Archive for February, 2013

Thursday Give Away

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

I am thrilled to announce that for today’s Thursday give away, I have managed to get my hands on an advance copy of Simone St. James’s upcoming novel, An Inquiry Into Love and Death.

Here’s the official blurb:

In 1920’s England, a young woman searches for the truth behind her uncle’s mysterious death in a town haunted by a restless ghost…

Oxford student Jillian Leigh works day and night to keep up with her studies—so to leave at the beginning of the term is next to impossible. But after her uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, she must drive to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings.

Almost immediately, unsettling incidents—a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own—escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house. Is it Walking John, the two-hundred-year-old ghost who haunts Blood Moon Bay? And who beside the ghost is roaming the local woods at night? If Toby uncovered something sinister, was his death no accident?

The arrival of handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken, a former RAF pilot with mysteries of his own, leaves Jillian with more questions than answers—and with the added complication of a powerful, mutual attraction. Even as she suspects someone will do anything to hide the truth, she begins to discover spine-chilling secrets that lie deep within Rothewell…and at the very heart of who she is.

I cannot praise this book– and the author’s previous novel, The Haunting of Maddy Clare— highly enough. They’re for anyone who loves classic ghost stories a la The Uninvited, or 1920s set novels in general. They are both beautifully written and creepily evocative without being the least bit gory– real hair curling on the back of your neck stuff.

So, for a chance to win an advance copy of An Inquiry Into Love and Death, here’s your question:

What’s your favorite ghost story/haunting novel?

The winner will be announced on Sunday. An Inquiry Into Love and Death comes out next Tuesday, March 5th.



The ASHFORD Tour!

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

As is traditional, I’m going to be hitting the road to celebrate the launch of The Ashford Affair in just a little over a month.

Here’s the list of events so far:

April 9th (Tuesday), 7:00 PM, Scottsdale, AZ: the Ashford launch party!

I’ll be discussing and signing The Ashford Affair at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona. If you can’t make it to the event, but would like a personalized copy, just get in touch with the wonderful people at the Poisoned Pen before nightfall on April 9th and I’ll make sure to sign it for you while I’m there.

April 11th (Thursday), 7:00 PM, Ann Arbor, MI:

I’m heading back to another one of my favorite bookstores, Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor, for a reading and signing. This is invariably one of the highlights of book tour for me.

April 12th (Friday), 1:00 PM, Gurnee, IL:

The clever folks at Warren Newport Public Library came up with the brilliant idea of having a coffee and cookies event for a book set partly on a coffee plantation. I’ll be sipping coffee and chatting about The Ashford Affair. The event (and coffee) are free, but if you’d like to attend, register on their site so they know how much coffee to brew! (There will also be copies of Ashford there for sale, courtesy of Lake Forest Books.)

April 15th (Monday), 6:00 PM, New York, NY:

Come join me on my home turf at the Corner Bookstore for a reading and signing of The Ashford Affair. This one is particularly dear to my heart, since it’s just around the corner from where I grew up. I used to walk past the Corner Bookstore every single day on my walk to school.

And that’s the round-up!

I’ll also be speaking at the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Virginia on March 23rd, on a panel with Tasha Alexander, Deanna Raybourn and Kristen Callihan. (It’s always great to get to hang out with my favorite people and call it “work”.) Since it’s before the release of The Ashford Affair, it doesn’t count as an official Ashford event, but I will be bringing bookplates with me to sign if you’d like one to paste into your upcoming copy of Ashford.



Teaser Tuesday: On Titles

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I was asked recently about the title for the Victorian Work-in-Progress. The short answer: it doesn’t have one yet.

Titles are tricky beasts. I know some authors who come up with a title before they start writing the book. I tend to do it the opposite way around. I don’t really know what a book ought to be called before I’ve finished writing it.

There’s an additional, practical component to this. Titles aren’t one of the prerogatives of the author. They’re not quite so far out of the author’s hands as covers, which tend to be entirely in the control of the publishing house, but they’re generally a collaborative effort between the author, editor, and, quite frequently, members of the publicity and marketing departments, who tend to trot out arcane statistics in favor of one wording or another (i.e. “Only 30% of Americans will buy a book with the word ‘ruse’ in the title!”). I often wonder where they find these statistics.

I do get to pick some of my titles. With Miss Gwen’s upcoming book, my editor asked, “Did you have any title thoughts?” to which I responded, “What do you think of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria?” And Purple Plumeria it was.

It doesn’t usually happen that way.

One or two of my titles have been entirely editor constructed: The Masque of the Black Tulip, which is one my favorite titles, was the brain child of my first editor, Laurie Chittenden.

Most of my titles have involved a lot of back and forth. And when I say “a lot”, I mean several weeks’ worth of tossing around alternate titles and tinkering with wording. The Ashford Affair began life as Ashford Park, went through a variety of other potential titles (sadly, no one liked my suggestion of Grass Huts and Coronets), had a brief stint as Secrets and Lies, and finally came to a rest as The Ashford Affair about a month after title consultations began.

Usually, the manuscript will be complete and possibly a few months old before it gets a title– which means I invariably have a working title, although it’s generally more a nickname than a proper title. With the Pink books, it’s been easy. Ironically, in manuscript, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation wasn’t Pink. I referred to it, when I referred to it, as “Purple Gentian”, or “Purple” for short. Every subsequent book in the series, though, has been Pink [Roman Numeral] in manuscript, from Pink II straight through to the proposal for the upcoming Pink XI– with the sole exception of Turnip’s book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe. The working title for that? Pink Christmas.

I’ve developed a new working title pattern for the stand alones I’ve been writing. The Ashford Affair started out as Ashford Park, not because that was ever intended as the real title, but because that was the great estate where so much of the action of the book took place. In conversation with friends, it was “The Kenya Book”, an easy short-hand for a book set partly on a continent far, far away from my earlier books.

Likewise, the Victorian Work-in-Progress lives in my files under the name Herne Hill, because the action of the book, modern and historical, all takes place in the London suburb of Herne Hill. That’s my own private, working name for the manuscript; in conversation, I refer to it simply as The Victorian Book, to distinguish it from The Kenya Book (aka Ashford) and the Pink Books (aka the Pink Books).

The title choosing process for Herne Hill/The Victorian Book should be getting going in a couple of months– and, to be honest, I have absolutely no idea of what the final title will be. I’m pretty sure, though, that it won’t be The Victorian Book.

What are your favorite book titles?

Fellow writers, do you start with full titles, or title later?



Ready… Set… Pinkorama!

Monday, February 25th, 2013

It’s that time of year again…. Can’t you just smell the sugar and the marshmallow? Yes, you guessed right: it’s time for the Third Annual Pinkorama!

(That’s really short for Pink Carnation Peep Diorama, but if I had to write that out each time, these would become very long posts.)

The rules are simple: using those sugary, marshmallowy goodies (Peeps), recreate your favorite scene from the Pink Carnation novels. Any of the Pink books, novellas, or bonus chapters are fair game. Even though it’s not technically Pink, I’m including The Ashford Affair among the eligible works, just in case you feel like going Edwardian Peep, 1920s Peep, or Kenya Peep.

Once your Peep creation is complete, take a picture (or pictures) of your Pinkorama and email them to me with “Pinkorama” in the subject line. I’ll post all the Pinkoramas here on the website and open it up to general voting.

The deadline for the Pinkorama is Tuesday, March 26th. I’ll post the pictures and open it up to voting here on the site on Wednesday, March 27th.

As for the prize… I haven’t quite decided yet, but if you have any suggestions/requests, let me know!

If you’re seeking Peep inspiration, check out the Pinkorama Gallery and last year’s Pinkorama winners!

(p.s. apologies to last year’s Pinkorama entrants: I hadn’t realized those pictures weren’t in the Gallery! I intend to remedy that forthwith.)



Thursday Give Away Winner

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

The winner of Tracy Grant’s The Paris Affair is…

Sara B! (Of Comment #16.)

Congrats, Sara! If you email Tracy with your info, she’ll see that your book gets to you.

And for those who didn’t win, at least the wait isn’t too long now! The Paris Affair comes out just one month from Tuesday, on March 26.

Another exciting book coming up this Thursday….



Weekly Reading Round-Up

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

While I’ve been powering through the Victorian Book (100,000 words down, 20,000 more to go!), I’ve been re-reading favorite old mystery novels, since they retain my interest without distracting me too much from the manuscript at hand.

This week I revisited Dorothy Sayers’s The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club and The Nine Tailors, followed by two of Elizabeth Peters’s Vicki Bliss novels: Silhouette in Scarlet and Trojan Gold.

I have a huge pile of new books waiting for me as soon as I finish writing the Victorian Book, so I promise more interesting Weekly Reading Round-Ups in the not too distant future!

What have you been reading this week?



Thursday Give Away

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

We have a special treat for Thursday give away today: a copy of Tracy Grant’s upcoming novel, The Paris Affair!

Here’s the official blurb:

From the ashes of war rise the secrets of its darkest hearts. . . .

In the wake of the Battle of Waterloo, Paris is a house divided. The triumphant Bourbons flaunt their victory with lavish parties, while Bonapartists seek revenge only to be captured and executed. Amid the turmoil, British attaché and intelligence agent Malcolm Rannoch and his wife, Suzanne, discover that his murdered half sister, Princess Tatiana Kirsanova, may have borne a child—a secret she took to the grave. And Malcolm suspects there was more than mere impropriety behind her silence. . . .

As Malcolm and Suzanne begin searching for answers, they learn that the child was just one of many secrets Tatiana had been keeping. The princess was the toast of Paris when she arrived in the glamorous city, flirting her way into the arms of more than a few men—perhaps even those of Napoleon himself—and the father must be among them. But in the mêlée of the Napoleonic Wars, she was caught up in a deadly game of court intrigue, and now Malcolm and Suzanne must race against time to save his sister’s child from a similar fate. . . .

I had the chance to read an advance copy of this back in the spring, and it has all of the espionage, drama and historical detail one has come to expect from a Tracy Grant novel– whether the hero and heroine are named Malcolm and Suzanne or Charles and Melanie. Although this is part of an ongoing series (don’t miss the earlier books!), it works quite well as a stand alone, too.

So, for a chance to win a copy of The Paris Affair, here’s your question:

Who are your favorite husband and wife spy team?

The winner will be announced on Sunday. The Paris Affair hits the shelves on March 26th. To find out more about The Paris Affair and the other Malcolm and Suzanne books, just visit Tracy’s website.



Teaser Tuesday: Eloise & Colin

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

I promised you an Eloise and Colin snippet from The Passion of the Purple Plumeria, didn’t I?

Voila the complete, unabridged first Colin and Eloise chapter!

Confession: After some poking around in the website archives, I discovered that I had already shared this chapter with you several months ago. Since it was a while ago (and if I’d forgotten about it, you might have, too), I figured that it was probably worth re-posting– but I owe you all another Colin and Eloise teaser later this spring.

Without further ado, Eloise and Colin….

(more…)



Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m re-posting a piece I wrote way back in 2009, for the (now defunct) All-A-Blog.

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you….”

They do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. With that as my excuse, I plan to shamelessly imitate one of my favorite authors, Tracy Grant, who came up with the genius idea of compiling a list of her favorite fictional declarations of love in honor of Valentine’s Day.

Like Tracy, I tend to admire those hard-won resolutions where the hero and heroine have been kept apart by either internal or external impediments. Mr. Darcy (whose well-worn declaration heads this post), has to fight against his own, er, pride and prejudice before he can blurt out those famous lines to Elizabeth. In the case of Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, discussed at length by Tracy, the impediment lies in Harriet’s psyche, in her fear of what dreadful changes giving in to emotion might work on them both (to be fair, she had just been accused of murdering her ex-lover, so one could appreciate why she was gun shy). It takes three books for Lord Peter to win her over, and when he does, the resolution is all the meaningful for being so hard fought.

Here are two of my other favorites. On one end, we have those sardonic heroes, in the model of Rhett Butler, who mock themselves even as they declare their affections:

“Would it take your mind off your unpleasant memories to know that I love you? That I am, as the novelists put it, ‘in love’ with you?”

The hero and heroine of Valerie Fitzgerald’s Zemindar are on the run through India in the midst of the mutiny of 1857. The hero’s estate has just been burned and looted, the heroine has come across the hideously mutilated bodies of close acquaintances, they have a dependent woman and baby on their hands, and they have no idea whether they’ll make it out alive. Even so, the hero couches his declaration in inverted commas. The fact that it took mutiny, murder and massacre to get him even to that point tells you an awful lot about what voicing those words cost him.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the fulsome declaration—with a twist:

“Love you! Girl, you’re in the very core of my heart. I hold you there like a jewel. Didn’t I promise you I’d never tell you a lie? Love you! I love you with all there is of me to love. Heart, soul, brain. Every fibre of body and spirit thrilling to the sweetness of you. There’s nobody in the world for me but you, Valency.”

No one writes it quite like L.M. Montgomery. The heroine of The Blue Castle was the one who did the proposing, on the understanding that she only had a year to live. When she finds out that she was misdiagnosed, she runs back home, convinced Barney will hate her for trapping him. Barney comes running after her, uttering the declaration above—which Valency doesn’t believe. It takes his losing his temper to convince her, which leads to my favorite line of that scene: “You darling!” [Valency] said. “You do mean it! You do really love me! You wouldn’t be so enraged if you didn’t!” High romance gives way to practical psychology.

I’d never stopped to think about it before, but I’ve written variants on both those scenes. The hero and heroine of my fourth book, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose, belong to the Rhett Butler/Zemindar camp (Tracy discusses them in her post). My fifth book, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine, follows the Blue Castle pattern. When it comes down to it, the heroine is convinced of the sincerity of the hero’s affections not by his pretty speeches, but by the awkward honesty that comes later.

I have so many other favorite scenes—Rhett’s marriage proposal to Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, the final scene of Mary Stewart’s Nine Coaches Waiting, M.M. Kaye’s Trade Wind, Georgette Heyer’s Arabella—but this post has already reached absurd proportions.

What are your favorite literary declarations of love?

Happy Valentine’s Day!



Out and About on the Internet

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

It’s been a busy web-hopping week for me. This week, you can find me:

— answering questions about The Ashford Affair on Sammy the Bookworm’s site;

— over at Sarah MacLean’s webpage, talking about girls who wear glasses, and, in particular, Emma of The Garden Intrigue;

— and, at the Ballroom Blog, discussing some of the background research that’s going into the new, Victorian-set work in progress, including images of the program from the 1849 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.