Monday, October 28, 2013

Big News for the Once Series

I am thrilled to share some exciting news with you! The response to the Once series in ebook format has been so wonderful, my babies are getting a print run!

Just so we're clear, I'm the happy, dancing pig.

Once a Duchess, Once an Heiress, and Once an Innocent will be released in trade paperback, available for purchase in-store at Barnes and Noble. One book will be released each month, beginning with Duchess's release on December 18. It's available for pre-order right now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thank you to Tara Gelsomino, my fantabulous executive editor at Crimson Romance, for making this happen. And a super huge deluxe THANK YOU to my amazing readers for loving these books and for asking when you'll be able to pick them up in the bookstore. Soon!!!

Monday, October 14, 2013

At the Library

“We don't really market to libraries. We don't want readers to get the idea that they don't have to pay for content.” – Representative From a Publishing Company Which Shall Remain Unnamed

As I write, I'm sitting at a table in the corner of the non-fiction section of my local public library. My plan for today is to get lots of writing accomplished, which means I need to get away from the internet. Turning off my wireless at home doesn't always cut it; it's too easy to turn it back on. So I need to be somewhere else. I need to be at the library.

Then how are you posting right now, genius?

While preparing for my day, I remembered hearing the quote I posted above. I was at a workshop hosted by a particular publishing house, listening to a presentation meant to sell authors on why this company is the place to be. Things were going along okay, until someone in the audience asked what kind of penetration the company had with libraries, and one of the publisher's representatives said … that.

It was one of those moments when my jaw quite literally dropped. I couldn't believe someone whose business is books could so casually brush aside the entire concept of public libraries. We don't want readers to get the idea that they don't have to pay for content.

Holy – pardon my French – merde.
* * *
I've been addicted to books from the beginning, and while my childhood room had a little shelf crammed with many of my favorites, the library was the primary supplier of my drug of choice. Every time my mom took us there, I exchanged one heavy pile of books for another. It was nothing for me to leave with five or ten or more. My parents never could have afforded to purchase all the reading material I tore through.
Fine, Baby Jesus. We'll read Goodnight Moon. Again.

To be sure, they bought me plenty of books over the years. For my birthday, for Christmas, for just because. When in doubt, a book was always (and still is) the perfect gift for me. Still, the sheer volume of them I consumed... If I were to add up the cover prices of every book I have read in my entire life to this point, the total would probably sustain a small country for a year.

My first act of scholastic misfitery happened in the fifth grade. Being the top of the elementary heap, fifth graders were assigned various responsibilities around school. I was put on the safety patrol, which came with a neon orange sash and the power to enforce hallway rules of orderly conduct. It was a prestigious position. Being the visible face of authority is heady stuff for a ten-year old.

But it wasn't good enough for me.

You see, another position given to fifth graders at my school was that of Library Helper. I was wildly jealous of my library-working peers. So one day, my stomach roiling and palms sweating, I got up with my Library Helper classmates when they left for their duties. I lied right to Mrs. Anderson's face, and told her I'd been asked to be a Library Helper, too. I slipped into the library with the rest of the group, pulled an identification button from a basket, put it on... and I was in. I was a Library Helper.

I must have lied to the librarian to explain my presence, as well, since fifth grade tasks had long since been assigned. Either that, or no one was going to raise a stink about a rebellious act of volunteerism. A friend showed me the ropes, and soon I was shelving books, sorting media materials, and working circulation like a pro.

My favorite task was processing new books. To reach into a cardbord box, pull out a shiny new book, and be the first person ever to open it was a rush like nothing else. Wielding a rubber stamp, I branded each new book with the name of our school. There was a system to it: Inside of the front cover, page five, page thirteen, etc., inside of the back cover. I carefully adhered the manila pocket that held the circulation card for each book into the back cover, as well. Then I prepared the card itself. I scribed the book's title across the top of the card and, armed with one of those wonderful, heavy stamps constructed of metal, with rolling gears and that satisfying ka-chunk noise, I memorialized the date the book was introduced into the library. Now it was ready to be released into the library wilds, there to wait until a child picked it up and discovered a new world. And I was part of this magnificent thing.

We don't want readers to get the idea that they don't have to pay for content.
* * *
A man has taken the table beside mine. He's wearing a long-sleeved chartreuse shirt and a bow tie. He seems to be dressed for work, and I wonder if he's just passing the time here while waiting for a business appointment. There's a pencil and a highlighter on the table, too, so maybe he is at work, like me. A cup of Starbucks is sitting at his elbow. Three paperbacks are on his table; he's looking through one of them. He has a little laptop computer, too. He spent some time on it, but now it's closed.

And here's my table.
Suddenly, I'm wondering how many of us there are, officeless workers who make the library our temporary base of operations on any given day.

Plenty of writers like setting up camp in coffee shops, but that isn't really my scene. Coffee shops are noisy, plus there's the understanding that you should actually spend money there. It's rude to take up space in a cafe without patronizing the business. And I get that. I do. But the library doesn't want anything from me. No one is going to give me a dirty look if I sit here for three hours without making a purchase. If I need to stretch my legs, I can stroll the stacks. If I'm thirsty, there's a water fountain.

When I came to the library's website this morning to double-check the hours of operation, I noticed the calendar of events in a sidebar. Several times this month, there will be sessions offered to help members of the community navigate through the new Insurance Marketplace. There are computer literacy courses. A class on researching family history. Star gazing parties. For the children, there are puppet shows, movie days, story times.

The library is part of the community. It doesn't just offer books to anyone who wants to read, it helps the public lead richer, better informed lives.

We don't want readers to get the idea that they don't have to pay for content.
* * *
Creative writers sometimes say they don't write for the money. That's mostly true. I would write no matter what, whether or not another pair of eyeballs ever saw my words. I've written for most of my life, but have only been published for one year out of the … lots … since I learned how to form letters. In the grand scheme of things, my life as a published novelist is a blip on the screen. But the truth is, I'm a writer who is trying to build a career as a published author. And publishing is a business. That means I have to care about sales and money and marketing and all sorts of stuff that has nothing to do with the writing.

But the point of being published, to me, is getting my work to readers. It's sharing my stories with other people, and hopefully contributing something meaningful to their lives. If people get my books by purchasing them, wonderful. Awesome. Every sale is humbling, and I am so, so grateful to each and every one of you who has financially contributed to my fledgling career. But I'm just as grateful to those who have told me, “I got your books through my library.” To them, I have said, and will continue to say, “Thanks for supporting your local library!”

I love my readers, no matter how they find my books. It's just as thrilling for me to see my books in the catalogs of libraries all around the world as it is to see my sales numbers slowly increasing. Knowing that libraries carry my work is just amazing. I'm right back in the fifth grade, reveling in being connected to something as utterly fantastic as libraries.

King George, tear down those library doors!
Public libraries are one of the few truly democratic institutions in our society. It is open to absolutely everyone. The knowledge inside these walls is on offer to any person who cares to avail themselves of it. Right this minute, there is more information packed inside this building than the average person was ever exposed to over a lifetime, just a few generations ago. My library isn’t particularly grand when compared to lots of other places, but there are still more books here than I will ever read, and more coming in all the time. It doesn't matter if you're a billionaire or a nickelaire, the library is yours to use.

There have been times in my life of financial hardship, when I could not afford to purchase books. No one here asks to see my bank statement or last two pay stubs before letting me check out materials. Aren't hard times like those precisely when we need libraries the most? With nothing more than the trust that I'll bring them back again, I'm permitted to take home as many books as I want. I get to escape my troubles for a little while. The library has been an oasis when I desperately needed one. It has given me more enjoyment than any other institution I can name. How could I ever, ever begrudge anyone that same joy now that I'm part of the publishing industry?

So when that person said, “We don't want readers to get the idea that they don't have to pay for content,” what I heard was, “We don't want readers.” I scratched that company off the list of publishers I would consider working with. I care about readers. I want readers.

As a reader, I will forever love the library for making it possible for me to discover and experience so many amazing books. And as an author, I will always champion libraries. My novels belong there, where anyone who cares to read them can.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Today I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things. As I pushed my cart past the deli, another shopper drew my eye. She had a long, blonde ponytail. I recognized her from my yoga studio. A couple months ago, she came to the Sunday morning class I normally attend. Her brother came with her that day. He complained about tight hips. She borrowed a studio mat, while her brother used hers. I've only seen her in class the once, but she chatted familiarly with our instructor, so I think she's a regular at the studio, just not at that particular session.
Carol! I'd recognize that smile anywhere. How are you, dear?

I circled through the produce department, collecting my carrots and tomatoes and green leaf lettuce, while this woman strolled through the fruits. I wondered if she recognized me, too. The Pringles and Coke in her cart surprised me. In yoga class, she was the student everyone envied, even though There Is No Competition In Yoga. If I'd spent any time picturing her life at home, it would have included a super clean diet, possibly vegan, certainly gluten-free. Shows how unimaginative I am. Now I knew two things about her, that she can do beautiful flying splits, and she eats Pringles. Also that she has a brother with tight hips.

All these thoughts tumbled through my head in the produce department, and still, she never looked my way. I spent some time at the bagged salads, pulling them out of the refrigerated case and scrutinizing them for the slimy brown beginnings of rot. At the same time, the woman from yoga class studiously considered the nearby fruit salad offerings.

I sort of wanted to walk over and talk to her. But what would I say? "Hi. I don't know your name, but I recognize you from yoga. We once shared space in the studio, and your brother was kind of terrible at pigeon pose. Not that I judge him for it; I know he has tight hips."

How strange would that sound? In the end, I didn't feel I had the right to speak to her. I realized I was just an extra in her life. If her credits had rolled that morning in the yoga studio, I would have been Yoga Student #3. Today I was Woman Agonizing Over Spring Mix.
Did you ever stop to think about the trio huddled in blankets in the back?
What's their story? I bet it's good. And the oarsman in red? Most
interesting guy in the boat.

I thought about that. Here I am, a fully realized human being, reduced to filler in another person's episode. Just an unremarkable face in the background. I considered the fact that I recognized her, but she didn't recognize me back. Rather than take offense, I wondered how often I'm guilty of failing to see the people around me, the bodies who serve as my own extras. Do they sometimes recognize me? Do any of them know I have a weakness for Nutella and children who incessantly tattle on each other?

And all of them, from Man Arguing On The Phone to Elderly Woman Ordering Tea to Yoga Student #5, they aren't really extras, any more than I am. We're all part of a glorious, ensemble cast. I have 7 billion co-stars. I know this, but sometimes it's good to be reminded. Next time I'm out, I'm going to try to pay more attention to people than I do to my produce.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I Get Questions!

Sometimes I get notes from readers, telling me they enjoyed my books (yay!). Often, there are questions in there, too. So often, in fact, I have seen a trend of frequency. One might be so bold as to call them Frequently Asked Questions. While I'm always happy to respond to notes from readers (yay!), I thought I might start compiling an actual FAQ. Or a running FAQ, with new posts written as I accumulate more questions. Or something. Whatever. We'll figure it out as we go, shall we?

No, Dick, this will not be on the quiz.

QUESTION: Will there be any more books in the Once A... series, following some of the other secondary characters?

ANSWER: This is, by far, the question I receive most frequently. First of all, it warms the cockles of my authorial heart to know readers feel a connection to my little Regency world and its inhabitants. So, a super huge thank you to everyone who has asked me this question. Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. I *heart* you forever and always.

The Once A... series was originally conceived as a trilogy. I wanted to follow three friends: Isabelle, Lily, and Naomi. Their stories became Once a DuchessOnce an Heiress, and Once an Innocent. Mission accomplished!


As I told my ladies' stories, I met some gentlemen along the way, guys who are now giving me the Meaningful Look a character gives an author when he wants to impress upon her his feelings of neglect and impatience. Grant Lockwood, the middle sibling of the Lockwood clan, and Alexander Fairfax, Isabelle's older brother, are definitely on the list. Those two have been riding around in the back of my head for a while now. There's another man who's captured my imagination, too, one a little darker, a little more dangerous. If you've read all three of the Once A... novels, you might guess his identity.

At this point, I have nothing in the works for these fine fellows, but I'd like to get to them eventually. I cannot commit to anything regarding a timeline as to when you might see their books, because I don't have so much as an outline for these stories. I don't know if they will continue the Once A... series, or if they'll get a trilogy of their own, or if they might be stand-alones or mixed up with other series... No commitments! Just know that I've heard you, and I want to know their stories, too.

QUESTION: What's next? More Once A...?

ANSWER: Dang it, people, we just talked about that! 

OK, "What's next?" is fair. Here's What's Next, including a rambling story, because that's how I do.

You see, when an author is just starting out and doesn't have a contract anywhere and doesn't know if her stories will ever see the light of day, she spends a lot of time second guessing herself and wondering if she's Doing It Right. Say, for instance, this author was working on a trilogy. Say she'd finished two manuscripts and had the third underway, but hadn't managed to place the first one yet. Say she was starting to question whether she was wasting her time on that trilogy. All the advice says to keep going, to write the next thing, and the next, and the next. But maybe she was spinning her wheels on that next thing and needed to do a whole other, different thing.

I know there's no fooling you, my keen reader. That hypothetical author was, in fact, moi. When I'd gotten about halfway through the manuscript that became Once an Innocent, I set it aside and started something new that wasn't attached to my trilogy, so I'd having something else to shop around in case Once a Duchess didn't sell.

That manuscript is called Anatomy of a Deception (working title). It's a Regency-set romance about a genteel young lady turned body snatcher, an ambitious London surgeon, and the anatomical specimen they both have to obtain... But the body is still alive.

It's got a gothic atmosphere, a little darker in tone than the Once A... novels. It took second place in last year's Fire and Ice competition (historical romance category).

Wouldn't you know it, though, when I was about halfway through that novel, my Once A... trilogy was picked up by Crimson Romance. So, I put Anatomy on the back burner and got to work on my edits for Duchess and Heiress, as well as finished writing Innocent. And edited it. And learned about marketing and publicity and being a published author.

I finally got back to work on Anatomy of a Deception. In addition to that one, I penned a little novella called The Ruination of Miss Claudia Baxter, about a plucky young woman and the desperate lengths she goes to to avoid her arranged marriage. Those are both being spruced up in preparation for finding homes. I hope to have some news for you on that front soon!

I've got ideas for several series, each consisting of at least three novels, as well as a couple other stand-alone novels. The work I've laid out for myself should keep me busy for at least the next decade (and the ideas don't stop coming!), so I hope you're wearing your comfy pants. We're going to be here a while.

That's enough Q&A for today. If there's a question burning a hole in your heart, leave it in the comments below, or feel free to write. I love hearing from you!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

RWA 2013 Roundup

Last week, Romance Writers of America (RWA) got together for the annual national conference, held in Atlanta, Georgia. This was my first year in attendance. It was uh-mazing.

I had my very first fan sighting--meaning I was sighted by a fan. Right after signing in at the conference registration desk, I hit the ladies room. While I was washing my hands, a woman at the sink next to me eyed my badge and did a double take. "Are you one of my authors?" she asked. I thought she must have been with my publisher, or perhaps one of the industry professionals I had scheduled meetings with. It didn't even occur to me she might have been a reader. "I don't know," I said. "What's your name?" "Sophie," she replied. No bells rang. "Who are you with?" I asked, still trying to place her in a professional context. "Facebook!" she replied. Then she gushed about how excited she was to meet me, and how she hoped to meet many more of her favorite authors. What a great start to my conference! Sophie, wherever you are, you totally made my day.

Wednesday evening, we hosted a Literacy Book Signing. Over 400 romance authors (not me--maybe next year!) signed books for avid readers. All proceeds went to several literacy charities. I met romance readers who had traveled hours to meet their favorite authors. Being published in the genre doesn't squash the fangirl in me... it just gives me more frequent access to my own idols.

l-r: Tessa Dare; Fangirl Grinning her Fool Face Off

Mary Jo Putney, who wisely advised we take two pictures.

In addition to the marvelous Tessa and Mary Jo, over the course of the conference I met huge names in romance like: Eloisa James, Jo Beverley, Eileen Dreyer (who I gushed over, and who was very laid back about it), Cathy Maxwell (who I cried on, and who was very kind about it), Kristan Higgins (who I accosted with a hug, and who hugged me back).

Besides the New York Times bestsellers you all know and love, I got to hang out with lots of writing buddies, new and old: Synithia Williams, Kwana Jackson, Micah Persell, and so many more.

There were cocktail parties and luncheons with uplifting and powerful speakers.

And--oh, yes!--the workshops. Approximately five zillion workshops jam-packed with information on craft, marketing, research, and career paths. Spotlights on individual publishing houses. More book signings (I came home with over 40 novels. I might have a little problem.). Parties, open houses, awards dinners... and I didn't even make it to the RITAs, our industry's version of the Oscars, recognizing the best romance novels of the year. One of the Boycelings was bound for summer camp, so I scooted out of conference a few hours early to get in some snuggle time before he left.

Y'ALL. No wonder I'm still worn out. What a great conference it was. If you enjoy reading romance novels, keep your eyes peeled for a conference near you (in 2014, RT will be in New Orleans and RWA will be in San Antonio). Those are your chances to rub elbows with your favorite authors and take home the best new releases. And if you're a romance writer, I really can't emphasize enough how worthwhile it is to attend these events. I came home re-energized and brimming with inspiration for my work.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Hanging Out with The Book Tart

To celebrate the release of Once an Innocent, The Book Tart invited me to a Google Hangout! She is so much fun! I wish I could have a slumber party with her in Maine. Or Colorado. Or on the moon. We had a great time chatting about the Once A... series, bathtub mishaps, and the virtues of East Coast humidity. Don't miss out on the giveaway goodness! Watch the video for a trivia question (email the answer to me), and be sure to leave a comment at The Book Tart to enter the second giveaway.

Friday, June 28, 2013


Sometimes life hands you a lemon.

Sometimes life force-marches you out to the lemon grove and fells a fruit-bearing tree on your head.

This June has been a pretty rough on the Boyce household. I'd like to be able to feel relief that it's almost over, but if I've learned anything this month, it's that life can change drastically from one instant to the next. 48 hours is a lot of time for June to find another way to mess with me, so I'm not celebrating just yet.

Don't let the sunny color lull you into a false sense of security.

One of the Not Great things that happened was the hospitalization of one of my children (Child is ok now; please don't fret.). My day was going along like any other. I was struggling with my Work in Progress and policing petty sibling squabbles. And then, suddenly, I was making phone calls to arrange care for two of the kids and taking the third to the emergency room for immediate medical attention.

It was stunning, how fast it happened. All at once, the bottom fell out from under me. I was forced from my normal daily routines into something new and frightening. Later, sitting in the hospital and holding the hand of a child tucked into an institutional bed, my writer brain kicked in. Feel this, it ordered. Take it all in. Make note. You might need this later.

So I let myself tune in to what was happening. I turned my attention from staring at my child (as though the weight of my constant gaze was the only thing ensuring his continued survival) to myself. I felt the ebbing adrenaline and the headache building in its wake, the bewilderment, the desperate fear, and strangely, the beginnings of betrayal. Life had pulled a nasty one on us. Tears occasionally spilled from my eyes, stopped for a while, then spilled again.

Around me, I watched the harried nurse click through a computer screen listing her various charges. I felt the coarse weave of sheets manufactured to survive bleaching after bleaching. I noted the dust accumulated on top of the various wall-mounted apparatuses. I wondered why our room didn't have a box of tissues. On the television in the upper corner of the room, a Food Network personality made a cookie-crumb pie crust. "What more could you want from life?" she chirped.

I tuned back out.

Now, with the distance of a couple weeks behind me (and a couple more craptastic incidents thrown into the mix), I can't help but recall the adage about taking life's lemons and making lemonade, and I find myself wholly unwilling to do so.

These are my lemons, dammit. I earned them, and I will make or not make with them whatever I choose. When Mr. B and I had to leave the hospital without our child (who is, as a reminder, now totally fine), I didn't have the luxury of enjoying metaphorical lemonade. It was lemon juice, straight up, and a lot of it. I was sick with it churning in my stomach.

Although, for the lobster, the lemon is
just a final splash of indignity.
And I have to think that sometimes it's ok to just let a lemon be a lemon. What happened to our family sucked. I don't have to try to make something more palatable out of it. Life is a messy business. We all go through rough times on occasion, and there's nothing wrong with letting them be. Of course, I have learned from this experience, and I hope I will be able to use the emotions I lived through to add authenticity to my work at some point in the future, but I'm not calling that lemonade. A well-stocked produce bin, maybe, but not lemonade. I'll keep the lemons as they are and use them as needed.

After all, having lemons to hand is a good thing. When life eventually hands me a lobster, I'll enjoy it that much more.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Once a Duchess Goodreads Giveaway

I'm running a giveaway on Goodreads to help celebrate the upcoming release of Once an Innocent. Through July 8 (Innocent's release day!), you can enter for a chance to win one of two autographed copies of Once a Duchess. This giveaway is open to readers worldwide, so click below to enter!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Once a Duchess by Elizabeth Boyce

Once a Duchess

by Elizabeth Boyce

Giveaway ends July 08, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Doing it for the First Time

Choo Choo!
Regular readers of my blog will recognize what I'm about to do here. The rest of you, get ready to take a ride on Elizabeth's Nostalgia Train!

I'll never forget the first time. The nerves, the sweaty palms, the racing heart... Is this really happening? I thought. Am I really about to do this? I second guessed myself the whole time, wondering if I was doing the right thing... or if I was doing it right. I worried what others would think of me when they found out what I'd done. Eventually, though, I succumbed to the need, thew caution to the wind, and embraced the experience. It was exhilarating. It was powerful. It changed me forever.

I am, of course, talking about the first time I wrote.

For this, you waste my time?

... About sex.

*Ding!* There it is.

It was my senior year in high school, my AP English class. The course marked a major milestone in my writing life, for while I was not yet writing my own novels, I was learning to analyze the hell out of others' works.

On this particular day--April 14, according to my file (You do hang onto your academic papers, don't you?)--we were given a poem entitled "The Centaur," by May Swenson (Downloadable text here). Our essay prompt was this: "Read the following poem carefully. Then write an essay in which you discuss how such elements as language, imagery, structure, and point of view convey meaning in the poem."

There was also some mention of spanking
and rump slapping.
So I read it. I read lines like: "I'd straddle and canter him fast"; "The willow knob with the strap / jouncing between my thighs"; "I shied and skittered and reared, / stopped and raised my knees, / pawed at the ground and quivered. / My teeth bared as we wheeled"; "Dismounting, I smoothed my skirt."

I read. I blinked. My 17-year old mind went straight to the gutter, as adolescent brains are wont to do.

Desperately, I tried to think my way around my degenerate ideas. There was no way Ms. Swenson's poem, told through the narrative voice of a young girl, was really saying what I thought it was saying. I mean... it was just a little girl playing in the woods, right? It was just my lurid imagination seeing titillation in the imagery, finding a phallus where a stick had been "peeled [...] slick and clean."

But no matter how I attempted to bully my brain into reading something more innocent in the text, I couldn't escape the notion of something deliberately erotic about this poem. I can't remember exactly what clicked, but I finally decided that "The Centaur" really was about sex, gosh darnit, and I was going to put on my big girl writing britches and say so.

It's like centaurs literally have NOTHING else to do.
I wrote how the language lent the poem an erotic flavor. In another paragraph, I stated: "In conjunction with the diction of 'The Centaur,' imagery and structure work hand-in-hand to bring about the sexualization of the speaker's imagined horse ride as a ten-year-old. The entirety of 'The Centaur' parallels a sexual experience. It opens with the expectation of a rendezvous 'by the old canal,' hidden away 'in a willow grove.'" I went on to map out the arc from foreplay to intercourse to climax to post-coital disarray. The paper I turned in ends with: "The poem transforms a seemingly harmless childhood game into a sexual romp in the woods."

I've never sweated so much upon turning in an essay. I held my teacher in great esteem. What if I was wrong? What would she think of me when she read my work? She would know I had all these thoughts about Ess Ee Ex in my head, that I knew about orgasms and women being on top. I was terrified.

I got an A-.

After "The Centaur," I was never afraid to call out what it was I read in a text. If I saw sex, or misogyny, or nuanced commentary on race relations, or a pink elephant in the sky, then I said so. I learned to trust my instincts, both as a reader and as a writer. As an author, this is a lesson I have to keep teaching myself. It's ok to go there. It's ok to write what's on my mind. I cannot be constrained by what someone else might think, whether I'll offend a reader's sensibilities. I have to be true to the vision I have for my work, and trust that it will find its way into the hands of readers who enjoy it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Once an Innocent -- Cover Reveal!

I'm so excited to share with you the cover and blurb for my third novel, Once an Innocent:

Release Date: July 8, 2013

Jordan Atherton, Viscount Freese, returned from the Peninsular War scarred and ready to live as a dissolute bachelor. Society knows nothing of his secret occupation or of the obligation binding him to Lintern Abbey, the estate he loathes. When his Foreign Office superiors discover a network of French agents near his country home, Jordan quickly devises a house party scheme to cover the influx of his men hunting the enemy. With no time to lose and political stability hanging in the balance, Jordan turns to his friend, the Duke of Monthwaite, for help. Would the duke be so kind as to loan Jordan some ladies to populate his party? 
Lady Naomi Lockwood, Monthwaite’s younger sister, is snatched from her warm, secure world when she’s suddenly forced to go to Lintern Abbey, despite her pleas to stay home. Stunned by her family’s abandonment, Naomi and her aunt travel to the Yorkshire home of the handsome and enigmatic Jordan Atherton. 
There Naomi soon realizes this house party is not all it seems. The estate is neglected by its master, as is Jordan’s ward, a mysterious Spanish orphan. When Naomi demands answers, Jordan distracts her by indulging their mutual attraction. With danger drawing closer and her family far away, Naomi must stand on her own to uncover the truth and protect the home and people she’s coming to love—including the maddening Lord Freese.

My novels are the luckiest books on the block! The covers for Duchess, Heiress, and Innocent have all been beautiful. Huge thanks to the talented art department at Crimson Romance for so beautifully capturing the essence of my novels in these lovely visuals.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Once an Heiress Deleted Scene, Dinner with the Bachmans

I thought I'd share with you a scene deleted from the final edit of Once an Heiress. If you haven't read the novel yet -- stop! Go read it and then come back. I promise this scene will be here later.

The rest of you, meet me behind the jump for some bonus goodness.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Pickup Lines

So, Once an Heiress is out! Eleven days out, if my reckoning of time and math is correct. So far, I've had a lovely review from Harlequin Junkie, as well as a fun interview with The Book Tart, great reviews from readers, and one that puts me in mind of Cromer's P-Nuts, "Guaranteed Worst In Town." Be sure to click on my "Press" page for reviews, guest posts, and more!

Anyway, the point of this post was to inflict upon you something looping through my brain. When I get songs stuck in my head, they hang around for weeks. WEEKS, people. And I can be plagued by more than one at a time. Currently, my earworms are "The Boxer" by Simon and Garfunkel and "Mr. Tambourine Man" by Bob Dylan.

Aren't you glad you read this blog?!?

Anyhoodle, the lines that keep looping through my brain are Dylan's:

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea...

Honestly, this goes through my head at least once a month. This has to be one of the most exquisite images ever committed to the English language.

Do you ever get lines of a song stuck in your head? Which ones? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Once an Heiress Excerpt

One week until the release of Once an Heiress! If you read Once a Duchess, I hope you'll enjoy following the story of Lily Bachman in Once an Heiress.

Click through for an excerpt of Lily's first kiss with the scandalous Lord Thorburn. If you'd like to read more, Once an Heiress is now available for pre-order at most major eBook retailers. Click on my "Books" page for a link to your favorite merchant.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Identity Check

Last night, my five-year-old daughter presented me with a handwritten note:

Der Mom
I <3 you
sow much!
Bee cus
you'er a 
Good righter

First of all, I was blown away that my lesson about silent 'g' had stuck, even if she employed the wrong 'righter.' And how she used the more difficult 'sow,' rather than 'so.' Obviously, she shares my affinity for homonyms. My kid is the next O'Conner-in-training, and don't you dare try to tell me otherwise.

Anyway, her note was sweet and adorable and I loved that she recognizes my profession. It reminded me of another time (Yes, it's going to be one of THOSE posts. Deal.) one of my spawn called me a writer. In fact, it was the first time.

When my eldest was in first grade, he had to fill out a little Getting to Know You questionnaire. Name, Age, Pets, Hobbies... and then it wanted to know what Dad and Mom do. I helped him spell his dad's profession. When it came to "My Mom is a ___" I started to spell out 'homemaker.' But my son, with his pencil poised over the paper, looked at me and asked, "How do you spell 'writer?'"

That one question, those five little words, absolutely floored me. At that point, I'd been writing for years, hoping for eventual publication. But it never crossed my mind to call myself a writer. It felt presumptuous. I wasn't published. I wasn't paid. I wasn't anyone. But to my son, I was a writer. He gave me the courage to say it out loud. To own it.

That's me... Spicy mystery AND Satan's
daughter. Just ask my ex.
Allowing others to identify us can be powerful for good or for ill. I'll never forget the time a person I once loved called me a whore. I rejected that label with my whole being, and it created an irreparable breach between us. Even though I know it was hurled at me in anger, I'll never forget it.

Something else I'll never forget: I had a friend with whom I used to sit for hours, discussing literature and art and philosophy and religion and politics and absolutely everything. He asked questions, and he listened to my answers. Over the course of months, he turned me inside out, examining everything about me. Finally, he proclaimed me to be intelligent and restless and passionate. He said I couldn't be contained by convention. He made me feel worldly and intriguing, like I might be a fascinating person to know. Whether or not that's true, I wanted it to be. He saw something inside of me I hadn't recognized in myself, and put words to it. Ever since, that feeling has stayed near my heart. Now and again, as I'm going about my mundane, domestic routines, those words float to the surface of my mind. They feel like a secret identity. I might be over my ears in laundry and social studies projects, but really, I'm the woman you wish would give you the time of day at a cocktail party. 

While we must ultimately decide our own identities, there is something so powerful about having someone else recognize an aspect of ourselves and put a name to it. Whether it's a young child dropping a truth bomb, an abusive partner filling our ears with lies, or a friend boosting our confidence, the words by which others name us make an indelible mark upon our souls.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Total Recall

Actors of the stage and screen are in the business of convincingly portraying a character as part of a larger storytelling effort by the entire cast and crew. There are many methods actors might employ to get "into character" as they call it in the biz, but most of them rely on some form of sensory or emotional recall, in which the performer summons memories of an event in his or her own life similar to that which must be portrayed, and attempts to channel the physical and emotional state they experienced at the time.

I bring this up, because as I've been working on my current work-in-progress, it occurs to me that authors are a lot like actors in this regard, and then some. To write good fiction, an author must submerge herself in the point of view character. This means feeling and writing everything that character goes through. To a lesser extent, we must understand and sympathize with the motivations of even minor characters, even if we don't take you into their heads.

Romance novels often feature at least two point of view characters, the hero and the heroine, sometimes more. My current release, Once a Duchess, has at least four point of view characters. Perhaps five. I'm loathe to pick through and count right now.

These are all me.

In order to bring the best realism to my work, every aspect of my life becomes fodder. Every humiliation and heartbreak; every love and longing; every loss and rejection; every anxiety and fear; every arousal and impotence... they're all fair game. I may not have experienced the precise scenarios my characters go through, but so many of the feelings are my own. This is why a life well-lived is the greatest resource at a writer's disposal. The ability to accurately portray human experience is invaluable.

Also me.
Quite recently, I was on the phone with a friend while in the grips of some Big Emotions. While I cried and gasped and stammered my way through a feeble attempt at articulating myself, she said, "What you need to do is take all of this and channel it into a great scene." And she was right. Right then, I took a quick mental and physical inventory. What does my body feel like? Which muscles are tense? Which internal organs burn? How difficult is it to draw breath? Why can't I string together a coherent sentence? I filed away the information for later use.

Writers are scavengers of emotion. We horde our own experiences and we pick the carcasses of others' tragedies for useful bits. Our memories are our databases. Our bodies are forced to relive the traumas and joys of our lives, over and over again. All in the service of telling a story.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Once an Heiress -- Cover Reveal

I just got the final version of the cover for Once an Heiress from headquarters, with the go ahead to share. I feel like celebrating today, and so does my cover:

Bubbly for everyone!

Once an Heiress releases March 11. Don't forget to add it to your Goodreads Want to Read list!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Happy Birthday, Pride and Prejudice!

Today marks the bicentennial of the publication of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Doesn't look a day over 165

First published on January 28, 1813, Pride and Prejudice was an instant hit and met with rave reviews -- except from Charlotte Brontë, who found the novel to be "a disappointment." Of course she did.

What can I say about this novel that has not already been said? I've lamented the myriad, mediocre spinoffs and sequels. I've already told you how ardently I admire and love Pride and Prejudice. Its popularity has only grown in the last two hundred years. Fans of Elizabeth and Darcy show no signs of flagging in their devotion. And why should they? The novels themes of love, family, marriage, and class are as pertinent today as they were two hundred years ago. Readers still relate to Elizabeth Bennet. We still cringe at her mother's embarrassing behavior. We still love the special bond she shares with Jane. We still want Fitzwilliam Darcy to recognize her for the smart, loyal, loving person she is. And, gosh darn it, we still want them to achieve Happily Ever After.

Of course we did.

Here's to the next two hundred years, Pride and Prejudice.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mixed Tape

Earlier today, a fascinating Twitter personality posed a thought-provoking question:

The equally fascinating Vristen Pierce suggested the topic might make a good blog post. And friends, I believe she's right. She usually is.

In an attempt to answer my own question, I've been thinking about Marshall and Isabelle from Once a Duchess. As denizens of Regency England, the music they have to choose from might not make the most exciting mixed tape. [Although, the book does contain a scene at a musicale. Isabelle is moved by Beethoven's 26th Sonata for Piano, Les Adieux: "It was as though Herr Kaufman -- and Beethoven before him -- put her woes to music for all the world to hear." Maybe she'd toss that one in Marshall's face.]

So, in the spirit of the mixed tape, I'm giving Marshall and Isabelle access to all the songs I know. They're each allowed to choose three selections.

First up, Isabelle's tape to Marshall

She opens with "I Will Survive" as performed by Gloria Gaynor:

     "I think," Marshall said, "you're awfully brave."
     Isabelle pulled back in his arms, searching his face for a sign of mockery, but found none. "You do?"
     He nodded. "It's not every woman who could take care of herself when times got hard."

Next, Isabelle taunts Marshall with Queen's "Somebody to Love."

     Isabelle sighed and plopped back onto the couch in a rather unladylike fashion. "I just want a family, Lily. Is that really too much to ask? A respectable husband and a few children of my own?"

Finally, while Isabelle is busy hunting for a husband, Marshall is busy hunting for a wife. He finds a candidate, but Isabelle doesn't think much of her replacement:

     Lady Lucy raised her chin and turned her lips in a satisfied smirk. She laid her hand on Marshall's forearm.
     Isabelle's first impulse was to swat those bejeweled fingers off his arm. It was no surprise Naomi deplored a potential union between her brother and the calculating Lucy Jamison.

And now, Marshall's mixed tape to Isabelle

Marshall begins with "Broken Vow," by Josh Groban,to really drive home what a terrible thing she's done:

     ... If he had felt only a passing attraction for Isabelle, enough to beget his heir and little beyond, her betrayal would not have struck the blow that it had. But he had been strongly, deeply attracted to his young wife. She had awakened passion in him that no other woman before or since had come close to realizing. And that's what he could not forgive, the way she had him nearly eating from the palm of her pretty hand, and then turned to another man for what Marshall had so freely given her.

Having to find a second wife is a demoralizing prospect. He's starting all over again, but with the wariness of a failed relationship under his belt, and lingering emotions for his former wife. He expresses this through Coldplay's "The Scientist":

     Marshall squeezed his eyes shut and drew several deep breaths. These were just feelings stirred by the unwise dalliance they'd indulged in, he assured himself. Once they were both safely married off to others, he would no longer feel a possessive compulsion to have her for himself.

After the therapy provided by those rather maudlin songs, Marshall needs to tell Isabelle how he feels about her now. He takes her by surprise with an upbeat classic. Go ahead and try not to smile. Can't do it, can you?

     "If your idea is that I want to convince Isabelle to agree to marry me, and that I don't think I can do it without your help, then you would be correct."
     Naomi covered her mouth and made a squeaking sound.
     Marshall glowered. "Are you laughing at me?"
     She shook her head. "Oh no, of course not." She grinned widely. "I'm just very pleased to hear this."

I hope you enjoy my characters' mixed tapes! I'd love to see your suggestions in the comments for other songs Marshall and Isabelle could include in their compilations. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

True Romance

Given my proclivity for penning romance novels, it might not come as an earth-shattering shock to know I spend a good deal of time thinking about romance and what makes it believable. True romance, if you will. But what is it?

Romance stories often (but not always) feature a Grand Gesture. In a romance novel, the Grand Gesture will probably appear close on the heels of the Moment of Despair. You didn't know a romance novel had so many capitalized components, did you? Now you do. You're welcome.

The Grand Gesture is the moment in which everything is laid on the line. The hero or heroine does something to demonstrate their undying devotion to the other. What tips a Grand Gesture into the category of true romance is when it is exactly perfect for the recipient. Flowers and poetry and moonlight sonatas are great for some people, but not for others. A wonderful Grand Gesture demonstrates real understanding and a connection to the other person.

Oh, look! Yet more jewelry from Sir Lardbottom.
Lovely. Too bad what I really need is a kidney donation.
In Eloisa James' lovely novella Storming the Castle, the heroine, Philippa, expresses a long-held fantasy of being swept up by a knight in shining armor, riding a white horse. Her desire, however, isn't about wanting to play out a story book cliche: "It was only very recently that I realized the fairy story had more to do with escaping Rodney than being carried off by an acrobatic prince," she says. As the hero, Wick, comes to know Philippa and learn her reasons for wanting to escape her old life, he decides to help her. Enter the Grand Gesture. After Philippa thinks she'll never see Wick again, he suddenly appears and... well, I won't spoil the rest. You should read it for yourself.

Another Grand Gesture is delivered by Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. He hunts down and pays off the detestable Wickham so he'll marry Lydia, thereby saving the Bennet family from public disgrace. On the surface, his actions are almost banal. It's all legalities and finances. What makes this a Grand Gesture is the motivation for his behavior. We see over the course of the novel how Darcy generally disdains the Bennet family. Why does he pull them out of the fire? Darcy does this for Elizabeth, to save her from the scandal and the estrangement from Lydia that would arise from the younger sister's elopement. He knows how important Elizabeth's family is to her, how devastated she would be by Lydia's ruin, and he can't bear the thought of her enduring such pain.

Children playing on a see-saw, aka The Devil's Fulcrum
This is the heart of true romance. It might be a knight charging in on a white destrier, or it might be forcing a rogue to sign on the dotted line and marry your beloved's sister. The gestures are wildly different, but they both arise from truly knowing and understanding the loved one.

In my own life, I have been on the receiving end of a Grand Gesture that might strike others as absurd, but meant the world to me. On a particular date with Mr. B, he and I went to a park for a stroll. There was a playground nearby, and I suggested we play on the see-saws I remembered as being there. We walked over, only to discover the see-saws had been removed. I was disappointed, but we went on about our date. A week or so later, Mr. B invited me to his house. He led me into the back yard to unveil a surprise: He'd built an adult-sized see-saw in his yard. For me. It was perfect. It wouldn't be right for lots of other women, but it was exactly right for me. To this day, I'm the only woman I know who has been wooed with playground equipment. But it's the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me. Right then, I knew that a man who would build me a see-saw was a man I had to hang onto.

What are some of your favorite examples of Grand Gestures from books or movies? How about a real-life example of true romance? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ode to Roget

This morning, while working through the edits for Once an Heiress (releasing March 11!), I found myself clicking over to to shake up a word rut. Seriously, how many times can characters behave in a 'blithe' fashion over the course of a single chapter? Quite a few, evidently.

While perusing the selections for a particular entry, I suddenly heard the voice of my high school AP English teacher chirping, "That's a refreshing word!" And for some reason, it sent my mind tripping to the best reference book I've ever owned.

I asked for powder blue makeup. This periwinkle is
quite unacceptable.
I received Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus for Christmas. I think it was my senior year in high school, the year I took AP English. In short order, I fell in love with that book. I could -- and did -- just sit and read it. Discovering new words has always been a thrill, but my thesaurus did one better: it helped me discover the right words. Roget's taught me about the nuance of language, and the value of saying precisely what one means.

In some ways, a thesaurus is like a paint store. If you go to the paint store for blue paint, you'll find yourself facing a selection of hundreds of different shades, all of which are "blue." There's azure, cadet, Prussian, cobalt, Tiffany, sky, ultramarine, robin's egg... Such wild variety, a veritable rainbow of blue.

Likewise, entries in the thesaurus list synonyms for a single word, but there's a wide range of meaning contained within the selection. For instance, the verb "irritate" is listed as being synonymous with both "annoy" and "enrage." There's a gulf of difference between "annoy" and "enrage," and you'd better decide which one you really mean if you're shopping in the "irritate" department.

My AP English teacher encouraged us to use "refreshing" words. "Very" was verboten in her class. I recall her writing the word on the chalkboard and drawing an X through it. I think the lesson was that if you stick "very" in front of a descriptor, there's probably a better, more precise word to use. Rather than "very fast," one could say "speedy," "rapid," or "expeditious." Instead of "very pretty," one could use "beautiful," "stunning," "exquisite," or "elegant" to more accurately convey meaning. My thesaurus was the holy tome that taught me to appreciate such linguistic subtleties, which, in turn, earned me many a "Good word!" on my class essays.

Synonyms: treasury, reference book, word list, bff
Roget's lived in my backpack for the rest of my school years. After high school, it went to college with me. In addition to my French-English dictionary, it even traveled with me to Europe for my semester abroad. It resided on my shelves, a little battered and greatly creased until, finally, I retired it in a book purge several years ago.

Though I rely on the Internet for my thesaurus needs these days, I'll always have a soft spot for that paperback treasure, as well as for the teacher who encouraged me to think deeper about words. Learning to discern slight variations in meaning and choose the right word are skills that have served me well throughout my academic and professional careers. My heart is filled with gratitude. Appreciation. Thanks.