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Haven is one good guesser . . .

Because she answered precisely “What did I sit next to on the plane?”

I sat next to, not one, but two sweet little birds, and they sang all the way from Detroit to Seattle. Talk about your coach class migration. It was so funny because people, including one of the flight attendants, would walk by and just stop. And you could see the confused look on their faces, “Did I hear that correctly?” So my feathered seat mates were quite popular and very soothing to sit next too. Much better than the guy with his saxaphone.

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Have you ever flown with a . . .

Okay, just back from vacation and thanks for all the great comments during my internet-deprived trip. We were visiting the MIL and she hasn’t got internet. Well, she does have internet. Dial up. I know. Why didn’t we just go camping? I’m such a DSL snob. I freely and openly admit this. I also light a candle every night to the patron saint of cable to make sure my access never goes awry.

I did get online once at my brother-in-law’s, but only had time to skim my mail and catch a few comments. No time to post and catch up. Now here I am back with my wonderful access, yet staring back at me is all the unpacking to do and a mountain of laundry, so I don’t have much time to blog. Instead, I thought I would share this little question:

Guess what Elizabeth sat next to on the plane?

In all my years of traveling, I’ve sat next to all kinds of people, crying babies, dogs, cats, even a guy in a full Salvation Army uniform holding saxaphone, but I have never sat next to a ____________.

Next up on Friday:

What I sat next to . . .

And Elizabeth goes shopping for a mansion. Like I was visiting the MIL–what else was there to do?

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The Ultimate Librarians Share All

You asked for it, so I convinced The Ultimate Reading List authors/librarians extraordinaire to drop by and indulge our collective curiosity as to how they came up with their picks. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Joanne Hamilton-Selway and John Charles, who BTW have both held the title of RWA Librarian of the Year.

1) How did you make your picks? Did you have rules or guidelines or a set of parameters that you were working with?

The Complete Idiot’s Guide series is designed for those new to a subject as a basic introduction. So when it came time to pick titles/authors, we had to think about which books we would be suggesting to readers who had never really read mysteries or historical fiction or history, etc. We chose what we thought would be the best of the genre and then added in a few lesser known but equally entertaining titles. One of the difficulties was that so many books go out of print quickly. We didn’t want to have a list of titles that readers would not be able to find easily, so we also tried to include both books that might be out of print (but could be found in libraries) and books that readers would also find in a bookstore. When it came to series, we did (with a few exceptions <g> like Jan Burke’s mysteries) try to chose the first in the series because many readers want to start a series from the beginning. The one parameter that really determined exactly how many books we could include was our page count. The publishers gave us 204 manuscript pages to work with – and absolutely no more than that. So this meant we had to do quite a bit of cutting with our first draft. In the beginning, the publishers also wanted us to include all books (fiction and nonfiction) and that just wasn’t a reality. We had to cut out some nonfiction topics and merge other books into other chapters. It was exhausting!

2) 204 pages? Knowing you four and the way you love books, that first draft must have been something! So as you started whittling down the choices, any arguments? Books that you were willing to shed a little blood over?

Of course there were arguments <g>. When you get a bunch of strong willed people like Joanne, Shelley, and myself (Sandy was the exception – she is perfect!), there was going to be some fights about which books to choose, which to cut, and which title by some authors would be the one we would pick! There was even more blood flowing when both of us (Joanne and John) started writing the annotations for some of the books. Our creative process (we tend to write together on these projects) involves quite a bit of sarcasm, sharp comments about each other’s writing talents (or dearth of them), and commands (“will you hurry up and finish this annotation Project Runway starts in ten minutes!”). But this process generally works for us! Each of us did have a few books that we were absolutely not willing to cut – Helen MacInnes is one of my favorite authors even though Joanne was willing to drop her – but generally we would work out something. Joanne loves The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey but despite the wonderful historical research and twists and turns, we had to cut it from the book due to space. Joanne is still pouting over that one!

3) Because with four authors, everyone is going to have their loves and dislikes. So who worked on what?

You are so right about each of us having our own strengths (and weaknesses <g>). For most of the book, Joanne and I worked together and Shelley Mosley and Sandra Van Winkle worked together. We would send each other our drafts and any of us could contribute titles/authors to any of the chapters, but each “team” was responsible for certain chapters. Team Joanne/John worked on Historical Fiction, Popular Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Suspense and Thrillers, Biographies, and History. Team Shelley/Sandy worked on Horror, Westerns, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Inspirational Fiction and Nonfiction, True Crime, Humor, Science, Medicine, and Pets, and Travel. We all worked on Romance and Women’s Fiction of course.

4) Did you discover new authors in the process? If so, who?

Because in many ways this was an introduction to the different genres, we didn’t discover lots of new authors. Joanne said that she had never read James Lee Burke and now she’s in love with him (and there’s a restraining order out against her now!). What happened even more was us rediscovering old favorite authors and remembering just how good their books were. For example, I had forgotten just how splendidly entertaining Dorothy Cannell’s The Thin Woman really is. Her sense of humor is so deliciously tart. Ellery Queen was a favorite of the very young Joanne and she found that she still enjoyed the books 30 years later.

5) I think I’ve just discovered a bunch of new authors. Okay, let’s get to the most important question. The cruise ship is taking on water and you can only take three books from TURL–which two are you going to take? Because I am right in assuming that one of your three picks is going to be one of my books . . .

Of course you would ask this! How can you pick just three books? Okay, it’s a given that one of our choices would be a book by you. Actually we had a really difficult time picking the one perfect Elizabeth Boyle title since all of your books are such fun. I love Stealing the Bride, but I also love His Mistress by Morning. And This Rake of Mine has its own charm. And then there are your early classics like the ‘Brazen” books. Let’s just say the whole Elizabeth Boyle backlist would be a necessity on any desert island. So that leaves us with three other titles. For John (and did I say how really difficult this question is and how much we hate you for asking it <g>!) my three (besides the incomparable Elizabeth Boyle novels) would be: Carla Kelly’s Miss Whittier Makes a List (actually any book by Carla Kelly but this was the first one I read by her). Her traditional regencies are just perfect), Connie Brockway’s Bridal Season (another writer all of whose books are favorites of mine but this one has such a terrific combination of wit and terrific characters). And Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage. No one does classic mystery like Christie. From Joanne: I was having this same discussion with three friends just the weekend (along with what 5 foods would you bring and what five movies. Yes, my friends are a barrel of laughs!!) I’m not going to get all literary and say Moby Dick or Anna Karenina. I’m going to choose those books that I have always loved, since first reading them. The first is The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer. I loved it when I was fifteen and I re-read it a few months ago and I was pleased as to how well it withstood the test of time. The second is Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. It still gives me chills with the first line of “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderely again.” And the third is, of course, any Elizabeth Boyle book!!!

Thanks, John and Joanne for dropping by. You two are, well, the Ultimate in my book! Note to self: When the cruise ship goes down, pack extra chocolate for John and Joanne!

Now come on folks, you have The Ultimate Librarians here for the day. Got any questions for them? Need a recommendation for something to read?

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The Boyle Ultimatum

Okay, I freely admit that I love action films. Die Hard. The Terminator. Bond anything. Indiana Jones. And the Bourne flicks. Give me a good action film, and I’m right there, popcorn mixed with Raisinets in hand, happy as a clam as I clutch at my husband when I get scared and peer through my fingers when it gets really tense. But what gets my theater ticket in a knot is when an action flick implies a romance but never follows through. Boo. Hiss.

Note to self: Never date an action film director. Obviously these are the sort of guys who promise to call the next day . . . and never do.

I am in angst over all this because we went to see The Bourne Ultimatum last weekend. Now, I’m not a huge fan of the choppy, fast paced editing that they’ve done with these films, but I like Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. I’ll put up with the headache 2 hours of jiggling scene shots gives me for some great action. If you haven’t see it yet, read no further as there is some spoilers contained below. Thus warned, I continue.

Let us take the case of Jason Bourne. You see I always knew there was more to whole Nicky Parsons, sweet little CIA operative and Jason Bourne. Turns out there was. But of course, to our can’t-have-a-camera-cut-last-more-than-3-seconds director, such a relationship might mean character development of actually having breakfast with her. In public. And maybe even holding hands. Can you see the action boys in Hollywood all standing on their chairs saying “Ewwww!” Instead, their quite possibly torrid love affair is now all in Jason’s past, a past he can’t remember. If I’d been Nicky, I think I would have tried a little harder to help him remember. If you know what I mean.

So to combat this horrible injustice to romance, I have come up with the following. What I like to call, The Boyle Ultimatum.

  1. No Hollywood action film script with any sort of romantic story thread–implied or full frontal–can be produced without the express review and revisions by an authorized romance writer. Say like me.
  2. Romances must have some sort of happy ending. Some sort of inkling and hope that Action Stud A will find and carry off Babe 2 to some safe tropical local where they can make torrid love for the next, say, 60 seconds. At least through the credits. Hey, it might even get people something worth sitting through the credits.
  3. Just because he loved and lost The One doesn’t mean he can’t fall in love again. Because, come on, when you’re Babe A with one of these guys, you know your days are numbered–much better to be Babe B. Another point in Babe B’s favor, she usually gets cast in the sequels as well. Besides, where Babe A was just loving and pretty, Babe B is usually full of smarts, moxie, and a Babe as well. I mean this is the girl who can not only hot wire your next stolen car for you, but hack into the CIA’s most secretative databases. I mean this is a girl worth keeping around. Not just shipping off on a bus to parts unknown when you know she’s now assassin bait #2. All because she decided to help your sorry ass when everyone else wanted you singing with the choir invisible. We romance authors love the second time around romance. You write your impossible car chase scenes, or why a top level CIA agent would be stupid enough to NOT know his passport has a tracking chip in it, and leave lost love found to the experts.

But if no one is willing to listen to the Boyle Ultimatum, can we at least have one more Bourne movie? So Nicky/Julia Stiles can finally get something more out of this series than a lot shots of her looking seriously neglected?

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You might have noticed . . .

things have changed around here. Welcome to my new website! However since this is sort of the testing period for the site–the powers-that-be, aka the webmistress who rules–has asked that I keep these new digs secret! Well, as much as you can keep a secret on the Internet.

Believe me, I’m having a hard time not shouting the news from the rooftops in my excitement over the new look. But since you’ve found the new site, please take all the time you want to look over the new features, including this blog, the 411 in Connected Books, the very cool Events page, and an expanded FAQ. So look away, and then make sure you make a note to drop by over the next few weeks for the big launch party!

Now let me warn you–the blog isn’t finished yet, so it may have a few snags to work out and there may be some odd links or things that haven’t been caught yet by my esteemed team of Beta Babes. If you find something that is out of whack, please let me know! You’ll be a Babe and my new BFF.

I think the thing I love the most about this new website is the whimsical and fun design. A good friend looked it over a couple of weeks ago and exclaimed, “It looks just like you!” No, I don’t run around with flowers and hearts pasted all over me, but I am told by good, trusted friends (the ones who don’t owe me money) that I am fun to be around. So I guess that makes me a metaphorical flowers and hearts sort of gal. I also think the design fits with the type of books I write–fun, playful Regencies, infused with humor. Jane Austen for hip set. And while at times I do get serious, in those moments I can’t help sticking some metaphorical rubber chicken in a scene to get a laugh. If this new site makes you smile–then it has accomplished what I always hope to do when I write my stories.

But the most important goal I had when I asked Waxcreative to redesign my site, was to find more ways to stay connected with readers, other writers, booksellers and librarians, and to give you outlets to write me directly (through blog comments or the Contact page) or to easily find my online or real time Events. As you can see–I am actually venturing out into the big, big world this Fall, so if you can, drop by one of the signings or conferences and say “Hello.”

So tell me (since I wanted to hear from you!), how do you like the new site?

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Blog Interrupted . . .

Just to warn you . . . the blog may be down intermittently today. The site is going up this week and the blog is the last part of the puzzle. Stay tuned . . . the blog will be back and the new site is almost here.

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Lady be Bad: Interview with Candice Hern

Sometimes I think the coolest part of being an author is getting to meet so many other authors–and one of my favorite writers around is Candice Hern. I simply adore her books and the best part is, she’s a very smart lady, with a love of history that I admire, and best of all, she’s become a good friend. And she let’s me hunt through her Regency closets of prints periodically when I need to dress a heroine. I mean, what is better than a great friend with an excellent closet— who shares?

Being someone who believes heartily in sharing, I asked her to drop by and visit with me (and all of you) in a selfish hope that she would share some of her Regency collections (which she did) and we’d get to hear a little bit about her new book, Lady Be Bad, which is even better.

Q. Candice, your Collections are wonderful! I spend way too much time looking over them and quite frankly, drooling! So what are you currently on the hunt for? Anything specifically you are looking to add to your collections?

There are some gaps in my fashion print collection that need filling in. I’m planning a trip to England in the fall and I will have a small notebook in my purse with a list of all the prints from La Belle Assemblée and Ackermann’s Repository that I’m missing. Hopefully I will find a few. And I’m always searching for prints from the more obscure publications. I’d love to find more prints from Madame Lanchester’s short-lived magazine, Le Miroir de la Mode, for example, and maybe a good one from Heideloff’s Gallery of Fashion (those are less scarce but usually very expensive). I’m also always on the lookout for bound volumes of the various ladies’ magazines. I hit a gold mine last year when I stumbled across 5 volumes of La Belle Assemblée at a reasonable price, which I managed to bargain down even lower. Let’s hope I am as lucky this year.

And, of course, if I happen to see a fabulous piece of Georgian sentimental jewelry, or a pair of paste shoe buckles, I may be tempted. Or a Regency fan. I’ve been bitten by the fan bug lately.

Q. I am in awe. How do you find all these treasures?

I get a lot of stuff in England. There are specific dealers I visit every time. There is also a particular antique fair that we always schedule our trips around. It’s a funky little fair that always has the most fabulous stuff, especially Georgian jewelry, and often at bargain prices. In fact, we have frequently seen some of our favorite dealers shopping at this fair, so we figure we’re in the right place.

I have a couple of dealers here in the U.S. who are also favorites, and who specialize in some of the things I collect. Plus, I go to a lot of auctions, here at home and in the UK. In general antique fairs, antiquarian book fairs, and auctions are my most common venues for buying antiques. I will occasionally buy a fashion print on eBay, where I am familiar with several reputable dealers. But that’s about all I will buy online. For the more expensive items, I want to see them in person before forking over good money.

Q. Okay, who doesn’t want to go with Candice to England? I think you would make a remarkable tour guide! One of the things I love about your Collections are the purses– especially the ones that are knit, since I am a knitter. Can youshare a picture of a favorite purse and why you love it and where you found it?

Well, I’m afraid it’s not a knitted purse, but I’ll share it anyway. It’s an embroidered silk envelope purse — in fact, it is the first type of purse actually called a pocketbook. (It’s shaped like a book and was meant to be slipped inside a pocket.) This is my oldest purse, from about 1740. It’s embroidered on both sides, opens up like a little accordion file with dividers, and the name “Emily” is written inside. It’s about the size of a paperback book, though not as thick. I purchased it years ago from an antique textiles dealer in Bath, who always has wonderful things. I’m planning to visit her again this fall, and hopefully will come back with a new treasure or two.

Q. No, I don’t mind that it isn’t knit, because it is gorgeous. And hard to believe it is over 250 years old–and you have to wonder who was Emily and how her purse lasted so long. But that’s the fun part of your collection, like when I used your prints to help dress Charlotte in His Mistress by Morning. Were there any particular dresses that you used to gown Grace Marlowe
from Lady Be Bad that you’d be willing to share with us?

Yes, I used this print of an Opera Dress from February 1813 for a scene when Grace attends the opera. The only difference is that I made Grace’s cloak scarlet. Otherwise, she is wearing this exact dress.

Q. Speaking of Lady Be Bad (which is a title I love!) tell us about bringing nice and proper Grace into the path of the notorious Viscount Rochdale. I’ve so enjoyed the other Merry Widows books, but I’ve always thought there was more to Grace and especially, Rochdale. Anything in Rochdale’s closets that would surprise the reader? I mean, how do you tame a rake like that?

I don’t do Alpha Bad Boys very well (since in real life I don’t especially like them), and even when I try to write them they end end being a little beta around the edges. So you can be sure that Rochdale has more to him than a penchant for pleasure. And I always figure when a person lives recklessly there is usually some sort of psychological pain driving that behavior. Suffice it to say that Rochdale has some baggage.

But so does Grace. In fact, hers is the more significant character arc in the story, I think. She starts out very rigid and strait-laced, but once she finally loosens those laces, she comes into her own.

Though it was a tough book to write, I ended up liking this story a lot. I hope readers will, too.

Thanks for dropping by, Candice! I will be line tomorrow at my local Borders waiting for my copy of Lady Be Bad! In the meantime, I’m off to read the excerpt. Again. And do a little Collection surfing. Sigh. I’m hopeless.

Questions for Candice? Post away! And don’t miss my Candice Hern Contest! Post to win!

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Prophetic Titles

I suppose my promise the other day to blog yesterday about being an idiot came true, since I totally spaced blogging yesterday. But what I really wanted to talk about was that I am in The Complete Idiot’s Guide to The Ultimate Reader List. Have you seen this book yet? It is totally cool and a great way to find new authors.

Written by some wonderful librarians, they’ve compiled their best recommendations into one fun volume. You’ll go through the book, if you are like me, saying to yourself: “Oh, yeah, LOVE that book. And that one. OOOOh and that one!” You’ll find books you’ve been meaning to reread and keep forgetting and series that have fallen off your radar. Like Elizabeth Peters. How could I have forgotten how much I love her Amelia Peabody books? And there she is on page 56 reminding me to get myself to the bookstore and get caught up.

Now where did I get my copy? Here is the very cool part–at a tea in Dallas. Now I know I promised, no more Conference posts, but technically this is NOT a conference post, since I went directly from the airport to the tea at the Adolphus Hotel before I ever set foot in the conference hotel.

But all my favorite people were there, including Jane Porter, Lara Adrian, Sophia Nash, Kathrine Caskie, and the wonderful and witty and always funny, Eileen Dreyer/Kathleen Korbel. Plus, let me completely recommend the tea at the Adolphus Hotel. Wow! Eileen and I were comparing teas, as we are both tea freaks and decided it was one of our Top Five Teas.

High praise between the two of us. And if someone can tell me how to get a hold of the teas that they serve, I would be indebted. I still think I should have arm wrestled Porter for more of the truffles. Just between you and me, she was ultimately eating more than her fair share.

If you are wondering, (and even if you aren’t, I’m telling/bragging about it anyway) the book of mine that made the Ultimate Reading List is Stealing the Bride, which is actually one of my favorites. You’ll find it on Page 85, just in case you are in a hurry, or if you are my mom or one of my aunts and want to point this out to complete strangers in the bookstore.

So my question is: What historical romances would make your Ultimate Reading list?

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Whose story are you going to write next . . .

When you write a series, or in my case have two ongoing series, this is the email that arrives in your inbox just about daily. Questions about characters you never expected would incite readers–take poor dead Orlando Danvers from Once Tempted or Kit from One Night of Passion for example. Then there are the characters who you just know, from the moment they step on the page are going to be interesting, going to make a great hero or heroine. Even if you don’t know all their secrets . . . yet.

Rockhurst, from His Mistress by Morning is just such a character. I knew I would never be able to leave his mysterious story untold–and since he was the object of Hermione’s affections, I also had a built in heroine. So, curious readers and wandering by blog readers, that will be my next book. (Well, the one after Love Letters from a Duke, which comes out at the end of August). Actually the book is already written and sitting in New York awaiting an editor’s perusal. Has been since the first week of April. Such a long delay in getting a story edited isn’t the norm, but my editor, bless her heart, is on maternity leave, so some things have been shuffled around. Poor Rockhurst! But don’t worry, that won’t delay the book’s arrival into a bookstore near you next summer.

I’d love to tell you it is the most fascinating, wonderful book I’d ever written, but no one but me has read it, so my opinion isn’t really worth much. And there it is sitting in that weird sort of limbo, unread, quietly waiting for another set of eyes to say, “yeah” or “nay”. Or, “Boyle, what the hell were you thinking?” Or “Get new meds!” (As an aside, I don’t take meds. I have writing for those issues.)

As for the story? Rockhurst is carrying around a deep, dark ancient secret. The book is dark. A lot dark. Probably the darkest book I’ve ever written. But also with some very fun moments of humor. I mean, Hermione’s wish turns her invisible. Can you see the love scenes? No pun intended. But that’s me. I can’t resist the humor, even when the story turns really serious. I tend to see the world with that same warped sort of “how could that be funny” sense of humor. In novels that’s great. In real life, it can get you into trouble. As for Hermione and her unseen dilemma, when she discovers just exactly what Rockhurst is doing during his long nights, the ones he’s supposed to be out whoring and gambling and all the usual rakish pleasures, she isn’t amused. Believe me, finding the newest, most outrageous gown is going to be the least of her worries.

So what have I been doing since April? This is the time when an author tends to pace a bit and bite her nails a lot while she awaits the editorial verdict. As April gave way to May and then June, I remodeled two rooms in my house with all that nervous energy. But because the delay in editing started to stretch past my need to paint and sort out closets, I gave up the nail biting and have gone back to writing the next book.

Which is Griffin’s story . . .

And all you Pippin and Dash fans will just have to wait until after Love Letters from a Duke comes out to heckle me about when I’m going to write their story . . . Actually, I have it all plotted out, and boy, is it a doozy.

So my question is: What makes a character story worthy to you? Why Rockhurst? Or any other character?

So what’s up for this week:
Wednesday: I’m an Idiot!
Friday: The New Website Update

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Summer nights were meant for . . .

And you thought I was going to say love. Heck no! Summer evenings are for finding quick fix dinners so you can get out and enjoy yourself. And when the kitchen and house are hot, the last thing you want to do is turn on the oven and rev up the stove. Well this is my favorite summer meal, please I can pull a portion of the ingredients out of my garden.

Tomato & Basil Linguine

1 large wedge of brie
3 large roma tomatoes, chopped
handful of basil, leaves washed and sliced into thin slivers
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 cup of olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Linguine or Fettucine, your choice

Trim the rind from the brie and tear the cheese into bite size pieces. Mix together all the ingredients, stirring in the olive oil a little at a time until it looks like enough (you’ll know.) Add salt and pepper to taste. Now let this sit on the counter for an hour or two. Two is best, but one will do the trick. Cook the pasta, drain it from the water and return it to the pot. Dump the brie/tomato/basil mixture into the hot pasta and stir. Then cover the pot back up and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and then stir again before serving.

Actually this is very romantic meal. Add some candles, dine al fresco, send the kids on an overnight.

What is your favorite quick summer meal?

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