So You Want to be a Writer?

Pat here:

I’ve been following a thread in a writer’s group about people who come into writing classes wanting to learn how to be a bestseller. They seem to think all they have to do is take the books Writer typewriterthat are out there, learn the formula, turn them around a little, polish them up, market them, and whammo, they’re millionaires.

Or they could buy a lottery ticket. The odds would be better.

To anyone out there who thinks writing a book is a ticket to fortune—I’ll tell you the secret formula.


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The Fine Art of Regency Satire

Gillray_plumpuddingAndrea/Cara here, musing today about the power of the pen—or in this case, the quill. In Murder on Black Swan Lane, the first book in my new Regency-set mystery series, which will be released on June 27th, I decided to make my heroine, Charlotte Sloane, a satirical cartoonist, as it seemed to me to be a perfect profession for someone who also proves skilled at unraveling diabolical mysteries. After all, skewering the political and social foibles of an era MBSL coverrequires a razor-sharp eye, a keen understanding of human nature—warts and all!—and a sardonic sense of humor . . . not to speak of a vast network of eyes and ears to keep informed of all the latest gossip and scandals.

I found wonderful inspiration for Charlotte in the real-life Regency artists, as the era is considered by many to be the golden age of satirical prints. Two of my favorites are James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson, who combined cutting edge wit and perception with exquisite artistic skills.

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Faking It!

1894 Puch satirical cartoon
Andrea/Cara here
, I saw this 1894 cartoon from Punch magazine the other day, and it was a good reminder that our current media brouhaha over “fake news” and “alternative facts” are, alas, nothing new. History shows that from time we first learned to communicate with each other, be it in telling stories around the fire, painting pictograms on cave walls, or writing on a clay tablet, we’ve tended to shape our narratives based on the view through our own tinted spectacles! (As Winston Churchill said, “History will be kind to me because I intend to write it.”

Yellow-pressThere have been some particularly outrageous times of media hype and spin in history—the 1890s in America is one prime example. Hearst’s newspapers pretty much ignited the Spanish-American War though its outright lies. The term “yellow journalism”, which refers to outrageous, sensationalist headlines just to sell papers, was created in response the press manipulation of public opinion.

The Georgian and Regency eras had their own excesses, too. In doing a little research, I discovered they, too, were well skilled in the art of fake news and inciting scandal. The 18th century saw the advent of “paragraph” men. It seems that many of the newspapers were based on simply compiling snippets, or paragraphs, supplied by people who frequented the London clubs, coffeehouses and social activities. Some were paid, and some did it just to be able to sway public opinion.

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Undercover Genius

Rice-UndercoverGenius360x540Pat nattering today:

I am an avid consumer of romance, fantasy, and mystery in all their multitudinous subgenres, so pardon me if I digress from our usual historical conversation—unless one considers the Bush administration historical. Which it is, of  course, but not what most of you want to hear!

My reading preference over the years has always been for stories with romance— for reasons known only to my confused psyche. It didn’t matter if the genre was mystery or science fiction, historical or contemporary, just give me great characters and a hint of romance. So when I first started writing, combining my fascination with history and my love of romance seemed natural. This is not to say that history is my only interest! Heavens, no.

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