The Value of Total Immersion Research

For many writers research is a dirty word. Especially if they have to research a time period they are not familiar with. For me, a historical author, research is the bones that hold my world together. The words I use to write my story are the muscles and skin that bring my story to life.  So I love research.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in Williamsburg, VA. Eight fabulous days in the heat and humidity, walking along the very same streets as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Lord De La Ware, and many more. One of my favorite days was when we learned about the economy. We were visited by John Greenhow, a local merchant and store owner in Williamsburg who explained how the credit system worked back then. Their credit system back then works like our debit/credit system. A particular amount of money was placed into your account and you could purchase items based on what you had in that account.  That doesn't mean you couldn't purchase items if you had no money in your account.  You could, but then you would pay it back once you sold items from your farm or shop. So even back in colonial times, their economy was similar to ours.  And just like ours, people were in debt and could not get out.

The apothecary

The brickmaker

The cabinetmaker

The Coffee Shop

The Gunsmith

The blacksmith

John Greenhow - the store owner

The magazine operator

The Milliner

The printer

The silversmith

The wheelwright

The wigs and peruke maker

So many tiny details were made available during my visit to each shop.  My favorite was the printers because in my latest story, the heroine operates her father's printing press after he dies. Being able to see how the press works and know she would be able to operate it on her own was important information I could not learn just by looking up printing presses.  Interviewing the printer about the process was like traveling back in time to the 1700s and seeing it done firsthand. Knowledge like this cannot be found by reading a book.  Seeing a pamphlet being made and actually handling type made me understand the importance of research like this.  

I think it's time I travel to England now.  After all total immersion research is necessary.  See you back in the 21st century.

Conference - Day 5

Today I volunteered to work the agent/editor appointments. A chaotic orchestration that went off with few hitches thanks to the ladies who worked to keep everything and everyone happy.  This is not an easy task with over 100 women and men to be watchful over. I worked the stopwatch and got to call the one minute warning and when the appointments were over. Talk about ultimate control!  I did meet two fabulous ladies who helped with the time and when they say “synchronize your watches” they are not kidding! 
I had a brief chance to speak with an editor and do a quickie pitch.  She was extremely polite because she was on her way to another appointment but for some reason I was booked to speak with her and she was leaving. But as the lovely lady she was, she allowed me to tell her about my story and explained Harlequin historicals only does books that are approximately 80,000 words in length.  Since almost all of mine are around 100,000 words in length, this would not work out, but she suggested I send the first 3 chapters to HQN. Later in the day I was told HQN only accepts manuscripts from agents. Hmmm, this was not working to my advantage in the least. About an hour later, I was to meet an agent to pitch.  Guess what? Same problem.  I go to speak with the agent and once again, she was scheduled to depart at the same time and she had another appointment in a different location. Another gracious lady, Sara Megibow from the Nelson Literary Agency, she said to send her the first 30 pages and a synopsis and gave me her card with the information on it. I did not get to tell her about my very hot and sexy Georgian historical, but she was very polite and I appreciated the chance to send anything to her.

This leads me to the main topic of discussion – the wonderful ladies I have met over the course of this conference. Not once have I been in a discussion with fellow writer, an agent, or editor who has not been completely polite with me. The level of respect was obvious from the moment we began speaking.  Even at the appointments where I volunteered, everyone from the other authors to the agents and editors were polite. Even when the noise level became so loud my ears began to ring and I was forced to “politely” remind the ladies to speak softly, they did so without a blink. Even several editors thanked me for the gentle reminders I gave during the sessions.

Once the sessions were over, I headed over the Plaza for high tea. A delightful experience my youngest daughter will be thrilled about because she loves the movie Bride Wars with Ann Hathaway and Kate Hudson where they are June brides at the Plaza. I took tons of pictures and of course wished she were here with me. The weather was glorious and we enjoyed our walk to and from the Plaza.
The awards ceremony remains and I cannot wait to see who wins tonight. Actually it starts in about 40 minutes so I better get dressed and head downstairs.  I’ll fill you in on the winners when it’s over.
So here are the finalists:
Golden Hearts:
Anne Barton – Regency Historical for The Proper Miss’ Guide to Bad Behavior
Maire Shelley – Historical Romance for The Dark Lady
Ruth Kaufman – Inspirational Romance for At His Command
Suzanne Kaufman Kalb – Young Adult Romance for Irresistible
Jo Anne Banker – Contemporary Series for Lost and Found
Robin Lynn Perini – Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure for Stolen Lullaby
Ann Charles – Novel with Strong Romantic Elements for Nearly Departed in Deadwood
Diana Van Dyke – Romantic Suspense for Spy in the Mirror
Trisza Ray – Paranormal Romance for The Blood Sworn King
Lisa Connelly – Contemporary Single Title for The Sinners

The Rita Awards
Lauren Willig – Regency Historical Romance – for The Mischief of the Mistletoe
Sherry Thomas – Historical Romance – for His at Night
Irene Hannon – Inspirational Romance for In Harm’s Way
Julie Kagawa – Young Adult Romance for The Iron King
Karen Templeton – Contemporary Series Romance for Welcome Home, Cowboy
Helen Brenna – Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense/Adventure for The Moon That Night
Jodi Thomas – Novel with Strong Romantic Elements for Welcome to Harmony
Virginia Kantra – Romance Novella for “Shifting Sea”
Karen Rose – Romantic Suspense for Silent Scream
Sharon Ashwood – Paranormal Romance for Unchained: the Dark Forgotten
Kaki Warner – Best First Book for Pieces of Sky
Jill Shalvis – Contemporary Single Title Romance for Simply Irresistible

I suggest you check out the books and when you see the Golden Heart finalists on the bookshelves, because you will soon.

Conference - Day 4

I’m going to be honest – today I played hooky most of the day.  I went to the Empire State building, wandered through Macy’s at 34th street, and then came back for the most inspirational speech I have ever heard in my life.  Sherrilyn Kenyon was the keynote speaker today.  Let me start off by saying that if you ever have a complaint about your life – whether your regular life or your writing life and you hear her speak, you will realize you have absolutely nothing to complain about.  This woman is positively amazing and every step of her life should inspire you to be thankful for what you have in her life and the path you are on. You should never complain about not being published yet or about waiting to hear from an agent or editor.  Her story brought tears to my eyes.  Having grown up in an abusive family and having dyslexia did not stop her from fighting for what she wanted in life – to be a writer.  Not just any writer, but a NY Times bestselling author.  Even after hundreds of rejections and people leaving her life because they could not wait for her to be published, she persevered and made a success out of her life.  If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, do so and then re-evaluate how your life has gone compared to hers.  If you want to hear her speak in the upcoming future, she will be one of the keynote speakers at Chicago-North’s Spring Fling in April of 2012.

After lunch I went to the Sourcebooks signings and have to say how impressed I was with its organization.  The tables were arranged neatly and in a way that allowed for traffic flow.  Even with a news crew there asking Ms. Raccah questions, the ladies were able to navigate the rows with ease and no one was left standing in a line that was too long or took forever.  Very nicely done.
I finally had a chance to meet up with my friend, Lucienne who is also the author of the fabulous series with the teenage vampire – Gina. We chatted for a while and I got to meet one of her authors, Crystal Jordan (Lucienne Diver is an agent for the Deirdre Knight Agency).  Before I knew it, Lucienne had to leave for two publishing house parties and I was off to dinner with Margot.  We wandered about the city until we came to Bryant Park where we have a lovely dinner outside under the trees.  Once we returned to the hotel, we went to the View lounge, took pictures of the fantastic view as the restaurant/lounge made a circuitous route around.  I got to tell Margot about several of my books – basically a verbal synopsis of about 5 finished novels.  I outlined the GMC of the main characters and when I was done, we realized how late it had gotten.  So here I am, typing this up and wishing I had internet so I could post this on my blog.  So, see you tomorrow when I get a chance to post this one. 

In the meantime, I’m going to do some work – type up one of my constant companions – my notebook of ideas.  See you soon.