Thursday, December 31st, 2015
There are many things this list isn’t. It’s not a “best of” list. And it’s certainly not comprehensive. It’s an off the top of my head list of some of the books that stuck with me from this past year, many of which were published in other years– in some cases, many years ago– but which happened to land in my lap in one way or another in 2015.
So, with all of those caveats out of the way, here are some of the books that gave me the most joy in 2015:
— Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson. Where has this book been all my life? (Short answer: in print, since it was published in 1938. They even made a movie out of it, which I also managed to ignore.) It’s a madcap romp about a down on her luck governess sent to the wrong address, who suddenly finds herself plunged into Life with a capital L. It’s brilliant and beautifully done.
— The Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s as if my favorite British police procedurals moved from the screen to the page, with a snarky, first person narrator and more than a touch of the supernatural. Think Harry Potter meets DCI Banks.
— The Esther Diamond series, by Laura Resnick. I seem to have a theme here…. These are set in New York, rather than London, and the snarky first person narrator is an Off-Off-Off-Off Broadway actress, rather than a member of the Metropolitan Police Force, but these are also mysteries set in a world where magic, real magic, lurks just below the surface, and it’s up to some rather specialized organizations to find and control it. These books are laugh out loud funny, particularly my favorite, Vamparazzi, in which Polidori’s novel is turned into an Off-Broadway Goth cult hit play. If Rivers of London is DCI Banks meets Harry Potter, these are what would happen if Castle had a love child with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Together, Rivers of London and Esther Diamond got me through the writing of the final Pink Carnation novel, for which I am exceedingly grateful.
— While I’m on mysteries…. I rather belatedly picked up Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling this past fall and then careened through The Silkworm and Career of Evil. They’re wonderfully written, twisty mysteries that remind me a great deal of Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories.
— Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. We know at the beginning that someone died, but we don’t know who or why. The book goes back in time, and as we inch up to the murder, we begin to get an idea of just what might be going on…. The voices were so strong that the book felt like a gossip session with old friends.
— Sara Gruen’s At the Water’s Edge. Who can say no to the Loch Ness Monster? I’ve already written about this book for RT Book Reviews’s annual round-up, so I’ll just say that this was a book that kept me up until three in the morning, wanting to know how it would all turn out.
— Moving away from my usual reading fare, I ventured into the realm of sci fi this year: Lois McMaster Bujold’s Shards of Honor and Sharon and Lee Miller’s Scout’s Progress, both of which I loved. My college roommate sold me on the latter with the argument, “There’s technology in it, but, socially, it’s like Georgette Heyer.” And she was right. As always.
What did you read this year that stuck with you?
Tuesday, December 29th, 2015
A few weeks ago, I did an impromptu give away of “mystery” bundles of books on my Facebook page. Because what can be more fun than getting a surprise package?
This was such a hit that some bright soul (ahem, Aileen, ahem) suggested that I do a mystery bundle give away to celebrate the New Year.
I love the idea of starting off the New Year by spreading a bit of good luck, so, here we are: the Happy New Year 2016 Mystery Bundle Give Away!
I know, I know, not nearly as catchy a name as, say, Pinkorama. But just try to picture a hat with gold lettering and a noisemaker and all that sort of thing.
Here’s how it goes: I’ll be giving away two “mystery” bundles of five books each. They might be hardcover, they might be paperback, they might be audio, they might be some of the books pictured here or they might not. It’s a mystery.
I’ll also be giving away two mystery bundles on my Facebook author page— so you have double the chance to win!
To heighten the suspense a bit, I’ll be putting one of my last ARCs of The Forgotten Room into one of those mystery bundles… but you won’t know which until the winners are announced.
To enter, here’s your question:
What’s your resolution for 2016?
(Mine is to finally write that next stand alone novel! And then get to work on the book after that….)
Winners will be announced on New Year’s Day, both here and on Facebook.
Happy almost New Year!
Thursday, December 24th, 2015
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away (okay, so it was 2008– but it feels like a galaxy far, far away), I decided it would be fun to write a novella as a holiday gift to my readers.
So I did.
I posted the novella in serial form on the website, chapter by chapter, largely to give myself time to finish it.
The story follows Amy and Richard (and Eloise and Colin) as they spend their very first Christmas together, with good cheer, mince pies, a few attempts at caroling, and, of course, French spies.
Here, once again, as my holiday gift to you, is the one and only Pink Carnation Christmas novella, Ivy & Intrigue: A Very Selwick Christmas, free here on the website. Just follow the links at the end of each chapter to get to the next chapter.
Need some more mistletoe and mayhem? You can also find some rather substantial Ivy & Intrigue outtakes here.
Happy holidays from everyone at Selwick Hall!
Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015
It is a truth universally acknowledged that there is always that one last minute gift you haven’t quite found yet….
How about a copy of The Forgotten Room?
If you pre-order today or tomorrow, Fox Tale Book Shoppe will send a snazzy card to the recipient telling her that a signed copy of The Forgotten Room has been reserved in her name.
FoxTale will then wrap and ship the signed and personalized book in January. So it’s like a double present!
To order, just click here and then scroll down a bit until you hit the Forgotten Room section. The holiday promotion ends December 24th.
(I’ve also heard tell that if you’re in the FoxTale area, aka Woodstock, GA, there’s an extra in-store promotion. When you pre-order your copy of The Forgotten Room in-store, you’ll be entered to win a gift basket filled with books and treats.)
Happy holidays and happy reading!
Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015
It’s that time of year again: time for the annual posting of the Lost Intro to The Mischief of the Mistletoe.
Why “lost”, you say?
I’d like to claim that Turnip misplaced it somewhere between his carnation-embroidered handkerchiefs and his private stash of Christmas puddings. But that would be unfair to Turnip (and Arabella complained). So here’s the real story.
As you know, Jane Austen appears in Mistletoe as a side character. This terrified me. Sure, I’d dragged Napoleon through the mud, written about the madness of King George, taken the name of various other historical characters in vain, but Austen? No. I lived in fear of angry Austen-ites coming after me with stakes fashioned from annotated copies of Austen’s Complete Works.
So I decided to include a little “scholarly” introduction to the novel, just to let everyone know that everything was all in good fun. The problem? My publisher was afraid that people would think it was a real scholarly introduction.
Out it went– but here it is, back for your amusement:
From the Introduction to the Oxford Addendum to the Cambridge Companion of the Collected Letters of Jane Austen:
“… the Dempsey Collection, as it is called, was for some time denied a place in the Austenian epistolary canon. Due to the destruction of the bulk of Austen’s correspondence after her death, for some time there were believed to be only one hundred and sixty letters extent. The discovery of a cache of correspondence, preserved in an old trunk in an attic in Norfolk, underneath a series of shockingly gaudy waistcoats embroidered in a carnation print, tucked inside an early nineteenth century recipe book concerned entirely with Christmas puddings, was thought for some time by the Fellows of the Royal College of Austen Studies to be nothing more than a malicious act of sabotage on the part of unscrupulous members of the rival Dickens Society, who had turned to thuggery as the inevitable result of immoderate consumption of late Victorian serial fiction. Although the Dickens Society denied the charge, relations between the two groups remained frosty, culminating in the great Tea Incident of 1983, which scandalized Oxbridge and caused a rift of which the reverberations are felt to this day. As footnote clashed against footnote, and members of warring factions refused to pass the port at High Table, the Dempsey Collection was relegated for some time to the academic abyss, discarded as nothing more than Austenian apocrypha.
“After two decades of painstaking scrutiny, including chemical testing, textual analysis, and the consultation of several Magic 8 balls, the scholarly community has tentatively accepted the Dempsey collection as genuine, with some significant reservations. Although the dates of the letters and the identity of the author have, indeed, been authenticated, there are serious doubts as to the veracity of the contents. While Jane Austen writes in her own name, addressing the letters to a supposedly “real” young lady of her acquaintance, the events narrated within them are of such a sensational and fantastical nature as to defy all belief.
“The more serious members of the academic establishment adhere to the theory that Austen was, in fact, engaged in an epistolary novel, a style she employed for both the unfinished Lady Susan and the original draft of Elinor and Marianne, the novel that was to become Sense and Sensibility. There is some argument that the letters comprise a failed early draft of her incomplete novel, The Watsons. As in that work, the Dempsey collection features a heroine returned to the unaffectionate bosom of her family after being disappointed in her hopes of an inheritance from a wealthy aunt, who casts her from the household upon the elderly aunt’s imprudent second marriage to a handsome young captain in the army. Many of the names Austen uses in the Watsons appear in the Dempsey collection, although somewhat altered.
“There, however, all resemblance ends….
“That the letters and their contents were, in fact, the product of a contemporary correspondence conducted with an actual acquaintance in reaction to authentic events is a possibility entertained only by the most radical fringe of Austen scholars. This view is generally discredited…
“What Englishman, one may ask, would answer to the name of Turnip?”
Excerpt reproduced courtesy of the author, Perpetua Fotherington-Smythe, M. Phil., D. Phil, R. Phil, F.R.C.A.S.*, S.o.S.A.S.S.I..**, GAE (MEOAE).***
* Fellow of the Royal College of Austen Studies
** Symposium of the Society of Austen and Similarly Superior Interlocutors
*** Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the Austenian Epistle
Monday, December 21st, 2015
Talk about making spirits bright! Reading through the entries for the Name That Root Vegetable Contest brought joy to the computer screen and all that, don’t you know.
Thanks so much to everyone for your incredibly Turnip-spirited suggestions for the Fitzhugh brood, ranging from Pudding to Peppermint. The best part? The thumbnail sketches of their later lives, some of which had me perilously close to choking on my tea.
Also lines like:
— “Turnip, however, could not abide by foisting his children into the world without an appropriate sobriquet (Deuced frenchy word, Sobriq-whats-its).” Meredith A
— “Our youngest is little Emma (notice girls name all follow Jane’s characters). Emma is Sally 2.0. She has no nickname because she is not a vegetable.” Angel B.
And isn’t that just Sally in a nutshell? (Nuts don’t count as vegetables, right?)
If you’re having Mischief of the Mistletoe withdrawal, reading through these entries is the perfect treat.
And now down to business. The winners, chosen by random number generator, are….
Dianne Casey and Laura Hartness!
Congrats, Dianne and Laura! If you email me and let me know whether you’d like The Lure of the Moonflower audio or The Mischief of the Mistletoe paperback, I’ll pop your prize in the mail to you.
In the meantime, I couldn’t resist re-posting an entry that was truly in the spirit of the Pink Carnation– with kudos to Freya for combining Blackadder, Shakespeare, and Wodehouse in an entirely Carnation way. Just click that “more” button to read the entry in its entirety.
Happy holidays, all!
Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
It just dawned on me that this is an anniversary of sorts for The Mischief of the Mistletoe.
As much as it boggles my brain to think of it, it’s been a whole five years since The Mischief of the Mistletoe first appeared on shelves in the winter of 2010. That’s five whole years of Turnip… in which he won a RITA Award, acquired an epilogue, and all sorts of other fun stuff. He’s even been rendered in Peep form. (Which is really pretty Peeptastic.)
Turnip and Arabella have popped up again from time to time since their star turn. In 2014’s The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, we met their toddler, Parsnip (née Jane, but no-one calls her by her real name). And in the Readers’ Guide to the final Pink book, The Lure of the Moonflower, we discover that Turnip and Arabella evenutally have not just Parsnip, but four younger children as well.
So here is your Mistletoe challenge: name those Fitzhughs!
Do you have any ideas for names for Turnip’s other children? Real names, nicknames, what they get up to later in life… the more you want to share, the merrier!
Two people will be chosen at random to receive your choice of either a signed copy of The Mischief of the Mistletoe (paperback) or a Lure of the Moonflower audio CD.
Winners will be announced on Monday.
Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
There’s a copy of The Forgotten Room up for grabs over on the three Ws’ Facebook page right now!
Recently, Beatriz, Karen and I got together for tea to plot our next book together. There were scones, tea sandwiches, and, of course, tea.
So, for a chance to win an advance copy of The Forgotten Room, just pop over to our official three Ws Facebook page and tell us your favorite tea! (You’ll know it’s the right post when you see the picture of tea cups.)
Just over a month to go until The Forgotten Room appears in stores….
p.s. Quick question: do you prefer Facebook contests or website contests? If there is anyone who’s not on Facebook and would be left out, let me know, and I’ll make sure to do more contests here on the website.
p.p.s. Stay tuned for a special Mischief of the Mistletoe contest here on the website later today!
Friday, December 11th, 2015
I’ve been immersed in research books this week for the New Revised Stand Alone, so there hasn’t been as much time as I’d like for fiction, but what I did read was a win: Trisha Ashley’s A Winter’s Tale, about a down on her luck single mom who unexpectedly inherits the no longer quite so stately family home and must come up with a plan to rescue it– without selling it to her persistent property developer cousin.
I do love a good house book, especially when the house is Elizabethan and comes with family secrets, cranky gardeners, dodgy cousins, dotty great-aunts, and a good wassail at the end.
(Since I seem to be on a Trisha Ashley kick, I have a question for the Trisha Ashley devotees out there: after The Twelve Days of Christmas and A Winter’s Tale, which of her books should I pick up?)
Next up? Sara Donati’s The Gilded Hour. I adored her Into the Wilderness, so I’m very much looking forward to this one.
What have you been reading this week?
Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
A funny thing happened on the way to the next stand alone novel.
Remember that book I was working on, the family saga set in Belle Epoque Paris, World War I Picardy, and World War II Paris?
That book is not the book you will be reading in 2017.
The research was fascinating, the idea worked beautifully on paper– and the characters just wouldn’t come out and play. They felt a bit like cardboard cut-outs, flat and one-dimensional. I could move them around from place to place, but they wouldn’t DO much when they got there. It was all great in theory, not so great in practice.
But, in the meantime (because you know this has a happy ending, right?), I found myself drawn back to an idea that had been bouncing around in the back of my brain for a while, a Gilded Age scandal involving a murder/suicide in a grand mansion on the Hudson. The papers are all gleefully reporting on the love triangle that caused the tragedy– but do they really know what happened? Or are all the smug spectators getting it completely backwards and upside down?
These characters? They’re only to eager to jump onto the page.
So the short version is that I may be tucked away in my writing cave for a bit this winter, because while the story may have changed, the deadline hasn’t. I’ll have more news for you about the new book once I’m a bit farther along.
Right now the working title is the clever and inventive “Stand Alone #4” or SA #4 for short. My college roommate, who generally knows more about my plots and characters than I do, has been calling this one “Gilded Age Gone Girl“, but, somehow, the acronym GAGG just didn’t seem entirely salubrious.
Stand Alone #4, still to be titled, will, with luck and good writing vibes, be coming your way as scheduled in the summer of 2017. More soon!