“R” is for “Romance Writers of America,” or Staying Classy in San Diego

A new month, nearly a new season, and a moment to reflect on the RWA Conference I attended in July. Despite being a Warp 7 introvert, I generally enjoy going to these, and each of the four conferences I’ve attended has yielded a different experience.

rwa20122012: Anaheim–so close it was practically in my back yard, so there was no way I wasn’t going! And that was the start of it all: my first book, Waltz with a Stranger, had been accepted for publication and would be making its debut in December of that year. Going to sessions, getting to meet other writers and the people I would be working with. My sister and occasional collaborator came to the conference as well, so I had someone to talk to and de-stress with–always more fun than being on your own!

tyrgvmly2013: Atlanta–the first time in years I’d flown coast-to-coast on business. This time, I was on my own, so I made a point of talking to other attendees and getting to know them. I also had a chance to meet and talk to several authors whose work I admired, including Mary Jo Putney. (And to experience the phenomenon of sideways rain that had me epically drenched after five minutes, en route to the Literacy Autographing!)

images2014: San Antonio. The one I almost didn’t go to, thanks to a car accident about two weeks before. Though no lasting injuries were sustained, I arrived in a somewhat unfocused mental state, so it may have been just as well that this conference ended up being almost more social than business-oriented. While I attended some great sessions, I also spent more time than usual just hanging out with people and talking about this and that, which can be every bit as worthwhile.

1455747151088

 

Historical costumes were on display at Literacy Autographing
Historical costumes were on display at Literacy Autographing

2016: San Diego–By contrast, this summer’s conference was my most business-oriented, as I had two series to promote: the one I was about to wrap up and the one I’d just launched. I went to mostly career-oriented sessions, participated in three signings…and fielded a couple of unexpected curves!

I was never a Girl Scout, but I came to have a deeper appreciation of the motto, “Be Prepared!” during this conference.

As in: Be prepared with extra ibuprofen when your lower back goes into spasms halfway through a two-hour session! That happened on Day One, and I used all the resources I had–including my sister, who attended again this year–to keep the issue from becoming full-blown and turning me into a human pretzel for the rest of the conference. (I was moving fairly normally the next day, though my back would still twinge occasionally to remind me how much trouble it could be, if it chose to be!)preview

As in: Be prepared with promotional postcards, additional swag, and a smile when your books fail to turn up at a signing! I was relieved by how gracious most of the readers were when I explained the situation, and I collected names and emails so they could receive a free download of one of my titles afterwards!

Despite being pre-scheduled for so many events, I managed to make it to some good sessions. The aforementioned two-hour one presented a helpful overview of current trends in the romance genre. Another suggested ways to increase productivity and write faster without completely burning yourself out. And the speakers–including Beverly Jenkins, Sherry Thomas, and Robyn Carr–were memorable. Carr’s story is particularly inspirational, covering her career trajectory from newbie to mid-list author to unwanted commodity to best-seller. It’s encouraging to be reminded that success does not always happen overnight and that it takes time, hard work, patience, and perseverance to get there. But in the end, the only one who can stop you from writing, dreaming, and doing…is you. I think that’s especially true now, when there are so many options available to a writer.

And let’s not forget the Hamilton sing-along held on the very last afternoon! I wasn’t that familiar with the score then, but I found something infinitely cheering about hanging out with a roomful of people enthusiastically chanting, “I am not throwing away my shot!”

0713161242-00

–San Diego Marina

Besides the conference, my sister and I fit in some sight-seeing stuff. Like exploring Seaport Village–right next door to the hotel–and riding their 120-year-old Looff carousel.

0713161355-01

And dining in Gastown at The Old Spaghetti Factory, a restaurant that’s a bit of a sentimental favorite. And then there was breakfast at a local pancake restaurant, famous for a towering baked apple pancake that was both impressive and alarming to behold!0713161014-00

All in all, San Diego is a beautiful city that holds some great memories for me, and I was happy to visit it again. We traveled by train, and the journey went smoothly in both directions. And the sea views out the window were often breathtaking. I’m already contemplating the possibility of another trip in the not too distant future…

 

 

 

Release Day: A Scandal in Newport

ScandalBigger copy

Kindle  Nook  iBooks  Kobo  Google

More than halfway through August already–where did the summer go? I’m still catching my breath after a conference and a short vacation. And seriously, fall doesn’t officially begin until the autumn equinox on September 22! That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Fortunately, whatever season this is, summer reads are still thick on the ground. Apropos of which, I’m happy to announce the arrival of A Scandal in Newport, my new novella in The Heiress Series!

The Story Behind the Story: Several readers expressed interest in Thomas Sheridan and Amy Newbold, the secondary couple from Waltz with a Stranger, along with regret that they didn’t get their own story. And after some consideration and an unexpected brainstorm, I decided to write that story.

Not long after hatching the idea, however, my creative life took something of a detour, leading to the creation of my new series, The Lyons Pride. I was still determined to finish A Scandal in Newport, however–especially after including a preview of it in my short-story collection, Awakened and Other Enchanted Tales.

the-marble-house-364188_1280
Marble House, one of Newport’s most splendid mansions

Recapturing the lighter tone and more Trans-Atlantic setting of my first series was a bit of a challenge, but it was one I came to enjoy, especially after delving more deeply into research. Gilded-Age Newport was a fascinating place to study, with its mix of breathtaking scenery, splendid mansions, and colorful personalities. This was where the American elite came during the summer for what probably seemed like an endless round of parties and promenades–all with the object of finding eligible husbands for their unmarried daughters, many of whom were considerable heiresses.

Consuelo_Vanderbilt_2
Consuelo Vanderbilt, circa 1890

In 1895, Alva Vanderbilt landed one of the biggest fish of all: the ninth Duke of Marlborough, for her daughter Consuelo. If, that is, she could convince/browbeat/blackmail the recalcitrant Consuelo into accepting him. Which happened, though not until after a long, dramatic contest of wills between mother and daughter. (The whole of this battle is related in Consuelo’s memoir, The Glitter and the Gold.)

As a happily engaged couple, Thomas and Amy are exempt from the matchmaking stratagems of Newport’s pushy mamas. But trouble manages to find them all the same, and they soon find themselves fighting for their future together.

I hope you enjoy this tale of romance, intrigue, and danger set in America’s very own “kingdom by the sea”!

Happy reading, and enjoy what remains of summer!

Release Day: The Advent of Lady Madeline

 

 

Madeline50%
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!

1026151954-00

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)

Alive in October…

800px-Bierstadt_Albert_Autumn_Woods

It’s the sound no Mac user ever wants to hear when she presses the Power button.

Dead silence.

To be followed by escalating panic and repeated efforts to reboot by painstakingly disconnecting and then reconnecting all the cables before powering up again, step by step. To no avail.

To be followed by a pilgrimage to the closest Mac serviceperson, who also fails to revive your silent machine and regretfully informs you that the cost of repair would be more than the computer is currently worth.

At which point, you grit your teeth, approve the retrieval and transfer of your files to an external drive, wincing at the cost, and then, still wincing, set out to replace your venerable desktop with something more up to date.

Which is the position I found myself in about three weeks ago. Fortunately, the process of getting everything set up and running again was easier than expected–if not entirely painless. Best of all, my data appears to be intact, which was my main concern.

My computer crisis was just one in a string of difficulties last month, most of which revolved around Broken Stuff. I’m crossing my fingers that October will be easier in that respect, at least!

AWIC WEB PROMO smallOn the up side, I can make the announcement that, barring further disaster (knocking repeatedly on wood), A Wedding In Cornwall–my companion novella to A Song At Twilight–will be released this month! I had a lot of fun revisiting Cornwall and writing about Sophie and Robin’s big day, as well as offering a hint about what lies in store for other characters.

Plus, I’m including a sneak preview of my next series, The Lyons Pride, about a contentious ducal family–inspired by an even more contentious royal family–and their efforts to find love, healing, and lasting happiness!

For more information on future works, just watch this space. Or sign up for my new release letter, over at this website’s sidebar.

Hoping that autumn brings good times and good reads to all of you!

“P” is for “Poldark”: The Pleasures of Summer TV

BeachSummerCan you believe we’re more than halfway through June? And the summer solstice is upon us.

I love spring with its soft colors and mild weather, but summer was probably my favorite season when I was a kid–not least because of the 10 or 11 weeks of vacation after a long school year. While spring makes me think of pastels, summer is all about bright and bold colors and experiences. The aquamarine and turquoise of swimming pools, the emerald and sapphire of the ocean, the scarlet of ripe strawberries, the orange-gold of juicy peaches, the deep coral color inside a conch shell…passers-by may even have noticed that Blue Stockings & Crossed Genres has a new look for the season that contains several of the aforementioned colors.

Summer entertainment tends to be of the bright, colorful, noisy variety too. Beach parties, picnics, barbecues, even the average summer blockbuster (usually laden with spandex-clad heroes and things going “BOOM!”) And summer television, which can range from sports spectaculars (especially in Olympics years) to star-studded and/or lushly romantic miniseries.

The new Poldark, which starts airing this weekend in my neck of the woods, may not qualify as star-studded (yet), but, based on the source material alone, I’d say it definitely meets the criteria for “lushly romantic”: a sweeping costume drama about an 18th century Cornish mining family, boasting high adventure, derring-do, class warfare, a simmering romantic triangle, and wildly beautiful scenery–cliffs, coves, and thundering surf.  I am unabashedly excited about this series, not least because I loved the original novels by Winston Graham and the first miniseries based on them, which was made back in the 1970s. I’ve heard the new version may even adhere more closely to the books–the first series took some dramatic liberties that annoyed the author–but as you can see below, it also shares some eerie similarities when it comes to the lead couple…

Ross and Demelza, Original Version
Ross and Demelza, Original Version
NewRoss&Demelza
Ross and Demelza, New Version

Graham’s Poldark Saga was a big influence on me as a historical novelist, which I will be blogging about here and elsewhere in coming weeks. I plan to follow the new series closely and post commentary about the episodes after they air. Other Poldark fans, past and/or present, are welcome to stop by and add their tuppence, anytime!