newington-Cropsey Cultural Studies Center.
Maggi Andersen
The Folly at Falconbridge Hall released May 8th with Knox Robinson Publishing. 
Vanessa Ashley felt herself qualified for a position as governess, until offered the position at Falconbridge Hall. Left penniless after the deaths of her artist father and suffragette mother, Vanessa Ashley draws on her knowledge of art, politics, and history to gain employment as a governess. She discovers that Julian, Lord Falconbridge, requires a governess for his ten-year-old daughter Blyth at Falconbridge Hall, in the countryside outside London. Lord Falconbridge is a scientist and dedicated lepidopterist who is about to embark on an extended expedition to the Amazon. An enigmatic man, he takes a keen interest in his daughter's education. As she prepares her young charge, Vanessa finds the girl detached and aloof. As Vanessa learns more about Falconbridge Hall, more questions arise. Why doesn't Blythe feel safe in her own home? Why is the death of her mother, once famed society beauty Clara, never spoken of? And why did the former governess leave so suddenly without giving notice?

Tags: Maggi Andersen, Fiction, Historical romance, Victorian literature, Victorian romance, Victorian mystery, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Bessie Potter Bonnoh.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Day Embroidered is released

Well, it's a special day in the calendar for me as my historical novel, The Day Embroidered is released today.
It's always a great feeling knowing that your book is now out there in the world for readers to purchase. However, it is also a scary time because you want the book to do well and be enjoyed. Obviously you can't please everyone, there will be people who won't like the story for whatever reason, but hopefully, the majority of those who buy my book get what they want - a good read and a few hours of entertainment. If that happens, if I can transport the reader to another era, another lifestyle and give them engaging characters and a good story, then I'm happy because it means I've achieved my goal.

Anyway, enough rambling, let's get down to the reason of this blog post, the book, and the celebration of its release, which is not an every day occurrence, and should be enjoyed as the special occasion it is.
So, without further ado, behold The Day Embroidered!

The Day Embroidered blurb:
1899. A life altering event led Catrina Davies to hide from her family and society. Alone in The Highlands she exists in a lonely world cared for only by her saviour, a kind old gentleman. When she receives a surprise visitor, Travis Millard, the man she used to love, her head and heart are thrown into turmoil. Travis is determined to save her from this poor life and return her to her family where she belongs. No one is more surprised than he when she agrees to marry him. When Catrina arrives back at her family estate, Davmoor Court in Yorkshire, she is stunned to see the changes. While her father clings to life, Davmoor is nearly ruined by her brother's gambling obsession, and there is something strange about his new wife. As Catrina adjusts to her regained position in society and being with Travis, her marriage comes under attack from Travis's grandmother, who has her own secrets and reason for loathing the Davies family. When one of her brother's adversaries comes to stake his claim on the estate, the resulting chaos threatens not only Catrina's home, but the very lives of those she loves the most. Can she find the strength to fight once more for the right to be happy?

Available in ebook or paperback:
Amazon USA and Amazon UK and at The Book Depository, which always has good deals and free postage around the world. It's my favourite place to book shop! 
It currently has 25% off my books, including The Day Embroidered! Good value.

 So, here's to raising a glass to the success of The Day Embroidered and to myself on my newest release. Cheers!