Friday, August 22, 2014

TBR Shelf Reading Challenge

One of the best parts of being a writer is that I get to be a reader, too.  It's part of my job.  I love to read, and always have.

(Actually, no, that's a lie.  When I was five, I swore I'd never learn to read because when my older sister did, she got boring and never played with me again.  But then my mom got me Cat in the Hat out of the library and I ignored my best friend during a playdate so I could read it again and again.)

The drawback to the love of books is that they start to take over the house.  We are currently in a frenzy of (long overdue) clearance and organization at my house, so I decided to add my TBR shelf to the list.

It's not just a bookshelf, it's the entire bookcase (with the exception of a few research books down at the bottom.  Note the Dictionary of Slang.  Best.  Research.  Book.  Ever.  Unless you're on a deadline.  When you open it, it's like going down a rabbit hole.)

So I've taken a leaf out of my friend Anna Billings's book, and decided to set myself a reading challenge.

I read one book off my TBR shelf, and I can buy a book.

Then I have to read two TBRs before I can buy a book.

Then I read three.

And so on.

I shall try to check in on Fridays, hoping that keeping myself accountable will help.

This week, I read Burial Rites by Anna Kent.  Fascinating historical fiction for adults set in early 19th Century Iceland.  History and culture I knew nothing about.  Great stuff.

I bought (on Anna's recommendation, curse her) The Magicians by Lev Grossman.

I acquired Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (also from Anna!).  However, I also read it in one day and gave it to a friend, so that's a free pass, right?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

BRAZEN is Here!

Today I'm celebrating the publication date of my third (and final!) Tudor historical, BRAZEN.  The series has been a crazy roller coaster journey, made ever so much fun by my friends, by the opportunities to meet other writers, and by my readers.  Thank you all for getting me to this day.

And many thanks to all of you who came to the early launch party at the Avid Reader in Davis!  I love reading aloud (probably comes from all those years of acting followed by several years of being a preschool teacher!) and the response to BRAZEN was heartwarming!

Many thanks to Mona Dougherty for
taking pictures!

I have a few more events coming up (, so drop on by--I'd love to see you there!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Anne Boleyn's Execution

The queen steps up onto the scaffold, exposing a crimson kirtle beneath her gown. The color of blood. The color of martyrdom.

I realize I’m holding my breath and try to let it out slowly, but can only suck it back in again with a gulp. And another. I can’t get more than a mouthful of air into my lungs at a time.

Fitz was right. I shouldn’t be here.

If you're a Tudor nut like me or even just follow any of the Tudor history blogs, Facebook accounts and Twitter, you probably already know that today marks the 478th anniversary of the execution of Anne Boleyn.

You can read about the actual events in any Anne Boleyn biography or book of Tudor history (my favorites are The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn by Eric Ives,  Six Wives by David Starkey and The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir.)  You can read instantly on The Anne Boleyn Files or any other blog dedicated to true history.  And, of course, there are numerous fictional accounts--one of the best being Thomas Cromwell's account in Hilary Mantel's Bring Up the Bodies.

It's difficult not to be repetitious with so much information out there.  So why did I want to give an account from Mary Howard's perspective?

I think it's because I felt that someone who loved Anne should have been there.  She made many enemies and many courtiers wished her gone and forgotten.  Mary is known as one of her supporters, and I figured Anne needed one on this day in 1536.

And, of course, she continues to have supporters.  Including one who sends flowers to the Tower of London every year.

Whether or not you believe Anne was a traitor (or a bitch or a gold digger or a saint), she has certainly made an impression.  And I think she deserves to be remembered.

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Writing Process Blog Tour

I’m so excited to be taking part in the Writing Process blog tour.  I think all writers have a feeling they are somehow doing things “wrong”, that it must be easier for everyone else, that I must be the only one who stews over a plot point until it comes out my pores.  But reading previous posts (including this one by Gretchen McNeil and Stasia Ward Kehoe’s last week) makes me realize we’re all in the same situation.  We have strengths and weaknesses, victory and despair, elements that just flow and others that have to be pulled kicking and screaming into the limelight.  And I read their books (like THE SOUND OF LETTING GO by Stasia Ward Kehoe) with renewed insight and something akin to awe.

What am I working on?

I am currently working on something completely different—a contemporary novel set in a situation far removed from the English Tudor court or a country manor house.  Though my characters are still bound by social constraints, they have an illusion of freedom that gives the novel a completely different kind of energy.  I’m also brainstorming ideas for future novels ranging in time period from the 17th Century to present day…

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write historical novels, but do my best to give them a contemporary feel.  It’s my belief that people who lived five hundred years ago aren’t so very different from people today—they had hopes and dreams, fell in love and rebelled against injustice (and social restrictions) just as we do today.  As a result, my writing voice is very contemporary, as well (for instance, I use contractions!), which I hope makes my characters relatable to modern teens, without affecting the believability of their situation.

Why do I write what I do?

I write realistic historical fiction (mostly based on actual people and actual events) because if it wasn’t real, it would seem like fantasy.  Henry VIII is so much like a Bluebeard character, and the conniving and manipulations in his court are so Mean Girls.  I love it.  And I love inventing the fictional character who can fit into those shoes.

But mostly I write what I do because I love the characters.  I can see them in my mind’s eye, hear their voices in my head, follow their actions.  I love building a character from the ground up and living in that fantasy world for as long as it takes to write and revise the novel.

How does my writing process work?

Very messily!  I am definitely more of a pantser than a plotter.  I generally start with just a seed—for BRAZEN, it was: I want to write a book about Mary Howard, who was Henry VIII’s daughter-in-law.  I look at the whys—because she became an independent woman in a world where women were treated as chattel.  I look at the history and put together a thin, basic framework of the historical events.  And then I write.  I put characters into situations.  I create scenes for them to interact.  I build what I imagine to be the pivotal moments in the narrating character’s life.  I eventually get up to about seventy or eighty thousand words.

Then I cut the first fifty pages, rip the rest of the “zero draft” apart into basic components, kill dozens of darlings and start over.  Kind of like tearing apart a LEGO creation and building something new from all those blocks.

Like I said, messy.  And definitely not something I’d suggest you try at home unless you’re a glutton for punishment.  But I love writing, so having to cut 40k out of an 80k manuscript doesn’t make me despair for long.  Because it means I can keep creating.

By the end of the second draft (which is really the first, because the first eight thousand words I write are really not a draft at all), I have a much better handle on the story and structure, and that’s when everything really takes off.  Because my favorite part of the process is the fine-tuning in later drafts—words, sentences, microtension.  So many little inspirations and surprises.

If it sounds like a bit of a hassle, I suppose it is.  But I think that knowing my process has definitely helped me move forward with every book.  For instance, I tried my damnedest to start BRAZEN in the right place, so I wouldn’t have to cut the first fifty pages.  But I got stuck.  Stalled.  For weeks.  And I had to go back and write fifty pages of what happened before the beginning, just so I could cut it and move on.

Yeah.  Definitely a hassle.

I’ve enjoyed reading other writing process posts along the tour, and I hope you do, too.

Want more craft?   Jennifer McGowan, author of MAID OF SECRETS and the upcoming MAID OF DECEPTION, will be telling us all about her writing process on May 5!

Are you a plotter?  A pantser?  An in-betweener?  What part of the process gives you the most joy?  I’d love to hear your process, too!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BRAZEN Blog Tours!

Seven weeks 'til BRAZEN publication, and I'm crafting all kinds of reveals and teasers and exclusive content for two different blog tour events.

Kathy Coe at A Glass of Wine is conducting the Tudor Thursdays (formerly Tudor Tuesdays) tour, a six-week stretch preceding the publication date.  Each post includes a taste of information about my favorite historical sites in England, as well as a (mostly) related teaser excerpt from BRAZEN.  Keep a lookout!

Jaime Arnold at Rock Star Book Tours is hosting a two-week BRAZEN blog tour right around the publication date, which will include reviews, interviews and exclusive guest posts.  More information about participating bloggers will be updated shortly!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

One Day Giveaway!

Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she's married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII's illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court's inner circle. Mary and "Fitz" join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court's strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed...but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?

Want to know more about BRAZEN?  I'm giving everyone who comments on this blog special access to what goes on inside Mary's head and between the covers of the book!

Today, for one day only, if you leave a comment--any number between 3 and 512--I will reply with one sentence from that page of the book!

One comment per person (so choose your number wisely!), and every comment gets TEN entries.  Tweets, Twitter follows and Facebook likes all get one point each.  This giveaway is open internationally, but be aware that the giveaway is scheduled for EST and there may be times during the day that I'll be sleeping or otherwise occupied so there may be a delay in my reply!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 7, 2014

Get Ready for the One Day Giveaway!

This coming Thursday, I'm hosting a one day giveaway right here on the blog!  All day long (until midnight EST), you can leave a number between 3 and 512 in the comments section of Thursday's blog post, and I will reply with a single sentence from that page!

A few facts about BRAZEN:

It's 512 pages long, but some pages are just locations and/or dates.  Choose wisely!

It's about friendship.

It's about love.

It's about following the rules--and defying them.

All the characters in it actually lived, and many of the major events actually happened.

There will be kisses and rejections, arguments, laughter, marriage, divorce, beheadings, betrayals and reconciliations.

It was the hardest book I've ever written.  You'll find out why.

I can't wait to share it with you!

Find out more on my website.

Mary Howard has always lived in the shadow of her powerful family. But when she's married off to Henry Fitzroy, King Henry VIII's illegitimate son, she rockets into the Tudor court's inner circle. Mary and "Fitz" join a tight clique of rebels who test the boundaries of court's strict rules with their games, dares, and flirtations. The more Mary gets to know Fitz, the harder she falls for him, but is forbidden from seeing him alone. The rules of court were made to be pushed...but pushing them too far means certain death. Is true love worth dying for?