Reasons to Love an Unexpected Romance

Two weeks ago, I cleaned off some of my bookshelves because we were shifting furniture around. One of the shelves, a round table made from wire spools by my grandfather, was in sore need of dusting.

Austin, Austin spin-offs, Alcott, Brontes, and lots of other fun things.
Austin, Austin spin-offs, Alcott, Brontes, and lots of other fun things. Notice the foam sword in the foreground. That is in case of attack by pirates.

The table holds a collection of classics from my youth and adulthood that I have kept because each formed the woman you now see before you. I could no sooner part with them than one of my limbs. I did find one book I had forgotten I owned. It is a slim regency romance by Elizabeth Mansfield called Her Man of Affairs.

0721151458
What are you writing there? Let me peer over your shoulder provocatively just to make sure you know I am here.

I will give you a few minutes to absorb the beauty that is that cover. See how she gently touches his hand and leans over his shoulder? Classic! It was enough to make me squee with anticipation.

Someone of my acquaintance found this on their bookshelf and bequeathed it to me knowing what a soft spot I have for regency romance. My intention was to read it poste haste, but life got in the way and it was tucked amidst my classics. When I rediscovered it, I knew I had waited long enough.

It was predictable (every genre has some predictableness, so don’t be too judgey) but it was absolutely delightful. It reminded me of all the reasons I love romances. Here are a few I would like to share:

Reason #1 – In most romances the women are powerful. Not power in the traditional sense, though that can happen, but they have intellectual prowess, they have emotional power over themselves, they are damsels that rescue themselves, or they understand their sexuality (or they come to in the course of the book). I love a strong heroine who admits when she is wrong or when she admits she needs the hero’s help to accomplish a task. This is not to say the hero does not have power. He often does, but he does not beat the heroine down, literally or figuratively, to maintain his power. If he does start out that way, woe to him as he learns the error of his ways and then must commence with the grovelling. The best romances involve some team work between the H/H (hero and heroine). Which brings me to …

Reason #2 – Cooperation. Life is all about compromise and working together. Romances show this in romantic relationships. Too often, in real life, we think that being in a relationship is what the other person has to offer us, not what we can do for the other people in our lives. Relationships are about service to others, not what we are getting from them. In romances, this give and take is something the H/H have to negotiate as their relationship develops. Other genres show this kind of compromise and cooperation too, but nothing is more intimate than the relationship you have with a life partner. The depth of selfless giving is greater because this is a person you can not escape, even on your worst days or theirs.

Reason #3 – Everything is better with a little sexual tension, kissing, romance, and *ahem* other things. As a female reader, I have found a lot of traditional scifi and fantasy (read stuff written by men and mostly for men) as boring and dry. You know why? Because it rarely includes romance and there is romance in real life. People are attracted to each other, especially when crammed into tight quarters or in high risk situations. A book with a group of people going on a quest where none of them ever feels any emotions for the other people in the group is weirdly asexual to me.*

Reason #4 – Everything is a little more fun with kissing.

Reason #5 – I admit it. I like happy endings. I like reading about people finding peace and a partner. Who doesn’t want that?

So tell me: Do you like a little romance in your stories? Why or why not?

 

*It should be noted, that some people, my engineering husband for one, think that emoshuns ruin good stories. Your opinion is your own.

Recalculating

One of the things I have enjoyed about indie publishing is the inherent flexibility. I can say no to my editors, though I almost never do. Why would I? They are almost always right. My timelines and deadlines are imposed and kept by me. I can reschedule and rework them when life happens to me, my family, or someone on my publishing team. Everything is negotiable when you indie publish.

Including your series and how it is laid out.

One of the paths in Holyrood Park in Scotland.
One of the paths in Holyrood Park in Scotland.

Letters in the Snow, Iris’ story, was originally slated to be a novella because when I started writing about Turning Creek, I thought it was just about harpies. I was wrong. It turns out Iris has more to say and I have more to tell about what is going on in our little mountain town. At the suggestion/prodding/encouragement of my editor (remember, I said she was almost always right) I am recalculating. A new route has been acquired.

Iris and Henry are getting a full length novel!

I may not be great at writing novellas. I do not tend towards the laconic and there are things and events happening in this book that will change everything for Iris, for the harpies, and for Turning Creek. Now that Letters in the Snow is slated to be a full length novel, I can explore the full ramifications of everything in my head and I could not be more excited.

Things to be revealed include Iris’s past, her family, and what happens when you get a bunch of Remnants and mortals in one place. It is going to be a good ride.

This does mean my timeline for the release of Letters may change. I would love to say for sure I will have another book for you in 2015, but it may not happen. I have other things going on in my life besides writing (ridiculous, right?) We can always recalculate our route and choose a different path.

I am also considering doing some YA offshoots with some of the other Remnants. I promise to finish up the harpies first.

Until then, enjoy Lightning and Storm and share them with your friends. The ebook of Lightning in the Dark will stay .99 for a little longer.

Now, I better get writing.

 

Book Birthday: Storm in the Mountains

Storm Cover

 

Today is the day I launch book two of the Turning Creek series into the wild. Storm in the Mountains tells the story of Marina and how she finds her true purpose. With Marina, things are never easy. In this book, you will find saloon fisticuffs; throw-down brawls with monsters of all kinds; women who love their whiskey, tea, and coffee; a harpy who is always ready for an adventure; dialog full of wit and snark; and a man who knows the best things sometimes have the biggest thorns.

Here is the blurb:

Marina Ocypete is a harpy, a Remnant of the Greek myth living in a small town in the Colorado Territory She would rather start a decent fight than sit around idle. The local sheriff offers her a job as a deputy which seems like a better choice than suffering from boredom, but Reed Brant has a way of getting under her skin.

With the influx of Remnants in his town, Reed needs Marina’s skills as a harpy to keep the peace. His head knows she is not the get married and settled down type he wants, but she might be just the thing his heart desires.

When women start disappearing in Turning Creek, it will be up to Marina and Reed to find the cause behind the fear gripping their town. Marina will have to choose between a fate she never questioned and the man who makes her believe even a harpy can have a heart.

Order your very own copy at these fine establishments:

print: Amazon, CreateSpace
ebook: Amazon, Google Play, Kobo, Nook, AllRomance

Links will go live as soon as vendors are up.

To celebrate Marina’s book birthday, I am giving away a Colorado Book and Coffee package which includes a signed copy of Lightning in the Dark, a signed copy of Storm in the Mountains, a Colorado coffee mug, a tree ornament made from recycled Colorado pine, and a bag of gourmet coffee. Click on the entry form below and share with your friends!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Naming Mountains

When I set out to name the place that my harpies would live, I wanted it to have meaning and sound like a western town. In Greek myths, the harpies are banished to the islands of Strophades, which means the isles of turning or returning. Thus, Turning Creek, the place where each harpy must make a choice about her future, was named.

I struggle with naming the mountains more than anything else. More than the names of characters. Definitely more than the names of the books themselves.

I can only conclude it is because mountains are, by far, my favorite topographical feature. Most of the names of the mountains are slight variations on real peaks in Colorado and Wyoming. Pikus Peak. Baldy. Lady’s Favor. Atlas’s Peak. The Twins. Shaker’s Way. They all pay homage to real mountains found in one of the best regions of the US.

Only one name was borrowed from a real place: Silvercliff.

Silvercliff on a sunny summer day.
Silvercliff on a sunny summer day.

Nestled in the middle of Colorado, down the road from the small towns of Buena Vista and Nathrop, there is a camp called Silver Cliff Ranch. It sits at the base of a cliff face called Silvercliff, named for the grey rock which makes up its exposed face.

Silvercliff in shadow.
Silvercliff in shadow.

For the past two years, I have spent a week at Silver Cliff with high school students from my church. I could tell you hilarious stories of shenanigans, touching tales of how students stepped forward to love each other, or amazing ways God has used five short days to impact the lives of the people on the trip.

All the stories would never do the place or the people justice. It is a cherished place in a state that I love.

In the Turning Creek books, Silvercliff is Dora’s home. Dora, who is the most introspective and sensitive of the harpies, lives near the peak of the mountain named for a place that has changed many lives. It is fun, as an author to pay homage to things that hold weight in my life.

In a few short days, I will board the bus again and head to Silvercliff. I will wake up in the mornings and watch the sun rise from a fallen log on the mountain. I will hear the birds sing and the crisp air will remind me that I am home.

Nothing is better than a sunrise in the mountains.
Nothing is better than a sunrise in the mountains.

Summer Sale

Many of you will be traveling this summer. Most of my favorite trips are ones that Mr. Rochester and I have taken together: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in summer, Jackson Hole in winter, Scotland, Germany, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, and more. We always manage to find the best local beer and walk until we find something of interest.

You might dream of a vacation on a beach like this:

 

Surfboards for rent in Costa Rica.
Surfboards for rent in Costa Rica.

 

 

Or you may want to sit at a cafe like this:

Order a bier and relax, friend.
Order a bier and relax, friend.

 

Or you may just want to escape into the wilderness:

Telluride, CO
Telluride, CO

 

No matter what you want to do, you will need a good book. Lightning in the Dark (now with bonus content!) is on sale at all major vendors (except iBooks, sorry). It will remain on sale until a little after Storm in the Mountains is released. When will that be? In the first couple weeks of July, depending on how fast I get it formatted.

Buy a Lightning in the Dark ebook for yourself or a friend.

Amazon, Google Play, Kobo, Nook

A Marina Update

Publishing is a funny business. If it was only me writing in a little cabin in the mountains, things would be simpler, books would come out faster, and they would also be not as good as we would all prefer. I am, sadly, not in a cabin in the mountains and I have, happily, a small team of people who help me make my books better. Thank you Baby Jesus for editors.

picture attribution
Picture by Charles Knowles.

I wanted to have Marina’s book, Storm in the Mountains, in your eager hands already, but it is not going to happen as quickly as I planned in my head. You know what they say about the best laid plans… they get swept down the river of life.

Storm is almost done. It is so close. I want to tell you it will be June, but to be safe, let’s just say July. In the weeks before Storm comes out, I will be releasing a new version of Lightning in the Dark with some bonus material. The other good news is that Iris’ novella, Letters in the Snow, is written. It just has to get through the editing process.

Marina was an absolute joy to write. She made me laugh and she always keeps Reed on his toes. There are many moments in this book that I love, but the verbal sparing between these two is worth the wait. Trust me.

If you need some suggestions on what to read in the interim, here are some things I recently finished that I loved.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

The Others series by Anne Bishop (Written in Red, Murder of Crows, and Visions in Silver)

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress)

Hounded by Kevin Hearne (part 1 of the Iron Druid Chronicles)

Eagles Honor Banished by Sandra Schwab (I have not actually read this one, but you can pre-order it now or buy it as a serial. Sandra has never steered me wrong.)

Happy Reading!

 

 

Love That! for Diabetes Research

I am excited to be participating in the Love That! launch event happening today. There are a bunch of authors participating in the Facebook party today and I am sure there will be plenty of online hoopla to be had. Join the Facebook party here.

Love That! by Brenda Novak is a cookbook of healthy, easy meals. All proceeds for this book are going to the University of Miami’s Diabetes Research Foundation to help find a cure for diabetes. Brenda’s youngest son suffers from diabetes and she has tirelessly worked to raise money and awareness for diabetes over the years.

The cookbook is well laid out, with beautiful pictures. It is full of wonderful dishes that are healthy and delicious. My family eats soup in the winter and salads in the summer and this book has a large variety of both, plus a ton of other things. I can’t wait for cold weather so I can try the Mediterranean Vegetable Soup. With summer coming, I want to try the Citrus Salad with Avocado and Bacon and the Salmon Stacks.

For the launch today, I made the Nine Layer Dinner. On the night I made it, we had a meeting at church, so it ended up being a dinner on the go. It traveled well and it was a big hit with the boys.

Cheese? Check. Refried black beans? Check. Sour cream? Check. Really, what could be bad with those three things in it?
Cheese? Check. Refried black beans? Check. Sour cream? Check. Really, what could be bad with those three things in it?

Here are the assembled ingredients: 1 lb ground turkey, 3 large tomatoes, fresh basil, cheddar cheese, pasta, black refried beans, red peppers, black olives, romaine lettuce, sour cream. I should note that I rarely follow recipe instructions as written. Because this was for an event, I did my best to follow the instructions. It was hard, but I succeeded.

You could add onions here is you wanted to go rogue on the recipe.
You could add onions here is you wanted to go rogue on the recipe.

I browned the turkey. While the meat was cooking, I used my food processor to chop up two of the tomatoes. I was feeling very lazy, so I threw in the fresh basil too.

Everything smells awesome. I could just throw pasta in this and eat it the way it is now.
Everything smells awesome. I could just throw pasta in this and eat it the way it is now.

When the tomatoes and basil were chopped, I added them to the cooked turkey along with the red pepper. I added some salt at this point. If I was cooking in my usual style aka using the recipe as a guideline rather than a prescription, I would have added some chopped garlic to this mix. Really, can you ever have too much garlic? The answer is no. No you can not.

Many tomatoes in the store are not as good as they used to be, but I have found that the smaller varieties are delicious and great for recipes or snacking.
Many tomatoes in the store are not as good as they used to be, but I have found that the smaller varieties are delicious and great for recipes or snacking.

While the pasta cooked, I left the turkey mixture to bubble and chopped up some lovely little colored peppers and small, yellow tomatoes. I put the tomatoes and peppers in a to go container since this meal was going to have to travel. I also put the refried beans into a small pot and started heating them up.

If you were feeling lazy, you could just eat it now.
If you were feeling lazy, you could just eat it now.

When the noodles were done, I added them and some of the shredded cheese to the turkey and tomato mixture. When is was combined well, I poured the mixture into a 9×11 dish.

I refrained from adding more and more cheese. This a healthy dinner, after all.
I refrained from adding more and more cheese. This a healthy dinner, after all.

On top of the turkey noodle mix, I spread the warmed refried beans and topped them with more cheese.

Colorful and pretty! If you wanted to add spice, you could add green chilis to the top layer.
Colorful and pretty! If you wanted to add spice, you could add green chilis to the top layer.

On top of the cheese, I spread some of the chopped peppers and the can of black olives. I put the lid on my baking dish and whisked it into my casserole carrier. I packed up the sour cream, lettuce, extra tomatoes and peppers, and threw in a small bottle of garlic lime Cholulah. Everything is better with a little kick of Cholulah.

This was my plate. Mr. R and G had more than double this amount.
This was my plate. Mr. R and G had more than double this amount.

To assemble the layers, place a scoop of the turkey noodle mix onto a plate. Top with lettuce, sour cream, peppers, tomatoes, and a hot sauce of your choice.

If we had this dinner at home, I would have made guacamole or sliced avocados to add to the top.

The verdict? My husband and boys loved it. It was easy and traveled great. Spreading the refried beans was not easy though. You could use whole black beans instead and get the desired effect. If you use whole beans, be sure to rinse them first. If you have trouble finding good tomatoes, use canned low salt ones.

Now go buy a fabulous cookbook and support diabetes research. Too lazy to cook because you have all those books to read? There are boxed sets for you: Sweet Dreams, Sweet Seduction, and Sweet Talk. Like the cookbook, all the proceeds go to diabetes research.

 

The Recipe

Nine Layer Dinner

Each Serving: Cal: 334 Carb: 36 g Fat: 10 g Protein: 23 g Sodium: 446 mg Sugar: 5 g

1 lb. ground turkey
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes, crushed
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 1/2 cups low-fat cheddar cheese, grated
8 oz. Mastaccoli pasta
1 can refried black beans
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp. black olives, sliced
2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
4 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream

Fry ground turkey and drain. Add chopped tomatoes, water, pepper flakes and fresh basil.

Cook breaking up the chopped tomatoes to form sauce. Add 1/2 cup of grated cheddar cheese and the cooked pasta, and mix well. Divide pasta mixture onto 8 plates. Top with remaining ingredients. Add spoonfuls of warm refried beans, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, bell pepper, black olives, romaine lettuce and tomato–and top off with 1/2 Tbsp. sour cream.

8 servings

Drinking in Romance

After working months on a manuscript, mostly in isolation, it is fun when my beta readers and editor read what I have written and provide comments. Often their insight, makes me re-frame what I have constructed. Occasionally, their comments are observations on things I have done that they liked or were surprised by. These make me smile because I know the small details I labored over were noticed.

Something my editor pointed out to me during the course of edits on Storm in the Mountains got me thinking about what is and is not permissible for female leads in romance or books with a strong romantic element. She pointed out that my female leads drink, a lot, and they enjoy their ale and whiskey, unabashedly. She loves this about them.

When Petra, Dora, and especially Marina are sitting around, they are either eating cookies (biscuits), drinking tea, drinking tea fortified with whiskey, drinking whiskey straight, or drinking ale. There is a ton of drinking going on in Turning Creek. When I wrote them, I did not consider that this was odd, because it is what I would prefer to be doing most days. Who doesn’t want to sit under a shade tree with a pint of brown ale and chat with friends?

I love tea and I love beer. I drink copious amounts of tea because I am a recovering coffee drinker. I love coffee, but I loved it too much.

I like enjoy beer. Mr. Rochester and I are fairly serious homebrewers and you can get me to agree to pretty much anything by offering me a wee heavy or a Belgian ale. The darker, heavier the beer, the more likely I am to love it. I would drink scotch and Irish whiskey more often, but I can not afford that indulgence. I save those for special occasions. I might be a good Baptist girl now, but I was raised Catholic and it shows.

See those three on the right? Delicious.
See those three on the right? Delicious.

After Brenda, my magical editor (Her blog says she is a story sorceress and I completely agree with that.), pointed out my characters’ tendency to drink for leisure, I started thinking about what drinking means in romance.

In romance drinking can be a sign of dissipation, especially in regencies and historicals. A character who drinks too much is most likely a reprobate in the process of losing his family’s fortune. These characters will either be stripped of their responsibility by the hero or if they are the hero, will have to sober up, shape up, and win the lady to redeem themselves.

Characters will also over-indulge when they are grieving. It should be noted that the grieving is often brought on by their own poor choices. Poor choices, it should also be noted, which drove the damsel away. The moment the hero sees the backside of the heroine (ha!) often results in them realizing that, oops, I think she might be my soul mate. You screwed that one up, buddy. They may also be drinking because the damsel in question is making them insane with lurve and they are having trouble with all these new emotions coursing through their veins. Male leads in romance novels frequently struggle to contain and understand emoshuns and turning to drink, though only briefly, can magically help them realize, like the tin man, that they too have a heart.

All the scenarios I have described above relate only to the male leads in the story. Female leads rarely drink and almost never to excess. If they do drink, it is in ways socially acceptable for females, like wine at meals or after dinner drinks. If they become intoxicated, it is by accident because in their inexperience they did not know the punch was that strong or that too much whiskey makes everything go wibbly wobbly. In contemporary romances, which shares most of the rules historicals follow, the female leads will sometimes have a night of excess. These result most often in either accidentally winding up with the male lead or moving the plot along in some fashion. Female leads rarely drink just because and never because they really want to get their hands on that special edition limited release bourbon barrel ale.

Mmm, I really need a drink now. Good thing I have a fully stocked beer fridge.

I have been trying to think of some notable exceptions to these rules. I have read a lot of historical, steampunk, paranormal, and some contemporary romances and I could only think of one exception. It may because, honestly, it is pretty much all I am thinking about the last few days.

Outlander is on my brain. In the first book, Claire get smashed before her wedding and enjoys scotch neat, surprising many of the men. The men around her note often that she is able to hold her liquor much better than other women of their acquaintance. Claire has trouble hiding her modern sensibilities and habits which makes for some amusing conversations.

In the book, she is gloriously hungover for her wedding day after drowning her nerves the night before. Once the wedding day commences, she applies the hair of the dog strategy and drinks a bit more. She gets tipsy and then strips Jamie of his pesky virginity. In the show, she is a little more than tipsy by the combination of nerves and drink and goes through the day in a fog. It is a nice reversal that Jamie remembers the day with clarity and Claire has trouble with many of the details. In the book, she actually passes out from too much drink and not enough food as they are leaving the church.

My female leads have never drunk in the books, yet. Marina does get out of hand, as she likes to do, but even she even is never truly drunk. The harpies enjoy good whiskey and good ale. They are violent creatures who are a bit wild and do not quite fit social norms. I love them for it.

Can you think of any female romance leads who enjoy drinking openly?

For the Joy of Books

My boys were on spring break this week so my days were filled with activities with them and revisions on Storm in the Mountains.

Monday, I woke early and crept quietly into the living room, curled on the couch, and continued to devour Written in Red. Gideon, the 6 year old, woke up first, grabbed his own book and joined me. Soon, we were a threesome when Wash came bearing his own book. We sat, snuggled together, reading, for over an hour. My boys bring me joy all the time, but the quiet peace of that morning was perfect.

This week, I was able to introduce my boys to one of the wonderful things about vacation: Buying new books for a trip. It took some convincing to get Gideon not to start reading his new books the very moment they arrived. I ended up hiding the books for the trip.

I remember hauling around stacks of books on vacation, even as a kid. My family drove everywhere, they still do, and I used those hours in the car to read.

Vacation packing is different now that I have a kindle, but I still need a handful of options for every trip. Here are some of my options, not all, for this trip:

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

The Trouble With Magic by Patricia Rice

Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle

Have a lovely week. I am going to have my nose in a book.

A Little Something Scary for Friday the 13th

In honor of Friday the 13th, I am going to tell you about books and stories that have creeped  me out. I do not read horror that often, so I try to choose well when I do.

Open closet doors at night are the scariest things on the planet. I blame this one entirely on Stephen King’s Night Shift which is a collection of creepiness. There is one story that confirmed all my childhood fears: The Boogeyman. I still can not sleep if there is an open closet door when I go to bed. Mr. Rochester laughs when I insist on closing closet doors, but my persistence has saved us from being snatched away or eaten. I am certain if it. The rest of the stories in the collection are classics, but this is the one that has stuck with me.

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan – I bought this book because it had a blurb on the front from Neil Gaiman. The main character, Sarah, escapes the mess of her life by going to live in a ramshackle house in the country. I kept reading the book thinking it would not get any more disturbing and then it would. It is the perfect thing to read at night, under the covers, far, far away from big oak trees and the country.

I read The Ruins by Scott Smith about the same time I went on a vacation to Mexico. That was a mistake. This story is about a group of people who become trapped in an old temple ruin by supernatural forces. That whole trip to Mexico a gave every vine I saw the side-eye.

What book have you read that really stuck with you and made you look twice at dark corners, creepy dolls, or dusty attics?