Hi, everyone–Vanessa Kelly is back to share her thoughts on the Jaunty Quills, blogging, and connecting with readers. Vanessa, thanks for being here!
Dear fellow Jaunties and readers, it’s wonderful to be back, if only to wave goodbye! Or, as my Italian family used to say, ciao bella. That sounds so much nicer and much less final, don’t you think? And although this one door is closing, so many doors between readers and writers have opened these last few years, thanks to social media.
So, it truly isn’t goodbye, is it? We have the luxury of connecting with readers and favorite authors on facebook and Twitter—even on sites like Instagram for those of us who aren’t dropping our phones every time we try to take a picture (I’m talking about Jaunty, of course. I would, ahem, never be so clumsy).
But despite my jaunty (see how I slipped that in there?!) attempt to say: hey, no big deal that the blog is shutting down…it IS a big deal. The Jaunty Quills was and is a truly wonderful community of authors and readers, one of the best in digital romancelandia. In an on-line world so often lacking in authenticity, the posts and discussions on this blog were always authentic and, well, heartfelt. Which fits perfectly, right?
And I will never forget the day when Margo Maguire and Shana Galen asked me to become a JQ. It felt like a significant career milestone for me, and I was so honored when asked. And nervous, truth be told. I sweated over my first few blogs to a ridiculous degree. Man, you would have thought I was writing the Gettysburg Address! But then I finally cottoned on to the fact that the JQs were a group of gals who were very warm and felt comfortable letting their hair down—as did our readers—which meant I could, too. I had many laughs reading the posts and comments, and more than a few tears, too.
Grateful thanks to my fellow Jaunties and to Mr. Jaunty P. Quills himself (I promise I WILL put you in a book one day, Jaunty). Big, sloppy kisses to all of you!
Most especially, thank you to our dear readers—you are all so kind, generous, and fun. It was more than wonderful hanging with you, and I look forward to seeing you out there in the wider world!
Please join me in welcoming the delightful Anna Adams, who has come to visit and to talk a little about reconnecting with gratitude. Anna is a USA Today Bestselling author who’s written all her life. She has books with Harlequin’s Superromance and Heartwarming lines, and an anthology in the upcoming A Heartwarming Holiday. Thanks for stopping by, Anna. It’s super to have you here!
Thank you, Jaunty Quill Sisterhood for letting me join you. To borrow from my theme for today, I’m grateful.
It’s almost fall. I feel a little ridiculous saying that because it is stinking hot where I live. However, calendar-wise, we’re flying toward one of my favorite days in the year–Thanksgiving.
I like a day that asks me to think of things that make me happy. This year, I need that because we’ve had a few days that might tempt a person to wallow. I’m admitting I’ve been a little sad because I reconnected with gratitude while I was writing an anthology, “Once Upon a Thanksgiving,” that appears in A Heartwarming Holiday, which releases October 12
I don’t know how many of you are writers, but I’m guessing everyone’s job becomes more difficult in times of sadness. I wondered if what I do matters. But I agreed to do this story, and there were fourteen other writers expecting me to show up, so I had to write my Thanksgiving story about love and family and holidays and commitment.
Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday when I was eleven. My family had moved to my mom’s home in Tennessee the winter before.
Until then, my immediate family had been sort of on our own as my father was an only child. My mom was one of five children, and Thanksgiving at Grandma’s house meant several seatings because we didn’t all fit at her gray-marbled formica table. It was bountiful, delicious food—Grandma’s dressing, Aunt Dorothy’s cole slaw, and squash pie. Squash. Pie. Why wasn’t I smart enough to ask Grandma how she made it? After we ate, Grandma herded all the women and children up the ridge behind her house. Those hikes taught me to stick like glue to the women of my family. My, my, my, the stories. I love family stories.
And after we tumbled back down the ridge, we kids would play football or chase each other around Grandma’s flowerbeds until we remembered there was enough food inside to inhale another meal. So—I’m grateful to Grandma Cate because she gave me Thanksgiving.
Last year, we received a few more reasons to be grateful. I’ll just call them my sweeties. Because—this love—it amazes me every second.
And finally, I’m grateful for the choice to choose gratitude instead of wallowing. To see those babies and know how lucky I am to be swallowed up in this love I feel for them. To write a story, and know that to touch readers—and myself—as I write about the holiday my grandmother gave me, I must fill it with the love of family that makes me choose to find happiness, to do the right thing, to be grateful.
Please share something that makes you grateful. I can’t wait to bask in your stories, and I’d love to send one random poster a $10 Amazon egift card.
Thanks again, Sisterhood of the Jaunty Quills for having me!
J Quills: Hello! This is Jaunty P. Quills, Porcupine Extraordinaire and gold medal Olympian! I’m here with Vanessa Kelly. I won’t call her a former Quill because ”Once a Quill, Always a Quill.” Welcome back, Vanessa! What have you been up to? Win any gold medals in Rio?
Vanessa Kelly: Now that I think about it, Jaunty, I’m pretty sure I saw you in Rio. Wasn’t it at a gas station late one night, after a party? There seemed to be some sort of kerfuffle going on, which I have to say didn’t surprise me one bit. I know what porcupines can be like when they celebrate a little too, ahem, vigorously.
J Quills: Gas station? That wasn’t me. I’ve never even met Ryan Lochte! Don’t take away my pine nuts! Anyway, moving on…Our readers are already big fans of your historical romances. Tell us about your newest, My Fair Princess.
Vanessa Kelly: Jaunty, I am so excited about this book! It’s a spin-off from my bestselling Renegade Royals Series, which features heroes who are the illegitimate sons of England’s royal dukes. This new series is called The Improper Princesses, and the heroines are the half-sisters and cousins of my renegade heroes. The first book, MY FAIR PRINCESS, features an unconventional heroine. Gillian Dryden was raised in Sicily, and is something of a hellion. She’s a crack shot, carries knives in her boots, and is the scourge of bandits and smugglers everywhere. It’s up to the very sophisticated (and handsome) Duke of Leverton to turn Gillian into a proper English lady. Let’s just say that things don’t go as planned.
J Quills: It sounds pine nutlicious! You also write contemporary romances with your husband under the penname VK Sykes. Anything in the works as VK Sykes?
Vanessa Kelly: Hubby is hard at work on another baseball romance in our Philadelphia Patriots Series, and also a romantic suspense. We hope to have both of those books out in early 2017.
J Quills: This is a really important question, Vanessa. Of all the Jaunty Quills, I was always your favorite, right?
Vanessa Kelly: Jaunty, I’m shocked—shocked—that you even had to ask. Of COURSE you were always my favorite. In fact, I modeled the hero of my latest book after you. Yeah, I told my readers the inspiration was Chris Hemsworth, but that was a flat-out lie. After all, no one sports a cravat like a handsome porcupine.
J Quills: I knew it! Kristan, who is your next hero modeled after? Hmm? Let’s read an excerpt of my—I mean, Vanessa’s new book MY FAIR PRINCESS. Then keep reading to see how to win a print copy of SECRETS FOR SEDUCING A ROYAL BODYGUARD, the first Renegade Royals book, and a $10 Amazon gift card.
Vanessa Kelly: In this excerpt, my heroine is hot in pursuit of dastardly smugglers—until my hero decides that such activity is TOTALLY unladylike, not to mention dangerous:
The next thing Gillian knew, he was shoving her down onto the sand. He came down on top of her, mashing her flat.
It took her a moment to catch her breath, since there wasn’t a particle of air between them. She was certainly becoming intimately acquainted with various parts of Leverton’s impressive anatomy.
“Who is it?” She felt a spurt of hope. Perhaps some of the smugglers had returned. Now that Teddy was safely out of the way, Leverton might even help her track them. They might not see eye to eye on everything, but he would be furious that smugglers were trespassing on his lands.
“Wait,” he breathed out.
He cautiously lifted his head to peer over the rise of sand between them and the beach. The sound of a cantering horse, hooves thudding into the hard-packed flats, quickly grew and then faded away down the beach. Leverton still didn’t move, his attention focused in the direction of the mysterious rider.
“Could you please get off me,” she finally said. “You are completely squashing me.”
He looked down at her and frowned, as if surprised to see her there. Gillian raised a sardonic brow.
“I beg your pardon,” he murmured, as if they were on the dance floor and he’d simply trod on her foot.
He rolled off, but kept an arm slung across her waist. Gillian tried to push it away, but it felt like a tree trunk was pinning her down. She let out an aggrieved sigh and dropped her head back onto the sand.
“Whoever it was, he’s long gone,” she said. “Why are we still lying here?”
“I just wanted to make sure,” Leverton answered. “I think it’s now safe to get up.”
“I should hope so. I feel like I’ve spent half the night lying on this blasted beach.” With nothing to show for it but sand in her breeches and an irate duke.
Leverton rolled into a crouch and then smoothly rose. He reached down a hand to pull her up. “And whose fault is that?”
Gillian pulled the tails of her coat back in place and started brushing herself off. “Not mine. If you hadn’t shown up, I could have tracked the smugglers back to their lair. That, as you must admit, would have been very helpful.”
“Their lair? Good God, you’ve been reading too many lurid novels. Wait, I forgot,” he said, holding up a hand. “You actually believe you’re living in one. You fancy yourself some sort of heroine, dashing about, trying to right all the wrongs of the world.”
“No, I fancy myself as the hero.” She wiggled a leg, hoping to at least shake some of the sand from her backside down to her boot. “The heroines are always moaning and falling down in a faint, waiting for the men to rescue them. I don’t have time for that sort of nonsense.”
Giveaway! Vanessa’s heroine Gillian Dryden is a woman of many talents—crack shot, knife-wielder, and the scourge of bandits and smugglers. Do you have any special talents? Comment below to win a print copy of SECRETS FOR SEDUCING A ROYAL BODYGUARD, the first Renegade Royals book, and a $10 Amazon gift card.
*The winner will be chosen randomly from all comments and his/her name will be posted on Sunday.
First, Vanessa Kelly brought readers The Renegade Royals. Now, in a delightfully witty new series, she introduces The Improper Princesses—three young women descended from royalty, each bound for her own thrilling adventure . . .
Despite being the illegitimate daughter of a prince, Gillian Dryden is happily ignorant of all social graces. After growing up wild in Italy, Gillian has been ordered home to England to find a suitable husband. And Charles Valentine Penley, the excessively proper, distractingly handsome Duke of Leverton, has agreed to help transform her from a willful tomboy to a blushing debutante.
Powerful and sophisticated, Charles can make or break reputations with a well-placed word. But his new protégée, with her habit of hunting bandits and punching earls, is a walking scandal. The ton is aghast . . . but Charles is thoroughly intrigued. Tasked with taking the hoyden in hand, he longs to take her in his arms instead. Can such an outrageous attraction possibly lead to a fairytale ending?
The Book Depository: http://bit.ly/20ClmA2
Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. The Renegade Royals, her last series, was a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes contemporary romance with her husband as VK Sykes.
Author Social Links:
Hi, everyone! Amazingly talented author Rose Lerner is visiting today to tell us all about the new GAMBLED AWAY historical romance anthology. In five all-new novellas, authors take the theme of characters wagered in a game of chance and turn it into, well, amazingness.
Welcome, Rose, and thanks for being here!
There’s a line in Jeannie Lin’s story in our Gambled Away anthology that made me cry.
When I was a child, I’d received a lantern once for the Spring Festival. It was pink and painted with flowers. I’d loved that lantern for an hour. A breeze had caught it while it hung from a tree in our courtyard, tipping the candle inside over and igniting the paper.
I’d wept after the servants put the fire out as I stared at the ruined shell. I would never have that bit of happiness, the glow of that moment in the same way ever again.
I wanted the moment with Gao back with the same empty sorrow now.
That feeling is all too familiar to me.
The past can never return. It’s unalterably lost to me, the moment it happens. That’s just what “past” means. Surely tautologies shouldn’t be frightening.
Because it isn’t just grief; it’s fear. An ever-present fear that what comes next won’t be as good as what I used to have, or as what I have right now. And that fear? It doesn’t just come when things are good. It comes when things are okay, or even when things are bad. What if I move forward and it’s worse?
I just read Marie Kondo’s The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up and it really did change my life. I decluttered my house when I never thought I could do that. I got rid of an entire bookshelf of books, you guys! AN ENTIRE BOOKSHELF. I feel like you probably get how huge that is.
What that book, and that process, taught me is that I was clinging so hard to my past that my fingers were cramping. My heart was cramping. I didn’t even realize. I had clothes in my closet I hadn’t worn since college…but I loved them in college and maybe…if I got rid of them…the person I was in college would be gone forever.
I am tearing up just writing that sentence. Which is weird, right? I mean, the person I was in college is ALREADY gone forever, because I’m not in college anymore. But also, I’M STILL ME even without velvet minidress overalls. Aren’t I?
I think my mom dying when I was 23 (ten years ago last month) had something to do with it. It felt like I’d lost such a huge chunk of myself—of my past, of memories of my past—that I’d better do my very best to hold on to what was left.
That fear of moving forward, of taking a risk, of becoming someone new, of losing the past, is a huge theme in my novella for Gambled Away. My hero Simon is terrified that maybe he and his best friend since middle school are growing apart. And my heroine Maggie has created a life for herself that’s really pretty good—that’s great even—and can’t admit to herself that maybe…just maybe…she’s feeling a little bored with it. That she wants more.
I was startled when two other stories in the anthology—Jeannie’s, about a sheltered, scholarly girl whose longing for more freedom lands her smack in the middle of a murder investigation, and Molly’s, about two people dealing with addiction and abuse and the aftermath of war—shared strikingly similar themes:
If I change, I can never go back to the way things were.
If I move forward, what will I have to leave behind?
What is left of me when I’m separated from the people I love?
I wonder if writing stories about gambling, about risks, naturally pushes you to write characters who are afraid of those risks. Who need to move forward in one painful burst of energy, one moment of decision, one turn of the cards. Because they can’t bring themselves to do it any other way.
I think that’s part of why I love romances so much. They remind me that the future can be better. That the risk is worth taking.
(And I’m just realizing this is basically what I talked about last time I was here too!! Here’s what I said: “Because in a romance, the risks you take for happiness always pay off.” Embarrassing! But it is reassuring to know I’m consistent. 😉
Tell me about a change for the better you’ve made in your life!
To two random commenters, Rose will give Gambled Away ebooks. Open internationally. Winner will be announced on Sunday.
Rose Lerner discovered Georgette Heyer when she was thirteen, and wrote her first historical romance a few years later. Her writing has improved since then, but her fascination with all things Regency hasn’t changed. She lives in Seattle with her best friend.
Get revenge. Pay a debt. Save a soul. Lose your heart.
Spanning centuries and continents, five brand-new novellas from beloved historical romance authors tell the stories of men and women who find themselves wagered in a game of chance and are forced to play for the highest stakes of all: love.
“Gideon and the Den of Thieves” by Joanna Bourne
London, 1793 – Soldier of fortune Gideon Gage has come home from halfway around the world, fully prepared to face down a ruthless gang to save his sister. But there’s one member of the gang he could never have been prepared for: fascinating Aimée, driven from her own home by the French Revolution and desperately in need of his help.
“Raising The Stakes” by Isabel Cooper
California, 1938 — When the flute she won in last night’s poker game unexpectedly summons an elven warrior bound to her service, two-bit con artist Sam takes quick advantage. With Talathan’s fairy powers at her command, her shakedown of a crooked preacher is a sure thing…but would she rather take a gamble on love?
“All or Nothing” by Rose Lerner
England, 1819 – Architect Simon Radcliffe-Gould needs someone to pose as his mistress so he can actually get some work done at a scandalous house party. Irrepressible gambling den hostess Maggie da Silva would rather be his mistress, but she’ll take what she can get…
“The Liar’s Dice” by Jeannie Lin
Tang Dynasty China, 849 A.D. — Lady Bai’s first taste of freedom brings her face to face with murder. A dangerous and enigmatic stranger becomes her closest ally as she investigates the crime, but can she trust her heart or her instincts when everyone is playing a game of liar’s dice?
“Redeemed” by Molly O’Keefe
Denver, 1868 — After agonizing years in the Civil War’s surgical tents, Union doctor James Madison has nothing left to lose. But when beautiful, tortured Helen Winters is the prize in a high-stakes game of poker, he goes all in to save her—and maybe his own soul.
GAMBLED AWAY on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited: http://amzn.to/1OkRanq
I’m thrilled to welcome Harlequin editor Susan Litman as my special guest today. I’ve been fortunate to work with Susan on several Special Edition continuities and today we’re going to talk about The Fortunes of Texas series.
Nancy Robards Thompson: Welcome to the Jaunty Quills, Susan! Before we start dishing about The Fortunes, please tell us a little bit about you.
Susan Litman: Thanks for having me today, Nancy. I’ve been at Harlequin for 14 years now—hard to believe! I started as an Assistant Editor for Intimate Moments, and eventually became an Associate Editor, then Editor for Special Edition. While I mostly acquire for Special Edition, I still work with several Romantic Suspense authors, and in fact I just acquired a brand-new author for HRS a couple of weeks ago!
NRT: I will never forget the day I got The Call. It’s such an exciting time. Congratulations to your new author! In addition to other continuities, you’re in charge of the Fortunes of Texas. What’s it like to work with such a longstanding series? What’s your favorite thing about the Fortunes?
SL: It’s a pleasure to work on The Fortunes of Texas, primarily because I get a thrill knowing that we’re constantly adding new elements to a franchise that our readers have loved for twenty years now—and hopefully we can continue to bring in new fans with new characters as well as cameos from some favorite classic Fortunes stars. I also love that we can take some fun risks with the continuity—adding the British Fortunes, for instance, was so much fun, and I loved seeing our authors bring those voices to life in a Texas setting.
NRT: One question I’m sure many readers are wondering is how in the world do you keep all the characters and storylines straight?
SL: It’s not easy—but to be honest, I have a memory for the most minute details for anything related to pop culture. If it is in Entertainment Weekly, I’ll remember it forever. J So if it is in a continuity bible or book, I’m not likely to forget it—though I might need to refer back to a book once in a while to double check a detail. That’s probably the biggest concern I have when working on a new continuity—making sure that we’re not contradicting any plot elements, or characterization, that was previously established. And that’s very difficult to do from year-to-year, but I’m happy to say that I think we’ve managed to accomplish this.
NRT: What’s it like to work with so many authors on one project?
SL: It’s wonderful. We always put together a wonderful mix of a couple of new voices, plus those I like to call the “returning continuity champions,” who have often written for a previous iteration of the Fortunes. The authors always work well together—everyone tends to start brainstorming once they’ve read the bible, coming up with creative ways to augment the existing elements and bring “their” voice to their specific story. The authors are, without question, a huge part of what makes the continuity so special.
NRT: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Fortunes of Texas. How has the storyline changed over the years?
SL: I don’t think it has changed so much as grown! Naturally, we’ve expanded the family. There are new branches in Red Rock, and Atlanta; newly discovered relatives as close as Horseback Hollow, Texas and as far as London, England. And now, in 2016, THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS: ALL FORTUNE’S CHILDREN will explore the story of tech giant Gerald Robinson and his family of Austin, Texas. Could he truly be a long-lost member of the fabled Fortune family? To celebrate the 20th anniversary, we had the pleasure of bringing back the matriarch Kate Fortune, and even doing an online prequel to set the stage for this continuity (FORTUNE’S FEAST by Marie Ferrarella.)
Knowing how much the readers love this family and this continuity has enabled us to branch out, and really expand the world of the Fortunes—but always, always maintaining the focus on the elements that make this continuity so special: the concept of bringing family back together. Which, of course, is also what Special Edition is all about—characters who place importance on love and family.
NRT: What’s next for the Fortunes? For Special Edition?
SL: For 2017, we’ve got some fun stories coming your way as we get even deeper into the mystery of Gerald Robinson’s past—and the tangled love lives of his legitimate and illegitimate children! And Special Edition has a number of wonderful authors and titles coming in the next few months—the new Montana Mavericks continuity, THE BABY BONANZA, kicks off in July with MARRIAGE, MAVERICK STYLE! by Christine Rimmer, and we’ve got books coming from bestselling authors including Merline Lovelace, Rachel Lee, Stella Bagwell, Brenda Harlen, plus RITA-winner Caro Carson and new voices including Joanna Sims and Katie Meyers. And in December, we will have THE HOLIDAY GIFT, a brand-new Cowboys of Cold Creek title from RaeAnne Thayne.
NRT: Now, for the most important question– who is your all-time Fortunes crush?
SL: Unfair question (how can you possibly choose just one?!) But after lots of deep thought about my favorite hero—and heroine!—I have to choose Galen Fortune Jones and Aurora McElroy from FORTUNE’S JUNE BRIDE by Allison Leigh (THE FORTUNES OF TEXAS: COWBOY COUNTRY). I was a theater geek in high school and college, so I really “got” this story—and the idea of a curmudgeonly—yet sexy—cowboy getting suckered into playing an old-timey cowboy in an amusement park stage show was both endearing and adorable . . . and sexy! I also loved the very Hugh Grant-esque Charles Fortune Chesterfield of FORTUNE’S SPECIAL DELIVERY by Michelle Major. What can I say? I’m a sucker for good manners and a sexy accent. 🙂
NRT: What’s been the Favorite Fortunes installment/season/storyline?
SL: Augh. Another unfair question. Truthfully, to date, I love each one as I’m working on it, because I get completely immersed in details, plots, characters, and so on. And I think we really did outdo ourselves for ALL FORTUNE’S CHILDREN to create a 20th anniversary to remember! But we’ve got some great plans up our sleeves for 2017 . . . 🙂 Plenty of family secrets, cowboys both rich and poor, and the women who love them for all. Readers will not want to miss a word!
If you’re a Fortunes fan what’s your favorite story or who is your favorite character? If you haven’t yet read the Fortunes series, what’s your favorite storyline or hero archetype? Nancy will give a $5 Amazon gift card to one person who comments.