Research with Red at the Concord Museum

I am thrilled to announce that I will join RedHeaded Girl of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books at the 2018 New England Chapter of RWA® Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference to present our workshop: Breeches, Banquets, and Balls: Living Your Heroines’ History.

Don’t just research history—live the life of your characters! See how cooking their feasts, wearing their clothes, and recreating their dances or battles will make your writing better. Join practical historian and blogger RedHeaded Girl of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, and Jennifer Hallock, history teacher and author of the Sugar Sun series, for the latest online and offline trends.

Red is an experienced practical historian and officer in the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group of over 30,000 members worldwide who are “dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe.” Dressed in clothing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance that she makes herself, Red attends “tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.” Oh, and she cooks and bakes for those feasts. Our workshop will tell you all about her adventures and how it gives her insight on daily life in historical times.

I have a lot to learn about making clothes (or food) from history, so Red gave me a primer at a new exhibit at the Concord Museum, “Fresh Goods: Shopping for Clothing in a New England Town, 1750- 1900.”

Fresh Goods Concord Museum history fashion Regency Victorian Georgian American history
Red “shopping” for shoes at the Concord Museum.

Do you see those shoes? People had small feet. I learned that. Also, as Red pointed out, shoes were made from the same fabric as dresses, which is why they had so little durability. If you have read that a character danced right out of their shoes, that description may be literal. It was possible to wear through the soft soles in a single ball, especially in flats. Heels helped.

Fresh Goods Concord Museum history fashion Regency Victorian Georgian American history

I loved the colorful clothes at the Concord Museum. These dyes must have been quite expensive, which may be why they were so treasured and therefore survived—more on that below. We saw dresses for every stage of a woman’s life, too. Below (going backward, from right to left) you can see the dress of a young girl, who then grew to be a young woman and required a formal gown to attract a husband, and then with that husband needed a maternity dress. If your family was frugal—and they probably were—they saved your baby dresses for your babies, and so the cycle went.

Fresh Goods Concord Museum history fashion Regency Victorian Georgian American history

As Red showed me, the fabric of these dresses often predated the styles they were recrafted into. It was not uncommon to see an 1860 dress made out of an 1820 dress, which may have been sold first in 1790 in a slightly different pattern. In fact, clothes were so often repurposed that it is hard to find surviving pieces of a working-class person’s wardrobe because they were worn to the bone. What is left to us is often clothes in odd sizes—especially small pieces, Red tells me—or the clothes of the elite, who bought new duds every time fashion changed. And fashion changed a lot. Do you see the photo above, with the blue dress? Look at the dress on the far left with the big sleeves—you see the one? Yes, the 1830s were a rough time. Sort of like the 1980s.

Concord Museum history bedroom Regency Victorian Georgian American history

And going to a museum with Red makes you look at things differently. For example, at the display above of life for a woman lying-in after the birth of her child, my first thought was: “Are those tea cookies real? Because I’m hungry.” My second thought was, “Look how pretty this room is!” (And our friend Namrata Patel—also a presenter at NECRWA, giving a must-see workshop on search engine optimization—said: “Where can I get this wallpaper?”) But Red’s question was, “Where is the chamber pot?” because she has lived this period (or, rather, earlier) and knows what is truly important. She also admired the washstand in the corner and wished she had one of those for her SCA “camping” retreats.

This trip was just the beginning of my education—and yours. I hope you can join us in Burlington in April! You can see all the great workshops and speakers, as well as register, at the NECRWA conference home page.

Save the Date: New England Chapter RWA Conference April 7-8, 2017

I’m a planner of novels but not an event planner. The whole idea frightens me, in a flying-through-a-narrow-trench-on-the-Death-Star-to-find-its-only-vulnerable-point-while-there-are-TIE-fighters-everywhere kind of way.

But when friends in NECRWA, the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America, came forward with great ideas for next year’s Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference, I wanted to be a part of their success. With a group like this, how can you go wrong?

An Inside Look at the Committee

These are only a few of the full-length novels produced by this talented group. Follow author links below to buy books. I recommend them all!

The real leader of our charge is Kristen Strassel, one of the most innovative and prolific independent authors I know. We joined NECRWA the exact same month: January 2013. Since this time, she’s published at least 26 books by my last count, in both the paranormal and contemporary subgenres. (In contrast, I’ve published two books in one subgenre.) The woman gets shit done, so it is not surprise we asked her to take the reins. She’s also a talented makeup artist by day (and sometimes by night, too).

I’m the vice chair, which means I give encouragement on vice to the chair. Okay, I can do that.

Jen Doyle is the registration chair. Before you say, “I’ve read Calling It, and this is one funny woman. Why did you give her such a boring job?” please do know that she wanted it. She’s got day job skills, you see. And she’s organized. I mean, have you seen her Facebook parties? If not, join her and two other great authors this Monday, August 29th, here, for the release of her second novel by Carina Press. Jen writes sexy and clever sports romance with small-town feels.

Our workshop chair is Stephanie Kay, who just released her debut novel, Unmatched, to great acclaim: 4.9 out of 5.0 stars on Amazon! Holy reviews, Batman! Steph’s biting sense of humor comes through in her writing, but it also makes her a lot of fun to work with. She’s passionate about bringing together the most innovative and helpful workshops possible. If you’re interested in presenting at our great conference, email her at conference_workshops@necrwa.org or submit an online form here.

Our agent and editor chair is Tamsen Parker, who writes emotionally intense BDSM erotic romance, or “elegant superfilth.” Believe me, it delivers on all those promises. Her experience as an agented hybrid author gives her great insight into all facets of our industry, which is why she was the natural choice for A&E. And if you could just see her desk calendar and washi tape, you would know that she has her act together. She puts the elegant in superfilth.

Kari Lemor is our book fair chair, when she’s not working as secretary of our chapter! She had her first novella published as a part of the Beautiful Disaster Anthology, and she has three novels coming out soon from Kensington. She’s one to watch, and she’s a super sweet person, too!

Finally, you’re not going to find this on our conference webpage, but here’s a scoop for you. We have two more committee members-at-large: Teresa Noelle Roberts and Alexa Rowan. Both have been incredible supportive to me over the last few years. Teresa is a veteran author of fantastic paranormal, science fiction, and erotic romance, yet she was kind enough to take newbies like me under her wing. I’ve beta-read her latest release, Buck, Naked, and it is a cheeky, suspenseful sci fi interracial romance with loads of sexy. Just dreamy.

Some newbies make a splash: Alexa won the 2015 RWA Golden Heart award (a big effin’ deal for unpublished romance writers) for Best Short Contemporary Romance. Check out the winning book, Winning Her Over, for yourself. She writes swoony romance for the professional woman featuring hot lawyers, sexy massages, and smart plots. She’s our resident perfectionist, too, so any typos in this post are mine and mine alone.

That’s the gang. We write different stuff. Some of us are cat people. Some are dog people. At least a few of us are bird people (including chickens). But you’ll have to trust me on this: we get on really well. It’s awesome how much we like each other, and this chemistry will infect every minute of the conference. You gotta come.

The Speaker Teaser

Did I mention that we have an amazing line up? First, there’s Joanna Bourne, our keynote speaker, who has no idea that she was a key influence in my own writer-origin story. Her Spymaster Series takes place in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars—and, as a professional historian, I have to tell you, these books are amazing. I have one name for you: Hawker. You’ll find out.

Joanna’s latest novella is in a delightful anthology called Gambled Away, and guess what? Our Master Class teacher, Molly O’Keefe, is in it with her! (And check out that cover below. It’s one of my favorites of all time. I wish it was mine.) Molly writes historical, erotic, contemporary, and category romance—all sizzling. She’s won two RITA awards (a big effin’ deal for published authors) and some Romantic Times kudos, too. You don’t want to miss this chance to pick her brain.

Last but not least, we will be wowing you at lunch with Zoe York. What a repertoire this woman has. Small town romance? SEALs? Vikings in Space? Yes, please. And, if you want something a little more naughty, check out her alter ego, Ainsley Booth. This woman has got you covered…um, literally. I mean, check out those covers!

Sign me up, you say? Stay tuned at our Facebook page for all the latest information on registration and the workshop program. See this and more links below. We look forward to seeing you in April.

It may be premature for thanks, but who cares? Thank you to all the great NECRWA committees that paved the way, and a special shout out to the Board of Directors for their guidance, support, and enthusiasm. The current board includes Myretta Robens (president), Patricia Grasso (vice president), Jackie Horne aka Bliss Bennet (treasurer), and Kari Lemor (secretary, as linked above).

I could go on and on, but those books in your pile are not going to read themselves. Or maybe you’ve got audio editions and they will. Just go do it!

Conference & Chapter Links

Conference Facebook page

New England Chapter of RWA Conference Page

Conference Twitter: @NECRWA

Conference Instagram: necrwa

Mabuhay Love, Mabuhay #romanceclass

(“Mabuhay” means “long live!” and “welcome.”)

The best thing to come out of writing my Sugar Sun series—other than getting these characters out of my head and onto the page—has been connecting with the #romanceclass community. This is a group of Filipino contemporary, new adult, and young adult authors brought together by the indie publishing pioneerMina V. Esguerra (@minavesguerra).

When I first picked up the December 2015 issue of Romance Writers Report, it hit me right in the face: “Romancing the Globe: Filipino Romance,” by Alyssa Cole (@AlyssaColeLit). Cole profiled four authors: Esguerra, Marian Tee (@authormariantee), Ines Bautista-Yao (@Inesbyao), and Bianca Mori (@thebiancamori). I cold-called all of them (or “cold-Facebooked”…whatever), and they were soooo nice. They spread the word in their very well-connected web of writers and readers and, all of a sudden, I had a network of people who understood why I was so obsessed with a Filipino sugar baron and an American schoolmarm. (And a priest, too, but he’s book three. That apple will take some time to fall from the tree.) I also developed a very long TBR pile, at which I am still chipping away.

Just because these writers are nice, though, don’t underestimate their ability to get things done. Just as five women founded RWA in 1979, so Esguerra created #romanceclass in 2013. Eleven of her first 100 students published full-length novels. Soon #romanceclass grew into a lifestyle. The group now puts together classes, publishing support, podcasts and videos, book fairs, book launches, live performances, a stock photo service, meet-ups (last Sunday was April Feels Day), book signings, poetry readings, and so much more. Mina has even organized a full scholarship for 12 students at the Philippine Normal University! (She meant to sponsor two, but generosity from the larger #romanceclass community rounded that number up to a full dozen.) In the midst of organizing all this, Mina manages to write, as well. I’m not sure how, but here’s a Dear Author review to prove it.

The May 3, 2014, Manila Bulletin article by Ronald S. Lim (@tristantrakand) on Mina’s scholarships at the Philippine Normal University. By the way, PNU was started in 1901 by the Thomasites, American teachers like Georgina of Under the Sugar Sun—and do you see how we’re coming full circle here?

With American readers clamoring for more diverse reads, I wanted to spread the reach of these talented writers. For some, their primary market is already in the United States, but you may have missed a few of the others. And, if so, you are missing out. To prove that, with the generosity of #romanceclass authors, I’ve assembled a Mabuhay Love basket giveaway at the New England Chapter of RWA’s Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference next week! That’s April 29-30, 2016, at the Boston Marriott, in Burlington, Massachusetts.

Conference Logo

Here is what it includes (so far):