Most of the kids are back in school now. My daughter has been back to school for almost a month. She’s in first grade now and a pro at the whole school thing (or so she thinks). All summer long she waited anxiously to find out who her first grade teacher would be. She really wanted one particular teacher, and when I asked why, she said it was because that teacher is nice and pretty. It doesn’t take a lot to impress elementary kids.
My daughter didn’t get that teacher, but she was happy with the one she got because her teacher has long hair. She’s also nice and pretty, but the long hair clinched it. I don’t remember ever caring about my teachers’ hair or if they were pretty or not. In 7th grade I did have a male teacher who was good looking. His name was Coach Mali, and I think his looks were more distracting than helpful.
Every kid wants a nice teacher, though. My favorite teacher was also one of the nicest. Her name was Mrs. Fannett, and she taught eleventh grade English. The class was not easy. Mrs. Fannett was not easy. We had to learn about infinitives and gerunds (something I never understood until I taught 10th grade English myself!) and read books like The Scarlet Letter and Faulkner’s The Bear. Now I love a lot of classic literature. I adore Shakespeare and Dickens, and I like Twain too. I did not, and never will, love Hawthorne and Faulkner. I respect those authors and their talent, but they’re just downers. Oh, and don’t even get me started on Hemingway.
But somehow Mrs. Fannett made those books accessible. Somehow she got me to read them and, if not enjoy them, understand them. She pushed me to be a better writer. She pushed me to find a better word, a more descriptive phrase, a more complex sentence. Writing was always one of my best subjects. I could get an A with very little effort. Mrs. Fannett made me want the A+.
When I taught middle and high school English I tried to be a teacher like Mrs. Fannett. I don’t know if I succeeded. The most frequent comment students gave me was about how calm I was.
Hmm. Well, I guess calm is a compliment of sorts, considering some of the chaotic places I taught. I would have preferred inspiring or fascinating, but kids tell us the truth, not what we want to hear. Maybe if my hair had been longer?
Do you have a favorite teacher? Or maybe your kids had a great teacher. What made him or her so great?
I don’t like surprises. My husband once threw a surprise birthday party for my 40th birthday. It was really sweet of him and the best party ever, but it freaked me out. The whole night was completely surreal. I woke up the next morning unsure if the whole thing had really happened. But he also surprised me with a new car. That was in the garage, so I knew the night had happened.
I loved the party—all my best friends were there—but I sometimes think I might have enjoyed it more if I’d been able to anticipate it. There’s enjoyment in the anticipation too.
Recently I was nominated for an award, and I found the anticipation of he ceremony so much more fun than the actual event. I loved shopping for the dress and shoes, looking for cute accessories, and dressing up that night. As soon as my category was called, I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the night. I didn’t win, but a good friend of mine did. I loved her surprise! I like surprises for others, just not me.
Do you like surprises? If you do, I have a tote bag with a surprise mix of books for you! Just tell me whether you do or do not like surprises and why!
Tote bag/book winner chosen randomly and notified and contacted Sunday!
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:
I was a teacher for 11 years, so this time of year always reminds me of those days. I taught English in middle school and high school, so I didn’t teach the cute elementary kids. That was perfectly okay with me. I liked working with the older kids.
My first year teaching was definitely the hardest. I had an AP (Assistant Principal) who was of the opinion that first year teachers had to earn their place via trial by fire. I taught eighth grade in the inner city my first year, and for a 23-year-old white girl raised in the suburbs, it was an eye opener. I remember in 3rd period I had a 16-year-old boy who was a captain in the Cholos, which was one of the local gangs. Two seats in front of him sat a 15-year-old girl with a baby and an unreliable babysitter. All together, I had six classes, and 5th period was the worst. I had 35 desks and 40 students. You can guess how that worked out. I don’t think I taught anything in that class the entire year.
I remember a couple things about that 5th period English class—other than tripping over the kids who had to sit on the floor—and that was I had two of the worst boys in the entire grade in that class. I’ll change their names to protect their identity, but it should tell you something that I taught these kids in 1996, and I remember their names perfectly.
I’ll call one boy Joe. Joe was always in trouble with every single teacher. He was a clown with a bad temper who did not appreciate authority, especially female authority. So every time I said, “Joe, stop talking,” he would argue with me and turn what should have been a quick reprimand into a class disruption. At one time or another, he called me every profanity you can think of. To make matters worse, when I sent him to the office, nothing happened to him. Trial by fire, remember? Joe and the AP were best buddies, strolling around with arms around each other’s shoulders.
Would the situation have been so bad if I’d been older and more experienced? No way. I would have had control of that kid and the class from day one. But to throw a new teacher into a situation like that was really unforgivable. Because in addition to Joe, I had Carl. Carl was an angry kid. He wasn’t particularly disruptive, but it didn’t take much to disrupt a class of 40 kids. One time I was attempting to teach (silly me!), and I’d passed out highlighters for the class to use. At the end of class, when the highlighters were passed in again, 12 were missing. Twelve. Like I wasn’t going to notice that?
So I did the whole thing where I threatened to punish all the kids if they didn’t tell me who had taken the highlighters because I knew they knew who had them. A couple kids who didn’t want detention on their records told me privately that it was Carl. So I called Carl in and asked him if I could look in his backpack. Well, he was caught well and good, and he didn’t like that, so instead of handing over his backpack, he started pulling out books and notebooks and flinging them at me. Fortunately, I was good at ducking.
Then he decided maybe that wasn’t enough of a search, and he took off his shoes and threw them at me. Next came his shirt. People, when he reached for his pants, I was up and running down the hall to the male history teacher’s class. The door to my classroom was open, but no way was I getting slapped with sexual harassment because some kid decided to strip in my room.
I didn’t go back to my room, but I could hear the history teacher from the other end of the hall yelling, “Boy! What in the hell do you think you are doing? Put your clothes back on!”
And do you know the AP tried to put Carl back in my class? Fortunately, the math teacher in the room beside mine was in the teacher’s union and told me the legal way to get Carl out of my class. So he had a different English teacher the last month of school, and from all reports he was an angel in her class. It was the best thing for both of us.
But here’s what I want to tell you. The next year those eighth graders went to high school, and kids always come back at the end of the year to visit their old teachers. Do you know which of my classes had the most kids come visit? Yes, 5th period. I might not have been an effective teacher, but I cared. I tried. I didn’t give up on them, and they remembered that and they remembered me. Seeing those kids again and hearing them tell me how much they liked my class was an important life lesson. Sometimes when you think you’re just banging your head against a wall, you’re actually making progress. You might not see it, but the cracks you’ve created can splinter and break and produce amazing results.
The other night my husband, who I call Ultimate Sportsfan (USF), and I turned off baseball and turned on a new documentary about romance writers and readers. Have you seen Love Between the Covers? It’s on iTunes and Amazon, and I’d seen clips of it, but I hadn’t had a chance to watch the whole thing. I really enjoyed it. It’s always interesting to hear about other authors’ experiences and paths to publication.
Check out the trailer (at the end is my editor and the owner of my publisher, Sourcebooks).
USF found them movie interesting because it was an inside look into the romance genre. He sees a lot of the inside of the industry, but he only sees it from my perspective. This documentary widened his field of vision a bit.
My favorite part of the movie was the interviews with the romance readers. They’re the true stars of romance. In a sense, we’re all readers, and it’s amazing how books can change and affect our lives so completely.
My other favorite part was watching interviews with two of my friends here at the Jaunty Quills! Jesse and Kristan were both featured, and I think they both came off as very professional and insightful. I have a small cameo in the movie. I’m signing behind one of the authors the cameraman is filming meeting readers. I only saw it because I recognized the dress I was wearing.
So that’s the exciting story of my motion picture debut!
Have you ever been in a movie? If not, what’s the best film you’ve seen lately? One person who comments will win a tote bag filled with an assortment of romances! **Winner chosen randomly and notified on Sunday. Sorry, only open to readers with a U.S. address because those books are heavy.
You’ll have to watch the movie to see Kristan and Jesse and to spot my cameo, but here’s an extra I enjoyed.