I have not had much time to read lately. Well, that isn’t entirely true. I’ve been reading, but its been piles and piles of research books. Like histories of Chinese laundries in the west. And histories about Wyoming. And women’s history books. Immigrant diaries.
But in between some heavy and fascinating research, I’ve been slipping away to read Jane Kirkpatrick’s A Light in the Wilderness. It won the WILLA award in 2015 and is based on the real life events of Letitia Carson, a freed slave who came west over the Oregon trail with her white husband. It isn’t an easy book to read–the prejudice and the difficulties she faced–it is disheartening. But I like Kirkpatrick’s storytelling and the underlying bedrock of faith that guides and strengthens these characters.
And in that vein, I have Jan Karon‘s next Mitford book lined up next, To Be Where You Are. I have absolutely ADORED the Mitford series over the years. I’ve reread it at least twice. It is her message of faith and good people and a light hand that make her books so powerful and uplifting. Have you read the Mitford series?
There are times when strong novels about good people, books with heart and faith, are exactly what you need. I’d recommend these two without a doubt.
This house, the Parkison House, at the Grand Encampment Museum absolutely steals my heart. I am utterly in love with it and the way it invites me to come inside, teased its way into my heart and just begs me to tell my story here. Inside these walls.
And in my own way, I am.
I am using this house for my characters, Savannah and Inola–I knew it was their home the moment I walked in. In its day, it was considered a very nice, fancy house, what with two parlors and a dining room and three bedrooms overhead, along with a modern bathroom, kitchen, and laundry/pantry/sewing area. There is even a root cellar.
The last time I was there, one of the high school docents shared that she was convinced the house was haunted. Things move, doors close without anyone being around. Can it get any better? Not to a writer!
Yes, it is that experience of having been to a place, that makes the story telling so much fun. I love that I’ve stood on that front porch, I’ve walked the same wooden steps as my characters. Each day, in my mind, I open the front door and walk in, letting the scenes that I’ll be writing come to life like a movie.
Some days I come in from the back and into the kitchen, where in my story it is warm and cozy and smells of freshly baked pie.
I close my eyes and listen for Savannah’s footsteps. Or for Inola lending her advice.
And then I begin to write.
Personally, I would like to move in and just write my entire book from the dining room, looking out at the little copse of birches behind and it and see what stories the house whispers to me.
Tell me about a place that inspires you!
You can never presume that you know how things were done in the past. Never. Take something ordinary like skiing.
You’ve been watching the Olympics, or perhaps you actually ski. I used to. So I know how to do it. And most likely how it was done 120 years ago. I mean, it’s skiing.
Or do you?
Because as much as you think you know a thing, you’ll be researching along and come to a picture that sets all your beliefs, your descriptions of skiing on their ear. Drops you in a snowbank, on your head and laughs at your presumption.
So before you write:
Badger hefted his pack to his back and picked up his poles before he skied down the road.
You might want to have a look at Badger and his one pole.
Photo credit: Grand Encampment Museum collection.
But that’s just an anomaly, one might say. And I would have thought that as well. Until a few more photos into my research . . .
Photo credit: Grand Encampment Museum collection.
Rotten little whippersnapper and his ONE pole.
And then you come up against a whole long line of evidence that argues with everything you thought you knew. I mean, when even the ladies have only one pole, you got to know that is how a thing was done.
Photo credit: Grand Encampment Museum collection.
Yes, yes, I give up. One pole.
(Thank you to the Grand Encampment Museum for their gracious hospitality as I’ve been researching my upcoming book. Permission to use these pictures from their wonderful collection has been graciously given for the use on this blog. Any further use should done by contacting the GEM.)
Like I said in other posts, I’ve gotten hooked on fantasy. Not surprising since I loved reading it as a kid and a young adult. Wrinkle in Time. The Hobbit. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Then along came Game of Thrones and I read all those and then discovered Emily Gee and her books (try: The Sentinel Mage) and just recently, I discovered Robin Hobb.
I can happily report, I’ve found an entirely new-to-me author to binge/read and someone I can enthusiastically share with you.
I spotted Assassian’s Apprentice at the library and what a great find! Now I’m hooked and have to read everything about Fitz.
Isn’t that a great feeling? Yeah, you know. You’re a reader as well.
Like Blood Song, (which I reviewed and raved about here) it starts with a young boy, Fitz, the bastard son of a prince, and his rise into the greater world of kings and treachery. I don’t mind admitting, I love a good treachery. But what Hobbs has done is create a great world and even better, fascinating characters.
And very best of all? Lots of books. I have the 2nd book in the series, Royal Assassian, on the top of my TBR for when I finish the current book I’m reading.
And, speaking of which:
Lucky me, I do get the opportunity, from time to time, to read upcoming books and right now I have the privilege of reading Furyborn, Claire Legrand’s upcoming book from Sourcebooks. Okay, I’ve only just started, but I will say, I’m already hooked–so a full review will be coming before it comes out in May.
So, just like the historical mysteries–which you all shared a ton of new authors for folks to try, who are your favorite fantasy reads?
Since I am getting this question a lot lately, I’ve decided to start talking about what I’m working on–since it is not a romance. Not per se. It is more of a historical fiction. And a quirky one at that. The story is set at the turn of the century (1907, thereabout) in a very fictional mining town in Wyoming.
Yes, that is a bit of a departure from Regency England. Okay, make that a HUGE departure from Regency England.
But I had to write this book. This story. It has been rattling inside my head for about 7 years, ever since we took a long driving vacation to Yellowstone and the Tetons and then drove across the entire state to go to a wedding in North Dakota. Can I just say: OMG! The Tetons.
As we crossed Wyoming, I found myself staring up at that very blue sky and daydreaming, just like I used do as a kid when we took long driving car trips. Back then, without cell phones or anything remotely entertaining, all a kid could do–especially one who got carsick if she read–was sit in the backseat and stare out the window.
But this time, this trip, an idea came to me. Somewhere between Cody and Gillette. For this story. For this town. Set in this state that I was falling in love with as the miles passed and the scenery captivated my imagination.
So fast forward, I arrived at a place in my life where I could pause writing romances back to back and try out this odd, quirky story that in the ensuing years had grown into notebooks of scribbling ideas. Of pictures. Articles printed from the internet and photocopied from old books. Research notes about everything: professions, food, clothes, stores, churches, entertainment, communities.
Picture credit: Grand Encampment Museum, Encampment, WY
Characters had already begun to whisper their stories to me. Sad Savannah and her great losses. Madeline and her inability to trust. Ninny. Oh, Ninny, who hates going out.
As they trusted me with their fears and doubts and fondest wishes, it became my task to tell their stories. And now that I am nearly a year into this book, countless hours of research later, and nearly half a dozen trips back to Wyoming, I have to say, I am so happy to have this opportunity.
So in the meantime, no, there isn’t going to be a new book in 2018. But my fingers are crossed for something very special in 2019.
I love mysteries. But I am particular. Like most of what I like to read I want my mysteries historical. Like that surprises anyone. My favorite historical mystery authors include CJ Sansom, Laura Joh Rowland’s Sano Ichiro series, and now . . . an entirely new crop of wonderful sleuths.
The Lady Sherlock series
Oh, my goodness! How did I not find this earlier? There are already two books out, (with a third coming in October!) and I had been meaning to read this new Holmes, but always the other books and blah, blah, blah.
I’d even been on a panel with Sherry Thomas at a conference last year and came away entirely intrigued to read her take on Sherlock Holmes. So I packed A Study in Scarlet Women into my suitcase when we went on vacation and after I cracked it open, I kept
sending encouraging the husband to go golf.
“No, No, I’ll be fine, dear. Yes, go golf. Have a great time . . .”
Yes, it is that good. How she weaves the original Holmes into her take on the story is nothing short of brilliant. Just go read it.
As for the next one, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, as soon as I get through a stack of reading I HAVE to do, that is the first one in the queue.
Deanna Raybourn is at it again, all wit and intellect and fast pace. I love her writing and Veronica Speedwell is a grand character–a butterfly hunting scientist—just wonderfully out of step in her era. I had read A
Curious Beginning (currently $2.99 on Kindle) last year and adored it–the story and characters move at the pace of a runaway train–and you just hang on and enjoy every bounce.
On a personal note, my larger-than-life grandfather was a rather famous lepidopterist (one who studies butterflies) so Veronica’s over the top personality fits my image of a butterfly hunter to a T.
I didn’t even hesitate to pick up A Treacherous Curse — and found it even better than the first because Veronica and her reluctant partner in crime, Stoker, just keep getting more and more . . . shall we say, interesting. Stoker alone is worth every page.
As it is, A Perilous Undertaking was just released, so my TBR is starting to groan again, but I cannot wait to go sleuthing again with Stoker.
I mean, um, Veronica . . . I suppose, if she has to come along…
So tell me, what historical mysteries do you love?
I was on vacation recently and took a stack of books with me. As one does.
My husband always cringes and asks, “How much room do you need for the books?”
My answer is always the same, “Enough for all of them.”
He’s a patient man.
First Things First
Before we even got to the airport, I’d broken out Valerie Bowman‘s The Right Kind of Rogue, and it turns to be a great book to while away a lot of airplane hours. In fact I was a little sad when we arrived early, and I had to stop reading.
I should have known the book was going to be great fun. I met Valerie several years ago at Romantic Times. We lucked out in the alphabet lottery that is giant booksignings and got to sit together. I thought her delightful! So when I started sifting around for vacation reads, her latest book was an obvious choice.
Let me state right up front, The Right Kind of Rogue is the 8th book in Valerie’s Playful Brides series, but don’t let that discourage you from reading this splendid regency.
Or better yet, let it inspire you to go on a great big binge and read the seven books preceding Rogue before you indulge in this fun and engaging romance. Here’s the entire list.
I’ll wait . . . Yes, done? Great! Let’s get back to Rogue.
Suffice it to say, Hart and Meg’s wonderful story of love from afar is just the right read for a chaise lounge and sunshine. Or a comfortable chair and a cup of hot tea. Or a too narrow middle airplane seat. Your choice.
Hot Off the Press
Now if you have a vacation coming up, a free weekend, or just love finding new reads, two of my favorite authors, Lorraine Heath (Beyond Scandal and Desire) and Laura Lee Guhrke (The Trouble with True Love) have new books out NOW, as in this week. I’ve been arguing with myself since Tuesday which one to start first tonight.
People, I need help! Which one? Comment below.
If you haven’t read either of these authors, I’ll pause right here and let you catch up. Go on. Get reading. I’ll wait . . . and sneak in a few pages while I do.
In the mean time and looking ahead to great reads coming at the end of the month, Caroline Linden kindly offered two Advanced Copies of My Once and Future Duke (Yes, as in before they hit the shelves, you lucky pup, you!) for a drawing that runs through February 7th. Winners will be announced on the 8th. The contest entry form can be found here.
In the meantime, I think I’ve filled up your TBR pile rather nicely…
Now it’s your turn: Who are you looking forward to reading in the next few months?
My dear friend, Caroline Linden, emailed with great news–she had two extra Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) for her upcoming book, My Once and Future Duke, which will be released by Avon Books on February 27th.
Best of all? Caroline asked me to give them away to two of my readers.
All you have to do to enter to win is fill out this Entry Form before the end of the day February 7th. (Hint: Do it right now!)
Winners will be notified on February 8th, and posted here. Good Luck!
My Once and Future Duke is the first in a brand new series. Here’s a bit of peek–I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to read it!
What happens at the infamous Vega Club…
Sophie Campbell is determined to be mistress of her own fate. Surviving on her skill at cards, she never risks what she can’t afford to lose. Yet when the Duke of Ware proposes a scandalous wager that’s too extravagant to refuse, she can’t resist. If she wins, she’ll get five thousand pounds, enough to secure her independence forever.
Stays at the Vega Club…
Jack Lindeville, Duke of Ware, tells himself he’s at the Vega Club merely to save his reckless brother from losing everything, but he knows it’s a lie. He can’t keep his eyes off Sophie, and to get her he breaks his ironclad rule against gambling. It he wins, he wants her—for a week.
A week with Jack could ruin what’s left of Sophie’s reputation. It might even break her heart. But when it comes to love, all bets are off …
I have this not so secret love affair with Fantasy novels. Of course this is no surprise if you know that the first book I ever set out to write was a medieval. I love a good quest. A battle for the soul of a land. Right and wrong. And so with the passing of Ursula K. Le Guin this week, I thought I’d share some of the great fantasy books I’ve read in the past year and hope you will share your favorites in the comments below!
First up is Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. One of those books you pick up on a whim and then find yourself devouring. As I told a friend, it is very much like Blood Song (which follows below) but with strong girls. Girls raised to be warriors. What’s not like, especially these days.
Can’t wait for the next one. I always hate to say this to a fellow author, but: Mark, get writing. Please. I did say “please.”
I have to admit that I was just blown away by Anthony Ryan’s Raven Shadow series when I read it last year. From the opening scene of Blood Song, where our small hero is dumped by his father, you follow this boy’s story from childhood to manhood with your heart pounding. And the ending of the first book just knocked me over. (And DON’T peek. Just don’t. It really is a great twist.)
Well, once I finished Blood Song, I read the rest of the series, using the books as reward reads. “Elizabeth, if you get your pages done this week, you can read Tower Lord all weekend.” And then it was on to Queen of Fire, which was a rip-roaring tale.
Sigh. I hated the series to end. But as my friend, and reading buddy, Jessica pointed out, “You get to read them again.” (This after her third time through Blood Song.)
Yes, I freely admit, I’ve forced these books on anyone I thought would like them to read them. Now I am passing on my addiction to you. Yes, go read these.
Such. Great. Reads. But I think you get my point.
So now that I’ve pushed my new favorites on you, tell me your favorite Fantasy reads. Please.
I’ve been reading like a starving woman lately. Just hungry for good stories. So I thought I would share with you some of the good ones I’ve stumbled across lately.
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn
The Jane Austen Project is, on the outside, a truly outrageous notion. Scientists from the future travel back to Regency England to find Jane Austen’s letters and an unpublished novel before they are lost forever. And as silly and contrived at that might seem, it is anything but. In the process we meet Henry Austen, Jane’s brother, and slowly are drawn in until we are surrounded by her entire family, but especially Jane. Jane Austen. The author does a fabulous job of creating the Regency world and taking both her characters and the modern reader on a wonderland adventure into Jane Austen’s life. I loved it. Go find The Jane Austen Project, (I happened upon my copy at the library) read it and just revel in the shear joy and audacity of spending an afternoon with Jane. I couldn’t put it down.
A Daring Arrangement by Joanna Shupe (Coming October 31, 2017)
The English Wife by Lauren Willig (Coming January 9, 2018)
This part of my Reading Roundup should be called “New York, New York.” First up, Joanna Shupe was kind enough to send me an advance copy of her debut book with Avon, A Daring Arrangement, and I was delighted to read it. So much fun to read a romance set outside of the Regency and this one is doubly good as it is set in New York with an English heroine and a wealthy American outsider. I liked the way these two got to know each other and fall in love. This is the first in a series and I will be looking forward to the upcoming books.
The next NYC book I dove into was The English Wife, which I also received an advance copy of–I know, lucky me. I’ve really fallen for the twin stranded stories–you know, one in the present and one in the past. This is in the same vein, but as a mystery. While it opens with a murder, the story evolves backwards and we see the unlucky couple in the years leading up to their untimely deaths, and then moves forward, as the “modern” heroine, Bay’s sister, Janie, does her level best in the 1880s to uncover what actually happened. I recommend it because it is wonderfully involved–I liked seeing how the characters–Annabelle and Bay–unfold and develop before yours eyes, with enough mystery to keep you guessing as to what is behind their murders, though at the same time, I wished there had been MORE to it, especially with regard to Janie, as she suddenly finds the nerve to unravel their past. From the ending I have the sense that there might be a follow up, which hopefully will fill in the missing links. At least I hope so.
A Perilious Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn Out now
Going from New York to Victorian London, I threw myself headlong into the second in the Veronica Speedwell mystery. I adored the first one (A Curious Beginning, which, by the way, is only $2.99 on Amazon right now), and somehow missed that the second one had come out (spoiler: the third one, A Treacherous Curse is due out in January, so get on with your own Veronica binge). This book is seriously cutting into my writing time, as I’ve extended my morning coffee and lunch to keep reading about Veronica and Stoker’s adventures. It is a wonderfully delicious Victorian story and Veronica is a hoot, while Stoker continues to be a big brooding dram of warmed whiskey that you can’t get enough of. Can’t wait to finish this one over the weekend.