Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cleaning out the old, and a resolution or two

Cleaning is usually at the very bottom of my "to do" list, somewhere after "sleep" and "invent flying car". However, I had the dictum "You don't put flowers on a dirty table!" drilled into me at an early age, so when I got a spiffy new pen display case, I knew I had to clean my desk before I could put my fountain pens in their new home.

Once I cleaned my desk I realized I now had a floor to contend with, and bookshelves going gray and...well, you know how these things escalate.

It's probably a good thing. I found books and notes under piles of other books and notes, the dust bunnies ran in terror from the corners of the office and the windows are letting in sufficient sunlight.  Here's a picture of my desktop with the new pen home. They seem very happy in their swanky surroundings.

While 2014 was a difficult year because of the death of my elderly canine companion, it also saw a great deal of joy. My eldest son is engaged to be married and both my boys are doing wonderful things with their lives, teaching, working, making the world better. My husband is golfing more, which is a good thing--it means he's not working so hard.

I've gained many new fans over 2014, and hope to meet even more readers in 2015. My new year's resolutions are more of the same: Finish the book (#8, working title: The Legend of Marauding Mattie, or, The Pirate, Her Cabin Boy and What the Parrot Saw) in a timely fashion, and keep walking for exercise. I've already started ramping up the daily walk from two miles to three miles. If I start in the Florida winter, it's easier to endure it in a Florida summer.

How about you? Any special resolutions to welcome in the new year?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review--The Kraken King

The Kraken King  (Iron Seas, #4)The Kraken King by Meljean Brook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel was originally released as a serial, but it's now available in one volume. I liked it very much, but while the length of the story worked well for format used in serial segments, it was a bit unwieldy as a novel. Nonetheless, it's an excellent example of the best in steampunk romance and will be a hit with Brook's legion of fans.

The characters in The Kraken King include some we've met previously (Zenobia Fox) and some new ones. It's also a fun departure from Eurocentric steampunk. I recommend starting with The Iron Duke to get the full flavor of the worldbuilding Brook's constructed with her Iron Seas stories.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Review--A String of Beads

A String of BeadsA String of Beads by Thomas Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jane Whitefield is one of my favorite heroines. She's not flashy, but she gets the job done.  In her case, "the job" is keeping people alive and getting them new identities when bad things happen. This time Jane is brought home, literally, when her Seneca tribal leaders task her with helping one of their own.

Part of what I've enjoyed about the series is how Jane's methods have to evolve and change in a post-911 world. If you're new to the series, I recommend starting with the first book, but there's enough exposition in this one to bring new readers up to speed.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review--The Turning Season

The Turning Season (Shifting Circle, #3)The Turning Season by Sharon Shinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this, and it's my favorite (so far) of the Shifting Circle novels.

The reason I liked it so much is Joe. I mean, how can you get a more ordinary hero name than "Joe"? And he is ordinary, and yet, exactly the kind of hero you want to marry. He's a keeper. Not uber-handsome (he's described as having a "round, baby-face" and has to work at keeping the weight off now that he's no longer 20). Joe's an ex-cop and has that old fashioned quality where he'd be described as a "mensch", a man you can count on to do the right thing, to help out, to stand by you. Not a billionaire Dom, not a SEAL, just a good guy.

Can you tell I'm half-in love with him myself?

Oh yeah, and Joe's completely human. But Karadel is not. She's a shifter trying to get her animal self under control, or at least to settle on one animal, preferably a housecat. She's shifted into being an elephant and a giraffe in the past, and can't control when her change will happen.

And you thought you had a complicated love life!

Karadel works as a veterinarian, though she's not really a doctor. The shifter community in their small Illinois town depends on her and she's experimenting with different medical formulas to help them. But when a shifter changes into a bobcat in public to fend off a rapist, Karadel fears the entire shifter community is threatened. At a more personal level, she has no idea how Joe will respond when he learns of her secret life.

If you're new to the series, I recommend starting with #1 as characters are introduced and grow into their own stories in later books. However, you could read The Turning Season on its own and enjoy it as a fantasy and as a gentle romance.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

"A Noble Hound" 1998-2014

"As soon as he saw Odysseus standing there, he dropped his ears and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When Odysseus saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:'Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap: his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept merely for show?''
This dog,' answered Eumaeus, 'belonged to him who has died in a far country. If he were what he was when Odysseus left for Troy, he would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its tracks....'
So saying he entered the well-built mansion, and made straight for the riotous pretenders in the hall. But Argos passed into the darkness of death, now that he had fulfilled his destiny of faith and seen his master once more after twenty years."--Homer, Odyssey

The Diva Dachshund
"Good girl!  Good dog!" 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review--Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover In the Civil War

Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil WarLiar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book had me turning pages like I was reading a novel, anxious to see what happened next. The untold stories of women who serve in wartime, in all capacities, are being brought to light by talented authors like Abbott.

I was especially taken by the tale of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Richmond abolitionist, and her free woman of color cohort, Mary Jane Bowser. Van Lew sent vital information to the Union, much of it gathered by Bowser. At great risk to her own life, Bowser was sent as a "slave" housemaid to the Confederate president's house, never letting on that she could not only read and write, but was gifted with an eidetic memory. As the author points out, women like Bowser were "below suspicion" as they cleaned and dusted around the papers on Jeff Davis' desk.

I had a particular interest in the story of Emma Edmonds, who served with valor and zeal in the Union army as "Frank Thompson". As readers of my books know, cross-dressing women soldiers and sailors were more common than standard histories lead us to believe. I highly recommend the Hugo-award winning essay "We Have Always Fought", by Kameron Hurley, for more on this.

Finally, the stories of Confederate spies and activists Belle Boyd and Rose Greenhow are better known to fans of history, but Abbott gives them a fresh spin and really brings these women to life, with all their virtues and flaws.

I highly recommend Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy for all readers interested in the US Civil War and in women's history and studies.

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Sunday, December 07, 2014

Review--Only Enchanting

Only Enchanting (The Survivors' Club, #4)Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The best, so far, of The Survivors' Club series by Balogh. She's always top-notch, but sometimes her books are truly a cut above. In Only Enchanting, the story of Flavian evolves slowly and carefully, with small clues along the way like marker stones along a path.

Unlike some of the other Club members, Flavian's wounds aren't on the surface. Handsome, sophisticated, his war injuries only become obvious when he opens his mouth and his noticeable stammer emerges, a speech impediment brought about by head injuries and PTSD trauma.

Flavian doesn't understand his attraction to the quiet, unassuming widow Agnes Keeping, but she can't help but fall-head-over-heels in love with him, something she thought would never happen, and it scares her to her core.

There was a point where Ms. Balogh almost lost me, where a character was about to do something that would move the story into Stupid Plot Device territory, but this is what makes the author so talented: she took the reader to the brink, but didn't step over the edge. Reading a Balogh is like taking a master class in how thoughtful romance should be written, and I recommend her books to all those readers who are not yet part of her legion of hardcore fans.

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Review--Gunpowder Alchemy

Gunpowder Alchemy (The Gunpowder Chronicles, #1)Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book has a lot going for it, and I really enjoyed it. It's a wonderful steampunk romance, but with a refreshing twist: Imperial China, Opium Wars, Non-European protagonists, Opium zombies and more. It's the first in a series, and is openended as a romance novel, but the crisp writing and wonderful evocation of place has me anxious for the next novel by Ms. Lin.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review--A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in AmericaA Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America by Allyson Hobbs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Movies like "Imitation of Life" and "Pinky" opened up a new world to White Americans, the world of African-Americans who were "passing", living as white people and hiding their African roots.

This fascinating history explores 200 years of passing in America, what it meant to the people who made these choices, their families, and to society as a whole. It's a sad and important story that's neglected in American history classes, and Hobbs' excellent book brings these tales to life for a generation that wishes to view itself, and the country, as post-racial.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Feasting With Friends, Florida Style

Before we celebrated US style Thanksgiving in Florida (the Spaniards celebrated Thanksgiving at St. Augustine long before those latecomer Pilgrims set foot aboard ship) we had cane grinding in the autumn to share the work and feast with friends:


     As the shadows lengthened, the men began gathering around the tables like wasps drawn to sweet fruit, cozying up to their women, and trying to talk them out of some of the food before the feast officially began. Ma Ivey ruled her dirt yard like an empress and wasn't above slapping a reaching hand with a wooden spoon when they drew too close. Finally though, the last of the cane was put through the mill and the syrup cooked down, and as the night sky filled with stars the feast began to a chorus of tree frogs and crickets serenading the workers. They lined up before the platters of roast pig and venison, quails, turkey, and doves. Even a possum or two joined the potatoes in the smoldering coals.
     There was fish stew and slow-cooked turtle, gator tail and fresh bass, and plenty of home-brewed ale and scuppernong wine to wash it down. The ever present corn was there, too, as meal, mush, bread, pone, grits, and "roasenears," cooked in the hot coals. Julia grinned to herself. There would be plenty of cobs for the privies after tonight's feast.
     The children and old folks were served first, then the men, then the women took for themselves, the fires from the pits and fat pine torches lighting up the yard. By the time Julia had her plate filled--and Rand had gotten his second serving--the men were rosining their fiddle bows and bringing out the banjos and whistles.
     Rand made room for Julia to sit beside him, and held up an object in his hand.
     "Look, darlin', I got the wishbone!"
     "And that means...what?"
     "It means you and me got to make a wish."
     He showed her how to grasp the bone, and warned her it would take some strength to make it snap since it hadn't dried out yet.
     "So give it a good tug, and make a wish."

Here's wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving, with plenty of feasting with family and friends.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Review--Rogue Spy

Rogue Spy (Spymasters, #5)Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book so much, I hardly know where to begin.

No, wait, I do know where to begin: Fluffy Aunts.

Ms. Bourne's books are not only amazingly well written, and wonderfully entertaining, but she crafts secondary characters who could step off the page. They're not spearholders (though in the case of the Fluffy Aunts I wouldn't make any assumptions), they're people who are part of the story and you can imagine them with their own lives and concerns.

Rogue Spy is Pax's story. We met him in previous books, and know he's secretly a French spy, but as is always the case with Bourne's novels of spycraft, it's much, much more complicated than Good Guys vs. Bad Guys. In fact, Camille Leyland is not only potentially one of the really Bad Guys (as well as Pax's love interest), she's deadlier and comes from a background that's prepared her well for a life of duplicity, intrigue and crime.

Each of Bourne's books is a winner, and her numerous awards testify to this. Rogue Spy is the latest in a list of books to be savored over and over again, and I can't wait until she gives us more!

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

5 Stars for The Pirate's Secret Baby, from Pirates and Privateers reviews

From the site Pirates and Privateers: The History of Maritime Piracy:

"...Set in 1820, The Pirate’s Secret Baby is a well-researched historical romance spiced with humor. The story of Robert, Lydia, and Marauding Mattie weaves an invisible spell that tugs at your heart strings, and I particularly liked Robert’s non-violent, but oh-so-typically-piratical solution to thwarting Lydia’s nemesis. Near the end of the story, I thought once or twice it could have ended sooner than it did, but the final scene definitely ices the wedding cake. The host of refreshing, non-stereotypical, minor characters – such as two Mutt-and-Jeff-like seamen who go to school with Marauding Mattie and go her tea party, or the vicar who doesn’t mind if his daughter dons an eye patch and duels with a wooden sword – truly help bring this story to life.

I’ve read several of Marshall’s previous pirate tales, but this is the best written and most intriguing one..."

Read the full review here, and you can purchase the novel in ebook or paper from Amber Quill Press, Amazon, NOOK and AllRomanceEbooks.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Review--Softly Falling

Softly FallingSoftly Falling by Carla    Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovely, sweet romance about strong, good people surviving under the harshest of winter conditions. Boy howdy, did this book make me glad I live in Florida! Just reading about a killer Wyoming winter chilled me to the bone.

Carla Kelly's books aren't about dukes (most of the time) or spies or vampires, they're about ordinary people who reaffirm one's faith in the basic goodness of humanity. She writes wonderful tales about people who could live next door or down the lane or be our ancestors, and she does it with style and flair. She's also one of the top Western romance writers today, and shouldn't be overlooked.

Softly Falling isn't explicit, but is delightfully romantic and can be enjoyed by all romance readers. It's a good starting point for those who've never experienced Kelly's special brand of romance.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review--Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Sword (Imperial Radch, #2)Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's a special pleasure when the second book in a series lives up to the promise of the first. Ancillary Justice blew me away last year, and other voters agreed with me, because the novel won the 2014 World Science Fiction Society Hugo award along with a slew of other honors.

Now Leckie returns to her world of intelligent ships and subject populations in Ancillary Sword, and if anything, I liked it better than the first book. AJ rocked me with its worldbuilding and genderbending. Because I had some of that background going into AS didn't require the same kind of exposition and sometimes confusion that was inevitable with a groundbreaking first SF novel.

Breq is now a Fleet Captain, bringing her experience as a ship and an ancillary to a new role. She's still trying to make amends for some of the incidents in her past, and helping her crew navigate through treacherous societies. One of the most enjoyable parts of reading this was knowing that Breq's people don't differentiate gender in their language, so the reader is thrust into a post-gender world. We know not everyone we're encountering is female, but we don't know what gender they are. We're not judging characters' choices or actions based on whether they're male or female, het, bi or gay. It's a liberating reading experience.

I'm looking forward to more quality SF from Leckie in the future. Her career is off to an amazing start.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Writer Woes

I was plinking away at the WIP this morning, crafting the new scene that came to me while I was out walking on Sunday. Then I realized that while the new scene does help and is necessary, I'm going to have to substantially re-write 35,000 words of what I've already done.

Writing is indeed akin to taking weird meat by-products and turning them into sausage. So, while it was a "two steps forward, one step back" morning, it could be worse. I've learned to trust my instincts on these things and I know the new scene (and the re-writing) will make [working title] Mattie's Story even better.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I have the cover of The Pirate's Secret Baby as my graphic, you probably haven't read TPSB. That's where we are first introduced to Marauding Mattie, the would-be pirate, so it's a fitting illustration for this post. It helps keep me on track while I'm working on the book, asking myself, "What Would Mattie Do?"  There's usually mayhem and swordplay in the answer, as there was in the scene I found I needed to insert into the WIP.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Review--Poison Fruit

Poison Fruit (Agent of Hel, #3)Poison Fruit by Jacqueline Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If this is the final book in the "Agent of Hel" series I will be quite satisfied. Relationships were resolved, character development occurred, there were epic doings, a lawyer was a total cliche, and much meta referencing happened. When Daisy thought of herself as a Mary Sue in a piece of bad fan fiction I nearly chortled with glee.

Carey has been one of my auto-buy authors for some time, and part of what I enjoy about her is the range of her writing. She's able to navigate epic fantasy, science fiction and urban fantasy waters with skill and verve. This was a rewarding and enjoyable series.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Road Trip Update

While we didn't pick up a hitchhiking Brad Pitt (or drive off a cliff), the two ladies of a certain age in a convertible did enjoy perfect weather for our drive yesterday morning. At one point we missed a turn near Cross Creek (author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' home) but I reassured my companion: "Florida's a peninsula. Unless we go due north we're going to hit water, so we can't get too lost." I also knew we'd cross SR 26 or 20 eventually, which we did, taking us back home.

Now I'm back at work, recharged and ready to go. I saw some great examples of Cracker architecture out there in the backwoods, and while I love to use books for research, there's nothing like seeing a site in person to be able to give local color to a scene.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Road Not Taken

I'm taking a short break from writing this morning. I promised a friend I'd take her for a ride in the convertible when the weather turned tolerable (it's too hot in July), so we're doing a road trip along the scenic highways in my county. This is a lovely time of year, and North Central Florida has some charming back roads that are worth taking the time to slow down and savor. The live oaks drip with Spanish moss, the mockingbirds are tweeting from branch to branch, and the clear skies turn such a vivid shade of blue in autumn it's a shame not to get out and enjoy it.

It's also research for me. I use these road trips to incorporate color, sight and sound into my writing. The WIP [working title: Mattie's Story] will have some scenes set in North Florida, so it's all useful.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review--The Time Roads

The Time RoadsThe Time Roads by Beth Bernobich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've become more parsimonious with my five star reviews. It has to be a book that keeps me turning page after page, engrossed in the story, even when I know I should stop reading because life and the real world interferes with our reading time.

The Time Roads is that kind of a book. The Eirean Empire at the beginning of the 20th C. is a world power, continuing its dominance over Anglia, Cymru, Albion and its other subject peoples. Students from around the world flock to Eire's universities and government is stable under the rule of Queen Aine. But a scientist within her court is conducting exciting, but ultimately dangerous experiments, putting into play forces that will change her world and the people she loves and cares for.

There are four interwoven stories in The Time Roads, and as it progresses more and more layers become revealed over time, time that flows and folds back on itself. There are also a couple of love stories at the heart of The Time Roads, but it's not a romance. It's a story that carries on a SF tradition going back to Lest Darkness Fall.

Beth Bernobich has cemented her status as a new star among SF & Fantasy authors. She's crafted a complicated, rich, and exciting tale combining alternate history, steampunk and time travel into something special. It's a different direction from her previous fantasy novels, but The Time Roads is bound to add a legion of new fans to her writing.  

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review--Darling Beast

Darling Beast (Maiden Lane, #7)Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another winner from Elizabeth Hoyt: tortured, "ugly" hero, working girl heroine, plenty of romantic tension and enough interesting secondary characters to make the reader look forward to them getting their own books.

Darling Beast is a classic Beauty & the Beast tale done well, set in London during the Georgian period. It reintroduces other characters from the Maiden Lane series, and brings forward some new ones, and the entire effort is a very satisfying page turner.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Review--Lock In

Lock InLock In by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another Scalzi winner that has "Future Hugo Nominee" written all over it. I was turning pages late into the night in this futuristic police procedural.

FBI agent Chris Shane has Haden's Syndrome, a disease where he's "locked in" to his body, unable to move or respond but fully aware. Modern technology has provided Haden's survivors with the ability to transfer their consciousness into "threepios", metal shells that can move and act like humans, but resemble a beloved robotic film character.

Chris and his non-Haden's partner are racing to figure out what's happening in a series of murders and terrorist attacks linked to the Haden's community. The writing is vibrant and the dialogue snappy as they uncover clues leading to a conspiracy larger than anyone could have suspected. The only reason I didn't give the book five stars was the number of pieces that fell into place a touch too conveniently, such as Chris' new roommate happening to have the skills necessary to figure out a key issue.

However, one of the things that struck me the most, and I didn't realize it until late in the novel, is that the Haden's community is a post-racial community. Most people don't know the racial background of the people in the threepios. They're not black, or Hispanic, or Asian, they're all Hadens. It was an interesting twist as a new class of people emerge in society subject to slurs ("clanks" rather than Hadens) and hate crimes.

This is a solid SF novel combined with a good suspense tale, and I hope it's the start of a series because I'd love to read more about Chris, his partner Vann and the Haden's community.  

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Review--Rock Addiction

Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss, #1)Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I normally wouldn't seek out a contemporary romance about a rock star, but I do enjoy Nalini Singh, and she delivers the goods in Rock Addiction. Bad boy rocker Fox has a reputation for partying hard, but when he meets good girl librarian Molly (and yes, they do make fun of the cliche) he's hit with a thunderbolt and knows She's the One.

This is different, the man recognizing True Love and something special right away. It's a pleasure to read about two people who need each other so badly and when they're together the sum is greater than its parts. The novel is emotionally charged and erotic. I almost rejected it at one point because I thought it was veering off into Big Misunderstanding territory, but a skilled author knows how to make these things work and Singh kept the story going in a realistic and logical fashion.

I'm looking forward to more in this series. Sometimes it's a good thing to break out of your reader comfort zone and trying something different.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

It's Autumn! Time for Smuggler's Bride Persimmon Cake!

Autumn is my favorite season. I know up north people long for spring to free them from winter's ice and snow, but in North Florida we long for autumn to free us from summer's brutal heat and humidity. This week the weather finally turned, and we enjoyed crisp nights and comfortable days again. When I was at the farmers market I saw another sign of autumn, tables piled high with persimmons. That mean's it's time for me to start baking, and time to once again share a recipe from Smuggler's Bride, a book where a savvy young woman realized if you're not going to use a knife to get to a man's heart, then you might try what kidnapped heiress Julia Delarue does, cooking 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 or butter
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. Stir together dry ingredients

2. cream sugar and butter, add eggs, add dry ingredients, pulp and nuts.

3. 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.

Review--Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist: EssaysBad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this collection of essays by Roxane Gay. I found myself nodding my head in agreement as I read her analyses of current events, especially ones relating to gender and women's issues. I'd recommend it to young women in particular, but feminist readers of all ages will appreciate it.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Review--The Songbird's Seduction

The Songbird's SeductionThe Songbird's Seduction by Connie Brockway
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of classic comedy with romance, especially the trope of the serious guy whose world is overturned by the free-spirited woman who he thinks is All Wrong For Him. But it can't be a movie where the woman's a plot device, a manic pixie dreamgirl with no needs or desires of her own. It has to be a film where a woman is a strong, active character--think Bringing up Baby or Ball of Fire or The Lady Eve or even Born Yesterday. These were great films with strong women and men who (eventually) loved them.

And why don't we get films like this anymore? One reason may be these films were made for adult audiences, women and men, not adolescent boys who like explosions. They had wit, and characters the audience could respond to, and it was a golden age for actresses in Hollywood looking for good films where they were the star, actresses like Barbara Stanwyck and Rosalind Russell and Katherine Hepburn.

But I digress. The preceding rant was to illustrate why I liked The Songbird's Seduction so much. The hero's name, Archibald Grant, is an immediate tip-off. Cary Grant starred in Bringing Up Baby, among other films, and his real name was Archibald Leach. Archie falls in with chanteuse Lucy Eastlake, who's on her way to France to help her elderly aunts claim an inheritance. Along the way there's mayhem galore as Archie and Lucy get separated from the aunts (who end up with the best traveling companion ever), and the couple has to wend their way to the rubies on their own.

The Edwardian setting was also a nice touch. It allowed Lucy to act with more freedom (she has a career!) while highlighting a time and place and fashions that were glorious, but soon to be overturned by World War I.

Fans of Connie Brockway will love this, fans of screwball comedy will wonder why there's not more like this, and fans looking for a historical with a different setting will all enjoy The Songbird's Seduction.

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Happy Anniversary to Amber Quill Press, LLC!

My publisher, Amber Quill Press, LLC, is celebrating its 12th anniversary! Where has the time gone? They've been selling my books for nearly 10 years, and this year they rolled out a spiffy new website to make ordering books easier than ever.

Amber Quill Press is also celebrating all this month with special promotions and giveaways. Remember, you can purchase my books in all formats there, and they're always priced right. Check them out, especially if you've been wanting to try M/M or F/F romance in some of their other lines like Amber Allure and Amber Heat.

To get all the info on new releases, contests and more, sign up for the newsletter at the website:, and join in the celebration!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Music to write by

I've mentioned once or twice that my favorite writing music is epic soundtracks without vocals--Game of Thrones, Hans Zimmer music, Klaus Badelt, that sort of thing. Where once I depended on film or TV soundtracks, I'm finding now that some of the best epic music is being composed for games.

It may set the mood for gamers to score points against their opponents, but for me these pieces trigger a little switch in my brain that says, "Time to write!" It may be a chicken/egg deal: When I hear the music, it sets off a response. Or I may have picked the music deliberately to create that response. Regardless, it helps keep me focused and on task.

I use Pandora's Epic Soundtracks station, or when I want to go offline, I use my personal playlists. So on that note, I'm cranking up my  #4 Writing Music playlist of Game of Thrones (Season 1), Braveheart, Pirates of the Caribbean 1 and Gladiator.

Time to write!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review--Marco and the Devil's Bargain

Marco and the Devil's Bargain (Spanish Brand, #2)Marco and the Devil's Bargain by Carla    Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There is something deeply satisfying about reading a novel dealing with the turmoil of making a marriage work. Most romance novels are about the courtship, the journey from Point A to Point B, and the "Happily Ever After". But we all know real life doesn't work that way, and in the hands of a talented author we can get a glimpse into the real work of life, making a marriage grow and become stronger.

Marco Mondragon and Paloma Vega (The Double Cross) are now married in Spanish New Mexico where Marco is the Juez de Campo, a brand inspector who's the closest thing to a judicial officer in the isolated royal colony. He and Paloma are settling in to newlywed life, though Paloma deeply regrets their lack of children, something he shared with his first wife before she and the children died of cholera.

Their happiness is disrupted by news that "la viruela"--smallpox--is coming. Some of the people have been inoculated, most have not, and many fear inoculation because it can bring on the disease. Marco's own brother died of inoculation (not vaccination--that method was not yet in common use). An English physician offers Marco a bargain: if he's escorted deep into Comanche territory to find his kidnapped daughter, he'll inoculate Paloma and others.

It is a devil's bargain, for entering Comanche land is almost certainly a death sentence, yet Marco agrees, the inoculation occurs, and after her recovery Paloma insists on accompanying them on their dangerous journey.

Marco and the Devil's Bargain is a tale of good people making difficult choices. Paloma and Marco share a love that endures through disease and death, struggling to find their place in a harsh, yet beautiful land. The secondary characters make the story real, particularly Toshua, their Indian brother, and Anthony Gill, the Englishman burdened by a secret.

This second book in the Spanish Brand series is sure to please Ms. Kelly's fans. It's a lovingly crafted novel of marriage and growth, and a glimpse into what's left out of traditional US history books, the role played by the Spanish settlers who preceded the Anglo-Americans into Florida, Louisiana Territory and the Southwest. I look forward to more books from Ms. Kelly in this setting.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day

“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, her face lighting up. She ran over and Lydia 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,” she said fiercely, hugging the child to her chest. Mattie drew back her head and looked at her.
“I am not Mathilde anymore, Miss Burke. Now I’m Marauding Mattie, the terror of the West Indies!”
“Are you indeed, miss?”
She stood, still holding Mathilde. While her words were icy, if she were a dragon she’d be breathing flame to protect the child. Rather than make Robert angry, he found it promising she would champion her welfare. Mathilde needed someone to watch her back because while there were few things in the world he was certain of, he knew 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. He said my governess would keelhaul me if I disobeyed her commands.”
“Wha—no, I did not say that!” He glanced around the deck for rescue. “Mr. Fuller! Is the cabin ready for Miss Burke?"

--The Pirate's Secret Baby

How are you celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day? Amber Quill Press is offering all my pirate themed ebooks at 50%, including The Pirate's Secret Baby. It's time to stock your ereader and channel your inner pirate!

I'm celebrating by re-reading Treasure Island, of course.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Pirates! Romance! Pizza!

I'll be at Satchel's Pizza (1800 NE 23rd Ave., Gainesville, FL) tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for Author's Night, celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day with copies of The Pirate's Secret Baby and other piratical novels.

Come for the pirates, stay for the pizza!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Review--Alias Hook

Alias HookAlias Hook by Lisa Jensen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying I never liked the Peter Pan story. It started when I saw Mary Martin flying on wires on TV, and thought to my 6 yr. old self, "That's a lady, not a boy!" It was downhill from there.

The blatant sexism of the book, the cruelty practiced by little boys who don't grow up with a moral compass, luring children away from those who love them...frankly, no one in that tale interested me (well, maybe the crocodile), except for the one truly adult figure.

Captain Hook.

Sure, he was a total villain, but he was interesting. He was flamboyant, he was a leader, he was devious and cunning, he was a pirate captain! What's not to like?

Lisa Jensen brings James Hook to life in a way that's marvelous for me as a reader, and as a feminist. When a drunk woman washes ashore in Neverland, it's Captain Hook who takes responsibility for her, because adult women are too threatening to Peter's boys.

Stella Parrish isn't a "wendy", a sexless little girl brought to Neverland to be a pretend mommy to the lost boys, to do the scut work and adore Peter. Stella's survived WWII, lost her husband and child, had a career, drinks too much on occasion and doesn't have a sylphlike-figure. She's a woman, not a little girl, and she wants to escape Neverland.

Stella and James' journey of self-discovery and redemption and adulthood is beautifully handled by Jensen, who takes a familiar tale and makes the reader see it, and analyze it, in a whole new way. This is a bedtime story for grown-ups, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

"What so proudly we hailed..."

“You underestimate the will of the American people, Doctor.”
He poked his finger in the air for emphasis. “When you push us,
we push back. Hard. John Bull cannot bully America into
surrendering now any more than you could forty years ago. Have
you already forgotten the lesson of Fort McHenry?”
He rummaged in his desk and pulled out a tattered newspaper,
much folded and creased.
“My mother sent this to me with the letters, a newspaper from
home. A Mr. Key wrote a poem about the battle, Doctor, titled
‘The Defence of Fort McHenry.’ Look here—‘the land of the free
and the home of the brave.’ That’s America, Charley! I won’t ask
you to drink to an American victory, but you won’t mind if I have
a tot?”
David poured himself some rum while humming a tune.
Charley listened, her head cocked to the side.
“I know that tune—I heard it in the inn where I waited to board
the Lady Jane. It is ‘To Anacreon in Heaven,’ is it not? I recall the
people who attempted to navigate its melody often failed
“Maybe it’s a song best attempted while drinking for the full
effect. But I’m told it is now popular in Baltimore with lyrics
based on Mr. Key’s poem—‘And the rockets’ red glare…’”
Charley snickered as his voice strained through the notes.
"That tune will never catch on, Captain. Certainly not the way you sing!
Best you stick to sailing your ship.”
--Sea Change 

This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Ft. McHenry where an attorney named Francis Scott Key was negotiating the release of American prisoners from the British. He wasn't allowed to leave the British ship in Baltimore Harbor while the battle raged, and he watched through the night, inspired to write a poem about the events he'd witnessed during the bombardment.

The rest, as they say, is history. We sometimes joke about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and the difficulty of hitting the high notes, but there's no song in America that evokes the same mixture of patriotism and memory.  It is fitting that we salute our national anthem on its bicentennial, and raise a glass in salute to Mr. Key, the defenders of Ft. McHenry, and the Star Spangled Banner.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Review--The Professional

The Professional (The Game Maker, #1)The Professional by Kresley Cole
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was conflicted about this one. On one hand, I like a good BDSM erotic romance as much as the next gal, and this one was very well written. Lightyears better than That Book.

On the other hand, the hero's controlling behavior outside of the bedroom made my nerves twitch. The whole "I'm preventing you from leaving because I can't live without you" dynamic made me want to tell her to run far and fast, and not look behind her.

I'm also _so_ over virgin college students being taken under the wing of billionaires for sex training and amazing baubles. To me it would be much more interesting if the heroine was a neurosurgeon or tax collector or forest ranger--_anyone_ with more life experience!

Bottom line is K. Cole is an extremely talented writer, which was my primary reason for getting this book and reading it until the end. Having said that, I'm mulling over whether I would buy others in this series. I'll wait and see what's published.

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Monday, September 08, 2014

Review--Dark Skye

Dark Skye (Immortals After Dark #14)Dark Skye by Kresley Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've enjoyed the entire series, but I especially enjoyed how Cole addressed the issue of "slut shaming" in Dark Skye. The heroine has had an active and enjoyable sex life, the hero wants her to be ashamed or regretful and she refuses to accept this.

Obviously, he has to come around to accepting, and valuing her for who she is. This is an issue too seldom dealt with by romance authors, and Cole handles it with aplomb. I'm looking forward, as always, to the next book in the series.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars is I felt the "what danger do we face now?" scenes carried on a bit too much. I would have preferred to see more of Lanthe adjusting to her new and difficult life once they're out of the fiery pits.

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Vote for Pompom!

She knew from his expression that she'd fallen even further in his esteem, if such a thing were possible.
“It was more in the nature of a suggestion, Miss Farnham. I knew better than to ask,” he sighed. “Return to your cabin. I will see to it.”
Daphne turned and walked blindly back to her cabin. Pompom greeted her and jumped into her lap when she sat on her bunk, staring at the empty covers of the bunk across from hers. Pompom licked her hand and Daphne put her head down next to the warm body snuggled into the crook of her arm.
“At least you love me just the way I am, Pompom,” she whispered to the bichon.

--Castaway Dreams

Who else gives us such unconditional love? Our dogs are always there for us, greeting us on a bad day as if we're the most wonderful thing that's ever happened to them (other than a red ball flying through the air to catch, or maybe some extra treats in the food dish).

Show your love for our fictional friends by voting for Pompom in the "Best Dogs in Historical Romance" list at Goodreads. Everyone who's read Castaway Dreams knows he's the true hero of the 2013 Aspen Gold winner!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Ireland, or "How I Spent My Summer Vacation, part 1"

I'm back from travels to the UK and Ireland, pleased with myself once again for keeping a travel journal (Moleskine with Rhodia paper, written with a fountain pen, of course.) This journal entry will be about the first part of the trip before Loncon3, the World Science Fiction Convention. I'll write about Worldcon as a separate entry.

Two things I've learned from travel over the years is to stay awake until normal bedtime hours, as much as possible, and the more I walk, the more I can eat without worrying about fitting into my clothes at the end. When we arrived in Dublin I went for a long walk around our hotel, orienting myself to the area. I was immediately struck by one of the hallmarks of Dublin, the colorful doors on the Georgian-era flats. One tour leader later said there were two theories about this: One was that when King George died in the 18th c., all the English painted their doors black in mourning and the Irish were told to to the same. Not surprisingly, the Irish didn't take this order well and responded by picking every color imaginable.

The other theory is that everyone made sure her/his door did not match the neighbor's door, so that someone rolling home under the influence wouldn't try to enter the wrong flat.

Whichever theory is correct, the doors are a delightful touch. The neighborhood where we stayed near St. Stephen's Green is full of Georgian architecture, most of it well maintained, some of it obviously at the high end of the real estate market.  I treated myself to my first (but not my last) tea and scones with clotted cream afternoon, then headed back to the hotel.

Next day was on/off bus touring, my favorite way to get the highlights of a city I'm visiting. I've never done it in the States, but I may consider it on my next trip to one of our large locales just for a change of pace. I made note of places to return to, like the Writers Museum, and we stopped for lunch in Temple Bar, the entertainment district. The previous evening's pub dinner had 60s rock, which was fun, but not what I came to Ireland to hear. This time the musician was playing more traditional Irish melodies, probably because Temple Bar caters so heavily to tourists.


We promised each other no driving in Ireland--I still have nightmares of the Scottish attempt--so we took a coach tour out to the country the next day. Collins Day Tours was recommended by our concierge and TripAdvisor, and it lived up the billing. Great tour guide with a snappy patter, and the sights were magnificent. We went to Wicklow, Glendalough and Kilkenny. My only regret was we didn't have enough time in Kilkenny to tour the castle grounds and the city. Also, there was some kind of festival going on and the streets were packed with tourists local and international. I especially enjoyed the nature walk through Glendalough (above), the Valley of the Two Lakes and the stop at Wicklow Gap, site of many movie scenes. I regretted we wouldn't get to see more of the country, but if you only have one day out of Dublin to tour, this was a good choice. 

The next day was sunny(!) so we went to some area parks to admire the lovely flowers in all their glory, then went to the National Gallery to view their fine collection of art. My husband was feeling tired and left after lunch, but I decided to explore more of Dublin. I ended up walking back a few miles to our hotel, but my route took me past the National Library of Ireland. I could easily have spent another afternoon there, but had to pass. I did manage to get a selfie in to add to my "Darlene Marshall in front of Libraries" collection.

I also got to do some sightseeing on my own, since my hubby arranged a golf date with some Irish buddies from the insurance industry. He'd really looked forward to this, and the weather more or less cooperated. I visited the Irish Writers Museum, mailed some postcards, and shopped for woolens at a wonderful store called Avoca. Since this was our last evening in Dublin, we wanted to finish with some traditional Irish music in a pub. On a Tuesday night, the pickings were pretty slim, but we had a great time at Oliver St. John Gogarty's Pub in Temple Bar. I even knew who he was since I'd been to the Writers Museum.

Our trip to Ireland was highlighted by friendly people, good food and good times. I'd love to go back some day and spend more time seeing the countryside and getting to know the land better. I will say this for Ireland--it lives up to its billing as offering you every shade of green you can imagine out in the countryside. It's truly a beautiful spot.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

“The women in my family have manufactured soap and toiletries for generations, and a Brooke woman knows how to stand on her own two feet! And I’m going to show him!
I will build my business up again. I had plenty of time aboard ship to work on my plans, and I have the skills.”
…Amanda grinned, feeling more lighthearted than she had in days. She lifted her own cup.
“To free trade, prosperity, and the United States of America!”

--Captain Sinister's Lady

Here's to all the hard working American women and men celebrating their achievements, and the end of summer. Happy Labor Day to you all!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Review--The Vineyard of Liberty

The Vineyard of LibertyThe Vineyard of Liberty by James MacGregor Burns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent, readable history of the United States through mid-Civil War. The author's comprehensive look at the various factors that went into the making and near sundering of the new republic makes this a must for all students of US history, or even the casual reader wondering why our country took the shape it did. Highly recommended.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Another trip, another library

I was walking back to my hotel today, and without realizing where I was I managed to walk up to the National Library of Ireland. I think my brain is wired to take me to libraries automatically. I didn't have the opportunity to spend as much time as I would have liked (a month would have been nice), but as is my custom, I got a shot of myself in front of the library. This time it was a selfie, so you only see the library sign in the background, but I was there.

Greetings from Dublin!

I don't care what anyone says, there are sunny days in Ireland. Today I toured the National Gallery, then walked back on a long, circuitous route that took me past the National Library, then to St. Stephen's Green (where this lovely garden was in bloom), then to tea at Voila, finally walking along the canal back to our hotel. 

It was such a delightful day I wanted to spend as much time outside as I could, and the large number of sun worshippers in the park seemed to agree.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Review--Fanning the Flames

I really enjoyed this romance, primarily because the protagonists were seasoned adults, not YA or NA.  Reading about people who were old enough to know what they want and go after it made me happy.

In fact, I'd like to read more romances with protagonists in their 50s having wild monkey sex. Sure, there would be Astroglide and little blue pills involved, but it would still be fun for readers of a certain demographic.

I'm looking forward to reading the next Girls' Night Out story. Ms. Dahl, like her heroes, always satisfies.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Happy Birthday, USCG

Fifteen hundred dollars worth of coffee coming in duty free meant a
tidy profit, whether it was Delerue-Sanders behind the smuggling or
someone else. 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.

The United States Coast Guard, aka the Revenue-Marine, aka the Revenue Cutter Service was founded on this day in 1790 by US Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. Happy Birthday, Coast Guard! You can read more about the role of the Revenue Marine in Territorial Florida in Smuggler's Bride. It was fun researching that novel and learning the Coast Guard's history, and the USCG deserves a salute on its special day.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Review--The Silkworm

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent mystery, wonderfully snarky insiders' look at publishing and authors behaving badly. "Whodunnit?" kept me guessing until the last quarter of the book, and even then I couldn't figure out the motive until it was all revealed.

The only reason I didn't give it five stars was the POV shifts in the middle of a scene. I realize it's becoming a more common style, but I still find it jarring.

I look forward to more Cormoran Strike mysteries!

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Review--Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation

Redefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and SegregationRedefining Rape: Sexual Violence in the Era of Suffrage and Segregation by Estelle B. Freedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fascinating look at a topic still very much in the news. How do we define sexual assault, and how, historically, have charges of sexual assault been used as a political weapon? In addition, how are certain populations disenfranchised from exercising the right to charge sexual assault?

An important look at historic American attitudes that still play out today in questions of power, race and sexuality.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan, now in paper!

Today is release day for the paperback edition of A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan, which I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing as an ARC earlier this year. I gave it five stars:

"It's cliched to say 'I couldn't put it down!', but that's how I felt about A Dangerous Fiction. Rogan brings an insider's keen view, pulling the reader into the New York publishing milieu with all of its jealousies, intrigue, excitement and larger-than-life personalities. At the heart of the story is a woman's need to uncover the truths about her own life, even as she's the target of malevolent foes she can't identify. Danger, suspense, romance and the deep bonds of friendship--A Dangerous Fiction has it all.
(Disclaimer--I received an advance review copy of this novel from the publisher)"

I also had the pleasure of doing a Q&A with Barbara in advance of today's release:

Q: Why does the New York literary scene make a good setting for a murder mystery?
A: It’s a natural fit, because publishing really is murder. Passions run high, rejection is rampant, and some people just can’t handle it. The incident that opens A DANGEROUS FICTION shows a literary agent, Jo Donovan, being stalked by an aggrieved writer. That’s a scenario that can happen and has happened in real life.

I also think the novel provides a useful portrayal of publishing from the inside, which is very different from the way it looks on the outside. I was a literary agent myself for many years, so I know that world from many angles, and I enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself in it again. It’s a fun world to write about, because the characters need to be sharp, witty people who love to talk and do it well.

Q: Your heroine is a woman of a certain age, not an ingenue. Is the market ripe for protagonists who are past their 20's and have some life experience?
A: That may very well be true, since you are certainly describing the largest reader demographic for fiction. But Jo’s age, 35, was determined by the needs of the story. I wanted a heroine who was young for her position, but old enough to have been married ten years and widowed three.

Q: The ending of A Dangerous Fiction left the door open for further developments. What's next for Jo? 
 A: I’m not close to finished with Jo Donovan yet. She has a lot of secrets, not all of which were revealed in the first book. I’m discovering more of them now in the sequel, in which Jo’s friend and client Gordon Hayes gets into terrible trouble when one of his trained attack dogs kills a man. A lot of my favorite characters from A DANGEROUS FICTION return in the sequel, and Jo has an intense new relationship, so it’s a continuation of her story as well as a brand-new mystery.

Want more info? From the publisher:

In A DANGEROUS FICTION (Penguin Books; $15.00; ISBN: 978-0-143-12565-5; on sale July 29, 2014), Barbara Rogan delivers a nail-biting and deeply entertaining mystery—set in the heart of the New York City publishing world. Thirty-five-year-old Jo Donovan always manages to come out on top. Originally from the backwoods of Appalachia, she worked hard to achieve her dream of living amongst the literati of Manhattan as the wife of renowned author (and notorious playboy) Hugo Donovan. Upon Hugo’s untimely death, Jo becomes the owner of one of the most prestigious literary agencies in town, wheeling and dealing with charm, a biting wit, and a backbone of steel.

When a would-be client turns stalker, accosting Jo on the street one evening during a torrential rainstorm, she initially writes it off as just another occupational hazard. Since he was wearing a trench coat and fedora, Jo nicknames him “Sam Spade.” But when her agency is sabotaged and her authors fall prey to sadistic attacks, Jo senses something far more sinister is at work.

As her web of suspicion grows wider her circle of friends draws nearer; yet all signs point to an inside job. Then harassment escalates to murder and Jo turns to the authorities, supported by her client and friend, Max Messinger, a former FBI profiler turned bestselling thriller writer. At the police station she finds herself face-to-face with a handsome old flame—who is now an NYPD detective. He may still carry a torch for Jo…or a grudge. With little evidence to work with, everyone is a suspect, even Jo herself.

A DANGEROUS FICTION is a white-knuckle thriller, but it’s also a remarkable insider’s view of the book publishing world. Fast-paced, urgently suspenseful, and sparkling with wicked wit, Barbara Rogan’s superb storytelling will keep readers on their toes until the very last page.

About the Author:

Barbara Rogan is a former literary agent and the author of eight novels and coauthor of two
nonfiction books. Her fiction has been translated into six languages. She has taught fiction writing at Hofstra University and currently teaches for Writers Digest University and in her own online school, Next Level Workshops. She lives on Long Island and blogs at Visit her and

A DANGEROUS FICTIONBy Barbara RoganPenguin Books; $15.00; ISBN: 978-0-143-12565-5On-Sale: July 29, 2014 or

Sunday, July 27, 2014

My Schedule for Loncon3--World Science Fiction Convention in London

I have my final schedule for Loncon3, the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention in London, UK. You can read my con bio here, and I'm looking forward to jetting across the pond and seeing old friends, as well as meeting new ones. There's a nifty app to help you schedule your time at Loncon, and you can download it in iPhone or Android formats. 

Where there's an (M) next to my name, I'm the moderator for that item.  I'll also be doing a reading from either The Pirate's Secret Baby or the WIP [Mattie's Book]. Don't forget, The Pirate's Secret Baby, along with all my previous novels, can be purchased from Amazon Kindle UK, as well as at NOOK, Kobo and other ebook dealers. Paper editions are available in the US.

I'll be out and about at the con as a fan as well as a programme participant. If you see me, please come up to me and say "Hi!" Worldcon is no place to be shy, we're there to see friends and fans!

Teen Romance

Friday 15:00 - 16:30, Capital Suite 10 (ExCeL)

Romance is in the air! Authors discuss the trend of weaving romantic entanglements into young adult literature. From true love to pining for that special someone, authors tackle the thorny subject of love, sex, and the supernatural--not to mention the fateful first kiss. What is it about a supernatural love interest that leaves mere mortals a distant second? Is there a discernible difference in how teen romance is handled between SF/F and its peer genres? And how far is too far when writing teen romance?

Mary Anne Mohanraj (M), Amie Kaufman, Mary Turzillo, Sarah Rees Brennan, Darlene Marshall

Sex in SF&F: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Saturday 11:00 - 12:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

Genre fiction's relationship to sex can best be described as 'It's Complicated'. While a sub-genre such as paranormal romance is sometimes belittled for its libido, other fields play it overly coy or, worse still, deal with sex almost entirely within the context of sexual(ised) violence; moreover, space given to non-heteronormative sexualities is small and may even been dissipating. What has occasioned such divergent approaches? How can portrayals of sex in general be used to communicate more complex and positive ideas and responses? Whatever happened to fumbling foreplay, the intimacy of commitment, and the post-coital chat?

Darlene Marshall (M), Tiffani Angus, Terry Jackman, Stephanie Osborn, Jennifer Stevenson

Coming of Age in Game of Thrones

Saturday 18:00 - 19:00, Capital Suite 14 (ExCeL)

In a world were life and death hang in the balance for every character no matter how despised or loved, it is the children who pay the heaviest price. Their parents' plots and intrigues sit squarely upon the shoulders of the Stark, Lannister, and Targaryen children, snatching their childhoods away and forcing them to wield their own power to survive the game of thrones. But have the adults underestimated their children's value as players? Who will survive? Who will gain power? Will they have a chance to be children again? And who will be the biggest surprise? At what point do these children, despite their tender ages, take on the mantels of their parents and become adults themselves? Panelists will examine issues surrounding childhood and coming of age during a time of conflict where familial normalcy is gone and the rules of their world are in the process of being rewritten. *Spoiler Alert: Discussion will include all previously published books within the series.*

Darlene Marshall (M), Liz de Jager, John Hornor Jacobs, Django Wexler

Reading: Darlene Marshall

Sunday 14:30 - 15:00, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)

Darlene Marshall(

When Genres Collide: Does SF&F have its own form?

Monday 10:00 - 11:00, Capital Suite 7+12 (ExCeL)

Science fiction and fantasy often borrows structures and forms from other genres like noir, western, romance, etc. What are the structures and forms that are native to science fiction and fantasy? Are these storytelling conventions that can be exported to mainstream fiction? What is it about science fiction and fantasy that makes it so flexible for folding in other genres?

Duncan Lawie (M), Peter Higgins, Darlene Marshall, Nick Harkaway

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Jaded (Walkers Ford, #2)Jaded by Anne Calhoun
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought I would like this novel, but I didn't think I would love it.

I loved it.

Jaded is set in a small town in the upper Midwest, and while I enjoyed the story about the quiet librarian and the hot police chief (even they acknowledge this is a cliche), what really made me love it was the library. It's no secret that I'm on my local public library foundation, that I've been involved in library renovations, and that I believe 100% that public libraries are needed in the 21st century as community centers, places where people of all ages and all backgrounds come together for a vast array of services.

I'm also a tutor in a literacy program, and I know how much it means to invest your time in a child from a home without access to books, bedtime stories and college dreams. While I can't guarantee a happy ending in life like I can in my books, it gave me a great deal of pleasure to read about the characters in Jaded earning their HEA.

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