Wednesday, December 4, 2013

ALWAYS A STRANGER is available for pre-order!

As I finish up copy edits, I'm very pleased to announce that you can now pre-order ALWAYS A STRANGER from Amazon and Barnes and Noble! It's also available for pre-order on iBooks!

Happy sigh! I look forward to sharing Hanako and Skyler with you all!

With so much to look forward to and with the holiday season upon us, I'm giving away an autographed copy of NEVER TOO LATE on GoodReads to celebrate! Happy holidays!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Never Too Late by Amara Royce

Never Too Late

by Amara Royce

Giveaway ends December 30, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Guest Post at novelist Barbara Rogan's "In Cold Ink" Blog!

Several years ago, I had the pleasure of attending an online writing course taught by novelist (and former literary agent) Barbara Rogan. I'd already "known" Barbara through the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum and regularly drooled over the Next Level writing workshops that she occasionally taught (and still offers periodically), but I wasn't quite in a position to take those intensive workshops at the time. So, when she taught an online fiction writing course through Writer's Digest, I jumped at the chance to work with her. And it was every bit as wonderful as I'd hoped it would be. 

Barbara is not only an excellent author (her newest book A DANGEROUS FICTION is available now!) but also a tireless supporter of new and budding writers. 

Hence, I have a guest post up at her blog, In Cold Ink, in which I discuss my writer's journey to publication! Come visit! 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

ALWAYS A STRANGER has a cover!

I'm pleased to announce that my second book, ALWAYS A STRANGER (release: May 2014), now has a lovely cover and cover copy!

I had a few "wish list" ideas about the cover, and I'm thrilled that the cover artist agreed!

1) In my mind, the heart of this story is really the heroine, Hanako Sumaki, and her experiences. So I wanted the cover to focus on her instead of on her and the hero. Don't get me wrong--the hero is significant! But focusing on the heroine also emphasizes how the title of the book relates to her, not to the couple.

2) I appreciated the three-section cover of NEVER TOO LATE and wanted ALWAYS A STRANGER to echo that cover. After all, while it's not technically a closely linked series, ALWAYS A STRANGER is set in the same time and place, and NEVER TOO LATE's couple, Honoria and Alex, are important secondary characters in this second book.

So...without further ado...

Cover copy:

When two worlds collide, anything is possible...

An international affair, London's Great Exhibition has taken the city by storm. As its newest Royal Commissioner, Lord Skyler Ridgemont must ensure the performers are properly contracted. Among them is the delicate and graceful Hanako Sumaki. Draped in vivid silk robes, Hanako's exotic Japanese fan dance captivates Skyler-and he longs to learn more about her...

But Hanako's enigmatic employer keeps his exquisite charge very close. The consummate artist, she shows the handsome nobleman many faces, but never her true heart, which holds a desperate secret. When Skyler learns the real reason Hanako has been brought to London, he will risk his entire world to win her trust-and save her from losing both body and soul. It's a feat that will require the type of courage only love can give...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I have news!

I hate to do fly-by posts, but time is flying! I again have stacks of essays surrounding me that I *really* need to finish grading. Somehow this semester seems like it's on caffeine and adrenalin...on overdrive. Semesters are usually hectic, but this one seemed to escalate early and stay revved up. I have to admit I'm looking forward to a couple of days of Fall Break in a few weeks...just to slow the pace down a little tiny bit.

Oh, but enough about all that...I have news!

1) The Get Lost in a Story blog invited me to do an interview.  My online writer friend and BookEnds agency sister Lara Lacombe, whose debut romantic suspense DEADLY CONTACT will be released by Harlequin in November, asked me all sorts of fun questions! And there's a giveaway of NEVER TOO LATE! Come visit!

2)'s official! ALWAYS A STRANGER will be released in May 2014! Set in the same world as NEVER TOO LATE, book two features an Asian performer in the Great Exhibition, trapped by an employer who has nefarious plans for her.  More on that soon! (Pssst--I also got to see something pretty today but can't share yet...)

And now it's time for me to go back into my grading cave...

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 23, 2013

How writing shapes my teaching

The 2013-2014 academic year is approaching at lightspeed. I teach at a community college, and this semester I have the pleasure of teaching four sections of English I and a section of English II. These courses involve lots and lots and lots of writing, and they're foundational courses for the academic writing students will do in the future.

So as I work on syllabi and tweak assignments, I can't help but reflect on how my experiences writing and publishing inevitably affect my teaching. Having my debut historical novel NEVER TOO LATE published earlier this year by eKensington was a dreamy, overwhelming whirlwind of goodness.  And it gave me a deeper, more visceral appreciation of writing advice I tend to give students perennially.

Writing is a process. I emphasize this every semester, throughout the semester. I structure assignments so that students practice separate stages of pre-writing, drafting, revision and editing, getting feedback, and polishing/proofreading. And, sure, I generally practice what I preach with most things I write in my academic life. But experiencing the publishing process on a professional level--working with an agent and editor and copyeditor and production editor--reinforces how very important it is to give every step the time and attention it deserves. It can be so easy to miss something, so easy to give in to impatience or frustration or fatigue. But each step matters, and it's not a straightforward staircase. Sometimes we have to backtrack and re-assess, to take a fresh look at the project and see what needs to be changed or moved, even if it's such a major change that it's painful. In the end, the time and effort are worth it.

Writing is work. Some people have a natural affinity for writing, a gift with words and ideas. But natural talent isn't enough. It's important to learn how writing works, to examine literary and rhetorical techniques, to analyze what makes various pieces of writing effective. While some writers just have brilliance flowing from their fingertips at will, there is much about really effective, really powerful writing that can be learned...and practiced.

Writing makes us vulnerable. One very important reminder, one that can be so easy for writing teachers to forget in the hustle and bustle of the semester, is that writing for an audience makes the writer vulnerable. Some students come into my classes already feeling insecure about their writing skills, perhaps because of previous less-than-successful experiences or because they've been told sometime in the past that they aren't "good writers." Being in the position of having my work read and reviewed by total strangers is wildly exciting but also tremendously humbling.  It's an important reminder of how many of my students must feel when I hand back their project portfolios. I recognize how they brace themselves before looking at their grade, and I sympathize.

Writing can be fun. I must admit that, in my classes, I have a tendency to focus so much on academic writing and on helping students become part of the academic discourse community. One of the reasons I transitioned from writing (or trying to write) literary fiction to writing historical romance was that I found my lit fic attempts heavy and serious and depressing...and writing historical romance helped me rediscover the joy of writing. It made me feel lighter, more carefree...doors and windows in my mind flew open as I gave myself permission to explore and play. (And then, of course, came the work of revision and editing and polishing.) So perhaps one of the most important things I need to remember this semester is to make time for students to play in their writing, to at least occasionally foster an atmosphere of joy and exploration in the midst of all that serious academic work.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Deleted Scenes: The lost prologue of NEVER TOO LATE

First, a reminder:
  • The GoodReads giveaway of one autographed print copy of Never Too Late continues--it ends on August 16! US only! Don't miss your chance!
  • SALE! Never Too Late for Nook is now on sale at Barnes and Noble for $1.99!

Now, ahem, prologues.

Yes, it's true. In its pre-published infancy, Never Too Late had a prologue.

Conventional wisdom in modern publishing tends to warn writers away from prologues. Prologues can certainly be done well and be vital to a story, but they can also be a false start of sorts that don't serve the story well. The Writer magazine has a great article on the pros and cons of prologues.

I held on to NTL's prologue right up to the moment I began querying. Some agents wanted query packages to include the first five pages of the manuscript. If there's a prologue, it should included in those first five sample pages. When I considered whether NTL's prologue would really grab agents (and, by extension, readers), I knew in my heart that it wasn't essential to the story. In fact, the insights the prologue reveals about Lord Alexander Devin, the hero of NTL, are already embedded later in the novel, when it makes sense for the heroine to learn about them.

More importantly, I realized that starting the novel with this prologue would have made it the hero's story rather than the heroine's. While NEVER TOO LATE is ultimately about the couple, it was important to me to give the heroine equal emphasis, "equal screen time," from the very beginning. So instead, the story starts with a glimpse of Mrs. Honoria Duchamp in her "natural habitat" when she (and readers) first encounter the mysterious Lord Devin.

I think the story works better without the prologue...but you can decide for yourself!

Without further ado, the lost prologue of NEVER TOO LATE...
When the letter informing Viscount Anthony Devin’s family of his untimely death arrived, his wife crumpled against their eldest son. Alexander Nathaniel Montgomery Archer Devin, stoic and stalwart, kept his mother from slumping to the floor and braced himself against her tears, her wails, her curses, and eventually her fists. Recognizing the tremendous responsibility that now fell on his shoulders, he quietly tried to hold her and his siblings together. If at any time during the customary year-long mourning period, his eyes burned or his spirit weakened to grief, he did not show it publicly. Instead, he was the anchor holding his family steady in a tumultuous sea of grief.
Even at 18, Alex bore his family responsibilities with aplomb and almost eerie maturity. It was Alex who made sure his secretary responded to every condolence the family received, when his mother could not get out of bed, could not speak to anyone other than her children, could not face daylight. It was Alex who made sure young Andrew promptly went back to Eton, using the convincing argument that it was what father would have wanted. It was Alex who made sure Amelia’s lessons continued to prepare her for coming out on schedule two years after their father’s passing.
It was Alex who, a week after the tragic letter arrived, accepted and identified his father’s body, along with his last worldly possessions. That very evening, he’d left the monogrammed handkerchief and leather-bound notebook on his mother’s bedside table, unsure whether they would raise her heart or sink her deeper into grief but certain that she would want them for herself. He put his father’s watch aside for Andrew and some postcards his father wrote but never mailed aside for Amelia. But the maps, some clearly drawn by his father’s hand, and the compass and the canteen, he’d wanted to throw into the fire. He wanted to see them destroyed, as much as they’d destroyed his family. It was a near thing…the flames licking up toward the parchment as he prepared to feed the maps into the library fireplace. But at the last moment, he found he couldn’t.
Having already taken on many estate duties during his father’s frequent travels, so-called “exploratory missions,” Alex now took on his father’s title and, to his chagrin, his father’s legacy. Well-meaning associates and acquaintances praised his father’s fearless sense of adventure and keen observation skills. “One of England's finest,” they said. “A model of British intrepidity,” they said. Despite himself, he could recall the many times in his youth that he’d stay up well past his bedtime night after night because a letter promised his father’s return. The many times he’d loiter along the lane anticipating a glimpse of his father’s horse. The many times he’d run at the man, larger than life, to grab at him fiercely, be hoisted up on his shoulders, and ride home triumphantly. He could also recall, just as many times, the crushing disappointment when later that week or even later that homecoming day he found out that his father was already planning another jaunt and that, yet again, he was too young to be part of it.
He could recall the joy in his mother’s eyes every time she welcomed Lord Devin home and the beseeching sadness she strove to hide whenever he took leave again.
His siblings inherited their father’s wanderlust. They’d sat rapt as his father told stories of exotic lands and peoples. They’d played pirates and taken to wandering the wooded grounds when they were old enough. As in love as they were with their father, both Amelia and Andrew loved the world he brought to them and showed every sign that they would seek it for themselves as soon as they were able.
But he, now Viscount Devin, knew the dangers of such selfish and reckless desires. Everyone else celebrated his father’s wanderlust, as if it were something to emulate. Diving off Japanese cliffs. Tracing South American rivers. Spelunking in Indian caves. As if falling to your death, a misstep while copying supposedly ancient cave drawings, was somehow noble and advantageous. Leaving a distraught wife and three impressionable children behind. Well, two impressionable children…he himself was hardly a child. Nor was he impressed by his father’s bravado. And he’d known, for several years and with absolute certainty, that such a letter would eventually come, that his father would perish in some awful way far from home and leave them shattered.
From the moment he’d held the actual letter in his hands and read the words he’d predicted, he also knew one more thing without a doubt. He would never be his father. He would never indulge his own petty and self-centered desires at the expense of his family. He would never abandon them luxuriate in worldly excursions. He would never sacrifice them for some silly fantastical quest. He wouldn’t risk his life trivially. He would remain the bedrock upon which his mother and siblings could rebuild their lives.
He would be steadfast, tenable…present. His loved ones would never have to question his loyalty or his reliability…or his whereabouts. He would never allow his attention to be diverted from his family, and he would do anything…anything…to protect them.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Celebratory Giveaway! One ebook copy of NEVER TOO LATE!

It's been a busy month!

ALWAYS A STRANGER (Book 2) is "finished" and currently in the hands of my wonderful agent, Jessica! If she gives it a thumbs up, its next stop is my wonderful editor, John, at Kensington.

And August 2 will be the three-month birthday of NEVER TOO LATE! I've been awestruck at my debut historical romance's reception these past few months. It's gratifying to know that people enjoy the story and that people appreciate these characters, the "older" heroine, the younger man, stable characters who would, technically, have continued to live contently without knowing each other, but who are so much better together.

So, anyway, it seems like a great time for a giveaway! So I'm giving away one ebook copy of NEVER TOO LATE this week!

There are multiple ways to enter so enter early, enter often!

Giveaways is open to US residents only and ends August 5, 2013.

Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

GoodReads Giveaway - One autographed copy of NEVER TOO LATE

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Never Too Late by Amara Royce

Never Too Late

by Amara Royce

Giveaway ends August 16, 2013.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

A quick recommendation...PAINTED HANDS by Jennifer Zobair

It seems that now, more than ever, we need ways to connect with, to empathize with people whose lives might be a mystery to us. Whether because of culture or gender or some other element, we may see them as different, as "Other." Perhaps part of it is how we've been raised. Perhaps part of it is the way cultural stereotypes pervade so much of our society. Perhaps part of it is being invested in the world we know and anxious about how new things, new cultures, new people might change that world.

One of literature's greatest benefits is its ability to give us a glimpse into lives we otherwise might not know. We can see how those lives are perhaps dramatically different from our own, for good or ill, and also see how much we many of our challenges and struggles are common. We can see humanity.

Jennifer Zobair's debut novel PAINTED HANDS is probably best categorized as women's fiction, possibly even a cultural and political version of chick lit. It focuses on contemporary American Muslim women--high-powered professional women--and how they navigate through careers, politics, religion, and love. It touches on so many common women's issues and so many common relationship issues. It's beautiful, and it's valuable, and it has the potential to help us connect, help us empathize, help us be more of a global community.

Monday, July 8, 2013

This week's news - July 8th edition

Two quick tidbits:

To celebrate BOTH, I'm planning a little giveaway...more details soon! Now...back to work!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Things I'm looking forward to in July...

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

Thursday, June 13, 2013

On Sale Now!...and a brief hiatus...

I just got word from Kensington Publishing that they are putting some of their e-book titles on sale June 11-25, and NEVER TOO LATE is among them!

As of today, I can personally confirm that NEVER TOO LATE is on sale for $1.99 at the following e-booksellers: 

Amazon (Kindle)          Barnes and Noble (Nook)          Sony          Kobo

It should also be on sale for iBooks! 

So no matter which e-reader you favor, don't miss this great deal!

In other news, things will likely be quiet on this site for the next few weeks because I'm writing on deadline. Book 2 (ALWAYS A STRANGER) is due in my editor's hands by July 1. ALWAYS A STRANGER is set in the same world as NEVER TOO LATE, and Honoria and Alex have cameos. I'm very excited about this story, in part because it features a half-Japanese heroine, which presents unusual challenges in Victorian Britain, but also presents great opportunities to consider the growth of British imperialism and ethnocentricity in the period. Lots of wonderful and fascinating historical information to dig into!

You'll probably still be able to find me chattering away on Twitter at random times, though, to help maintain my sanity. So feel free to say hi!

And in case you missed them, check out my recent online appearances at Fiction Vixen (Weekend Feature) and RR@H Novel Thoughts (guest post about romance covers)!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

And the answers are...

If you haven't seen it yet, the wonderful Zan Marie Steadham interviewed me on her blog In the Shade of the Cherry Tree...Here's her last question and my response:
ZM—Finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

Amara—Ooh, what a great question. Keep in mind that I’m very new to this and haven’t had many interviews! Plus, I’m virtually incapable of providing quick and easy responses. So here are a few interview questions I’d enjoy responding to: How would you respond to people who categorize romance as “mommy porn”? What’s been most surprising to you in the publishing process? What tips would you have for other aspiring writers?
Astute visitors noticed that I didn't actually answer those questions. Oops!

One mutual Forumite took the initiative to ask what my replies would be. Knowing myself, the answers would take some time and space. I didn't have the time until now, and, rather than bury the responses in a week-old comment stream at Zan Marie's, I've decided to answer them here (with a thankful curtsy to Zan Marie for prompting them to begin with!).

How would you respond to people who categorize romance as "mommy porn"?

Here's what I posted on the Forum when aforementioned Forumite asked what my response would be...It's followed by a bit more on the topic...

I've heard romance referred to as "mommy porn" and "housewife porn," and my primary reaction these days is amusement. I've only ever heard the terms used by people who don't read romances and who have a general set of (usually unflattering) assumptions about the entire genre.

More than one close friend of mine was floored when I revealed I'm writing historical romance, and their common admission has been that they thought romances were just sex scenes with minimal plot linking them together. But they've been pleasantly surprised that NTL isn't like that (or at least that's what they've said <g>). And really there's a wide continuum of "heat" in romance...from inspirational and "clean" romances to erotic romance (I think 50 Shades is on the erotic end of the continuum). I haven't seen the "grey babies" news yer (just saw a quick mention on Twitter), but I guess enjoyment of a book can take many forms.

I suppose one serious note I would have about the "porn" terms is that the intention of porn seems to be titillation and sexual pleasure, but I don't think romance writers are generall aiming for that. Their intent is to write a good love story with a happy ending ( and it frequently but not always includes some sexy scenes).
Overall, though...amusement. <bg>

I kind of, sort of hope that people who make such assumptions about romance but try my book anyway will find that romance isn't what they thought it was. I'd also want to point them to historical romance authors like Joanna Bourne and Meredith Duran, both of whom do really wonderful things with history and language and structure. {Edited to include--after Zan Marie's reminder in the comments--the wonderful Kristen Callihan, whose interlacing of historical and paranormal knocks my socks off!} Yes, romance is about relationships and feelings and frequently (but not always) sex...but that's not all it's about...and it's not "all the same."

And as yet another note specifically on the "porn" element, the whole sub-genre of Inspirational Romance shows that romance exists without sex on the page. Even outside of that sub-genre, there are plenty of romance writers who "close the bedroom door" when things get hot and heavy.

Because romance isn't all about sex. Honest.

What's been most surprising to you in the publishing process?

Three things:
  1. My experience with querying and getting a book deal was, based on what I'd researched prior to doing so, rather atypical. In other words, it went so much faster than I'd ever expected that my head is STILL spinning. 
  2. Writing can be such a lonely experience, but the romance writing community is so astoundingly supportive! It's a massively interconnected community, and everyone I've met has been tremendously encouraging and friendly. It really touches my heart!
  3. The demands of self-promotion (whether self-imposed or external) are really, really time-consuming. :)
What tips would you have for other aspiring writers?
  • Learn the craft of writing. If you already "know" me through the Forum or AW or other online writing communities, you can probably skip this already know it. You already do it. But sometimes people think writers are naturally born writing well.  Okay, maybe some are. But for most of us, writing is as much a matter of work and growth and improvement as it is a matter of talent. Just like athletes need to train in order to effectively harness and grow their natural talents, so do writers need to learn, to study what they see as excellent writing, in order to strengthen their own skills. And there are plenty of ways a fledgling writer can do so...books about writing, local classes, online classes, blogs, online communities like the Forum (which has an excellent Writer's Exercises section that includes feedback from lots of great writers). 
  • Make friends ...but not in a self-serving "make contacts" kind of way. While some writers may work better on their own, many writers benefit from being part of a community, sharing their experiences and insights (and, if they feel comfortable, their writing). Again, the Internet is brilliant for this kind of thing, but you can also seek out local writers' groups. I wouldn't get in the face of a bestselling author (physically or virtually), but fellow writers and aspiring writers are valuable...and NOT just for what they can do for you but for who they are and what they're going through. Furthermore, people can generally tell when they're being used and generally don't appreciate it--so really don't approach people with a focus on how they can help *your* writing and *your* career. Make friends.
  • Learn the publishing industry. This includes learning how to query, learning the common anatomy of a query letter; researching what agents do, which agents represent what, and what each agent you're interested in wants in a query submission; researching how publishing works (including its frequently glacial pace) and what the different roles and stages are in the publishing process (hence the glacial pace).
  • Do what you love. I know how romance is commonly viewed (i.e., "mommy porn"). I don't care--or rather I do care but that doesn't direct my actions. I'll admit it took me a while detach myself from my literary fiction aspirations, which sometimes sent me into a depression spiral, and to acknowledge and embrace the fact that I enjoy writing romance (because of all the baggage attached to it by others). But I really, really, really do. I get to combine the historical research I love with happy endings...I love it. (Incidentally, I think self-publishing phenomenon turned multi-billion dollar author Amanda Hocking once said she started writing with similar literary aspirations but then realized that she was happier writing the kind of books that have now made her famous.)   
Thanks for reading! If you have any additional questions for me, post them in the comments!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The joys of historical research...Victorian slang

Language and its evolution are endlessly fascinating to me.

Technically, much of the Victorian slang you can find on the Internet was used mainly by lower classes. Since Book 2 doesn't feature characters from the lower classes, I probably don't have much good reason to go down this particular rabbit hole today, but it's still fun and fascinating stuff.

It's particularly easy to get sucked into an amazing full-text resource like this one:

There's also a hard copy version, as well as an $.99 e-book version available at Amazon--which I bought for ease of use.

While it generally covers later in the Victorian period than I'm writing now, it's impressive and engrossing for itself. And some of the phrases are particularly revealing about the period--the entry for "Angel-Makers," for instance, gave me a chill.

In case you're interested, here are some other handy-dandy sites on Victorian slang:

What I find particularly noteworthy is that so many of the phrases (1) have much older origins, including Shakespeare AND (2) that some of them persist even today.

I hope you enjoy these little procrastination-friendly jaunts as much as I do!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Where am I? What day is this? Who are you?

The month of May continues to make my head spin. I don't know how people travel for business on a regular basis, spending a few days in one city and then another. After only two trips this month, I am completely turned around and not sure which way is up. You know the feeling, when you've been blindfolded and spun around just before swatting a pinata...that feeling.  Then again, it seems that kids don't hit pinatas anymore.  Instead of each child hitting it with a stick, there are several ribbons attached to the "escape hatch." Each child gets to pull, or maybe they all pull at the same time.  So kids today might not learn what that particular feeling of dizziness is like (dizziness in general, sure...).

But anyway.  That's how I've been feeling all month.

And so...I completely forgot to mention here that I was doing a guest post yesterday at Romancing the Book. D'oh!  It was about seduction and music, specifically the seductiveness of the cello.  That's right, I said cello. If you don't think it's a seductive instrument, go read the post and give me a chance to convince you.

At least I remembered to mention the RtB guest spot on Twitter and FB like a good little newbie author.

And the good news is that the guest spot includes a giveaway--an ebook copy of NEVER TOO LATE--and the giveaway runs for 5 days! So I'm a little late in announcing it, but it's still not over! You still have time to go enter!

In the meantime, I'm sure I'll get my head straight again any minute now...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

NEVER TOO LATE on sale at Amazon!

So I've been silent for a bit just because this has been a ridiculously busy time--end-of-semester grades were due, we celebrated the kid's birthday with a big trip, and then I led a half-day faculty workshop (and will be doing so again later this summer).  

May is turning out to be one helluva month, and it's nowhere near over yet. news for today is that it turns out Amazon has NEVER TOO LATE on sale for $1.99.  

I think the sale has been running for about a week now so I'm not sure how much longer you'll have to pick it up at this great price!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

And the winner is....

First, THANK YOU all so much for participating in the NEVER TOO LATE prize pack giveaway and for celebrating the release of my debut historical romance with me! It's been a great week, and it was especially wonderful to share it with so many lovely and supportive people!

And now...Rafflecopter has spoken...and the winner of the NEVER TOO LATE prize pack is...

Kathie L. Morrow-Spitz!!!

Congratulations, Kathie! I will contact you via email with details!

And again, thanks so much to everyone who helped make an unbelievable week even more special!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Where in the (virtual) world is Amara? Wednesday edition

It's almost been a week since the release of NEVER TOO LATE, and, yes, my head is still spinning!

Today, you can find me at Romancing Rakes For the Love of Romance, where I do an interview that includes a fleeting glimpse of Book 2!  Also--a giveaway of NEVER TOO LATE!

And I didn't get to post yesterday because my alternate universe was insanely busy, but here's where I was yesterday:
  • Nancy Goodman's Rakes Rogues and Romance - an interview including some of my writing influences and a bit more detail about my PhD, among other things.
  • Book Lovers Inc - guest post about NEVER TOO LATE's heroine Honoria Duchamp and the Victorian notion of "redundant women."
And don't forget--my NEVER TOO LATE prize pack giveaway ends in less than 24 hours! (See previous posts for more details!)

Monday, May 6, 2013

NTL prize pack giveaway continues!

Just a little reminder that the NEVER TOO LATE prize pack giveaway runs until May 9th, and there are multiple ways to enter!

The NTL prize pack includes...
  • a free copy of the NEVER TOO LATE e-book
  • a $25 Amazon gift card
  • a cameo pendant
  • NTL swag (postcards, keychain, pen, and preview booklet)
Open in the US and Canada. Void where prohibited.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 3, 2013

Where in the world is Amara today? Ella Quinn's blog!

As I continue to celebrate the release of NEVER TOO LATE, I'm at Ella Quinn's blog today for an interview!

Ella is such a great part of the romance writing community. She's also a fellow eKensington author, and her own debut, THE SEDUCTION OF LADY PHOEBE, will be released in September!

Stop by and find out my writing journey started!  There's also a snippet from NTL and a giveaway!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

NEVER TOO LATE - Release Day is here!!!! (Giveaways too!)

It is my very great pleasure to announce that today is the release day of my debut historical romance, NEVER TOO LATE, by eKensington! 

*cue trumpets, balloons, and confetti*

It's hard to believe release day is finally here!

So...I'm commemorating the big day in multiple places!  Thanks for visiting and sharing this wonderful day with me!


I'm doing a Debut Author appearance at The Book Pushers! Come learn more about me and my path to publishing! (And--if you respond to an easy question in The Book Pushers comments section, you'll be eligible for a chance to win a copy of the NEVER TOO LATE e-book there!)

Locale 2: FACEBOOK

I'm also doing an all-day NEVER TOO LATE Release Day event on Facebook! (Okay, so "all-day" means 8 am to 8 pm ET in my world.) Join the FB event for random tidbits and trivia and Q&A. And watch for random surprise giveaways during the FB too!


I'm giving away a NEVER TOO LATE prize pack that includes a free copy of Never Too Late (e-book), a $25 Amazon gift card, a cameo pendant, and some NTL swag! 

Through this Rafflecopter giveaway, people are welcome to enter multiple times through multiple venues (including Facebook and Twitter) from now until May 9th! See the entry app below to see the different ways to enter!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 29, 2013

Readers and Reviews

With the impending release of NEVER TOO LATE, reviews are popping up in various places, like GoodReads.

And, no matter what any of the reviews say about the book, I cannot fully express how awestruck I am with appreciation that people are reading my work...AND taking the time and effort to post reviews. It just happens to be a bonus when readers like my work, even if not wholeheartedly. have been a controversial minefield for years. There's been a lot of news about authors (or their fans) behaving badly over poor reviews. There's been angst over Amazon removing reviews by people connected to an author to avoid review inflation. And, okay, reviews can certainly affect the sales and success of any book.

But really, I'm just happy to see people reading. No, not everyone will love NEVER TOO LATE. But I'm hoping some people will be intrigued enough to pick it up. And maybe, just maybe, a few of those people will love it. Even if you don't like it, just read something!

Ultimately, though, I'm in the camp that says readers don't owe writers anything. Not reviews. Not love. Not liking. Not even a passing glance. From an author's perspective, Chuck Wendig says it in is usually inimitable and profane way. From a reader's perspective dr b at BookRiot say it just as vividly and adds the caveat "I won’t ever steal books, digital or otherwise. Not ever." (With my professional emphasis on intellectual property and plagiarism, this is a sentiment I especially appreciate.)

The bottom line is...all I have to say, no matter what you think of my book, is thank you.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Snippets - betrayal

And so we have come to the last Saturday Snippet before the grand release of NEVER TOO LATE! Time certainly does fly!

Honoria and Alex are both remarkably self-contained individuals, who've established clear and comfortable boundaries for their lives. So when they allow others to breach those boundaries...well, a violation of trust is that much more devastating:

She backed away from him yet again, looking like a frightened doe. When she looked toward the large windows, he suspected she was trying to gauge whether she could safely drop to the ground if she went through one of them. When he reached his hand out to touch her face, he caught the faintest twitch of a grimace and stopped. She looked sad and worn. And he had done this to her.

“Every word, every touch, every—” Her voice broke. “It's all corrupted. Every memory is tainted with betrayal—mine as much as yours. It's all ruined, and I can't bear it. I believe it would be best for me to leave now,” she said quietly, barely above a whisper.

“But, Nora—”

“I'm afraid I must insist, Lord Devin.” Then he heard it. The barely controlled quavering in her voice. She was broken, and she didn't want him to see how severely.

“Listen to me—” he tried again.

She brought her eyes to meet his.

“Please,” she said. “I beg of you. Just leave me be.” He couldn't ignore how much it cost her. The Nora he had come to know never begged, not even in jest. And he had done this to her.

Celebrating the release of NEVER TOO LATE

To celebrate the May 2 release of the Never Too Late e-book, I'll be giving away a prize pack that includes a free copy of the e-book, a $25 Amazon gift card, a cameo necklace, and some Never Too Late swag.

Details will be announced on May 2, and the giveaway will run May 2 - May 9.  I'll be using Rafflecopter, and everyone will have the opportunity to submit multiple entries through Facebook, Twitter, and questions to answer.  Come visit and spread the word!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Memory Lane

What a difference a year makes.

I started this blog/site in June of last year, very soon after I began querying agents for NEVER TOO LATE.  

My head is still spinning.

And so, as I look ahead to the release of NEVER TOO LATE next week (May 2nd--squeeeee!), I'm reviving my inaugural June 13, 2012 post:

"Why I set novels in the Victorian Era." 


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Saturday Snippets - a cliffhanger

First, my sympathies go out to everyone affected by the tragedies in Boston and Texas, as well as victims of the earthquake in China.  It's been a rough week for many people, and the heroic efforts we've witnessed help reinforce my faith in humanity. I'm hoping beyond hope that the coming weeks are brighter and calmer and happier for us all.

Now...onward to today's Saturday Snippet.

There is less than a fortnight until Never Too Late enters the world. Twelve days, to be exact. 

This week's snippet highlights Honoria's tendency to poke her nose into suspicious situations, heedless of her own personal safety. That's all I say at the moment...

She made her way toward the back of the house, checking every window for a possible weak point of entry. To no avail. She slipped into the shadows and paused to reassess her plans. Finally, she accepted that she hadn’t been thinking clearly. Surely no one so despicable would make it easy for someone to slip into their lair. They would be stealthy and protective; she needed to think more like them. After some quick thought, she decided to pass herself off as a poor, desperate widow willing to do anything for quick funds. She would simply go up to the front door and beg for employment. She rearranged her clothing to look a bit more disheveled and took a deep steadying breath.

Just as she was about to emerge from the shadows, however, a large hand covered her mouth from behind and she was pulled back into a hedge behind the house.
Next week, I'll provide more detailed information about my upcoming online appearances in celebration of Never Too Late's release, including some of the topics I'll be talking about and giveaways I'll be doing.

Here's hoping the coming week is good to you all!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Saturday Snippets - in medias res

Never Too Late lands in less than three weeks! Less than THREE WEEKS!  *deep breaths*

Here it is on GoodReads...and reader reviews are starting to appear!  *deep breaths*

And it is now available for pre-order at all sorts of e-booksellers!  *swoon*

While I'm over here hyperventilating, here is a little snippet for you.  This week's snippet appears without context in the middle of Big Things, after a few Big Things have already happened. Enjoy!

“Is it the shop? I know the burglary is quite a shock. It's understandable, but those objects can be replaced. The shop can be renovated. You are safe, and that is the most important thing.”

You are safe, and that is the most important thing.

His words shot so directly to the target of her sorrow that fresh tears sprang to her eyes. His hand stroked tears away from the corners of her eyes.

“It's just,” she finally said, “been quite a day, as you said. Apparently, I am overwrought, and my mind runs away with me.”

"What is it?”

She answered his question with one of her own.

“What do you see when you look at me? Truly?”

"I see a woman. An enchanting, forthright, beautiful woman.”

“Such pretty words.” She would have scoffed if she had the energy.

“You don't believe me?”

“It's too easy. That's the kind of thing you could say to any girl to make her moon-eyed. What do you see when you look at me?”

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Saturday Snippets...follow me...

Today's edition of Saturday Snippets can be found at Limecello's A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet blog.  I'm at ALBTALBS doing a guest post (my very first). My topic? First kisses!

So follow me to Limecello's wonderful site, where you can chat about first kisses (the magical and the...meh), catch a glimpse of the first time Honoria and Alex kiss, and get an opportunity to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Real Victorian Romance: The Brownings

It occurs to me that, with all my grading and drafting of Book 2 (tentatively entitled Always a Stranger) and preparing for the release of Never Too Late, it's been a while since I actually talked about anything Victorian.  And I seem to recall promising in some previous post to discuss a few couples from the Victorian era who I find fascinating...and specifically the relationship between renowned Victorian poets Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning.

They are perhaps my favorite literary couple, so much so that they make an appearance in NTL. Here are just a few reasons why...
  1. Before their relationship began, Elizabeth Barrett was already a talented and well-respected poet.  Some early 20th century revisionist history emphasized her role as the wife who inspired the brilliance of poet Robert Browning, but she was always a literary power in her own right. And that is, in fact, one of the reasons their correspondence began--his admiration of her work.
  2. It might seem quaint now (or perhaps not, considering the rise of online dating and matchmaking), but their relationship began through the exchange of letters. (Volume 1 of their letters is available FREE for Kindle.) They corresponded for years before their relationship turned to marriage. And it's sort of wonderful to read their published letters, to see the admiration and respect and care they extend to each other as fellow writers and to see their acquaintance blossom and deepen through their writing. It's fairly clear that Robert Browning was enamored of Elizabeth Barrett to some degree from the beginning of their correspondence, and that's really just flat-out adorable, as is his clear desire to meet her and to be of assistance to her.
  3. Their eventual elopement is the heart of dramatic romance. Throughout her life, she suffered from poor health that kept her at home. This explains her reliance on letter-writing. In addition, her father forebade the Barrett children from marrying.  And so, the couple eloped to Italy in 1846. (See "Elizabeth Barrett Browning" at for more information.)
  4. Elizabeth's Sonnets from the Portuguese, published in 1850, was written before their marriage and was functionally a tremendous declaration of love--in all its complexity and self-doubt and revelation--from Elizabeth to Robert (and "Portuguese" was his pet name for her). How swoon-worthy is that, especially when you read the actual poems?
  5. Even after their marriage, both of them continued to write poetry--and write well! I think it's fair to say that neither seemed to sacrifice their talents for the relationship. In fact, some critics think that Robert's poetry was all the better for Elizabeth's influence.
  6. Elizabeth was six years older than Robert.  (So, yes, older woman/younger man relationships did, in fact, exist in the Victorian era. *cough*) 

For more information on the Brownings, I highly recommend (in addition to the links above) the sections about them at The Victorian Web.  (This link takes you to the author directory.  Clicking on each of their names takes you to a plethora of information, including brief biographies, literary criticism, themes, bibliographies, literary relationships, etc.)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Snippets - NEVER TOO LATE - at the Great Exhibition

As this busy week continues into an equally busy weekend, here's a quick update before I get to this week's Saturday Snippet:

This Friday, April 6th, I will be making my first "public" appearance! I'm doing a guest post at A Little Bit Tart, A Little Bit Sweet, run by Limecello. My topic? The First Kiss.  Oh, and my appearance there includes a giveaway! So be sure to stop by and comment to be eligible!

One of the key reasons I set Never Too Late in 1851 was that this was the year of the first Great Exhibition of All Nations.  Here Lord Devin escorts Honoria and his mother through the massive exhibition housed in the magnificent Crystal Palace.

“Well, as astounding as this whole extravaganza seems to be,” Lady Devin interjected, “I would greatly appreciate a bit of fresh air.”

“Are you well, Lady Devin?” She took the other woman’s hand, noting her taut posture.

“It is nothing to speak of, Mrs. Duchamp.” Lady Devin lowered her voice. “This building. It gives me the sense of a birdcage. It may be a giant cage, but it is still a kind of prison.”

“This way, Mother.” Devin led the way with authority, dividing the crowd with his stature and purposeful stride. It was as if the world truly did bow to his whim.

When their little group returned to the dazzlingly massive Central Transept, however, a circus show was in full swing, drawing a wall of onlookers impenetrable even to the great Lord Devin. Colorful jugglers spun and crossed the floor in intricate patterns, attending only to the balls they tossed in the air. Dancers wove through their paths. And then, the main attraction drew all eyes toward the sky: a trio of tightrope walkers suspended high above the crowd made their way across an impossibly fine thread. Two of the walkers supported a bar between them, hooked in some way over their shoulders, while the third walker balanced above them on that bar. They stepped slowly but surely along the rope, which trembled from their movements.

“Can you persevere, Mother?”

“Of course, my dear.”

Still, Lady Devin’s pale skin had developed a fine misty sheen. Honoria gripped her hand, as if to transmit her own strength. She was distracted though by sharp gasps from the audience. She followed the eyes around her up to the tightrope, where one of the performers wobbled dangerously.

“What a foolhardy risk,” she said.

“That is the career they have chosen,” Lord Devin responded, his eyes likewise riveted above. “Presumably, they train regularly to maintain peak performance. They accept the risk.”

“I could never do something so dangerous.”

“Could you not? I wonder if you do not do so every day.”

She tore her eyes from the spectacle above to stare at him.

“Whatever could you mean by that? I don't put myself at risk.”

He looked at her fully.

“You are a single woman, running your shop and living on your own. Your fortunes could change at any moment. Sales run dry. A careless fire could leave you with nothing.” Damn it, woman, you spread truths people want to kill you for. Of course you put yourself at risk.

She replied as if she'd heard what he did not say. “One cannot live as a prisoner of fear. We do what we must because it is the right thing to do, because we could not conceive of living a life without it.”

Friday, March 22, 2013

Saturday Snippets - NEVER TOO LATE - in the library

Before we get to this week's snippet, here are a few updates:
  • I received some new favorite things in the mail this week: print copies of the eKensington Sampler - Spring 2013, which features blurbs and excerpts from upcoming eKensington releases, including Never Too Late! So I'm giving copies away (signed, if you wish)! Click here for details!
  • If you're interested in seeing more of my writing apart from Never Too Late, I submitted a guest entry to the Lascaux Flash Fiction contest entitled "A Flight of Fancy." It's a challenge to write flash fiction well, and I enjoyed the exercise of trying to develop a historical piece. The contest is run by the editors of The Lascaux Review, an online literary journal, and I've known some of the Lascaux editors for a while now via blogs and publishing sites. I hope next time they run the contest I can do more to spread the word. 
  • are just a few "This Week in Romance Novels" links I think are important:

Okay, so now that I've gone and sent you to do lots of other reading, here's a snippet from Never Too Late in which we spend some time in the Devin library:

The library was what one would expect of such a house, and Alex knew its secrets would be irresistible to a bibliophile like Mrs. Duchamp. Bookshelves lined three walls, ceiling to floor, and were completely full. Decorative paneled columns on each wall broke up the visual monotony. A writing desk and chair stood between the windows on the far wall, and a heavily upholstered settee sat askew in one corner. Two long tablelike display cases ran perpendicular to the windows. The room was lit only by sconces behind the desk.

“This is inappropriate, you know,” she said. Yet she appeared drawn to the nearest display case, captivated by the sight of leather and parchment. “You should not be here with me, unaccompanied, in a dark room, no matter what your mother said.”

When she described it like that, he could imagine all sorts of inappropriate reasons exactly why he should be here with her in this dark room, lit only by a few candles. It was also conveniently out of earshot from the evening's festivities. He could see her comment was an idle one, though; she made no move to open the door. She knew all too well this was a business matter between a lord and a merchant, best handled behind closed doors, just as everyone would perceive it. So he shifted his thoughts to business, particularly in light of her dark observations at dinner about the Featherbury deaths. He’d given the sample printed sheet from her shop to Withersby to demonstrate his meager progress. It was time for him to do more extensive archaeology of her professional work, but he had to do so delicately, or she’d startle and bolt like a cat.

“I did not think you would come this evening,” he admitted wryly, as he poured a brandy at one of the corner shelves. He offered the glass to her.

She gave a tight smile, shook her head, and said, “I was given to understand that I didn't have much choice.” She tilted her head as she added, “Very adroitly implied, I should say.”

“True, but you do not seem the type to cave to the demands of others.”

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

eKensington Sampler - Spring 2013 giveaway

As I mentioned in a previous post, my publisher Kensington has released an eKensington Sampler - Spring 2013, which includes a little blurb and excerpt from NEVER TOO LATE. The eKensington Sampler is available at Amazon and Kobo and probably elsewhere too (I haven't found it on Barnes and Noble yet).

The sampler includes blurbs and excerpts from several upcoming eKensington releases, all of which sound intriguing!

Today, I received a package of goodies in the mail...a big stack of print copies of the eKensington Sampler - Spring 2013!!!!! (Yup, I really can't suppress those exclamation points.)

Aren't they pretty? (My smartphone's camera doesn't really do them justice.)

Serendipitously, it turns out that I have the centerfold! This means that the booklet naturally opens to my book's blurb!

Here's the freebie giveaway: 

I am giving away 20 print copies of the eKensington Sampler - Spring 2013 free upon request. First come, first served until 20 copies are gone.

If you'd like your very own print copy of the eKensington Sampler - Spring 2013, click on Contact tab and e-mail me your mailing address. In your e-mail, let me know if you'd like me to sign your copy. 

While this isn't a contest or sweepstakes, I'm laying down a couple of rules anyway: 1. This is open to those 18 yrs old or older. 2. This is open worldwide--I'll happily mail internationally.

Feel free to spread the word!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Debut Author Giddiness - Advance Praise

Shh...Don't tell anyone, but writers are sometimes very insecure. There are so many moments in the process of writing and the separate but related process of seeking publication when self-doubt and insecurity may rear their mercilessly cruel heads.

Sometimes, that self-doubt is can drive us to improve and evolve. But sometimes it can be crippling. seems important to celebrate milestones...if only for a moment.  And so here's yet another *Big Moment* as we get closer to the May 2nd release date for Never Too Late

Never Too Late has received advance praise from USA Today Bestselling Author Nicola Cornick, a brilliant powerhouse in Regency historical romance. I adore her Scandalous Women of the Ton series, especially Desired.

Here are some of the lovely (and, by lovely, I mean "OMG, I CAN'T BELIEVE NICOLA CORNICK SAID THIS ABOUT MY BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!**) comments she had about Never Too Late:
  • "Deliciously romantic and sizzling with sensual tension."
  • "A strong heroine, a gorgeous hero and an intense and passionate romance. Captivating!"
  • "Witty, original and charming." 

**I was doing so well controlling the exclamation points, but they burst out anyway. How could they not, after such wonderful words?! So giddy! I may print out her comments and put them in a frame by my desk as a talisman to use against my next onslaught of writerly self-doubt.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Snippets - NEVER TOO LATE - Things heat up...

Before I get to this week's snippet, here are a few updates:
  • The eKensington Sampler - Spring 2013 is now available FREE from Amazon and Kobo! It includes information about and snippets from upcoming e-book releases, including Never Too Late! And did I's free?!
  • I'm scheduling online appearances for Never Too Late's May 2nd release.  Check out my Appearances page to see where I will be. (Some will include giveaways!)
  • Did I mention that Never Too Late is now available on NetGalley for reviewers? Well, it is! (I know! I can hardly believe it myself!)
(Note: I can pretty well guarantee that I'll be using more and more exclamation points as May approaches! What can I say? I'm a debut author, and I've never been good at looking cool.)

And now...this week's snippet is set in the midst of a dinner party hosted by Alex's mother, who is a great supporter of writers and has gathered an eclectic group of them this evening. Dinner conversation has turned to philosophical musings on love.  And, yes, the Tennyson speaking at the beginning of this excerpt is this Tennyson.  Enjoy!

“I think we can agree there are those, whether lovers or friends, who we simply cannot live without,” Tennyson continued. “There are those who make our world. Oh, the world exists before them and possibly long after them, but their love gives us life and meaning and wholeness.”

Honoria felt painfully choked by this barrage of sentiments. Who talked like this at dinner? What struck her keenly was the quiet awareness that she had no such person, whether lover or friend. She knew her work held meaning, but could she truly say she lived? When her hand stole up instinctively to worry the button and lace that normally covered her neck, she was surprised to feel only bare skin. That notch, that warm, soft hollow at the base of her throat, reminded her sharply of the gown's low neckline.

Again, she felt a warm flush spread along her face and shoulders, along with a prickling sensation of being observed. Feigning casualness, she looked in the direction of Lord Devin, intending to focus just past him, at the doorway. Instead, she found herself caught in his dark, open gaze. He made no pretense of accidental or fleeting eye contact. Instead, the intensity of his expression deepened into an almost elemental entitlement. His eyes seemed focused on her hand, on the spot where her fingers touched her throat. She froze under that riveting stare, momentarily unable to breathe, unable to see anything in the room but him, unaware of anything or anyone else. When she recollected herself, she quickly moved her hand back down to the table. His eyes briefly tracked the motion and then lingered again at her neck before meeting her eyes. Something about him reminded her of Jupiter—the way the tabby would crouch, belly nearly brushing the floor, body contracted, just before springing on his prey, whether it was a hapless intruding mouse or a ball of dust. She was shaken and tried hard to mask her tumultuous emotions, but, from across a crowded table, he'd somehow established a commanding intimacy without even touching her. She knew she ought to feel offended by his presumptuousness, but that didn't help to quiet the hot licks of some undefined emotion skittering across her skin, particularly in areas caught by his eyes.

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's DABWAHA time!

If you're a romance reader, you probably already know it's DABWAHA time, sponsored by Dear Author and Smart Bitches, Trashy Books! This is a romance novel version of college basketball's March Madness, complete with brackets and trash talk!  The tournament structure pits 64 romances in various categories, all published in 2012, against each other and whittles the field down through each round until there's one winner.

DABWAHA stands for Dear Author Bitchery Writing Award for Hella Good Authors.

What's interesting (and different from college basketball's March Madness) is that the authors and their fans can engage in vote-mongering.  Whereas March Madness brackets are ultimately unaffected by fan selection (i.e., if you picked Villanova or Georgetown to win or even to just make it to the Sweet Sixteen, nothing you do as a fan actually affects whether the team gets there), DABWAHA participants do vote in the head-to-head battles.  So they can attempt to garner more votes and, ahem, use different IP addresses (laptop, phone, etc.) to vote multiple times.

Reader participants are eligible for prizes! And it can be fun to see everyone get so excited about their favorite novels!

This week, seven finalists have been announced for each category, and DABWAHA is accepting nominations to fill an eighth slot in each category. The finalists are awesome, but don't miss this opportunity to nominate a favorite you think was overlooked!  Go now! Submit your nominations!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Snippets - NEVER TOO LATE

OMG! Never Too Late is now available on Netgalley for reviewers! OMG OMG OMG! While I'd like to give the impression of being a calm, cool author, I'm fairly sure that ship sailed long ago.  Maybe, by the time Book Two is released, I will have some semblance of composure about all this.  For now, squeeeeeee!

This week's Saturday Snippet features Never Too Late's hero, Lord Alexander Devin, after his first encounter with Honoria. This excerpt also gives a glimpse of why he visits her shop in the first place.

“Make the woman's acquaintance,” Mr. Withersby had said.

Well, I have certainly done that, Lord Devin thought. Upon entering, he hadn't expected to do more than scan the shop and get a general impression of its owner. Unobtrusive, subtle, distant. Instead, he'd become abruptly and intimately acquainted with her ample bosom before he even formally knew her name. Bloody hell, he'd thought as her body careened at him. He could still recall the faint scent of lilies that wafted from her. He could still feel the delicate weight of her in his arms. And on his skin.

“Investigate and neutralize,” Mr. Withersby had said.

Lord Devin still needed more time and information to comprehend why there would be a need to neutralize such a harmless, albeit lovely, matron. She might be able to convince customers to drop an extra penny or two they hadn’t planned to spend, but she was no threat to the future of British society.

Two days prior to the bookshop encounter, Lord Devin had found himself in the dark, smoky, heavily appointed office of Mr. Withersby, attorney-at-law. He abhorred this dank building, this increasingly seedy district, and this man, this sniveling excuse for a man whom he’d enabled to claw into the Devin family’s stronghold.

“You have a job for me?” he said as he barged into the office. He didn't care if Withersby was otherwise occupied, whether with client for business or, just as frequently, with some skirt for pleasure.

“No time for pleasantries today, Lord Devin? Have a seat.”

“I do not take kindly to being called like a dog, Withersby. You called; I came. I do not want to be here any longer than necessary.” He remained standing, glaring down his nose at the short, stout, spectacled solicitor, who resembled a woodchuck, with his beady eyes and pointy face.

“Quite right, milord.” Withersby stood and went to the mahogany sideboard to pour himself a brandy. He swirled the dark liquid in the tumbler. “I have a client who complains of a nuisance, and I want you to take care of it.”

“What kind of nuisance are we talking about, a thorn in the paw or a spear in the side?”

“Oh, to be sure, it's a mosquito, my good man.” He waved a hand around his head by way of illustration. “Tiny. Distracting. Mildly irritating. But it's proving annoyingly difficult to swat.”

Never Too Late is available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spring Forward with the Bookends Babes!

Since the BookEnds Babes Holiday Write-In on Facebook was so much fun and so fantastically productive, authors Melissa Cutler and Sharla Lovelace have organized another round: Bookends Babes Word Slammin' Extravaganza

As a fellow BookEnds author, I'm so in!

Here's how it works:

Writers--all writers, whether published or unpublished, are welcome to participate in this day of writing! There will be three hour-long writing sprints interspersed with breaks for chatter, snacks, and party favors. Post your goals at the beginning of the event and then check in at each break to report your progress.  BookEnds authors will be doing giveaways at each break.  (I haven't yet decided what my giveaways will be.  Last time I gave away an Amazon gift card at each break...hmmm...)

Readers--we writers will need lots of cheerleaders! Feel free to share your support and celebrate with us as we spring ahead in our writing goals. Chat with us, ask us deep and meaningful questions (or, you know, any questions you like, really), and mingle with fellow readers. 

To participate (and be eligible to win party favors), go to the Facebook page linked above and Join! It's that easy! 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Introducing...Saturday Snippets of NEVER TOO LATE

In anticipation of the release date for my debut historical romance, Never Too Late (*cough* May 2, 2013 *cough* from eKensington *cough*), I'm excited to start sharing little glimpses of Honoria and Alex's story!

Hence...Saturday Snippets.  {cue the trumpets and confetti} I'll post a little bit of Never Too Late each week between now and its Release Day Extravaganza.  More on the extravaganza part in the near future.

To inaugurate the Saturday Snippets, I'll start at the very beginning: Page One.  It is my great pleasure to introduce you to the industrious heroine of Never Too Late, Mrs. Honoria Duchamp:

If she hadn’t been dusting the reading nook so beloved by customers, young and old, Mrs. Honoria Duchamp, owner and proprietress of Evans Books, would not have heard the cruel comments about her from some society mum shepherding her daughter to matrimonial slaughter. Now it echoed in her mind: “Did you see that woman, Margaret? Did you? Take a close look at her and at this cramped, suffocating little shop. This is the best you can hope for if you don't marry well. Do you think that shriveled-up mouse of a woman wanted this menial life?” The mother’s sharp voice had grown shrill toward the end of this little speech. It just goes to show, she thought, nothing good can come of dusting.

If she hadn’t been feeling particularly content right then, the comments likely would have wafted through her mind with no more impact than a falling nettle in a forest, just one more lifeless wisp. This time, though, the cruel depiction of her as a cautionary tale sliced through her equilibrium. What she’d seen as enough was seen by others as cramped and suffocating. She felt small, her ambitions lacking. It felt almost true.

“You see, Margaret”— the mother’s voice cut through the bookshelf between them, interrupting her self-reflection—“do you see why I harp on you about finding a good match?”

“Yes, Mother.” Resigned flat tone. Honoria quirked her brow. Ah, yes, all too common a conversation in the advice section. She could almost picture the young lady; they always wore pale clothes, always wore their bonnets primly, always sported pristine white gloves that meant they couldn’t actually handle any of the books themselves, for fear of muss.

An older couple approached the register to purchase a stack of periodicals so she went to take care of them. The husband, all business, made pleasantries about the weather, but the wife, her plump figure swathed in gray worsted, looked with kind eyes at Honoria and reached out to pat her left hand while she wrote out the bill of sale with her right.

“Don't you take those careless words to heart, dearie.” The wife's touch was gentle, warm. “My niece lost her man in a railway accident two years ago, and with two little mouths to feed yet. She's remarried now to a kind older gentleman who wanted companionship. ’Course she's only one-and-twenty yet.”

Next week, you'll get to meet the story's hero, Lord Alexander Devin, a viscount on a mission.

Never Too Late is available for pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. (Note: it's also available for pre-order in the UK!)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

One reason I write historical romances

As I mentioned fleetingly in my last post, I'm not inclined to self-disclosure.  In fact, I have a strong tendency to compartmentalize.  My teaching career, my writing career, and my family are the three biggest priorities in my life, and yet never the twain shall meet.  So the approaching release of my debut historical romance, Never Too Late, generates some interesting situations for me.

In my offline world, only a limited number of people who know "the real me" know what I'm writing. And the reactions have been vastly amusing to me. While some people have simply congratulated me, others have been, well, incredulous--which likely says as much about how they see me as about how they see the genre.  Upon being told that I have a two-book deal for historical romances to be released this year and next year, some people have said...

{edited to add my usual responses}
  • "You write what?!" {"Historical romances."}
  • "So, um, what are they...I it...are we talking 50 Shades?" {"Well, um, no."}
  • "Wait, you're writing housewife porn?!" {In this particular case, my exact response was "Shuuuut up."}
The faces that go along with these comments are priceless.  I've seen some very red faces.

And the most common question, asked by many--including my beloved hubby, is "Why?" Frequently, this little question is in the tone of "Why would you write that?" Again, it seems unexpected that I, of all people, would write such things. 

So here is a little story for you...

Once upon a time, an ambitious fledgling writer, educated heavily in big, weighty literary classics and equally ponderous literary critical theory, decided to write a novel.  Oh, the little writer was tremendously intimidated. The notion of writing deep, thought-provoking, delicate, moving fiction that explores the human condition and does so in a way that brings new attention to language and literary technique...well, it was quite a daunting task. Still, the little author had a vision of great work. She took some creative writing classes, attended a few writers' conferences, immersed herself in agent and editor blogs to learn about the publishing industry, and she wrote wrote wrote wrote wrote wrote. 

Sometimes what she wrote was even not-so-crappy. 

But when she focused her energy on writing historical fiction, new challenges arose. In addition to the usual challenges of delving into characters, weaving a thoughtful plot, etc., she found herself increasingly depressed and stilted. And it wasn't just the usual challenge of being a writer--having something worth writing, making time to write, everything that facing a blank page entails.  It was the weight of history and "literariness" and this particular story.

That work-in-progress was set in Victorian England, and it was set to end in Victorian India, at the beginning of the "Indian Mutiny of 1857." There were characters, a good deal of plot developed, etc., etc., but as the story unfolded, it was clear that the key elements of the plot were increasingly dark and traumatic. To be clear, such elements included marital rape and an awful, climactic infanticide. It was no wonder the little writer began to dread every writing session. And while a story is, of course, ultimately in the hands of the writer, such darkness felt "true to the story." And so...struggles continued.

And, yes, I'm well aware that there are literary novels, including historical literary novels, that have happy endings.  But I think it's reasonable to say that "literature" is not known for happiness. (Every semester, I teach literature &'s not so easy to find serious literary works that have happy endings, especially unabashedly celebratory happy endings.)

By some strange synchonicity, after wrestling with this dismal tale for some time, the little writer stumbled upon Meredith Duran's debut historical romance, The Duke of Shadows. With a half-Indian hero, the novel touched on several ideological underpinnings of the British-Indian relationship that the little writer had been struggling to express. Yet Duran communicated the complexity and anguish of British-Indian politics deftly, embedding it in what was ultimately a lovely and redemptive love story. While lots of historical romances do a similar thing, incorporating history into deeply personal stories of love and triumph, this one struck home specifically because it dealt with a time period and set of issues that were so much at the heart of what the little writer was trying to write about.

It was a revelation.

And so, while there are many reasons I write historical romance, here is one of the reasons that drives me the most:

I get to write about ideas and times and places and characters that fascinate me in a way that is ultimately joyful. I still strive to write deep, thoughtful, delicate, moving fiction about the human condition...but, in doing so, I also get to play. I get to celebrate love, which is perhaps one of the greatest elements of the human condition. I get to give characters unabashedly happy endings. Yes, life is difficult, full of suffering and pain, and I don't ignore that in my writing. If anything, I can address the darkness, particularly the darkness undeniable in Victorian English history, but I get to do so with optimism. I get to face that blank page knowing that life is full of love too...and that a happy ending is possible.

So...why do you write what you write? Why do you read what you read?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Liebster, Mein Liebster Award!

To my surprise and delight, I have been nominated for a Liebster Blog Award by Lara Lacombe!  (I don't speak German and had to look up what "liebster" means...for anyone else who doesn't know, it translates as "darling."  I don't know if that actually has anything to do with the origin or purpose of the award...but there it is.)
There are a few rules for this award:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator, list 11 random facts about yourself ,and create 11 questions for your own nominees/awardees to answer.
3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs (with 200 followers or less) whom you feel deserve to be noticed—and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen. (No tag backs)

4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

Thank You

So, first things first...THANK YOU to Lara Lacombe, fellow Forumite and now BookEnds agency sister, also represented by awesome agent Jessica Alvarez!  And she has a book deal with Harlequin Romantic Suspense!  She rocks.

11 Questions from My Nominator

1. What's your favorite writing/reading snack?

Chocolate-covered raisins…or Chex mix.  Depends on whether I need sweet or salty.  Sometimes chocolate-covered pretzels when I need both simultaneously.

2. Where have you always wanted to visit?

Great Britain in general but especially London.  Given my academic background and my writing, it's hard for me to believe I haven't been there yet.  But someday...

3. What's your favorite accent?

Considering #2 above, it’s probably not a surprise when I say British…like “Emma Thompson in a Merchant/Ivory film” British.

4. What movie do you always watch when you find it on TV?

Oh, there are so many.  I’m a sucker for Meg Ryan romantic comedies (standards like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, and You’ve Got Mail…but also Joe vs. the Volcano).  And, while completing these questions, I got sucked into The English Patient for the zillionth time.

5. What's your favorite hobby?

Hmm…in recent years, knitting.  And yoga.  Not that I have much free time to do either during the academic year.

6. Say you can quit your day job and do whatever you want. What would you do?

Ooh, what wouldn’t I do? I LOVE my day job, but if I could do whatever I want?

If money weren’t a factor, I’d travel extensively (starting with Great Britain and several European countries), write full-time, probably get another graduate degree or two, homeschool the Kid…so many possibilities.

7. What made you want to start writing?

Such as difficult question! I suppose it was reading unconventional writers who made me see that I could try writing without fear of judgment or failure.  Frankly, if I sucked at it, no one else would ever have to know. That was a big mental block for me...having the confidence to try.  And I'm still learning to be a better writer. I'm always learning.

8. What is your favorite genre?

Historical fiction

9. Where is your writing/reading nook?

My writing nook is in our living room, which we almost never use as a living room.  That's the home of the antique writing desk my husband gave me. It's an inspiration in itself. Above my desk are framed 19th-century news articles about the Great Exhibition of the Works of All Nations in 1851, featuring illustrations of the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London.

10. What book do you wish you had written?

Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot. It's not historical fiction, but, for heaven's sake, the heroine's senior thesis interrogates the marriage plot that is at the core of classic 19th-century novels by Jane Austen, the Brontes, and George Eliot! And Derrida and deconstruction? Hello!  It's not just a book I wish I'd written...It's a book I kind of, sort of feel like I *should have* written. 

11. Early bird, night owl, or something in between?

Usually a night owl.  But it’s a vicious cycle.  The later I stay up, the more impossible it is for me to be an early bird. 

11 Random Facts about Me

1. I’m rather pedantic so I’m almost incapable of giving simple yes/no answers without some kind of explanation or preamble or disclaimer.  It’s always “Yes, but…” or “No, and…” or “It’s more complicated than that…”

2. I hate coconut.

3. My favorite restaurant is the California Grill, atop the Contemporary Resort at Walt Disney World.  The cuisine is magnificient, and so is the view of the Seven Seas Lagoon.  It's also a great location for watching the Magic Kingdom's nightly Wishes fireworks show.

4. Whenever I travel, I buy at least one magnet as a memento.  I used to buy a t-shirt at every stop, but I don’t wear t-shirts often enough!                                                                    

5. Two kittens joined our family last year, and they make an appearance in my book Never Too Late.

6. I’m an INFJ.

7. I wear shawls/pashminas almost all the time. They're just so versatile and convenient, and I find them comforting in ways I can't fully explain. I've seen some antique Victorian paisley ones that I adore too.

8. I like wearing glasses. I tried contacts and never got used to them.

9. I’m a community college English professor.

10.  I had so much trouble thinking of questions to ask my nominees that I looked up common job interview questions. Yes, really. 

11. Professionally and academically, I tend to seem outgoing, but I’m really very shy. 
Seriously, I’m generally very shy and uncomfortable with self-disclosure so even these responses have been a big step for me. 

11 Questions for My Nominees:
1)     Are you a dog person or a cat person?
2)     Name one thing that inspires you.
3)     When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
4)     What’s your favorite place on earth?
5)     What’s one of your “desert island” books?
6)     What achievement are you most proud of?
7)     What is the last book you read?
8)     If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
9)     What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
10) What are three words do you think a friend (or family member or coworker) would use to describe you?
11) If time, money, and education weren’t factors, what would be your dream job?

My 11 Nominees

Note: The rules say they should be bloggers with fewer than 200 followers.  I couldn't tell how many followers some of my nominees had (and I'm almost certain a few of them must have over 200 followers, even if I can't see them).  I nominated them anyway, just because I wanted to.  So there!  They're all lovely bloggers and writers of various genres--contemporary romance, historical romance, historical fiction, mainstream, inspirational, sci-fi/fantasy--all worth visiting!
If you made it this far, thanks very much for reading! And, even if I didn't tag you, please feel free to play along! If you do, comment to let me know where to find you!

NECRWA 2017 Follow-up!

*ahem* *looks around* *sweeps away the dust bunnies and cobwebs* So...hi! It's apparently been quite a while since I last sa...