Thursday, December 27, 2012

Update on the Work In Progress (WIP)

I'm not spending the entire time at year's end uploading pictures of cats and dachshunds to my Facebook page, I'm also writing, though slowly. I'm making progress on [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby aka The Pirate's Governess. I'm about about 73,000 words along, with a goal of 100,000 words. It helps that I have a "nanny program" on my computer that throws me off the internet for an hour or two. I was much more productive when I didn't have constant access to email, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. It's too easy to get stymied while writing, tell myself I'll check my email and get back to it, and then another hour goes by while I look at stupid internet memes.

So there will be a book in 2013, and it'll have a hot pirate, and if you want a clue as to who the pirate is, read Castaway Dreams. Even if you don't want a clue, read Castaway Dreams, and thanks for your support.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Review--The Emperor's Conspiracy

The Emperor's ConspiracyThe Emperor's Conspiracy by Michelle Diener
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting Regency story with engaging characters. I can see where the author might be planning sequels, and there's room for more mysteries in the future featuring secondary characters and the return of the primary characters.

The only reason I didn't shelve this on the "Romance" shelf is because the ending doesn't ensure a HEA, but there's certainly that possibility.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Review--Dark Currents

Dark Currents (Agent of Hel, #1)Dark Currents by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought I was over any love for urban fantasy, but this novel brought me back. Carey's story set in a small town on Lake Michigan is reminiscent of the Sookie Stackhouse books, but incorporates a new pantheon of mythological beings, a nice change from the usual suspects.

A few of the lines made me laugh out loud, and I love that the vampires' hangout is nicknamed "Twilight Manor".

I'm looking forward to more of Daisy's adventures as agent of the Norse goddess Hel, and there were enough good-looking guys introduced in this book to ensure her future will be interesting for her and for paranormal romance readers.

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He popped it into his mouth and swallowed. “You sure do have a way with squirrels, darlin’. That was mighty tasty."
--Smuggler's Bride

See those lovely flowers up top? They're from my patio garden in January a few years back. As usual this year, I couldn't wait until the weather cooled off so I could fill my North Florida patio with colorful dianthus, pansies, violas and snapdragons. I spent a Sunday afternoon lovingly filling my containers, making sure they all had enough sunshine and water, and I spent a few days admiring them from my porch as I'd eat lunch.

Then one afternoon I took my lunch outside, as usual, and noticed something was off. My garden looked bare. Oh sure, the rose bushes were still there, and the gardenia bushes were nice and full, but there wasn't any color anymore. When I went out to investigate, all my flowers had been chewed down to the soil. I know it's not deer--our yard is fenced. I know it's not birds, the flower plants were neatly sheared off, as if little teeth had ravaged them.

It's been a long time since I worked off my aggression toward furry rodents by writing about them ending up as stew, but it may be time for another Cracker novel, just to get it out of my system.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review--The Duchess War

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1)The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*Sigh* I couldn't put it down. My laundry's piling up, the dishwasher's not filled, the dog's hopping up and down with her little legs crossed--everything came to a screeching halt once I started reading The Duchess War. The characters are so well fleshed out, the story is so rich, the dialogue so spectacular, it's going to be hard to wait for the next "Brothers Sinister" novel. Well played (again), Ms. Milan.

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Monday, December 03, 2012

Special guest: Characters from Previous Novels

A question for readers: Do you like it when characters from previous novels have cameos in the next book? I was deep into writing [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby when all of a sudden Daphne and Alexander were across the street. Here's the very raw output from this morning's session, uncorrected. You'll see it's somewhat disjointed and has notes in it--that's how it looks before I get to the third or fourth re-write.

SPOILER ALERT! If you haven't yet read Castaway Dreams, you may wish to avert your eyes.


            They were nearly to their lodgings when a light voice rang out, “Look, it’s Captain St. Armand! Yoo-hoo, Captain!”
            Lydia looked up and spied a lady across the street from them with a scowling gentleman tugging at her arm. She ignored him and continued waving.
            It was impossible to ignore her. The lady was dressed in pink, from head to toe, sporting a Leghorn bonnet of blush colored satin trimmed with black feathers. Having just spent the morning poring over Mrs. Culver’s designs, Lydia knew the lady was dressed in the first state of fashion.
            “This is…unexpected,” St. Armand muttered, and he seemed unsure for a moment whether he should return the greeting.
            The lady decided for him by pulling her escort across the street behind her.
            “Captain St. Armand! I thought it was you, even though you have your shirt on, I said to Alexander, ‘Look, it’s Captain St. Armand!’.” She leaned in and with wide cornflower-blue eyes[awkward] added, “Then he said something rude about you that I shall not repeat.”
            Before either gentleman could respond to this, the lady, whom Lydia could now see was ridiculously lovely, turned to Lydia and said, “Did Captain St. Armand kidnap you? He really needs to stop doing that.”
“Look, Pompom had puppies! Well, Pompom didn’t have puppies, he’s a boy so that would be impossible, but his wife Coquette had puppies so now Pompom’s a papa. And is this your little girl? She looks just like you, Captain. Is she a pirate too?”
            She paused to take more breath to continue speaking, but the scowling gentleman said frostily, “Daphne, I am certain St. Armand and his guests are on their way somewhere and we are keeping them.”
            Lydia hoped someone would step up and explain what was happening, but Mattie had heard the lady ask if she was a pirate and practically glowed with excitement.
            “I am Mathilde St. Armand, but the other pirates call me Marauding Mattie!”
            The lady—who Lydia figured out was named Daphne--clapped her hands in delight.
            “You have a pirate name! How wonderful!” She smiled at Lydia and said, “Are you a pirate also Miss--?”
            St. Armand sighed and said, “I suppose I must do introductions.”
            “It’s really not necessary,” the gruff man said with a barely discernible Scottish accent, but St. Armand said, “Miss Burke, I would like to introduce you to Miss Daphne Farnham and Mr. Alexander Murray. Miss Farnham, Murray, my daughter, Mathilde St. Armand and her governess, Miss Lydia Burke.”
            Mattie dropped a curtsy that did her governess proud, and the smiling pink lady said, “Oh, but Captain St. Armand, I am Mrs. Murray now. I have an idea, dine with us this evening and we will get to know each other better. Marauding Mattie can come also—we will be informal, and she can meet Pompom and Coquette and the puppies.”
            “Puppies! Papa they have puppies! You said I could have a puppy, you promised!”
            Now St. Armand looked slightly panicked and looked ready to find an excuse to decline, but it was so clearly evident that Mr. Murray did not want his company at supper that Lydia knew he’d be unable to resist tweaking the solemn gentleman.
            “It would be our pleasure, Mrs. Murray.”

So, what do you think? Should I take Alexander and Daphne (and Pompom, of course) briefly back into the story?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Review--Still Life with Shape-Shifter

Still Life with Shapeshifter (Shifting Circle, #2)Still Life with Shapeshifter by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A lovely, bittersweet story about ordinary people with ordinary lives--they work at middle class jobs, they worry about paying their bills, they love their families. The difference in their lives is, some of them are shape-shifters.

There aren't any villains in this novel. No vampire councils, no wolf packs, just people like Melanie and Brody. Melanie's spent her life protecting her half-sister Ann, a shape-shifter who turns into a white husky. Brody's a free-lance writer (introduced in The Shape of Desire) working on a book about shifters, and he wants information from Melanie about Ann.

Melanie and Brody's relationship grows in a slow, thoughtful fashion that seems quite real, and as Melanie realizes Ann is changing in a way where Melanie won't be able to protect her anymore, Brody and her friends are there for her.

I thought I was burned out by paranormal books, but Shinn gives us something more with the characters, a depth and maturity missing from many other novels. They're reminiscent of Maggie Stiefvater's books and will be appreciated by readers who enjoyed her Shiver series.

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Saturday, December 01, 2012

Review--Hidden Paradise

Hidden ParadiseHidden Paradise by Janet Mullany
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun mash-up of erotica, contemporary romance and a classic Regency house party with much goings-on upstairs, downstairs, behind the hedges, in the servants' stairs, just about anywhere that won't frighten the horses.

Lou is a recently widowed college instructor and Jane Austen expert. When friends in England invite her to spend a break at their renovated Georgian mansion, she takes them up on the offer. Chris and Peter have turned the property into a completely restored resort where guests will dress, eat, dance and entertain themselves in Regency style.

There's a lot of good detail in here for Regency romance fans, and a budding love affair between Lou and the American journalist quickly nicknamed "Mr. Darcy". There's also one of the best three-ways ever, so sweetly and humorously handled that you wish you were there.

Hidden Paradise is a fun read and should appeal to Regency fans who don't mind a little hot sex in the mix.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Joy of Reading (and Teaching)

I participate in a program called Reading Pals where we tutor youngsters in reading. It's a Florida initiative funded by a couple who want to ensure that children are at their proper reading level by third grade, and volunteers give one hour a week working with a youngster identified as being at-risk.

The young lady who is my Reading Pal is a delightful child, and quite bright. Each session reminds me of how much I loved introducing my boys to books, and now I get to do it all over again. Yesterday we were reading about dogs and it was her turn to read the book to me. All was going swimmingly until we reached a  page on Guide Dogs.

"I can't read that," she said flatly, "that's a bad word."

I looked at the word in question and understood her dilemma.

"Try sounding it out. It's not what you think it is."

"Uh uh, I'm not reading that. It's a bad word and I'm not supposed to say it."

I really couldn't argue with her logic, not if I wanted to get through our hour session, so I said I'd read that sentence for her and explain the word, assistance.

The funny thing was, I can remember a similar situation from my youth when I was the same age she was, seven years old. There was an illustration in the book and I couldn't figure out what it was, so I asked my mother. She looked at it and said a word (I thought) that would have gotten my mouth washed out with soap, and I told her it was a very bad word.

The word was knickers (American usage) and after some confusion she clarified it for me.  I can still see the old fashioned primer I learned from, which had illustrations of boys from the early 20th c. wearing short pants that buttoned at the knee.

When I heard about Reading Pals I knew it was the perfect volunteer opportunity for me. What's your favorite volunteer activity?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


They ate in silence, and after a few minutes Daphne said, “This
fish tastes wonderful, Doctor. In fact, I do not recall fish ever
tasting this good.”
“Now I will wax philosophical, Miss Farnham. Your hard work
today gave you an appetite, and that is the finest seasoning. This
fish is very fresh, and the onions helped give it extra flavor. I
imagine you eat fish in London covered in preparations from some
French chef who feels compelled to demonstrate his skill and
imagination with the saucepan. Sometimes, though, simple is

--Castaway Dreams

I'm pausing in the midst of my Thanksgiving feast preparations to reflect on what truly makes me thankful: Having shelter and running water and electricity, knowing my sons in NYC weren't battered by Hurricane Sandy, having my husband sitting across from me at the Thanksgiving table, being joined by new friends on the holiday and finishing the weekend with old friends.

As we enter the season of "Buy! Buy! Buy!" I will remember that at the end of the day, most of what I've got  is just stuff.  It's stuff I like, it's stuff that's pretty, and it's stuff I want, but it's not as important as health, family and security.

Here's hoping everyone celebrating the holiday today remembers why we're thankful, and carries that thought through the year ahead.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Kids! Listen to your teachers! You do need this stuff later.

The WIP, [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby (though I think it'll end up titled The Pirate's Governess) is now at 66,000 words. Not far enough along, but it's getting there. Today I dashed off an email to the math teacher who assisted me with the notorious geometry scene in Castaway Dreams. It's been so long since I've dealt with eight-year-olds learning the basics of mathematics that I've forgotten in what order certain skills are taught. 

While I enjoy almost all the research I do for my novels, I must say that having my math skills refreshed has been an embarrassment and a positive experience. It's amazing what you forget when you don't use it, and having to re-examine the basics of arithmetic has done me a world of good.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Review--Captain Vorpatril's Alliance

Captain Vorpatril's AllianceCaptain Vorpatril's Alliance by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading Ivan's story, even though I half expected the book to be titled, "Ivan, You Idiot!" That's a good illustration of why newcomers to Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan books shouldn't come to this one cold--it's a reward for people who've watched Ivan's development since he first appeared in The Warrior's Apprentice.

Ivan's most definitely a beta hero, often being the straight man for his frenetic cousin Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. Here Ivan gets to be the hero of his own story, and because we're so often in his POV we understand him much better.

The love story between Ivan and Tej is also a beta story--two nice people who are surrounded by overachievers, and find what they want is a more restful relationship than Wuthering Heights style passion.

What kept me from giving it five stars is I enjoyed the first part of the book more than the second. A marriage of convenience trope can still work in the 23rd century, and it was vastly entertaining to see this unfold. The second part of the book with the adventure sequence wasn't as strong for me, but it did allow Ivan to shine.

Most of the usual suspects are here, though (thankfully) the Vorkosigan's are mostly offstage. It may be the last of the Vorkosigan novels, though I can imagine a next generation coming forward to have their own adventures.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day

It was that simple. Men who two days earlier would have run each other through or blown each other to pieces, now were up on deck toasting each other’s countries with carefully rationed grog.
--Sea Change

When the wars are over, and the veterans return home, they want to pick up the pieces of their lives or begin new ones building on the training and experience they received from their time in the armed forces.

Today's the day I say thank you to my brothers, my father, and all the veterans I know who've served, past and present. I want to give a shout-out also to those who serve now, especially Jessica Scott, career US Army officer, chief hamster wrangler, and a damn fine romance author. If you're not reading her novels, you're missing out.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day

“I am not sure I should have to always do what you tell me to do, or not to do, Dr. Murray. I know you are a natural philosopher and learned, but in America they let men vote equally, the stupid ones as well as the clever. Not that I am stupid, I am just not as learned as you are. While we are here on this island, just the two of us, we should be voting as equals, don't you think?”
He looked at her in astonishment, setting down the gourd.
“I am amazed, Miss Farnham, that a properly brought-up Englishwoman would take the riff-raff in America as her model for appropriate behavior. No, this is not a situation calling for some anarchic form of democracy. Your vote is not equal to mine."

--Castaway Dreams

Don't listen to Alexander! If you're one of those riff-raffish Americans, exercise your rights and vote today! Your vote counts as much as a natural philosopher's or a fashionable lady's vote. Be a part of the democratic process--it's your right and your obligation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review--The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A beautiful story, and a difficult one, of good people who sometimes make bad choices, and the consequences of their actions. It's not an easy read and pulls at the reader's emotions. The metaphor of the lighthouse illuminating the dark and offering safety at a cost of loneliness and isolation is well used, and the details are fittingly relevant.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review--Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas by David Mitchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked Cloud Atlas very much. The layering and intertwined tales left me awash with admiration for the author, and I'm sure this novel will be discussed for years to come. In the end, I couldn't give it five stars because I felt the resolution was too nebulous. Bringing it back to the beginning made a point about corruption and consequences, but I've been a science fiction reader for too long not to expect more.

Nonetheless, it's an excellent and engrossing novel and well deserving of the praise it's received.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Smuggler's Bride 50% off! Enjoy it during persimmon season

I was at the farmers market yesterday, and it was overflowing with ripe, orange persimmons. Persimmons played a role in Smuggler's Bride, as kidnapped heiress Julia Delarue cooked her way into the good graces of smuggler Rand Washburn: 
“I have to hunt and fish to keep food on the table,” Rand said. “I can’t be spendin’ all day doin’ women’s work!”
“If it is women’s work, it is not work this woman ever did. At the estate where I lived there were laundresses who did the cleaning for the entire household. I can cook better than you can, but it seems to me that if you have experience doing laundry, then you can continue to do a better job than I would. Not to mention that if I am spending all my time doing laundry I won’t have time to make the pork pie I was planning for dinner. With persimmon cake for dessert.”
There was something wrong with this logic, Rand knew it, but he couldn’t come up with a good argument. It became even harder to think about it when Julia waltzed past him into the house carrying a plate and leaving behind an aroma of griddle cakes, syrup, and woman.

Julia's Persimmon Cake

Preheat oven to 325F

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 cup persimmon pulp--approx. six small very ripe Florida persimmons
½ cup chopped pecans

To get persimmon pulp: Take very ripe persimmons, cut in half, scoop pulp out. Remove pithy seed area, pulse a few times in food processor.

1. cream sugar and margarine, add eggs, add dry ingredients, pulp and nuts.

2. pour mixture into standard loaf pan (grease and flour pan, if not nonstick model), bake 1.25 hours. Let cool ten minutes, remove from pan.

Freezes well. You can also try baking it at 350F for 1 hour, depending on your oven.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Review--Mr. and Mrs. Madison's War

Mr. and Mrs. Madison's War: America's First Couple and the Second War of IndependenceMr. and Mrs. Madison's War: America's First Couple and the Second War of Independence by Hugh Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent portrait of Washington's first "power couple", the Madisons. Dolly gets her due as a woman who helped shape Washington society, and a model for what First Ladies became in later years--partners who helped their husbands navigate the rocky politics of the nation's capitol and made a positive impression on the American people, and foreign dignitaries and world leaders as well.

It's especially relevant during this anniversary of the War of 1812, and the description of the British invasion and burning of the capitol was extremely detailed and informative.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Review--Lady Susan

Lady SusanLady Susan by Jane Austen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed it very much right up until the end, where it looks like Miss Austen lost steam and ran out of ink.  Far be it from me to criticize Jane Austen, but I can see why Lady Susan is not one of her more popular or oft-read offerings.

Also, the titular protagonist is so very unlike other Austen women who feature in their own books: Lady Susan is an adulteress, manipulative, a terrible mother and snarky and sneaky. On the other hand, her letters (the novel is told in an epistolary fashion) to her BFF Amelia are funny and reveal a woman quite capable of leaving great upheaval wherever she goes.

I believe this book will best be enjoyed by Regency and Austen fans who want to get a contemporary look at what was involved with matchmaking and daily life amongst the gentry.

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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Pirates in the Classroom

            “This is what we will work on now, Mattie.  I want you to practice with your slate, and be sure to write your numbers with a clear hand.”
            “That’s right, sprat,” said Turnbull.  “If you’re dividing up the booty and your shipmates think you’re cheating or holding back you could find yourself on the wrong end of a blade.”
            Mattie’s eyes widened at the hidden dangers of multiplication, and Lydia hoped the twinge behind her own eye would not develop into a full blown headache.  When she’d contemplated being a governess she’d never considered pirates and their economic systems as part of her teaching methodology.   
            Turnbull and Nash were looking at her expectantly.
            Nash snickered at that, but Turnbull said, “Do you have extra slates we could use, Miss Burke?  We could try our hands at the problems.”
            Lydia was about to beg off but she saw how Mattie’s face glowed at the idea of the pirates joining in her lessons.
            “To be honest,” she started, then paused to think. “Mr. Nash, Mr. Turnbull--you must understand that I do not teach unless I am compensated for my labors.”
            Nash looked at Turnbull, who said, “She wants her share.”
            “Well, that’s only right,” Nash nodded.  “So what do teachers get?  Jewels? Gold?  I’ve got a good Spanish dagger I’d be willing to trade for lessons.”
            “And I’ve got a mummified head from the Sandwich Islands.  You could have that, Miss Burke,” Turnbull said.
            “Take the head!  I’ve seen it and it’s disgusting!”  Mattie enthused.
            “It sounds disgusting, but thank you, no.  What I want, gentlemen, is for you to join us at a tea party to be held at a future date.”
            Nash looked at Turnbull, who said, “I reckon we’d have to drink tea.”
            “Thought so,” Nash said gloomily.  “But if that’s what it takes, I’ll do it.”
            He spat into his hand, then held it out to Lydia.
            “Shake on it, and it’s a bargain, Miss Burke.”

--[working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby, a work in progress

Need to work a little piratical excitement into your lesson plans? International Talk Like A Pirate Day  has a teacher's guide for the event. You bring pirates to your math lessons and numbers will never look boring again. Shrunken head for the teacher is optional, but it'll beat an apple for sheer impact.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Review--Kitty Steals the Show

Kitty Steals the ShowKitty Steals the Show by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fans of the Kitty the Werewolf series will want to read this latest installment as Vaughn moves the story overseas to London, and continues exploring the growth of Kitty as a leader, not just among wolves, but in the entire paranormal community. I'm looking forward to the next installment as the arc appears to be moving toward a rousing conclusion.

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Monday, September 03, 2012

What I Did On My Summer Vacation--Chicon7

The World Science Fiction Convention (Chicon 7, Chicago, IL) is winding down for another year. I've been tapped for a couple of jobs next year at LoneStarCon 3, and I'm really looking forward to attending since I missed the last San Antonio Worldcon.

I had a good time at Chicon7, seeing old friends, making some new ones, and attending panels and program items. My own panel, "Beyond the First Two Pages" gave me some new ideas on how to stay on-task for my next novel, and how to make it better.  The other panelists were great about sharing their expertise and helping folks realize that finishing your book is far more vital than making sure you've got the best first two pages in publishing.

The Hugo Awards ceremony was standing-room only, and Toastmaster John Scalzi was an excellent choice. Entertaining, witty, capable--I suspect Mr. Scalzi will be asked to serve as Toastmaster again at future Worldcons.

We didn't see much of Chicago, though my husband did make it to a Cubs game. When we go to London for LonCon3, we'll be sure to take time to sightsee either before or after the convention, then if all goes well we'll be in Helsinki for Worldcon 2015.  When we say World Science Fiction Convention, we mean it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Castaway Dreams at Fictionwise--On Sale!

It's here, it's on sale, it's 15% off.  Can't beat that with a stick! Head over to Fictionwise to get a copy of Castaway Dreams at a great price.

Monday, August 27, 2012

My Worldcon Schedule

I'm off this week to attend Chicon 7, the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago. I'm moderating a panel on Friday at noon:

Beyond the First Two Pages

We’ve all heard how important it is to hook a reader’s attention quickly. But let’s say you’ve already done that. Your story’s opening dramatic, ingenious, and free of typos. Your first two pages have been polished to near oblivion. Now what?
Darlene Marshall (M), Pat Rothfuss, John Berlyne, Nick Mamatas, Carol Berg

There will also be signed copies of Castaway Dreams available in the Dealers Room, at Old Earth Books. Beyond that, I'm looking forward to attending program items, checking out the Art Show, meeting with friends and, of course, watching the Hugo Awards.

If you spot me at Chicon 7, be sure to say hi!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Anniversary of Burning of Washington

The next afternoon Captain Fletcher told Mr. Bryant to muster the crew and Charley joined them, standing apart from the ranks of seamen.
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.
Plus, Captain Fletcher was still speaking.
"But take heart, men, just as your countrymen did! America cannot be frightened into submission!" He waved a paper. "I have here the account of the battle of Baltimore and the glorious defense of Fort McHenry! The nation still stands strong, boys, and will never bow to tyrants! A cheer for the United States of America, and an extra ration of rum tonight for its gallant heroes!"
The men threw their hats into the air while cheering, "Huzzah for the United States!"
--Sea Change

This is the day when the British burned the buildings of our fledgling country's capitol city.  We rebuilt, and if the end of the war left the belligerents at antebellum status, it also left Europe and Britain with an understanding that the USA was here to stay. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Coast Guard and the War of 1812

A simple plan, but one that worked all too well given the poor state of the Revenue Marine. The revenue cutters couldn’t begin to cover all of the coast, not when the ships were spread thin with surveying, rescue operations, and winter cruising between Charleston and Key West. Underfunded, understaffed, looked down on by the regular navy, despised by the merchants who paid the tariffs, the Revenue Marine was no one’s darling.
Well, except maybe Alexander Hamilton, he’d loved his revenue cutters that brought money into the Treasury, but look what happened to him, Washburn thought. Irritate the wrong people and there you are, worm food.
--Smuggler's Bride

When writing histories of the United States, including histories of the War of 1812, one of the most overlooked branches of the US armed forces is the USCG. Here reenactors from the Coast Guard demonstrate their vital role, and what life aboard a Revenue Cutter was like during the war.

Dear Brain...

...I know I give you a hard time, especially when you screw-up. I mean, really, did you have to forget the name of my second cousin by marriage's daughter when I saw her at the department store?  What is it with you and remembering names, anyway?

But today you came through like a champ. There I was, taking my daily walk, and you handed me the plot twist I needed because unlike real life, fiction has to make sense.  I thank you and my WIP thanks you.

As a special treat, I'm going to turn off the TV tonight, brew a cup of green tea to give you some extra antioxidants and pick up that copy of A Tale of Two Cities. You deserve a reward.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Book Review--Seraphina

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So many of the best books I've read this year are YA novels, and I'm pleased to add Seraphina to the list. The dragons are fascinating, the world building is intense, and the characters come alive on the page. I'm looking forward to the next in this series.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Castaway Dreams giveaway ends Friday!

Friday's the last day to enter the Goodreads Giveaway of Castaway Dreams. Enter now, and three winners will be chosen to get a signed copy of the book All About Romance labeled a "Desert Island Keeper (DIK)"


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Castaway Dreams by Darlene Marshall



          Castaway Dreams

          by Darlene Marshall


            Giveaway ends August 17, 2012.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.

      Enter to win


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Have you hugged your librarian today?

Castaway Dreams is now in the catalog at the Alachua County (FL) Library District, which means it's available through ILL (Interlibrary Loan). If you have a library card but you haven't used ILL, ask your librarian to show you how you can access books from any library. I find ILL invaluable when I'm doing research, but I also use it to obtain novels my library may not have.

Of course, Castaway Dreams, like all my books, is still available in print and ebook so you can have it for your very own. You can read reviews and excerpts at the link.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Getting Lost in a Good Book

I paused yesterday in my writing to check some notes, and pulled one of my research books off the shelf. It was Aristocracy and People--Britain, 1815-1865. When I looked up from my desk, two hours had gone by.

You can say what you like about the ease of research via Google and Wikipedia (and I do appreciate having those services at my fingertips), but there's nothing like a good book to get in-depth information for research. Sometimes it's information I don't even realize I needed, or can use, until I'm three or four pages beyond the facts I was checking.

I love my job. I get to combine my enjoyment of history with playing with my imaginary friends, like my new buddies, pirate captain Robert St. Armand and governess Lydia Burke:


            “I am so tired,” she said, looking down at her worn shoes. “Just kill me, or ravish me, or throw me out the window onto the street. I don’t care anymore.”
            He put his hand beneath her chin and tilted it up, studying her face in the moonlight, and then he sighed, releasing her.
            “Sit. Do not move until I return, otherwise I will do at least one of those things to you.” He paused as he turned for the door. “Maybe two.”

Thursday, August 02, 2012

It's Tu B'Av! Party like it's 1999(BCE)!

“I am so beautiful, and you are so smart. We will make wonderful
children together, querida.”
A smile quirked her cool lips as she adjusted her spectacles. “Let us
hope they inherit a bit of modesty from me, Mr. Lopez. Why do you
say I am smart?”
He leaned forward and placed his lips just below her ear, a soft kiss
that wouldn’t disarrange the lace or be noticed later.
“You are smart because you agreed to marry me. Which makes me
not only beautiful, but muy mazaloso,” he added in Ladino. “An
extremely fortunate man.
--Captain Sinister's Lady

Today (Thursday night/Friday) is Tu B'Av, "Chag HaAhava" in Hebrew, the Jewish Day of Love.  What?  You didn't know there was a Jewish holiday celebrating romantic love?  There is, and has been since before the Common Era.

On Tu B'Av (the 15th day of the month of Av) in ancient Israel, young women would go to the vineyards and dance in white dresses, singing "Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)". The girls would exchange white dresses prior to the dancing, so the rich girls weren't dressed finer than the poor girls. Tu B'Av is also always a night of the full moon, an excellent time for romance.

The holiday fell off the radar for about 2,000 years, but has had a resurgence in Israel where it's become akin to Valentine's Day. So when you look up at that full moon tonight with your honey, you'll be sharing in a holiday that goes back centuries and is being carried on today, because there's nothing like celebrating romance.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Stormy Weather

Thunder rumbled to the west and a breeze sprang up,
whipping the tree branches. Sophia paused to let the cooler air flow
across her.
“We have to stop, it’s going to rain.”
“We cannot stop yet, Jack, there is still daylight!”
“Sophia, I am not going to stand here and get soaked—”
His sentence was punctuated with the plop! of a large drop of
water at his feet. A moment later one hit Sophia on the nose, and
then in the next instant while she looked at Jack, the sky opened
and the squall came down in torrents, soaking them where they
Sophia turned to run for the less than adequate shelter of their
Jack grabbed her hand and raised his voice over the pounding
of the water falling on them. “Wait!”
“Why?” she yelled back, blinking rain out of her eyes.
“’Cause it feels good,” he said with a soggy grin.

--The Bride and the Buccaneer

I love sitting on the back porch when a storm's coming up. The wind begins to whip around, the temperature drops to tolerable levels, the snap of ozone fills the air. Trees sway back and forth, and the windchimes tinkle madly. There's a bird at the feeder, grabbing a last beakful of seed before flying off to wherever wrens hunker down to ride out the wind and the rain.

In a year when we've been subject to severe droughts, the rain's a blessing.  I look at my lush groundcover, the ferns springing back, the resurrected ginger flowers and I'm grateful for every drop that'll trickle down to recharge the aquifer.

It's summer in Florida. Afternoon rains are part of the normal daily rhythm and a blessing, and I welcome hearing the pounding of the water on the roof.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pucker up!

"Miss Farnham, you are the heroine of the day."
"I am?"
"Do not sound so surprised. The items you packed are wonderfully useful. For example, that lip salve. You can put it on your lips, your nose, your cheekbones and your chin. It will help keep those areas that are most vulnerable to sunlight from being badly burned. And your hat may not be fashionable enough for Mayfair, but it will keep you from sunstroke. Put it on now, please."
She did, asking him to hold her mirror while she concentrated on tying her ribbons. Then she followed his instructions, putting rose-tinted salve on her face, though the end result left her in giggles.
"I look like a red Indian from America, Doctor!"
--Castaway Dreams

It's National Lipstick Day! (Who knew?) Women have been darkening their lips since ancient times to achieve a look of freshness and youth, and stimulate thoughts of mating in males (yeah, as if they needed it).

Do you have a "daily" shade, the go-to lipstick you keep in your purse? What I wear depends on time of day, mood and clothing choices, but my current pick for summer is Jane Iredale's CJ, a warm coral tint.

Do you have an everyday lipstick, the one that's your "default" setting for lipcolor? And don't forget, be sure your lip color includes SPF or you use a primer first! Lips burn easily. Dr. Murray knew that.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review--New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction

New Approaches to Popular Romance FictionNew Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction by Sarah S. G. Frantz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent study of current and past trends in romance writing. This book should be read by every author who's making a career of romance writing. I didn't agree with 100% of the contributors' conclusions--I think just as sometimes a cigar was just a cigar to Freud, sometimes a romance novel is simply an entertaining read where the author wasn't purposefully (or even unconsciously) inserting words like "glittery" to make a point.

Nonetheless, the essays are well-researched and thoughtful, and a valuable contribution to popular studies. The price may put off some readers wishing to access the book. As is so often the case, small academic presses have to charge more than large publishers. However, New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction is now in the public library system in the US, which means it's accessible through ILL (Inter-Library Loan).

View all my reviews

Castaway Dreams a "Desert Island Keeper" at All About Romance

I love seeing reviews of my books, even the less than stellar reviews, because it means people are reading my novels. Here's a new review of Castaway Dreams that I really have to share, from All About Romance. You can read the full review at the link:

If it sounds like I'm talking about living, breathing people, then I've done my job. That I can envision Daphne and Alexander years into the future, with conversations and arguments, hurts and laughter, is the highest praise I can give. Ms. Marshall's previous book was very good; Castaway Dreams is remarkable.
-- Jean Wan

Friday, July 20, 2012

Book Juggling--Like Cat Juggling, But Less Risky

I'm reading three books this weekend. The only way I can handle different reads simultaneously is to make sure they're in very different genres: one is essays on the biblical Book of Ruth, one is essays on the romance genre (New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction), one's the latest Nora Roberts. It's going to give my brain a workout.

Do you read books simultaneously? Does it make your brain explode, or can you compartmentalize?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Castaways of Stage and Screen

I'm the guest blogger today at Heroes and Heartbreakers, and they're giving away signed copies of Castaway Dreams.  Follow the link to check it out!

Research time

I need to move the action in [working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby to England, so I've spent the morning reviewing my research notes. One of the books was recipes and now I'm starving for some biscuits, clotted cream, a lovely trifle...


My hardboiled egg and healthy veggies for lunch aren't looking very appealing right now.

In other news, I began wondering what happens to that secret baby (actually, a 7 or 8 year old child in the book) when she grows up.  Will she remember the piratical ways of her youth and rebel against the constrictions of mid-19th C. England? I shook the Magic 8 Ball and got "Signs point to yes".  More on this as it develops.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Book Review--Ravishing the Heiress

Ravishing the Heiress (Fitzhugh Trilogy, #2)Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Most romance novels are about courtship ending in marriage, but I'm a huge fan of romance novels about marriages and what makes them work...or not work. This one's a winner.

Millie and Fitz have an arranged marriage, not untypical of Edwardian England--her money for his title. Both go into it with eyes wide open. Fitz loves another, and Millie knows it but is willing to take Fitz anyway.

This book reminded me of Heyer's A Civil Contract, about a marriage that deepens into love, though Heyer's book never achieved the heights of passion that Thomas brings to her story. In addition, the author does a great job of unfolding the story over time, letting us see how the love develops between two protagonists who marry under stress, but learn to appreciate each other...and then some.

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 05, 2012

An Old Fashioned 4th of July

Our Independence Day celebrations start early in Gainesville, Florida with Fanfare & Fireworks on July 3. It's patriotic and goodtimes music at the University of Florida bandshell at Flavet Field (Question for all the new Gators: What famous Floridian is Flavet Field named for?

Answer--No one. It's a trick question. After WWII the GI Bill brought a huge influx of married veterans and their families.  Wooden shacks [seriously] were brought in from army bases to house them.  These sweltering roach motels were called "Flavets", for "Florida Vets". There's a certain amount of pride in being able to say "I was a Flavet baby" when you come to UF.)

Why the 3rd? The sponsors insist it's because so many folks go to the beach on the 4th. I believe it's because fireworks displays are substantially less expensive on July 3rd.

So after a spectacular evening of music, fireworks, excellent weather and a stop at Sweet Dreams Home Made Ice Cream I was ready for the 4th of July.

For the big day I like to put the top down on my convertible and drive 15 miles south to Micanopy, Florida. Micanopy is a tiny little town with a great deal of charm, one main street (Cholokka Blvd.), antique shops, cafes, B&Bs and a museum, seen below.

The events start with a parade down the Boulevard and while I arrived too late for that, I did catch a glimpse of the cowboys on their Cracker ponies, dressed in the fashion of their 19th C. ancestors. I also arrived in time for the fish fry to raise funds for the museum, and enjoyed a plate of fried fresh Florida flounder (say that three times, fast!), hush puppies and coleslaw under a shady tree. After lunch I toured the museum and got a glimpse of Micanopy's past, including this moonshine still.

The town claims the distinction of being the oldest inland Anglo-American settlement in Florida, as opposed to St. Augustine or Pensacola, which were founded by the Spanish.  In 1814 "Ft. Mitchell" was named the "Capitol of East Florida" by invading Americans during the Patriot War, and in 1821 a trading post was established for trading with the Indians and settlers. The trading post had eight buildings and they traded pipes, coffee, sugar, guns and tools to the Indians in exchange for alligator and deer hides, and tobacco.

After I toured the museum I walked the few blocks of Cholokka Blvd., stopping at O. Brisky Books, a used bookstore popular with Florida writers and readers as well as tourists. I purchased a history of 19th C. Key West and one on 18th C. Florida and the Revolutionary South, then stopped for ice cream at Coffee and Cream. I sat out on the front veranda, enjoying the live music and appreciating again how older buildings in Florida took advantage of the shade and cool breezes to offset the 95F July weather.  Below you can see the hardest working member of the band.

It was, from my point of view, a perfect Fourth of July in Florida. I got my fireworks, a fish fry with hush puppies, music, history, small town celebrations and ice cream (twice!).  If you and your family celebrated America's birthday, I hope it was equally enjoyable.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Independence Day

“I am not sure I should have to always do what you tell me to
do, or not to do, Dr. Murray. I know you are a natural philosopher
and learned, but in America they let men vote equally, the stupid
ones as well as the clever. Not that I am stupid, I am just not as
learned as you are. While we are here on this island, just the two of
us, we should be voting as equals, don't you think?”

He looked at her in astonishment, setting down the gourd.
“I am amazed, Miss Farnham, that a properly brought-up
Englishwoman would take the riff-raff in America as her model for
appropriate behavior. No, this is not a situation calling for some
anarchic form of democracy. Your vote is not equal to mine."

--Castaway Dreams

Fie on thee, Dr. Murray!  In America we support the right to vote to elect all sorts of people, even if we sometimes scratch our heads afterward and say, "What were they thinking in the voting booth?"

July 4 is Independence Day, a day for all of us in the United States to celebrate our freedoms, our hard-fought liberty and the creation of a new type of nation: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Fill your Independence Day with song and fireworks and good times and parades and maybe some BBQ. It's your day, America! Celebrate!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"In What Order Should I Read Your Books?"

It's been a while since I posted my "How to read Darlene Marshall novels" cheat sheet, so I thought I'd run it past y'all again.  All of my books are written so they can be read as stand-alone novels, however you may find it more enjoyable if you combine them so crossover characters are introduced first:

Sea Change, then Castaway Dreams. One of the secondary characters in Sea Change is Royal Navy surgeon Alexander Murray, who's the hero of Castaway Dreams.

The Bride and the Buccaneer, then Captain Sinister's Lady. The marriage minded Captain Sinister (Morgan Roberts) and his crew are introduced in The Bride and the Buccaneer.

Pirate's Price, then Smuggler's Bride. Pirate's Price is set a generation before Smuggler's Bride and the heroine of Smuggler's Bride  (Julia) is the daughter of the hero and heroine of Pirate's Price.

All the books are available in paper and ebook editions at Amber Quill Press and Amazon, and the ebook editions are available at AllRomance Ebooks.  You can also get Nook editions*.

If any reader has questions or comments please contact me! I love to hear from readers: darlenemarshall [at] darlenemarshall [dot] com.

*Castaway Dreams is in the Nook queue to be released later this summer, but can be read on your Nook now in ePub or PDF.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hunker down, North Central Florida

He poled up the creek, away from the juncture with the river. The
small tributary narrowed and soon they were both ducking under lowhanging
cypress and oak branches. She saw a bull gator sunning itself
on the bank, lazily watching them go by and ignoring this midday
incursion into its domain. When Rand could pole no further, he tied up
the boat and jumped into the shallow water, lifting Julia and following
the creek down along a sandy strip.
“What is out here? It seems like the middle of nowhere.”
“It is,” Rand said, “but that’s what makes it special.” Despite the
poling he showed no strain carrying her and since her feet were bare
and the ground was rough, she didn’t encourage him to put her down.
Besides, she rather enjoyed it, though she’d never tell him so.
He walked past the sand into a hammock of live oak sprawled out
like a dowager who’d loosened her stays, and emerged on the other side
to a pool fringed by sand and boulders on one side, bushes bright with yellow berries and more oaks and laurels on the other side. Rand
carried her past a pair of mossy-backed turtles sunning themselves on a
fallen log, over to the boulders and set her down atop one flat as the
table she’d stood on earlier. The sun shone hot on the pool, an open
patch in the thickness of the woods. The stream they’d followed ran
from it, water rushing rapidly through. When she looked over the lip of
the boulder into the pool, she saw why.
The water was crystalline and turbulent, gushing up to fill the pool
and overflow into the creek. She could see grasses waving on the
bottom as if whipped by a heavy wind.
--Smuggler's Bride

Floridians have a saying: "We could use a good tropical storm 'bout now." When the water levels are low in our aquifer, a soaking or two helps recharge the groundwater supply.

A "good" tropical storm is one that rolls through, dumps a few inches of rain, then blows back out to sea without downing too many trees or causing lowland flooding.

Debby is no longer behaving nicely. Oh sure, she started out well, bringing some much needed water to our parched area. We had wildfires and watering restrictions this spring, and record low rainfalls for the past few years have left their mark in slow and low springs and rivers and disappearing lakes. But over 10" in two days with more on the way? That's a bit of overkill.

So move out to sea, Debby. We'd much rather let that good water soak in and welcome one of your sisters later this summer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fountain pen distractions

I was cleaning my fountain pens today (I know, I should have been writing more instead) when it occurred to me that I had no idea why I was writing "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party" a gazillion times. Yes, I knew I was writing it to test the ink flow on the Sensa and the Cross, but why that sentence?  Then I remembered it was a famous line I'd first learned, as so many people did, in typing class.  That sentence was used to test one's speed while typing, and it lingers in the back of my mind to this day.

Then I wondered if they still teach typing in schools?  I know penmanship seems to have gone the way of the rotary dial telephone, but I would think touch typing is still a useful skill in this keyboard age.  I know it makes my writing faster than if I were looking at my fingers or "hunting and pecking" my way through a manuscript.

Incidentally, the pens all appear to be unclogged and ready for action now.  I think I'll spend some time this afternoon taking research notes so I can give the pens a good workout, on Rhodia paper, of course.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

            “Again, Papa, throw the knife again!  Hit him in the eye this time!”
            Robert paused.
            “As entertaining as it is to stab someone from a distance, always remember, Mattie:  If you throw your knife you no longer have a knife you can use, and it could even be used against you. You must have a back-up weapon.  What did I tell you is the first rule of knife-fights?”
            “To bring a pistol, Papa.”
            “That’s correct. If your opponent brings a knife, you bring pistols, with your own knife as back-up.”
            “Yes, Papa.”
            “Also,” he added in a pedantic fashion, “My victim is painted on wood.  A real person would be moving, or yelling, or trying to harm you.  If he’s just standing there one could simply cosh him over the head with a belaying pin.  Of course, you would have to stand on a chair to do that.”
            Mattie put her hand up over her mouth and giggled at the image.  She’d adjusted to life aboard ship in a fashion that made him proud and more convinced than ever that she was his child.  Norton had cut down some clothing to fit her, trousers and a shirt, and she looked right at home as she scampered barefoot across deck.  Mr. Fuller gave her chores to do and while she grumbled about scrubbing the decks, she only did so because all the pirates grumbled about it and she wanted to fit in with the crew.
            For their part the crew had made efforts to keep their more salacious shanties to themselves and sing work-songs suitable for the ears of an eight-year-old, but Robert could tell Mattie’s vocabulary was undergoing a sea change as she learned the ways of the Prodigal Son.  At some point he would have to inform her that “By King Neptune’s Damp Balls!” was not a suitable oath for a young lady, no matter how often she heard Conroy say it.  
--[Working title] The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby, a work in progress

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, especially the ones whose daughters wanted to grow up to be pirates.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Flag Day

They went up on deck together, David carrying his prayer book. The men were assembled wearing their finest clothing. At the starboard rail a canvas length awaited them, sewn by Sails, weighted to carry its burden to the bottom of the ocean. It was on a trestle, covered with the flag of the United States that fluttered at the edges in the light breeze.
The crew was silent as their captain stepped forward, and a hurricane bird soared overhead, far from land but reminding them all that someday, they would return to their homes.
Some of them.

--Sea Change 

Today is Flag Day in the United States, the day we mark the adoption of our nation's symbol of freedom.  It was immortalized during the War of 1812 200 years ago with Francis Scott Key's poem, now our national anthem.  My flag is flying, as it does on all national holidays.  Long may it wave.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

We lost one of the great American writers today, Ray Bradbury.  His work has been read by every American schoolchild, and his writing spread across generations and genres, from Fahrenheit 451 to The Martian Chronicles to "The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit".

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Bradbury at Confederation, the 1986 World Science Fiction Convention in Atlanta.  When people asked me after my years in broadcast and print news which famous person I'd enjoyed interviewing the most, I never hesitated:

"Ray Bradbury. Funny, smart, gracious and charming.  Interviewing him was one of the high points of my career."

Somewhere in Heaven there's a small town that looks like it was lifted straight out of the cornfields of Illinois, and that's where you'll find Ray Bradbury today.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Of Pups and Possums

His glance flicked over her, and he grunted dismissively. “Not
much to you.”
Sophia drew herself up to her full height. “I have it on good
authority I am worth three opossums!”
A twitch dented the corner of [the Indian's] mouth and he
looked at Jack. “You pay three possums for this?”
“At the time it seemed like a good idea,” Jack said, putting
down his rifle and brushing off his own clothes.
--The Bride and The Buccaneer (winner, FCRW Beacon Award and the subject of a three minute lecture at Harvard University on "How the barter system approximates commodity currency in a market economy.")

My elderly dachshund treed a possum last night.  I knew this because around 11 p.m. there was a frantic barking from the backyard, something along the lines of, "OMG! OMG! I caught supper! Quick, mom, bring the rifle!"

When I went out to investigate, the dog was at the base of a huge oak, her front paws planted firmly on it, tail wagging furiously as she barked at something up in the branches.  I couldn't see it, but I heard an angry hissing from above, something addressed to the doxie along the lines of, "You crazy b*tch! If I come down from here I'm going to claw your face off!"

Rather than shoot the possum, I gathered the old lady dog into my arms, praised her for being such a good hunter, and took her inside for a well-deserved treat and her bedtime meds.  No doubt she dreamed that night of her glory days, when she had teeth, and the possums ran scared.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thank you, plot fairies!

I just got the idea for my ninth novel.  It will have pirates in the Caribbean.  Can't tell you more yet, because much of it hinges on secondary characters in my WIP (Book Seven, aka "The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby").  More on this as it develops...

Monday, May 21, 2012


"Jacob was an American who signed on with the Magpie after the war, and he called this 'The Liberty Song.'" She hummed for a moment and then began to sing:
"Come, join hand in hand, brave Americans all,
And rouse your bold hearts at fair Liberty's call;
No tyrannous acts shall suppress your just claim,
Or stain with dishonor America's name.
Daphne sang two verses and the chorus before she realized Dr. Murray was staring at her, and the only way to describe the expression on his face--there was no way to describe the expression on his face. She'd never seen anything quite like it before.
"There are more verses," she said helpfully.
"Miss Farnham!" He shook his head and started again. "Miss Farnham, that was the most treasonous piece of trash I have ever heard. Do you know what melody that is? Heart of Oak! Heart of Oak, Miss Farnham! I implore you, never, ever sing those lyrics around a navy man, for I could not answer for the consequences if you do."

--Castaway Dreams, Darlene Marshall

I’ve been writing Regency era romance for years now, and yet it never fails to amaze me as an American that my countrymen and women are so abysmally ignorant, for the most part, about the War of 1812.

Of course, it’s not called that by most Brits.  To them it’s a blip during the long, drawn out Napoleonic Wars, a brief sidebar where those lousy Yanks objected to the Royal Navy impressing their (very necessary) sailors. Then the upstart Americans had the gall to try and take over Canada!  Burning the president’s mansion and Washington D.C (which, let’s be honest, was mostly wooden shacks in a swamp) was only what they deserved for burning York.

Aside from any lingering ill-feelings over that conflict, my fellow Americans would do well to brush up on their War of 1812 history.  After all, this is the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the war.  This makes it an excellent time to revisit the events that started with us still being viewed by much of the world as an interesting political experiment likely to fail, and ending with us a nation.

It was also in a sense the first world war.  Britain was fighting in Europe, in Africa, in the Caribbean, in the United States and Canada.  We were fighting in the South Pacific, all through the Atlantic and in the Caribbean as well. France involved the United States as a trading partner, and also through Napoleon’s sale of France’s territories in North America, the Louisiana Purchase. Spain and Britain fought the United States in East Florida, land that was not part of the fledgling country but which it very much desired.  And of course, every American schoolchild knows that the Battle of New Orleans was fought after the war officially ended.  What they may not realize is that it was a necessary battle, in that if Britain had won, they likely would not have left despite the peace treaty restoring the belligerents to antebellum status.  New Orleans was just too valuable a piece of real estate, controlling water traffic into the Gulf of Mexico from the Mississippi.

America’s winning strategy in the war most often involved its fighting men on the water.  Some of my books have dealt with the fledgling American Navy (Captain Sinister’s Lady) and the Revenue Marine aka the Coast Guard (Smuggler’s Bride), but I have a particular soft spot for America’s privateers (Sea Change and Castaway Dreams).  Privateers and pirates are often spoken of together, but there is a major difference between them: A pirate will stop and rob you on the water, a privateer has a license to stop and rob you on the water. This license, called a letter of marque, is a right enshrined in the US Constitution.  Article 1, Section 8, reserves to Congress the right “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

Congress exercised this right in 1812 with the enthusiastic support of merchant sea captains who knew arming their ships and capturing British merchant ships was a great get-rich-quick scheme (if you survived) and the patriotic thing to do. The US Merchant Marine to this day proudly traces its roots to the privateers of 1812.  They did so much damage to the British economy that newspapers in London were calling on the government to settle its differences with the US or face ruin.

There were amazing exploits by the US Navy, especially in its frigates, but they were a handful of ships and men facing down the mightiest nation on the water.  The US needed the privateers to harass shipping, causing Britain to have to divert valuable naval resources to convoys and blockades, and keeping war materiel from reaching British ports.

If you’d like to learn more about the role of privateers in US history and the War of 1812, I recommend these books:

1812: The Navy’s War—George C. Daughan
Patriotic Pirates—The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution, Robert H. Patton
The Prize Game—Lawful Looting on the High Seas in the Days of Fighting Sail, Donald A. Petrie
Patriotic Fire: Andrew Jackson and Jean Lafitte at the Battle of New Orleans, Winston Groom
The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida, James G. Cusick

Award winning author Darlene Marshall’s latest release from Amber Quill Press is historical romance Castaway Dreams: “A dour doctor (after a fashion), a dizzy damsel (more or less), a darling (and potentially delicious) doggy. Unlikely companions sharing adventure on a desert island. One may have fleas.”

On sale now in print and ebook:
For more information on Darlene’s novels:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Keturah and Lord Death and Kickstarter

Back in 2007 I wrote this review: "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."

Now I learn that there's a Kickstarter campaign to make a movie out of Keturah and Lord Death. If you're a fan of this novel, or well-written romantic fantasy for readers of any age, I encourage you to check it out.

Waiting for Nook Editions?

I know many of you are Nook users, and I'm a B&N fan myself.  However, they're not always as fast off the mark as some other sites to get my books out for sale.  So, if you're anxious to purchase Castaway Dreams, and I know you are, remember that you can load ePub and PDF files onto your Nook reader.  Those are discounted at this site and are also available at All Romance eBooks.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Whew! All editions of Castaway Dreams now on sale.

The print, ebook and Kindle editions of Castaway Dreams are now available from the usual suspects, or in the queue (Nook, Fictionwise, I'm looking at you!) With the release of the paper edition I've set up my Goodreads giveaway, where you have a chance to win a signed copy of Castaway Dreams between now and mid-August. Click on the link for the details.

In the meantime, I'm hard at work on my next novel and waiting on reviews of Castaway Dreams. Remember to please take a moment to rate the novel if you belong to one of the book social media sites.  It means a great deal to authors when they get reader feed-back, and thanks!

Monday, May 14, 2012

On the radio

Friday, May 18 I'll be discussing Castaway Dreams on Conner Calling, the phone-in ltalk show about books on WUFT FM, 89.1.  You can hear it streaming by following the link, and you can email questions if you're not in the local area.

Also, Castaway Dreams is now in Kindle edition at Amazon, and the print edition will be out very soon. More on that later.