Tag Archives: Civil War

Ahh. . . April. The Month of Mayhem

Happy Friday! Casey here!

I love April. It’s my birthday month and, here in New England, the unofficial start of RedcoatsSpring. April means the flowers are budding, the days are warmer and the snow (knock on wood) is behind us.

But it’s not all sunshine and flowers. No siree. April has a dark side.

Being a total history geek, I always marvel (and shudder) at the mayhem that has occurred during the month of April.

T.S. Elliot called April the cruelest month. Need proof?

  • April 4, 1968 – assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • April 12, 1861 – Start of US Civil War
  • April 14, 1865 – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (he died early morning on the 15th)
  • April 15, 1912 – sinking of RMS Titanic
  • April 15th – in the United States – Tax day
  • April 18, 1906 – San Francisco earthquake
  • April 19, 1775 – the shot heard ’round the world. Battle of Lexington & Concord starts the American Revolution. Okay, that was pretty good for us Americans.
  • April 26, 1986 – Chernobyl disaster
  • April 27, 1865, SS Sultana (riverboat) boiler explodes. Still considered to be the greatest maritime disaster in US history.

Also in April of years past – Columbine shootings, Oklahoma bombing, Waco, Virginia Tech shootings, BP oil spill, and Apollo 13. There were so many disasters, I had Civil War Cannondifficulty choosing what to include. Kinda scary.

So what is it with April? I have no idea. And I am sure, statistically, April is no different from other months in terms of bad things, however, it sure does seem like the worst events have occurred in April.

Here is what I take away from this. Life is short and you never know when the ride will be over. Savor the moments big and small and love your friends and family. So, while I make note of these dates, I still live my life, celebrate my birthday, and hope for many more to come.

Has anyone else noticed that April is the cruelest month? What is your cruelest month?

Who Influenced You?

Thea Devine posting today.  So tell me if this isn’t a bookaholic’s dream.  You’re buying a house and strewn all over the living room floor are books, a hundred or more of them.  You’re buying the house from the estate of a recently deceased widow, and you know it had been broken into, but the important things were not taken: the fireplace surrounds, the sliding doors, the books.

Among them was a uniformly bound set of novels by Augusta Evans Wilson –

– who, I came to find out, was a best selling author of her time with her novel, St. ElmoSt. Elmo has to have been the original bad boy hero who had to redeem himself to win his orphaned heroine love.  The book sold hundreds of thousands of copies just after the Civil War and allegedly was so popular that people named children, homes, streets and towns after it. and it was also said that Rhett Butler was supposedly modeled on the character.

There were a half dozen of Wilson’s novels, of which I’ve read 3 — St. Elmo, At the Mercy of Tiberius , and Inez, a Tale of the Alamo.

Which led me to think about the other best selling romance authors of their day, some of whom are long-time favorites of mine:  Faith Baldwin — who wrote career girl (usually nurses or secretaries) romance;  Kathleen Norris (rags to riches, usually set in the Mission section of San Francisco, vividly portrayed);  Emilie Loring (hometown girls in New England, richly evoked in a very distinctive voice).

I know there are some I’m forgetting, but I’m so glad I read those long ago authors long before  the idea of becoming an author myself was ever remotely possible.

Because of them, I found what I liked to read, and what I wanted to write.  From Wilson, and latterly, Catherine Clinton’s The Plantation Mistress,I discovered the pre-civil war south through the women’s eyes, so I’ve been collecting women’s civil war diaries for some time now, just out of my fascination with the time period.

Because of them, I came to love stories of heroines returning to their small town roots.  If they’re going down south, I’m there.  If there’s a plantation, I’m up all night reading it.  I love married-to-the-wrong-guy-but-maybe-not stories;  stories especially of wounded heroes and heroines overcoming their pasts and finding each other;  heroines caught in circumstances manipulated by someone else for nefarious purposes;  ghost stories; stories with conspiracies simmering under the surface that are just hinted at as the solution to the overt problems of the heroine (read gothics).

I just love old books. Love reading the “commercial fiction” from before the turn of the century, even having to plow through the dense Victorian prose and quotations from obscure poets and philosophers.  Love finding old books, as I’ve posted elsewhere.  Love it all, as witness my bookshelves and desk room floor.

But who’s on my current TBR pile then, you might ask.  Well, Gone Girl, Tatiana de Rosnay, Kate Morton, Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks, Karen Rose,  A Victorian Household, Carla Neggers, Georgette Heyer’s Regency World, and  Macaria (another of Wilson’s novels written during the Civil War), among a dozen other books.   What about you?

So who were your influences, who’s on your To Be Read pile?  Do you like old books?  Have you read Norris, Baldwin or Loring?   Do you have other favorites, old or new?

Thea Devine is working on a new erotic contemporary romance and will be putting five backlist titles on-line soon.

Dark Hearts and Chocolate – Interview with Thea Devine

Happy last Thursday of 2011, Scribe fans.  Suze here.  I’m absolutely thrilled to bring you a special guest today.  THEA DEVINE, author of THE DARKEST HEART, is with us.  If you haven’t read THE DARKEST HEART, get it!  It’s hot and it’s scary in the best tradition of a Gothic thriller — but I don’t recommend reading it alone at night!  Welcome, Thea.

Irresistible!
Your name, Thea, is beautiful and unusual.  Is there are a story behind it, or did your mother just choose really well?  (FYI, the mother of one of the Scribes is named Thea!)

Thea is my real full name, not short for anything, and I have no idea why my mom and dad chose it for me.  Devine is my married name, so in reality, I owe everything to the amazing John Devine.

You have a long-established (the fan girl in me wants to say “legendary”) career as a writer.  Do you still battle the Doubt Monster–the nagging feeling that your prose is terrible, your plot is silly, your characters are insipid, and no one would read your drivel, let alone buy it?  What are your secrets for conquering Doubty, or have you ground him to dust under your stiletto?

I definitely have my moments — ask my husband.  I love starting the story.  It feels like flying.  And when things are going right, or unexpected things are happening that grow organically out of the story and take me by surprise, it’s biggest high.  When the plot isn’t moving, it feels like slogging through molasses.   I bullet-train my way through.  The point is to finish the book.  Everything else can come later.

Have you thought about writing something that is completely different for you?  Perhaps writing in a new genre or just taking a story someplace that you haven’t done before?

I would love to write hearth and home novels.  I love a good cathartic novel, one that gives good cry — like Luanne Rice’s books for example.

What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your writing career?

That I even have a writing career.  Back when I was writing as a hobby, I never dreamt in a million years that anything I wrote would be published.   My cousin Anita ,  who remembers way too much about our childhood, will tell you that I was always at the typewriter and I didn’t want to do much else.  A slight exaggeration, but I still have things I wrote in high school and college where when I reread them, I can see vestiges of the way I write now.  And that has changed dramatically over the years as well.

They say that every author has a partially completed, quite-possibly-terrible half a story shoved in a drawer somewhere.  What is yours?  What is it about?  What makes it terrible?  Would you ever consider picking it up and finishing it?

I actually do.  I started a sprawling civil war historical back in … well, I won’t tell you the year but it was when I was working in advertising in the “Mad Men” days where everyone in house was writing a novel, by the way. The problem was I didn’t know how to write it back then even though I have reams of manuscript on it.  But I DO know how to write it now, and I’m slowly excavating and reconfiguring it, and I’m enjoying the process a lot.

Countess Lazlaric in THE DARKEST HEART is so deliciously bad.  How much fun was she to write?  Was there a real life inspiration?

Countess Lazlaric was the first character actually that came to me for The Darkest Heart.  She’s an amalgam of several types, among them, the patronizing aristocrat, the secretive monster and the uber-mother.

Plotter or Pantser?  When you are working on a new novel, how aware are you of character and plot archetypes (i.e, chief hero + waif heroine = woman in jeopardy plot)?  Do you plan this out ahead of time, or does it happen organically as you go along?

I am a pure pantser.  I do do an outline, about 5-10 pp.  I know, from working as a manuscript reader for many years, that the dreaded feared outline is not the deal breaker in a proposal — it’s a guide to show the editor you know how you will get from here to there.  It doesn’t have to be super detailed — mine are not — I just want give an overview of what will happen and how it will end.  For me, after that, all bets are off.  Things happen.  I love the process of discovery as I write.  I’m a big fan of “what if-ing” the problems.   I do know the main motivations, weaknesses and strengths of the hero and heroine before I begin, but I don’t chart that out according to types or archetypes.  I make lists and notes as I go along, and I believe things will happen.

THE DARKEST HEART is your latest release.  Can you tell us a little bit about it?

My husband actually gave me the idea that motivates The Darkest Heart.  I couldn’t see a vampire as a hero, really — even though I can list all those things that are on the surface so attractive about him as a character.  I asked my husband why he thought vampires were so alluring, and he said, they’re victims.  They had no choice. That observation gave me the whole key to the story.  And you see that theme echoes throughout The Darkest Heart, which begins with the return of Dominick, who having been turned into a vampire to save him from dying, has come to wreak revenge on his Maker, only to find his plans disrupted by a flim-flam artist who has taken up residence in his mother’s home pretending to be an indigent relative, unaware of the teeming danger that surrounds her.

What’s next for you?  Can you give us a hint about your next novel?  The Scribes love secrets!

I’m doing a sequel to The Darkest Heart, because there are things unresolved at the end of The Darkest Heart, and I’m working on several other projects just because I love them, including my bottom of the drawer Civil War historical.

You also read and evaluate manuscripts.  Do you have a word or grammar-related pet peeve?

Oh, do I.   In brief, my three (among many) top peeves were (and are):  using “may” for “might” — which almost seems like common usage now and is still jarring to the ear;  “drug” for “dragged” (also coming into common usage);  and “that’s why” when, how, what — instead of “that was why” — again using present tense inappropriately.

How many books do you read in a year, other than the manuscripts?

Well, I’m not reading manuscripts now, and I read lots — during the summer outages, I devoured all of Karen Rose’s books, even by a teeny reading light late at night.  I periodically revisit old favorites like Emilie Loring and Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg novels.   I read some Nancy Drews last winter — the ones I remember with the frocks and roadsters — great fun.  I love the old girls’ series books — this summer I got one called “The Red Cross Girls at the Russian Front.”  Honestly, could you have passed that up?  I love romantic suspense, and “object of desire” thrillers, cathartic women’s novels, cozy mysteries. Right now, I’m reading Carla Neggers’ The Whisper, and the Mysteries of Udolpho, one of the first gothics, and the House at Riverton, by Kate Morton.  (Suze here.  I loved the title so much I had to see if I could find The Red Cross Girls — it’s available for free  at Project Gutenberg: click here.  You can find The Mysteries of Udolpho (I read this recently, and loved it!) at Project Gutenberg as well)

How long does it take you to write a first draft?  How do you handle revisions?  Do you revise as you go along, or do you save them for after you type “The End?”

It takes about five or six months to write the book — I revise as I go along, make changes, reroute things, gut other ideas that I think will work in my current book.   There was one time I was hemming and hawing about using an idea that I wanted to save for a different proposal, and my husband said to me, but there’s always another idea.  That was so brilliant.  Always another idea.  That really frees you up as a writer when you embrace that thought.

What is your junk food of choice?

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

What’s the most dangerous or risky thing that you’ve done?

Can’t think of a thing.

What is your guilty pleasure? {Remember: this is a PG-rated blog! }

This is going to really disappoint you — I love curling up on the couch on a weekend and watching Hallmark Channel movies.

You can get THE DARKEST HEART here.  Wanna see a hot book trailer?  Click here.  And be sure to check out Thea’s website, which has more information about Thea and links to all of her books currently in print.  Thea is here to answer your questions, so ask away!