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!

Release Day: Awakened and Other Enchanted Tales (Book Giveaway)

Let all who trust in hidden power,
(The birth is in the stone)
Remember well the mage’s hour:
Find it,
Make it,
Bind it,
Take it,
Touch magic, pass it on.

–Jane Yolen, “L’Envoi”

AwakenedEBOOKSmallestAmazon  Kindle  Nook  Apple  Kobo  Google

I am delighted to announce the arrival of Awakened and Other Enchanted Tales, my collection of fantasy short stories, in print and e-book form! This is a project that’s near and dear to my heart–I’ve actually wanted to do this for some time, but I knew that a) I’d have to fit it in between books, and b) I’d have to educate myself about self-publishing because I’d be releasing it independently. But this spring, all the pieces came together–almost magically. That it happened around the time that the new film version of Cinderella came out is even more serendipitous!

My love of fairy tales stretches back to childhood, when they–along with the works of Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss–were among the first things I learned to read or had read to me. A few years later, I was devouring Andrew Lang’s colored Fairy Tale books and scouring library shelves for more books like them: Perrault, Grimm, Andersen (whose penchant for tragic endings came as something of a shock to me), their various imitators and innovators. I remember an ancient collection called Tales Told Again by Walter de la Mare that was one of my favorite reads when I was eight or nine.

But it wasn’t until about a year or so later that I discovered the delights of the wholly original fairy tale, as practiced by Nicholas Stuart Gray (Mainly in Moonlight), Barbara Leonie Picard (The Faun and the Woodcutter’s Daughter), and Jane Yolen (The Girl Who Cried Flowers). I dedicated Awakened to this trio of authors, who are as interesting as their stories. Intriguingly, they came to writing fantasy almost as an afterthought–Gray started out as an actor/playwright; Picard began writing fairy tales to keep her spirits up while on fire-watch in England during WWII; and Yolen still considered herself more of a poet and journalist when she published her first children’s book. What all three seemed to have in common was a love for the kind of stories they told and a complete lack of self-consciousness or embarrassment about it: “Yes, I write fairy tales, and I don’t have a problem with it. Do you?” Which is perhaps the healthiest attitude any author can have when it comes to his or her own stuff!

Something else these authors share is versatility. Their tales can be dark, atmospheric, satirical, or humorous, with endings that range from triumphant to ambiguous to tragic. But for the duration of each story, the reader is transported Elsewhere, caught up in vitally important matters of Dark and Light, and sent down familiar paths that can turn and twist in startling new directions when one least expects it. That experience is what I have worked to recapture in this collection. (The title story–as many of you may have guessed–is a variation on Sleeping Beauty: a What-If? scenario that begins after the spell has been broken.) And while not every tale concludes with a conventional “happy ever after,” I hope readers will agree that the characters, by and large, receive the endings that they deserve.

Although Awakened represents a new direction for me as an author, rest assured that I am not abandoning romance! I have included an excerpt from A Scandal in Newport, a future novella starring Thomas Sheridan and Amy Newbold from Waltz with a Stranger. And I recently finished Devices and Desires, the first book in a new historical series. More details will be forthcoming, on this site and in my quarterly newsletter, for which you can sign up here at pamelasherwood.com.

Readers, what is your favorite fairy tale or work of fantasy? I will be giving away a signed copy of Awakened to one commenter this week, until midnight PST on April 13.

Thank you all for your interest in my books!

 ETA: MarleneW wins the giveaway for Awakened and Other Enchanted Tales! Please send me your contact information and I’ll get the book in the mail to you ASAP. Thanks again!

Blog Makeover: A Fresh Look for Spring!

Apple_Blossoms_by_John_Everett_MillaisSome folks who happened to wander by may have noticed that Blue Stockings & Crossed Genres has been given a makeover for spring. So here’s the official bulletin: the blog now boasts a new background color, a new header, new menu tabs, and most significant of all, a new feature added to the sidebar–namely, a sign-up form for my newsletter, which I’ll send out when I have a new release or something else noteworthy to share.  Generally speaking, that may be turn out to be quarterly. As someone who’s been on the receiving end of all kinds of spam, I have no wish to inflict it on friends, relations, and readers (No, I’m not interested in the latest Get Rich Quick Online scheme. No, I don’t need a supply of Viagra or a penile transplant. And No to the nth Power of No, I do not want to see porn featuring farm animals! Pass the brain bleach!).

Other eventual additions to the blog may include a Q&A page. With just two books out at present, I don’t know how many questions there will be, but some tend to crop up repeatedly, no matter the size of the back- or frontlist. And perhaps a Miscellaneous page dealing with details that don’t really fall under the heading of the other menu tabs.

It occurs to me that I may be tinkering just for the fun of tinkering. To which I can only reply: Guilty, your Honor. Because there’s just something about spring that makes you want to shake things up, change things around, and just get out of whatever rut you happen to be stuck in. Winter can be a fine season for reflection and introspection (internal rhyme right there!), but there comes a time when analysis must give way to action. Otherwise you risk paralyzing yourself and not moving forward the way you want.

So, onward! Excelsior! Once more unto the breach, dear friends! Wishing all of you a happy, productive, and invigorating spring!

Sneak Preview of My New Work in Progress

Woman at Writing Desk, Lesser Ury, 1898
Woman at Writing Desk, Lesser Ury, 1898

Come this Sunday, I will most likely be the grouchiest grouch that ever grouched–for reasons that I explained in some detail last year. Rather than rehash my eternal grudge against Daylight Savings Time, I decided to accentuate the positive and share a bit from my current WIP, tentatively titled Devices and Desires.

Recently I took a stab at writing some BCC (Back Cover Copy), a task that seems to devolve more frequently on the author these days. (Not that I’m complaining–having read some truly baffling publisher-generated BCC in my time, I suspect authors do a better or at least more accurate job of it!)

A Little Less than Kin . . .

From childhood, Lady Margaret Carlisle’s life has been entwined with the rich, powerful, and contentious Lyons family, until her intended’s untimely death five years ago. Now a widow, she finds herself drawn into their intrigues once more . . . and unexpectedly tempted by a brilliant, lonely man, whose friendship she has long taken for granted.

And More than Kind . . .

They call him the Clockwork Solicitor, the perfect lawyerly device. But Lord Gervase Lyons’ icy demeanor conceals a lifetime of emotional scars–and an undying passion for the one woman he can never have. Summoned to his family’s Christmas gathering, where old wounds will be reopened, old quarrels revisited, and old secrets revealed, Gervase receives the chance to win her heart at last.

Excerpt

(In this scene, the hero and heroine–aged 16 and 14, respectively–come together to help his 8-year-old sister during a pet-related crisis)

“Mr. Scorton’s horrid mastiff chased Xerxes up a tree, and he won’t come down! Please, Gerry, you’ve got to help–he could be stuck up there forever!”

Gervase had closed his book with a martyred air, accompanied by a put-upon sigh. “Ju, didn’t Mother tell you to leave the little beast at home? He hasn’t the sense to fend for himself out here.”

“I–I forgot,” Juliana faltered, flushing.

“How convenient,” Gervase observed dryly. Then he looked at his sister, gazing up at him with tear-drenched blue eyes . . . and weakened, visibly. “Oh, very well, brat. I’ll see what I can do. But I’m not risking my new jacket for that wretched bit of fleabait. Which tree was it?”

Juliana, to her credit, did not so much as bristle at this slur on her beloved pet. “One of the trees we picnicked under,” she sniffed, swiping at her eyes.

Margaret surprised herself by coming forward. “Can I help?” she asked.

“How are you at climbing trees?” Gervase inquired.

“Not so good,” she admitted. “At least, not while I’m wearing a dress. But if you need an extra pair of hands . . .”

“All right” he conceded. “Come on, Ju–take us to the tree.”

Minutes later, they stood at the foot of an ash tree, looking up into the leaves. A scrap of ginger fur clung to one of the higher branches, mewing pitifully.

Gervase considered the kitten for a moment, then turned towards the blanket still spread out upon the grass. Shrugging off his jacket, he rummaged through the picnic hamper, emerging with one of the finger sandwiches. “Fish paste,” he explained, and returned to the tree.

“You’ll need both hands for climbing,” Margaret warned him.

“I’m aware of that.” He glanced at the sandwich, gave another forbearing sigh, and gingerly tucked it into the cuff of his left sleeve before starting his ascent.

“Will the branches bear your weight?” Margaret called anxiously as he shinned up the trunk. Agile and lightly built as he was, he should climb more easily than Hal or Reg, but still . . .

Gervase glanced down, his expression slightly pained. “I’ll find out soon enough, won’t I?” he remarked, and reached for the nearest bough.

Strangely breathless, Margaret and Juliana watched him climb, a slim figure moving from branch to branch, a fish paste sandwich peeking incongruously over his left shirt cuff. Up he went, balancing carefully. Once his foot slipped, and Margaret thought she heard him mutter a curse as he strove to regain his balance, then adjusted his position, set his foot on a different branch and resumed his climb.

Finally, boy and cat were face to face, with barely a foot of distance between them. Gervase clicked his tongue, and held out the sandwich just within reach. “Come along, then.”

The words were brisk rather than coaxing, but his tone was low and gentle enough. Margaret could just imagine the kitten’s whiskers twitching at the smell of the fish paste. He gave another plaintive mew, scarcely more than a squeak, stretching out an imperious little paw.

Gervase leaned in, extending the sandwich further, and Xerxes inched closer. And closer . . . until he was just within reach. Quick as a flash, Gervase tugged the kitten free of the branch, and pulled him close to his shirtfront as he began to climb down. He moved cautiously, not rushing his descent, but Margaret wasn’t sure she breathed until he was on the ground again.

“Here you are, brat.” Gervase held out the kitten and the by now half-eaten sandwich to his sister. “Now for pity’s sake, take him home, and don’t let him out until he’s bigger and has more sense than a dandelion puff!”

Juliana, eyes shining, kissed her brother on the cheek and ran off, the kitten still clutched in her embrace.

“Little pest,” Gervase observed.

Margaret couldn’t tell whether he meant Juliana or the kitten. But when he reached up to push back his hair, she caught sight of something more alarming, “Gervase, you’re bleeding!”

“Ah.” He pulled his hand back, glanced at the drops of red welling on his forefinger and thumb. “Little beast managed to get a claw into me, after all.”

“Here.” Margaret fished out her handkerchief–clean, thankfully–and wrapped it carefully around the affected digits. “Juliana will be everlastingly grateful.”

“Well, she’d better be,” he retorted. “It’s not every brother who’ll risk life, limb, and wardrobe retrieving some dim-witted cat. I must have looked a proper charley trying to coax him down.” He pulled a face. “And my shirt now smells of fish paste, though it had to be laundered in any case, so no harm done, I suppose.”

“I thought . . . I thought you were rather splendid, actually,” Margaret confessed.

He stilled, his grey eyes flaring wide. “Good Lord, was that a compliment? From you?”

Margaret felt herself flush. “I pay them–now and then,” she said, a touch primly. “When someone deserves it.”

His mouth quirked up and she caught the unexpected flicker of a dimple. “Lady, I shall study deserving,” he misquoted, and swept her a mock bow.

* * *

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into WIP-land! And may you weather the time change smoothly and successfully.

‘Tis the Season for Distraction

Has it really been two weeks since my last post? And is it really only one week until Christmas? Time flies when your attention is split between about half a dozen things–and that’s on a slow day!

But for those who are interested, here’s some of what’s been going on since I last posted

WaltzCover21. I mentioned this briefly on Twitter and Facebook, but to my surprise and delight, Waltz with a Stranger won the 2013 Laurel Wreath Award for Best Historical Romance. Which is a welcome boost to morale after a rather challenging autumn and a lovely way to wind up my first year as a published author. (Full list of results can be found here)

2. The new WIP is coming along well–or at least the first three chapters have. The fourth chapter is proving a bit more recalcitrant, probably because of the sheer number of characters making their entrance in that one. Christmas house parties–what are ya gonna do? On the up side, I’ve always enjoyed reading and always wanted to write a Christmas-set romance, so I’m determined to enjoy myself with this one. And I hope to be able to share a few more details when the story is more advanced.

BBXmasCover3. Talking of Christmas, I’ve been keeping my ears open while shopping and making a mental note of which songs get the most frequent airplay–just for the fun of it. And it’s a good coping mechanism when the versions being played make you want to grind your teeth and smash the stereo system. So far, the front runners for Most Overplayed Seasonal Song are “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” (no surprise there), “Let It Snow,” and “Last Christmas,” the Wham! original and Taylor Swift’s cover. (Although none of them have annoyed me quite as much as a shrill, speeded-up, overly perky rendition of “Up on the House-Top”–seemingly sung by adults who wanted to sound like little kids–to which I was subjected one afternoon in Macy’s.) I count myself fortunate not to have heard “The Little Drummer Boy” more than once this year, and I almost cheered when the music programmer at the local mall showed a spark of originality and played the Beach Boys’ “Little Saint Nick” over the speakers this morning. Now that’s a fun Christmas song!

P12-09-13_08.444. Christmas decorations are going up all around my neighborhood, which is something I always enjoy seeing. We may not get much snow here in SoCal, but our winter nights can still be dark and cold, and the sight of colored lights shining in the gloom is a visual tonic. Halloween decorations amuse me with their cleverness, but Christmas decorations touch me with their optimism, innocence, and warmth. A few years ago, animatronic reindeer were all the rage, grazing on suburban lawns and raising and swiveling their antlered heads. This year, glow-in-the-dark snowmen appear to be the fashion, with penguins, reindeer, and–to my surprise–pigs not far behind.

484px-Peter_O'Toole_-_Lion5. Saddened to learn of the passing of Peter O’Toole. Oddly enough, I’ve never seen all of Lawrence of Arabia, the film that made him a major star. But he bowled me over as Henry II in The Lion in Winter–a fully bearded, full-blooded alpha male, and every inch a king. He was only 36 at the time, and playing a man of 50. His co-star, Katharine Hepburn, was more than 20 years his senior, but they matched like hand in glove–or a set of dueling pistols. I love that movie with an unholy passion: there’s not a weak link in the cast–from the feuding king and queen to their three contentious sons–and it never fails to make me appreciate my own family more! (However fraught your own holidays may get, be grateful that you’re not stuck in a snowbound French castle with any of these people!) In honor of O’Toole, I’ve been listening to the marvelous Oscar-Winning soundtrack of The Lion in Winter, which sent chills up my spine from the opening credits.

Given the demands of the season and the wonderful tyranny of my shiny new WIP, I’ll be a somewhat erratic online presence for the rest of December. But I wish everyone the most delightful of holidays, whichever you celebrate, and a very happy New Year!