Release Day: Devices & Desires

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His True Love Has His Heart…But Can He Win Hers?

Happy New Year, everyone! And Happy Chinese New Year, which is just around the corner (2/8/16)!

What better time than to announce the arrival of a new book and the start of a new series? Devices & Desires, the first novel in my historical series The Lyons Pride, is out today, on the following digital platforms:

Kindle  Nook  iBooks  Kobo  GooglePlay

It’s also on sale for 3.99 until the end of January, after which it will be 4.99. A print edition is in the works and should be available soon.

The Story Behind the Story: The idea for The Lyons Pride has been percolating since December 2012, while I was promoting my first book, Waltz with a Stranger. Initially a throwaway line in one of the many blog posts I was writing at the time, the idea took root and germinated practically overnight, like Jack’s beanstalk! As I was committed to readying my second book, A Song at Twilight, for publication, it was some time before I could pursue this project, but once I had a hand free, it was full steam ahead!

The primary influence for the series and especially the first book, Devices & Desires, was the brilliant, biting historical drama, The Lion in Winter. It was originally a play by James Goldman, but people are probably most familiar with the 1968 film version, starring Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn as estranged royal spouses Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, who fight over everything from the succession–in question after the death of their eldest son, Henry the Young King–to the loyalty of their surviving sons: Richard (later the Lionheart), Geoffrey (Duke of Brittany), and John (known as Lackland).

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The Brothers Plantagenet: from left, John, Geoffrey, and Richard

I first saw the film when I was in high school, and the performances and razor-sharp dialogue blew me away. And I also read the play to see if I could pick up more nuances that the film might have omitted (there were a couple, but by and large, the film adheres closely to the play). It ended up being one of the films that’s stayed with me over the years, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that it inspired my new series. Who might these people be in Victorian England, approximately 700 years after the setting of the film, and how would their drama play out in a different historical context? And was it even possible for this charming, ruthless, contentious, too-clever-for-its-own-good family to earn the happy ending that eluded its historical counterpart?

The enigmatic Geoffrey, of whose existence I’d been unaware before the film and who predeceased his parents (he died of injuries sustained in a tournament in 1186), became my entry point–as Lord Gervase Lyons. Since Devices & Desires is a homage rather than a slavish updating of The Lion in Winter, I had no qualms about taking Gervase’s life in a somewhat different direction–especially when it came to romance–while keeping the family dynamics and his role in them largely intact. Gervase also owes a debt to Lord Peter Wimsey and Francis Crawford of Lymond, two favorite heroes of mine who use their wit, along with wordplay, as a weapon and as armor. They also happen, like Gervase, to be younger sons trying to forge their own path in a world where eldest sons are usually handed everything on a plate.

To balance cool, cerebral Gervase, I created Lady Margaret Carlisle, herself loosely based on Princess Marguerite of France, who was married to Henry the Young King. Not much is known about the historical Marguerite, so I could develop Margaret as I desired–as a sane, sensible, warm-hearted heroine strong enough to stand up to the Lyons Pride and smart enough to be the hero’s perfect match. Though it takes her a while to see it!

Although Devices & Desires wasn’t an easy story to tell–I completed it during one of the most stressful years of my life–my affection for it and its characters never waned. I hope you enjoy reading it as much–or more–as I enjoyed writing it. Minus the stress, of course.

Happy reading!

Release Day: The Advent of Lady Madeline

 

 

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He Had His Future All Planned Out…Until She Turned It Upside-Down

Kindle  Nook  iBooks  Kobo  Google

 

Beyond happy and all the way into euphoric to announce that my holiday novella, The Advent of Lady Madeline, is now available on all major digital platforms!

(There will be a print edition too, once I’m satisfied with the proofs. Originally, I’d planned to sync the digital and print versions, the way I did with Awakened and Other Enchanted Tales, but that went out the window when UPS and the post office lost the first proofs in transit–and in a textbook case of passing the buck, both carriers pointed fingers at each other and disavowed all responsibility for tracking the lost package, which remains trapped in the Bermuda Triangle of domestic shipping. If anyone deserves coal in their stockings this Christmas…)

But onto pleasanter thoughts: this release is kind of a personal milestone–my fourth romance and fifth book overall. And it will be followed in January 2016 by a novel-length sequel, Devices & Desires, Book One in The Lyons Pride, my new historical series about a contentious, competitive ducal family and their quest for lasting love and happiness.

The Story Behind the Story: In addition to being my fifth book, The Advent of Lady Madeline is my first prequel. Generally, my Muse is more interested in what happened next than in what happened before, so I couldn’t have been more surprised when, after I finished Devices & Desires in late 2014, the hero’s older sister tapped me on the shoulder and suggested–or rather, insisted–that I tell her story, which takes place almost a decade earlier.

Resistance was futile–and to be honest, I didn’t struggle very hard. When a story demands to be written and the ideas come thick and fast, it’s a gift that no writer should take for granted. Best to strike while the iron is hot, and the Muse is cooperating, because you can’t predict when or if it will happen again.

Which doesn’t mean there weren’t setbacks and occasional delays, owing to real-life needs and other scheduled projects. But once the process was well and truly underway, I enjoyed every minute of telling Madeline and Hugo’s story! I even found myself relishing the challenge of imagining all the characters at a younger, more vulnerable age and setting up the situations and conflicts that will explode nine years later in Devices & Desires.

For a time, I toyed with the idea of releasing the novel first, especially when the novella hit a snag that made my goal of having it published by Christmas look like a pipe dream. How vital is a strict chronology anyway? One of my favorite authors, Lois McMaster Bujold, hopscotches up and down the timeline of her much-loved Vorkosigan Saga, picking up the threads of her characters’ lives wherever and whenever she wants. George Lucas completed Chs. 4, 5, and 6 of his Star Wars series, before doubling back years later to film Chs. 1, 2, and 3. Admittedly, the Star Wars prequels were something of a mixed bag (Jar-Jar Binks…<shudders>), but Lucas’s decision to tell the overarching story out of sequence doesn’t seem to have harmed the franchise overall. (And now Ch. 7 is due to come out this very week!)

Nonetheless, I decided to pursue my original plan, and much to my relief, completed the novella a month before the release date I’d originally had in mind. Now polished, edited, formatted, and given a beautiful cover by the talented Kim Killion, The Advent of Lady Madeline makes its  debut in time for Christmas! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Happy Holidays!

Happy Halloween!

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Leave it to Edgar Allan Poe to write a poem about the Ultimate Haunted House!

The Haunted Palace

In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace—
Radiant palace—reared its head.
In the monarch Thought’s dominion—
It stood there!
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair!

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow,
(This—all this—was in the olden
Time long ago),
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.

Wanderers in that happy valley,
Through two luminous windows, saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute’s well-tunëd law,
Bound about a throne where, sitting
(Porphyrogene!)
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate.
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate !)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travellers, now, within that valley,
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms, that move fantastically
To a discordant melody,
While, like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever
And laugh—but smile no more.

–Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Happy Fourth of July!

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Concord Hymn

Sung at the completion of the battle monument on April 19, 1836

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson(1803-1882)

Happy May Day!

A new month already? I’ve been so busy getting Awakened launched and then making Devices and Desires fit to be seen, that I completely neglected to note such April occurrences as Easter, Earth Day, Shakespeare’s birthday, and National Poetry Month! Not to mention being largely absent from this blog. I hope to be less distracted in future.

Hobby Hoss pursues maiden at Padstow festival
Hobby Hoss pursues maiden at Padstow festival

So, to start things off fresh, here’s a May Day carol from Cornwall, which is the setting for my first two historicals. Padstow is located further up the coast from my fictional village of St. Perran, but it’s famous for its traditional May Day celebrations, during which a large “Hobby Horse” (or ‘Obby ‘Oss)–formed by a mask mounted on a circular frame covered in a black skirt–runs and dances through the streets while the villagers sing some version of the following song. During the “Where is King George?” verse, the Horse sinks to the ground pretending to die, but leaps up in the next verse to show how spring in the season of renewal.

So, all together now, to herald the Hobby Horse’s entrance: “Oss, Oss, Wee Oss!”

Padstow May Carol
(traditional; from the singing of Steeleye Span)

Unite and unite, and let us all unite
For summer is a-comin’ today.
And whither we are going we all will unite,
In the merry morning of May.

The young men of Padstow, they might if they would,
For summer is a-comin’ today.
They might have built a ship and gilded it with gold
In the merry morning of May.

The young women of Padstow, they might if they would,
For summer is a-comin’ today.
They might have built a garland with the white rose and the red
In the merry morning of May.

Rise up, Mrs Johnson, all in your gown of green
For summer is a-comin’ today.
You are as fine a lady as waits upon the Queen
In the merry morning of May.

Oh where is King George? Oh where is he-O?
He’s out in his longboat, all on the salt sea-O.
Up flies the kite, down falls the lark-O.
Aunt Ursula Birdhood, she has an old ewe,
And she died in her own park-O.

With the merry ring and with the joyful spring,
For summer is a-comin’ today.
How happy are the little birds and the merrier we shall sing
In the merry morning of May.

Oh where are the young men that now do advance
For summer is a-comin’ today.
Some they are in England and some they are in France
In the merry morning of May.

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Maypole dancers at Renaissance Faire

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy Year of the . . . Whatever!

800px-Chinese_new_year_singapore_2015One amusing aspect of Chinese New Year 2015 is the lack of consensus over which zodiac animal is being celebrated.

Is it the Year of the Sheep?

The Year of the Goat?

The Year of the Mountain Gazelle?

Ambiguity over the meaning of the Mandarin word “yang,” which can apply to goats, sheep, or any other hooved, grass-eating animal that bleats, is apparently responsible for the confusion. However, most Chinese seem unfazed by the distinction, accepting either animal as a symbol of plenitude and good fortune as well as dismissing the idea that a child born in a Sheep (or Goat) year will be meek, mild, and lacking in drive–a follower, not a leader. (I don’t subscribe to that belief either–one of my close friends was born in such a year, and she’s successful and highly motivated!)

So choose your beastie, and a very Happy New Year to Ewe! Or should that be Happy  New Year, Kid? Or Happy New Year, Deer?

In any case, have a great one!

 

 

Wuthering Hearts: Brontës and Valentines

250px-The_Brontë_Sisters_by_Patrick_Branwell_Brontë_restoredOne of my favorite Valentine’s Day stories centers on the Brontë sisters. So much tragedy surrounds the brief lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne that it’s a pleasant change of pace to read about the good things that happened to them. One of which was their friendship with William Weightman, their father’s charming young curate. (Many speculate that at least one of the sisters was secretly in love with him.)

weightmnAlthough Weightman succumbed to a cholera epidemic in 1842, he brightened the Brontës’ lives during his time in Haworth. One of the nicest things he did was to send Valentines to the sisters and their friend Ellen Nussey, on hearing that none of them had ever received one. Weightman even walked ten miles to Bradford to post them anonymously, though the girls soon discovered the ruse–and returned the favor by writing their benefactor the following poem:

‘A Rowland for your Oliver˛ˇ

We think you’ve justly earned;
You sent us each a valentine,
Your gift is now returned.
We cannot write or talk like you;
We’re plain folks every one;
You’ve played a clever trick on us,
We thank you for the fun.
Believe us when we frankly say
(Our words, though blunt are true),
At home, abroad, by night or day,
We all wish well to you.
And never may a cloud come o’er
The sunshine of your mind;
Kind friends, warm hearts, and happy hours,
Through life we trust you’ll find.
Where’er you go, however far
In future years you stray,
There shall not want our earnest prayer
To speed you on your way. . .

Victorian Valentine: The message reads "My Dearest Miss, I Send Thee a Kiss"
Victorian Valentine: The message reads “My Dearest Miss, I Send Thee a Kiss”

So while Valentine’s Day has come to be associated mainly with couples, other kinds of love are also worth celebrating on February 14. Whether single or attached, no one is ever the worse for being loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day!