Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ten Romance Novels That Have Stuck With Me, Part the First

Have you seen the "Ten Books That Have Stuck With Me" meme? I knew as soon as I saw that one that I'd have to do it, and filling in the slots was pretty easy, especially when the instructions were to not put too much thought into the process. This was what I came up with, in short order:

Skye O'Malley by Bertrice Small

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Wideacre by Philippa Gregory

Sword Dancer by Jennifer Roberson

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Lovesong by Valerie Sherwood

Broken Wing by Judith James

Giving this a quick once-over, I see three genre romances (Skye O'Malley, Lovesong, Broken Wing,) three historical novels (Wideacre, Brideshead Revisited, Remains of the Day,) one horror (Flowers in the Attic,) one fantasy (Sword Dancer,) one children's book, (Black Beauty) and one piece of contemporary fiction (Long Way Down.) Since Black Beauty has a historical setting, we can give that credit for the historical category as well. Interesting spread there, everything with a deep emotional core - I know each book has made me cry at least once, and never fear, I like crying over an emotional scene- but I immediately started thinking of a list comprised only of my genre of choice, historical romance?



Though I did repeat authors on this second list, I purposely chose not to repeat books. Picking only ten was more difficult with the narrower focus, and made me think of narrowing the focus even farther, which I will likely do at a later date. For now, let's take in the list itself:

Ten Historical Romance Novels That Have Stuck With Me:

1. The Kadin by Bertrice Small

2. The Velvet Promise by Jude Deveraux

3. Bold Breathless Love by Valerie Sherwood

4. Libertine’s Kiss by Judith James

5. Daughters of the South Wind by Aola Vandergriff

6. Tapestry by Karen Ranney

7. A Love So Bold by Annelise Kamada

8. A Rose in Winter by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

9. Wild Bells to the Wild Sky by Laurie McBain

10. Call Back the Dream by Barbara Hazard



What are your top ten most enduring historical romances?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

NaNo Lessons and Lynn Viehl Giveaway Winner

I wasn't going to do NaNo this year. I'd done it before, won before and not won before, and last year, though I did okay on the word count, also wound up in a mental muscle cramp a good deal of the time and ended up putting a book of my heart on the back burner for all the debris to settle before it's time to revisit that story. Not the ideal outcome, but sometimes, we have to go through such places in our writing lives.

It wasn't until days before the start that I signed up this year, and decided that I had nothing to lose by doing something radically different. For me, this NaNo, this was...not count words. Fired up Zen Writer with a pretty background, did a lot of longhand writing, and decided to do what came naturally. Which turned out to be a) writing longhand first, and b) working scene to scene.

Also helpful was becoming involved in the social aspect of NaNo, something made easier by the fact that the kickoff party was held at my favorite coffee house, literally a two minute walk from my home. I didn't make it to most of the events, but the Facebook group for local NaNo people is still going strong. I met two new friends through the group. While I didn't make fifty thousand words, my goal wasn't a number, but a story, and that's what I got. I got to the end of my draft. I had fun.

The draft I have isn't perfect, and it's going to need some work, but the story is told, and that's a success. Not a NaNo win, but a success. I'll take it, and move on to the next project, with a new set of skills and a better knowledge of what works for me.

Speaking of moving on, let's move on to the big reveal...

Our lucky winner for the Lynn Viehl giveaway is....

:drumroll:

BUNNY Bunny, please contact me at: AnnaCBowling@gmail.com with your mailing address, and Lynn will get that big bundle o' treasures headed in your direction.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Lynn Viehl Talks Covers and Comes Bearing Gifts



UPDATE Our randomly selected winner is BUNNY Bunny, please contact me at: AnnaCBowling@gmail.com with "Lynn Viehl Winner" in the subject line and we'll get your prize right out to you.

Hail and well met, dear readers. Typing With Wet Nails is delighted to welcome the versatile Lynn Viehl back for a visit, and she comes bearing gifts. Click the thumbnail to embiggen and stay tuned to learn how you can have a shot at winning these for your very own.

December 9th Giveaway photo December9giveaway_zpsf30f5c30.jpg

Since discovering Lynn through the world of art and then her imaginative Stardoc series, I'd always wondered if someday there might be a historical somewhere in her bag of tricks, and it looks like someday is here, with the Disenchanted and Company series. How can I resist a steampunk universe where the American Revolution turned out very, very differently, resulting in Victorian-era Americans still being very, very British? About as easily as I can resist a gorgeously wrapped package, especially if that gorgeous wrapping is some stunning cover art, which is not at all.

What, then, is an author to do when she gets not one but two beautiful covers, and can't show them to anybody? Pull up a chair, grab a beverage of choice and let Lynn spin the tale of how she faced this challenging dilemma.

Cover Me

Lynn Viehl

The day I sold my NaNoWriMo novel to Pocket Star I started thinking about the cover art. My protagonist, a Victorian-era lady private detective who solves crimes of magic, is rather unique. So is her steampunk urban fantasy universe, in which America didn't win the War Independence, so everyone is still British. This would also be a big landmark novel for me -- my 50th book in print.

As a traditionally-published author I depend on my publishers for cover art. In the past I've had some covers that were not exactly what I had in mind, either . . . okay, after seeing one in particular I admit, I went into therapy for a while. This time my book would first be published in two-part e-books, which meant not one but two covers. I began sending suggestions to my editor, Adam Wilson, right away. Actually I think I might have started e-mailing him before the ink on the new contract dried.

Art takes time, and Adam proved very understanding. Meanwhile I tried to put my faith in the universe. Getting unfortunate cover art is like being struck by lightning; I'd already been nailed with a book that on a clear day can still be spotted from the International Space Station. It probably wouldn't happen again.

Finally Adam sent the new covers to me, and I peeked at the images through my fingers. Nothing blew out my retinas, but as I slowly lowered my hands I saw not one but two amazing covers. The universe had actually come through; I wouldn't need more therapy. Even better, astronauts would be completely unable to use my covers to triangulate reentry trajectories.

I called everyone to tell them the happy news. I couldn't wait to show off my new covers, either, as I told my editor in my thank-you e-mail.

"We're planning a big online reveal," Adam wrote back, "so don't share them with anyone."

All I could do was stare at the phone and think, Uh-oh.

My best friend arrived five seconds later. "Let me see these gorgeous covers."

"I accidentally deleted the files," I lied. "My editor has to resend them, and he's super busy."

"So show me the print copies," She headed toward my office. "You said on the phone you were printing out a million, right?"

"I meant to, but the printer broke down." I darted in from of her to shut the office door. "And the dog just threw up all over the rug in there. Tell you what, I'll bring them the next time we have lunch." I walked her to the door. "In July."

"I got your voice mail, Mom," my daughter said, rushing in. "Congratulations -- can I put the new covers on Facebook?"

"No," I told her. "The dog threw up on them."

"I thought the dog threw up on the rug," my best friend said.

This was getting complicated. "They were sitting on the rug, in pieces, after the printer mangled them." I turned to my daughter. "You're not allowed to go on Facebook anymore."

"Uh, Mom, I'm an adult now," she reminded me.

"Pretend to be a minor for your mother, will you?" I snapped.

My guy came in and smiled at me. "I hear we've got gorgeous covers in the house."

"I deleted -- and then the printer -- and the dog --" I stopped and threw up my hands. "Look, I can't show you the covers, okay? I promised my editor I wouldn't."

My guy frowned. "Why not?"

"I know why. They're both Day-Glo pink, aren't they? And it's finally pushed you over the edge." My best friend took out her cell phone. "I'm calling your shrink."

This all happened last spring, and since then both e-books have been released so everyone knows what my covers look like. I'm sure you'll agree that they couldn't be more attractive, and personally? I couldn't be happier. So will someone please call my therapist and tell him that, so I can cancel my next appointment?

~*~

The giveaway will contain the following:

A hand quilted and beaded Winterberry tote
Signed copies of the print ARCs of Disenchanted & Co. and The Clockwork Wolf
An unsigned copy of The Writer's Lab by Sexton Burke
A London-themed hardcover blank journal


Want a chance at this stunning prize package landing on your doorstep? You know you do, so here's your shot. Leave a message in the comments and the winner will be randomly selected at the end of the day. Lynn will be popping in throughout the day to socialize and take questions, and, like Santa Claus, she'll deliver the gifts to the lucky winner anywhere in the world. You heard me right, this giveaway is international, so let the posting begin.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Ten More Questions With Gerri Brousseau

It's that time again, dear readers. We've reached a milestone here at Typing With Wet Nails, welcoming author Gerri Brousseau for her third visit in our comfy cyberhome. Anybody who loves historical romance and pugs is okay by me, and I'm happy to hep celebrate her newest relase, To Kill a Monarch. Grab a seat and a beverage of choice, and join in on the conversation...

1) Congratulations on your new release, To Kill a Monarch, and being the most frequent guest at Typing With Wet Nails. We won’t ask you to say which thrills you more. What does it feel like to now be a multi-published author?

Thank you, Anna, and thank you for inviting me to share with your readers. It’s always a pleasure to be here on Typing with Wet Nails. What’s it feel like to be a multi-published author? It feels surreal! I’m so blessed. I can hardly believe this has happened and I keep thinking that one day I’ll wake up to find it was all a dream, but then I got into B&N and see my book on the shelf and I know it is real. Real and wonderful.

2) What do you know now that you wish you’d known before your first book was published?

I wish I had started on the path to a writing career much earlier in my life. I think every writer’s journey is different and we all have our own unique struggle and story to tell, but it’s taking that journey that makes a writer an author.

3) What are you glad you didn’t know then?

If I had known how difficult it is to get published, I may have never even tried.

4) So far, you’ve written about pirates, time-travel, and now attempted regicide in the age of Napoleon. With such diverse topics across three different books, what would you say is the one thing readers can be guaranteed to find in all of your novels?

I thought long and hard about this when I was coming up with my tag line, which describes perfectly what a reader can expect to find when they read my work; “Danger, Adventure and Romance, because the journey to happily ever after should leave you .... breathless.”

5) Now, about that transvestite ... (which is not a phrase one uses every day when interviewing romance writers) we’ll let readers discover this particular character for themselves, but what would you say is the most important thing to keep in mind when creating memorable supporting characters?

Supporting characters are so important because they direct the actions of the main characters. Geoffrey Collins has quite an interesting role in this story, the extent of which is revealed close to the end of the book. I enjoy writing flamboyant characters such as The Contessa Theodora de Lorenzo in A Pirate’s Ransom, Half-Breed in According to Legend, and Geoffrey Collins in To Kill a Monarch because these characters add a layer of flavor to the story.

6) To Kill a Monarch has been described as “007 in 1811” – very catchy, by the way- and bears a title dripping with intrigue, but this is still a romance Why are romance and intrigue perfect partners.

Secrets. Lovers always have their private secrets, or they should, and so it’s perfect. The mystery of discovering a romantic liaison or rendezvous adds a layer of excitement to romance.

7) Where did To Kill a Monarch get its start? Plot, character, something else?

With this particular story it was plot first. I ask myself “what if” a lot. I knew I wanted an intrigue and had the time period in mind. I asked myself who would want to kill the Regent. Napoleon. Perfect. The more I thought about it, the more twisted the plot became, and before I knew it I was typing “The End.”

8) Describe a pug to somebody who has never seen one. Include appearance, personality and why they are perfect writing companions.



Ah, the pugs. They think they are my muses and my co-writers. They are small barrel-chested dogs, usually fawn colored with black ears and snouts. Their little snouts are pushed in, thus the name. They have faces so ugly that they are cute. (block your ears, pugs) They are friendly little creatures with quite easy going personalities. When I talk to my two, they move their heads from side to side as if they are attentive and hanging on my every word. They are very affectionate dogs, and great snuggle buddies. They lay in the recliner while I write and never bother me. In fact, they are here with me now. The only draw-back is ... they snore!

9) You’ve been given the chance to host a dinner party for any romance writers, living or dead. You may have five guests. Who are they?

Romance only? Wow. Kathleen Woodiwiss, because she was the first romance writer I ever read; Jane Austin, because she wrote Pride and Prejudice which is one of my all-time favorite books; Margaret Mitchell, because I would like to discuss Miss Scarlett; Nora Roberts, because . . . well, she’s The Queen; and, although not romance, J.K. Rowling because I wish I could be her.

10) What can readers look forward to next?

I’m presently working on three projects. Yes . . . three. This eliminates writer’s block. I just finished the research for a sequel of To Kill a Monarch; I have written the first few chapters of the first book in a YA series I’m working on; and I’m editing a completed novel which I hope to self-publish soon.

How can readers contact you?

All my contact information is on my website www.gerribrousseau.com

and at on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/gerri.brousseau.5



Thank you for inviting me. It was so much fun sharing with your readers.

So, what's To Kill a Monarch all about? Read on:

Whispers in dark allies say Napoleon’s best assassin, The Falcon, has been sent to London to kill the Monarch. The problem – The Falcon’s identity is known only to the French Emperor. Sir Walter Tinsdale’s new partner, Philip Hamilton, arrives to discover their mission is to find the elusive bird of prey before he strikes. But their nemesis is like a phantom and always one step ahead of them. Enter the lovely Miss Charlotte Winston, the object of Sir Tinsdale’s affections, as well as those of Philip Hamilton. Unlikely alliances, deception, murder, and suicide will keep you turning the pages until the identity of The Falcon is finally revealed. With all the seduction and action of a James Bond movie, To Kill a Monarch is like 007 in 1811.

An excerpt, for your reading pleasure:

“Our dinner is getting cold, Mister Hamilton,” Charlotte whispered as she leaned against him.

He drew her into his embrace. “To hell with dinner, Charlotte,” he whispered into his kiss. Lifting her into his arms, he carried her upstairs to the bedroom they shared.

He set her feet gently upon the floor, but his lips never left hers. He ran his hand up her back, pressing her to him, molding her body to his, while his fingers fumbled with the tiny buttons that ran up the back of her gown.

Her delicate and nimble fingers had unbuttoned his waistcoat and shirt, and she rested the palm of her warm hand upon his exposed chest. His breath caught in his throat at her touch. She drew her lips from his. “Mister Hamilton, allow me help you out of these damp clothes,” she purred.

Need a copy of your very own?

Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/To-Kill-A-Monarch-ebook/dp/B00EOC3CGY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377457063&sr=8-1&keywords=to+kill+a+monarch

Barnes and Noble:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-kill-a-monarch-gerri-brousseau/1116560093?ean=2940148743316

Friday, September 13, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #123 - SYTYCD Season 10 Finale

Have to say, this wasn't a big surprise to me; Fik-Shun and Amy (who reminds me much of Sabra from season three; that's for a later post) stood out to me from the very beginning. Aaron and Jasmine are worthy competitors, so this year wasn't as much "who's going to win" as "let's savor the overabundance of awesome dancing." Which is, I think, what we got.

Mary and Nigel served heaping portions of entertainment and fun, and when I thought it couldn't get any better...dance bomb by Adam Shankman. Loved this. More, please.

One of my favorite parts of SYTYCD finales is the command performances, where guests (and dancers) get to pick their favorite routine to see again. I loved that we got to see two Travis Wall routines, which were both amazing, but if I'd been able to pick one encore performance, it would have been Jasmine Mason and Alan's blindfolded contemporary. Travis Wall tapped into something deeply emotional here, taking the visual away from the dancers, and giving it all to the audience. I can't say that I've ever seen anything like that before, and when I see choreography, when I see dancing that makes me want to be a better writer, that has to get the nod. So, my pick:



How did you like the finale, dance fans?

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Ten Questions With Alina Adams





1) When did you first know you were a writer?

Well, according to my parents, my first words were “pencil” and “paper.” Only they were in Russian. And sounded nothing like the actual words. But, they knew what I meant.

2) What's the first thing you know for sure about a new story concept? Plot? Character? Something else?

I like to start with a concept, or a “what if?”

My 1998 AVON romance novel, Annie’s Wild Ride, began with a lyric from Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park With George, which went, “What made it so right together/Was what made it all wrong.” I was intrigued by the idea of writing a story where what initially attracted the characters to each other is the same thing that ended up breaking them up – and getting them back together, too.

The first book in the Figure Skating Mystery series I did for Berkley Prime Crime was inspired by the 2002 Olympic judging scandal. What if the judge who awarded the medal to the “wrong” winners was then murdered?

Once I have the theme, I then build the characters. And, if I do a good job of that, the characters then create their own plot. I just write it down.

3) What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve ever heard?

The best piece of writing advice I ever got was from my 12th grade AP English teacher. Like all kids who have a knack for words, I tended to write flowing, run-on sentences full of great metaphors and clever asides… that never quite made it to the point. He told me, “Think about what you want to say, and say it.” Twenty-plus years later, when I’m stuck staring at a blank page (and a looming deadline), I think about what I want to say, and say it. And then I think about the next thing I want to say, and I say that. Eventually the whole page gets filled up. And I’ve actually said something, to boot.

The worst piece of writing advice I ever got was “write the book of your heart.” No, write the book that an editor wants to buy. If you write enough of those, you will eventually be able to write the book of your heart. And you will be paid for it. And people might even be willing to read it.

4) Over the course of your career, you’ve written historicals, contemporaries, mysteries, a coffee-table book, a biography, soap opera tie-in novels, as well as online soap opera continuations…so far. What would you say defines an Alina Adams book? Is there a genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to try?

I’m a plot and character girl. I respect authors who have beautiful prose and lyrical descriptions full of inner retrospections that prompt readers to reconsider long-held and cherished beliefs. But, personally, I write fast-moving stories with colorful (and hopefully) witty characters. My favorite romantic comedy of all time is His Girl Friday, where the dialogue and story points fly fast and furious… and nothing particularly (or, at least, traditionally) romantic actually happens.

I grew up watching soaps (and wrote three tie-in novels for “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” as well as the multimedia continuation of “Another World”, so to me the most important question to answer (and one I hope the reader is constantly asking) is: And then what happens?

As for a genre I would love to work in: Musical Theater. I love musical theater (see the Sondheim inspiration above). Alas, I have absolutely no talent in that regard. The closest I came to it was producing an ebook book for Dan Elish, “The Worldwide Dessert Contest: Enhanced Multimedia Edition

5) Pretend you’ve met the rare reader who has never heard of medical romance. In one sentence, what is the appeal of this subgenre?

Love against a background of life and death.



6) Can we talk about Leo for a minute? This Russian-born paramedic may be a man of few words, but his strong heroic streak, both in life and in love, will send readers’ hearts racing. How did Leo find such inner strength to press on through his many challenges?

At one point, I was a volunteer for an organization called KidSave, which brings Russian orphans to the US in an attempt to find them forever families. Also, having been born Jewish in the former Soviet Union, I grew up surrounded by people who survived World War II and the Holocaust. Both experiences taught me that people – and especially children – have a phenomenal capacity to overcome horror and deprivation and turn it into bravery and compassion for others.

7) Alyssa, as well, undergoes a true heroine’s journey, finding the strength to choose what’s right over what’s safe. I’m struck by her observation that the emergency room is the most predictable place in the hospital, despite how chaotic it may seem. Can you tell us more about that?

I confess, I’m someone who loves predictability and knowing what’s coming up (so, of course, I became a freelance writer and TV producer because, really, what’s more steady, predictable and secure than writing and production as a career? An editor friend once told me that if I wrote myself as a character, she would send the manuscript back because it was inconsistent). But predictability comes in a variety of packages. In an emergency room, you never know what’s going to come rolling through the doors next, but you do know what you’re going to have to do to get the patient stabilized and passed on to the next specialist in line. The chaos in itself is predictable and, most importantly, if you feel confident in your skills to handle it – it’s controllable. For someone like Alyssa, having gotten her medical training in a war zone, she is more comfortable and familiar with the rhythms of an emergency room than she is around “normal” people and situations.

8) Besides the medical romance angle, “To Look For You” is a touching older woman/younger man romance, yet it’s Leo who brings a deep maturity to the relationship. Do you think Alyssa’s and Leo’s different backgrounds brought them to the same level of maturity?

Absolutely. As I said above, it’s amazing what children who’ve survived trauma can overcome and turn into a positive. Not that I advocate making life particularly difficult for your own children, but, the fact is, people who’ve never faced any sort of adversity are hardly interesting, either in fiction or real life. My number one turn on in a man is someone you can count on to keep it together in an emergency, and that, as a rule, comes from life experience.

9) Name five reasons why the romance genre needs more Russian, Jewish or Russian Jewish characters.

1) Diversity: I live in New York City and am a Russian Jew married to an African-American. Diversity is a huge buzzword in NYC and everyone claims to subscribe to it in theory. But, what my husband and I have found in practice is diversity means people of vaguely different colors who all think the same way. True diversity comes from people of different backgrounds who then come to different conclusions based on those backgrounds. Whenever I hear people decrying those who disagree with them as either “dumb” or “evil,” I always wonder if they’ve considered the possibility that those they’re vilifying have just lived different lives from them. Most characters in romance novels tend to be rather cookie cutter in backgrounds and outlooks and only superficially outside the mainstream. I think it’s fun to shake that up.
2) Education: It’s a chance to learn history outside of a textbook. “To Look for You” opens in Kosovo in 1999, during NATO’s self-proclaimed humanitarian bombing campaign in what was then Yugoslavia. It’s a tiny part of the overall story, but if readers pick up a bit of history along the way, I’m all for it!
3) Foreign Sales
4) It gets you off work for the Jewish holidays!
5) Everybody needs more borscht in their lives.

10) Surprise! We hid a parrot in your office during the writing of “To Look For You.” What three words or phrases did he learn while he was with you?

First of all, I would like to say this is the greatest question I have ever been asked in my life. I plan to open all conversations with it from now on.

Secondly… 1) This story is trying to kill me!
2) The best part of being a romance novelist is getting an email from your boss that says: Squelchy vaginas and hard, throbbing cocks make me very nervous
3) Shhh… Mommy is WORKING.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #122 - Get Lucky Supercut Driveby post

Entering the writing cave for a big chunk of the day, so will wax eloquent on SYTYCD semifinals later. With so much talent, this is going to be one phenomenal finale, and while I'm going to miss Paul (I always have a thing for the ballroom boys) mightily, this is going to be a battle of champions, guys and girls both. I do want to talk about the gals as well, but I can see my story people tapping their feet and staring at me, so that's later.

I found this extremely creative supercut of movie dances set to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" while searching the interwebs. Wow, did somebody ever put a ton of work into getting this all together:



Did you catch all the movies represented here? What's your favorite movie dance scene?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In Love With The Lotus Palace and the Wide World of Romance

The Lotus Palace (The Lotus Palace, #1)The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jeannie Lin creates an intriguing, immersive world of the Pikang li, where the most unlikely of bedfellows (literally and figuratively) can lead to the love of a lifetime.

Failed scholar Bai Huang and maidservant Yue-ying, a former prostitute known as "half-moon" for the wine colored birthmark that tints part of her jaw, join forces to find the truth behind the murder of a famed courtesan. The greater mystery, however, is the undeniable bond that forms between the two outcasts, finding in each other the place where they truly belong.

The course of true love, however, never does run smooth, and Ms. Lin makes effective and poignant use of the stringent rules that shape both respectable society and the separate world of the Pikang li. Bai Huang's life is set out before him, and there is no room for one such as Yue-ying, who hopes only to remain as a maidservant. Even the status of concubine is out of her reach, and yet....

The passion in this book builds at a deliciousky decorous pace, not will they/won't they, but should they/shouldn't they until one soul shaking rain-soaked kiss proves the rule of love is the one that must be obeyed above all.

Whether a reader is new to the intricate, intoxicating world of Tang Dynasty China, or already acquainted with Ms. Lin's stories, The Lotus Palace is not to be missed.

View all my reviews

After reading a few Jeannie Lin books, a reader starts to wonder why there aren't more historical romance novels set in Tang Dynasty China. Seriously. With The Lotus Palace, the ever-amazing Ms. Lin entices readers into the lushly imagined world of the pleasure quarter, where courtesans, servants, scholars, villains and heroes intermingle and secrets abound.

Can I resist that kind of lure? Heck, no. I cut my reading teeth on Bertrice Small's The Kadin, and other novels where the settings were varied and scattered all over the globe, and I loved it. Over time, things changed, and the vast majority of my favorite genre settled somewhat comfortably into nineteenth century England, give or take a few decades.

Fair enough. There are some great authors who write wonderful stories in those settings. Still, my ears prick when I hear of something that blends the best of old school and current romances. Which is why I remembered meeting a friend of a friend at NECRWA a few years back, a quick "hi, person, this is other person" thing which gave way to the standard writer's conference icebreaker, a game we call "what do you write?" This person responded "historicals," which elicited a nod of recognition, because hey, I write historicals, and that advances to round two, "what era?" This is where things get fun.

The answer, in this case, was "Tang Dynasty China." I have to say I think my ears actually perked, but my hair probably covered it. Other person in this case was, of course, Jeannie Lin, and I knew then and there that I was going to have to read that book. Did I already know very much about Tang Dynasty China? Nope, not at that time, but that's one of the great things about historical romance. There's a whole wide world of it, and I say if an author has a chance to fling back the doors of history and splash out a gorgeous love story in a period that is close to her (or his; I've met some very talented gents at these conferences as well) heart, then I say not only "do," but "please do." Please oh so very much do.

Because here's the thing; the story of two people finding their ideal other half isn't restricted to one time or place. I want to be taken into another world, introduced around, well fed, learn the customs and the history and see how "ohhhh, this is going to get complicated for Our Lovers because X is going to happen, and X cannot happen between them because of reason Y, but I love them and they have to be together and I am going to stay up all night and read this entire book to make sure that they do."

Friday, August 23, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #121: Tuckered out and the Brothers Tidwall

Yep, this is my reaction to most eliminations at this stage of the game, because let's face it, when we get down to the top eight out of how many thousands of dancers who auditioned, everybody's good, and saying goodbye to anybody hurts. Given my druthers, I'd keep everybody and form a dance company, but A) I am not yet a billionaire and B) SYTYCD is a contest. Even so, this one, well, this one hurt.

I knew it was going to be hard when my brain "got" it that Fik-Shun and Tucker were in the bottom two for the men. First, there was the surge of "Do not make me choose, people" and then the solos. I loved them both. I want them both. As I've said to DH, if I had a production company and asked a talent agency to send me a male dancer, I'd be thrilled if either of those gentlemen walked through the door. So, either way, it was going to hurt.

Tucker Knox, whose name I would totally steal if I were writing contemporary romance, who waxed eloquent about knowing how fortunate he was to have a father who supported his dance career when many other male dancers do not have that help, who won my creative affection forever in this cha cha:



...I am going to miss your weekly presence.

Even so, it's not goodbye-goodbye, thanks to the magic of YouTube, which is a good thing. There are those moments that I dearly wish every creative person could have, where art and life transcend the boundaries and make something that is beautiful and true and has a life of its own. Which is where we get to the Brothers Tidwall.



Normally, portmanteau names make me itchy, but I'm going with this one, because the sheer poignant beauty of the routine Travis Wall choreographed for Tucker and all star Robert, of one brother helping another up from rock bottom, pierced right to the heart. Though Travis has other brothers, the fact that this story was told in dance told me immediately it was probably Danny Tidwell who inspired the brother's character.



Mr. Tidwell, (as apparently, I am addressing dancers directly today) I don't know what challenges you've faced, but know that watching you dance live on the SYTYCD tour was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in my life, and was a special treat during a very dark and trying period of mine. Such is the power of story and dance.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Never Too Late In More Ways Than One.

Never Too Late cover photo NeverTooLate.jpg

Never Too Late was concieved during a writing group I attended some years back, along with Melva Michaelian and M.P. Barker. We'd been given a suggestion and were to write whatever came to mind, keeping pen in motion, until the moderator called time. I don't think I had any idea what I was going to write, and then, there it was, and I was in turn of the century England (and later, Italy) in the mind of a heroine ready to chuck it all and go after what she's always wanted.

It wasn't until the story was complete and had spent some time marinating that I noticed I'd never given my heroine a first name, and calling her "Mrs. Sinclair" in query letters and promotional materials was going to get clunky. She ended up being Amelia, and I managed to slip that information in there in a not too clunky manner. Being that this was a novella, and e-publishing then was different from e-publishing now, I wasn't sure where a shorter work should go, but lo and behold, one of Awe-Struck E-books' then-co-owners was starting a new venture, and looking for such stories. Perfect fit, but then life happened, and "Never Too Late" ultimately went to Uncial Press, along with "Queen of the Ocean."

Today, while walking in the park, thinking about writing and future projects, I spotted a man with a long silver ponytail walking the path in front of me. He wore khaki shorts and had text tattoos on the back of both calves. Though I can't have tatoos myself for medical reasons, I'm intrigued by the art form, and of course wanted to see what his said. I stepped up my pace and then stopped in my tracks.

On the backs of both legs, in all capital letters, were the words, "Never Too Late." Important words, those, important enough for a man of some experience to have them inked onto his body more than once, big and bold. Nothing to do with my story, I am beyond sure, though I did make a sound not unlike a squeal at seeing those words. Only a small one, mind, and I did remember that it's not socially acceptable to chase down strangers and quiz them about their body art. Still, it does make me wonder. What, exactly, was the story behind this gent's tattoos? What was it never too late for, for him? Why on the calves, and why, for that matter, both calves instead of only one? Was the phrase a reminder? A warning? A mantra? A prayer? A motto? And why, for that matter, did this total stranger with this phrase, repeated, cross my path on that particular walk while I was thinking those particular thoughts? Coincidence, maybe. Grand design, maybe. Either way, pretty cool, and I headed for home, my writerbrain fortified. On with the next book. BTW, if you're curious about "Never Too Late" itself, you can read the first chapter and/or grab it here: https://www.uncialpress.com/never-too-late.html

Friday, July 12, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #120 - Precious Jade and Paso Fik-Shun

I knew something was up when the opening number was a man down on this week's SYTYCD, and when Cat Deely announced it was Jade who was injured, please refer to gif above. Before last year brought the guys from Dragon House to my attention, I didn't know animation was a dance style, but the precision, the technicality, the unusualness of it all drew me in. When Vegas week came down to a battle between Jade and fellow animator Blu-Print, I watched with the attention of an avid sports fan (and this coming from a woman whose first trip to a major leage baseball game was spent regretting the book she'd left in the car) because I didn't want to see either of them out of the competition. I cheered when Stacey Tookey (who is amazing) decided that the show needed both dancers, because I did and do agree, and losing one to injury, well, it stinks.



Jade, we're going to miss you. Stay strong, get better, dance another day.

SYTYCD knows how to soothe disappointed fans, though, especially since I'd been wanting to see Fik-Shun draw ballroom. Not only did he draw ballroom, but Paso Doble, my favorite Latin dance. The dance of the bullfight, known in some ballroom circles as the man's dance; dark, dramatic, life or death, carried out with a sense of showmanship. In short, this dance always makes me happy, and to see it carried out that well by a favorite contestant, that's a happy dance for sure.



On the off chance that I do have some mystical tie to the selection process (hey, I do write fiction, so allow me the possibility)I would love to see this gent matched with some Travis Wall choreography. Just saying. Putting it out there. What about you, dance fans?

Friday, July 05, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #119 - Pure Fik-Shun

Is there any way I could resist a dancer whose professional moniker is Fik-Shun? Well, no, and when he dances like this young man, it's like capturing the essence of a happy dance in a bottle. I love the joy and the energy radiating from every move, so couldn't keep it down to only one clip.

One of my favorite parts of the cattle call auditions is watching the reactions of the judges when one of the really great dancers takes the stage. tWitch's reaction says it all, and the fact that Adam Shankman didn't wait until the audition was over to get on his feet...oh, there is promise there.



I'm always interested to see if the self taught dancers can take the professional choreography, especially in genres extremely different from their usual, and have to say I wasn't at all suprised that Fik-Shun was nothing short of amazing in his first Sonya Tayeh routine. Gorgeous.



Oddly enough, I'm reminded here of my father's favorite quote from Pablo Picasso, "Painting is a lie that helps us see the truth." While I wouldn't call any of the arts a lie, for me, there's a lot of truth to be found in fiction, and I think in Fik-Shun as well. Can't wait until he pulls ballroom. Fingers crossed for next week.

How about you, dance fans? Any early favorites, or too soon to call?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #118, Everything's Better With Monkees

Meant to post this bright and early, but then I opened a Word file, and well, :shifty eyes: I found I'd spent most of the day in England after an outbreak of the Black Death. Writing life will do that to a person. I regret nothing.

Only when I opened this file did I remember I hadn't blogged about the SYTYCD auditions or the first week of competition, (or blogged at all for roughly a month, eep,) so stay tuned. This looks like a really interesting year, but for now, this Monkees classic fits:

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Son of Saturday at the Movies #4 - Wuthering Heights (2009)

There are some movies that, within minutes, even seconds, of viewing, you know they're going to stick with you forever. For me, the 2009 BBC/PBS version is one of those. The story's not new. Emily Bronte wrote it back in the nineteenth century, and it's a classic for a reason. Not a genre romance, and no happy ending for the first generation, but it's always been one of those stories that sticks with me and resonates in that deep-down part of the story soul.

Even hours after watching, I'm left thinking lots of things about poor...well, pretty much everybody. Heathcliff and Cathy, tormented soulmates who never get to be together (or do, in the end, depending on your point of view) and the poison that trickles down from their...is "thwartedness" a word? Then again, neither Heathcliff nor Cathy get a gold star for making good decisions, but that sense of passions repressed that explode in all the wrong places, sending out cracks that erode the foundation of basically everyone around them. :Happy sigh: It's a big story, a deep story, definitely not a feel-good one, but it resonates. Did I already say resonate? I did. :shrug: It's an appropriate word.

Tom Hardy's Heathcliff always seems about a milimieter away from cracking, and seeing as how he A) digs up his dead lover's body so he can hold her one more time - sure, creepy, but also shows how very broken inside he is, with no hope of anything outside of this broken bond- and B) systematically sets out to ruin the next generation because he can't see anything but ruin, one could say that he has cracked. Still, there's the sense that there's always something more, right out of reach.

Charlotte Riley's Cathy fits with the isolation of her character and surroundings, utterly changed by those five weeks spent in the luxury of the Lintons' care rather than the raw, rough existence she'd known with Heathcliff until then. I had no idea Andrew Lincoln was in this until I saw his name in the opening credits, and as both young and middle aged Edgar, he provides a beautifully balanced foil. Cultured where Heathcliff is primitive, and thus Cathy is torn between the two parts of her own nature, which will eventually tear her, and those around her, apart. There's a more hopeful turn for the next generation, and the film ends on that note of optimism, leaving the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy in the place where they've always wanted to be.

The story is a classic for a reason, and it's one of those that I actually want to see interpreted throught the eyes of different directors, different actors. Still not sure how I managed to miss the latest theatrical version, but it sure does look intriguing. What's your favorite adaptation of Wuthering Heights?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #117: Aaninka

Only on the interwebs could we get a viral Korean pop video reinterpreted by an African dance troupe from Cote Divoire, but one look at the dance troupe, Aaninka's, take on the infamous Gangnam Style (blame my DH, who finds Psy very entertaining) and I had to share. Love the attitude and originality here.



Need more happy? Call Aaninka, maybe...



Or check out their YouTube channel here for music, dance and a darned good show every time:

Aaninka's YouTube Channel

Hm, wonder what it would take for them to interpret some Monkees tunes...

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Lynn Viehl Followup and Prize Winner



Happy Saturday, mes amis, and thanks to all who shared in our wonderful visit with Lynn Viehl.

For the readers who asked which of Lynn's free reads would be a good starting point,Lynn offers the following:

I had a wonderful time chatting with your readers; thanks for having me as a guest.

I also love new readers; it's the best part of getting out and about in the online writer community. For someone who is completely new to my work I usually recommend my novella Dark of Heart:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzylBQC3SyqoZTM5OWZjNjMtMWM2NS00ZDNjLTk4ZWQtOWU1ZTA2ZGY4ZjY3/edit?usp=sharing

Dark of heart is YA and G-rated, so it's good for all ages, and I think it's a decent example of my writing style in general. It is 168 pages, however, so it's a bit of a hefty read for a freebie.

If the reader would prefer to try something shorter, then I recommend my short story Red Branch:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BzylBQC3SyqoY2VmYTI5ZTQtNzFjMi00NGIxLWE0M2MtMGU4MWFiMGVhNTY5/edit?usp=sharing)

That one is high fantasy, PG-13 rated but only 25 pages long. It's been my readers' favorite ever since I wrote it.

Thanks again, Lynn. It was my pleasure having you; come back anytime.

Now, for the lucky winner of Lynne's gorgeous prize pack. Let's take a moment to look at the pretties one more time while we imagine a drumroll. The prize goes to...
Nightbound Keepsake Box giveaway photo NightboundKeepsakeBoxgiveaway_zps6cfdf7c9.jpg
ANDERYN!!!

Anderyn, contact me at annacbowling@gmail.com so we can get your prize headed your way.

Everyone, what are we reading this weekend?

Friday, May 03, 2013

10 Questions With Lynn Viehl

I first discovered Lynn Viehl, not through her books, but through the world of art journaling, an art form that combines words and images to create an intensely personal form of expression. That led to her blog, Paperback Writer, which then led to discovering a versatile author who writes across several genres, and is generous with her expertise as well as loads of pretty things. Take a look at what Lynn is offering one lucky commenter today (click thumbnail to embiggen):

Nightbound Keepsake Box giveaway photo NightboundKeepsakeBoxgiveaway_zps6cfdf7c9.jpg

1) When did you know you were a writer?

I guess I first knew sometime around midnight on December 28th, 1974 (I was thirteen, and I'd just finished writing the last page of my first novel.)

2) What's the first thing you know for sure about a new story concept? Plot? Character? Something else?

Generally the characters come first to populate my knowledge base. Occasionally an idea shapes the story for me -- I once wrote a novel based solely on the words "carnival geek" -- but most of the time it's the characters.

3) What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you've ever heard?

The best was "Whatever you do, protect the work" from author Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I have never once regretted following that advice.

I don't know exactly who is responsible for the worst, but it's that tiresome old adage of "Write what you know." Imagine how many fantastic books would never have been written if all writers followed that tiny-minded attitude. What rubbish.

4) How did the world of the Darkyn come to be?

I've always loved vampire fiction, and I began writing my own short stories back in 1998. The first one was a disaster because I tried following all the traditional vampire lore, which I find a little ridiculous. I trashed that story and decided to create my own mythology. It took another six years to fine-tune the Darkyn universe, but eventually I got there.

5) In one sentence, how would you define dark fantasy?

In fantasy the hero always defeats the monster; in dark fantasy sometimes the hero IS the monster.

6) The latest Lords of Darkyn novel, Nightbound (love that title, by the way,) features a supernatural stronghold disguised as a medieval theme park, a hero with secrets and a heroine with extraordinary theories. Can you give our readers a taste of why romance readers won't want to miss this one?

Glad you like the title, because it would be really hard to change now. I hope Nightbound will appeal to any reader who enjoys adventure, mystery and characters who cannot be classified as typical.

7) How does art journaling, or art in general, help or influence your writing?

Art is a great tool for a storyteller to use when you want to explore ideas beyond the boundaries of words. When I sketch a character or paint a setting, or even make a quilt in colors I've chosen as a story palette, I can better visualize those elements. The process of artwork also gives me time to think and make creative decisions that enrich the story when I do go back to the keyboard to write.

As for journaling -- something I've also been doing almost daily since 1974 -- it's a great way to work out ideas and chronicle the journey you take with every story.

8) What do you do when creatively blocked/empty/burned out?

I'm lucky in that I don't have to cope with writer's block or idea deficits, but I do frequently feel burned out, especially after I finish a novel. When that happens I try to recharge my batteries by getting some exercise and opening myself up to new sources of inspiration. That can be anything from taking a long walk and photographing nature to attending an art show and talking to the exhibitors while I admire their works. Sometimes just listening to a new CD while I clean the house from top to bottom helps, too.

9) If you could have an all expense paid trip to any time in history, where and when would you go? You may take one companion, real or fictional. How would you convince them to come with you?

If I could stay for a while, I'd go back to Galilee in 27 AD to see exactly what this carpenter from Bethlehem actually said and did during his ministry. I'd take Jorge Mario Bergoglio with me, and I don't think I'd need to say anything but "Let's go meet Jesus Christ in person" to get the new Pope to tag along.

If I couldn't stay, I'd like to visit an inn in Bavaria on April 20th, 1889, and take Simon Wiesenthal with me. I'd tell Simon that unless we do something the baby born there that day will grow up to murder 5.5 million Jews. I'm sure Simon would have some excellent ideas about how we might prevent that.

10) We've retrieved the parrot we hid in your office a while back, and now he won't stop saying "Toriana." Can you tell us more about that?

I thought I heard something chirping behind the filing cabinet. Toriana is the name of a Victorian-era America that exists in a universe parallel to our own, and in which I've set Disenchanted & Co., my new urban fantasy series. The first book, Her Ladyship's Curse, will debut in August, thanks to my publisher, Pocket Star, and my editor, Adam Wilson.

Thanks, Lynn, for stopping by. Readers, if you've been drooling over the gorgeous giveaway picture above, all you need to do is leave a comment below for a chance to win.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #116/Son of Saturday at the Movies #3 - Wreck-it Ralph

Cool and rainy here in Albany today, which is perfect happy dance weather for me. Good writing weather as well, and definitely good reading weather for later in the day. Not good walking in the park weather, so must do without my daily duck fix for the time being.

Since I do live under a rock, I haven't seen Wreck-it Ralph yet (looks really fun, though, and do I spot an inter-game romantic subplot in there? Because if so, I am all over that) but Owl City is always good for some bouncy fun, so here we go:





Okay, I'm spotting some fun graphics, a hero's journey, and gaming. Yep, I'm in. Must add to the library list.

Who's going to the movies this weekend? What are you seeing?

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Guest Post: Gerri Brousseau and the man of her (heroine's) dreams

A warm welcome back to Gerri Brousseau, whose second novel, According To Legend, is now available at Amazon. I first met Gerri at a meeting of Charter Oak Romance Writers some time back, and first welcomed her to Typing With Wet Nails with a fun interview here. This time, Gerri takes the reins, sharing some tantalizing tidbits about her first time travel romance and how her heroine literally meets the man of her dreams.

Hi Anna and thank you for inviting me here today. I’m so excited to share with your readers. What I really want to let them know is that dreams really can and do come true. I have been writing ever since I was a kid, but about 4 years ago I began to dream about becoming a published author. I kept writing, joined a good writers group and kept pursuing my dream. I never gave up on my dream and I believed that one day it would happen. And it did.

On March 6th my second novel, According to Legend, was released. Today I would like to talk to your readers about the moment that my hero and heroine meet, or the “meet cute” moment. In the new release, my heroine, Pam, meets the hero in a dream. Huh? What? Yes, you read it correctly. In my time-travel romance my heroine, Pam, comes into possession of a dream catcher and through her dream it draws her back in time and into the arms of the warrior chief. The premise of the novel is this, legend has it that when the spirit of the tribal princess is born again and she holds the enchanted stone in her hands, the lovers will be reunited ... even through time.

In her first experience with the dream catcher Pam finds herself drawn back in time and kneeling by a clear pool of a stream. She comes face to face with the handsome warrior, who apparently knows her, or who she was in his time, yet she has no idea as to who or where she is. Well, rather than having me tell you, let me give you an excerpt:

I gasped when I realized it wasn’t my face I saw in the reflection . . . it was the face of a beautiful Indian maiden. Her deeply tanned skin was smooth over high cheekbones; she had full lips, and round amber eyes that gleamed with excitement. Her long dark hair hung loose and fell to her waist in what looked like a sheet of dark satin. She wore a soft deerskin dress with intricate designs on the bodice. Strands of leather and colorful feathers were entwined in her hair; feathers just like those hanging from the dream catcher. Around her neck was another thin strand of leather holding a delicately engraved stone. Leaning in closer to take a better look, I saw it was the very same stone that was woven into the center of my newly acquired dream catcher.

*** And then comes the moment that she meets the hero:

Smiling, I gazed at the reflection of the man beside me. His features were stark, raw, and powerful. His long dark hair hung past his shoulders. Thick lashes framed dark eyes in his deeply tanned face. A face so striking it appeared as if he were chiseled from stone. His well-muscled chest glistened as light reflected off the water. Around his neck, he wore a piece of leather with an engraved stone identical to the one that hung around the neck of the maiden.

“You have come back to me, Takshawee,” he said.

Having been born and raised in Connecticut, Native American history and lore has always fascinated me. I drew from real legends when writing this novel. This time-travel tale involves a prophecy, a quest, a love triangle and a wolf. You will find villains who seek to possess a well guarded treasure, and a vendetta that spans centuries. According to Legend can be found only on Amazon (Kindle Select). I hope that you will enjoy wandering with me through the pages together with Pam as she encounters danger, adventure and finds romance on her journey to happily ever after.



Intrigued? Purchase your copy at Amazon here

and visit Gerri’s website here.

So how about you, dear readers? Will you be adding According to Legend to your TBR list? What other time travel or Native American books would you recommend as must-reads for those who can't get enough? Tell all in the comments.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #115 - Rita Hayworth, the Bee Gees and a snow day in March

Last night, I stayed up far too late, talking books with a reader friend :waves hi to Carolina: and woke to a gorgeous sight. More than the single inch of snow we'd been forecast, everything was blanketed under a stunning blanket of white, bare tree branches blanketed, and even more drifting down. It's still coming. DH ambled out of the kitchen, asking if anybody wanted French toast and bacon. As it turns out, it was cinnamon French toast, which makes it even better. That made it official. Snow day.

Our household contains only adults, and DH still had to go in, but it still counts. Still counts as well even though I'm heading down to the coffee house for a writing session, because that's what I want to do. So what's the difference? By my standards, a lifting of the normal restritions or regulations. The chance to breathe and step back from the every day and ask what would be the best thing for this moment. What would give pleasure? What would get us ready for the return to normal life, stronger, more rested and refreshed?

For me, the answer was immediate. I stayed in my pajamaas slightly longer than usual, because eating surprise cinnamon French toast should not be done while wearing regular clothes. My brain meandered back to the conversation of the night before, of the many things I love about historical romance; the mental journey to another time and place, the chance to climb in the skins of hero and heroine and live not only through the time but through the love story. Which is a good place for a writer of historical romance to be.

Which is also a good place for a happy dance. Bee Gees make me happy and heroines who make history make me happy, so finding the two mushed together is even more fitting for the specialness of a snow day.



What makes a snow day or other found day extra special for you?

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #114 -zomg, pony!

Weird, weird week at Stately Bowling Manor, and I have no idea how it got to be March already. Not sure I'm ready for spring, winter girl that I am, but I'll give it a fair shake. I'm looking forward to seeing what spring looks like in our new environ Good things should be coming. In the meantime, here's a dancing pony I found:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Welcome, Scottish Seduction Blog Tour



What's better than having one historical romance author come to one's cyber home to chat? Having two. I'm delighted to welcome Sue-Ellen Welfonder and Margaret Mallory. I first discovered Sue-Ellen's books through her wonderful blog, Tartan Ink. Anyone who knows me can tell there's no way I could resist a series titled Return of the Highlanders, which has firmly made me a reader of Margaret's books as well. Both have brand new releases in ongoing series: Sue-Ellen's Seduction of a Highland Warrior brings readers back to the Glen of Many Legends, while readers of Margaret's series finally get Connor's story in The Cheiftain. Both books combine history, romance, family ties, and a touch of magic. Give the same ingredients to two talented chefs, and you'll get two different and delicious dishes. It's the same with writers. How does that play out here? Read on.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder

SEW: It’s a pleasure to be here to celebrate Seduction of a Highland Warrior’s recent release. Must say, I adore the title of this blog. It’s clever, smile-inducing, and original.

TWWN: Thanks, Sue-Ellen. We're happy to have you here. What draws you to Scottish historical romance?

SEW: On a personal level, I have a Hebridean/Highland family background and so was raised to appreciate that heritage. I’ve also been traveling to Scotland all my life, so loving Scotland and its past is very much a part of my world and always has been. I’m also keenly interested in medieval history and archaeology. These were my interests before I ever considered writing and will remain so when I no longer write.

In more general terms, I appreciate the possibilities offered by medieval Scotland as a setting and time period for romance. There’s the magnificent landscape, a proud and fearless people, a colorful and turbulent past, many layers of fascinating history and an irresistible blend of cultures (Pictish, Celtic, Pagan, Viking, etc). The clan feuds offer a wealth of plot possibilities. I also love Highland magic, the legend and lore, myth and superstition that abounded in medieval Scotland. And that, to a degree, remains. My grandmother had the sight, for example. My first book, Devil In A Kilt, featured a heroine gifted with the sight and so have some of my other titles. I enjoy writing characters with such extraordinary talents or weaving in other magical threads. As such beliefs were an integral part of Highland Scotland in these centuries, using such elements is natural and fitting. And a pleasure for me as I find every aspect of ‘Highland magic’ fascinating. I also collect medieval weaponry and love studying medieval warfare. I really enjoy writing medieval battle scenes. So my genre reflects by personal background and interests.

TWWN: What are the best and most challenging aspects of writing connected books?

SEW: I love writing connected books. Because I enjoy writing series/connected stories so much, I don’t see any part of the process as challenging. One thing I do watch is to end a series before beloved main characters grow old. It’s fun to write stories for the children of the original hero and heroine. But I do not want to write the first protagonists as grandparents. That’s why I ended my popular MacKenzie series when I did. Devil In A Kilt’s hero, Duncan, is still well-loved by my readers. I don’t want him hobbling about as a bent old man. Not going to happen.

What I love most about connected books is revisiting beloved characters and settings. In the writing of a book, the story comes to life and the characters soon feel like living, breathing people. It’s always a pleasure to work with them again. To see what they’re up to after an earlier book has ended. I know from my readers that most of them also enjoy seeing the characters again. As noted above, you just have to know when to move on. But even then, I like adding ‘magical touch-points’ to new series. Such as Devorgilla, the well-meaning yet meddlesome cailleach in my MacKenzie series. She makes cameo appearances in other series and whenever she does, I always hear from readers who tell me they loved seeing her on the page. Frankly, she is so real, I worry she’d hex me if I didn’t let her dip a toe in the ink now and again.

TWWN: Surprise! You have time traveled to the past -the day before you wrote the first page of your first novel. You may speak only one sentence to your past self. What is it?

SEW: Beware, here be (deadline) dragons.

Thank you so much for inviting me here today. It’s been fun. And I do adore the name of this blog.

Highland Blessings!
Sue-Ellen Welfonder
www.welfonder.com

Thanks much, Sue-Ellen, and for what it's worth, Duncan would be an awesome senior gent.

Margaret Mallory

TWWN: What draws you to Scottish historical romance?

MM: I love history, and I have a serious weakness for stories involving castles and heroes who swing swords. I suspect I’m drawn to the British Isles, in particular, because of my Scottish-Irish-English heritage.

TWWN: What are the best and most challenging aspects of writing connected books?

MM: The most challenging aspect of writing this particular series was having four heroes who were the same age and who were all in each other’s books. Each needed to be heroic, yet distinct. I had to work to make each hero stand out as an individual, particularly when all four were in a scene, without slowing the pace with extra description. And, being heroes in their prime, naturally these guys wanted to take over each other’s books!

I’ve had tremendous positive feedback from readers about the “bro-mance” among my four Highland warriors.
So, despite the challenge, I am really glad I stuck with my original vision of these four heroes who’ve been close friends since they could walk.


TWWN: Surprise! You have time traveled to the past -the day before you wrote the first page of your first novel. You may speak only one sentence to your past self. What is it?

MM: I know you got a lot of satisfaction from working for good causes—improving care for the elderly and services for abused and neglected kids—but I wish you’d quit a couple of years sooner to write romance novels.

Thanks, Margaret. I'm glad you stuck with the original vision, too.

Readers, what's your favorite aspect of a good Scottish romance? Where should a new reader start with either of these writers? Drop a comment and make some noise.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #114 & Son of Saturday at the Movies #3: Smash

I've been a snow bunny as long as I can remember, and according to family, even before that. My mother used to have to make me come inside and change snowsuits after a couple of hours because I'd soak the first one through; snowy days were the only ones where I insisted on playing outside all day long. There are many pictures of a very young me with snowmen, on sleds, etc. In short, snow always makes me want to happy dance.

As does the return of Smash for a second season, so that made picking this week's happy dance easy. No snow in this one, but we do have a full on Bollywood explosion of opulence, gorgeous costuming, a great set, plus choreography that makes me want to jump to my feet and join in.



This is another clip I've watched countless times, because there's so much to see - the colors, the huge ensemble, the character tableaux that say quite a lot in a very small frame, and above all, the storytelling. Which is also a huge part of Smash.

A drama about putting together a Broadway musical? Sold. With Katharine McPhee? Sold again; I remember watching her when she was on American Idol and hoping I'd get to see more of her work. Debra Messing is in it, too? Triple sold. I am also weak, weak, weak for British characters in NYC (I thank a friend of my mom's when I was tiny for giving me this bent; Mrs. Bloomer, did you know the seed you planted?) Quadruple sold. Drama and intrigue surrounding the audition process? Ah, they know how to sink their hooks into my very heart. I love, love, love the audition process. In college, I would audition for parts I had no chance of ever getting (including musicals, and I freely admit to having been kicked out of high school robe choir for having a bad voice - teacher's own words, in front of everyone) as well as the ones I could and did get, all because of the rush of standing on that stage and having the full attention of whoever was in those seats, watching to see if I had what they were looking for, feeling the give and take of creative energy.

Then the rehearsals begin, and things get crazy. Though I like Raz Jeffrey's character, Dev, and hope to see more of him in season two (don't burst my bubble yet if you have spoilers, please) I had to sypmathize with Ms. McPhee's Karen, who responded to Dev's proposal with "I'm in tech! Even the financial backing can get insane and everybody has an angle. For some, chaos. For me, bliss.

I can't let this go without mentioning Megan Hilty's character, Ivy. One of the first characters I ever created, back when my day still involved homework and catching a big yellow bus, was named Ivy Lynn, and yes, she was a singer. Bit of a moment there when I first heard Ms. Hilty's character introduce herself. While I'd assumed I'd be rooting for Karen to get the role, then I saw all the work Ivy put into the workshop, and my head did more flip-flopping than a bin of rubber sandals on opening day at the beach. Karen, no, Ivy, no, Karen, no, wait, they're bringing in someone else? Then multiple Marilyns in the shadow selves, then the show's off, then it's on, and now a rival musical may be in the works.

Have you been watching Smash? Who's your favorite Marilyn? Favorite new twist/cast addition? Share in comments, and if Nemo's finding you this weekend, stay safe.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #113: Right Said Fred and some rambling on writing...

We have entered that part of the year known as "butt cold." The kind of weather that is the real reason sweatshirts have hoods and is perfect for staying inside with a good sized supply of reading material...and/or computer games, hence the snowy Sims picture.

I'd first intended to post a traditional (if there is such a thing) Happy Dance Friday post, then decided I'd ramble instead, but the rambling reminded me of a bit of happy-dance-inspiring music, which ties in nicely with said rambling, so you get both. These guys have the right perspective on the creative life in today's tune:



2012 was not my best creative year, and far from the most stress-free. For 2013, I'd like to flip that coin over and have the opposite. Which takes some work, some faith, some trial, some error, and the resiliency of a SuperBall (I once dropped one out of a third story dormitory window to see if it would bounce back up all the way. It did. Many thanks to my friend, Diana R, who waited on the ground to make sure she caught any stray balls before they could meet car windows. Yes, she did, and no, they didn't.)but eventually, one gets there.

Like today. I'm reading straight through the ms formerly titled "Draperwood" which is now "Ravenwood," which makes more sense as a place name, and making revisions. You know it's a good day when you're driving your characters through a plague-decimated England and chair dancing as you do because it's fun to do so. I bought a book of stamps, earmarked for good old fashioned snail mail letters, because one dear friend gave me a fountain pen for Christmas and the lure of sitting at my antique secretary desk and writing letters the old-fashioned way is too much for a writer of historical romance to resist. Besides, who doesn't want something in one's mailbox that is not a bill or junk mail? The letter writer in me announced that she is done being quiet, and I have learned it's useless to oppose her. Hence the stamps.

Yesterday, Housemate Linda and I made purchases at two local small bookstores. Between those, the two libraries within walking distance, and my electronic reading devices, the TBR pile is shaping up quite nicely. Tomorrow's plans involve much reading, the baking of cookies, and messing about with some arty things because A) I have stamps and that means mail art, and B) the art supply store had free samples and the girls in my basement (borrowing term from Barbara Samuels, from her book, The Care and Feeding of the Girls in the Basement - highly recommended reading for writers, IMO)want to play with paint. I think I'm going to let them.

What weekend plans make you want to happy dance?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy Dance Friday #112 - Sovereign Light Cafe



I'm going back to a time when we owned this town
Down Powdermill lane in the battlegrounds
We were friends and lovers and clueless clowns

- Sovereign Light Cafe, Keane

Do not ask me how many times I've seen this video, because I can't count that high. The name of the song drew me in at first - could this be about a place that's a character in itself? (It is, and it's a real place, though the website is still under construction, it would seem.) One of my favorite tropes right there, and with such an evocative name, I couldn't resist.

Every time I watch this, I find new things - the Union Jack flag on the parked bicycle at 1:57 and hey, where did the guy in the beanie at 2:39 come from? I'd kept all my attention on the couple with the ice cream in that shot the last dozen times. There are two gentlemen practicing martial arts, but one wears a black belt (high level of achievement) and the other a white belt (beginner) - are they teacher and student?

The melody is lovely, gently upbeat and hopeful, the lyrics implying both a troubled past and a homecoming with good intent, but it's the varied characters that catch my attention the most. The stern, intense concentration of a young male gymnast. A ballerina poised against the grey of sea and sky. Trick bicycle riders and acrobats doing somersaults through the air. A line of costumed belly dancers in front of changing cabanas wave their brilliantly covered scarves. The dancer who gets the closeup? A woman of experience, shall we say? I think she's gorgeous. Rock on, madam.

That's what makes this song worthy of the happy dance title. A wide variety of people, each doing their own thing. Antique cars drive along the same beach where a white horse gallops. Antique big wheeled bicycles traverse the sidewalk. Old friends need to say nothing, only be there for each other. Members of the band pose on benches or against walls, solo, while the singer, our narrator, strolls the seaside, eventually leading a scarlet-coated marching band to the cafe. There, everybody can gather at the end of the day; teens and pensioners, singers and athletes coming together to watch the night settle. Add to that our narrator coming home to those who know him -possibly to reunite with a long lost love?- and will presumably take him as he is? Bliss, and definitely something for the idea file.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Here comes that feeling again...

Last night, I stayed up far past my bedtime, reading Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson. This is my first historical my Ms. Roberson, though her romantic fantasy Sword Dancer series has long been a favorite of mine. I blogged about it for Heroes and Heartbreakers here.

Lady of the Glen isn't an easy book, and that's exactly what kept me reading.

Most of my favorite books aren't easy stories, and the same thing applies in writing. Story in, story out. Even if it's late. Especially when it's late. Those times when getting to the end of the story is more important than sleep, that's what I want, both as a reader and a writer.

For me, it's not enough to say "it was night." I want to feel the cool wind on my cheek, breathe the stillness of the night air, inch my way along in the inky blackness using only memory and the shapes that I can pick out in the shadows. Since my genre of choice is romance, it's a given that the two lovers are going to have their happily ever after at the end of the story, but if that HEA comes at great cost, even better.

Setting that book down at last, after closing the cover and my tired eyes, I was satisfied with Cat and Dair's happily ever after, sad at how much it cost them, and angry that my time with them was over. No, I don't want a sequel, spinoff or continuation. The story was complete in itself, and I wouldn't ask it to be anything else. I was satisfied knowing that, although I have to give the library back its copy, mine is still safely snuggled in its cardboard box in the storage unit, along with other books. In time, it will find its way onto my shelves in our new home. Said shelves are still in flux as we continue to settle in, but being able to touch a book that I missed. I'd packed my copy before reading it, and had a strong yearning for it when I saw the library's copy on their shelves.

I have other library books in my TBR stack, and purchased books and ebooks in two different formats, so it's not that I don't have anything to read. It's that I lived in that world for the time it took me to read Cat and Dair's story, and I'm going to need to acclimate some. Then I'll be ready to read something else. By tonight, I'll be engrossed in something from the TBR stack, and I'll let that story flow into me and feed my own story hamster.

I can feel that fire I've missed, the one that got dampened. Reading. Writing. The one feeds the other. Talking, too, about both, because that's how I roll. Feel free to chime in at any time.

Have you ever missed a book when you finished reading it?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

emptyfull


Talk about writing exactly as much as you, personally, need to talk about writing.
--Seanan McGuire

When I walked away from the table, there were bruises on the unheard lyrics of my yet-to-be-born songs.
-K'naan

Creative work comes from internal fires.

--Mary Jo Putney


Today's quotes come from a file I started keeping a few months back. The title inserted itself in my head after I got to the laundromat, in a morning that looked pretty much like the picture above, and realized that I had not brought along a notebook. I had pens, but no notebook and nothing that could be pressed into service. How did I feel at the moment? Emptyfull. Technically not a word, but it fit at the moment, and it encapsulated a lot of what I've felt about writing over the past year.

Full of stories to be told. Empty of the right way to tell them. The voices of my untold stories doing their best to make themselves heard over the noise of the hypercritical gremlins who'd got into my head somewhere along the way. Since I had my e-reader with me, I delved into Marsha Canham's The Iron Rose, finished that and got a fair way into The Following Sea before it was time to fold laundry and haul it home. I've long admired Ms. Canham not only for her writing, but for her committment to telling her stories, her way. I find that a great inspiration.

A quick check of email and favorite blogs between laundry hauling and lunch alerted me to a timely post at the Word Wenchesm on writerly anxiety. If you're a writer or know one, I highly recommend this post. This. So exactly this. If the voices are going to talk to us anyway, we may as well let them have their say. Anxiety is going to happen, but we can ride it out and come out the other side, stronger. To add another quote to my list, this one from Joanna Bourne, "The only cure for the pain of writing is writing."

So yeah, I'm going to talk about writing as much as I need to. This is my place to do that. Talking is not a subtitute for doing, don't get me wrong, but I find that one revs me up to do the other.

How do you battle anxiety about your creative work and punch those hypercritical gremlins in the throat?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Inadvertently Awesome


Today's title comes from David-the-barista, the picture from Second Life. My original intent was to use my own photos for the post pictures this week, possibly as prompts, but that would require a camera.

Several years ago, DH surprised me on Christmas morning with a digital camera. This Christmas, our first in our new home, on a gorgeously snowy white Christmas morning, I took same camera out to get some pictures while waiting for everyone to get up (I'm the early riser in our family.) Since I love the cold, love the snow, love exploring our neighborhood, this was like a special present to myself. On with the leopard print rubber boots, on with scarf and gloves and coat and off I go.

I had the route in mind immediately. Leave house, head toward park. Since it's early and a major holiday, I'm reasonably well assured that I can get some shots of the virgin snow, especially in the park, especially park benches (I have a thing for empty park benches.) Since the best way to get to the park is along a gorgeous historic street lined with turn of the century buildings, many of them bedecked with holiday decor, I could not have asked for a better picture taking opportunity. Snow covered wrought iron. Snow covered stone steps. Snow covered bare branches on trees reaching up to the blue-grey sky that implied it wasn't yet done with the white stuff. I happily snapped pictures until the guilt over neglecting family told me it was time to turn back.

Which was exactly when the camera started acting funny. I'd snapped a few different shots of the historic promenade in the park (built in 1803, originally for military drills and parades, later the spot to see and be seen) as well as benches, sky, plaques on and doorways of buildings with historic ties as well, and then...the drag began. Something was...different...about how long it took the camera to tell me it was done doing whatever it is cameras do for that shot. I begged it. One more for mommy, okay? We're going home, really. Then you can take pictures of family members opening presents wrapped in brown paper with colored ribbons, all nice and inside and...nothing.

"Nothing doing," the camera seemed to be saying to me. "No more pictures for the crazy writer person who takes me out in the cold when all the other cameras are inside, watching adorable tots tear into the latest in hand-knitted sweaters and pink plastic minivans outfitted with laser cannons." I took it home, cradled in the warmth of my coat, telling myself it was probably the batteries. I'd try new ones.

I tried new ones. I tried newer ones. I let Housemate Linda have a look at it in case she might see some error I'd made and set things aright. Once more, nothing doing. Camera now sits on a bookshelf in my office, next to yet another set of batteries. I am surprisingly okay with this.

It's not a disaster. Either the camera can be repaired, or it cannot. In either event, the memory card is in there, and I can stick it into my printer (once that's up and running) and all those pictures will still be there. I can still have them, even if not right now. They're safe. They're waiting. They're still mine. Maybe I'll open them on a hot day in July and have myself Christmas morning all over again.

The inadvertantly awesome part? When I sat down to write this entry, I had no idea what I was going to say, and lookee here - I wrote a story. It has a protagonist (moi) and a beginning (plan to take pictures) and a middle (the picture.) and an end (camera on the shelf, dead-at-least-for-now.) It has a black moment (dead camera!) and a resolution (will try memory card in something else.) Some dialogue, and I'd have to call it extremely rough, but gussy it up some and there could be something.

What mundane experience of yours do you think could inadvertantly turn into the seeds of an awesome story?

Monday, January 14, 2013

2012/2013 - and so it begins

1/14/2013

Made three attempts to blog today, and deleted them all. I do want to commit to a solid week of blogging to start the year as I mean to go on. Hence this.

Thanks to Barbara Samuels' blog entries on the fear and joy of writing, I'm getting a much better handle on why 2012 was not my best or favorite writing year, but we have a brand new year started, and that's good for a fresh start. Which makes this the right time do commit myself to another whole week of blogging.

There are a few reasons for doing this. One, it gets me on the right path (as in picture above). At the keyboard every day, getting something that's in my head out for public consumption. Two, I'm a talker. Staying quiet isn't natural for me, and the longer I am, the harder it is to climb out of it. Three, enough days of forcing myself to blabber about nothing, I will bore myself and have to talk about something interesting. Stories are interesting.

Our new home is within walking distance of two libraries. Maybe three if we're feeling adventurous. We've found both a small independent bookstore (with a really really really good romance section even though it's only one shelf - kudos to the buyer for excellent choices) and a splendidly sprawling (David-the-barista from our local coffee shop has me doing his vocabulary thing these days. I'm not complaining) Barnes and Noble.

I will admit to going on what housemate Linda and I long ago named "library orgies." No, not that kind. In family parlance, it means to go to more than one library in one day and take out whatever strikes one's fancy. Which means that I have a nice TBR stack next to my bed. At present, I count three library books -no, four, but one is a nonfiction book on art journaling, not a novel- and four newly purchased paperbacks on the "read me next" shelf. My nightstand also holds an ARC of a novel by two favorite authors. My Kindle app on my laptop has been a busy thing lately, as is the ereader that lives in my purse (and dearly needs a charge tonight.) However many books I have, I need more, because of that story hunger. After a dismal 2012, it has me again. Or I have it. It's hard to tell sometimes.

There's one more reason for this week of blogging. Fear. What if I'm not doing it right? What if I don't have what it takes? What if I've been kidding myself all this time and should shut up and go away because nobody really cares anyway? What if....fill in the blank with anything that seems appropriate. Fear, for me, can be crippling, and from my perspective, the only way out is through. So, how best to conquer fear of writing? By writing. No, a blog entry is not a novel, but it's putting the tush in the chair and the fingers on the keyboard and sending something out into the world.

So. This is a week of blogging. Some entries may ramble. Some entries may stink like that hunk of cheese that got trapped between the sofa cushions the same week the not yet paper trained puppy decided that sofa was his. (Not that this ever happened to me, because it hasn't, but DH once stashed a pastrami sandwich in my purse and didn't tell me, which resulted in me taking it to work that night and not finding it until um, eating it was no longer a good idea.) Some may actually make some sense, and some may surprise even me, but they will be written. So far, so good.