Tag Archives: girl power

Status Update – Lady Jane’s Salon

Feb 13, 2017

Hmm… My hair was a little out of control…

Yesterday, hard on the heels of kicking that stupid cold I had last week (and strangely, I feel 95% better today, all of a sudden) I had my first book reading at The Cat’s Meow in Manheim, PA for the Lady Jane’s Salon group! It was a blast. Here’s a brief rundown of what it’s like to do a public reading…

First off, I was really nervous about coughing through the whole thing and how my voice would hold out. Because, let’s face it, when I get around other authors and book-lovers, I like to talk. A lot! And in the best of times it wears on my throat to the point of causing me to lose my voice. So I headed out with cold medicine and powerful lozenges in my purse, and I stopped for a warm beverage on the way there. That warm beverage actually did a ton of good!

Lady Jane’s is co-hosted by my friend and fellow writer, Holly Bush, had invited me to read, and I stopped by her house first. It was a trip down memory lane too, because Holly lives right near the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire grounds, and, I don’t know if you know this, but I spent two summers when I was super young running around the Ren Faire, pretending I was an Elizabethan peasant (’92 & ’93). So I know that area and that drive very well! Good times, good times. I should write about the Ren Faire someday.

I love having the chance to explain why I write the things I write!

Anyhow, Holly and I got started on the mega-talking right away, before we even made it down to The Cat’s Meow. Co-host Megan Hart was there already, and the talking continued. We had a great crowd of people, including one of my mom’s childhood friends, who lives in the area. I got to sign books and give stuff away, which I always love doing.

Okay, so then I had to get up and read. Ha! I don’t usually like listening to my own books, whether on the audiobooks that I have professionally done or reading them aloud myself. But I had the added “bonus” of trying hard not to cough the whole time I was reading. And the actor in me always thinks back on it later and wonders if I read too fast, if I read a passage that was interesting enough, or if anyone listening is going to care one tiny bit about the words coming out of my mouth. But I think everyone enjoyed it.

Mostly, I love going to events like this one because I just love hanging out with readers and other writers and talking about books. How often do we writers get the chance to emerge from our writing caves to socialize with people? Not often! So I encourage everyone who has a book group near them and every writer who has a chance to go to something like this to jump on it. A good time was had by all!

Excerpt Wednesday – Summer with a Star – First Kiss

Feb 25, 2015

 

It’s my favorite day! Excerpt Wednesday! And nothing is more fun then sharing a first look at a new book. Not just that, let’s start with the yummy first kiss between Tasha and Spencer, the heroine and hero of Summer with a Star, coming on Monday, March 9th, as an Amazon exclusive! So without further ado….

SummerWithAStar_3D

She sighed, hugging her cooling coffee close. “It’s such a typical story. The kind of thing that happens in movies.” She arched an eyebrow at him. “The worst part is, I put so much faith in him for so long, that when it all came crumbling down, I didn’t feel hurt. Not at all. I didn’t ache like my heart had been broken, I felt stupid. I feel stupid.”

She lowered her eyes, not bothering to fight off the ache of that stupidity as it welled up in her. She was an idiot, one who ran away from her problems, thinking a summer in an expensive house all alone could cure her of that. Well, the alone part hadn’t worked out. The rest of it probably wouldn’t either.

She was halfway through sliding down into even deeper despair when Spence inched closer to her. He set his coffee down, plucked her mug out of her hands and deposited it beside his, then cupped her jaw with his free hand, turning her head toward him. As she met his eyes, he brought his mouth down against hers.

The sensation of lips against lips, warm skin pressing so close, took her by surprise. He was gentle, yet confident. She could smell the salt of the sea on his skin. He teased his tongue along the line of her lips until she opened to him. He tasted of coffee and dinner, and the promise of starlit summer nights. She could float away on a kiss like that.

Instead she leaned into him, resting her fingertips against his side. He tensed, caught his breath—so subtly she could have imagined it—then redoubled the passion as he explored her mouth with his own. Every delicious instinct she had pushed her to snuggle closer to him, to dance her tongue alongside his, to drink him in. She could get lost in a dream like this. Her, clueless teacher, Tasha Pike, making out with Spencer Ellis.

Reality slammed back into her with the force of a train. She gasped and pulled back.

“Wow,” she breathed, struggling to pull herself together. “What was that?”

“A kiss,” he answered. If she wasn’t mistaken, his composure had slipped a little. Warm patches of color spilled across his cheeks.

“That much I got.” She grinned, still not quite believing it. “Why?”

“Why kiss you?”

She nodded.

He shrugged. “Can’t a man just feel like kissing a woman?”

“Sure,” she said, though what she thought was, not Spencer Ellis, not kissing me.

“Besides.” He brushed the back of his fingers along the line of her jaw, drawing her closer before letting go and sitting straight. “You looked like you could use a kiss.”

That was a good thing, right?

“So, do you usually go around kissing women who look like they need it?” She did her best to act cool, as if he hadn’t just raised the temperature in the entire state of Maine by ten degrees.

His sheepish laugh only made things worse. “No. Not really. I am glad you let me, though.”

“You are?”

He nodded. “I’ve been trying to break down the wall you put up for five days now. Looks like I finally did it.”

“Looks like,” she answered. She didn’t know whether to laugh or brush the whole thing off, or lunge at him for a repeat performance.

The problem was solved for her when Spence retrieved both of their coffee mugs, handing hers over.

“Thanks,” he said with a smile before taking a sip.

“Any time,” she answered. A second later, she realized what that implied.

He lifted his brow as if accepting her challenge.

She hid the swirl of butterflies that followed by drinking her coffee. What a difference a day made. She’d learned her lesson: being a stupid jerk earned no kisses, but getting over yourself did. As she settled back to watch the last of the sunset, Spencer’s solid heat beside her, she wondered what other rewards she could earn for good behavior that summer.

 

Summer with a Star is my first contemporary romance, and the first book in a new series, Second Chances. As you read Summer with a Star, you’ll hear the main character, Spencer Ellis, a big-time movie star, mention the script for the pilot episode of a TV show that he’s thinking of signing on to: Second Chances. All of the books in the Second Chances series will involve characters who are involved in the TV show, from its actors to directors to the catering staff (trust me, that’s going to be an excellent story!). You won’t want to miss it!

Lucky for you, you can preorder Summer with a Star now, right here on Amazon.

 

How Should Writers Treat Each Other?

Nov 07, 2014
Me with my new friend, fellow author Mary Driver-Thiel

Me with my new friend, fellow author Mary Driver-Thiel

I want to take a brief moment to talk about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, something that’s very close to my heart. I’m not going to change the world with this one, but it’s something I feel like I have to say.

Publishing is weird, yo. Something changed this summer, and now it seems like it’s that much harder for a little old self-published historical romance writer to catch a break. I’ve heard similar things from my friends, many of whom are having a hard time where once before they weren’t. There’s been a lot of distress in the writer community.

But I’ve seen something else in the writer community lately, something I really like. I’ve seen a lot of authors coming together to help each other. This helping is far more than promoting each other on our pages or sending tweets or announcements to our followers. It goes way beyond sharing strategies for promotion or recommendations for designers and editors. That all goes on too, and it’s a great thing.

There’s another side of that too, though, if I might interrupt my own thought with another side thought. Lately I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing from authors hard hit by whatever sales slump we’re all sharing in. I’ve heard a lot of lamentations about finding new readers and whether Amazon is out to get us all or whether self-publishing is all it’s cracked up to be. This kind of worried talk makes me sad. I want to make a living off of my writing as much as the next writer. More in fact, if the minor meltdown I had at my day job last week is any indication. But sometimes I think we forget why we all started writing in the first place.

At its heart, writing is not about running small businesses. Granted, writing IS running a small business, but that’s not why we all got involved in it to begin with. Writing is a passion. It’s something we do with our hearts. We got into writing because we love it. We love the characters, the craft, the words, and we love each other.

800px-Albert_Anker_(1831-1910),_Schreibunterricht,_1865__Oil_on_canvasAt least, if we’re doing it right, we love each other.

I see a lot of authors who get top marks in helping each other out. And I’m not talking about the promo posts and guest blog appearances and all that (even though those things are nice). Nothing makes me happier than to see authors truly being each other’s biggest supporters. I’m fortunate enough to be part of a couple of overlapping circles of brilliant writers who not only give each other tips and clues when it comes to the business and craft of writing, but who are always there with a shoulder to cry on or an ear to rant at, or even someone to rejoice in success with.

THIS is how we writers should be treating each other. It’s hard enough to engage in a profession that is uncertain on its good days and cutthroat on its worst. We need to be there for each other as comrades in arms. Few people in our real worlds can understand what we do, what the dedication and the focus and the sacrifice is all about. But we understand each other because we’re in the same boat. Nothing gives me more joy than having another writer bounce ideas off of me or come to me when they’re feeling down. Just like nothing picks me up out of the mud faster than talking to another writer about the things that really move me. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to come away with more story ideas than I started with once I get started talking to a fellow writer, but that’s a good thing.

So writers, get out there and help your peers! Help them as a friend going through the same thing would help another friend. I say that there is a time to expect promotion from each other, but that time is far, far eclipsed by the time we need to just be with each other, to listen and to talk. We are all in this together, so let’s give each other the love and support we all need.

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Women in Politics, 1900

Jun 20, 2014

Somebody To Love_blog sidebarYes! I got my first 1-star review of Somebody to Love! And it was the best possible kind of 1-star review too!

How can a 1-star review be a good thing, you ask? Well, when the criticism is all about a point of historical accuracy, and when the reviewer is, frankly, wrong, it gives me a great opportunity to talk about my favorite subject: History. The accusation was that it is grossly historically inaccurate for Phineas Bell to muse that his 4-year old niece, Eloise, could be President of the United States someday. The reviewer scoffed at the idea, saying that in 1900, when universal suffrage for women was still 20 years off, it would have been ludicrous for a man to think that his niece could be president.

I couldn’t disagree more.

Neither could the actual facts of history.

No, women were not able to vote in federal elections until the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920. However, this didn’t mean that they didn’t have political ambition or dreams of future equality. Far from it. Very far from it if you consider that the first woman was elected to Congress in 1916. Yes, Jeanette Rankin was elected to the House of Representatives from the state of, you guessed it, Montana, not in 1960, but 1916. That’s four years before women gained the federal vote. A woman. Congress. Elected. If a woman could be elected to Congress in 1916, why not shoot for the big office and assume that someday she could be president?

Jeanette Rankin, first woman elected to Congress in 1916

Jeanette Rankin, first woman elected to Congress in 1916

History runs deeper than that, though. It would be false to assume that no one, female or male, had any sort of dreams or ambitions in the political arena whatsoever until—poof!—one day in 1920 everyone decided “Okay, let’s give women the vote”. In fact, the roots of the suffrage movement run deep, deep into the first half of the 19th century. Early women’s rights pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony spent the greater part of the 19th century fighting for the rights of women. They had enough support to fill lecture halls and demonstrations and to make their voices heard at the highest level. They were fighting so that women could participate in government, so why not continue that dream to hope that someday a woman could be the head of that government?

The truth of women in politics stretches even further than that, though. True, women may not have won the vote federally until 1920, but as early at 1869 they were able to vote and participate in government in the western states and territories. Wyoming granted women the right to vote in 1869, and by the end of the century just about every other western state had given women the vote or held referendums to enfranchise them. Again, I propose that the hopes and dreams of the people who supported the movement could easily have extended far beyond just the vote.

Why? And why the West? What made them so advanced and enlightened? Well, one theory was that women were able to have more direct participation in western politics precisely because conditions were neither advanced nor enlightened. Life on the frontier was harsh. In some cases it was primitive and it was lonely. With so little people to tame the land and govern it, women became an essential part of political life. They were sometimes left in possession of land and businesses when their husbands died. Better yet, in some cases they were considered equal partners in enterprising endeavors because the men in their lives had no choice but to count on them. So many women rose to the occasion that their political rights were a natural matter of course.

Mayer-Awakening-1915So impressive was the political power of women in the west and the role that they were given in state and local government, that the suffrage movement back east looked to them as example of what women could do and be and achieve. The Progressive Movement, which is generally held to have started in the 1890s and transformed politics in the early 20th century with platforms supporting universal suffrage, modernization of technology, an end to child labor, and an increase in education, was closely connected with suffragists in the West.

If you take nothing else from this lightning-fast examination of women in politics in and prior to 1900, though, come away with this. Even though women did not gain the vote until 1920, it took decades of work and hopes and fighting and reaching for more to bring public opinion and government around to the point where the work of Stanton, Stone, and Anthony became a reality. So was it unrealistic of me to have a man speculate that his niece could become president in 1900? No! Not at all! And remember too, in 1900, England had a queen, and she wasn’t the first. Women could, and would, rule.

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Women at the Fall of Civilizations

May 20, 2014

TaraThe other day, my friend Felicity and I were sitting around at lunch talking about historical precedent for the decline of civilizations and the people who succeed in creating a new world out of the ashes of failure. Yeah, lunch at our table is like that. I had started out talking about thematic elements of the sci-fi series, Grace’s Moon, that I’m going to start publishing in July and the backstory for the first book, Saving Grace. But the more we talked about hypotheticals of the future, the more we realized that there are strong correlations to things that have happened in the past. Not only that, we have some pretty spiffy representations of building a new world out of the old in popular entertainment!

I am, of course, talking about the shocking similarities between Scarlett O’Hara and the world she lived in and the changes it saw and Lady Mary Crawley, her world and its changes. Like a proverbial light bulb going off over my head, it dawned on me that these two women have a whole lot in common. They are survivors of two cataclysmic changes that ripped the carpet out from under the feet of their class contemporaries.

There are a lot of parallels that can be made between the antebellum South and British nobility in the early 20th century. Both societies were built on strong class foundations that went back for generations. Old families had old money and the estates to prove it. Southern plantations were their own little empires, just as the great estates of the British nobility were reminders of Europe’s feudal past. The social order was strictly maintained. Granted, you can’t exactly compare Southern slaves with British estate downstairs staff, but the gap between rich and poor was there in both cases.

Downton AbbeyThen came the change. In both cases, change was brought on by war. Also in both cases, the societies in question had begun to teeter a little before the war. The Southern economy was a real problem as technology advanced. The very agrarian dependence that had made them great was slowly becoming a handicap as the means of manufacturing were located increasingly in the North. For early 20th century Britain, the economic problems were coming in the form of grand estates going bankrupt, also as wider economic demands shifted to cities and factories and away from the old agrarian center. War merely forced the issue in both cases.

As both Scarlett and Lady Mary were quick to grasp, the only way to hold onto what they had and what they loved was to change to fit the changing times. The very title Gone With the Wind is a sad commentary about what happened to most of the great Southern plantations and families. They folded under the weight of their unpreparedness. But not Scarlett. Scarlett was shrewd and a little bit merciless. She saw what was going on and did whatever it took to salvage what was hers. Whether that meant going out and working in the fields so that she could eat or marrying a man she didn’t like so that she could take over his mill, she was willing to do it. She had her faults, but blindness was not one of them.

The same goes for Lady Mary. Although the salvation of Downton Abbey in a time when all of her peers were losing their estates to bankruptcy was not quite a single-handed (or close to it) effort, like Scarlett’s, she certainly saw which way the wind was blowing. If you boil it down, the entire plot of Downton Abbey is that the estate belongs, in spirit if not in name, to Mary, and come hell or high water, she is going to save it. Whether that means marrying the heir (which worked out nicely, considering she loved him) or getting down and dirty with the pigs, she is willing to do it. What she doesn’t know, she learns (which is why she and Tom Branson make such a great team, imho). She will save that estate while all the others fall.

Scarlett_MaryI think it’s more than just a literary coincidence that both Tara and Downton Abbey were saved by strong women. Women’s history is all too often swept under the carpet of academic study, but we can still find it in literature and personal accounts. Whether it’s the Civil War or WWI, when the men went off to fight, the women stayed home and ran their estates. Men may have controlled politics, but you can easily make the case that women ran the economy. More than a few great estates survived wars because clever women were behind the wheel. It’s just a shame that they had to hand over the reins once their men came home. Although if you dig a little, it’s pretty apparent that in many cases they didn’t.

So here’s to you, Scarlett and Mary! I hope that we have strong women like you around when our modern house of cards falls down.

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