Etiquette for Victorian Ladies. Wait, what? Oh, heck no.

My head is spinning. I have been doing extensive research for my new series of Victorian novellas focusing on a trio of extremely independent women in the late 19th century.

I believe that research in historical romance should be treated like a seasoning. Generous enough to enhance the flavor, but too much will distract from the delicious meat of the story. That being said, most women in history were expected to follow a strict set of societal guidelines and etiquette. We often find that heroines in historical romance novels often defy these expectations.

What is a writer to do?

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In order for my heroines to break the rules, I need to know exactly what they were required to know. Only then can I defy convention. Who doesn’t love a little bit of rule-breaking?

I went out and found as many sites and books I could find that discussed proper etiquette for ladies and gentlemen of the era. Some of these manuals were written during the era, not by historians. I know I’m getting accurate information.

Research can be overwhelming, so I take it in small doses. This post isn’t about my research or even how to research. No…this post is for me to vent about the INSANE amount of etiquette and social propriety that was expected of both ladies and gentlemen of the Victorian era. Oh good gravy, I would have died.

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If I had a time machine and travelled back to the 1890s, I would have been outed for a fraud within moments. Even though I know these rules from researching them, my brain isn’t wired to follow them. I’d have been ostracized within an hour.

There are a few rules I personally found so contradictory to my personality that I would never survive the Victorian era. They also give me a HUGE respect for the freedoms that I have now.

Ready, here’s my list:

~ “An unmarried young woman, up to the age of thirty, must always be accompanied by a chaperone when she goes out.”

Yup, that’s not going to happen. Sorry. It’s bad enough that my kids follow me everywhere I go.

 ~ “A lady avoids all exhibitions of temper before others.  Whether grief or joy, emotions should be subdued in public and only allowed full play in private apartments.”

Oh crap. I wear my emotions on my sleeve. This would be darn near impossible for me. I’m a passionate, expressive person by nature.

~ “A lady never looks back after anyone in the street, or turns to stare in a public place.  She should never walk alone in the street after dark.”

Sorry, no double take when that handsome gentleman passes by on the street. No staring at someone while you’re trying to figure out where you saw them before or if you met them at your cousin’s birthday party two years ago. And heaven forbid I want to go out alone after dark.

~ “For riding, stallions were too frisky for ladies.  Mares and geldings may be used, but women and children favored ponies.  They were smaller than horses and easier to handle.  In rare instances where women drove horses, they usually drove a one-horse carriage.  “Four-in-hands” were too much for a woman to handle.”

As a horsewoman myself, I find this to be frustrating. I’ve both learned to ride and drive. While stallions and four-in-hands can prove challenging, I enjoy a good challenge once in a while. Also, have you met any ponies, they can be nasty creatures. I’ve noticed in my experience the smaller horses were much more temperamental than larger breeds. And don’t even get me started on side-saddle. I’d rather be risque, to be honest.

My personal favorite:

~ “Double entendre is detestable in a woman, especially when perpetrated in the presence of men; no man of taste can respect a woman who is guilty of it: though it may create a laugh, it will inevitably excite also disgust in the minds of all whose good opinions are worth acquiring. Therefore not only avoid all indelicate expressions, but appear not to understand any that may be uttered in your presence.”

Oh man. I can’t. I’ve always been aware of my company when conversing. Sometimes it such speech is not appropriate for the company. That I understand. But to avoid it completely and pretend I don’t understand it. I. Can’t. Do. It.

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If these have captured your interest, let me give you a few of my resources so you can see how insane etiquette actually was for the time period. Of course, the social classes would be different when it came to expectation and adherence to societal rules. But for the most part, I focus on the servants and the nobility/upper class.

This website is a good one to easily see the different functions and expectations. I took some of my examples directly from this site:

http://www.literary-liaisons.com/article031.html 

I have these books that were written during the era. Some of them are free on Amazon. Dig around, most of them you can find for free since they’re in the public domain now.

A Hand-book of Etiquette for Ladies by Anonymous

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette, and Manual of Politeness: A Complete Hand Book by Florence Hartley

The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Isabella Mary Beeton

A Word to Women by Mrs. Humphry

Manners for Women by Mrs. Humphry

Manners for Men by Mrs. Humphry

And if you want a resource dedicated to smoking etiquette of the era, I found this awesome article: http://etiquipedia.blogspot.com/2014/05/victorian-to-early-20th-century-smoking.html

As you can see, research can be daunting, but when you find solid reliable sources, it can really help put you in the correct mindset for the era. I still find it difficult to keep my “head in the era” while I’m writing. But hey, that’s what the editing phase is for, right? It’s extremely difficult to keep modern ideals and sentiments from bleeding into a historical story.

Fortunately, there were always rule breakers no matter the era. These pioneers are a huge help for authors when it comes to creating conflict and tense situations to foster the plot of our stories. Scandal is a main force in most romance novels. *wink*

Do you have any resources or research you’d like to share on the topic? Feel free to comment.

Are there any rules of etiquette from the era that you know would be extremely difficult for you to follow? I’d love to hear your responses.

Thanks for the visit. I hope my little tirade was amusing and educational. I know it makes me a little more appreciative of the freedoms I have as a woman in the modern era. ❤

Remember, don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out alive. 😉

Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

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Romance Survival 101: Ignoring the Hate When You’re All About the Love

Being a lover of the romance genre doesn’t come without it’s pitfalls. Unfortunately, I happen to be an author and a reader of romance, so I end up getting whammied from both sides.

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I can’t speak for everyone, in fact, I can truly only speak for myself. But I am tired of the romance genre getting such a bad misrepresentation.

As an author, I’m really tired of hearing these things:

“You’re so talented. Why don’t you write a real book?”

“Oh, so you write mommy porn?”

“Romance novels are trashy and unrealistic.”

“Those covers are so tacky.”

“Do you really have to put sex in your books? Sex isn’t a spectator sport.”

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Oh, my darlings, the list goes on and on and on. And frankly, I’m exhausted trying to defend my genre. I should not have to defend my passion for writing or enjoying a good, strong love story.

As readers, neither should you. It’s time we take our genre back.

The genre of romance is defined by only two criteria. (This information is taken directly from the Romance Writer’s of America’s website.)

  1. The story MUST focus on the relationship.
  2. The story MUST have a Happily Ever After (HEA) or a Happily For Now (HFN) ending.

That’s it. It can have whatever other elements the author chooses as long as it doesn’t break these two commandments.

So why has reading romance become a “guilty pleasure”? There’s not a damn thing to feel guilty about when you’re reading a romance. NOT. ONE. DAMN. THING.

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We’re human. We crave relationships with other people. We desire intimacy and connection. We LOVE to be LOVED. So why should we feel guilty about following a couple on their romantic journey to happiness?

I don’t. And neither should you.

We’ve all heard the hater’s commentary:

  1. Romance novels will give you unrealistic expectations for relationships.
  2. They’re basically porn for women.
  3. My Grandma/Mom reads those kinds of books.
  4. Is there even a plot?
  5. Don’t you want to read a real book?
  6. Romance novels are all the same.

The list could continue for days if I asked you all to contribute a piece of what you’ve heard from the naysayers and romance-haters.

Look, I get it. Romance novels aren’t for everyone. Just like I don’t enjoy reading high-fantasy or horror. And not every romance novel is suited for every palate within the genre, for example, the preference between steamy and sweet romance.

But our differences in taste are what make us who we are. If everyone liked the same thing, life would be boring and bland.

We need to stop feeling like we have to defend our love of romance. Authors and readers alike. There is nothing to defend. Instead, maybe we should share the love.

The next time someone decides to throw one of those tired cliched questions at us, our response should be simple and direct:

“Have you read one before?”

If they answer no, then offer them a taste. Give them a recommendation. Let them discover the wonderful world of romance for themselves.

They may not like it. And that’s fine. But just like I tell my kids, you can’t say you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it. So, take a few bites.

Sometimes one taste can change someone’s mind.

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So carry that paperback with pride. We are the genre of love.

LOVE makes the world a better place. ❤ So let’s sprinkle that glorious stuff everywhere!

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Until we meet again, may your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

 

How to Write a Helpful Review

Before I began writing on a daily basis, I read. I mean I devoured romance novels like I needed them for my very survival. When my kids were small, I frequented the library. I read exclusively romance, but the sub-genres varied from contemporary to suspense to historical. Honestly, it depended on what covers caught my eye and what I was in the mood for that day. I would leave with six or seven books and return less than a week later to get new books. I was a voracious reader.

I still am, although I haven’t been reading nearly as much as I should. Believe me, if I could read all day, I would. Unfortunately, my kids are older and much more active and my husband actually wants to spend time with me. Fancy that. *laughs*

There is one thing I never quite understood the importance of as a reader that now makes perfect sense as an author.

REVIEWS.

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Now that eBooks have taken off, reviews are much easier to access. I admit, I read them when I’m considering whether to purchase a book by a new-to-me author. I read the five stars, the one stars, and a few in-between. Honestly, I rarely find reviews to be helpful. Most of the time I end up downloading the free sample of the story to see if it hooks me. That normally provides me with enough insight into the quality of the story to make the decision whether or not to purchase the book.

As an author, reviews can be crucial to the success of a book. Amazon won’t even market my books until they have a certain number of reviews. Obviously people rely on them heavily to decide whether or not to buy my book. Reviews are important to authors and readers alike.

Now to the heart of it all, what makes for a HELPFUL review?

One and two star reviews, are they really helpful? I get it, you pick up a book that looks promising. You dive in with gusto, only to be disappointed. The characters are unlikable, unrelatable. The plot is predictable. There are elements you absolutely hated. It’s cliche. There’s too much sex. There’s not enough sex. The author obviously skipped the crucial step of editing or hiring a professional editor. The list of possibilities is endless.

But, does that deserve a one star review? Perhaps.

I get it. You’re pissed that the story fell short of your expectations. You wasted your time and your money. I can relate completely. But remember, be kind. Don’t say anything in your review that you wouldn’t say in person to the author’s face. What comes into play here is tact and constructive criticism. Offer valid points on what you liked and didn’t like about the story, or why you couldn’t finish the book. But for every criticism you have, you should balance it with something you liked.

A good author will appreciate your review if you provide both the good and the bad for consideration. If the book wasn’t to your personal tastes, please make that clear in the review. Some people like steamy romance. Some people don’t. I get it. But be kind with your words. Remember, if you wouldn’t say it to their face, you shouldn’t write it.

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I found this helpful chart from www.jpmfilmsworldwide.com that can help distinguish constructive criticism from destructive criticism. I’ve linked the photo to his blog post on this topic in order to give credit to the author and provide some helpful reading material for everyone. Because honestly, we all need a bit of help learning to give constructive criticism. But this adequately describes what we so desperately lack in reviews. JPM Films Worldwide Constructive Crit

I’m sure you’re wondering, “Well, what about good reviews? What if I want to give a three, four, or five star review?”

Let’s be honest with each other. There are always parts of even the best book that we find ourselves dissatisfied with. Most of these are personal preferences, I get that. But it’s still important that we provide constructive criticism in a positive review as well.

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The truth is authors are always growing and improving their craft. Constructive criticism is what helps us grow and learn. It teaches us humility and aids us in polishing our craft.

I once took a piece of my work to a writer’s group. Everyone praised it. Oh how wonderful it was, how descriptive…blah, blah, blah. One gentleman in the group gave me a sigh when it was his turn for feedback. He said, “Kirsten, your powers of description are amazing. I can almost visualize every detail. But honestly, the story has no conflict, your characters are two-dimensional, and it’s boring and predictable.”

OUCH! I won’t lie. That assessment hit me HARD. But it was that feedback that challenged me to grow as an author. I didn’t need placated or a “good job” pat on the back. I wanted honest, constructive criticism. It helped me get to where I am now. And I will always be thankful for those who challenge me to improve and hone my craft.

Whether the book was good or bad, the author deserves a review. Be honest, be kind, and balance the positives with the negatives. Writing a review shouldn’t be intimidating. It’s not rocket science.

A review is your way of telling the author how much you appreciate them and providing them with the tools they need to grow. So, go out and share the love.

Always remember:

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Your recommendation is the most sincere form of flattery.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions. As always, be kind.

May your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

 

 

Every Author Needs a Reader

The first week of January. It seems like the BEST time to renovate. Right? New year means new me. I hope I’m not digging my own grave here by posting my intentions for the year. You’ll hold me to it, right? Not exactly new year’s resolution material, but I’m definitely gearing up for a new direction. So…my game plan this year:

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But wait, don’t you already market, Kirsten? I tried, and I failed. Let me be honest with you. I suck at marketing. I’m horrible at it. I absolutely hate trying to sell myself as an author. Feels like I’m tooting my own horn a little too loud. The worst part is, I have to toot my own horn louder than everyone else who’s blowing theirs. So, it’s just a gigantic cacophony of authors making noise. And honestly, it’s exhausting.

I need something new, something fresh, which also brings me to my brand. I know who I am. I know what I like to read. I certainly know what I like to write. And I will be perfectly frank, I write what I would want to read. Sounds simple right? Wrong. Once again, I need to build my relationship with readers. Which is why I’m firing up the old blog again.

Facebook has done a bang-up job of hiding posts from my followers and potential followers. They want me to pay for every post to be seen. Well, I’m sorry, I don’t have that kind of money laying around. I have to be wise when I invest my money and my time as an author. Just like you do when you’re thinking of trying a new-to-me author with a shiny book cover and a promising blurb. I’m a reader too, I know. *wink*

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I picked up two part-time jobs to pay for my self-publishing. The problem was, it stole all my time from writing and marketing. My writing fizzled out. I had no direction. So, I made the decision to leave those jobs behind and focus on my writing again.

YOU are going to be the biggest help in having me succeed in my goal this year. When I say Focus on the Relationship, I mean the relationship with you as a reader. ❤

Readers are KEY. Why am I spending the money and the time writing and editing a book if no one will read it? I will gladly write it for me. But I want to see the joy and delight when someone dives into one of my stories and loses themselves if only for a short period of time.

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I love creating worlds and characters and romance. I truly believe it’s my calling in life. But I can’t write if I don’t have readers.

I promise to do my part. I have a list of stories that long to be shared with the world. Your love, encouragement, and support are more important than you know.

If you love an author’s work, let them know.  It could be the encouragement they need on a day when they just want to give up writing altogether.

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Here’s to a new year. I hope you will join me on my journey of writing self-discovery. I have faith it will be a productive adventure for both of us. Be sure to follow for updates. There are some fun blog posts planned for this year.

May your bookshelves be full and your hearts even more so.

All my love,

Kirsten

Authors After Dark 2015

I will be attending Authors After Dark 2015 in Hotlanta!

And best part is that I will be part of the multi-author book signing on August 15th. YAY!

If you’re going to be in the area, please come and join the fun.

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Back ONLINE!

We’re back in business.

Both of my Shadow Guardian books, Jewel of Winter, and A Cowboy Sunrise are available for purchase on Smashwords and Amazon.

A Shadow’s Kiss, An Irresistible Shadow, and Jewel of Winter are available in PRINT as well as ebook!

Here are the photolinks for the PRINT versions.

Ebook versions are linked on the left hand side of the page, just click on the pictures.

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(Link for Jewel of Winter Coming Soon.)

How exciting. 🙂

I’m going to work on setting up a buy page here on this page for signed copies of all my print books. And there will be MORE books coming soon. I promise. ❤

Thank you all for the support and I look forward to sharing more stories with you all in the coming year.

❤ Kirsten

Announcement!

I’m sad to say my publisher will be closing their doors on May 1st of this year. The last year and a half have been an amazing experience. I’ve learned so much as an author and have grown much more confident in my writing while working with the wonderful staff at Breathless Press. Alas, all good things must come to an end, and I must move forward with my journey.

What does this mean for me and my books?

Well, I have gained the rights to all of my work. So over the next few months, I will be tweaking and polishing the manuscripts while working to create new cover art. Then I will be re-releasing my titles as a self publishing author.

As of May 1st, my titles, An Irresistible Shadow, A Shadow’s Kiss, and A Cowboy Sunrise, will not be available for purchase in any format. My goal is to have them back in production by the fall. I’m hoping to take this opportunity to flesh out the stories a bit more and add some word count. These characters and their stories are important to me, and I want my readers to get the full experience.

In this moment of grief, there shall be a rebirth. I fully intend to restore my Shadow Guardians to you, my dear readers. And if all goes well, I shall add to their adventures in the future. Poor Angus. *wink*

Thank you for your support and encouragement. I shall post any updates concerning my books on this site. I look forward to the next step in my adventure. *cheers*

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When struck down, one must find the courage to rise again. What does not kill us, only makes us stronger.