Thursday, August 25, 2011

When they were all assembled, he looked out over the assortment of Yankee privateers and their British doctor and said, “Men, I have news from home.”

He waited for the murmurs to die down.

“I received correspondence on St. Martin that I wish to share with you. Last August, while we were at sea fighting for the rights of sailors and free Americans, the British burned our nation’s capitol, Washington City.”

Now the mutters from the men were angry as they shifted their feet and looked at one another. The Americans had burned York in Canada, and Great Britain might be justified in saying it’s tit for tat to burn the Americans’ capitol, but Charley just scratched her ear and wisely refrained from pointing that out.

Today is the anniversary of the burning of Washington, DC and the White House in 1814.  But I don't think we can blame the Brits for the earthquake.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Nearly 4,000 SF fans and pros from around the world gathered in Reno, Nevada this week for Renovation, the 69th World Science Fiction convention. 

It was a blast.  I had five days of hanging out with some of the best writers and most amazing fans in the world.  I worked in Program Operations at the con, and enjoyed that as well.  Much of our work was dealing with crises involving program items--panelists who don't show up, communications breakdowns regarding room set-ups--and I again appreciated just how many volunteer hours go into making a Worldcon happen. 

I was also on the program at Worldcon.  My first panel was on Thursday afternoon: "Tall Tales vs. History in Pirate Research".  What a great discussion! The room was full of fans and my fellow panelists were Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides), Carrie Vaughn of "Kitty the werewolf" fame, A.C. Crispin, who wrote Jack Sparrow's backstory for Disney, and John G. Hemry, who writes "The Lost Fleet" military sf.  We could easily have gone longer discussing all the books and characters we'd researched for our own work.

The evening was when parties really kick-off.  There were bid parties for future Worldcons, thank-you parties by past Worldcons, private parties, weird parties and special interest group parties.  Despite all that I was in decent shape for Friday's programming, my busiest day.  As long as I remembered to drink water fairly constantly, I managed to avoid problem.  It did feel though that the moisture was being sucked out of my Florida body every time I stepped into the arid desert heights of Reno.

Friday started with "The Continuing Popularity of Jane Austen".  I was the moderator and my fellow panelists were Brenda W. Clough, Martha Wells, Ellen Asher and Madeleine E. Robbins.  All of us shared a love of Austen and discussed how her work affected us as readers, editors and authors, and how her themes are still used today in works like "Bride and Prejudice" and "Clueless".  I also learned about Raptor Red , which I haven't read, but I'm told it's Pride and Prejudice as told by velociraptors.  Seriously.  It is truly amazing what information you can pick up at Worldcon panels.

Friday afternoon I moderated "Elements of Romance in Speculative Fiction".  That panel featured Sharon Shinn, Louise Marley, Christina York and Lois McMaster Bujold.  I have to credit the Renovation Program staff with putting together panels that contained some of the best mixes of panelists I've ever seen, and I've been on Worldcon panels for over 10 years.  This was another well attended session, with discussions that could easily have gone on another hour.  Each of the panelists contributed to a discussion that was like a layer cake--we could all bring a different ingredient and keep it delicious.

I would have loved to stay and chat more with people afterward, but I had to dash over to the Children's Programming for "Pirates for Kids" with Carrie Vaughn and Tim Powers. James Bacon should get an award for putting together the childrens program schedule.  It was so awesome we had adults coming into Program Ops and asking how they could get in to see panels on topics like "What Happens When Blood Flies?" by a spatter expert.

But it was kids only, as it should be in their special area.  We weren't sure what we would find but thought we'd be talking to young readers, and were prepared to discuss our favorite pirate books.  What we found instead was a mostly younger pre-literate crowd, so we rose to the occasion and talked about why pirates have parrots, what pirates eat (weevily bread was a huge hit), Muppet Treasure Island and similar topics.  We tried to keep it simple, and no one burst out in tears (I was most worried about the panelists), so it was all good.

My final program item was Sunday, "Fashion Design for Memorable Pirates".  Karen Dick, a costumer, and A.C. Crispin were sharing the dais with me for that.  I learned quite a bit from Karen about what goes into making a costume, an area unfamiliar to me.  We talked about pirates in the Western canon, and also Asian and Indian pirates in case people were looking for variety.  Anne Crispin had to research pirate wardrobes for her Jack Sparrow book, and of course, fashion and clothing research is a huge part of my writing historical romances.

In between panels I joined friends for some fabulous suppers, went to a few other panels, mostly worked in Program Ops, and made time to check out the dealers' room and the art show.  It was an exhausting five days, and I'm looking forward to being in Chicago next year for Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Am I the last romance reader in the world who's bothered by constant head-hopping?  I'm reading a novel now by a popular paranormal author (no, I'm not going to name her) and the abrupt POV shifts back-and-forth within a single page are giving me a headache!  I'm willing to tolerate it from Nora Roberts when I read one of her books because she's Nora freakin' Roberts and she's that good, but the rest of you?  Not that good. Yet.

Dorothy Dunnett's six book Lymond Chronicles are told from everyone's POV except the hero.   We're only in his head for one sentence.  And yet I defy anyone to read and enjoy those books without coming away feeling like you know the hero.

It takes effort to stay within a single POV for a scene, especially in a romance because you have two protagonists.  I've written scenes where I switched POV midway through because I thought it was necessary for the story, and I've written scenes where I deliberately went back and made myself write it all in a single POV.

New writers should hone their craft and work at not head-hopping, and editors should raise the standards.  Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I'm sometimes asked about the "proper order" for reading my novels.  I write all of them to be read as stand-alone books, but some of them are linked, so I'll post a little reading guide here:

Read The Bride and the Buccaneer before Captain Sinister's Lady.  A younger Morgan Roberts, aka "Captain Sinister" is a secondary character in Bride.

Pirate's Price is set a generation before Smuggler's Bride.  The heroine of Smuggler's Bride is the daughter of the H&H of Pirate's Price, and characters from that novel make appearances in Smuggler.

Right now Sea Change is fully a stand-alone novel, but I have an unpublished novel that features a secondary character from Sea Change as the hero. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

My Renovation (Worldcon 2011) Schedule #renosf 

Here's my final schedule for the 69th Worldcon,  Renovation, August 17-21 in Reno, Nevada.   If you're trying to decide whether or not to go, they also sell memberships at the door.

Where there's an (M) next to my name, I'm moderating that panel.  If you're coming to the "Pirates for Kids" panel on Friday at 5 p.m., have pity--I'm going to have to sprint to make it there on time.[g]

Thu 16:00 - 17:00, Arrrggh! Tall Tales versus History in Pirate Research
Pirate fiction is a popular sub-genre. While grounded in history, research about pirates can be tricky. Records are erratic and often exaggerated. What are some of the more reliable resources? And what about when the truth about pirates is stranger than its fiction?
Carrie Vaughn (M), Darlene Marshall, Tim Powers, John G. Hemry, A. C. Crispin

Fri 11:00 - 12:00, The Continuing Popularity of Jane Austen
Jane Austen remains very popular, including among SF fans. Her books continue to be read, and they've spawned numerous movies as well as a number of spin off novels. The panel discusses Austen's continuing popularity.
Darlene Marshall (M), Brenda W. Clough, Ellen Asher, Madeleine E. Robins, Martha Wells

Fri 16:00 - 17:00, Elements of Romance in Speculative Fiction
Romantic stories focus on relationships and romantic love. Speculative fiction is often considered a
genre of ideas. What is the role of the romantic element in this genre of ideas? How does speculative fiction bring a fresh perspective to stories about emotion and relationships?
Darlene Marshall(M), Christina York, Lois McMaster Bujold, Sharon Shinn, Louise Marley

Fri 17:00 - 18:00, Pirates for Kids
Carrie Vaughn, Darlene Marshall, Tim Powers

Sun 12:00 - 13:00, Fashion Design for Memorable Pirates
One of the things that makes Jack Sparrow a particularly memorable pirate was his fashion sense. What are the essential elements of a good pirate costume? How to think beyond ruffled shirts and tri-corner hats.
Darlene Marshall(M), Karen Dick, Espana Sheriff, A. C. Crispin

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Watched the 2011 "Jane Eyre" movie tonight.  I knew how it ended--I'd read the book.  I still believe the BBC production with Timothy Dalton is the gold standard of Edward Rochesters (and I'd seen Orson Welles and George C. Scott do it), but Michael Fassbender wasn't bad.

And I confess, I have a soft spot for Sinjin Rivers.  I always hoped his ship to India would get overrun by pirates led by a hot lady pirate who would take him prisoner and show him a good time.  He needed it, poor lad.

Friday, August 05, 2011

I had to cancel my book signing at Books Plus in Fernandina Beach this Sunday due to a family obligation.  I'll post a notice when it's rescheduled, and I apologize if this inconveniences anyone.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Watched "A Tale of Two Cities" (1935) on TCM tonight.  I knew how it ended--I read the book.  So many great performances in this film--Ronald Colman as Sidney Carton defined the tragic romantic hero.  And I'd nearly forgotten Blanche Yurka's outstanding performance as Madame Dufarge.

Leonard Malkin gives it four out of four stars, and I have to agree.  To say they don't make them like they used to is cliched, but there is validity to it.

By the way, SF fans, Fritz Leiber is one of the actors in this classic.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


Writing is going well this morning, the kind of morning where I feel like I made the right career choice after all.  Since it's been a while, here's a snippet from my WIP.  You're going to see it warts and all, and it shows part of my writing process. When I don't like a word or have doubts, I put it in brackets and move on.

It 1817 pirate Robert St. Armand is sailing from the Caribbean to England.  Aboard the Prodigal Son is his young daughter Mathilde, age 8 or so.  Robert realizes he needs some quality childcare, and happens to know Mathilde's former governess is aboard another vessel in these waters.

[Working Title) The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby

“I am contemplating murder at this moment, Captain St. Armand. Leave me alone to continue to St. Thomas!”

“That I cannot do, and I am done discussing this.”

She gasped as he hoisted her in his arms.

“I suggest you cease struggling and put your arms around my neck, Miss Burke, unless you fancy crashing to the deck or falling into the ocean.

She did as he instructed and he grabbed the line tossed to him by one of his men, then easily swung over to his ship. Now, there was a move calibrated to impress starched-up spinsters! Whether from fear or simply overcome at being in his arms—he had to assume the latter was the case—she clung to him for dear life. Even over the smell of the fishing boat Robert registered that the bundle of womanhood in his arms smelled clean. Like soap, not like the heavily scented whores and ladies he was used to having in his arms.

Clean was pleasant. Showed she wouldn’t instill slovenly habits in his daughter. He set Miss Burke on her feet where she wobbled for a moment and put her hand up to her scalp. Some of her pins had come loose and so had her hair, now flying about in the breeze.

Robert eased the pins into his coat pocket.

“Avast, ye scurvy dog! Strike your colors or I’ll…I’ll…what will I do, Mr. Turnbull?”

“Say, ‘I’ll scupper your ship and use your guts for garters, ye lily-livered—oh. Captain, sir!” Turnbull knuckled his forehead and said, “Um, I have to be off now, Mattie,” before scurrying below.

Mattie looked up then and spotted the governess. She ran over and Arabella Burke squatted down on the deck to open her arms to Mattie’s embrace.

“Miss Burke! Miss Burke! I am so happy to see you again!”

“I am happy to see you too, Mathilde. I missed you very much,” she said fiercely, hugging the child to her chest. Mattie drew back her head and looked at her.

“I am not Mathilde any more, Miss Burke. Now I’m Marauding Mattie, the terror of the West Indies!”

“Are you indeed, miss?” She said in a voice that might have left icicles on the rigging as she looked up at Marauding Mattie’s father, who devoutly wished he was somewhere else at the moment.

The governess stood, still holding Mathilde. If she were a dragon she’d be breathing flame protecting the child. Rather than make Robert angry, he found it gratifying she would champion the child’s welfare. Mathilde needed someone to watch her back because while there were few things in the world he was certain of, he knew most pirates did not die of old age in bed. At least, not their own beds.

“Mathilde, you know I said you needed a governess.”

“Papa did say that, Miss Burke. He said he would keelhaul me if I disobeyed his commands.”

“Wha—no, I did not say that!” He glanced around the deck for rescue. “Mr. Fuller! Is the cabin ready for Miss Burke?”

“Aye, Captain, and we’re almost done here.”

“Very good. Prepare to get underweigh. Miss Burke, may I escort you to the cabin you’ll be sharing with Mattie?”

Miss Burke set Mattie back on her feet and brushed down her garment before clasping her hands at her waist and taking a deep breath.

“I can see I will accomplish nothing by discussing my--” she looked down at the child who was watching her, “My situation, but we will talk this evening.”

“I am certain any evening spent in your company can be nothing but delightful, Miss Burke.”

[NOT QUITE RIGHT “I can say with equal certainty that you will be proven wrong, Captain St. Armand.”]

Robert kept his smile fixed on his face. Miss Burke thought she had the weather gage, but the day was not yet over. He did need a governess, but he was not about to stand down on his own ship. She was a servant, kidnapped to care for Mathilde. He was the captain and enjoyed all the privileges of that position. He flung open the door to Fuller’s cabin, then stopped still.

“My goodness,” Miss Burke said as she peered around his back. “This was not what I expected.”

Someone had raided the captain’s cabin while he was out, and carried off the booty. There were two bunks, narrow, but awash in embroidered and jewel-toned silk pillows of crimson, amber, sapphire, turquoise and emerald. A fine rug on the deck promised comfort to bare feet padding about during the night. He knew from experience how cozy, deep and luxurious the silken pile of that item felt, a gift from a grateful Turkish pasha.

The raiders had not carried off his deep mattress or the mirror fastened to the wall, or the rose satin coverlet, but it was a near thing. They had taken the ivory-inlaid chest, the brass lantern from Morocco, his dresser set in silver and for all he knew, his chamberpot with the King of Spain’s portrait on the bottom, a special gift from the Mexican rebels.

The cabin was cramped for two people, even if one was a little girl, but it looked much more inviting than when Mr. Fuller had occupied it. Miss Burke walked into it in a daze, looked around, and then turned and did the strangest thing. She smiled at him.

Robert blinked. He knew his smiles were devastating, but that was to be expected, given his charm, amazing good looks, fashion sense, savoir faire, and his practice sessions before his looking glass, but to find such [beauty] behind Miss Burke’s drab exterior…

“Most unexpected indeed,” he murmured.

“You told me the accommodations aboard your vessel would be finer, but really, Captain St. Armand, I never would have imagined this!”

She reached onto the bunk and picked up—dammit, those scrubs had taken his fur pillow!—his favorite pillow and caressed it with her slim hand. A ripple of pleasure crossed her face, quickly suppressed. It appeared the governess had a touch of the sensualist within her and he filed the information away in his mind, one more weapon he might use to his advantage.

He crossed his arms over his chest, one of his favorite poses.

“This is satisfactory then? You will be sharing the cabin with Mattie.”

“Mattie the Marauder?” she asked dryly. “Yes, I think the littlest pirate and I can be quite comfortable here.”

She looked about to say something else, but he forestalled her with a raised hand.

“I recognize that look. Before you ring a peal over my head, I’ll leave and spare myself. I really do not care to hear it. The men will bring you your gear. Get what you need for now, and the rest will be put in the hold to give you more room here. Supper is at [bells] and you and Mattie will join me, Miss Burke.”

“Is that an order?”

“When I say you will do something, you may take it as an order. It is safer that way.

He favored her with another smile, the one that sent his men scurrying for the relative safety of the rigging, but she just sniffed in a governessy fashion and said, “Send Mattie to me, Captain, and we will organize our cabin and discuss our schedule.”


Monday, August 01, 2011


Ahoy, Florida First Coast!  I'll be signing books at Books Plus in delightful, historic downtown Fernandina Beach on Sunday, August 7 from 1-5 p.m.  The bookstore is a cozy spot with coffee, wi-fi, gifts, and a children's corner for the littlest book fans.  Of course, any day at the beach is wonderful, and you can explore this special area once known for being a haven to pirates and smugglers.

The Bride and the Buccaneer is partly set in Fernandina, so I'm really looking forward to returning to the town.  Be sure to drop by and get a signed copy of one of my books for your summer beach reading.