Nina Rowan

Nina Rowan has asked me to help her as an editor, sounding board, and research assistant. Nina plans to write a five-book series set in Victorian England using the five gorgeous, intriguing, sexy members of the Hall family as the central characters. I’m having a lot of fun finding amusements in Victorian London for them and learning about corsets,  crinolines and the Crimean War.

Nina is in the “middle drafts” stage of Touch, and I watch, transfixed, as she discards old characters and introduces new ones, executes major plot changes, shuffles scenes, changes settings, dresses, redresses, and undresses characters. “Wow!” I say, and “Oh yeah, that works,” and “YES!”

Joanna Bourne


I am so thrilled to announce that RITA award-winner Joanna Bourne has asked me to help her with some fact-checking for her new book . Joanna is a fellow francophile, and shares my enthusiasm for discussing word usage ad infinitum, or, to some, ad nauseum.

But you see what this means, don’t you? I get to read it first. First.  As in, before everybody else.
How utterly cool is that?

Contemporary voice in a historical novel – from the Eloisa James & Julia Quinn BB

I’m currently writing a romance set in 1821 and I’ve been getting conflicting advice from people who are also writers, but who don’t necessarily read/write in this genre. I’ve gotten reviews that the dialogue and internal thinking is spot-on, but others feel that my characters are too “modern” in their thinking. My question for you is, how do you achieve a balance between setting it back in time enough to make it historical, but bring in enough contemporary thinking to make the characters resonate with a modern audience?

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I wrote: One thing that’s important to remember is that all Freud’s theories, and the vocabulary of psychology to describe those theories, didn’t exist then. Words like ego, fixate, fantasize, Oedipal, which we all use so casually now, were not available in those definitions in the early 19th Century.

It’s always possible to use period terms to describe what we would now describe in psychological terms, as one could suppose an astute student of human behavior in the early 19th Century would come to many of the same conclusions as a modern psychologist, though without using the specialized terminology. For instance, where we might describe someone as having a “massive ego,” a 19th century sage could note that someone has an “overweening sense of self-esteem.”

One way is to check words in the Oxford English Dictionary, which offers dates and citations showing when a word entered the English language.

Good luck!

Does that dictionary handle idioms, too?

Yes, it does. If you have the on-line version, either purchased on-line or available through some libraries (often university,) it will take you directly to the phrase in question. There’s also the Oxford Dictionary of Slang.

Check my website under “Language” for more books about word usage.

Loving Il Divo

June 3rd  was an absolutely fabulous day for me. I had tickets to attend the Il Divo concert in Portland with my dear friend Ann, who admits to being (almost) as big an Il Divo fan as I am. My husband and I drove up from Eugene in his cute little sports car after a good workout at the gym. We got settled in our (surprisingly–the dh is a big fan of Priceline.com)  comfortable and elegant hotel room and took the free trolley to downtown Portland. Ann and her husband Bob used to live in Eugene, but were on vacation in California, and agreed to meet up with us in Portland. We rendezvoused over coffee at Powell’s, the biggest, most fabulous, most famous,  UBS of them all. I did get to look around a bit there, but not to buy. We had other plans!  So we wandered around a while, visiting, then went to Mother’s Bistro & Bar for dinner. We ALWAYS go to Mother’s when in Portland, perhaps more than once, for their breakfasts are as wonderful as their dinners.  Some wine with dinner, desserts to share–this was a very special evening.

The guys then escorted us by trolley to the Rose Quarter Arena for the concert. (They then headed back to our hotel to go swimming in the non-chlorine pool before picking us up after the concert. I think both guys were deeply relieved that they didn’t have to go to the concert, and would have happily agreed to anything else.)

Il Divo. ahhh. I first heard of them when Simon Cowell appeared on Oprah in early 2005. I was surprised he was so good-natured about all the grief she was giving him, but then realized he had an ulterior motive–his new popera band, Il Divo, was going to perform. They sang “Regresa A Mi,” which doesn’t quite translate to its title in English, “Unbreak My Heart,” and I was completely smitten. As were millions of others, as their first cd flew up to #1 on Amazon. Of course I bought a copy. And I bought all their other cd’s, too.  And, I attended their 2006 concert in Portland. Some of their songs I really, really, really loved, Some were less wonderful, but I found that their cd’s were my favorites to listen to, while working in the house or the kitchen, during a long bath, on the elliptical machine at the gym, and sometimes, very, very, softly, while I’m editing. I made several compilations of all my absolute favorite songs, mixed with a few Josh Groban pieces, and I’m never tired of listening to them. Never.

But, back in Portland again. I thought the seats, bought in the first moments they were on sale, would be terrible. They were off to the side, yes, but  close to the stage. And the stage was a very long catwalk that extended into, and for a few lucky ticket holders, around, the audience. They were close enough that I could see when Urs, totally caught up in the music, closed his eyes while he sang. Ann was very pleased with the seats, and took a couple cell phone photos. (I would have taken my camera if I had realized that checking my purse would be such a perfunctory, useless, procedure. )

It was wonderful to be surrounded by fellow Divas, as we Il Divo fans call ourselves. Others could chat just as knowledgeably about particular songs, and identify their individual voices just as easily as I could. The woman next to me pointed out that Urs’s voice had gotten much stronger, and I mentioned that Sebastien had more of a classical style now, from working with classical singers.

And the music! Back in 2006, it was like they were trying too hard to be romantic, suave, sexy. I mean, they are, anyway, but that was a conscious effort. The feeling I got now was that they just wanted to have a really good time, sharing their music with those who loved it, and them, best. It was a wonderful performance. I’m sorry that I can’t really remember any of it, a good reason to buy the dvd of the show, but I completely remember how happy and thrilled I was throughout the entire performance. Their art director must have been on some really excellent drugs when he designed the backdrops, stills and films, that were behind the singers, but the visuals could mostly be ignored.  After all, we were there for the music.

I’ve been an amateur singer for many years, and over that time, have developed some extraordinarily bad habits. I’m working with a marvelous teacher, slowly unraveling all the bad things I’m doing to and with my voice, and developing proper vocal technique. And I can learn so much by listening to Il Divo, especially David and Urs. Both have been rigorously trained, and as I listen to how each uses his head voice, or controls his breathing, or even caresses each note, I learn better ways to do the same.

Do I have a favorite  Divo? I’d say, all of them but Carlos. Nothing personal about Carlos, but this is a wonderfully irrational choice with no consequences. I do love Carlos’s voice when he sings high and soft, but often he’s just a little too overwhelming for my comfort, both his huge baritone voice, and his blatant sexiness.

Portland was extraordinarily warm that evening (all that Il Divo-generated love and hormones?) and we took the trolley back to our respective hotels. The next morning, after a complimentary breakfast at our hotels, we met Ann and Bob again at the very famous Portland Rose Garden. We looked at all the beautiful roses, and mostly, enjoyed a little more time with dear friends that we don’t see nearly often enough.

As a meteorological footnote, it rained buckets the day before in Eugene, while we were in Portland, and the rain moved north, passing  us on the road, and proceeded to drench Portland as soon as we left.

There’s a couple photos of my dh’s sports car and some roses from the Rose Garden, as well as Ann’s photos of the show, in the Flick*r account.

A nice way to start the holiday weekend.

[Also posted on the Editor & Researcher page]

Courtney Milan wrote this about me:

Franzeca is thorough, intelligent, and well-informed.  She is like a one-woman army of research assistants, and she comes equipped with an exhaustive knowledge of historical times, an unerring sense for period language, and a copy-editor’s feel for smooth prose.  She is a perfectionist, and her painstaking work has saved me from myself a thousand times.  The world would be a dark and scary place without Franzeca to help me light my way.”

Spare my blushes!  She was equally a joy to work with.

I’m working on Courtney’s new novel. It features some of the characters in Proof by Seduction, and it is an amazing book, pushing boundaries and bending rules in astoundingly effective and original ways . I even had to sneak a peek at the end because I couldn’t stand the suspense. I never do that; I never have to read the ending first. But I did this time. It is that good.

Do look for her upcoming novella, “This Wicked Gift”, October 1st, 2009 .  More on her website at http://www.courtneymilan.com/