It's been a while since I wrote. And I have great news. Last year about this time, Not Quite a Husband won Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA® award--the Oscar of romance--as the best historical romance of 2010.
It gets better. Two weeks ago, His at Night also won a RITA, as the best historical romance of 2011. Just wanted to share. :-)
(And just in case you are wondering whether I am about to announce a book release also, nope. I don't have anything hitting the shelves this year, but in 2012 I'll have three books--a historical romance trilogy--coming out in May, July, and October, respectively.)
To celebrate my back-to-back RITAs, I am hosting a giveaway of one of my favorite authors' latest release. Bettie Sharpe burst onto the scene in 2008, with Ember, a retelling of the Cinderella story. And what a retelling. The story was posted in ten weekly installments, and readers were counting the days until the next installment.
And now Bettie has a new e-novella out from Carina Press, Cat's Tale, a whole new take on Puss in Boots.
Once upon a time there was a scheming, lying tart who cared for nothing but her own pleasures and her shoe collection.
Once the peerlessly beautiful Lady Catriona, consort to the king, Cat's fortunes fall far when her aged husband dies. The king's wizard turns her into a cat and tries to drown her in the mill pond. Fortunately Cat is a clever survivor and enlists the help of Julian, the miller's youngest son, in her plan for revenge.
She originally sees Julian as a mere pawn for her plans to break her curse, but as they work together Cat comes to know and care for him. Even if the curse can be broken, can a good-hearted man love a woman who has been as vain and selfish as Cat?
I grew up reading the gory old versions of fairy tales, and was always kind of appalled at the Disney versions (even though I do adore some of the later Disney fairy tale movies like Beauty and the Beast and The Princess and the Frog). The cool thing about fairy tales is that these stories were told again and again as folk tales before they were codified in print, and every author who has ever told these tales aloud or in writing has put their own spin on them. It's what you're supposed to do with them. Also, it's really fun to twist and reshape familiar elements into something new or different.
Beauty and the Beast. It's one of my favorite fairy tales, but there are already so many great retellings--Angela Carter, Tanith Lee, Robin
McKinley (twice!), and all of the many, many romance novels that use variations on the theme. There are already more than a dozen versions
of the tale that I adore. I'm not really sure I could bring anything new to it.
If I'd been asked to answer this question a year ago, I might also have said that I didn't care for fairy tales that ended tragically, but then I wrote "Each Step Sublime," my retelling of The Little Mermaid that will be part Jane Litte's Agony/Ecstasy Anthology, and I had a blast giving those characters an appropriate happy ending. So I guess my main criteria for retelling a story is just whether I think I can do anything different with it.
Writers tend to be introspective and thinky. Sometimes it's fun to get out of your own mind and step into the thoughts of someone completely
different from you--someone with different morals, different values, different capabilities. While some of my characters' traits are
exaggerated versions of aspects of my own personality (Cat's obsession with clothes and shoes springs to mind), other traits are the
Also, with the fairy tale retellings, the plot is predetermined. I have to create characters who would logically act and react to plot developments in ways that drive the plot to its proper ending.
Probably for the same reason I get a kick out of writing them--they're fun! My favorite quote on the subject of badassery is from Neal Stephenson's book, Snow Crash:
Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.I like to read and write about badass heroines, but I don't think I'd ever want to be one--it seems like a lot of effort. I follow the Hiro Protagonist Philosophy on Badassery-- it's good to be a little badass. In fact, it's probably best. But seeing a true badass, or reading or writing about a really fun fictional badass, is always liberating.
Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer has to worry about trying to be the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken....Which is okay. Sometimes it's all right just to be a little bad. To know your limitations. Make do with what you've got.
I have plenty of projects, but the one I've been writing the most on is another fairy tale retelling based on a comparatively obscure story about a princess cursed with perfect ugliness. After the heroine of Cat's Tale, who was beautiful and quite enamored of her own looks and the advantages they grant her, I thought it might be fun to write an ugly heroine. I can promise you now, she does not whine or wallow in self-pity.
I'm not sure when I'll be finished, or even whether it will be another novella or --gasp!-- a novel. It's running a little long for a novella right now, and I'm nowhere near the end.
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A thief tasked with an impossible heist under penalty of death. A queen determined to hold off all usurpers to her throne. Three kingdoms
in a constant state of changing alliances. And one of the most unlikely and most satisfying love stories I've ever read.
I first got this series for my son, a reader, to try. He gave the books the thumbs-up. That, in itself, isn't quite enough to motivate me to try YA titles. As it were, my critique partner also penned glowing reviews for these books. So I picked up The Thief and enjoyed its world-building and its plot twists.
And then I read its sequel The Queen of Attolia and completely fell in love: even more amazing plot twists and, best of all, a sublime romantic subplot that had me eating out of its hands.
Sigh. I envy readers who still have yet to discover The Queen's Thief series. Ah, to read The Queen of Attolia again for the very first time.
What happens when an asteroid hits the moon--hard enough to alter the moon's orbit? What happens when that drop in the
moon's orbit wreaks havoc on earth--tsunamis, earthquakes, and wild volcanic eruptions that lead to extreme climate change? This is the tale of
how one ordinary teenager and her family deals with the aftermath.
When I still had some eighty, ninety pages left in the book, I intended to stop and take a shower. So I undressed--and then stood in my birthday suit outside my shower until I'd finished reading. Yep, it is that gripping.
Shortly after sixth-grader Miranda and her best friend Sal part ways, for some inexplicable reason her once familiar world turns
upside down. Maybe it's because she's caught up in reading A Wrinkle in Time and trying to understand time travel, or perhaps
it's because she's been receiving mysterious notes which accurately predict the future.
I don't usually read middle-grade books, but after a friend of mine raved about it several times as one of the best children's books she'd ever read, my curiosity got the better of me. And indeed, this is a fantastic read: wonderfully realized characters, a marvelous setting of New York City in 1979, and an engrossing mystery all in one. I can't recommend it highly enough.
May your shelves always overflow with great books to read.