No Plethora of Pirates

PatRice_NotoriousAtherton200Last year when I was researching Notorious Atherton, I blogged here about the plethora of princesses I discovered while creating my imaginary one. Even though I know I’m basically creating historical fantasy when I write romance, I like my history grounded in reality. I prefer to draw on actual events so that there is some possibility the characters could have experienced the trauma I put them through.

When I gave much-maligned Nick Atherton his notorious history, I knew that piracy in the Caribbean was well past its peak even when Nick was in his youth. If you look at this list of pirates  you can see Jean Lafitte and his crew were the last of a dying breed. Most of the ones operating in the late 1700s and early 1800s were little better than Billy the Kid and many of them infested rivers, not the high seas.

But just because Nick’s pirate adventures didn’t make the annals of history, there is certainly plenty of evidence that they could have happened. The British Navy had its fair share of cruel commanders and inhumane conditions, as witnessed by the mutiny on the Bounty, which occurred in 1789, right about the time Nick’s crew ditched ship. There were further mutinies in the ports of England in 1797.

The British Navy was certainly still a presence in the Caribbean during the 1790’s—they conquered the French colonies there in 1793. And by 1795, impressment had practically become an imperative to keep the Navy’s ships operational, so Nick’s fate was not exactly uncommon.

That seemed sufficient grounding for Nick’s notorious adventures. How much importance do you place on backstory that never really appears on the page? Do you like knowing that the author has done her research or do you prefer to just sink into the story and let the real world go away? I will admit, there are days when I'm grateful just to be taken away on a wild ride as long as reality doesn't wake me up!

Elmore Leonard on writing

Elmore_LeonardThe great mystery writer, Elmore Leonard, died last week, may he rest in peace — because his books certainly had to keep him awake most of his nights when he was alive.

I observe the passing of a great writer with respect, but I’m sorry, I look at his writing rules with dissatisfaction. In case you missed them, here are the basics. Those rules worked fine for Leonard who wrote action-packed, dialogue-heavy thrillers like Get Shorty. Those same rules do not apply to emotionally-laden romance or women’s fiction or any fiction that uses setting to add tension.

Read more

California Dreaming

CA_House_38As some of you know, I’ve been in the process of not one, but two life-changing events these past months. I’m not sure “husband retiring” rates as high as death or birth, but it has to be right up there with moving across the country. So please excuse my tardiness in posting. My calendar shows a big blank spot on today, and I didn’t even question it, that’s how brain dead I am.(a photo of our new backyard!)

I believe I’ve wondered before how our ancestors managed to pull up roots and move to villages where they knew no one, or crossed countries not even knowing where the next water might be found. With all our 21st century technology, moving is still a frustrating, terrifying, and stressful experience. We had two  cars, cell phones, and walkie-talkies driving over two thousand miles, and I was a wreck at the end of four days. Four months of watching oxen kicking up dust on my covered wagon would have killed me. At least I had the sense to jettison most of our household goods before we left!

Read more