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All the Storms

Life has a habit of making other plans. I’ve been in absentia again, due to all sorts of issues, but I’ve lost my main ways of pondering life, so I’m going to do it here. Eventually it’ll morph into fun and games, but right now I’m just being thoughtful. I’m working my ass off on so many things, so first I’ll give you a book update.
1. I just finished writing a really wonderful book. You know when you read a book and the world stays with you? Some of you immediately go back and reread it, some of you can’t read anything else for a day or two. I remember when I read Sunshine by Robin McKinley, I stopped a couple of chapters before the end and just clasped it to my breast. Seriously. Well, I feel that way about the new, untitled book. I started it as a Christmas novella, to be out last year, and it was supposed to be piffle. I almost immediately knew it was going to be more than a novella, so I sent it to my agent, who said expand it, and I put it to one side and worked on another project. When that self-destructed I went back to it, and it just blossomed like a dark rose. I want to go back there – I want to listen to it in audio, I want to dream in that world.
The world of publishing is completely random nowadays, so who knows what will happen to it. My agent has it now, and I’m relatively sanguine about the outcome. It could be glory or disaster, but then, those things come out of throwing everything into life. If there’s no market for it I’ll make one, and I’ll move on, because there are so many more books to write. But this is one of the special ones.

2. I’ve been revising older stuff. Belle Bridge Books is coming out with Crazy Like a Fox in the next couple of days, and that was so much fun! Sometimes when I revise older books I end up being astonished at how much I like some that I’d forgotten about, and disappointed in some of my favorites. I can’t figure out why. I’m about to put out Rafe’s Revenge, and originally I’d thought of that as a sort of throwaway. I ended up loving it -I don’t know why I thought there wasn’t much to it. Maybe my life was going insane at the time – my life has a tendency to do that with lots of sturm und drang, usually not caused by me. Lots of storm and disaster in my family. But both of those books were a real treat. Next up is Special Gifts, which I adored and was a RITA finalist – I’m hoping that won’t turn into a disappointment.

3. I’ve redone the Maggie Bennett novels, with new covers, rewritten, and those I still loved. It only makes sense that I’d love my books – after all, they’re written by someone who knows my fantasies and wants exactly the same characters and stories that move me. I can’t imagine writing someone I hated.
Well, I did do that, twice. And trust me, I didn’t like it and don’t like those books. Though maybe those will be ones I go back to and end up pleasantly surprised.

4. Nanowrimo is starting, and I’m going back to a proposal I adored. I never finished it because I had too many contracts to fill, but now is definitely the time. I promise I’ll come back and tell you all about them.

But in the meantime it’s Halloween and the world is a horror show. I’m going to do my best to keep up the holiday spirit – I live in a very small, rural Vermont town, and we have very few trick or treaters. This year our delightfully liberal church has decided to organize a local Halloween trail in the town proper. Since most of the houses are owned by summer visitors they tend to be empty, but they’ve given permission for a bunch of us to porch sit and hand out candy. I’ll be wearing my nun’s habit, with spooky lights (and long johns underneath) and maybe even a boombox full of spooky music if I can find one in my crowded house. A good buddy is the next house up, so we can cackle at each other if the mood strikes us. This is a world where goblins and witches are the good guys, where demons are hot and sexy, and the “good” people carry torches. When I was young people used to say I lived in a fantasy world. I think it’s a much better place to be.

Life is a balancing act and right now the see-saw is little off. It’ll get better. And I have something to write that I love. My family is stable, my cats are wonderful, my sewing machines are working, my husband is fabulous — what me worry? Sometimes you gotta work hard to be happy. Fortunately, I can do that.

Happy Halloween!

A ROSE AT MIDNIGHT

Bookbub day! (And why do I always type Boob when I type bookbub?) A Rose at Midnight, my first historical, is on sale for a mere pittance, $.99 for today only. I revised it, but the damned thing was almost perfect (she says modestly) and I got a spiffy new cover, just for it’s super-sale date.

I started out writing gothics – shorter, romantic suspense romances in a historical setting, and then I moved on to Regencies and category romances. This was the first time I’d written something longer than 80,000 words, and I remember panicking when I’d started it and having Stella Cameron and Jayne Ann Krentz (Amanda Quick) say “there there” when it was time to dive in.

At the time publishers kept asking me for a big romantic suspense book. Some of my best series romances were romantic suspense – Catspaw, Tangled Lies, Night of the Phantom, etc. – so I kept coming up with proposals that would make the rounds, be turned down reluctantly (“my respect for Anne Stuart is undimmed” which sounded like “despite this pile of crap you just sent me”). I sold them to Silhouette Intimate Moments, the best outlet for Rom/Suspense at the time, and they were both RITA finalists so they couldn’t be that bad.

And then I got the idea for A ROSE AT MIDNIGHT (you can blame Ellen Edwards for that title – I was calling it Black is the Color …). It wasn’t what anyone wanted, but I couldn’t let go of it, so I trusted my gut went for it. Not a wise thing to do, but then I’ve prided myself on never making “smart” business decisions. Lo and behold the book was snapped up.

I loved that book. In revising it I was quite surprised at what a badass my hero is, and how fierce my heroine (her first act is to poison the hero), and I forgot I used to have lovely supporting romances in my historicals. I wanted to smack the secondary hero half the time but he was still completely swoon-worthy.

It’s funny – when I revise an older book it’s like I’m reading someone else’s book that I’d read long ago and loved. My sense of ownership is mostly gone, but whoever wrote it in the first place knew exactly what I wanted to happen to my characters, so it was completely satisfying. There were a couple of typos, and just a few changes, none of which were strictly necessary, but revising it gave me the treat of discovering it again.

If you’ve already bought it from Amazon I’m pretty sure you can go in and download the newer version and the gorgeous new cover. If you haven’t, or want to contribute to my Get-a-used-truck fund it’s a treat to read and an excellent gift for everyone you know, including your postman and your tax accountant. I really need a truck.

And just for your delectation, here are a couple of scenes, one from the lighter, supporting couple, one from the darker, central couple:

Plus, links! Amazon https://amzn.to/2MjCnzP Barnes and Noble https://bit.ly/2sSl5BC KOBO https://bit.ly/2LJQ4XK

“You don’t suggest we spend the night here?” she questioned, both aghast and not a little excited at the sheer impropriety of the notion.
“I certainly don’t suggest we go back out into the storm and retrace our footsteps, then travel an extra half-mile in this hellish weather. It’s cozy enough for the moment. Well take things as they come.”
“Tony, there’s only one bed,” she felt forced to point out.
“That’s all right, love,” he said cheerfully. “I trust you.”
She had to laugh. “At least no one is going to know about this,” she said, unfastening her damp boots and kicking them toward the fire. “Even if they did, they wouldn’t believe it of two sober creatures like ourselves.”
He glanced over at her. “I don’t know that you’re at all sober, Ellen Fitzwater. As a matter of fact, I think you’ve had a sadly debilitating effect on my sober nature. Too much time spent in your company and I’m becoming quite alarmingly madcap. Have some brandy.”

“Where’s Mamzelle?” Tavvy appeared at the door of the smaller cabin, the one Nicholas resignedly assumed he’d end up sharing with his valet.
“In her cabin. I doubt we’ll hear more than a moan or two before we reach the continent,” he said negligently, pouring himself a glass of the brandy he’d brought aboard with him. Being of a democratic nature, he held the bottle out to Taverner, who shook his head.
“What I want to know is this,” Tavvy said, sitting down heavily opposite him. “What in God’s name were you thinking of, to carry her with us?”
An unpleasant smile curved Nicholas’s mouth. “I would think the answer to that must be obvious.”
“No, sir, it’s not,” Tavvy said flatly. “You had more than enough time to take your fill of her while I was off scouting the situation. It’s not as if she’s any great beauty, nor is she particularly versed in the art of love, if you take my meaning. That much is obvious.”
“Delicately put,” Nicholas agreed.
“So then, why? Why have we dragged her with us, all over England and Scotland? Why did we take this leaky old boat to Holland instead of the newer one to France? Why didn’t you leave her behind in Dunster? Your cousin and her man would have caught up with her and taken her back to England, and everything would be right and tight. It don’t make sense, that it don’t.”
Nicholas sighed. “I’m not sure, Tavvy that I owe you an explanation.”
“She’s not a tart, that’s clear. Sure and she tried to kill you, but knowing you, you’re not likely to hold that against her. Any number of women, and men as well, would like to kill you, and most of them with good cause. So why don’t you let the poor little mite go?”
Nicholas smiled at the man opposite him, and a lesser mortal than Tavvy would have quailed. Tavvy simply stared back. “Poor little mite?” he echoed. “I hadn’t realized she’d made quite such an impression on you, Tavvy. You realize we’re talking about the woman who knocked you over the head with a bucket and dumped you behind the shrubbery?”
“She’s a game little thing, there’s no denying that. I just don’t like to see the cards stacked against her.”
Nicholas set his glass down very carefully. “How long have you known me, Tavvy?”
“More’n ten years, sir.”
“Cut the ‘sir’ blather, Tavvy. You’re asking questions no servant would ask—we might as well face each other as equals. Why do you think I should let her go? Why this sudden rush of pity for your fellow man? Or woman, in this case?”
“I do feel sorry for her,” Tavvy said stoutly. “No matter what you do she keeps on fighting. Part of me would hate to see her beaten.”
“You’re a romantic, Tavvy. I never knew that about you,” he murmured. “As a matter of fact, I feel the same. Illogical, isn’t it?”
Tavvy nodded. “And it’s not just her I’m worried about. It’s you.”
Nicholas’s eyes flew open; he was no longer indolent. “You interest me enormously, Tavvy. You know me better than anyone ever has, including my own parents. Why are you worried about me?”
“She’ll destroy you.”

HEARTLESS!!!!

Today’s the day! My first new book in 15 months (though I’ve had some rewritten older ones come out) and … shit, I hate praising my own stuff.
Well, that’s not exactly true – I think I’m brilliant, even if I’m not to everyone’s taste. As Jo Beverley used to say, we can’t expect everyone to like our work, we just need to find the people who do. (Damn, I miss Jo!). I want people to read my books and love my books – of course I do. I just feel a bit squicky about asking them to buy them.

So, okay, pretend this has nothing to do with commerce. I love this book. It took so damned long for Emma and Brandon to get back to each other. First, they met when he was a dying soldier and she was an anonymous volunteer at the military hospital. Then she came out of nowhere to save his life when he tried to kill himself.

He’d been such a wreck that he needed time to get his shit together. He went up to a small, shuttered estate he owned in the Highlands of Scotland with a crusty old retainer (are there any other kinds?) to whip his butt into shape with the 19th century form of military basic training (daily swims in icy rivers, tromping over high mountain peaks etc). He’s clean and sober and strong, has been for three years, and now he has to rejoin his family and make amends.

Meanwhile, Emma has thrown herself into her studies, realizing her gift for the medical sciences. She’s become a surgeon, working in the shadows because she’s a woman, but with the Rohans’ help she’s been able to practice despite the disapproval of society. She’s put Brandon out of her mind, knowing she can never have him, and then he walks into her life three years later and he doesn’t remember a thing.

Oh, it’s good! I slaved on this sucker too – my shoulder went wonky and it took almost a year to get surgery, another few months to recover enough to type. I dictated some of it, wrote longhand, but with all the stopping and starting when my shoulder was too bad to work I ended up going in wrong directions. I threw out 40,000 words (almost half the book) and rewrote and moved stuff around until, finally, it was where it felt right, and then I soared on through to the end. Brandon was a revelation. For all he can be a cynical, surly bastard he turned out to be an amazing lover and a surprisingly decent human being while still being hot as hell.

And Emma, in all her angry confusion and denial, stays strong and determined and can’t keep from loving him, no matter how dangerous loving is.

Ooooh, it’s just wonderful. Picture me:

So, okay, here’s your task, and I will be crassly commercial.
1. Buy the book
2. Tell other people to buy the book
3. Tell everyone how wonderful it is
4. Write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads
5. Buy a copy of the book for your mother (she can handle it – I’m probably older than she is and I wrote the smoldering thing)
6. Turn your dolls into Brandon and Emma characters (okay, that’s just me). Pack the male doll’s pants.
7. Buy a paper copy so you can stroke it and kiss it
8. Buy a copy for your town library
9. Buy 150 paper copies and roll around naked in them
10. Spend a thousand dollars and frame the cover because it’s so freaking gorgeous
11. Buy a copy for your dog.

That’s your mission if you choose to accept it. Otherwise I’ll blow up your computer.

Nah. It’s a lovely book and I think you’ll love it, and now I get to turn my attention to something new. I need to write stories like I need oxygen to breathe, and I’ve spent way too much time on getting this ready for publication. Time for a new, epic love story.

Ciao.

Grrrrrrr (spoilers)

So I’m kind of pissed at Marvel, which has left me conflicted. Even if you’re trying to avoid spoilers there’s no way you could not know that there’s a massive death toll in Avengers: Infinity War. And Loki goes first, not five minutes into the movie.

I survived that long, but then by the third or fourth death I’d had enough and walked out, wearing sunglasses so people wouldn’t notice I was crying. I had to sit at the theater waiting for my BFF and my goddaughter, so I quickly downloaded Meredith Duran’s new book, The Sins of Lord Lockwood to immerse myself in a love story that would have a happy ending, and she never lets me down. It’s fabulous.

But I digress. I really really hate it when characters die in movies. Oh, some of them are okay – Jack in Titanic was doomed, I don’t fret over Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet (though Hamlet’s death usually gets to me). But there was something about the new movie that made me so freaking sad and weepy, and I’ve decided to wait until the fourth one is out before I finish the third. Having my heart ripped out isn’t my kind of entertainment. (I don’t like being scared either, so I avoid horror movies). I’ll deal with something depressing and challenging like Schindler’s List if that’s what I’m going for, but if it’s comic book adventure with characters I’ve loved over 17 movies – no.

On the other hand, I’m a firm believer in artists, (and artistic entities like Marvel), changing things I adore. Writers, artists, musicians, movie makers need to be free to do something that their most devoted fans don’t particularly like. For interest, if someone like Bob Dylan suddenly starts crooning or singing about Jesus you just shrug and wait for the next stage, even if you believe he can do no wrong. There’s value in everything, just not for everyone.

If a romance writer gets sick of writing romance (I can think of one who turned to horror for a while) you let her go. If she comes back to romance she’ll be better than ever. Sometimes success brings a whole new batch of troubles, and any artistic decision you make can affect the income of hundreds or thousands of people. You still have to go for it.

So I’ll fight to the death for Marvel’s right to kill half of civilization, even Loki. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

And yes, I know most of them will be back, and that they’re only fictional characters, etc., but fictional characters are often more real to me than humans. I take this shit seriously, and I was in a funk for days after I tried to watch Infinity War. In the end I’d rather be that way – suspend my disbelief totally and become part of the universe, even if I grieve.

At least with fictional deaths you can avoid them.

I want them back, all of them, and I won’t be satisfied if these contracted actors only show up in prequels, because I’ll always know they’re coming to a tragic end.

You know, sometimes being a geeky fangirl is hard.

Emerging from the Salt Mines

. You know you’ve done your job right when you raise a son who’s comfortable dressing as a pink unicorn while he enjoys the last day of the season at Heavenly with his cousin. He’s had a hard time the last few years, and it’s great to see him enjoying himself. His 4 year old daughter will be so proud of her daddy, the Unicorn.

But I digress. I’ve been working my tail off, trying to get Heartless ready for take off. I’m thinking that May 15th will be publication date, but man, there’s so much to do for indie publishing. I’m not a control freak, so it isn’t a total thrill, but it’s interesting enough for me to enjoy. I’ve got a fabulous cover, slaved over the cover copy, I’m still dealing with challenging edits, then proof reading, formatting, and … ta da!

I’m still trying to figure out how to balance a second full-time job in my life (publishing as well as writing) but the freedom is enormous, and since I’m very much “the glass is half full” kind of gal I expect, as Crusie says, nothing but good times ahead.

And I’ll get back to my new stories! Ooops and Not Quite a Miracle and Forever Autumn and Mary-Stewart-in-Spain and eventual Ice – the Next Generation and …

Interesting. None of those are historicals. Well, I’ve just spent two years immersed in HEARTLESS (what with the shoulder replacement and family traumas it’s taken me longer to write than usual, plus it’s probably my longest book, and you should have seen how much I’ve cut!)

But for today I finish the revisions, run through every kind of checker I can get to pick up typos, and then pass it to my proof reader while I wait to hear from Mollie, my marketing and web guru. Fortunately I’m in love with the book, with Emma and Brandon, and they’re going to be so happy to see the light of day after maundering for three years.

Oh, and if anyone out there loves a book of mine (I tentatively assume there are) go post a review somewhere, like Amazon or Good Reads. I went searching for reviews last week, always a bad idea but I needed to check feedback on a certain plot point in a certain book, and I was surprised at how few there were. Only if there’s a book you love that you feel hasn’t got enough attention.

Or hell, if there’s one you hate, go ahead and trash it. I’m a firm believer in honesty.

I’ll have more deets on HEARTLESS, including the cover. In the mean time, be excellent to each other and party on, dude.