Monday, December 31, 2007

Cold Front Coming

...which means I'll have to take care of the three P's: cover the plants and protect the pipes (the pet's smart enough to come in and snuggle on her own). The only plants I'm worried about are the impatiens, since I brought the ferns onto the porch and they should be warm enough next to the house. It's a shame, too, 'cause the impatiens are all abloom.

As a good Floridian I also feel compelled to apologize to my house guest who's coming in tomorrow from Canada. One doesn't expect to find lows in the 20'sF and highs in the 40'sF on one's Florida vacation. Ah well, it will be back in the 70's by Sunday.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

There's a great spoof of romance blogs and the world of romance small press publishers here at "C'um Hither Global Blog"(No, that's not a typo. At least, not my typo).

I don't know who these folks are, but they're amusing.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I'm reading another amazing history, The War for All the Oceans. I'm enjoying it so much I think I'll buy myself a copy, since the public library is rather sticky about people keeping their books for years on end.

I have to say that one of the best perks of being a published author is getting to write research books off of my taxes. My naval history shelves have grown tremendously, and I enjoy having the freedom to pull a book off my shelf instead of waiting for it to show up again at the library.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Free Rice is addictive. I made it to Level 50 yesterday. My son, who used to be in my will, said it's because I'm such an old bat it's given me decades to improve my vocabulary. I said it's because of all the historicals I read.

Of course, I didn't get any writing done while I was playing, but I was feeding the hungry!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I went to today and got an exciting holiday gift, a first glimpse at the cover of Rache Und Rosen (Revenge and Roses, aka Pirate's Price).

I love these German editions! The covers are classy and the titles are euphonious! It doesn't get much better than that.

According to Amazon, the book has a June 2008 release date. Just in time for all the Europeans winging their way to the US to spend their summer holidays at Disney.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Out of nowhere today the idea came to me that the way I can end my WIP is at the Battle of New Orleans. After all, my hero is an American pirate, so what better way to build up to a rousing finish than to have him participate in this pivotal event of the War of 1812?

I know the common wisdom is that the BoNO wasn't necessary because the war was officially over, but I've read enough histories of the event to side with those who say that had the British won that battle, they would have kept their foothold in the US at the base of the Mississippi. Who would have dislodged them?

I read an excellent history last year of the battle and its key players. Two men who were poles apart in their lives came together in New Orleans because they knew they needed one another to win the war. If you'd like to read more, I recommend to you Winston Groom's Patriotic Fire--Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans.

And in the meantime, I'll go back to figuring out how my pirate ends up involved in all of this.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I made the mistake today of picking up my special edition (25th Anniversary, with bonus "Buttercup's Baby" chapter) of The Princess Bride. Somewhere in the house is my paperback copy, the copy I bought in 1973 because I saw the cover and it looked interesting, but it may be in my son's room because I insisted they each read The Princess Bride.

Picking it up again was a mistake. Before I knew it, I was reading about Buttercup and Westley's first kiss, and the sword fight on the cliffs.

And then I wanted to burn my keyboard. But instead I gritted my teeth and went back to my WIP, because my job isn't to write like William Goldman, or Nora Roberts, or William Shakespeare, my job is to write the best romance novel that Darlene Marshall is capable of writing.

But in closing, let me just say that if you've only seen the movie, wonderful as it is, you owe it to yourself to read the book. The book is...well, I'd say it's "inconceivable", but we all know that's not what that word means.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I think I just found my new sig line:

"...They're not just about naked pirates, although what's wrong with a naked pirate now and again?"

Nora Roberts in Time Magazine, discussing why people should read romance novels.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Today was a good writing day. I got the scene done where the hero and heroine meet for the first time, in the middle of someone giving birth. When I posted the excerpt I got feedback saying I'd struck the right balance between grossness and humor in the childbirth scene, which is what I was aiming for.

It's been a long time since I've thought about the mechanics of childbirth, so it was nice to have younger eyes closer to the experience review it for me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and it was delightful. We had both boys home, the food came out well and cooked on time, we had wonderful guests for supper. Over the weekend got to see some of the other young adults who grew up with our lads and have since moved away.

I just returned from the 4 hr. trek to Orlando's airport so my eldest could catch his plane to NYC. The traffic on I-75 and the Florida Turnpike was intense, but not backed up in any major sense, so it all went well. I was briefly tempted to go to the Florida Mall in Orlando and visit those stores we don't have up here, but I slapped myself upside the head with a reminder that it's the Sunday after Thanksgiving and the mall will still be packed. Plus, I'd rather shop in my own community, even if the selection isn't as broad.

The youngest is on his way out the door loaded down with leftovers, heading back to his apartment at UF and the house is once again quiet and the nest empty. Poor Yofi has been wandering through the boys' bedrooms, wondering where her guys went. For a brief period this weekend it was like old times. I'd wake her up in the morning, feed her and let her out, and then she'd jump into bed with one of the boys and cuddle until he got up.

Ah well, tomorrow it's our normal routine, but for now we're relaxing in the glow of a long weekend spent with those we love.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Today was an interesting writing day. The doctor who was supposed to be the hero, but got pushed aside by a pirate, popped back up in the story again.

Either this means he wants his own book, or I'm writing the wrong hero. We'll see where this goes.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I've just learned from some of my German fans that there's an excerpt from my second German book in the back of Samt und Säbel ( Velvet and Saber, aka Captain Sinister's Lady). Pirate's Price has been renamed Rache und Rosen (Revenge and Roses), which I think totally rocks! I love how Heyne, my publisher, is coming up with these wonderfully alliterative titles!

No cover art has been posted yet, and the release date is sometime in 2008, but I'm psyched!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just in case you haven't had your daily dose of Darlene, here's an interview with me from the Shelfari Authors site. There's also a review of Captain Sinister's Lady. Here's what the reviewer said:

...Captain Sinister's Lady was a great read : fun, interesting and definitely a romance. I loved it and I'm rather intrigued enough by the teaser for Pirate's Price that I'll be downloading it as well."

Check it out, and join in the Shelfari chat!
Chat Tonight!

I'll be at RWAOnline tonight, Thursday, from 9-10 p.m. EST. Lyn Cote and I will be fielding your questions and shooting the breeze about historical and contemporary romance, and Lyn will be giving away a copy of her newest, Blessed Assurance!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

When I was young, today was known as Armistice Day for the end of the World War on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:00 a.m. In that spirit, I offer a snippet from a poem all school children used to know, but sadly, doesn't get much airplay anymore:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, d. 1918

I am not a veteran, but all my brothers are, and my late father was at Pearl Harbor. When he recovered from his wounds, he returned to service aboard battleships in the USN in the South Pacific until 1946.

Thanks, guys.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

My job with the Alachua County Library District Foundation this past year was to oversee the renovation of one of the utilitarian meeting rooms at the main library, turning it into a board room for the Foundation and trustees. We were underwriting the cost of this project, with the library picking up some of the tab for wiring and related expenses, since their staff will use it for training.

We had our first meeting in the new room yesterday and it was spiffy. A beautiful wood conference table, comfortable leather armchairs, flat screen HD TV that can be used for presentations to prospective donors and board members--it was all good.

I was pleased to be given the responsibility for this project and I look forward to using it for fund raising for our library endowment fund. It'll be even better when the library follows through on the next renovation project, putting in a coffeebar.

Oh, and I used the userpic of my German edition novel, because my book donation was the seed for the first German language novels to be added to our foreign works collection. Wait until my Estonian editions are released!

Monday, November 05, 2007

I started writing my new pirate novel, A Sea Change, today. I've been working on it for over a month, reading, writing notes, organizing my thoughts, and doing a 180 on one of my characters. But today I started writing the book, meaning I sat down, typed "Chapter 1" and hammered out a few pages.

This is good. Research and note taking is important, but you can only sell a novel when it's written.

More on this as it develops.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm reading The Great Upheaval--America and the Birth of the Modern World, 1788-1800 by Jay Winik, and I cannot help but be struck again with amazement at a generation that produced a Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton, Washington, Madison, Adams, Benjamin Rush, Thomas Paine, Gouverneur Morris and others.

Can we say with certainty that others would have risen to the occasion? I don't think so. The combination of brains, charisma, talent and leadership in that generation of Founding Fathers was something special. They were able to hammer out a fledgling republic when every nation in Europe anticipated failure. They even overcame the difficulties of the Articles of Confederation and the antipathy of their own countrymen to create the United States.

To me, histories like this read like thrillers. So much could have gone wrong with so little effort. A stray bullet could have taken out George Washington, who gained power by refusing power, something no other political leader might have done. He was, as others have pointed out, the "indispensable man" and needed as the father of his country.

I know I'm a history wonk, but it's good to be reminded that whatever we are today as a nation, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

We drove up to St. George Island off the Panhandle for a quiet weekend at our friends' Larry and Sherry's beachhouse. I like St. George Island because it's the anti-Spring Break beach. No bungee jumping, no rentals full of 20 drunk students, just families and full time residents and small buildings that don't block the views of the Gulf.

The weather was chilly, which suited me fine. I like the off season when you can walk along the beach and come back to a nice fire and a cup of tea. The guys watched (and wept) as the Gators got bit by the Bulldogs, and I read and slept. This morning as I was sitting out on the back porch drinking my coffee, Larry pointed out a pod of dolphins jumping in the water in front of us, playing and fishing. We were also in a Monarch butterfly migration path, and all weekend butterflies would drift by, traveling from the east on their way to Mexico for the winter.

I also came up with some new ideas for my new novel. I blame my friend who saw a comment by me where I said I wished I had a pirate Barbie when I was growing up. So of course she sent me a Pirate Barbie and Ken set that I opened right before I left town. Now my book's veering back to being a pirate story, 'cause you can never go wrong with pirates. Besides, I have toys I can use now to act out scenes, even if they haven't done anything over the last 50 years to make Ken a bit more...functional.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I just finished an amazing fantasy novel, The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch. It's like Sabatini and Stevenson and Lieber and Dumas and maybe even a little Twain all rolled up into one exciting package. A poor orphan survives by his wits and cunning, pitting his skills and the skills of his brothers-in-larceny against the aristocracy of a decadent society. Swordfights, magic, friendship, thieves and more, winding up to a breathless and spectacular finish.

I highly recommend it, and it's now out in paper.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It's been a hectic day, and not in the "I got a lot of writing done" sense. I got home late in the morning from traveling to a friend's wedding in North Carolina. That was a fun weekend, but getting up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a flight home kind of puts a damper on my brain activity for the rest of the day.

Then the vet called and said while they were cleaning Yofi's teeth they discovered two needed to be extracted. I knew one was potentially rotten, and she is nine years old, but the other caught me by surprise. Poor puppy! She's now home again, resting after her ordeal and will be on soft foods and antibiotics for the rest of the week.

I know the rest of my pup's family and apparently there's a genetic predisposition there to have tooth issues. It's my fault too--while I've always given her dental aiding treats and rawhide chews, I haven't been brushing her teeth. My dachshund is wonderfully good natured, but that's where she drew the line, and I didn't insist on it when she was a pup. So we're paying for it now. Literally.

When I dropped her off Friday for boarding and what I thought would be a cleaning, I told the staff to be sure to give her pain meds if she had an extraction. Pain meds are optional, and I paused as I was signing the consent form and said, "Who wouldn't want to give their dog pain meds?" I was gently reminded that the dental procedure is expensive, and for some families that's a tough choice they have to make. I was abashed, but also glad that I don't have to hesitate to give my dog pain medication if she needs it.

So Yofi's on her bed next to me as I type this, still groggy from her dental work. I hope she'll be back to herself in a few days.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I've been doing research today on signs and symptoms of yellow fever for my next novel. There's a saying around here that it was DDT and air-conditioning that civilized Florida. There's some validity to that. We still had yellow fever epidemics in Florida well into the 20th century. If you walk through the older cemeteries you can see clusters of epidemic victims' graves. Once the mosquito was identified by Dr. Walter Reed and his team as the vector for the disease, a vaccine could be developed and eradication efforts could begin. We still get mosquito fogging trucks rolling through at the height of the season, though they use different chemicals now. And air-conditioning boosted home construction and sales after WWII, sending Florida's population soaring.

Now, some would say that was a mixed blessing. I'll leave that to future generations to debate. However, "yellowjack" as it was known, could still make a comeback. Cases have been found in the US in the last 10 years, and the disease would run like wildfire through the blood of a "virgin" population in the 21st century, especially with the ease of travel between hospitable locales like Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

Our local health department is reminding people to avoid peak mosquito periods if they have to go outside, and to cover up and use DEET if they are out. Good advice, especially following the heavy rains we had last week.

Monday, October 15, 2007

So I'm watching Heroes in real time, which means I'm watching commercials too. One comes on for a toy playhouse for little girls, all in pink and pastels, and it features a kitchen and a laundry room and the tag line is "Make her dreams come true" as the little girl is shoving play clothes into the dryer.

"Make her dreams come true"? Doing laundry? Cleaning house? I don't think so! Those are chores, not dreams! I am incensed! If you want to do a commercial for little girls with the tagline "make her dreams come true" how about showing her practicing surgery?! Or landscape gardening? Or being an astronaut? What year is this, 1955?

Did the last 40 years of women's liberation go away when I wasn't looking?

And I won't even mention the "Always" pad commercial with the electric bull.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall has finally come to North Florida. This week has a been a delight, with clear skies, moderate temps and low humidity. I've got my winter comforter out sunning itself in the backyard in preparation for its switching out with the summer bed linens. The AC is off. I wore a sweatshirt to walk the dog the other morning.

If I'm not around much today, it's because I'm taking advantage of the weather and attending the Butterflyfest at the Museum.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I was on the air this morning for WUFT-FM/WJUF-FM, doing the Fall Membership Campaign for our public radio station. We came close to hitting our $6,000 goal in Morning Edition, but fell short by a few hundred dollars. That was disappointing, but as the Development Director kept reminding me, we set the bar very high. I hope we'll break past $6,000 when I'm there again next Wednesday.

Oh, and I pledged for our anniversary poster, which is fab! I love Jim Harrison's work, and have a few of his prints and "Gainesville Fruit Company" notecards around the house.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The 4th of each month is when I have a turn blogging at the HEA Cafe. So here's this month's musings:


Last month I blogged about “writing what you know”. This month I’m blogging about “writing what you don’t know”.

My newest novel takes place mostly aboard a British frigate during the Napoleonic Wars. My desk is now piled high with research books, some from the library and some I’ve purchased for myself. I am full of Royal Navy trivia, and yet I know going into this that there’s no group of reading fans more rabid than Royal Navy buffs (with the possible exception of US Civil War buffs). They will catch your mistakes–or what they think are your mistakes–so fast it’ll make your pixels spin.

For example, I have to figure out the date of my book. If I have it set before 1805, the warrant officer who assisted the surgeon was called the surgeon’s mate. After 1805, he’s technically the surgeon’s assistant, but no doubt most old timers still referred to him as the surgeon’s mate. So if I set my novel in 1811, do I have to have a snippet of explanation saying, “Well, yes, Mr. Expendable is the surgeon’s assistant, but of course we all still refer to him as the surgeon’s mate”?

Decisions, decisions....

This also shows one of the pitfalls of deep research. What a friend calls the “I did this research and you’re going to pay for it!” syndrome, where the author believes because she finds these tidbits fascinating, you must also find them fascinating or face her wrath!

I had to take pages and pages out of my last manuscript because I realized that while I found the story of Anna Jai Kingsley fascinating (Read Anna Madgigine Jai Kingsley–African Princess, Florida Slave, Plantation Slaveowner by Daniel L. Schafer for more), writing about her wasn’t advancing my own story and I had to stay focused on my H&H, not wander off into the delights of sharing research.

And while I’m ruminating on research, I must put in a plug for one of the most underutilized yet valuable tools a writer has, Inter-Library Loan. If there’s a book you need for research, and your local public library doesn’t have it, ILL will get it for you. From anywhere in the US where that book is in circulation. You might not get it this week, but eventually it will turn up. I wanted a copy of Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett, an 18th C. novel. Our library didn’t have it, but within two weeks it was within my hands, shipped from a library in North Carolina. ILL has given me access to many books published by the Naval Institute Press, books that if I had to buy them, even used, would quickly exhaust my budget. Plus, these are often books I don’t need to keep, I just need to see a chapter or two.

Which leads me into my next thought, The Evils of the Interweb! I’m often asked by budding young writers which websites to go to for research. The answer is, “None of them should be a primary source.” Oh, sure, it’s nice to be able to see pictures of the uniform of the U.S. Revenue Marine in 1845 at a website, but it’s much more valuable to read a comprehensive history of the Revenue Marine. Here’s the thing a lot of new writers don’t realize–when you use books for research, you learn stuff you didn’t know you needed to know. Also, books have editors. Websites do not. With a website it’s very much “Researcher beware!” Sure, books can have mistakes too, but at least someone other than the author took a look at it before it got to the presses!

So when writing what you don’t know, consider your sources: visits to historical sites, if possible, are always worthwhile. Read books. Read some more books. Then go to websites to see if there’s any tidbit or update you might have overlooked. And finally, don’t make your reader pay for your pleasure. Save your wonkiness for the next time you’re hanging with the period reinactors.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

My son said to me, "Why are you on Facebook?"

"Because all the other writers are on Facebook."

"If all the other writers jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge?"

"If it would get me on the NYT Bestseller list? Sure!"

I'm also at MySpace, but that one's a mirror of this blog. So you might as well stay put.

Darlene Marshall
"Everyone is entitled to go to Hell in their own way. You gotta have a plan!"
'What is your personal life motto?' at

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Joys of Research

I love those "Aha!" moments when you're doing research and you find exactly what you needed to know. The only thing better is when you're doing research and you find information you didn't know you needed!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Words you can use

Today's vocab word: afflatus

I've been waiting all my life for this word, defined as "a strong creative impulse, divine inspiration".

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to get some more coffee and hope afflatus will carry me away. I am feeling somewhat afflated today! Must have been the lentil pilaf I ate last night.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Joys of Inter-Library Loan
If you've never used ILL at your public library, you're missing a treat. ILL will get you almost any book in print that's in circulation at any public library in the US. You might have to wait a while, but eventually it shows up. This week's offering on my hit list was Tobias Smollett's The Adventures of Roderick Random.

So if y'all will excuse me, I'm off to do some research reading.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I was at Goerings Book Store last night for a talk by James G. Cusick, author of one of my favorite history books: The Other War of 1812--The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida.

Dr. Cusick made a point of saying that even the best of the histories of the War of 1812 focus on four things, almost exclusively: War with Canada, The burning of Washington, the naval battles, and the Battle of New Orleans. None of them talk about the war on the Southern frontier, as Georgia invaded Florida and tried to overthrow the Spanish government and make East Florida part of the United States.

His book is well written and fascinating, and best of all, is finally out in paper. The original copies cost $50, so I just kept checking it out from the library. Now I've got my own signed edition. Dr. Cusick is also curator of the Library of Florida History at the University of Florida, and was a huge help to me, answering my emails to the UF Library when I was writing The Bride and the Buccaneer. Oddly enough, he did not ask to be credited in my spicy pirate romance novel.

The 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 is approaching. It's an excellent time to bone up on what was truly the war that established us as a sovereign nation as we took on and held off the military leader of the 19th C.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Have you kissed your pirate today?

Today is International Talk Like A Pirate Day, a good day to hoist a mug of rum and toast the freebooters and buccaneers of old, who gave us so many wonderful stories. Celebrate with a film festival of Captain Blood, The Buccaneer, and of course, Pirates of the Caribbean.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

September 19 is International "Talk Like A Pirate" Day. Will you be ready? Go here for a helpful instructional video that will have you talking like the saltiest of seadogs in no time.

And remember, this is a great time to read a pirate romance, and there are three good ones in the sidebar to your left.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I blog over at the HEA cafe on the 4th of each month. But even when I'm not around, there are a host of other interesting published authors from the RWA Online chapter writing about Life, The Universe and Everything.

Stop by and check them out!
My new WIP is coming along. I'm still in the research stage, but that means that as the research twigs something in my mind I turn to my computer and write a scene, or a snip of dialog, or an explanation of why something is happening. So I'm writing as I go.

I'm feeling quite sanguine about this new book, whose working title is A Sea Change. For the first time I've got a grasp on the beginning, the middle and the end of the novel before I write it, and that's encouraging for an "organic" writer who doesn't usually outline.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My fourth historical romance now has a working title of The Bride and The Buccaneer and is in the capable hands of my agent. I liked The Babe with the Booty, but he didn't seem keen on that title for some reason.

This book was twisty to write, with a pirate treasure hunt and people keeping secrets from each other, but I feel that at the end it all fell into place.

I will, of course, post more information as this story develops.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I was at the Alachua County Library District Foundation annual meeting tonight, and got our "State of the Foundation" and library report. Despite the revenue slashing at the state level, our library has not had to cut back on any services. Good management and prudent handling of money keeps us going.

However, we are having to delay some building projects, though the ones in the works sound very exciting. My local branch will be vastly expanded and have new features, like a children's playground outside and nature trails through the bordering woods.

I also brought two copies of Samt und Säbel to donate to the library. When I asked the library director if he would like my translated novel to add to his foreign language collection, he did some research and discovered they had no German novels in their collection. So I get to inaugurate the new German section with my hot pirate romances!

I was also approached about donating some of my books to our silent auction at the upcoming Foundation Author Gala, and I'm more than happy to do that. I try to help the public library in any way I can. Without services like Inter-Library Loan and the well trained reference librarians, my books wouldn't get written.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Yes, the bathroom is finally finished. Bob the Contractor put the last touches on it Friday, and I wanted to take pictures while it's still pristine.

I don't know that the pictures will show the true colors well, but the walls are a pale celadon green with white trim. I believe we got the simple Asian/spa look I was going for. I'm quite pleased about the mirrors and the vanity table. Bob built those himself using recycled wood from some shelves we had to tear out for the remodeling. And if any of you are thinking of putting in vessel sinks, be aware there's a bit of a learning curve on them. You have to learn not to run the water so hard that it splashes out of the bowl and onto the counter and walls.

The shower door is etched with a bamboo design, and the door to the toilet has a rice paper film over the panels. I have much more usable storage space in the bathroom than I had before, and better lighting. These pictures were taken mid-morning to get the full effect of the light coming in from the skylight and the window over the tub.

with lights on

sinks and mirrors, plant hanging down

The shower Door

Shower interior

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'm the first person to say research is best done in books or at a library, not via the internet, but I have to admit I'm enjoying the luxury of reading The Adventures of Roderick Random via Project Gutenberg while I wait to see if I can get it on interlibrary loan.

This novel was written by Tobias Smollett, a physician, and first published in 1737. It's a vastly entertaining look at life aboard ship in the age of sail. There's nothing like contemporary writing, whether it's Austen or Defoe or Smollett, to give you a true feel for the time and place you're researching.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

“Write what you know” is one of the most fossilized commandments of How To Write. Sometimes writers take it too literally. They think they have to be “method actors”, immersing themselves in roles before they can sit down at the keyboard and make their characters come alive. It doesn’t have to be that intense. I didn’t have to be a soapmaker to write about a character who’s a soapmaker (Amanda in Captain Sinister’s Lady), but I did have to do research on how soap was manufactured in the early 19th century.

Yet there is something to be said for “write what you know”, and we should always keep this in mind. For one thing, you know more than you think and you should use it. I may not have known at the outset how to make soap, but I knew what it smelled like to unwrap a fresh bar. I also knew the gliding feeling of working up a lovely lather and what happens when you have soap that smells like almonds, or sandalwood, or roses, spreading its fragrance through a room. That too is writing what you know–incorporating all the sensual details of your life into your writing.

And this is leading me back to my original thought behind this blog entry. When I started writing my first novel, Pirate’s Price, it was set in England because, well, gosh, every historical is set in England unless it’s a US civil war story, right?

So I’d be sitting out there on my back porch, thinking about writing Regency London, when what I really wanted to do was describe how a clear February day in Florida gives you a sky so blue it makes your eyes hurt, how the red hawk in the tree bordering our yard was calling out its kee-yar cry, and how my neighbor’s orange trees were perfuming the entire block.

I wanted to write about what I knew–the North Florida landscape I’d lived in for over 30 years. So I did. I took trips to St. Augustine and walked the streets of the Ancient City, toured the Castillo de San Marcos, went to Fernandina to research its pirate history, and visited the various springs, rivers and geological sites that figure in my work.

It was fun, and it helped me give my writing an air of authenticity that I believe does spring from writing what you know–how something smells, how it feels, how it grows, how it sounds, what’s in bloom at certain times of the year, and when you would have a character attend a cane grinding.

When I had my heroine make a persimmon cake in Smuggler’s Bride, it was because I’d purchased some ripe persimmons at the farmers’ market and ended up using them in a spice cake (recipe upon request [g]), so I was “writing what I knew”.

Even if your story is set in a solar system far, far away, you can write with this kind of authenticity. You can describe the foods your characters are eating, the fabric of their clothing, the sights they encounter based on your own experiences. Each writer must in her own way incorporate her life experiences into her writing, because when it comes down to it, we’re all “writing what we know.”

I sent A Pirate's Treasure off. Gosh, it really is like shoving your baby in the mailbox!

And I started doing more in-depth research for the babes-in-breeches nautical novel. I've got to come up with a working title. I might even try to write a synopsis before the book is finished. It reminds me of the days when I had to write outlines of school papers. I'd write the paper, and then write the outline based on the finished work. Maybe I can overcome that and write a real, working synopsis before the first draft.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Word came out today that my publisher, Amber Quill Press, made the list of Romance Writers of America accepted publishers. This doesn't mean a great deal to the average reader, but it's important to me as a writer. I've received word of more epublishers folding this week and leaving their authors high, dry and unpaid. Having the RWA approve my publisher is a good sign, indicating the company is moving from the edge to the mainstream.

It also means I'm now eligible for the RITA awards, the romance equivalent of a Nebula or Edgar, and that too is good news.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My second beta reader checked in today and said she found no problems other than a few typos. Most importantly, since she's a sailor, she didn't find any egregious errors from this sailor of the armchair variety.


Now to finish my own read through and send it off!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

If my lips are chapped I'm nearly finished.

The last edit I do before I send a book off to an agent is to read it aloud under my breath. This allows me to judge the pacing and flow of dialog, and it catches some amazing typos that the eye just skips over.

Time to invest in another tube of Burt's Bees and hit the books.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

I know I'm done with the book now in revisions and edits because when I was walking my dog I began getting snippets of scenes and dialog from the next book (working title--Babes in Breeches). Oh, and speaking of working titles, I'm still mulling over alternatives to A Pirate's Treasure for the one I just finished. One reader suggested Going for the Gold, which while accurate, isn't quite what I had in mind either.

Anyway, I've got some interesting ideas on where I can go with this next novel. I'm anxious to begin working on it, and if I can hammer out the remaining edits this week on Treasure and get it off in the mail, I'll begin research on Babes.

And I'm just kidding about the title. But it's a good enough working title for now.
I read an amazing novel this weekend, The Necessary Beggar, by Susan Palwick. It's part fantasy, part futuristic SF, and utterly captivating.

A young man commits a heinous crime, and under the laws of his land not only is he exiled, but his entire family joins him in exile. They're shuttled through a dimensional portal to another world--Earth, circa 2020. They're illegal aliens of the most dramatic sort, trapped without papers, skills, language or anything else that will help them survive. But survive they do, and the story of how this family adjusts, copes and loves one another is powerful and beautifully written.

There's a lovely bit of romance in here as well, and I highly recommend Palwick's wonderful story of emigration and growth.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Heard back from my first beta reader today and she said she liked the story a lot and didn't find any major plot holes!

After that, it's all small stuff like little edits. That certainly has put me in a smiling mood today!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

There's a review of Samt Und Sabel over at I ran it through Babelfish and got an idea of what it says, which was fun.

But even I know that four out of five stars is a universal language in reviews.[g] If you read German, check it out.

I wanted to expand on my post yesterday when I put up pictures of my clean desk. Here are a few shots of my office. The large window looks out over the street, and you can see my muse's bed down in the corner in front of the bookcase. You also get a glimpse of the Dachshund of Doom gazing out at her queendom.

The sword leaning between the two bookcases was a birthday present from my younger brother. My son said, "Other moms in the neighborhood get sweaters for their birthday. You got a sword. That's pretty cool."

The red wall is for energy, and the other walls are a shade called "mellow ivory". The combination of colors works well for me. I don't think I'd paint the walls red anywhere else in the house, but it was fun to experiment in my office.

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Desk

I know I should wait until I get back my beta readers' notes, but I just couldn't sit on this manuscript any longer. I even cleaned my desk this morning so I'd have a fresh space, a good way to mentally prepare.

So I'm starting revisions, red pen in hand, and I've already found some wince-worthy typos. This is a good thing, I tell myself, I can fix this even before the readers get back to me. Of course, my fear is the beta readers will get back to me and say "Burn this manuscript at once!"

But in the meantime there will be less typos.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Just sit on it and let it hatch
I've set my manuscript aside for a week or two. Ideally, I wouldn't look at it again for six months, but I do want to get it off to the agent. Taking a break from it will help me look at it with a fresh eye, and be more likely to catch mistakes or find a passage that needs to be rewritten.

But it's hard. I also don't want to dive right into the research for my next novel 'cause I don't want two different stories spinning through my head, so I'm catching up on reading the TBR pile, cleaning a little around the house (my porch looks fit for humans again) and assorted other small tasks that get neglected at the end of the book.

Oh, and I printed out a copy for myself in Courier rather than Times-Roman. When I go back to the book, it will be easier to catch errors if I use a font that's different from what I've been staring at for the last 18 months.

The remodeling continues, and so far, so good. No major crises. Yet.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Looking for a good read in German?

Then look no further. Samt und Säbel aka Captain Sinister's Lady, by Darlene Marshall, is now available from A perfect beach read for when you're winging from Munich to the coast of Spain for a summer getaway.

Or, given the weak dollar, when you're flying from Berlin to Disneyworld.

Tell all your friends who read German! Who want to improve their German! Who think it would be cool to read about Florida pirates and privateers, in German!

Monday, July 30, 2007

First Draft Done!

I've finished the first draft of my new novel, working title A Pirate's Treasure. I've got 93,000 words and have started on revisions. But I'm one of those people who love revisions. I would rather work with something than have to stare at that blank page and blinking cursor all day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Dark Shadows

Johnny Depp to star as Barnabas Collins in the remake of Dark Shadows.

Catch me while I swoon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tired of being considered one of the herd? Here are some book covers you can use to hide your copy of Deathly Hallows. Caution--not worksafe!

Oh, and even though this is now everywhere, my son sent it to me first. What a cool kid!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Today's tip of the hat for creative assistance goes to the Dachshund of Doom. While I was doing the morning walk I had a breakthrough about a clue I need to plant towards the end of the WIP. I know I wouldn't have had this flash of brilliance on my own. It took the mindless activity of walking Her Highness to stimulate the braincells.

Showering is my other favorite mindless activity to stimulate the brain cells, but with our bathroom undergoing remodeling I don't have a shower stall that's bland and comfortable enough for my mind to turn off. No, while I'm using the hall bath it's all about how quickly can I get in-and-out and why am I the only one in the house who notices the need for re-grouting?

And the clue has to do with Gainesville's tourist highlight, The Devil's Millhopper. A friend of a friend once said, "Let me make sure I understand this--your town's claim to fame is a hole in the ground?" and that about sums it up. I'll be tweaking and renaming the sinkhole in my book to make it more fiction friendly, but this is a good time of year to do another walk down to the bottom of the Millhopper to recharge my creativity.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My WIP is creeping towards the end, and it's making me think now about what I have to go back and fix at the beginning to make it seem like a seamless work, and not the pastiche my writing usually is in the first draft.

What I like about sitting down with a full manuscript in that first read through is seeing my characters fully fleshed, from start to finish. It allows me to pay close attention to them, now that I have the action out of the way, and make sure that their motivations are true to them and true to the story.

But first, I'm off to finish that rough draft.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Librarians rock. Reference librarians rock the hardest, and university librarians are like gods you want to burn incense to 'cause they know how to find out everything.

Today's incense is being wafted over towards the University of Florida Libraries, where information was uncovered for me that makes it logistically possible for me to write a Really Big Scene I've been wanting to write.

I'm so happy!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The WIP is about 85% finished. Plot pieces are falling into place. I'm finally figuring out why I wrote certain scenes months back and set them aside for later use. Now it all makes sense.

The joys of being an organic writer, as opposed to an outliner. I may not always know why I'm dancing the steps I am, but in the end it all works. And I do believe it's more exciting that way, at least for me. I'm no longer staring at my characters' dialog snippets, scratching my head and asking, "Why did you do that?" Instead, I get to have more "Aha!" moments as the pieces fit together into (I hope) a seamless whole.


Sunday, July 01, 2007

I'm back home, having stopped off at that hotbed of pirate activity, Amelia Island and Fernandina. This time though the only plundering was of the restaurants and pool bar at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, where we reveled in the celebration of our best friends' daughter's wedding. What a weekend! I enjoyed the Ritz so much I dropped unsubtle hints in my dear husband's ear that an anniversary get-away to Amelia might be just the ticket--he could golf, I could explore historic Fernandina and do some writing, and at night we'd cuddle in front of the fires in the lounge or down at the beach.

More on this as it develops...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Greetings from Central Florida!

I'm down here in Orlando, accompanying my husband at the Florida Bar Convention and drinking way too much good wine. Other than that, I churned out 10 pages of new material today! I said to my husband, "Honey, clearly I need to be in a luxury hotel to be productive!" He's not buying it, but I haven't given up hope. It's been a good opportunity to catch up on the WIP and take a couple days to spend with friends and family.

More on this tomorrow.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I just walked out to get a glass of water and hearing a crackling noise looked over at the snake's terrarium. Frisky is shedding his skin, which is kind of cool to watch. He drags himself over the rough bark of the tree branch in his environment, and it helps pull the old skin off.

What's less cool is I have to clean his cage tonight. Did I mention this isn't even my snake? No, it belongs to my absent son, who has managed to fly on every trip home, primarily, I believe, so I can't stick his snake in the back of the car and wave a fond 'bon voyage!'

*Sigh* I hope when I die and go to stand in judgment before the Heavenly Court someone will say "Well, she may have been a real b*tch at times, but she took care of the snake."

Tales of Remodeling
Yesterday I was making a run to Home Depot to look at bathroom fixtures, grab bars, and doors. I need three doors, two pocket doors and one door for the toilet stall. I told the guy at Home Depot, "I was at a friend's beach house and she had the most beautiful pocket doors. They had glass insets and added a lot to the look of the room."

"Oh, you want to see these doors!"

He then took me to a display of beautiful doors, far from utilitarian, and I pulled out the brochure.

"I like this one with the 'bamboo' glass."

He looked over my shoulder and said, "Congratulations! You just picked the 2nd most expensive door in this line."

"My husband says it's one of my talents, being able to spot the most expensive item in the store," I said glumly.

However, there were some lovely doors with frosted glass privacy panels that were substantially less. I need to check with my contractor on allowances to see where they fall in our proposal. He already told me if I wanted cream colored instead of white toilet and tub I'd pay substantially more, so I nixed that! The tub's going to be mostly surrounded by tile--you won't see the interior unless you're standing right next to it looking down, and the toilet's in its own room, so standard white is fine. But I may be able to nudge the figures if I want a particular door.

But then last night I thought about it while I was getting ready for bed. My husband turned on the light in the bathroom and pulled the door closed and I thought, "Duh! If you put in a pocket door with a glass panel, then every time someone's up at night the light shining through the door will wake you up!"

So I feel better now. We're still well within budget, which isn't saying much since work hasn't started yet, but at least I'm not getting too carried away.


Monday, June 18, 2007

I was writing a rather wrenching chapter today that included a slave auction. My WIP is set in 1817 Florida. It led me to re-read most of Kenneth Stamp's The Peculiar Institution, one of the textbooks I wisely held onto from undergraduate school 30 years ago. I also worked through my notes on Florida history, and Georgia history.

In the scene today, the hero, who's from Georgia, explains to the heroine why he can't free his family's slaves. It was illegal to do so. I cannot stand reading historical romance where the heroine inherits her grandfather's antebellum plantation in Georgia or South Carolina, hops on a boat from England, and the first thing she does when she gets here is free all those slaves and offer a good pension plan.

Slavery was this country's great evil (we'll talk about the Indians another time) and its effects are still being felt through our society today. To ignore the reality of it so we can pretty up our characters and make them more palatable to modern readers does the reader a disservice, in my opinion, and means we're writing fantasy, not historical fiction.

That's all. My writing makes me angry, so I'm venting here. One of the reasons I like having a blog.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

You're not going to see these condom commercials on US television. Mostly worksafe, but you'll laugh like a loon and have to go change pants.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why I love my friends

I saw Bob, a professor at UF, at lunch today. He said he'd been sitting with a colleague at the student union building last week and they thought they saw my son walk by.

"Isn't that __________?" the colleague said, "I hear his mom writes porn."

"Thank goodness word is finally getting out!" I said.

"Don't worry, I stood up for you," Bob said. "I told him, 'Why yes, as a matter of fact, she does write porn!'"

Monday, June 11, 2007

This morning, in addition to writing, so far, five pages, I have been listening to owl sounds courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History website. There's a particular species that lives out back of our house and its call can be raucous and loud, exactly the noise I wanted to freak my heroine out when she's forced to sleep outdoors.

It's the barred owl. The one they have on the tape is much lower volume than the one that sometimes perches in our yard, but its call is distinctive.

And today's writing is going well, thanks for asking.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Today's Library Talk

I thought it went well. The crowd was small, but the High Springs Branch library was friendly and welcoming. And it was, I swear, 100F outside according to my car's thermometer, so it was a good day to be inside talking about pirates.

I did my spiel on Florida pirates and the West Indies Anti-Piracy campaign of the 1820's, sold some books, discussed Pirates of the Caribbean 3 and debated whether Orlando Bloom pushed out Johnny Depp for biggest heartthrob in this one (did I mention the audience was all women?).

One of the neat things about today's talk, for me, was when I was reviewing my notes and my texts I ran across something I can use in the scene I'm writing tomorrow. So it's all good.

And if any of you are reading this within 100 miles of Gainesville, I am willing to take my show on the road to a library or bookstore in your community. I'll even bring my pirate flag and my chest of chocolate "booty".

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sunday, June 10, looks to be another hot, steamy Florida summer day with temps hovering around 93F. And bugs. Why not spend the afternoon in the comfort of the High Springs Library?

I'll be there at 2:30 p.m. speaking on Florida Piracy—Pirates Prefer Prowling the Peninsula.

I'll also have books available and will be signing. Come join us for a good time with pirates! And air conditioning!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I wrote 10 pages of new material on Monday. I know for some writers that's not a lot, but for me it was more than I can usually churn out. I only have to do that 40 times to get a 400 page manuscript. I'm hoping to go beyond that number today because I can finally see the light at the end of this WIP, and it's a good feeling. Over 70% done makes me feel like it's coming together.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I'll be speaking at the High Springs Public Library this Sunday, June 10, at 2:30 p.m. on Florida Piracy—Pirates Prefer Prowling the Peninsula.

Join us for a look at the men--and women--who roamed the waters around the state.

I'll also have my books available there, and it should be a lively afternoon.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I re-read Neil Gaiman's Stardust today. Seeing a new review and the trailer for the upcoming movie made me wonder if it was as good as I remembered.

*Sigh* It's even better.

And today was the perfect day for a re-read, since Tropical Storm Barry was dumping wonderful rain all over drought-stricken North Florida. At one point I was sitting in a recliner, a small dog in my lap, tea steaming on the table next to me, rain falling outside, and a great fantasy novel to enjoy again. One of those perfect lazy afternoons we don't enjoy often enough.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Gads, writing lovemaking scenes is exhausting! All that checking: "Did I have him take off his boots? How far away is the bed? Am I leaving in the scene where he sees her [THIS SECTION LEFT BLANK ON PURPOSE TO FOIL THE CENSORBOTS] so I can allude to it here? Write yourself a note! Have they eaten lunch yet? "

OK, that last one was just for continuity--I needed to jot a note to remind myself where they are in the course of the day so I don't lose track.


OK, back to the afterglow part...

Friday, May 25, 2007

I listen to music while writing, but it has to be very specific types of music--anything with lyrics and I can't concentrate. What I like best is movie instrumental soundtracks and I'm especially fond of the music of Hans Zimmer and Klaus Badelt. I also listen to internet radio and have some of my own "stations" at Pandora, but I was especially pleased to have a friend recommend Live365.

She recommended their Highlander Radio, which I'm very much enjoying, but then I found Movie Sounds/Epics. Perfect! Now I've got a whole range of writing music available to me. I've got my own library of my disks that I've ripped (I'll soon have all three Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks) and some variety from online services.

I love living in modern times.[g]

Monday, May 21, 2007

Why You Should Never Throw Anything Out

At least when you're writing. You never know when you might find a use for it later. Case in point: Back in February I was working on this intense scene that went on and on and on and I was getting great information out and writing well...and realized I was doing an info dump and inflicting my research on unsuspecting readers. So I took all that work and put it in a new file.

Today I was writing and realized some of that clipped stuff might fit where I was today. Not all of it, you'll be glad to hear--I do realize not everyone finds Florida's history as fascinating as I do--but enough to move me substantially along in the scene I was writing.

So when you're writing, either save your old pages or start a new file. Someday you might be glad you don't have to go back and do it all over again.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I should be writing (and will be, shortly, honest!) but it's "Be Nice to the Snake Day" so I moved Frisky the corn snake's terrarium from my son's room out into a more public area, cleaned it, put in a new climbing tree and a new liner.

I don't like snakes, but they don't freak me out either. Frisky's been with us a loooooong time. So long that he got a cameo part in Smuggler's Bride. Long enough that his owner, my son, went to college, graduated from college, got a job and an apartment and still has excuses why the darn snake can't come live with him.

Ah well. It's family. You can't just throw them out 'cause you don't like dealing with them (I'm referring to the snake, not the son).

Monday, May 14, 2007

I was sitting in a library foundation meeting last week where we learned the expansion project we asked the legislature to fund did not pass. Perhaps we should try this approach, used in Vienna's public library.

I'd be happy to volunteer to read some of the classics.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day to me! And you!

Thanks to Thing 1 and Thing 2 (the teacher and the philosopher). I couldn't have done it without you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Some books I've read and would recommend:

The Monk Downstairs--Tim Farrington--A sweet, thoughtful novel about a man who leaves a monastery after 20+ years and moves into a single mom's extra apartment. I liked it a lot, not just because of the story of the relationship, but because of the discussion of faith and forgiveness.

White Night--Jim Butcher--Harry Dresden is back, he's still kicking paranormal ass, and I laughed out loud at some of the noirish one liners. A series that's holding its own.

The Leopard Prince--Elizabeth Hoyt--Sure, there were some major logic problems, but I loved the dialog and the overall writing style. She's fast moving up to my autobuy list.

Burning Bright--Janine Ashbless--An erotic romance in the Black Lace line. It's a fantasy set in a milieu with overtones of India and the far East, and was quite well done. The erotic element blended well with the story, and I never felt like I was being bludgeoned with sex scenes interspersed with inadequate plot and dialog.

The Taste of Night--Vicki Pettersson--Pettersson is hot, hot, hot, and her Zodiac series delivers with superhero/supervillain action in a city made for people in tights and flashy costumes, Las Vegas.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I did a word count today on my WIP and was cheered to see that it's close to 64,000 words, which to my mind means it's about 64% done! Yay!

This book is taking far longer than it should, but I can see the end in sight now. I even know how it's going to end. It's getting from point A to point B that's the hard part.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Here's something most writers know intuitively, but bears repeating: Make friends with lots of people from lots of backgrounds. You never know when it will come in handy for your book.

For example, I needed to know how to drug a cat in the early 19th C. I'm not a cat person, so I have no first hand experience to draw on. However, a frequent guest at our home is a veterinary student who's also a cat owner. She got back to me right away with the information that a century ago about a milliliter of laudanum would be administered to sedate cats. You can also use small amounts of alcohol (Kids, don't try this at home! It's purely for research purposes).

I love it when research and writing come together so neatly.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The unconscious mind is an amazing thing. I've been sweating through a tough scene where I had a logistical problem--I had to allow the heroine to slip away to meet with someone without the hero knowing about it, but separating them without it looking contrived was getting difficult. Then today I was writing a scene, and all of a sudden a character says to the hero "I will meet with you at four p.m. tomorrow in my office."

Suddenly I had my opportunity for the heroine to slip away without the hero knowing it. Now, did I plan that? Did I sit down and say, "I know! I'll set up a meeting between the alcalde and Jack and Sophia can slip away."

No. The alcalde of St. Augustine was speaking, and originally he was going to ask for a flat out bribe for himself 'cause he covered Jack's butt in a sticky situation. But then, he suddenly says he expects Jack to pay to re-roof the schoolhouse. And Jack can come by the office to discuss the details. Now the entire scene has changed, the character of the alcalde shifts, and Sophia can get out and about to be up to no good.

Amazing. It must have been lurking in my brain all along. And the real lesson here, boys and girls, is sit down and write even when you don't think you can work out what you need to do. Sometimes the answer is waiting for you, but if you aren't writing, you won't get it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Darlene On the Air

I was on the air from 6-9 a.m. today at WUFT FM/WJUF FM, Classic 89 and Nature Coast 90, doing the last Morning Edition pledge drive. I figured we'd set a modest $3,500 goal--that's what we did the last time I was on. My co-host, Corporate Development Director Harvey Ward suggested $6,500.

"Go for it," I chuckled.

We finished three hours later at over $16,000. This, incidentally, is a new station record.

So why did we do so well? The stars were in alignment. It was the last pledge break during Morning Edition on NPR, and we always get some folks who wait until the last day. We had two experienced and lively co-hosts. The Gainesville Sun had a front page of Lifestyle article this morning on our HD radios, a special thank-you gift we're offering this drive. The HD radio is a gift at the $365 (Dollar a Day) level. During the first half hour we had a local business offer to match the first 10 pledges at $365 and we had phone volunteers who could handle the volume of calls with aplomb.

Finally, we offered two signed sets of Darlene Marshall novels at $125. We ended up getting calls for four sets, and I stepped up and said I'd be happy to bring them more books.

Harvey and I, experienced as we are, saw this wave building and focused on high end giving, hammering home the dollar a day message. It worked. We've found that excitement builds on excitement. People are more likely to phone in when they hear the phones ringing in the studio, 'cause they want to be part of something special. During our last break we had the General Manager running back and forth with new totals for us to read on the air.

Finally, we did it because our public radio stations have some of the most loyal and ardent members in the country. I'm not just saying that, the statistics bear it out.

So, well done, North Central Florida! From Suwannee down to Wildwood, you can be proud of yourselves for keeping a great public radio station able to program the music and news you want.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I was interviewed last night by a student working on her doctoral dissertation. We talked about romance writing and communities of romance readers and writers. It was interesting, and it made me think about how dependent I am as a writer on communication like this--reaching a world-wide audience I'd never have access to otherwise.

I also believe I never would have gotten serious about my writing if I hadn't been in online communities of writers, people who could give me quick responses and information from their vast pool of experience and knowledge.

And we agreed during the interview that "teh" is a silly word.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I read a lovely YA romance this weekend, Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt. It's a fantasy about a heroine who in the manner of Scheherazade staves off death by telling a tale of a young woman who gets lost in the woods and meets Lord Death. Death will spare her life if she finds her one true love within the span of a day. It's sweet and sad and romantic and very well written.

Some of the most enjoyable romance novels I've read this year have been YA books: The novels of Sharon Shinn; Twilight by Stephanie Meyer; and now, Keturah. I think too often books like this are shoved into the teen interest section of the bookstore or library, and a lot of adults don't realize how well written and entertaining these novels are.

Signing at Borders

I’m sitting in Borders, pushing Darlene Marshall novels, and so far, it’s going well. We’re one hour into my three hour gig. I’m pitching my books as great Mother’s Day gifts and super beach reading for the summer. Seems to be helping, since I just sold one copy of Captain Sinister's Lady personalized for the recipient mom, and another book to a lady who lives at the beach.

You can write books if you’re shy, but it’s a lot harder to sell books if you’re shy. I have no shame at all. I make eye contact and talk to people as they enter the store. It helps that Borders put me right up front at the front door. I get to see them as they come in, and I’ve spotted a few number of acquaintances. It’s harder to say no to someone you know, especially when she’s sitting right there in front of you.

At the same time, some people are really put off by eye contact. It’s like they go out of their way to make sure you don’t connect with them. I understand that, but I figure I wasn’t likely to make the sale with them anyway so I don’t worry about it.

(Later) OK, we're done now, and I sold through over half the stock. All things considered, it was time well spent and I signed the remaining books so the staff can sticker them "signed by author". Even better, my books now show up as "available and in stock" at my local Borders. People could order at, through its Amazon affiliation, but it's nice to be in the bricks & mortar location.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Roman Holiday" was on the tube tonight. Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck. *Sigh* They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Does anyone know why my phone rang at 6:13 this a.m. with a pre-recorded message from Fabio about "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter"?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A plot against chocolate!

There is apparently a move afoot to pressure the FDA to change the standard for "pure chocolate" to allow all kinds of crap substituting for real milk and real cocoa butter. This is an issue at many levels, not just for chocolate lovers, but for people concerned about food allergies and religious dietary laws.

There's a petition, sponsored by a chocolate company, you can email to the FDA opposing these changes. Go here for information.

Is nothing sacred?! They'll get my dark bittersweet when they pry it from my cold, dead, sticky fingers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Book Signing Sunday

Still looking for that perfect Mother's Day gift? Come by Borders Books at 6837 Newberry Road (SR 26) in Gainesville, Florida on Sunday, April 22. I'll be signing my books there from 1-4 p.m.
Surprise mom with something she never expected, a hot pirate romance! And they're the perfect beach reading for all your summer get-aways.

Borders is located just off I-75 at Newberry Road. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Greetings from St. Augustine
I'm sitting outside at Cafe Cordova, having just finished a day of research and sightseeing in St. Augustine. Let's hear it for free wi-fi!

The morning started with one of my favorite perks of being a writer, putting the top down on the convertible to travel to exotic locales. I drove the winding two lane (most of the way) route from Gainesville to St. Augustine, passing through fields of phlox and towns long gone, and a few like Melrose in the midst of revitalization. Spuds (Yes, they grow potatoes there), Hastings, Florahome and Putnam Hall. I saw Cracker homesteads where Julia and Rand from Smuggler's Bride would have felt right at home. There were pecan groves and roadside stands selling fresh produce and flats of luscious strawberries. I drove beneath live oaks dripping Spanish moss as they arched over the old route to the Ancient City, and enjoyed every minute of it.

When I got to St. Augustine I parked near the old city and stopped for lunch at a Cuban cafe where I had black beans and rice and for dessert, tres leches and black as Hades Cuban coffee. Well fortified, I went to the Historical Society and did some research on old Minorcan costumes and maps from 1817. Then I toured Father O'Reilly House, part of the Convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph and one of the older homes in St. Augustine. This was a new tour for me, and while I knew some of the history of the nuns and their work teaching black children during Reconstruction and after, I learned more about the history of the order, about Father O'Reilly and Father Varela, two early priests in the diocese in the 18th and 19th C. I passed on the opportunity to buy holy cards, but did leave a small donation.

I spent my honeymoon in St. Augustine over 30 years ago and I have to say it's improved in the interim. More history, less emphasis on tacky tourist sites. I walked the old streets, Aviles, St. George, Marine and took time to read all the plaques on the walls. I confirmed that the Plaza was the site of the slave market, and important point in my WIP. Sure, I could have called the historical society to find out, but what's the fun in that?

So now I'm winding up and driving the 70 miles home, having spent a productive work day that nonetheless felt like a mini-vacation. I hope your workday has been equally productive, even if it's likely it wasn't as much fun.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

What is it about re-reading Georgette Heyer that is so very satisfying? At least 3-4 times a year I'll pull one of her classics off my keeper shelf and fall back into the dialogue, the description, the characterization that she did so well.

This week it was Regency Buck. One might almost call this the ur-Regency. Even more than Jane Austen, much of what we as modern romance readers and writers consider the quintessential elements of a good Regency are found in this novel. There's the worldly hero who's a top-of-the-trees Corinthian whom all the young bucks aspire to be like. There's the heroine who while lacking in actual experience of the world isn't lacking in sense and can go toe to toe with the hero. There's references to Prinny, the war, fashion, curricles, Wellington,Almacks, the Season, The Beau, patronesses and all the usual trappings of the Regency world. There's even a good mystery.

*Sigh* I almost envy those people who haven't yet read Georgette Heyer for the first time. You could do a lot worse than to start with this novel.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Just a quick note to say I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. Both boys are home for the holidays, and between what seems like non-stop cooking I am getting some work done on the book. More on this later.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

DA da da da da, GO GATORS!


If you're a Gator, it needs no explanation. And if you're not a Gator, well, I feel your pain.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


Haven't gotten a lot of writing done this week 'cause I've been in the midst of spring cleaning. Thank goodness spring only comes once a year and after a week or so I'm over this madness!

I did stop by Goerings Books, my favorite independent bookstore, to pick up a copy of Six Frigates--The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy by Ian W.Toll that they'd been holding for me. I'd read a review of the book in the NYT, got it from the library, and liked it so much I knew it would be a valuable addition to my home research library.

I've also been reading Julian Stockwin's "Kydd" novels, about a RN seaman during the Napoleonic wars. I'm enjoying it very much, and part of what I like best about it is the view from the bottom of the ship--the war through the eyes of an able seaman, not a Hornblower or Aubrey.

And since Pinner's shoes was right next to Goerings I had to stop in to say "hi" to the guys, and it wasn't their fault that I left with an absolutely adorable pair of red patent leather open toe flats.

Just another case of spring fever.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Saturday was "Open Mic Night" and having had three glasses of wine and two single malts (which is about two glasses of wine and two scotches more than I need), I read a passage from Pirate's Price to titillate the crowd and generate interest in my April 22 signing.

It seemed to be well received, and my DH and designated driver told me afterwards I wasn't slurring my words, so I'm guessing all was OK.

Today I woke up to a nice piece in the books section of the newspaper about my winning the Eppie Awards. My only regret is that they kept mentioning my Evil Twin Skippy--rather, my alter ego, the one whose name isn't on the front cover of all my books.

Ah well, everything that gets word out is good, so I can't complain.

Friday, March 23, 2007

We Are Not Amused!

Yofi begs to differ, and says what I need is a big dog in a small package.

Your Ideal Pet is a Big Dog

You're both energetic, affectionate, and a bit goofy.
And neither of you seem to mind very slobbery kisses!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

It's been a busy week, and a productive one. Some writing, but not enough--never enough, but I got past a fight at sea scene that's been dragging me down. I've got enough done now to work with, and I have to keep reminding myself not to lose focus--I'm writing a historical romance, not trying to channel the spirit of C.S. Forester.

In the shameless self promotion corner, I have this news to share: I'm scheduled to do a signing at Borders Books on Newberry Road in Gainesville, on Sunday, April 22 from 1-4 p.m. This Borders is right off I-75 next to the Oaks Mall, so if you're in the North Florida area I hope you'll have a chance to drop by. My alter ego is also doing the Spring Membership campaign at WUFT FM/WJUF FM Classic 89/Nature Coast 90 on Friday, April 20 and Friday, April 27 during Morning Edition (6-9 a.m.). I may even read a snippet of some of my work on-air, so I hope you'll tune in.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I did get some writing done today, and I'm in the middle of a scene where my privateer is chasing down a slaver that just unloaded its human cargo and is now full of gold and silver. Good stuff. But I took a break and looked at all the stuff I'd cleared out of my pantry for Spring Cleaning last night and decided to experiment with a batch of Cleaning the Pantry Cookies.

I had the dregs of a box of 7-grain organic hot cereal, knowing I wasn't going to eat any more of it this year. And I had a half a bag of orange flavored dried cranberries. And some drinkable yogurt (kefir) from the farmers' market.

I intended to make a healthy scone, but ended up with reasonably tasty cookies. Here's what I did:

Preheat oven to 400F

Mix together in large bowl:

1 1/2 cups multi-grain hot cereal (think mushlike cereal)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cinnamon or nutmeg, if you like

In a separate bowl, mix together:
1 cup liquid yogurt or buttermilk
3 1/2 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 large egg
1/2 to 1 cup currants or raisins or dried cranberries

Pour all the liquid at once into the dry ingredients. Mix just until moist. Drop by large spoonfuls onto lightly greased cookie sheets. These cookies spread out rather dramatically.

Bake for 15 minutes on the top rack, or in a convection oven. Cool on a rack. Enjoy!

And now, back to Lucky Jack, Sophia and their privateering in the Caribbean.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Rule of Three

People ask me "Where do you get your ideas?" and my usual answer is, "In the shower. Or while I'm walking the dog."

There's something about relatively brainless activity that frees up the portion of your brain that's buried under the focus of whatever task you're doing at the moment. Other writers tell me this is true for them as well.

So today I was walking Yofi and thinking about The Rule of Three. This is a writing tip I picked up from Diana Gabaldon, based on her experience penning Scrooge McDuck comics: If you want to set something up for a joke, or a memorable scene, do it three times. For example, in Smuggler's Bride I have the line "Don't insult my mama" twice, and on the third time it's part of a pivotal scene that, I believe, makes that scene more memorable.

In my WIP, tentatively titled A Pirate's Treasure, there's something about the hero's eyepatch. At this point, I've already mentioned it more than three times. I'm trying to decide now if I want to pare back those references, or leave them in and expand that running plot device. At the moment, I'm in the middle of what may turn out to be a sex scene, and the issue of the hero's eyepatch may play a role in the outcome of the scene.

Yes, no kink is too weird for me!

So we'll see. Or not, depending on whether you wear an eyepatch.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Booksigning weirdness

I was walking the dog this morning and in between scooping poop, I thought back to the Barnes and Noble booksigning last week.

Let me just state for the record there's no link here between dog poop and booksignings, it was just one of those moments.

Anyway, at the booksigning there was a lady at my table who was leafing through my books, and said she's the kind of reader who always reads the last page before buying a book. I nearly leaped over the table to snatch the copy of Smuggler's Bride out of her hands.

"I have a surprise at the end of the book," I said. "If you read the last page, you'll know what the surprise is and it won't be as...surprising."

She said she didn't care about that, she still wanted to read the last page. At this point I was inching my books back over to my side of the table.

"But writers put a lot of effort into making plot twists work so that you, the reader, will get the maximum enjoyment from the book. If you read the last page, you won't enjoy it as much!"

She was beginning to look at me like I was crazy. Maybe it was the slight edge to my voice--it had been a long, tiring day with airplane insanity--but I finally browbeat her into buying my book without looking at the last page. For all I know she snuck a peek on her way to the cash register. She did bring it back to be signed, so I couldn't have been too scary, but honestly! There's a Big Secret in Smuggler's Bride and that's part of the fun of the story. Why ruin it?

Other authors told me afterwards I was too harsh. Maybe. But I'd like to think my passionate defense of the denouement helped make the sale.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Two Winners at Epicon

See that graphic in the sidebar? I got it tonight at Epicon. Twice. Captain Sinister's Lady and Pirate's Price were both nominated for best historical romance. Both won in a tie.

I now have two lovely awards I can use as matching bookends, and the satisfaction of having my books recognized by the Electronically Published Internet Connection as being the best in e-books in historical romance. I'm grateful to the Eppie judges and to all my readers who made this possible. Thanks, everybody!

Friday, March 09, 2007


I got to the Surfside Inn at Virginia Beach in time to dump the stuff from my small roller bag, transfer my books and gear to it, and get on the bus for the book signing at the Barnes and Noble.

That went well. We were there with Sherrilyn Kenyon, best-selling romance author, and she packed the house. We all benefited from the overflow of fans milling around. I signed and sold books, including ones to a couple of booksellers which is one of the best ways to get your work out and about.

The hotel is...affordable. But it faces the ocean, and while I am a Floridian and get to see this view a lot, I never tire of sunrise over the Atlantic. There wasn't a coffee set up in the room (in their defense, they offer 24 hr coffee in the lobby), but I like to take off my clothes at the end of the day and make a nice cup of tea. We all have our kinks. There is a microwave, but the only cups are the flimsy plastic wrapped "We charge for rooms by the hour" variety. This morning when I went to breakfast I noticed they had ceramic mugs. I threw myself on the mercy of the restaurant manager who was reluctant, but finally parted with a mug. Now I can have my cuppa tea.

I never thought I'd have to travel with my own mug, but you live and learn. And I promised to return the mug on Sunday when I check out.

More on the convention as it develops...