Where the Regency Gentlemen Hung Out (Lynn Kerstan)

Alicia Rasley and I just outside ChristChurch College in Oxford.

For twenty years, I’ve been writing stories set in Regency-era England. My first introduction to genre romance novels were the Regencies of Georgette Heyer, and I was immediately hooked.  I suspect that was because, of all the “literary” novels I read in college or graduate school, I most enjoyed the books of Jane Austen.

I lack the statistics, but I’d bet more historical romance stories are set in early 19th-Century England than any other place or era. Napoleon Bonaparte, out to conquer the known world and then some, gave birth to many fictional Regencies about spies and battles and the real danger that he’d claim England as well. Men had a chance to prove their manliness in these stories. It was also an era of attractive fashion for ladies and gentlemen alike. That’s amazingly important in romance fiction. For many twenty-first-century gals, a guy wearing Renaissance-era “pumpkin” pants or a powdered wig doesn’t hold much appeal.

Inside ChristChurch College, Alicia studies a tribute to the Light Infantry, the 52nd, for their courage and achievements in the Peninsular War. All her fictional soldiers, and mine as well, belong to the 52nd.

So I settled into the Regency and bought probably 80 research books about the era, from history and biographies to locations to, well, everything I could find. And, often in company with friend and sometimes co-author Alicia Rasley, I explored what she described as “what remains of the Regency in England.” We wandered the parts of London that haven’t changed overmuch, especially Mayfair and  St. James Street, and ventured down to Brighton, where the Prince Regent built an ornate, silly house. Cheltenham. The Cotswolds. Bath (of course), Tunbridge Wells, Oxford, York, Cornwall, the Lake District, Gretna Green in Scotland.

This is the bow window at White’s. one of the fashionable Gentlemen’s Clubs in St. James Street, Beau Brummel often sat at this window, watching the world pass by. Wagers placed by gentlemen were entered into a book at White’s, so that neither party could wriggle out if he lost the bet.

In my experience—and I have traveled through probably 30 or 40 countries—having a purpose or something special to look for makes a real difference. I’m already compiling a list for my March trip to Italy, imagining what kind of story I will write and what sort of hero and heroine will find themselves there in the early 1800’s.  Lord Byron, Percy  Bysshe Shelley and other literary figures spent the later years of their short lives in Italy, and I suspect they will make cameo appearances, or perhaps play an important part.

This is Brooks’s, also in St. James’s Street, the most elegant of the gentlemen’s clubs and a hangout for those involved in politics, mostly the Whigs.

Alicia, also a student and teacher of literature, pretty much chooses England for her trips, while I sometimes wander farther afield. But I must say that for me, the most fun times were when we went exploring together, talking about our stories, and immersing ourselves in an era that speaks to our hearts and inspires most of our books.

Brimming with Thanksgiving (Lynn Kerstan)

A painting by a friend and talented local artist, Doris Besikoff.

Like millions of other Americans, I have today been reflecting on all the excellent things I have to be thankful for. Living in this wonderful country certainly makes the list. There are other places I’d love to live in as well, if only for a limited time, because America is my home. England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand come to mind, primarily because English is spoken there(!), and because the people I know who live in those countries are really terrific. But I was fortunate enough to be born in the USA and wind up in one of its finest, most beautiful towns. I have grown deep roots in the eleven years I’ve lived in Coronado, and I am happy here.

This morning, when I pushed back a curtain to check the weather (sunny and warm), the first thing I saw was a hummingbird inches from my eyes, sucking nectar from a glorious pink blossom on the hibiscus tree just outside my window. A great way to start the day.

Your notion of “Being Alert” may not resemble Lymond’s.

I’m thankful for good health and firm determination to get into active walking shape for my trip to Italy in March. It’s a real treat, having something to look forward to. And always, I am pleased to share my apartment with a remarkable cat, presently on full Turkey Alert, glancing now and again at me with his “What’s Taking So Long?” look. Lucky for Monsieur le Comte de Sevigny, Thea the Cat Tender will be caring for him while I am on my travels. He likes Thea and graciously permits her to groom him.

I am thankful for Ereaders and the ability to directly publish my novellas and books online for new readers to discover. I’m also grateful for Bell Bridge Books, the publisher which is reissuing most of my “backlist” books for Ereaders and in print copies as well.

Friends make us happy.

I am truly grateful for a large group of friends who became acquainted online and have stuck together, many of us, for more than 20 years. Some of them—too many—I have never met in person. Even so, we share just about everything with one another, certain that confidences will be kept. That includes some whining now and again, or friendly disagreements, but we all support anyone having a run of Bad Times, and we always honor everyone’s right to have opinions that don’t run parallel to our own. Most of us are writers, and we invariably support one another, rejoice in successes, commiserate when things don’t go so well, and exchange ideas and information that can help our careers.  It’s a terrific group of people, and I’m fortunate to be among them.

On sale until 30 November.

I wish you all a joyful season and many things to be grateful for. And if you’re looking for some some light-hearted Christmas stories, the Ereader version of A Regency Holiday (with stories by me, Alicia Rasley, Allison Lane, and Rebecca Lee Hagan) is on sale for a mere $1.99 until the end of November. Snag yourself a copy here:

http://amzn.com/1611940575

 

 

 

 

Cats Bearing Gifts (Lymond de Sevigny

Keeping myself out of reach.

The Can-Opener continues to wrestle with Microsoft and Windows7 problems. She should have taken my advice and bought an Apple Computer. Now she is angry and frustrated, so it must be time to do something nice. Not for her, though. We’re doing it for You! Get out your calendar, because you’ll want to make a note of the dates.

 

...and there were others honors as well.

Before I was born, the C-O and her friend Alicia Rasley wrote this book. Like my own nine lives, it is a timeless story. Age shall not weary us, nor the years condemn. It is such a good book that it won the Romance Writers of America RITA Award.

Now the book is available in e-Book format and is selling for a mere $4.99. But next Wednesday (13June) and Saturday (16June), you can download it at Amazon for a measly 99 cents!

Hauntingly wonderful.

But Wait. There’s More! If you don’t want to plunk out 99cents, download Gwen’s Ghost on Thursday and Friday (June 14/15) and it’s FREE. What a deal. Give yourself  a treat. And tell your friends.

I don’t know how to create a live link, but this one is easy to cut and paste. It will take you right to the book. Gwen, Vayle (the ghost), Max, and Dori are waiting to meet you.

http://amzn.com/B007ZV0VWY

 

 

 

Collaboration Without Getting Shot, Part 2 (Alicia Rasley)

Alicia and Lynn, Back in the Day

After that, we started collaborating. Fortuituously, we had the same editor at Kensington, who was willing to let us try. But even halfway through plotting the book, we’d communicated only online. We agreed to meet at the RWA conference in St. Louis, fondly remembered as the “hell or highwater conference,” as the Mississippi River was flooding and the Arch was unreachable.

There at the conference, I was trying to track her down (back in the dark ages, children, we didn’t have cell phones!) at the hotel, and had punched the elevator button to go down to the bar, where I was sure I’d find her, or at least a martini.  The elevator, going up, opened, and after a moment, a woman inside reached out, grabbed my arm, and pulled me in. It was Lynn, and she said she just knew this was me. (I’m glad it was. Imagine if she’d yanked someone else into the elevator like that!)

This uncanny recognition set the pattern. We just knew each other. We didn’t have one moment of awkwardness, and could talk for hours like old buddies from the very first. Later that night at a banquet, I don’t think either of us was surprised when we met near the door as both of us tried to sneak out.  Well, of course we both wanted to avoid the speeches! There was actually another writer involved in the project, but with her, there wasn’t that immediate sympatico feeling. The next year, when Lynn and I decided to write another book together, it was only the two of us. We are both, you won’t be surprised to hear, arrogant enough to think that we didn’t need much help.

The first book together, we each wrote separate novellas that were later joined in a novel. But this new book, Gwen’s Christmas Ghost (no, we didn’t choose the title), we decided to write together. Yep. Me with my long sentences and affection for semicolons, and  Lynn with her muscular prose and her hatred of any punctuation that wasn’t  a period or a comma. Writing together. Rather quickly we divided up the tasks and the characters, deciding on a major romance (her responsibility) and a secondary romance (mine), and agreeing to alternate the intervening scenes. Because she would do more of the writing, I took on the final edit to unify the prose, and if I do say so myself, I did that well enough that I doubt anyone can tell who originally wrote what sentence. (She refused to let me add semicolons, and I refused to let her shoot my hero, though a ceiling falls in on him.)

Another Rasley Masterpiece

Why did it work? Well, first, we really respected each other as writers.  I don’t think it would be exaggeration to say that we each thought the other one of the best Regency writers in the business. And we knew our own strengths. Lynn is a much better plotter than I am, and quick to notice when a character is acting or speaking out of character. (Even now, I need only say the word “opprobrium” to send both of us into gales of laughter.) I am the romantic, always reminding us both to deepen the conflict and provide the resolution for our couples.

I’m not saying it was an easy process to create this book. But heck, we’re still friends (aren’t we? Lynn? Lynn?), and the summer after publication, we were back at the RWA conference, as Gwen’s Christmas Ghost had been nominated for the RITA award. I was lucky Lynn was there at the awards ceremony. I was sure we weren’t going to win as I’d written an acceptance speech (usually a kiss of death), so I wasn’t paying attention when they announced the winner. Lynn gave me a poke in the side and made me rise and follow her on the stage. We’d won the award—the first collaborators to win a RITA. The honor was all the sweeter, I think, because we won it together.

And here we are, collaborating again.  Some would say this is “the triumph of hope over experience,” but I think we both will agree, the pain of writing is more fun when suffered together.

At some future time, I’ll blog about the current-day adventure of revising our joint backlist book for re-publication. I’ll go ahead and predict a happy ending. After all, Lynn and I have remained friends all this time, and we’re pretty sure our friendship will survive yet another collaboration!

The Librarian Meets an Adventurer

 

Poetic Justice is available at Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006QNRIEQ

Alicia Rasley is a RITA-award winner (yes, we agreed that we could each claim this, though we won it together) and Kindle bestseller. Her book Poetic Justice, inspired by Lynn, is currently available at Amazon.

Collaborating Without Getting Shot, Part 1 (Alicia Rasley)

Alicia Rasley

 

Thanks to Lynn Kerstan for inviting me to guest blog here today and tomorrow! I decided to tell you all the dirt I have on her—No! I forgot. I’m supposed to tell you about our history of collaboration in fiction-writing. We’ve written two books together (one won a RITA award), and are embarking on some new linked novellas.

Lynn and I first “met” online, when we were both on the GEnie network (one of those Internet roundtables in the dark ages before the Web, when we had to get online through the phone at 24 baud a second, using only flints to light our candles). We were both writing Regencies, and the Romex roundtable on GEnie was rife with Regency writers discussing the important issues. (Example: Did men really sign dancecards to claim a dance at a ball?)

Lynn and I are remarkably similar while being almost complete opposites. I mean, she’s had this exciting life—travel, cruises, high-stakes bridge (ask her about her time with Omar Sharif), gambling, hot cars, hotter men… and here I am with my boring little Midwestern life. (But actually, I like boring. I am not good with change, something that should make my husband grateful.) However, in intriguing ways, we’re a lot alike. We both grew up Catholic and went to parochial school, though she went to a posh one high above San Diego Harbor, while my school was in a ramshackle house in Boston and had to close after my family (eight children) moved to Virginia and took half the students away.

We both studied literature in grad school, though she was a Shakespearian (this gets important later :), and I studied American lit.  We had a similar tendency to plunge drastically into love with certain writers and books (Dorothy Dunnett got passed back and forth between us). We both wrote Regencies, but mine were all about the relationships and the slang, while she liked to take her characters on rollicking adventures. And while I always loved my heroes and treated them gently, Lynn liked to shoot them at least once every book.

Poetic Justice, starring a Librarian and an Adventurer

We didn’t have much contact online until I mentioned that I wanted to write a book where the hero (John, a secondary character from Royal Renegade) found some rare book and love too. (Hey, my heroes have adventures too! They can find books!) Lynn, who had actually handled Shakespeare Folios when she worked at the Folger Library, mentioned in an email that I might want to look into the playscript of Sir Thomas More, part of which was purportedly written in Shakespeare’s own hand. Whoa! That sent me off into the rabid swamps of Shakespearian denialists, who think someone else (usually Francis Bacon) wrote the plays.  Within a few days, her wise counsel had led to a real plot, in which John really does have an adventure allying with Jessica to save this manuscript from the destruction planned by an evil “Baconist” librarian.

So I owe that book to Lynn! It is, by the way, Poetic Justice, and it’s available now on Kindle. Really. Lynn inspiration. Shakespeare denial. Evil librarian. Aren’t you scared?

Lynn and Alicia on an ice floe (aka our writing careers)

The Ghost’s Debut (Lynn Kerstan)

Reappearing soon, wherever eBooks are sold.

Just wanted you all to see, hot off the press, the new cover for the reissue of our RITA-winning Regency Romance novel.

This time we get to use our own title, our own choice of images, our own designer (the wondrous Tara at FantasiaFrogDesigns), and be masters of our own fate.

I love writing historical novels–they never go out of date–but I’m so very happy to be living in the modern era where writers can be publishers, if they so choose. Alicia and I also write for an excellent publisher, so we have the best of both worlds.

Now I have to clean, do laundry, pay bills in advance, do everything that can’t wait until I return from Spain and Portugal, get a haircut, and (Yike!) cram everything I’ll need for three weeks in uncertain weather into a small suitcase and a backpack.

If you want to receive an occasional tweet from me and Lonzo the Leopard (cat perspective is always important!) during the trip, follow @RegencyTwisters and/or @LynnKerstan.

Adiós por ahora, mis amigos, y todos los buenos deseos!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Throes (Lynn Kerstan)

Chaos Central.

This is not my workplace. My own workplace is pathetically cluttered, and I am indeed surrounded by piles of papers and books. Chances of finding anything I’m looking for are not good. But somehow I must wrestle order into all the partially done projects and chaotic clusters scattered around in my apartment . . . by next Friday.

I must also wrangle order into my brain, which makes the clutter in the picture look like an amateur. So much to do, so little time, and I’m too excited to focus on any one task. Today I spent an hour looking for my thermal underwear (not needed here in temperate Coronado CA) because Pat (probably in the same crazed prep phase as I am) told me Spain was cold.

Even this post is disorganized, and it’s the last one from me until I return from my trip. Happily, you will be blessed by excellent blogs by excellent writers while I’m gone. The wondrous Kathleen Eagle will be here next week, and my frequent partner in crime, writing, and traveling–Alicia Rasley–will follow with her own version of how we got together and continue to occasionally work together as collaborators. If she wasn’t so funny and wasn’t telling it like it was and is, I might be miffed. Instead, I laughed my head off (Ha! So that’s where my brain went!) reading her account.

Really, one Can-Opener is as good as another. But I'll make a fuss when Lynn comes back, just to remind her who really matters in the place. Namely me.

Meantime, Thea the Wondrous will tend to Monsieur le Comte, who will doubtless miss me for a nanosecond.

While I’m gone, I’ll be taking a lot of pictures and researching my next novella in the Drewe Sisters series. There was one sister, Yvette, who didn’t get her love story told in our first round. What to do? Alicia and I collaborating on one novella? Or draw straws to determine which of us would write it?

And then, miraculously, I discovered an all-new sister that none of the other sisters knew about. And lo, she happens to be living in Spain. What a coincidence! Her name is Lucinda, and presently, she’s a flamenco dancer. The man who wins her heart is a career soldier who made a brief appearance in Alicia’s novella, “Allegra’s Song.” We often wind up writing about characters from each other’s stories. They all lived about the same time, after all, and the military men usually happened to join the 52nd Regiment. It’s our own little world within the larger world of Regency England, where many of our characters wind up interacting with one another in our books. Fact is, they are so real to us that we cannot bear to let them go.

Sorry. Mindless rambling here. Mostly I wanted to say that I’m really excited about my trip with Pat Potter, seeing two countries I’ve never visited, and having the opportunity to combine my three favorite things in the world (not counting  my good friends and my cat): travel, inventing interesting people, and making up stories about them.

See you all in late March, with pictures and travel tales galore. If you’re on twitter, follow us at #RegencyTwisters (me and Alicia). If I can learn how to use my new Ipod Touch, I’ll be tweeting from Spain and Portugal. But don’t hold your breath!

Adios, Amigos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tech Wizard (Lymond de Sevigny)

Refuge from the Storm

As I enter my mature years, only two things propel me to the top of the cat tree. One is my sworn enemy, the vacuum cleaner. The other is the Can-Opener, when she is attempting (and usually failing) to do something with a mechanical object. Most particularly the computer. Whenever she attempts something new and inevitably screws it up, her language demonstrates that she is the daughter of  career navy man. Oh, my delicate ears.

Truly, she has missed her calling. If tech inventors and purveyors test their manuals and ‘Help’ files on her, they would discover every possible way a customer can misinterpret a simple instruction.

Fortunately, the C-O has friends. Long-suffering friends, most particularly Alicia Rasley, who spend much valuable time sorting out the CO’s messes and salvaging her projects. And my sanity. Their names should be inscribed on the rolls of saints and martyrs.

The two empty spaces are reserved for Yvette and Lucinda, whose stories will be told at a future date.

It was Alicia, her co-author on several excellent (or so I’m told) stories, who guided her through the process of making those stories available to readers machines called Kindle and Nook and Kobo and also on computers. Much of this process took place when the C-O ought to have been writing her Friday blog. And now she has bribed me to cover her patootie in that regard. Instead of napping, I am earning my bits of leftover salmon.

I’ve only had time to skim this book, but one brief portion captured my attention and approval. It appears at the top of the C-O’s story:

Dedication

To Thea Gurns and John Blocker

Great friends and wonderful neighbors.

It is Thea who will see to my well-being while the C-O is gallivanting  around Spain and Portugal, doing research for Lucinda’s story and for a new book, Dangerous Betrayals. I will credit the C-O with this much: she has excellent taste in friends.

Almost the Cover (Lynn Kerstan)

Crazy day. Car problems. 8am appointment with a mechanic to take care of things, so I’m toddling off to bed as soon as possible.

  But as promised, I wanted to debut the cover of my novella, the one that’s paired with Alicia Rasley’s novella (Allegra’s Song), here on StoryBroads. Neither will be available for upload to your e-reader until 16 February at the earliest, but I can hardly wait for it to go “live.”

There’s still some tinkering to be done with the cover, but this is pretty much what I’ll be using. I love Maggie’s wary look. And she certainly has a right to be suspicious.

Meantime I’m formatting the actual story for uploading, and I have to say that I truly love this novella. It was the third story I ever wrote, way back in the early 90′s, shortly after my first book and another novella had been published.

I can hardly believe I was so daring in the early days! I never did learn how to tread lightly.

 

A Friend Comes to Town (Lynn Kerstan)

Lynn and Rebecca at McP's in Coronado for Lunch

I expect we’ve all met people, sometimes on the fly, at a party or a meeting or in connection with business, and hit it off with them straightaway. Instant connection. Shared interests, sympatico personalities, and mutual regret when we don’t meet again for a long time, if ever.

Wednesday evening, I came home to an email from someone I haven’t seen for several years. And hadn’t seen often back then, what with her living in Ohio. It opened with her outlining our previous encounters, in case I didn’t recognize her name or remember her at all. In fact, I remember her clearly. She drops by StoryBroads from time to time and posts in the Comments. I’m always glad to see her here.

Me at Coronado Beach under a milky sky.

Turns out she is traveling with her husband as he attends a conference, and wanted to know if I was free for lunch. You bet! I replied immediately and arranged to pick her upat the hotel yesterday morning. What a fun day. What a terrific gal. We yakked and laughed for about five hours as we toured the sights and finally settled for an alfresco lunch. She even reminded me to order onion rings. You don’t have to urge me more than once.

Rebecca looking for Navy SEALs and finding only surfers.

In her email, she asked if I remembered her inviting me to a weekend romance writers’ retreat at a woodsy lodge near Indianapolis, where my good buddy Alicia Rasley was to be honored. I was to be a surprise for her and give a speech praising her. Happily, I had frequent flyer miles, so I accepted with pleasure.

Naturally, I had to make it complicated. Instead of a boring old speech, I decided to make my presentation in a rap song. What I needed was a CD with rap music but no lyrics, sort of like karioke without the picture. And back then, the only person I knew able track something like that down on the internet was . . . Alicia. So I invented a story about a friend needing a rap music CD without singer or words and asked her if she could fine one. Being Alicia, she did.

Alicia Rasley in a book cover head shot

Trying carefully to preserve the surprise, I gave Alicia the name and address of a local friend and asked her to email the CD, which arrived shortly after. I provided the friend with a thank-you card, Alicia’s address, a money to cover Alicia’s costs. So I got the disk and had a couple months to write my masterpiece. Being me, I put it off till the last minute, and wound up writing the long, complex, scathingly clever lyrics on the flight to Indianapolis. For the who trip, with the CD playing again and again in my ear, I created the rhymes to fit the rhythms. Really, you can’t help moving while listening to that rap beat, and my hapless seatmate was amazingly tolerant.

When Alicia arrived at the lodge (she’d been given a later time than the others), we were all seated a several round tables in the dining room. I was in the middle, looking directly at her as she was informed that she was to be the Honored Guest. She expressed her surprise and delight. She greeted people. She never even noticed me! Finally, other guests began teasing her and pointing at me. So yes, we brought off the surprise, and my Rap Honor Tribute went well, with the music playing on a boombox and me rappin’ out “I’m Snoop Lynny-Lynn . . . .” Don’t remember the rest. It was long. And I didn’t have time to memorize it, so I used the sole copy (written on the plane) and gave it to Alicia when she asked for it. Some great art burns brightly for a brief moment, never to glow again.

So in future, missy, you don't have to 'splain who you are!

Anyway, I informed Rebecca that not even sponge-brained me is apt to forget an incident like that, or the smart, funny, wise gal who arranged the whole thing. We had great fun the rest of that weekend, just as we did today. She’s a dedicated gardener and lover of heritage roses, so after lunch I took her to see Thea’s wondrous garden across the street from my apartment. Rebecca loved it! Then we went to San Diego’s Balboa Park, gloriously in bloom, where I walked off the onion rings as  we talked and laughed non-stop.

Some friends we have with us often, and some not nearly often enough. But they’re all treasures. Really, I think Rebecca should join me and Pat and any other long-distance buddies we can recruit on a wonderful trip somewhere. Maybe Turkey.

Life is short. There’s never enough time for everything we value. But good friends are a true blessing, the flowers in our gardens. To bloom in our lives, friendships must be tended and nourished.