Tuesday, October 13, 2009

As my hubby once told me, "You're good in history...

by Jude Mason

...you were there for most of it."

Yeah, and I still love the man. Lord knows why but I do.

Writing historicals, if I can slip in a little sci-fi or alternative action, well, that works for me. But, if I have to stick to the facts, I'm afraid I'm going have problems. Lot's of em. I've never read a historical romance novel. I have no interest in the accuracy of the history part of the book.

I have written two historicals, one a time traveling thing that isn't published yet and deals with the natives in my own area of the world. I'm not sure if that would be considered a historical though.

The other, a tale that takes place in the year 1898 in New Orleans. I enjoyed writing it immensely, but honestly, couldn't tell you how accurate I was with my scenario or language. This is due for re-release in January 2010 from Phaze, so you're getting a kind of sneak peak here of 'Of Death and Desire':

The train ride from Memphis to New Orleans took more out of Philip than Jonathan liked. His lover's health was deteriorating faster all the time, and even with the tonic and poultice applied every night, the man could scarcely catch his breath. He'd become so thin and frail it tore at Jonathan’s heart. He'd always been slender, but now his joints looked like knots of bone holding him together. His sharp-featured, fair-haired Adonis was fading before his eyes, and he, with all of his wealth and position, could do nothing to stop it.

Sitting next to him in the carriage, Jonathan ached to wrap an arm around the younger man's shoulders, but even in this city of sin he didn't dare. Dressed for travel in charcoal frockcoats, vests and slacks, both men were stifled. Philip reeked of sweat and his face shone with it. His high collar was soaked though and he finally took off his hat in hopes of cooling himself.

"We'll be there soon, Philip," Jonathan reassured and wished he could do, or say, more.

Philip looked at him, eyes bright with fever and nodded dismally.

The trip through the city center was horrid. New Orleans had a smell about it that never quite went away. Those who lived in the city became accustomed to the heavy humidity and its stench of decay from the brackish water of the gulf and Mississippi River. Those visiting never could.

Half an hour later, Jonathan helped Philip from the carriage and walked beside him to the steps leading to their vacation retreat's front doorway. It was an impressive building surrounded by ancient oak trees with long, wispy beards of Spanish moss sweeping the well-manicured lawns and cobbled walkways. Flower beds of every variety and color imaginable filled the air with an almost cloying sweetness, nearly masking the scent of the delta, until a breeze swept by and magically the heady perfume disappeared. The two-story house had wrought iron railings on the second story balcony, and shutters bracketed each of the tall windows.

Cobblestone paths meandered around the lawn and around several large bushes, leading to who knew where, but at that moment all he could think of was getting Philip inside and into bed. The man was beyond tired and stumbled ahead only as Jonathan pushed him. The front stairs were mountainous and Jonathan all but carried his lover up them. Finally they stumbled across the wide porch and reached the door. With his arm around the sagging man’s waist, he reached in his jacket pocket for the key his friend Cecil had sent him. He fumbled for a moment with the unfamiliar lock, but soon pushed one of the large, beautifully carved wooden doors wide.

A blast of cool air enveloped him. Beside him, Philip shuddered and straightened. Jonathan felt his ribs expand and knew he was taking in a deep breath of that refreshing cool air. It seemed to give him strength for a moment and he shook himself loose of the helpful embrace, walking into the foyer under his own questionable steam.

* * *

I think the characters were what really made the story come to life for me. That and the mystery. The actual time of the thing, to me, wasn't as important as the love the characters had for each other and the willingness of one to give up what he most treasured in order to be with his lover again.

What brings a story to life for you? Does it matter what era or the dress? I'd love to know.


  1. Hi Jude,

    It's definitely the characters that bring the story to life for me, but unfortunately, I might not choose a historical story because the era and the dress turn me off.

    Now with Of Death and Desire, I'd have missed a great read, because I really enjoyed this one.

    Have a great day!

    ~ Jenna

  2. As long as the author has good characters and the story doesn't have glaring anachronisms, I enjoy reading historical stories.

    Some anachronisms I've found in historical novels include a reference to helium balloons in Victorian England--helium didn't become readily available until after WWII - it's why the Hindenburg was using Hydrogen gas. In a different novel, one character used the phrase 'like white on rice' and I had to stop and think about it, which pulled me out of the story. After I did some research, I found out that the first use of the phrase was in the 1960s!

    I really hate being pulled out of stories because the author didn't do their homework!


  3. Hi Jenna,

    Yup, I told you my post was going to be a lot like yours. LOL I do enjoy fantasy historicals, I believe that's what they'd be called, where the history part of the story isn't as critical and the characters are more the drawing force. Maybe that's a whole nuther thing though.

    Thanks for dropping by.


  4. Hi JL,

    I think these are some of the reasons I'd be hesitant to write a serious historical. I'd want it to be accurate and I'd spend way too much time researching. I do research when needed, or if I'm interested in a topic. I'm afraid I'd be too worried about making a dumb mistake, like one of those you mentioned, to enjoy actually writing the book.

    Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.


  5. I, too, was there for a great deal of history.

    I recently finished a fantasy novella that was a parody of the sixties. Having lived through that era certainly helped me to capture the flavor.

    I think you did an excellent job of capturing the feel of turn of the century New Orleans. It's the little details that make all the difference.

    As soon as I realized that it was a M/M romance, it occurred to me that such a relationship would have to be very secretive in that era. Jonathon's reluctance to publicly embrace his lover was right on target.

    I've never attempted a historical novel, but I recently wrote a short story for Noble Romance's upcoming western anthology. It was set in 1870's Texas. I did enough research to get the setting and social attitudes right. When I submitted the story, my publisher asked to clear up a problem that would never have occurred to me: anachronistic adjectives. Adjectives like electric and elastic just didn't fit into a story for that era.

    I don't think I'll ever finish the process of becoming a writer. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I have yet to learn.


  6. Glenn, Truer words have never been said. I know I'll never stop learning this craft. It's a darn good thing I love it so much.

    Being sure of the language is right, and all the adjectives plausible, that's some of why I'm chicken to go into the historical.

    I did do a western or two. Once was a really fun fetish thing, that I have no idea of the correct historical anything, but it was fun to write. LOL

    Thanks so much for coming by and commenting, Glenn.


  7. Jude,

    Outstanding writing, and a sense of history and place that makes me feel as though I've visited turn of the century New Orleans.

    And, in answer to your question, I also think it's the characters that matter the most in a story.



  8. Hi Ash,

    Thank you. Your compliment means a lot. I've never actually been to New Orleans, but I would go at the drop of a hat...LOL It's just one of those places I would really love to experience. The history aspect of the story, it really did take second place to the men.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.


  9. Research can be tough for historicals. I think it helps to have a love for that particular time period. I find if I'm already reading about an era, I have no problems with using what I've read or finding out more for something I write.

    However, I've also done research on pat for a story in a time period I've never read about. In that case, it's a matter of making a list of facts I think I'll need to know, and then being willing to do a little digging. I wrote an 8K word story this way once, in about a week!

    I love the excerpt, Jude. You got the right details and the characters really do make the story sing.

  10. Nice excerpt, Jude and as someone who does write historicals, I know how tough it is to research. One of the things you need to remember is that because you're looking at materials that reflect history, you're almost always going to get more than one opinion or viewpoint about the same material.
    Keep your resources where you can refer to theam as necessary.

  11. Hi Jude!

    I love to read and write historicals – any time period. But now that I think about it, the Regency dresses made everyone look pregnant. I understand that Napoleon's wife, who was pregnant at the time, set that particular fashion. :)

    A writer's homework is VERY important - but I've noticed that most publishing houses don't like period speak. This is the one thing that bothers me in historicals: Modern-sounding characters. It totally takes me out of the story.

    The hardest thing for me as an author was when an editor (this was a while back now) said the language sounded too stilted and wanted me to add conjunctions (to a story where conjunctions weren't in fashion or even invented yet) for the reader's sakes. I threw a string of fits (unbeknownst to her, of course) but I did it anyway.

    It still bugs me - big time. I guess I'll just have to put an author's note about the language.

  12. Hi, Jude,

    I tried to leave a comment yesterday, but the Internet was not cooperating.

    I like the excerpt very much. I don't know if the details are historically accurate, but you've made the heat, the smell, the heaviness of New Orleans vivid.


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