Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bookshelf Makeover Needed. Help!

As I am about to embark on a remodeling project, I’ve been thinking about how to (re)organize my books.
Once upon a time, they WERE organized. Research books and non-fiction grouped by time period. The biographies were in alphabetical order by name of the subject. The “keepers” from my childhood (Betsy-Tacy, The Little Colonel, Cherry Ames) had their own proud place. Travel books and maps where separate and close to the Really Useful tomes on How To Fix a Toilet and First Aid for Dummies.
There was a section for poetry and one for those beautiful books on art. Inspirational books were neatly shelved. And writing craft books were handy, along with a dictionary, thesauruses (yes, more than one), and a book on when specific words came into use. (Imperative to know when you write historical fiction.)
There was a separate shelf for signed books written by my friends. I had a “keeper” shelf (literally) and it was (symbolically) the highest shelf – books I would aspire to write.
There was even an “incoming” shelf for books I had purchased and not yet read, easy to peruse whenever I finished a book and was ready to choose the next.
This list is not exhaustive, but you get the idea. Once, in a former life, I was Organized.
Time passed.
I sold my first book.
I started a shelf of the books I had written. (One copy each, including the foreign editions.)
I had more friends who were writers. They sold more books. I bought them.
I learned about more books that I wanted to read. I found more keepers.
I went to writers conferences. I bought more books. I was GIVEN more books.
I changed time periods. I had ideas for books I hadn’t sold yet. My research library grew accordingly.
My deadlines grew shorter. My reading time briefer. “Incoming” no longer had its own shelf. I doubleshelved paperbacks. Research books for books I intended to write someday were relegated to bags on the floor in order to keep the shelves available for research books about projects I was actually writing. I had books stashed anywhere there was a flat surface, including on top of and underneath chairs.
And, let’s be honest – the floor of my office. (And yes, that is an actual picture of an actual bookshelf in my office.)
So now, as I am forced to box it all up and start over, I’m wondering how the rest of you do it. How do YOU organize your reading material?
Can these shelves be saved?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peterloo and the Fight for Freedom

Yesterday, August 16, was the 192nd anniversary of The Peterloo Massacre. On that date in 1819, in St. Peters Field, Manchester, England, 60,ooo peaceful demonstrators gathered to protest the Corn Laws, the poor economic conditions, lack of suffrage and other social problems. The main speaker was the famous political orator, Henry Hunt. The local magistrates became frightened at the size of the crowd and read The Riot Act, but in a crowd of that size, few heard it. The local Yeomanry were ordered to disperse the crowd and they rode through, hacking at the people with their sabers. The crowd panicked and Hussars were also called in to restore order. In the end, 18 protesters were killed, including a woman and child, and as many as 700 were seriously injured.

Speakers and organizers were arrested (though ultimately charges of high treason were dropped), but also arrested were journalists who reported on the event and published their accounts in newspapers.

As appalling as it might seem to the Western World now, freedom to protest, freedom of speech and of the press, were outlawed in 1819. Earlier episodes of social unrest convinced Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, that revolution was in the wind. (Remember, the French Revolution would have been fresh in the minds of the British Peerage). Parliament passed the Gag Acts suspending Habeas Corpus, banning seditious meetings and the printing of seditious documents. This meant anyone could be arrested and held without charges, and it meant the limiting of free speech and a free press. Quite extreme measures. After Peterloo, as the episode became known, Parliament passed the even more repressive Six Acts.

Even so, many historians consider Peterloo a turning point in the fight for freedom and political reform in Great Britain. The horror of the government attacking peaceful citizens changed public opinion and ultimately led to the right of the citizenry (alas, men only for several years) to vote.

In my last book, Chivalrous Captain, Rebel Mistress, social protest played an important part in what kept my hero and heroine apart and what ultimately gave them their happy ending. My latest book, the last in my Three Soldiers Series, Gallant Soldier, Beautiful Enemy has a French connection. It is available now from eHarlequin and will be in bookstores and other online vendors by Sept 1.

What books have you read which involve the Peterloo Massacre? It would make great drama!

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Wanton Governess

I'm totally exhausted, which is definitely the wrong way to be on release day. Pompeia, the heroine of my new release, was a joy to write, and I was hoping to post something more than just an excerpt, but I'm falling asleep as I type... so here goes.

Harlequin Historicals publishes two short e-novellas in the Undone series each month, and this month one of them is mine! It's a Regency romance called The Wanton Governess. I simply love the cover, because it conveys the heroine's nature so well. Here's a brief blurb:

In exchange for a few days’ shelter, dismissed governess Pompeia Grant pretends to be the wife of a man who spurned her years earlier. James Carling, the man in question, is in America, so he’ll never know. 

And it’s only for a couple of days. 

And she’s helping a friend, so she’s doing a good deed… 

But the next day, James comes home.

And now the excerpt:

“What in hell’s name were you thinking?”

At this furious bellow all the ladies froze, then gaped. “Who was that?” Clarabelle faltered.

Pompeia rose in horror. She would know that enraged shout anywhere. She had heard it only once before, and she would never forget it.

But this time it was surely directed at her.

Footsteps hammered on the staircase, and her heart abandoned itself to terror. She had to run. She had to flee.

No! She had to do something.

“James, wait!” That was Sally’s voice. “Please, just let me—”

“James wasn’t supposed to be home yet,” Clarabelle moaned, and meanwhile the footsteps pounded down the passage.

Think, think! There must be some way to avert disaster. Not to Pompeia herself—that was impossible—but to Sally, to whom the vouchers for Almack’s meant so much. But there wasn’t time, because it would mean convincing Sir James to talk to her privately before exposing the deception. It would mean making him want to. Inexorably, the footsteps approached the drawing-room doorway.

I know how to make a man want to, said the Wanton Within.

Not that! Pompeia’s rational mind screamed. Not now! But after a second’s furious pause, she realized that for once the Wanton might be right. She got her feet moving and went straight for the door.

Too late.

He came into the room like a thunderstorm. It was James indeed, older, broader and even more beautiful than four years ago, from his dark, wavy hair and grey eyes to his well-worn leathers. The Wanton Within applauded, but mostly, Pompeia cringed. She closed her eyes, desperate to compose herself. A babble of voices roiled around her, but she was poised only for his, for the fatal words exposing her as a fraud, commanding her to leave.

Open your eyes, said the Wanton. Look at him.

She did. He stared back, the anger slowly draining from his features, surprise taking its place.

That’s a good start, the Wanton said. Now, let your eyes do the talking. But Pompeia had done that once before to Sir James—accompanied by words that permitted no misunderstanding—and received a stinging refusal.

That was then; this is now, the Wanton insisted. Smile, for pity’s sake!       

Pompeia felt her lips tremble into a travesty of a welcome.

Sir James’s mouth quirked the tiniest bit in response. “Pompeia,” he said.

She forced her tongue into motion. “J-James.”

“Unbelievable.” Slowly, he shook his head. “Oh, Pompeia.” His eyes rested on her, warmly approving. No, wickedly so.

This was astonishingly different from the last time they’d met, when the chill in those eyes had made even the Wanton cower. No, particularly the Wanton, who had gone into hiding for quite a while after that.

What had happened to change things?

Ah. James did know about Pompeia’s disgrace, just as she’d assumed. And, in the way of all men, he anticipated that she would willingly be just as disgraceful with him.

Yes! Do let’s! Just this once! the Wanton said.

The Wanton Governess is available at e-Harlequin, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million and possibly other places where e-books are sold. So is this month's other Historical Undone, Unlacing the Lady in Waiting by Amanda McCabe, which takes place during the Renaissance in Scotland.

Happy reading to all! (And to all a good night!)

BULLETIN!! Amanda McCabe just sent me her cover art and blurb, so here goes:

Scotland, 1561
Lady Helen Frasier thought Highlanders were barbaric—until she shared an intimate encounter with her betrothed, James McKerrigan. Though their families were enemies, the Highland lord roused a surprising passion in Helen. Then she was chosen to become a lady in waiting to the queen, and their engagement was broken.
Now, Helen has returned to Scotland and her jilted lover, who has vowed to take revenge and claim his promised bride....