Writing Historical Fiction

Tarzan_of_the_Apes_1918When writing a historical novel—which I consider any story taking place in another time period—attention to historical detail is paramount, unless you don’t mind irritating your readers. Readers of historical fiction are a savvy group and will notice things like inventions and events appearing prematurely in a story.

After releasing Coulson’s Wife, my first attempt at historical fiction, the reviews on my historical accuracy were favorable. However, there was one reviewer who, while she claimed to like the book, questioned the historical accuracy of several things mentioned in the story. She didn’t know if hysterectomies, refrigerated milk, or movies existed in the timeframe mentioned in the story (around 1918).

The answer: yes.

According to my research, the first hysterectomy was performed around 75 years before the character in my story had one.

As for refrigerated milk, I suppose her real question, did they have refrigerators back then? According to Wikipedia, the home refrigerator was invented in 1913. Before that time, they used iceboxes.

The final question—movies. I didn’t just mention movies, I mentioned a specific movie—one that was actually released at the time it is mentioned in the story: Tarzan of the Apes. Like Mary Ellen in Coulson’s Wife, it is one of my favorite books. As for that old movie—you can watch it here, on YouTube.

In my opinion, writers in the future are going to have a challenging task adhering to historical accuracy when writing a story taking place during the last decades of the 20th century, considering the rapid technological changes that occurred, and the advent of social media. Lucky for them, they will have Google—or maybe something better—to fact check.

Christmas Scrooge or False Accusations


I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. Book sales on my Coulson Series have been strong this past month. Yet, what makes me especially happy, are the positive reviews I’ve been receiving on the first book in the series – Coulson’s Wife.

While going through the reviews when preparing for this post, I found a most snarky and offensive comment left by someone the day before Christmas Eve, who doesn’t claim to have read the book – didn’t leave her own review – but questions the legitimacy of the other reviews.

The person wrote: “Practically all these reviews read the same. No information about the book at all. Can we say “purchased reviews” anyone?

Ummm…no we can’t say that. I have never EVER, in my entire writing career purchased any review. I have asked for honest reviews before, on a Goodread’s group that hooks writers up with reviewers in exchange for a free email file. But that was only on While Snowbound – not Coulson’s Wife – and I limited it to ten readers – and not all of those left a review, which is not uncommon.

But like I said, I never asked for Coulson’s Wife reviews on Goodreads – nor have I ever paid for any reviews. Plus, I don’t believe in review swaps. If I read a friend’s book and don’t like it – I won’t leave a review. If I like the book, I will leave an honest review. But I would never engage in the practice of review swaps, it doesn’t feel right to me. When I do like a book written by a friend, I want to be able to write a good review, without others doubting my sincerity.

If more than one reader said the same thing about Coulson’s Wife, it was probably because the readers shared the same impression about the story. Accusing an author of unethical conduct – simply because readers expressed similar sentiments in their reviews, is in itself unethical – in my opinion.

So what did some reviewers say about Coulson’s Wife?

“I haven’t found a book in quite some time that held my interest enough that I could read it in one sitting.”

“I think the author did a beautiful job making her characters come to life and I highly recommend reading this book.”

“I loved this book!”

“…a great ride, and I’m going on to the next book.”

“…so worth the read just make sure you have the time because everything else is forgotten while reading this book.”

“I totally enjoyed reading this book. I loved the characters especially Mary Ellen. great story which I will recommend to my friends.”

“Wonderful story.”

“Well written, with good description of characters.”

“..the people were very real.”

“I could not put it down.”

“I shed quiet a few tears while reading this book but I couldn’t bring myself to put it down. It was well worth reading.”

While I find the person’s snarky comment a personal insult – I still feel great about the reviews. It tells me my story has resonated with those readers.

EDIT: I feel it necessary to amend my post. When I first read the comment accusing me of buying reviews, I assumed the person was questioning all the reviews on Coulson’s Wife – yet I may have misunderstood and that comment may have been directed at just one reviewer – the reviewer where the comment was left.

After taking a closer look, I see that reviewer has only three reviews – all on Coulson books, and none are verified purchases, meaning the books were not purchased at Amazon, at least not through the account leaving the review. Of course, that doesn’t mean the reviewer didn’t read the books – they were available (until recently) at Smashwords and Barnes and Noble.  Since I’ve sold books at both venues, it is always possible one of those readers left the reviews.

First, I’d like to say, I have absolutely no idea who the reviewer is. I understand questioning the validity of the reviews, but I honestly did not pay or ask someone to write fake five star reviews.

While it is possible some well meaning, yet misguided friend left the reviews, I rather hope that is not the case. I’d prefer to believe it is someone who read the books, and was so taken by them that she decided to write her first book reviews on Amazon.

I’ve been publishing on Amazon for a number of years and I am not foolish enough to leave fake reviews. Yet, just as authors cannot control 1-star reviews, we have no control over our 5-star reviews. (December 29, 2013)

When book reviews make us crazy…


When we want to – but can’t – respond to book reviews.

Most of my author friends agree; responding to book reviews is not in our best interest. They can lead to online wars, tarnish the author’s image and can land us on some dreaded authors misbehaving list.

I have one author friend who has no problem speaking up when he feels a reviewer is out of line – writing a spiteful review not based on the actual book, but motivated by other factors. He’s become rather infamous in some online circles.

Many insist it is not professional, while others disagree – even those who don’t respond. One of my author friends suggested that the taboo on no-response might be dated considering the changes within the publishing industry.

I recently asked a group of authors what especially irritated them about reviews. Most agreed it was when a reviewer introduced a falsehood into a review. I’m not talking about a reviewer who says one of our characters suck, even though we have a hundred reviewers who disagree. That is a difference of opinion, and I believe most authors agree a reviewer is entitled to his or her own opinion – even if it conflicts with ours. That is what reviews are all about.

A falsehood might be when a reviewer points out a plot hole based on a series of events – when the series of events did not go as the reviewer suggested. Once I read a one star-review on a friend’s book and the reviewer went on and on about this ridiculous plot hole. I had read the book and thought, what in the hell is he talking about? I re-read the section, and discovered this particular reviewer had a serious reader comprehension problem. The story did not go as the reviewer suggested.

Personally, I feel great if I get positive feedback from strangers. Once that happens, I’m okay with the negative reviews. There is no way one author will appeal to all readers. Some will hate my books. But, as long as some love my stories, I’m on the right track.

Even though I practice the “do not respond” rule when it comes to leaving comments on reviews, it doesn’t mean I won’t occasionally address a review in my blog.

In my book, While Snowbound, my leading lady is an Indi – an independent, self-published author.  That apparently bugged a couple of reviewers.  One reviewer wrote:

“Tell me a story, don’t tell me why I need to support indie authors.”

I’m not sure where in the story she got “support indie authors” –  no more than readers are encouraged to buy from independent vendors at a swap meet (Sugar Rush) or hire a self-employed restaurant consultant (After Sundown).

I have three books in my Sensual Romance Series – and each female protagonist is self-employed, an  entrepreneur. I do tend to choose professions where I know something about. In While Snowbound, Ella’s career and what happened to it was an intricate part of the story. Had the reviewer simply said she found the story boring, that I could understand. But to make the claim I am telling her why to support indie authors – that I don’t get.

But, she was not the only reviewer who had an issue with my Indi leading lady. Another reviewer wrote:

What’s worse is that she’s an indie (but not best-selling) historical romance author. OMG – writing romances is such a girly career anyway…

First off…well no, not bestselling author, that would sort of create a big ol’ plot hole if she was a bestseller. And historical romance – another choice on my part to fill a potential plot hole. How does an author not know about the famous leading man? I decided to make her a historical romance author, so she tends to live in the past.

This same reviewer also wrote: The ending of the book is even worse with regards to her “career” – what a fairytale.

Fairytale? That one made me chuckle. When writing the book, I interviewed one of my author friends – one who actually had a more ‘fairytale” ending than my Ella. She gave me some insight on what she encountered after obtaining overnight fame. As the old adage goes, truth is stranger than fiction.