This Post Was Kidnapped by Pirates

This post is only tangentially about planners, most of that due to the cover photo for today. This post, like the short story I did get submitted to Z Publishing on time, was kidnapped by pirates. Never fear, planner devotees, that post is coming, especially since the utterly awesome presentation by Lucinda Race, at this past Saturday’s Capitol Region Romance Writers of America meeting gave me much food for thought on the matter of branding.

This time, though, it’s pirates. Yep. Pirates. See, I’d had a plan in place, to craft a lovely short bit for the anthology submission, grounded in historical fact, and even return to my beloved Colonial America setting. This involved reading up on my New York history, diving into the Quartering Acts, and crafting a hero and heroine who already had a history, so that we didn’t have to go from meet-cute (though, seriously, if I’m writing historicals on my own, it’s more like meet-angsty) to HEA in a couple of thousand words. Yeeeeah, that is not exactly what happened, which will surprise nobody.

First, I had my premise. Use the Quartering Acts to fill my innkeeper heroine’s home and business with British soldiers. Second, bring my hero, her childhood sweetheart, along, newly cashiered out, and in need of a place to hang his tricorn (that is not a euphemism, but I do write historical romance, so take it as you will).) Give him a letter of introduction from his old commanding officer, addressed to officer’s wife, only to find out that said letter is addressed to the first Mrs. Officer, (it’s a couple years old) and the woman who actually gets it is the second Mrs. Officer, now widowed, annnnd everybody can unpack their emotional baggage right over there, thanks. Only, of course, it wasn’t that easy.

My first clue should have been when my first draft started coming out like this:

Hero: I can has room, plz?
Heroine: LOLZ, no. Too many soldiers.
Hero: I used to be one. See? I have the coat and everything.
Heroine: Sry-not-sry, govt can only enforce active duty dudes. Sux2BU. Bye.
Hero: I can cook.
Heroine: Hmmm…

Yes, this is how I do things in the very beginning. It’s not pretty. Suffice it to say that A) there was nothing I could do to get this heroine to let the hero into herr house, much less life, within the short story word count, B) dude has some serious wooing to do, and C) maybe this story and the Colonial-that-wouldn’t (because hero refused to be who I wanted him to be) might be the same story. Also D, An Intolerable Affair sounds like a wonderful title to me, and the Quartering Acts were part of the Intolerable Acts, sooooo….

This still left me with the need for a short piece to submit. That’s where the pirates happened. Some years back, I finished the first draft of what would become A Heart Most Errant. That’s still looking for its forever home, but if you want to read a short excerpt, and meet John and Aline now, they are waiting for you in last year’s New York’s Emerging Writers anthology. I actually cried after getting John and Aline to their HEA, and wasn’t sure how I was going to follow that. I ended up at a table in my local Panera, and started writing down things I liked in historical romance novels, randomly about the page. I am pretty sure “pirates” was high on the list.  Specifically, that my heroine would be the pirate. Good, that was settled, but what else? What about the hero? What are some things pirates do? I put down a bunch of things, as I recall, but the one that stood out was the practice of marooning, leaving a man on a deserted island, with a small amount of food, and water, and a pistol with a single shot. Hmmm. What if the marooned man survived, got off the island and wanted to settle the score? It wouldn’t be my heroine who left our hero for dead, but her dear old dad? Reluctantly, yes.

Enter said dear old dad. I had meant Cornelis Van Zandt to be only a supporting character, but then he and Lydia kept pulling my attention from Tamsen and Alec, which I did not entirely mind, because I was still a little fuzzy on some of Tamsen and Alec’s backstory. My life exploded right about then, so Tamsen and Alec’s story, working title Abandon, got set aside, Cornelis and Lydia along with it. Until this last week. With only days before the deadline, my Colonial characters firmly in the noncompliant camp, I opened the file for Abandon.

At first, I’d thought to use a couple of scenes, of Alec’s early life, his marooning, and escape, as this submission didn’t have to be a romance, only historical, but I have met me, and yes, it did. Have to be romance, that is. That decision made, there was no other choice than the first meeting between Cornelis and Lydia. I’d written his POV already, but what about hers? That, as it turned out, was not even a problem. There she was, at the rail of the ship carrying her and her husband to their new life in Bermuda, clutching her prayer book, and hoping that the speck on the horizon was, indeed, pirates. Lydia, my dear, this is your lucky day.

It was also mine. “The Fox and the Lily” was tremendous fun to write, and I look forward to spending time with Cornelis and Lydia again, once I have Bern and Ruby, in Her Last First Kiss, firmly settled in their second draft. Whether that means they get a full story all their own, or it works into their daughter’s story, I don’t yet know. What I do know, however, is that my very favorite sort of historical romance series is the generational saga. Mother, daughter, and granddaughter sounds like a perfect heroine lineup to me. What do you think?

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