Sunday, September 26, 2010

Two awesome things

1) There's a book out there, nonfiction, titled Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Search for Treasure, Religious Freedoms--and Revenge. Am I going to read it? Of course I am. There's bound to be a novel or three in there, though I'm probably not the one to write it.

2) Did you know that the British had a piper with them for their landing on Sword Beach in Normandy on D-Day? I didn't, either, but that's pretty damn awesome, IMHO.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What if my characters had been born 200 years later?

Some authors, when developing characters for a new story, write their characters' biographies or interview them. I don't. For me, a story usually starts with a strong vision of two characters interacting--usually at their first meeting--and I think, "Well, who are you, why are you here, and is there a novel in you?" I build forward and backward, imagining what might happen next and what brought these people to the point of meeting in the first place, but it's not a structured process. In a sense, I know who my characters are as soon as that vivid first interaction appears in my imagination. Everything else is just fleshing them out.

Without getting into a long digression on my process, I'll just say that sometimes while I'm writing, my critique partners will ask questions about a character or I'll find myself wanting to verbalize my instinctive understanding of a protagonist or antagonist. One of the ways I approach this is by imagining who the character would be if they were born in my place and time rather than their own. What would they do, in a world where gender and class still matter, but not nearly as much as they did 200 years ago? This both gives me a clearer sense of what kind of person they are and what conflicts they have within their own time. (Though I try not to overdo the latter, lest they seem like frustrated time travelers longing for opportunities someone really born in the late 18th century wouldn't have begun to imagine.)

So I thought it would be fun to post about who Will and Anna from The Sergeant's Lady and James and Lucy from A Marriage of Inconvenience might have become if they'd been Americans in the early 21st century rather than Britons in the early 19th.

Will is the easiest of the bunch. He would've still pursued a military career, but instead of enlisting would've secured an appointment to West Point or a spot in an ROTC program and generally become an officer and a gentleman. (And a damn fine example of both.)

Anna is more of a challenge. She's intelligent and fairly extroverted, but she doesn't have any one ability or ambition that leaps out at me and makes me think that in my world she'd clearly be a lawyer or a research scientist or what have you. Of the feminine accomplishments she learned as a Regency young lady, the one she most enjoys and has the most talent for is music, but she's no prodigy. She's more like the best musician in your high school graduating class than the best musician you've ever heard. So she's no concert pianist or opera singer, and I don't see her as a music teacher or choir director, either.

She's curious and adventurous, and she wants to see as much of the world as possible. I can see her doing a stint in the Peace Corps after college, and maybe going into international development or diplomacy from there. Or, heck, she was pretty comfortable with army life in The Sergeant's Lady, so maybe she'd go to West Point, too, since that's been an option for women for 30-something years now.

James, the hero of A Marriage of Inconvenience, is Anna's brother, and the siblings share a certain idealism. But where Anna's idealism has an inward focus--she's utterly true to her principles and willing to defy the rest of the world for both love and her own sense of right and wrong--James is more the type who wants to change the world. He's a visionary, and he enjoys exercising power (for the good at least 90% of the time, since he's a hero).

In my book, he inherits a title and with it a seat in the House of Lords, so he's already a rising political power broker at 24. In our world he'd have to be a bit more patient, but at 24 he'd be a star law student, and by his early 40's he'd be the junior senator from some state or other, possibly even meditating a run at the presidency or at least on his party's short list for the next VP nomination if he happened to represent a swing state.

Lucy is another easy choice. She's an unusually gifted amateur artist in Marriage, and in the 21st century she'd doubtless be a professional artist. I'm not sure what medium or style she'd work in, though. I can't see her as an envelope-pushing avant garde artist, but nor do I see her as conventional and conservative. Maybe she'd be a photographer. Yeah, that's it. She'd be a young portrait photographer starting to get a lot of buzz.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looking for music

I don't come up with soundtracks for all my books, but it's becoming clear the New Shiny Paranormal/Fantasy wants one. So far I've been listening to "Love the Way You Lie" (Eminem/Rihanna) and "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (Richard Thompson) when I want to think about the story. However, I could really use some nice angsty doomed love songs where the guy isn't an abuser or a robber, because the male half of my own angsty pairing makes grumbling noises in the back of my head every time he hears Eminem and insists pedantically that he most certainly has NOT fought with the law since he was seventeen nor robbed many a man for any purpose whatsoever, so why do these songs make me think of his role in my story, pray?

(Yes, I talk to my characters, and occasionally they talk back. This one is turning into one of the mouthier figments my imagination has produced.)

So. I'm looking for some good intense songs about more or less doomed complex relationships. The New Shiny is going to have a love triangle at the core of what I think will be a trilogy, but we're not going to meet the guy the heroine ultimately ends up with till Book Two or so, so for now I'm focusing on the man she'll eventually have to walk away from. On some levels they're good for each other, but for a whole host of reasons they can't be together permanently. So I think a lot of their relationship is going to be about pretending they have something between what we'd call friends with benefits and what they'd think of as her being his mistress. All about denying to themselves and each other just how much love and mutual loyalty they feel, you know? Because then they'd have to look the We're Doomed and We Have No Future thing in the face, and who wants to do that?

Obviously there won't be any songs that EXACTLY fit my characters, but I'm open for suggestions to expand my angsty love repertoire. Nothing too sweet and cloying. Celtic is good, both in terms of what I like to listen to and for matching the atmosphere of the story (either the classic trad stuff or punk-folk like the Pogues rather than breathy New Agey Celtic). But I'm willing to try just about any genre if the song works. For what it's worth, I love the sound of both songs in the first paragraph.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Now available in the UK!

Due to some kind of glitch with the rights, up until now The Sergeant's Lady wasn't available for British Kindle users shopping at

Happily, the issue has now been remedied.

So, British readers! You can now buy my book and tell me all the things I got wrong and see if there are any linguistic Americanisms my Aussie critique partner didn't catch!

Back on the blog tour

Today I'm home from work with sniffles and a fever--yet another sign of fall, the first cold of the season. Which somehow seems to occur within a week of school starting back. Hmmm...

Anyway, today I'm also at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, talking about the surprising amount of serendipity I've encountered in the most important areas of my life despite never expecting anything like that.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Casting A Marriage of Inconvenience...

Now that I've got another novel scheduled, it's time for another casting post! (Also known as an excuse to post pictures of some hot guys.)

The hero of A Marriage of Inconvenience is James Wright-Gordon, Viscount Selsley. He's young, just 24, but he inherited his title at 15 and came into full control of his fortune and a seat in the House of Lords at 21, so he takes power for granted and is confident he can control everything in the world that most matters to him.

James is an unusual romance hero insofar as he's a bit on the short side, but he's still quite the hottie. I imagined him with a lean and compact yet powerful body, something like Ichiro Suzuki (who at 5'10" is only short by baseball player standards, but still):

But my half-Scottish, half-English hero is obviously not going to look like Ichiro in the face. James has dark hair, blue eyes, and rugged features, a bit like Ian Somerhalder:

Somerhalder's eyes are too light a blue for James, and his nose isn't quite aquiline enough. (That's sort of a Thing with me--you can pretty much spot my heroes by finding the guy with the most prominent nose in the book. This may or may not ever be reflected in my cover art...and my money's on Not. Even if I write, say, a biography of the Duke of Wellington, they'll probably use the Goya portrait for the cover, which is a fine work of art but NSM a literal rendition of His Grace's bone structure.)

Lucy, my heroine, is a delicate, elegant brown-eyed brunette. A lot like Natalie Portman:

She's quiet and deceptively meek, but we learn over the course of the story that she's learned to hide her natural strength and spirit growing up as a poor relation in a difficult family.

James's sister Anna, the heroine of The Sergeant's Lady, also plays a prominent role in Marriage. It's a prequel, so we get to witness the beginning of Anna's misbegotten first marriage to Sebastian Arrington. Back when I did my Sergeant casting post in April, I had trouble finding a contemporary actress who looks like my image of Anna. I still can't find anyone recent, but I thought of a good Hollywood Golden Age Anna--Vivien Leigh.

And Sebastian himself, as mentioned in my April villains post, looks like Ralph Fiennes, but with lighter blond hair.

Only he'd also have a mustache, because such was the fashion among cavalry officers then. Though I admit to struggling to picture him that way.

Since Marriage is a prequel, Will Atkins, the hero of Sergeant, doesn't make an appearance except for a brief mention in an epilogue that may or may not make it into the published book. (The draft I'm working on now to return to my editor by the 21st includes a long comment with the pros and cons of the epilogue, pitching the ball into her court, because I just can't make up my mind.) But I like Will, and he looks like Nathan Fillion (Firefly-era), and you really can't have too many images of Mal Reynolds, now can you? So I'll close with this:

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

...and the blog tour is back!

Today I'm at Historical Hussies, talking about the history I left out of The Sergeant's Lady and giving away a $10 gift certificate to Amazon, B&N, or Books on Board to one commenter.

I haven't had much time for blogging here lately, between work, editing A Marriage of Inconvenience, working on my desert island WIP, and getting my daughter ready for school. (She starts first grade today.) But I promise a real post soon, maybe a nice picture-filled one so you'll know what James and Lucy, the protagonists of Marriage, look like in my head.

Monday, September 6, 2010

I can has release date!

I have a release date for A Marriage of Inconvenience now. It's set to come to a Kindle/Nook/iPad/etc. near you on April 11, 2011. Mark your calendars now. :-)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


I've spend most of my working life in academia, and I now have a daughter in school, so September still feels at least as much like the beginning of a new year as the one in January. The school year starts, the days get shorter, the weather turns cooler (though in Seattle this year it never really got warm), and it feels like time to Take Things Seriously again.

To suit the pseudo-new-year, I've got new projects and resolutions. And to help myself stick with them, I'm talking about them here on my blog for all the world to see:

1) My editor sent me developmental editing notes for my Spring 2011 Carina release, A Marriage of Inconvenience, yesterday. I have three weeks to work on them. Compared to my first round of edits for The Sergeant's Lady, when I had just four days, this feels like all the time in the world. But I don't want to put myself in a position of having to do the edits in four days because September 21 just seems so far away until, oh, September 15 or so. I'll go into more detail about the editing process later. I started doing so here, then realized it was turning into its own post.

2) I'm also working on the first draft of a shipwreck novella called Uncharted. I'm about 10,000 words into what I'm projecting to be maybe a 40,000-word story, and I want to pick up my writing pace between Marriage edits. Goal is to have it finished and darn near submission ready by Oct. 31 so I can devote November to a new project...and that's only two months away! Better get moving.

3) Marriage edits permitting, November is going to be all about a new paranormal/fantasy project (I'm still not sure which side of the genre divide it'd fall on). For the second time in my life, I'm going to try NaNoWriMo, with the goal not a finished draft, but getting 50,000 words into the story and seeing if it's as cool an idea as I think it is.

4) I'm going back on Weight Watchers, with the goal of losing 20 lbs. by Jan. 1, which, incidentally, would take me below a major milestone by my 40th birthday (also Jan. 1). I'd started on WW back in March, thinking that I couldn't control whether I sold a book by my 40th birthday, but I could have self-discipline enough to get below said weight milestone. Selling Sergeant derailed me a bit, and it's time I got back on it so I can turn 40 published AND healthier.

5) Our new house is still full of packed boxes. By the end of December, I want to at least open all the boxes and look inside them, splitting them into unpack-and-find-a-place-for, donate/throw out, and long-term storage (as in labeled and neatly stacked or shelved instead of piled in the middle of the garage).

If I can do everything on that list by 12/31, I'll feel accomplished, and in a good position to make plans for the calendar new-year. We'll see. #5 sounds like the easiest, but I'm thinking it's Most Likely To Not Get Done of them all.