Posted by Suzanne Ferrell May 21 2013, 12:40 am in baseball, books, Lost & Found, Rocky-the-wonder-dog, writer's life
Do you ever lose things? No, I’m not talking about your cell phone or car keys. Those I can keep track of quite nicely. I mean things you’ll need once in a while or months later? You’ve put this object or objects away in a “safe” place so you’ll remember where to find it and when you go to get it…it’s not freaking there!! Yep, I’m having some problems with that these days.
Sometimes you know something is gone forever, but good news pops up anyways! But then sometimes you’re looking for one thing and find another! And sometimes, you find what you were looking for and it turns out better than you ever imagined!
Example #1. Baseball Tickets.
My husband and I are HUGE baseball fans. We currently have 2 favorite teams. Our #1 team is always The Cleveland Indians. (I’ve done entire blogs about the team!!) Our #2 team is the Texas Rangers, our new home team. We root for them as long as they aren’t playing The Indians. Hubby’s birthday is a few days before the annual start of Baseball season, so after we moved to Dallas, I started buying him tickets to the series of games when Cleveland played here against Texas. Yes, he was quite shocked. Every year I try to get better seats, near the field and right behind the visitors, (Cleveland)’s dugout. Well, this year the tickets came and unfortunately I didn’t put them away where I would find them.
So, after a massive search of the house and no sign of the tickets, I reach out to the Rangers ticket office.
Ah! The lovely man on the other end of the line chuckled. “Happens all the time, ma’am. Just have your husband present the email with the confirmation at the ticket office anytime before the game and we’ll print him up new ones.” HALLELUJAH! Did I mention he was a lovely man?
Example #2. Rocky’s coat scratcher.
A while back I noticed Rocky-the-wonder-dog’s coat was looking a bit mangy. He’s a short-haired dog, so he sheds the extra thickness in his coat every year about this time. I went to look for his coat scratcher, It’s this metal thing with zigzag teeth that I pull through his coat and it thins out his coat, bringing all the old dead hair with it. Could. Not. Find. It. Anywhere. It wasn’t in the usual spot where I always put it when I’m done. What the heck did I do with it? The more days I couldn’t find it, the mangier poor old Rocky looked.
So, while I was hunting for tickets, what do I find? Yep! Rocky’s coat scratcher, outside, behind the chest where we store the out door furniture cushions in the winter. (Why was I looking for tickets out there? I was desperate, I tell you, desperate!) So, I spent the entire morning grooming Rocky, who did the bend-myself-in-two-because-it-feels-so-good act he does when I scratch him and now his coat is smooth and he looks way happier.
Example #3. VANISHED.
A number of years ago, I was working on a book to follow KIDNAPPED and HUNTED. I’d started the book and then for presonal reasons, decided to change the entire book. So I began again, different premise, same characters. I worked on it for some time, but my heart was never into the new pages. In the mean time I had a WADD (Writer Attention Defecit Disorder) moment or two and moved on to other projects, eventually selling The Surrender of Lacy Morgan to Ellora’s Cave.
Then I decided to try my hand at self publishing. KIDNAPPED and HUNTED were out, but I knew I had more books in the series. I decided to make a novella with the married brother of the Edgars’ clan, Dave and his wife Judy. That turned into SEIZED, which will be out in June of this year.
In the meantime, I revisited the idea of Luke’s story, (the youngest brother in the Edgars’ family). Unfortunately, my old computer died a year ago and when I moved files from it to this new one…I somehow manage to lose both the new and old stories I’d started for Luke. Dang it! I was going to have to start from scratch!! Sigh.
Well, back in January, I spent an entire 3 weeks unable to talk…no voice. So one day I’m sitting in my office staring at the hutch on my desk, when what do I spy? This little box containing those 3.5″ square discs I used to save my manuscripts to. OMG! You don’t think I could’ve possibly saved that original story there?
A quick investigation found one labeled LUKE. OMG!! Hubby opened it on his computer, because my new one doesn’t have a drive for that and then he emailed it to me. Wha-la! There it was in all it’s glory!! Hallelujah!! I sat and read it. I still loved this original beginning and now felt it was the perfect way to tell Luke’s story.
And the best part?
It was 12,500 words!!!
The working title is VANISHED, not because I couldn’t find it, but for other reasons, but hey, if the pun fits!! And hopefully, if I work really hard on it, YOU might get to read it in the fall.
So, do you ever lose things? Ever have something turn up when you least expect it? What was the oddest thing you ever lost? What was the most IMPORTANT thing you ever lost?What do you lose more than anything?
Posted by Anna Campbell May 10 2013, 12:01 am in Agatha Christie, Anna Campbell, BBC, British TV, cozy mysteries, Marple, Midsomer Murders, Miss Marple, mysteries, Poirot, Sherlock, Television, TV shows, writer's life
Do you North American girls get much chance to see British TV?
Here in Australia, we get lots and lots of it. I’ve always loved it, partly because my parents were fans, and partly because I became addicted very early on to all those wonderful British costume dramas. The original UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, the Austen adaptations, ANNA KARENINA, TO SERVE THEM ALL MY DAYS, Brontes galore, NORTH AND SOUTH. For a historical romance fan (and future writer), those shows were catnip to a cat!
We have a government funded public broadcaster, a little like your PBS network. No ads during the programs by legislation, although the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, which is confusing for Americans used to your ABC!) puts on plenty of ads for its shows and its merchandise in between its programs. This has been the home of great British drama here.
And then my parents got cable/pay TV which included whole channels devoted to the BBC and its ilk. Not to mention numerous hours to fill with programs that the other channels, particularly our Lifestyle Channel, devote to men with cut-glass accents wandering around Devon or Somerset checking out country houses. Happy sigh!
Oh, man, this little Britophile was in heaven. It was BETTER than catnip!
One particular genre of British TV that I really enjoy is a nice cozy murder mystery. None of the shows I’m talking about today are big on blood and gore (although the Brits do dark crime really well). They all rely heavily on the charm of their actors and wonderful supporting casts who seem to be on a carousel. If you see one familiar face in a POIROT one week, you’ll see her again in MARPLE the following week. And these shows nearly always feature wonderful settings. As you know, I’m a sucker for an English country house. I don’t even think I care if the vicar or the lady of the manor get murdered in it. I’d take it anyway! Especially if it featured one of those terrifically handsome English actors (and he survived the murder and mayhem – that’s a condition of purchase!) like Richard Armitage or Rupert Penry-Jones.
A show that seems to have been running for a hundred years is MIDSOMER MURDERS, based on a series of books that I haven’t read by Caroline Graham. The setting for these seem to be somewhere in the Cotswolds (although I remember visiting Somerset in 2004 and going through a string of villages with Midsomer in the name) but it’s classic fantasy England. Stone thatched cottages and beautiful manor houses and bijoux villages and people with enough money to go riding, have rose gardens and murder their neighbors. The principal character is genial Tom Bellamy played by genial John Nettles. Over the years, he’s been assisted and hindered by a variety of sidekicks.
Then it came time for John Nettles to retire to be replaced by his genial cousin John Bellamy played by genial Neil Dudgeon. It’s all very…genial. But my goodness, it’s such relaxing television. People only get murdered in the best of taste! And the new Bellamy has given the series an injection of energy that it really needed. This is all round a fun show, although I think anyone would be crazy to move into the Midsomer area however pretty it is – the death rate is through the roof!
Another staple of television here is the Agatha Christie adaptations. This will really shock you, but I’ve only read two Agatha Christies. I keep meaning to read more, but the TV adaptations are so good, I really don’t feel I need to. Oh, dear, I’m going to reader hell for saying that!
David Suchet is a marvelous actor who has made Hercule Poirot his own. The walk, the fussy manner, the dandyism, the moustache, but above all the kindness and the intelligence in his beautiful dark eyes make this rather grotesque character come alive. He veers right to the edge of caricature but doesn’t topple over. Instead we get an eccentric genius with a warm heart and a razor-sharp brain.
I love the stories in the Poirot series. I love how the murders are generally based in such real emotion. Love twisted by fate. Jealousy. Revenge. You name it. I love the Art Deco world. I love all the supporting cast. These are really well done, so if you like an English mystery story and great acting, and they’re not on your TV station, grab them from your local DVD supplier. You won’t be sorry.
On a side note, it’s always been a regret of my life that I missed seeing David Suchet on stage back in the 1980s, well before his fame as Hercule P. He was Iago to Ben Kingsley’s Othello at a Royal Shakespeare Company production in London. I had tickets but ended up getting stuck in Ireland with a ferry strike. Still gnash my teeth over that. The reviews indicated that Suchet out-acted Kingsley ten to one!
To my taste, the adaptations of Christie’s other famous detective, the spinsterish but fiendishly clever Miss Marple, haven’t been quite so apt. At least the earlier series starring Geraldine McEwan. The producers seemed to want to ‘sex’ Miss Marple up which just didn’t work. Miss Marple with a married lover in World War I? Oh, please! She’d be too busy knitting for the troops!
The MARPLES are set in the 1950s too rather than the 20s and 30s like the POIROTS. It’s not quite as attractive a period, although the dresses are nice. Geraldine McEwan while obviously a very fine actress is a little too sharp and knowing. Without having read the books, but having seen the TV shows, I get the impression that one of Miss Marple’s strengths is that people often overlook or underestimate her and that’s when she gets her clues to whodunnit. I can’t imagine anyone overlooking Geraldine McEwan!
More recently, there’s been a casting change and Miss Marple is now played by wonderful Julia McKenzie who manages to make this amateur sleuth a compelling character without changing her from a self-effacing well-bred spinster.
For all my criticism of the MARPLES, they’re still great television (especially when you can catch Richard Armitage as a supporting character, be still my beating heart!). All three of these series, POIROT, MARPLE and MIDSOMER MURDERS are perfect Sunday night viewing and well worth checking out if you’ve never seen them. They’re gentle in their murderous way, beautifully acted and very beguiling.
Just as long as they don’t kill Richard!
So are you a fan of cozy murder mysteries, either in print or on film? Our wonderful Kate Carlisle writes some of the best so keep an eye out for her A COOKBOOK CONSPIRACY in June. Are you a Christie fan? If you are, any suggestions for which books I should start with? I really should read them!
Posted by Anna Campbell Apr 10 2013, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, Ghost stories, historical romance, novellas, Regency romance, These Haunted Hearts, writer's life
by Anna Campbell
I was going to call this post When Good Technology Turns Bad. Or as someone said on my Twitter feed, #BewareRoyalWeddingGifts, but I thought I’d go simple.
I was also going to open this with a sort of quote from CROCODILE DUNDEE – “You call that a launch? THIS is a launch!”
Apologies to everyone who swung by last month for what was meant to be a hauntingly groovy launch for my Regency ghost romance, THESE HAUNTED HEARTS. As you’d recall I wasn’t here. The book wasn’t available. The moon turned green. Well, maybe that last one is a slight exaggeration, but the other two aren’t.
Thank you to those who swung by to wish my little story good luck and also to my Bandita sisters who did a marvellous job of keeping everything going in my unfortunate absence.
I’ve realized since that I tempted fate by writing a book about a cursed Chinese bed. Clearly the Chinese bed decided to turn its curse back on the author!
Here in south-east Queensland where I live, we’ve had really awful weather. We had a mini drought up until the end of January. Then we had a far-from-mini cyclone during which my fence blew down – although I wasn’t nearly as badly affected as people not very far up the coast whose whole town was completely inundated. Then lots of rain and wind for a whole month.
As a result, a whole stack of essential services were interrupted. Lots of people had no power. I had no phone for a large slab of March (slightly over two weeks). And by no phone, I mean NO phone, so no mobile/cellphone either (turned out a tower had been blown over that serves my area). And no phone means no internet.
Major problem. I do pretty much all my business on the internet. My frustrated Facebook addiction was clearly something I had to handle too!
Complaints to Telstra, my provider, gave me little satisfaction. And were annoying and time consuming – partly because I needed to find somebody with a working phone before I could make a complaint. Telstra promised me a satellite phone so I waited around for that to come – turns out they ran out. Poor babies. They’d already wasted several weeks of my time. What was another day?
Being without a phone was scary and annoying. And involved several very long trips to my closest library to use their internet. Far from entirely satisfactory, but it meant I could do the urgent stuff. These trips to a public computer didn’t, however, allow me to fulfill my obligations as a blog host. So again, huge apologies.
The curse of the Chinese bed didn’t just operate on my small world of telecommunications.
So far, I’ve indie published two novellas. The first, THE WINTER WIFE, went as smoothly as Bailey’s Irish cream down my thirsty Aussie throat (although I don’t think anyone drinks Bailey’s because they’re thirsty!). Of course, the universe decreed that when I was completely out of touch, there had to be major problems with getting THESE HAUNTED HEARTS: A REGENCY GHOST ROMANCE up on Amazon and Smashwords in a readable state. Apologies (lots of apologies in this blog!) to those who swung by and tried to pick up the novella only to find it unavailable!
Sheesh! It’s enough to drive a woman to drink. Did I mention Bailey’s?
The good news is that better late than never, THESE HAUNTED HEARTS is live and ready to entertain you. Also in the good news basket, I’m back on the internet and my phone is working. Phew!
So on a much quieter scale than the usual lair launches – for which Paolo is heartily grateful – I hereby declare THESE HAUNTED HEARTS: A REGENCY GHOST ROMANCE seaworthy and ready to sail onto e-readers all around the world.
It’s $1.99 and available from Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/These-Haunted-Hearts-Regency-ebook/dp/B00BSJR0HI/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1365287762&sr=1-1&keywords=these+haunted+hearts
And from Smashwords here:http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/294739
Just in case you missed it last month, here’s the blurb:
On one fateful wedding day at Marston Hall in 1818, four linked destinies hover in the balance.
Josiah Aston, Earl of Stansfield, wakes to discover he’s seventy years dead and he alone can free his beloved wife Isabella’s tormented soul. But first he must convince her to trust him against all the evidence…
Lady Isabella Verney, beautiful and tempestuous, married the man of her dreams, only to die violently on her wedding day. Every clue points to Josiah as the murderer…
Is true love strong enough to defeat ancient malevolence forever?
Miles Hartley, Viscount Kendall, is society’s ideal catch, but what does that matter if he can’t convince Calista Aston that he loves her? When an age-old curse strikes, only by proving himself worthy of her faith can he save their happiness…
Lady Calista Aston, noted bluestocking, fears she loves Miles Hartley not wisely, but too well. On her wedding day, her doubts place her at evil’s mercy. When death and disaster loom, is it courage or mad folly to believe that Miles loves her in spite of all her faults?
On one fateful wedding day at Marston Hall in 1818, will the lovers emerge triumphant or will darkness conquer all?
Given that THESE HAUNTED HEARTS focuses on a cursed royal wedding gift to the ill-fated ghostly couple, Josiah Ashton and Isabella Verney, I thought we’d talk wedding presents today.
What’s the best wedding present you received? What’s the worst wedding present you received? What’s the best wedding present you ever gave someone? If you got married tomorrow, what present would you like someone to give you?
Let’s toss the confetti and get this haunted show on the road!
To celebrate this second launch, I thought I’d give away THREE downloads of THESE HAUNTED HEARTS to people who comment today. Good luck!
Posted by Kate Carlisle Feb 25 2013, 12:05 am in deadlines, Kate Carlisle, writer's life, writing life
Deadlines are like mountains. When they’re far away, they look tiny.
“No problem,” you think. “I can climb that.”
Then you travel a little further down the story road, not paying much attention to Deadline Mountain. It’s there, but it’s part of the scenery. You’re focused on where you are now, caught up in the story in your head.
The deadline is something you talk about casually. “Yeah, I’ve got a deadline coming up, but I’m right on track.”
However, at some point, before you know what’s happening, you’re in the shadow of the mountain and you can’t ignore it anymore. You can’t escape the chill. You’re only halfway finished with your journey, and the rest of it is a steep climb.
From there, every step takes massive energy and effort. You have to write an entire chapter every day, so you forget about pesky things like eating healthy and getting dressed every morning and paying the bills on time. Powered by chocolate, you hunker down and you climb. That. Mountain.
You might not look pretty, but you get ‘er done, dang it.
Oh, the indescribable joy of hitting “Send,” to email the completed manuscript to my editor! Against insurmountable odds – such as my own tendency toward procrastination – I conquered Deadline Mountain. Triumph!
Let me tell you, the view is pretty sweet from up here. That next mountain looks tiny.
Tell me something you have accomplished in your life that makes you feel proud! What mountains have you climbed?
Posted by Kate Carlisle Nov 25 2012, 12:05 am in Just For Fun, Kate Carlisle, writer's life, writing life
The English language is rich and colorful, constantly changing. New words are invented, old words are repurposed. Tracing the etymology of a word is fascinating. Our language has been influenced by nearly every other language in the world, living and dead. With skill and a passion for vocabulary, writers can communicate the most delicate of nuances, evoking emotions in a reader who is miles – or generations – away.
As writers and readers, by our very natures we have a great appreciation for the English language. But ya gotta admit… sometimes it’s stoopid. Spelling and pronunciation in English are only occasionally intuitive. Every rule has a hundred exceptions. It must be frustrating for people learning English as a second language because there’s no logic to it – we’re forced to memorize each exception as it comes. An impossible task for many native speakers!
Eight is pronounced “ate,” and yet sleight is pronounced “slite.” Take off the T and make it sleigh, and we pronounce it “slay.” Why? Because I said so.
“I knead bread” means something completely different from “I need bread.” Can you guess which is the sentence I would never use? Evidently, I’m not alone. Kneading is so rare these days that Microsoft Word gave me the blue squiggly line, asking, “Really? You knead? Yeah, right! Who are you kidding?!”
I’m convinced that the ability to spell is innate. (I had to look that one up – I couldn’t remember whether there was one N or two in innate.) Those who are born without the gene can still learn to spell, but it takes great effort. I’m fortunate that way. Spelling comes pretty easily to me, but I sympathize deeply with those for whom it doesn’t and have learned over the years not to take a spelling error as an indicator of intelligence. Some of the smartest people I know say “their” when they mean “there.” (My own personal nemesis is “here” when I mean “hear.” I get it wrong every time!)
Still, I’ll confess. It makes me cringe every time I see someone make a mistake like that, but it doesn’t make me think less of them. “It’s” when they mean “its,” on the other hand…
Were you born with the good spelling gene? What words give you trouble? What words do you see frequently misspelled, that drive you crazy?
Posted by Anna Campbell Nov 10 2012, 12:03 am in Anna Campbell, Australia, Australian Authors, Bandita Booty, history, Seven Nights in a Rogue's Bed, Sons of Sin, travel, writer's life
..for people who don’t live here! Especially if you’re from North America!
I’m a proud little Aussie gal!
Just now, I’m particularly proud (not for nationalistic reasons) because my seventh historical romance SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED recently hit the shelves.
In honor of all the 7s doing the rounds, I thought I’d pick out seven interesting facts about Australia that foreigners may find interesting.
So here are seven mostly obscure facts about my beloved homeland that you can use to dazzle the guests at your next barbecue:
7. Apart from Antarctica, Australia is the world’s driest continent. Perhaps that explains our dry sense of humor!
6. Australia is one of the few nations to send athletes to every modern summer Olympic Games. We’ve hosted the Olympics twice – in 1956 and 2000.
5. In World War II, we came very close to Japanese invasion (Darwin was bombed and there were Japanese submarines creating havoc in Sydney Harbor). Hundreds of thousands of American troops under the command of General MacArthur came to Australia to fight in the Pacific arena. So on behalf of my nation, a big thank you to the United States!
4. We had a series of gold rushes from the early 1850s through to about 1900, just in time for miners from San Francisco to hop on the nearest sailing ship and float across the Pacific to dig for the yellow stuff. The gold rushes established Australia’s prosperity and population – and when you look at the records, you’d be amazed how many Americans made the trip to our sunny shores!
3. We have some very strange animals (no, I’m not talking about the types who hang around our local pubs and clubs after midnight on a Saturday!). There are koalas and kangaroos and echidnas and wombats. I want to talk about the platypus here – this duck-billed, egg-laying mammal is so strange that when the first specimens reached London (stuffed, not live) in the early 19th century, the scientific community was convinced it was a hoax.
2. A couple of American slang terms have very different meanings in Australia, something which gives us great (and childish) amusement. In America, if you ‘root’ for someone, you’re cheering them on. In Australia, ‘root’ means intimate relations. And don’t start me on fanny pack! In some things, we’re two nations divided by a common language!
1. There’s a myth that we ride kangaroos down the main streets of our biggest cities. This is completely untrue. The kangaroos of Australia formed a union (the HEA – Hopping Entities of Australia – affiliated to the Transport Workers Union) in 1934 to object to this cruel and unusual treatment. Now the kangaroos ride the Aussies! There’s a whole underclass of people who work as Roo-shaws!
OK, not ALL those facts are 100% true. Can you tell which one? However, having read this post, even if you don’t come from my wide brown land, you may now consider yourselves honorary Aussies. Have a stubbie in your stubbies on the black stump outback of beyond in the never-never.
I’d love to know an interesting fact about where you live. And hey, it doesn’t even have to be true!
I’ve got a signed copy of SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED available for one lucky commenter today. So get commenting, people. Or as we say in Oz, drag up a stump for your rump and have a chinwag, mate.
Posted by Susan Sey Jul 1 2012, 12:51 am in interviews, romance bandits, Susan Sey, writer's life, writing life
This month’s Bandita spotlight belongs to Susan Sey, often referred to as The Tardy Bandita, since she wandered into the lair about three months after everybody else. (She dislikes asking for directions & insists she’ll find her own damn way. Eventually.) She’s happily married to her own personal hero, & is the mother of two girls who are simultaneously the pride of her life & the reason she will never be able to write more than one book a year. At least not until the 2020s.
She writes unabashedly in the genre least likely to sell or make her any money (single title contemporary). She was as astonished as anybody when she got picked up by a major publisher after winning the 2008 Golden Heart in this same ill-fated category. She was not, however, astonished to find herself unceremoniously dropped by that same publisher two books later. The economy sucks, & better writers than she have gotten the axe. She remains, however, the proud author of MONEY HONEY (Berkley Sensation, 2010) and MONEY SHOT (Berkley Sensation, 2011), and is delighted to announce her foray into self-publishing with her…what else?….single title contemporary romance KISS THE GIRL, which debuted on June 26, 2012.
So. Let’s grill her, shall we?
Q: How long have you been writing, and how has your writing changed over time?
Susan Sey: I’ve been writing since I was old enough to read. I loved the characters I met in books like I’d love a real live friend, and it was difficult for me to say goodbye to them when the story ended. So in my head I made up more of their story so I could spend more time with them. It seemed like a perfectly logical solution to me but evidently not everybody does that. Who knew?
As far as how my writing’s changed over time, well that’s an interesting question. I’ve just recently self-pubbed the last book I wrote before selling to a big-time NYC publisher, the one I’ve always loved but that never found a home in NYC. (KISS THE GIRL, previously titled THE PRINCESS PROJECT.) And in cleaning it up for publication, I made a fascinating discovery: This book is palpably joyful. It’s funny and charming and ridiculous, and it’s because when I was writing it, I believed in myself and in my talent.
See, when I wrote KISS THE GIRL, I was at the peak of my game as an unpubbed writer–winning contests, finalling in the Golden Heart, signing with an agent–and my confidence was at high tide as a result. And then my dreams came true and I sold to a big ol’ publisher. And suddenly I was a teeny, unproductive fish in a vast, cruel pond, my books sold respectably but I didn’t blow the doors off, and my confidence took a massive hit. And my writing got dark and confined and tentative. And it shows. MONEY SHOT is the book I wrote under that contract, and it’s about as dark a book as I’ve ever written.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that book. It’s tightly written and well-plotted and I’m still sort of half in love with my hero, Rush. But there’s an anxiety running through that book, a darkness, that speaks very strongly to my experience of writing it.
So I’m looking to get back to that KISS THE GIRL place, where I feel happy and strong and confident, and my writing shows it.
Q: What drink does Sven bring you when you’re hiding in the cave?
SS: Ooooh, well it’s summer here in the upper Midwest so I’m all about the beer gardens. I often ask Sven to trot over to our local micro breweries–Surly and Summit–to see what’s on tap. Lately, I’ve been enjoying Surly’s Cynic Ale, and Summit’s Summer Ale. (Thank you, Sven, darling.)
Q: What’s the hardest thing about writing? What’s the most rewarding?
SS: The hardest thing is honestly finding extended periods of time to get immersed in my world. I have little kids, you know, and I can pawn them off on the cabana boys and gladiators for a little while but once the girls start tossing about spears and reeling off drink ingredients, I know I need to dial back the writing time. The most rewarding thing is far and away when somebody tells me my story touched them. I always find it humbling and astonishing when something I write garners an honest emotional response from somebody.
Q: Who do you enjoy writing more — hero or heroine?
Oh, I’m unashamedly in love with each and every one of my heroes. Female friendship has always been sort of a difficult thing for me–I have three sisters so never really had to learn the knack of making female friends until it was too late & everybody already had a BFF for life. So this is sort of a handicap for me when I write, & my heroes come far more easily. I fall in love with them right out of the gate, & they love me right back. They’re easy. But the heroines I have to warm up to. Or maybe they have to warm up to me before they’ll let me know them? I don’t know. But my heroes just spring to life, while my heroines make me sweat.
The one exception has to be Nixie from KISS THE GIRL. She was a joy from page one, a pure delight to know and a ball to write. I missed her when I wrote The End. But she was so darn happy with her happily ever after, I didn’t have the heart to disturb her to see if she wanted to hang out or grab a beer sometime.
Q: Favorite thing you’ve researched?
Right now, I’m thinking about writing a story about a disgraced corporate high-flyer whose business empire falls to shreds & leaves him with nothing but a dilapidated small-scale goat and cattle farm in Northern Minnesota. Which isn’t exactly known for its pasture land. But confidence is not this guy’s problem, & he thinks he can just take up organic farming. I’m learning a ton about cheese, of all things. Working title? The Milk Man Takes a Wife. Of course.
So there you have it. My life story in a nutshell. If I’ve failed to satisfy your curiosity about any little thing, feel free to get in touch by visiting my website, my Facebook page or just old-fashioned emailing me at email@example.com. Looking forward to hearing from you!
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 Kate Carlisle Apr 25 2012, 12:05 am in Kate Carlisle, writer's life, writing life
I spent $79 yesterday on ink for my printer. $79! Plus tax! Granted, I got two XL cartridges, but still. And XL or no, I still seem to run out of ink with shocking frequency.
The woman at the register rang up the ink, and her eyes widened. “You could buy a new printer for that!” she said.
“Not when I’ve got this kind of money invested in this one,” I assured her, even though my printer has never worked the way it should.
I bought it with stars in my eyes. It’s an HP all-in-one – printer, copier, scanner – and even better, it’s wireless! I had visions of printing from any room in the house without having to lug my laptop into the office. Of happily trotting to the office with a piece of paper fluttering in my hand, passing it through the scanner, then returning to my computer to discover the paper had miraculously appeared on the screen. Oh, how naïve I was!
The scales fell from my eyes during my many calls to tech support, trying to get the wireless function to work. Each call took several hours, and I promise I’m not exaggerating that to make you pity me. I was on the cell phone so long that I started to worry I was giving myself brain cancer.
Part of the reason the calls took so long was because the tech support people would talk me through the same steps every time – even when I told them that I had already gone through those steps with the last person I talked to. I had to start from the beginning every single time, going through the steps that already hadn’t worked.
I saw occasional glimmers of hope. On one bright Tuesday morning, a paper I scanned did miraculously appear on my computer screen. The paper said, “I HATE MY PRINTER!!!” and I never got it to work again.
Then one day, while writing a Guru Bob scene for ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE, I was in a very Zen state of mind. I realized that I could choose to stop being annoyed. I could accept that, whatever it said on the box, mine is not a wireless printer.
Starting that day, when I needed to print or scan something, I lugged my laptop into the office, plugged it in, did the deed, and got on with my life. I have embraced fatalism, and it works for me. So much so, that I’m willing to spend $79 on ink. Plus tax.
I’ve decided to try the same tactic with other minor annoyances in my life. The raised toilet seat, the friend who keeps calling my home phone even though I’ve told her a hundred times I prefer to use my cell, the person with twelve items in the ten-items-or-less lane. My world will be a happier place if I stop trying to change what cannot be changed.
How do you feel about your printer? Does anyone have a wireless printer that works as a wireless printer and, if so, what kind is it? Have you embraced fatalism about anything in your life? If so, how’s it working for you?
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 10 2012, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Australian Summer, Cherries, fruit, writer's life
by Anna Campbell
I love, love, love cherry season. Here in Australia, the local cherries aren’t around for very long so I always make an utter pig of myself over Christmas and New Year with them. Over recent years, a lot of shops have started sporting American cherries out of our season, but there’s something not cricket about buying expensive imported fruit, I always think.
Right now, a bowl of my favorite (and sadly very short-lived in terms of growing season) St. Margaret cherries is sitting at my elbow. They’re the big, luscious, black, sweet ones. YUMBO! Nothing could be nicer.
Did you know cherries were terrifically good for you? They help with arthritis and gout and heart disease and one site I found even claimed they helped you lose weight. Probably not in the quantities I’m eating right now!
Cherries are a fruit associated with some lovely memories for me. When I lived in London in the mid-80s, I used to work at a perfume stall in Covent Garden market and make my lunch of the luscious summer cherries they sold from nearby costermonger barrows. Always felt I was getting the genuine London experience there!
I remember a glorious day touring the Napa and Sonoma valleys in 2008 and sitting in a lush glade and gorging myself from cherries from a market. By the way, that experience nearly bought me to grief. I flew home not long afterward and the scent ended up clinging to my backpack. The airport sniffer dog wouldn’t leave me alone – clearly a beagle has a good nose for my favorite fruit!
When I went to Colorado for RomCon in 2010, I was delighted to see that this was clearly America’s cherry capital. There were even specialty cherry shops that sold cherry jam and cherry wine and cherry lip balm. Not sure how much actual cherry was in that!
When I lived in Sydney before I started to write full time, I worked up the road from a big Asian market that had a huge fruit and veg section. I remember buying 2kg cases of special quality cherries (about 5lb) that were as big as plums. Oh, man, they were the most splendiferous things on the planet!
Cherries were always a special Christmas holidays treat when I was a kid. These days, a lot of things that had a short season back then are pretty much available all year (watermelon and chocolate biscuits spring to mind) but cherries are still only available for those few short weeks around the solstice. I can remember my best friend from primary school and I rubbing cherries on our lips and pretending we were wearing lipstick. It’s actually quite a becoming shade!
We used to get cases of peaches and nectarines and apricots and mangoes to take away on holidays with us (my dad was a bit of a fruit fanatic although my mum wouldn’t care if she never saw a piece of fruit). But my faves were always the cherries and I can remember being so disappointed a couple of years when they were just too expensive. Sigh.
So I’m a cherry tragic. I even at a pinch will eat maraschino cherries although they’re not a patch on the real thing. Madame (Christina Brooke) always looks utterly revolted when I start raving about the delights of a local chocolate bar with dark chocolate, coconut and dried cherries called a Cherry Ripe. It turns out it’s Australia’s oldest chocolate bar, so as a history buff, she should definitely overcome her revulsion!
If you must have chocolate for breakfast, Cherry Ripe would be my choice! Think of all the vitamins. Snork.
So do you have a favorite fruit? Is it seasonal or available all year? And am I the only person in the universe who likes preserved cherries? Please say it isn’t so!