The Challenge in Writing Straight Historical Romance


Civil War, American Civil War, War, Ghost, Armed Forces,

I can’t seem to stay away from ghosts. They keep popping up in my stories, difficult to justify to my historical editor who considers them paranormal. Fortunately, I also have a paranormal editor who’s all about visitations from the departed. But you see, ghosts are not that unusual in Virginia. We have more ghost stories than any other state in the union. I could share half a dozen paranormal accounts without venturing beyond my neighborhood and family. Those of you who don’t believe in this sort of thing, move to the Shenandoah Valley and get back with me. Yes, it’s gorgeous here. Maybe that’s why some ghosts don’t want to leave. Just last week, my son and I saw unexplained greenish-yellow lights up on the hill behind our farm, in the dark, moving around the Old Order Mennonite Church/schoolhouse, then–nothing. Some kind of flashlight, we wondered? Where did it go? If someone needed the light to find their way in, why not back out? It’s rural countryside and pitch dark.

old barn at dusk

Did I go investigate? No. I only like to write about ghosts. And I suspect the lower end of the farm behind us is haunted. There’s just a creepy old barn and a burned out, nothing left of it, home, and falling into ruins outbuildings. I once found a scrap of newspaper while poking around that site and all it said was ‘The devil.’

(Image of old barn at dusk by Elise)

I’m not comfortable with the idea of something skulking about, springing at me, shouting, ‘Boo!’ If I get the notion anything might, I’ll be loudly singing hymns and reciting the Anglican Exorcism prayer sent to mom and me by a lovely English lady named Dorothy Evans. We requested it after she shared an account of their parish manse being haunted by a violent poltergeist and the new priest calling the faithful together to recite the prayer and banish it. She told of paintings flung down from the upstairs hallway and furniture shoved against doors. But the detail I remember best is the saucepan lid she says flew across the kitchen and landed at her feet–thrown by an unseen hand. Fortunately, the faithful were successful in dispelling the offender. Years ago, my son and I held hands and recited this same prayer in the old farm house he and his soon to be wife were renovating, to out the poltergeist banging about, opening doors, and alarming the cat, people, etc. It worked, btw.

ghostly woods

There are several camps of ghosts. The most common are those who have unfinished business. In my stories, once they complete their mission, they move on. They may need help to accomplish their task from the hero or heroine. Some ghosts are seemingly lost–didn’t get the memo the war is over, (the Civil War)–or some such confusion, and need encouragement to move on. Some phenomenal occurrences are an echo from the past–a chink in time opening to reveal a brief glimpse of the people and era in which they lived. They’re not ghosts. Poltergeists, unseen except for their volatile effects, are more common than visible ghosts. The real bad asses are the ones I worry about encountering–ever. Steer clear of them, unless you bring a group of faithful with you to pray them out.

Fog, Farm, Mist, Cemetery, Tree, Wet, Tombstone, Field, Morning, Grave

In my recent release, historical romance novel, Traitor’s Legacy, set during the American Revolution, I made it through the novel with mystery, intrigue, and adventure, no ghosts. However, in writing the sequel, Traitor’s Curse, I’m already onto my second ghost, and the story has a delicious Gothic flavor. This one will likely wind up with my paranormal editor. I tried to keep the series straight historical, and the period details are, but there’s no keeping the ghosts out. So the series will be, in the words of a local country woman describing her two-year-old, ‘right mixy.’ Say that with a Southern accent for the full affect.

I’m back working with the Wild Rose Press. I like my editors, and what the company can do with the books that I can’t, including more with audio and now they’re getting stories translated into other languages. Fortunately, they tell me to write the story that wants to be told and they’ll find the spot for it within the company in one of their lines. This isn’t to say I won’t do any more indie titles, but I like working with the Wild Rose.

For those of you chomping at the bit for the Anglican Exorcism prayer, here it is: Do not try this alone if the presence you sense is evil, only with a strong group of Christians, the more, the better. And join hands. Even if you think I’m nuts.

“In the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, may this distressed soul be relieved of his obsession with this world and sent to where he belongs.”

I added, ‘go to the light,’ although a truly evil presence won’t, but a troubled, restless one may. Seems only right to offer that as an option.

Stories I’ve written with ghosts thus far include Somewhere My Love and Somewhere the Bells Ring (Christmas). These two are the most overtly ghostly. However, Enemy of the King is historical, but the H&H are haunted by his late wife (Traitor’s Legacy is the sequel to Enemy of the King). Through the Fire is historical, but the heroine sees her late uncle. Kira, Daughter of the Moon, sequel to Through the Fire, has a poltergeist, but overall, it’s historical. Red Bird’s Song is strongly historical, but the heroine glimpses her departed brother. The Bearwalker’s Daughter is carefully researched historical, but has a strong paranormal element, including the departed returning. And a Shawnee warrior who can ‘bear walk’. But that’s another phenomena entirely.

 Chapel Hill black and white image

A final sharing from June of this year. As my dear Aunt Moggie lay dying in the old family homeplace in the valley where she’d lived her whole life, including her married life, the hospice nurse roused from where she’d nodded off in a chair, to see a man seated on the bedside. He was holding Moggie’s hand and she was speaking quietly with him. The nurse assumed he was my aunt’s younger son, Henry. When the man she took to be Henry stood up, nodded at her politely, and left the room, she followed to see for certain who he was. She discovered Henry asleep in a chair. It wasn’t him. My aunt spoke matter-of-factly about her late husband, RW, being with her. And Henry looks a lot like his father did as a younger man. When I heard the man sitting with my aunt had nodded politely to the nurse before leaving the room, I knew it had to be my uncle. That was exactly like him. I believe he returned to be with his beloved wife as she was passing from this world to the next. The veil may be thinner than we think.


Somewhere the Bells Ring larger cover sizeChapel Hill, pictured above, is the old family homeplace in the Shenandoah Valley and the setting for my ghostly Christmas romance, Somewhere the Bells Ring.

My stories are available from various booksellers, but Amazon has them all.

Visit my Amazon Author Page.

2 responses to “The Challenge in Writing Straight Historical Romance

  1. HI Beth,
    The TWRP line the book goes into depends on the amount of paranormal. I have two Regencies with them that have a little fantasy/prarnormal, and they both went into an historical line. Or maybe it depends on the editor. 🙂

    Like

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