Mobsters and Dancers and Dukes – Oh My!

Rosalind AllenWow, what a week, had a fabulous time writing for a submission call with the picture prompt of a beautiful lady.  The brief was to create a story based on the picture – has to be Scandalous because that is the style that Entangled want to publish and based in the early 20th Century.

When I first saw the picture three things popped into my head.  Mob, Chicago, 1920’s.  Man, have I had fun researching this lot out! Prohibition, Speak-Easy’s, North Side Gang, Albert “Gorilla” Weinshanke, O’Banion, Capone – Burlesque dancers – which in the 1920’s were extremely risque!

There were some interesting terminologies too – like Jerk was an audience member, Quiver was shaking the chest area, shimmy was shaking your posterior, bump is swinging the hips forward, blisters were a strippers breasts, cheeks was her backside, and Gadget for G- String (maybe that is where the G and G String originates from???)

Dean O'BanionThe North side Gang were in direct opposition to Al Capone and run by an Irishman named O’Banion (Dean I think was his first name).  They were ambition and nearly drove Al Capone and his gang out of town, and would have, had the Valentine Day Massacre not occurred!

Albert Weinshenker I was going to have Dean as a main character, but he was more into running the liquor side of things.  When I investigated further, a seedy character by the name of Albert “Gorilla” Weinshanke presented himself.  He was the one that ran the Speak Easy’s or the places where people could visit and buy illegal alcohol.  They often had dancing girls or Burlesque dancers there for entertainment, along with a band to provide music.

To add more scandal to my story, I have included an English Duke, who is investigating the murder of his brother.  And of course, I couldn’t resist throwing in a gratuitous photo of my favourite Englishman, Tom Hardy, upon whom I am basing my English Duke (of course!).

The story is a romance, and it is a little bit dark, but I am loving coming up with the scenes and so far I haven’t been disappointed.  I hope I can keep to the 35k limit though!


Researching Simple Things


As I get prepared for SoCNoC, I feel that I am the most prepared I have ever been, and that is simply because I have been researching.

Not indepth or anything, just little things, like how to track cellphones on GPS, what the Maori name for the twisted greenstone pendant and the Clean Slate Legislative Act.

Sometimes it is these little simple bits of research that could make or break a story.  I wanted the story to have authentic information, not movie magic, or mystical ways of obtaining information over the internet.  I wanted to make it realistic as possible – and it is incredibly simple to track a cellphone – worryingly simple!

But this research is also part of a greater plan – world building, which we(RWNZ Nelson) learnt from Nalini Singh is about creating an authentic, realistic and believable place for your characters to live, act and breath in, and have the reader wanting more – hence the above links.  Because it is strangely easy to achieve.

My planning document for Cursed Love currently stands at 15 pages.  A remarkable accomplishment considering I haven’t finished planning the story – but I do have character sheets for my main characters and one of my secondary characters.  I also have information on each characters background that I deemed necessary.  Most of this information won’t make it into the story, but it is there for me to refer back to.

I have to admit, I have had fun with this,  such simple things have come to life, brainstorming has answered some problems.  Lying in bed, trying to drift off at night has also given my brain a chance to mull things over and make some decisions.  My characters are indepth and have personalities, my settings are realistic, the circumstances of the story all mesh together.  It is amazing how the muse can come up with ideas that initially I would dismiss, but on further investigation, it seems more viable.  My Hero was supposed to be a player, but he decided he wanted to be a widower with a kid.  It works in extremely well for the story, better than I hoped as it turned out.

So, roll on 1st June – can’t wait to get things up and running  🙂

My Husband’s Hobby…

Whitebait "I caught".

My darling has taken up a new hobby.  It started a couple of years ago, but last year he got more serious.  This year… well this year looks like the whole family will be involved.

My husband came home from work a few weeks ago and told me he had a present for me in his work van.  My beloved doesn’t get me presents very often, but when he does, they are doozies.  And this was a doozie to beat all doozies.  A whitebait set net.  Yes, my husband has been bitten by the whitebait bug and is going full scale with it.

Yesterday, as a family, we went whitebaiting.  Now I suppose I should explain to my friends who aren’t from NZ what whitebait are.  They are a delicacy, the baby fish of three native fish species.  They are born at sea, and during the Spring they head up river to grow up and become big fish.  They are basically see through, except when they have eaten something.

When my beloved informed me that WE were going whitebaiting, I thought – oh no.  What am I going to do for a couple of hours… Hahahaha

I took my research books and two notebooks with me and decided to make the most of the enforced time at the river and research some more of my historical novel and start some research / planning on my latest novel idea.

We arrived at 10am (ish) and found a spot and set up.  Which when you consider the river

My beloved watching his mates "stand"

we were on, it was packed within an hour, so we arrived at the best time.  Then we had to wait for the tide to come in… and wait… and wait… and wait.  My husband didn’t tell me that the tide was coming in about 1pm – three hours!

One of the rules of having a net in the river, is that you must be within 10m of it at all times… so that meant that I had to sit beside the net for the entire time we were catching fish… I really didn’t sign up for that!  In fact I didn’t even sign up!

So I researched, made notes and did what I needed to do.  I wished I had taken a book to read also, but I figured that we would only be there for a couple of hours… yeah right.  We spent the entire day at the river.  We watched whitebait come and go, move around the screens, come into the net.  Because our set up was a set net, with a trap, we really didn’t have to do much.  We didn’t have to scare bait into the net, then tip the net up and empty it out, we didn’t have to scoop to catch the slippery, jittery little buggers, we just watched, as they swam up into the net and got caught in trap.

The cleaned up, ready to cook, whitebait

We have quite a little haul.  1/4 of a pound, or 225g for those who are imperially challenged.  Apparently 6 is an official patty, we have enough for a couple of decent patties – at least 60 bait.

My husband and his mates called me the Queen of the River… I still can’t quite figure out why.  Apparently because “I caught the bait”… yeah – right.  I watched them swim into the net… that isn’t catching them.

But my husband thinks I am wonderful and clever, so who is going to disabuse him… not me!

Did I mention that I DON’T eat whitebait?  I think that is one of the reasons my darling wanted me to help him out on the river, we can have two stands (or the fixed net and the scoop net) and that is all the more bait for him!  There is method in his… madness!

Up there is an upside to sitting on a river bank all day.  After being sick for so long, I got windburn on my face, and people kept commenting on how my colour had improved…???!  Also, it is an awesome chance to catch up on research, it is quiet enough to plot and plan, but I probably should get a new battery for my laptop so I can spend at least an hour writing!

So while I initially thought it would be a dull day, it turned out to be a lovely relaxing day (even if it was enforced!), a day when I got a lot of research out of the way, and was able to spend time with my family.

Maybe Whitebaiting isn’t going to be such a hard thing after all!

Heritage Walk

Our writing group took part in the local Heritage Week and participated in the Dress Circle Heritage Walk.  It was past some of the old houses in the Nelson area.  It was a guided walk, which was really nice to have some history about the people who lived in the houses and what they did, who they became, why the houses are important in the scheme of Nelson etc.  While it was a very interesting and informative walk, I would have liked to know more about the houses themselves, who built them, what they were constructed of, who designed them, a bit of history about the construction of the house.

All in all though, I learnt about some of the characters in Nelson – like one of the stately manors was owned by a husband and wife team who were well ahead of their time.  He was an astronomer and she was a suffragette.

I also learnt that the founders of Griffins (the biscuit and confectionery empire) was originally from Nelson.

What I learnt most of all, was that this was a very good way to get research for writing ideas, it gave me a better idea of what houses were around during the 1860’s and also who was prominent in the Nelson society at the time.

There were tragedies, there was triumphs, there were busy people – lots of interesting things to learn about.

So I recommend that if you are interested in history, or want some idea of what your neighbourhood looked like at any time period, check it out with your local council, because they will have a Heritage Liaison officer who will be able to help, or check out their site for information on walks that they might have around your town.