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Thursday, September 29, 2011

...I'm sorry... What...?

Without going into too many details because (1) it’s just too bizarre to go into and because (2) this isn’t really the appropriate forum for it - yesterday I received the strangest piece of mail I may have ever received in my life. Essentially, it was a handwritten card from the least likely person in the world saying the most bizarre thing ever.

Totally a WTH moment.

Seriously! She sent a card that said THAT to me?

Is it April Fools Day? Am I being Punk’d?

Totally and completely bizarre.

As I read the card to my best friend over the phone – and after we cackled over the absurdity of it – she told me about a card her mother recently received that was also jaw-droppingly bizarre.

And that got us thinking about a completely untapped market out there – Apology Cards for Every Occasion:

* I know I’ve bled you dry over the years, but I think it’s time for you to forgive me.

* Yes, I ran over your sister with my car, but I think we can get past it.

* I know I got you fired, but I’m hoping we can let bygones by bygones. Aren’t you happier now anyway, with all of your free time?

*We're sorry we got greedy and upped your payment. In light of Amazon's Kindle Fire announcement and its ability to live stream, we at Netflix would like to say - Please don't leave us!

* I didn’t mean for your dog to eat my entire box of Godiva chocolates. I’m sorry for your loss, but we’re still cool, right?

* I know I broke up your marriage, but I hope you can forgive me.

* I am sorry we dumped pig's blood on you during prom. But did you really have to burn down the school? You might want to look into an anger management class.

* I am the one who spread that ugly rumor about you and the boss around the office. Sorry.

* I am sorry I robbed your convenience store, but I needed the money for drugs and alcohol.

* I didn’t mean to call your baby ugly in the middle of the church sermon. It just slipped out.

Seriously, an untapped market, right? What do you think would make the most bizarre apology card? I can’t wait to read these responses.

Bleeding on the Page

Life's been rough lately. I can't even try to hide it, not in real life, because I've randomly been bursting into tears at the oddest moments, and I've been unable to concentrate on the things I need to concentrate on, and I tell random strangers things about my life that they never wanted or needed to know.

The things going on on the inside have been finding a way out, whether it is the way I wanted them to come out or not.

Now, I'm not telling you this for sympathy or anything like that. We all go through rough patches, and we all find ways to deal with them. I'm no different. I'm finding ways to cope. (And yes, if you're wondering, I'm seeking counseling during this traumatic time.)

No, I'm talking about this because it has found another, slightly annoying, means of coming out of me.

It's coming out in my writing.

The project I'm currently working on was supposed to be happy. Sunshine and rainbows, and all that other stuff. Yeah, that hasn't happened. I'm still finding ways to put humor into it, but the characters and the plot have gone a very different direction than what I envisioned before I sat down and put fingers to keys.

My hero all of a sudden has a dark and tortured path. And my heroine's entire world was just ripped out from under her, leaving her a crying, pained mess. Much like me.

No, what is going on with her is not the same thing as what is going on with me...but the emotions are all the same, the whole big bag of random, unexplainable, annoying emotions that have lately taken over my life.

I'm not sure if, subconsciously, I'm trying to deal with them myself through dealing with them with this character. Maybe some small part of me thinks that if she gets a happy ending, I will too. One can only hope that is the case. :) But at least I can be sure my heroine gets one.

As a writer, have you ever had something similar happen, where your current situation somehow bleeds onto the page? As a reader, do you find yourself drawn to books that convey the emotions you're experiencing in your real life, or do you prefer the opposite? Have you ever put down a book or a writing project because it hit too close to home?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

You Can't (Cannot) Say That

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to contractions. Not the kind a woman has when she’s in labor. In fact, I never want to think about those ever again. I’m talking about combining two words into one with a handy-dandy apostrophe.

It seems there is always a little controversy over whether or not contractions should be used in historical fiction. I usually say “tomato, tomato” and don’t pay much attention to the great debate. But I got a laugh a couple of weeks ago when I was reading one of the Amazon reader loops telling authors how to write. A commenter said authors shouldn’t use contractions in historical romance because contractions didn’t exist “back then”.

Well, I suppose it depends on what time period “back then” refers to. Prior to 1706, that would be correct. Contractions, in the grammatical sense, have been around for at least the last 305 years. Pull out a copy of Shakespeare, and you’ll see his plays are riddled with contractions.

A quick perusal of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, on the other hand, revealed none that I could see, which may be the reason people erroneously believe contractions are a modern invention. Yet, contractions can be seen in letters written during the same time period. (Paper was expensive in the nineteenth century, so people combined words to say more in a smaller space. The first tweets, so to speak.) Whether or not these contractions spilled over into speech, we can’t really know unless someone has a time machine we can borrow. Make it a hot tub, please.

I’m also not convinced we can make sweeping assumptions about speech based on essays and works of fiction. These tend to be formal works and more likely to be representative of an ideal held by the author. Or perhaps he or she just wanted to sound smart. But in everyday life there may have been places where speech was very formal and more intimate situations were conversation was more casual.

Think about how we censor our speech in certain circumstances. When I slipped on the wet floor at my daughter’s school and busted my buttocks—see, I’m censoring now—I think said something like “cheese and crackers”. If I was at home and the same thing happened, I can guarantee I wouldn’t be yelling out snack foods.

I have two recent examples where writers have chosen not to use contractions in dialog: True Grit and True Blood. In True Grit, which I loved despite my coming criticism, the bounty hunters spoke very formally. Although I enjoyed the movie, I kept thinking how odd it sounded for these two men to speak without any contractions. Jeff Bridge’s character was obviously not educated because he couldn’t spell, so why would he have perfect speech? It kept throwing me out of the story, and I found myself wondering if the sceenwriters wrote the dialog that way because someone told them contractions didn’t exist in the 1800s.

However, omitting contractions in Vampire Bill’s dialog in True Blood works well. He was a proper Southern gentleman when he was turned, and part of his character involves him trying hard to stay connected to his human side. A very formal speech pattern is part of his characterization, but I have to admit, it grates on my modern nerves a little. If everyone in the show spoke that way, he wouldn't stand out.

So, what’s my point? Since none of us were alive in the nineteenth century, maybe we could be less rigid about a writer’s choice to use or not use contractions. In the end, I think it comes down to artistic discretion and what is most representative of a character and the author’s voice.

What are your thoughts on the use of contractions in historical romance?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Serendipitous Discovery

Do you ever think back to the magic books brought to your life when you were a kid?

This weekend, my husband and I went to town on our house, deep cleaning, rearranging, and organizing it within an inch of its life. As we tore apart the basement bedroom, I rediscovered one of my most precious possessions: My Serendipity Book Collection.

With nostalgia welling deep within me, I pulled out the little hardback books and flipped through them, a distant smile on my face. In a matter of minutes, I was transported back into my early childhood, seeing the world through a five-year-old’s eyes once more.

When I was very young, we lived in a pretty, two-story home in Peach Tree City, Georgia. The house was the epitome of eighties awesomeness with brownish gold tiles, paneled walls, and plush shag carpet. I was a happy, healthy, active little girl, despite the fact that in those days, money was tight and as the youngest of three kids, nearly everything I wore or played with was a hand-me-down.

But that all changed when the first book showed up in the mail one day. My mom took me into her bedroom, tucked me into my parent’s huge bed, and curled up beside me. I gazed in awe at the perfect, unblemished cover, its edges crisp and sharp. The book was so new, it had never ever had the spine cracked. Opening to the first page, we settled in and she began to read.

Serendipity: The gift of finding valuables or riches not sought

In these stories, horses frolicked, mice flitted, bunnies hopped, and dragons baked. The brilliant illustrations drew me in while Mom gave life to the words on the page. The line between real and make-believe blurred, and I imagined a pure white unicorn really could live in the forest, waiting only for a little princess to find it, or a little pink sea monster actually did swim happily in the deep blue sea, offering not so gentle reminders to fishermen not to litter.

In those priceless moments, the world was mine for the taking. The thick, white pages were mine for the turning, my mom’s attention mine for the basking, my siblings’ presence mine for the banishing (lol). I absolutely lived for the moment another book would come. Once a month like clockwork they would arrive, and the ritual would begin again.

I can pinpoint with absolute certainty that this was the moment my love affair with books began. I can close my eyes and be back in that moment, just as eager for the book to end as I was for it not to end. I wanted to make sure everything would turn out okay in the end, but I always insisted on a second reading, to savor the story the second time around.

It was the joy of these books that carried me on to Charolottes’s Web, then The Root Cellar, through Bridge to Terabithia and beyond. From Clive Cussler, John Grisham, and Michael Crichton in high school to the day I stumbled upon my very first romance novel the summer before I left for college and found my true home.

Years ago, when my niece was born, I planned to send my collection to her, one at a time, when she turned five years old. But alas, her fifth year came and went, and still the books languished in my basement. I realized last night, as I lovingly flipped through the pages and relived the pleasure of receiving them all over again, that they are simply too precious for me to give away. They represent the very best from my childhood, tangible things that I can touch, see, and smell—and yes, read again.

How could I possibly give away something that is such a part of who I am today? After all, that’s what wills are for ;)

So tell me, what sparked your love of books? What was your favorite book/series? Any recommendations on a series I can send my 6-year-old niece, since, well, I’ll never be able to send these? ;)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Interview and Giveaway with NYT Best-Selling Author Carly Phillips

Lady Valentine here (the newbie) and I'm so excited to introduce and interview one of my favorite contemporary romance writers, Carly Phillips. I got hooked on Carly's amazing writing with her HOT ZONE series and now I camp out at Target eagerly await each new book of awesomesauce.

Great Inspiration, right?

One day while stalking following Carly on Twitter, I learned that her newest book, SERENDIPITY, was hitting bookstores and e-readers in September. Of course, I jumped at the chance to invite her to Lady Scribes. Cue fan-girl moment when THE CARLY PHILLIPS emailed me back.

Usually, I do my five, but in keeping with the theme of SERENDIPITY, DESTINY, and KARMA, I decided not to tempt Fate and go with a lucky number.

Seven with Carly:

1. What has been your favorite series to write? Was there a particular couple whose journey resonated with you?

I think each series is my favorite as I’m working on it or promoting it. Maybe that sounds silly but it’s so hard to pick just one favorite! So of course right now Ethan and Faith’s journey in SERENDIPITY resonated. Of all my couples, they felt SO meant to be. I just adored writing them!

2. From your Twitter feed, you seem to be slightly obsessed with daytime dramas. (You can read Carly's interview with Soap Opera Digest here.) How do you balance your obsession with meeting deadlines?

My obsession helps me meet deadlines! I write with the TV on in the background, the ABC soaps in particular. AS I write this, we are going into the last week ever of All My Children and I’m so sad. I don’t know how I will write without it and then I lose One Life to Live in January.

3.Tell us about your new series Serendipity. 

Serendipity is the name of both the series for Berkley and the first book set in a fictional small town in upstate New York. At the center of the town is the landmark Harrington Mansion, the epitome of wealth and privilege. The series opens with SERENDIPITY, which introduces readers to the estranged Barron brothers, brought together by a teenage sister they didn't know they had and family drama they haven't yet put to rest. These books tap deeper into emotions than my more recent books while keeping the trademark sensuality and light moments my readers expect. Book one, Serendipity 9/11 is the story of Ethan Barron, the "bad boy" oldest brother. Ethan returns home after ten years and finds himself tempted by the girl who was too good for him in high school, but now their social status are reversed, as he now owns the Harrington mansion - in which she grew up. At heart, Serendipity is the story of a man who is looking for redemption and a woman in search of a place to belong.

4. What was it like to see your book, THE BACHELOR, as Kelly Ripa's "Reading with Ripa" pick on a nationally televised show?

The Kelly Ripa experience, when she chose THE BACHELOR as the first Romance in a nationally televised bookclub, that gave me the OOMPH to believe in myself! It was a dream come true. I have the whole story on my website on the Diary of a Cinderella Story. But the highlight for me was meeting Kelly Ripa who I have adored since her All My Children Days. Kelly’s bookclub gave me a huge push and I’ve worked hard ever since to do well since in reality, that kind of success can never be replicated.

5. I read on Twitter that you were dying your hair red- does this mean redheads have more fun than blondes?

Hah! I haven’t been red long enough to know! So far I’m happy though!

6. What advice do you have for writers still searching for that perfect agent or publishing path?

Don’t give up. Believe in yourself. Keep learning. Keep growing. Don’t hinge all your hopes and dreams on one book. Finish one, submit and write another. No agent is better than a bad agent. I could go on and on, LOLOL! Just plain perseverance!!!

7. Would you ever consider co-writing a contemporary like Julia Quinn, Connie Brockway and Eloisa James did in the novel THE LADY MOST LIKELY? It was unlike anything I've ever read because the story line didn't stop with each author- it was almost like one of those campfire games. And I would love to see that in a modern day setting.

I don’t know! I’m pretty attached to my own writing and my own process … but who knows!

Pondering with Carly:

Why is Romance considered a four letter word?

Good question. One I’ve yet to figure out an answer to. I may get in trouble for these musings … people who degrade Romance don’t know or understand it. They think they need to read “high brow’ literature or things they should read instead of things they truly enjoy. OK some people truly love other things – but that doesn’t make Romance “less than”!

While vacuuming why do people bend over to pick up a small piece of string stuck on a rug to move it, only to let it go and try vacuuming it again?

Not a clue, LOL.

Twitter- Social media platform or addiction?

Social media platform. I’ve seen it work! That and of course I’m plain addicted ;)

How much do you pay those plotmonkeys to think up ideas?

Plenty of bananas!

Thank you so much for taking the time to join Lady Scribes today and answer my questions. I hope you'll come back when DESTINY and KARMA, the next novels in your Serendipity Series, come out in January and May.

I’d love to return and thank you!

Carly Phillips is the New York Times Bestselling author of over 30 romance novels with contemporary characters and plotlines that today’s readers identify with and enjoy. Carly is a stay at home mom of 2 daughters (now almost old enough to read her books!), one soft coated wheaten terrier and a brand new Havanese puppy. She’s a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers. More information on Carly can be found at http://www.carlyphillips.com/. Around the web you can also find Carly at:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/carlyphillips
Facebook: www.facebook.com/carlyphillipsfanpage
Blog: http://www.plotmonkeys.com/

Today, I hold in my hot little hands a copy of Carly's latest novel SERENDIPITY and will be giving it away. To enter, leave a comment and your email address. Thanks and good luck!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

One Woman in History

In honor of International Talk like a Pirate day this week, I briefly asked the question on my facebook page who was the most successful pirate in history? And I’ve asked this very same question before while playing a pirate mmorpg game. Sadly, no one knew the answer. And the reason why is because is history likes to exploit its powerful men and cover up its powerful women.

So this is for all you naysayers out there (some of them are women) who say there were no powerful women in history.

Cheng Sao I which translates to wife of Jingh Yi started her career as a Chinese prostitute and married a small time sea robber named Cheng I. Together they organized a confederation of pirates over the years until his death in 1807 in which they commanded a fleet of over 400 ships and 70,000 men.

Cheng took over after some political maneuvering and developed a code of law. Commands were not to be delivered by anyone except leaders of the fleets. It was a capital offense and harshly dealt with. Deserters lost their ears. Any pirate who stole from the fleet was flogged, the second time they were killed. Any pirate who raped a captive was executed. If they woman consented to the sex, the man was beheaded, while the woman was tied to weights and tossed overboard.

It wasn’t long after that Cheng became lovers with her husband’s adopted son and made him commander of the “red” fleet and later had a son together.

Entire fleets sent by the Chinese government were taken or destroyed. By 1808 the Chinese had lost 63 vessels to the pirates. Cheng captured entire villages and stored her booty in warehouses along the wharves. Militia’s were created to combat the pirates but failed miserably and the seamen were forced into service.

When the Imperial government enlisted aid from the British and Portuguese governments, Cheng decided to negotiate terms with the government. Her lover became a lieutenant in the Chinese government and she retired a very wealthy woman, opening a brothel. Her lover died in the military at the age of thirty-six and she lived the rest of her days wealthy and quiet until the age of sixty-nine.

Of all the written documents kept on this one woman the only thing history didn’t record was what she looks like. But we can all agree she was cunning, resourceful and probably the most powerful woman in history — even by today’s standards — this one small woman commanded an army of 80,000 pirates. And she was the most successful, shrewd commander of men, and notorious pirate to have ever lived.

There were many women who quietly run things behind the scenes but few women commanded men outright in what we term today as a “man’s world.” Cheng was one of those few. And so hopefully, the next time I ask this question next year, perhaps I’ll get more than one person with the correct answer. Powerful women in history did exist and it’s important that keep telling their stories. Imagine what this one woman could have accomplished had she put her mind to it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Finding Life Balance

Several weeks ago I was sitting stuck in traffic with my four-year old screaming in the backseat because he wanted something. What it was I honestly can’t remember. What I do remember is that I had rushed all day to run errands, squeeze in a workout, write on my latest book and put my house in some semblance of what I like to refer to as order. In other words, I had a lot on my plate. The air was blowing a cool 68 in my car, but I was hot. Suddenly, I couldn’t get a proper breath.

Freeze for a moment on this second in my life. Time ticks by, I try and fail to get a proper breath, and then I roll all the windows down, desperate for some air. Finally, halleluiah, I managed to take several, slow deep breaths.

My mind scanned the possibilities before me—heart attack? Unlikely, I’m a tall, athletic, health nut with no family history of heart problems. Panic attack? Hmm…unlikely, but still…the idea settled in my brain, and as I drove I examined the possibility. I’m normally unfazed under pressure. Actually, I normally thrive under pressure, but I realized as I was driving that perhaps I had forced myself to thrive under pressure for too long.

Fast forward to the next day. I had several moments in the day where I felt like I couldn’t get a proper breath. What the heck was going on? I scanned the radio looking for something that wouldn’t frazzle my nerves more and turned on National Public Radio. Diane Reamer was interviewing Allison Pearson, the author of I Don’t Know How She Does It.

I was immediately interested. Mrs. Pearson was speaking about getting over depression which had resulted from years of pushing herself to work in overdrive. After listening to the entire interview, I had an epiphany. NO, I’m not depressed, but I have been pushing myself to work in overdrive for years. As I approach forty, I realize I want better life balance. I am in control of everything. If my life is too hectic I’ve made it that way. So, in the last two weeks, I have been striving toward my goal of life balance. I am still working on my writing, but not so much that I leave time for little else.

I started making list of things I need to do, and I put the most important things at the top. If the rest doesn’t get done, one thing I can tell you for certain is that the unfinished task will be there tomorrow.

In the spirit of life balance, I went to the lake with my girlfriends this weekend. I had a blast. I have some of the most wonderful friends in the world, and I am blessed to have a circle of soul sisters who would stand by my side no matter what.

Also in the spirit of balance, my husband and I decided to buy tickets to see one of our favorite rock bands, The Foo Fighters. We’re both going to leave everything behind for two glorious days, while my mother-in-law watches our children. The concert is far enough away that we get to stay overnight.

In the spirit of balance, I organized my house! This sounds crazy, but I’m very type A, and in the last year or two I’ve focused so intensely on writing that I’ve let some areas become disorganized because I was too busy writing. Not anymore! I cleaned that junk drawer, cleaned out my kids closets, and got on Shutterfly to organize and create an album for all the pictures I’ve taken in the last two years that have been sitting on my camera’s flashcard untouched.

I feel good! That inability to get a proper breath is gone! Everyday, I ask myself what is something you want to do for you that you think you don’t have time for, and then I do it. Yesterday, I bought a coupon organizer and today I’m going to actually organize them! This makes me happy! Crazy but true! I’m also going on a field trip for my son, and I am going to take one hour to finish writing my latest chapter. Everything else on my list will be there tomorrow if it doesn’t get done.

How do you do it? How do you tame the beast to try and do everything in order to keep yourself stress free? I’d love to hear from you!

Julie Johnstone, The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Take the weather with you

There is an ongoing debate in my house about the quality of weather men. My dh claims our local news weatherman must work in an office with no windows because he has an appalling track record for getting his weather predictions wrong. He predicts fine weather then we get rain, and vice versa. The most interesting thing about him is the hand gestures he makes against the green screen.

When I was a kid we had an unreal weather man: serious and accurate – he told my farmer father exactly what he needed to hear and he could be relied upon without question. Yet everyone must retire eventually, and the nice man went away. Since I live on the coast, the main tv network weathermen are surfie types, worried about swell, rips and possible whale sightings.

But my dh’s recent rants got me wondering when we started relying on weathermen to tell us what the next few days were going to be like. When exactly did people start predicting the weather?

I’m not old enough to have seen the first tv broadcast in Australia, but the weather has been part of my life for as long as I can remember?
The radio? I’m not sure about when they started reporting the weather forecast.

The newspapers? Possibly.

My 1813 Gentleman’s Monthly Magazine published in London reported daily high and low temps, snow, rain and clouds but all of that was for the previous month.

I know for sure that the 1806 Sydney Gazette did not feature weather predictions in print. What they did report was floods and high tides, bushfires after they occurred along with the colony news of the day. But no predictions.

So how did people know what to expect?

It wasn't until the invention of the telegraph in 1837 that forecasting could actually begin. Prior to this, the only way to get information about weather in another area was to get it delivered by train. Unfortunately, the weather usually arrived before the train so that doesn’t seem to be very effective to me.

There is actually a long history of weather forecasting. The Babylonians predicted the weather from cloud patterns and astrology. Aristotle described weather patterns in Meteorologica around 340 BC. The Chinese prediction lore extends back as far as 300 BC as does ancient Indian methods. And the ordinary man, well … he stuck his head out the door and paid attention to what he could see.

  • Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.
  • If clouds are gathering thick and fast, Keep sharp look out for sail and mast, But if they slowly onward crawl, Shoot your lines, nets and trawl.
  • Rain before seven, clear by eleven (I am never passing this one along to my children – they’ll use it to avoid catching the bus)
  • When dew is on the grass, no rain will come to pass.

(The one about the dew is new to me, but I’ve got a feeling it could be right. Since Spring has sprung here in Aus I’ll have to wait a whole year to test it out though. LOL)

While these useful rhymes don’t predict long-term weather patterns, they’re as good, or better, than my weatherman for the next day’s forecasts. But I find it interesting to think that with all the spiffy technology, satellites, and complex weather broadcasts that the time honored methods still work best for the short term. Do you have other rhymes that you live by? If so, I'd love to hear them.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Blogger Isabel Cooper

Hi—it’s great to be posting here! Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity.

One of the things I like most about writing historical romance is that it gives me an excuse to do research. I love learning weird facts, particularly about the recreation and social customs of different eras—when I’m around cable, I’m one of those people who will spend hours watching programs about the history of popular music or pets or the cookie (no, seriously, I saw that once). Likewise, strange customs or beliefs will suck me in immediately: I don’t believe in conspiracy theories or alien abductions, but hearing about them is a good time.

Some remnant of a work ethic means that I’m happier when I can actually use this knowledge somehow, so writing No Proper Lady gave me a great opportunity, particularly when it comes to the weirder side of Victorian life.

Things got pretty weird back then, for sure. The 19th century world was going through a huge transition, with all sorts of scientific advances being made—and more being proposed, or speculated about, or otherwise dreamed up. This was the age of Nicolai Tesla, an electrical genius and one of the archetypical “mad scientists”; Freud and Jung were beginning to make their first studies of psychology; railways and then automobiles were transforming how people thought of distance and travel, just as telegraphs were changing their attitudes to communication.

Most relevantly to No Proper Lady, the metaphysical speculation kept pace with the science—and then some! People sought new understandings of reality—and new ways to communicate with loved ones. Spiritualism flourished, despite skepticism—in many cases, well-deserved—from all sides. Greater contact with other cultures, though often oppressive or exploitative, opened people’s minds to new perspectives on life, and gave rise to movements like Theosophy and New Thought.

In the late 19th century, Samuel Mathers and William Wynn Westcott were founding what would become the Order of the Golden Dawn. The Order’s mostly famous now for its association with Aleister Crowley (a man with some interesting ideas and a sinister reputation he did a lot to cultivate: had he been born a hundred years later, he probably would have been lead singer in a heavy metal band). At the time, though, it was also one of the few esoteric organizations where women participated in perfect equality with men.

In fact, some of the great crusaders for social equality came from or were connected to Victorian occult practices. Annie Besant, a Theosophist, was also an advocate for worker’s rights, home rule in India, and feminism—and was arrested for publishing one of the first books on birth control. Paschal Beverly Randolph, a spiritualist, was an African-American writer and physician in the mid-1800s, and a close friend of President Lincoln.

Occult leanings, of course, are no guarantee of egalitarianism—but the more I learned about the esoteric practices of the Victorian era, the more I found this background appropriate for Simon, a hero who has to accept and come to love a warrior woman from another time entirely.


It’s Terminator meets My Fair Lady in this fascinating debut of black magic and brilliant ball gowns, martial arts, and mysticism.

England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and in 200 years demons will destroy it all. Unless Joan, a rough-around-the-edges assassin from the future, can take out the dark magician responsible. But to get close to her target she’ll need help learning how to fit into polite Victorian society to get close to her target.

Simon Grenville has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell. The man used to be his best friend—until his practice of the dark arts almost killed Simon’s sister. The beautiful half-naked stranger Simon meets in the woods may be the perfect instrument for his revenge. It will just take a little time to teach her the necessary etiquette and assemble a proper wardrobe. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants Joan anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn’t in it.

Debut author Isabel Cooper lives in Boston and maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager working in legal publishing. She only travels through time the normal way and has never fought a demon, but she can waltz. Her next book, No Honest Woman, will be in stores in April 2012. For more information, please visit http://isabelcooper.wordpress.com/.

Two commenters will win a copy of Isabel's book No Proper Lady. (US and Canada only. Sorry.) Don't forget to leave your email address to be entered into the drawing.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Guest Blogger May Williams

Please help me welcome author May Williams to the Lady Scribes!

            Forty. The number looms out there as soon as you round the bend of 35 and find yourself in your late 30s. I turned 40 this spring and I dealt with it pretty well. I took the day off work as did my husband and we ran off to shirk our responsibilities. The kids were safely in school; the house well protected by our horde of animals. Northern Ohio even smiled on me with a sunny day in April. We ate too much, shopped too much, and had a wonderful time.

            After all, I thought 40 didn't look so bad. I got my first two writing contracts just prior to the big 4-0. I’m officially an author at forty. Life’s good. Then, I started to think what 40 was like for the women in my family. I have three older sisters who are holding their own quite nicely at 40 plus. If anything, they've gotten stronger and smarter. My husband prefers to back slowly from the room when my sisters and I get together. He claims it's the scariest thing he's ever seen.

            The good news about women in my family is that we get skinnier. I'm not kidding. Any pudge we might be carrying drops from the bone between 40 and 50. That's striking it rich on the slot machine of genetics. Of course, there's a catch. As the pounds fall away so does our ability to be consistently rational. We lose our purses habitually. We set our fingernails on fire lighting votive candles in church. (No joke. Aunt Kathy had to douse the flames in the holy water.) We create and repeat quirky expressions.  

My grandmother's expression was "full of laugh". Whenever she told a story about a funny event, she would end by saying "we were so full of laugh". As a kid, I though it weird; as a teenager, I rolled my eyes; as an adult, I smiled tolerantly. So I was telling a story the other day and I ended by saying "I was so full of laugh". My colleagues gave me a strange look and I sucked in a desperate breath. I ran to my computer to e-mail my sisters. I admitted the truth. I had broken the pact. You know - The Pact. The one that says I will not become my mother or grandmother or all those aunts and female cousins.

            But then it’s kind of reassuring in a way. I belong to the sisterhood of the quirky expressions. When I write about women, whether they’re from the past or today, I think about them as my friends, as part of the sisterhood.  Sometimes my female characters are women I know; sometimes they’re an amalgamation of several friends.  Regardless, the fictional women are always ones that I like. I understand their fears, their happiness, and their quirks.  

            One of these days I’m going to create the character that matches an expression favored by one of my friends. She’s going to “carry her fun in her pocket”. If you get a chance to comment, tell me what a character looks like, acts like, sounds like if she carries her fun in her pocket.

May will give away a copy of her book, Landed By a Flyboy, to one commenter who leaves their email address in their comment.

Bertie Stevens has problems. Her brother is MIA in the war in Europe, the bank threatens to foreclose on her home, and the pilots from the local airbase think her resort's beach is some kind of landing strip. Still, she keeps her little resort in beautiful Cape May running through the dark years of WWII. When Captain Greg Marsh comes to quarter at her estate, he's an unwelcome symbol of the war right in her kitchen. The angry sparks flying between them at first soon turn to sparks of another kind when the passion they feel for each other can't be denied. Bertie's always sworn she wouldn't get involved with a military man. Will Greg's handsome face, confident swagger, and sincere personality cut through her reservations?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I Blame Ava

Back in June, our very own Ava Stone blogged about her Game of Thrones obsession. This wasn't news to me. As a follower of hers on Twitter, I was already well aware of the disease that had taken over her mind and life the last few months as she watched the first season.

I hadn't watched yet, though, so I could only be an outsider looking in.

Now, I knew this was something that had all the makings of a potential obsession for me as well. A series of books turned into a TV series (or movies). An intricately crafted, rich, deep world. A new take on medieval history. A retelling of the War of the Roses. It has all the elements necessary to take over my life for a certain amount of time, so I knew that once I got started, I wouldn't be free from it for quite some time.

You see, I know myself pretty well. With most books or movies, or even series, I can read and move on with my life or watch and the world doesn't stand still. Note the word most in that sentence, though.

When I discovered Harry Potter, there were already four books and one movie out, and I became a zombie for a time, devouring everything that was available to me as fast as I could, and then reading and watching again. Each time Rowling put out a new book or a new film installment was released, the Harry Potter Trance ensued again, as I delved back into the world she'd created to fully immerse myself within Hogwarts. I couldn't help it. It's a sickness I've got.

The same thing happens with Lord of the Rings. I admit, I never read the book before I saw the first film (same as with the Harry Potter series). But that first film was enough to convince me that this was a world I needed to discover. After watching the movie, I went out that night (I'd screened the film at midnight in Juneau, Alaska, and the only place open was the 24-hour Kmart) and bought a copy of the book. I stayed up all night reading, and kept reading through the next day and the next night, and I didn't stop until I'd finished the whole thing. Yes, the whole thing, including all the various appendices and whatnot. I read it again before the next film was released, and again before the final installment. Since then, it has become an annual obsession of mine, extending to include so many of J. R. R. Tolkien's other works. And much like the Harry Potter Trance, I go into a LOTR-induced Zombie-like trance. The outside world ceases to exist.

Since I knew that this sort of thing tends to happen to me, I was very, very cautious when I first started hearing about the Twilight books by Stephanie Meyer and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan. I thought it might take over my life like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have done. I was right to be cautious. When I finally gave in to the temptation (only after the final installments of the books had been released), the Zombie-trance obsession was activated. Thankfully, those two have not taken over my life as completely as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings have done. I read through all of the Twilight books and the Rick Riordan books once, but haven't (yet) found myself going back to them.

All of this is to say that, before watching or reading even the tiniest bit of Game of Thrones, I knew I might be a wee-bit obsessive about it.

And I was.

I watched the first episode Monday night, intending to watch one and then move on with my life. Yeah. Well. That didn't quite happen. I watched three episodes before forcing myself to go to bed at sometime well after midnight (which is VERY late for me). And when I got up Tuesday morning, I started watching episode four before I even put the coffee on to brew. I don't ever do anything before I start my morning coffee. Ever. Anyway, I finished the entire series before going to bed on Tuesday. Wednesday arrived, and I went to the bookstore.

I don't think I have to explain to you what I bought. ***

Do you ever get so caught up in a fantasy world that you forget about real life? Have you ever called in sick to work because you couldn't put a book down? Do you suffer from a similar obsession to the point that you forget to eat/drink/use the restroom/shower/get dressed? Please, tell me I'm not alone in this.

No matter what, this time, it is all Ava's fault. If she hadn't been tweeting/blogging/obsessing about it all, I might not have noticed. (Yeah, I know. I'm kidding myself. Still, let me have this one, okay?)

***Please note, if I don't respond to your comments right away, it is probably because I've got my nose buried in a book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Real-Life Hero Inspiration

Last Thursday my husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary, so it seemed only appropriate to dedicate this week’s blog to my partner and great friend, Kevin. Not long ago, Suzie asked all of us what inspires us when we create our heroes. (She then proceeded to call Jerrica, Erin, and me goody-two shoes for saying our inspiration comes from our husbands, but I’m over it now. Really. I am. *sniff*)

It’s true, though. My husband is my inspiration. Before you all go “Aww, that’s so sweet,” I should tell you he’s not always that nice. For example, one time I was holding off going to lunch because I was waiting for him to finish up some work at the office one weekend, fighting back my hunger. If you know me well, you know hunger plus me equals potential rampage. Don’t mess with my food.

He finally rolled in mid afternoon and I practically pounced on him, ready to tear apart the closest Chinese buffet and anyone who tried to stand in my way. And wouldn’t you know it, he wasn’t hungry! What? Not hungry? How could that be? It was 2 o’clock in the afternoon! Well, my darling muse had met our friend Herman for lunch, which explained the reason it was taking him so blasted long to finish at the office. (In fairness, I should add we didn’t have plans to have lunch together. Mostly because I couldn’t reach him on his cell since he left it sitting on the kitchen counter.)

Furious, I let him have it. How inconsiderate, blah, blah, blah. I may have said a few choice words like $#%^ and &&*#@$%&**. He looked at me with the most sympathetic look, hugged me close, patted me comfortingly, and whispered in my ear. “Poor Samantha, you don’t get to go out to eat good food like Herman and me.” LOL. Okay, it wasn’t funny until about five minutes later, but he did make me laugh. And he made lunch for me, so it was a little easier to forgive him.
Kevin’s ability to rile me up and derail my anger at the same time is just one of the qualities my heroes have in common with him. My heroes love to give the heroines a hard time, but it's all in good fun. Speaking of derailing my anger... The first time my husband jumped in with judo moves to block my words in an argument I just about fell on the floor laughing. (Oh, and he makes fun of my incredibly goofy laugh that only he has ever heard because he is the only one who has ever made me laugh so hard I can’t breathe. So you see, he's not that sweet.)

Another trait my heroes share is his protectiveness. One of my favorite stories his mom tells from his childhood is when she was pruning roses and a thorn poked her. A little while later, she heard a whacking noise and found a 4 year-old Kevin bashing the roses with a big stick. When she asked him what he was doing - I imagine a panicked voice here - he said, “Don’t worry, Mommy. They won’t hurt you anymore.” Fast-forward almost 30 years later and a much older Kevin is about to bash the lab tech who is flubbing up a blood draw on our baby girl. My husband is not a violent person by any means, but he will take a stand for those he loves, and I love that about him.

One of my favorite heroes from my bachelor series, Jake Hillary, tends to be a bit on the clumsy side just like Kevin. Let’s just say if there’s yard work or a home improvement project going on there’s a good chance the first aid kit is coming out. Worst case scenario, I’m driving him to the ER, laughing like a maniac and feeling like the most horrible wife on the planet. (Honestly, I can’t help it! It’s not funny, but I can’t stop laughing.)

Super smart, generous, kind, supportive... He has so many qualities to inspire the best kind of heroes. Even the mundane parts of life are fun with Kevin. The other day I asked him to make out a grocery list for me, and I would run to the store to get what we needed to grill out. The list read something like this… burgers, buns, ketchup, fish gills, soda, tongue stud cleanser, 10 lb fishing line, bathroom destinker, XOXO (sloppy), sacred joy 12 oz, guitar picks…

I love you, goofball. Thanks for making the last fifteen years fly by.

Now I’d like to hear from the rest of you. What do you appreciate about someone you love?