• Risky Regencies

    So long for now…

    It is with extremely mixed feelings that I announce that this will be my last post as a Risky, at least for the foreseeable future. This is a wonderful community of authors and readers, and it’s been a privilege to be a part of it. I’ll miss this place. But my writing is going in a new direction, one that I’m excited to embark upon.

    Around this time last year, I developed a bad case of burnout as a writer. I took some time off to reflect on the current state of career and my hopes for the future. After a few months of soul-searching (and some time off to travel around Europe!), I came to the conclusion that what I really wanted to do was switch genres from romance to fantasy, and that the only thing holding me back was fear of change.

    So I’m currently hard at work on what I hope will be my first fantasy novel. It’s urban fantasy with romantic elements, and it reflects my love of baseball, American history, and TV shows like Doctor Who, Sleepy Hollow, The Librarians, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. My goal is to write something big, crazy, smart, and, above all, fun!

    I’m sure I’ll still be reading a ton of romance, and I expect my fantasy novels will contain strong romance arcs, since there’s few things I love more than a story of two people falling in love as they work together for a common cause or to fight a shared enemy. Thanks again for welcoming me as a part of the Risky community!

  • Risky Book Talk,  TV and Film

    Re-releases and Time Travel

    While I don’t have a new release out, I’m happy to announce the re-release of my 2013 Christmas novella, Christmas Past, with a brand new cover as part of Entangled’s Scandalous line.

    Christmas Past cover

    Time-traveling PhD student Sydney Dahlquist’s first mission sounded simple enough—spend two weeks in December 1810 collecting blood samples from the sick and wounded of Wellington’s army, then go home to modern-day Seattle and Christmas with her family. But when her time machine breaks, stranding her in the past, she must decide whether to sacrifice herself to protect the timeline or to build a new life—and embrace a new love—two centuries before her time.

    I’ve always loved a good time travel story–I think the idea of getting to actually visit the past is just so seductive to me as a history geek. Christmas Past is my first attempt at the genre, but it won’t be my last. I’ve started work on a story I’ll talk more about in my December post that takes a magical approach to time travel rather than a scientific one. But for this week I thought I’d talk about some of my favorite time travel stories as a reader and viewer. In no particular order…

    Outlander

    Outlander. (Though despite that lovely illustration, due to the lack of Starz in my cable package I’m far more familiar with the books.) It’s big and epic, satisfying that part of me that loves a decades-spanning saga. It’s romantic and sexy. And I appreciate how in the later books when most of the action moves to colonial and Revolutionary America, Gabaldon gives a much more nuanced portrayal of both sides of the conflict than your typical Plucky Liberty-Minded Colonists vs. Tyrannical Royalists.

    Tempus Fugit

    Sleepy Hollow, my current TV obsession, on the other hand, will never win prizes for its nuanced examination of the Revolutionary era–the British in many cases are literal demons. And technically it’s not even a true time travel show, since its man-out-of-time hero Ichabod Crane gets to the future by dying (or close enough to it) in 1781 and getting resurrected in 2013 rather than your traditional time machine or time travel spell. But in the Season 2 finale, Abbie Mills, his 21st-century cop partner in apocalypse-fighting, goes back to the 18th century to save Crane’s life, not to mention all the American history yet to come. Along the way she gets to meet Benjamin Franklin and her own ancestress who first got her family involved in the secret war against evil. (The show is 100% as crazy as it sounds, but at its best, as with this episode, it’s crazy-awesome. And frankly, I’m nervous about including it on this list, since I’m writing this post Thursday evening before the Season 3 mid-season finale airs, so I have no idea if I’ll be giddy and squeeing over crazy-awesome or grumbling, “Why, show, why?” over plain old crazy tomorrow morning when you’re reading this!)

    First Contact

    The Star Trek universe goes to the time travel well a lot, but I’m listing First Contact as my example because I have such fond memories of watching it in the theater when it first came out. It was everything I loved about Next Gen Trek, made big-screen and epic.

    Everybody lives!

    Doctor Who, of course, is all about time travel…so I’m just listing what remains my favorite two-part pair of episodes, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, wherein the Ninth Doctor, Rose Tyler, and Jack Harkness end up in the London Blitz…and just this once, everybody lives!

    A Swiftly Tilting Planet

    A Swiftly Tilting Planet was always my favorite of Madeleine L’Engle’s time quintet, probably because of the high stakes (stopping a nuclear war!) and dizzying leaps through multiple times.

    What about you? Are you a fan of time travel in fiction? What are some of your favorites?

  • History,  Regency

    On to Salamanca…

    For the very last leg of our big European trip this summer, we went to Spain. When I’d originally envisioned this trip, many years ago, I’d thought of myself starting in Portugal and Spain and carefully tracing the Peninsular War path of Wellington’s army before finally ending up at Waterloo just in time for the bicentennial. But this trip couldn’t be ALL about me, and saving Waterloo for last wasn’t an option given my daughter’s school schedule–Seattle Public Schools don’t start till after Labor Day and run fairly deep into June, so as-is she had to miss the last two days.

    So the only other of Wellington’s battlefields we made it to was Salamanca, which we chose because we were told it was the best-preserved of the lot (and also because the city of Salamanca itself is well worth visiting). We hired a guide to give us a private tour of the battlefield, almost a necessity because “best-preserved” in this case means “still open farmland and fields.” Unlike any other battlefield I’ve visited (Waterloo, Culloden, Gettysburg), you could easily drive by it without ever knowing two armies had clashed there. Incidentally, I’m not sure the guide EVER fully adjusted to the fact that I rather than my husband was the Wellington geek and military history buff of the family–he kept turning to him to point out some feature or landmark, only to have Mr. Fraser direct him back to me.

    (I apologize in advance for the somewhat blurry quality of some of these pictures–this part of the trip was after I shattered the screen of my iPhone and was left taking pictures with my iPad, which being larger was much tougher to hold steady.)

    Salamanca

    Salamanca is unusual among Wellington’s Peninsular battles in that he took the offense instead of occupying a position and defending it, as at Waterloo. This had more to do with the circumstances than his personality or abilities, IMHO–he recognized that since the French were the invaders and the British were supporting the invaded Portuguese and Spanish, his objective wasn’t so much total victory as forcing the French to keep pouring resources into the Peninsula. Also, he was leading the only army of any size Britain had available, so he was careful to avoid the risks a commander with a larger population base and the power to conscript from it (like, oh, say, Napoleon) might run.

    In fact, the Battle of Salamanca began as a British retreat. The British had occupied the town, but were blocked to the north by French Marshal Marmont, who kept getting reinforcements and started to threaten Wellington’s supply lines. He decided to return to Portugal, so his army marched out, shadowed by Marmont’s men marching in parallel. But when he saw that Marmont had overextended his lines, leaving his army vulnerable, he pounced.

    In the picture above, the initial British position (the Lesser Arapile) is the hill to the left, while the French occupied the Greater Arapile to the right. Cavalry played a more important role in this battle than in most Peninsular conflicts, and looking at all that wide, grassy country you can see why.

    Here we’re standing atop the Greater Arapile, Marmont’s position, looking toward the Lesser Arapile where the British artillery was posted:

    Lesser Arapile

    And here we’re at the base of the Lesser Arapile, looking up toward the French position:

    Greater Arapile

    Somehow the fact that the ground is still so open and empty, not clustered with monuments and interpretive information, made it all the easier to imagine scenes like this:

    Not only was our visit to Salamanca fascinating, we loved Spain. The week we spent in Madrid and Salamanca was our favorite part of the whole trip. Possibly because we were there in the heat of July, everything was less crowded than in London, Brussels, Paris, or Southwest France. We were able to walk straight into great museums like the Prado and the Reina Sofia without having to wait in line. Everyone was friendly and helpful–though I kept getting in trouble by speaking Spanish just well enough that people expected me to understand it well, too! And the food was amazing.

    Churros con chocolate for breakfast:

    Churros

    For dinner we’d go down to the Plaza Mayor, pick one of the outdoor cafes, and have a nice leisurely dinner listening to strolling musicians and watching the world go by. Around 9:30 or 10:00, it got dark enough that the lights came on to cheers from the crowd:

    Plaza Mayor

    All around that plaza and Salamanca, there are reliefs of various royal and otherwise important figures from Spanish history. There’s just one Englishman–and possibly just one foreigner–Wellington.

    Wellington

    If you ever get a chance to go to Spain, jump at it, and make sure you go to Salamanca!

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