Posted by Nancy Northcott Jan 16 2013, 12:33 am in pets, quirks, reading
I sometimes wonder what moves people to do certain things. Or, in the alternative, why they don’t see a down side to their actions. For example, do you own an iron? We do (not that it spends much time anywhere besides its box). Have you ever actually read the box? If you have, maybe you’ve seen a conspicuously marked passage like the one on the package insert that came with our iron: WARNING: Do not iron clothes while wearing.
Like, who would do that? Why would someone think that would be a happy choice? But clearly, someone did. Or someone thought someone would.
And if you’re wondering why someone would read the package insert on the iron, the answer is, “Because it’s there.”
Our dog occasionally engages in baffling behavior. Yeah, I know I said “people,” but she thinks she is one, so let’s humor her. This is Herself, Christmas a year ago, enjoying her gift.
No, we don’t usually condone eating on the sofa, and no, we don’t take her food or treats away once we give them to her. So we’re not sure why she felt the need to go in a somewhat isolated corner to enjoy her gift.
Because she’s a rescue dog, we speculate that other dogs where she lived before may have taken her food, and so maybe she’s hiding behind the tree to protect it out of habit. Maybe. But there’s enough floor space for her between the couch and the tree. She did the same thing this year.
It’s like when the dh gives her a tidbit in the kitchen and she brings it into the bedroom to eat it. I’m tempted to wave and go, “Hello? I’m here. Watching you. Just like he would be watching you in the kitchen.” All kidding aside, we think this is some sort of low-in-the-pack-order behavior, but we still find it baffling.
As our regular visitors know, I have a book out. That’s still a thrill for me to write. Or to tell people. Or just to think about. *g* To help people decide whether they’d like the book, I have an excerpt on my website. I’ve discovered, though, that not everyone supplies excerpts.
Because writing hasn’t made me any less voracious a reader, aside from diminishing the time I have to do it, I still love discovering new authors. You may have read the post I did about that New Year’s Eve, and those were only a sampling of the books and authors who made me into a fan in 2012.
If I happen across a new author in a bookstore, I’ll read the blurb and then the first page and then maybe a few random pages. If I like the author’s voice and the characters I encounter in that brief sampling, I’ll buy the book.
But stumbling across a new author in bookstores is increasingly difficult. When I see an interesting book mentioned online, I go to the author’s site to check it out. Several times lately, I’ve found no excerpt.
I realize I can download a sample, but that’s more work, and then I have to go through the steps of deleting it from my iPad if I don’t want to buy the book. So that’s still more work. It’s not complicated, no, but it takes time. Going to the author’s site, clicking a link, and reading is faster. I’ve bought books online a couple of times, only to find that while they were perfectly okay, I couldn’t get into them, so I don’t buy a book anymore if I can’t check out the author’s voice.
This baffles me. I understand waiting until the copy is edited before posting it, but when we’re talking about book one of, say, four, why would an author not put an excerpt up for people to sample? Am I the only holdout who prefers to sample and do it as easily as possible?
Finally, why would someone approach and feed an alligator? Yes, really. On our research trip to the Okefenokee Swamp in November, the dh and I drove around Chesser Island, which may be the largest dry ground in the refuge. I was gobsmacked to see this sign.
The sign isn’t big enough to read here, but it says “Alligator Safety. It is illegal to feed or harass wildlife. Do not approach Alligators.” The italics and the capital A are in the original text. I looked at it and thought, Really? People feed alligators? So I asked the ranger about it when we finished our drive.
She assured me that yes, notwithstanding that alligators are predatory carnivores with very large mouths full of very sharp teeth, people do feed them. ”Then the alligator loses its fear of people,” she added, ” and starts following them around, so it has to be relocated.”
Alligators are afraid of me? Seriously? If I were an alligator, I wouldn’t be afraid of me. If I saw an alligator following me, I would take care of relocating myself as fast as possible, so relocating the alligator would not be an immediate need.
But her point was that feeding alligators is a bad idea for the alligator’s sake. I’m sure people don’t stop to think about that, and there are some places, like our local park, where you used to be able to buy a handful of food for the ducks for a quarter. The appeal of feeding birds or small, furry animals, I can see. But big carnivores with huge mouths and lots of teeth? Not so much.
How about you? Do you have any idea why people would feed alligators? When you try a new author, do you like to read a sample, or do you go in blind, as it were? If you sample, do you prefer web excerpts or downloads? (If you’re curious about the Renegade excerpt, it’s here.) Does your pet do anything you find mystifying? Do you have any other example of baffling behavior you’d like to share?
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 11 2013, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Brontes, Childhood, Education, Enid Blyton, libraries, reading, writing life
by Anna Campbell
OK, I know I was on yesterday. Everything’s a bit mixed up this week.
As anyone who’s read a couple of Anna Campbells knows, my heroes always have wonderful libraries. Wonderful libraries where they often get to see stars with their particular heroines. There’s another library nookie scene in my October release SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED.
What can I say? I think books are sexy!
And I think my definition of heaven would be to spend eternity in a well-stocked library that got all the new romance releases every month! I’d much rather read all day than play the harp on a cloud. Especially if the library included a nice meeting room or two with a well-stocked bar and lots of booky people to shoot the breeze with.
I would love to own a library – I mean a specific room put aside for books which is full of lovely squashy leather sofas and display tables and a big desk or two. Sadly, the scale of modern houses doesn’t really lend itself to such extravagance. Not to mention the scale of modern bank balances!
In my dreams, all libraries should look like the beautiful one in the top picture which is from Trinity College in Cambridge. Or the one in Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, the home of the Duke of Marlborough, which has been the model for most of the libraries in my books. Mind you, it includes a full scale pipe organ which my dream library could do without (and please, no organ jokes! We’re a clean-living lot here in the lair!).
The libraries I grew up with looked more workaday, like the one in the picture to the right just above. But it doesn’t really matter what a library looks like. It’s the wonderful accumulation of wisdom and information and adventure and emotion and drama and beauty between the covers of the books that really counts. I love the way in a library, you have the whole universe at your fingertips.
So I guess you could say I definitely belong to the I LOVE LIBRARIES club.
This love affair started very early. The first library I met was at Redland Bay primary school where I grew up outside Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. This wasn’t a big library but it definitely produced many treasures. One book I remember with particular fondness was A BOOK OF PRINCESSES, a Puffin anthology with wonderful short stories about, you guessed it, princesses. Hmm, I can’t see that having any influence on my future choice of writing career, can you? Snork. I must have read that at least ten times. A lot of the stories were really sad (there was an Oscar Wilde one I remember with a dwarf who loved a very nasty princess from afar and with a tragic outcome) but they were all beautiful.
The library also seemed to specialize in series of girls with careers. I remember an intrepid girl reporter (Cherry someone?) and Shirley Flight, an air hostess and a nurse whose name escapes me. There were shelves and shelves of Biggles books but they were strictly a masculine preserve. And I remember devouring old hardback editions of the Famous Fives by Enid Blyton which seemed to be as far as the library extended in the direction of my favorite author at the time.
Toward the end of my primary school days, the American Consulate in Brisbane gave us some wonderful American books – this was back in the days when the U.S. used to use cultural diplomacy to win minds and hearts in allied nations. Lots of Mark Twain and Washington Irving. Can’t remember much else. Definitely classics!
A more fertile ground for exploration was the council library in Cleveland about eight miles away. My parents had a farm and worked most days so my grandmother was responsible for babysitting. She was a great reader (she was responsible for my Barbara Cartland obsession in my early teens) and used to take my brother and me to the shire library on a regular basis.
Oh, what bliss!
I remember ranging widely and once I’d finished the children’s section, I moved onto the adults. For some reason, the books I remember best from the Cleveland Library are mainly children’s biographies of famous women. I particularly remember a series which covered people like Florence Nightingale and the Stuart Queens, Mary II and Anne, and, my favorite, the Bronte sisters. I also loved the history section – I think often kids’ books are still great for research because they tell you the basic stuff you need for things like what a medieval castle looked like or what a milkmaid ate in Georgian London. Those books really fed my imagination!
The local library also had a wonderful selection of fairytale collections. Things like Grimm’s Fairytales and Greek Myths and Legends of the British Isles. I remember with particular fondness the Charles Perrault collection which had the original of Beauty and the Beast and the Sleeping Beauty. Again, clearly stories that have had no influence on my future path at all! And I loved the books of stories from opera and ballet. Basically pretty fairytale too!
So are you a library lover? Did you have any good libraries available to you when you were growing up? What were some of your favorites? Do you have any childhood library memories to share? Let’s take a wander down the Dewey Catalogue of Nostalgia!
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 10 2013, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Dick Francis, historical romance, Liz Carlyle, Loretta Chase, Miranda Neville, reading, Sharon Archer;, writing life
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2013 is a bottler as we say down here in Australia (well, sometimes!).
How were your Holidays? Hope that you had a lovely time full of love and laughter and that Santa was kind.
I had promised myself a few days off. I like to take the time between Christmas and New Year just to veg and enjoy myself. It’s perfect swimming and lolling weather and it’s a time when I attack my To Be Read pile like Attila the Hun attacks his bowl of goulash.
Last year, sadly, I had urgent revisions so my little holiday went west. This year, luckily, I managed to seize the day. Well, a week really! How lovely to worry about nothing but which Christmas box of chocolates I was going to open and which wonderful book I was going to read next. Bliss.
For various reasons, mainly I think because I’ve written so much this year and reading in my writing genre felt too much like a busman’s holiday, I didn’t pick up many historical romances in 2012. Lots of mysteries. Lots of categories. Lots of nonfiction. Odd bits of other stuff. But hardly a historical to be seen.
Enter my Romance Bandits sister Christina Brooke who lent me WHEN BEAUTY TAMED THE BEAST by the legendary Eloisa James when I went down for a visit just before Christmas.
Me? Resist a Beauty and the Beast romance? Not bloomin’ likely as Eliza Dolittle often said. I devoured this luscious historical (with a cover like that, you know it’s going to be luscious, don’t you?) in the space of a day and suddenly found myself wanting to read some more historical romance.
Luckily, I had stockpiled some great books by great authors – and the books seemed to come in pairs.
First up was Miranda Neville‘s turn. I love Miranda’s sparkling, elegant, witty historicals – and as you know, she’s a popular and regular visitor here in the lair. She’s just launched a new series called the Wild Quartet. First, I read the prequel, the novella THE SECOND SEDUCTION OF A LADY and then I read THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING WICKED. I loved both of them – both have sigh-worthy endings that will stay with you.
Then I moved on to the two most recent Loretta Chases. As you know, I’m a long-time fan and her MR. IMPOSSIBLE and LORD OF SCOUNDRELS are amongst the best historical romances I’ve ever read. I’m currently writing a review of one of her traditional Regencies, KNAVES’ WAGER, which is a bobbydazzler and newly available as an e-book if you haven’t read it. That will appear on the Romance Dish site on the 24th of this month so swing by if you’re interested.
I hadn’t caught up with Loretta’s latest series about three sisters who set up a stylish dressmaking establishment in late Regency London. But I have now. Really loved both books, SILK IS FOR SEDUCTION which was up for a RITA this year and SCANDAL WEARS SATIN which I think I liked even more than Silk. Both feature Loretta’s trademark wit and beautiful writing and I found myself laughing out loud a couple of times at the machine-gun fire banter between the hero and heroine. She writes wonderful dialogue.
Last but definitely not least, I read two Liz Carlyles. An exception to the no historicals in 2012 run was THE BRIDE WORE SCARLET, the second in Liz’s St. James Society series. These books feature a touch of the paranormal along with Liz’s trademark emotion, drama and passion. In my Christmas binge, I read the first book in the series ONE TOUCH OF SCANDAL and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I’d also had on the TBR pile for far too long Liz’s debut historical romance, MY FALSE HEART. All of Liz’s books feature characters from a complicated and extended family based around the devilish and dangerous Marquis of Rannoch. It was an absolute treat to read about him falling in love, very much against his best instincts, with beautiful artist Evangeline Stone.
I won’t say too much more. I’m featuring MY FALSE HEART in my Second Helping review at the Romance Dish in March. But if you see MY FALSE HEART and you haven’t read it, grab it with both hands and don’t let go.
In between all these historicals, I read a stack of Dick Francis books.Do you know him? My friend Medical author Sharon Archer who modeled the SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED tote bag so beautifully for my most recent website contest recommended him.
He writes thrillers based around the racing industry – Dick Francis was a famous jockey and rode a number of winners for the Queen before he retired to become a bestselling author. I’m writing a piece on how much I enjoy these books for February’s My Favorite Things on my website.
Hmm, whatever else I did, I got material for blogging from my Christmas binge!
So did you attack the TBR pile over Christmas or merely nibble around the edges of it? Any luscious historicals you’d like to recommend? Have you read any of the ones that definitely brightened my Christmas break? What did you think?
Posted by Anna Campbell May 10 2012, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, anya seton, Barbara Cartland, Dorothy Dunnett, Inspiration, Lorna Hill, Mary Stewart, reading, travel, Victoria Holt, writer's life
by Anna Campbell
I’ve always been a really enthusiastic reader, right from the first moment I worked out what those scratchy black marks on white paper meant. And I can’t tell you how many ways reading has influenced my life and the person I’ve become.
One of the big things reading has done is give me the desire to travel. All those tired, aching Visa bills from my wanderings can be blamed on the fact that I always have a book on the go – and usually more than one!
As I think I’ve mentioned before, I had a pretty idyllic childhood on an avocado farm on the Queensland coast. Now when I know how rotten a lot of kids have it, I’m enormously grateful. But at the time, it seemed that everything happened somewhere OTHER than Redland Bay. I wanted drama. I wanted glamour. I wanted adventure. Not much of any of those where I grew up.
So I fed my mania for romance and drama with my reading. And in the process, developed a list longer than the Great Wall of China (which is on the list) of places I’d love to see someday. Partly because foreign places have such alluring and interesting names. Who could resist wanting to visit places called Archangel or Umbria or Yokohama?
So far, I’ve knocked a serious number of those places off my list. Still lots to go if anyone wants to donate to my travel fund!
Today I thought I’d wander down Memory Lane (yet another place to visit!) and talk about some of the books that made me want to see the world.
The first book I’d like to talk about was a firm favorite when I was in late primary school. It’s called A DREAM OF SADLER’S WELLS and it’s about an aspiring ballerina called Veronica who has to leave London and her dance school to live with her cousins in the wilds of Northumberland. I was a ballet-mad kid so this was right up my alley. Not only that, it was funny and heartfelt and there was a lovely romance between Veronica and a boy called Sebastian. I still think Sebastian is one of the most romantic names out there!
It was the first of a series of ballet books from Lorna Hill and I read a lot of them but none really compared to ADOSW (Sadlers Wells was the headquarters of the Royal Ballet at the time, the 1940s and 1950s). I must have read that 100 times! Lorna Hill describes both glamorous London with its rich culture and history and the rugged beauty of the moors so beautifully, that both went to the top of my travel list. Not to mention the yen to see the Royal Ballet. I remember when I finally got to visit London in 1985, I went to see SWAN LAKE at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. Definitely experienced a flashback to Veronica and her highjinks when I settled back to watch the performance!
Another writer who got me interested in an enormous number of places is the much-maligned Barbara Cartland. I must have read hundreds of her romances in late primary school and early high school. I think they’re wonderful for that age – they’re not too explicit and the historical detail is fascinating. The very first Barbara Cartland I ever read was snaffled from my grandmother’s library pile – LOVE UNDER FIRE. It featured an intrepid young Spanish girl who disguises herself as a boy and joins Wellington’s Army so she can get to England and safety. Hmm, interesting that the Regency was such an early subject of my reading, isn’t it? Not to mention dark and dangerous aristocratic English heroes!
Then I discovered really meaty historical romance with Anya Seton, an American who wrote meticulously researched and emotive novels about women in history. I suspect she might be out of fashion now but I adored those books in high school. Favorites were GREEN DARKNESS, based on Ightham Mote in Kent which I was lucky enough to visit in 2004, and above all KATHERINE. KATHERINE is the epic love story of John of Gaunt and Katherine Swynford and it brings the rich tapestry of medieval France and England to vivid life. Not to mention packing in oceans of romance and emotion. Just my cup of tea! I remember in 2004, I saw the real Katherine’s grave in Lincoln Cathedral and immediately I was swept back to my 13-year-old self for whom that book was an obsession.
About the same stage as I was reading Anya Seton, I discovered the wonderful romantic suspense novels of Mary Stewart. Now that’s someone who REALLY inspired me to travel. Her descriptions of setting are unrivalled. I recently re-read MY BROTHER MICHAEL and WILDFIRE AT MIDNIGHT for a review that’s coming up on The Romance Dish on 24th May (check it out!). Mary S. can still take my breath away with her gorgeous writing about place. She engages every sense when she’s talking about Greece or Skye or the South of France. It’s really like being there in person.
Another author who made settings come alive in my starved imagination was Victoria Holt (who also wrote as Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr). I think I can lay the start of the gothic tendency in my own writing very firmly at her feet. I devoured VH at about the same stage as I was reading Anya Seton and Mary Stewart. Interesting how these terrifically influential writers hit me all at the same time, isn’t it? The very first VH I read was a stormy romance called BRIDE OF PENDORRIC. After that, I devoured those books about innocent girls in the clutches of dangerous dark-hearted men – men who ended up saving them from even darker-hearted men who intended our heroines’ ruin and murder. Sigh. Great stuff!
The last of the books I want to talk about today when it comes to travel obsession was a slightly later crazeme. I must have been in my early 20s when I discovered the vivid historical world of Dorothy Dunnett. My obsession for the Lymond Chronicles (starting with THE GAME OF KINGS) set in 16th century Europe outshone all previous obsessions. My poor friends – they heard nothing except Francis Crawford for quite a while there!
Then when I traveled in Europe that first time in the mid-80s, I was seeing so much through the filter of Dorothy Dunnett’s wonderful tales. I’m yet to visit the Eastern Mediterranean or Russia but when I do, I’m positive that those Dorothy Dunnett books will still haunt everything I see. Now, that’s powerful writing!
So did any books influence your life? Have you read any of these authors? Any early reading that still resonates with your life today? Have you ever visited a place just because you read about it in a book? Let’s talk armchair travel today in the lair!
Posted by Nancy Northcott Mar 8 2012, 12:30 am in Barbara Monajem, Eilis Flynn, Gerri Russell, Loiusa Cornell, Maureen Hardegree, Nancy's blogs, reading, writing
Paulo eyed the fruit and veggie tray Sven was arranging. “I could take care of that.”
“Nice try. You sample too much when you put platters together, and this is due upstairs. You can take that tea service up to the library, where Nancy’s entertaining some other writers. I’ll bring this up in a minute.”
“What other writers?” Paulo took a step back. ”They’re not blowing things up, are they? You know, I forgot to give Ermingarde–”
“The dragon can wait. And of course they’re not blowing things up, not in the library. Go on, now. Take that plate of chocolate chip cookies, too.” As Paolo grabbed the tray and headed for the elevator, Sven sighed. Really, that kid needed a backbone. It was a wonder he’d lasted this long in the Lair.
Sven stepped back to admire the purple and white pansy cluster he’d put in the middle of the platter. Yes, it would do. The effect was perfect. He set the platter on a tray with a stack of small, turqoise Fiestaware plates and a long, white segmented dish containing caramel dip, raspberry vinaigrette, and bleu cheese dip. Carrying his tray, he headed for the service elevator, which arrived just as he pushed the button.
Upstairs, he found Paolo arranging the tea service and cups on one end of the conference table. At the long table’s other end, Nancy sat with her guests, Maureen Hardegree, Barbara Monajem, Louisa Cornell, Gerri Russell, and Eilis Flynn. Paolo hurried from the room, but Sven took his time quietly passing plates to the guests and arranging the food in the middle of the table. Writer talk was always so interesting.
Nancy glanced to her right, at Eilis Flynn. ”What are you reading these days, Eilis?”
“I’m reading The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes, basically the guide to the British series. It explores the world of Edwardian England and the life of the family currently inhabiting the estate, and how they are unknowingly on the cusp of the end of an era, with hints of a new one. I’m enjoying the book because it covers a period that hasn’t been overexplored, and I have long loved the fashions of the time – not quite the stiffness of the Victorians (though the corsets are still there), with a touch of the freedom to come. A little formal, a little wild! How can you not love it? And those hats! Those wonderful, wonderful hats!”
“What are you working on?” Louisa Cornell asked, pouring a cup of tea.
”A man finds himself attracted to the comatose eyewitness of a murder, and though he’s never met her, the more he learns about her, the more he seems to know. Moreover, he finds himself dreaming about her, talking to her, and comes to realize that they’re not just dreams: They are in fact meetings in a dream-state reality – and she refuses to come out of it, knowing that her recovery will be painful and protracted. It doesn’t help that her very existence is being threatened, with someone around him leaking information about her whereabouts to those who want her dead. Will must protect her, convince her to wake up – and make sure she is alive to do it.”
”Sounds like fun,” Louisa said.
Maureen glanced across the table at Barbara Monajem. ”What are you reading and working on, Barbara?”
“I’m reading The Cocoa Conspiracy by Andrea Penrose.
“Arianna, Countess of Saybrook, and her husband, the Earl, discover that someone they hold dear is incriminated in a treasonous plot. They journey to the Congress of Vienna to unmask the real traitor — armed only with their wits and their expertise in chocolate.
“I’m loving this book because 1) it’s a combination of my two favorite genres, Regency and mystery, 2) the historical detail is spectacular, and 3) there’s a chocolate recipe at the beginning of every chapter. What could be better?”
As everyone nodded agreement, she continued, “My work in progress is a Regency romance. Lively, romantic Sally Carling puts up with the tedious rules of society in the hope of meeting her True Love, but when her reputation is accidentally ruined, she faces a heartbreaking choice: either become an outcast with no chance of marriage, or wed Viscount Garrison, a man so cynical that he doesn’t even believe love exists.
“It has a happy ending, I swear. ”
“I hope so,” Nancy said. ”It sounds painful, but sometimes that’s the best kind of romance. What about you, Louisa? What are you reading and writing?”
“Currently I am reading A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr. The third book in the Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Medieval Surgeon, finds Hugh in pursuit of the lovely Kate, a bookseller’s daughter and in search of books stolen from his mentor, John Wyclif, Bible scholar. Life in medieval Oxford is tough enough without someone trying to murder a poor surgeon at every turn. One of Kate’s other suitors? The book thief? Or maybe a disgruntled patient? God only knows and no matter how much Hugh talks to him, God isn’t talking.
“I love this series! It submerges the reader in medieval England so seamlessly you don’t realize it is happening until you catch yourself throwing chicken bones on the floor. Hugh is a wonderful character, aware of his shortcomings, clever as they come and never afraid to question God about anything.”
“I love medieval settings,” Gerri said.
Nancy nodded agreement and hastily swallowed the bite of cookie in her mouth. ”Louisa turned me onto Jeri Westerson’s Crispin Guest medieval mysteries. Crispin is knight who’s been stripped of his spurs. Very atmospheric. What are you writing, Louisa?”
“I’m working on His Charming Seductress – Pride and Prejudice meets the Addams family. In search of his missing friend, Dylan Crosby braves the most notorious house in England and meets the girl of his dreams. If he can just get past Eve Tildenbury’s pet python, her gun happy uncle, her casket sleeping grandmother, the lovely cousin who raises flesh-eating plants, a biting butler and a house that seems to grow a new wing every day he might just get the one thing he vowed he never wanted – a family.”
Eilis slid pineapple chunks on to a plate. ”What’re you doing now, Gerri?”
“I’m reading Anna Campbell’s Midnight’s Wild Passion, a fabulous historical romance about a rake’s redemption. Love those rakes…and the women who tame them. Campbell’s dashing rake, the Marquess of Ranelaw, is set upon revenge. He vows to ruin Godfrey Demarest’s daughter for ruining his own sister. But the girl’s companion, Miss Antonia Smith, turns his thoughts from revenge to desire as they banter their way through society and into each other’s arms. It’s a fabulous read!”
”Yes, but so wrenching,” Nancy said.
“Anna Campbell, gotta expect agony,” somebody muttered.
Sven smiled, having heard the banditas complain about Anna Campbell tearing at their heart strings.
Louisa ignored the mutter and asked, “What are you writing, Gerri?”
Gerri poured a cup of tea. “I’m writing a Scottish historical that is a reunion story: one of my favorite plots. I love it when two tortured souls come back together in a way that is both sizzling and heartbreaking. I’ve tossed in a bit of paranormal elements as well, just to keep things exciting.”
Putting a cluster of grapes on a plate, she asked, “What about you, Maureen?”
“I’m currently reading Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James. James, who is a mystery writer, revisits Pemberley six years after Elizabeth and Darcy marry. The murder occurs on the night before a ball at their estate. I like the book because James succeeded, in my opinion, in capturing Austen’s voice and I adore Pride and Prejudice. The fact that my husband, who has been know to buy me Christmas gifts at car washes, went into a bookstore to purchase this novel and really thought about what I’d like is a bonus.”
As everyone laughed, Maureen continued, “I turned in What a Haint Wants, Book Four of my middle grade/ YA Ghost Handler series March 1st, which features high school freshman Heather’s dealings with a lunch lady ghost. At the moment, I’m taking a breather before starting the fifth book. My current focus is getting costumes ready for the Northeast Atlanta Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty which opens March 16th and working on the concordance for my series.”
“Congrats on finishing,” Nancy said. ”And good luck with the ballet.”
“What about you?” Eilis asked Nancy.
“I’m reading Robin Perini’s Finding Her Son, a romantic suspense. Her hero and heroine have both known betrayal and heart-breaking disappointment. The hero is a cop working as a detective until his injured leg heals enough for him to return to SWAT. The heroine is suspected of complicity in causing the wreck that killed her husband. Her son was stolen out of the mangled car, and she’s determined to get him back.”
Barbara said, “You’re writing, aren’t you?”
“Yep. I’m trying to get the proposal done for Book 3 in my mage series. Then I’ll do a series Bible because I’m already getting confused, and then I have a Napoleonic Wars historical to dive into.”
Nancy glanced at Eilis. ”Are y’all ever coming to Dragon*Con? It would be so fun.”
Sven slipped quietly from the room. The women seemed to have everything they needed, and he, like Mr. Carson in that Downton Abbey series Eilis mentioned, prided himself on efficient and unobtrusive service.
Speaking of service, he’d loaned Cassondra the key to the supply closet. She’d hung it over the bar faucet, as he asked, and he’d picked it up . . . or had he? He patted his pockets, in case he’d stuck it into one instead of hanging it around his neck, as usual. No key. Hmm. Maybe he’d put it down somewhere.
What with the dragon throwing a tantrum, the bandits celebrating with Barbara Vey, and company in the Lair on a regular basis, the month had been a bit chaotic. And the Ides of March hadn’t yet arrived, even.
He’d get the hockey hunks and the other cabana boys to help him look. And tell them to say nothing to the gladiators. Demetrius would laugh himself silly if he knew Sven had lost the key.
Sven shook his head. He had only himself to blame. Deviating from routines, like hanging the key around his neck immediately upon regaining it, always led to trouble.
Where each guest’s name appears above her answers, the name is a link to her website. Thanks to my buddies for joining us today!
Stay tuned for more on Sven’s problem.
Meanwhile, we have a book giveaway package for one lucky winner. We have Haint Misbehavin’ and Hainted Love from Maureen, a download of Riddle of Ryu and a print copy of The Sleeper Awakes from Eilis, and Kindle downloads of Barbara’s Regency novellas The Unrepentant Rake and The Wanton Governess. So tell us, what are you reading? What are you writing or working on as a project? Are you a Downton Abbey fan?
Posted by Caren Crane Dec 30 2011, 11:02 am in Aches and Pains, Caren Crane, Excuses, Gray Hair, Growing Old, Old Age, reading, Sherlock Holmes, The Night Circus
There is a reason this blog posted in the middle of the day rather than the middle of the night (USA Eastern time, anyway): I am getting old. Not like senile, losing track of who I am old – although I can see it coming – but run-of-the-mill, life is getting away from me old. I intentionally took today off work, since it’s the last workday of the year and I had one more day to burn. Plus, I had traded days with Jo and was supposed to blog – perfect! Except…then I got sidetracked. Totally sidelined by things like:
1. Sherlock Holmes – My BFF and I had a Groupon for Indian food last night AND the added bonus of passes to our favorite art house movie theater, The Galaxy. Instead of staying home and drafting the blog as I should have done, I went out to play. Please understand, seeing Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law kick some Moriarty butt (or get their butts kicked, as sometimes happened) was an awesomely good time. The vegetable biryani, too, was incredibly delightful. Best of all was spending time with my best friend, who has been dealing with a very ill mother-in-law who lives 5 hours away and her poor husband, who is very concerned about his mama. Altogether, a delectable distraction for us both, but a distraction nonetheless.
2. Graying Hair - Why? Why do we have to worry with hiding the gray or learning to accept the gray or even learning to style the gray? It seems a harsh icing on top of the aging cake, if you ask me. I’ve been letting the gray show the past month, partly due to sheer indolence and partly due to a combination of Christmas craziness and curiosity about how much gray there is. The How Much Is There question has been answered: not enough to bother me, really, but enough that I can’t style my hair. Gray hair, for you youngsters, is not at all porous and will not “take” any hair product at all. Believe me. So, I have been a bit obsessed this week with Getting To Friday so I can color my hair. Miss Clairol and I have a date right after I post this.
3. Creaks and Moans – Some of you know that I have been battling an ongoing problem with my hip(s) and all the muscles and tendons attached to them this fall (and now winter). My brain has been screaming that I’m too young for this for months now, but the stiffness, aches and pains linger on. So, I get to do stretches and exercises as soon as I awake, during the day (which is fun to try to do at work) and before bed. It’s quite time-consuming, really. It also tends to take up time that I normally spend commenting on blogs (ours and others) and, in general, keeping up with things I’m supposed to be doing – like blogging!
4. Reading – A side effect of my recent Period Of Rest for my hip(s) has been that I have been forced to be still. Those of you who know me understand that I can be still, but I don’t care to be still for very long. In an effort to not Lose My Freaking Mind, I have watched many movies from my streaming Netflix (via Roku) and I have read many, many books. Most of you will empathize with me when I say: Reading Is Addictive. It is! I find it hard, now that my physical therapist has rendered me quasi-mobile, to give it up. I am currently reading Erin Morgenstern’s ‘The Night Circus’, which is the Most Amazing Book I have read since…yes, I’m going to say it…since George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. If you haven’t read an excerpt or checked out her Amazing Website, run off and do that after you comment.
So, there are plenty of REASONS I can blame Old Age for this Very Tardy Post; however, there are no Excuses. Please forgive me, dear Bandita Buddies, for allowing my gray hair and Robert Downey Jr. to distract me. And while you’re at it, please do let us know what your favorite REASON for being late is. We all have one – checking on the animals, dropping off/picking up kids, phone calls from your mother – so please share. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here with Miss Clairol, temporarily covering one of my own.
Posted by crocodesigns Nov 18 2011, 1:02 am in Aunty Cindy explains it all for you, cabana boys, reading, The Golden Rooster, The Sidhe Princess
posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy
One of the most fun parts of this whole writing biz is fan mail. And since moving into our new digs here at Romance Bandits, we’ve got a slick new system for our buddies and readers to contact us. It’s called the Mailroom and when you press on the word on the tool bar, it takes you a page that let’s you select which Bandita you’d like to email. You can even write to the Golden Rooster!
Being the wise and *AHEM* seasoned Bandita that she is, Aunty is not surprised to have lately received several pieces of correspondence asking for advice. Since I know many of you have the same concerns and issues, I’m going to share a few here with my responses.
Dear Aunty Cindy,
Since I discovered and became a Lair regular several months ago, my To-Be-Read stash of books has grown completely out of control. I ran out of space in my home and had to buy an ereader, but now it too is rapidly approaching capacity. The Banditas and their guests write too many great books. What can I do?
Signed Too Many Books, Too Little Time
My dear Too Little Time,
First of all, there is NO SUCH THING as too many books. That is a nasty rumor perpetuated by the television and film industries, right along with their claims that “movie versions are as good as the books.” Don’t you believe it!
Of course we do not want you to miss out on reading any of the GREAT books Banditas write or recommend every month. I applaud your efforts in going ‘green’ by buying an ereader. Might I recommend you ask Santa for a second one? As for finding more time to read, why not do what Aunty does? Or more like what she DOESN’T — Give up cooking and cleaning! Reading is ever so much more rewarding, and if your family really wants such things done, they can DO IT THEMSELVES!
I am a newbie here in the Lair and think the cabana boys are sooo helpful and handsome. Where can I find a cabana boy of my own?
Signed Dreaming and Drooling
My Dear DD,
As you know Aunty personally screens and selects all applicants and then, with the assistance of the other Banditas, puts the chosen candidates through rigorous training. Therefore, it is not at all by chance that the Lair cabana boys are without equal, and that visitors are captivated by them. However, poaching of our cabana boys is absolutely forbidden, so Aunty is glad to see you are willing to look for one of your own and not try to abscond with one of ours.
I’m afraid your search may be daunting and will require much effort on your part. Aunty herself has scoured the globe in search of Lair cabana boys, but even traveling to the wilds of — oh say, Honduras — is well worth the effort if one can successfully find worthy applicants. So travel and search extensively, DD. Spare no expense nor effort in securing your perfect cabana boy and your very own HEA.
Dear Aunty Cindy,
I’ve been hanging out here in the Lair for several weeks now and no matter how hard I try, I have yet to get so much as a glimpse of the Golden Rooster. Help! Please give me some tips on capturing him.
Signed Roosterless in Rochester
My Dearest R in R,
Be glad that feckless fowl has not crossed your path! Aunty remains perplexed about the GR’s appeal, for he is the worst kind of rogue. He is a terrible house guest, devouring prodigious amounts chocolate and liquor at will and frightening small pets and children. Though not without some small bit of charm, he lies, cheats, and has even been known to steal vehicles in his quest for favorite treats. Plus he is utterly faithless, flitting from house to house all over the world, often not returning for weeks or months. And yet Banditas and BBs alike all vie for his smallest attention.
Heed Aunty’s advice, and continue to steer clear of this rascal! But if you are determined to spend time with him, you must time your visits to the Lair near midnight US East Coast time. The new blog post usually appears around then, and the Golden Rooster goes home with whoever posts the first comment of the day. Should you happen to snag him, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
That’s enough advice from Aunty for today. Now it’s YOUR turn!
Do you have any advice for Too Little Time, Dreaming and Drooling, or Roosterless? Please share with all of us.
Or if you would like to ask Aunty for advice, please ask away. Of course, if you’d like to write to Aunty, the GR, or any of the Banditas, please go to the Mailroom. We LOVE to hear from you!
Aunty will give away free downloads of her newest release The Sidhe Princess to two random commenters today.
Posted by Nancy Northcott Oct 9 2010, 3:14 am in picture books, reading
A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? There’re even a couple of songs about that idea, including Davey Gates’ “if a picture’s worth a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you? The words would never show the you I’ve come to know.” Pictures have a special, evocative appeal.
Before people had written records (i.e., history), we had pictures. Nobody knows, since we have no recorded explanation, why early humans created cave paintings. Were they religious? Commemorative? Decorative? Some combination thereof? We’ll probably never know. But people travel great distances to see them.
Before children learn to write, they learn to color, maybe even to draw. The whole “stay within the lines” thing is kinda overrated sometimes, I think. There’s something to be said for creativity.
“The reason to know the rules,” Cassondra said to me recently, “is so you understand how and when to break them.” Or words to that effect. So if a kid wants to color outside the lines, why not? Maybe she’s a visionary.
Anyway, pictures have great appeal for us. Some of us like pictures of actual, recognizable things and people and places. Others prefer abstracts that go for mood rather than image.
Young children particularly like pictures, maybe because tots don’t read so well yet. Even high-verbal tots, as the boy was, like picture books. The pictures tell the story. They help engage the imagination. I had a Little Golden Book (remember those?) about a squirrel who had adventures.
I also had a picture book version of Silver Chief that my grandfather read to me over and over and over because I loved it so. It mildewed in the folks’ dank basement, alas. I tried to find a copy for the boy but couldn’t. It’s long out of print. And of course I had the usual complement of Dr. Seuss, Disney adaptations, etc.
I first read The Iliad in picture book format, and I had a picture book adaptation of the King Arthur story. The D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, which I discovered in third grade and checked out of the school library time after time, now sits on our bookshelf. The dh bought it for me one Christmas because I still love those pictures.
So I was somewhat distressed to read in yesterday’s New York Times that many parents are pushing their children away from picture books and into chapter books while they’re still in pre-K. This has become so common that the market for picture books is falling. Publishers aren’t buying them, and bookstores aren’t stocking them. Except for perennial favorites like Seuss and Sendak.
If parents want their children to read earlier, that’s certainly up to them. I wouldn’t presume to dictate that. Some parents didn’t let their kids read comic books when I was growing up. I read them, the boy read them, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt either of us, but that’s a family choice. I’m just not sure why that means there’s no place for picture books. I sort of think anything that draws a child to books and reading would be positive.
All this makes me glad the boy came along when he did, when picture books were still abundant and varied. He had a huge vocabulary for his age, if I do say so, but wasn’t in any special hurry to learn actual reading. We didn’t push him to. I should probably confess here that his dad teaches children’s lit, including a course on literature for young children–which means picture books–so we enjoy that format a lot.
The boy had a wonderful little book called Jamberry, by Bruce Degen, and loved it. The dh used to read to the boy’s class every week to give the teacher a little time. When he read Jamberry, he took all the berries mentioned in the book to school so the kids could taste them. He did the same thing with the foods mentioned in The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle).
Among the most useful baby shower gifts I received were Good Dog Carl, by Alexandra Day, and a Babar picture book, both in board book format (smaller books on heavy, heavy cardboard pages that withstand the carelessness of small hands).
The boy adored Carl. The beauty of the Carl books was that they had no words–or at least, the early ones didn’t–so you made up your own story. At our house, they were known as the “Carl Baby” books because Carl had adventures with the nameless baby that the apparently clueless parents never detected.
The boy had a couple of text-free picture books by Peter Spier, Rain and Christmas, that contained beautiful, detailed pictures but let you make up your own story. Spier also created picture books with text, and we had some of those, too. Of course, we were abundantly supplied with Waldo’s adventures.
Some kids probably like to change the story around, and the text-less books would be great for that. Once we had a story for those pictures, though, the boy wanted it the same every time. Exactly the same. Absolutely, exactly the same.
There was a great book called Boom Chicka Boom Boom that was a sneaky way to teach the alphabet (just as Age of Empires on his PC, a few years back, sneakily taught him Norse and Roman mythology). He loved Go, Dog, Go and Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman.
The House That Jack Built was another favorite, and he had a beautiful book about a polar bear’s Christmas that inspired us to buy a polar bear ornament for our tree. The Polar Express didn’t do much for him, but a book about a couple of naughty grasshoppers was a huge hit, as was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. And the Busytown series.
I saved the books we read most often. He was done with them, but I couldn’t bear to see them go. There were too many wonderful memories associated with them, too many images of a small person sitting in my lap, absorbing the words and admiring the pictures. Sharing the moment.
Which picture books do you remember fondly? Which ones do the tots in your life enjoy?
Posted by Nancy Northcott Jan 26 2010, 5:57 am in Kathleen O'Reilly, Midnight Resolutions, New Year resolutions, reading
posted by Nancy
This being January, lots of us have made resolutions. This being late January, some of us will have fallen off the wagon. Kathleen O’Reilly’s January Blaze, Midnight Resolutions, is particularly timely, so Kathleen and I are chatting today about resolutions.
Welcome, Kathleen! I confess that I no longer make resolutions because the word is so intimidating. I make plans. Which are sort of like hopes with some oomph behind them. And which are not going all that well. I haven’t been back to the gym, haven’t appreciably altered my eating habits, but I have made significant progress on my latest manuscript, an indication I’m doing better at time management. Did you make resolutions you’re willing to share? And if so, how’re they doing?
I don’t make resolutions that are intended to last the entire year, maybe a quarter of the year instead. It makes it a LOT easier to carry out. Most of my goal making is done in very small increments. Sadly, I have discovered that it’s not any easier to drop five pounds than it is to drop twenty-five. Wimpy, they name is Kathleen. On the positive front, I have been going to the gym a lot. I enjoy working out, and walking, and I notice that I feel a LOT better when I exercise, because, alas, without exercise, I am a slug.
Without exercise, I have no hope, alas, of losing actual, noticeable weight. Another of my plans for 2010 was to whittle the TBR pile. It’s gotten to the point where I’m afraid to buy anything that’s not a new release lest I later discover it deep in the teetering stack. What’s your TBR pile like?
Hehehe…. My TBR is getting smaller. I have a Kindle, and it virtualizes your TBR pile. When my Kindle is off, my TBR pile disappears from view. Poof. Very stressless. However, I have been whittling it down. I just finished The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and enjoyed it. LOVED Anna Campbell’s Captive of Sin (as always), and I’m currently reading the Help. I just got my stack of Rita books, which I cannot talk about, but it wasn’t a thrilling stack like I’m lucky enough to get in years past (only one actually). But, the upside is that there are a lot of books that I don’t think I’m going to enjoy that I really do. I’ve discovered some favorite writers that way. So, the moral of the story is ‘don’t judge a book by its cover, nor it’s back cover copy, either.’
So you’re actually not only whittling the TBR pile but have found a new way to hide it. My dh may be interested in this strategy as the books climb and teeter and spill in various corners of our house. What are you reading these days?
I’m about 25% through The Help and then after that it’s the aforementioned Rita books.
I started Street Magic, the first of Caitlin Kittredge’s Black London series. I’m not too far into it, but it’s interesting so far. I’m almost through (because, hey, what’s life without multiple books in progress?) Air Time, the third Charlotte McNally mystery from Hank Phillippi Ryan, who’ll be here next week. It’s living up to the other two, which were great.
What’s your biggest time management issue?
Probably that there’s only 24 hours in a day. I would like to stop time for a bit, get through a task, and then start it up again when I’m done. Einstein was really onto something. Now if they could only figure out how to make my to-do list travel at a constant rate, and my watch (or my family) move at a relative pace to the constant. There’s big money in that invention. Big money, I say.
You need a time turner, like Hermione had in The Prizoner of Azkaban, maybe. I need improved planning. We control freaks will settle for the illusion of control if we can’t have the real thing, so I’m trying to keep everyone else in line with writing things on the master calendar. And then I need to remember to, you know, LOOK at it. But I’m doing better. I think.
The hero and heroine of Midnight Resolutions meet at the big Times Square New Year celebration. Tell us a little about them.
First of all, Ian Cumberland is one cool, albeit slightly deluded dude. I made him the romantic, the optimist, just out of his job as an investment banker, and now working in a job placement agency to help people find work. He THINKS that it’s an interim job, because he wants his old life back. But he’s very happy go lucky, so he doesn’t whine too much about it (hate whiners; Kathleen’s New Year’s Resolution — write no whiners – EVAH). Enter Rose Hildebrand, who ends up kissing a stranger (Ian, natch) on New Year’s Eve. Rose has a ton of baggage. Big baggage, and she wants security and control most of all. She has her life planned, and she sticks to that plan RIGOROUSLY (now there is a woman who makes and keeps all resolutions). But fate keeps intervening, which is not a good thing for a woman who cleaves to control like other women cleave to ice cream.
Would you like to share an excerpt? And didn’t this book get a really good rating from Romantic Times?
It did! It got a Top Pick from RT. Fair warning, I don’t think everyone will love Rose like I did. She’s not even close to typical romance heroine material because of her past, but I’m an equal opportunity writer. It strikes me as unfair that only the happy, perky, satisfied heroines get to find love. Sometimes I want the unlovable to find love, too. And I think that’s the point of the book. Everyone has a heart. Sometimes it’s just more difficult to find it. And the excerpt is located here.
Any parting advice or opinions about resolutions?
I’m about to start on a whole new pack of books (two new trilogies) and it’s fun to start fresh with a blank slate of people. I think with resolutions, that’s the fun part as well. Starting anew. Erasing past history, past mistakes, past weight gain (sadly, they haven’t figured out the science of erasing past weight gain except through exercise and diet, so we should probably strike that if we’re being truthful). I think that’s my favorite part of new beginnings and new resolutions. Everything is possible. Everything.
Ah, the allure of potential! I think that’s part of the attraction at places like Home Depot and Lowe’s and Michaels–walking down the aisles bombards a person with possibilities. My approach in recent years had been to not beat myself up for what I haven’t done and to focus instead on what I have while I keep working on the bits that aren’t quite there yet.
So what about you? How are you doing in the 2010 resolutions game, and what advice would you offer other people? What are you reading as the year kicks off, and what’s your TBR pile like? One commenter will win a copy of Midnight Resolutions.
Posted by Anna Campbell Nov 10 2009, 5:30 am in Anna Campbell, Courtney Milan, new authors, Pamela Clare, Proof by Seduction, reading, Sarah Mayberry, T-shirts
by Anna Campbell
Do you have the expression ‘getting fresh’ in the US? It sounds American to me but I’ve come to grief before with assuming slang crosses all continents!
Actually I’m not talking about naughty bits (the Golden Rooster squawks in protest. He’s got quite a dirty mind for a young chook!). I’m talking about fresh voices in romance. Well, fresh to me anyway!
As most of you know (actually given the wild launch we had, as ALL of you know!), I have a new book out in November. It’s called CAPTIVE OF SIN. As I write this (early November), I’m at the stage where reviews are starting to come in. What struck me about a couple of these sites is that the reviewers, who fortunately really enjoyed COS, had never read one of my books before and therefore they talked about how fresh the voice was to them.
So I started to think about some new voices in romance that have really impressed me lately. When I say ‘new’, I mean new to me.
One of these authors is so new, her book doesn’t even come out until next January but the other two I’m going to talk about have been around for a while. Just not in my TBR pile, even though they’ve become regulars in the last few months.
One of the perks of being an author is you get to read new books ahead of time for quotes. I was delighted recently to read a book by a new author who I’ve known personally since Avon Fanlit days. Oh, I did love Fanlit! And I can’t believe how many wonderful careers have been launched as a result of all the good mojo created there.
Anyway, this great book is PROOF BY SEDUCTION by Courtney Milan. It’s a Victorian historical and it’s smart and funny and packs a real emotional punch under its glittering facade. It’s out next January and whatever you do, don’t miss it. It’s about a psychic and the marquess who sets out to unmask her and in the process falls in love much against his will. Gorgeous stuff. Publishers Weekly (who as most of you know is currently flavor of the month chez Campbell!) gave this book a starred review, so clearly they recognize its brilliance too!
Two more authors I’ve discovered in the last 12 months who have become mainstays on my bedside table are Pamela Clare and Sarah Mayberry.
Pamela writes wonderful intense historical romance and real nail-biting suspense. Grab her RIDE THE FIRE and you won’t be sorry! It’s a heart-wrenching journey and you get such a wonderful sigh of AHHHHHH at the end. Oh, and hubba hubba to Nicholas Kenleigh, the gorgeous, tortured hero!
Sarah Mayberry writes smart, sexy, emotional romance for Harlequin Blaze. Actually I need to thank our Tawny for helping me to become a Blaze reader. Some of the best writers I know publish in that line!
Sarah’s most recent book is SHE’S GOT IT BAD which is a best friends reunion book – something she does like nobody else. Your heart will go out to prickly Zoe, the heroine, and emotionally damaged Liam as they tread the rocky road to happy ever after. A wonderful read!
So what new authors have you discovered in the last year? I’m always looking for recommendations! They don’t have to be debut authors, just authors you hadn’t read before who have now become a must buy. Let’s talk some good books, people!