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!