Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cover for A Christmas Reunion

I promised you one more Christmas-related post for this hot July week, and here it is! My 2014 holiday novella, A Christmas Reunion, now has a cover:

Isn't it pretty? I think it perfectly captures the emotion of the story, which is all about star-crossed lovers reuniting at Christmas just a week before she's supposed to marry another man.

(Incidentally, my first thought on receiving a new cover is always, ALWAYS, "But that's not what they look like!" Which I've accepted will inevitably be the case--it's not like I can draw more than stick figures myself, so I can't show you what the characters look like in my head. And in cases where they closely resemble some celebrity, it's not like, say, Cam Newton is going to take time off from his lucrative day job as an NFL quarterback or Tom Hiddleston from his as a major actor to, like, pose for my covers, so unless they have a double out there in the romance novel cover photo modeling industry, still not gonna happen. In this case the characters are pretty close, though in my head the heroine has lighter, redder hair.)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Christmas in July

As some of you know, I'm originally from Alabama, though I live in the Pacific Northwest now. My native state has famously hot and muggy summers, and I remember one day in particular when I was home from college for the summer and was driving around running errands.  The DJ on one of the radio stations announced that the AC was down in the studio, and he had to do something to cool he broke out the Christmas music. And for the rest of that 95-degree Deep South summer day, he played carol after carol. The thing is, it did seem to help. My car was a tiny, aging 1980 Dodge Colt whose AC only sorta worked, and I swear I felt cooler for all that joy to the world and those herald angels singing.

Seattle summers aren't anywhere near as brutal as Alabama's, but most of us don't own air conditioners. Mr. Fraser and I are lucky enough to have a window unit in the master bedroom, but the rest of the house starts getting uncomfortable once it gets much above 80. As I type this it's 82 outside and I'm sweating in my writing office despite open windows and a fan. So maybe it's time to think cool winter holiday thoughts again.

And Entangled Publishing is here to help. Today and tomorrow they're hosting a Christmas in July event on Facebook. Do stop by if you need a reminder that winter is coming. And if you'd like to pick up a quick Christmas read to enjoy at the beach or to save on your e-reader for the holidays, my short novella Christmas Past is available year-round wherever ebooks are sold!

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.

Rifle captain Miles Griffin has been fascinated by the tall, beautiful “Mrs. Sydney” from the day he met her caring for wounded soldiers. When he stumbles upon her time travel secret on Christmas Eve, he vows to do whatever it takes to seduce her into making her home in his present—by his side.

And later this week I'll have more Christmas-themed news to share!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 73-78

73) The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber

At first I wasn't sure whether I wanted to read yet another book about sustainable agriculture, getting back to our culinary roots, etc., but I'm glad I did. I found this book both illuminating and moving, and it strengthened my commitment to eating mindfully, being a patron of my local farmer's market, and generally supporting organic and/or sustainable agriculture whenever I can.

74) Enemies at Home by Lindsey Davis

The second book in the Flavia Albia series about Marcus Didius Falco's adopted daughter still doesn't have the wit and energy of the original series...but I still enjoy Albia as a character and visiting Davis's Rome, even this darker version under the Emperor Domitian. (The Falco books are set during Vespasian's reign.)

75) War! What is it Good For? by Ian Morris

An interesting and often thought-provoking "big picture" history whose basic thesis is that there's such a thing as "productive war" that despite its violence and atrocities leads to the formation of large, stable states and empires in which subjects/citizens are less likely to die violent deaths than they were in the tribal or small-state societies that preceded them. I'm not sure I agree with everything he says, but I'm glad to have his ideas added to my own big picture view of the world.

76) Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares

A "10 years later" sequel to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants YA series. At 29, the girls are still figuring out how to be adults--and while in some ways this made them feel unrealistically immature, hell, I'm...a fair bit older than 29, even if a really kind waitress at 74th Street Ale House did card me last month, and some days I feel like I'm still sorting it out. Anyway, it was good to drop in on these characters and see how they're doing with their lives, though I can't say much more than that without venturing into spoiler territory. And as for spoilers, I'll just say that while it has what we romance writers call an emotionally optimistic ending, it has enough sadness in it that the best the ending can do is be bittersweet.

77) The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty

There are so many urban fantasy and/or paranormal romance series out there these days wherein a human discovers a varied community of paranormal beings that it takes some doing to make such a series fresh and interesting, but this one about a human travel writer who goes to work for a vampire publisher to produce travel guides for the paranormal community pulls it off.

78) Countess of Scandal by Laurel McKee.

This is one of the best historical romances I've read in quite awhile. Set against the backdrop of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, it's a poignant, gritty and gripping tale of star-crossed lovers.

I just wish the cover and title gave any hint of that. If I hadn't known the author (Laurel also writes as Amanda McCabe, and we both blog at Risky Regencies), I never would've picked up this book because nothing about the branding and packaging says Ireland, poignant, or strongly grounded in real history. Which I feel does the book a disservice, because it's not finding readers like me, while it maybe would draw readers who enjoy the lighter, frothier historical romances, who'd then be disappointed to get something so gritty and angsty.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2014 Reading, Books 70-72

Life is starting to calm down a little, so hopefully I'll be returning to a regular blogging schedule soon. In the meantime, here's what I've been reading.

70) Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

A worthwhile read on the history of the banana, especially over the last century as it became the world's most popular fruit, focusing on the political havoc wreaked by the big banana companies in the 20th century and the disease threats imperiling today's banana crops--both the monoculture Cavendish variety (i.e. what an American or European thinks of as "a banana") and the handful of varieties that are major food staples in parts of Africa. A bit dry and meandering compared to some food history books, but I'm glad I read it.

71) Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

While I tend to agree with the readers who say this isn't Allende's best work, it's still a gorgeously lyrical story of the Haitian Revolution and of New Orleans at the turn of the 19th century.

72) Codex Born by Jim Hines

While not quite as exuberantly fun as Libriomancer, the first book in the series, this is an enjoyable and fast-paced adventure set in a world where libriomancers have the power to pull objects into the world from books.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

2014 reading, books 67-69

67) The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 by Alan Taylor

The 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for History focuses on a little-known side of one of America's lesser-known wars, the War of 1812, and how Virginian slaves escaped to British ships during Britain's naval raids in the Chesapeake. An illuminating look at the American South a few decades after the Revolution and before the Civil War, not to mention British and American concepts of freedom.

68) The Serpent Garden by Judith Merkle Riley

I adore Riley's Margaret of Ashbury trilogy--in fact, it's one of my comfort re-reads--but I'd never read any of her other books before. This book, set early in the reign of Henry VIII, was enjoyable but not as good as the Margaret books. I felt like it focused too much on the plot and the various villains dabbling in demonology and court intrigue and not enough on the protagonist, who as a result didn't seem as alive and compelling as Margaret. (Incidentally, I'd class it as more historical fantasy than historical fiction, since the supernatural is even more unambiguous and prominent than in the Margaret books.)

69) Dare to Kiss by Jo Beverley

A short novella set in Beverley's Georgian Malloren world about a widow and her five children taken in on a freezing winter night by a reclusive bachelor. She has a scandalous past, and his reclusiveness springs from a physical deformity, and I liked that both the scandal and the deformity are REAL, and not a case of her being falsely accused nor him having scars he thinks are disfiguring but that many women would find sexy.