Celtic Hearts: The Falcon Laird

Susan here — Happy April Fool’s, happy Spring, and here’s wishing you enjoyed a lovely weekend of good weather, goodies, good company and wellbeing, whatever your holiday and faith!

In the past few weeks I have had three of my Scottish medievals in the Celtic Hearts series released. Available now are The Hawk Laird, The Falcon Laird, and The Swan Laird (Book 3 is posted for preorders), and I’m happy to say they are all doing very well in their new incarnations. A little about the process and background of this series: these are newly revised editions of previous award-winning novels, retitled and updated with gorgeous new covers. Digital publishing has changed the book industry and altered the world of the writer too. Now we can retool our older books to update and improve them for new readers — a great thing, as I’m a better writer now than I was then, so it’s a privilege to be able to bring that experience to a book that I wrote as a newbie. It takes time and care to do a clean edit, and I took that time with each backlist title that I worked on to trim excess language, add clarity and tighten pacing, while leaving the story intact–plot, characters, emotional and thematic content, integrated research, and so on. I have always loved these stories, and I love them even more now that I’ve revisited and revised and made them stronger. I hope you will love them too.

“A stunning historical love story. A beautiful medieval Scottish setting, well-paced exciting adventure, and two destined lovers. Perfect.”  — Amazon reader on The Hawk Laird

(By the way, every month, we do a random drawing for a free book for our Word Wenches newsletter subscribers, and this month’s giveaway is a copy of THE FALCON LAIRD. If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, you still have time to enter this month’s giveaway! Click here or use the link in the right-hand column to sign up to receive our monthly newsletter.)

I’m a writer and also a trained historian, so I love the chances that historical fiction offers to dive into some fascinating research and give it some life in a piece of fiction. Many of my stories begin somewhere in the research — characters and situations emerge as I learn about historical events and historical people, and the story begins to take shape. THE FALCON LAIRD (originally titled The Angel Knight) was inspired when I read about the cruel treatment of Robert Bruce’s kinswomen at the hands of the English under orders from Edward I of England.

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WWR for March

What We’re Reading

Our ever-popular monthly WWR has the usual delicious assortment of history, romance, magic, and of course, murder. <G>  There’s also a fair amount of Wenches enjoying stories by other Wenches.  First up:

Christina:  The Other Gwyn Girl by Nicola Cornick

Wow! I have no other word for this story which has totally blown me away – it is a master-class in time slip writing by fellow Wench Nicola and I loved it! Excitement, adventure, romance and historic authenticity, together with a touch of the paranormal and magical, all perfectly blended to create a story I simply couldn’t put it down. And as always, the author has loosely linked the characters to those of her previous books, which is an added bonus for me as I love to get a glimpse into their lives, however brief.

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Anne here, and I’m thinking of the approach of Easter. I know not everyone celebrates it, and that now is also a difficult time in the world to celebrate anything, but still, we also need to focus on small things to cheer us up, and that’s what I hope to do. (On the right are carved hens’ eggs by craftsman Wen Fuliang)

For people in the Northern Hemisphere, Easter is a spring festival. In fact, in places like Britain and other countries where pagan religions ruled, the early fathers of the Christian church grafted Easter onto the local Spring festivities in order to convince the people to go with Christianity without having to give up their traditional spring celebrations. And thus the association of Easter with eggs, chickens, rabbits and other symbols of fertility.

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Regency Quick Fix

Christina here. We all lead very busy lives and sometimes we might not have time to read an entire novel – that’s when a short story collection or a novella comes in handy. A few years ago, I wrote some Regency novellas and I was delighted to find that Choc Lit are relaunching them this month with gorgeous new covers! It’s lovely to see them going out into the world again and I hope they are picked up by new readers. If you want a “quick fix” of the Regency period, these should do the trick!

In a recent post, some of the Wenches mentioned how they fell in love with Regency romance thanks to Georgette Heyer. It was the same for me. I first discovered her novels in my high school library when I was supposed to be doing homework. Always a voracious reader, I couldn’t resist checking out the shelves to see what was on offer, and her novels looked intriguing. At the time, I was hooked on Victoria Holt’s gothic romances and had never read anything set in the Regency period. That was soon remedied. Luckily for me, that library had at least half of Ms Heyer’s stories, and I was very happily reading those instead of the boring books I was supposed to read for class.

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Laying a Series Foundation

by Mary Jo

Fifty years or so ago, in the early days of historical romance when authors wrote with quill pens on parchment, a lot of books were standalones and writers might jump all over the place in terms of settings.  A pirate tale might be followed by a Civil War story, then a swashbuckling Viking setting or a Western.  But readers and writers started appreciating the fun of connected stories and soon series proliferated.  Now I’d say most new romances are as parts of series.

I started writing before series took over the world, but I was a natural series writer because I was so interested in the secondary characters, which led to connected books.  My first traditional Regency, The Diabolical Baron, was intended as a standalone because I was new and clueless.

But when I started my next Regency, I realized the hero of The Would-Be Widow, (The Bargain is an edited and expanded version) needed a best friend, and the hero of the Diabolical Baron was a perfect fit.  Plus the alcoholic antagonist from the Baron interested me and I wondered what he’d be like if I sobered him up.  The result was The Rake and the Reformer. (Now The Rake.)

In other words, I’d created a series without conscious planning.  (Much of my writerly career involved no conscious planning.)  But when I started longer Regency historicals, I decided I needed a structure for my first series.  I was thinking a nice tidy trilogy since trilogies were all the rage then.  So I wrote Thunder and Roses as book 1 of a trilogy–and ended up with the seven book Fallen Angels series.  (I told you I wasn’t much of a planner!)

I’ve liked using the structure of kids who went to school together and became life long friends.  They know each other’s pains and joys and foibles, and they always have each other’s backs.  (Well, almost always, but that’s another story.) The Fallen Angels started with boys who had angelic names who met at Eton, the most aristocratic of British public (which means private) schools.

The Lost Lords series was rooted in the Westerfield Academy, run by an eccentric and compassionate duke’s daughter for “boys of good birth and bad behavior.” Her goal was to take boys with an odd kick in their gallop and help them fit into society without losing their souls.

My contemporary trilogy, the Circle of Friends, was women who had met in a Quaker school in Baltimore, then went in very different directions–but were always there for each other.  Heck, my young adult time travel/fantasy series was rooted in the Lackland Academy, where magically gifted young people were sent to be ‘cured’ of their despicable magical abilities.   I wrote this YA  trilogy because I wasn’t able to develop my book The Marriage Spell into a series because the publisher didn’t want more books.

Until I started writing this blog, I didn’t realize just how much I’d used the old school friends structure!  Maybe that’s why I then decided I needed a new foundation for my next series. After much gnawing on the possibilities, I came up with my Rogues Redeemed series.  It began with five men in a Portuguese cellar condemned to face a firing squad at dawn, and they found that to be a bonding experience.  It took me quite a while to develop that concept. (The first book was Once a Soldier.)

Sometimes a new series structure comes with the snap of our fingers, but generally writers spend a lot of time working out new structures.  It needs to appeal to the writer and hopefully to her readers as well.  There are all kinds of possibilities besides school friends. Most of my series have been built around men because historically they had a lot more opportunities for adventure which meant they could meet interesting women along the way.

But a core group of females can also work well. One of my favorite such series is Anne Gracie’s The Chance Sisters, where four young women in dire straits are brought together by fate and decide to make themselves sisters though only two are related by blood.  Anne’s current series, the Brides of Bellaire Gardens, is built around a shared community garden which is definitely original!

Pat Rice loves houses so her current romantic mystery series is set in a sprawling great house which draws different people related to the late earl, There they might find love, or possibly be killed. <G>  Christina Courtenay created a wonderful series with her contemporary characters time traveling to Viking times with many connected characters. Now she and her characters are off to the Roman empire.

Susan King has done a number of Scottish and Victorian series.  While Andrea Penrose has written her share of Regency romance series, she’s now concentrating on two Regency mystery series, which present different structuring challenges. Each of her series features a romantic couple solving mysteries and accumulating friends, allies, and antagonists.  Nicola Cornick has found a lovely niche with dual timeline stories features relatively unknown historical women.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to structure connected stories.  Is there a series a structure that you particularly enjoy? If so, what is it?  I love finding new ways to connect people!

Mary Jo