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Baltimore is a strange, quirky sort of city. It’s the birthplace of Betsy Bonaparte who married Napoleon’s brother Jerome. Napoleon was not amused. Poor Betsy never got a crack at being a European bigwig though her extremely French ooh la la fashion sense appalled the fashionable set of Washington. I blogged about it here.

Baltimore brought us the Star Spangled Banner (which I blogged about very recently), Edgar Allen Poe, John Waters, the endearment hon (pronounced in the very odd regional accent), The Wire, and many other strange and wonderful things. And every year it brings the Baltimore Book Festival and I’ll be talking and reading there tomorrow on the Maryland Romance Writers’ Stage. It’s a huge three-day event which takes place in the Mount Vernon district. Lots and lots of books, beer, writers, kids’ activities, readings, food, and many good things.

I’ll be on panels talking about vamps, erotic romance, and keeping the history in historical fiction. We have some terrific guests including local writers like Stephanie Draven, Laura Kaye, and Christie Kelley. My out of town friend Miranda Neville will be there with me tomorrow and my other buddy Pam Rosenthal will talk on Saturday evening. We’ll all read from our books which you’ll be able to buy on the spot courtesy of Ukazoo Books (Baltimore is also rich in indy book stores).

There will also be drawings and giveaways and a bunch of us who are talking about vampires on Friday are doing a gift basket that has various treasures packed into a True Blood lunch bag (I think it would put me off my lunch, but there you go)–books, chocolate, jewelry, and one of my Austen mugs. I hate being involved in chocolate-heavy events. I just know I’m going to absent mindedly eat it.

So if you’re in spitting distance of Charm City, please visit the Baltimore Book Festival. You’ll have a lot of fun.

If you had to plan a book festival, who would you invite?


A big Riskies welcome to Christie Kelley who’s here to talk about her October release SCANDAL OF THE SEASON and to whom I’m grateful for saving me from independent thought today. She’ll be giving away a signed copy to one person who comments, so please post a question or comment.

I’ve known Christie just about as long as I’ve been writing. She’s my critique partner and one of the best plotters I know. When Christie was starting this book, she posed the innocent question to the critique group: Can you think of a good reason why the hero’s mother should run a brothel? Much hilarity ensued.

Kelley’s fresh and vibrant romances are emotional, fast-paced and intriguing. Her originality captivates readers and grabs their attention. She gifts everyone with a holiday-set story that’s a little bit Hans Christian Andersen merged with all of her sensual storytelling ability. 4 stars, Kathe Robin, Romantic Times

This book sparkles like diamonds and dazzles like rubies. The Reading Reviewer

This is book number four in your series about a group of women who’ve vowed never to marry, although it reads very well as a stand alone. Do you miss your characters when a book is finished?

I don’t normally because they pop up as secondary characters in the next book. I did just finish writing the last of the Spinster Club series. It was difficult to finish because these characters have been part of my life since 2004 when I first started writing EVERY NIGHT I’M YOURS. All the spinsters wanted more “on screen” time in the last book as if to get their last words in.

Who did you visualize as Somerton when you were writing him, or who would you cast in the movie?

What an easy question! As soon as I started writing Somerton as a secondary character I visualized Jensen Ackles from Supernatural. He was my perfect Somerton in looks and character.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

I don’t want to give too much away but it’s when my heroine, Victoria does something completely selfless because she loves Somerton. She gets hurt in the process and he can’t understand why she did it. She tells him she loves him and didn’t want to see him hurt. The fact that someone would do something for him because of love just about breaks him. I love it!

What was the most difficult part for you to write?

I had too much plot in this book. It just wasn’t working. Thankfully, my other critique partner, Kathy Love speed read the book and we replotted a few things. After two weeks of rewriting I was able to kill some of the external plot that was taking over the book. I guess that what I get for not being a plotter.

Which writers have influenced you?

Jane Austen for one. But I didn’t really discover her until college. I grew up reading modern historical romances so I think I was most influenced by Johanna Lindsey.

What’s next for you?

The final Spinster Club book, ONE NIGHT SCANDAL, will be a June 2011 release. Right now, I’m busy writing a proposal for a shorter series based on a very minor character in SCANDAL OF THE SEASON.

Thanks, Christie, and let’s chat!

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Today is my critique group day, so I thought I’d write about them. We’re called the Tarts because we meet at a La Madeleine restaurant (we occupy a large table at the back and try not to talk too loudly about each other’s sex scenes) and one time the restaurant had a promotion along the lines of Try our delicious little French tarts. So naturally we had to adopt the name.

We’re all published now but when I joined the group ten years ago (aargh! ten years!) none of us were. Our numbers have fluctuated over the years but now we’re down to the basic foursome. We know a lot about each other and a lot about each other’s writing and we’ve cheered each other on as we negotiated the path of bumps and turns, luck, and skill that led to publication. And we write different subgenres so it’s interesting that we function well as a critique group. But let me introduce you (in alphabetical order):

Kate Dolan. Kate is an awesome powerwriting force. She writes Regencies for Cerridwen, mysteries as K.D. Hays, kids’ books, you name it. She’s also a living history interpreter and something of an expert on colonial Maryland history.

Christie Kelley. Chris writes Regencies for Kensington although when I first joined the group she was writing Westerns. She’s smart and productive and the best plotter I know.

Kathy Love. Yes, it’s really her name. She was writing vamps when no one else was and now her urban fantasy series depict paranormal creatures living side by side with unwitting mortals.

Kate Poole. Kate, sorry, I can’t find your website (did it get eaten?), whose debut historical The Anchor and the Storm came out a couple of years ago and she has another Ellora’s Cave book coming out… soon.

So how do we function as a critique group? First, friendship does not conflict with our opinions on each other’s work. We’re not so used to each other’s writing that we don’t have anything to say about it or can’t view it with a critical eye, which I think is great. (My rule of thumb has always been that if the majority of the group says something doesn’t work, I change it. Usually.) We make a lot of jokes. Halfway through we stop to eat, of course, some delicious French tarts. So we’re not all business but we do get a lot of work done. If we’re not talking about our current mss. we talk about future plots. We have various areas of expertise, within and outside writing.

Do you have a community that’s related to writing, or reading, or any other interest? Tell us about it! And what do you think its Regency equivalent would be?

Visit a great new blog by HarperCollins paranormal authors, Supernatural Underground (and on Facebook too). Check us out! We’re having our official launch June 1 with giveaways and fun stuff.

Kelley reinforces her deserved reputation for page-turning, exciting, humorous plots filled with sexual tension and populated by unforgettable characters readers can’t help but fall in love with.
— Romantic Times Reviews

Today we’re thrilled to have a return visit from Kensington author Christie Kelley who’s here to talk about her April release Something Scandalous and give away a signed copy! So please jump in and ask questions to be eligible for the drawing.

Raised as the youngest daughter of the Duke of Kendal, Elizabeth learns a devastating truth on his deathbed: he wasn’t her father at all. And because the Duke had no sons, his title and fortune must go to his only male heir: a distant cousin who left England for America long ago. Anticipating the man’s imminent occupation of her home, Elizabeth anxiously searches for her mother’s diary, and the secret of her paternity…

Arriving in London with his seven siblings, William Atherton intends to sell everything and return to his beloved Virginia farm, and his fiancée, as quickly as possible. But as Elizabeth shows William an England he never knew, and graciously introduces his siblings to London society, it becomes clear the two are meant for each other. Soon, Elizabeth finds herself determined to seduce the man who can save not only her family name, but her heart…

Christie, welcome back to the Riskies! Tell us about your new book.
Something Scandalous is the third book in the Spinster Club series. The Spinster Club series revolves around the lives of five Regency women who have all made up their minds not to marry. But one of the women is playing matchmaker without the others noticing.

When did we first meet the heroine in the series and did you find your ideas about her had changed when it actually came to writing the book?

Elizabeth is introduced to the readers in my debut novel, Every Night I’m Yours. I knew even when I introduced her that she was hiding a secret about her parentage. So my ideas for her didn’t change that much when it came time to write her book.

How do you keep track of characters throughout the series?

I wrote a character sheet that I keep in a MS Word document so I remember the basics of their coloring and characteristics. I’ve added to that as the heroes are introduced.

I love the idea of the culture clash between h/h. What research did you do for an American visiting 1817 London?

Actually, the biggest research I had to do was on immigration and laws of succession during this period. I had originally wanted William to spend most of his years in the US, but I discovered this wasn’t possible. In order for him (and his father before him) to continue to be the heir presumptive for the dukedom, I had to send his father to the US as an emissary for the British government. Unfortunately, a pesky little war popped up in 1812. So I had to move Will’s family to Canada.

Did you find it challenging that your hero might own slaves? How did you handle that?

Actually, my hero wouldn’t have had enough money to own slaves so it wasn’t an issue that came up in the story. Had he decided to sell all his properties in England and move back to the US, it might have become an issue.

Your heroine’s journey hangs on a family secret. Was there a particular event or character that inspired this, fictional or real life?

There was nothing but my crazy imagination that inspired this part of the story. I wanted to write a story such that my heroine, Elizabeth discovers something scandalous about her mother. Up until Elizabeth discovers she is not her father’s daughter, she had always believed her mother to be the perfect lady. Discovering this secret turns Elizabeth’s life upside down and makes her examine her own transgressions.

What’s your favorite scene in the book?

I don’t want to give too much away but the scene where Elizabeth finally finds her mother diary always makes me giggle. 

What in the book gave you the most trouble?

Writing for Zebra, I wasn’t sure how my editor was going to react to the diary entries the hero and heroine read. I didn’t give him a heads up on the scenes because I really wanted him to read them first and then tell me if I’d gone too far. Thankfully, he only said “Wow.”

You have that rarity in romance publishing, a male editor. Does he give you any particular insights into the male mind (or whatever)?

I love my editor! He totally gets my voice and is enthusiastic about my writing. I can’t say he gives me any particular insight into the male mind but having five brothers and now a husband and two boys, I think I sort of understand their minds. I’m not sure any woman can ever completely understand them.

What’s next for you?

I have two more novels in the Spinster Club series coming out. Scandal of the Season will be an October release and the last book, tentatively titled Her Perfect Match, will come out in June 2011.

Christie will drop by to chat, so let’s get the conversation going!

My apologies for this late post. This is my first “writing day” or, if you like, my first goofing off day in my new schedule. And you’ll see why I’m posting late when I tell you what I did today–meeting with friends and going to an art museum

As you all know, it’s the anniversary of 9/11 and at first it almost seemed wrong to have such a hedonistic day. I find myself looking for omens on the anniversary: is the weather similar? No, today was warm and cloudy. 2001 was a perfect fall day, crisp and cool, with more orange and yellow in the trees, and the season more advanced. When I heard the first announcement on NPR at about 8:48 am I was just turning into the parking lot at work (and I can’t remember why I decided to drive into work that day, but I was glad I did, because I wouldn’t have been able to get home). I was driving at that time today, too. I was listening to the radio with some degree of anxiety.

But also with some degree of anticipation because I was about to meet up with my friend Christie Kelley, who gave me one of her brand new cover flats (we laughed about the chandelier with light bulbs and the hero’s huge phallic thumb). We talked about what we were writing or not writing and a whole lot of other things.

Then this afternoon I went into Washington DC to meet Celia May Hart and talked about–yes, what we were writing or not writing and a whole lot of other things. We met up at the National Portrait Gallery and looked at some pix of men with beards (e.g., Walt Whitman) as well as a special exhibit on Katherine Hepburn.

And then home to blog and to continue the slum clearance and renovation of what will eventually become my office.

Altogether, a good day, and a good day to celebrate friendship and community.

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