#BellesChat Giveaway – Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance

Come Hell or Highball by Maia Chance

31-year-old society matron Lola Woodby has survived her loveless marriage with an unholy mixture of highballs, detective novels, and chocolate layer cake, until, her husband dies suddenly, leaving her his fortune…or so Lola thought. As it turns out, all she inherits from Alfie is a big pile of debt. Pretty soon, Lola and her stalwart Swedish cook, Berta, are reduced to hiding out in the secret love nest Alfie kept in New York City. But when rent comes due, Lola and Berta have no choice but to accept an offer made by one of Alfie’s girls-on-the-side: in exchange for a handsome sum of money, the girl wants Lola to retrieve a mysterious reel of film for her. It sounds like an easy enough way to earn the rent money. But Lola and Berta realize they’re in way over their heads when, before they can retrieve it, the man currently in possession of the film reel is murdered, and the reel disappears. On a quest to retrieve the reel and solve the murder before the killer comes after them next, Lola and Berta find themselves navigating one wacky situation after another in high style and low company.

Charming, witty, often laugh-out-loud funny, Maia Chance’s Come Hell or Highball introduces a sparkling new voice in crime fiction.



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Your Weekly Belle Bulletin: August 3, 2015

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Book Deals & Steals

Belles in the News

On Using Public History to Restore Forgotten Voices in Historical Romance

(NOTE: This is a repost from my author blog)

T'Chin Quan Chan Family, ca. 1911

RS 27464, Chin Quan Chan; Seattle District, Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, Applications to Reenter, c. 1892-1900]: Chin Quan Chan Family, Chinese Exclusion Act Case File, circa 1911

As some may know, I’ve recently returned to school for a double degree in Public History and American Studies. Where I once had a vague sense of history and historical fiction/romance existing on somewhat different planes, I now have a strong sense of this theoretical statement. And each day, each quarter, spent in various courses in both disciplines expands my vision of what history (and memory and place and literature and identity) actually is, and how it can be applied to writing historical fiction.

In a nutshell, Public History takes history out of the ivory tower of academia and is also an act of social justice. It is the process of engaging the public with history–museums, historical societies, cultural events, all the way down to a monument or plaque to a public hero/ine. If you take a look around your city, you will likely find evidence of public history at work.

Public History also works to address memory and the meaning of place, particularly with regards to those whose history has been destroyed or hidden or misinterpreted. American Studies seems pretty self-explanatory, but where it was once the creation of “myths” about American identity, it has transformed over the past few decades into an interrogation of these myths and the various facets of what it means to be “American” (United States).

Over the past few months I’ve worked on a project focused on a local Chinatown, whose site has been reclaimed after decades of legal wrangling. Over the past four months, I–and others–have been holed up in the nearest branch of the National Archives and Records Administration, combing through boxes and boxes of files dedicated to the Chinese Exclusion Act in search of the people who lived in this Chinatown and other Chinatowns in the region. Needless to say, this research has been illuminating.

Each file I’ve opened has sparked so many thoughts and ideas–academic and for fiction–and increased my awareness of the stories untold. It has increased my awareness of the people wedged in the crevices of what we think we know and what we produce from that “knowledge.” My research for this project has made it impossible to not see this story from the inside out, to hear the story of this period in US history through the voices of the local Chinese-American population of the early 20th century.

At the beginning of my involvement, the files meant little to me; the photographs of the Chinese immigrants placed on their certificates were just men from long ago, and their lives were filled in with my vague knowledge of Chinese-American culture based on trawling through San Francisco’s Chinatown. This four month project also yanked other stories into the picture: white Americans who were against the Exclusion Act, who vouched for immigrants; kinship; entrepreneurship; marriage and gender; education; religion; legal history.

There is public history theory, of course, but I spend most of my courses doing public history, whether it be speaking to the city government about historic preservation, or observing community activism, or attending historical events (and speaking there too–eek!). And when I forge connections with other public historians and integral voices in the community, I get chills over the history out there locked in someone’s attic or in their mind.

As I stated in my previous post, this is not easy history to find. You can’t walk into B&N and easily find a shelf groaning with books on Chinese American history the way you can about the Kennedys. You can’t type a few words into Google and come up with tons of websites and blogs about daily life for African Americans in Los Angeles the way you can for daily life in, say, Victorian London (and that is problematic in and of itself, since these sites usually erase Brits of color from the landscape). What you can do is look in the margins:

1) Oral history projects and transcripts.
2) Special collections at a local library.
3) Visit a branch of the National Archives to use their access to Ancestry.com and newspaper archives.
4) Historical societies and niche museums.
5) Veterans groups.
6) Check the schedule at the local university’s history department for talks by visiting historians–believe me, they welcome the public.
7) JSTOR if you have access–and some articles are free.
8) Conduct your own oral history projects with family and friends.
9) Research for whom buildings in your city are named and why.
10) Email historians in your topic of interest! They love discussing their work and field.

Your Weekly Belle Bulletin: July 27, 2015

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RWA’s annual conference wrapped up on Saturday, and though I only followed along on Twitter and the ingenious livestream of the RITA/Golden Heart ceremony (winners), I felt as though I were there–if only in social media spirit. Modern Belle Piper spoke on one of the four diversity panels at the conference, and the importance of this very real issue is being discussed and unpacked by many.

Book Deals & Steals

Belles in the News

Your Weekly Belle Bulletin: July 20, 2015

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The Sad, Stately Photo Of Nixon’s Resignation LunchThis is the lunch that President Richard Nixon ate on August 8, 1974, just before going on national television to announce that he was resigning. White House photographer Robert Knudsen captured it on film. The next day, Nixon boarded a plane for California.

In pictures: dogs of the First World WarThroughout human history, ‘man’s best friend’ has offered loyalty and companionship. But during the First World War dogs played an especially important role, carrying aid to the wounded, pulling equipment, and taking messages between the lines.

Where were they?Find out how many slave-owners lived in your local area in 1833, and how the profits of the slave-trade impacted the region. To find out more about the legacies of slavery where you live, search the Legacies of Slave-Ownership (LBS) database.

How suffragette poster art helped women get the voteThe Artists’ Suffrage League was the first artists’ suffrage group to be formed in 1907, gathering together professional artists and illustrators to provide banners and postcards in support the wider movement. This poster was created by one of its members, Emily Ford, and refers to unrepresented women who were employed in factories as ‘sweated labour.

Book Deals & Steals

Belles in the News

Your Weekly Belle Bulletin

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  • The Invisible Hand Behind Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’: In the spring of 1957, a 31-year-old aspiring novelist named Harper Lee — everyone called her Nelle — delivered the manuscript for “Go Set a Watchman” to her agent to send out to publishers, including the now-defunct J. B. Lippincott Company, which eventually bought it. At Lippincott, the novel fell into the hands of Therese von Hohoff Torrey — known professionally as Tay Hohoff — a small, wiry veteran editor in her late 50s. Ms. Hohoff was impressed. “[T]he spark of the true writer flashed in every line,” she would later recount in a corporate history of Lippincott. But as Ms. Hohoff saw it, the manuscript was by no means fit for publication. It was, as she described it, “more a series of anecdotes than a fully conceived novel.” During the next couple of years, she led Ms. Lee from one draft to the next until the book finally achieved its finished form and was retitled “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
  • The Sloane Name Generator: Sloane Rangers were basically the British equivalent to the American yuppie in the 1980s. The most famous “Sloanie” is Princess Diana.
  • Martha Euphemia Lofton Haynes, first African-American woman to earn a PhD. in mathematics: how’s this for a diverse heroine! In 1930, Haynes received a masters degree in education from the University of Chicago, where she also did further graduate study in mathematics. She earned a doctorate degree in mathematics from Catholic University of America (CUA) in 1943, becoming the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. degree in mathematics. The title of her dissertation was “The Determination of Sets of Independent Conditions Characterizing Certain Special Cases of Symmetric Correspondences;” Dr. Aubrey Landrey was her dissertation advisor and Drs. Otto J. Ramler and J. Nelson Rice were members of her doctoral committee.
  • Seven Sisters Partners Launch New Archives Project: The women’s colleges once known as the “Seven Sisters” have launched College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education. College Women brings together—for the first time online—digitized letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs of women who attended the seven partner institutions: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Radcliffe (now the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University).
  • The Dancer Who Made History 64 Years Before Misty Copeland: Sixty-four years earlier, on Nov. 13, 1951, my cousin Janet Collins, made her debut in Aida as the first African American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera House at its old location near Times Square. The grandest and most revered theater in the world saw both dancers make history and struggle to follow their dreams.
  • Listening to the Roar of 1920s New York: In 1929, New York’s Noise Abatement Commission outfitted a truck with microphones and sound recording devices to measure the city’s din. Researchers made more than 10,000 observations on the truck’s 500-mile journey past construction sites with billowing steam shovels and pounding pile drivers, underneath screeching elevated trains and past the cluster of electronics shops blaring music in Lower Manhattan’s “Radio Row.”

Book Deals & Steals

Belles in the News

Going Dark After 5

Social media is a wonderful thing. I’ve connected with people around the world – writers and historians being at the top of the list – and have been the better person for it. Because of the Internet, I’ve created some terrific friendships.

But social media also has its downfall. Politics, religion, and lots of other hot button topics can suck you in to their vortex and have your blood pressure boiling. Endless checking and re-checking your Twitter and Facebook accounts to see if someone has responded to your post or has retweeted your tweet can become an addiction.

But the biggest problem I, personally, have with social media is what all these things add up to: time wasted; specifically, time wasted that I could be using to write.

I’m on the computer all day at work, and part of my job deals with social media. So I can’t escape it during the day. Unfortunately, when I clocked out at 5 p.m., that didn’t stop me from jumping back on Facebook and Twitter once I got home. And we all know that “I’ll just check it for a few minutes” can turn into an hour or more. My plans to write were often thwarted because I would get sucked into a discussion or follow some rabbit trail from a tweet.

At some point, you have to say, “Enough is enough.”

That’s why I instituted the “No Social Media After 5 p.m. Rule.”

Those first couple evenings were tough. I had my manuscript open in Word and didn’t even have Google Chrome running. If I hit a plot snarl or had trouble describing something, I instantly wanted to click over to Twitter or FB and see what was up. But I resisted. And it wasn’t easy.

However, as the days went on and I maintained my rule, I began to see some surprising results. Not only was I writing more, I was more focused, less antsy, and much calmer. My brain wasn’t constantly trying to do 20 things at once: instead, it was working on one thing, the novel. I even slept better because my brain didn’t have all those tabs open (metaphorically speaking).

trainMy writing also improved because I wasn’t pulling myself away from it every five minutes. Instead, I was immersing myself in my characters’ world.

The “No Social Media After 5 p.m. Rule” might not work for you. You might not be able to be on social media at all during your day job, and thus, catching up with friends and family on social media after work might be the way you relax and reconnect. And that’s totally fine. But if you’re trying to write, limit yourself to 30 minutes or an hour, and then close those tabs and get to work! Your characters will thank you.

What’s your relationship with social media? Does it interfere with your writing time?

Graduation Day for a Modern Belle

By Piper Huguley

Girl of the LimberlostIn my novella releasing today, “A Sweet Way to Freedom,” Ruby Bledsoe, the heroine of A Virtuous Ruby, makes an appearance as a 13-year-old in 1910. Part of the novella includes Ruby’s graduation from the 8th grade, marking the end of her formal education. I included this in the story to remind readers that high school was an impossible option for a lot of people, especially African Americans, just one-hundred years ago.

I was first made aware of the eighth grade as the end of formal education when I read the splendid Gene Porter Stratton novel, A Girl of the Limberlost, published in 1909. Elnora wasn’t African American, but I remember being incredibly touched by Elnora Comstock’s fierce desire to finance and pursue a high school education. I cheered right along with her when she was able to both finance her education and further her scientific interests at the same time.

Reflecting back further, when I was younger, I recall having older female relatives puff out their chests with pride at having finished high school. In my arrogant young mind, I thought that accomplishment was no big deal. I didn’t know that, especially in the South, high school had only became a reality for African Americans around the time of the Great Depression ( to keep those pesky kids out of the job market, of course) but really gained momentum during World War II. People began to realize that the stupidity of racism kept the United States from having a properly educated populace. It’s an educational lag that still shows up in many ways to this day.

My son just completed the eighth grade and this was heavily on my mind as I wrote about Ruby’s graduation in my novella. One hundred years ago, he would have had to get a job, just as Ruby had to learn a trade. But like that other Modern Belle, Elnora, Ruby has her own desires when she gets her own story. Her need to obtain a high school education drives her to help the rest of her family right down to her youngest sister. It also pulls her closer to the handsome doctor—Adam Morson. But that’s another story.

The Brightest Day Juneteenth anthology“A Sweet Way to Freedom” is available now in The Brightest Day, available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo.

 

 

 

 

A Virtuous Ruby by Piper HuguleyA Virtuous Ruby will release on July 14 and is available for preorder on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iTunes and Google play.

Memorial Day: Memory and connection

1940s recruitment brochures emphasized the WAR not the vacation aspect of Hawaii. Even though it's a lure !

1940s recruitment brochures emphasized the WAR not the vacation aspect of Hawaii. Even though it’s a lure !

My post coincides with Memorial Day, 2015 but I’m currently living in 1940s Hawaii. Time travel is a wonderful thing especially for a writer who focuses on homeland WWII. Honolulu isn’t a vacation land but, as a brochure put it, “Hawaii is a giant fort.” Pearl Harbor has been rebuilt. Ships float over the deep sea graves of sailors lost on December 7th, 1941.  From that moment forward, Memorial Day was again about the present, rather than the past. Lives lost yesterday, not in earlier wars, were remembered. Children held photos of their deceased military fathers as they marched in Memorial Day parades.  Going to Hawaii wasn’t about vacations. Memorial Day was about grieving as well as honoring.

But the more I read, both WWII fiction and non-fiction research materials, the more I realize how we tend to forget the civilians who fought the war in their homelands and paid the price. I’ve just finished Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, an evocative story of two sisters in the Loire Valley, France who live through the occupation by the Nazis and choose to fight the enemy in different ways. Resistance fighters were everywhere but regular townspeople helped those who took a more active role, at risk to life and limb. Just because someone worked for the Red Cross or was a journalist didn’t mean they were safe from German bombs dropped over London, as illustrated in The Secrets of A Charmed Life by Susan Meissner.

Back in Hawaii, civilians were killed at Pearl Harbor as well as military, by virtue of strafing, bombs, and fires. American men who were able to work but too old or 4F went off to the Naval Ship yards at Pearl Harbor or other locations, separated from their families. If their wives came along, clerical or mechanical skills were a must. So many wives either stayed home with children or came to Hawaii and were separated from the rest of their family.

As I pause to remember my uncle who died when his plane was downed in the Pacific Campaign, I’m adding my thanks to those civilians who also gave their lives for freedom and hoping that if it ever came to that, I would do the same.

Have you thought of the contributions of civilians in wartime? Do you have a favorite civilian hero or heroine, or story?