Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Living in the Past

Well, it's June 30th, the last day of this month of birthday celebrations. Can you believe it? Seems just like yesterday when we were putting together this party and now it's over.

So, consider this the last call. Your last chance to party and get your name in the running for the grand prize drawing.

Now, for my blog. I'm talking about historical writing today.

I’m a historical author deep down in my soul. It’s the sub-genre of romance I’m particularly good at and I love being able transport not only myself back in time but also my readers. I love the old, formal language, the pageantry of different eras, the courtliness of manners and the wealth of history and the clothes--oh heavens the clothes--that serves as backdrops for my stories.

At this time, I have three and let’s say one half published historical books to my credit with two more to come later this year. All but one of those books also have paranormal elements added in. Why? I think it’s because I can’t manage to tear myself away from telling a story from back in the past or adding a bit of magic.

There’s so much depth, I think, when I write a hundred years or so ago. People were nicer, times were gentler, they lived for honorable things (or decidedly less honorable things as the case may be) and had less, well stuff to distract them from spending quality time together. I like this aspect because the interaction between a hero and heroine can be explosive and oftentimes powerful simply because they're forced to...well talk.

In my debut historical WINNER TAKES ALL I told the story with a lot of humor. My next stab in the historical world came in my novella THE HAUNTING OF AMELIA PRITCHART in which half of the story is told from a historical perspective with high emotion. There is also a ghost in that book. In my novella ANGEL’S MASTER as well as my next full length book UNRAVELED SOULS I didn’t use humor so much but went for the emotionally gritty undercurrents of society in those times.

In all of these books, the characters drove the plot which allows the reader to really connect with the main players on a base level in order to understand them. Of course, with the last two, I put fully realized love scenes (okay let's just say sometimes graphic love scenes) in them as well. I have readers regularly tell they’re breathless and tired after reading my books, and that’s a very good thing.

I connected with them. Made them think.

And sometimes I think that’s a big key of writing in the historical genre. Making the characters come alive so the history can have new life. Please enjoy the opening paragraphs from some of these works.

Opening of Winner Takes All
Southern Indiana 1904


Zelma Farnsworth cackled with glee as she folded the thick ivory vellum letter she had just finished reading. “As that famous detective once said, ‘the game is afoot’!” She thumped the silver handle of her cane against the headboard of her massive four-poster bed. “Chrissy!” She waited on a cloud of impatience as her maid scampered into the room. “I need you to transcribe a letter for me. We must word it carefully so the players in my game will not be the wiser.”

A petite young woman in a serviceable gray dress and white apron quickly sat behind the delicate desk. “You may begin, ma’am. I’m ready.” She drew a sheet of jasmine scented stationery toward her and took up a pen.

“Let me gather my thoughts.” Zelma drummed her wrinkled fingers on the quilt. “Dear
Cynthia. While I was alarmed to hear about your recent flare of bursitis, I know you will not let it overcome your dedication to the pursuit of your doctorate. However, the most recent escapade of your great niece concerns me. I’ve heard enough stories of police treatment of suffragettes to know it couldn’t be a pleasant experience to be arrested — or almost, as in your great-niece’s case.”

Zelma tapped a fingernail against the metal cap of the cane. “I think the best thing for her would be a change of scenery. I’ll issue her family an invitation to my estate here in the country. In order to keep her company, I’ll also invite my nephew and a few of his military friends out here. Please be sure to convince your dear Michael to finagle an invitation for dinner for my boy. The young people will need to meet before they travel down to me. And besides, it’s high time I had youth about me once more. Until we speak again, I remain your faithful friend, Zelma.”

“Will you want this mailed today?”

“Of course girl! No time like the present.” A smile snaked across Zelma’s thin lips. “Watch carefully, Chrissy. Consider this an experiment in human nature—high emotions and higher intelligence. Life is about to get interesting.”


Opening from Angel’s Master
Three days before Christmas, 1822—Florida Keys


With a swipe of a soft cloth along the dark, well-oiled wood of the counter, Jacqueline Massey gave the occupants of the bar another glance. The usual men congregated around scarred and pitted tables as they played cards or drank away their sorrows in mugs of ale or bottles of rum. She tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and wondered if anything would ever change in the God-forsaken coastal village. The locals called it Nube Voladora, or Flying Cloud, because of the mists that obscured it in the evenings.

“What’s the news of the evening, Miss Massey?” The owner of the deep voice slipped up to her counter and sat on a stool.

“Alexander.” Jacqueline frowned. She wished he would leave her to work alone. “Why are you here?” With an eyebrow cocked, she studied the man her father wanted her to marry.

Tall, nearly six feet, and broad shouldered, Captain Alexander Caruthers had toiled his whole adult life in the Navy and carried himself as straight as one of the masts on his ship. He possessed eyes the color of an angry blue-gray sea, and wore his blond hair cut in short waves that clung to a high collar. His chin jutted out in an imposing way, but his manners were impeccable, and he’d never been less than pleasant and solicitous in her company.

Jacqueline couldn’t envision being tied to such a dull, conservative man, regardless of his looks. But he demanded an answer as his eyes bored into hers. “Nothing new to report. It’s been quiet all evening. The same as it has been for the last week.”

“Hopefully, it will stay that way.”

“Perhaps the pirates have been warned of your identity or my deception.”

“Perhaps, but it does not matter.” He accepted a pint of ale, then took a deep draw of the amber-colored brew before continuing. “The newly formed Mosquito Fleet will be down here by April at the latest. We will run the sea rats out of the water.”


Opening from Unraveled Souls

Blood everywhere.

The abstract splatter from the violent spray dotted the rose-patterned paper of an unfamiliar drawing room, blending a macabre design with the sedate ordinary. A thick pool of ruby liquid collected under the body of a blond-haired man, a dagger buried to the hilt in his chest, the inlaid jewels on the handle winked in the soft candlelight.

Dead.

Noelle Radliffe woke up, gasping for breath, as sweat drenched her body and molded her white cotton nightgown to her chest. Another dream, another death. She pushed the mop of brown curls out of her face and swung her legs over the side of the bed as her heart pounded. Not for the first time did she wonder why the visions came to her. Every night there was a new scene and a new body. When would it end?

At least she didn't see a ghost, which is what usually followed such a dream. To make sure, she cast a wary glance around her darkened bedroom. Nothing but shadow-drenched furniture met her gaze. Relief chilled her skin as adrenaline spiked through her veins.

As her breathing returned to normal, she left her bed to pad across the room, grabbing a lace-trimmed robe of deep purple silk. Coolness seeped into her bare feet from the polished wooden floor. Even for early May, it seemed spring couldn't quite gain a foothold and shake off the cloying mantle of winter. She threw open the heavy drapes of gold brocade, yanked apart the lace panels, and opened the French doors that led to a tiny patio.

In times of extreme stress, she always sought solace from the garden she lovingly planted each year. Too early in the season for anything but crocuses and the occasional daffodil to survive, it was only a matter of time before she would be able to manipulate the rich soil and create a living work of art. But for now, the darkened patch of green space imparted the necessary calm she needed to continue to live another day, put the horrors of the night behind her. Wrapping the robe about her body, she cinched the sash tight at her waist. A slight sound, no more than a pebble being disturbed against the cobblestone bricks, alerted her to another presence in the garden.

"Elle, are you sick? The sun will not rise for an hour yet. Go to bed."

Noelle smiled, and turned to gaze at her cousin, Kitty. "Unfortunately, my body is in the top of health. It is my mind that refuses to conform to normalcy."

And as a special treat, here’s the opening for my current work in progress. I won’t give you the title because in the past, I’ve had a title for a WIP stolen before it could be published.

Work in Progress
Indianapolis, Indiana September 10, 1900


“Damn it, Kitty. Stop the babble. Get over here and clean this mess up!” The bellow resounded through the cramped quarters of the newsroom of The Indianapolis Sentinel office. Loud enough to cut through the frantic clacking of typewriter keys, the command demanded to be obeyed.

Kitty LaSalle blew out an irritated breath as her current stream of conversation died away. “It is quite unfair that you expect me to trail behind you and your sycophant pups simply because I am the only woman in this office.” Tendrils of strawberry-blonde hair escaped from her chignon and she tucked them back into place.

A barrel-chested man with a bristle-brush mustache shot up from behind his massive desk—her Uncle George, the junior editor of the paper. The quick movement dislodged even more paperwork from the precarious piles scattered across the top and they fell down in a raspy avalanche to add to the accumulation on the floor. “At least the pups bring in interestin’ stories. You, on the other hand, give me drivel about the latest fashions or the newest thing in home goods. Who the hell wants to read about that?” A marked Southern drawl trailed every sentence and well it should since her father and his brother came from the Atlanta area. They migrated to Indiana after the Reconstruction when she was a tike of five, but she’d never forget the journey.

A chorus of raucous male laughter erupted around the office.

Kitty’s cheeks burned at the insult. “Yes, but—” She sputtered to a halt when he put up his hand, palm outward.

“Spare me the excuses.” He came around the desk, and dropped a heavy arm around her shoulders. “Look, sweetness, I appreciate your efforts, but right now, we have real news to deal with. The hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas a couple days ago killed a bunch of people and—“

“If you would just listen—“

Uncle George’s bushy brown brows crashed low and his blue eyes glittered with barely controlled anger. “Damn, Kitty, if you want to be taken seriously as a journalist, you must remember to stop interruptin’. Otherwise, you’ll never learn enough information to dig into the good parts. You have to let people talk because there’s nothin’ folks like better than to brag about themselves.”

I hope you enjoyed the brief jaunts into my worlds. If you want more information on where you can purchase these books, please feel free to hop on over to my website http://www.sandrasookoo.com and take a look. All links are provided there.

Thanks for reading and have a great day! Remember to leave a comment and your email address to win the last single-day prize of the month.

13 comments:

SiNn said...

sorry to se eit come to an end your starts sound awesome i havent read any of your work yet but am adding you to my wishlist happy first year!

stacey said...

It's over thats so sad i had fun.
i love the excerpts the last one was real good.adding that book two my list of books to run out and get.
sasluvbooks(at)yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

It's been tons of fun!!!

I shall certainly be sticking around to read further posts.

Congrats to all the winners so far and to the wins to come...good luck everyone.

Thanks for this great post, loved it!!

I'm an historical fan too.

Valerie
valb0302@yahoo.com
in Germany

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks ladies! I hope you'll look the books up and add them to your library :-)

Sweet Vernal Zephyr said...

Thanks so much for such a fun month! You've opened my eyes to quiet a few authors and stories and almost toppled my TBR pile right over!

Miranda
mdwartistry at yahoo dot com

Cathy M said...

Had a great time this month and added some amazing stories to my wish list.


caity_mack at yahoo dot com

joder said...

Thanks for the great sounding snippets! Time period adds to the excitement of the storylines and I agree that historical stories makes for a great read. I'm a huge fan of Julia Quinn and Lorraine Heath. Their historicals can't be beat!

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

k_sunshine1977 said...

they sound great...shall be adding to the tbr pile! :)

k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

Sherry said...

I've had a great time this month and I've found some new authors and new books too. All three books sound great but the last caught my eye just a little bit more than the others. Thanks for all of the fun post.

sstrode@scrtc.com

Sandra Sookoo said...

Thanks for coming by everyone :-)

cories said...

It certainly has been fun to read about all those books. Thanks! My TBB list just keeps getting longer. :)

cories119 [at] yahoo [dot] com

LORETTA CANTON said...

I have bought some of the books and some on my TBB list. I enjoyed this contesr.

lbcanton@verizon.net

Sandra Sookoo said...

The winner is K sunshine! Please email me with your mailing address to sandra.sookoo@comcast.net.

Thanks!