The Luckiest Lady in London Cover Reveal

But first, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the lovely design–© Courtney Milan–for A DANCE IN MOONLIGHT, my novella that was first published in the anthology MIDNIGHT SCANDALS.

A DANCE IN MOONLIGHT is now available as a stand-alone, for the special, limited time price of $0.99. You can buy the e-version at Amazon, Amazon UK, Apple, NookAll Romance, Google, and Kobo. The print version should be available from CreateSpace in a couple of days.

And now, what you came for.  🙂

I really enjoy the color palette.  Now I should probably add a green dress to Louisa’s wardrobe. 🙂

And since a blog post should be just slightly more substantial than two covers–not that it had ever stopped me from putting up two-cover posts before–I am going to include another snippet from THE BURNING SKY.

Those of you who have heard me give my subtext workshop know that I have always admired  the way TWILIGHT was packaged.  Not so much the cover, cuz I am more or less impervious to covers, but the back blurb.  In particular, this little excerpt:

About three things I was absolutely positive.  First, Edward was a vampire.  Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.  And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

That was what got me to open my wallet and buy my copy.  So for the THE BURNING SKY, I wanted to do the same thing, but I wasn’t sure whether I could dig up such a passage that so succinctly encapsulates the entire romantic conflict.

In the end I copy-and-pasted a bunch of candidates and sent to my editor.  This is the one she chose.  Not sure if you will actually see it on the back cover, since the jacket is far from finalized, but at least you can see it here.

“Every place out there is dangerous for you. Have you not realized this yet?”

She wished he wouldn’t speak so quietly and reasonably. “More dangerous than here? You will lead me to my death.”

“I will lay down my life for you. Do you know anyone else who will do that?”

I will lay down my life for you. The words had a strange effect on her, a pain almost like a wasp sting to the heart. She shut the valise. “Can you promise me I will live? No? I thought not.”

This is actually my second favorite among the candidates. Next time I blog, I’ll post my top favorite snippet that would get me to open my wallet.

Hmm. For whom the microwave beeps? Ah, it beeps for me. My late lunch calls.  Toodles.  🙂

THE BURNING SKY Cover Reveal

So there I was, doing what I do best–namely, tossing out large chunks of my manuscript while my deadline looms–when my agent started sending out emails about promotional plans for THE BURNING SKY.

Lo and behold, we were suppose to reveal the cover this week. For some reason I thought that wouldn’t happen for another month or so, but I have no objection at all to getting it done this week. 🙂

And now, without further ado, the cover.

I am completely biased and think the cover is absolutely stunning.  Probably going to blow this up into a huge poster at some point and hang it on my wall.  🙂

And since we have the cover, why not a mini-excerpt to go with it?

But even as she assessed her new surroundings, she felt herself similarly appraised. This was not new. Ever since they first met, the prince had watched her intensely—after all, he believed her to be the means to his impossible ends. But since their exit from the Crucible, his gaze had seemed more . . . personal.

“What do you want now, Your Highness?”

He raised a brow. “I already have you. Should I want anything else?”

She pushed away her empty plate. “You have that scheming look in your eyes.”

He turned the handle of his own coffee cup, from which he’d yet to take a sip. “That is terrible. I should only ever sport a condescending look. We never want to give the impression that I am capable of—or interested in—strategizing.”

“You’re fudging your answers, prince. I want the truth.”

The corners of his lips turned up barely perceptibly. “I was thinking of how to best hold on to you, my dear Fairfax who would leave me at the first opportunity.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Since when is a blood oath not enough to keep a mage enslaved?”

“You are right, of course. I should not doubt my own success.”

“Then why do you doubt your own success?”

He looked her in the eye. “Only because you are infinitely precious to me, Fairfax, and the loss of you would be devastating.”

He was speaking of her as a tool to be deployed against the Bane. She didn’t know why she should feel both a surge of heat and a ripple of pain in her heart.

She rose. “I’m finished here.”

Ah, I love it when the hero and the heroine start off on the wrong foot, don’t you?  All that attraction+all that enmity=happy me.  🙂

 

 

Your Wicked Heart, That Scandalous Summer, and The Luckiest Lady in London

It has recently come to my attention that no mentions have been made here of Meredith’s recent releases!  Which is a terrible lapse.  I’m not sure whom to blame so I’ll blame Meredith for her oversight.  🙂

Anyway, we are looking at the start of her new RULES FOR THE RECKLESS series, which has a lead-in novella, YOUR WICKED HEART.

Amanda Thomas is stranded a thousand miles from home. Jilted by a viscount and abandoned without a penny, she’ll do whatever it takes to secure a berth on an England-bound ship. But when the anchor lifts, she’s not the only impostor on board—for the stranger in her bed claims to be the real viscount. Can she trust this devastatingly attractive scoundrel? Or is his offer of friendship only a pretext for seduction…and revenge?

That tempting morsel is followed by the first full-length entry in the RULES FOR THE RECKLESS series, THAT SCANDALOUS SUMMER.

In the social whirl of Regency England, Elizabeth Chudderley is at the top of every guest list, the life of every party, and the belle of every ball. But her friends and admirers would be stunned to know the truth: that the merriest widow in London is also the loneliest. Behind the gaiety and smiles lies a secret longing—for something, or someone, to whisk her away…

Raised in scandal, Lord Michael de Grey is convinced that love is a losing gamble—and seduction the only game worth playing. But when duty threatens to trump everything he desires, the only way out is marriage to a woman of his brother’s choosing. Elizabeth Chudderley is delightful, delicious—and distressingly attractive. With such a captivating opponent, Michael isn’t quite sure who is winning the game. How can such passionate players negotiate a marriage of necessity—when their hearts have needs of their own?

You’ll find excerpt and purchase links on the side bar.  And of course, you’ll find everything you need at Meredith’s website.

(The name of Meredith’s new book, THAT SCANDALOUS SUMMER, reminds me that I have an old, old manuscript named One Wild Summer.  And it was so bad that after my then-agent read it for the second time, she pretty much–and rightly so–heaved me to the curb.  Some of us require more than a kick in the pants; I, for instance, needed a door slammed in my face in addition.) 🙂

Now a quick change of gear.

Thanks to author Theresa Romain, I just learned that my next historical romance, THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON is available for pre-order at Amazon.  (And wouldn’t you know, THE BURNING SKY, my YA fantasy, is also for pre-order at Amazon and B&N.)

I had thought I really wouldn’t have anything to say about THE LUCKIEST LADY–formerly known as THE IDEAL GENTLEMAN, though not quite in that way–until I’m done with a proper revision, since I tend to gut my first drafts pretty thoroughly.  But then I remembered that I gut the how, not the what of the story, so the back blurb that has already been prepared for the book is still perfectly valid.

Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, is The Ideal Gentleman, a man all men want to be and all women want to possess. Felix himself almost believes this golden image. But underneath is a damaged soul soothed only by public adulation.

Louisa Cantwell needs to marry well to support her sisters. She does not, however, want Lord Wrenworth—though he seems inexplicably interested in her.  She mistrusts his outward perfection and the praise he garners everywhere he goes. But when he is the only man to propose at the end of the London season, she reluctantly accepts.

Louisa does not understand her husband’s mysterious purposes, but she cannot deny the pleasure her body takes in his touch.  Nor can she deny the pull this magnetic man exerts upon her. But does she dare to fall in love with a man so full of dark secrets, anyone of which could devastate her, if she were to get any closer?

There, now you know exactly what the story is.  🙂

On the fun<==>angst scale, this one leans more toward fun (but bear in mind I’m not a good judge of fun vs angst, as in, I consider Private Arrangements a romp).  It’s not going to rip your guts out but I am hoping it might turn out to be a rather delicious psychosexual battle-of-the-sexes.  Cuz no reader has ever thought to herself, I’ve had enough of these delicious psychosexual battle-of-the-sexes romances.

Or maybe when I say reader, I mean me.  🙂

Excerpt and Covers

This is a content-free blog, more or less.  Just to let you know that I have uploaded a two-chapter excerpt of THE BURNING SKY to my website.  Click here to read.

And the busier I am, the cleaner I like to keep my virtual desktop.  Here’s a load of foreign covers so I can move these pics into their appropriate folders, off the desktop.  🙂

First, one of Meredith’s that I’d come across.

Complex Chinese BOUND BY YOUR TOUCH

The audio book cover for BEGUILING THE BEAUTY, not a foreign cover, per se.

Now a quartet of my actual foreign covers.

Russian HIS AT NIGHT.
Vietnamese HIS AT NIGHT.
Complex Chinese BEGUILING THE BEAUTY
French BEGUILING THE BEAUTY

Hope you like the excerpt.

Presidential Post

What the heck is a presidential post, you ask?  Why, it’s a post from a president, of course.

And that president would be moi, who somehow ended up–through no fault of my own, of course–as the presiding officer of my local RWA chapter a couple of months ago.

(I’ve heard of RWA chapters with low participation by PAN (published author network) members, but that has never been a problem in Austin.  Other than myself, there are at least five other PANs on the board.)

Are you ready to be thrilled by by-law modifications and budget wrangling?  No, okay, I’ll back off.  🙂

One of my responsibilities is the writing of a monthly short post called From the President’s Pen, to be included in the chapter newsletter.  And since I’m a bad blogger, I immediately decided to reuse those posts here for content.

(I might have explained once before–here or elsewhere–why I am such a sluggish blogger.  That time, I said it was because I had nothing to say.  Which surprised some folks.  I have recently realized that it’s not that I have nothing to say, but very seldom that I have something I want to say enough to take the trouble to put into paragraph form.

I type fast.  But it takes me a while to organize and present information to my satisfaction.  And it’s just more fun to read or play games.  And doggone it, dinner needs cooking and Jr. Kidlet still doesn’t understand how or why WWI started.)

So without further ado, here’s what I wrote in our chapter newsletter for November:

It’s November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.  The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel, or 50,000 words in your current manuscript, by the end of the month.  I have been writing for more than a dozen years, but have never had the opportunity to participate in NaNoWriMo, as for some reason I have always been in revision hell come November 1.  But this year, this year I am gunning for those 50k words.

So how did my NaNoWriMo go?  Err, I’ll let the December snippet answer that.

I would like to proudly inform you that I have reached the traditional NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words.  But unsurprisingly—at least to me—I didn’t.  I ended November with precisely 10,000 words in my new young adult fantasy manuscript.

I could make excuses—the fatigue from getting backlist books ready for overseas self-pubbing at the end of October, the double-header workshop in Houston, the new responsibilities I’ve taken on as president of ARWA, the many, many hours spent on kicking juvenile asses into shape at home.

However, I am not going to make excuses.  J  You know why?  Because ten thousand words is not bad.  True, I’d have loved to have written more.  And true, the deadline is coming in four months, so I’d have no choice but to double my output.  But this foot-dragging speed is actually par for the course, when I start a new book.

Beginning a book, for me, is a bit like pushing a boulder uphill.  You grunt, you heave, and sometimes you manage to move that sucker only a few feet.  And sometimes, in a moment of inattention, the sucker steamrolls over you and you’d have to start all over again from the bottom of the hill.

But at some point, you pick up speed and the story acquires a momentum of its own. Suddenly you can work sixteen hours a day and produce 30,000 words in two weeks.

That is my pattern. 

And may the Words be with you.

That was written at beginning of December. The following describes the rest of it.

I will confess right here, I usually do nothing for the holidays.  Nothing.  My excuse for Christmas is that when I was growing up in China, there was no such thing as Christmas.  (But then I also don’t do Chinese New Year, and that was huge when I was growing up in China.) 🙂

So, usually, nothing.  But this year, my beloved sister-in-law and my two adorable nieces came to visit from India and the family contingent from Dallas also came along.  So for the better part of a week I had thirteen people in my house.  And I baked and cooked.  Made-from-scratch fruit tarts, crème brûlée (my agent’s recipe), regular pancakes, green-onion pancakes, banana nut bread, many savory dishes and—drum roll, please—two hundred hand-rolled, hand-wrapped dumplings.

Maybe I did my copyedits in the middle of it, too.

But all that’s behind us.  January, ah, January.  Boring, wonderful January.  Nothing on the calendar, no one to shop for, no party to which you need to bring anything, just thirty-one cold, bland days for getting work done.

I actually started giving my fingers a workout back in December itself.  After the family contingent visited Austin, we returned the visit in Dallas, where I had nine blissful days of not having to cook anything.  So I hid in a corner and produced stuff. First draft stuff, but still, stuff.

It’s going to be a busy year, but that’s a good thing and I’m looking forward to shaping and reshaping stories that will be read by you this year and next.

Wish everyone a happy, healthy, and vibrant 2013.

P.S.  I’ll try to remember to take pictures of all the dumplings when Chinese New Year rolls around.  I may not know when it’s about to arrive, but my mom does.

About That Historical Hiatus

This began as a reply in the comments.  But once it reached five paragraphs I figured it should probably be its own post.  So here it is.

My apologies on any anxieties I might have caused with my previous post, mainly, probably, this particular graf.

You might wonder why the heck was I in such a hurry to do everything.  Well, various reasons. But the main reason was that I believed I was leaving historical romance for the foreseeable future, and wanted everything wrapped up nice and neat before I dive into the second and third book of the YA fantasy trilogy.

First, I should never blog in the middle of the night–and post right afterwards. There is a reason I need such stringent editors and so many rounds of editing and that is my first drafts rarely actually mean what I want to say. 🙂 Usually for blog posts I will finish writing then come back half a day later and edit before hitting the publish button. But this time I just wanted to tick another item off my list and so I not only rambled, but rambled incompetently.

Two, as His Hawtness would tell everyone, “foreseeable future” for me means next week and not much more beyond.

Three, my agent is itching for me to write more historicals. We happened upon each other in San Diego this summer–she was in town for Comic Con–and when I moaned about not having anymore ideas for historicals, she said very calmly, “That’s what you say after every book.” And, well, she has a point. Not every book but after His at Night there was a serious, serious idea drought.

Four, I always come back to historicals. Even before I published, I would write other stuff between historicals. I have on my hard disk several science fiction romance partials, a complete martial arts epic, a Star Wars novelization (ha!) and goodness knows what else. But I always come back to historicals. So the pattern hasn’t changed. Just that now I would like to come back not because a contract makes me, but because I am so excited by an idea I don’t want to do anything else but write it.

Three full length historicals–plus a novella–in a row took a toll. I just need some time off. I already feel more refreshed after THE BRIDE OF LARKSPEAR, simply because no one pours tea.  Although one can make the argument that the books in the trilogy are each very different, they still take place around the same time and revolve around the same people and rather similar settings.  And therefore, endless cups of tea were poured.  At one point, I seriously thought I would burst a blood vessel if I had to write one more cup of tea.  🙂

Or at least one more cup of tea that isn’t in a context of mayhem, as there happens to be multiple instances of tea pouring in the YA fantasy–THE BURNING SKY, I need to get used to referring to it by name–but those are usually surrounded by @#$% getting serious and protagonists in mortal danger.  You see what I mean?

I am an action-adventure girl at heart–heck, I managed to insert a Jules Verne-esque airship journey into an otherwise most Downton Abbey-ish book*.  But the historical romance genre tends to put a lot of restriction on action-adventuring.  For example, the last time I got fed up of tea pouring and went far afield–Not Quite a Husband, that is–I paid for it in sales.  Wal-Mart would not carry His at Night, my next book, even thought everything about that book–virgin, lord, spy–is perfect for Wal-Mart.

Thankfully in this age of digital publishing one can now sell a lot of copies away from Wal-Mart.  But I’m still not sure how well an exotic setting historical will do overall, and that, at the moment, is the only kind of historical idea that excites me to any degree.  (And that’s not enough in and of itself, just to be excited about guns and danger and rough terrain, without a plot or a concrete conflict.)

I digress.  What I mean to say is that writing different things refreshes me.  By the time I was done with the first draft of THE BURNING SKY, my head spinning from plotting and world-building, I was so ready for drawing rooms, tea, and intricate scenes where the only danger was that of the heart.  So it is quite likely that by the time I finish the sequel to THE BURNING SKY, I will be ready, indeed, yearning to write a historical again.

*Ravishing the Heiress

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Less than two months between blog posts?  Boy, I am on a roll. 😛

I’ve been busy.

The last blog post was written while I was waiting for edits to come back for “A Dance in Moonlight,” my entry in Midnight Scandals.  Then they came back and my story needed lots of work.  Of course.  At this point, if I turn in a first draft and the response is, This is awesome and we can go directly to line edits, I will probably demand smelling salts.

So I revised.  Then I revised again.  Then, after we’d already locked the manuscript, I begged Courtney Milan to please let me have a go at the last three chapters yet again because, well, I’m like that.  Thankfully Courtney is like that too and she let me.

After having at last revised the story to my satisfaction, I experienced twenty-four hours of sublime happiness.  Then God decided to make me even happier.  How?  Have you ever heard of that old Turkish/Arabic saying, How does God make a poor man happy?  He makes him lose his donkey and finds it again.

So after my twenty-four hours of sublime happiness, I learned that because we’d done pre-order links for Amazon and Apple, we might not be able to swap out the files until the links become live, i.e., until after the folks who’d pre-ordered receive the older version of the book, with those pre-final-revision last three chapters.  I sank into a deep funk.  What was I going to do?  I’d probably have to take out ads everywhere and tell every person who pre-ordered to send me an email so I can send them the correct files.  But what about those readers who’d have finished my story before I can give them the correct files?  I’d have wasted their time with something that’s less than my best.  I’d have let them down. I’d have…

The self-torment went on and on.

And then, as it turned out, Lori, the digital liaison at the Nelson Agency, was able to get her contact at Amazon to swap out the files.  And then she repeated the miracle and got it changed at Apple, also before the link went live.  Everybody got the right files.  And I held on hard to my dear old donkey, lost but now found, and all but floated away in grateful joy.

After that, it was immediately onto The Bride of Larkspear, which I found easy to write. But that didn’t translate into a good first draft either.  My editor, Tiffany Yates Martin, rightfully pointed it out that it was concentrated too much on the physical side of things.  Where were the emotions?  Where was the character building?  Where was the background so that a reader who hasn’t read Tempting the Bride, or indeed any book of the Fitzhugh Trilogy, could still understand the dynamic?

Ack!  What?  You mean it has to be like a real story?  I’ve probably said this before, though I’m not sure anyone believes me since my books tend to be so angst-ridden: I actually find emotions the most difficult thing to write, almost impossible on some days.  I have to feel it before I can write it and sometimes I just can’t get my head in the right place, so I end up playing time management games like mad instead.

Luckily for me, Tiffany provided a detailed road map on how to get there.  I clung to her directions like a mountain climber to her main line.  As I revised, I could feel my enthusiasm for the story skyrocket.  Not that I didn’t like it before, but now I really relished it.  That is always, always a good sign.

But coming up with a draft I’m happy with isn’t the end of my work, as it had been on Midnight Scandals.  On the anthology Courtney had done all the post-production work, formatting, converting, whatnot.  Had I budgeted my time better, or simply informed Lori, Nelson Agency’s digital liaison, of my plans earlier, Lori would have taken care of all this for me.

As it was, I was facing a huge time crunch, so I decided to do the formatting myself.

When I say myself, I mean, with at my disposal a ton of tools Courtney had developed .  She had pointed me to a terrific tutorial, handed me a bunch of scripts she’d written that would do a lot of the heavy-lifting in converting Word to html, and given her permission for me to lift wholesale the css and html she’d used for Midnight Scandals. (Not to mention her template for CreateSpace POD books.)

Seriously, all I did was climbing onto her shoulders.  Yet I am absurdly proud of myself.  I made a pretty ebook!  Squee!

See, absurdly proud.

(I’d taught myself some rudimentary css & html years ago, when I coded my first website.  It didn’t take me long to decide such things ought to be left to the professionals.  But boy, am I glad I still remember bits and pieces of what I’d learned.)

You might wonder why the heck was I in such a hurry to do everything.  Well, various reasons. But the main reason was that I believed I was leaving historical romance for the foreseeable future, and wanted everything wrapped up nice and neat before I dive into the second and third book of the YA fantasy trilogy.

Now, however, I’m not quite as sure.  I would like to write at least one more historical romance, a story that feels kind of like Private Arrangements, not in the sense of reunited lovers, but in the sense of an alpha-alpha pairing.  I’ve never been able to quite write another one like it and I want to.  I’d like her to always have a rifle in her hand, and maybe put them somewhere remote and dangerous.

We will see.  In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy both Tempting the Bride and The Bride of Larkspear.

 

Boy, Where Have I been–Otherwise Known as Long, Rambling Post

First up, a good cause.  If you love the romance genre and love the romance community and want to see it portrayed with depth and affection, take a look at documentary filmmaker Laurie Kahn’s showreel at Kickstarter.  I am a backer.

Now, about where I’ve been. Usually I will at least make a chirp here when I have a book coming out.  Notice there was no such announcement for RAVISHING THE HEIRESS, a book I love dearly, no less.

It has been a heck of a busy summer.  In the first six month of the year, I wrote TEMPTING THE BRIDE four times.  We moved during the last rewrite, because the last rewrite should have been completed months before.  Of course.  I then spent three weeks getting the old house ready to rent–the thought of those weeks still make my legs quake.

At the beginning of July, after a brief family vacation, during which I did galleys for TEMPTING, the kids left for Grandma’s.  His Hawtness and I, wasting no time, headed for San Diego, where he was needed for a project for three weeks.  We’d planned to work a lot and take a lot of walks on the beaches.  But barely twenty-four hours after we landed, His Hawtness fell and broke a couple of transverse lumbars, which necessitated  a trip to the emergency room followed by three days in the hospital.

Our first roommate in the trauma ward was a cheerful gentleman who just had knee replacement surgery.  He wore it out playing hockey and plans to get back on the ice as soon as he gets used to the new knee.  After he was discharged, however, our next roommate was a homeless gentleman who had been beat up for $24 and brought to the hospital as a John Doe.  That rather put everything in perspective.

But His Hawtness always did have the proper perspective.  Yes, it was a stroke of bad luck.  But he feels that it was also a stroke of terrific luck, as I am usually not there with him when he traveled.  Had he fallen down without me around, he reasoned, he’d have been in much more trouble, as he wouldn’t have been able to get to the phone and might not be found hurt until the hotel housekeeping came the next day.

As it was, we were together throughout and that is indeed something to be thankful about.

While he was hospitalized, I cancelled my RWA Nationals registration: It looked as if he would need round-the-clock attention for a very long time.  And it still looked that way his first couple of days out of the hospital.  Then came the rapid, fantastic improvements.  One day he needed the walker, the next day he didn’t.  One day he could only walk up stairs, but not come down; the next day he walked up and came down.  Ten days after he went to the emergency room, he went to work.

When he was first hurt, we lamented that instead of working as soon as we arrived in San Diego, we should have gone to the beach instead.  I was pretty sure the beach would be out of the question afterwards.  But in the end, we walked on not one but two beaches–including Black’s Beach, the access road to which is steep and winding–and enjoyed some gorgeous sunsets over the Pacific.  (Walking, by the way, was universally recommended as the best thing for his recovery.)

We came back home at the end of July.  Now he drives himself, brings home grocery–though he is careful about not lifting anything heavy–washes dishes and even cooks.    🙂  He is going to physical therapy twice a week to regain his full range of motion–and looks forward to doing yoga and running again.

While I wasn’t running around nursemaiding–and a great deal of the time I wasn’t, since His Hawtness is so independent–I finished my entry in the MIDNIGHT SCANDALS anthology, which also features contributions by Courtney Milan and Carolyn Jewel, and will be out August 27, 2012.

Here is the lovely cover Courtney designed.

I call this book the Fitzhugh Trilogy Book 2.3, as my novella features the story of Isabelle from Ravishing the Heiress.

After losing her childhood sweetheart to another woman, Isabelle Englewood is heartbroken.  But then something remarkable happens: She meets Ralston Fitzwilliam, who looks almost exactly like the man she cannot have.  Will this lead to an affair she regrets in the morning, or a wonderful new beginning to the rest of her life?

A pre-order link is not available yet, since we are self-pubbing this.  But we’ve been told by our agent (this is an all Nelson Agency collaboration) that we might get one after August 20.  That’s not much before the official release date but I guess that’s something.

I also did a round of edits on my young adult fantasy.

I haven’t talked much about the YA at all on this blog, not out of any particular sense of secrecy, but because 1) 4 rewrites for TEMPTING! 2) the pub date of the YA fantasy isn’t until fall 2013, and 3) not only does it not have a cover yet, for the longest time it didn’t even have an official title.

But now I’m pretty it will be called THE BURNING SKY.

So how did the book come about?

I never intended to write YA.  I knew the market was hot, but the last time I wanted to be a children’s writer was when I was in fifth grade.  Once I came of age, I didn’t regularly read children’s/YA books, except those that crossed over to the mainstream, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, Twilight, etc.

From time to time, I did say to myself, it would be nice to write something Sr. Kidlet would like, something more action adventure-y.  But I never had any real ideas.

Then at the beginning of 2009, I received an email from Kristin Nelson, my agent.  She’d just had lunch with a children’s editor who enjoyed my romances and who wondered if I would be interested in writing YA.  I wrote back and said to please thank her for the interest and tell her that I am mulling over ideas.

I didn’t–there were no ideas to mull over.  My brain is either on or off and it was definitely off for YA.  Then a few months later, Kristin emailed again and said she’d received a follow up note from the editor, hoping to read a YA submission from me some day.

That very afternoon, as I was walking toward Costco, a line dropped into my head.  On the night I was born, stars fell.  

That was pretty crazy.  Stories usually come to me with a conflict attached, not an opening line.  Throughout the rest of 2009, between balls-to-the-wall rewrites for HIS AT NIGHT, I tried to figure out why stars fell–a meteor storm–and why it mattered.

The moment HIS AT NIGHT was done, I jumped into the YA.   This was the beginning of 2010, during most of which I was not under contract for historical romances.  I’d seen my friends getting YA contracts on proposal, so I thought I’d try the same thing.

I sent a bunch of chapters to Kristin, she said, um, no.  I rewrote the chapters, sent them back in, um, still no.  It was a pretty darn steep learning curve, trying to figure out how much of a big story to put in book 1, how to worldbuild without overtaking everything else and–this astonished me most of all–how to write a girl character with some depth.  I never thought I’d have a problem in that department, but oy, I struggled here, largely because even though she is the one born on the night the stars fell, the boy character is the one whose goals and circumstances drive this particular segment of the overall story.

And the opening.  Lawd.  I’ve had stories where I struggled with the opening–DELICIOUS  needed five.  But with this one I stopped counting after about a dozen or so.

It wasn’t until November of 2011 that Kristin finally said, yes, I will send this book out on submission.  At which point I said to His Hawtness, I hope she makes enough in commission on this sale to cover the six times she had to read and comment on this manuscript, two times as proposal and four times as fulls!

The book sold early in 2012 as book 1 of a trilogy, to Donna Bray at Balzer+Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins Children.  And she has had some tremendous insights.  So even for a book that has already undergone six drafts, there is still significant room for improvement.

(That original opening line also didn’t make it.  And the book is in third person, not first person.)

What is the book about, you ask?  Let me give  you the opening paragraphs.

Just before the start of Summer Half, 1883, a very minor event took place at Eton College, that venerable and illustrious English public school for boys.  A sixteen-year-old student named Archer Fairfax returned from a three-month absence, caused by a fractured femur, to resume his education. 

Amost every word in the preceding sentence is false.  Archer Fairfax had not suffered a broken limb.  He had never before set foot in Eton.  His name was not Archer Fairfax.  And he was, in fact, not even a he. 

This is the story of a girl who fooled a thousand boys, a boy who fooled an entire country, a partnership that would change the fate of realms, and a power to challenge the greatest tyrant the world had ever known.

Expect magic.

And cross-dressing too, obviously.  🙂

I call it a reverse Harry Potter, young wizards attending a muggle school, and plotting the overthrow of the dark lord from there.  Senior Kidlet started reading the story early in 2010 and fell for it right away, much to my delight and surprise, since the story was still kind of a blob then.  He has since read every draft several times and is waiting with baited breath to evangelize his schoolmates about the book.  I have to say, I enjoy having a fanboy.  🙂  And since I wanted to write something he would enjoy, well, that’s a life goal accomplished.

The rest of the summer will be spent editing A DANCE IN MOONLIGHT, my novella in MIDNIGHT SCANDALS, then work begins on book 2 of the YA fantasy trilogy, due March of next year.  I also intend to self-pub THE BRIDE OF LARKSPEAR, which folks who have read RAVISHING THE HEIRESS might recognize as the naughty story Hastings wrote for Helena, hopefully before TEMPTING THE BRIDE comes out.

Before I go, it has been a while since I blogged, so–you know it–here are some foreign covers.  🙂

Indonesian Not Quite a Husband

 

Portuguese His at Night

 

German His at Night

Looks familiar?  Yep, Courtney Milan’s UNCLAIMED.

Indonesian His at Night

Beguiling the Beauty, at Long Last

Phew.  Squee.  Omg.  I am both stupefied with excitement and oddly apprehensive, but mostly just pretty darn happy.

Which isn’t to say that I was unhappy when I didn’t have books out.  It was actually quite lovely to just work and never worry about sales, reception, and whatnot–a purer form of the creative life.  But I don’t write books only for myself so it is also very, very nice, once in a while, to have one out for public consumption.

I have an interview going on at Reader I Created Him.  AAR is giving away five copies of RAVISHING THE HEIRESS, my July release–you’ve until Thursday 11:59pm.  And if you, like me, enjoy such things as a swift kick to the rear, 🙂 then I also have a 3-chapter critique up for bid at Crits for Water–it will be up for 48 hours.

I am the keynote speaker at Connecticut Fiction Fest on May 12.  There is still time to register if you are interested.

For readers outside of North America, my first two books are now available for Kindle.  And will be available on other platforms as soon as we configure how to restrict sales on those platforms to outside of North America–possibly as early as next week.  For Private Arrangements, click here.  For Delicious, here.

I still have to proof NOT QUITE A HUSBAND and HIS AT NIGHT; those will have to wait until TEMPTING THE BRIDE is in tiptop shape.  Want to close out the trilogy on a proper high note so must work for it.

And on that, I hope you enjoy BEGUILING THE BEAUTY!

Beguiling the Beauty ARC Giveaway & Other Stuff

So I’ve just had a ARC giveaway over at Smart Bitches.  The good news is, it was really fun. The bad news is, the giveaway is now closed.  BUT, because I’m such a big softy, I’m having a consolation giveaway on my Facebook author page. Ha, you didn’t even know I had one of those, did you?  Most days I don’t either.  All this multiplicity of social media makes my head spin.  But since it is there, we might as well climb that mountain.  So head on over right now and post a comment in the giveaway announcement.  No need to say anything witty, you just can write, “Ima Reader wuz here” or “Want book” and that will count.  We’ll hold that open for 72 hours.

And if you don’t get lucky there, I’m giving away another copy on March 29 on author Ashley March’s blog.

Now onto Other Stuff.

1) AT YOUR PLEASURE is out next week.  Have you pre-ordered your copy yet?  If not, why not?

2) TEMPTING THE BRIDE has a cover and it’s a good one.

I love her face.  That is the perfect face for Helena, the heroine of the book, who will most definitely be glancing toward the hero with that look of challenge in her eyes.

I am on my knees in prayer that the book will be as good as the cover.  It is still being worked on and will prolly be worked on until Berkley comes to take the pages out of my cold, cramped hands to hand them to production.  That’s the thing about secondary characters in other books–they always seem so interesting.  And holy @#$%, the hero of TEMPTING THE BRIDE submits an illustrated erotic manuscript to Helena, a publisher, in book 2 of the trilogy–I’d call that interesting.  How to do it so that they don’t suddenly become boring in their own book?  The stress has very nearly wrecked my wrists.

(When I get stressed I play casual games, esp. the time management variety–the irony.  Those are hard on the wrists, even more so if you play them on a laptop.  There were a couple of weeks when I had radiating pain shooting up and down my wrists and forearms.  I even purchased some braces on Meredith’s advice.  But since then I’d come to my senses and uninstalled some of my favorite games and my wrists are back to being okay. Phew.)

(Isn’t that awful?  There are writers whose wrists are damaged by actual work.  And here I am, damaged by fun.)  🙂

3) And you thought 3 books out in a year is a lot.  Well, as it turns out, I am also part of an anthology featuring Courtney Milan and Carolyn Jewel titled MIDNIGHT SCANDALS.  We are self-pubbing it August of this year and the price point will prolly be something like $2.99.  Cheap thrills, folks, cheap thrills.  🙂

4) This does not really affect readers in North America much, but my books are not available for legitimate downloads in UK, ANZ, or other markets because Random House, which publishes my backlist, does not have world English rights and cannot offer them for sale outside of the U.S.  (They can export physical copies, but cannot directly sell digital copies on such platforms as Amazon.)

But I can.  And I will, very soon.  Working with my agency, we are in the process of making my books available on Kindle overseas (Amazon is the only one that lets me select the territories, so I don’t step on RH’s toes here in N.A.).  We’ve the covers.  I’ve already proofed PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS and DELICIOUS and will be proofing the other two shortly.

The overseas editions will actually be slightly improved over their domestic counterparts, as the RH ebooks didn’t have the proper accent marks for either books when foreign phrases were involved.  Also, all the occurrences of the word “madam” in DELICIOUS, used to address the character of the Dowager Duchess were changed to “madame”s–in both paper & e editions–after I had done my final proofing, without my knowledge, which quite frustrated me, as one simply do not go around calling an Englishwoman “madame” for no reason.  So now only the French cook will be addressed as madame.  Which probably matters to no one else, but really matters to me.

(And oeufs à la neige had been turned into something that made no sense at all in the e-edition, at least.  So that is also now correct.)

It was interesting to read PA, which I hadn’t read since I proofed it for publication.  I think my taste in prose has become more spare, at least in the simile/metaphor department.  There were times when I thought to myself, this is verging on florid, but I usually left the prose as written.  However there was one particular simile, something like “thoughts in his head streaked wildly like chickens at a weasel invasion” that stopped me cold.  As it was in the middle of a dead serious scene, I was like, yeah, time to wield the mighty delete button here.

I also corrected for a few Americanisms that I hadn’t known about then, a couple of minor research errors, some conversion-related punctuation errors and word breaks and that’s pretty much it.  Not sure about the exact dates they will be released into the wild, but I think definitely before the release of BEGUILING THE BEAUTY in May.

5) I will be speaking at quite a few RWA chapters this year, starting with a keynote gig at the Connecticut Fiction Fest in May, then on the the San Francisco Chapter in June, the National Conference in Anaheim in July, to which I’ll bring my new subtext workshop, the Orange County Chapter in August, North Texas Chapter in Forth Worth, TX and the Buns & Roses event in Richardson, TX both in October, and to round it out, a daylong gig at the West Houston Chapter in November.  Dates and whatnot are on the front page of my website.

6) Foreign Covers

There is no escaping them!  😀

First up, German re-release of Delicious.

Now, Indonesian Delicious.

I am happy any time there is food on a Delicious cover and here is food aplenty.