Life Choices

I’m reading a great High Fantasy romance right now by someone I actually know! Is that too cool? Okay, I hang around with Romance Writers of America and on Scribophile, so I do know rather a lot of published authors. But Tameri Etherton is one of the best people I know and made me feel very welcome at RWA meetings. So when she announced the publication of her ebook, The Stones of Kaldaar, first book in her Song of the Swords series, I picked it up right away.

I haven’t put it down yet. I am really enjoying the book, and if you are interested in it, here’s a link. The cover art is just like Tameri herself, full of joy and drama. The good kind of drama. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-stones-of-kaldaar-tameri-etherton/1120323231?ean=2940046141870

As I read the beginning of the novel, I thought, what would I do if (assuming I am a young woman) life suddenly revealed itself to me as something totally different than anything I expected? And what would I rather have the choice of being? Could I be revealed as the unknown heir to a title and fortune? Or a Messiah on another planet or in another dimension? What if I am a vampire or a werewolf? A sorcerer with untold, untapped powers? So many possibilities.

Let’s look at the pluses and minuses. Today I wake up, open my closet, and instead of the usual selection of fat clothes and skinny clothes, there’s a door! I, of course, open it, and step into a new world. Someone is waiting for me, and tells me I am the new ruler of Slumberistan. I now posses more magic power than I can imagine. But in two weeks, I will fight one on one with the evil Lord Damitall, who is trying to take over my rightful throne. For two weeks, I have maids who will wait on me hand and foot, scrub my back, choose my gowns, make sure I get to meals on time, and bring me books from the library. I have daily exercise in learning to fight with a big, heavy slice of sharp metal, and learning to use this magic I am supposed to have. Those are the pluses. The down side is that in two weeks, I’ll be killed because I can’t learn enough in that short of a time.

Next scenario, please! I’m driving to work, not really paying attention because I know where every little bump in the road lies, and when the traffic will slow down. But I look up, and everything is wrong. I don’t know this road, I don’t remember how I got here. There’s one lane and lots of trees and it’s dark like evening, not morning. The car starts to stall, so I pull over to the side. I get out, and a truly god-like man (a Chris Hemsworth close) approaches me. He tells me I have been sent to this dimension to lead the faithful away from the path of sin, and to convert those sinners who have left the fold. I tell him, “Buddy, you have got the wrong woman! Where’s the party?’ Yeah, not many pluses, especially if there’s celibacy involved.

Moving right along, I finally get to go to Eastern Europe and stay in a castle! I fall asleep in a huge, dusty bed (but I don’t mind the dust, because CASTLE!) only to be woke up by people in my room, arguing. A pair of delicious, half naked men are arguing over which one of them I belong to. I think, I wish my husband was here! I have to choose between a vampire and werewolf. Awesome, but again, not so many plus sides here. Dead or cursed, sucking blood or killing innocents. NEXT!

Same castle, but instead of waking up to arguing beefcakes, I see flashes of very white light under my door. I open it up to find a pair of sorcerers battling with lightning bolts and fire balls and staffs. I think, “I better check out of this place!” and step into the hallway, just as each sorcerer throws their most powerful spell. Hmmm, probably just going to be a pile of ash, now that I think of it. Not even Cinderella.
I guess I’m happiest being someone who thinks up these things, instead of someone who has to live through them. Have a good week, and I’ll be back on Sunday.

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Formula Stories for the Win

Tropes and formulas are a part of the Romance world. Searching Google will give you lots of plots and arcs and Very Important Elements for any romance novel. Using these formulas might just earn you some criticism about tropes and writing the same story over and over.

You can blithely ignore those critics. At the Romance Writers of America (RWA) meeting I attended yesterday, those of us who were not lucky enough to go to the National convention in San Antonio just last month were treated so some Publisher Spotlight notes that not only made us more jealous of those who went, but gave us lots of important information. And I am going to share some of it with you today.

Harlequin single title lines are not easy to break into, but the Harlequin series, under the Spotlight title, is a little more understanding of both authors and readers. And they insist on the formula. Not the same story over and over, but the same elements. Think of it like a foot race. All the entrants have to hit the same marks to meet the race requirements, but they can do it at their own time, in their own way.

The readers drive the desire for these same elements. A tortured hero, a flawed heroine, a reason for them to work together, a reason they shouldn’t fall in love, and a way to overcome all of that for the Happy Ever After (HEA). Here is Harlequin’s “format” for the perfect story: http://www.harlequin.com/articlepage.html?articleId=1425&chapter=0

Larry Brooks, the Storyfixer, wrote a great blog a couple years back on discovering that Romance writers are as competent and motivated as any other writers, and maybe more dedicated than most.
http://storyfix.com/what-i-just-learned-from-a-room-full-of-romance-writers And I am going to buy a copy of his book, Warm Hugs for Writers, to give to all my Scribophile friends when they doubt themselves.

Shoshanna Evers posted this Secret Formula in 2009, and now is a published author. Wait, can it be a secret if you post it on the Internet? http://www.thewriterschallenge.com/2009/09/secret-formula-of-most-romance-novels.html

At the RWA meeting, we discussed a lot of what is hot and what is fading from view in subgenres. Personally, I am just going to keep writing what I want to write, and I will find my readers through good stories. But the next wave is Historical Romance, particularly medieval. And paranormal is on the way out, apparently. I am sure there are more readers like me who just realized the wealth of books out there about Alpha Male Wolf heros that make me a little melty. And even a lion shapeshifter has caught my attention, in Dark Age Dawning #3, Daybreak by Ellen Connor (who turns out to be two talented women!).

About Dark Age Dawning, I picked up a copy of the third book, and started reading it without the slightest intent of looking for the first two novels. Not only has that changed a few chapters in, I am going to find everything they ever wrote and read it. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8397035-daybreak

Dystopia worlds have been a big deal for a while, where magic makes everything dangerous and beautiful. The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones are big reasons for this trend. But the genre has been around for a long time. Animal Farm being one of the earliest, and The Handmaid’s Tale one of the best. Here is Julia Gandrud’s 8 Point Dystopian Plot Formula. http://writingreadingandlife.com/2013/11/29/guest-post-8-point-dystopian-plot-formula-julia-gandrud/

Think you need a little more help getting this formula under your belt? Look for your local RWA chapter and find out which workshops are available. You can take some of the on-line workshops from any chapter, if it suits your needs. There are also many other sources of learning, from community college creative writing to Scribophile forums, but some of those are not exactly Romance friendly. But here’s a great plot mapping idea from Tracey Montana and Adrienne Giordano at the Romance University (whose motto is R U Ready? Love it). http://romanceuniversity.org/2009/10/19/do-all-roads-lead-to-plot-mapping/

Like Adrienne says at the end of the blog, I’d love to hear how you use the formula, and how you map your plot! Maybe you’d like to write a guest post for me on the subject! Maybe we can trade posts! I know if I followed through on half the ideas I come up with, I’d be rich and have all the time in the world to write. See you on Thursday.

Interview with Lila Auclair

Some weeks ago, I posted three photos of models who were in the running for the basis of my heroine in a Regency naval-based Romance. I had long ago picked my hero, thinking he would be a pirate, but he’s turned into Captain Christopher “Kit” Dash. Here’s his Pinterest image: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694893848864/

In the story, Kit is a tall man with broad shoulders and long legs who has some issues living on a ship that uses very little space for any one thing. So I felt that the woman who wins his heart will be a sturdy woman, beautiful and curved, but also taller than the norm, who feels solid in his arms and in his bed. This is Lila Auclair: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/514606694894666796/

I’m getting to know Lila, even though actually writing this story isn’t in the forecast, so I decided to get what I know about her written out and saved for the time to come.

Novel Approach: Miss Auclair, welcome. Would you tell us a little about your childhood?

Lila Auclair: My younger days passed tediously, I wouldn’t dwell on them. Suffice to say that my father is a French fisherman, my mother was Scottish, from Stonehaven. They met when his fleet blew in during a storm. He stayed a while, as some of the boats were damaged. Then he went back to France. Mama didn’t speak French, but she thought he meant to come back. Well, in the course of things, I entered the world. We lived with her parents on a small farm, and she died when I turned twelve.

NA: That’s very touching. How did you end up in France? Boulogne-sur-mer, was it?

LA: Yes, I went to find my father, and found instead his family. Mostly fishermen, but some farmers too. I stayed with an aunt and helped my cousins run the farm. I have learned to make the very best goat cheese in the whole world. Would you like to try it?

NA: Oh, maybe later. Thank you. I read somewhere that Boulogne-sur-mer hosted a fleet of smugglers. Are you sure your father fished for a living?

LA: Having never met the man, I can only tell you the stories my mother told me. I have been reassured by my aunt that he did indeed fish at some time in his life. He has gone to fight Napoleon, so we do not know if he will return to the farm.

NA: Your father still does not know of your existence? How does that make you feel?

LA: How should it make me feel? I have no claims on him, and want only to live in France with the Auclair family. My aunt wrote a letter to him, to tell him about me, but I do not know if he received it. There has been no reply.

NA: What was your mother’s family name?

LA: MacFarlane. Hannah MacFarlane, daughter and only child of Edward and Mary Gordon MacFarlane.

NA: How did you happen to meet Captain Dash?

LA: My cousin Pierre took fresh vegetables, flour, and chickens to the British ships that patrol the channel. The captain asked him to bring more, everything we could spare. So we took two boats out, with goats and wine and honey, and much more. Just as we had off-loaded our boats, and Pierre started back in his, a French ship appeared, and the captain ordered his crew to attack. I could not get to my boat safely, so he sent me below. To his cabin.

NA: Well, that’s all the time we have today! Thanks for your candid answers, Miss Auclair. And thanks to everyone for reading. I’ll be back on Thursday with more about ladies’ clothing.

LA: Oh, I’d like to read that one.

NA: I don’t think the ship has WiFi.

Slip of the Tongue – Or – The Foundation Series – Or – The Stays the Thing.

I may have mentioned that I write Regency Romances. Published nothing so far, but come pretty close a time or two. Under and assumed name so my sister won’t be ashamed to acknowledge me in public, I am writing erotica. I have a fun scene where the hero dances the heroine outside and into a hedge maze, and does unspeakable things to her. That’s why I wrote it down, instead of making a recording.

One reader was amazed that the hero could simply pull her sleeves down her arms a bit, and all her glorious bounty lay exposed before him. “Didn’t they have bras?” she asked. No. No, they did not.

I’ll let Uncle Wiki fill you in on the history of the brassiere. Suffice to say bras were not used until the late 1800s, and the Regency era really slipped into the Victorian era about 1820. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_brassieres

What did the women do to keep the “girls” in line? There were several options. Much depended on the social status of the woman. Regency women dressed like an onion, in layers. First there was the chemise, also called a shift. Often this was the nightgown, too. Over this light and easily washed shift, would go the stays. https://mantua-maker.com/Corset_Patterns.html The breasts were lovingly placed into the stiff cotton twill garment, and a wooden (usually) busk (yardstick) is inserted in the front, in a pocket designed just for that use. The stays were expected to flatten the stomach, but lift and separate the bosom. This is more flattering than the Georgian flat from neck to toes style, and much more comfortable than the Victorian corset.

The shoulder straps, as you can see here: http://www.songsmyth.com/underthings.html can be undone from the front and tucked in the back, if your ball gown had a wide neckline. So my hero could easily have pulled the stays down the slender heroine, with no impediment.

Shall we finish dressing our Regency Heroine? Why not! Over the stays, her ‘tiring woman or abigail places the petticoat. The bodice of the petticoat would be of a cheap, coarse fabric, and the had open sides for eas of dressing. Strips of fabric tape tied it all closed. The chemise would not be ankle length, but the petticoat was designed to fill out the shape of the dress, so that the wearer’s legs could not be easily perceived under her gown. It went to the hem and had at least one ruffle, properly called a flounce. http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/why-petticoats-and-chemises-were-worn-under-regency-gowns-jane-austens-world/

Drawers, you ask? Oh, no. Only fast women and prostitutes would wear drawers! http://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/11/06/ladies-underdrawers-in-regency-times/

But that’s a step backward. Here are a few more wonderful links on the subject, and next Thursday we’ll look at the outer layers, and that wonderful hobby, laundry! Have a good week.

http://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2007/10/undressing-your.html

http://www.kristenkoster.com/2011/11/a-primer-on-regency-era-womens-fashion/

Around the World in 80+ Books, Part 13

The most exciting parts of traveling are the day you leave and start the adventure, and the day you roll home with tons of laundry to do and weariness you wouldn’t trade for anything. So let’s jump off of Cypress and head on to Gambia. Where the Gamers all live.

241. Gambia. Mid-week, I mentioned my love of horses in fiction, novels like The Black Stallion making up a large part of my story-spinning daydreams. Alhaji by Ebou Dibba is the story of a 16-year-old boy who owns a dream horse, and what happens when he is offered a lot of money to sell the animal to a rich man. Horses aren’t just property, nor is any animal who shares our lives. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4552704-alhaji?ac=1

242. Germany. Yeah, missed it completely. So much great literature here, but I think Three Comrades: A Novel of Germany Between the Wars by Erich Maria Remarque is a good choice. Trying to keep alive and employed in a country devastated by war and treated as less than human by the rest of the world, these three young men keep each other going, and are the most vulnerable to love. There’s apparently a Russian version that is equally well received. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/91203.Three_Comrades?ac=1

243. Grenada. What if you emigrated to a beautiful island in the Caribbean just in time for a Communist Revolution to break out? Why, you’d probably write a book about it. That’s what Kay Howard did. Memories to Die For: An American Family’s Terror-filled Adventures on the Island of Granada. Reviews are mixed, some complain about the ethnocentric Americans looking down on the native inhabitants, and some enjoying the page-turning pace of the adventures. It’s worth a look. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/218531.Memories_to_Die_for?ac=1

244. Guinea-Bissau. As a country on the coast of Africa, Guinea-Bissau has lots of needs, such as clean water, improved economy, and good health care. Or is that California? Anyway, I admire the woman who set up clinics to treat many diseases that were rampant in the country. I don’t know if I admire the fact that she came to do God’s work, which meant creating a written version of the language and translating the New testament into that language. That feels a bit heavy handed to me, and a bit of the culture might have just changed completely. Still this book is God’s Needle: How Lily Gaynor Brought Hope and Healing to the Land of the Witchdoctors. It could have been much worse.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17575050-god-s-needle?from_search=true

245. Kosovo. I have the pleasure to be acquainted with a woman who sponsored a family from Kosovo. Their experiences while leaving the war-torn area are horrific. And one can only rage impotently at the brutality and death the children of the family witnessed. My friend calls the children her grandchildren, and they are her spiritual family. We say one person can’t do very much alone, but there are so many examples of what one person can do that we have to stop saying that or believing it. I picked The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo by Paula Huntley because it’s a true story and it’s an accidental book. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21945723-the-hemmingway-book-club-of-kosovo?ac=1

246. Kuwait. Once more a book is set between two wars, these the Gulf wars with poetic names like Desert Storm and Desert Shield. In the intersection of the lives of five different people, lies a crime of abuse against a young woman. The reviews of Small Kingdoms by Anastasia Hobbet (what an awesome name!) are mostly ecstatic to have found the book. Wise and well paced, said one. Another quoted wonderful lines and noted the pages. Looking forward to this read. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6845658-small-kingdoms?ac=1

247. Nauru. One of many people who “discovered” this island called it Pleasant Island. During World War II, the island was invaded by Japanese soldiers, two-thirds of the population taken away without communication to those left behind. Captivity and starvation on the island, exile off the island, the people survived, and Jemima Garrett wrote their story in Island Exiles. Not found on Goodreads, so here’s a Google link. http://books.google.com/books/about/Island_Exiles.html?id=zuD_PAAACAAJ

248. Netherlands. So many choices, but as an avid fan of Gregory Maguire, I had to go with Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. Yes, the reviews are mixed, and yes, he might belabor a point or two, but his retelling of Cinderella has to be worth the read, as well as giving us a glimpse into seventeenth-century Holland. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18943.Confessions_of_an_Ugly_Stepsister?ac=1

249. Sint Maarten. Oh, how I love islands. The privacy, the luxury, the sand and the sea. A Time to Love by Barbara Delinsky is referred to by one reviewer as Lifestyles of the Rich and Horny. Okay, I’ll buy that. Rich girl with a broken heart meets celebrity photographer, and lust ensues. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1268352.A_Time_to_Love

250. South Africa. There are people who can’t wait to leave the place where they were born and grew up. Then they realize they will be taking with them everything they inherited from that place. Imaginings of Sand (Afrikaan’s title would translate to Sand Castles, I believe) by André Brink tells the story of a woman who escaped, but her loyalty to her family calls her back. The reviews complain a bit about a man writing as a woman. So I guess my book about a bisexual male in Regency England would not work? I wouldn’t worry about a man writing as a woman, I would comment on a person doing well as a writer. But that’s me. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/509676.Imaginings_of_Sand?ac=1

251. Sudan. I want to mention a children’s book, A Long Walk To Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7981456-a-long-walk-to-water?from_search=true I have to read this one, just to see how the two stories come together. But I also like the true story Tears of the Desert: A Memoir of Survival in Darfur by Halima Bashir and Damien Lewis. All the reviews are 3 to 5 stars, the first one saying that if you are a Politically Correct sort of person, this book is going to piss you off. Not for the faint-hearted and life changing follow. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3170677-tears-of-the-desert?from_search=true

252. Switzerland. I picked The Raven and the Rose by Susan Wigg because it takes place in the Monastery of St. Bernard, where the beautiful and intelligent dogs were bred and trained. But there are half a dozen books with that title or near enough titles, and even an author named Rose Raven. If ever a book called for a subtitle, this would be it. However, our story takes place in the time of Napoleon, which I know covers a few decades, but the hero known as the Raven is sent to kill a royal bastard of Louis the XVI who might be able to derail Bonapart’s plans. The Rose, the natural child of the king, knows nothing of her heritage, and, well, it’s been a long war and the Raven could use a little R and R. (See what I did there?) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1293412.The_Raven_and_the_Rose?from_search=true

Well, that’s the world, so now we need to go somewhere else. How about a quick trip out through the Solar System?

253. The Sun. Full disclosure impels me to admit I am a huge fan of David Brin, I will sit in on any panel he is on at a convention, and I love the Uplift War sagas in the extreme. So of course when thinking of a book that takes place on the sun, I thought of Sundiver. I really loved this murder mystery set in space on the most unique ship I have ever encountered. Reviews are mixed, but that’s humans for you. Not obsessed with current technology, and Brin does have a way of making things just work. The concept of the food dispensers doesn’t come with diagrams and synthesizer discourses. It simply gives food. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/96472.Sundiver?from_search=true

254. Mercury. I learned something very interesting while researching this book. Before Lord of the Rings came out, there was a very similar epic (similar in basics, not in detail) called The Worm Ouroboros by E.R. Eddison. Tolkien himself even acknowledged its influence on his books. That makes it a must read for me. Most reviews are 5 and 4 stars and very complimentary, so let the enchantment continue. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13624.The_Worm_Ouroboros?ac=1

255. Venus. The Radio Planet by Ralph Milne Farley (who also writes as Roger Sherman Hoar) deals with the invention of matter transmission by radio, allowing the hero to encounter monsters, dinosaurs, and giant insects! This is the third book in the Radio Man series, and has that macho, weapon-wielding Earth man bit we grew up with. Two out of three reviews gave it high marks. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2258426.The_Radio_Planet?ac=1

256. Mars. (We did earth, remember? Look back a few weeks, I’ll wait. Ready now?) John Carter of Mars is the perfect series for the Red Planet, and the first book in the Barsoom series is A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is the plot that turned up in the movie John Carter. Now I have to go watch it again. I don’t care what the reviewers said, this is a great story. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40395.A_Princess_of_Mars?from_search=true

257. Jupiter. Well, yes, but there’s no real land mass on Jupiter, so we’ll visit the moon Callisto. And in a style much like Edgar Rice Burroughs’s, Lin Carter presents Jandar of Calisto. You know, battling mean aliens, saving the beautiful princess, and being the first in a series. Good reviews, worth a look.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1005186.Jandar_Of_Callisto?from_search=true

258. Saturn. We turn from the epic sagas and such to much more “hard” science fiction. Robert L. Forward was a scientist and an aerospace engineer. His books, like Saturn Rukh, are cited as having scientific credibility. Some fans of sci-fi want to read the fluffy stuff and let the facts fall where they may. That’s why space ships were making noise in space long after we knew that wouldn’t happen. But if you can challenge yourself to read this interesting premise of four people being paid to research Saturn’s atmosphere and the possibility of turning that ball of gas into useable fuel, you won’t be disappointed. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/263467.Saturn_Rukh?ac=1

259. Uranus. Another gas giant. Oh, stop giggling. Goodreads has never heard of this book, although there are a bazillion titles by the author, Edmund Hamilton. And Amazon has it as a double book, so that’s the best I can give you. Treasure on Thunder Moon is a story of someone on the edge of being too old for their chosen profession, but getting one more chance to pilot a starship and find untold wealth. No reviews available, love the pulp fictionesque cover. http://www.amazon.com/Treasure-Thunder-Moon-Trail-Astrogar/dp/1612871348

260. Neptune. Well, let’s just put in on the moon called Triton, shall we? Neptune Crossing by Jeffrey A. Carver is a First Contact tale, and not just meet and greet sort of contact. Allowing an alien to set up housekeeping in your personal brain. Exciting idea to some, claustrophobic to others. A good, hard-science read, maybe a little weak at the end, but maybe that’s to allow a sequel some day. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/590747.Neptune_Crossing?ac=1

260A. Pluto. Please take any debates about the planetaryness of Pluto outside. I don’t care. I grew up with 9 planets, and I am happy to be a Niner. I only made this 260A because otherwise I am over my limit of 20 books per week. So there. And what a wonderful book to mark this last stop on the way out of the solar system! Whisperer in the Darkness by H. P. Lovecraft. Did you know Mr. L actually discovered Pluto? In his dreams and imagination? Of course, he called it Yuggoth. And while he was writing this story, the planet was discovered. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/912625.The_Whisperer_in_Darkness?ac=1

Honorable mention to E.E. “Doc” Smith’s First Lensman novel, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/826521.First_Lensman?ac=1
And Robert A. Heinlein’s Have Spacesuit – Will Travel. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20417.Have_Space_Suit_Will_Travel?ac=1

Next Sunday, I’ll be back to writing things about writing, and my new mid-week day is Thursday. See you then.

My Life in Books

Every writer I know is also a great reader. I don’t think I would be driven to tell stories if I hadn’t lost myself in the pages of some great adventure. I might have pursued another creative outlet, but in “the autumn of my years” I have no regrets.

I can actually look back at my life through the books I read at different times. My sister read to me, and I loved it then, and still do. If you want a job as book reader, look me up when I’m rich and famous. In Kindergarten, my teacher handed out mimeographed (inhale! Can you still smell it?) pictures of a “bookworm” so cute you would gladly let him eat your library. For every book we read out loud to the class, we could color in one segment of his long body. I read a little story book about The Three Little Pigs. Later, with classmates, we would act out that classic tale of thinking things through and killing wolves.

A few years later, I had one illness or another, and my mother bought me a glossy hard covered book, Black Beauty. My sister was also horse-mad, and I picked up some of it from her, but never had quite the opportunity she had to be around actual horses. A wide variety of pets did embroider my life, and I have always been a fan of the various creatures we humans live with. And so it will come as no surprise that I picked up books like The Yearling, The Black Stallion, Big Red, and Lad: A Dog. And any and all sequels to these. We lived in a rural section of a small town, with no sidewalks, and no parks very close. I went to a private school so I knew none of the kids in the neighborhood, if there were any. These books and the characters in them were my best friends.

In high school, I got into some serious literature. Shakespeare, of course, and many assigned books I had already read when they were handed down from my sister or brother. I remember being excited by the pirate novel, The Silver Oar by Howard Breslin https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17316760-the-silver-oar?ac=1 due to the comparatively mild sexual scenes. But I never knew you could write about that stuff!

I got in with friends who were fans of TV shows about World War II, and read The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare, The Guns of Navarone, and Von Ryan’s Express. I read a bunch of non-fiction, too, doing my first ever research for my writing. I wrote fan fiction, and I am not ashamed of it. But no, you will probably never see any of it.

Before I graduated, my group of friends had morphed into Star Trek fans, and I was reading Asimov’s Foundation series and wondering why I just didn’t like much of Robert Heinlein. And I was writing fan fiction for Star Trek. I had a good time, but I lamented the fact I couldn’t write original stories. I would love to go back and tell myself, be patient. This is just part of the learning experience.

Some years later, my sister (she really is my guardian angel, and I love her dearly!) shared a book with me. An historical romance by Kathleen Woodiwiss. The Flame and the Flower is credited as the first modern romance novel, and my sister and I devoured everything she wrote, and subsequently Rosemary Rogers added fuel to our burning pasisons. I wandered off the track to explore Barbara Cartland, Edith Layton, and Georgette Heyer. I found my perfect writing model in Mary Balogh, and Regency romances.

I’ve spend the years exploring lots of humor, science fiction, and historical novels. But my writing heart first and foremost is in the Regency period. That whole “universe” is open to any writer, to create and play and populate. It’s my home and my spirit is happy there.
This is my last Wednesday post. I’ll be back on Sunday to wrap up (finally!) the world tour, and then next week I’ll post on Thursday. My schedule is such that Wednesday is too much of a push for getting a good post up, most of the time. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful week.

Around the World in 80+ Books, Part 11

Next week will be the final installment of this page-and-globe-trotting trip. I can’t wait to get home, unpack all the books I marked to read, and get to work. Plus I have a blog hop on Wednesday! Lots of good questions coming up, but let’s be off.

201. Antigua and Barbuda. Lovely island settings for books are very appealing, but so many come with histories of slavery, colonization, and suffering. There’s little to document why the native population on the island died off with the coming of Europeans, it could have been from diseases they brought to the island, or the lack of nutrition provided to slaves, There’s an accepted theory that just the psychological effect of slavery caused the high death rate of the natives. What a great setting for a paranormal story of old sorrows and painful disillusionment. Antiguan Redemption by Patricia Harrington hasn’t been reviewed yet, and the story description is exactly the same as above, but that’s enough for me.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12341391.Antiguan_Redemption

202. Armenia. Yes, we’re jumping around the globe but in alphabetical order. Sometimes, you just have to take your chances and go with what seems the best choice. Ervand Kadavakiac by Hayk Khachatryan is a fictional account of a 6th century king, about whom I could find very little information. That alone makes this book a great read. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6666299-ervand-sakavakiac

203.Barbados. Back to the islands, and a story about a youth caught between the colonized world he lives in, and the fresh ideas coming from a teacher about independence and pride in yourself and your culture. We all need more of that. No Man in the House by Cecil Foster is about the Caribbean by a Caribbean writer. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2238326.No_Man_in_the_House?ac=1

204. Bhutan. Quick, go get your globe and point to Bhutan! Time’s up. Did you find it? The happiest kingdom on earth, the little corner of heaven tucked into a jungle and mountain? There it is, northeast of India, and no, it’s not where all the disposable lighters come from. You thought I was going for the easy humor, didn’t you? There’s not a book on the list of novels set in Bhutan that I don’t want to read. But the problem is, the place is so awesome that the books are mostly non-fiction. So as a lover of birds and plants and fine art, I picked A Painter’s Year in the Forests of Bhutan by A. K. Hellum. First off, the title is a lie, this person took two years and tries to act all cool about the title. If he or she just told the truth, there would be an increase in Gross National Happiness. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/388831.A_Painter_s_Year_in_the_Forests_of_Bhutan

205.Bonaire, St, Eustatius, and Saba. These islands make up the colony of the Netherlands Antilles. The best things going there is the impressive sea life and diving tours. And it might all be gone by now if not for one man who saw what had to be done and did it. Captain Don Stewart hated seeing movies come out that created fear in tourists with regard to the sea. And so he wrote a book called Sea Trauma to talk about the real dangers underwater. http://www.infobonaire.com/captdon/publish.html

206. Bosnia and Herzegovina. Back in the war-torn lands of Eastern Europe. One book set here has a great title, When History is a Nightmare. The Turks are occupying the country in The Devil and the Dervish by Meša Selimović, in the 18th century. A Dervish monk is keeping a separate peace in his monastic life when the rest of the world intrudes through family ties. What would you do?
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2577413.Death_and_the_Dervish

207. Botswana. The series of Ladies’ Detective Agency books tempted me, but the title of this true story captured my greater interest. Whatever You Do, Don’t Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide by Peter Allison introduces you to the concept that only food runs. Lots of 4 and 5 star reviews, and on my to-read list. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/891224.Whatever_You_Do_Don_t_Run?ac=1

208. Brunei Darussalam. Oh dear, no novels or even true stories set in this country. But there is a text book called Language, Power, and Ideology in Brunei Darussalam by Geoffrey C. Gunn. Standing out in the region for having a high rate of literacy, still no authors have emerged yet. Perhaps the text book can tell us why. http://www.amazon.com/Language-Power-Ideology-Brunei-Darussalam/dp/0896801926

209. Guernsey and Aldernay. Well, mostly Guernsey. A book with a great title and an awesome premise. A book happens to find the exact person who would most be interested in it, as well as able to connect with the writer of a letter tucked inside. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows has mixed reviews claiming that the book is too sweet. The heroine is just too perky through the whole story, and there’s not enough about the quirky inhabitants of the island. Well, read it and see for yourself. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2728527-the-guernsey-literary-and-potato-peel-pie-society?ac=1

210. Kiribati. Everyone always wants to go to the beautiful tropical islands, but the people stuck there complain that nothing ever happens. So a good choice for a book here is one where Something Happens. And maybe to a person not usually on the island. Food of Ghosts by Marianne Wheelaghan is this story, based on experiences of the author’s mother. The reviews are predominantly positive, including one stating the book is a thrilling, entertaining, and exotic whodunnit. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16143019.Food_of_Ghosts

211. Liechtenstein. This unfortunate country has had a thrilling history as much as any European state. But beyond a very poorly received Danielle Steele book and a few ancient classics, there’s little to read that takes place there. We have a manga, a children’s story about a skinny cow, and a biography of a very expensive piece of furniture. And a trio of kids escaping the Nazis, a so-so Harlequin romance, and porn. So let’s just walk around the country for a while and see if anything inspires us to write. Harry’s Mountain Walks in Liechtenstein by Lloyd P. Clark gets us off to a good start. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6363097.Harry_s_Mountain_Walks_in_Liechtenstein

212. Luxembourg. A good deal larger than Liechtenstein, this country has more books from which to choose. But the first one snagged me in with a great title, and the summary kept my interest. The reviews are pretty good as well. In The Elf of Luxembourg by Tom Weston, teenage sisters visiting Europe from America (California, as we learned in Alex and Jackie Adventures #1. This is #2) get involved in a prophecy and some odd characters, as well as some fabulous shopping. A young adult story that includes some history lessons and great black and while photos. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7801221.The_Elf_of_Luxembourg

213. Malawi. As one reviewer pointed out, so many books that take place in African Nations are sad and depressing, with everyone surrendering to the belief in hopelessness. So while a true story, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba is unique for telling the tale of a person who never gave up hope, and always kept his dream in view. Malawi has wind to spare, and in spite of being called crazy for wanting to use that wind to improve the lives of everyone, William stayed focus and positive. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6419887-the-boy-who-harnessed-the-wind

214. Martinique. This Caribbean island is known for being the birthplace of Josephine, Napoleon’s Empress, and for the eruption of Mt. Pelee in 1902. The land should also be known for author Patrick Chamoiseau, who writes stories from his own life, from the history of the island, and from his charming imagination. In Chronicles of The Seven Sorrows, he creates a marketplace cast and a story which brings folktale characters to life. No reviews yet, but worth a read. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/949068.Chronicle_of_the_Seven_Sorrows

215. Isle of Man. Sometimes it’s hard to track down a book set in a remote location. If GoodReads can’t find it, I look for other sources, but eventually come back to GoodReads for the reviews and book information. Safe House by Chris Ewan is set in the Isle of Man, written there, and had a premier party when it was released. The “hero” is an every-man type, plumber and repair man. A woman disappears, he knows he is being lied to, and a detective comes in from London. One review suggested this story had a “Who Really Cares” feel to it, but as long as it doesn’t go all Wicker Man on us, I would side with the others who enjoyed the suspense and the read. And it’s got a bit with a dog.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13538955-safe-house

216. Macedonia. Thanks to Mary Renault, I went through a stage where I had a serious crush on Alexander the Great. Fire from Heaven is an awesome read, but too easy to suggest here. And so many of the books are about Alexander, like Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean. The time of Alexander created lasting animosity between various peoples of the area. In 1966, Tasko Georgievski published the award winning Black Seed, about the civil war making ethnic Macedonians criminals for their heritage. This is the first translation into English. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3479995.Black_Seed__A_Classic_Novel_of_Modern_Macedonian_Literature

217. Maldives. Thor Heyerdahl believed the islands had been inhabited a thousand years earlier than most historians believed. There are several books Goodreads lists, then claims it can’t find. And one that has no clue to what it’s about. A couple of books I have put on my read later list, but the first one doesn’t really take place on Maldives. The second is suggested because people who read the first one liked books about younger men and older women. But no Maldivian books. So let’s look at legends, shall we? Mysticism in the Maldives: Eyewitness Accounts of Supernatural Encounters by Ali Hussain. That ought to make you lose a little sleep. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12122268.Mysticism_in_the_Maldives__eyewitness_accounts_of_supernatural_encounters

218. Moldova. Not a very stellar recognition to be the poorest country in Europe. Most of the books are about children becoming sex slaves and dying of AIDS unless rescued by a mission or such. So I picked two books here. The ones more about the people. The Good Life Elsewhere by Vladimir Lorchenkov has top reviews from people who enjoy dark humor. A talented author who can be very funny and very sad at the same time will weave a special story. Come on, an Orthodox priest’s wife leaves him to elope with an atheist art dealer. What’s not to love? https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18755811.The_Good_Life_Elsewhere The second book is Bessarbian Nights by Stela Brinzeanu, also a well-reviewed story, that follows a close trio of sisters who live with traditions and superstitions while longing for the modern world. As one of them stumbles into a horrific situation, the other two unite to save her. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21424404.Bessarabian_Nights

219. Monaco. Grace Kelly will never die. A dozen books on her life, her marriage, her children, and the lifestyle in Monaco keep her alive. There is also a helping of porn written about Monte Carlo. While Ian Fleming Casino Royale would be good, it’s a bit dated. I like the sound of an end-of-career football hero reunited with his first crush, and the secret she has kept from him. Which is really easy to figure out if you read these kind of Romances. Manacled in Monaco is a catchy name, and the first of Jianne Carlo’s Mediterranean Mambo series. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5630946.Manacled_in_Monaco

220. Montenegro. The name says it all. The Land of the Black Mountain. Lots of histories of the country, and lots of picture books of the rarely seen Montenegro. If I spoke Montenegrin, I would recommend the poetry book by native Petar II Petrović Njegoš . Instead, there’s this tramp across the beautiful land guide called Montenegro or Bust by Paul Richard Scott. He obviously loved the experience, and shares it vividly.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13541326.Montenegro_or_Bust

When we wrap up next week, I’d love to hear your favorite books from the list. And I’ll see you on Wednesday for something really fun.