Do you love a little mystery? In honor of Agatha Christie these mystery authors have submitted their books as part of this awesome giveaway. Just click on the link and follow us to for a chance to win! One reader will win 30+ books, a $350 value.
Research for The American are Coming!
I love to do research. I can’t help it. it Is one of my guilty pleasures. I’m a nerd. Always have been. In school when we’d get the chance to go to the library to do research, I’d get so caught up in the search I sometimes forgot what I was searching for. Finding new things along the way is part of the joy of doing the research. The problems are going off in another direction than the one you intended or getting so lost in the research you forget about the writing, and the biggie, wanting to put everything you discovered into your story. I mean, when you find out really cool things it’s difficult not to include them in your story. BUT… while it might be interesting and maybe even important to know that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show had a second female sharpshooter or that he hired over one hundred Sioux to work in his show even while there were still Indian Wars going on, all of this information is important and helps me as a writer understand my story’s time period and politics, how much of it is really necessary for the story itself.
It has taken me years to feel confident, and I say that with a laugh because I’m not really confident that I’ve reached the point where I know what I’m doing, but I’ve taken the classes and done the research and tried to immerse myself into the time period. Developing the character, the atmosphere and the series is important. I hope that when you read The Americans are Coming that you experience life in a traveling show, (I researched the history of the circus in America, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show and travel in the 1890s), that you get a feel for Winnie’s life as a performer and a member of the show family, I hope you enjoy piecing together the clues and puzzling out the mystery, but I above it all, I hope you read the story and not see the work that has gone into it only the entertainment that it offers.
For a list of the books, YouTube videos and blogs I used to research this book, here are the ones I’ve compiled so far, and they are by no means the full list. I also have references from people such as HCRW president: Cyn Hayden who gave me information on steamer ships, my granddaughter: Hailey Miesse and her mother, Brandi Lupton who aided me with my horse research, my husband David who helped with many miscellaneous questions (he’s a great research assistant), and my local librarians: Denise Toler and Robina Norman who answer weird and bizarre questions at odd times during the day (and sometimes at night).
Buffalo Bill’s America by Louis S. Warren
Wild Women by Autumn Stephens
A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Life by Elspeth
Gangway! Sea Language Comes Ashore by Joanna Carver Colcord
The Great Tours: England, Scotland, and Wales The Great Courses by Professor Patrick N. Allitt, Emory University
The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West from 1840-1900 by Candy Moulton
The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in Regency and Victorian England from 1811-1901 by Kristine Hughes
Eyewitness Visual Dictionary The Visual Dictionary of Ships and Sailing
Reader’s Digest America’s Forgotten History
Battle for the Big Top by Les Standiford
Unmentionable by Therese Oneill
The Hidden History of Holidays by Hannah Harvey
The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum
Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets
The Life and Times of Prince Albert by Patrick Allitt
The American West: History, Myth and Legend by Patrick Allitt
Absolute History https://youtu.be/xyUOBM0UNQk
Weird History https://youtu.be/XnvPauD-Wto
Joe Scott https://youtu.be/3M6e6TG7nDA
Book Covers and Cover Designs
What attracts you? Like anything else from choosing a spouse to picking out a new outfit, the first attraction is what we see. Book covers are the same. We reach for what appeals to us visually? The pretty ones get chosen first. Isn’t always the case? Not with people maybe, we’ve all met those characters who didn’t attract us at first but whose personalities pulled us in, but let’s face it, we don’t often get that option with books. With a book, we are choosing it based on book reviews, personal recommendations, or its cover. Online you have a thumbnail view amid a crowd of similar books. In a book store you might have more time to choose. You can look inside but first you have to pick up that book.
What makes you pick up the book?
So, what catches your eye? Is it color, a sexy man-chest, an embracing couple, fire and smoke, or something else entirely? I have a friend who doesn’t like the cartoon-looking covers, they turn her off immediately. I like them. Two different mind sets. Two different opinions. I adore Penny Reid’s Winston Brother series covers. They look like cross-stitch. Now, at first, they did make me hesitate. I expected something sweet and old fashioned, but after hearing an interview with the author I realized the cover was misleading. I tried my first Bearded Romance and was hooked. So, do I love the covers because I know the stories and associate them with her series, or have they grown on me? Would I like this same style on someone else’s stories?
When I asked my friend, Susan McIntyre about doing the cover of my book, I showed her the picture I had in mind and before I knew it, she’d painted it. I loved it. As I finished the book, I realized as much as I loved the picture she’d painted, it did not reflect the character in the story. My character, seventeen-year-old half-Lakota, Winnie, was not as sophisticated. While not exactly innocent, Winnie had the hopeful outlook of the young and invulnerable. She was also not completely white. I wanted to honor that. Looking through Deposit Photos I found some lovely Native American women, but they were too old (in their twenties), and the girls were too young. I sent pictures of my granddaughter who is half Cambodian to Sue and asked if she thought she’d represent the Native American character. I thought the representation was beautifully done and hope that by using a woman of color it honors and not detracts from the Native American.
As I was doing the research for this book I was surprised by the number of Native Americans, many Lakota, who performed in the wild west shows. Some of whom were considered prisoners of war and had to have special permission to travel off the reservations. But that is not today’s topic. I will return to this another day.
For me, it was important to honor the history and the character, but does this cover sell books? You have to admit the artwork is stunning, but does it tell the story? Does it represent the book? While I was brought to tears as soon as I saw the picture and it wasn’t even finished, after I really looked at it, I wasn’t sure if it fit the story. The character felt too young. The book, while it has a young protagonist, Winnie is seventeen, it wasn’t YA (young adult genre). But after preparing the cover and putting it on the book and sitting with it a while, I realized the artist had captured the essence of the story, Winnie’s hopeful innocence and undefeatable outlook.
Will the cover sell the book? That remains to be seen. But I believe people will pick it up, especially in print and look at it and that’s the first step in attracting a buyer, and that is the job of the cover. Like pretty wrapping paper on a package or a sharp-dressed man (or one in a kilt) we often check out the package first and before discovering what they have to offer.
What do you look for in a book cover? Have you ever bought a book just for the cover? Show me. I’d love to see what got your attention.
The Making of The Americans Are Coming
The making of The Americans Are Coming didn’t just happen overnight. In fact, this book has been simmering for several years. I have taken countless classes through Romance Writers of America and my local group, Heart of Carolina on everything from Horses in Literature to Writing a Historical Novel. I have also been focusing more on the cozy mystery aspect of writing. I have really enjoyed following YouTube Author, Jane Kalmes aka Fiction Technician. Jane had a mystery writers’ course recently I really wanted to take but with my responsibilities with the Pamlico Writers’ Group and the Heart of Carolina, the timing didn’t pan out. But I am really thinking about taking it the next time she offers it.
The kernel of an idea came about thanks to my husband, actually his grandfather. In our home that burned David had a whip that once belonged to his grandfather who’d been a performer in a wild west show. When I heard the story, I knew one day I’d write a character who was a performer in a wild west show. Incidentally, David’s grandfather did an act where he snapped quarters tossed in the air with his whip.
Winnie’s name took several metamorphoses. I originally planned to name her Willowmina but since I used Willow in my contemporary story, Willow’s Retreat, I did not want to confuse myself more than normal. Keeping my characters’ names straight is almost as bad as keeping my children’s names straight. Unfortunately, readers don’t like it when you call the role in a story. My kids probably don’t like being called by the other’s names either but oh well.
Winnie, a nickname for Winona, and Harry her love interest were inspired by good friends I’ve known since my childhood, the parents of one of my dearest friends and school mates. They also became close with my youngest son when he began working with Mr. Harry at the museum. Our backyards connected and so much of our lives intertwined. They always seemed to have a good time together and made being around them fun. I couldn’t think of a better couple to inspire my young sleuths.
As the story came together, Winnie became half Lakota and as I began describing her appearance, I used my granddaughter Phalha to help me get an image of the character. You can see a slightly younger version of the character and Phalha in the original artwork painted by Susan McIntyre. Sue used photos I had of Phalha to create the cover of the book. While Phalha is half Cambodian, not Lakota, looking at pictures of Lakota women, I felt she closely resembled them and gave me a more personal connection to the character.
Since I am not a horsewoman, I needed expert advice to help me flesh out my character as Winnie is a trick rider and caregiver to the animals. I turned to another of my granddaughters, Hailey. Hailey is an accomplished horsewoman who trained her horse Cooper whom others felt was untrainable. Not only did she train him, but she’s won countless awards with him. Hailey answered all of my crazy questions and she inspired much of Winnie’s relationship with her horse and the other animals.
My grandsons Psi and Jack were great about helping me with Riley and Harry, inspiring looks as well as some of the fun things they do from the inventions to their reactions. My husband and my sons were also on hand to answer questions about ‘would this work?’ It’s great to have people around who know things or are willing to research them. My husband has become my accomplice on many of my adventures from helping me plan my murders to planting evidence. If our family decides to turn to crime, it could be bad…really bad.
A lot of research went into this story but I’m sure I didn’t get everything just right. I mean sometimes you have to bend things to get the story to work the way you want it to work.
I am so thankful for my friend Cyn Hayden who gave me information on steamer ships for that one little piece I needed to make the story believable. The ending wouldn’t work without it.
I am also thankful for my local library and the women who work there: Robina Norman, Denise Toler and Myra Shields. These ladies are great at finding things I cannot find online. They are my research assistants, my Beta readers and proofreaders. I cannot thank them enough for always supporting me. They have hosted my book signings and even suggest my books to patrons.
I have several Beta readers who make the story better, stronger, less filled with errors. I said less errors, not error-free, I still manage to get a few of those, sorry. Everyone who reads and gives me feedback, everyone who reviews the stories, they all help me make a better story and I appreciate all the love and support, the encouragement and the occasional kick in the butt I need to get these stories done.
The cover design is by my friend and fellow Pamlico Writers’ Group member, Sue McIntyre. Sue is the author of a memoir, Outside Heaven: An Afghanistan Experience and she is also an artist in residence at the Lemonade Gallery in Washington. She has done two paintings for me for this novel. The first based on a photograph I sent her with just a few ideas. I loved it but as I was finishing The Americans are Coming, I realized I needed to represent the main character better. Since she was half Lakota, an obviously white woman would not be representative. I also wanted the first book to give more of the feel of the wild west show. Using photos of my granddaughter, Sue did a lovely job of depicting Winnie.
While she is younger on the cover than in the story, I still feel it is a great depiction of what the beginning of the series is about. Winnie isn’t exactly innocent, her life even before joining the wild west show was hardly easy, nor was she protected from the harshness of life. But Winnie’s outlook is one of hope and love. Everything she does from trying to solve the murder to breaking up her father’s relationship with one woman and pushing him into a relationship with another, is about love and hope for the future.
The Americans are Coming is a murder mystery, but it also has romance, family drama, friendship and a view into living together harmoniously with diverse characters. Fiction should entertain but it should also make you feel something. I hope when you finish this book you feel the connection and understanding I was trying to convey. Happy reading, y’all.
Print books are suppose to arrive today but they won’t have this cover. If you want books with Sue’s original artwork, they are available at Amazon, and I hope to have them available elsewhere very soon.
Book Reviewers Needed for The Americans are Coming
The Americans are Coming is the first in a new historical cozy mystery series I’m writing, An Applegate Mystery series. I’m having too much fun with my characters Winnie Applegate and her friends and family.
Winnie is seventeen and part of a traveling wild west show. She is half Lakota Indian. She is a healer and a performer. She keeps adding more tricks to her arsenal because the show is in trouble. A series of accidents has some of the other performers looking for work elsewhere.
With her brother, twelve-year-old Riley, an avid inventor, Winnie performs a knife throwing act. She also is a trick rider and an archer. Even her father has agreed to add another act to the show but when something goes wrong and Riley is blamed, Winnie takes it upon herself to investigate.
A series of sabotages and a mysterious benefactor’s invitation to England uncover family secrets that might explain why they are being targeted. Winnie teams up with the young man she believes she is destined to marry, and a lady Pinkerton agent to prove Riley’s innocence and stop a murderer.
If you like cozy mysteries with a like bit of history and a lot of action and adventure, you’ll enjoy The Americans are Coming.
A slow burn romance with Winnie and Harry, she is forbidden not just because of her age but because of society’s expectations.
An enemies-to-lovers romance when the lady Pinkerton and Dr. John fight their attraction and lose their hearts.
Secret heirs, family drama, a cast of interesting characters from Indians to sons of Dukes there is bound to be something you like.
I grew up watching westerns on television and when we moved to Texas, and New Mexico I really immersed myself into the western history and culture. Like Buffalo Bill Cody, Colonel Bill Dexter’s Wild West Extravaganza is a traveling show (much like a circus) that combines the history of the west with feats of daring and exploits of western talents from rope twirling to knife throwing to riding while shooting, the Extravaganza is a show to rival any other.
If you are interested in getting a free copy of The Americans are Coming in exchange for an honest review. The book will go live November 3rd and the book tour will happen November 3-5. Copies of the book are available though Bed and Books or you can contact me. We have eBook and auto narrated. If you wish to be a part of the Book Tour, Cover Reveal or Teaser Reveal, you can sign up with the form below. You don’t have to be a part of the tour to be a reviewer. All reviews and promos are appreciated.
Why do we resist change?
Humans resist change… why? Are we preprogramed to want the familiar? As cavepeople, we took comfort and refuge in the familiar. If everything stayed the same, we stayed alive. But in modern times why are we still resisting change? Whether it’s changing our hairstyle or leaving a dead-end job, most of us put up with the out-of-date style and the hated job because we fear change. Or maybe we’re too lazy to make that change. I mean, really, change means we have to make an effort to do something different.
I don’t like change. Familiar is easy and requires less effort. Pull the hair up in a ponytail or wrap it in a headband, it’s easier than trying to decide what style I want. But recently I made a change…I changed genres. This wasn’t a quick change. I’ve been taking classes for several years and planning this story and series for just about as long. Switching from romantic suspense to cozy mystery doesn’t seem like that big a difference, but when you go from contemporary to Victorian era, and make your main character a teenager, well, that is a rather BIG change.
Something different means research, a lot of research, preparation, planning, and extra effort—at least that’s what I discovered when I decided to switch genres. For the past year I’ve been studying the cozy mystery genre. I discovered some great YouTube videos, one of my favorite authors to follow is Jane Kalmes, the Fiction Technician https://youtu.be/GNR0g60m0EI. I also researched the Victorian Era, everything from how to build a forge to a lady’s dress, to inventions and killers of the era. YouTube is a great place to start but when I needed information on steamer ships, I had to pull out the big guns and go to my friend, HCRW President, Cyn Haden who is a naval historian. I only needed one tiny piece of information to make my story believable, but I needed to check my facts before I could go any further.
How resistant to change are you? Are you adventurous or do you like the status quo? What do you do to combat boredom and shake things up?