The Paying Guests – a review

The Paying Guests

Publication date: September 16th 2014

Riverhead Books

Pressed for money, Frances Wray and her mother rent out a room in their crumbling old, London suburb home. The war has taken all their men, first Frances’ two brothers, then her father to a heart attack—though not before the latter could impoverish them with a series of bad investments. It’s still early enough in the last century, 1922, for it to be difficult for a woman to earn the means to live comfortably. The servants are gone. Mother and daughter bathe only once a week, with shared water in the pantry bathtub, the water heated in a gas ‘geyser’ that has to be hand lit—just one of the many period and regional details in this fat historical.

Frances finds she is uncomfortable with the young newlywed tenants, Lillian and Leonard, who are not quite who they seemed at the interview. She’s especially tense around the husband, with his jaunty whistling and yodeling yawns, and with his invasion into her space; he stops to chat on his way to and from the backyard WC, leaning against the door jam in her kitchen and watching her, his conversation laced with innuendo. To Francis he seems ‘pleased with himself, a cock among hens’. The wife turns out to be a bit of an imposter, but what a fascinating one, with her cultivated accents so different from her huge and rambunctious family when they visit, and her ‘bohemian’ ways; Frances finds herself drawn to waif-like Lillian.

Tension builds through the careful compilation of detail. Frances spares her mother the harsh reality of their true financial situation, by doing ‘the worst’ of the chores while Mrs. Wray is away at her charity meetings, or playing cards with the wealthy and outspoken Mrs. Playfair. When Mrs. Wray is home, mother and daughter are often together in the parlor, quietly reading or playing cards, while every sound from the tenants above their heads jolts them from their somnambulant ‘good class’ routine, and reminds Francis, a ‘spinster’ in her mid-twenties, of what she is missing in the wider world of her life prior to the death of her father, and the choices his demise thrust upon her.

Worse even than the thought of it, however, worse than the laughter and the dancing-halls, worse than anything, were the routine casual intimacies of married life: Leonard waiting for Lilian at the bottom of the stairs, calling, ‘Come on, woman!’; Lilian straightening his waistcoat—little husband-and-wifely moments which Frances might glimpse or overhear as she made her way through the house, and which, if she came upon them unreadied, could strike at her like blows to the heart.

I’ve never read any Sarah Waters previously, but with The Paying Guests she can count me among her fans. The interior life of the viewpoint character, Francis, is so well rendered; at times I liked her, and at others I grew frustrated with her choices and way of looking at things. But I was never bored by her. With the character of Leonard particularly, Waters achieves a sly feat: at times we see him through our own eyes, his actions those of a typical man of his era, and at others we see him as Francis sees him. Frances, we learn, is not an entirely unbiased observer—she has her secrets, and a past. She’s a woman trapped in a post Victorian society that makes neither room nor acceptance for women who don’t fit the mold.

My favorite line in the book: ‘A man’s not safe.’ Its perfect placement, its subtlety, its snort-worthy irony, its freight-load of foreshadowing; set beside the innocence with which the four words are spoken—all make it the fulcrum on which the novel turns.

If you like deeply interior novels full of suspense, crime novels, historicals, or love stories—this page-turner has it all.

Read and reviewed for Library Thing, and Putnam Books

Sarah’s website

Sarah’s FB page

Sarah on Goodreads

Close to the Sun

Please welcome my guest today, Donald Michael Platt, author of four novels, most recently the WWII fighter pilot adventure, Close to the Sun.

????????????????????

Publication Date: June 15, 2014
Fireship Press, 404p

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

 

 

 

I thank you, Cynthia, for this opportunity to guest post on your blog.

My WWII historical novel Close to the Sun follows the lives of two Americans and a German from childhood through the end of WWII. As boys, they idealize the exploits of WWI fighter aces known as chivalrous Knights of the Skies. Hank Milroy from Wyoming learns his first flying lessons from observing falcons. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen accumulated during WWI. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field. The young men meet exceptional women. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe believes she is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German intelligence. Elfriede “Elfi” Wohlmann is a frontline nurse. Mimi Kay sings with a big band.

Flying fighters over Europe, Hank, Karl, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat victories and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and firebombing of entire cities. Callous political decisions and military mistakes add to their disillusion, especially one horrific tragedy at the end of the war.

Yet, some may say all that is not Historical Fiction because they are rigidly dogmatic regarding their parameters of what qualifies as HF. I believe there is no consensus. And what do the readers of this blog think?

I have read and heard varying opinions: any novel set in the past dealing with historic events or against a background of those same events even if set as recently as twenty, thirty years ago and beyond are HF. Some limit it to fifty years, others to one hundred. For those who use the hundred year parameter, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind would not have qualified as Historical Fiction when it was first published. I have seen some postings on fb where the contributor labels contemporary novels written up to two hundred and fifty years ago, such as those by Jane Austen, as HF.

Some categorize the distance when a novel becomes Historical Fiction with a corollary: if the author was alive at the time he writes about, even if it was fifty or more years ago, it cannot be Historical Fiction.

I take exception to that because of my age and the specifics of Close to the Sun, which takes place mostly between 1938 to 1945 – sixty-nine to seventy six years ago.

To digress, I once taught a high school course in the late 1960s with the oxymoronic title Current History, which covered the post WWII, and another titled Modern European History, Europe from 1600 to the Present.

I can cite an oriental rug analogy based on my experience. I used to collect tribal rugs from the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Persia. One dealer categorized them in this way: new, used, fifty to one hundred years old as semi-antique, and one hundred-plus as antique.

I was seven when war broke out in Europe, nine and a half when Pearl Harbor was attacked, and thirteen when Japan surrendered. Close to the Sun is not a memoir from a boy who watched the war unfold from the Home Front as a current event.

Obviously I was not a WWII fighter pilot. Most readers will be under the age of sixty-nine and may well view the book as Historical Fiction.

WWII is taught as History. I still had to do historical research and interview fighter aces from the USA, UK, and the Luftwaffe for Close to the Sun. I will be writing the sequel and must do research again to cover peacetime, the Cold War, the Korean War, and the Viet Nam War, which ended forty years ago. I shall categorize that novel as HF.

04_Close to the Sun_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

Close to the Sun follows the lives of fighter pilots during the Second World War. As a boy, Hank Milroy from Wyoming idealized the gallant exploits of WWI fighter aces. Karl, Fürst von Pfalz-Teuffelreich, aspires to surpass his father’s 49 Luftsiegen. Seth Braham falls in love with flying during an air show at San Francisco’s Chrissy Field.

The young men encounter friends, rivals, and exceptional women. Braxton Mobley, the hotshot, wants to outscore every man in the air force. Texas tomboy Catherine “Winty” McCabe is as good a flyer as any man. Princess Maria-Xenia, a stateless White Russian, works for the Abwehr, German Intelligence. Elfriede Wohlman is a frontline nurse with a dangerous secret. Miriam Keramopoulos is the girl from Brooklyn with a voice that will take her places.

Once the United States enter the war, Hank, Brax, and Seth experience the exhilaration of aerial combat and acedom during the unromantic reality of combat losses, tedious bomber escort, strafing runs, and the firebombing of entire cities. As one of the hated aristocrats, Karl is in as much danger from Nazis as he is from enemy fighter pilots, as he and his colleagues desperately try to stem the overwhelming tide as the war turns against Germany. Callous political decisions, disastrous mistakes, and horrific atrocities they witness at the end of WWII put a dark spin on all their dreams of glory.

Blogger Praise for Close to the Sun

“Donald Michael Platt’s Close to the Sun is an amazing story told from the perspective of average male fighter pilots in the onset and during WWII, juxtaposing between various men from many sides of the war. The details in this novel were spectacular, creating imagery and depth in the scenes and characters, as well as the dialogue being so nostalgic and well-written it felt right out of a 1950’s film. The romantic nuances of his storytelling felt incredibly authentic with the tug and pull of the men being called to serve and the women whom they loved who had their own high hopes, dreams, or work. I loved how he portrayed this women the most—strongly and fiercely independent. I’ve read several other books by Platt, and this is the best one I’ve read yet! I couldn’t stop reading. ” – Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, Hook of a Book

“Donald Platt’s Close To The Sun, is nothing short of Historical Fiction gold. Platt’s flair for emotionally provocative storytelling makes this book attractive to both male and female readers. Seamlessly weaving the threads of action and feeling into a brilliant tableau of humanity. This is a masterfully penned tale of war, ambition, love, loss, and ACES!” – Frishawn Rasheed, WTF Are You Reading?

“Fast-paced and riveting I couldn’t get enough of Hank, Karl and Seth’s exploits! CLOSE TO THE SUN is a thrilling novel that leads readers through idyllic dreams of heroism and the grim reality of war. Platt provides readers with a unique coming-of-age story as three adventure-seeking boys discover far more than how to be an aerial combat pilot. CLOSE TO THE SUN is an amazing tale of adventure, heroism, war and the drive within us all that keeps us going when things look bleak.” – Ashley LaMar, Closed the Cover

“I found Close to the Sun to be an entertaining read, it was well written, with well developed characters, these characters had depth and emotion. A unique plot, told from the point of view of pilots prior to and during World War II. It was a well researched and interesting book” – Margaret Cook, Just One More Chapter

Buy the Book

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

About the Author

Author of four other novels, ROCAMORA, HOUSE OF ROCAMORA, A GATHERING OF VULTURES, and CLOSE TO THE SUN, Donald Michael Platt was born and raised in San Francisco. Donald graduated from Lowell High School and received his B.A. in History from the University of California at Berkeley. After two years in the Army, Donald attended graduate school at San Jose State where he won a batch of literary awards in the annual SENATOR PHELAN LITERARY CONTEST.

Donald moved to southern California to begin his professional writing career. He sold to the TV series, MR. NOVAK, ghosted for health food guru, Dan Dale Alexander, and wrote for and with diverse producers, among them as Harry Joe Brown, Sig Schlager, Albert J. Cohen, Al Ruddy plus Paul Stader Sr, Hollywood stuntman and stunt/2nd unit director. While in Hollywood, Donald taught Creative Writing and Advanced Placement European History at Fairfax High School where he was Social Studies Department Chairman.

After living in Florianópolis, Brazil, setting of his horror novel A GATHERING OF VULTURES, pub. 2007 & 2011, he moved to Florida where he wrote as a with: VITAMIN ENRICHED, pub.1999, for Carl DeSantis, founder of Rexall Sundown Vitamins; and THE COUPLE’S DISEASE, Finding a Cure for Your Lost “Love” Life, pub. 2002, for Lawrence S. Hakim, MD, FACS, Head of Sexual Dysfunction Unit at the Cleveland Clinic.

Currently, Donald resides in Winter Haven, Florida where he is polishing a dark novel and preparing to write a sequel to CLOSE TO THE SUN.

For more information please visit Donald Michael Platt’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Close to the Sun Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 18
Review at Forever Ashley & Closed the Cover

Wednesday, August 20
Spotlight at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, August 21
Review at Tribute Books Mama

Friday, August 22
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Saturday, August 23
Review at Beth’s Book Reviews

Monday, August 25
Review at Jorie Loves a Story

Tuesday, August 26
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, August 27
Spotlight at Princess of Eboli

Thursday, August 28
Guest Post at The Writing Desk

Friday, August 29
Review at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, September 1
Review at Book Nerd

Tuesday, September 2
Review & Guest Post at My Tangled Skeins Book Reviews

Wednesday, September 3
Review at Book Babe

Thursday, September 4
Spotlight at Layered Pages
Spotlight at Kinx’s Book Nook

Friday, September 5
Guest Post at Cynthia Robertson Blog

The Explanation for Everything – a review

Grodstein_Explanation_pbk_FINAL.indd

Andy is a widower trying to raise his two daughters on his own and hopefully get tenure at the crappy New Jersey collage where he teaches – not what he envisioned for himself when he was younger, but then life has thrown him several curve balls since his wife was killed by a teenaged drunk driver. He spends his time at work trying to pin down the elusive gene behind alcoholism, and his time at home writing letters (never sent) to the boy who, now a young man after six in prison, killed his wife.

Into this mix—in a scene rendered with deft timing and hilarious snarkiness—strolls his nemesis, skinny, nerdy, Christian student Lionel Shell, who is determined to stop Andy from teaching his biannual class There Is No God.

My review: The premise of this novel intrigued me before I read it. And while the debate between beliefs ended up being disappointingly reductive, the writing skill, main protagonist and story kept me reading. The two main Christian characters aptly represented some of the very young and naïve members of that belief system, spouting simplistic half understood platitudes. The two Atheists, much older, and both scientists, expressed equally didactic viewpoints. This is the only aspect where the story fell down, for me. Upon reflection, I think the premise, as advertised, worked against the novel, because if I hadn’t thought the book was meant to be a fascinating clash of paradigms, then I wouldn’t have been set up to be dissatisfied by this aspect of it, and would have just enjoyed the story for its ample merits, which are great writing and wonderful characterization, and an actual premise dealing with life, inevitable death, and the long, hard slog to forgiveness. Andy’s struggles to forgive the drunk driver who killed his wife were written with an emotional honesty that drew me deeply into the story. His stumbling vulnerability raising his two young daughters, and his faulty navigation as he attempts relationships and to carry on with life made his character both sympathetic, and believable. The characterization of Andy’s mentor, Rosenblum, a diehard Atheist, while it offered nothing new toward an argument for or against belief in a Creator, was still very engaging, and this character’s entrances and exits throughout the novel displayed a virtuosity of perfect pacing. The flitting appearances of Andy’s ghostly wife were the cherry on top of The Explanation for Everything.

Conclusion: If you want to read fiction debating the existence, or not, of God; don’t bother with this one. If you’re looking to read a wonderful literary/domestic drama novel, this one’s for you.

Read and reviewed for LibraryThing

 

Edwin – a review

The mountains, these unforgiving teeth of rock and scree that gnawed the west of the country and ran down its spine, were different. In them the day could turn from summer to winter in the time it took to spark a fire and huddle against the storm. Upon them were the wraith-haunted tombs of old, tombs that were already old during the days of the emperors, and their cold presence had terrified the soul of a young man, little more than a boy, learning the ways of warriors beneath their unblinking stare.

Edwin

I wanted to give this one five stars, and almost did, but for two aspects that kept me from it: a certain slowness in places where the plot bogs down under the weight of long scenes which probably could have been tightened up; and the distant omniscient viewpoint, which kept me from caring about the characters as deeply as I could have if we were allowed in closer to the characters. That said, the writing is otherwise very nice, even lovely, at times—such as the occasion of the burial of Forthred, the king’s lieutenant and best friend—though even that scene is told as the past, an inexplicable choice that almost robs it of its power entirely, and certainly robs it of some.

His old friend had stared up with sightless eyes at the grey clouds scudding low overhead. The wind, a cold northeasterly, was sending them in from the sea, and Edwin could smell the rain that would fall later that day, extinguishing the ashes of Forthred’s pyre. The body lay upon crossed logs outside the encampment and on the banks of the Derwent. Cofi had carried the urn that would take the ashes when the fire had eaten its fill. The king had drawn his hand down over Forthred’s face, gently closing his eyes.

“Rest well, old friend, he had said, but the words sounded hollow in his mouth.

The historical detail was gorgeous, the well-done result of research. Edwin is a king whose history many are not familiar with, myself included, and this novel was a nice introduction to the main events of his life. Especially interesting was the relationship between the old religion and the new (Christianity) though the author’s preference showed through in a sometimes mocking treatment of the Druid, Coifi.

Guest Post and Giveaway

Today’s guest post is by Jolina Petersheim, author of The Midwife.

A few weeks ago, a reporter asked what kind of research I did for my sophomore novel, The Midwife. I laughed dryly and said, “I had a baby!”

Though I meant it as a joke, I actually studied a vast amount on natural childbirth before the birth of my firstborn daughter two years ago.

I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by – you guessed it! – the internally renowned midwife, Ina May Gaskin. “The mother of authentic midwifery,” Ms. Gaskin is the founder and director of the Farm Midwifery Center, located near Summertown, Tennessee, which is the same state where I live.

According to the bio information on her website, by 2011, the Farm Midwifery Center, founded in 1971, had handled approximately 3000 births, with remarkably good outcomes. Ms. Gaskin herself has attended more than 1200 births.

Though I was too intimidated by all the tie-dye and patchouli-doused hippies to give birth at The Farm, I still read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth like it was a fragment from the Holy Grail. (FYI: take it from me, it’s not coffee table material.) Spurred by her low intervention birthing stories and Kumbaya experiences, I signed up for the birthing center located in the town near where I live.

My husband and I attended classes where—to test our level of natural birth commitment, I suppose—we watched a footling breech water birth video that could not be made soothing, regardless of the instrumental music that drowned out all other sound. (I spent the entire hour with my knees pressed together and my nails gouged into the fake leather sofa; my husband, afterward, had the dazed look of a car wreck victim.)

We heard statistics that were startling. For instance (again according to Ina May’s website), the United States has a higher ratio of maternal deaths than at least 40 other countries, even though it spends more money per capita for maternity care than any other.

Terrified by these statistics—which are accelerated by modern-day interventions such as Pitocin and epidurals, which slow labor down—I was determined to also have a Kumbaya birthing experience like those on The Farm.

Oh, yes. I would simply relax my facial muscles into an “O” like Ina May instructs, make a slight “swoosh-swoosh” noise, and my daughter would pop out in the tub, blinking at her surroundings before the midwife gently scooped her from the tepid water and wrapped the wee babe in her tie-dye sarong.

Of course, despite my naivety, I should’ve known this would not happen. Regardless of my Tupperware container of frozen grapes, gargantuan jug of raspberry leaf tea, and mad sprints up and down the fire escape stairs with my belly swaying, my labor did not progress.

At seven in the morning, I was whisked from the beautiful Zen room in the birthing center and transferred to the closest hospital where I was forced to put on the hospital gown, which—in my mind—was like losing a foothold in a landslide of interventions.

However, after twenty-four hours of labor, the dreaded Pitocin drip, an internal baby monitor, a dozen ice pops (I’d forgotten my grapes in the Zen room’s fridge and no longer cared about red food coloring and high fructose syrup), and—finally—an epidural that left me snoring in the hospital bed while my husband paced the floor, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl whose head barely showed the posterior (sunny side up) position she’d been in and which had inhibited a lickety-split, Kumbayah birth.

I wish I could say the hours of pain all melted away the instant she was placed in my arms, but I was honestly so emotionally and physically exhausted (not to mention drugged) that I didn’t feel the aura of new motherhood like I had expected from the experiences depicted in Ina May’s books.

Yet now—albeit, over two years later—I can recall my birthing experience and smile as I feel my second daughter rippling inside my womb. I realize that all that natural birth knowledge I acquired before my firstborn’s birth has not been for naught. Not only did that difficult birth prepare me for the difficult birthing scenes in The Midwife, it also took away the fear of birthing itself.

Regardless if I give birth at home, the birthing center, or the hospital, I know that the perfect birthing experience cannot be acquired through electric candles and instrumental music; it can only be acquired through trust in my body’s ability to know what it needs to do and when.

And that is what the renowned midwife, Ina May Gaskin, taught me . . . along with a pleasant appreciation for tie-dye and patchouli perfume.

 

Let’s be honest . . . a caffeine boost never hurts. For author Jolina Petersheim, it’s especially helpful to have her favorite drink on hand when she’s racing toward a manuscript deadline. In celebration of the release of her sophomore novel, The Midwife, Tyndale’s Crazy4Fiction team would love to enable your caffeine addiction and give you a taste of Jolina’s beautiful prose. For a chance at a $25 Starbucks gift card, an authentic Amish wall hanging, and your choice of Jolina’s novels (either The Outcast or The Midwife), enter through the Rafflecopter giveaway.

Jolina holding her novel
 Jolina Petersheim is the award-winning author of The Midwife and The Outcast, which Library Journal gave a starred review and named one of the best books of 2013. The Outcast also became an ECPA, CBA, and Amazon bestseller, and was featured in Huffington Post’s Fall Picks, World Magazine’s Notable Books, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and The Tennessean. Jolina and her husband’s unique Amish and Mennonite heritage originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. They now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their young daughter. Whenever she’s not busy chasing this adorable toddler, Jolina is hard at work on her next novel.

What about you, readers? What drink of choice kick-starts your creativity and helps you keep moving?

Boils and Churchmen

Royal 6.E.vi,  f. 301 detail

There’s a writing process blog tour making the rounds. It’s a pretty interesting one, to me. I’m always curious about other writers’ writing habits. Not just what they are working on, but how they go about it, and why.

So when Jackie Cangro tagged me, I said yes! Jackie’s Friday posting is one that I look forward to at the end of each week. She’s a funny gal with an adorable sidekick named Reggie. They live in The Big Apple. Jackie’s posts are laced with humor and wit, and humanitarianism. I highly recommend popping over to visit Reggie and Jackie if you haven’t met them (and if you have, you already know why I like them so much). If you shop for your reading on Amazon here’s the place to find Jacqueline Cangro’s published work.

My Writing Process

What are you working on?

I have two novels underway: one set in the modern day world (my business world – to be specific, in a vague sort of way), which I won’t be talking about here; and an historical. The historical is set in 1348. Those of you who are history buffs will immediately know what this portends. For those of you who aren’t and don’t: it means people keeling over in streets that ring to cries of Bring out yur dead! Yup; the black plague, the great pestilence, that prodigious and awful smiting by God (at least from the medieval perspective) that killed, by some accounts, half the population in many countries in Europe and the Middle East.

The other blight upon this time in history was the inquisition. Not the Big Badass one hosted by Isabella and Ferdinand a hundred years or so hence, but the inquisition with a small ‘i’, which was nonetheless devastating in its overall effect. People were tortured, people were murdered; it was done in God’s name—like a lot of heinous stuff—but that was just bad PR.

My tale is set in Italy’s beautiful breadbasket, the Po River Valley; and in southern France, in Avignon, which was the papal seat at the time. The two main characters are a woman and a Dominican friar.

How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?

It’s said we should write the book we’d most like to read. I like to know what characters are wearing and who they are pining after, and have a great deal of fun with these topics. But I also like writing about survival: people who find themselves thrust into extremis; and guys being guys (or, in some cases, an armor-wearing female). My husband is retired military; I’ve had ample opportunity to observe the camaraderie of warriors up close: They have feasted at my table, drunk my mead, and slept in my hall—so to speak. Being often disappointed by otherwise good historicals that lack lovely writing, I make every effort to bring my best prose. Lastly, anywhere humor can be interjected, I go for it—who doesn’t like to laugh? Judging by all the weird art that came out of the time period of my present WIP, it’s clear that even the whisper of Death’s breath on their necks couldn’t suppress a morbid sense of humor in the hearts and minds of the survivors.

Why do you write what you do?

I write historicals because it’s F.U.N. And it’s my favorite genre to read. Right now I’m absorbed by the 14th century. I’m reading two books as part of my research: A Distant Mirror, the calamitous 14th century, by historian Barbara W. Tuchman; and The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual, a history of terror in the name of God, by Jonathan Kirsch. I’m a bit of a social scientist. People are fascinating. I’m always striving for greater understanding of who and what we are, where we have come from, where we are going, and why we behave as we do; the process of human evolution. This curiosity fuels my research and writing.

The people in the past were us, but they were culturally different. If you’ve ever travelled to a foreign country and been stunned by the sense of unfamiliarity, you’ve experienced a taste of what it would be like to travel into the past. When I accompanied my husband to duty stations in other countries the military required us to take classes to help soften Culture Shock’s effects. The classes were wonderful, (and often hilarious) though they never totally prepared us. Nothing could.

I believe those differences are the very reason so many of us are drawn to historicals as readers. It’s fun to sit safely in our armchairs and read about a place and time so different from our own.

How does your writing process work?

Some things stick in my head. Writing helps me understand them and also purge them. It’s as simple as that! I see something happen, or read about it. The next thing I know it’s occupying my thoughts in the shower, while washing the car, while driving to work or cleaning the pool; a story begins to grow up around it. Characters emerge. I hear them talking, see them living their lives, making choices. I ask, what if? I read research materials and get ideas. I listen to period music and watch period movies.

Other than that, I simply get up every morning at 5am, pour in coffee, sit at my laptop, and write, write, write. I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. At some point I brave submitting what I’ve written to my workshop group—then I wipe up the blood, and do some more rewrites.

I’ve tagged author Diana Douglas to play next. She’s a gentle and perceptive critique partner, and a wonderful writer who has two published novels. She can be found on her website, and on Twitter.

(Apologies to those who asked me to play earlier—a very busy spring relegated blogging to the bottom of the to-do list for a while.)