Friday, February 13, 2015

Fortune's Horizon - A Fantastic Debut Romance Novel by My Writing Hero and Lucky Charm - Andrea Stein

She risks everything to deliver gold to the Confederacy.

Lillie Coulbourne marks time in Paris while the Civil War rages back home. While translating dispatches for the French Finance Ministry, she accepts a spy mission through the Union blockade. When the captain of the only blockade-runner headed back to a Southern port won't deal with women, or spies, she sneaks aboard as his cabin boy.

He refuses to risk his ship, or his heart.

Blockade runner Captain Jack Roberts has never been caught and he's not about to let a spoiled American heiress ruin his perfect record. After he discovers her deception, he fails miserably at keeping her at arm's length and vows to send her packing on the first mail ship back to England.

When she surprises him with her skill as a seaman and navigator, he grudgingly allows her to finish the run. But ultimately, he has to choose what is closer to his heart - Lillie or his ship.


After Martha swept out of the room, Lillie jumped off the bed to find Giselle laying out her clothes. A steaming tub of water tempted her in the far corner. She shed her mud-soaked traveling dress and sank into the water with a sigh of relief. Her maid held her hair up and began skillful spot repair of the mud damage in her heavy, dark curls.
Nothing like a short nap and hot water to lift a girl’s spirits. She had begun to rally her strength when there was a knock at the door. Her maid adjusted the screen around the tub and went to investigate.
“Lillie, you’ll never guess who we’ve drawn for partners.” Sarah’s bright, annoyingly chipper voice floated across the top of the screen.
“Please,” she groaned. “Tell me it’s not the ‘odious one.’”
“Yes, and I’m to go in with his friend, Edward.”
“Is there a gun anywhere out there?”
“Of course not. Why would you ask such a horrible question?”
“I was hoping you could just shoot me and get it over with. At the rate this whole affair is going, I’m probably going to be shot as a spy eventually, anyway. If we do it now, then I won’t have to endure all the torture in between.”
“It’s only dinner,” Sarah said. “We can maneuver them between us at the table so they’ll talk to each other and ignore us.”
Lillie stood, reached for the drying sheet her maid handed her, and moved resolutely toward her clothing.


Author Andrea K. Stein lives and writes at 9,800 feet in the Rocky Mountains, just fifteen minutes from the Continental Divide. A retired newspaper editor, she is a USCG certified sea captain who spent a number of years delivering yachts out of Charleston Harbor to destinations up and down the Caribbean. Many nights her ships were moored near the site where blockade-runners took on loads of cotton for the run back out through the Union blockade during the Civil War.

It's Friday the Thirteenth! Are you superstitious?
 Sailors’ Superstitions - Andrea Stein

Are you superstitious? Do you take extra care on Friday the Thirteenth? Do you go out of your way to avoid the path of black cats? If so, you’re not alone.

However, there is one line of work where superstition isn’t limited to a special day. Seafarers hate to leave on a long voyage, not just on the Thirteenth, but any Friday.

Many seagoing superstitions began centuries ago when men left port for months, or years, at a time. The primitive means of navigation and rescue available then meant they were at the mercy of the elements. The ancient mariner’s mind was fertile ground for all sorts of good luck, bad luck scenarios.

The cat some may avoid on land is more than welcome on a sailing ship. This notion probably came from early voyages where cats ate rodents that damaged ropes and stores of grain. However, if all rats disappeared, it was thought the ship was doomed.

Whistling supposedly challenges the wind to bring about a storm. Fletcher Christian is said to have used a whistle as the signal to begin the mutiny on the HMS Bounty.

The presence of women on ships was thought to distract sailors from duty. However, naked women were okay, because they “calm the sea.” Which explains the bare-breasted figureheads on the bows of old wooden seagoing ships.

According to British naval historian Andrew Lambert in an article about eighteenth century life at sea on the BBC History site, “…large numbers of women went to sea. Usually they were the wives of the petty officers - mature women who played important roles, including those of providing medical treatment and handling ammunition. In 1797, Admiral the Earl St Vincent issued an order demanding that women reduce their consumption of water. If not, he proposed sending them all home on the next transport.
Bell sounds were associated with funerals, so the ringing of a wine glass had to be stopped before its reverberation ended. Ships’ bells didn’t count when signaling the changes of watch, but if they rang of their own accord during a storm, death would follow.

The anchor tattoo is supposed to keep a sailor from drifting away if he falls overboard.

Many centuries ago, blood sacrifices were poured on the decks of newly launched ships. Later, wine was used, and now, champagne is the beverage of choice for nautical christenings.

A shark following a ship is considered an evil omen versus lucky, playful dolphins.

On one troublesome delivery, no electronics worked on the aging boat except a small light illuminating the compass. The third crewman became so ill that only two of us were left to split 24 hours of watches. Although becalmed during the day, we steered through squalls all night. I became so exhausted I nearly fell asleep at the wheel. Bellowing out every Beach Boys song I could remember to stay awake, I was suddenly surrounded by chattering dolphins – six of them. They were lucky for me.

What superstitions do you heed – just to be safe?

Five years ago, the last time the RWA National Conference was in New York, I found myself in need of a roommate to share expenses. I posted a note on the RWA Roommate Forum and, if you are the superstitious type, Fortune smiled on me. This nice lady in her sixties from Colorado - a non smoker and an aspiring romance writer - answered my post and the rest is history. Andrea Stein and I have been rooming together at every RWA National Conference since.

And the nice lady in her sixties? She is hell-on-wheels, a champion Spanx wrestler, and a take-no- prisoners conference attendee who gets more out of each day than most people get out of a lifetime. Just don't sit down to have drinks with her and the disreputable Louisa Cornell woman. They'll stiff you for drinks. Don't believe it? Just ask Joanna Bourne and Grace Burrowes.

I asked Andrea to tell us about sailors' superstitions because she would know. She is a licensed sea captain. She's also worked with the ski patrol in Breckenridge, Colorado for years. She is one of the most fearless and determined people I know. Andrea is another of my writing heroes. Good Lord, the woman has had a career in newspapers. She's had a career as a sea captain. She's had a career as a ski patroller. And now she is embarking on a career as a published romance author. Why don't you pick something hard, Roomie??? I admire her talent, her tenacity and her complete lack of fear when it comes to this business. And I am the lucky person who gets to borrow that fearlessness because she will not let me quit. When my fear of the unknown - my superstitions about this business make me want to give up, she hauls me to my feet and keeps me looking toward the horizon. She will not let me sink. At 56 I am not washed overboard. I believe that because knowing Andrea has told me so. I can't be when I see the completely dauntless way this lady pursues writing and life. Some sailors get dolphins. I got Andrea Stein, one of the most fearless, amazing, talented and kickass writers I know.

Want proof? Here's a little interview with my roomie.

What’s it like riding with Louisa Cornell in Atlanta traffic?

Like drinking from a fire hydrant while gripping the roll bar. :)

What is your writing process?

  1. A character climbs into my head.
  2. There is an explosion sorta like the inside of an overheated firecracker factory.
  3. Everyone else comes running out in fear of their lives.
  4. I begin extensive research. Otherwise, the crowd now inside my head will keep me awake nights.
  5. Piles of paper grow on every flat surface in my writing room.
  6. I organize everything into submission – in massive three-ring binders
  7. I write the ending.
  8. I block out scenes.
  9. I TRY to write 1,000 words a day until the darned thing’s done.
  10. My Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers critique group tries to hide, but I hunt them down like dogs.

Who are your favorite romance authors?

Louisa Cornell, of course, for great, humorous, off-the-beaten-path Regencies. 
Joanna Bourne – Napoleonic war spies - multiple RITAs
Jo Beverly – Regencies and especially, her Georgian settings - multiple RITAs
And lately, can’t get enough of Susanna Kearsley. She won a RITA for “The Firebird.”

What started you on your romance-writing journey? What have you learned along the way?

I had retired from the newspaper and publishing business, and wanted to learn to write a novel. The only way to do that is … to write a novel. So I blundered through about three-quarters of the way and then got lost. Took an online class from Writer’s Digest on “How to Finish a Novel.” Luckily, my teacher and eventual mentor was Terri Valentine, a romance writer. She told me I wasn’t writing a grand historical novel – I was writing a romance. Duh.

Since then I’ve gotten more advice (bad and good) than a peg-legged sailor trying to launch a boat. Most important lessons – Don’t stop trying, don’t take to heart all the criticism, and never stop learning. You can’t ignore criticism, but you have to filter it. Oh, and here’s a bonus – KNOW your book. It is your sacred responsibility to get that story out into the world as you intended.

Why the Civil War era and why a blockade-runner?

See the above answer about my process. Lillie and Jack climbed into my head when I was delivering yachts out of Charleston Harbor to points up and down the Caribbean. She spent a lot of time at sea, and he was a famous blockade-runner – never caught. Jack wrote several memoirs about his blockade exploits in the American South as well as when he served as an officer in the Turkish Navy. Both are available as Google Books. I got great details from his memories.

I spent a lot of time at the Charleston library while waiting for yachts to be commissioned before delivery. Also spent a lot of time drinking beer with local sailors who filled me in on some of the history of the harbor. If you spend any amount of time in the South, you’re going to hear their stories of the “War of Northern Aggression.” The Union blockade is still vivid in their imaginations more than a century later.

What sorts of things, events, and people did you have to research for “Fortune’s Horizon”?

Clothing – what they really wore at sea sometimes collides with readers’ assumptions. This was the Victorian era, not the 1700s. The industrial revolution was well under way. The simple wool pea coat Jack wears on the cover was exactly what civilian captains of the day would have worn.  Thank you, Kim Killion, my fantastic cover designer. Noncommissioned civilian sailors wore loose fitting pants, shirts, and heavy wool coats when necessary. They were called “slops,” which is what Lillie wore when she sneaked aboard Jack’s ship as his cabin boy.

My favorite part of the research was the ships. In fact, their ship, The Kate, was a character all on her own. I kept a file of all her specs and a schematic. I owe a huge thank-you to the Texas A&M Nautical Archaeology department for publishing online the results of their underwater excavation of the wreck of The Denbigh, a blockade-runner sunk during a run into a Southern port during the Civil War.

For the chronology of what was happening where and when in the Civil War, I relied on the lyrical accounts by author-historian Shelby Foote.

What would most surprise people about sailing in this Civil War era?

The speed of the steamships produced for blockade running. The technology used was far ahead of the strictly sail warships still in use by most navies of the world. Also, the syndicates who built the blockade-runners could realize $1 million – per run – in profits. That’s well over $40 million in today’s currency.

What made you decide to venture into indie publishing?

I have three completed full-length novels. Several have won major awards. Talking to agents and editors in the current publishing environment is an exercise in futility. If I don’t have something they know they can hit out of the ballpark, they’re not going to buy it. So, my question increasingly became “why” in the heck do they request my historical romances, sit on them for three to six months, and “then” tell me they “just can’t sell historical romances.”

I spent the last three years researching the self-pub process and talking to authors. And no – overnight spectacular sales are not the norm. But yes, steady publishing (one title every three to four months) keeps you in the search engines, builds your audience, and eventually may provide a comfortable side income. In fact, one very well known, NYT best-selling author told me if I had to choose between time to write and time spent on social media, choose writing. Because the book you’re writing sells the one you just published. If you self-publish just one book, the odds are heavily weighted against you.

After crafting a business plan, I put together a four-year schedule of four to five book releases a year. They will be a mix of full-length works and novellas, with a boxed set of all at the end of each year. Each year’s titles will have a common link.

I set up an LLC to funnel all expenses and any profits. I’m treating this as a numbers game. “X” number of words a day = enough product to reach my goals. I hire the best I can afford to edit content and design my covers. And the weird thing is now I’ve plotted my course, I can just write to my audience, I don’t have to second-guess myself to please the “gatekeepers.”

Most difficult aspect of indie publishing? What has been the least difficult?

Most difficult? Making the decision to let go of the traditional path to publishing.
Least difficult? Creating the wonderful, supportive network of fellow writers without whom none of this would be possible.

What aspect of indie publishing has been the most surprising?

The availability of top-notch professionals who are eager to help, at a surprisingly affordable price. I’ve hired a pro portrait photographer who devoted thousands of dollars of his time in exchange for a small percent of sales, best pro cover designer on the planet, Kim Killion, who helped me turn a crackpot idea for a cover into something amazing. Danielle Barclay’s publicity company is patiently walking me through the social media maze, pro editor Judy Brunswick out of Minneapolis gives me tons of invaluable feedback, and, most importantly (trumpets blaring) – my bookkeeper, Katie, keeps me financially sane.

How did I find these great people? Through attention to clues from successful self-pubbers on various indie email loops. Also get recommendations from other authors you know. Chat with vendors you meet at conferences. Find a comfort level and then date before you commit.

You are a licensed sea captain. What is entailed in becoming a licensed sea captain?

I have an OUPV “six-pack” near coastal license which requires at least 360 days of documented experience in the operation of vessels, 90 of which must be gained seaward of the (international) boundary line, and within the previous three years.

Which means I can take out commercial trips of no more than six paying passengers up to 100 miles off US shores, on a vessel up to 100 tons. However, the US certification is so respected throughout the world, that international companies recognize it for chartering yachts.

Each captain you work for has to sign a certified document for the US Coastguard verifying your time. Then you have to take a long test you’re given four hours to complete. The biggest part is navigation. You get a chart (mine was of the waters off Block Island) and a nasty navigation problem to solve. When I took the test in Charleston, I used up most of the time on that section. I nearly panicked when I looked up and realized I had less than two hours left for the remaining three parts of the test. Ackkk. Fortunately, the questions were all multiple choice, and I had studied the heck out of the material. I finished on time and passed the darned thing.

If all of the above weren’t enough, you have to keep current in first aid and CPR and you have to maintain a TWIC certification through Homeland Security. (Please don’t ask me to explain that bureaucratic boondoggle J) At one point I had to fly to the East coast to get my credentials renewed and then argue with a TSA official who said I had to apply at my “home port” in Colorado. He actually believed Colorado is on the West Coast. When he went online to prove how stupid I am, there it was – inland Colorado in all its glory. Glad I could give someone who defends our borders a lesson in geography. LOL

Are there a lot of female sea captains?

No. Don’t have numbers to back this up, but the few women captains I’ve met are really good at what they do. I’m pretty good at Google searches, but I came up dry on the total number of women captains. Not much out there on us.

In the military, they are few and far between, not to mention fairly recent:

1990 – Lt. Cmdr. Darlene Iskra became the first Navy woman to command a ship, USS Opportune
1998 - Cmdr. Maureen A. Farren became the first woman to command a combatant ship in the Navy.
2010 – Cmdr. Nora W. Tyson became the first woman to command a carrier strike group in the Navy.
2012 - Five "Tigertails" of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron One Two Five embarked aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as part of Carrier Air Wing Seventeen. They flew an historic flight on 25 January when they participated in the Navy's first all-female E-2C Hawkeye combat mission. Wow – did an all-male mission ever generate this much excitement?

How do male sea captains react to female sea captains these days?

If they are competent captains, they are glad to have an extra competent hand at sea. If they’re goobers, well they’re gonna be goobers J

You are also a ski patroller in the Colorado Rockies. Tell us about your cover model and about the charity some of the proceeds from your book will go to in his honor. And tell us what kind of ribbing he caught from the guys with whom he works.

My model, Chris, is a ski patroller I worked with when I was a full-time patroller from 2000 to 2007. I now do volunteer safety work with a ski patrol group near Breckenridge. He has always been involved with training and handling avalanche rescue dogs. Now he is a battalion chief at a fire department in a high country community west of here. So he’s been a “working hero” for many years. His wife is another “working hero” - a mountain flight nurse. They spend their downtime together hiking, biking and skiing with their rescue dogs in the beautiful Colorado backcountry. His favorite charity, which will receive two percent of all sales of the books on which he’s featured, is the Friends of USAR in Colorado, volunteer dog handlers and trainers who work disasters with FEMA as well as avalanche and other search and rescue. The funds go to support training and dog expenses.

My “working hero” for my second book, “Secret Harbor,” coming out in May 2015, is Drew. He is a snow safety expert who has worked in both Colorado and New Zealand. He makes sure there won’t be any avalanches inside ski resorts. He does that by skiing out in impossibly steep terrain, sometimes alone, many times in early morning darkness, with a backpack of bombs. Yes, that’s how they prevent avalanches – by purposely starting one. He knows how to dig a snow pit and figure out just how dangerous the spot where he’s standing might be. And, bonus for me – he looks just like a pirate-smuggler from the 1700s.

What I really love about these guys is they risk their lives for others, but they don’t have a clue as to how hunky they are. If they decide to be your friend, they’re going to be one of the best friends you’ve ever had. And yes, the ribbing Chris has already taken from fellow rescue workers on Facebook has been epic ever since the cover reveal. I think there may be a tiny element of jealousy there, but that’s just me

See? Amazing, right? 

So, Andrea and I have two questions for you.

What superstitions do you heed – just to be safe? 


Who is your lucky charm, the person who keeps you sailing toward the horizon?


Christi Caldwell said...

What a brilliant post! First, this sounds like a fantastic read! I've long been a lover of the Civil War fact, when I taught, this was the era of history I taught my high-school students! I can't wait to check this story out!
As for superstitions --I am quite superstitious. I know it's illogical and makes no rationale sense, but the whole black cat crossing my path. I swear that happens to me ALL the time...I'll go out of my way to avoid the little fellows!

As for what keeps me afloat. It is no one person. It is my three children and husband. We keep each other afloat.

Aileen Fish said...

What an interesting aspect of the Civil War! I wouldn't have thought about those who were in Europe during the time. It sounds like a great read!

Gina Danna said...

Very fascinating! Love the superstitions part. I love the Civil War & looks like a great read!

Julie Johnstone said...

Wonderful interview! The book sounds fabulous. I'm looking forward to reading it! I'm not really a superstitious person, but you will catch me knocking on wood from time to time.

Collette Cameron said...

Those superstitions were fascinating! As always, a wonderful post!

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

Great post!! I'm so glad to see Andrea's first book!! I tend to do things like throw salt over my shoulder. I try not to jinx myself. Shared.

Ali Hubbard said...

Wonderful interview and I love that she has such a wide range of careers and experience!

Great post. Thank you so much!

I'm Italian on one side and Scot witch on the I'm about 57% superstitious. lol

Louisa Cornell said...

You're going to love this book, Christi! Her heroine is one tough customer. Poor hero doesn't stand a chance. LOL

I'll bet those black cats know you're superstitious!

And your family is definitely your lucky charm!

Louisa Cornell said...

It is a wonderful read, Aileen! Thanks for stopping by!

Louisa Cornell said...

Gina, I knew the Civil War setting would appeal to you!

Louisa Cornell said...

I know you'll enjoy the book, Julie. Thank you for stopping by! And knocking on wood never hurt anyone! :)

Louisa Cornell said...

Thank you, Collette! Weren't the superstitions intriguing?

Louisa Cornell said...

Thanks so much, Ella! Some of those superstition actions are hard-wired in us I think.

Louisa Cornell said...

I love it, Ali !! 57% superstitious!

Andrea has done it all and she is a real hoot!