Friday, December 2, 2011

Carriage Starters & Cabs

Transportation in the 19th century was an interesting read. In previous books, I pretty much used the term carriage when speaking of any type of movement from one part of the city to another. However, in The Price of Deception, I did get more specific about the types of carriages my characters took for their rendezvous and travels.

You'll find the term hansom cab used throughout the text, and later on I just reference a cab. It denotes the type of carriage in the picture to the left, which was drawn by one horse. The rider sat up back, and the housing of the cab sat two people. It was open in front, except near the legs. The sides had large windows, and the back was solid. They were popular means of transportation throughout the cities.

The term carriage starter is a new one, as well, that you'll see in the text. They were individuals who stood upon the curb and hailed down passing cabs for pedestrians. Robert uses a carriage starter after his tryst at the brothel to hail a cab home to his waiting wife.

Later on, he hires a private enclosed carriage with a coachman, a growler, to pick up Suzette multiple times from her home. It was a four-wheel carriage, drawn by two horses termed a hackney. The hackney has evolved into the cute little cabs you see in London, which I had the privilege of hiring while in England both in Manchester and London. Who doesn't want to hail a cabby in London just for fun?

Jacquelyn arrives to her Paris townhouse in a coach, which was a large type of carriage used for long trips. Her trunks of expensive clothes and outrageous hats are stacked on the back and top.

Later on, Robert goes to the chapel in a landau, which is a convertible four-wheeled carriage drawn by two horses. They are great for romantic weddings, and you'll still see them used for ceremonies and hiring in various cities worldwide as a treat.

In the 19th century, streets brimmed with all sorts of carriages, public transportation carriage buses, and horses. To read more of the various types, follow the link to Wikipedia. Of course, with all those horses traveling the roads, there had to be individuals whose jobs were to pick up the horse droppings. The streets must have been interesting, bustling avenues of humanity during the time of The Legacy Series.

One of my scenes in the book is the evening at the Garnier with Robert and his wife, Jacquelyn. They arrive to a bustling crowd of arriving carriages. I stumbled across this picture on the Internet, and I thought it quite perfect for this article. If you close your eyes, I bet you can just picture yourself in one of those carriages, dressed in a 40-pound dress, with an outrageous feathered hat upon her head. Next to you is a handsome man in his black suit and top hat waiting to take you for an evening at the opera.

I hope that you enjoy the fantasy of romantic times in the Victorian era.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Duel

"I must speak with you, Duchess.” Philippe paused wondering how she would handle the impending news about the duel. “Tomorrow at dawn, your husband and I are to meet and settle things once and for all.” He paused for a moment while he studied her face watching for subtle changes in her demeanor.

“Oh, really?” she drawled, with little concern. “Some sort of manly challenge, is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, I’ve challenged him to a duel by pistols. I felt obligated to inform you, Duchess, in case you wish to see your husband beforehand. The outcome might be less than desirable for your future.”

The Price of Deception contains many themes between its pages, and one is the rivalry between two men over the possession of one woman. When I began writing the book, I had not considered a duel between the two. I was more focused on the emotional aspects of breaking up their marriage, but as I continued to develop Philippe's character as a man of absolutes, who lived by a code of honor, it became quite clear there was only one way to bring to a conclusion the fight for Suzette--a duel.

Phillipe, of course, had a military background in the French Navy. Men often settled their differences through dueling in France, so the thought of using that means to rid himself of the blackguard in his life, Robert Holland, was the one course of action that made sense to an angry man. It was a means to gain satisfaction for the dishonor done to his name. Philippe could face his rival and do him in once and for all without being hung for murder.

Of course, there were rules to the game, even if the game was illegal by the time my story was written. Nevertheless, duels continued and not many were prosecuted over the act. Basically, if a man wanted to regain his honor from the offender, the first course of action would be the challenge or what is terms as, "throwing down the gauntlet." Philippe throws his glove at Robert's feet, who kicks it aside rather than immediately accepting the challenge.

Once accepted, the location and weapons were chosen. Each man brought a representative to witness the act and check the pistols beforehand. The challenger set the rules as to location, weapons, and number of steps to pace off. It was his call.

The type of duel could either be any of the following: (1) to first blood, which meant until one was wounded; (2) until severely wounded and unable to continue; or (3) to the death. Each pistol had one shot, and if there were misses the first round, the guns were reloaded and they would continue until one of the above conditions were fulfilled but usually no more than three reloads.

If you wish to read more about dueling and one of my sources for information, Wikipedia has two good articles. Follow the links to:


Dueling Pistols

Needless to say by the end of the pace off between Robert and Philippe, one man leaves in shame. When I read about the practice, one wonders if duels really settled the matter and regained the honor for the individual who suffered the offense. I suppose if you were the winner, you'd feel smugly vindicated. However, I wouldn't think you'd feel that way if you were at the losing end. A wound or death over your need to be satisfied would be devastating to a man who lived by a code of honor. Nevertheless, Philippe suffered offense, and he was determined to find satisfaction.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Welcome! I've Released the Print

For all of my former subscribers over on WordPress, welcome! As you can see, I have migrated the entire blog to Google Blogger. Why? Exposure and rankings. For years I have blogged on this platform but thought I would try WordPress. Unfortunately, I just don't receive the desired traffic on that site, so I've returned back to my roots. I hope you enjoy! Feel free to subscribe via email as you have in the past. In addition, I'll be moving over some of the comments too, but most of the site is complete.

Now, for the news. Yesterday, I hit the release button on Lightning Source, my print-on-demand printer, to distribute The Price of Deception. I received the proof last week and painstakingly read through it one more time finding a few things that needed correcting. However, I'm happy to report the correct manuscript was uploaded and the release button checked. You should see it slowly appear on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other books sites. I'll publish updates and links as they go up one by one.

I'm very thankful the process has ended. It's been a long one. When I finished reposting all of my previous articles here, I noted that I finished the first draft back in August. It's taken almost three months of edits and manuscript tweaking to get here! However, I truly hope you enjoy! Below are a few of the comments going up on The Price of Deception already, plus a link to the prologue of the book to whet your appetite.

A special thank you to all of my friends, beta readers, cover designer, and editor for their help in this release. Without you, I wouldn't be here. Now it's time to write another. Otherwise, my brain gets no peace.

"I am completely obsessed and can't put your book down. It's amazing!!!!!"

"The Price of Deception grabs you from the first page and never lets go as the characters come back together for a heartfelt novel full of twists and turns that keeps you guessing!"

"As a huge fan of The Price of Innocence, I knew the author had a huge task ahead of her when it came to creating a sequel that would meet my expectations. However, Vicki Hopkins has not only met my expectations.. but exceeded them!"


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Off To The Press

The Price of Deception is off to the presses at Lightning Source. I'm hoping it will be available for purchase in the next two weeks.

The Kindle version and other eBook formats have been selling and feedback is slowly trickling back to me via word of mouth and through one Amazon review. So far, so good. People are pleased with the story and somewhat shocking ending. Whew! It's such a nerve-racking experience releasing a book.

The Price of Innocence is currently lagging in availability on Amazon. If you want to know why, please click HERE and read the current tactics of Amazon. I'll be dealing with the problem in the next few weeks. If you wish to purchase book one, then I encourage you to visit Barnes & Noble or Book Depository, who can give you a quicker turnaround of that volume.

Other than that, I'll be posting some tidbits in the next few weeks about some of the topics I researched for The Price of Deception for your reading enjoyment. Periodically, I'll be working on book three, The Price of Love, tying up the loose ends of the story.

Other projects I have in the burner include my first paranormal romance, Radcliffe. Visit the website by CLICKING HERE for more information on that goodie. I've also created a blog to pen my journey on the dark side. You can find a link to the blog HERE.

That is all the news for now! Thank you to my faithful readers and those who enjoy my stories. I cherish you all, for without you, I'd be home doing crossword puzzles rather than creating worlds.

Monday, October 17, 2011

eBook Released!

Happy to report that The Price of Deception is now available on Smashwords (who will also distribute it to Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple, Diesel, etc.) and on Kindle.

It's always exciting and terrifying to release a book. I can only say . . . I hope you enjoy the story!

Print will probably be available in the next two to three weeks.

As always, thank you EVERYONE for your support. A special thanks to my beta readers and editing help. Without you guys, I would sink.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Broken Hearts

The Price of Deception has been an interesting journey to pen. It is filled with raw emotion, moral choices, devastated spouses, and conflicted characters. I frankly couldn't write the story any other way, because when people love, emotions are high and hearts are vulnerable.

The moral choices in 1886 were much different than they are in the 21st century. Moral compasses pointed in various directions due one's place in society, education, and religious background. In the 19th century, poor moral choices carried dire consequences, such as sexual disease. Divorce was nearly impossible (except for adultery), the reason to marry wasn't always for love, happiness in matrimony wasn't easily attainable, and childbirth was risky.

Different values and thought processes motivated men and women. Religion weaved itself into the psyche of society more than it does today in both the Protestant and Catholic beliefs. Confrontations were face to face, and breakups didn't happen through text messages or email. Emotions from the heart were expressed verbally, violent tears were shed, hearts were crushed, and prices were paid as a result of one's actions and choices in life.

A few weeks ago, I watched a TV series on NetFlix entitled The Brammel Series about a woman doctor in the Victorian era. This line was spoken in one of the episodes: "None of us chooses who we lose our heart to."

You'll discover that Suzette and Robert possess a desperate love in The Price of Deception. It will be a love that will cost them both a hefty price, all because they have lost their hearts to one another. You will also discover that Jacquelyn and Philippe have lost their hearts to those they loved through infidelity and betrayal. In the end, will you think it was worth the price for all involved?

You'll just have to wait for The Price of Love, book three, to find out!

At the present time, I'm still in heavy editing. My book is still out to a few beta readers waiting for comments. At the moment, I am hoping and shooting for a November 2011 release. I don't wish to rush it, though I know some are waiting anxiously to find out what happens. You'll just have to be patient.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Immortalizing My Family - Holland

On Facebook today I paid tribute to my mother. It would have been her birthday - September 21, 1912. She died, however, February 1, 2000. Her maiden name was Nora Ethel Holland.

It never dawned on me since I've started this blog that perhaps many of you don't know the background of the names chosen in my book or that my publishing company is named after the legacy of my family name - HOLLAND. The crest shown in this post, is the Holland crest, though I have seen similar variations elsewhere. Researching the origin of the name in England has been a fascinating study.

My immediate family did not come from nobility (though I love to fantasize they did). They were simple people - bricklayers, brick makers, and builders by trade. I've been very fortunate over the years to trace my roots back to 1792 researching information on the Internet. The majority of our family lived in Leyland/Salford/Manchester, UK. Through my search, I've discovered Holland relatives that are spread throughout the world from Australia, New Zealand, Spain, France, Canada, UK, and the US. We're everywhere, all from the line of three brothers: Henry, Thomas, and Robert, all of which had plenty of children (thanks to the absence of birth control), who now have children and grandchildren.

What names are in the Legacy series that belong to some of my relatives?
  1. Robert Holland was my grandfather's name, who named one of his sons, Robert Holland (my uncle). Robert Holland was my great uncle's name, who named one of his sons Robert Holland.
  2. Mary Holland (Robert's mother in the series) was my grandmother's name.
  3. Thomas Holland (a name you'll see in the second book) was my great grandfather's name.
  4. Nora Holland, my mother.
Because Holland is the main character in the Legacy series, my publishing company is also named Holland Legacy Publishing, in honor of my family and my cherished English ancestry.

So today, on my mother's birthday, I'd like to honor her and the legacy of the Holland name! My close Holland cousins got a real kick out of me using our grandfather's name and that of my uncle. I was pleased to do so. I loved them all and have always been fascinated with my heritage. It's who I am .

(Hopkins by the way, is my former married name. I have no "Hopkins" in my blood. Tkacz is my maiden name. My father's heritage is Ukraine, which at the time was part of the Austrian empire. I've often toyed with the idea of changing my name to Vicki Holland. There may still be time!)

Fact or Fiction in the Series - My Thoughts

As most of you know, some time ago I started a blog regarding the facts sprinkled throughout The Price of Innocence and also my other novel, The Phantom of Valletta. The blog originated on Tumblr, but when I started this site, I began to migrate the posts, which you can see above in the menu.
I did research for both books regarding setting and historical facts. There were aspects of life in 19th century France that I touched upon regarding marriage, morals, sexuality, laws regarding prostitution, burial practices, picture-window morgues, treatment of the homeless, the early charity efforts of St. Vincent de Paul, etc.

I confess that there are statements in the story that are not 100% true. Why? Because I took creative liberty in a few areas, which I'm doing as well with The Price of Deception. A review called out my error in mentioning King Edward VII having visited the brothel, the Chabanais, during the timeline of my story. He was actually the Prince of Wales at that time and visited the Chabanais between 1880-1890. (The mention of his name has since been removed from the text in later versions.)

My story was set in 1878, just after the brothel opened. So, yes, the timeline is off, but I used his reference as a means of emphasizing the importance of the clientele under Madame Laurent's roof (or the real Madame Kelly who founded the brothel). If I had kept it historically accurate, my readers would have never known that royalty actually came through its doors at one time. I thought that a worthy note to pass along.

You may be wondering too, why I don't use the full name (or "Le" in French) for the Chabanais. It's actually a registered US Trademark name, so I decided not to infringe upon its use (smart legal move on my part). The name is used in conjunction with a model, call-girl company based on the history of the brothel. It's a risqué site, but if you want to check it out it's at That is why I don't use the full name anywhere.

There are other call outs in a review regarding funeral parlors and charities. The Daughters of Charity were very much involved in the help of the homeless under the auspices of St. Vincent de Paul, which I reported in an earlier blog. There were no state institutions to help the poor; the church did all the work. They fed the poor and help the destitute on the streets of Paris, as much as they could. That reference is fact.

As far as funeral parlors in 19th century Paris, there was a rather large central funeral parlor (or parlour, if you prefer) at that time, by the name of Centquatre. It provided all Parisians the right to a funeral and was termed the "factory of mourning," that employed 1,400 people. They provided coffins, funeral carriages/hearses, and black horses. It was the place to leave on the way to the grave. It's been recently converted into an art center, of all things, a few years ago (link above). So, yes, there is a slight tweak in my book regarding the death of Suzette's father.
I do not really like to defend my choices, but when another points your errors out in an attempt to discredit your research, I cannot be silent. In conclusion, I would only say that just because an author uses creative liberty in her text, it doesn't necessarily mean she's ignorant of the facts. I painstakingly spent months researching the background, and unless my sources are wrong then most of what I've conveyed is fact. Nonetheless, I hope this post clarifies. I find the 19th century fascinating, and if you wish more information about facts versus fiction, visit my menu tab above for interesting articles. The life of an author . . .

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Blood, Sweat & Tears

82,323 words, 284 pages, 29 chapters. Can I sit down and have a good cry now? Finally, I've sent off copies to my volunteers of The Price of Deception to read and comment. I'm tired, spent, drained, and sick of reading what I wrote. Editing is a bitch (excuse my language) and it ain't over yet (now really excuse my language).

So where does the blood, sweat, and tears come in?

The Blood - I guess I equate the blood part to various aspects of being an author. It's the pain you go through being a writer from the voices in your head to the critical, and sometimes cruel voices in your reviews. When you pour your soul into any work, you bleed. A part of you becomes imprinted upon the page. Your thoughts, struggles, and life experiences are woven between the chapters and hidden in certain words. Usually, your readers are none the wiser they exist, but they do.

Once your DNA is in the work, then comes the blood from people who don't like your work. They take a piece of your flesh and write a snide review that's hurtful, rather than filled with constructive criticism. It's not only readers who review, but fellow peers in a spirit of competitiveness. Constructive criticism is welcome; but vindictiveness to destroy another person's work is not. Whether the work is great or stinks, authors are very attached to their work. Every book produces some drops of blood throughout the process, but that's it - it's the process. You need to be tough skinned so you don't bleed too much. There are no transfusions to replace what you've lost.

The Sweat - It's the hours writing. It's the voices in your head. It's the plotting. It's the point of view. It's the tense. It's the overused words. It's the dialogue. It's the punctuation. It's those grammar classes you never paid attention to in grade school coming back to bite you. Frankly, it's just plain work, and it makes you sweat.

After the work of writing, comes the release and getting the book ready to throw out into the world of readers. It's the formatting, the cover art, the copyright registration, the Library of Congress, the ISBN assignment, and on and on. When you are released through distribution channels, then comes the sweat of marketing. On top of it, you sweat worrying about what people will think about it and hope you don't have to bleed too much over your creation when the comments start rolling in. As an author, I can assure you, there is no antiperspirant available to prevent the sweat you produce when you write a book.

The Tears - The tears come become you're emotionally involved in your work, your characters, and your story. There are moments when you write fiction, the pain hits home. It reminds you of your own hurt inside, or you feel real empathy for the plight of person you're writing about! You cry over their pain and the outcome of their lives. Emotional involvement in your characters is an inevitable part of being an author. Frankly, I think without it, our characters are dry and lifeless.

Then there are tears of release when you hold the printed book in your hand and flip through the pages and you see all the words. It's emotional. You did it! Then, you ask yourself - "where did I come up with this stuff?" You cry, because you're doing what you're suppose to do in life. Then you cry, when people trash your work, and you cry and rejoice when people praise your work. Most authors have a bucket of tears in their closet. I often take solace in a scripture in Psalms that says God takes our tears, puts them in a bottle, and records them in His book. Perhaps none of my tears then have gone to waste.

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (Psalm 56:8) - New Living Translation

How do I deal with the tears? I keep tissues boxes strategically placed throughout my home and work place.

Is it worth it all? Yes.

I first knew I wanted to write in grade school. It's been engrained in my brain, imprinted on my soul, and a driving force behind my fingers. It's foolish for me to think that I'm terrific at my craft, because I'm not. I'm an average Jane out in the world of thousands of books released each year. I'm continually learning how to write better. I'm not traditionally published, nor do I want to be right now. It's not the route I've chosen for many reasons.

I don't make enough to quit my day job, but since I've released my first book in 2009, I've never had a month I didn't sell a book either. My sales are increasing, for which I'm very grateful, especially with The Price of Innocence.

To be very frank, stories fill my head constantly. I have them lined up like planes on a runway - believe me, there are plenty of them. There's no way I can leave them; they all demand liftoff and a place to soar. That's my hope, anyway, if God let's me live long enough to see them take flight. Each time I do, I'll be taking the same journey of blood, sweat, and tears with each one I write.

Here's hoping my beta readers like the story. Book Three, The Price of Love, is starting to ooze from my pores, so I need to get on with it. Thank you to all my faithful readers who support me and care about my work. It means the world to me. Because of you, I boot up my computer everyday and write.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Adjectives of Love

Tonight, I’m having quite a few thoughts after reading through and making edits my third time around. Editing and rewrites are undoubtedly the most tedious part of writing a book. By the time you’re done reading and rereading, you can almost recite it word for word.It's strange too how you can see things differently each time, especially when you review your choice of words to describe a person's anguish or heated desire.

As I've stated before, this book is emotional. I don't know how else to describe it, except that the pages are teeming with emotions that I have agonized over for hours and tried to express. My tagline of, "penning heartfelt emotional journeys" is really being put to the test this time around. Some of the questions I've had to think about through this process are:

• What do women feel inside when they are love?
• What do men feel inside when they are in love?
• Do men really love like women do, or are their emotions different?
• What effect does the loss of love have upon a man?
• What lengths will a man go to search for love?
• What lengths will a man go to fight for or keep someone they love?

I’ve thought about the answers to those questions and then tried to put them into the text. Yet, there are times I honestly feel that all of my words used to describe love, adoration, affection, longing, and a host of other endearing descriptions of agape just aren't enough.

I'm going to make a stark confession penning this post, that I do not know what it means to be truly loved by a man who felt desperation of soul. In fact, as a woman, historically I've struck out big time in the romance area. As a writer, who is supposed to write what they know, I can assure you I've never had a Robert Holland in my life (except my uncle and grandfather, and great uncle who bore that name)—they don’t count in the area of romance.

What I'm trying to say is that I've never had that type of a man that Robert Holland has become as a character—desperate for a woman he let go, desperate to win her back, and desperate to spend eternity at her side. I look at him and think, "Who are you?" Well, he's a figment of my imagination, frankly. He's the man in a romance novel created for my readers. Unfortunately, ladies, he's not real.

Romance books are, of course, the number one selling genre for women. Even women in relationships, dating or married, are prone to stuffing a good six-pack ab or bare thigh bulging-breast woman into their purse in paperback or Kindle form. It's the dream of what we'd like men to be like, not necessarily what they are like. We're in love with love, and in love with the men we create as characters.

Frankly, I've never met a man like Robert Holland begging to hear that I still love him, and I probably never will. Writing and reading in many ways is a therapeutic fantasy we retreat into so we can find solace for those areas in our life that are not quite the perfection we think they should be. It makes up for the losses of never having experienced a man's love.

In conclusion, I’m facing a huge challenge in this book. Namely, to find the right words that will make my readers feel desperation of soul and the myriad of other emotions flowing through the hearts of my characters. It's a tall challenge, and I just hope that I deliver.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Negative Habits & Personality Traits

It's amazing where your brain goes during morning coffee and a poppy seed bagel. I'm not much of a morning person, I can tell you that. Takes a while for the fog to lift and coherent thoughts to kick in. For some odd reason, the dope in the poppy seeds were reminding me of all my negative habits when I write a book. Of course, most of them spring from my own character traits.

What are they?

  • I repeat myself too much. I can't seem to get it out once and let it go, so I nag until I'm sure you got the point.
  • I forget to write down the name of non-essential characters, like the butler at the estate or the attorney that gave advice. When I need to mention them again, I'm frantically going back through text trying to find the name. Then, to my chagrin, I usually discover I have one too many in the story with the same first name! Same thing in life. I can never remember a name when first introduced to anyone.
  • Point of view switches. I really wish I was omnipresent, like God, and could write from inside everyone's head at once and make sense of it all. I can't, so I jump back and forth head to head and muck it up in scenes, because I have more than one head going on at the same time. Writers, will know what I mean. Can I accept the point of view of others? Usually, but I often don't understand another person's logic.
  • I tend to write down, rather than up. Most people think I'm a easy read. I hate being easy. Makes me feel cheap. I'll get a word that I like stuck in my head, and I'll beat it to death throughout the text. I guess it's back to point one again.
  • I hate confrontation in real life, but my books are filled with confrontation. I torture my characters and make them work for happiness and usually only give it to them so my readers don't shoot me. Nothing comes easy in life, at least for me. I've struggled, so I make them struggle. Write what you know, so they say. Let me clarify though that I've never been a prostitute. Definitely could use an hour or two on the counselor's couch.
  • I can't see my typos. I really can see. I have progressive lens glasses. My brain reads what is right, my eyes pass over it when it's wrong. I suppose it's because no one likes to have their errors in life pointed out to them. (Please forgive any typos here.)

Do any bad habits or traits translate into my characters? Of course they do.

  • Robert can't seem to deal with emotion without a drink in his hand. Thank goodness for crystal decanters of cognac and brandy or the guy wouldn't be able to handle life, so I have his booze strategically placed throughout his residences.
  • Suzette is chronic worry wart. You'd think she'd get over this homeless thing and move on, but apparently lack of security has the tendency to make her wring her hands or bounce her knees. (That reminds me, I have no knee bouncing scenes in book two). She cries way too much as well. It annoys me.
  • Philippe is a pompous control freak with an over-inflated sense of honor. When he thinks that he's losing control, all those suppressed negative traits become prominent through expressed anger.
  • Jacquelyn has a loose screw in her pretty blond head. Obsession has a way of making you pushy, cranky, and irrational in your behavior. Can't have what you want in life? Then you'll make everyone else as miserable as you are until you get it.

Well, bagel is done. Thoughts are jumbled above. It's morning.

I'm on Chapter 19 in my second read through. Beta readers are standing in the corner ready to pounce. Should have it out to them by next week.

Just remember as you take this journey, each book has a key word in it that drives the theme. P-R-I-C-E. It's what each will pay for innocence, deception, and love.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Draft The Price of Deception Completed

I'm happy to report that the first draft of The Price of Deception is completed. Right now I'm at 78,000 plus words and 29 chapters. That is subject to change, of course, as I put more meat on the bones of the story.

It always feels great to get to this point. Writing for me is easy, but now the real work starts in reviewing, checking for consistency, revising, and polishing the product before release. I do have a group of beta readers who are going to devour it in a test run after I'm through tweaking the first draft. Afterward, I'll take the constructive criticism, mull it over, make a few more changes, if necessary, and then will send it to an editor for proofing and grammar revisions. At this point, I'm targeting an October/November release.

What has been interesting about this journey, is that book three, The Price of Love, is flooding my brain with plots, scenes, and characters. Part of the reason, no doubt, is that I'm heavily immersed in the current book, so you cannot help but have some foresight for the future of your characters and their outcome mulling around in your head.

I am thankful the inspiration is coming, but it can get a bit annoying when you're trying to finish one book before starting another. I'm back to jotting down notes and writing scenes on the run, whenever the muse taps me on the shoulder. I just wish it wouldn't happen at work, in the shower, driving a car, or on the . . . well, you know.

Once you finish The Price of Deception, you'll have a very clear vision where book three will take the journey. Book two is set five years after the close of book one. Book three will pick up 12 years later.

When I first began book one as my debut novel, I really hadn't planned on this turning out to be a series, until I left the cliffhanger at the end and readers began threatening bodily harm. Right now, I'm very glad they did, because I'm excited to turn this story into a family saga. Now, if I could just get it sold as a series to BBC, I'd die a happy woman. Well, I can dream, can't I?

"Gentlemen, choose your weapon!"

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Discovering My Male Side

Today I sat down and wrote a chapter where Philippe and Robert pretty much have it out between one another. Writing the male psyche has been one trip for me in this book. Book two is pretty much Robert's story, with a lot of Philippe thrown in. They are, after all, rivals for the affection of Suzette. Writing about those emotions that drive a man to love a woman and the lengths one will go to win at the end, is really taking me down a path I've not quite walked so heavily before. (I have, of course, crawled into the mind of the Phantom of the Opera with my Phantom of Valletta release, but he was a bit different and not your normal male.)

It's easy as a woman to write from a woman's perspective. No-brainer. I know what drives me as a woman. Women need romance, security, love, affirmation, and the list goes on. What drives the male psyche? Hum, that's a question women have been asking since the dawn of time.

We pretty much can categorize the basics regarding men. There are four I can think of off the top of my head:

  • Men have egos that need to be stroked. They thrive on respect.
  • They are visual creatures. Give them a female body to die for, and they're goners. Do they really think of sex every 20 minutes? I don't know. Never been inside the brain of one to find out, but I think the younger male studs probably do.
  • They keep their feelings to themselves. Don't ask a male to tell you how he feels. It ain't gonna happen.
  • They are providers by nature, or at least the decent ones who aren't deadbeats.
In any event, I thought I knew pretty much how to write a man since I roleplay for fun about four different male personalities in my roleplay group. (Yes, I fantasize with a group of writers.) I thought doing so would keep me on my toes, but this book is really challenging me to the core.

I'm adding for the first time to a physical altercation between two men. How do guys fight in the 19th century? Well, a lot of them resorted to other means when it came to matters of honor. A good old fist fight wasn't enough. A drop of a glove at one's feet or a slap across the face with a leather glove challenged a male to a duel. That's been an interesting study, to say the least, and I was surprised to learn that in France during the 19th-century men still had duels, even though it was illegal to do so. Mostly, the courts and church just turned a blind eye to the practice, but it was all about protecting one's honor (definitely wrapped up with that ego stuff).

I'm hoping to truly tap into my male side, if I have one, and make this a decent believable read from inside the head of two dudes.

Off to write. At 61,000 plus words, 23 chapters, and heading down the home stretch. Oh, boy, things are getting heated.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Woman Scorned

As you know, Borders is going out of business. Of course, I've been buying books in the writing reference section. I came across a really great one entitled, "Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches - How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction" by Jessica Page Morrell. I must say, what a great find! To top it off, Jessica is apparently a Portland, Oregon local resident, who teaches writing in the Pacific Northwest. Here is a link to her website. CLICK HERE I'm really hoping to attend one of her workshops in the future.

When I started reading the book, one early statement struck home with me, because it resonated the way I view my characters and stories.
"We don't read fiction to follow the lives of perfect people who float through blissful days. Nor do we read fiction to follow people in the midst of goodness, luck, success, and joy. Instead we read to wallow in a character's misery and struggles, to plunge into his or her emotional depths, to experience the doubts, worries, and pains." Jessica Page Morrell

Even though The Price of Innocence was my debut novel, I think I did a fair job on character development my first time around. Coffee Time Romance review stated, "The characters and scenery are vivid in their descriptions and examples. Readers are shown numerous aspects of the plot line, giving the book a depth few first novels achieve. Characters, both good and bad, are reflections of the times and readers get to see the root causes of the characters’ behavior, preventing them from being caricatures." I am very grateful for that comment, but something inside of me tells me I can do better and delve deeper into the personalities and mindsets of those in my story.

As I write about Duchess Jacquelyn Holland, I am truly being challenged by the personality I have given her. The old saying by William Congreve, "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned," is a quick portrait of Robert's wife. Crawling into her mind and writing about her feelings, hurts, and longings has been a very interesting journey. I'm right now at a critical part in Chapter 21 where I've taken her to the brink of her ability to cope. Where that takes her after this chapter is probably going to shock my readers immensely.

Of course, the challenge to develop characters on a deeper level is also challenging me to rethink Robert, Suzette, and Philippe. I feel like I truly glided over many of them in the first volume, even though I received words of encouragement otherwise. I can only say that each character is standing by my keyboard during this volume, pushing me to do better. Their voices are calling me to engage my readers to, "wallow in a character's misery and struggles, to plunge into his or her emotional depths, to experience the doubts, worries, and pains." I truly appreciate Jessica Morrell's words, which have confirmed my own goals as a writer.

As I end this post, I am reminded that many of you wait for that happy ending that I so terribly robbed you of in the first release. I can promise you that happiness will triumph, but the road will be somewhat treacherous on the way. A few close writing friends of mine accuse me of torturing my characters to bring them to an end. Perhaps I do, but it brings me such satisfaction to do so. Perhaps there is some deep psychological reason behind it all, but that's just me because of my own struggles in life that have made me who I am today--an author with a lo0se screw.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Odd Research

Book two has taken me down a very odd path in the way of research thanks to Philippe's character. I'll give you a slight spoiler over where I've taken him on a short trip--Antigua in the British West Indies.

As usual, if you're going to write about a subject in historical fiction, you need to research the background to make it authentic. I hate making things up, so I dive into the Internet or purchase books, as I did for my first volume. When I was in grade school, I hated history. Now that I am a writer, I enjoy taking the deep dive into period times.

Why Antigua you ask? Well, the picture to the left is that of a sugar plantation in Antigua in the West Indies in 1823 by William Clark, which he made while a resident on the island. I will confess that I had to get Philippe out of the picture for a while to move the story in the direction of Robert and Suzette. Since Philippe was in the shipping business, I've played off the fact that due to a business deal, he needed to travel to the West Indies to procure an important account that would save his sinking company.

How he gets there and who sent him, I'll leave for you to read. However, I also tied into the story the sad fact that slave trading was a practice by the British in the 1700's. Great Britain abolished the slave trade in 1808, and all existing slaves were emancipated in 1834. Prior to that time, however, the treatment of slaves on sugar plantations was appalling to say the least. There is no romance in the ill treatment of humans by fellow beings.

Also, book two has really caused me to dig into the character of Philippe and flesh out who this man truly is. Though he married Suzette and unconditionally accepted Robert's son as his own, I'm finding that he's pretty much an empty shell in my mind. I've been diligently working on his character, as well as Jacquelyn, who is Robert's wife. How they move through book two in their relationships with Suzette and Robert will be a huge focus. Remember, I have marriages to split, conflict to create, hearts to break, and hearts to weave back together. I'm finding this book to be a huge challenge and not as easy as I first thought, but I am thoroughly enjoying the adventure of writing it.

So much for my odd research as I continue to write book two. I'm 60 percent toward my goal of 80,000 words, but I have a sneaking suspicion the book may go a bit longer. That's it for now! I am off to write Chapter 17.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Marriage, Morals & Divorce in 19th Century

I've been writing with feverish intent to bring Suzette and Robert back together in The Price of Deception. It took me two chapters to set up the reunion after five years of being apart. Frankly, I was surprised at how emotional I became writing the scenes, but found myself struggling how to undo the web of deception I've created in this story.After taking two lovers and marrying each to different spouses, I did not think much about my plan originally. However, since I've been a stickler on historical accuracy, I've been actively reading up on marriage and divorce and finding myself in a pickle. It's fascinating reading, of course, taking all that romance out of the equation once again so we can check back into reality. Let's just say, marriage and divorce was nothing like it is today.

Marriages in the Victorian era were described as being three kinds: those contracted for convenience, those produced by sympathy or love, and those entered into from duty. The aristocracy put great importance on the antiquity and nobility of the families they married, as well as marrying for money. Though love in marriage might be ideal, it was not a practical reality, and people were told not to expect too much from marriage. If you found an ounce of happiness in your union, be thankful.

What about unhappy marriages? Divorce was not easily obtained. Extramarital sexual relations were a normal feature of life. After marriage, adultery was almost inevitable. Adultery, believe it or not, was preferred to divorce, mainly because it was difficult and expensive to obtain. The fact of the matter was that most men had sex with their wives for children, and bedded their mistresses for love and pleasure. A wife had the duty to obey her husband and produce heirs, and in return for her obedience, the husband owed her protection and security.

Divorce in England and France evolved over the years, coupled with Catholic and Anglican restrictions. Since Suzette is a married French woman, her cause for divorce can only be if Philippe is an adulterer and is coupled with other unpleasant circumstances such as physical cruelty, etc. Adultery alone was not grounds for divorce for a woman. However, Philippe could divorce Suzette for adultery and no other cause. To file for divorce, a petition had to be brought before the president of the chambers, and there had to be two attempts before the court to reconcile the marriage. If the marriage failed to reconcile, then court proceedings would continue. Upon the divorce, the children would go to the custody of the husband in 1884, but by 1886 it was left at the discretion of the court. The wife had to take back her maiden name and was forbidden to keep her husband's name. The husband could remarry at once, but the wife had to wait 10 months after divorce before she was allowed to marry again.

As for Robert and marriages in Victorian England, the rules were similar. "The husband could obtain a divorce for adultery, the wife could obtain a divorce for adultery coupled with cruelty or desertion for two or more years, and also for incestuous or bigamous adultery, or rape, or unnatural offenses." (Encyclopedia Britannica) Divorce could be a lengthy and costly procedure that only the rich could usually afford.

So where does that leave my characters? With quite a few obstacles, frankly, that I need to ingeniously work around without killing anyone in the process by relying upon the "until death do us part" promises. If I was really brave, I could just take creative liberty with my story and do as I please; but where is the challenge in that?

Stay tuned as I unhook these four individuals from one another. It could get pretty nasty while I try, so be prepared for a lot of conflict in volume two.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Character Building for Book Two

Part of the fun of book two, The Price of Deception, is the opportunity to develop characters. As you know, Suzette was the main focus in book one, The Price of Innocence. The story focused on her struggle for survival. Book two, however, is going to be Robert's story and his search for truth and love. There will be further character development with his wife, Lady Jacquelyn Spencer, along with Philippe Moreau, Suzette's husband. I thought I'd give you a quick peek into each of their characters and my thoughts for where I will take their lives.
Robert, of course, is a man of remorse. He did at the bidding of Philippe's demands what was honorable. He gave up Suzette as his mistress, but realized upon her departure how much she meant to him. Once gone, he ached for the woman he loved, but found himself trapped in marriage.

His father has passed away, and the duties and responsibilities of Dukedom have passed onto his shoulders. The life of obligation he shunned earlier has now forced him to put away his roguish ways. In doing so, a part of him regrets having wasted his earlier years on frivolous pursuits, because he missed the opportunity to find a wife on his own terms. Instead, he accepted his parents' wishes to marry Lady Jacquelyn Spencer and is quite miserable in the match with a woman he finds cold in bed and overly emotional.

I'm looking forward to developing Robert further in book two. He will be the protagonist in the story, as I focus upon his life and the surprising outcome of his search for love and truth. Has he changed much as far as sharing the bed of prostitutes? Perhaps in London, but when he visits Paris, an old acquaintance will be the one to bring him comfort in times of need until a shocking discovery comes his way. He lives with the knowledge that he has lost everything, but when he finds out it's a web of deception that is keeping him from everything he wishes for in life, he goes through a drastic change.

Lady Jacquelyn Spencer was lightly touched upon in book one. However, her character in book two will be much more involved and a key element to moving the story ahead into the third book in the series.

Jacquelyn is a woman of deep despair. She has become a Duchess and wife to Robert, who she knows only married her for convenience. Like any woman, she hoped for love, but their personalities are far different and her moods are often unpredictable. She suffers from mental anguish over the fact that she is unloved and her womb has been barren for five years. Robert wishes for an heir, but she cannot become pregnant. She longs for a child herself and is obsessed with the desire to have children. However, each month her menses return, it drags her deeper into a pit of hopelessness.

As the story progresses, she'll play out a key role setting the stage for what is to transpire in the years ahead. The old adage, "there is no fury like a woman scorned" will take on life through Jacquelyn. It will be interesting to see how she touches readers as a character. Will she be pitied or despised? Every story needs conflict, and this woman is going to be the source of it. She is quite beautiful in appearance outwardly, but inwardly her pain has turned her into an undesirable woman in Robert's eyes.

Philippe Moreau, of course, is the man of honor who married Suzette. You'll learn more of Philippe and his five-year marriage with the woman who he believes he rescued from the hand of a despicable rouge.

Though he grants to Suzette unconditional love in spite of what occurred in the past and the child she bore Robert, Philippe nurses within him a hatred toward the Duke. He deems him his rival for her deep affections that linger. Even though Suzette never articulates them, it's obvious they are very much a part of her heart. How could they not be? The resemblance that five-year old little Robert carries of his real father is uncanny. Philippe has accepted the child as his own and is determined to keep him and Suzette hidden from Robert at all costs. He is a good father to the boy, and little Robert has bonded to Philippe as the only father he knows in life.

Unfortunately, life has a way of ruining our best intentions, and a chance meeting with his nemesis puts his plans to the test setting a course of change for all involved.

In addition to Philippe's struggles to keep his marriage together, he'll be faced with difficult problems in his shipping business. At the door of bankruptcy, he fears he will lose everything, and you'll watch him struggle to keep his livelihood afloat. He despairs as the threat of loss raises old fears within Suzette of homelessness once again.

What of little Robert? Well, certain personality quirks in his tiny life will be played upon that will carry the story into the future in book three. What's in store for book three? Sorry, my lips are sealed. The pictures on the cover are a clue, but at this point I can assure you until you read book two, you'll have no clue.

Other former characters will make cameo appearances once again too, such as Nadine and Madame Laurent. Also, Robert's Dowager mother will be in the picture a bit too, as well as his sister.

The story will be filled with deception on everyone's part, which will lead to a shocking conclusion rearranging lives in the mix. I hope you'll enjoy what's ahead! Of course, whether Robert and Suzette finally get together again in the end is up to my fingertips that choose the letters on my keyboard. You'll just have to wait to find out! I suppose, however, if I know what's best for me, I better work toward that end.



Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Legacy Series Begins

Writing The Price of Innocence has been a long journey. It was my debut fiction work, and 18 months after agonizing over its concept and writing the story, I released it to the world.

The story came slowly, and the end results upon the first release were questionable. Even with its inherent problems, it was rated by review sites as a "good read," which encouraged me the first time out in print. Since that time, it has been edited, revised, and updated to what I believe is more satisfying to my readers and to myself as its creator. As an independent author/publisher, that's one of the perks of being able to grow with your books, learn from your mistakes, and re-release a better product for future audiences.

I thoroughly enjoyed researching the setting. It took many months of digging through books, articles, and texts to come up with reality woven into fiction. My goal was to make it historically accurate in setting, customs, and manners, and hopefully, that was evident in its content. I've had questions regarding whether some of the aspects of location and practices were true, and as a result, I started a blog to write about my research. I've transferred those posts to this blog and will continue to add to them for your information.

The book is not a typical romance. It breaks the rules of early meetings and happy endings. It's more of historical fiction, with romantic elements. It also introduces a third party into the mix to bugger the entire story up toward the end, but there was a reason behind my insanity. The third character is hinted at throughout the text by the mention of a letter that Suzette carries with her until her dreams die; she destroys it by fire. His reappearance was inevitable because Robert's life was destined to be one of duty to set the stage for what comes next. Why? Because frankly, it was a way of life during the 19th century. Men of his standing and title married for reasons of convenience and property; mistresses were kept for pleasures and love. It would have been difficult, scandalous, and unheard of for Robert to take Suzette as his wife at this time in the storyline. Though some disagree with my assumption, I felt it necessary to keep to the norms of society rules in order to continue the tale.

My plan for the entire series was born from the ending of my book which elicited bemoans and comments. One reader indicated they wished to throw the book across the room after reading the last page. The latest reviewer threatened to show up at my doorstep with a mob and torches to make sure I wrote a sequel. Point taken! I knew the ending was too stark, and frankly, I had much more buried in my soul for Robert and Suzette that was yet unfulfilled. I did attempt to soften the outcome of the last two chapters in the revised version released in the Spring of 2011 under my new imprint of Holland Legacy Publishing.

I'm happy to report that the story will continue five years later in book two, entitled The Price of Deception. This volume will be written from Robert's viewpoint and the current lives of Jacquelyn, his wife, along with Philippe, Suzette, and little Robert, all cloaked in a myriad of deception. Robert will search for truth and love, and his search will bring surprising results. Read the pages above for more tidbits on what is to come in The Price of Deception and The Price of Love.

If you wish to walk the journey of books two and three with me, I encourage you to sign up for an email subscription to this new blog. I'll drag you along between the pages and give you tidbits here and there. Hopefully, it will entice you to take the journey all the way through the end of book three where I promise to leave all satisfied after I torture my characters just a tad.

My plan is to release The Price of Deception by the end of 2011, and The Price of Love by the end of 2012 in eBook and print. Hopefully, you'll enjoy each!

Fondest regards,

Vicki Hopkins