Posted by Donna MacMeans Jan 23 2015, 12:39 am in 50 reasons, Donna MacMeans, Susan Mallory, writer's life
Last October, I attended a workshop where Susan Mallory challenged the participants to make a list of 50 reasons they write romance. When times are tough, or if the author is having difficulty facing the blank page, they could pull out the list and remind themselves why they wanted to do this. As someone who uses “what if” lists to advance a story’s plot, I know that as the list fills up it becomes harder and harder to come up with new reasons to love writing romance. That’s when the “good stuff” happens.
So I made my list. I haven’t had to pull it out to remind myself why I do this, but I thought I’d share some of the answers with you – as I know you love romance as well. Don’t worry. I won’t bore you with all 50.
1. Fans! Where else can you work where people randomly send you messages from all other the world saying that they love your work! It’s amazing and deeply, deeply appreciated and unlike any other profession I’ve encountered. Romance fans are the absolute best.
2. I love that reading, especially candidates for RITA awards, is considered essential for the job. Reading Research books is essential as well. How cool is that?
3. I can write in pajamas. I can write on my screened in porch. Heck, I write in airports waiting on my plane. I plot while I do aerobics (yeah, I’m the one going right when everyone else turns left. I’m lost in my book world.) And all I really need is a notebook and pen (but I have laptops and iPads, of course ).
4. Speaking of travel, in 2014 I was in Atlanta, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Newark, Jacksonville and New York City – all for writing purposes. Heck, I was even re-routed to Minneapolis airport – twice! Being a published author is like having a passport.
5. I love what I write. I love that my name is on the book. I love that I’m considered i i’ve nteresting at cocktail parties (and funerals…but that’s another story ). My hope is that my books will be around when i am not. My God – I’m immortal!!!
6. I’ve fallen in love with each of the heroes in my books. I think it keeps you young. I think writing keeps the brain engaged and hopefully keeps dementia at bay. Time will tell.
7. Writing causes me to look at the world differently. I look for possible plots in everything I see (i.e. the Charm gates in New Orleans). I look for settings and local sayings and such.
8. Book signings are the coolest things ever!
9. I love that I write in a genre that requires a happily-ever-after ending. No dispressing endings for me. I love that I write books where a hero sacrifices to win the love of the heroine.
10. I get to acknowledge friends, family members, all those that helped me in this journey in every book. It’s like a very public THANK YOU. I think that’s cool.
So what about you? If you were making a list of why you love romance, what would you say? As it’s January, and we all know that January means new calendars :-P, I’ll give Affaire de Coeur 2015 calendars to three commenters. You’ll be able to have romance every month with Affaire de Coeur. So let’s chat about romance.
Photos were provided by freedigitalphotos.net
In order the artists are gualberto107, photo stock, photoraidz, and stuart miles.
Posted by Kate Carlisle Nov 25 2014, 12:05 am in Fixer-Upper Mysteries, Just For Fun, Kate Carlisle, writer's life, writing life
Earlier this month, I attended Bouchercon – Murder at the Beach, a conference for mystery writers and readers to mingle and plot murder.
Of the fictional variety, of course.
As far as I know.
The conference was especially exciting because the night before it started, I found out that my latest book, A HIGH-END FINISH, had debuted on the New York Times mass market paperback bestsellers list at #9! And my good friend Jenn McKinlay’s book debuted at #8, so we were bestselling besties all weekend. Jenn suggested we get tattoos to commemorate the occasion. As you can see, Edgar Allan Poe disapproved. He’s surprisingly judgmental.
Having written both mysteries and romances, I’ve attended conferences for both genres, and once again, I was struck by the differences between them. Such as:
The conference theme
Bouchercon was Murder at the Beach. If it had been a romance conference, it would’ve been something like Love at the Beach or Love in the Afternoon or Let’s Roll in the Sand.
The pitch of the conference buzz
Romance conferences are attended almost entirely by women, but mystery conferences are more evenly split, which means that the buzz of conversation has a much lower pitch.
Books in the book room
It was fun to see so many of my books in the book room! It was interesting, skimming all the mystery titles in there. The cozy mysteries, such as the books I write, all have great titles based on the theme of the series. Romance titles are often clever, too, but here’s the difference—I didn’t see a single Duke in the book room at Bouchercon. (Hmm… wouldn’t that be a great mystery series, following a Duke detective through Victorian England?)
I got to see a very cool cadaver dog demo. There were workshops on murder methods and investigation techniques and forensics. Come to think of it, I could imagine all of those workshops taking place at a romance conference, too. One of the things I love best about romance novels is that they embrace every other book genre. There’s a romance for everyone!
I was the moderator of a panel on culinary mysteries. Such fun! Here’s a selfie I took, and then another picture of the exact same moment, taken by Dru Ann of Dru’s Book Musing, who was in the audience. Just goes to show… everything is a matter of perspective!
All in all, it was a great time! The best thing that romance and mystery conferences have in common is the chance to see my writer friends and to meet readers. That, and the fact that after a hectic few days, I get to hole up at home again and dive back into my story.
I always learn something at conferences like this. Have you ever been to a big conference of any sort? What did you learn that you still think about today?
By the way, during the month of December, I’m going to give away a paperback every day. Sign up for my mailing list at KateCarlisle.com so you don’t miss out on 31 chances to win!
Posted by Anna Campbell Aug 10 2014, 12:07 am in Anna Campbell, Blue Dahlia, contemporary romance, Jewels of the Sun, Northern Lights, reading, Romance, series, Shadow Spell, The Chesapeake Quartet, The Donovan Legacy, The Witness, Trilogies, Whiskey Beach, writer's life
We’re all readers here so I’m sure I’m not going to be alone when I confess to being slightly obsessed with a particular author. It happens to all of us!
I seem to have developed an insatiable appetite for books by Nora Roberts. Rarely a week goes by when I’m not reading one and usually more books by the master (I can’t call her the mistress!).
Obviously like most of us, I’ve read Nora’s books for many years. I think my introduction to her work was the Gallaghers of Ardmore trilogy. Isolde Martyn brought JEWELS OF THE SUN back from the 2000 RWA conference in Washington D.C. where she was the first Australian to win a RITA® Award for her wonderful historical THE MAIDEN AND THE UNICORN.
I think my favorite of those early reads was the Chesapeake Bay Quartet – amazing emotional punch in those stories and great romances. Stupidly I lent those to a friend and they never came back. Grrr.
I tried the J.D. Robb books – perhaps it was the mood I was in at the time, but while I enjoyed NAKED IN DEATH, I didn’t have a burning desire to read more in the series.
No, it seems I’m a classic Nora in her original incarnation girl.
Luckily she’s got a huge backlist! I’m in awe of her productivity and I have no idea how she manages to keep the quality up the way she does. Her books are never less than a good read and more often than not, they’re a fantastic read. Perhaps she has an army of little elves wearing Turn the Page Bookstore T-shirts in her basement!
I really feel that there’s nobody better for a certain style of emotional contemporary romance.The characters are real – you can imagine most of them living next door, even the witchy ones. The dilemmas they face are intriguing. The love scenes are lyrical and sexy. And she does setting brilliantly. You really feel that you’ve been to the wild Monterey Coast with the Donovans or County Mayo with the Cousins O’Dwyer or a rocky island off the Maine coast with the three wyrd sisters.
The more I read, the more I appreciate her work. In the last six months, I’ve read the Three Sisters Trilogy, the Donovan Legacy Quartet, the first two books in the Cousins O’Dwyer set, BLUE DAHLIA (and I’ve ordered the next two in that set!), WHISKEY BEACH, NORTHERN LIGHTS and THE WITNESS.
Two particular faves are NORTHERN LIGHTS and THE WITNESS. Both feature really interesting central characters, burnt-out city detective Nate Burke who takes a posting as police chief in Lunacy, Alaska (NL) and Abigail Lowery, on the run from the Russian Mafia after she witnessed a murder as a teenager (TW).
Both are stand-alones and have a strong mystery/suspense plot. Both are longer than her series books that I’ve read. But my goodness, they’re fabulous stories. I couldn’t put down either when I started them. And given they’re both over 500 pages, that was a lot of hermit time! I wrote a detailed review of NORTHERN LIGHTS for our friends at the Romance Dish back in January: http://www.theromancedish.com/2014/01/mighty-lights.html
It suddenly struck me last week why I had such a reader crush on Nora at the moment – aside from the obvious quality of the books she writes. And what a lightbulb moment that was!
One of the things I loved about JEWELS OF THE SUN is that it’s about a woman who takes a chance and reaps the benefits. Frances Jude Murray leaves her dead-end job in America to live in her grandmother’s cottage in Ireland and to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. This single act of courage leads to a fulfilling new career and a lifelong love.
This theme of the main character seeking a new life and finding love and renewed purpose in his or her altered circumstances is central to so many of Nora’s books.
Right now I’m in the process of packing up the home my parents lived in for their last years. I’ve lived here for ten years since my mother passed away in 2006. It’s a lovely house but it’s never really been suitable for a groovy singleton (ahem!) and I’ve finally got up the oomph to tackle moving. So the next year or so is going to have a lot of changes for me too. Some large, some small. But all a little daunting in the still watches of the night!
Nora’s message of courage finding its own rewards and a new start offering a whole fresh look on life is just what I need at the moment. Clearly I need it, given the number of her books I’m ordering from the Book Depository!
So are you glomming any particular author at the moment? Is it an old favorite or someone who’s a fairly new discovery? Is there a reason this particular author is striking a chord for you? And what books of Nora’s do you recommend I turn to after I finish the In the Garden trilogy?
Posted by Kate Carlisle Jul 25 2014, 12:05 am in Bandit Booty, Bandita Booty, Kate Carlisle, Launch Party, websites, writer's life, writing life
Here in the Lair, launch parties are usually for book releases, but today we’re celebrating the launch of my fabulous new website design! And to add to the party atmosphere, I’m giving away an autographed copy of THE BOOK STOPS HERE.
An author’s website is a Very Big Deal. www.KateCarlisle.com is my home on the web. It must accurately represent me and my books. Every word, every image, every color sends a message to readers, whether they realize it or not. And so my goal is to make sure that the message is true, that the expectation my website sets is the expectation that will be fulfilled when a reader tries one of my books for the first time.
It was complicated before because I write both mystery and romance, but now it’s even mooore complicated because with November’s release of A HIGH-END FINISH, I’ll have two ongoing mystery series… plus, we can’t forget about my romances! I will always have a deep and abiding love for romance!
Before, on my mystery site, I could tell my webmaster to give it a bookish look, to represent the Bibliophile Mysteries and Brooklyn Wainwright’s profession as a bookbinder. But now I need the website to also represent the Fixer-Upper Mysteries. Shannon Hammer restores Victorian houses in her hometown, Lighthouse Cove. Two different heroines. Two different settings—one a city, one a small town. Two different occupations.
One overwhelmed writer!
I have a wonderful web designer, Xuni Designs, who specializes in author websites. Maddee and Jen have become masters at helping authors define what they want. With a detailed questionnaire and thorough instructions about gathering images, they helped me identify the tone and the substance that I wanted my website to convey. Smart, funny mysteries about a bookbinder. Smart, funny mysteries about a home renovation expert.
Without further ado, I invite (implore) you to visit www.KateCarlisle.com right now.
To enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of THE BOOK STOPS HERE, respond to this in a comment below:
Name one thing on my website, www.katecarlisle.com, that gives you the impression of either “Smart” or “Funny.” Let’s make a game of this—try to avoid repeating what someone else has already said. While you’re there, be sure to enter my super fabulous Road Trip Giveaway in the Secret Room!
Posted by Anna Campbell Jul 3 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, contemporary romance, Cosmo Hot Reads, Harlequin, Harlequin Presents, interviews, Maybe This Christmas, O'Neil Brothers, Sarah Morgan, Sleigh Bells in the Snow, Suddenly Last Summer, writer's life
I’m delighted to welcome back to the lair multi-award winning (including two RITAs!) and bestselling author Sarah Morgan who is here to tell us about SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER, the next book in her wonderful O’Neil Brothers series.
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER recently received a Top Pick review from RT Book Reviews, who said, “Morgan’s romantic page-turner will thrill readers…The chemistry between the misunderstood hero and the victimized heroine is combustible. Morgan’s handling of social and environmental issues impresses, her storytelling rocks and her lovemaking sizzles. Brava!”
Here’s the blurb:
Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the opening day plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O’Neil is back in town, and looking more delectable than ever. Last summer, they shared an electrifying night together…and the memories have Élise really struggling to stick to her one-night-only rule! Her head knows that eventually Sean will be leaving, so all she can do is try to ignore her heart before she spontaneously combusts with lust.
Being back in Vermont—even temporarily—is surgeon Sean O’Neil’s worst nightmare. For Sean, returning home to the Snow Crystal Resort means being forced to confront the guilt he feels about rejecting his family’s rural lifestyle years ago. But discovering that Élise has settled in Vermont and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction! Thinking he can persuade her into a replay of last summer is tempting, but remembering how good they are together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine….
You can find out more about Sarah and her fantabulous books on her website: http://sarahmorgan.com/
Sarah, I absolutely loved your 2013 Christmas book, SLEIGH BELLS IN THE SNOW. And now we’ve got the sequel to delight us, SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER. Can you tell us about this story?
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER is Sean O’Neil’s story. Sean is a talented surgeon, totally committed to his career. He is forging his own path and much as he loves his family, he doesn’t want to be involved in the family business at Snow Crystal, Vermont. But events conspire to bring him back home for a short time and he’s forced to confront his feelings about the place, as well as his feelings for Élise, the fiery French chef with whom he spent one steamy night the previous summer.
Sean and Élise are both strong, passionate people. They have great chemistry, but neither of them is looking for a relationship and they think they have their feelings under control. They are so wrong! These two were meant to be together, but it takes a whirlwind ride of passion and emotion before they realize it themselves. I had so much fun with this book!
Ooh, sounds delicious! What were the inspirations behind this book?
I always enjoy writing about characters who have an intense relationship history. In Sean and Élise’s case it was brief, but it left a lasting impact on both of them. I wanted to explore how two guarded, very independent people manage to lower their barriers enough to embark on a relationship, but I also wanted to look at how family pressure had impacted on Sean.
The resort of Snow Crystal has been in the family for four generations and there has been a huge amount of pressure on all three brothers to play a role in the business. Sean in particular carries a lot of guilt about rejecting the family lifestyle. I wanted to explore how someone with a different life goal, in Sean’s case to be a surgeon, might respond to that pressure and how he eventually reconciles his loyalty to his family with his own needs and ambitions.
In Élise’s case, she has history that has made her very wary of romantic relationships. She doesn’t trust her feelings and Sean has to work hard to help her overcome her understandable reluctance to expose her heart.
What’s coming up next for the O’Neil brothers?
The final book in the series, MAYBE THIS CHRISTMAS, will be out in October. Right from the start of this series I was excited about writing Tyler’s story, probably because he’s the bad boy and we all love a reformed bad boy. Since the injury that ended his career as a medal winning downhill skier, Tyler has been helping with the family business. He’s also a single father, raising his teenage daughter Jess, a situation that brings its own challenges for a man used to putting himself first. He’s had plenty of relationships but only one friendship, and that’s with Brenna who he has known since childhood. Brenna’s feelings go way beyond friendship but she doesn’t think Tyler sees her that way.
Tyler’s story is a romance, but it also explores love in its widest sense and what it means to be a father, a son, a brother, a lover and a friend. I can’t wait to see this story on the shelves!
Hurry up, October! What were the challenges and/or pleasures of writing a trilogy of three single-title length romances? Do you know anything now that you wish you’d known before you started?
I’d wanted to write a single title contemporary romance series for a long time so being given that opportunity was very exciting for me. The pleasure was in having the extra space to enable me to explore the characters in greater depth. When I’m writing Harlequin Presents the focus is very much on the hero and heroine. It’s like taking a close up shot with a camera. You focus on the couple and no one else. With single title you have a wide-angle view, so you see the couple in the context of the world around them. You see how they relate not only to each other, but to other people. I enjoyed exploring those extra layers of complexity.
One of the main challenges was to remember that I had the space of three books to tell the overall story and didn’t need to cram it all into the first chapter! I wanted the focus to be three brothers, but I also wanted to explore the complexity of being part of a big, loving family.
As you know, I’m a huge fan of your Harlequin Mills and Boon Presents stories. Do you have any plans to write more?
I do! In fact I’m working on one at the moment. It’s set in Greece and will be loosely linked to my next single title series, which will be out in 2015. I’m very excited about it. I love the emotional intensity of Presents, and of course it’s always fun to add in the glamour and sophistication that is part of that line.
You’ve written a couple of Cosmo Red-Hot Reads (RIPPED and BURNED). Was it a challenge writing short and super hot? Any plans to write more?
Last year I had the opportunity to write single titles that were 100,000 words and novellas of 30,000 and I really enjoyed the challenge presented by the different length of story. The Cosmo Red Hot reads are a very intense, short read and, yes, they are super hot! My books are always quite sexy so I simply stepped it up a notch!
I don’t have plans to write more at the moment, but I wouldn’t rule it out because I had so much fun writing them. My next big focus is my new contemporary series for HQN. I’ll be revealing more about that over the summer. I do enjoy variety and I find it good for creativity to move between projects of different lengths. Learning to write short and tight is a good skill for any writer.
You’re so prolific and your books are of such a consistently high quality. Interested parties (well, me!) want to know your secrets. Do you have any time management techniques that really work for you?
I put the writing first. There are so many distractions in this job. A writer could spend all day on different social networking sites. I do use Facebook and Twitter and I find them excellent ways of communicating with readers and also making professional connections, but I try and limit the time I spend. All writers struggle with the balance between promotion and writing, but I always try and remember that without the book I won’t have anything to promote so I make writing the book a priority. I do tend to write every day. If I take time off away from the story it’s harder to get back into the flow.
Sarah, thanks for such a great interview. Do you have a question for the Banditas and Bandita Buddies to get the conversation going?
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER is set in the beautiful lakes and mountains of Vermont. Where is your ideal summer destination?
I love mountains and water and my ideal summer destination would involve both those things, so Vermont would definitely be right at the top of my list. Last summer we had a family holiday in Crete, which is very mountainous and also has fabulous beaches. I have two sons and our happiest vacations involve plenty of outdoor activity because boys need to be kept busy!
Sarah is giving away a print copy of SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER (international) to one lucky commenter today. So get commenting, people. Good luck!
Posted by Kate Carlisle Jun 25 2014, 12:05 am in bibliophile mysteries, book tour, Just For Fun, Kate Carlisle, writer's life, writing life
Note: At 7:00 pm Eastern/4 pm Pacific today (Wednesday, June 25), I’m being interviewed for Shelf Pleasure, a radio show by book lovers, for book lovers. To listen live, go to LATalkRadio.com and click “Listen Live!” in the left-hand column. Archived shows are available to play anytime on the LA Talk Radio show page or for download on iTunes under the podcast section or through Stitcher.
I’m writing this from the road. It’s Saturday, June 21. I did a signing yesterday at Clues Unlimited in Tucson, today at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Phoenix, and now we’re getting ready to catch a plane home. The perfect time to catch up with my Banditas, I thought.
I’m just wrapping up my book tour for THE BOOK STOPS HERE, my latest Bibliophile Mystery. Yesterday’s signing was with fellow mystery writers Jenn McKinlay and Hannah Dennison. Hannah and I have done so many signings together over the past few weeks that we can (and do) finish each other’s sentences. The addition of Jenn yesterday was great because Jenn always brings cupcakes. Plus, a fabulous reader named Jennifer brought us all slushies. Soooooo welcome in that Arizona heat! (From left to right: me, Hannah Dennison, Jenn McKinlay.)
Book tours are both fun and exhausting. The fun part comes during the signing itself, when we get to meet readers who love our books. What a natural high! Communication is a two-way street, but to novelists, writing can feel very solitary until we have the opportunity to talk to people our books have entertained. I got a real kick out of the necklace made by reader Jane, featuring the covers of THE BOOK STOPS HERE and of THE SECRET GARDEN. (The Secret Garden is the rare book at the center of the mystery in THE BOOK STOPS HERE.)
Prior to coming to Arizona, we were at Murder by the Book in Houston. (I heart mystery bookstores!) We got some video that I thought you might enjoy. You’ll find a few more short videos of both me and Hannah at www.youtube.com/katecarlislebooks.
Have you ever gone to a book signing? Who was the author, and what memory stands out for you about the event? (For the authors in the group, share a funny or touching story from one of your book signings!)
Posted by Anna Campbell May 27 2014, 12:02 am in Alison Stuart, Anna Campbell, Australian Authors, ebooks, Escape Publishing, Gather the Bones, Historical Fiction, historical romance, Lord Somerton's Heir, mysteries, reading, writer's life
I’m delighted to welcome back to the lair my friend, Aussie historical romance writer Alison Stuart. Alison’s here to tell us about her latest release, the Regency mystery-romance LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR. Here’s the blurb:
Can the love of an honourable man save her from the memory of a desolate marriage?
From the battlefield of Waterloo to the drawing rooms of Brantstone Hall, Sebastian Alder’s elevation from penniless army captain to Viscount Somerton is the stuff of dreams. But the cold reality of an inherited estate in wretched condition, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding his cousin’s death, provide Sebastian with no time for dreams, only a mystery to solve and a murderer to bring to justice.
Isabel, widow of the late Lord Somerton, is desperate to bury the memory of her unhappy marriage by founding the charity school she has always dreamed of. But, her dreams are shattered, as she is taunted from the grave, discovering not only has she been left penniless, but she is once more bound to the whims of a Somerton.
But this Somerton is unlike any man she has met. Can the love of an honourable man heal her broken heart or will suspicion tear them apart?
To find out more about Alison and her books, please visit her website: www.alisonstuart.com
LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR is available from AMAZON, Barnes & Noble and all good ebook stores.
For the month of May, Alison is offering a Rafflecopter contest with the prize of an author goody bag. You can enter HERE.
I was very sad to hear of the death this month of Mary Stewart (although to be honest, I didn’t know she was still alive so I shouldn’t have been taken aback by the announcement of her death). Anyway, it got me thinking about the authors who have most influenced me in my writing.
I actually haven’t read many of Stewart’s mystery stories for which she was best known in the early part of her career. The books that grabbed me by the throat and which sit on my ‘keeper’ shelf battered and thumbed and reread are her three Merlin stories beginning with THE CRYSTAL CAVE. What set them apart for me from the hundreds and hundreds of Arthurian reinterpretations (MISTS OF AVALON is another fave), was the humanity she invested in Merlin. Instead of a mystical being in a tall pointy hat, Merlin starts out as a boy in a Romano British household and comes to his position of power and influence in a thoroughly human way. Along the way he loves, he loses, he is betrayed… It is not, as has been described in some reports, a “romance”… there’s not a happy ever after for Merlin but there is a satisfactory conclusion and when you close THE LAST ENCHANTMENT you have the feeling of a life well lived. I had great pleasure in introducing my teenage son to these books and watching him devour them as I had done.
Like most writers, I was a voracious reader from an early age. However my taste was for action and adventure and although I cut my teeth on Enid Blyton, it was not the namby pamby FAR AWAY TREE, I was straight into the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, the shenanigans of Mallory Towers. Other childhood favourites included:
- Horsey stories such as the MY FRIEND FLICKA stories by O’Hara
- The fantasy stories of Alan Garner such as ELIDOR
- The Laura Ingalls Wilder stories which I read and reread until I could practically repeat them and were probably the most “girly” books I read.
But my overwhelming favourites were the stories of Rosemary Sutcliff and Ronald Welch and the English Civil War stories of Barbara Softly – strong historicals written for young adults with plenty of action and adventure and a good dose of romance but not necessarily romance stories. I devoured these books and there is no doubt that they had the strongest influence on the stories I write. I think I damaged my eyesight reading EAGLE OF THE NINTH under the covers by torchlight after my light was supposed to be out.
Has anyone out there read Ronald Welch? They were boys own adventures revolving around the “Carey” family – wherever there was a war or an interesting period of history, there you would find a Carey. Of course my favourite was FOR THE KING – the English Civil War story. I graduated to the stories of Jean Plaidy and Robert Neill by the time I was fifteen I had pretty much exhausted every historical book that the Parkdale Library had to offer.
My passion for all things English Civil War began with THE KING’S GENERAL by Daphne DuMaurier. On Sunday afternoons my father would read to my brother and I but he loathed reading “children’s books” so the choice of book tended to be his and he, of course, chose the books he liked which is how I came to have THE KING’S GENERAL read aloud to me when I was only eight. The love affair between Honor and Richard Grenville and the derring do of the period really struck a cord with me and inspired a life long interest in both the period and books that encompassed a strong relationship between a man and a woman within the context of a historical period.
My other great love was Agatha Christie. Every year my family holidayed at a guest house in Marysville (sadly destroyed in the 2009 bushfires) and my overwhelming association with that guest house are the books of Agatha Christie which I would purchase from the one shop in the town and read either curled up in front of the fire or in one of the chairs on the wide, wooden verandah.
On the other hand, I was a Georgette Heyer fail. I think I might have read THE BLACK MOTH and I know I read THE ROYAL ESCAPE (because it was about the English Civil War) but her regency romances held no interest for me whatsoever. However, I hasten to add, I have come to Georgette in more recent years and as an adult (and a writer) I love her books (although am I the only who find THESE OLD SHADES just a bit creepy?). While I am making my confession, I wasn’t all that fond of Jane Austen either. As for Harlequin Mills and Boon, I read my first one on the plane home from my very first Romance Writers of Australia conference (a gorgeous Marion Lennox story which I still have on my keeper shelf). To be honest I didn’t even know the first book I wrote (later published as BY THE SWORD) was a romance. I was, in short, a romance fail.
So I suppose it is little wonder that my own writing cuts across all these influences – romantic action adventures with action, mystery, murder, ghosts, time travel – sometimes all in the same book. Even with my latest story LORD SOMERTON’S HEIR, which is my first venture into the world of the Regency, the romance is bounded by a murder mystery that must be solved before the hero and heroine approach anything like a happy ever after. I think I can quite safely describe my style of writing as cross genre!
Just recently I started trawling Ebay looking for copies of my childhood favourites. Having them back on my bookshelf with the familiar covers, is like being reunited with old friends.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE CHILDHOOD BOOKS?
Thanks, Alison, that was fascinating. And yeah, I get you on THESE OLD SHADES, although as a pre-teen when I first read it, the age difference didn’t strike me the way it does now. Good luck with Lord Somerton. I loved GATHER THE BONES and this looks like another winner!
Posted by Anna Campbell May 10 2014, 12:01 am in Anna Campbell, Aunt Dimity, Barbara O'Neal, Carola Dunn, cozy mysteries, Daisy Dalrymple, favorite books, Great reads, Liz Fielding, Nancy Atherton, writer's life
Recently I settled down for a day of utter enjoyment with a book by one of my favorite writers, Barbara O’Neal (who also writes as Ruth Wind and Barbara Samuel – she’s great under any moniker!). Seriously, check out THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET – it’s a beautiful read.
As I devoured this wonderful, life-affirming story about hopes and dreams and love and finding the path you were meant to find, no matter how far away you feel you’ve strayed from where you should be, I thought about how restorative it was to slip back into Barbara O’Neal world. And how there are certain authors who just seem to chime with my tastes, no matter what they write. Picking up one of their books is as pleasurable and welcoming as slipping into a warm bath when you’ve got plenty of time to wallow. Hence the title of this blog!
Barbara O’Neal and her aliases definitely fall into this category. So I started thinking about other writers who I know will always give me just what I want in a book. Often, they’re writers on the sweeter edge of things – I turn to these comfort reads when the real world just seems a little bit bruising and sharp-edged. It’s pure escapism – but there’s nothing wrong with that. And I also find that these authors, for all their positive take on life, pack a huge emotional punch. I was crying like a drainpipe in a downpour by the end of THE ALL YOU CAN DREAM BUFFET.
One of my favorite category romance writers is Brit Liz Fielding who also manages to capture that lump in the throat quality that seems to be part and parcel of these comfort reads. All her books are great, but the one I’ve featured, TEMPTED BY TROUBLE (if you click on the cover, it takes you straight to Amazon), is one of her best. Again, it’s about life leading the characters down winding paths to their rightful place in the world. Liz’s books are unfailingly charming and she writes the most gorgeous characters. They’re the sort of people you’d like to move next door (or into the spare bedroom – or MY bedroom if we’re talking about the heroes!).
Recently, thanks perhaps to the influence of our fabulous Bandita Kate Carlisle, I’ve become a devotee of cozy myteries. It seems odd to talk about books featuring someone done to death as comfort reads, but both the authors I’ll mention here take the whole death and dying thing fairly gently. And the characters are real charmers. so you smile even when nefarious deeds are afoot.
Carola Dunn is an English writer who currently lives in Oregon. She’s written several series, but my favorites are her Daisy Dalrymple books set in 1920s Britain.
Daisy is a lovely character – again, someone you want to move next door. She’s also a girl who seems to attract murder. If you get invited to a house party with Daisy, for the sake of your health, stay home!
There’s a lovely romantic arc through the books as we see Daisy’s relationship and eventual marriage to policeman Alec Fletcher. I’m just waiting on the 20th instalment of Daisy’s adventures to land in my mailbox (HEIRS OF THE BODY). I find it difficult to say why these books are such must-reads for me. Perhaps it’s that the characters are so warm and interesting and I certainly love the settings. But whatever the source of the magic, it’s definitely there!
My last example of an author to warm your heart is Nancy Atherton. Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity series, starting with AUNT DIMITY’S DEATH, is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The series features American Lori Shepherd and her friends and family and are mostly set around the type of Cotswolds Village that you’ve probably seen on a calendar or two.
So who is Aunt Dimity? Aunt Dimity is a ghost who helps Lori to solve the various (not particularly dire in most cases!) mysteries that she finds herself stumbling upon. Again, like the Daisy books, these books are gentle and charming and life-affirming and heartwarming. Just what you want in a comfort read. I discovered these about a year ago and I’m about to start number 17, AUNT DIMITY AND THE VILLAGE WITCH. The world always seems like a better, kinder place after I’ve read an Aunt Dimity book.
So do you have any authors you turn to when your spirit needs refreshing? What are some of your favorite comfort reads? Why do you think those particular books are so appealing to you?
Posted by Anna Campbell May 5 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Annie West, Australian Authors, Back in the Italian's bed, Bandita Booty, ebooks, Guests, Harlequin Presents, Hot Italian Nights, novellas, Rebel's Bargain, the Chatsfield, writer's life
Let’s give a lovely warm welcome to Aussie author Annie West who is such a favorite here in the lair.
Annie’s here to tell us all about her brilliant new novella, BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED, featuring a hero called Fabuloso, oh, sorry, that’s FABRIZIO. But he is pretty fabuloso!
This is Annie’s first indie effort and having read it, I can guarantee that it has all the passion and emotion and heat of her award-winning books for Harlequin Mills and Boon. Don’t miss it. Even better, it’s the first of a series called Hot Italian Nights. So there’s more fabulosoness to come!
Here’s the blurb:
No woman walks away from billionaire Fabrizio Armati’s bed. No woman except Jenna MacDonald. Now he’ll stop at nothing to get her back, and keep her there.
It’s love at first sight for Jenna when charismatic hotelier Fabrizio Armati sweeps her off her feet in Venice. That chance encounter sparks a sizzling affair that lasts until she discovers Fabrizio sees her as no more than a convenient, expendable mistress. Then her world falls apart.
Six months later Jenna tells herself she’s moved on. Until Fabrizio walks into a meeting to find her working for his greatest rival. She’s about to discover just how far he’ll go to get her back in his bed.
When revenge turns to passion, will surrender be on his terms, or hers?
BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED is available at the bargain price of 99 cents! If you’ve got a Kindle, just click on the blue cover above and it will take you right there (we make life easy for you in the lair – cabana boys and Kindle click-throughs!). If you’ve got a Nook, here’s the link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/back-in-the-italians-bed-annie-west/1119378950?ean=2940149175154&itm=1&usri=2940149175154
You can find out more about Annie and her wonderful books at her website: www.annie-west.com
And mark your diaries for a special release toward the end of the year when Annie’s entry in the fabulous Chatsfield series hits the shelves. I’ve read REBEL’S BARGAIN and it’s a corker! Here’s some more info: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rebels-Bargain-Mills-Special-Releases/dp/0263246272/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395650778&sr=1-1&keywords=Annie+West+romance
FINDING HIDDEN TREASURE
Hi Banditas and especially the divine Ms Anna C for allowing me to visit again. It’s such a warm and welcoming place and it’s great to be amongst fellow romance lovers.
I don’t know about you, but as a child I used to love the idea of hidden treasure. I devoured stories about buried gold or lost heirlooms, secret passages and locked doors leading to neglected gardens or ancient mysteries or, of course, wonderful libraries. The idea of sparkling gems and bullion was fantastic, but I learned that sometimes the best hidden treasures didn’t necessarily have a huge dollar value. Take these:
When I get ideas for stories and when I write them, I make notes in these books. They’re full of cryptic scrawls, reminders of plot points I mustn’t forget, jottings on names for future stories, ramblings about how scenes fit together, even notes for workshops. I use one daily as I write but their value is such that I don’t dare discard even one of them.
Recently I needed to find a reference in an old notebook. It took me a little while to find (see note above about cryptic and rambling jottings) but in the process I found a hidden gem. A couple of lines scrawled at the bottom of a page that was otherwise devoted to an earlier story. It said (I’m translating here from my jottings) ‘What if a powerful businessman walked into a meeting to discover, on the other side of the conference table, his ex-lover, who’d walked out on him six months before with no explanation? What if she was working for his rival?’ Then there were the words ‘Italian, ruthless, can’t let her go.’
Wow! I sat back and stared. I couldn’t even remember writing the note but I knew in an instant I’d discovered hidden treasure. For in that moment I saw the scene in my head, I felt his emotions at the unexpected reunion. I even sensed her fear and dismay in the air, for I knew meeting him again was the last thing she wanted.
Here was the elusive idea I’d wanted for the novella I’d been meaning to write but kept putting off. The timing was perfect too. If I worked really hard I could just about find time to write it between other deadlines. Then too, I had a visit from my crit partner (take a bow, Ms Campbell) coming up so I could nut out any plot problems with her. After all, I’d never written a novella and didn’t know how I’d go with the shorter length.
I’d found hidden treasure, right when I wasn’t looking for it. And I did write the novella – BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED is out now.
I’ve discovered that being a bit of a hoarder means that discovering hidden treasure is one of the ongoing joys of my life. Whenever I do one of my sporadic clean ups I find something marvellous. Take these – not lost but hidden by a plethora of boring beverages bought by other members of the family. I’d been given the teabags as a gift from my husband. He knows I got a kick out of an earlier collection of tea bags featuring famous writers.
Imagine my glee! I’d put them aside, thinking to save them for a special occasion (like when I’m having a particularly difficult day with the writing) and now it’s like the thrill of receiving them all over again. Guess what I’ll be drinking? As for the lovely Klimt mug – it’s one of my favourites but got put in a cupboard I rarely use by a helpful guest a while ago. So now I’ve got something special to drink my tea from too.
Then, the other morning, when I woke far too early to work and the rain was pounding down and really, there was nothing else to do but read, I grabbed at the pile of books I’d rescued from a cupboard in the spare room (my tbr pile spills over several rooms) to discover a book I’ve had for a couple of years but never got to. I was just in the mood for a sweet romance about a put upon Cinderella in a lovely bygone European world. What a find! I love discovering treasures just when you need them.
And let’s not get to the joy of discovering something at the bottom of the ironing pile that you forgot you had! Yes, that’s happened to me too.
How about you? Have you found any hidden treasure lately? An object or a special place perhaps? Or if not, have you found any in your reading?
Annie has very generously offered two people (international) who comment their choice of a signed book from her backlist. So get commenting people. And make sure you pick up BACK IN THE ITALIAN’S BED. You won’t be sorry!
Posted by Anna Campbell Jan 10 2014, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, Escape to the Country, Holidays, Judge Judy, reading, Television, writer's life
I’m going to channel my grumpy hero Jonas Merrick here. Those of you who have read SEVEN NIGHTS IN A ROGUE’S BED will know that Jonas spent a lot of his childhood in Italy and tends to break into Italian at moments when he’s moved – as he is quite often when he’s pursuing Sidonie!
Jonas would know well the wonderful Italian saying of il dolce fa niente which basically means the lovely art of doing absolutely nothing.
By the way, here’s a health warning for people currently suffering the awful cold temperatures that are afflicting those in the Northern Hemisphere. This program is rated HW (hot weather). There will be pictures of people basking in sun and enjoying warm temperatures. But I warn you no champagne cocktails were harmed in the creation of this blog.
Huh? Who am I kidding?
Of course champagne cocktails were harmed in great numbers!
2013 was such a flat out year for me and I reached the end of it feeling utterly exhausted. I usually try to take the week between Christmas and New Year off. It’s the middle of the Australian summer, nothing is happening (my father always said not entirely as a joke that if anyone wanted to invade Australia, they’d get from Cape York to Tasmania without striking an ounce of opposition if they decided to come on 27th December). The world seems to be made up of steamy weather, afternoon snoozes and crickets scratching their lungs out. Perfect break weather.
In 2011 and 2012, sadly I got hit with book revisions right on top of Christmas so my hopes of a decent bit of time off went completely west. This year, thanks to a very speedy response from my editor, I managed to get the revisions for Cam’s story WHAT A DUKE DARES, in before Christmas.
So much downtime that I renamed my house Downtime Abbey!
So for one delicious week, I just pottered around doing what I felt like. Surprisingly, while I did a lot of reading, I didn’t get through nearly as much of the TBR pile as I thought I would. Instead I seemed to be hooked on watching hours and hours of quite uneducational TV (OK, a hint of education snuck in now and again, but it was very much under the cover of darkness!).
My parents had cable installed in the house before I moved up here and now I’m addicted to it. There’s something wonderfully comforting about watching LAW AND ORDER from back when Jerry Orbach was still investigating. Makes me feel immortal – clearly nobody ever dies in cable TV land. Apart from the victim in LAW AND ORDER, obviously! And even then, they have the comfort of knowing that the tecs of NYPD always get their man. At least on TV!
So I had a lovely time watching stuff on the Criminal Investigation Network. Strangely relaxing hearing about the pursuit of nasty people, no idea why. And a myriad of antique shows on Lifestyle. As some of you know, I’m addicted to people talking about secondhand stuff. Just give me ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, FLOG IT!, ANTIQUES ROADTRIP, CASH IN THE ATTIC, ANTIQUES MASTER, you name it!
Now I think of it, there’s a kind of immortality in Great Aunty Edna’s dining table. It kind of goes on forever too!
And a few other shows I just love. One of my guilty pleasures is JUDGE JUDY. I tell myself it’s research for my books – after all, life’s rich tapestry is displayed with all its clashing colors on JJ.
If I’m not working – as you’ve probably gathered by now, I wasn’t – I’ll also watch THE PEOPLE’S COURT too. I’ve no idea why other people’s loans to their boyfriends and nasty fights with their housemates are so compelling. But somehow they are!
And joy of joys, the Lifestyle Network had new ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY episodes. I’m not sure if this BBC show is on in the States, but it features U.K. city dwellers who enlist the help of a presenter to help them find a wonderful place in the gorgeous British countryside.
The only real downside (rather than downtime!) of ESCAPE TO THE COUNTRY is that it makes me desperate to own a thatched country cottage in Somerset. Sigh. But nonetheless, it’s perfect lunchtime viewing.
So now I’m back at work, in spite of the fact that the weather is still horrifically hot and the crickets are still carolling in the new year and most other people I know are also having a break. Started a new book on Monday. Wish me luck. And those hours of guilty pleasure TV are but a memory.
So what’s you must-watch TV show? Do you have any guilty pleasures when it comes to TV? Do you take the week between Christmas and New Year off? If so, what did you do this year?
And it bears saying again, may you all have a wonderful 2014!