Thursday, December 31, 2015

100% champagne powered

Ah... the beauty of cheap, sweet bubbly. I'm going to be embarrassed tomorrow when I read this aren't I? Probably. Moving right along.

1) The BEST books I read in 2015 that weren't re-reads (I published a quick list of all my 5-stars-on-Goodreads  books already.):

The Martian, Weir (completely fascinated me. Read it in one sitting. Was waiting for my teens to read the book before seeing the movie and now it's not in any theaters near us. DRAT.)

If You Only Knew, Higgins (a return to a more general fiction tone. Still romantic. I laughed and cried. And just so well written and compelling!)

Shards of Hope, Singh (part of the new direction the series is taking, now that Silence has fallen. You really have to have read at least the last few books before this one to get into it. ADEN! IS! SO! AWESOME!)

"Ghosts of Christmas Past" and "Luminous", Lawson (super hero romance. I love her novel-length books, but these two novellas really hit me just right.)

Me on Goodreads

2) But of course, the very best book of the year was The Indispensable Wife. You should definitely read it if you like: history, historical fiction, adventure, romance, spouses reunited, France, Louis XIV, the seventeenth century, uh... all that sort of stuff.

3) And there will be a new book, The Honorable Officer, coming soon. February? March? I should find out soon when. Go read the blurb HERE and mark it as to-read. Then buy it when you can. It's a good one. All the stuff above except the spouse part. They are forced together by danger to the plot moppet (I promise she has a personality and tantrums and such) and much of the story involves traveling. And there's a secondary love story.

4) This year, I have a bunch more projects coming along (Chevalier is early in the process. I am working on the info I need to give them for the cover and promo and everything).

5) I'm going to go all crazy and self-publish the Christmas romance novella I had out two years ago. It's contemporary and has ghosts. I'm thinking about self-pubbing the novella that goes between books 3 and 4 in my series, too. But shhhh (drunken whisper), that's a ssssecret.

6) I'm going to lose 15 pounds before I go to the RWA conference in San Diego in July. And once there, I'll be brave and hand out books and business cards. HERE YOU GO! READ MY BOOKS! And walk more (I got a Fitbit!). And eat less (Fitbit syncs with Fitness Pal!). And bitch less. And make my kids do more chores.

And so there's my bookish summary of 2015 and preview of 2016.

Happy New Year!

With love and hugs and some drunken giggling,

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Monday, December 28, 2015

Editing and plot holes

I've spent the last few days off and on working on an edit of my novella. 3.5 in the Châteaux and Shadows series, not yet contracted, the story of how Henri and his life partner, after ten years together, are still in love and grow closer as they are tested by physical ailments and the past popping up on them. It's more of a midlife crisis story, maybe?

By the way, Book 1, The Indispensable Wife, is out. If you are reading this on blogspot, you can find the links in the sidebar to your RIGHT. =======>

I spent most of yesterday moving and removing big sections to take a day out (to explain why the ladies of the family could not make it to support their sister-in-law during her labor and delivery) and to keep good old Papa from sweeping in and trying to solve their problems for them. But now I need to reduce the references to him from earlier in the book. I started out making him show up to make Henri a little crazy by butting in, but decided while moving the timeline around to leave Papa out of it. He's pushy and might swan his way back into a later draft, but he's a big deal in all the books up to now, so really, he needs to just back off, especially since the kids are fully functioning adults.

And again I refer to a blog post I wrote for Abigail Owen's blog about writing a Zipless Draft and how my editing process is more like a an editing blender.

Yes, I'm already writing notes to myself, mostly at the beginning of the novella, but a couple further on.

I need to figure out if Henri's lover (identity to be revealed in Book 2, which is why I'm being a little cagey about it) comes face to face with his first boyfriend's parents. They both ran away from Paris and joined the army because they were about to be arrested for being gay. The old boyfriend died in battle. And I just realized that I said something about the sister's husband moving into their shop. But now I have someone else as the partner in the shop. Oh, I'm so confused.

So anyway, plotholes still to be tweaked, but about ready to be submitted to my editor.

And THEN I will do as I intended earlier and revise Book 4. And I still need to finish the draft of Book....6? And I have ideas swirling for another novella and for a 7th book. If I had all the time in the world and less need to revise, I would be churning out novels like nobody's business.

And I LOVE all the hits I get on the blog. But I would LOVE even more to have a conversation in comments. So leave a comment. Tell me what to do.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I would call it post-holiday blues...

I would call it post-holiday blues, but I pretty much never hit the non-blue portion of the holidays. That's not saying I didn't have many moments of happiness and light. And I'm not a huge prepper with a million details about Christmas that have to be JUST RIGHT OR WE'LL ALL SUFFER. And yet the day that I went to eight different stores (and into the grocery store 3 times) was a bit rough.

We saw Star Wars! And might see it again!

My kids got things they asked for! And I did, too!

I spent too much, but not huge amounts too much!

But now things are settling into the slow time between Christmas and New Year's, dragging on to the return to school. We have about ten days of freedom left and really need to do something with our time.

Like what?

Oh, editing the novella (I had massively good ideas about how to make the middle flow better and cut it shorter). I need to do the RWA chapter newsletter. And the kids need to do something, anything other than watch DVDs and play on the computers. ANYTHING.

I'm finding an online Driver's Ed class for my oldest (they don't do the classes in schools anymore at all, apparently). His 16th birthday is in a few days and he could have taken this class and the permit test and started practicing driving when he was 15 1/2. If he and his brother go to the same high school next year (and they should), it will be a relief to have him be able to drive them both on rainy days.

Speaking of which, I need to get the 8th grader signed up for high school. I need to find the papers I need for him. And he needs a new bike.

And oldest needs some birthday presents.

Oh, and we all need new passports.

And two kids need new shoes. I should check on the oldest one's shoes, too.

And there's a doctor's visit coming up and an insurance hassle to try to settle before that happens or we're going to have to postpone it. Two years of waiting for health insurance to be completely settled. I thought it finally was and scheduled checkups for kids. And BAM a letter in the mail. And my husband was getting mad at me because I was panicking. TWO YEARS.

So I do have things to do and need to come out of my under-blanket reading binge and do them.

Happy last few days of 2015!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Weather and skeletons

Because polite society spends a lot of time talking about the weather, Though these days, you can't discuss WHY the weather is weird, because it wouldn't be polite.


I did a minimal amount of research into the weather in 1690 in France (seriously, just needed the trend). Turns out it was part of a cooling trend that led to poor crops and hunger. I tossed a minor drought in so a drainage pond would be low and workers could discover a skeleton.

Because that's what happened recently in Folsom Lake.

Folsom Lake is near here and looks like this these days:
Boat docks

I live in Northern California, which means drought. 
The dark red "D4 Exceptional Drought" covers where I live and up into the mountains where most of my water comes from. We've had some rain this winter (because it only rains in the winter here.) (OK, there is sometimes a little rain in other seasons, but it's negligible), but as you can see, we're far from refilling our reservoirs and aquifers.

I just wonder how long until they say we can't even water our trees. And how much longer we'll be not flushing toilets except when absolutely necessary. And how much longer corporations will get away with building bottled water plants here and insisting farmers get all "THEIR" water because that piece of land had a dude who put up a sign by the creek once in 1850 saying they get the water. Water rights are crazy weird out here. And there are too many people.

Now this is our predicted weather pattern this year:
I'm sorry that it will be dryer than usual in the Midwest where they grow lots of corn and stuff (I sound flippant, but that's where I'm from, that yellow blob there for Jan-Mar. And drought there is also a huge deal. I don't wish that on them AT ALL. Been there, done that.)

And yes, I do think about moving back there (for water and to be close to my parents), but now that I've lived in this area for 13 years (!?!) I have roots here, too. It's the longest I have lived anywhere since leaving my parents' home when I was 18 (and I kept going back there on breaks and between moves and so on. And still go back, but not often enough.). We've lived in this house longer than I lived in any house in my life, except maybe the house we lived in from before I was born until I was 11. It's about tied. Next spring, we'll have been here 12 years. No wonder I think of it almost as MINE.

But if it could just rain slowly and steadily here for the next three or four months that would be great.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Here comes the smolder

Otherwise, there's very little in common between Flynn Rider and Jean-Louis de Cantière.

But that's what I thought of when I first saw my new cover.

All the little bits and pieces of Jean-Louis' book are in. THE SMOLDER coming soon. We're hoping to have the release date set this weekend. Fingers crossed, because if it's not set by this weekend, I have to wait a couple of weeks while my publisher is on hiatus. I can't handle the suspense!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Best of 2015!

Interesting. Goodreads has me pegged as having read fewer books this year than last by about 60 books. 138 books instead of 196. I still will probably read several more now that we're on Xmas break (YAY!) but not sixty. I've been falling asleep early even when I mean to stay up to read. (Last night, I didn't even turn my light out. I guess my husband did. I woke up in the wee hours with my book by my head when I rolled over on my rice sock heating pad.)

I also know I haven't put everything in Goodreads. I also don't always open up the review section to put in the finished date (or open it to change the date if I've reread something), so Goodreads doesn't pull the book correctly.

I've now exported my data and sorted it and added some end dates and came up with 141 books (then last night finished another book. 142.)

I did a massive glom reread of Jennifer Ashley's shifters books this summer. And an even more massive glom on Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz/Jayne Castle, mostly from her Arcane Society series. When I reread, I don't always change the date in Goodreads.

But still, I have been more busy this year. And I'm pretty sure there were a couple of books that I didn't finish which would have gone into a private spreadsheet, but which I didn't splash onto Goodreads.

Here I am making excuses that I averaged a bit over 1 book for every three days instead of less than 2 per book.

These are my Five-Star Rated Books for 2015. Mostly romance. Five are rereads. At least three are by real-life or online friends. Christmas in the Duke's Arms is an anthology and Grace Burrowes isn't the only author (I read a ton of anthologies, especially Christmas ones, and it's really rare for me to give one 5 stars because usually there are one or two stories I ADORE, but this one, while a little saggy in places, was overwhelmingly good). And I'm sure Jane Austen needs the shout-out from me to keep her career going. And I'm surprised I read no Joanna Bourne books this year at all. I knew I needed to reread them (and she needs to write faster!).

So here we go:

The Christmas Knot: A Slightly Gothic Regency Mystery Romance Novella Barbara Monajem
The Martian Andy Weir
The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1) Graeme Simsion
If You Only Knew Kristan Higgins
The Viscount's Christmas Temptation (The Dukes of War, #1) Erica Ridley
Lion Eyes (Shifters Unbound, #7.25) Jennifer Ashley
The Perfect Poison (Arcane Society, #6) Amanda Quick
Second Sight (Arcane Society, #1) Amanda Quick
Shards of Hope (Psy-Changeling, #14) Nalini Singh
After the War (Homefront, #2) Jessica Scott
Making a Comeback (More Than a Game, #3) Kristina Mathews
The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (MacKenzies & McBrides, #1) Jennifer Ashley
Ghosts of Christmas Past (The Phoenix Institute, #3.5) Corrina Lawson
Luminous (The Phoenix Institute, #1.5) Corrina Lawson
Christmas in the Duke's Arms Grace Burrowes
A MacKenzie Clan Gathering (MacKenzies & McBrides, #8.5) Jennifer Ashley
Here Comes Trouble (Tremayne Family, #2) Anna J. Stewart
Persuasion Jane Austen
Unlocked (Turner, #1.5) Courtney Milan

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Running up to Christmas

Run run run!

As of last night, the round of fun stuff and obligations is done. Still a good deal of present-buying and other preparations to go, but so far, so good. Just some plain sugar cookies to roll out, cut, and bake for my second-grader's class to decorate tomorrow.

The big problem is that in spite of parties and decorations, I'm just not feeling the seasonal excitement. Part of that is living in the Inland Valley of California, where summer is HOT and winter is mild. I grew up in Ohio. Cold means cold. Frost, ice, and (sometimes) snow mean Christmas.

It has gotten below freezing maybe three times so far. I just brought my rubber tree plant "Whoops" inside before it got more frost damage than it already has. I immediately had to use Nature's Miracle no-marking spray (cinnamon and lemon grass stench) on it to keep the young cat from chewing on the leaves, as it might be a variety that's toxic to pets and the young cat is dumb and immediately started chewing. The smell is giving middle child a headache.
Everyone knows an ant can't move this.
Maybe I should crank up the Hallelujah Chorus or some Madrigals. I should at least get gifts in the mail to distant family. One is sent already, but not the others. I don't even know what I'm getting for my nephews. Gift cards, probably. The exchange of Game Stop gift cards is becoming something of a ritual. We send some to them, they send some to us.

Maybe I'll just glom some more Christmas romance novellas. I looooove Christmas romance novellas. I'm thinking of writing one for next year. So I need to research Christmas traditions in 17th century France.Hmmm... anyone have resources on 17th century Catholic Christmas traditions?

So a rousing BAH HUMBUG to all and off to do errands.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Meta-post: Talking about the Internet ON the Internet.

It's so Meta!

I was on Twitter last night and jumped into a discussion started by an author who thought that there should be fewer books about women going home to small towns and deciding to stay there and more about women who go back to the small town and realize how happy they are in the city. It melded with another discussion people were having about Lifetime or Hallmark or something TV movies always having the woman give up everything for her true love.

And I was attempting to make a point in about 60 characters at a time because there were four other people in the discussion and when you replied, all their user names were part of the message. So I said about half a sentence, then added a couple more tweets, then someone jumped down my throat...for the first one. And by this time, there were tweets I was not tagged in and so I was clicking around trying to pick up the thread of conversation and not really able to go back and say: "SOME people. I said SOME."

Twitter is about impossible to have a nuanced discussion on. Even Facebook makes more sense by grouping the messages so you can actually follow what was said. And my blog...ah, I can prose on endlessly. Prosy prosy prosy old bore.

So anyway, for the record: I believe in women and feminism and the basic precept that all humans are created equal. And I also know that some women choose to give up their other dreams to follow the love of their lives. I also know that some women (AND MEN) are willing to compromise and find a new path forward, if that path can include their life partner.

I also know that though I think romance novels are (in general. NOT ALL) by women, for women, about women and, as such, inherently feminist (constructing our own narrative!), there are a lot of women out there who have chosen (through their own ideals or societal expectations) to take a secondary role. And that these women might also read and write romance.

I'm also endlessly fascinated by the women in historical novels who fit into their society's boundaries and yet push against the boundaries when they get uncomfortable. I'm not talking the "fallen" women--no wait, I am talking about them, too--but more about the ones who have it all, or as much as they could have of "IT" when their society thoroughly hemmed them in.

A fulfilling career/occupation, a happy family, friends, society's approbation (or at least not open disapprobation), and true love.

When my character Aurore gets back together with Dominique (Indispensable Wife. Go read it), she's going back to her sometimes stifling place in the court and her role as second to her husband. BUT this is a woman who LOVES the court. She LOVES people. She is the public face of her family. She's the PR front woman, the spokesperson (along with one of her brothers and her father) of the extended clan. She is the one who makes life easy for her husband, who is reserved and outwardly cold and doesn't know all the important gossip. I can imagine Aurore as a party planner or in PR, not a politician because she's not that ruthless.

But the heroine in my second book, The Honorable Officer (Out in early 2016), Hélène... I wrote her and still have  trouble with her. How's that for honesty? She's crushingly shy, in part because she's been crushed down. But she has this core of loyalty that makes her leave everything that's safe and take her toddler niece, whom she has raised from birth, to unknown places to get her out of danger. And in doing so, she starts her journey toward her own core of strength. With a little support and love, she learns to speak her mind and fight back. What she wants is a safe nest to hide in. And she wants her baby to be safe. And she wants Jean-Louis, but has never been able to get his attention.

I have a feeling she is going to come off as unreconstructed and a doormat. BUT she is getting what she wants. WHAT SHE WANTS. Which isn't exactly what I ever wanted, but then I sure as HECK never wanted to be the PR frontwoman or party planner like Aurore. I'd much rather have a safe nest and happy kids....and my laptop to write books on.

I think the heroine of Book 3 (Chevalier...coming soon to a contract near you!), Catherine de Fouet, is a bit more like me. She's gotten on as best she could in life and has plans for the future. She's bitchy and sometimes ungrateful, even to the grouchy old ladies who have kept her on as a companion, but though she's mostly invisible, she can hold her head up and doesn't have a bad reputation. My critique partner thinks she's not likable enough, so I've tried to make it clearer WHY she's putting up all these walls and jabbing out at people to protect herself (besides that her mentor is the cranky, spiteful baronesse). And what Catherine wants is to keep her nose clean until she has enough money to repair her house in Normandy and live there. Her vision doesn't include a Cranky Cavalier who stomps around and smells of horse and pushes everyone away. And though the same critique partner thought he was too whiny, he almost always kept his complaints inside his head AND he stops feeling hard-done-by and more accepting, understanding, and even grateful.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What day is it??

No, I didn't mean that as the prompt to post a picture of a camel and announce it's "Hump Day".

I meant... what day is it?

The end of a semester and approach of Winter Break and Christmas and New Year (and my oldest son's birthday) mean I'm constantly wondering what day it is, because each day is an intricate dance involving juggling and time travel. Teleportation would be good, too. My sons keep talking about it, but still haven't invented it yet. Come on, guys!

My Google Calendar gets a workout. I put everything in it and then go moment by moment and day by day.

Yesterday, for example: (* indicates things that aren't part of my usual schedule)

Normal school morning, Oldest rode bike to school, middle got a ride to his classes, I drove youngest.

*Check out possible meeting site for RWA chapter.

Usual Tuesday "day off" chores including sorting at least 3 weeks' worth of laundry (I got behind on Tuesdays, OK? Nanowrimo eats up that time) while watching a movie on DVD. Editing. Chores.

*Go to dollar store to return some stuff, find out they don't do refunds, only exchanges. Round up exactly the right number of new items, including some present-decorating items.

Pick up youngest at school.

*Go to pottery place to pick up the things youngest painted there a couple of weeks ago.

*Go to Barnes and Noble to wrap packages in return for donations to Friends of the Library. For five hours. Call husband in the middle to come get daughter.

*Pick up middle child who is still at his friend's house and not doing his math homework. Talk to him for 10 minutes, which is all I've seen of him since I left the house at 8 AM.

*Return home at 9:45 PM.

*Knock on oldest's door to learn about his schedule, since I haven't seen him since 7:20 AM.

Get ready for bed.

Read until calmed and exhausted. About half an hour this time...

This morning:
Starts out as normal school morning. Oldest leaves on bike.
*Youngest has a headache. Her face is warm. She has a temperature of about 99.7. Not going anywhere. I call the school. Cancel plans to meet homeschool friends for coffee. Have supervisor come here instead. Fingers crossed it's mild and leaves soon and it's just a reaction to Monday's flu shot.

Though the illness does help with juggling youngest's after school choir practice: she's not going. I do hope she's better tomorrow because that's when the choir concert is!

And it's supposed to rain tomorrow (YAY!), so we're juggling getting oldest to and from school. (BOO!)

That's pretty much how this week looks, but every day is a different heap of stuff. It will culminate Monday evening, when I have two things at the same time.

Where is Hermione's time-turner when I need it?

And I ask again: What Day Is It??

Friday, December 4, 2015

On old language, on old customs, and on fleek

I so wanted to say my heroine was a "deer in the headlights" when the king looked at her. But she's a 17th century young lady. No headlights. (I mean other than *snerk* sophomoric humor. I said HEADLIGHTS!)

And I very nearly said they were "going full steam ahead" the other day. Yeah.... no.

Some days, I have to think about it.

Should I say "subconscious"? (No.)

How do I describe a panic attack? (By the symptoms. This section needs work, because I think she sounds more like she has asthma. And it's my work in progress, so I haven't figured out exactly what caused her to have panic attacks.)

Did they have chiropractors in the 17th century? (No. But I have a midwife teach stretches when the surgeons and physicians fail my character.)

How about opium? (It was just starting to appear as a medicine.)

And coffee? Tea? (Mostly the wealthy. Mme de Sévigné liked coffee with lots of milk and sugar. She also liked it weak, then chewed the grounds in the bottom. URG.)

AND CHOCOLATE??? (Also for the wealthy. As a drink and closely associated with coffee. Louis XIV brewed up his own in his rooms.)

And if you think that scientists can't agree on if coffee, tea, and chocolate are good for you nowadays, you should see the difference in opinions of the 17th century. I've been flipping through Orientalism in Early Modern France, by Ina Baghdiantz McCabe on Google books as I wait for it to come through Link+ at the library. Coffee's the best thing in the world! It's going to kill you! It makes you strong! It makes you weak!

So anyway, I am trying to keep to old expressions. I'm sure there are errors in the age of words that I use. I know my language is 20th/21st century, besides not being French. Heck, even my French expressions aren't necessarily period-correct. A French-speaking friend asked my if they would really have said "putain de merde" (and no, I won't translate), and I honestly had no idea. They were probably saying something much much worse. No one says "OK" and I have never even considered describing someone, no matter how prettily their hair stuck up, as "on fleek."

Though this guy is definitely on fleek.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NaNoWriMo is OVER

And I WIN!!!!
A month ago, I wrote a blog for someone else and then used it here and in my RWA chapter newsletter about How To Win (and how not to freak out).

And, since I'm awesome, I managed to win. New to me this year: I actually wrote EVERY day. There were days with about 500 words, but that meant I sat down and did it, in spite of everything. There were some really rocking days with over 3000 words.

Well, I wrote every day up until I validated on the 27th.

Because I had the galley copy of Honorable Officer in my inbox smoldering at me, waiting for its read through. Yes, Jean-Louis, I'm coming for you, my tall, blond, and handsome hunk of honor and intensity. *phew* And there's this guy who's his aide-de-camp and is about the smartest guy in any room. I adore Fourbier. And he finds someone to love, too. Bonus love story!

The best part of NaNoWriMo is the camaraderie: the commiseration and the joy.

I have a friend who finished on the 30th by writing 9000+ words just that day, in spite of working full time. And  friend's daughter, who's about 15 finally confessed that the reason she hadn't done her homework all month was because she was writing and had just won with 50K words. I love writing, but I'm not half as dedicated as those two.

So anyway, off to do read my galleys with an eagle eye. Or... eagles see better long-distance, right? What looks at things super close up? Hmmm...