Sunday, September 20, 2015

Hendon, C.S. Graham, Cats, and England: Answering Ask Me Anything Monday

Angel was my mom's old cat; he's now 17.

From Judith at Goodreads: Will Things get better between Sebastian and his father?

The book I'm writing now, which has the working title WHERE THE DEAD LIE (due out March 2017), sees Sebastian and  Hendon united in their opposition to the betrothal of Hendon's granddaughter (Amanda's daughter), Stephanie, to a charming but decidedly nasty heir to a marquis. This has been a very emotional book to write; the scene I was working on the other day had me literally crying.

Huckleberry and Thomasina. These two were mine from before Steve and I married; Huck is almost 15  and Thomasina is at least 17-18.

From Mary at Goodreads, Will we ever see any more stories from C. S. Graham?

I loved writing the Tobie and Jax books, and I think it helped keep the Sebastian series fresh when I could write something else in between (one of the dangers of a long-running series is that the writer can get tired of it). But it was just too much for me, trying to keep both series going. When my mom fell ill and moved in with me, I almost went crazy and decided I had to drop one. Even though she is now gone, I don't think I could manage both series at once, at least not for two different publishers. So I guess the short answer is, I have another C.S. Graham idea in my head that I'd love to write but I'm not sure I'll ever get the chance. Once a series is allowed to go cold like that, publishers are reluctant to pick it up again. Probably the only way it could happen is if someone made a movie. But while we had tons of interest, nothing ever came of it.

Banjo and Scout, our shaky kittens.

Toni asked, How do you take care of all your cats with your busy schedule?

It isn't anywhere near as difficult now as it was during the Year of the Shaky Kittens. To be frank, caring for our two little handicapped babies took a huge toll on both Steve and I. Hand feeding them three times a day (for the first several months it was four), keeping them clean, and just holding and cuddling them took an enormous amount of time and required us to get up an hour earlier before Steve went to work and usually kept us up late at night. But my Banjo died in June of last year, and we lost Scout in October. And then we lost Indie, my little darling who left us far too soon this last March.

The rest of the guys aren't much trouble. Thomasina, the calico female in the bottom bunk in the picture above, now spends most of her time in Baton Rouge with my younger daughter. I feed and cuddle the rest of the gang first thing in the morning before I go for my walk (Huck and Angel get a med that needs to be sprinkled on wet food). In the evening, before I go to bed, I sit with the Marmalades again for a couple of hours and read (Roscoe and Peanut live in a part of the upstairs that is closed off by a glass door because Huck doesn't like them) while Steve goes out and sits and reads with the Pee Cats (Nora and Whiskies live on our fifty foot screened in gallery because they have "elimination issues"). Angel and Huck (and Tommy Girl when she's here) are free to roam the rest of the house (Huck doesn't like Angel, either, but Angel can hold his own), and they cuddle next to me (or ON me) during the day while I write.

The worst part of it all is that Steve and I really can't go away together for more than a night. I have friends who would be willing to come refresh water and food and litter boxes, but I can't ask people to come twice a day and administer medicine (Angel has another med that we squirt in his mouth at night and Huck gets a different med sprinkled on his bedtime snack). I can't board them, either, because Huck's problems are the result of a near fatal reaction to his last vaccines and the vet told me to never give them to him again. Which is probably way more than you wanted to know, but does explain why I went to England last June and poor Steve stayed home to cat sit!

Roscoe and Peanut. Technically, these two belong to Sam. I'm not holding my breath. They're six years old.

Caroline asked, Do you miss living in England, and if so, what?

I do miss it, yes. To be frank, I'd go back if I could (well, as long as I could pick one of the warmest, sunniest bit, and maybe also had a little house in Spain for the dead of winter!) I miss being able to drive over the hill and visit everything from a castle to a thousand year old church to a Roman ruin. I absolutely adore the beautiful gardens (when I was there this last time I was threatening to come home and rip up all my roses because they are so sad here in comparison). I love tearooms and neighborhood pubs and lovely little villages that made you ache for times gone past.  I could go on and on, but I think the thing I love most is how wonderfully polite and funny the people are.

Indie, my little darling

I have three more questions to answer, about Jamie Knox and Sebastian and 19th century intellectual history, but each of those will be long enough to require a post to itself.

Whiskies (sibling to Roscoe and Peanut, and mentally "slow" since birth)  and Nora (now 15, the sole survivor of the three cats Steve had when we married) on the porch swing. At the other end of the gallery are heated and air conditioned little houses for when it gets too cold or too hot. Yes, we are crazy.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sebastian St. Cyr's London: St Andrew's Undershaft and the Cloth Fair, Smithfield

I plan to answer more questions later in the week, but I thought it would be nice to take a little break.

This is St. Andrew's Undershaft in Aldgate, not too far from St. Helen's Bishopsgate and Jamie Knox's tavern.  The current church dates tom the early 16th century, although the original structure was much older. It's an unusual church both because of the way it's positioned and because the entrance is at the base of its off-center tower. The odd name comes from the large maypole that used to be set up near it.  Here it is today (the massive modern building rising behind it is The Gherkin:

Next up is the Cloth Fair, a short but very old street in Smithfield. This is a photograph rather than a print, so it's from later in the 19th century, but it really hadn't changed much. This is where, in the Middle Ages, merchants would gather to sell cloth during the St. Bartholomew Fair.

The first photograph below is taken at a slightly different angle, but shows the same building. The second is actually taken from Rising Sun Court looking toward the Cloth Fair. The unusual church is St. Bartholomew, which warrants its own post some day soon.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Answering AMAM (Ask Me Anything Monday): Sequels, Editorial Changes, and E-books

So, chugging right along on my answers....

Becca asked, "Do you plan to re-publish your romance novels? Maybe as ebook?

Yes! I've finally, finally, finally managed to officially wrest the rights back from my original publisher and I've started the process. I'm both excited and a bit intimidated, since self publishing is new territory for me and I'm rapidly approaching the deadline for my next Sebastian book. I'll be doing Midnight Confessions first because it was essentially a historical mystery in romance clothing, and I'm hoping I can use it to draw new readers to the Sebastian series. Next will be Beyond Sunrise. I've already sent both books off to be scanned, and the very talented designer who does my website is creating the covers (deciding what sort of images to use and defining a look that could be used to brand and draw all seven very different books together was hard!) . Then the scans will need to be edited, and the books formatted, and the cover copy written, and a good friend of mine has volunteered to help me actually put them up. Once I do the first two, I'll move on to the next two until I eventually get them all up, along with a contemporary romantic suspense that was never published and that I'm really excited to be getting out there.

Becca also asked: "Is there something you changed in a novel (a name, a story arc, a location, a person's appearance) because you and your editor thought it best but now you truly regret it?"

I was forced to make a huge change to the ending of my first historical romance, Night in Eden. I rewrote the end of that sucker THREE TIMES, but they kept kicking it back. Finally, I was so desperate I just sent a wall of water crashing down to end it all. And even though it's a historically accurate wall of water that really did happen, it's still the ultimate deus ex machina ending, and I've always hated it. But they were fine with it! Also, in Midnight Confessions, at the last minute they decided the heroine's surname was too long for the cover copy (yes, really) and made me change it. They gave me something like an hour to come up with a new name. Character names are hugely important to me and I can spend months agonizing over them. I hated the change, it was traumatic, and I'm seriously thinking about changing her name back when I self-publish the ebook. I could go on and on. I've been forced to change book titles many times and I'm rarely happy with the result. And my editor made me change Kat's age at the time of her first love affair with Sebastian. She said that while it would have been seen as normal at the time, it might offend some modern sensibilities. The problem with that is I later forgot we'd made the change and slipped back into using the original age.

Susan J asked: "You mentioned something about writing a novel set in modern times about Sebastian's and was it Jamie Knox's descendants? Would it be set in England or America?"

Writers are always spinning ideas in their heads, and I should probably know better than to mumble about some of my flights of fantasy in the comments section! But since I did, I actually have two ideas. One is a historical set in the 1840s in the Middle East or Colonial Africa with a certain young viscount named Simon and a beautiful, independent-minded woman whose mother was, ahem, a famous actress in her youth. I'd love to write that book, but I doubt I'll ever get the chance because it wouldn't be very commercially successful. The other idea I have been kicking around for several years is for a contemporary mystery series set here in New Orleans. After what happened to Jamie in Who Buries the Dead, I consoled myself by toying with the idea of making that protagonist his descendant. I may still do that. This book is far more likely to be written--as in, I'm actively plotting it. The problem is finding the time to write it....

Friday, September 04, 2015

Answering AMAM (Ask Me Anything Monday) : On Shipwrecks and Love

Thanks to everyone for some great (and some tough!) questions.  Feel free to ask more. But I thought I'd get started answering.

First off, May asks: "The motive for murder in Why Mermaids Sing still haunts me. And to find out that it actually happened shook me a little bit. So what I'd like to know is if you plotted that story around this real case or if it just fell into the storyline you already planned?"

May, I read several books on shipwrecks as part of the research I was doing for a book I was writing called Beyond Sunrise (which will soon be available as an ebook with an all new cover, by the way!). At the time, I was only kicking the idea for the Sebastian St. Cyr series around in my head. But that story haunted me, too, and in the end it formed the core idea around which I wove Why Mermaids Sing. I actually had the ideas for the first four Sebastian books and their titles (well, my fourth title was Where Dragons Live, but I wasn't allowed to keep it because it sounds too fantasy-ish) before I started writing What Angels Fear.

May also asked, "Sebastian's love life: was it Hero from the beginning or did it change across time as you wrote it? I think I can answer that question along with this one from Veronica:

Veronica says: "I was wondering if you ever bounce ideas off your family or friends when you're stumped or conflicted about what direction to take with your characters. For example, when I first found this series I loved it and promptly set about perusing many of your old blog posts where you talked about the books and/or your writing. I came across an answer you made to someone in the Comments section where you said that you had toyed with the idea of having a pregnant Hero sail away from England and out of Sebastian's life but that you ultimately decided you couldn't do that to him (and thank the book gods for that!!!!). Do you ever run those ideas across your trusted inner circle to see how they might land? And, if so, who do we have to thank for convincing you to let Hero stay?"

Veronica, I do bounce ideas off my family ALL THE TIME (and they still put up with me! Amazing.). I did it with Samantha when she was still quite young (as in, twelve). I still occasionally do it to her and to my younger daughter, Danielle (who has a tremendous grasp of plot arcs and character development, by the way; in her heart of hearts I think she wants to be a writer). But when Steve and I married, he became my main plotting partner. I always hash my stories out with him at the plotting stage; it's so much easier to think things through if I can brainstorm with someone else. And I'll frequently go to him and say, "I have a problem; can we talk this through for a bit?" And he always says, "Sure!" quite happily because he knows my problem is with my manuscript and not with him.

So that answers the first half of the question. As to my plans for Sebastian's love life, from the time I started writing What Angels Fear, I knew where I wanted that part of the story to go. I knew Kat was Hendon's natural daughter and that the truth was going to come out and blow up Sebastian's affair with her. I also knew I wanted Sebastian to end up married to Hero. This was reinforced for me when Hero really leapt off the page the first time I wrote about her. However, I'll admit that when the time came, I had a hard time making that pivot in What Remains of Heaven. Part of it, I suspect, was pushback on social media from readers who desperately wanted the HEA (Happily Ever After) for Kat and Sebastian. The problem was, even though I could understand the yearning, I knew it would be unrealistic (apart from which I knew Sebastian's marriage to Hero was needed for the strength of the series arc). Kat hadn't spent the last seven years saying no to Sebastian for his own sake only to suddenly turn around and say, "Oh, okay; I'll marry you and ruin you." And while it is true that some men did marry actresses and courtesans in the Regency period, they suffered terrible repercussions in terms of social ostracism (as did their children). I did not want to deal with that. Added to which, Kat couldn't have continued on the stage as Sebastian's wife, so what would she have done with her time? She would have been ostracized by society. And unlike Hero, Kat has no interest in social crusades or solving mysteries; she is very serious about her career. But ironically, it was actually Hero who gave me the hardest time; as much as she was (reluctantly) attracted to Sebastian, she really didn't want to marry. She wanted to sail off on adventures, and I had a hard time talking her out of it. I hashed that aspect of the series through with my family a lot. I mean, A LOT. We're talking months of agony. All are very good (and experienced); they don't try to influence me. They simply let me talk and talk until I convince myself of what I need to do. I also talked about it with my Monday night writers' group, the Wordsmiths. (We've been meeting since I first moved to New Orleans; it was through the group that Steve and I got to know each other.)

Also, you might be interested to know that my original ending for Heaven was much more ambiguous. My editor made me add the final scene at dinner where Hero says she'll stay for her mother's sake. My editor said, "You can't make your readers wait a whole year to find out if she stays!"

I'll be answering more questions in future posts, so stay tuned!