On the Shores of Tregalwen

Whenever I write a review, whether I thoroughly enjoyed the story or not, I try to leave out as many spoilers as possible. Knowing that will not always be possible, I’ll still do my best to refrain from spoiling such things as climaxes, twists and the like. Who wants a book completely ruined before you even try it for yourself?

Touted by Amazon as “a swoony award winner,” this story is an introductory novella to a series of romances set in Cornwall, England. It follows our two MCs, Hannah Summerfield and Thomas Causey, as they navigate and explore their feelings for one another. I’ll begin this review with complete honesty: I find Ms. Hathaway’s books to be very hit-or-miss when it comes to the stories themselves. There is absolutely nothing amiss with grammar or structure.

As this isn’t the first I’ve read of the series, I already knew some of what to expect. The only thing I found lacking was a little bit more adventure. But then again, I’m always looking for more adventure in my reads. The best modern comparison would have to be any novel by Nicholas Sparks. It’s most definitely a feel-good-when-you’re-down kind of read. This book takes place before BEHIND THE LIGHT OF GOLOWDUYN; a tale I enjoyed more than this novella.

Everything in TREGALWEN wraps up neatly, if not a bit rushed. And, if I may say, there is such a thing as a romance that’s a bit too sweet, a bit too predictable. If you’re looking for a HEA (happily ever after), then certainly give TREGALWEN a read. The four stars are for location, well built characters, and tight plotting. Minus one star for a noticeable POV issue along the way. Finally, if you like something with a tad bit more adventure, then BEHIND THE LIGHT OF GOLOWDUYN may just be the tale for you.

SYNOPSIS:
Cornwall, 1815
When her estranged mother beckons her to London, Hannah Summerfield has no choice but to answer her call. Forced to leave behind her peaceful life in Cornwall, she bids farewell to the seaside, her grandparents—and her childhood sweetheart, Thomas. She becomes subdued at once by Society’s rigid rules and her mother’s censure, and when Thomas’s letters unexplainedly stop, she is left to wonder if she ought to embrace her new life in Town after all. But when her mother pressures her to accept an unwanted proposal, Hannah cannot help but flee to the one place she has ever called home—to the only boy she has ever loved.

After three years apart, Thomas Causey has all but given up hope of Hannah ever returning to Cornwall, fearing she has fallen in love with another. But when she appears on his doorstep, soaked through with rain and covered in mud, he allows himself to long once more for a future with the woman he still loves.

However, Thomas quickly realizes that Hannah is not who she was before. She has left London for a reason—a reason he cannot uncover. He longs for the truth they once so easily shared, but Hannah must first find the courage to rediscover herself—and what her heart truly desires.

This is a prequel novella for the clean and sweet Regency Cornish Romance series by Deborah M. Hathaway.
Although this friends to more romance is a stand-alone novella, the books are best enjoyed when read in order.


ANNOUNCEMENT // HFChitChat

Happy Tuesday! I know it’s been a short while since I last posted anything on here, but I just wanted to take a moment to share some exciting news. Later this month, I shall be joining the likes of Janna G. Noelle, Sydney Young and Gabriella Saab to co-host this month’s #HFChitChat!

Even though my current work-in-progress is a fantastical science fantasy series, my heart will always belong with historical fiction. My current problem is that I really want to combine all my favorite genres in one super long tale.

I am so totally NOT qualified to write that idea!

Sometimes I also wonder at my qualifications to write or even discuss historical fiction at all, or write in general. But enough about my self-doubt. Let’s move on.

The chat I’ll be co-hosting with the lovely ladies of HFChitChat will take place on Tuesday, April 27th at 9:00 PM EST. Topic: TBA. So if you came looking to see what the topic will be, you’ll not find that here. Gotta leave some suspense!

If you’d like to learn more about a couple of my co-hosts, I’ve actually interviewed both Janna and Gabriella over on my Author Interviews page. I hope you’ll check those out, and that you’ll join us on the 27th for our next historical fiction discussion.


My Birthday Stay in Historic Johnstown, PA

Masks. The ‘rona. Life. And 2020. Things aren’t exactly normal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still make things happen in this new decade. This includes changing vacation plans which were supposed to happen back in June of this year.

A weekend at the Library of Congress was to kick off a summer of historical tours and help me reboot my works in progress. Honestly? I haven’t felt that reboot, yet. These past two months or so I’ve filled with reading (both fiction and nonfiction), buying too many journals, and merely thinking about writing.

When the idea to visit Johnstown, Pennsylvania for my birthday popped up, my mind’s wheels turned again. I know, I know. My entire writing career shouldn’t revolve around what I can or cannot do. But the general consensus within the online writing community is many of us were in a summer writing slump.

Okay. Onward to bigger and brighter things.

The history of Johnstown, Pennsylvania is one of industry moguls, geography, tragedy, and a perfect storm of events that led to The Great Flood of 1889. The number of casualties rivaled the number of lives lost on September 11th, 2001. Visit the following links to read more about the Pennsylvanian tragedy that rocked the Victorian world:

As I complete this post, we’re now nearly two months removed from the event. Some details have become covered in dust, as though they’ve sat under my bed for weeks. But let’s brush them off and see what I can remember!

Wednesday, September 23rd

My mother and I arrived at our AirBNB in the early afternoon, half an hour before our allotted check-in time. Down winding, unfamiliar roads we went, and suburbia quickly transitioned to woods. Deep, thick woods. We missed our turn but eventually made our way to the right spot. Thankfully, our hostess was perfectly fine with our early arrival.

After checking in we drove about town, checking out shops, cafes and the like. Johnstown, as historical as it is, is an interesting mix of eras, country and city. Multiple churches dot the compact valley, and two rivers diverge from a third. Trains, buses and roadways interweave in an intricate dance, lasting from dawn to dusk.

Museums, landmarks and the like educate visitors on The Great Flood. A memorial stands on the site of the old club, and those willing to make the trek up to it can see why the sight was chosen for such a club.

Mom and I ended our evening drive on Johnstown’s main street, at a not-so-historical Subway for dinner. A short time later my sister and her family arrived.

The home in which we stayed once belonged to our host’s father. A rather peculiar addition it had, with ceilings barely six feet in height. If my father had gone, he wouldn’t have been able to properly stand in the kitchen or dining area. Another oddity was my room – it had no door! And no hinges for a door. So if you’re into communal living, this would be the place for you. I, for one, missed having privacy for a few days.

Pictured: my brother-in-law, niece and nephew atop the hill

Thursday, September 24th

After playing games late into the evening Wednesday, the morning of Thursday, Sept. 24th was spent sleeping in and taking our time waking up. We didn’t head out until early afternoon. The night before we’d decided to ascend the “The Steepest Incline in the World: The Johnstown Incline Plane.”

Perched atop the the steepest slopes in the valley, the dizzying view from the top rivals that of the overlooks on Pittsburgh’s own Mount Washington.

A behemothic American flag, (at that time secured at half mast for SCOTUS Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), flies on the tallest point of the plane’s hill. While familiar with Pittsburgh’s Duquesne and The Mon Inclines, Johnstown’s is different. It carries pedestrians, cycles and motor vehicles!

This incline also offered a view of the inner workings from inside their small gift shop. During this sleepy weekend getaway, not many locals were out and about, so we had the whole incline area to ourselves.

A meal at the highly recommended Boulevard Grill followed our incline adventures. Only two groups ate on the enclosed patio on the side of the restaurant, and the first group were nearly finished by the time we sat down to a very late lunch. What we all ate for our meals isn’t clear in my memory, but I do remember I had sweet potato fries and a steak wrap. From there we found a few small antique shops (I purchased an cream-colored teapot with gold details), and an old timey toy store with an owner readying his shelves for Christmas.

Friday, September 25th

On Friday we did something our mom wanted to do – tour historical sights around Johnstown. This included the Flood Museum, the Gentlemen’s Club and what was left of the dam itself. Even with Johnstown as depressed as it is, you cannot deny the natural beauty of the valley. One can see why the likes of Frick, Carnegie and Phipps would want to go there to get away from smog-filled Pittsburgh.

In the top center photo, where my sister, niece and nephew are reading an informational placard, that entire area was the lake. And where my sister is sitting in the grass with my niece, that was once the top of the dam. A dam with flawed maintenance from the very beginning.

Johnstown has both such a sad and intriguing history that we couldn’t help but visit. Many floods happened even before The Great Flood which nearly destroyed them all. All my life I’ve lived on high ground, and I still can’t wrap my mind around why anyone would choose to live in a notorious floodplain.

In a half suburban, half country city like Johnstown, it’s “curb appeal” and industrial draw is what makes it appealing even today. It’s not, however, without its own social and economic issues.

Saturday, September 26th

Not much happened at all on Saturday morning. Check-out time was 10:00 AM, and we were ready to go home. Mom and I stumbled upon a Saturday-only flea market halfway home, and we wandered its many rooms and aisles for at least two hours.

And, wouldn’t you know? My sister/family showed up right when we were leaving!

Mom and I headed back out, and once we reached the outskirts of Monroeville, PA, we stopped for lunch at an Applebees.

And, wouldn’t you know? My sister and family pulled in behind us!

Great minds think alike, I suppose!

With bellies full of food, minds filled with history, and hearts full of family togetherness, we made it home around 5 PM on a Saturday evening.

And, wouldn’t you know?

We all live on the same street.

It’s as though our little pod never left home to begin with.

And that, my friends, is really all this birthday girl ever really wanted – time with her little pod for her 35th birthday.


Confessions of a Chronic Underwriter

Be honest with me: How many of you thought I put the word “underwear” instead of “underwriter” in the title? I won’t blame you one bit! But the title is completely, utterly, unequivocally true. About two years ago my uncle, who’s a published children’s author, picked up on it when he read through one of my very early drafts for a shelved projected titled For One Night at the Winter Garden. “Your sentences are too long,” he said. “Does that detail really need to be in there?”

He didn’t use the words “you’re an underwriter,” but he recognized the signs that I was trying too hard.

When you try too hard, you put more detail (whether by choice or subconsciously) into a scene where it’s not needed. It often shows up in the form of sharing too much backstory or sharing, say, historical details out of context (if you’re writing historical fiction, that is!). Personally, it was overcompensation because I hadn’t fully developed any of my characters. For One Night was all scene and setting driven rather than main character centered.

I’m grateful for For One Night. Not only did it teach me when and where to include details, the project also showed me two years ago that I wasn’t ready to take on Project Firedamp. I needed to be patient with myself. So I blogged, researched my novel’s era and read UP on craft. My chronic underwriting is still there, but I’m more aware of the choices a writer’s mind needs to make because I focused on what needed to be fixed within myself.

WRITE TIP: Is there something keeping you from being the best writer you can be? What is it? Is it something your beta readers have pointed out in their notes for you? Don’t be afraid to take a hard look inside and the TIME to fix it. Life is a never ending learning journey. Be patient with yourself and don’t be tempted by shortcuts.

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.

John Quincy Adams

My Multiple MC Problem

Even though I’ve done a lot of writing since childhood, this is the first time I’ve attempted something as big as Project Firedamp. Not only are there a lot of moving parts, historical facts to keep straight, and cultural differences to look out for, things are in their early stages and I’ve got time to make changes.

When my idea for #ProjectFiredamp first came to fruition, I tossed around several sub genres of historical fiction before settling on historical adventure. The time period I chose (late Victorian) and the characters created (some real, some not) really give me wiggle room in the adventure realm.

However, since a few NPCs (if you do online gaming you’ll know this stands for non-player character) and my antagonist were, in fact, real people, I still have to play the “How far can I go into their historical facts without bogging down the reader?” game. (Thank you, Paulette, for getting “NPC” stuck in my head! I love our writerly DMs). Not only that, but since I decided to have two point of views instead of just one, the fear of under developing one of them is real.

Dare I add a third POV? I’m not sure I’m capable of juggling that many subplots just yet!

I asked a question similar to this on Twitter a few weeks ago and KM Weiland shared her method for developing characters. Not only does she have a full book called Creating Character Arcs and its corresponding workbook, she also has a list of interview questions I’ve started using myself. While my fear of under developing a main character is still ever present in the back of my mind, these resources have really helped keep some of that anxiety under control. Let’s face it – I’m a list lover. And you’ve surely deduced by now that I’m an outliner as well.

Method is something I never looked at as a kid. Heck, I grew up in the 90s. We didn’t have as many easily-accessible resources then as we do now. I promise this isn’t a sponsored post. Ms. Weiland will have no idea I’m writing this until I share it on Twitter. Everyone has their own way of helping them keep track of their characters. So far, keeping a running dialogue with them via a list of “interview” questions is helping my process. Maybe those lists will help keep that seed of multiple MC doubt from growing!


When a Character Says Goodbye

I always thought writers were crazy when they Tweeted about their characters “speaking” to them. For the first time since my novel’s conception, I experienced a “sayōnara” moment with my original villain. Now I know what all those “crazy writers” were talking about. And you know what? I’m now one of them. Yay!

The downside to saying goodbye to a villain is, who do I put in his place? An entire plot line is now poof, gone. Destroyed during a ten minute research session on a chilly November Saturday morning. He’s gone after my mind’s played with his family history for three years.

I looked at my villain in the eyes; he looked back. Then he gathered up his crown and jauntily walked out of the story.

Fighting with him, I called him back, reaching for his cape as it billowed behind him in the wind. “NO! Did these past three years mean nothing to you?!” Just like the villain he is, he ignored my pleas, blood, sweat and tears, and disappeared into the morning sun. He left me in the dust. In a pile of words, scenes, plot lines and intrigue only he can solve.

Sometimes characters will do that to you. You’ll discover that they’re just not right for the current story that needs telling. I was going to pull my own form of villainy and out him for his treacherous, turncoat nature but you know what? I think I’ll just lock him in the story vault and feed him with facts of what he hates the most – news that the Union Army won the Civil War.