Jilly: Sara Whitney’s Tempting Heat

An unexpected upside to becoming a writer is that I find myself reading books written by friends, and friends of friends. I love seeing people I know become debut authors and then go on to build their lists. There’s something thrilling and insider-ish about being part of their adventure.

Here on 8LW we’ve shared the excitement surrounding the publication of Jeanne’s Touched by a Demon books and Nancy’s Harrow’s Finest Five series, and we’ve enjoyed interviews with some of Jeanne’s fellow Golden Heart alumnae. This week was another first for me: the debut of Sara Whitney, one of my Golden Heart classmates.

Tempting Heat is a contemporary second-chance romance novella set in Chicago, with the two main characters stranded in forced proximity during an epic snowstorm. I really like those tropes. Second-chance stories raise the emotional stakes quickly because the characters already have shared baggage for the author to play with, and forced proximity adds extra pressure because the characters literally have nowhere to go—they have to face Whatever Went Wrong first time around.

An unexpected downside to becoming a writer is that I find it hard to lose myself in a book. My inner editor starts offering critique and before I know it I’m assembling a list of things I’d tweak or change or rewrite instead of enjoying the story. So I was ridiculously happy to find myself immersed in Tempting Heat, sharing Finn and Tom’s long-overdue reconciliation-cute.

The story starts when Fiona (Finn) discovers a half-awake, hungover Tom emerging from her flatmate’s bedroom some hours after said flatmate departed to deal with a work emergency involving a weekend-long trip to Las Vegas, and just as a gigantic snowstorm shuts down all transport options. Continue reading

Jilly: Victorian Tales of Terror

It’s that scary time of year.

The nights are getting shorter, darker and colder, at least for those of us in the Northern hemisphere. We just passed Halloween (previously the Celtic festival of Samhain), when the barrier between our world and the realm of ghosts and spirits melts away and supernatural types return from the grave to threaten our orderly existence.

In other words, ‘tis the season for ghost stories and terrible tales.

We dipped a toe into the icy water here recently with our tag-team Scottish flash fiction adventure featuring the restless ghosts of tragic Alanis McLeish and her twin baby daughters (go here for Kay’s fabulous final instalment and links to the rest of the tale).

That tempted me to re-read Jenny Crusie’s Maybe This Time, her smart, scary homage to Henry James’s influential 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw, complete with isolated, crumbling gothic setting; orphaned children; sinister housekeeper; and murderous ghosts. Thank heavens for the Crusie-heroine-turned-temporary-governess.

Maybe This Time whetted my appetite for Victorian horror. Click here for an interesting feature in Atlas Obscura explaining why the Victorian era was such a boom time for scary stories. It seems to be linked to the rise of the periodical press which fuelled a demand for genre fiction, combined with a period of rapid technological advancement in which things which had previously seemed impossible suddenly became real and normal.

Then yesterday, with uncanny serendipity, I found Victorian Tales of Terror, a recently republished anthology of carefully curated period fiction edited by Hugh Lamb. There are sixteen spine-chilling stories by famous (Dickens, de Maupassant) and little-known authors, male and female, English, European and American.

Continue reading

Michille: Romance and Natural Disasters

Dark and StormyWith Dorian soon to become a memory and already leaving a staggeringly colossal disaster area behind in the Bahamas, I looked at disasters in romance novels. I read one recently that was set in a flood (freebie from RWA Nationals in a previous year), but I got really annoyed with the author because the hero and heroine kept standing around in floodwater while the rain was pounding down, discussing their history, wondering where his brother was and if her sister stayed at work, sharing scorching kisses and wishing for a bed. I’m not thinking that the folks going through Dorian were standing waist deep in floodwater reminiscing about a high school football game that took place 10 years ago. The memory of that book and the coverage of Dorian led my brain down the path of how an author could set a romance in a natural disaster and do justice to mother nature, the devastation and tragedy, and the romance without minimizing or horrorizing (is that a word?) the tragedy or the reader. As in, people are dying and these two idiots just want to do the horizontal tango. Continue reading

Elizabeth: Discovering New Authors

Jilly’s post on Sunday, asking for suggestions for that “one last book” to read before diving back into writing reminded me of a site I used to use to find potential new authors to read, back before I had a gargantuan TBR pile (which seems to be replicating on its own) to choose from.

The site let you key in an author’s name and then  returned a word-cloud of “fans of author XXX also like author YYY” results.  I started reading Rachel Gibson when she turned up in the results of my Jennifer Crusie search.  Julia London lead me to Eloisa James.  Dorothy L. Sayer led me to P.D. James.

The site was great fun though, of course, I’ve long since lost the link.

An internet search this weekend, however, turned up the Literature Map, which may or may not be the site I was thinking of.  I had fun keying in the names of my favorite authors to see what came up (not that I’m looking for more to read).  There was an overlap between the results from this site and the “customers who bought this item also bought” results I got when I did some comparison searching on Amazon, though not as much as I had expected. Continue reading

Jilly: One More Day, One More Book

Can you believe it’s September already? Me neither.

Michaeline said yesterday that she plans to linger in summer for a few more weeks.  I’m allowing myself one more day. Today 😉

Tomorrow I need to get back to work. Forget Halloween, I’ve been counting the days to Christmas as I need to put together a sensible schedule for rest of the year. I know that’s sixteen whole weeks away, but in that time I would like to to publish and market The Seeds of Power, write a new draft of Alexis’s book, submit that draft for developmental editing,  (ideally) write the short novella that bridges the two books, and (in a perfect world) add some more structure to my ideas for the rest of the series.

Yeah, I need a plan. My shopping list is ambitious, but I *think* it should be do-able if I put my mind to it. Watch this space 😉

That’s for tomorrow. Today is the last day of my self-appointed staycation, and I have time to squeeze in another couple of books. I’m thinking Jackie Lau’s Ice Cream Lover (thanks, Michaeline!) would be a good way to start the day, but I’d love to find just one more excellent read to finish with.

I was planning to check out Juliet Marillier’s new book, The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards Book 1). That would have done nicely, except it’s not available until Tuesday 😦

I already read Ilona Andrews’ Sapphire Flames, and have to confess I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had expected. I suspect part of the problem is that I set my hopes extremely high. I’ll still buy the next book in the series, and anything else Ilona and Gordon choose to publish.

I also read T. Kingfisher’s Clocktaur Wars duology, Helen Hoang’s The Bride Test, and Marie Brennan’s A Natural History of Dragons. All well-written, interesting and enjoyable books, but for various reasons none of them quite hit the squee button for me.

I’d love to end my mini-break with a Good Book Squee. Fingers crossed for Jackie Lau. And whichever other book I find for my Last Read of Summer.

No pressure, but…does anyone have a recommendation?

Jilly: Napoleon’s Novella

A couple of days ago I found a surprising addition to my reading retreat list.

I was planning to write a post about this weekend’s 250th birthday celebration in honor of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, on 15 August, 1769. Visitors to the showpiece event at Waterloo, in Belgium, can enjoy presentations about regiments and armaments, watch combat workouts and equestrian demonstrations, and attend workshops on side-saddle riding, cartridge making, gun and cannon firing, and late 18th-century fashion.

I thought I’d mark the occasion by re-reading some of my favorite Napoleonic-era historical romances, and maybe searching out a few new ones.

Until I discovered that the man himself—ambitious schemer, military genius, serial philanderer and self-proclaimed emperor—wrote a work of romantic fiction, and that his oeuvre is conveniently available for download from the Zon.

Who knew? London’s museums are positively awash with weird and wonderful Napoleonic memorabilia—my fave is this three and a half meter tall white marble Canova statue of a naked Bonaparte as Mars, god of war, installed by the victorious Duke of Wellington in his home at Apsley House—but I don’t recall ever seeing anything about the Corsican’s sideline as a novelist. Continue reading

Jilly: Reading Week

I’m scouting for book recommendations.

I got back from New York last Sunday. Usually seven days would be plenty long enough to recharge my batteries, but not this time. I’m still sleeping 12 hours a night, and when I am awake I’m mostly lolling on the sofa, gulping coffee.

RWA was fun. It was wonderful to catch up with fellow 8 Ladies Jeanne, Elizabeth, Justine, and Nancy, and exciting to meet the Omegas (my fellow Golden Heart finalists). The schedule was exhausting though. In addition to the usual workshops and keynotes there was a half day retreat for the Golden Network RWA chapter, a get-to-know-you dinner for the Omegas, a rehearsal for the Golden Heart ceremony, a finalists’ cocktail party with agents and editors, a certificate ceremony, the Golden Heart lunch itself (I didn’t win a shiny necklace, but that’s ok), a set of new author headshots, some informal author photos, and a breakfast for the Omegas to share self-publishing plans and schedules.

I’d been building up to the conference for a whole year. Ever since RWA announced that 2019 would be the last ever Golden Heart contest, and I decided to give it my very best shot, I’ve been hurtling from one deadline to another. Now it’s all over. No wonder I feel as though I’ve been hit by a truck.

I’m about to embrace a new challenge. If I want to get The Seeds of Power published this year (I do!), then the next four months will be another intense, deadline-filled marathon.

I’m thinking the best way to prepare myself is to take a staycation for another week, maybe two. I’ll enjoy the long summer days, do a little editing, watch cricket, drink wine, mull over my plans, but most of all, refill my creative well by catching up on the reading I haven’t had time for lately.

On my list right now:

Just One Damned Thing After Another: The Chronicles of St. Mary’s, Book One (Jodi Taylor)
The first of a series of very British time travel adventure comedies set around the St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research. The heroine is a smart-mouthed historian academic. Madeleine “Max” Maxwell and her colleagues take a hands-on approach to their research by revisiting the past. They resolve unanswered questions and get themselves in and out of scrapes while exchanging much snarky dialogue. I’m halfway through this book, and so far I’m really enjoying it. Continue reading