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Monday, April 30, 2012

Romantic Times Convention: The Silly Side

Whew! I think I’m finally settled after a crazy week in Chicago, which was followed by a crazy week trying to get our 2-year-old resettled at home (she spent the week with Grandma and Grandpa)

This was my first year attending the Romantic Times Convention in Chicago, and the hubby and I were super excited to get our par-tay on with all our friends that we only get to see once a year. It did become glaringly apparent that what we now think of as "partying" is more like "having a few drinks,  some dinner and going to bed by 10pm." We totally weren't prepared for the late nights AND the early mornings, or the relentless pace of the conference during the day! EXHAUSTED!

But, when you only get to see your "girlz" once a year, you suck it up! So we had as much fun as we possibly could while we were there, at the expense of our physical and mental health, neither of which got a break when we picked up our toddler upon our return.

Cathering Gayle showed you some great pics of the conference last week, but I had a few shots stowed away on my phone that no one knew about. I wish I had more, but here's a tiny taste of our sillier side....

This one is from the night we went to the really bad Mexican restaurant near the hotel and half of us got food poisoning! It was also the night we started calling ourselves Eric's Harem #ericsharem

Samantha Grace, Jane Charles and me...licking Jane's face :)

Jane in her boa, showing off that she made it to Duchess status

Ava in the bar...not sure if she's chewing her food or has just had an OMG! moment

My husband, the baroness (with a feather duster)

I still don't know what happened here, but somehow Samantha Grace ended up at Ava Stone's feet??

 I won't say who's bowing (she'll kill me!), but seriously...how does everyone end up at Ava's feet???

And in the end, the RT Sheriff booked us for having way too much fun!

And since Jerrica said I could add this pic of her... Here she is in her natural habitat, iPhone in hand. (You're welcome! ~ Ava)

I hope you've all enjoyed the sillier side of RT with the Lady Scribes! Happy Monday!!

-Jerrica, Her Grace of Grammar

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ya Got Trouble, My Friend

But it doesn't start with T. No, this trouble starts with L.

As in, Lady Scribes at RT.

You see, last week was the Romantic Times Readers Convention (otherwise known as RT) in Chicago. And, well, a number of your Lady Scribes were present.

One thing I've quickly learned when getting together with various other Lady Scribes members is that we will invariably attract more than our fair share of trouble.

At least at RT they had a means to deal with us.

Yes, that would be me, Baroness Blithe, alongside Viscountess Noir, Her Grace of Grammar, the Countess of Whimsy, Lady Intrigue, and the Countess of Content...all in jail. Together. Somehow, Erin Knightley, aka the Duchess of Delight, escaped this punishment. Don't ask me how it happened. I couldn't tell you.

And no, it isn't because I had had too many drinks. I didn't start drinking until after we'd escaped our imprisonment that night. It might have had something to do with the fact that she is a social butterfly, and was off charming someone's socks off them. She has a knack for that.

There were countless moments where we got to dress up in costumes.

Such as here, where Ava Stone tried to make off with a Scot. And now I'm wondering when she might write a Scot into a story...

She hooked up with a Steampunk version of Erin Knightley, too. That's an odd looking couple, if I ever saw one. :)

Or here, where Samantha Grace let loose in her flapper outfit.

Here's another one. The lovely Heather Snow and Erin Knightley were ready to Charleston!

Jerrica Knight-Catania didn't need an outfit to ride away with the show.

For that matter, all Jane Charles needed was a glass of wine and some good music. (Yes, the blur in her hand IS a glass of wine.)

But RT wasn't all just about the costumes. We had more serious moments, too. Quiet. Stoic. Pensive. Reflective.

Well, some of us did. Clearly, both the Ava Stone half of Lydia Dare (aka the Countess) and the Tammy Falkner half of Lydia Dare (aka the tavern wench) were otherwise occupied and couldn't be bothered to be serious. Hmmm...I can't imagine why. (Did you SEE those smiles???)

And...well, I'll just show him to you and let you decide for yourself how serious he was.

I think they said his name was Bluebeard. Can't remember. Don't ask me why my memory is so shoddy. It couldn't have anything to do with the espresso chocolate martinis.

Neither could this.

No, seriously. I don't think Ava Stone and Samantha Grace were drinking the espresso chocolate martinis. Possibly cosmos and wine and...well...you get the picture.

But I digress. Back to what RT was really all about.

There were book signings...

There were photo shoots...(way to @$^& early in the morning, Catherine grumbles beneath her breath)...

That's the lovely Rose Gordon right in the middle of several of us, in case you were wondering.

There were workshops and games and prizes...

See the lovely Erin Knightley being dubbed a countess after playing Who Wants to be a Duchess? (Don't ask me why a countess needs a feather duster. I haven't quite figured that one out. I might still be trying to catch up on my sleep...)

And here the two of us are together, with our tiaras and boas and whatnot. She was still a mere countess. I, however, was a duchess. You may feel free to "Your Grace" me. I won't mind.

We mixed with other writers and readers, agents and editors, cover models, and just about everyone else involved in the romance community.

RT was my first conference, but it won't be my last. As a matter of fact, as you read this, I'm probably on my way back to Chicago to go to Spring Fling. We'll see if I come home with so much incriminating evidence...I mean with so many books and so much swag. (The stuff I shipped home just got here. Twenty-eight pounds of free books and swag. Oy!)

I had so much stuff, I decided to give some of it to my cats.

Too bad I already had to take it away. They were having a blast with it, but then one of them started puking feathers. Bye bye, feather boa.

Anyway, this should give you a little glimpse into what the Lady Scribes who were present at this year's RT were up to. I know I'll be going back again next year...with an extra, empty suitcase in order to lug everything home!

Have you been to any readers or writers conventions? Do you want to go but just haven't been able to yet? And if you were there, how much will we have to bribe you with in order to keep you quiet about...um...well, I'm sure there's something we need to have kept quiet. Darn those espresso chocolate martinis! So how much? All who comment and leave us their email address within the comment will be entered to win a prize pack of some of the books and swag I got at RT. I'll draw a name randomly tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Trip to Cougartown

I had an interesting conversation recently with one of the ladies in my life that tries to make me look beautiful. I love talking with her. She always has the most amusing stories to tell or insightful antidotes to share. She’s also well read and likes to talk about books, and she’s genuinely curious about my work as a writer. Yes, I'm easily flattered.

When I first met Helena**, she was newly divorced and had two girls almost in high school. Since our first chat, Helena has become involved in a serious relationship with a man who has never had kids. She’s young enough to have another child, but with her daughters almost out of school, she isn’t sure she wants to start over. Yet, part of her remembers what it was like holding a sweet, tiny newborn, and how precious that time was.

For me, there would be no question or angst. I love my kids, but there is no way I would start over. There are lots of things still on my bucket list I’d like to do before I’m too old to do them. I'm sure there are several women in my camp. Then again, there are women my age, like my brother’s wife, who remarry and happily jump into the baby scene again. Don't you think this comes up fairly often these days with more older women dating or marrying younger men? I'm sure older men have been dealing with it for ages.

I bet there have always been marriages between older women and younger men, but I don’t remember hearing about these May September romances very often. Perhaps these unions were kept quiet, because they weren't looked upon favorably. Coo coo kachoo, Mrs. Robinson!

Thanks to Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher that glass ceiling was busted a while back. (It’s too bad their marriage didn’t work out.) Suddenly it became more acceptable for an older woman to pursue a younger guy. Some women began to identify themselves as cougars and sounded pretty darn proud about it. I say, more power to you, ladies. If you find your perfect match, don’t let age stop you. Same for all the single guys out there.

Still, I can’t help wondering what choices these women will make if their younger husband wants a family of his own. I think I would have a hard time denying another person the joy of being a father, but I also don’t want another child.
Of course this is all just a theoretical problem for me. The makings of a Lifetime movie. I met my match several years ago, and we’ve decided we’re going to keep each other. Just a funny side story… I took our teenage son with me to the grocery store the other night after I ran him by the video store. He had a game that was late and I told him I wasn’t going to spend all my money on his late fees. So as we were shopping for food, he said “We’re lucky to have Dad to take care of us.” (I guess he thinks I have no money now.) I smiled and said, “Yeah, we are.” Then he said, “It’s too bad we had to get such a doofus.” LOL. We love our doofus!

I bring this all up for the sake of conversation only. No one actually has to run out and find a hot, young guy or anything. But what do you think you would do if you had children in middle school or high school, and you were dating a younger man who wanted children of his own? Would you consider having another baby? Would you break off the relationship? Do you think there is a story somewhere in here? What about a story with a historical spin? Hmm.

I’ll be on the road this afternoon, but I’ll pop by to respond to comments when I stop to stretch my legs. And just to make it interesting, how would you like to win a copy of Catherine Coulter’s “The Hellion Bride”? Anyone leaving a comment will be entered into the drawing. International readers are welcome to participate, too.

**Helena is a fictional name that I really like and may use for a heroine some day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

7 Lucky Questions with NYT Best-selling Author, Carly Phillips

One of the things I like best about being a Lady Scribe is being able to interview my favorite contemporary authors. Authors like the fabulously talented, Carly Phillips.  KARMA, the latest novel in the Serendipity Series, is hitting bookshelves and e-readers May 1.

1. Congrats on your RITA nomination! How does it feel—come down from the clouds yet?

Nope and I hope I never do.  Seriously, it's always felt like a dream - to be recognized by my peers and this is what the RITA nomination does.  Added to that, the short story nominated, MORE THAN WORDS - VOL. 7 - my story Compassion Can't Wait - recognizes the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation that provides payment of urgent expenses in order to allow single parent/caregivers to be by their child's bedside during catastrophic illness.  I was honored to write a story that showcases such an important charitable organization and Valerie Sobel, the founder.  http://andreriveroflife.org/

2. In your upcoming book, KARMA, Dare and Liza's story seems to be one of unrequited love—mostly because Dare's been keeping it himself. Personally, I love it when a hero *knows* the heroine is the one for him, even if he's never shared that little tidbit with her. Tell us more about their story, please!

Poor Dare! He makes life look so easy on the outside but inside he's wrapped up in the past and full of angst.  He needs the right woman and he needs to forgive himself for past mistakes.  Then there's Liza, who reminds him of his biggest error in judgment, and who he's always been attracted too.  Once he gets to know her? Attraction becomes secondary to how much he cares.  To me, it's a beautiful thing watching him take care of a woman who's never had anyone look out for her before.  And visa versa.  I hope readers enjoy Dare and Liza and love them as much as I do!

3. How are things going with bringing/keeping General Hospital where it should rightfully be?

Good - and not so good.  Good in that General Hospital was renewed for another year despite dire doom and gloom predictions - hurray! And gloom because their greatest couple (in my mind, anyway), Jason and Sam, are being written without thought to how they have always treated each other.  With love, understanding, compassion and kindness - with the occasional lapse in judgment (ie. what I call the Liz - Sam's insanity - era) - what makes Sam and Jason the ultimate couple was how well the COMPLEMENT each other. That's not happening now and I implore the writers to fix things!  OK enough of that. EVERYONE WATCH GENERAL HOSPITAL - this is the year to garner ratings and keep it on the air longer.

4. You tweeted that your youngest *just* got her Driver's License. Watch out World! Will this free up more time for you to write?

YES! In New York, they have 6 months of permit/driving practice time and then they take their test - if they pass their driving test, they can drive on their own until 9 PM. Since this is my second time going through this, I KNOW both the angst and worry of having a child driving and the ultimate sense of freedom for them AND me! Right now I pick her up up every day after school, which cuts my day around 2 PM.  I can't imagine not having to do that anymore! I hope I can write more (and we can SPRINT more!)

5. Inquiring minds want to know—what color is your hair now?

Hah! More like my website photo - a golden brown w/blonde highlights.  I'm so over the red.  I'm so over the Keratin straightening.  I'm all natural curl and the color most people are used to. ;)

6. Anyone that's ever interacted with you via Twitter, facebook or in person knows that you LOVE romance. *And* that you promote it every chance you get. Do you have a favorite trope or plot device for the hero and heroine to be thrown together? What's one that you haven't done before and have always wanted to try?

As a writer, the EASIEST trope/device is to give the characters SOME kind of connection in the past - this makes their coming together stronger - at least for me as the author.  As a reader, I've noticed myself drawn to stories like you mentioned above when you described Karma - the hero KNOWS the heroine is for him even if he's never shared that information with her.  In the story I'm writing now (aka Serendipity # 4 - or Perfect Fit - the hero is learning each time he's with the heroine, this THING between them is stronger.  It's a very different story - they grow together in the relationship.  I'm not sure how to throw the hero and heroine together in the best way - so much of it depends on story - and I'm not sure if there is any one particular thing I've always wanted to try - each book is its own challenge.

7. Finally, what's next for you and your rabid reader fan like, ahem, me? Also, a little birdy on Twitter said you were doing a novella with some other crazy talented writers like yourself. True or False?

Next for me and my rabid reader fan, LOLOL. Thank you! I had no idea I had those ;)  Yes! I'm doing a novella - it's gone through some author changes but the final four are myself, Jaci Burton, Erin McCarthy and an author I don't know as well, Jessica Clare.  I plan on doing Serendipity characters .. and watch for it, I may ask my readers on Facebook who they most want to read about - www.facebook.com/carlyphillipsfanpage so PLEASE like me there - so you won't miss out when I do.  I'm currently working on another three book Serendipity Trilogy - the Cops of Serendipity - the Perfect Trilogy - (Perfect in the titles!) - featuring characters you will meet in Karma - and once Karma is on bookshelves and readers have had a chance to finish it, I'll talk more about who's up next!

WOW!!! So much for us to look forward to in the coming months. Thank you so much for blogging with us again, Carly. You make it so much fun!

Thanks for having me back. I love hanging out with you - as you already know! Here's where to find me around the Internet - I'm a social media junkie! And my website is updated often - if you visit me there, please sign up for both my newsletter and the blog posts so you'll have notice of the most recent news!

New York Times bestselling author Carly Phillips tossed away her legal briefs and a career as an attorney to become a stay at home mom.  Within the year, she turned her love of reading into an obsession with writing.  Over 25 published novels later, Carly writes sexy contemporary romances, striking a balance between entertainment and emotion, and giving her readers the compelling story they have come to expect and enjoy.
Carly is a New York Times bestseller, USA Today Bestseller and Publisher’s Weekly bestseller.  The triple play earned her a spot on Romance Writers of America’s coveted Honor Roll.  In 2002, Carly’s novel, The Bachelor, became Kelly Ripa’s “Reading with Ripa” pick on Live with Regis and Kelly, making it the first romance ever chosen on a nationally televised bookclub.
Carly received her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and is a graduate of Boston University School of Law (J.D.). To date, Carly has over twenty-five novels to her credit, all available wherever books are sold.
When not writing or playing online, Carly loves to read, to knit, and to spend time with her family.  She lives in Purchase, New York with her husband, two daughters and two soft-coated wheaten terriers who act like their third and fourth children.
One lucky winner will receive one of my backlist Serendipity books - Serendipity, Destiny, or Kismet as a prize for commenting! And I'm (because I lurve supporting Carly) throwing in Karma, too. Of course the winner has to wait until May 12 for that one, but it's totally worth it. ;)
So, Rabid Readers, what's your favorite way to interact with authors?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Who Was L'Inconnue de la Seine?

And, do you recognize her?

My daughter, the artist, recently posted this photo and link to an article on her Facebook page.  These are the things that make my writer’s brain ask who and why, what is the story and I went digging.  I love to go digging J.

According to Wikipedia (where I always start), in the late 1880s or possibly 1900 (depending on which source you are reading) the body of a young woman was pulled out of the Seine River in Paris.  It was a suspected suicide because there were no signs of violence to the body (they didn’t have CSI and NCIS back then to evaluate trace evidence and such.) And being such a fan of NCIS, I wonder what Ducky would have found had he been doing the autopsy. 

Her age has been estimated to be no more than 16 based on the firmness of the skin.  A morgue pathologist “was so taken by her beauty that he had a molder make a plaster cast death mask of her face”.  However, also according to Wiki, the ask also may been “taken from the daughter of a mask manufacturer in Germany.”  Nobody knows for sure and this bugs me.

We may have never learned of this young woman and the mask had numerous copies not been produced over the years.  They became fashionable fixtures in the Parisian Bohemian society and hung on many walls.  Seems a bit morbid to me, by the way.  For decades people have speculated about this beautiful girl with the happy expression frozen in time. I want to know who she was and was death so welcoming that she smiled when it was achieved.  If the girl was sixteen, why the need for such a drastic action?  What horrific things were happening in her life that she felt this was the only answer?

Or, maybe it wasn’t suicide at all.  Maybe she simply fell from a bridge and had not intended to take her own life.  Perhaps she was on a boat traveling to an adventure and went over the side.  Maybe she was simply taking a walk along the river, enjoying what may have been a beautiful day and slipped into the water, or accidentally pushed in by a bunch of rowdy street urchins.  It doesn't seem fair to me that they concluded it was suicide simply because there were no marks on her body.

I read a number of articles and blogs but nobody knows who this beautiful young woman was and we will never know. There is only speculation as to her class based on clothing and hairstyle. Did she have a family and did they wonder what happened to their daughter?

Even though we don’t know her, a number of us may have been up close and personal with her likeness. That is, if you ever took a CPR class.  Who learned CPR on Rescue Annie?  Yep, that is who Rescue Annie is modeled after and developed by a Norwegian to maker, Asmund Laerdal. There have been many CPR dolls that have come and gone since the design in 1958 and first used in 1960, but L'Inconnue de la Seine (the unknown woman of the Seine) was the first.  So, in a roundabout way, by losing her life, L’Inconnue de la Seine has saved hundreds.

Still, I want to know her story, don’t you?  But since we will never know, let’s imagine. What story would you like to give this young woman?

Amy De Trempe
Duchess of Decency

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Summons From the Courthouse...

Last month I received my very first jury summons ever. Yes, that loud groan you heard at the beginning of March, coming from the direction of North Carolina was me. It’s not that I don’t want to do my civic duty. In fact, when I was younger I always thought I would make the best juror. I’m honest. I’m fair. I’m open-minded. I'd be Henry Fonda from 12 Angry Men if the situation called for it, back during my idealistic youth. (Who am I kidding...? I'd still be Henry Fonda if the situation called for it. I'm just too moral to behave differently.)

But April was a bad month for me. I had the RT Convention in Chicago 10-15 April, and I had the Spring Fling Conference in Chicago 26-28 April. And my jury duty date was scheduled for April 19th. Right between the two conferences dates. What if I got selected for some big criminal trial and had to miss Spring Fling? I would be pretty far from happy, I can tell you that! But I would do my duty, just like Henry Fonda in that classic film.

After I groaned, I re-read the letter from my county, which stated that I needed to keep up with my summons and bring it to jury duty on the 19th. Great! Now I have to keep up with one measly piece of paper for more than 6 weeks? Really?!?! Me? That is a definite problem for someone who forgets their iPhone in post offices.

But what other choice did I have? I had to keep up with the summons, right? So I thought and thought about the best place to put it so I wouldn’t lose it and…. Yeah, that’s right, I completely forgot where I put the summons. I tore my house apart. Looked in every drawer. Lifted every couch and chair cushion in the house. And crawled under every bed, 'til I was covered in dust bunnies.

The blasted thing was nowhere!

So I called the county courthouse, fell on my sword, and apologized profusely for my ineptitude. Long story short - they sent me a new summons. When it arrived in the mail, I sat my teenage son down and said, “All right, I need you to help me. Where is the best place we can put this, and then when I can’t find it again, you’ll remember where it is?” He said, “Mom, I’d put it on the refrigerator, if I were you.”

The refrigerator!!

My mouth dropped open in surprise…

Yep, I’m pretty sure that’s where I put the first summons. I went straight to the kitchen, and sure enough… right there hanging on the door to the freezer was my original jury summons. I definitely had a Homer Simpson "D'oh!" moment. But at least I ended up with two summonses, which is always better than one - at least if you're me.

Anyway, I still had a couple of weeks to prepare for my date with the jury box. I made arrangements with my office to be gone for the day. I made arrangements with my ex-husband to drop my son off late. I put the courthouse address in my GPS so I wouldn't get lost. And then the night before I was to report for my civic duty, I called the phone number on the summons (yes, both of them) to double check that they actually needed me. And you know what...? After all that - they didn’t. I was free to go about my day on the 19th as though I'd never received that little piece of paper in the mail.

Despite all the preparing and organizing, despite all my thoughts of big criminal cases, and despite all of the insanity surrounding my lost summons, my job, my son - I didn’t get to play Henry Fonda after all. It was kind of a let down, honestly (after all the hoopla.) But at least my trip to Spring Fling will be unaffected. Thank heavens!

So tell me all your jury duty stories. Have you ever served on a jury? If so, were there any Henry Fonda moments in the jury room? Have you ever gotten out of jury duty? If so, do you have any advice for being dismissed? Just for fun... what is the craziest thing you could do, or thing you could say, to get dismissed without a backwards glance? (My co-worker suggested I tell them my opinion about local law enforcement... I - um - have issues with authority figures. But that's a blog post for another day.)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Interview with Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso!

Good Morning, everyone! I am pleased to announce Zoë Archer and Nico Rosso are in the house today. I believe this might be Lady Scribes very first interview with authors who write in the steampunk genre and I'm excited to have them here!

A few weeks ago, I bought Zoë's Skies of Fire novella, the first installation in the couple's Ether Chronicles. I immediately loved it, and became interested in the entire steampunk genre. I had a whole slew of questions to ask. Zoë and Nico did a great job answering them...

First things first. Can you give us a quick overview of the Steampunk genre and tell us what you love about it, what makes it unique?

Z: The short definition is: Victorian science fiction. Though it isn't always set in the 19th century, it's heavily influenced by Victorian ideas and aesthetics, and imagines technology through a 19th century lens. As a genre, it has a huge range and can span everything from books to to film to art to costume. I love steampunk because it's like the peanut butter cup of genres. "You got your history in my sci-fi fantasy!" "You got your sci-fi fantasy in my history!" It has something for everyone.

N: I like steampunk because it allows for an easier transition into the world. Because it is based in a historical era, there is a foundation to build up from. Some of the fun is finding elements and technology to change, while it's also interesting to find what parts of the history remain the same, keeping us grounded. What I love about the technology is that it's analog. it forces me to really think through the inventions because I can't fall back on a computer chip to do the rest.

So, basically, you are creating an alternate world, with parts that are familiar and some that are not. Whew! That is a lot of work! But when it's done right, like with Skies of Fire, it really pulls you in. Have you always wanted to write steampunk, and do you still write in other genres?

Z: The idea of writing straight steampunk came to me gradually. My Blades of the Rose series included James Bond-like gadgets that utilized 19th century technology, which led to some to label the series as steampunk. As I learned more about steampunk, especially its combination of history and sci-fi technology, I became more intrigued. What I find most appealing about steampunk (aside from the boots!) is that my heroines can be active and strong within a historical context, but without having to come up with complicated reason as to why they're able to be that way.

N: Like Zoë, I approached steampunk slowly, mostly from working on the inventions for Blades of the Rose. Seeing all the possibilities in that world, along with the historical nature of the stories, started building the appeal. I work in sci fi romance as well (the Limit War series), but steampunk seemed like a way to bring that inventiveness to a story without scaring people away who think they'd need a family tree or glossary.

That's interesting, how it gradually just came together for you both. How did the idea to write a series jointly come about?

Z: Nico has always been integral in all my books. We work very closely in the plotting stages, plus he's my critique partner. he thought up all the gadgets that were used in the Blades of the Rose series. So the entire world of the Ether Chronicles was something we developed together.

N: Once Zoë got the Ether Chronicles up and running, I got to thinking about taking that world to the Old West, where I could play those great archetypes in the steampunk setting. We developed that idea, pitched it to Avon Impulse, and luckily, they said yes.

And do you find that being married makes it easier or harder to work together?

Z: I think we were drawn together for the very reasons that we can write together. And writing has always been a common language and pursuit, so we don’t get blank looks from the other when something in the process is frustrating or exciting. You’ll often find us discussing stories over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Or we’ll be sitting at the table together, but staring off into space as we think about plot elements. I’ll bet that someone looking at us might think we’re giving each otherthe silent treatment!

N: Definitely easier. We’re very good about communicating with each other and have developed many methods of shorthand on everything ranging from plotting stories to making shopping lists. It also helps to have someone else there to help choreograph fight scenes.

Coming from two different genres, do you find there a significant difference in your writing styles?

Z: I tend to use more ornate language and sentence structure than Nico, I think. But we both write very action-intensive stories.

N: Yes, my language tends to be simpler. Also, I have a tendency to kill more people in my stories than Zoë does.

Funny! I wonder why that is? Is it a guy thing or a Nico thing? ;) Can you tell us a little about what to expect from the both of you inthe future?

Z: Demon’s Bride, thesecond book in my Hellraisers paranormal historical series comes out on May 1. I’m also writing more Ether Chronicles books, and, beginning April 2013,I start a new historical romance series for St. Martin’s Press. That series is called Nemesis Unlimited, and I’ve been describing it as Burn Notice in Victorian England. It’s dark and gritty, and so, so much fun to write.

N: Other than the steampunk westerns of the Ether Chronicles, I have a superhero romance titled Ironheart coming as part of an anthology later this year from.

Wow, you guys are busy. So many great books coming out! I know when I write, I find certain songs or pictures can help push me into the world I'm creating. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Z: Honestly, I findinspiration everywhere, but I find history especially inspiring. There’s always an interesting story to be told about the past.

N: Inspiration can comefrom a title, a typo, a soap bubble in the shower or the way a chopped onion’s rings look. Anywhere and everywhere.

I found the Man O'Wars to be so intriguing, from Skies of Fire. I would love to see that in our world! What steampunk contraption would you like to see in real life?

Z: Maybe an automaton to do the housework. Things tend to get messy around here when I’m on a deadline.

N: I’d love to have the ether born mechanical horse my cavalry officer flies in Night of Fire.

Oh, I'm on board with that housework automaton. Someone get on that! One last question, about working as a team. What do y'all do when you each see the story going off in a different direction? (Thumb wars?)

Z: That really doesn’t happen very much! But if we ever feel it needs to go in a particular direction, we talk about the reasons why, and get the other onboard.

N: Going back to the question about communication, we’re always able to work our way around any disagreements by getting down to the why of what we’re thinking, then going from there in creating a compromise.

Great interview, guys! Thank you so much for stopping by Lady Scribes and helping to introduce our readers to steampunk. Good luck with the Ether Chronicles...can't wait for the next book!

You can find Zoë and Nico on the web at www.zoearcherbooks.com and www.nicorosso.com.
Twitter: @Zoe_Archer and @Nico_Rosso

Now it’s our turn! Are you familiar with steampunk? Or is it a new genre for you? What elements of steampunk do you (or might you) find appealing?

Leave a comment, and we’ll pick one winner to receive a digital copy of SKIES OF FIRE!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I Challenge You to Silence

Over lunch with a group of friends several weeks ago, the topic of conversation turned to a friend who is known for, let’s just say, being blunt.  Loud.  Saying the thing no one would ever dare to say.  Talk, as talk can do, became gossip this particular day.  Tidbits of stories about this girl were shared from one person to another who was at our table.  I became increasingly uncomfortable until I had to pipe up to say I thought the girl was nice.  She is.  She is blunt, I give you that, but she is nice, and I think she has a good heart. 

One of the girls at the table told me I thought everyone was nice.  Well, yes, usually I do, unless they prove me wrong and sometimes even then I know it’s just a temporary state they are in.  Take the woman who cut me off in traffic last week and then flipped me the bird for looking at her exasperatedly.  I was fuming and mumbled all the way home about blankety-blank crazy people, but then I realized I have been that crazy person when I was late, distracted, or just plain irritated at my kids, life or whatever.  Does that mean I’m not nice?  Not all the time, but I do try, and I bet that woman usually tries to be nice too.

I think there is an art to saying nothing that has begun to disappear in our society.  Many people seem to think there is nothing harmful about talking about other people.  I know someone personally whose life was irrevocably altered for the worse by hurtful words.  I won’t share the story, as it’s not mine to share, but I can share my own musings in wondering the point of gossiping. Especially, when I believe most people know on some inner level that the person they are talking about could be hurt by the gossip. 

Why am I standing on my platform today?  Because in my research for my current book, I accidentally stumbled across a site www.belief.net that had a story about gossip on it.  This story made me think about a person I knew whose life had been badly damaged by gossip.  Shortly after that, this wonderful person called me, and I decided then and there to pass on the folktale that to me perfectly captures the danger of gossip.  It’s my cause for the day!

Following is the story:
A nineteenth-century folktale tells about a man who went about town slandering the town's wise man. One day, he went to the wise man's home and asked for forgiveness. The wise man, realizing that this man had not internalized the gravity of his transgressions, told him that he would forgive him on one condition: that he go home, take a feather pillow from his house, cut it up, and scatter the feathers to the wind. After he had done so, he should then return to the wise man's house.

Though puzzled by this strange request, the man was happy to be let off with so easy a penance. He quickly cut up the pillow, scattered the feathers, and returned to the house.
"Am I now forgiven?" he asked.
"Just one more thing," the wise man said. "Go now and gather up all the feathers."
"But that's impossible. The wind has already scattered them."
"Precisely," he answered. "And though you may truly wish to correct the evil you have done, it is as impossible to repair the damage done by your words as it is to recover the feathers. Your words are out there in the marketplace, spreading hate, even as we speak."

Today, I challenge you to refrain from any gossip!  If you like this idea you can spread it by pinning this, facebooking the challenge, or twittering it.

Do you know someone who has been hurt by gossip?

Have a great day!

Julie Johnstone
The Marchioness of Mayhem

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Guest Interview: Tracey Devlyn

I'm very happy to have had the opportunity to visit with debut author Tracey Devlyn at the RT Readers Conference last week in Chicago. Besides being a lovely person, she's interesting and smart. And I can't wait to read A Lady's Revenge. Sam

A big thanks to Samantha Grace and the rest of the Lady Scribes for inviting me here today. Really looking forward to chatting with everyone.

Did you grow up reading spy books or watching spy movies?
I’ve always enjoyed action-adventure and suspense movies. But my mom and I used to watch whodunit shows on TV like Columbo and Murder, She Wrote. We had a great time trying to be the first one to figure out the mystery.

Which character from A Lady’s Revenge do you most relate to and why?
Such a hard question, because there’s a piece of me in every character I write. Most folks would probably expect me to relate more to my heroine, Cora deBeau. But Cora is far more courageous and resourceful than I am. She’s definitely someone I would want on my team. :)

What do you love most about your hero? What is his biggest flaw?
What I loved most about Guy Trevelyan, Earl of Helsford, was that he never gave up on Cora. He could have many times, but he stayed by her during some very dark moments and knew exactly what she needed to fight her way back to the light.

His biggest flaw? Three years prior to the story’s opening, he had an opportunity to cross the threshold of friendship to lovers while at Mrs. Lancaster’s masquerade. He should have kissed her senseless when he had the chance. :)

What do you need in order to write?
All I need is a computer and a quiet area.

What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m working on edits the second book of the series, Checkmate, My Lord, which is Lord Somerton’s story. Starting in May, I’ll begin working on the third book, which will feature Ethan deBeau. Can’t wait to dive into my next manuscript!

Now a question for our readers... Do you have a favorite spy movie or character?

Please leave a comment for a chance to win a print copy of A Lady’s Revenge (U.S. and Canada only, please).


A British agent flees her French captor’s torturous dungeon and falls in love with the decoder responsible for her imprisonment.

British agent Cora deBeau has spent the last three years seducing secrets from the most hardened of French spies while searching for her parents’ killer. When her latest assignment goes awry, she suffers at the hands of her French captor until Guy Trevelyan, the Earl of Helsford and master cryptographer, saves her during a daring rescue. Scarred and wary of men, Cora shies away from the one man who could heal her savaged heart.

After rescuing Cora from a French dungeon, Guy discovers it was one of his deciphered messages that led to her captivity. Guy strives to earn her forgiveness while outwitting their enemy. But will he find the scars on her wounded soul run too deep?


Cora deBeau’s heart ground against the wall of her chest. She peeled her blurry gaze away from Boucher, unable to watch her gaoler touch each instrument as if he were selecting the perfect snuffbox for his waistcoat pocket. Her keeper was a strange combination of depraved villain and thoughtful philosopher. She had initially thought him French, but she had isolated another, more subtle accent during the times he was caught up in the excitement of his “little experiments.”

As he was now.

In an attempt to bolster what meager courage she had left, she concentrated on the rusty metal hook near the cell’s door.

Her gaoler enjoyed prolonging her anticipation of what was to come and relished her building fear, her struggle to be brave. Her inevitable failure.

He fed off her pain, of which there had been a great deal.
Constant. Never ending. Nearly unbearable.

Cora knew with profound sadness—and utter relief—that she would soon break. The endless dark days and stifling black nights, the vicious rats, and the limitations of her female body would lead to her compromise.

As Valère knew it would. His legendary patience would see Cora crumble to the ground like a marionette discarded by its unforgiving owner.

Soon she would be forced to rattle off every bit of intelligence she knew about the Nexus, a group of international spies who worked so diligently, so stealthily toward containing Napoleon’s ambitions. Then Valère would kill her and all the other agents of the Nexus. Her three-year sojourn in this country would end abruptly, and the man responsible for killing her parents would forever run free.

Agony of a different sort tore through her chest. Ten years of preparation and three years of searching snuffed out in a matter of days by a Frenchman in a full pout. When Valère had learned of her betrayal, his fury had known no bounds. None.

She hadn’t reached her breaking point. Not yet. By now, Dinks, her maid and sometime messenger, would have notified Lord Somerton of her capture. Even now, her former guardian could have men on the way.

In the public eye, Somerton was known as chief of the Alien Office, a small division within the Home Office originally created to monitor the influx of French émigrés after the Terror. But secretly, as head of the Nexus, Somerton commanded a contingent of highly skilled and highly intelligent secret service agents. Because of the group’s international reach, the Nexus was actually under the auspices of the Foreign Office.

An image of Guy flashed through her mind, and her heart soared with another infusion of determination. The thought of Guy rescuing her strengthened her mind and numbed her body for what was to come. She could hold on, for a little while longer. She must, if only to see his face one last time.


Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine's happy ending). An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at:





Monday, April 16, 2012

Re-Writing "The End"

Growing up, one of the first "real" books I remember reading was Little Women. I devoured the book in one sitting, but when I got to one particular section, I got so angry that I threw the book across the room.

Wait just a second. Jo refused Laurie?

Not only that, but she married old man Professor Bhaer?


And not only that, but Laurie then married Jo's bratty sister Amy?


That was SO not right. I was so angry with Louisa May Alcott that I had a hard time finishing the book, much less reading it over again. So I would only re-read to a certain point in the story, around Meg's wedding, and then I would stop and imagine my own ending.

Years later, I read that Alcott was pressured into marrying Jo off by her editor. While Alcott always intended for Jo to remain a spinster, she had to create a love interest for Jo—and in a rush, she created Professor Bhaer's character. And while that eased some of the sting of this ending for me (after all, as a writer, you often bow to the wishes of your editor) I never liked that Laurie married Amy. I never forgave Amy for burning Jo's book of fairy stories, or for getting to have Jo's trip to Europe. She certainly never deserved Laurie!

Over the years, I've read other books that I loved, but in many of them, the endings weren't really as satisfying as I wished. Here's just a few of them:
Manderley should have never burned down, and the DeWinters should have lived there together as a happy couple;

Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe shouldn't have taken four books to get together. Anne of Windy Poplars was an exercise in frustration—it was written in the epistolary style, but only from Anne's point of view. No hope of reading Gilbert's letters to Anne. And when Anne began to get too romantic in her letters, the door was slammed shut in our faces—"several pages omitted," LM Montgomery would summarize. Not fair! By the time we got to Anne's House of Dreams, it was a wedding that had been delayed almost too achingly long;

I was OK with Margaret Mitchell leaving Scarlett and Rhett's future up to question, because knowing Scarlett, she'd win him back. But I was always sad that Bonnie Blue had to be sacrificed in the process. She was so precocious and so cute—I wanted to see what she'd be like when she grew up.

As a writer, I love working in a genre that pretty much demands a happily-ever-after (HEA, for those in the know). I love the satisfaction of allowing my characters to realize their dreams, and as a reader, I love reading stories that have an entirely rewarding ending. For me, there's nothing lovelier than a fade-out on the blissfully happy hero and heroine, their love secure and realized at long last.

So, let's start the discussion. Which books would you re-write, if you had the chance?

And while we're at it, are you on Team Laurie or Team Bhaer?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Guest Author Sara Ramsey, on the allure of Glitter and Virgin Widows

YOU GUYS. I feel just like Barbara Walters right now. My very first Lady Scribes interview, and the lovely Sara Ramsey has agreed to be my victim...er...guest! If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Sara or tweeting with her, you have missed out. This girl is a riot.

And she's super talented! She won the 2009 Romance Writers Association's Golden Heart Contest, for unpublished authors, and finaled again in 2011. Both of those novels, Scotsmen Prefer Blondes and Heiress Without a Cause, are now published as e-books. They are the first two novels in her series Muses of Mayfair, which revolves around a secret club for women who want to pursue artistic passions frowned upon by society, in Regency England.

(On a personal note, I just started the first novel, Heiress Without a Cause, and I'm totally hooked. I can see that I will be spending much time jumping on Sara every time she pokes her nose out on Twitter and shouting "Why are you here?! Go write me a book!")

Anyway, after studying the hard-hitting interview technique of various veteran political reporters, I felt I was ready to ask Sara some questions- and what do you know? She answered them!

Welcome to Lady Scribes, Sara! We are thrilled to have you join us today. I'll start with an easy question- what draws you to write historical fiction?

TheRegency in particular appeals to me because I’m intrigued by all the rigidsociety rules – and I particularly like finding fun ways to break them. I’vealways loved history, and writing historical fiction allows me to shamelesslyindulge in research books and trips to London/Paris/wherever else I intend toset a book.
Ialso like the fantasy of historical fiction. I wouldn’t actually want to livein an earlier time period, since I don’t care to die in childbirth or let myhusband own me. But the fantasy of falling in love while wearing an endlessparade of perfect gowns and never having to do a single bit of housework ispretty awesome.

I agree. Relaxing all day with friends while wearing fabulous clothes beats cleaning grape juice off the tan carpet, hands down! Can you tell us who, or what, some of your influences are?
JohannaLindsey was my first influence, and I try to work one usage of the word‘manroot’ into every book I write in her honor (odd homage, I know). My othertop influences are Georgette Heyer (for the delicious dialogue), Robin McKinley(not a romance writer, but her heroines are uniformly kick-ass), Patricia A.McKillip (also not romance, but her prose is luminous and jaw-droppinglywonderful), Julia Quinn, and Stephanie Laurens.

Oh, I love Julia Quinn- she is a particular favorite of mine, and has had a huge impact on me as a reader and a writer. I love her writing, because her heroines always seem so relatable. If you lived in fictional Regency England, what kind of heroine would you be?

I’dlike to be a formidable duchess, but I’m pretty sure I’d be a bluestocking. Abluestocking with a fabulous wardrobe, though – I love books, but if I had anopen tab with a modiste, I would be dangerous.

I think I'd be a bluestocking also, the kind that finally meets the rakish hero, then trips and spills punch all down the front of his trousers. Sigh. It's fun to imagine ourselves in these situations, but writing the actual stories can be so much harder, and sometimes less fun. Do you have a writing process?

Process...hahahahaha...sob.With both HEIRESS WITHOUT A CAUSE and SCOTSMEN PREFER BLONDES, I wrote majorchunks (an entire book for SCOTSMEN; half a book for HEIRESS – twice) andscrapped them/started over once I’d figured out the plot. I’m knee-deep intothe third book now and so far it shows no signs of going sideways and throwingitself over a cliff, but I suspect I’ll rewrite most of it eventually.
Onthe more basic level, I write most of the first draft longhand, since I can’tcheck Twitter from a piece of paper.And I tend to plot at least a few chapters ahead, although it doesn’t alwayswork. When I’m at the end of a draft, I often go away for a few days and spendthat time rereading the manuscript, gathering my thoughts, making rewritenotes, etc. – I find it helps me to focus if I give myself a few days to spendalone with my draft (and a few hours to have any rewrite panic attacks inprivate!).

That sounds like a great idea- just being alone with the manuscript, so you can curl into a ball and weep and eat chocolate...um. I mean, so you can get those rewrites done in an efficient manner. Too bad the novels don't write themselves! I know I asked you who your influences were, but I'm curious to find out who some of your favorite heroes and heroines are. (Personally, I adore that wasteral Lord St.Ives, from Lisa Kleypas's Devil in Winter and Sookie Stackhouse, from Charlene Harris's "Dead" (True Blood) series.)

Favoriteheroine: Laura Ingalls Wilder was my first heroine love – you could tell shewas spunky and rebellious, and I adored her. Otherwise, Prudence from THEMASQUERADERS by Georgette Heyer, or Penelope Featherington from ROMANCING MR.BRIDGERTON by Julia Quinn.
Favoritehero: Maybe Devil Cynster from DEVIL’S BRIDE by Stephanie Laurens? Or HugoDarracott from THE UNKNOWN AJAX by Georgette Heyer – a little odd, since I lovealphas and he’s more of a beta (or an omega? He’s a total enigma, but pulls offan amazing con at the end of the book). Or Aragorn from LORD OF THE RINGS. Ilove reluctant heroes. I particularly love reluctant heroes played by reluctanthotties like Viggo Mortensen.

Reluctant heroes are fantastic- so much conflict, within themselves and with everyone around them. Laura and Penelope are very similar, but Aragon and Hugo are so different! But it would be so boring if we stuck with just one type, wouldn't it? However, I am going to ask you to pick between some choices. (Yes, this is a test. No, I'm not going to tell you what it means. I'm just going to say "Hmm" and "REALLY? I see" a lot.)

Day or Night?

Night,as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows. If the rest of the world wouldcooperate, the day would start at 10am and end at 2am. Our fascination with thesunrise is just a holdover from when we were pre-electric barbarians.

Vacation: Beach or Mountains?
Beach!I grew up in Iowa and feel more kinship with the waves than I ever will withpeaks and forests and other view-obstructing abominations.

· Dog or cat? Orferret?
Probablya cat – I like dogs too, but cats fascinate me. No pets for me right now,though – I travel a lot, so I’m waiting until my lifestyle is less disruptivebefore committing to a new best friend.

Secret Baby or Virgin Widow?
Virginwidow all the way! Secret babies scare me.

Dissolute Rake or Hardened Spy?
Ooh– tough. I love a hardened spy like Daniel Craig’s take on James Bond, but Ithink I would have more fun with the dissolute rake.

Hmm. Actually, forget that last question. Why can't you have both? Oh, I guess that would make you the Scandalous Widow instead of the Bluestocking, though... All right, Sara. I've been taking it easy on you. Now I'm going to do my best Babs impersonation and get to the real nitty gritty.

I’ve heard J.Lodemands everything in her dressing rooms to be white- even the flowers andcandy. Are there certain things that you needto be able to get the creative juices flowing?
Glitter.Lots and lots of glitter.
Justkidding. I need something caffeinated at all times, a fountain pen filled withan ink color that suits my current mood, and some little toy (even a bent paperclip) to fidget with while I work through plot issues. That makes me sound kindof diva-ish, but I’m not quite J-Lo yet!

· Do you have anyadvice for writers just starting out? I'll take whatever advice you'd like to dish out!
Thismay not be popular – but don’t obsess over advice from other writers. Ipersonally take ‘look before you leap’ to an extreme, and when I was firststarting out, I read everything I could about writing and the industry. Myshelves are full of writing/craft books; my Google Reader has dozens ofagent/editor/writer/craft blogs queued up every morning.
Butno two processes are alike, just as no two voices are alike. You’ll find yoursthrough trial and error, which is why the advice to write and read as much aspossible holds water. I still get cranky sometimes when it seems that everyoneelse is doing #1k1hr (a hashtag on Twitter for people who are sprinting towrite a thousand words in an hour) while I’m scrapping a scene and restartingit for the fifth time. But my process works for me, and comparing myself to the#1k1hr crowd is a straight descent into teeth-gnashing madness. Find what worksfor you, and ignore what everyone else is doing!

I'm not sure my Barbra Walters thing is working. I'm not seeing tears yet. At least, not on Sara's side- I'm a little leaky over the "scrapping a scene and restarting it a fifth time" part. I think I've scrapped the beginning of my current novel 8,000 times!

(Okay, Olivia, go for the real emotional stuff. Think, think. Ah HA!)

· If we playedRock, Paper, Scissors right now, whatwould be your first choice, and why?

NormallyI would say rock, probably because I’m lazy and can just leave my fist in therock shape. But with a bunch of writers who are predisposed to paper...I mightgo with scissors.

Ooo, sneaky. I like it. Can you tell me one thing you'd like to cross off your "bucket list"?
Nowthat I’ve crossed off blogging with Lady Scribes? ;)
Iwant to visit all seven continents. I’m only missing South America andAntarctica – if I plan it right, I can hit them both on the same trip!

That sounds amazing. I'd love to do some traveling, but I have two small children and it just doesn't seem doable right now. However, as soon as we boot them out at eighteen, I plan to make a run for it. Ireland, Scotland, China, Russia and France top my personal list!
It was so lovely of you to be my very first...interview, for Lady Scribes. Thank you so much for coming! Can I ask you one more question? Just one. Okay- if you could live anywhere in the world, where would you settle?

Hmm.I actually love San Francisco – unexpectedly, since I never thought I wouldstay here. I also lived in India for six months and Ireland for three (andUkraine for a year when I was twelve),so I’ve been around a bit. But if I get stupid rich someday, I’ll buy atownhouse in London – like any good Regency writer, I could spend months at atime there, even if it’s too far from my family to move there permanently.

Oh, London. Le sigh.

When I coerced Sara into providing me with this fun opportunity to get to know her better, she also very generously offered a copy of her novel to one lucky reader today! It's super easy- just leave your email address at the end of your comment, to qualify.

Sara currently lives in SanFrancisco, where she lives on an appalling diet of tea, trail mix, andChampagne. You can find her on Twitter (@sara_ramsey), Facebook, or at www.sararamsey.com.

Do you have a question for Sara? Go ahead, ask her anything about glitter, writing feisty heroines and what one does at 4am while all the lame people sleep. She's an expert!
Sara currently lives in San Francisco, where she lives on an appalling diet of tea, trail mix, and Champagne. You can find her on Twitter (@sara_ramsey), Facebook, or at www.sararamsey.com