On Crafting A Story, Stone by Stone

WritingCara/Andrea here, I live in New England, and in my daily walks, I pass a lot of old stone walls. They are a common sight here as the hardscrabble soil is rocky, and over the centuries farmers simply used the shards kicked up by their ploughs to fence in their fields. We have hard weather here, with wind, snow and rain constantly shaping the contours of the walls, giving each a unique character. I love looking at the details, as what always strikes me is how beautifully enduring they are, and how well they have held up to the vagaries of the moment.
Stone wall

So recently, as I was starting a new story idea and thinking of the basic elements while I walked, it struck me how my local stone walls are a perfect metaphor for what makes a good book. Now, you may be thinking, “Hmmm, has she lost her marbles?” Allow me to explain . . .

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Regency Either/Or!

CoronetNicola here! I have one arm in a sling this week after
unexpectedly needing some treatment to my shoulder and as a result I can’t type
much. So for my blog today I thought I would post up a little game for everyone
called Regency Either/Or. I shamelessly borrowed this idea from Honorary Word
Wench Mia Marlowe who has a very fun version of this on her blog. I hope you enjoy
it and share your choices and your own suggestions!

Duke of Mr?

Actually these days I think that should be Prince or Mr. I
have noticed title inflation in some historical romances rather like the
millionaire to billionaire inflation in some contemporary romance books. Whilst
a Duke (or Prince) is frightfully authoritative and powerful I have a soft spot
for a Mr. On the other hand teh duke gets to wear the cute coronet above.

Debutante or courtesan?

I don’t mind a debutante heroine if she has a bit of
gumption and isn’t too “straight out of the schoolroom.” As for courtesans,
well everyone deserves to find true love.

Swords or pistols?

Which is your weapon of choice? By 1770 the sword was
considered very old-fashioned and pistols were
Duelling pistols
all the rage. But gentlemen,
remember: would it not be more mature – and less dangerous – simply to apologise? There is no dishonour in that.

Brandy or claret?

is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must
drink brandy.” Dr Johnson. Need I say more?

Signet ring or diamond cravat pin?

A signet ring, especially one bearing the arms of the hero’s
family, suggests a reassuringly ancient pedigree. Is a diamond cravat pin just
too bling?

StagecoachCurricle or stagecoach?

Who could resist the sports car of its day? But if you
do take a ride in a curricle make sure that the driver is a noted whip and not
someone who cannot handle his cattle. Let’s not dismiss the stage out of hand,
though. You can meet very interesting people on public transport.

Highwayman, smuggler of pirate?

Ok, I know it's cheating to have three but when it comes to heroes who like to walk on the wrong side of the law, how do you choose?

Now it's your turn. Answer as many as you like or make up your own!

Nowhere Near Respectable

Cat 243 Dover by Mary Jo
 It’s been two weeks since Nowhere Near Respectable  (Lost Lords #3, was released, and to all of you who helped put it on the New York  Times list after the first week of sale—THANK YOU!!!! 

Authors often complain about publishers so I want to say that Kensington is doing a great job on my books.  They even did this fun book trailer with the most GORGEOUS guy. He could be any number of my darkr haired Regency heroes.  <G> 

Books start in different ways.  Sometimes I have a plot and characters must be created to fit.  Sometimes I have a character and need a plot that suits.  (Characters are easier.)

Some characters lurk in the Lizard Brain for years before they get their story. Others just amble into a scene where I need a foil for a protagonist, and suddenly I have a man I simply cannot afford to waste.  (And it’s always a man!)  This is how trilogies become septologies. <g>

In Search of a Hero

Such was the case with Damian Mackenzie, hero of Nowhere Near Respectable.  I was writing the second in the series, Never Less Than a Lady, and I needed the heroine to run into someone when she’s just arrived at a house in Edinburgh and needs a foil. 

My first thought was Will Masterson, who’d already appeared in the first book in the British army uniforms series. (And yes, I have plans for him!)  But Will is a serving army officer and it’s campaign season.  He’d be in Spain.

How about if I give him a “less respectable and much less legitimate half-brother”? Mackenzie was created on the spot.  Mac looks enough like Will to momentarily confuse Julia, yet he’s a mischievous contrast to his quiet, easygoing sibling. 

Will bonded with Mac when both were young and had just lost their mothers.  Since Will refused to be separated from Mac, they were both sent to the Westerfield Academy, a school for boys of “good birth and bad behavior.” 

Crockford's Later, responsible Will joins the army and become a distinguished officer.  Mac joins up and is cashiered.  He now runs a fashionable gambling club and is, indeed, nowhere near respectable.  But a lot of fun.  <G>

In Search of a Heroine

Next step: what sort of heroine should I conjure for my lovable rogue?  There  would be lots of  conflict and contrast if she’s very prim and proper.  A vicar’s daughter, maybe. 

Naahhhh.   Mac thought she sounded pretty boring.  So did I.

How about a heroine who is very high born, but a hellion?  Mac liked that idea a lot a better.  And did I have the girl for him! 

Lady Kiri Lawford is the sister of the hero of the first Lost Lords book.  Like Adam, she is the child of an English gentleman who unexpectedly inherited a dukedom and the Hindu princess he married during his career in India, but Adam and Kiri had very different upbringings. 

Anglo-Inidan lady Raised mostly in England, Adam is an introvert.  Facing disapproval of his mixed blood, he buried the Hindu side of his nature.  In contrast, Kiri was raised in India with wealth, beauty, a loving family, and the extroverted confidence of a golden retriever. 

What Kiri doesn’t have is any interesting marital prospects among the eligible men she’s met in the ton.  Until she meets Mackenzie under highly dramatic circumstances.  By the time they’ve escaped homicidal smugglers, she knows she’s found a smart, funny, brave man who’s a keeper. Yet what can be done with a fellow who may not be respectable, but is too darned honorable?

Parliament state opening Large I needed a reason to throw Kiri and Mac together, and that’s when the royal kidnap plot appeared.  I’d also wanted to write a heroine who was a perfumer, so I made Kiri descendant of a long line of Hindu female perfumers.  I also gave her the equivalent of perfect pitch for scent so she has to be included in the suspense plot.  That gives her the opportunity to practice her wiles.  And Kiri has a lot of wiles!

Prince Regent The Seven Stages of Writing a Book

I am much better known for tortured heroes than lovable rogues, which made NNR something of a challenge to write.  Most books start like a love affair: Angel choirs!  Joy abounding!  This time it will be different!

Alas, that initial excitement rapidly devolves into Disillusionment. Fear. Loathing.  Frantic scrambling as the deadline approaches. Hysterical surrender and submission to editor. 

Ultimately, one hopes, after the sturm und drang of creation, there is Peace.  A belief that the result was all worth it. 

Not least of the problems I had with NNR is that I knew what happened in the first half of the book, but the second half of my synopsis boiled down to “They all go to Bath and Stuff Happens.” 

Princess Charlotte This proved entirely inadequate (not to mention boring), and pretty soon I was researching smugglers, gaming clubs, Princess Charlotte, the Parliamentary Wooksack, royal ceremonies and other fun subjects. And in the end, after the hair-pulling, I like the results.  Peace.

And the crowd goes wild!!!!!!!!

Even better, other people like Nowhere Near Respectable, too.  The book has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal and is a Romantic Times Top Pick. 

“In Kiri, a strikingly beautiful, lethal warrior queen, Putney has created one of her most memorable heroines to date. She pairs her with an honorable, valiant hero and drops them into a fascinating, fact-based dilemma that thoughtfully and realistically addresses some serious social issues and is guaranteed to keep the pages turning. This third “Lost Lords” title is exquisitely and sensitively written. “
    Kristin Ramsdell, Library Journal, Starred review

“With characters so vibrant and real that they leap off the pages and an authentic backdrop, Putney delivers another marvelous, unforgettable story with a clash of the exotic that perfectly merges romance and mystery.  She is one of the brightest of stars in the genre."
    Kathe Robin, Romantic Times BookClub, 4 ½ stars and Top Pick

Naturally, I’m now mired in the murky depths of Lost Lords #4.  It’s called No Longer a Gentleman and it will be out in 2012, probably in May.  (And probably April will see the release of my all time classic book, The Rake, yessssss!) 

NLAG has passed the choirs of angels stage and is well into frantic scrambling to finish the darned thing and send it in.  ‘Twas ever thus in the writer’s life.

Book Giveaway

Woolsack small Here’s a link to an excerpt if you’d like to sample Nowhere Near Respectable. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of the book to one person who comments between now and midnight Thursday.  So comment away!  And tell me if you have some hobby or work that calls forth similar stages of joy and depression to creating a book. <g>

Mary Jo