Jennifer's Journal


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

November - December

Greetings to all:


Big changes have been in the wind here in these last weeks of the year.  This newsletter covers a two month period due to the delay while I awaited results.  You may remember from the October newsletter that my editor had accepted my proposal for a Three Graces trilogy set in late 1840s New Orleans.  Shortly after that, the publishing house held its quarterly sales meeting.  A presentation at this meeting revealed that books set in Europe sell better than those which take place in the States.  The upshot was a call from my agent.  My editor wanted to know if I could possibly transfer my trilogy across the pond to England.


Now flash back to April of this past year.  At the Romantic Times conference in Pittsburgh that month I, along with author-friends Bertrice Small and Roberta Gellis, conducted a workshop on using historical research.  To illustrate how to include facts without plagiarizing the source material, we each took a paragraph about the pele towers of Tudor England and wrote a few pages of a story around one.  When I read the pages I had created, everyone shouted out for the rest of the book.  Bertrice and Roberta then hounded me for the remaining days of conference, urging that I write this tale.  I was intrigued and excited by the response, but had a deadline looming.  Besides, I had long been typecast as a Louisiana author.  Now here, when least expected, was an opportunity to do that Tudor story.  It seemed meant to be.  The answer, then, was yes, I was interested in doing books that take place in historical England.


But changing my Three Graces plots to a different setting was another matter.  They simply could not be made to fit into the court of the first Tudor king, Henry VII.  I needed a crash course in early Tudor mores, manners and daily life to grasp the times well enough to concoct stories.  Over the past month and half, then, I've read more than two dozen historical tomes, constructed a huge research file and Tudor timeline, and scoured the internet for facts, biographies of important figures and more books to read.  As I worked, a new trilogy slowly took shape in my mind.  The proposal for this set of stories, taking place in 1486 England and using sisters known as the "accursed Three Graces of Graydon", was written and submitted.  That proposal has now been accepted, and I'm writing Chapter 2 of "By His Majesty's Grace", the working title of the first of the three stories.  Regardless, it will be 2011 before this new trilogy appears on the shelves.  My Masters at Arms series will continue through 2010.  Then the plan is to "warehouse" the Tudor manuscripts, holding them at the publishing house until the last one is completed.  At that time, they will be brought out in fast sequence, one per month for three months in a row.


Though working in this new time period is not as easy as writing about antebellum New Orleans, where I have countless details on tap in memory, it's certainly energizing.  I'm fascinated by all the bits and pieces I've discovered, and can't wait to put them on paper with the exciting tale that's unfolding.  Part of having a long career as a writer—particularly through trying economic times—is being willing to change with the needs of the market, to cooperate with agents and editors, and to find the wellspring of joy in creating stories no matter where they take place.  I hope all of you will bear with me through this transition.


But what about the original New Orleans Graces, you might ask?  I haven't abandoned them; I actually have seven chapters written on the first book.  Stories haunt me until they are put on paper, and so the first book, at least, will be finished one day.  I just don't know when as I'll be completing a book every nine months over the next couple of years!


Meanwhile, please accept my warmest wishes for all that's lovely and bright in the holiday season that's upon us.  I have a small surprise planned for you later in the month, so I'll talk with you again before long.




October Newsletter



 The Louisiana Book Festival is upon us.  With the damage done to Baton Rouge by Hurricane Gustav, there was concern this celebration of books might not take place.  Things have changed a bit, but the show will definitely go on.  I'll be moderating a book panel discussion this Saturday, then, October 4, 10 – 11 AM, Louisiana State Museum, 3rd Floor Gallery, Baton Rouge, LA.  The title for the panel is "Romancing the State", and the other authors participating are Connie Cox and Robin Wells.  Afterward, we will all be signing books at the area set up for autographing.  Admission and parking for the festival are free.  Do plan to drop by if you're in the area.

I flew to Colorado for almost a week in September, a special trip with my older daughter to see the aspens as they turn yellow and gold with touches of orange.  We hit them just right in the higher elevations; they were truly gorgeous, great cascades of gold lace among the dark conifers on the mountain sides, with their leaves trembling in the wind.  At the old ghost town of St. Elmo, above 9,000 feet, we ran into a rain shower that turned to sleet.  Sleet in September!  That was a fun experience for this flat-land, subtropical Louisiana gal.

My publisher has made an offer for my new Three Graces series, this being a 3-book series which will feature American ladies involved with dashing French Creole gentlemen in New Orleans, circa 1848 – 1850.  I haven't signed the contract yet, as terms are still being hammered out.  You can see, now, how long these things take in the writing business; it's been over two months since I reported here that I had sent in this book proposal.  And it will be some time before these books reach bookseller shelves, too.  The last two manuscripts for my 6-book Masters at Arms series are waiting on my editor's desk.  They are GALLANT MATCH, due out in February, 2009, and TRIUMPH IN ARMS, with a proposed publication date of February, 2010.  The Three Graces stories will follow behind these titles.  Meanwhile, I'm at work on book 1 of the new series, and have reached Chapter 7.

What else has been happening?  GUARDED HEART, my February, 2008 title, has been issued in a large print library edition.  Another of my books has been published in Russia—I'd tell you the title, but can't translate it, and it doesn't seem to be in English anywhere in the frontpiece information.

In the grocery store this morning, they had a display of holiday baking needs: the nuts and syrups, pie fillings and candied fruits we all associate with the season.  I'm not ready for this!  It was only a few days ago, so it seems, that the year was fresh and new.  But autumn is here, and winter on its way, whether we like it or not.  I hope this grand October is filled with lovely fall color and pumpkin magic for you, and all the pleasures of the ghoulish season.

Warmest wishes,



September Newsletter

Hello all:

Here we are, with Hurricane Gustav swirling in on the coast below us as I write on this Labor Day morning.  Our place in northern Louisiana is some 275 highway miles from New Orleans, maybe 200 as the crow flies.  With this distance, we feel little effect as yet.  Wind is whispering through the trees, and we've had a small shower or two; the light looks strange--greenish, oddly refractive with the extra humidity.  Earlier this morning, there were bands of clouds to the south, but they have dissipated for now.  We don't really expect hurricane winds this far away from the eye wall.  What we are looking for is the heavy rain that's been predicted, also the chance of tornadoes spawned by the storm.  Instead of firing up my grill to cook out for the holiday, I'm covering it and pushing it into shelter.

            Living on a lake, you might think we would worry about flooding.  There are floodgates at the lake's dam, however, and opening these controls the water level, allowing any excess to flow into local creeks and rivers.  We've never had a problem, don't expect one since our house sits on a nice rise above the water.  Barring tornado damage and a power outage caused by fallen trees, we should be okay.  Regardless, our parish (county) has declared a state of emergency—since other people may not be so lucky.  There are flood-prone areas in the nearest towns.

            Not far from where we live is U.S. Hwy 167, one of three major north-south arteries that run through the state.  Yesterday it was bumper to bumper with people leaving New Orleans and the coastline.  A lot of the traffic was RVs of one kind or another—one guy was pulling his FEMA trailer.  The local state park is full, as are nearby RV parks and campgrounds.  You have to wonder how many of these people are coming to our backwater because they discovered it three years ago, during Katrina.

            Meanwhile, writer friends and acquaintances from New Orleans have scattered in every direction.  They keep up with each other through the email loops and by way of members who are in other parts of the country.  It's a grand thing, the community writers make with each other, with their concern reaching far past the creative endeavor they have in common.  Heather Graham's conference was supposed to be this weekend in New Orleans.  She carried gamely on with it as planned, in spite of the looming hurricane.  That was until Saturday morning.  At that time, mandatory evacuations began, and the Hotel Monteleone told attendees that they would have to leave.  I wonder about those who flew in, if they were able to change their flights and get out, get home.  I suppose they must have since the last flight left New Orleans yesterday afternoon.

            So now we wait.  As the outer bands of storms reach us, I'll be shutting down my computer and unplugging it for fear of lightning strikes.  Oh, yes, I have an APS to guard against that, but I don't trust it.  Must preserve my "baby", the new book—it being a fair amount of trouble to retrieve it from backup.  And yes, I've been at work on it at a slow and steady pace to this point, layering in color and emotion along with the story setup in Chapter 1.  The working title is TASTE THE JOY, but who knows what it will be when I'm done.

            That's it from here then, on this Labor Day, the first day of September, 2008.  I think it will be one we'll remember.  I hope yours is memorable, too – though not for the same reason!  Have a good one.


Warmest wishes,