Damsels in Regress and Distress

Please join me in welcoming our first ever guest blogger! Meg Mims, a fellow graduate of Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, writes historical mysteries and romantic suspense. Take it away, Meg!

My novel, DOUBLE CROSSING, skims the YA edge with a heroine one month away from her 20th birthday, so Lily Granville is a traditional “damsel.” I love historicals – reading them and writing them, so chalk one up for “regress.” And one basic rule of writing is conflict in the plot – which is where the “distress” comes from, because without conflict, there is no story!

But one important point about writing conflict in your YA or mystery or romantic suspense is having the heroine rise to the challenge and face the antagonist – and defeat him/her. Years ago, I read books where the hero rode in to save the day, but no more. I much prefer books which empower young and old female readers to battle and succeed. So while a hero is still important – he can help, he can teach, he can inspire – but remember that Dudley Do-Right and his pretty Nell is a cartoon.

Not that a hero like Ace Diamond can’t expect to ride in and save the day – but you’ll have to read DOUBLE CROSSING and find out just how much help he gives Lily. In fact, Ace hinders her at one point which spices up the tension. It’s always fun to involve a little tug-and-pull (and I don’t mean clothing!) between the hero/heroine – so beef up the internal conflict with doubts and secrets, those little annoyances in verbal and non-verbal ways that can aggravate. Readers can get pretty bored if it’s a heroine/hero “lovefest” from the beginning.

Here’s an excerpt from DOUBLE CROSSING that illustrates this point:

“Ace Diamond? That ruffian who crashed through the window last night?” Aunt Sylvia’s demanding voice had returned. “Why would he be coming?”

Raising my chin, I met her direct gaze. “I hired Mr. Diamond to protect us on the journey to California.” Charles dropped his newspaper, his mouth open in shock. “Someone searched my pocketbook and my valise yesterday. It could have been the man who killed my father.”

“But I’m here to protect you, Lily,” Charles said. I caught wounded pride behind his spectacles while he folded his newspaper. “You don’t trust me?”

“Of course I do, but—well, two men are better than one,” I said lamely.

Aunt Sylvia shook a finger at me. “The last thing I expected of you, Lily Granville, was being a shameless flirt. First Charles Mason, and now a Texas hooligan who brawled in the street and ruined your dinner. By his name alone, he must gamble at cards.”

“I admit Mr. Diamond may have an unusual name,” I said, “but you cannot assume that he’s a gambler.”

Charles frowned. “I think your aunt may be right—”

“It’s Lady Sylvia to you, Mr. Mason,” she said. “And of course I’m right.”

I refused to defend Charles or challenge Aunt Sylvia. Kate studied her gloved hands, fidgeting beside me, while I packed my sewing kit away. My stomach churned. If Diamond failed to arrive, I knew I’d strangle my aunt and ‘Sir Vaughn’ within an hour of leaving Kate in Cheyenne. Gritting my teeth, I took out my sketchbook. The train’s final warning whistle sounded a few minutes later but I fumed in silence….

The train started slow and then built up speed, skirting the river until the tracks curved west. Kate nudged my elbow and leaned close to whisper.

“I guess he did take the money and run.”

So how do you balance out the conflict, the emotional ups and downs and the reveals through the dialogue exchanges? With gritty, vivid imagery that pulls the reader back in time and makes them “live” the adventure right along with the characters. I love infusing realistic research like pearls dropped along the path – the smell of horse manure, the taste of greasy potatoes and doughy biscuits at the station eating-houses along the railroad, the sight of black steam puffing from the train’s balloon smokestack, the sound of screeching wheels or clattering horses’ hooves and the softness of suede beneath the heroine’s fingertips.

Get in on the Goodreads’ Giveaway for a print copy of Double Crossing! Here’s the link, and best of luck!

DOUBLE CROSSING — A murder arranged as a suicide … a missing deed  … and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.

August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.

As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?

Thanks, Meg! If you don’t win the contest, DOUBLE CROSSING can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Astraea Press. For more information on Meg and her work, check out her website.

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12 Responses to Damsels in Regress and Distress

  1. I loved the interplay between Lily and Ace, Meg! And, your historic details were amazing, always adding to the story–can’t wait for the next one.

  2. Lindsay says:

    Love the dialogue here.

  3. I have to agree with you, Meg! I’d much rather read about a strong woman than a wimpy one. I’m enjoying Double Crossing already, so don’t enter me in the drawing.

  4. childofyden says:

    I must have this book. Santa, are you listening?

  5. What an interesting and exciting post. Thanks for sharing the details of your writing and the excerpt. Now I have another book to buy!

  6. Sherry Gloag says:

    I agree with Heidi’s comment about your historical details, Meg. Best wishes with Double Crossing.

  7. Tricia says:

    Thanks, everybody, for stopping by. Meg’s book is great. I just finished it. 😀

  8. Great post, Meg, and some interesting insights into writing and your work. Love Double Crossing! Definitely looking forward to your next book. 🙂

  9. Meg Mims says:

    Aww, thanks everyone!! And Merry Christmas too! Hope Santa brings you all some great loot. 🙂

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