Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Memoriam

The following snippet from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem In Memoriam is rather aprpos for the end of the first decade of the new millenium.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Picture Day Friday

Shrine of Bibi Jawindi, Uch Sharif, Pakistan by SaffyH @Flickr

Shrine of Bibi Jawindi, Uch Sharif, Pakistan. Bibi Jawindi, the great granddaughter of the saint Jahaniyan Jahangasht, was known for her piety. Her tomb is considered one of the most important and the most ornate sites in the town of Uch, which was the centre of Sufism under the Delhi sultanate of 1494. It is octagonal on the exterior, with the interior walls angled to form a circle. The thick walls rise to two stories, transforming by way of squinches into a sixteen-sided drum upon which a dome sits supported by bell-shaped brackets. Both the interior and exterior walls are decorated with a profusion of faience revetment.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Most Literate U.S. Cities

The poll that publishes the most literate U.S. cities is not an oxymoron. Some cities have a justly earned reputation for having well-read denizens.

Drawing from a variety of available data resources, the America's Most Literate Cities Study ranks the largest cities (population 250,000 and above) in the United States. This study focuses on six key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, educational attainment, and Internet resources.

The original study was published online in 2003 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Rankings 2005 and onwards were published online at Central Connecticut State University.

Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, is the author of this study. Research for this edition of AMLC was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Public Policy and Social Research at CCSU.

And here are the chest-thumping results (for me) for 2009:

1. Seattle, WA 1 1.5 2 1 1
2. Washington, DC 2 3 5 3.5 3
3. Minneapolis, MN 3 1.5 1 2 2
4. Pittsburgh, PA 4 12 9 6 8
5. Atlanta, GA 5 6 8 3.5 4
6. Portland, OR 6 10.5 12 10 11
7. St. Paul, MN 7 4 3 5 9.5
8. Boston, MA 8 8 10 11 7
9. Cincinnati, OH 9 10.5 11 7 9.5
10. Denver, CO 10 7 4 8 6

Seattle's rankings for 2005 through 2009 have been: 1, 1, 2, 1.5, and 1.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bundling Harlequin

Copyright Harlequin EnterprisesJessica of Racy Romance Reviews has a fabulously hilarious blog about how she feels gypped that Harlequin didn't offer her a personalized e-bundle of out-of-print titles like they offered to some bloggers (such as Dear Author and Super Wendy). Then she proceeded to show what her bundle would look like so that Harlequin might be, ahem, inspired.

In the same spirit, if I had the choice to design my own bundles, here're the titles I'd like to have...

Copyright Harlequin EnterprisesBetty Neels Bundle
Sister Peters in Amsterdam (1969)
Tabitha in Moonlight (1972)
Victory for Victoria (1972)
Roses for Christmas (1975)
The Edge of Winter (1976)
Philomena's Miracle (1978)

Ann Mather Bundle
Masquerade (1966)
Arrogance of Love (1968)
Master of Falcon's Head (1970)
Copyright Harlequin EnterprisesReluctant Governess (1971)
White Rose of Winter (1973)
Leopard in the Snow (1974)

1949 Bundle
The Manatee (Nancy Bruff)
Lost House (Frances Shelley Wees)
The Wicked Lady Skelton (Magdalen King Hall)
Flame Vine (Helen Topping Miller)
Blondes Don't Cry (Merlda Mace)
Close To My Heart (Margaret Nichols)

Do you have a favorite author whose fondly-remembered books you'd like to see repackaged just for you? If so, let's petition Harlequin Enterprises for special consideration.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sun Temple of Modhera

The Surya Mandir of Modhera, Gujarat, India is a 1000-year-old edifice with a much more ancient architectural style similar to the Konark Temple in Orissa and the Martand Temple of Jammu and Kashmir, India. A paean to Surya, the Sun God, the temple was built by King Bhimdev of the Solanki dynasty in 1026 CE. The Solanki Rajputs believed themselves to be the descendants of the lineage of Surya. The area on the banks of the Pushpavati River (God of Wealth Kuber's river of golden flowers) is called Dharmaranya (forest of righteousness).

The temple is composed of three axially-aligned and integrated constituents: Surya Kund, Sabha Mandap or Rang Mandir, and Guda Mandap or Nritya Mandir.

Surya Kund is a 100-square-meter, rectangular, deeply stepped tank at the entrance of the temple. 108 shrines dedicated to Lords Shiva and Ganesh are located within the tank—the number 108 is considered auspicious by the Hindus. The original purpose of the tank was to provide dusty travelers a means to bathe (purification) before entering the temple. A huge toran (archway) leads to the Sabha Mandap.

Sabha Mandap is an assembly hall where religious gatherings and meetings were conducted. It's open on four sides to the four directions and has a walnut-shaped ceiling supported on 52 pillars representing the 52 weeks of the year.

Guda Mandap is the sanctum sanctorum. It's octagonal shape supported by a lotus-base plinth is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer. And it is oriented in such a way that the first ray of the sun at dawn on the equinoxes shines directly through the arched doorway onto the large diamond set in the center of the gold crown placed on the head of Surya's golden statue. The shikhar (dome on the roof) and the statue were plundered by the Mughals of Central Asia: Muhammad of Ghazni and Allauddin Khilji. In medieval times, a surang (tunnel) led from Anahilvad Patan, the headquarter of the Solankis, to this mandap and served as a means of escape for the royal family.

Both the mandaps are covered with scenes depicting social, cultural, religious, moral, and sexual teachings of daily life. Eight directions, twelve facets of the Sun for each of the months, cycle of birth and death, friezes of gods and goddesses, stories from the epic tales of the Ramayana and Mahabharatha and life of Lord Krishna, scriptures Skanda Purana and Brahma Purana, Kama Sutra erotica similar to the Khajuraho Temple, Vedic philosophy, and art, mathematics, and science of the day comprise the exterior and interior carved sandstone panels.

The oddest depiction of Surya is the statue in which he's wearing a jacket, a belt with a grand Texan cowboy-style buckle and knee-length boots, similar to the original statue at Dakshinaarka Temple at Bodh Gaya, India (where Buddha attained nirvana). Depictions of stone statues wearing such clothes are found in Iran and Central Asia, leading to the belief that the Indian sun worshippers are descendants of the Persian fire worshippers or Zoroastrians.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Picture Day Friday

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Rare Glimpse

Copyright Random House British Classic Crime author P.D. James, Baroness of Holland Park and inductee of the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame, is a private person.

For those of you who don't know who she is, here's a brief biography: "P.D. James is the author of twenty books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Department of Great Britain's Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. The recipient of many prizes and honors, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991. In 2009, she celebrated her eighty-ninth birthday. She lives in London and Oxford."

Copyright Fantastic Fiction UKHer memoir Time to Be in Earnest written in her 77th year as a diary, gives us a brief look into her life, her experiences, and her thoughts on the people and events in her life.

For a fan of her work, I've been dying to lay my hands on more glimpses into: Who is P.D. James? I've read her memoir a few times over from cover to cover. The style of her fiction books reflect a mindset that is congruent with the memoir, and I love that. Makes her feel closer to me.

Then on the flight a week ago, the United Airline magazine Directions had this rare glimpse into a detail that hasn't even been hinted at in her memoir or any of her online biographies. In her own words...

"I've traveled to so many diferent countries promoting my books, but the place I've felt most at home is America, and my favorite city there is Boston. it's a very english city, and that's such a funny thing to say, because we don't travel to ther places to find more Englishness! But there's so much history there, and I've loved the architecture. There's something very special about Boston. it combines all the activity of a big city with a kind of intellectual peace."

"I was there for three months teaching creative writing at boston University. I really enjoyed the historic sites such as the Paul Revere house and the State Capitol. It's a very walkable city, I remember going across the bridge to Harvard University, which is a very attractive campus. And we went down to Cape Cod and visited Nantucket, where the houses have widow's walks around them. It's just lovely."

Talking About Detective Fiction by PD JamesP.D. James's latest book Talking About Detective Fiction has been commissioned by Oxford's Bodleian Library. It was released on December 1, 2009.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Personal Picks: 20 Best of 2009

Copyright University of FloridaTo date, I've read a total of 147 unique books this year, not counting the re-reads of my favorites. The end of the year always brings out the list-y in me. I'm all goals, resolutions, bests, to-do's, what-have-yous, etc. busyness. In keeping with that and Eloisa James's B&N List, here are my top twenty romances that were published in 2009 (an unordered list).

The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley
Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
What Remains of Heaven by C.S. Harris
Never Love a Lawman by Jo Goodman
Captive of Sin by Anna Campbell
The Lone Texan by Jodi Thomas
Easy on the Eyes by Jane Porter
Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander
A Duke of Her Own by Eloisa James
Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady by Diane Gaston
So Enchanting by Connie Brockway
At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh
The Conqueror by Kris Kennedy
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
The Secret Wedding by Jo Beverley
Smooth Talking Stranger by Lisa Kleypas
Wicked Little Game by Christine Wells
The Winter Queen by Amanda McCabe
Beyond Heaving Bosoms by Smart Bitches
Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

And I already have a best of 2010...Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale!

What are your top picks for 2009?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Picture Day Friday

A testament to Persian power established by Darius the Great (522–486 BCE), Persepolis awed dignitaries who came from the far ends of the largest empire of the age to present gifts.

(Copyright by Simon Norfolk for National Geographic)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Technical Difficulties

There will be a brief break in blog updates while I reconfigure my Internet connectivity.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Picture Day Friday

Lake Palace of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India is a dream of white marble and mosaic. Conceived in romance, the palace was built in 1746 by Maharana Jagat Singh II, 62nd successor to the royal dynasty of Mewar—believed to be descendants of the Sun God. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Aravalli Mountains and located in the middle of Lake Pichola, the palace, now a hotel, spreads across a four-acre island.

The Royal Butlers, descendents of the original palace retainers, look after all contemporary comforts and ensure that all guests are treated like royalty. Opulent silks, richly coloured murals, ornately carved wood furniture, brass lamps, original portraits, glass mosaic inlay, traditional cloth fans, and doors surfaced with mirrors retain the original royal mystique.




Thursday, December 3, 2009

Calls for Academic Papers

January 1, 2010 is the deadline for proposals for Popular Romance Studies: Theory, Text, and Practice, the second annual international conference on Popular Romance. The conference is sponsored by the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) and will take place in Belgium, August 5–7, 2010.

IASPR is seeking proposals for innovative panels, papers, roundtables, discussion groups, and multimedia presentations that contribute to a sustained conversation about romantic love and its representations in popular media throughout the world, from antiquity to the present. IASPR welcomes analyses of individual texts—books, films, websites, songs, and performances—as well as broader inquiries into the creative industries that produce and market popular romance and into the emerging critical practice of popular romance studies.

Confirmed keynote speakers are: Celestino Deleyto, University of Zaragoza, Spain; Lynne Pearce, Lancaster University, UK; and Pamela Regis, McDaniel College, USA.

For inquiries, please contact

(Become a member of IASPR, and look for the first issue of IASPR's peer-reviewed online Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS) in February 2010.)

* * *

Last April, Princeton University hosted a groundbreaking two-day conference on popular romance fiction and American culture. Gathering scholars, authors, editors, and bloggers, this interdisciplinary gathering featured panels on romance and history (both political and literary), romance and religion, romance and sexuality, and romance and race. Each explored the ways that popular romance fiction has reflected, and also helped shape, American culture from the late 18th century to the present.

Conference organizers William Gleason (Princeton) and Eric Selinger (DePaul University) now invite proposals for a collection of essays that will build on the work of the conference: Romance Fiction and American Culture: Love as the Practice of Freedom? They welcome proposals from academic scholars from any field—American literature, popular culture, religion, women's and gender studies, African American Studies, or any other relevant discipline—as well as from authors, editors, and other members of the romance community who wish to reflect on their practice in light of the volume’s concerns.

They will consider proposals or abstracts on the relationships between popular romance fiction and

• the history of reading in America, from Pamela to the present
• American cultures of sexuality, masculinity, and femininity
• American religious cultures, in Christian and other traditions
• Race, ethnicity, and exogamous desire
• “High” culture: literary fiction, poetry, visual art, etc.
• Other popular genres: mystery / detective fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy, non-romance bestsellers, chick-lit
• Other popular media: film, comics, music, gaming
• The culture of sport (football, baseball, NASCAR, etc.)
• American political / military culture, from the early Republic to the present
• American psychological / therapeutic / self-help culture

They also hope for papers on the romance industry in America and the diverse community of romance readers, authors, and reviewers, both as they are and as they are represented in the media:

• Romance sub-genres—Western, Gothic, Regency, Medieval, Paranormal (vampire, were, empath, etc.), Futuristic / Time Travel, Multi-cultural, Erotic, Gay / Lesbian, etc.—and their shifting appeal to readers
• American romance and other traditions: comparative studies, texts in translation, transnational encounters
• Romance publishing: major presses, series and lines, the rise in e-publishing
• Representations of American romance writers, readers, bloggers, book groups, conventions, etc.

Detailed abstract or draft essay and a short CV are due by January 4, 2010. Final essays will be due in June, 2010.

For further inquiries, please contact Prof. William Gleason ( or Prof. Eric Selinger (

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pssst....On Dit

Thanks to authors Anthea Lawson and Vanessa Kelly, I found out that The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance stories is currently in progress.

From their website, this is an "unbeatable collection of noble rogues and rotters, risqué ladies, illicit lovers, and certain scandal! From some of the biggest names in Regency historical romance [come] 25 wickedly witty, lusciously romantic and sublimely sensual short stories replete with oversexed aristocrats, posturing courtesans, and feuding dukes and duchesses."

"[They] tell of a beautiful lady awakened by a passion more powerful than anything she has ever known, one that could doom or save her; a disgraced rake who, given a final chance to redeem himself, discovers love has rules of its own; and a luscious young beauty fed up with proper tea parties and elegant balls who disguises herself to enjoy a soirée of uninhibited pleasure. As the passion mounts, so do the complications."

Includes big name contributors, such as Mary Jo Putney, Jo Beverley, Eloisa James, Loretta Chase, and Mary Balogh, and also Anthea Lawson and Vanessa Kelly.

It will be on sale on June 24, 2010. (Yep, it's on my list; why do you ask?)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ha-Ha-Ha From The Past

Forgotten English by Jeffrey KacirkI'm a huge (literally and figuratively) fan of Jeffrey Kacirk's Forgotten English series, which has definitions and events from history. Here are some nuggets...

If you're feeling stranny today, you may be wild or excited (from Jabez Good's Glossary of East Lincolnshire, 1900).

Satyriasis (and its female version nymphomania) is immoderate venereal appetite as a symptom of canine madness (from John Coxe's Medical Dictionary, 1817).

Today, December 1, is the 250th birthday of Guinness. Slainte! In 1759, Irishman Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for a small brewery at St. James Gate in Leixlip, County Dublin for 45 pounds a year.

If you're overcrapped, you've given yourself to gluttony and overeating along with the attendant unpleasant aftereffects (from James Barclay's Complete and Universal Dictionary of the English Language, 1848).

Forgotten English by Jeffrey KacirkNovember 30, is the feast eve of St. Eloy, a seventh-century patron of goldsmiths, coin collecors, and metalsmiths.

You're likely to be called a convertine if you're inclined to be converted (from Sir James Murray's New English Dictionary, 1893).

London's Convent Garden Theatre opened on December 7, 1732. Almost immediately the EST (English Standard Time) of noblemen arriving late for theatre events went into place.

Anti-centenarianism is the opposition to the assertion that the persons from time to time reported to have died aged a century or more had really attained to that age (from Edward Lloyd's Encyclopaedic Dictionary, 1895).

Henry Jenkins (1501–1670) was a long-lived Englishman with a lifespan of 169 years, who lived through the reigns of nine monarchs, was a fisherman in the last century of his life, and was acquainted with one Peter Garden (1644–1775), another long-lived Englishman.

A knick-knackatorian is a dealer in knick-knacks and curiosities (from London's Annual Register, 1802).Jane Austen

Wednesday, December 16 is the birthday of Jane Austen (1775–1817) who was fond of the phrase I cannot do-withall meaning I cannot help it. Mark Twain famously remarked, "Any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen—even if it contains no other book."

Monday, November 30, 2009

My Reading List for 2010

This is what I'm looking forward to for the next year of reading. Do you have any other suggestions? [Edited to add suggestions.]

December 2009
"The Maid's Lover" by Amanda McCabe (Undone)

January 2010
"Proof by Seduction" by Courtney Milan
"Chalice of Roses" by Jo Beverley, Mary Jo Putney, Barbara Samuel, Karen Harbaugh

February 2010
"Countess of Scandal" by Amanda McCabe
"Lessons in French" by Laura Kinsale
"Promise Me Tonight" by Sara Lindsey
"The Golden Season" by Connie Brockway

March 2010
"The Chief" by Monica McCarty
"In Bed with the Duke" by Christina Dodd
"Something About You" by Julie James
"Too Wicked to Kiss" by Erica Ridley

April 2010
"The Secret Duke" by Jo Beverley
"The Stolen Bride" by Jo Beverley
"To Catch a Rogue" by Amanda McCabe
"Mistress by Mistake" by Maggie Robinson

May 2010
"To Deceive a Duke" by Amanda McCabe
"One Dance with a Duke" by Tessa Dare
"Sex and the Single Earl" by Vanessa Kelly
"His at Night" by Sherry Thomas

June 2010
"Ten Things I Love About You" by Julia Quinn
"To Kiss a Count" by Amanda McCabe
"Married By Morning" by Lisa Kleypas
"My Reckless Surrender" by Anna Campbell
"The Irish Warrior" by Kris Kennedy
"Twice Tempted by a Rogue" by Tessa Dare
"Tempting Eden" by Margaret Rowe
"The Forbidden Rose" by Joanna Bourne
The Mammoth Book of Regency Romance

July 2010
"A Kiss At Midnight" by Eloisa James
"Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage" by Jennifer Ashley
"Three Nights With A Scoundrel" by Tessa Dare
"Last Night’s Scandal" by Loretta Chase

August 2010
"The Hawk" by Monica McCarty
"She's Gone Country" by Jane Porter

September 2010
"The Devil Wears Plaid" by Teresa Medeiros

October 2010
"Emily and the Dark Angel" by Jo Beverley
"Where Shadows Dance" by C.S. Harris
"The List" by Connie Brockway, Julia Quinn & Eloisa James

December 2010
"The Ranger" by Monica McCarty

Friday, November 27, 2009

Picture Day Friday

The Stables of Broad Campden are typical of Georgian Cotswolds cottages available for rent as vacation homes. What a fabulous place for a Writers' Retreat. Feel free to dream with me...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bookish Gratitude List

Tradition of Pilgrim and Turkey Candle Set by Vermont Country StoreIn the Spirit of Thanksgiving, Janga asked on her blog, Just Janga: "What bookly things are on your gratitude list?"

1. My dearest friends who're also authors and whose books I adore: Amanda McCabe, Anna Campbell, Diane Gaston, Christine Wells, and Candice Hern. In fact, I started out as their fans before we became friends.

2. One word decriptor of Laura Kinsale, the author and the person: Amazing!

Copyright: Dianna @hrdwrkmom.com3. Debut authors who I met at the start of their first books: Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Maggie Robinson, Sara Lindsey, and Vanessa Kelly. Thanks go to Avon FanLit and the Eloisa James / Julia Quinn bulletin board for the introduction to these fabulous writers who're also fabulous people.

4. Authors new to me whose entire backlists I've now glommed: C.S. Harris, Deborah Crombie, Deborah Smith, Jodi Thomas, Kris Kennedy, Madeline Huntr, Julia Latham, Michelle Willingham, C.J. Lyons, Jo Goodman, Susan Wiggs, and Julie James.

Copyright: Dianna @hrdwrkmom.com5. Folks who educate me daily: Jane and Robin of Dear Author, Smart Bitch Sarah, Sarah Frantz and Eric Selinger of scholarly persuasions, Maili, Angela James of Carina Press, Dominique Raccah, Sarah Tanner, Sarah Weinman, Melissa Klug, Bethanne Patrick, and Jackie Barbosa.

6. Romancelandia on Twitter for making it possible for me to have intelligent conversations during my solitary days.

Copyright: Dianna @hrdwrkmom.com7. PJ for her voice of reason, voice of affection, and reviewing voice, not to mention uncommon talent for chocolate-making. Janga for her encyclopedic knowledge.

8. Thanks for my daily source of laughs: Anna Campbell, Teresa Medeiros, Connie Brockway, Christina Dodd, Eloisa James, Keri Stevens, rantyeditor, Esi Sogah, Dave Barry, and Dee Tenorio.

Copyright: Dianna @hrdwrkmom.com9. The Angles, Saxons, Jutes, British Celts, Normans, Vikings, Scots, Irish, Welsh, and the vast British Commonwealth for the Queen's English. Without this rich assimilating language, what on earth would I have ever said?

10. Amanda McCabe for being an all-round good egg, the best friend a person could have.

What's on your bookly gratitude list?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lessons in French

Laura KinsaleOne of my most highly anticipated swag snags at the Romance Writers of America's national conference this year was the excerpt booklet of Laura Kinsale's first book in five years.

Lessons in French by Laura KinsaleLessons in French (LIF, February 2010) is a humorous Regency-set historical in the grand tradition of Regencies of yore. At 480 pages, it promises to do substantive justice to the era.

A light, but emotional read—what Sourcebooks editor Deb Werksman calls "funny and poignant"—it is a significant departure from Kinsale's deeply moving stories that grab you by the throat and never let go till the last word.

And yet from the first two sentences, you know you are in talented hands.

"Lady Callista Taillefaire was a gifted wallflower. By the age of seven-and-twenty, she had perfected the art of blending into the wallpaper and woodwork so well that she never had to dance, and only her most intimate friends greeted her."

By the last sentence of page one, anxiety has set in as you realize this excerpt is only 18 pages long, you're going to get there in a jiffy, and then you're not going to know how you can wait another six months for the rest of the 462 pages.

Lady Callista Taillefaire "Callie"'s meeting with her first and only love of her life—despite three consequent betrothals and jiltings—Lord Trevelyan d'Augustin "Trev" in a public assembly room is everythng to be hoped for: romantic, wry, intriguing, nuanced, and funny.

Lessons in French promises to be another of the Kinsales to go down in history as a work admired deeply and discussed endlessly.

For My Lady's Heart

Laura KinsaleLaura Kinsale is one of the most overlooked, by readers, and highly regarded by critics and scholars, of historical romance writers of all time.

When people talk about Kinsale, Flowers from the Storm and The Shadow and the Star are what they remember. But for me, it's always been For My Lady's Heart (FMLH) and Shadowheart. FMLH is one of the few seminal books that have changed me as a reader.

Every time a historical book is released, online chatter indicates impassioned debates over the historical particulars, whether the author got them right, misused a nuance here or there, or trampled her way into the modern era. There's not one naysayer about Kinsale's research. She not only gets the pulse of the period right, she seems to live it, to breathe it.

For My Lady's Heart by Laura KinsaleIn FMLH for example, you would think Gryngolet was from her own mews, she'd herself donned the armor Ruck wore, luxuriated in palaces in Melanthe's stead, and traveled back in time to witness sword battles from atop a horse.

For the most part, FMLH is a story of a man and a woman in the forest alone. But around them, swirl the undercurrents of political turmoil, emotional blackmail, obsessive love, medieval chivalric thought, and singular people with passionate beliefs.

The prose is extravagantly dark and gloriously uplifting at the same time.

And...the characters talk in Middle English and Old Frnch. For a writer of medieval stories this is the sort of thing that reduces me to babbling incoherence: "WOW! OMG!"

In case you haven't realized, I love, love, love this book.

Have you read any books by Laura Kinsale? If so, which ones are your favorites? What do you think of her books?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor

Diamonds of Welbourne Manor by Diane Gaston, Deb Marlowe, Amanda McCabeFor a 100-year old company, Mills & Boon is very innovative and always setting trends. In rencent, years, the Historicals line has published stories packaged in various forms, in addition to, their main 75,000 "single" titles—connected series, prequels n anothologies, sequels in eBook novellas—this seamlessly publishing in different sizes and formats.

Consider the Diamonds—the anthology as well as the authors of this Regency-set stories. It's a collection of stories, with print novellas to be followed by print single books, for all six children of the Duke of Manning's blended family.

These talented Diamonds are eminently suited to put together a story of close friendships. Some anthologies are a collection of period-related stories, others are thematic, some have a common story premise, or a recurring character or characeristic. Rarely, is there a collection of stories that seems to have originatedfrom one pen, but in actuality from a group of close friends.

Each author deals with a challenge. Diane Gaston has to not only tell the story of the duke and duchess' forgotten older children, but also introduce all the main characters of the stories. Deb Marlowe and Amanda McCabe have the challenge of keeping the entire cost of characters "in character" while revealing more of their personalities and motivations. Their stories have to turn young, sheltered girls, struggling to deal with a devastating loss, into heroines. Dev does it with her special brand of humor and Amanda with her dash and polish.

I loved this series and am looking forward to the next stories that will follow the newly minted duke Nicholas, his younger brother Stephen, and the oldest Fitz-Manning Leo.

To play a guessing game, let me match up the authors with the characters...
Diane with Stephen
Deb with Leo
Amanda with Nicholas
...Only the Diamonds can tell me whether I got this right.

What about you? Have you read this anthology? Who do you think is going to write whose story next?

Monday, November 23, 2009

RWA National 2010

Romance Writers of America National Conference 2010Nashville...where legends are born is the theme of the 30th annual national conference of the Romance Writers of America. From July 28–30, 2010, attendees will be hosted in the swanky Garylord Opryland Hotel AKA Grand Ole Opry (see blog by Romance Bandits for a look inside the hotel and a detailed map for convention space layout).

Gaylord Opryland HotelSpeaker lineup is as follows...
Nora Roberts: Keynote speaker
Jayne Ann Krentz: Awards Luncheon speaker
Sherrilyn Kenyon: Librarians' Day speaker
Sabrina Jeffries: RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony emcee

Best news for the conference...
All RWA conference attendees will have free wireless Internet access inside their hotel rooms. (The $15/day resort fee will be waived.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dimmed Horizons

[Edit 11/24: Harlequin Horizons rebrands itself as DellArte Press. Improved FAQ, rest stays the same.]

Newspapers across the country are scrambling to report an example of how people's voices do carry a great deal of weight. How a successful and well-known business stumbled amidst its 60th anniversary celebrations, resulting in a rallying cry from its customers (readers and bloggers) and its clients (authors and agents), supported by writing organizations, thereby causing the innovative company to attempt to amend their stance a bit. What is hoped for by the company is that concession will cause the furor to die down; what is hoped for by the people is an undo of the entire decision.

I have no original thoughts of my own to contribute here; I was too busy getting myself educated on the various aspects and implications thereof of the Harlequin decision regarding its Horizons business. So instead, I'm going to include links to blogs and discussions by folks far more informed and articulate than I am. A wealth of information is also to be found in the comment threads.

Smart Bitches: Want to Self-Publish? How about Harlequin?, Postmortem

Dear Author: Shortsighted or Farseeing?, Malle Vallik from Harlequin Asnwers Questions, What's In It For You?

Kristin Nelson: Exploitation or Empowerment, And I Thought the Furor Was Bad Yesterday, Harlequin Newsflash

Jackie Kessler: Harlequin Horizons versus RWA, The Day After Harlequin Blinks, Answering Questions, Harlequin Gets Two out of Four

Shiloh Walker: My Take on Self-Pub / Vanity Presses

Karen Harbaugh: Harlequin vs. RWA and a little history

Twitter Feeds: Robin from Dear Author, Jackie Barbosa

Writers Beware: Another Major Publisher Adds Self-Publishing, Two Deep Questions, MWA Weighs In, SFWA

John Scalzi: Writers' Organizations to Harlequin

Absolute Write: Bewares & Background Checks

Rip-Off Report: Horizons

Thomas Nelson CEO: Why Agents are Opposed to Self-Publishing, Responds to Mike Shatzkin

Friday, November 20, 2009

Picture Day Friday

My latest two book aquisitions...

Winter Queen by Amanda McCabe Gallant Officer, Forbidden Lady by Diane Gaston

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Much-Beloved Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton Society"That blighted Blyton," my dad would rant when he caught me reading yet another Enid Blyton book. Well, it was only due to my parents' instigation that I introduced to her. They were not a common finding in the public or school libraries. My parents bought a set of books published in England on the advice of friends. They should've been careful with an author who has a backlist of 800 books.

Eight hundred? Yes! In a publishing career spanning nearly 40 years, Enid Blyton (August 11, 1897 — November 28, 1968) published 800-odd books and hundreds of magazine stories and articles. She has sold over 600 million copies and is the fifth most translated author worldwide with over 3,500 translations of her books. Undoubtedly, she was one of the most successful children's storytellers of the twentieth century.

Adventure series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetFamous Five series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetBlyton's life has finally been turned into a BBC film for the first time in 2009. It'll debut in Britain on BBC Four today (November 16, 2009) at 2100 GMT. Academy Award nominated actress Helena Bonham Carter portrays Blyton in the film, alongside Matthew Macfadyen and Denis Lawson who will be playing Blyton's first husband Hugh Pollock and Blyton's second husband Kenneth Darrell Waters, respectively.

Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetSecret Seven series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetWhy did the BBC wait for so long to do this? They considered her "small beer" and banned her books repeatedly throughout her life. According to 18 newly-released letters and memos, her books were "second-rate," "lacking literary value," and "Not strong enough. It really is odd to think that this woman is a best-seller." The dim bulbs of the patriarchical media could not conceive of children's literature by a woman author as worthy of mention in their radio broadcasts.

St Clare's series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetBarney Mystery series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetMy first ever Enid Blyton was Amelia Jane is the Naughtiest Girl in school. The storytelling was addictive as were the characters. I avidly read the entire series. Noddy was next. For most fans, boys and girls, Enid Blyton is synonymous with Noddy as their first love. I, then, graduated to the various fantasy series, like Wishing Chair, Magic Faraway Tree, and a huge assortment of fairy folktales. Tween girls go for the St. Clare and Mallory Tower boarding school series, whereas tween boys go for the Secret Seven, Adventure, Five Find-Outers, and Famous Five. I? I went for everything.

Books by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetMystery series by Enid Blyton copyright by The Enid Blyton NetBut reading the various farm series was my lightbulb period. I was an urban child, so a working farmland was as far away from my reality as the goblins and elves. However, these books had real people, living real, plausible lives with intricate emotions and stories that had long, sustained plots. I was so swept away by my love, I sat down and wrote my first book in longhand. It was highly derivative and imitative. But it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. The characters had personalities and voice, motivations, strengths and weaknesses, and changed in the course of the book. I was in love with writing!

Five Find-Outers series by Enid Blyton copyright by Enid Blyton SocietyA quick gander via Google reveals that Enid Blyton is by no means forgotten even decades after her death. Many of her books are still in print (and/or reissued) and continue to entertain and inspire children the world over. She encourages her young readers to be themselves and to engage with the world: to observe, explore, investigate, discover, and have fun. A few lines from Enid Blyton's "The Poet," published in The Poetry Review (1919) are apropos:

  "Dear heart
And soul of a child,
Sing on!"

Noddy series by Enid Blyton copyright by Enid Blyton SocietyNoddy series by Enid Blyton copyright by Enid Blyton SocietyTo indulge your inner fan, you can visit the Enid Blyton Society, the Enid Blyton Net, or Heather's Blyton Pages online, or attend the Enid Blyton Day at Loddon Hall in Twyford, Berkshire, England on the second Saturday in May. To buy Enid Blyton books, you can visit Amazon UK, Stella & Rose's Books UK, Navrang US, or eBay Aus.

Have you read any Enid Blyton books? If so, which ones are your favorite? If this was your first introduction to the author, would you now be tempted to give it a try?