Posted by Christina Brooke Feb 7 2014, 12:07 am in books, Cold Comfort Farm, eccentrics, Faking It, Jeeves and Wooster, Jenny Crusie
Hi everyone! Today I decided I’d talk about some of my favourite characters in fiction–those eccentrics we all love.
Quirky, unexpected, and sometimes downright crazy, eccentrics are essentially people who are completely themselves and do not care what anyone else thinks.
In the classic, COLD COMFORT FARM, Flora Poste the 1920s socialite, visits a farm full of eccentrics, including the old lady who saw “something nasty in the wood shed”. That’s a catch phrase in our household to this day. Flora sets the entire family to rights, making them less eccentric than they were before, which is a bit of a pity, really. I think one of the best qualities of the English is their high tolerance for people who are a bit odd.
Then there’s Jenny Crusie’s wonderful FAKING IT, where the heroine’s sister has a split personality. Eve is the good girl by day. Louise is the bad girl who dresses up and sings at her gay ex-husband’s club by night.
Bertie Wooster might be more an example of a certain sort of gentleman of leisure of that time than a true eccentric, but to us his mad exploits seem distinctly loony. Plus, he’s surrounded by crazy aunts and uncles and cronies with more hair than sense and too much time and money on their hands. Lucky he has good old Jeeves to save the day!
Eccentrics are terrific fun in fiction but what about real life? Some days I think I’m the only sane one in my immediate vicinity. And then I start to wonder if it’s me or them!
Who’s your favourite eccentric in fiction? Do you live with any eccentrics?
Posted by Christina Brooke Jun 11 2012, 12:33 am in A Duchess to Remember, Christina Brooke, contest, Jenny Crusie, Liz Carlyle, Meredith Duran, Stephanie Plum, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, titles
I know, I know, this is a totally self-serving post, but what the heck. Inquiring minds want to know! Specifically, my inquiring mind wants to know…
I have a new three book series contracted for St. Martin’s Press (yay, the Westruther men!) and I’m trying to think of a series title as well as titles for each of the three books. Now, I won’t go into those here, but it got me wondering about all you Bandita Buddies out there.
What do you like in a book title?
For me, the ideal title fits the story in both mood and subject matter. It should be intriguing or funny but hopefully not twee. It should be snappy, easy to remember, easy to say. I write fairly sexy books (and this next series will be the hottest yet), so ideally there should be a sexy element to these titles, too.
It should also distinguish this book from the others in the series. I often have trouble connecting a generic title with a particular book and then I get mixed up about whether I’ve read it before. I have often bought the same book twice because of that and kicked myself afterwards.
Some publishers and authors have been clever enough to market series with the number of the book in the title–notably the Stephanie Plum series–ONE FOR THE MONEY and so on. You always know which book you’re up to with Stephanie.
Liz Carlyle is the first historical author I can recall using that idea with ONE LITTLE SIN, TWO LITTLE LIES, and THREE LITTLE SECRETS and Mary Balogh cleverly titled one of her series FIRST COMES MARRIAGE, THEN COMES SEDUCTION and AT LAST COMES LOVE.
Then there are all the ‘like a song/movie/book/play’ titles, for instance, Julia Quinn used James Bond titles in her wonderful Bridgerton series, Susan Elizabeth Phillips uses a lot of songs. My HEIRESS IN LOVE (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) and the forthcoming A DUCHESS TO REMEMBER (AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER) are from movies (my editor chose them, by the way, while I came up with MAD ABOUT THE EARL. Eloisa James used Shakespearean plays–PLEASURE FOR PLEASURE from MEASURE FOR MEASURE and so on.
For historical novels particularly, there are a few ‘buzz’ words that always seem to be popular, like ‘sin’, ‘wicked’, ‘duke’, ‘night’, ‘rake’ and so on. In fact, perhaps my next book should be titled TO SIN WITH A WICKED DUKE, or ONE NIGHT WITH A WICKED RAKE. You think I’m joking, don’t you? I’m not, actually. A title is a sales tool and no doubt those titles would sell well, as many others like them have done.
I like witty titles and plays on words, and I also like sensual sounding titles, like Meredith Duran’s BOUND BY YOUR TOUCH and WRITTEN ON YOUR SKIN. I also love Jenny Crusie’s titles because it’s almost like one of her characters is talking. ANYONE BUT YOU, MAYBE THIS TIME, DON’T LOOK DOWN. Her unique voice is right there in the title.
So today, for a chance to win my (thankfully) already titled A DUCHESS TO REMEMBER (out June 26), please come up with a title for a Regency historical romance. It can be as over the top as you like! Or if you’re not feeling creative, please tell me the titles you love or titles that made you pick up a book from the shelf!
Posted by Christina Brooke Oct 11 2010, 6:05 am in Jenny Crusie, Julie Garwood, Kieran Kramer, Loretta Chase, Susan Holloway Scott, websites
by Christine Wells
A friend of mine is in the process of revamping her website. I might well do the same very soon, so I’ve been contemplating my options.
For me, it’s no easy thing to decide on a design for my home on the web. I’m much the same with designing the interior of my bricks and mortar home–I couldn’t tell you specifically what I want but I have strong opinions on what I like (and don’t like) when I see it.
Funnily enough, in the past this has frustrated my web designers. Ah, well, I’m a Libran, what can I say?
So the thing to do when you don’t know what you want is to look at other sites to see what they do well, right? Here are some of the things I think about when I’m looking at an author webpage:
*Is the design pleasing to the eye?
*Does the design suit the tone of the writer’s work? Flowers and hearts are not usually appropriate for an author who writes dark paranormals.
*Is there a well laid out home page with just enough information on it, but not too much?
When I go to an author home page I want to know what kind of book they write and the latest book they have released, maybe also the book that’s ‘coming soon’ if the latest has been out a while. If the home page is cluttered with a thousand different messages and widgets and covers, my eyes simply glaze over and I don’t read any of it.
Actually, I don’t doubt some readers love that busy kind of page, especially if they’re devoted fans who visit often, but my aim with a home page is to give the casual browser quick access to the information they’re most likely to want. If they like bells and whistles, my guess is they’ll click on a button called ‘extras’ or ‘fun stuff’ to find them.
*Like any reader, I love extra content — this might be in the form of articles, news, a blog, facebook page, second epilogues, dossiers on characters and so forth. Blogs and social media feeds give the feeling of currency and the extra content means you’re getting something special from the website that you can’t get from reading the author’s books. Those extras give readers a sense of the author’s personality and a feeling of connection to the author.
*Book trailers — If they’re done well, they can enhance a website for me, as long as they don’t take forever to load.
Here are some sites I like (not counting fabulous Bandita sites, of course!):
We all know Jenny Crusie loves collaging and the header of this site has that eclectic feel to it, along with Jenny’s signature cherry. I loved her previous site, too. This has a darker, more magical tone that suits the direction Crusie seems to be taking with her fiction these days.
Susan Holloway Scott. This is simply one of the most gorgeous sites on the web, in my opinion. Everything about it shouts historical opulence and Susan Holloway Scott writes about the mistresses of kings so the tone is just right for her books. I particularly love the botanical drawings on the borders. They’re different on each page and add richness and colour as well as a sense of period to the site.
Julie Garwood Usually I wouldn’t recommend a home page that takes a while to load, but this one is worth it for sheer novelty value.
Loretta Chase uses an old-fashioned letter with a seal as a background for her website. I like that she gives just enough information to help me decide whether to read further, but not an overwhelming amount. See the great tagline she has next to her latest release?
Kieran Kramer is a debut author who writes fresh, witty historicals and doesn’t her website reflect that? I love that she has a nice welcome and salient points about her books with links to other fun stuff, too.
So here are my questions for you, dear readers!
What is your favourite romance author website?
What do you like best about this website?
What do you dislike seeing on an author site?
I’m looking forward to hearing your answers! Thank you in advance for letting me do some important market research:)
Posted by Christina Brooke May 11 2009, 5:50 am in celebrity chefs, Christine Wells, donuts, food, Jenny Crusie
by Christine Wells
I’ve been on a health kick lately, and if there’s one thing you shouldn’t do when you’re on a health kick, it’s succumb to food p*rn. Don’t ask me why I read Jenny Crusie’s books when I’m on a diet. She always makes me hungry.
But I love reading about food. Food is one of the great pleasures in life. Well, it is in my life, anyway, and I’m trying *really* hard to find pleasure in green vegetables rather than pastries, and yoghurt rather than cream. Really. Hard.
And then I go and read a Jenny Crusie novel and I want cookies and Krispy Kreme donuts.
What is it about food?
Not only do we love to eat it, we love to talk about it, write about it, read about it and strangest of all, we are quite content to spend an hour simply watching it be prepared.
How often have I sat before a program on the Food Channel and the demonstrating chef says something like, “I wish everyone had smell-o-vision, because the aroma of this is absolutely divine.”
But we don’t, do we? We can’t smell the food, we can’t taste it. Often, we’re not even given the recipe and we have no intention of hunting it down. We probably won’t even remember the name of the dish the next day. Or if we do remember it, and buy the television chef’s latest cookbook, that particular recipe is never in that particular book.
And yet, every Wednesday I wait eagerly for the next instalment of an Australian cooking show called The Cook and the Chef. I marvel at Nigella Lawson’s capacity to add extra calories to just about any dish with a smile and a sensuous swivel of her hips.
Aussie Bill Granger serves healthy, luscious food at his beachside house, while Mark Gardner and Ben O’Donoghue prove that cooking and surfing go hand in hand on their show, Surfing the Menu. Jamie Oliver pukkas his way through the best of British. Two Fat Ladies, Delia Smith, Hell’s Kitchen, Iron Chef–all of these television shows to show us how to make food we have no intention of making.
So who is your favourite celebrity chef and why? Have you ever made something they demonstrated and how did it turn out? What is your favourite book of food p*rn?
Posted by Christina Brooke Mar 21 2009, 4:00 am in bravo, documentaries, feminism, film, Jenny Crusie, Jo Beverley, Joanna D'Angelo, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Kathryn Smith, Nora Roberts, ovation, popculturedivas, Romance
posted by Christine Wells
We are excited to have with us in the lair today the wonderful Joanna D’Angelo. Joanna is a writer/fillmmaker who co-produced and directed “Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?” – a witty and revealing documentary about romance writers and the world of romance fiction. The documentary premiered on Bravo! Canada in 2007 and will be seen on Australia’s Ovation network in 2009. (We Aussies can’t wait!)
Joanna also manages “A Love of Romance Novels” – the largest group for romance fiction lovers on facebook. She has worked in broadcast radio, TV and film and is currently writing and developing several TV projects. How cool is that? Over to you, Joanna!
Over 60 million women in North America do it at least once a week – read romance novels, that is!
That’s the tag line from the promotional material for my documentary “Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?”.
“Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?” chronicles three Canadian romance writers: Kelly Boyce, an aspiring writer hungry to sell her first book at a major industry conference; Kayla Perrin, a contemporary romance author eager to break out of the smaller African-American market and into the mainstream with her first erotica novel; and Kathryn Smith, an historical romance author, embraces her fascination with vampires and makes the leap to paranormal romance as a way to stand out in a competitive market.
Featuring interviews with some of the brightest stars of the romance world, including Jo Beverley, Jennifer Crusie, Eloisa James, Debbie Macomber and Nora Roberts, as well as Susan Pezzack, editor at Harlequin, Toronto, “Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?” explores the history of romance novels, its many sub-genres and what it takes to make it in the business.
I co-directed “Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings” with my friend Christine Alexiou (a writer based in Toronto, Canada). We began our journey in 2004/05 – spent about a year researching and raising the money for the film and then another year shooting and editing. No nefarious criminals were uncovered. No deadly secrets were revealed. No civil wrongs were righted. No scandals were created (well at least beyond the edit suite 😉 But I think this film accomplished something good.
When we began our research – neither Christine nor I could find any other documentaries that that had anything positive to say about romance novels. Well, we had something positive to say and we wanted to share it with the world. Yes – romance fiction is fantasy. It can be fun, entertaining, sexy, even (dare I say) tawdry. But it’s also feminist. Yikes! How can I make that claim? Well, let’s see. It’s written BY WOMEN, ABOUT WOMEN, and mostly FOR WOMEN. The woman – the heroine – always overcomes. She always wins. In the words of Jennifer Crusie (whom we interviewed for the film – lucky us!) “It’s a female fantasy quest”. So – yes, it is a fantasy. But it’s also a quest. Which means that the hero-ine undergoes a transformation in each and every story. Okay, she falls in love with the hero. But it also means she falls in love with herself as she overcomes both internal and external conflicts. She changes. She grows. She conquers. She loves. Certainly, there’s a lot more to romance fiction than that but it’s one of the reasons why I love it…why I have always loved romance fiction and what prompted me to make this documentary in the first place.
From the time I started reading romance (way back when I was about 14-15 years old and I discovered “The Flame and the Flower” and “The Wolf and the Dove” by the late, great Kathleen Woodiwiss – in my high school library no less!) I knew inside that romance was empowering. Even when I studied journalism and film theory and kinda hid the fact that I read romance from my friends (silly me) – I always loved it. And I figured out (like all romance fans do) that Jane Austen wrote romance! Ah yes, redemption! After I got older – and wiser I no longer cared who knew that I loved romance fiction. After I finished my documentary in 2007 I launched a romance fiction group on facebook called “A Love of Romance Novels”. The group has grown to more than 1,800 members including both authors and readers alike. From teenagers to senior citizens – both male and female – romance fans love a good story…as long as it’s got a happy ending of course!
“Who’s Afraid of Happy Endings?” has been broadcast in Canada on Bravo! many times since it premiered in 2007. Our executive producer is GAPC Entertainment – a respected Canadian production company. Our international distributor is APT World Wide – known for distributing many fine PBS documentaries. APT recently made a sale to the Ovation Channel in Australia. I am not sure about future broadcast dates so if you live in Australia and get the Ovation Channel check your local listings.
Joanna has just launched a new blog called popculturedivas. It features 25 dynamic women contributors who dish about TV, movies, music and books–and yours truly blogs there once a month:) Come and visit! We want to know what you think of the cool new design.
Are you a proud reader of romance like Joanna, or still firmly in the closet when it comes to your own circle of acquaintances? What do you say when someone asks you why you read romance?