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Survey Results and Promises

June 19th, 2012

Thank you so much to the literally dozens of people who are submitting responses to my Demon Hunter & Baby survey every DAY. I never expected when we posted the survey to get so many votes, but I am having SO much fun reading everyone’s answers. Seriously. It’s one of those facts of being an author that I’ll never meet or even know the names of 99% of the readers who encounter my books. Which is cool in its way–I mean, once I release a story into the world, it’s no longer ‘mine’, it belongs to readers, not to me. But I still really, really love the chance to hear reader’s feedback and responses.

Even if it’s not bringing me any closer to settling the Rafe/Kieran debate! :-) So far, the scales are tipped slightly in Rafe’s favor, but Kieran definitely has a sizeable share of the vote, and equally passionate pleas have been made on both sides. But anyway, while I can’t make any promises as yet as to who Ash will end up with, the survey has raised some other really, really good reader questions that I CAN in fact make promises about.

Firstly, I had one plea to ‘keep the series clean’, from someone who appreciated the fact that there is no profanity or sex in the book. Now, this is a tricky issue because as an author I can see that there are stories in which sex and bad language have a necessary and completely non-gratuitous place–and I would certainly NEVER condemn another author for feeling that those elements are needed in whatever story he/she is telling. However, I can promise you that sex and profanity do NOT have a place in Aisling and Willow’s story and never will. The language will always be clean and there will not be anything steamier than kissing. Promise.

Secondly, I had one reader ask that I not make either Kieran or Rafe turn annoying or unlikeable just so that Aisling’s choice would be made ‘easier’. To which I answer: absolutely. That’s an easy promise to make. Not to be super-critical, but I really, really hate the variety of storytelling where characters change personalities as rapidly as normal people change socks, just for the sake of making the author’s job easier. Kieran and Rafe are both (at least I think so! :-) ) good guys and will remain so, whichever one of them Ash picks in the end.

And lastly, I’ve had more than one response that asked that whichever one of the men in her life Ash doesn’t pick ought to wind up with a new love interest of his own. Now, this is something I can’t necessarily make an absolute promise about since I haven’t gotten that far in the planning of the series. (I mean, kind of contingent on knowing which guy Ash does end up with before I write in a love interest for the other one). However, I will say that it’s very, very likely. I really love romance and happy endings, and I really love both Kieran and Rafe, and I know I’ll want both of them to be in a happy place when the series comes to an end. Actually, there is a character introduced in Demon Hunter and Baby who was going to be a love interest for one of them . . . back when I knew which of them Ash was meant to be with. Now I’m not entirely sure, but that character is still there, and she’s someone I’m definitely excited to get to know better as the series progresses.

Anyway, I think that’s all. Thanks so much again, everyone, and keep those votes coming!



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Updates!

June 12th, 2012

I’ve had many emails asking me about paperback versions of my books, inquiring when Georgiana Darcy’s Diary and my other series will be available in paperback as well as e-book form. And now I’m so excited to announce that–thanks to Mr. (amazingly awesome) Husband–the paperbacks now are available. Go to Amazon or –especially for non-US readers– Book Depository [edited by Mr. Husband to say that there will be a delay (maybe a month or two, worst case?) as we wait for the books to appear on the Book Depository] and you can find the first two books of my Susanna and the Spy series as well as Georgiana Darcy’s Diary and its sequel. And my amazingly talented friend Laura Masselos’s drawings look SO incredibly gorgeous in the Georgiana paperbacks. She has done all original artwork for both Georgiana’s Diary and Pemberley to Waterloo, and I am so, so happy with the result. Thanks, Laura!

And next, for anyone who has read Demon Hunter and Baby, you know that Aisling, my heroine, is torn between the two men in her life: Kieran and Rafe. And so am I! Honestly, I started the series knowing exactly who Ash was meant to be with . . . and now I’m not so sure at all! I think I’m waiting for Ash to clue me in as I write the next books. But until she does, you can cast your vote! Go here and you can tell me who you think Ash should end up with! Can’t promise I will go with a majority rules or anything like that, but I definitely DO promise you that I am going to read and think about every response as I wait for Ash to make up her mind. And thank you to everyone who has responded so far!



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Dolly Donations

April 19th, 2012

My poor blog. 99% of the time, it sits here, staring at me plaintively, daring me to dream of a time when I won’t feel like I’m drowning in my life and have time to update it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a happy kind of drowning, but . . .

However, I wanted to call attention to this for anyone that hasn’t heard about it because it is SUCH a lovely cause. Sarah runs a website called Dolly Donations, and posts about drives to send handmade dolls to children in need all over the world. In her words:
My mission is to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate, especially orphaned children around the world ……. to provide them with a source of comfort …… to send them love, one dolly at a time!

I absolutely love this idea. And as it happens, one of my favorite hobbies–fueled on by my own sweet girlies–is sewing dolls. I just got this group of little ladies all packaged up to be sent off to children in Brazil.

dolls

Actually the donation pile has grown quite a bit since that photo was taken! Now we’re working on another group of dolls to be sent off to children in Rwanda. Sarah also has some links to great articles about the importance of dolls in a child’s life, how beneficial and comforting a doll can be in helping a child to cope in a time of stress. It’s so true! Any time my girls face something ‘scary’ they immediately ask for a doll to hug.

Anyway–I can’t end hunger or bring about world peace. But I can certainly sew dolls and send them to children who need sources of comforting in their lives. Any sewers out there? Consider making a doll of your own to donate! It’s truly not hard (trust me, I am FAR from an expert seamstress) and such a great opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life.



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London Calling

February 20th, 2012

Thank you so much to everyone who has written to me asking when London Calling, the sequel to Susanna and the Spy, will be available! With any luck, it should be up and available for purchase within the week. I am incredibly excited to share the next chapter of Susanna and James’ story!

And while I’m on the subject, I’ve had some people inquire when Kitty Bennet’s Diary will be available. That release date is less definite, but I’m hoping it will be available sometime this summer.

Thanks so much again to everyone who has written me to say that they’re eagerly looking forward to one of my books! It just makes my day to hear that, always!



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A Quick Note

June 30th, 2011

So, I don’t normally google-stalkerishly track down every mention of my books on line (I’m not that author! I swear!) But I’ve just happened to bump into a couple of reviews of Georgiana that wished there were more of the story or that some of the threads left semi-hanging at the end were tied up . . . and I realized that I should make it clear that there WILL be more of the story! I’m at work on Georgiana Darcy’s Diary, Volume II right now, in fact, and with any luck it should be available sometime this fall. There will be more of Edward and Georgiana’s story, and all the loose plot threads will be tied up, I promise. And if they’re not, I’ll write a volume III! I’m having far too much fun living in Georgiana’s world to stop writing anytime soon.



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Spencers, Pelisses, and Reticules: the Fashions of Jane Austen’s World

June 12th, 2011

One quick note before I begin: for anyone wanting to know more about the subject of my last post–the experiences of the women who lived with and followed the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars–I can recommend Following the Drum, by Annabel Venning. The book isn’t exclusively about the Regency era, but it’s still an excellent resource for anyone wanting to research the experiences of army wives and daughters in more depth.

And now on to the subject of fashion during Jane Austen’s time period, which was one of the most purely fun aspects of writing Georgiana Darcy’s Diary: getting to dress my characters in the gorgeous fashions of the day. Obviously entire books have been written on the subject of Regency fashions, so this isn’t intended to be a complete survey. This post is just to showcase a few of the images I looked at for inspiration when imagining Georgiana’s and my other characters’ clothes–and to give explanations of some fashion terms that modern readers may be unfamiliar with, since the diary format made it almost impossible to define them in the book.

Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775, and during her lifetime saw a revolution in fashion almost as dramatic as the American and French Revolutions that also occurred while she was alive. Women’s fashions moved away from the old wide hooped silhouette of the Georgian period to a high-waisted, narrow silhouette. Here are two dresses typical of the Georgian era, the first actually from 1775, the year of Jane Austen’s birth. (For anyone who has already read Georgiana’s Diary, these are the kind of gowns I was imagining for Georgiana’s cousin Anne to wear to the masquerade ball.)

1775dressannesdress

And here, in contrast, are some examples of Regency women’s fashions, the kind of images I looked at when dressing Georgiana and my other characters for evening parties and balls. You can see how the heavy silks and brocades of the earlier century gave way to delicate muslins with neoclassical details that were meant to emulate the democratic republics of the ancient world.

balldressgeorgianaballgownregencyevening

One of the early readers of Georgiana Darcy’s Diary asked me, “What is a pelisse?” It’s a very good question, since anyone unfamiliar with Regency fashions will probably never have heard the term. Briefly, a pelisse was an over garment similar to a coat, but with a high waist and long skirt to follow the line of the gown it was worn with. The thin, fashionable muslins were leaving ladies in need of an added layer of warmth in cold weather. Below is a picture of a pelisse that may have been worn by Jane Austen herself, followed by a fashion plate of the day.

janeaustenspellise

pelisse

A spencer was another overgarment worn in chilly weather, but instead of following the lines of a high-waisted gown was a short fitted jacket only as long as the bodice. Spencers typically had long sleeves and a high collar, and often had military-style trimmings inspired by the army uniforms of the day.

spencer

And lastly, a reticule was essentially the forerunner of the modern woman’s purse. During the Georgian era, skirts were wide enough and fabrics substantial enough that gowns could be sewn with inner pockets. But the thin, flimsy muslins and narrow skirts of the Regency left little scope for pockets, and so ladies began to carry reticules, small pouches like this one c. 1840:reticule

Reticules could be matched to the fabric of a gown, but many ladies preferred to make their own with beadwork or netting–which in fact Charles Bingley admiringly considers a mark of female accomplishment in Pride and Prejudice.

For anyone wanting to know more about Regency era fashions, I can highly recommend Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen, by Sarah Jane Downing.



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Following the Drum: Women in Wellington’s Army

June 7th, 2011

One of my favorite aspects of writing historical fiction is the research. Learning the details of daily life in bygone eras, how men and women dressed, what they ate, how they traveled and what books they might have read. Most of all, though, I love reading through the primary sources–diaries, letters, cookbooks, contemporary accounts–and actually hearing the voices of the women and men who lived in the time periods I write about.

Edward, one of the main characters in Georgiana Darcy’s Diary, is a Colonel in the army, which sent me on a mission to discover as much as I could about the British army during the Regency era. Though Jane Austen scarcely mentions it in her novels, England was at war with France through almost the whole of her life, often under serious threat of invasion by Napoleon’s forces. I read through general histories of the Napoleonic wars, of course. But for me the most fascinating and vivid accounts are those written by the soldiers themselves.

One of these accounts is titled, The Recollections of Rifleman Harris. Benjamin Harris was a young shepherd from Dorset who joined the army in 1802 and later joined the 95th Rifles Batallion. His Batallion was ordered to Portugal, where he fought against Napoleon’s armies and suffered almost unimaginable hardships. He speaks of starvation, of men falling dead of sheer exhaustion during the long forced marches of retreat from the enemy, of the terrible noise and fierce joy of battle. He recounts at last returning to England with his fellow surviving soldiers, saying, “Our beards were long and ragged; almost all were without shoes and stockings; many had their clothes and accoutrements in fragments, with their heads swathed in old rags, and our weapons were covered with rust; whilst not a few had now, from toil and fatigue, become quite blind.”

It’s an extraordinary picture of what it must have been like to be a soldier in the Napoleonic wars. But for me the most poignant accounts in Harris’ Recollections are those that detail the experiences of the women who traveled with the British army. On any campaign, a certain number of the men were permitted to bring their wives and children along, those who were to receive this privilege being chosen by lottery. (And it was a privilege, since those wives unable to accompany their men were given a small sum, but would have to house, feed, and support themselves and their children entirely on their own while their men were gone. They faced the very real possibility of starvation, the workhouse, or being forced into prostitution). On the campaign Harris writes of, though, the suffering of the women and children who ‘followed the drum’ as the contemporary expression goes, is absolutely heartbreaking. The whole of the army was starving and exhausted almost to the point of death; there could be no help for anyone who couldn’t keep up.

During one disastrous retreat across snow-covered mountains, Harris recalls, “I remember passing a man and woman lying clasped in each other’s arms, and dying in the snow. I knew them both; but it was impossible to help them. They belonged to the Rifles, and were man and wife. The man’s name was Joseph Sitdown. During this retreat, as he had not been in good health previously, himself and his wife had been allowed to get on in the best way they could in the front. They had, however, now given in, and the last we ever saw of poor Sitdown and his wife was on that night lying perishing in each other’s arms in the snow.”

Harris also writes: “About this period I remember another sight, which I shall not to my dying day forget; and it causes me a sore heart, even now, as I remember it. Soon after our halt beside the turnip field the screams of a child near me caught my ear, and drew my attention to one of our women, who was endeavouring to drag along a little boy of about seven or eight years of age. The poor child was apparently completely exhausted, and his legs failing under him. The mother had occasionally, up to this time, been assisted by some of the men, taking it in turn to help the little fellow on; but now all further appeal was in vain. No man had more strength than was necessary for the support of his own carcass, and the mother could no longer raise the child in her arms, as her reeling pace too plainly showed. Still, however, she continued to drag the child along with her. It was a pitiable sight, and wonderful to behold the efforts the poor woman made to keep the boy amongst us. At last the little fellow had not even strength to cry, but, with mouth wide open, stumbled onwards, until both sank down to rise no more.”

Other stories, though, are an incredibly testament to the human power of endurance. During this same retreat, Harris recounts: “One of the men’s wives (who was struggling forward in the ranks with us, presenting a ghastly picture of illness, misery, and fatigue), being very large in the family-way, towards evening stepped from amongst the crowd, and lay herself down amidst the snow, a little out of the main road. Her husband remained with her; and I heard one or two hasty observations amongst our men that they had taken possession of their last resting-place. The enemy were, indeed, not far behind at this time, the night was coming down, and their chance seemed in truth but a bad one. To remain behind the column of march in such weather was to perish, and we accordingly soon forgot all about them. To my surprise, however, I, some little time afterwards (being myself then in the rear of our party), again saw the woman. She was hurrying, with her husband, after us, and in her arms she carried the babe she had just given birth to. Her hausband and herself, between them, managed to carry that infant to the end of the retreat, where we embarked. God tempers the wind, it is said, to the shorn lamb; and many years afterwards I saw that boy, a strong and healthy lad. The woman’s name was M’Gwuire, a sturdy and hardy Irishwoman; and lucky was it for herself and babe that she was so, as that night of cold and sleet was in itself sufficient to try the constitution of most females. I lost sight of her, I recollect, on the night, when the darkness came upon us; but with the dawn, to my surprise, she was still amongst us.”

Incredible enough to be part of a novel . . . but Harris’ stories are entirely true, authentic voices from the past.



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Mary Stewart

May 29th, 2011

Last October, Sophie Masson, a fellow contributor of mine over at Writer Unboxed, wrote a blog post in praise of Mary Stewart, who wrote romantic suspense–some of the finest and most beautifully written romantic suspense of all time, I would say–during the 1960′s and 70′s. Her books include: This Rough Magic; The Ivy Tree; My Brother Michael; The Moon-spinners; Nine Coaches Waiting; Wildfire at Midnight; Thunder on the Right; The Gabriel Hounds; Touch Not the Cat; Airs Above the Ground. And if you’ve not read them yet, you must MUST pick them up. Since Sophie put it so well, and since I couldn’t agree more with everything she said, I’ll quote from her post:

I was struck by the clarity, beauty and intelligence of her style, and the way it manages to wear its learning so lightly. For there are many, many literary and historical allusions in Mary Stewart’s books; her love of Shakespeare and of Greek and Roman classics and Celtic myth, especially, shines through, enriching the books whilst never being overbearing. Her evocation of place, of landscape and architecture and atmosphere, is superb. She effortlessly bridges the so-called gap between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction, proving you don’t have to use tortured ‘literary’ constructions to write well, and neither do you need to write ‘down’ in order to tell a rattling good story.

And the books haven’t dated at all, despite or perhaps partly because of, their lack of graphic sexual and violent content. And that’s borne out by teenage girls to whom I’ve introduced the novels; they are immediately captivated by their glamour and excitement and do not care at all that the books are set in the 50?s and 60?s. It’s always fun when you can pass on something you’ve loved to the next generation, but passing on the Mary Stewart bug is sheer delight.

I happen to have been an absolutely devoted Mary Stewart fan since I was 13 or 14. I’ve read all her books more times than I can even begin to count, and have been swept away with them all. So I left a comment on Sophie’s post agreeing one hundred percent. Probably one of the luckiest comments I’ve ever made, too, because a few months ago I received a letter from a publicist at Hodder & Stoughton publishing saying that they were re-issuing Mary Stewarts books, and would I be interested in getting review copies of the new editions to help spread the word? My fingers FLEW over the keyboard to reply something along the lines of, Yes! yes! yes!

You can join me over on Goodreads if you’d like to read my reviews of Mary Stewart’s books. And you can find out more about the re-issues here. Aren’t the vintage-style covers gorgeous? Mostly, though, whether you buy the books new or simply check them out of your local library, please, please give Mary Stewart’s books a try. I can’t think of any author who deserves to have her books endure through generation after generation more.

I’ll close with a passage from The Gabriel Hounds, which I’m choosing almost at random because flip open ANY of Mary Stewart’s books and you will find this kind of lyrical, limpid-clear prose.

The night was warm and scented, the sky black, with that clear blackness that one imagines in outer space. Hanging in it, the clustered stars seemed as large as dog-daisies, and there was a crescent moon. Here and there its light struck a gleam from the surface of the lake. A couple of nightingales sang one against the other in a sort of wild angelic counterpoint.

Don’t you love her? Don’t you? Add wonderful, intelligent, courageous heroines, dreamy, dashing heroes, and romance so timeless and sweet it’s like the fragrance of an old-world rose, and you have to find yourself one of Mary Stewart’s books. You just have to.



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The Trouble With Language Acquisition

May 16th, 2011

So despite having a fair number of ‘bad words’ in my books (98% of my male characters are warriors, and I just couldn’t make myself realistically imagine their speech patters as squeaky-clean) I don’t use swear words myself. Really not ever. Not that I mean this as a holier-than-thou kind of statement, because it’s not that I’m especially offended if other people swear. I mean, there are obviously MANY worse things people can do than use curse words, right? It’s just . . . not me. My four year old will drop something and yell “Oh BOTHER!” because that’s about the worst word she’s ever heard me use. I mention this only because it makes Vivi’s (age 20 mos.) recent language development all the more ironic.

One of Vivi’s favorite words to say is “sit”. She can now climb up and “sit” on the couch all by herself and is VERY proud of herself, and she wants you to come and read to her or play with her, she’ll pat the ground or couch next to herself and say, “Sit! Sit!” Which is great. Except that she has a slight lisp, whereby an ‘s’ sound becomes ‘sh’. Which means that the word ‘sit’ when she says it sounds like, um, another word entirely. Our conversations tend to go something like this:

Vivi, patting the couch cushion next to her: “Mama sh**!”
Me: “Mama sit. Say ‘sit’, sweetie.”
Vivi: “SH**! SH**! SH**!”
Me: “How about we just go with, Mama read?”

As if this isn’t enough, one of Vivi’s other favorite words is ‘frog’. She has this little frog toy, you’ve probably seen the kind, with the suction cup in the base, so you push it down and then the frog ‘hops’ when the suction cup releases? She LOVES it. Also great. Except that in Vivi-speak the word ‘frog’ sounds like another word that also starts with ‘f’ but rhymes with ‘truck’. I kid you not. The other night I was talking to Nathan and she was BELLOWING it, trying to get my attention so that I would come and play with the frog with her. Nathan, who had never heard this particular word of hers before did kind of a double take then gave me raised eyebrows, mouth twitching as he struggled not to burst out laughing, “What is she saying now?”

Ahhhh, what can I do? Just remember, if you happen to see my child in public and hear her version of ‘sit’ or ‘frog’, she’s not saying what it sounds like. I swear. Um, I mean, I promise.



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Free at Last

May 14th, 2011

Chances are if you’re looking at my blog, you’ve already realized that you can download Dawn of Avalon, my short-story prequel to the Twilight of Avalon trilogy, right here on my website for free. But just in case anyone would like it delivered for free right to their Kindle/iPhone/iPad/whatever, Amazon has just made it free on their website, too. I’m so pleased! 6 months ago when I first posted the story on Amazon I wanted to make it free, but Amazon policy dictated that I charge at least 99 cents. I’m not sure what caused the change, but I’m not complaining!

Also, the absolutely lovely Gemini Sasson invited me over to her blog this week to talk a little bit about Georgiana Darcy’s Diary. Gemini is the author of Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer, as well as The Bruce trilogy. You can check out her Amazon page and find her books here. She’s amazing!



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