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Monthly Archives: November 2009

Tomorrow is the official release date for Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady, even though it seems to be in bookstores already and is available at online bookstores. The ebook version will be released tomorrow (Kindle owners take note!)

It is impossible to know for certain if your book “works” until comments appear, so I’ve been biting my nails a bit in anticipation of the feedback that comes with reader comments and reviews.

I’ve been so lucky that both Judy and Keira gave me mini-reviews in their comments to my blog last Monday. I almost breathed a sigh of relief reading what they had to say. And Judy wrote a lovely review on Amazon, which was very nice of her to do.

Early on I received a 4 star review from RT Book Reviews; that’s always a pleasure.

And yesterday a new review appeared on CataRomance. Debby Guyette calls it “one captivating book.” Yay!!!

But not all is rosy. Two reader reviewers on Amazon gave the book 3 stars, which is disappointing, because one hopes everyone loves the book, even if that is impossible. At least these readers explained their reasoning and listed both positives and negatives, which I appreciate.

Many of my author friends say not to read reviews, not to pay any attention to them. And it is true that I can quote the less enthusiastic lines from my very first and only Publishers Weekly review of The Improper Wife, but I also remember the PW reviewer thought I wrote “sizzling love scenes.” The way I figure it, if I didn’t look for reviews, I wouldn’t see the positive ones, and I wouldn’t know if my book “worked” for anyone.

There is also debate among my friends as to how much people pay attention to reviews. I personally think that they do influence whether or not a person buys a book. I have to admit that I read Amazon reviews before buying a book, unless I know the author or have read something else by that author. I try to assess whether the reviewer has an agenda behind a low review, though. You can mostly tell. And I’m not usually purchasing Romance books when I look at Amazon reviews. I also read RT reviews but typically to see how they’ve assessed friends’ books, not to develop a reading list.

Of course, I no longer feel I’m a typical reader, so it is hard to say how much reviews would affect my book buying habits if I were. Before I was writing in earnest there weren’t as many reviews online and I mostly went on reading “kicks.” Reading all the Dick Francis books at one point; all the Victoria Holt, Bernard Cornwell, Georgette Heyer, Lois McMaster Bujold, any traditional Regency I could find. A book from the Washington Post Book World might have captured my attention, but mostly my choices seemed pretty random or began with a friend’s recommendation.

How do you select a book?

How do reviews influence you? (I’m assuming they do)

Dec 2 I’m blogging with Romance Bandits and giving away a copy of Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady

Dec 6 I’ll be here at Risky Regencies, also giving away a copy.

Check my website for the complete schedule.

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My son (who’s 10) wrote this in school on Wednesday, and I thought I would share it with you all. Hope everyone who celebrates had a lovely day yesterday, filled with turkey, and pie, and family.

I’m Thankful For Life

I’m thankful for the rivers,

And all the snakes that slither

Through the trees that I’m thankful for also.

I’m thankful for the bugs,

The wasps, and the slugs,

And I don’t care if they’re gross or slimy.

I’ll make friends with a frog,

Or a serpent in the bog,

And it doesn’t matter if it’s grimy.

I’m thankful for the monkeys

And the lions that are funky

That live in the shiny Savannah,

And when the gibbons swing inters

The look at the chimpanzees,

Eating their yellow bananas.

I’m thankful for the skunks,

And the grey and black punks,

Who are usually known as raccoons.

And the mice who eat rice, and the rats who have lice,

And the capybaras who eat lemon-flavored macaroons.

I’m thankful for fish,

That flip and swish,

In the water and squirt and swim,

And the squids and sharks,

And the seals that bark,

And the swordfish that’s surprisingly thin.

I’m thankful for chickens and ducks,

And pigs, who flop in the much,

And the cows, who always say moo.

I like the horses and mules,

Who make all the rules,

I appreciate the brown turkeys, too.

I’m thankful for mountains,

And volcanoes that spew,

And I even like cells,

And viruses, too.

Parasites are coo,

And crabs ain’t no fool,

And I love all the salmon

In their little school.

I adore kittycats,

And tortoises that are fat,

And I’m thankful for anything that’s living.

Especially my family, and I hope

That everything

In this planet has

A marvelous Thanksgiving.

Me, too.


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No, not an early post for Thanksgiving according to the Mayan calendar.

I finished, sort of, my book called … well, it doesn’t actually have a name yet but it’s about Jane Austen in Bath, vampires and a French invasion, with guest appearances by the Prince of Wales (later the Prince Regent), Beau Brummell, and Colonel Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). Guess which one is a vampire. Coming from HarperCollins in fall (?) 2010.

So on Monday night I left work early and went home with my head stuffed full of the last three thousand words or so and started to write.

First phone call: from a worthy organization I told to take my name off their call list.

Phone call #2: daughter wanted to borrow my pretty pie dish (she is the official Thanksgiving pie maker) and I told her it was cracked, probably not a good idea.

Phone call #3: the person who had kindly invited me to attend the local Jane Austen Society birthday event as her guest. This necessitated me making a call to find out what day a possibly conflicting event was on–I am such a social butterfly–and finding out that I could attend neither the Austen event or event #3 that I really wanted to go to.

Phone call #4: from a worthy organization who hung up before I answered.

Phone call #5: my daughter again, asking if it was ok to ask our hosts if she could bring the office Thanksgiving orphan (there’s always one) and I said yes, good idea.

Somehow, fielding more phone calls than I usually get in a week, I got to the point where I typed THE END. Yeehah.

Frantic editing and fact checking will follow and then straight into the next book. But I celebrated the end the next day by going to see the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center, a last minute invite from my daughter the pie baker. Lots of fun!

Happy Thanksgiving, Risky friends (US) and happy Thursday to Risky friends elsewhere!

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Sorry, you’ve been tricked. I am not the glorious and industrious Amanda McCabe, all ready with this totally awesome post about interesting historical figures. Nope.

By the time this posts, it will be the eve of the American holiday, Thanksgiving. Setting aside some of the painful ironies of the historical event, I’ve always thought Thanksgiving is one of the better holidays out there. It’s not a holiday based on a religious or pagan event. Instead, we Americans get to eat great food, cheer for the Cowboys to lose (Sorry, Niner fan here) and spend time with family.

What’s always fascinated me about Thanksgiving is how many of us take the Thanks seriously. I’ve always thought Samuel Pepys habit of taking account of his finances at the New Year was a great tradition. But I never do that. Because I don’t want to be depressed.

Figuring out things I am thankful for is way more fun.

Here’s my list. In no particular order. I swear.

  • My writing friends. Thank goodness there are people out there who understand.
  • My son. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.
  • My iPhone. come here, little iPhone. Let me pet you….
  • European Sipping Chocolate at Viva Cocolat. It’s a wicked addiction. If you click through, you can see the black couch and chair where I often sit with my fellow writing-chocoholics and talk about books.
  • Susan Boyle. I’ve watched her Britain’s Got Talent First Round performance a bazillion times and I’m ALWAYS blown away and thrilled. I have her CD now, and now I can listen all day. Which I did today. Thanks, Susan!
  • My agent. Seriously.
  • Alexander Skarsgard. I am profoundly grateful for the distraction.
  • Creative people in general. You folks blow me away, from favorite writers, musicians, actors, directors, artists and on and on. You put beauty into my life, and for that am truly grateful.
  • The men and women who came before me and ensured that I live in a world that is better for me than it was for them. Here’s a few:
    • Martin Luther King, Jr.
    • John Stuart Mill
    • Mahatma Gandhi
    • Nelson Mandela
    • Betty Freidan
    • Gloria Steinam
    • Rachel Carson
    • Hannah Arendt
    • Ellie Weisel
    • Louis Pasteur
    • Alexander Fleming
    • Elizabeth Blackwell

  • The men and women of our Armed Forces. I may not agree with how we got there, but thank you for serving our country.
  • Pumpkin pie.
  • Readers. Even if you don’t read my books. (Really? You don’t? sniff)
  • Joe Montana. I was a San Francisco 49ers season ticket holder while Montana was the quarterback, and let me tell you, I have never ever seen anyone transform an event by just stepping on the field. Amazing. Thank you, Joe!
  • Laura Kinsale

How about you?

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! Hope you’re all ready for Thanksgiving (I’m going shopping for the ingredients for a chocolate-cherry cake later! Wish me luck, I haven’t tried this one before). I’ve been unpacking from my trip last week (the book signing was a big success!), and diving into a new book. I love them at this point, when they’re all shiny and new and the characters haven’t started acting all stubborn yet.

I also have a holiday contest! Visit my Laurel McKee website before December 16 and enter for a chance to win an ARC of Countess of Scandal (out in February 2010!!)

Speaking of stubborn characters, I found out today is the birthday of one of my favorite childhood authors, Frances Hodgson Burnett! I first encountered her work when I found a battered old copy of The Secret Garden at my grandmother’s house, and I love, love, loved that book. I wanted to go live at a crumbling, dark old manor house on the moors and work in the garden. I even loved cranky little Mary, who, unlike those horrible Elsie Dinsmore stories my grandmother tried to push on me, got to be unhappy and contrary (until nature saved her!). I also loved A Little Princess, with solemn, smart Sara and the gorgeous descriptions of her luscious wardrobe (until she was banished to the garret!). These stories created a world I adored and wanted to learn more about. I guess they were my first intro to the British historical.

Frances Hodgson was born in Manchester on November 24, 1849. When she was 4, her father died, leaving her mother with 5 children to raise on her own. Her mother tried to carry on with the family business, running a wholesale company that supplied art materials to manufacturers, but the company soon failed. Through these trials, little Frances was growing up precocious and observant. She wrote her first poem at age 7. In 1864, her family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee to join her mother’s brother, but their finances did not improve.

Following the death of her mother in 1867, 18-year-old Frances was left responsible for her 2 younger siblings, and she turned to writing to support them all. Her first story was published in Godey’s Lady’s Book (Hearts and Diamonds), and she was soon printed regularly in that magazine along with Scribner’s, Peterson’s Ladies’ Magazine, and Harper’s Bazaar. She became known for her ability to combine details of real, working-class life with romantic plots and sensibilities. She usually earned $10 apiece for these tales.

In 1873 she married Dr. Swan Burnett, a man she had known since she was 15, and had her first child, Lionel, the following year. Her second son, Vivian, was born soon after on an extended trip to Paris. Her first book, That Lass o’Lowrie’s, about a pit girl working in a coal mine, was published in 1877 to great praise. On their return to the US that year the family settled in Washington DC where she began moving in literary circles and entertained lavishly. She was also prolific–she wrote in quick succession Haworth’s (1879), Louisiana (1880), A Fair Barbarian (1881), and Through One Administration (1883), as well as a play Esmeralda (1881). But she often struggled with illness and depression despite her success.

In 1885 she published her “breakout book,” Little Lord Fauntleroy, said to be inspired by her son Vivian. This book earned her more than $100,000, with a hugely popular theatrical adaptation following. Velvet suits became worldwide craze, much to the lasting horror of little boys everywhere.

In 1887 she traveled to Europe with her sons, visiting London for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and then on to France and Italy. A Little Princess (originally published under the title Sara Crewe) was published at this time. But in 1890 her eldest son died, and she was consumed with grief. She became interested in spiritualism and Theosophy (she wrote about these beliefs in The White People). Her marriage ended in divorce in 1898 and she married her business manager, but this second marriage also ended in divorce less than 2 years later. Her best-known work, The Secret Garden was published in 1911, after she had been living at Great Maytham Hall in England for many years and actually found a hidden garden there.

She lived practically as a hermit, hounded by the gossip press, for the last 17 years of her life in Plandome, New York, and is buried next to her son Vivian in Roslyn Cemetery there.

Aside from the novels themselves, I have an excellent biography of Burnett, Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden by Angelica Shirley Carpenter and Jean Shirley. And just as an example of the fashion porn in A Little Princess: Her dresses were silk and velvet and India cashmere, her hats and bonnets were covered with bows and plumes, her small undergarments were adorned with real lace, and she returned in the cab to Miss Minchin’s with a doll almost as large as herself, dressed quite as grandly as herself, too.

Did you love these books when you were a kid, too? What were some of your childhood favorites? And what are you cooking for the holiday???

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