Posted by Anna Campbell Feb 10 2015, 12:02 am in Alfred Lansing, Anna Campbell, Elly Griffiths, Endurance, Germania, Josephine Tey, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Miss Pym Disposes, mysteries, nonfiction, Peter Hill, reading, Simon Winder, Stargazing, Susanna Kearsley, The Outcast Dead, The Shadowy Horses, Through the Evil Days
This is a bittersweet moment for me. After nearly eight years with the Romance Bandits, this will be my last post. As you’d know from Cassondra’s moving and funny post at the start of the month, changes are afoot in the lair. One of the changes is that I’m going to devote my attention to other forms of social media other than blogging.
I’m still on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnaCampbellFans?pnref=lhc
And on Twitter as @AnnaCampbellOz.
Thank you to the wonderful Bandits for so many fabulous years together. I wish you all the best in your new endeavors. And thank you especially to the fabulous Bandita Buddies. I’ve always felt among friends here and your comments have informed and delighted and amused and moved and interested me more than I can ever tell you. Thank you for being such a vibrant part of this community.
Now, back to normal transmission and a discussion of my favorite reads from 2014.
Welcome back to part 2 of the survey of my favorite reading in 2014. By the way, happy Valentine’s Day!
In part 1, I covered my pick of the romances I’d read last year. Now I’m covering the other stuff, mysteries, nonfiction and a fabulous piece of women’s fiction that could easily have gone into the romance list last month.
I’m going to start with the oldest book, MISS PYM DISPOSES (1946) by Golden Age English detective writer Josephine Tey. I picked up this book after seeing a really interesting list of the top 10 classic mysteries: http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2014/04/10-of-the-best-golden-age-crime-novels/ They all sounded pretty interesting and I also tried THE MOVING TOYSHOP, but this was the one that really caught my fancy.
I love Golden Age detective stories and I read a lot last year, including a couple of Ngaio Marshes and Margery Allinghams, and nearly all Josephine Tey’s books. Sometimes the attitudes in them are a little hard to take, but Miss Pym is a treasure. An independent woman takes up a temporary post at a girls boarding school and becomes involved in a murder. But in this particular story, the characters are the most interesting part, especially Miss Pym’s journey towards recognizing that she might be more than she first thought.
The next is another mystery, THE OUTCAST DEAD, the sixth Ruth Galloway book by British crime writer Elly Griffiths.
I just love this series. Ruth is a rather cranky single mother forensic archeologist who lives in a very atmospheric part of Norfolk on the English coast. In this story, she gets involved in a dig that sets out to prove the truth of a notorious 19th century murder trial. Things turn creepy when current events offer an eerie echo of the past. While it was a good read, I was a little disappointed with the previous entry in the series, A DYING FALL. But this one’s a real cracker and definitely worth a look.
The last mystery on my list is the latest in the wonderful Claire Fergusson-Russ Van Alstyne series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS. I think JSF would currently vie for the spot at the top of my list of favorite writers. She writes the most amazing characters and high stakes dilemmas – I can’t put her stories down once I start them. In this one, a fatal fire leads to all sorts of complications for Claire and Russ and their friends and colleagues in Millers Kill. And with a brutal winter descending on the town, there’s danger from nature as well as man. Great stuff!
I read a lot of nonfiction, especially when I’m working on a story. I can put a nonfiction book down and get a good night’s sleep whereas if a piece of fiction has grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, I’m still turning the pages at 3am.
My first pick, STARGAZING: MEMOIRS OF A YOUNG LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER by Peter Hill is a book I’ve had sitting on my bookcase for about 10 years since a friend gave it to me as a birthday present. Silly me! It’s wonderful! It details the months the author spent as a lighthouse keeper on the west coast of Scotland in 1973, just as the old manned lighthouses became mechanized. The descriptions of the wild, spectacular coastal scenery are great and you’ll fall in love with many of the characters, but the strongest impression is one of sadness that a whole way of life is just disappearing under our eyes. A lovely book.
My next nonfiction choice is another older book, ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON’S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE by Alfred Lansing, published to immediate acclaim in 1959. I’m a bit of a sucker for accounts of polar exploration – the environment is just so unforgiving and fascinating. And I’ve long had a great admiration for Sir Ernest Shackleton who faced a situation that would have meant disaster for most people and came out on top. When Shackleton and his party are stranded in the Antarctic ice in 1912, death seems certain, but through courage, brilliance, luck, faith and, yes, endurance, they all get out alive.
This account of the real-life adventure will keep you on the edge of your seat. As part of his research, Lansing was able to interview people who had actually been part of Shackleton’s expedition so you really feel like you’re getting a true account of these astonishing events.
My last nonfiction choice is a fascinating ramble through German history, culture and landscape with English writer Simon Winder. GERMANIA: IN WAYWARD PURSUIT OF THE GERMANS AND THEIR HISTORY is full of strange and intriguing facts and made me want to go back to Germany (I visited briefly in 1985 but after reading this book, I think I’d get a lot more out of traveling there!). It’s funny and sad and erudite – I bet Simon Winder would be an interesting person to sit next to at a dinner party!
My last choice from my reading in 2014 is the fabulous THE SHADOWY HORSES by Susanna Kearsley. This is probably best classed as women’s fiction, although there’s a strong romantic subplot.
It features another archeologist, Verity Grey, who becomes involved in a dig on the wild east coast of Scotland in search of a major Roman encampment. She finds herself surrounded by fascinating and potentially sinister colleagues, including eccentric Peter Quinnell, the head of the dig, and charismatic historian David Fortune who attracts her as no man ever has before. Throw in a little boy with psychic gifts and a ghost or two, plus a couple of other characters with their own agendas, and the scene is set for a compelling story. This was my first Susanna Kearsley, although people have told me for years I’d enjoy her stuff. They were right – this would probably be my favorite book from last year. If you haven’t read it, rush to get it!
So there you go, some reading recommendations to keep you out of trouble!
Do you read outside the romance genre? What genres do you like? Any recommendations of books I should try?
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 11 2015, 11:16 pm in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Bandita Booty, Kandy Shepherd, reading, Vanessa Barneveld
Thanks to everyone who swung by to recommend the books they enjoyed in 2014. I’m delighted now to announce the winner of my giveaway:
Jane, congratulations! You’ve won your choice of Annie West‘s REBEL’S BARGAIN, Kandy Shepherd‘s THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT, or THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE by Vanessa Barneveld (ebook only).
Please email me on anna @ annacampbell.info (no spaces) and let me know which book you’d like and your snail mail if you’re choosing either Annie’s or Kandy’s book or the format (Kindle or whatever) if you’d like Vanessa’s. If you need help choosing, I’ve given a short precis of each book in yesterday’s post: http://romancebandits.com/foannas-2014-reading-roundup-part-1/
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 10 2015, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Bandita Booty, Christmas Revels, Kandy Shepherd, Mary Jo Putney, MC Beaton, Nora Roberts, reading, Rebel's Bargain, Romance, The Summer They Never Forgot, The Traveling Matchmaker, The Witness, This Is Your Afterlife, Vanessa Barneveld
Happy new year, Banditas and Bandita Buddies! I hope 2015 is fantastic for you.
That’s enough of the looking ahead. Let’s look back to 2014 and some great books.
I thought I’d devote my spots on the Romance Bandits for January and February to listing some of the wonderful reads I found last year. After all, we all love recommendations for our towering TBR piles, don’t we?
Today, I’m going to talk about romances. Next month, I’m going to talk about books that aren’t romances (or at least not primarily – I find my favorite books nearly always include some sort of romantic plot, even if only as a subsidiary). You’ll notice that I’ve steered clear of books by my tremendously talented Bandit sisters – if I included theirs, we’d be here all year!
I blogged a couple of months ago about how I was on a major Nora Roberts kick. That looks like it might continue this year. Of the many Noras I read in 2014, my favorite is THE WITNESS, her story of a super-intelligent, high achieving teenager who finally kicks over the traces and rebels, only to be forced into a living nightmare when she witnesses a mafia killing. The woman grows up, always on the run, always smart enough to stay alive – but what happens when she falls in love with the local police chief? Is it time to stop running and finally face her enemies?
This one has two wonderful central characters (I love Abigail’s dorky but smart take on life), a lovely romance and some seriously good suspense. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you grab it now! For a peek at some of the other Nora books I read this year, here’s my blog on the subject: http://romancebandits.com/im-in-the-mood-for-love-and-nora/
The next book, THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT by Kandy Shepherd, is by a friend of mine. It just happens that some of my favorite reads last year are by people I know – they’re all well worth picking up! Summer is simply gorgeous, a lovely story about two damaged people who were in love as teenagers and reconnect after life hasn’t been kind to either of them. It’s a story about bad timing turning into forever after. I laughed and cried in this one – and you’ll fall in love with the town of Dolphin Bay where the book is set. You can read an interview with Kandy here: http://romancebandits.com/kandy-shepherd/
The next sooper-dooper read for you is THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the debut novel by Vanessa Barneveld, another friend of mine.
This YA is a beautiful story about coming to accept who you are and finding the right person and learning that life is a mixture of happy and sad. It’s also a darn good ghostly mystery story as heroine Keira struggles to answer the questions surrounding the death of high school hero Jimmy and in the process realizes that she’s always loved his older brother Dan. Even if you’re not usually a YA fan, give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed. You can see where Vanessa visited the lair and gave us the lowdown on her book here: http://romancebandits.com/vanessa-barneveld/
With my next recommendation, I’m cheating slightly as it’s a series of six, M.C. Beaton/Marion Chesney’s The Travelling Matchmaker books. These are trad Regencies full of wit and romance and classic period touches like duels and highwaymen and marriages of convenience.
When housekeeper Hannah Pym unexpectedly receives a bequest from her late employer, she determines to seek the adventure that her quiet life in domestic service has so far prevented. She sets out on various stagecoaches and meets danger and excitement and young lovers and a chance to discover talents she never knew she possessed. These books are such fun – definitely a series to put a smile on your face. Here’s a link to a more detailed review of the six books that I did on the Romance Dish: http://www.theromancedish.com/2014/06/regency-charmers.html
My next choice from 2014 is a corker of a steamy reunion story from lair favorite Annie West. For some reason, I couldn’t link this one through the cover, but here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J2ZVDSM?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=B00J2ZVDSM&linkCode=xm2&tag=romanbandi-20
I love all Annie’s stories but this one really hit it out of the ballpark for me. Orsino Chatsfield and his estranged wife Poppy have so much passion between them that when they come together in a glamorous French chateau, they set the Loire Valley aflame! This is part of the Harlequin Chatsfield continuity but you can read the story as a stand-alone. Give it a go – these characters are unforgettable. Here’s a link to where Annie visited the lair to talk about this book: http://romancebandits.com/annie-west-6/
My last favorite book of the year is one I read in December. Who doesn’t like a Christmas charmer? Mary Jo Putney‘s collection of four Regency novellas plus a contemporary, CHRISTMAS REVELS, is uber charming. All the stories are great, but my particular favorite is The Christmas Cuckoo where a capable young woman who believes she’s on the shelf collects the wrong man from the local inn and takes him home for a family Christmas. A lovely story about life delivering some gorgeous surprises just when you think your chances have run out. And you’ll fall in love with Jack Howard just like Meg does.
So that’s my romance round-up. I’ve got a mixture of women’s fiction and mysteries and nonfiction coming next month so make sure you check in.
In the meantime, what were your favorite romances of 2014? I’m always looking for recommendations.
And because I love to share my friends’ books, I’ll give one commenter today their choice from THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT by Kandy Shepherd, REBEL’S BARGAIN by Annie West, or THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE by Vanessa Barneveld. The prize is available internationally. Good luck!
Posted by Anna Campbell Dec 10 2014, 12:02 am in A Grosvenor Square Christmas, Anna Campbell, Annie West, Bargain Books, Bought by the Italian, Christmas reads, Christmas Revels, ebooks, free books, Her Christmas Cinderella, Her Christmas Earl, historical romance, Hot Italian Nights, Kate Noble, Louisa Cornell, novellas, reading, Regency romance, Shana Galen, The Winter Wife, Tiny Treats, vanessa kelly
..of goodwill to all men and of great reading for us gals!
Christmas seems to bring a million books out of the woodwork – all that kissing under the mistletoe obviously inspires romantic thoughts.
Today, I want to introduce you to three stories of mine with Christmas themes and mention two more Christmas anthologies well worth your time – and then, just as a ring-in, a new novella from Annie West that while it’s not a Christmas story, will definitely light up your Yuletide.
All are available digitally on multiple platforms. If you’ve got a Kindle, just click on the cover and it will take you to the page on Amazon. We like to make it easy for our Bandita Buddies!
First up is HER CHRISTMAS EARL: A REGENCY NOVELLA which has been going like hotcakes, I’m pleased to say, including reaching the number 1 spot on a number of Amazon lists, including Regency romance. This is a story of a mishap on Christmas Eve that leads to an unlikely marriage of convenience – and of course true love!
It’s available for the princely sum of 99 cents. You can read the blurb and an excerpt here: http://annacampbell.info/xmasearl.html
If you’re a member of the den (and why wouldn’t you be? Just click the members button on the top toolbar for information and registration), there’s another exclusive excerpt of Earl available this month here: http://romancebandits.com/exclusive-excerpt-from-her-christmas-earl/
My second recommendation is my 2012 Christmas novella, THE WINTER WIFE, which is a reunion story featuring a Scottish earl and his headstrong countess. You can read an excerpt and the blurb here: http://annacampbell.info/winterwife.html
The last of my Christmas stories is such a bargain, it’s FREE! Last year, I teamed up with Shana Galen, Vanessa Kelly and Kate Noble on an anthology called A GROSVENOR SQUARE CHRISTMAS. My story, “His Christmas Cinderella,” is, you guessed it, a Cinderella story about a girl from a humble background who dares to love a Scottish earl. Scottish earls seem to proliferate in my Christmas stories!
Now for the other books I want to bring to your attention. First up features the debut of multi prize-winning Bandita Buddy Louisa Cornell. Her novella “A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas” is included in the anthology CHRISTMAS REVELS, just out! I’ve got this on my Kindle and I’m saving it as part of my Christmas book wallow. It sounds delicious.
Next is another freebie that gives you so much Christmas reading, you’ll still be going next year! A whole stack of authors including Banditas Trish Milburn, Donna MacMeans, Nancy Northcott, Suzanne Ferrell and Tawny Weber got together to put together a free Christmas themed anthology called TINY TREATS. I don’t know about you but at this time of year, short really suits my reading requirements and this is like a big box of chocolates!
My final recommendation isn’t exactly a Christmas book but it’s just come out from the brilliant Annie West. Annie visited us yesterday to tell us about her latest release in the Hot Italian Nights Series, BOUGHT BY THE ITALIAN. I’ve read this little treasure and it’s a fantastic story – not to mention an absolute steal at only 99 cents.
You’ll notice that none of these books are exactly going to break the bank which is great news at this time of year where everything else seems to require major spending!
The other great thing about all of these is that they’re bite-size chunks of romance goodness. Another item people are short of at this time of year is time. We’re all so busy running around, it’s the ideal occasion for some stress-busting reading, but it’s finding space to indulge in it, isn’t it? Well, all of these will take you a couple of hours at most, mostly less. A sweet moment of bliss to reward you for all your Christmas hard work.
So go ahead, why not treat yourself to some great reading this Christmas?
This is my last blog for the year, so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2015. Thank you for your support!
Posted by Anna Sugden Aug 16 2014, 1:35 am in Anna Sugden, books, quick five, reading
Happy Saturday! There is much happiness in the Sugden household today as the English football (soccer) season kicks off for our Premier league. Doc Cambridge and I will be at Old Trafford to welcome our new manager and cheer on Manchester United, so I’ll answer comments when I get back. In the meantime, here’s a pic of the two of us at the last game of last season.
Several of our BBs reminded me that I hadn’t done any Book Fun Quick Fives lately, so I thought today would be a good day to get you all playing Book Fun. It’s very simple – as with all Quick Fives, just answer the questions to play along.
1. What are you reading at the moment?
2. What have you just finished reading and what’s up next on your TBR pile/bookshelf/mountain?
3. What’s the opening line of your current book?
4. What are the names of the main characters?
5. What’s the sentence on page 15, line 15? If there isn’t a line 15, use the closest line number to it. If you’re reading an ebook and there aren’t page numbers – choose the page at 15%
Bonus question: What’s on the cover?
To get the ball rolling, here are my answers to the questions:
1. Mary Burton’s The Seventh Victim – the first in her Texas Rangers series.
2. So many to choose from! I got a stack of books for my birthday, including CS Harris, Lisa Gardner and the latest JD Robb, so possibly those. Although I did bring back some fab books from RWA in San Antonio. Decisions, decisions!
3. The man crouched by the unconscious woman lying on the dewy grass by the highway and tilted her pale, still face toward the moon.
4.Texas Ranger James Beck and Lara Church, the victim who survived.
5. He lifted his hat and smoothed his palm over his damp brow before replacing it. “Sh*t. I should have just kept driving.”
Bonus: Well, you can see the cover for yourself!
Over to you – tell us about your books.
Posted by Anna Campbell Aug 10 2014, 12:07 am in Anna Campbell, Blue Dahlia, contemporary romance, Jewels of the Sun, Northern Lights, reading, Romance, series, Shadow Spell, The Chesapeake Quartet, The Donovan Legacy, The Witness, Trilogies, Whiskey Beach, writer's life
We’re all readers here so I’m sure I’m not going to be alone when I confess to being slightly obsessed with a particular author. It happens to all of us!
I seem to have developed an insatiable appetite for books by Nora Roberts. Rarely a week goes by when I’m not reading one and usually more books by the master (I can’t call her the mistress!).
Obviously like most of us, I’ve read Nora’s books for many years. I think my introduction to her work was the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy. Isolde Martyn brought JEWELS OF THE SUN back from the 2000 RWA conference in Washington D.C. where she was the first Australian to win a RITA® Award for her wonderful historical THE MAIDEN AND THE UNICORN.
I think my favorite of those early reads was the Chesapeake Bay Quartet – amazing emotional punch in those stories and great romances. Stupidly I lent those to a friend and they never came back. Grrr.
I tried the J.D. Robb books – perhaps it was the mood I was in at the time, but while I enjoyed NAKED IN DEATH, I didn’t have a burning desire to read more in the series.
No, it seems I’m a classic Nora in her original incarnation girl.
Luckily she’s got a huge backlist! I’m in awe of her productivity and I have no idea how she manages to keep the quality up the way she does. Her books are never less than a good read and more often than not, they’re a fantastic read. Perhaps she has an army of little elves wearing Turn the Page Bookstore T-shirts in her basement!
I really feel that there’s nobody better for a certain style of emotional contemporary romance.The characters are real – you can imagine most of them living next door, even the witchy ones. The dilemmas they face are intriguing. The love scenes are lyrical and sexy. And she does setting brilliantly. You really feel that you’ve been to the wild Monterey Coast with the Donovans or County Mayo with the Cousins O’Dwyer or a rocky island off the Maine coast with the three wyrd sisters.
The more I read, the more I appreciate her work. In the last six months, I’ve read the Three Sisters Trilogy, the Donovan Legacy Quartet, the first two books in the Cousins O’Dwyer set, BLUE DAHLIA (and I’ve ordered the next two in that set!), WHISKEY BEACH, NORTHERN LIGHTS and THE WITNESS.
Two particular faves are NORTHERN LIGHTS and THE WITNESS. Both feature really interesting central characters, burnt-out city detective Nate Burke who takes a posting as police chief in Lunacy, Alaska (NL) and Abigail Lowery, on the run from the Russian Mafia after she witnessed a murder as a teenager (TW).
Both are stand-alones and have a strong mystery/suspense plot. Both are longer than her series books that I’ve read. But my goodness, they’re fabulous stories. I couldn’t put down either when I started them. And given they’re both over 500 pages, that was a lot of hermit time! I wrote a detailed review of NORTHERN LIGHTS for our friends at the Romance Dish back in January: http://www.theromancedish.com/2014/01/mighty-lights.html
It suddenly struck me last week why I had such a reader crush on Nora at the moment – aside from the obvious quality of the books she writes. And what a lightbulb moment that was!
One of the things I loved about JEWELS OF THE SUN is that it’s about a woman who takes a chance and reaps the benefits. Frances Jude Murray leaves her dead-end job in America to live in her grandmother’s cottage in Ireland and to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. This single act of courage leads to a fulfilling new career and a lifelong love.
This theme of the main character seeking a new life and finding love and renewed purpose in his or her altered circumstances is central to so many of Nora’s books.
Right now I’m in the process of packing up the home my parents lived in for their last years. I’ve lived here for ten years since my mother passed away in 2006. It’s a lovely house but it’s never really been suitable for a groovy singleton (ahem!) and I’ve finally got up the oomph to tackle moving. So the next year or so is going to have a lot of changes for me too. Some large, some small. But all a little daunting in the still watches of the night!
Nora’s message of courage finding its own rewards and a new start offering a whole fresh look on life is just what I need at the moment. Clearly I need it, given the number of her books I’m ordering from the Book Depository!
So are you glomming any particular author at the moment? Is it an old favorite or someone who’s a fairly new discovery? Is there a reason this particular author is striking a chord for you? And what books of Nora’s do you recommend I turn to after I finish the In the Garden trilogy?
Posted by Anna Campbell May 27 2014, 12:02 am in Alison Stuart, Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, ebooks, Escape Publishing, Gather the Bones, Historical Fiction, historical romance, Lord Somerton's Heir, mysteries, reading, writer's life
I’m delighted to welcome back to the lair my friend, Aussie historical romance writer Alison Stuart. Alison’s here to tell us about her latest release, the Regency mystery-romance LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR. Here’s the blurb:
Can the love of an honourable man save her from the memory of a desolate marriage?
From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.
Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.
But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?
To find out more about Alison and her books, please visit her website: www.alisonstuart.com
LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR is available from AMAZON, Barnes & Noble and all good ebook stores.
For the month of May, Alison is offering a Rafflecopter contest with the prize of an author goody bag. You can enter HERE.
I was very sad to hear of the death this month of Mary Stewart (although to be honest, I didn’t know she was still alive so I shouldn’t have been taken aback by the announcement of her death). Anyway, it got me thinking about the authors who have most influenced me in my writing.
I actually haven’t read many of Stewart’s mystery stories for which she was best known in the early part of her career. The books that grabbed me by the throat and which sit on my ‘keeper’ shelf battered and thumbed and reread are her three Merlin stories beginning with THE CRYSTAL CAVE. What set them apart for me from the hundreds and hundreds of Arthurian reinterpretations (MISTS OF AVALON is another fave), was the humanity she invested in Merlin. Instead of a mystical being in a tall pointy hat, Merlin starts out as a boy in a Romano British household and comes to his position of power and influence in a thoroughly human way. Along the way he loves, he loses, he is betrayed… It is not, as has been described in some reports, a “romance”… there’s not a happy ever after for Merlin but there is a satisfactory conclusion and when you close THE LAST ENCHANTMENT you have the feeling of a life well lived. I had great pleasure in introducing my teenage son to these books and watching him devour them as I had done.
Like most writers, I was a voracious reader from an early age. However my taste was for action and adventure and although I cut my teeth on Enid Blyton, it was not the namby pamby FAR AWAY TREE, I was straight into the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, the shenanigans of Mallory Towers. Other childhood favourites included:
- Horsey stories such as the MY FRIEND FLICKA stories by O’Hara
- The fantasy stories of Alan Garner such as ELIDOR
- The Laura Ingalls Wilder stories which I read and reread until I could practically repeat them and were probably the most “girly” books I read.
But my overwhelming favourites were the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff and Ronald Welch and the English Civil War stories of Barbara Softly – strong historicals written for young adults with plenty of action and adventure and a good dose of romance but not necessarily romance stories. I devoured these books and there is no doubt that they had the strongest influence on the stories I write. I think I damaged my eyesight reading EAGLE OF THE NINTH under the covers by torchlight after my light was supposed to be out.
Has anyone out there read Ronald Welch? They were boys own adventures revolving around the “Carey” family – wherever there was a war or an interesting period of history, there you would find a Carey. Of course my favourite was FOR THE KING – the English Civil War story. I graduated to the stories of Jean Plaidy and Robert Neill by the time I was fifteen I had pretty much exhausted every historical book that the Parkdale Library had to offer.
My passion for all things English Civil War began with THE KING’S GENERAL by Daphne DuMaurier. On Sunday afternoons my father would read to my brother and I but he loathed reading “children’s books” so the choice of book tended to be his and he, of course, chose the books he liked which is how I came to have THE KING’S GENERAL read aloud to me when I was only eight. The love affair between Honor and Richard Grenville and the derring do of the period really struck a cord with me and inspired a life long interest in both the period and books that encompassed a strong relationship between a man and a woman within the context of a historical period.
My other great love was Agatha Christie. Every year my family holidayed at a guest house in Marysville (sadly destroyed in the 2009 bushfires) and my overwhelming association with that guest house are the books of Agatha Christie which I would purchase from the one shop in the town and read either curled up in front of the fire or in one of the chairs on the wide, wooden verandah.
On the other hand, I was a Georgette Heyer fail. I think I might have read THE BLACK MOTH and I know I read THE ROYAL ESCAPE (because it was about the English Civil War) but her regency romances held no interest for me whatsoever. However, I hasten to add, I have come to Georgette in more recent years and as an adult (and a writer) I love her books (although am I the only who find THESE OLD SHADES just a bit creepy?). While I am making my confession, I wasn’t all that fond of Jane Austen either. As for Harlequin Mills and Boon, I read my first one on the plane home from my very first Romance Writers of Australia conference (a gorgeous Marion Lennox story which I still have on my keeper shelf). To be honest I didn’t even know the first book I wrote (later published as BY THE SWORD) was a romance. I was, in short, a romance fail.
So I suppose it is little wonder that my own writing cuts across all these influences – romantic action adventures with action, mystery, murder, ghosts, time travel – sometimes all in the same book. Even with my latest story LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, which is my first venture into the world of the Regency, the romance is bounded by a murder mystery that must be solved before the hero and heroine approach anything like a happy ever after. I think I can quite safely describe my style of writing as cross genre!
Just recently I started trawling Ebay looking for copies of my childhood favourites. Having them back on my bookshelf with the familiar covers, is like being reunited with old friends.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD BOOKS?
Thanks, Alison, that was fascinating. And yeah, I get you on THESE OLD SHADES, although as a pre-teen when I first read it, the age difference didn’t strike me the way it does now. Good luck with Lord Somerton. I loved GATHER THE BONES and this looks like another winner!
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 10 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Escape to the Country, Holidays, Judge Judy, reading, Television, writer's life
I’m going to channel my grumpy hero Jonas Merrick here. Those of you who have read SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED will know that Jonas spent a lot of his childhood in Italy and tends to break into Italian at moments when he’s moved – as he is quite often when he’s pursuing Sidonie!
Jonas would know well the wonderful Italian saying of il dolce fa niente which basically means the lovely art of doing absolutely nothing.
By the way, here’s a health warning for people currently suffering the awful cold temperatures that are afflicting those in the Northern Hemisphere. This program is rated HW (hot weather). There will be pictures of people basking in sun and enjoying warm temperatures. But I warn you no champagne cocktails were harmed in the creation of this blog.
Huh? Who am I kidding?
Of course champagne cocktails were harmed in great numbers!
2013 was such a flat out year for me and I reached the end of it feeling utterly exhausted. I usually try to take the week between Christmas and New Year off. It’s the middle of the Australian summer, nothing is happening (my father always said not entirely as a joke that if anyone wanted to invade Australia, they’d get from Cape York to Tasmania without striking an ounce of opposition if they decided to come on 27th December). The world seems to be made up of steamy weather, afternoon snoozes and crickets scratching their lungs out. Perfect break weather.
In 2011 and 2012, sadly I got hit with book revisions right on top of Christmas so my hopes of a decent bit of time off went completely west. This year, thanks to a very speedy response from my editor, I managed to get the revisions for Cam’s story WHAT A DUKE DARES, in before Christmas.
So much downtime that I renamed my house Downtime Abbey!
So for one delicious week, I just pottered around doing what I felt like. Surprisingly, while I did a lot of reading, I didn’t get through nearly as much of the TBR pile as I thought I would. Instead I seemed to be hooked on watching hours and hours of quite uneducational TV (OK, a hint of education snuck in now and again, but it was very much under the cover of darkness!).
My parents had cable installed in the house before I moved up here and now I’m addicted to it. There’s something wonderfully comforting about watching LAW AND ORDER from back when Jerry Orbach was still investigating. Makes me feel immortal – clearly nobody ever dies in cable TV land. Apart from the victim in LAW AND ORDER, obviously! And even then, they have the comfort of knowing that the tecs of NYPD always get their man. At least on TV!
So I had a lovely time watching stuff on the Criminal Investigation Network. Strangely relaxing hearing about the pursuit of nasty people, no idea why. And a myriad of antique shows on Lifestyle. As some of you know, I’m addicted to people talking about secondhand stuff. Just give me ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, FLOG IT!, ANTIQUES ROADTRIP, CASH IN THE ATTIC, ANTIQUES MASTER, you name it!
Now I think of it, there’s a kind of immortality in Great Aunty Edna’s dining table. It kind of goes on forever too!
And a few other shows I just love. One of my guilty pleasures is JUDGE JUDY. I tell myself it’s research for my books – after all, life’s rich tapestry is displayed with all its clashing colors on JJ.
If I’m not working – as you’ve probably gathered by now, I wasn’t – I’ll also watch THE PEOPLE’S COURT too. I’ve no idea why other people’s loans to their boyfriends and nasty fights with their housemates are so compelling. But somehow they are!
And joy of joys, the Lifestyle Network had new ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY episodes. I’m not sure if this BBC show is on in the States, but it features U.K. city dwellers who enlist the help of a presenter to help them find a wonderful place in the gorgeous British countryside.
The only real downside (rather than downtime!) of ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY is that it makes me desperate to own a thatched country cottage in Somerset. Sigh. But nonetheless, it’s perfect lunchtime viewing.
So now I’m back at work, in spite of the fact that the weather is still horrifically hot and the crickets are still carolling in the new year and most other people I know are also having a break. Started a new book on Monday. Wish me luck. And those hours of guilty pleasure TV are but a memory.
So what’s you must-watch TV show? Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to TV? Do you take the week between Christmas and New Year off? If so, what did you do this year?
And it bears saying again, may you all have a wonderful 2014!
Posted by Suzanne Ferrell Nov 28 2013, 12:15 am in bacon, bad plumbing, books, readers, reading, Thankful for, Thanksgiving
(((Psst, I’m in the kitchen!!)))
You know, it’s Thanksgiving today here in the US. So while you’re taking part of your morning off to check out the antics here in the Lair, I’m in my kitchen cooking. Actually, I’ve been in it most of the week, since our family dinner takes me days to prepare. So, at the moment I’m probably making Oyster stuffing for my turkey, a requirement in this household and I thought I’d tell y’all a few things I’m thankful for.
1. Bad Plumbing.
Yep, bad plumbing. Our house is nearly 50 years old and that means major plumbing issues that we’re saving $$ to repair, but in the meantime we have learned to work around it. In particular the drainpipes from the washing machine to the outside. See, the washing machine functions just fine, until it drains. Then I have to make a mad dash from whatever spot in the house I’m at to stop the washer before the water backs up into the house and all over the laundry room floor. Then I have to wait at least one full minute, two are better, turn it on , watch for the water, turn it off and repeat at least once more. Then we wait through the rinse cycle and repeat the on and off process until it kicks into the final spin.
What a major PIA that is! How can I possibly be thankful for it?
Well, I’ve taken this up as extra reading time. See, I’ve set a chair near the laundry room door, and I have a book on it that I read during each time I wash a load of clothes. Of course, those 1-2 minutes wait times seem to be more like 5-10 minutes or 1-2 pages. 🙂 But, I don’t feel guilty about reading during the time I should be writing, because I can’t write when the washer is going anyways!
So, yes, I’m thankful for bad plumbing.
Let me say that again. I’m thankful for BACON.
About five years ago my dear hubby, we’ll call him the Jazzman, went on a restrictive diet of his own making. One of the things he deemed not worth consumption, (along with shrimp, lobster, bread, and anything processed) was pork products. Now, I make a killer pork roast and wonderful ham. I’ve mastered porkchops that aren’t dried out and sausage in various forms, but when bacon went on the do not serve or cook or eat list, I nearly died.
But I was patient. Ordered bacon on food when I went out, occasionally cooked it when he wasn’t home, and waited.
This past spring, Jazzman was doing some more reading, (always a scary thing around here), and he came to the conclusion that bacon, especially organic bacon, might be okay for us to consume.
So, yes, I’m thankful for apple smoked organic bacon grilled outside and the pleasure of having it several days a week!
3. A slightly too small dining table.
Actually if you’ve seen my dining room table, (Joanie has), it’s huge, solid cherry-wood with big thick legs. I LOVE this table! It seats 8 comfortably. The problem is when the whole clan is here it gets a little crowded. 8 adults and 5 growing kids. I did the math the other day, and I think I’m gonna be one chair short. I probably should make a kids table this year, but a couple of those little ones still need to sit with parents in order to see that they eat and no mischief occurs. Well, no mischief that their dads and the Jazzman don’t start! 🙂
I love having this big clan and all the little people here for the holidays. I love the passing of the food, the conversations, the laughter, even the adults wetting the tops of their crystal glasses and making humming sounds with their fingers, (the Jazzman taught them this when they were kids!) 🙂 And at my house, they drink different amounts from their glasses to make harmonious chords in their rim-ringing!
Yes, I’m thankful for the slightly too small table and all the chaos at holidays and family meals!
4. Bad Weather.
Not traumatic weather. I would never wish hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis or earthquakes on anyone, let’s be clear on that. But I do like it when there’s snow or rain in the forecast, the skies are cloudy, grey or dark. I seem to get a lot of writing done during these kind of days. Something about the charged atmosphere seems to lend to my brain’s functioning in a writing sort of way. Of course, due to the dark skies and cold weather I usually require a nap, but hey my subconscious can work out a problem with the books while my eyes rest. Right?
Hehehe, yeah, I don’t really buy that one, either!
Another reason to like cold or stormy weather. I have an excuse to make a big pot of soup. I love making soups. Chopping up a boatload of veggies, searing meat or chicken and tossing it all into the slow cooker with stock and letting it cook for hours and having a hearty meal at the end of the day is wonderful. What’s not to like about a meal that virtually cooks itself? And luckily for me Jazzman loves soups and leftovers! He’ll eat them for lunch for days.
See…bad weather, the sort I like, is another thing to be thankful for.
5. A mother who loved to read.
The four previous reasons were all sort of making the best of bad things, but not this one.
I grew up watching my mom take time from her day to read. She read each and every day. Maybe only a page or two, often half a book, but she always read. She taught me my letters and letter sounds and to read simple words before I even hit Kindergarten. When I started reading in school, she let me read to her. My books were Dick & Jane readers with simple 1-2-3 word sentences. But she listened and helped me sound out each and every word. Because of this I was always in the advanced reading classes. She took us to the library and even though there was a four-book limit for kids my age, Mom would always talk the librarian into letting me get seven or eight books, assuring her I’d read them all before I had to return them.
As I grew, I started to read chapter books. When I’d run out of them, I’d find a simple romance novel lying around. Usually a Barbara Cartland. Then I moved into bigger romances, Woodiwiss, Joanna Lindsey, Patricia Matthews. If Mom left it lying around it was fair game. Even after I married and moved out. Whenever I came home I’d see what books Mom had finished, then I’d usually take 5 or 6 of them home with me. She’s yet to forgive me for taking THE GIFT by Julie Garwood home BEFORE she read it. That was the first of Julie’s books I read. Immediately I went to the books store to get her backlist!
Because Mom and I love a lot of the same writers we exchange books and often have long conversations about books, stories and writers. She’s also my biggest supporter.
So, THANKS, MOM! I’m very grateful to have had a mother who reads!
6. Readers, including all our wonderful Bandit buddies.
I’m so thankful for readers. Y’all are wonderful! You keep us charged with the desire to produce more books. You tell us what you like, what you don’t. You challenge us to write tighter, bigger, deeper. (Uhm, let’s not go the erotic route on that last line, okay?)
Here in the Lair we’ve come to know y’all so well. Many of you are our biggest fans. You help us welcome our friends/guests and buy many of the books we introduce to you. When the last of the Banditas launched our first books and fledgling careers we already had fans. YOU GUYS!
Publishing, and indie publishing in particular, is a very scary step into the unknown. But like Indiana Jones in the third movie, we took a step of faith that looked like a huge chasm leading to our death, but instead, there was this nearly invisible bridge…our Bandit Buddies…to keep us from falling to our doom. The smiling faces we know popping up to chat with us on other blogs so we wouldn’t be Nellie-no-friends. You were the ones who bought our books and chatted them up to your friends, both in person and on line to notch up our sales. You are the ones who read our books and left honest reviews for them at Amazon, B&N and Goodreads. You are the ones who retweet our goofy tweets and sales or like and share our FB posts to all your friends.
YEP! VERY THANKFUL FOR THE BANDIT BUDDIES and ALL OUR READERS!
So, what are you thankful for today? Have you ever seen the bright side of something like bad plumbing? Are you thankful for bacon? Tell us a great Thanksgiving story or a story that made you thankful for something that surprised you! I’m cleaning out my office and have a bag of books from RWA National this year I think I’ll give to one reader today in thanks for being here.
Posted by Susan Sey Oct 1 2013, 12:01 am in Amy Andrews, Anna Campbell, Annie West, Caren Crane, Christie Kelley, coming attractions, contests, Debra Webb, gerry russell, reading, Regan Black, sarah jane stone, tamara hogan, Trish Milburn
I love fall. There’s so much to look forward to–chunky sweaters, soft scarves, fresh-picked apples. Then there’s the first frost, first pumpkin pie, first crockpot chili… Some among us might say football season (I’m looking at you, Suz & Jeanne) but some of us married Nebraskans without full disclosure about much of every weekend would be sacrificed to televised Husker coverage. (It’s extensive. I should’ve been warned.)
But here in the Lair, there’s something for everybody! And October is looking awesome. Check out what’s in store for you!
Love a good historical? Check out Christie Kelly’s new release ENTICING THE EARL!
More into the witty contemporary? Caren Crane’s KICK START is now available as a trade paperback!
Looking for something a little darker? How about Trish Milburn’s OUT OF THE NIGHT?
Click on the covers for more details!
On Wednesday, October 2nd, Anna Campbell hosts lair favorite Annie West (www.annie-west.com), who’ll tell us about her latest passionate tale, AN ENTICING DEBT TO PAY. Annie’s always great fun and we look forward to hearing about what’s going on in her life! Plus she’s giving away two copies of her new book!
On Thursday, October 3rd, our own Caren Crane will host Regan Black and Debra Webb as they discuss the Magic of Mentors. Regan and Debra will share what makes their professional friendship so beneficial – and so productive. They’ll be giving away an autographed BULLETPROOF totebag & a $10 Amazon gift card, so swing on by!
On Friday, October 4th, Sara Jane Stone will be celebrating her debut release, COMMAND PERFORMANCE, with us! Tawny says that this is one hot, hot debut, so you might want to wear oven mitts. One lucky commenter will receive her own e-copy of COMMAND PERFORMANCE!
On Monday, October 7th, Susan Sey invites Tamara Hogan to talk about all the things authors should never say on Twitter (but maybe want to.) Come hear all about it, & maybe win a copy of Tamara’s latest release TEMPT ME!
On Friday, October 11, Christine Brooks bring us another lair favorite–the fabulous Amy Andrews with her brand new release from Momentum, HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO.
On Monday, October 21, Nancy welcomes Gerri Russell back to the Lair. Gerri will talk to us about her new release, A LAIRD FOR CHRISTMAS, and dating customs in the 1700s.
Anna Campbell is holding a Halloween contest to celebrate a month-long price cut on her very romantic ghost story, THESE HAUNTED HEARTS, which is now only 99 cents. She’s giving away two copies of the novella (international). All you need to do is email her on email@example.com and tell her the name of her 2012 Christmas novella featuring Alicia and Sebastian. You might just find the answer on Anna’s book page: http://annacampbell.info/books.html For more information, please visit Anna’s contest page: http://annacampbell.info/contest.html
And that’s just what I can round up in advance! Stuff is always cropping up last minute, so make sure to stay tuned!
Turning over that calendar page always brings surprises–some welcome, some not so much. Any surprises on your agenda this week?