Tag Archives: Novel

Winter at Warwick House

macariaAJEThe second semester of Effie’s junior year at George Mason began with a mixture of snow and ice, and classes were cancelled.  Cooped up in the house with nothing to do, she moseyed into the library with Macaria in hand, found a seat by the window, and gazed at the wintry setting below, taking note of the massive oaks glazed in glittering ice, which reminded her of ice palaces.

Slipping into a nostalgic mood, she proceeded to read the book, published during the Civil War as a Southern  propaganda piece disguised as a romance.  But Effie was more interested in the protagonists’ relationship than in the subtleties bolstering the Rebel  cause.  If only real life could rival romantic fiction!  Was God fashioning a lifelong companion for her as dashing as Russell Aubrey?

She sighed blissfully as she read the following passage:

“Irene, oblige me in what may seem a trifle; unfasten your hair and let it fall around you, as I have seen it once or twice in your life.”  She took out her comb, untied the ribbons, and, passing her fingers through the bands, shook them down.  He passed his hands caressingly over the glossy waves.

Impulsively, Effie removed the combs binding her own hair, and vigorously shook her head, casting untamed curls in every direction.  Then, with an elbow propped on the windowsill and her chin resting in the palm of her hand, she gazed dreamily upon the day’s spectacular finale.  As the sun dipped low in the Western sky, its blazing splendor filled the room, painting the alabaster walls with shades of crimson, plum, and gilded pink.

Effie stood up and maneuvered the chair to make the most of the remaining daylight then sat down and resumed reading aloud, vaguely conscious of footsteps in the hallway.

She was endeavoring to memorize a paragraph when, all at once, the door swung open hitting the wall with a loud band.  Effie leapt from the chair, sending the book to the floor, and stooping to retrieve it, found herself bowed low before Rev. Baldwin.

“Give me your hand!”

005956-R1-23-24He pulled her up until her eyes were on a level with his tie, and she could tell by the rigidity of his posture that he was fuming.  And yet, braving a look at his face, she gulped to discover a pair of dark dejected eyes shyly entreating her own.  They peered beneath a veil of ebony lashes, gently disclaiming the hard mouth and adamant chin.  Stifling a sigh, Effie dropped her eyes and wondered how anyone could appear so cruel, vulnerable, and incredibly handsome all at the same time.  She ventured another glance, but this time his languishing look shifted into something more ominous.

He reached into his pocket, withdrew an envelope, and bitingly announced:  “This letter pertains to you.”

She stretched out her hand to receive it, but he held it out of her reach.

*The above is an excerpt from THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER, pages 158-159.

PapasLetterToEffieB.W. Wright wrote this letter–dated November 8, 1924–to the real Effie Belle Butler, my grandmother.  I named the fictional “Effie” after her.

CITY OF FAIRFAX: A “Novel” Setting

Library of Congress description: "Col. , ...

Library of Congress description: “Col. , C.S.A.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How important is the setting?  As a writer, I like to “live” the novel as I write it.  So the setting is very important to me.  I’m inspired by places I’ve been.  Most of THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER is set in the City of Fairfax.  I began writing the novel when I was living in Northern Virginia and writing for THE CONNECTION, a local newspaper.  I had a “Then and Now” column and later a real estate column.  The historical column required a lot of research, so I spent many an hour in the Virginia Room in the old library in the City of Fairfax.

So it’s not a coincidence that my character “Effie Belle Butler” writes historical articles for a local newspaper.  Neither is it coincidental that “Effie” lives in the City of Fairfax, a place that I love.

My first published article for THE CONNECTION was “Mosby’s Midnight Raid,” so I mention Colonel John Singleton Mosby’s raid on Fairfax more than once in the book and named the fictional cat (as well as my own cat) after the colonel.

My favorite restaurant in the City of Fairfax was the Black-Eyed Pea (now a pub).  When I ate at the Black-Eyed Pea, I would sit near a window that gave me a view of the Moore House.  Chapter 22 of my book opens with “Effie” choosing a table at the Black-Eyed Pea “with a view of the Moore House, an antebellum home that reminded her of the parsonage.”  Indeed, the Moore House inspired the fictional parsonage where “Effie” lives with her guardian, “Rev. Baldwin,” and his step-mother.

The Moore House

The Moore House

The Moore House

The Moore House

The interior of the “parsonage” is a conglomeration of interiors I saw while writing the real estate column for THE CONNECTION.  I wrote elaborate descriptions of houses that were for sale in various Fairfax County hamlets, including Burke, Springfield, Herndon, Franconia, Centerville, Fairfax Station, Clifton, and–of course–the City of Fairfax.   Like the Moore House, the “parsonage” is near the old Fairfax Court House.

“Providence United Methodist” is located next to the fictional parsonage.  (The interior of “Providence” was inspired by the interior of Berryman Methodist in Richmond, a church my dad pastored.)  When I was writing the book, I was member of Westwood Baptist in Springfield, but I often went to Truro Episcopal (now Anglican) in the City of Fairfax.  Sometimes I would go to Sunday school in Springfield and then make a beeline for the late service at Truro.  Part of Truro’s allure was the nearby Gunnell House where Colonel Mosby captured Union Brigadeer General Stoughton.  And here’s where the Moore House ties in.  The raiders went to the Moore House by mistake first, thinking Stoughton was there.

The Gunnell House

The Gunnell House


This plague is on the grounds of Truro Episcopal Church.

This plague is on the grounds of Truro Anglican Church.

Fairfax Court House

Fairfax Court House

Fairfax Court House, Virginia, with Union sold...

Fairfax Court House, Virginia, with Union soldiers in front and on the roof, June 1863. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The City of Fairfax and its proximity to nearby battlefields, Manassas and Spotsylvania, makes a perfect setting for a contemporary romance that is partly a hats-off to Civil War history.  “Effie” tours the above battlefields and attends a Confederate Ball for re-enactors.   So did I.  She hikes to waterfalls off the Skyline Drive.  So did I.  Like I said, I not only wrote the novel, I lived it.

For more details, click on the book below.


How to Write a Novel: Part I

It’s kind of funny for a first-time novelist to tell somebody else how to write a novel, but I’d like to share what I’ve learned.  Writing a novel is nothing short of an adventure, but first you must have a burning desire to write; otherwise, you may give up before the baby is birthed.

Museum of Fine arts, Springfield, Mass

Museum of Fine arts, Springfield, Mass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I say “baby” (or first car?) because your novel is like your baby.  In your eyes, it’s drop-dead gorgeous; but in the eyes of another, it might be downright ugly.  So when you start, be careful about sharing what you’ve written with others.  Writing a novel is a process that can improve with each revision.  Shop around for a critique group or go it alone.  Critique groups can be helpful or harmful, depending upon the group.  Consider constructive criticism, but toss non-constructive criticism into the garbage where it belongs. In the long run, you must be happy with the finished product.  After all, it’s YOUR baby (or your first car).

Here are some tips I’ve picked up from reading about writing–and from trial and error:

1) What do you like to read?  Romance, mystery, detective stories, general fiction?  More than likely, you’ll want to write a book in the genre you prefer.

2) Who is your favorite author?  Examine his/her style of writing, and maybe you’ll find your own “voice.”

3) Which do you like better: character-driven novels or plot-driven novels?  In a plot-driven novel, you want to hurry up and find out who-dun-it.  In a character-driven novel, you’re sorry to see the story end.  Romances tend to be character driven; mysteries plot driven.  Either way, you must have a solid plot with interesting characters.

4) Just as your finger print is unique, your writing style and methodology are different from others.  Some flesh out the entire novel in their minds before they begin writing. This type may begin with a chapter outline before penning Chapter One.  Someone else may choose to write the last chapter first.  I created my chapter outline after I finished the book.

Novel in progress

Novel in progress (Photo credit: MarkPritchard)

I started somewhere in the middle and finished the first chapter last.  The plot developed as I wrote.  The characters took over and determined what would happen next.   The only thing you have to know when you start writing a novel is how it will end, so that the plot moves in that direction.

5) Write what you know about.  Take into consideration your childhood; where you grew  up; where you have lived; your family; your favorite subjects, hobbies, and interests; what you like and what you don’t like.

I love romance.  My favorite writer is Augusta Evans Wilson.  My favorite romance is ST. ELMO.  My favorite actor is John Gilbert, who starred in the film adaptation of ST. ELMO.  I love history, especially when it involves Virginia and the Civil War.  I’m a Methodist preacher daughter.  When I began writing THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER, I was living in Fairfax County and writing historical articles for THE CONNECTION, a local newspaper; so the City of Fairfax became the primary setting for the novel.   I enjoy traveling.  My trip to England inspired several chapters of the book.  Boating and hiking are two of my favorite my hobbies.  I worked all of this and more into the story.

For more information about THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER or to buy it, click here.


Forget Fabio


If you write romance and you’re looking for inspiration, look no further.  I’ve found the ultimate brooding Byronic male!  It’s not by chance that John Gilbert‘s moniker is “the spirit of romance.”

The above “fan card” is from LA BOHEME (MGM, 1926).


THE MADNESS OF YOUTH (Fox, 1923), starring John Gilbert and Billie Dove, is one of the many film titles mentioned in “THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER; A Modern Gothic Romance.”  John Gilbert replaced Rudolph Valentino as The Great Lover of the Silver Screen.  He inspired the characterization of “Reverend Gideon Baldwin.”

THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER: Recommended Reading

Stevo’s Book Reviews on the Internet

Steve Brock listed THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER (with a short summary of the novel) in his June 2012 list of recommended books.  You can find it under the romance category of fiction.


The Tipping Point

What is the tipping point?   When your book, poem, painting, sculpture, name, or whatever gains notoriety, that’s the tipping point.  I read a book called “The Tipping Point” several years ago.  The writer used Paul Revere and William Dawes to get his point across.  Everyone knows who Paul Revere was, but what about William Dawes?  Both Revere and Dawes warned that the British were coming.  Supposedly, Revere had more connections.  (It’s often who you know, not what you know.)  Not only that but “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” sounds better than “The Midnight Ride of William Dawes.”

How does one reach the tipping point?  I don’t know, but when I find out, I’ll pass it on.

Old Town Alexandria, VA

I had the photos developed. One thing is for sure. Photography is not my calling. I accidentally exposed some of the film to light. (Yes, film. I don’t own a digital camera.) The historical Carlyle House, which General Braddock used as headquarters during the French and Indian War, was supposed to be the jewel in the crown of my photos. It was a gem alright. My picture of the Carlyle House is so distorted that I should call it “The Haunted Mansion” or “The Fall of the House of Carlyle.” The only thing missing is a fissure across the facade.


I spent most of this afternoon in Old Town Alexandria taking photos of landmarks listed in THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER and talking to the librarian.  Can’t wait to get the photos developed and posted on this blog.  Old Town is a treasure trove of history, frequented by the founding fathers.

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Old Town Alexandria, VA

I spent most of this afternoon in Old Town Alexandria taking photos of landmarks listed in THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER and talking to the librarian.  Can’t wait to get the photos developed and posted on this blog.  Old Town is a treasure trove of history, frequented by the founding fathers.