Five Things M.J. Rose Didn’t Know She Needed to Know Before Writing THE COLLECTOR OF DYING BREATHS

My guest author today is M.J. Rose! Her brand new novel The Collector of Dying Breaths crisscrosses between 16th Century Italy and France and present-day France. Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, The Collector of Dying Breaths illuminates the true path to immortality: the legacies we leave behind. A lush and imaginative novel about a perfumer and a mythologist searching for the fine line between potion and poison, poison and passion…and past and present.         Here’s a collection of five things that M.J. found out she needed to know as she traveled the path of writing her novel. (Click on the question to reveal the answer) [expand title=”1. What the concept of collecting a dying breath meant.”] I was doing research on another book and learned that Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who both believed in reincarnation, supported the idea that in death, the soul leaves the body with its last breath. Edison’s dying breath, collected by his son, Charles, is in fact on display at the Edison Winter Home in Fort Myers, Florida. I was totally taken with the idea of our souls being expelled in that last breath and it became the thesis of my novel.[/expand] [expand title=”2. Who/how perfume was introduce to France.”] There is a lot of fact mixed in with my fictional tale. The main historical character is a 16th century perfumer named René le Florentin who was an apprentice at the officina Profumo–Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, one of the world’s oldest pharmacies. Founded in 1221 in Florence by the Dominican Friars, the pharmacy was famous for its herbal remedies and potions. When Catherine de Medici was young she bought scents and creams there. And when the fourteen-year-old duchessina traveled to France to marry the prince, she took René with her. He and Catherine are credited with bringing perfume to their newly adopted country.[/expand]   [expand title=”3. I didn’t know I’d need to know what “momie” is – in fact I’d never heard of it before.”] Momie was an ingredient used in perfumes and remedies in the middle ages. It is found in the tombs of the people who have been embalmed with spices, as they used to do in ancient times. It’s found near the brain and the spine. Instruction manuals from the 15th century suggest it should be shining, black, strong smelling, and firm. And that the white kind, which is rather opaque, does not stick, is not firm and easily crumbles to powder, must be refused.[/expand]   [expand title=”4. What the psychosis of a collector is.”] I had to study the psychology of a collector – its best summed up in...

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Five Things Renee Rosen Didn’t Know She Needed To Know Before Writing DOLLFACE

Today author guest Renee Rosen tells us about her learning curve while writing DOLLFACE, which takes place in Chicago during the 1920s. Vera Abramowitz is determined to leave her gritty childhood behind and live a more exciting life. Bobbing her hair and showing her knees, the lipsticked beauty dazzles, doing the Charleston in nightclubs and earning the nickname “Dollface.” When Vera captures the attention of two high rollers — a handsome nightclub owner and a sexy gambler — she thinks her biggest problem is choosing between them, until the truth comes out. Her two lovers are really mobsters from rival gangs during Chicago’s infamous Beer Wars, a battle Al Capone refuses to lose. Men from both gangs fall around her, and Vera’s own life is on the line as she becomes entangled in bootlegging and murder. Meanwhile, Chicago hurtles towards one of the most infamous days in its history, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.   Hi Stephanie! Thanks so much for including me on your blog. I think one of the greatest challenges in writing historical fiction is getting the details right. You can get tripped up on the smallest things, like having a character in the 20s unzip a dress when zippers weren’t even invented yet. All it takes is one tiny anachronism to take the reader out of the story. So here goes with five things I didn’t know I needed to know before I wrote DOLLFACE.   (Click on the question to reveal the answer.)   [expand title=”1. Why Did Al Capone hang out at the Green Mill on the North side of town when he was a South Sider?”] Aside from Al being a jazz buff, one of his top henchmen, Machine Gun Jack McGurn became part owner of the club and hence, it became one of Capone’s hangouts. The Green Mill is still open and to this day you can go and sit in Capone’s booth.[/expand]       [expand title=”2. Were there female bootleggers?”] Yes! Perhaps the best known female bootlegger was Mrs. Willie Carter Sharpe who outran the police countless times. I also recently learned of a group of female bootleggers in Butte, Montana. So yes, even though it wasn’t common, women were out there hauling hooch.[/expand]       [expand title=”3. Who was the Black Hand Group and how did they operate?”] The Black Hand Group was an extortionist group considered to be the precursor of the mafia. They would target wealthy businessmen and threaten bodily harm to them and their families unless they paid up. This message was typically delivered by way of a letter signed with a black handprint and a dagger or noose.[/expand]   [expand title=”4. What kinds...

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Five Things Heather Webb Didn’t Know She Needed to Know Before Writing Her Novel BECOMING JOSEPHINE

This week, Heather Webb visits my blog to divulge five things she didn’t know before writing BECOMING JOSEPHINE, which takes place in Paris during the 18th Century. BECOMING JOSEPHINE is the story of Rose Tascher, who sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution. Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll. After narrowly escaping death in the blood-drenched cells of Les Carmes prison, she reinvents herself as Josephine, a socialite of status and power. Yet her youth is fading, and Josephine must choose between a precarious independence and the love of an awkward suitor. Little does she know, he would become the most powerful man of his century — Napoleon Bonaparte.     Heather says: There were more things I DIDN’T know than DID when I first began researching Josephine Bonaparte’s life. Here’s a sampling:   (Click on the question to reveal the answer.)   [expand title=”1. Josephine was from a sugar plantation in Martinique so at one point I needed to know how sugar cane was harvested and what it smells like.”] 1. Sugar cane fields are burned before harvesting from March to November to make the process of collecting and transporting it easier. And it smells smoky and sweet, as one might expect. It also causes a lot of respiratory problems from all of the ash floating in the air during much of the year.[/expand] [expand title=”2. There wasn’t enough land space in Paris to bury all of the murdered victims during the French Revolution, so where did they put the bodies?”] Some rotted in giant heaps in fields or on the street. Others were buried haphazardly in unmarked graves. And thousands and thousands of others were dumped in abandoned mine shafts once used for quarrying stone in the Middle Ages. At the time the mines were first used, they lay on the outskirts of the city, but now encompass much of the southern half of Paris. Tourists can visit the ossuaries (better known as the Catacombs) today, where over 6 million skeletons have been accounted for from the French Revolution up through World War II.[/expand] [expand title=”3. What were 18th century fans made of and were they all painted with flowers?”] The materials varied, but lamb skin and chicken skin were of the more expensive varieties. In terms of what was painted on them,...

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Five things Donna Russo Morin Didn’t Know She’d Need to Know Before Writing THE KING’S AGENT

Today’s guest post is by Donna Russo Morin. Her novel, THE KING’S AGENT, is set in Italy during the early 16th Century. Read on to learn more about Donna’s fascinating research and thoughts behind the story of Battista della Paglia, a man who appears to be an avid art collector but is actually a professional thief. As he procures the greatest masterpieces of the day by any means necessary, he becomes embroiled in a power struggle between Francois, the King of France, and Charles the V, the King of Spain. THE KING’S AGENT is my fourth historical novel and the second set in Italy, but never before has my research, and my story, been so thoroughly entrenched in the Renaissance and the art produced in this period. I never expected to find the combustion of forces at work to create such magnificent works.     (Click on the question to reveal the answer.)   [expand title=”1. How many translations of Dante’s Commedia are there?”] When I decided to mirror the art quest of THE KING’S AGENT to Dante’s Divine Comedy, I knew I’d need a really concise English translation of the complex work. And although it was translated into French, Greek, and other European languages far sooner than it was into English, there are by far more English translations than any other. In fact, between 1782, when the first appeared, and last year, the work has been translated over one hundred and twenty times. For me, the quintessential translation, and the one I turned to more than any other, is that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, done in 1867.[/expand]   [expand title=”2. How did Michelangelo truly feel about his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?”] Considered one of the greatest works of art of all time, it is natural to make the assumption that the artist would be consumed with pleasure and pride at what he had accomplished. Not so with Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. According to his own letters (many to Battista della Paglia, the main character of THE KING’S AGENT), Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor far more than a painter. One particular quote from the artist sums up his feelings of the work concisely, he said, “It was an ascension that felled me.” He referred, of course, to the constant heights he ascended during the whole of the work as well as the fact that it consumed years of his life, keeping him from the sculpture work he loved, and reduced his health to such a point, he would never fully recover.[/expand]     [expand title=”3. Were there really unexplained, ‘other-worldly’ images in Renaissance artwork?”] When beginning formulation of THE KING’S AGENT, I knew I wanted...

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Five Things Deanna Raybourn Didn’t Know She Needed To Know Before Writing CITY OF JASMINE

My guest author today is Deanna Raybourn, and her new novel City of Jasmine is set in London, Damascus, and other exotic European colonial outposts of the 1920s. CITY OF JASMINE, coming out this March, is the captivating tale of a famed aviatrix who embarks upon a journey to see the world—and ends up finding intrigue, danger, and a love beyond all reason. Five years after losing her husband on the Lusitania, Evie embarks upon a flight around the world. In the midst of her triumphant tour, she is shocked to receive a mysterious—and recent—photograph of her husband that brings her ambitious stunt to a screeching halt. Evie tracks the source of the photo to the ancient “City of Jasmine,” Damascus, and then sets off across the desert to retrieve a relic straight from the pages of history. Along the way, she comes to terms with the deception that parted her from Gabriel… And, along the way, Deanna had to do a load of research! Here’s a sampling of five things Deanna didn’t know she’d need to know before setting out to write City of Jasmine. (Click on the question to reveal the answer) [expand title=”1. How much distance will a trotting horse cover in 40 minutes?”]Approximately 5 miles.[/expand]   [expand title=”2. What is the volume of blood in the human body?”]It averages between 4.7 and 5 litres in a healthy adult of average size. A good rough estimate is 1/11 of the body weight.[/expand]   [expand title=”3. What does a lion smell like at short distance?”]Domestic cat urine. Male lions mark their territory frequently and the odor is very similar to that of a domesticated cat. This one I learned from personal experience after an introduction to a rather cranky lion in Florida.[/expand]   [expand title=”4. Which poison will kill by absorption through the skin?”]Monkshood—also commonly called wolfbane. The proper name is aconitum napellus.[/expand] [expand title=”5. Is it possible to kill a leopard with your bare hands?”]Actually, yes. Carl Akeley, one of the founders of modern taxidermy and a scientist responsible for many of the exhibits still on display at the American Museum of Natural History, managed to suffocate a leopard by thrusting his arm down a leopard’s throat when it attacked him. After a struggle of some half an hour, the animal died and Akeley’s life was saved.[/expand]     A sixth-generation native Texan, New York Times bestselling author Deanna Raybourn taught high school English for three years in San Antonio before leaving education to pursue a career as a novelist. Deanna’s novel Silent in the Grave won the RITA® Award for Novel with Strong Romantic Elements and the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery. The Lady Julia Grey series has...

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Five Things Marci Jefferson Didn’t Know She Needed to Know Before Writing her Novel

    The second author guest in my new series of posts telling us THINGS I DIDN’T KNOW I’D NEED TO KNOW BEFORE WRITING MY NOVEL is Marci Jefferson. Her novel GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN takes us to London in the Seventeenth Century.     Stephanie, thank you for the opportunity to visit your blog today to talk about researching historical novels. Though I am a nurse by day, my love for history drove me to study it independently for many years. Nevertheless, when the idea for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN struck me, I didn’t know I had years of research ahead of me! I set to work and, looking back, there were some surprises. Here are five of them…     (Click on the question to reveal the answer)   [expand title=”1) How did Londoners preserve severed heads on the spikes at London Bridge? “]Usually they lightly boiled the head, sometimes they dipped it in tar, and sometimes they packed it with preserving spices like ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and cumin.[/expand]   [expand title=”2) How does small-pox feel?“]Very terribly unpleasant. It begins with fever, aching, and vomiting for four days, then a rash of open sores develops in your mouth. The rash spreads to your body and turns into painful raised bumps that feel like pebbles under the skin. They fill with fluid, and the fever returns. The sores eventually crust and form scabs. After these scab fall off, you are considered no longer contagious. If you live.[/expand]   [expand title=”3) Did they or did they not bathe in late seventeenth century London?“]The answer depends upon the rank of the person. Diarist Samuel Pepys was a British commoner, and was wary to wash lest he take a chill. But archaeological evidence shows that Whitehall Palace had bathing chambers with heated stoves, sunken tubs, and drainage pipes. The courtiers certainly bathed. Any maid of honor found to be stinky was made fun of in satirical poetry.[/expand]   [expand title=” 4) Did Frances Stuart eat with a fork? “]I found the use of forks throughout history to be more widespread than expected, mentioned in the Bible and referenced by Ovid. In England in 1653, the Ingenious Gentlewoman’s Delightful Companion published “…it will be comely and decent to use a fork.” [/expand]   [expand title=”5) Did the Restoration Court ever eat anything healthy?“]John Evelyn, another English diarist of the late seventeenth century, wrote a great deal about “sallets.” These dishes included a blend of “crude and fresh herbs.” He topped his with a mixture of “oyl” and wine vinegar infused with cloves, elder, roses, or rosemary. But he strictly prohibited the addition of garlic saying, “’tis not for ladies palats,...

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10 things Susan Spann Didn’t Know She Needed to Know Before Writing her Novel

I’m excited to begin a series of guests posts featuring authors who will be telling us THINGS I DIDN’T KNOW I’D NEED TO KNOW BEFORE WRITING MY NOVEL. For me, the research aspect of writing a novel — especially a historical one — was the fun part. It’s much easier to passively take in information than actively create a story. This past year, I’ve been having the chance to connect with lots of historical authors, and I’m constantly amazed at how far they travel, both in time and geographically.  Compared to the places many authors take their imaginations, my journey to 1907 Manhattan in ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE seems quite close to home! My first guest is Susan Spann, and her novel took her to 16th century Japan. This book is the first of a Shinobi Mystery series that follows a crime-solving duo of a ninja detective and his Portuguese Jesuit “sidekick.” When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro Hattori has just three days to find the killer before the dead man’s vengeful son kills both the beautiful geisha accused of the crime and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest that Hiro has pledged his own life to protect. The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they quickly learn that everyone from an elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery. Ten Things I Didn’t Know I Needed to Know Before Writing CLAWS OF THE CAT   Prior to writing Claws of the Cat, the first Shinobi Mystery, I’d written a couple of manuscripts, but never one set in medieval Japan. I studied Japanese history and culture in college, and loved the medieval (samurai) era, but I still had a lot of work to do to write a novel (and now, a series) set in medieval Japan. (Click on the question to reveal the answer)     [expand title=”1. What is the Japanese word for ninja?“]Shinobi. The word “ninja” is actually based on a Chinese pronunciation. The Japanese pronounce those same characters “shinobi.”[/expand]   [expand title=”2. When did Portuguese Jesuits arrive in Japan?“]1549. I wanted to set my novels a few decades after the Portuguese arrived, but before the sight of foreigners had become commonplace to Japanese people. Before the arrival of Portuguese merchants in 1543, Japan had no significant contact with the West, so even in 1565, the sight of a foreigner could still spark interesting reactions.[/expand]   [expand title=”3. Did shinobi (ninjas) really act as bodyguards and spies, as well as assassins?“]Yes! And good thing, too … I needed Hiro to have a...

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Five things I didn’t know I’d need to know before writing my historical novel

ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE was my fifth novel, but my first with a historical setting. I like to joke that when starting out, I figured the research would just involve Googling a few details and I’d be good to go. Okay, I wasn’t really that naïve, but still, I never would’ve imagined how much research would be involved. And I never would’ve guessed how much I’d enjoy doing it. Gathering information is nice and passive compared to writing a story that will use it. So here, in no particular order, is a list of five things I didn’t know I’d need to know before writing Astor Place Vintage. Click on the yellow flower to reveal the answer.   [expand title=”1. How common was it to have a telephone?”]Phones would generally only be found in businesses and homes of the more well-off. Most people made use of public phones commonly found down at the corner drug store and they might have to stand in line.[/expand]   [expand title=”2. Would an Italian Bakery serve espresso and cappuccino or just regular coffee?”]Regular. Espresso machines were not yet found in this country.[/expand]   [expand title=”3. Did tenement apartments have closets?”]Nope. But they didn’t have much change of clothes, either. A few hooks on the wall would do it.[/expand]   [expand title=”4. What kind of birth control, if any, was typically used at the turn of the 20th Century?”]The term “birth control” didn’t come into use until the second decade of the century, but people did have ways to prevent pregnancy. Condoms, sometimes called “rubber bags,” were around, but they were tainted by common use in brothels. There was always withdrawal or abstinence, of course, which were more respectable. Some women used douches recommended by friends, midwives or doctors, but these were not effective.[/expand]   [expand title=”5. Where do you put your gloves while eating in a restaurant?”]The best place would be on your lap under your napkin.[/expand]...

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