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.