I know it’s a bit early to talk about Christmas–or, rather, it probably seems early to you. I’ve been thinking about Christmas all summer. I’ve been imagining snowflakes and cozy fires, mistletoe and evergreens, holiday balls and hot cider. And then I’d step outside and the sweltering heat of summer would bring me back to reality. The fact is that if one is to publish a Christmas book, one must write that book in the off-season. This fall I have two Christmas novellas being released.
One is a re-release of my novella from last year’s anthology Christmas in the Duke’s Arms. It’s called The Spy Beneath the Mistletoe, and it’s about two secondary characters from Love and Let Spy, which is my James Bond-themed historical romance. In this novella Q and Moneypence get their happy ever after.
The second release is an anthology set in a London bookshop during the holiday season. This one is titled Christmas in Duke Street. In this novella Lucien, a former prince whose family was overthrown by a revolution, is in London searching the volumes of a little bookshop in Duke Street for documents proving his identity when he comes across Cassandra, a lovely widow looking for adventure.
It wasn’t all Christmas, all the time this summer. I was also able to write a bit about summer for an anthology that will be out in November titled A Gentleman For All Seasons. You’ll notice two resident JQs are part of the group of authors. My story, “The Summer of Wine and Scandal,” is about a London dandy and a country miss with a secret.
Do you have a favorite season to read about? I actually love fall and love writing books set in autumn. One person who comments will win a copy of my new release, The Rogue You Know.
The winner will be randomly chosen and announced on the blog Sunday.
I didn’t intend to write a Christmas novella. Actually, I did. It’s part of the Christmas in the Duke’s Arms anthology I did with Grace Burrowes, Carolyn Jewel, and Miranda Neville.
So maybe I should say that I didn’t intend to write two Christmas novellas. I was writing a scene for Danielle Gorman’s Ramblings From this Chick blog next month, and I couldn’t stop writing. I wrote 10 pages then 20 pages then 30 pages…You get the idea.
And I was having fun with the story! I get quite a few emails from readers who want to know more about Blue, one of my spy characters. I thought I made it clear he and Helena lived happily ever after, but I guess it wasn’t crystal. So I decided to keep writing Blue’s story and it turned into my new novella, ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS BLUE.
In this story, Blue and Helena once again encounter some difficulties in their relationship. Add Blue’s parents, his 10 brothers and sisters, the agents of the Barbican, and Christmas Eve, and you have the story.
Here’s the cover.
Buy links coming soon. Look for the book December 10.
How do you like to celebrate Christmas Eve? With spies and family and secret messages?
You know those wonderful videos that show kids left alone in a room with a marshmallow they’ve been warned not to touch? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7LN96jEXHc
They’re hilarious. The agony of waiting is all over their adorable faces.
Unfortunately, some studies seem to show that the ability to delay gratification (resisting a marshmallow now in the hopes of getting a bigger, better treat later) may predict “better outcomes” later in life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_marshmallow_experiment
I say “unfortunately” because, if these studies are right, I likely will be living under a bridge someday, eating my marshmallows out of cat food tins. When it comes to delayed gratification….well, let’s just say I probably won’t be chosen for the Olympic Patience Pentathlon team.
Ironically, both the books I have coming out next week are about patience. About waiting for true love, no matter how long it takes.
RECLAIMING THE COWBOY, the fifth in my Superromance series THE SISTERS OF BELL RIVER RANCH, is about Mitch Garwood and the mystery woman who broke his heart almost eight months before.
My new Montana Born Homecoming novella, THE LONG WAY HOME, is about Joe Carlyle and his high school sweetheart, who married someone else eight years ago.
In these books, my characters must learn patience and forgiveness. When they do, their courage definitely pays off—not in marshmallows, but in love, redemption and Happily Ever After.
I’m so excited about the releases that I can’t wait to share a little with you. (Surprised?) Here’s an excerpt from THE LONG WAY HOME—in which Joe comes face-to-face with Abby for the first time in eight years:
He certainly hoped he didn’t look as disoriented as he felt. He closed his mouth, a good first step, but if he didn’t start talking in the next couple of seconds, she’d know how much power she still had over him. Enough power to render him mute.
Frantically, he felt around in his mind for some clever comment, just as he might feel around in the dark for his keys if the house were on fire.
But he didn’t have anything ready. He had honest to God believed he’d never see her again.
His first impulse was to try to get cute. “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…”
But no… Casablanca? He might as well burst into tears, or fling himself into the sawdust and kiss her feet. Nothing said “you broke my heart, you faithless harlot” like quoting Casablanca.
But he had to say something, damn it. He picked up the pencil on the desk, though he didn’t need it, just to have something in his hands.
“Abby Watts,” he said. Not exactly diamond-sharp repartee, but at least she couldn’t read much into that. Simple was better than clever. Safer.
She shook her head. “No, not Abby Watts. Abby Foster.”
“Oh? You didn’t take your husband’s name?”
“I took it.” That small smile still curved her lips. “But I gave it back.”
Gave it back? He hesitated, reluctant to jump to conclusions. “How is that done?”
“The normal way. We got divorced a couple of years ago.” She lifted one shoulder. “I legally went back to Foster, and he found someone else to be Mrs. Blaine Watts.”
She sounded so matter of fact, as if divorce, and losing Blaine to another woman, didn’t bother her very much. He wondered whether her calm was an act. Abby Foster hadn’t been very good at acting, or lying, back in the old days. But who knew what skills she might have picked up in her years as Mrs. Blaine Watts of New York City?
Just because she looked heart-stoppingly the same didn’t mean she really was the same. She’d been living on the other side of the country, as another man’s wife, for nearly a decade. That would change a person.
Heck, he’d stayed right here in Marietta, in the family business, even in the family home—and look how different he was.
“Really,” he said stupidly. “He remarried, huh?”
He drummed the pencil on the desk blotter, wondering why he had to fight for every line in this conversation. Once, they’d been able to talk all night long.
Problem was, the news truly shocked him. If she divorced two years ago, that meant their marriage had lasted only six. It hardly seemed possible that she’d broken his heart—both their hearts—for something that lasted only six years.
But, again, the silence had stretched too long. He needed to say something.
“How about that. “ He dropped the pencil and scooted his chair back, as if to rise. “Divorced already. That didn’t take long.”
Something tightened in her face. “I guess time is relative,” she said. “It seemed like an eternity to me.”
How about you? Are you the patient type? Or do you struggle with delayed gratification, like me? Can you remember a time when patience paid off?
Because it’s a double-release month, and I’m double-excited, I’m giving away Kindle copies of both these books AND a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen commenter today.
I’ve been thinking about what makes a great book cover lately. I know a lot of what appeals to readers depends on genre, so I’d love one of the Jaunties who writes contemporary to tackle this same topic in a future post.
I can speak to my observations with covers for historical romances and what I think makes a cover appeal to readers.
1. The cover is lush.
Not surprisingly, historical readers love covers with pretty dresses, gorgeous colors, and beautiful scenery. If I’m jealous of the cover model’s dress, chances are I’m going to pick that book up, if only for the cover alone.
2. The title catches the readers’ attention.
The title and the author’s name are often just as important as the cover image. Is the author’s name big or small? Is the title long or short? The best titles are those readers remember. Authors will often play with common phrases, movie titles, even song titles in order to catch a reader’s attention.
Sarah MacLean’s titles are one example.
So are Kieran Kramer’s.
3. Most importantly, a great book cover leaves the reader with a question they can only answer by reading the book.
Sarah MacLean accomplishes this with NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER. The question? Why is this lady from an era when women wore dresses, wearing trousers. The title is another example of a play on a common phrase.
Sophie Jordan’s novel HOW TO LOSE A BRIDE IN ONE NIGHT piqued readers’ attention by making them wonder if the heroine really is lost on her wedding night.
One of my best covers is LORD AND LADY SPY. Not only does it have colors that pop, it deliberately mirrors the movie posters for Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As an added touch, the designer has the female model standing on a box marked Explosives. That’s a fun nod to the lighter tone of the book and a play on the double meaning of explosive—the traditional blowing up meaning and the sexual connotation.
I’m thrilled my next full-length novel, EARLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN (February 2015), has so many of the qualities that make a great cover. Take a look. Does it leave you with a question? Is the title memorable?
I’m a writer, so obviously I’d love to be able to pose as a language prodigy and tell everyone I was born with a copy of Hamlet in my hand, delighting my parents with my fluid crib readings of the Bard.
Unfortunately, that’s not the real story. In the real story, I’m a second child, and, as so often happens, my mother had already purged all that maternal “must teach daughter to read ASAP or will be failure as parent” anxiety from her psyche with my older sister. Mom adopted a far more laissez faire attitude with me. She read TO me, but she obviously figured hey, the nuns can handle the phonics-reading thing… the tuition is high enough, for heaven’s sake.
Even at six, it really nettled me that my sister could read, and I couldn’t. But for some reason I accepted that we had to wait till I started first grade. Word is, I was like a horse fidgeting at the starting gate. When the school bell went off, and the gate opened, I picked up a book, and from that moment until I conquered reading, no one saw my face. They saw only an open book with my convent-school uniform extending below it.
I ate with one hand, walked around bumping into things, bathed holding the pages above the water. It took me forever to put on my socks, because I had to dangle them out with my free hand, then wiggle my toes around like blind newborn kittens until they found the opening and wormed their way in.
Maybe because I waited so long, or because it was so exciting to teach myself, the books I read back then will always be extra special to me. Or maybe they were just terrific books. I made a point of buying as many of them as I could for my own kids—either vintage or reprints—and they loved the stories, too.
Here are a few I’ll never outgrow:
The Story of Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. This, I’m sure, is the book I’m holding in this picture, taken when I had just turned seven. I don’t know if Ferdinand made me a peace-maker personality, or if I loved Ferdinand because I already had that personality, but it felt as if this book had been written specifically for me.
The Golden Egg Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Leonard Wisegard. The bunny trying to figure out what will hatch from an egg he discovers enchanted me, because both he and the duck are so uninhibited and natural. They kick each other and roll each other down hills. They get impatient, and then get bored. It’s childhood in a nutshell…I mean, eggshell.
I Can Fly, by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Mary Blair. Though I didn’t know it, this book introduced us to all kinds of poetic tricks, like rhyme and onomatopoeia. And we always acted it out, which was awesome.
The Bumper Book, a collection of stories and poems. Mostly, I adored the colorful pictures. The stories were too hard for me that year, but I’d heard the poems so often I learned to read the letters by matching them to the words I knew by heart. I remember reading aloud the lines “Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares! Christopher Robin is saying his prayers” with exactly the same intonation my mom had always used. Very grave, very reverent.
McElligot’s Pool, by Dr. Seuss. To this day, the opening line of this darling book is one of my favorites in all fiction. “Young man,” laughed the farmer, “you’re sort of a fool! You’ll never catch fish in McElligot’s Pool!” What kid doesn’t love to see the grumpy old pessimist realize he might be the fool?
What about you? Do you remember learning to read? Do you still own any of your favorite childhood books? Did you read any of them with your own children? I’m giving away a ten dollar gift certificate to Amazon.com to one randomly chosen poster today, so I hope you’ll take a minute so share!