Monday, June 26, 2006

The Simple Life

I noticed as I was walking around Clearwater Beach yesterday that there was a little cafe not too far from our hotel, a cafe that specialized in down home breakfasts. Since we were both up early this morning, I suggested a walk to the cafe rather than risking the hotel food. Plus the fresh air and exercise would do us good.

It was the right choice. The Sunrise Cafe had a breakfast that was absolute Southern heaven for a fraction of the hotel costs. A waitress whose "Mornin', Honey"' greeted you as soon as you walked in, good fresh coffee without any frou-frou venti nonsense about it, and a deft hand with the basics: eggs, biscuits, grits and home fries. I have no doubt their locally cured ham and bacon was every bit as good as everything else.

Now, all that sounds like simple food, but sometimes simple is the hardest to get right. For instance, about a month ago I was in Atlanta--Atlanta, by all that's holy--and I had the worst grits I'd ever been served. Watery and lumpy. Sure, if it had been Boston or Minneapolis I would have understood, but what kind of self respecting Southron restaurant doesn't get grits right? And their biscuits were half raw!

Not at the Sunrise Cafe. My over easy eggs arrived without flaw, the fluffy biscuits were accompanied by homemade strawberry wine jam and homemade apple butter, and the grits were exactly the right texture.

Good food done right. Just the way I like it.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

From Mrs. Giggles, an 80 for Captain Sinister's Lady:

Captain Sinister's Lady
by Darlene Marshall, historical (2006)
Amber Quill, $5.25, ISBN 1-59279-500-5

"...I really like Amanda as a heroine. She wins me over from the first page when it's clear that she has a workable plan when she sets out to America. She's a refreshing change from those stupid nitwits that board a ship after they spent the last of their money on the fare only to wander around like witless fools on a distant shore with no plan and no money. For a long time, she keeps her wits around her and acts like an intelligent, sensible heroine. Morgan can be high-handed at times but his bluster hides the fact that he is socially inept when it comes to women that he wants to woo and marry. He's an adorable mix of the arrogant alpha-male and the mushy beta-hero."

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Raiding the Baltics!

I got an email from my agent the other day letting me know he'd sold my books to a publisher in Estonia.

They want hot pirate romance in Estonia! Who knew?

OK, my agent knew. That's why he pulls down his paycheck. Anyway, I'm looking forward to breaking into a new market. It makes sense that Estonians want romance novels. Those long nights in winter give you a lot of reading time. And I'm looking forward to styling myself "Amastama Jumalanna", which a friend assures me is Estonian for "Love Goddess."

Knowing her, it more likely means "She Who Steps in Dog Doo". If any of you out there speak Estonian and can verify the meaning of "Amastama Jumalanna", I'd be grateful.

UPDATE 7/3--I heard back from an Estonian, and he says "Love Goddess" is "Armastusjumalanna". From now on I expect to be addressed with respect, people!

Captain Sinister’s Lady

Darlene Marshall
Historical romance
Available from Amber Quill Press
ISBN: 1- 59279-500-5
March 2006

Amanda Stephenson travels on the merchantman ‘Penelope’ on her way to join her husband’s relatives in America. Now a widow, she hopes to start a new life in a world of opportunity. The Penelope is found stranded on a reef by Captain Morgan Roberts also known as Captain Sinister. Morgan has decided to end his life as a privateer and settle down on his farm but he cannot pass up such an opportunity. Once he sees Amanda he decides he needs a wife on his farm and she will do nicely. Using all his skills as a pirate, not knowing anything about romancing and courting a lady, he goes about trying to convince Amanda to marry him.

Captain Sinister’s Lady is another wonderful story from Darlene Marshall. Some of the characters from her books “Pirate’s Price” and “The Smuggler’s Bride” make an appearance in this story. Her stories offer a blend of adventure, romance, and humor. Morgan knows nothing about how to treat a lady and this leads to most of the humor in the story. Amanda is strong willed and does not back down when confronted by a large hairy pirate. In fact, there is something about him she finds very attractive. The characters in this story are very likeable and like all her stories very richly created. The dialogue is well written and flows smoothly. Some of my favorite scenes in the book involve Morgan, Amanda and Cesar, the young cabin boy, reading from a book of fairy tales. The comments from Morgan are very funny and I will never look at fairy tales the same. Not all is fun in the story and there is plenty of adventure and danger the two will have to face before the story is through. Morgan romances Amanda by comparing her to his ship and the sea, two things in the world he loves. This may not sound very romantic but is very heartfelt and for this huge bear of a pirate comes across as very romantic. The passion fairly sparks between Morgan and Amanda and the story is very sensual. I recommend Captain Sinister’s Lady because it has something for everyone and will sure to become a favorite among readers.

Overall rating:
Sensuality rating: Very sensual

Reviewer: Anita
June 22, 2006

copyright © 2003

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Review--from BooksForum at ForumsAmerica:

© 2006 All Rights Reserved Readers & Writers Ink Reviews

By Darlene Marshall
Historical romance (19th century Florida)
March 2006
Amber Quill Press
ISBN: 1-59279-744-X

Anyone who has despaired of the current state of romance can rejoice that Darlene Marshall has written of pirates -- um, privateers, courageous women, dastardly villians and a happy ever after that readers can believe in.

Young widow Amanda Stephenson is en route from Yorkshire to her late husband's relatives in Charleston, where she hopes they will give her a home and a place to make her soaps and lotions. Sailing through the Florida Straits proves the unmaking of her plans when her ship is grounded and Captain Morgan Roberts takes it over.

Morgan is about ready to leave the privateering life and settle down, renouncing his other name, Captain Sinister. He has loved life on the sea but he's getting to be an old sea dog rather than a young pup. That Mrs. Stephenson, now she is a woman a man could settle down with. Too bad she thinks he's nothing more than Captain Sinister.

Perhaps a few days on their own -- with Morgan's cabin boy Cesar as chaperone -- might help persuade her there are worse things than marrying a retired man of the sea.

The voyage Amanda and Morgan take toward realizing their hearts' desire is filled with humor, adventure and engaging secondary characters, from second-in-command Gabriel Lopez and his fiancee to the proprietors of a very special inn.

Far too many romances now are filled with useless information and endless scenes of peril that appear manufactured. But not this novel. Darlene Marshall knows how to weave action to character and adventure to the situation in which her characters find themselves. CAPTAIN SINISTER'S LADY is filled with high adventure and heart-stirring romance that fit the time in which the story is set. The good nature and great humor of the main characters and their friends remain with the reader long after their story is finished. And it's a guarantee that fairy tales will never look the same again after learning Captain Sinister's interpretation of the classics.

-- Reviewed by Lynne Perednia

Monday, June 19, 2006

I had a lovely time tonight kicking off the Friends of the Library Summer Seminar series with a talk on Florida Piracy in the 19th C. There was a much larger turnout than I expected and we packed the little airconditioned office at the "bookhouse", the warehouse where the FoL has their twice a year booksales to raise extra funds for the Alachua County Library District.

The crowd was enthusiastic though, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly, talking about researching pirates, sharing Florida history, and the joy of a profession where it's "work" to drive to St. Augustine for the day and walk the streets to get a feel for how life was in the 18th C. town.

I played it smart and didn't drink the offered wine during my program. I made the mistake last year at Worldcon in Scotland of taking advantage of my free drink chit before my program. Not a pretty sight.

I also had some sales after the talk, and while that was helpful, the best part was just getting out there and sharing my work with a whole new audience. And soon we're off to the state Bar Convention! Those lawyers need more romance in their lives. I'll pack plenty of copies of my books.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Last night was the annual Bar Association dinner and we were there, not only 'cause my dear husband's on the local Bar's board, but because these events are entertaining. Really. I love hanging out with attorneys. They have great stories and most of them are smart and fun to be with.

I gave away a signed copy of Captain Sinister's Lady as a door prize, and much to my delight, the winner was a judge who's also a sailor! I personalized it for him, and made him promise to let me know how he liked it. He, in turn, invited me out for a sail and said anytime I needed info on sailing I could call him. So since I had him right there for research, I posed a question that's been going back and forth at a couple sites I frequent:

"The opening into a cabin, is it a hatch or a door?"
"Abovedecks or below?"
"It's a door. A hatch goes into the deck or is an entrance to a hold."
"Aaaargh!" I said. "I didn't have any money riding on it, but I'd heard both were appropriate. See? I'm already taking advantage of your offer to help with research, Your Honor."

I do want to take him up on his offer of sailing, and I said I'd call on him when I needed information on time involved to sail up and down the coast, an issue in my WIP.

Next week we're off the state Bar convention, and for me, a pilgrimage to the Levenger's mothership. I just know when I walk in I'll find oodles of writing tools I didn't know I needed until that moment.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Storm Passes

It's now 4 p.m., and it looks like the worst is behind us, and it wasn't that bad. There's still a chance of more storms tonight, but we're no longer under a tornado watch nor do we have any flooding concerns unless something changes.

It's breezy and still spitting rain outside, but here in North Central Florida, inland, all we got was a good and much needed soaking.

We're all very grateful.
So Far, So Good

It's 11:30 a.m. and the rain just started again. It rained through the night, but when I woke this morning it had mostly stopped. I knew the storm hadn't even hit the coast yet and now the advance rain and wind has returned, but I'm optimistic based on the latest reports.

One of the first things I looked for this morning was whether there was water sitting on the ground, on top of the grass. That would have indicated the soil was so saturated it couldn't hold any more, an early sign to prepare for flooding. In past hurricanes I've seen the water rise up on the lawn, creeping over the patio and heading for the house, but so far, so good.

In a few minutes I'll break for lunch and turn on the Weather Channel to get the noon report and the latest on Alberto.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Hunkerin' down

Only 12 days into the hurricane season, and Alberto comes calling. We're right in its path, though we're 60 miles inland. I know from hurricanes Frances and Irene that doesn't necessarily mean much. You can still have tornadoes, backed-up sewers, flooding and wind damage. So, we did our hurricane prep just as we're supposed to. I've got plenty of batteries, water, a full tank of gas in my car and on my gas grill, a freezer full of ice, canned food, a camp stove, lamps and lanterns.

My biggest concern is that one of the trees I love so much will crash into the house. Otherwise, I'm prepared for just about anything else, and we'll ride this one out.

More on the storm later...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Conner Calling

I had a grand time on Hank's show yesterday, and if you're one of the fine folks who phoned in, thanks! The time passed way too quickly, and we want to do it again soon. If you came here looking for my books, they're available in signed editions at Goerings Bookstore in Gainesville on W. University Avenue and 34th Street at the Westgate Plaza. They're also available through Amazon and my publisher, and I hope if you buy them you'll write and let me know how you liked my stories!

Friday, June 09, 2006

From Your Virtual Book Bag


Celia May Hart

Kensington Aphrodisia, 0-7582-1464-2
Erotic Regency Historical

The Barrington library is unique…and Miss Portia Carew just peeked into a tempting tale of desire–forbidden, lusty, and desperately erotic desire. She wants more. Much more. How fortunate that she is alone and hidden… well, almost hidden. That handsome rake Mark Knightson has witnessed her session of secret pleasure and he knows she’s ready to experience what only he can give her. Delicious, unmentionable, carnal delight.

Celia is currently running a contest, where two winners will take home some delicious chocolate! Check out her website for details!
On the Air!

I'll be the guest today from 1-2 p.m. on "Conner Calling"a phone-in/email-in radio show on WUFT-FM/WJUF-FM, Classic 89, the public radio station for North Central Florida.

We'll likely be discussing pirate romance, Florida history, ebooks and more!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Today's Wednesday, which means the Farmers' Market will be set up downtown on the Sun Plaza. It's one of the highlights of my work week, to go downtown as the sun's sinking lower in the west and check out the goodies. I've become quite the seasonal cook, basing my menus around what's fresh and available from local vendors. Now that the summer's full on us in Florida, the salads are gone. Lettuce is a winter crop here, but it can't tolerate the high heat and humidity of our summer months. Instead, we get corn, collards, squash, peppers, eggplant, onions and leeks, melons--lots of melons, luscious and dripping with juice--and for another month or so, blueberries. I usually buy three or four pints of blueberries, and they never make it into pies or cobblers. Instead, I wash them and put them out on the counter in my berry bowl, and people in the house snack on them through the day.

You get a totally different feel for food when you're eating fresh and seasonally. Since my cooking revolves around the market, I associate certain recipes and foods with times of year--autumn and winter is for persimmons, pecans and fresh greens. Spring brings strawberries and later, blueberries. Summer is melons, corn, squash and eggplant. And so the seasons go.

In addition to the produce, we also have a local dairy that sells fresh, non-homogenized milk which you have to shake up unless you want to skim the cream off the top. Once you've had fresh milk like this, nothing else tastes quite as good. There's also a homemade ice cream vendor who's been setting up for the last month or so and wreaking havoc with my calorie counts; a local coffee roasting company that offers fresh beans roasted that afternoon; and the Georgia cheese guy, who has some delightful goat and cow cheeses.

My son's home before he leaves for his new job, and he's been going downtown each day to Starbucks to study his teaching materials. On Wednesdays he takes a break and meets me across the street at the market, where I buy him a couple sandwiches from a caterer who has her booth there (and I get marinated olives and fresh pesto for the house), and we talk as we stroll past the booths, admiring the homemade soaps, and the fresh breads, and the bead jewelry from the lady from Pakistan, while the three piece bluegrass combo on the stage plays old time music.

People ask me why I live in North Florida. I always feel like living here is as much a state of mind as anything else, and I feel bad for the people who stay locked into airconditioned little cubicles. I'm typing this sitting out on my back porch, looking over the flowers on my patio, smelling the gardenias in bloom. It's home, and there's no place else quite like it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Florida Politics

I attended a fundraiser for "Women for Rod Smith" today, and I'm going to use this post to encourage all of you who are Florida voters to support Rod Smith for governor. I've known Rod for over 20 years, and he would bring a wealth of experience, common sense and compassion to the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. And it's a two-fer. Rod's wife Dee-Dee is an long time activist for children, especially teenage girls, through her work with the Girls Club and other programs. Florida's children and families need an advocate who can work with the legislature and who cares, and Rod is that person.

Our state needs fresh leadership for the 21st century. Check out Rod's website to learn more at