Friday, 27 February 2015

Interview: Margaret McGaffey Fisk

Today I welcome fellow Fantasy and Romance author Margaret McGaffey Fisk to Romance Spinners. I've asked her some deep questions and she's come back with some thoughtful and rather interesting answers.
Margaret McGaffey Fisk living the wild life.

Her official bio says, 

Margaret McGaffey Fisk is a storyteller whose tales often cross genres and worlds to bring the events and characters to life. She currently writes romance, science fiction, and fantasy but will go wherever the story takes her.

A daughter of diplomats, her early years were filled with many cultures, both very much alive and long turned to dust, and people who both pondered the great thoughts and were grand pranksters. Whether from wild adventures into the desert to climb sand mountains, poking around little known archeological sites, or visiting bazaars and inner cities, she came out of that time with a love of culture and an all too sharp awareness of culture clash.

She currently lives in a Nevada desertscape with her husband, and a rotating collection of cats and sons. When not exercising her creative muscles, she has been known to tame the relatives of beasts in the wild–feral cats.

In a different time, you’d find her before a bonfire or with a mug of ale and a lute spinning tales for all who are in earshot. Now, though, you can read her explorations of loyalty, love, and cultural conflict wherever you might be.

Darn tooting she's got some stories to tell.

HWK: You and I share a love for Sweet Regency Romance. What do you love about this genre?

MMF: I was a bit of an Anglophile growing up, in part because I had many British teachers, but it's the contradiction of the Regency Era that draws me. On the one hand, you have strict, rigid rules of society and position (though not as strict as the Victorian Era), and you have a heavy drinker/partier as Regent, following on the heels of a king gone mad. The rules were broken left and right, but if you did it within the wink and nod, there were no consequences and even approval. Someone like Beau Brummel could rise from the rank and file to drive society, and could just as easily plummet back down. It's upheaval with a veneer of civility. Young women raised never to let a hint of scandal touch their names while lovers climb out of their mothers' windows in the night and their fathers are off watching lewd shows.

But that doesn't answer the sweet, and to be honest, I don't have a good answer for that beyond reading a ton of Georgette Heyer and having Pride and Prejudice as my one consistent reread. I enjoy visiting the period whether or not the novel is sweet or explicit in nature.

As to why I write it, the answer is a little different and yet much of the same. When I first started the Uncommon Lords and Ladies series, Beneath the Mask met the contemporary romance expectations, but there was so much to explore in their social situation that ultimately the sex brought nothing to the table. I cut the scene during edits and have never looked back.

HWK: In BENEATH THE MASK your heroine Lady Daphne chooses to pursue a career on the *gasp* stage! How terribly scandalous. Why did the theatre arts such as acting and dancing have such a bad reputation in Regency times? Today, they are considered rather respectable crafts. Why do you think this changed?

MMF: I believe the scandal had to do with performance and exposure, both physical as the costumes were often revealing (at least for the times) and social in putting yourself on display for any comer. The strictures on acting and dancing by the 19th century were most likely in part a reaction to earlier excesses, such as the queen performing partially nude in the 17th century, but could also be a simple consequence of the low salaries. Those who were attracted to the arts would come from the lower classes, and their best hope would be to find wealth and elevation by catching some nobleman's eye either to become an accessory or a lover. With randy noblemen on the hunt for light skirts, no father would consider it an appropriate occupation even for a spinster or widow, nor would a husband. Though wealthy widows might have had some aspects of freedom, the men controlled the women in most of English society.

The theatrical arts themselves, especially acting, were quite appreciated and often an anticipated part of a country visit. The guests would take parts and perform a play, but their audience would be the guests themselves and perhaps the household staff. Certainly no strangers would be invited off the street to observe.

A feminist (and well supported by the evidence of the times) view would say the wives and daughters of the wealthy were bargaining chips worth too much to expend on a stage open to the masses. A wife's reputation and contacts among the upper class and nobility could open doors, but even with mistresses from the lower classes accepted into some parts of society, a wealthy or noble woman could only reduce her reputation by associating with such outside of the constraints of society itself.

In terms of the modern impression of the arts, I'd have to say all the scorn of the 19th century is still alive and well for any who do not achieve the spotlight, as are more questionable venues for both dance and theater. Few children are encouraged to pursue a love of the theater or dance, and often pushed to see it as a hobby with a more stable career as the main even when they are. Unless gaining early fame and fortune, that is. At the same time, there is more opportunity in the arts, and more methods to find a viable audience now than there ever were. The main difference is that a man is not considered a wastrel and a woman of loose virtues now. Instead, the focus is on income.

HWK: In your Uncommon Lords & Ladies series, you feature heroes and heroines who balk social conventions. What is so appealing about this kind of rebellion?

MMF: Aren't we all rebels at heart whether or not we act on those desires? The status quo offers two approaches for interesting stories: someone outside who comes in or someone inside who moves out. That's a simplification, but it's what creates the larger than life drama that feeds both the romantic and adventurous hearts.

To be honest, though, I didn't set out to choose these characters. Daphne told me what she was up to and I was hooked. Rebellion opens the possibility of mystery, adventure, and the chance to let the characters stumble so they can learn more about themselves than a normal life offers. Sometimes, they're balking as much from the modern perception of the era than the actual, but it lets me talk about the conventions without conforming to them. Which is more interesting? Having Lady Scarborough tell Daphne dance is scandalous or having Daphne cross that social line to experience the trials and expectations faced by the dancers?

HWK: What modern societal convention do you think needs to be rebelled against?

MMF: There are half a dozen specific conventions I think have gone sideways, but the biggest weakness I see in modern society is the decline of personal responsibility. You might think that's not a convention per se, but it is something being supported by what society encourages and how it responds to those not taking responsibility.

It is, I believe, almost single-handedly responsible for the runaway nature of personal injury lawsuits that are crippling the United States and why medical malpractice insurance is so high doctors cannot afford their own practices. There is a place for both those legal actions, but when a person running down the sidewalk on an icy day can sue the shop owner for negligence over a patch of ice with no consideration to their deliberate failure to adopt a good speed (whether or not they win), everyone loses. It's the same on the medical side where doctors can be sued for less than optimum results in risky procedures instead of using the action to remove those who don't take the proper care. Then you have parents who are afraid to have their children's friends over because if they get hurt, as kids do, the other parents might sue.

If people would take responsibility for their own actions, then these legal remedies could be used to improve things rather than making everyone afraid of their shadow, while it becomes harder to separate action from consequence and therefore to cast blame where none belongs.

HWK: You're a hybrid author (published both traditional and indie). Why did you choose to go hybrid?

MMF: I have been making inroads on the traditional side in short form, and I appreciate every editor who gave my stories a chance. However, though I have had some encouraging responses, I never got past the barriers set up between readers and the stories they could enjoy with my long works. When the indie road opened, I ignored its call and continued submitting to the gatekeepers. I got frustrating responses about how even though the agents liked the book, they couldn't sell it among the "not for me" responses, but no one was willing to champion what I was sending out. Then one day I became fed up. I took a manuscript I had never sent out, but one which resonated with my creative spirit, put it through the wringer with edits and editors, and threw it out onto the court of public opinion.

Though none of my novels has broken out so far, as an indie, I can look to the long haul rather than those precious first three weeks. The response from readers has been good, so my stories clearly resonate. They just need time for the word to spread. That's something I would never have been given in traditional publishing because of how that model is set up, which is exactly why the agents passed on stories that resonated with them.

I'm not saying I would never consider a traditional contract should one be offered. What the indie path offers is what works for me at this point in my career and life. Should that change, or the right contract come along, I'd be happy to hybridize more than just my short fiction.

HWK: Eco-terrorists take over the government and pass a law banning all automobiles. What do you do next?

MMF: Cry? You have to understand, I am still driving my very first car some 25 years later. She's getting on in years (eligible for classic status here in Nevada), but she still gets better gas mileage than many new cars, is lovely to drive, and doesn't let me down.

Seriously, though, when I was in my late teens, I was working full time and didn't have a car. I went everywhere with bicycle, and mass transit when available, so I know it's possible in the right circumstances. Even eco-terrorists would quickly learn, however, banning automobiles without providing a viable alternative is unsupportable between the many rural areas without mass transit service and the trend, at least in the US, for suburban living. The economy would grind to a halt, resulting in people making worse decisions just to survive, so I don't think it would last all that long.

HWK: Preach it! If you could convince the world of ANYTHING, what would you want them to know?

Of all your questions, this is the easiest...and the most difficult at the same time. I would like to convince the world that negativity begets negativity. People wonder why everyone is getting more distrusting and isolated with each generation, but to me it's obvious. The media focuses on the negative while relegating the "feel good" stories to the inner pages if they warrant a mention at all. Do-gooders are scorned rather than held up for emulation while a slow news day searches out minor disasters in distant lands rather than looking at some of the good happening locally.

Know that old saying "you are what you eat?" Well, in my experience, it's the same with what you consume in other ways as well. Multiple studies have shown that even forced smiles produce the chemicals to improve your mood while I don't know anyone who can deny if you focus on the negative you start to see everything as negative. Why can't the same be true of positives?

I'm not saying everyone should go around rescuing people from burning buildings. I'm talking about the steps every single person can take on their own that don't require money or power. They require choice. Say hi to the commuter you pass on the street every morning or even just smile. If nothing else, their startled reaction will offer a chuckle to improve your mood.

I like the gratitude memes that have been going around. They encourage people to take stock of all the good that's in their lives no matter how dark might seem. Sometimes the good is a stray cat who lets you pet him or a sunshine day after three rainy ones (or vice versa). It does not take success, money, position, or any of those things people strive their whole lives for while trampling the flowers that would have offered joy for nothing. All happiness requires is you choose to see it in the little ways joy exists all around you.

You did say preach it, right?

HWK: Absolutely!

Margaret's second book in the Uncommon Lords and Ladies series is A COUNTRY MASQUERADE.

A Country Masquerade is the second in Uncommon Lords and Ladies, which began with Beneath the Mask.

Lady Barbara Whitfeld’s dreams are shattered when she overhears a harsh condemnation from the one lord she’s set her heart on. If he thinks her frivolous then she’ll show Lord Aubrey St. Vincent just how frivolous she can be. Despite popularity with the ton, and the gossip an absence will provoke, Lady Barbara is banished to her uncle’s farm in the hopes she’ll learn maturity.

Lord Aubrey believes in true love, but finds none among the season’s debutantes who provokes even the slightest interest. No one, that is, until Lady Barbara gives him a cut direct in Hyde Park. After fruitless searching, he learns she quit London before he could discover how he offended her. Lord Aubrey heads to the country to escape the season only to find himself drawn to a young farm girl, none other than Lady Barbara in country guise.

Can Aubrey overcome his qualms about her unsuitability before Barbara’s plans to teach him a lesson destroy any chance they might have?

Purchase links, because you really wanna buy her books:

Subscribe to Margaret’s Newsletter to receive a free, pre-publication story each month and/or release announcements only in the genres that interest you. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

State of the Union Address

I inhabit many worlds. Since I've only got one of me (having failed to twin myself or clone myself), I can only be in one place at a time. So sometimes I must eschew one world for another.

This has been happening a lot lately, so I thought I'd share with you the worlds I inhabit.

Online: I've been a netizen for more than 25 years. That's a long time to have been online. At one point in my life, nearly all my social life, personal achievements and more were located online. There's a couple of times my online life has interfered in my Real Life. About five years ago I took an Internet Fast, where I went dark on the Internet for at least six month, possibly a little longer. No Livejournal, no Facebook, not even email. There are Amish who had a stronger online presence than I had for a while.

Eventually I found my way back. The Internet is too ingrained in 21st Century life for one to completely avoid it. (My mother-in-law tries, but it even seeks her out.)

Still, when push comes to shove, my online life is the first one to get ditched. I have no qualms over ignoring Facebook or Twitter or blogging or even email if RL needs my attention more.

And Real Life consists of...

Family: I am a mother. I take my calling seriously. I have a husband and children. They feature strongly in my 20 Year Plan and my Thousand Year Plan, so ultimately, my focus is on them. If push comes to shove, Family trumps all.

Since nearly all of our blood family lives on the other side of the planet, we've got some adopted family over here. I stick up for them nearly as much as I'd stick up for my own children.

Work: I've got a Daye Jobbe and a Career. If I am contractually obligated to one or the other, I will not let something else get in the way. I take keeping promises seriously. If you ask me to do something during a time when I should be at work or working on a contract, I will say no.

Religion: My faith defines who I am and why I make the choices I do. It helps form my brand and guides various choices in my life. My religion supports my 5 Year Plan, my 20 Year Plan, and my Thousand Year Plan. It has no opinion one way or the other regarding my 50 year plan.

Everything else fits into my life when I have time or space. If I don't, then it doesn't. Please don't be terribly offended. I respect my priorities.

So yeah. I've been really busy. I can't say I've dropped too many balls, but have gently put them aside. Some I may never pick up again.

Her Grace realises that life's too short to:

  • watch dull reruns
  • read boring books
  • watch bad movies
  • listen to stupid people
  • not work towards a Plan
  • eat junk food

Monday, 16 February 2015

Powered Flight: when a woman's not writing Romance

Oh. My. Gosh.  Who in the Romance industry hasn't heard of Dame Barbara Cartland? I don't need to tell you she wrote over seven hundred novels, not to mention plays, opera, music, magazine articles and more. That alone should put you in complete and total awe.

I said   A W E.  (Ignore her overfondness for the colour pink.)

Otherwise, Dame Babs' social adventures makes the Kardashians look like a sixth grade girl's playground tussle. Check out her Wikipedia entry. I wouldn't be surprised to see a "Keeping Up with the McCorquodales", should reality television have existed nearly a hundred years ago. Certainly would have been far more entertaining than anything shown today.

Nevertheless, she's one of those larger-than-life people that everyone should meet at least once in their lives.

But Dabe Babs was more than awe-inspiring. Dame Babs should totally smack your gob.

You would never have guessed this froofy socialite with royal connections and overblown literary aspirations spent her down time pioneering aviation.

Gobsmacked yet?

She was rather fond of unpowered gliding. When she wasn't campaigning for better pay for midwives and nurses or championing housing rights for gypsies (Travellers), she was hanging out at the airport, inventing towed gliders. Back then, gliders were considered short-range toys to keep the rich entertained. But Dame Barbara saw potential in long-distance gliders.

How useful it would be, she thought, to tow a glider up high, then set it loose to fly as far as 200 miles away. So she built her own, naturally named the "Barbara Cartland". She even took it for a mail run to prove its worth.

It impressed someone important, because her inventions were later used in WWII as silent troop carriers, aka the gliding infantry, as you do.

Her Grace feels better when she reads about other overachievers.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Interview: Debbie Peterson

Shahar hanging out with Debbie
Today I interview fellow Wild Rose Press author Debbie Peterson, author of Spirit of the Knight and other fun books.

Officially, her bio says:

Debbie has always had a soft spot for fairy tales, the joy of falling in love, and happily ever after endings. Stories of love and make believe has filled her head for as long as she can remember. However, it was her beloved husband who encouraged, cajoled and inspired her to take up a pen and write some of them down. Her journey to published author could fill quite a few pages. However, in June of 2010, she submitted her debut novel “Spirit of the Rebellion” to The Wild Rose Press. Inkspell Publishing, published her second novel, “Shadow of the Witte Wieven,” and the rest is history.

When she is not busy conjuring her latest novel, Debbie spends time with the members of her beloved family. She also pursues her interests in teaching classes on and searching out her family history—and somewhere in there, makes time to study mythology, as well as all things ancient and historic.

So yeah. We have a few things in common. Of course, I had to interview her:

DKP: Hello Heidi! What fun it is for me to be here with you today, so thanks for the invitation!

HWK: I enjoyed reading SPIRIT OF THE KNIGHT and I especially loved your take on ghosts. Sir Cailen and his knights weren’t exactly the “dead and passed over” kind of traditional ghosts. What inspired their stuck-in-limbo-ness?

DKP: First of all, let me say that I’m so happy you enjoyed the book. I had a lot of fun writing it. So, what inspired Sir Cailen and his knights’ unconventional state of being? I suppose I should begin by telling you that I’ve chosen to write paranormal/fantasy romance because I love making an impossible love, quite possible after all.

HWK: Ah, a woman after my own heart.

DKP: And therefore...

Sir Cailen began as a minor character in my novel, Spirit of the Revolution and as I wrote the chapter in which he appeared, his story began to evolve in my mind. I saw him as living under a curse that he had no knowledge of. I realized at that point, that I needed to tell his story in complete detail.

HWK: You and I share a love for family history. What draws you to family history?

DKP: My ancestors are more than just names and dates to me. They are real people who lived real lives, experienced real joys and real sorrows.  I suppose the writer in me has an unquenchable thirst to know those stories, to know of their hardships as well as their triumphs.

HWK: Any fun tales of your ancestors you’d like to share?

DKP: Fun tales? Now that’s a loaded question! I have so many I could share.  But maybe I’ll just leave you with a small glimpse of one of my favourites. My great-grandmother appeared to my great-grandfather shortly after she passed away with a specific message that had everything to do with the love they had for each other. Perhaps this story is part of the reason I so enjoy writing tales of ghostly romance....   

HWK: Which of your books is your favourite and why?

DKP: Odd though it may seem, I really don’t have a favourite. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing each of my novels and have come to love each of my characters. They are each very special to me in their own way and for a variety of reasons.

HWK: Your favourite food in the Whole Wide World has been banned by law! What do you do?

DKP: Bootlegging immediately comes to mind.  I mean if it worked during prohibition, I’m sure it would work just as well for me!

HWK: You are given a million dollars with the caveat that you cannot spend any of it on yourself or anyone you know personally. What would you do with it?

DKP: Oh, many places, so many things to choose from. If it had to go to one place I would probably donate it to the Wounded Warrior project. I have a deep love and respect for those in the military who are so willing to give their lives so that I can enjoy the freedoms I have. As the popular and often quoted Facebook post says: Heroes don’t wear capes, they wear dog tags.

HWK: Preach it! If you could convince the world of ANYTHING, what would it be?

DKP: I think it would be that we have the inherent ability to love each other—that we have the power to eradicate the hate that’s so prevalent in the world today. After all if they can do it -- -- so can we! (Do I sound like I’m on a soap box?)

HWK: We all need to stand on soap boxes. Thanks for hanging out with me today.

Sir Cailen's a handsome fellow.
Here's the official blurb for Spirit of the Knight:

She fell deeply in love with him in the early days of her childhood. And in return, she captured his heart the moment he first cast his gaze upon her...

Renowned artist, Mariah Jennings hired to paint a thirteenth-century Scottish castle, gets the shock of her life when she encounters the handsome knight who has dominated a lifetime of portraits and sketchbooks.

But Sir Cailen Braithnoch is no ordinary ghost, nor did he suffer an ordinary death. Magic of the blackest kind cast a pall over the knights centuries ago. As the ghost and his lady seek to unravel the paradox surrounding his death, black arts, otherworldly forces, and a jealous rival conspire against them.

Will those forces tear them apart, or is their love destined to last throughout the ages?

Be like Her Grace and buy Spirit of the Knight:

Hang out with Debbie:

Twitter: @DebbiePeterson1 
Goodreads: Debbie Peterson 
Facebook: Debbie Peterson

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Dear Richard, get off thy butt and get thee a wife.

Dear Richard,

You've mentioned recently (and occasionally in the past) how you'd like to get married and have children.

We, your adoring followers, think that's an excellent idea. We wholeheartedly encourage you in this endeavour. Many of us have followed that same path and have found joy. You know we get a kick out of you being happy.

If you wish to pursue this path in your life, I recommend you do it sooner, rather than later. This is why:

1. You're not getting any younger. Granted, the older you get, the handsomer you get, but not every part of us improves with age. Fertility rates decline in men as well as women.  Also, consider this: you may be able to handle a baby in your forties, but can you handle teenagers in your sixties or seventies?

2. The longer you wait, the harder it will be. This goes for conception as well as having the energy to keep up with offspring.

3. Your potential future wife is not getting any younger either. Remember those declining fertility rates? Age 35 tends to be the magical "top of the hill" for women.  Issues increase for mothers several-fold after age 35. Incidences of Down's Syndrome increase, as well as other genetic-related diseases. Difficulties in conception, nidation and carrying to term also increase. (I have a PhD in OB/GYN from the SoHK. Believe me, you don't want to ignore these potential complications. Nothing is more heartbreaking than a couple who have difficulties in conception simply because they waited too long.)

4. Age gaps do matter. If you choose to side-step the age issue, consider how much younger your potential future wife is. She might be young enough to have greater fertility success, but how well do you get along?

How big an age gap is too big?  Marriage is more than just a nice situation wherein to have children. Marriage really should be a "til death do us part", or even "for time and all eternity". This is a woman you will be spending the next forty-plus years with. You need to ensure you both are compatible in goals, interests and more. A large age gap can add extra tension. Do you really want avoidable tension in your marriage?

That's not to say that a May-to-September relationship can't succeed. They can. But it takes a bit more work.

5. We'd love to see you being more proactive in courtship. You know, we never hear of you going out on dates, we never see you bring a date to the BAFTAs, premieres, etc. Either you've kept your dating ultra low key, or... you're not dating at all. For a while there, we heard rumours that you might be gay, because we never see you in the company of a woman. (If you choose this path, that's your choice. But to say "married and children", that usually implies you and a woman. And dating.)

If you have any glimmer of hope of ever getting married, you simply cannot sit back and wait. You are not in a position, socially to be un-proactive. I know lots of reserved men who managed to get wives, because their wives were proactive and did the chasing. You can't do that.

You have managed to acquire quite the fandom (I know. I've met many of them). When that happens, if a woman expresses interest in you, is it interest in Guy/Thornton/Thorin/John the Actor, or is it in Richard the man? Often it would be impossible to tell until it was too late and you're taking out restraining orders. I feel you.

There are women out there who can see past your career to who you are. But you need to be the one to go find them.

That said, your career takes up much time and you travel the world. A good wife would either have to be willing to spend so much time away from you (NOT recommended), or her life will need to be in a place where she can follow you wherever you go. Some careers would allow a wife to do just that: author/writer, crafter, artist, stay-at-home mom, etc.

6. Love is the greatest thing. Don't miss out because you've been "too busy". There is nothing better in this life than to love and be loved in return. Why sell yourself short?  On their deathbed, nobody says, "I wish I worked more."  They say, "I wish I could spend more time with my family."

Do you have a date for Valentine's Day? I recommend you find one, if you haven't. It's not a marriage proposal, just a date. May not even lead to anything more.

But do you know what will lead nowhere? Not going on a date.


Her Grace

Her Grace, alas, already has a date for Valentine's Day and is unavailable to volunteer as tribute.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Inventing: a good use of a woman's time

Hedy Lamarr - Famous Inventor

Like many inventors, Hedy Lamarr had a day job to support her science habit. (Unlike many of her coworkers, Hedy was not into the drunken party scene--smart woman.) By night, when her co-workers were off getting blotto, she'd spend hours in her home laboratory coming up with cool gadgets.

Now that is a good use of a woman's time. (Oh, by the way, she starred in movies as her day job.)

Okay, so Hedy wasn't a complete recluse. She did go out and be sociable from time to time. So it was at a friend's dinner party she met one George Antheil, who had a similar day job to Hedy, but also shared her love of inventing things.

She invited him over to her lab, where they had a lot of fun on a project that eventually became known as U.S. Patent Number 2,292,387.

See, Hedy had a social conscience. She cared about people. One of the concerns that weighed heavily on her mind was the impact of World War II on innocent lives. Also, she had a strong dislike for the Nazis. Annoyed at their wartime antics (killing children and kicking puppies!), she and her sidekick George came up with a Secret Communications System. Today we know this technology as spread-spectrum communication technology. Essentially, it bounces signals about different carrier wave frequencies so they can't be jammed by Nazis or Communists or the Irish (I'm kidding about the Irish).

The technology was used during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it is used today in Mobile (Cellular) Phone technology.

It's a shame that she didn't receive recognition for her work at the time. Instead, she was told to leave the thinking to men, and to use her face to sell war bonds.

Fine, she said, and proceeded to raise a staggering US$7,000,000 in one evening. Then she went back to where she felt she belonged--inventing stuff.

Do not mess with Hedy Lamarr.

You must read more about Hedy Lamarr and the impact of her cool invention.

Her Grace has a soft spot for people who invent things. She loves hearing, "There must be a better way."

Friday, 6 February 2015

Interview: Abigail Owen

Today I welcome Fantasy Romance author Abigail Owen to the blog.
Getting smooched.

Her official bio says:
Award-winning author, Abigail Owen was born in Greeley, Colorado, and raised in Austin, Texas. She now resides in Northern California with her husband and two adorable children who are the center of her universe.
Abigail grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. A fourth generation graduate of Texas A&M University, she attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by earning a degree in English Rhetoric (Technical Writing). However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.

A fourth-generation uni grad?  That's totally cool!

Today we have a chat about her first novel Blue Violet, and have a look at an upcoming project, Andromeda's Fall.

1. HWK: You've written double-handful of novels. Of all your books, which one is your favourite? What do you love about it?

AO: Oooh. Tough question! I’d have to say Blue Violet because that was the first book I finished. I’d started probably 15 or 20, but didn’t ever write “The End” until that one. The heroine in that one is also probably has the most of me in her that I’ve put into any of my heroines. However, I’ve learned so much since writing the others, and am still learning every day. I often wonder if Blue Violet would turn out differently were I to write it now.

2. HWK I'm a sucker for gypsies and for violets. Of course I had to read Blue Violet from your Svatura series. One concept I enjoyed was the idea of the te'sorthene, a connection similar to soulmates. Sounds like, as the Darane Svatura people are few and far between, not every person gets to find their te'sorthene. How important is the finding of one's te'sorthene, and what are the implications for each other's powers? After all, the Vyusher are out there...

AO: Thanks so much for reading! I love the soul-mate concept in paranormal romances because you can make it a mystical, powerful thing with more “proof” than the concept has in a contemporary romance. In the Svatura series it’s implied that not every person finds a te’sorthene. Then again, Svatura live for 1000 years, so they have a long time to search. As you move through the series, you’ll find that there are more out there than Ellie and Griffin thought as well.

3. HWK: Speaking of pretty blooms, other than a rose, what is your favourite flower?

Hydrangeas. A little bouquet all their own.
AO: Another hard one. Gut reaction is Hydrangea. I had them in my wedding bouquet. When we moved to California, one of my favorite things about the state was how everything here blooms. There are flowers somewhere almost year round. I love the fruitless plum trees with their pale pink flowers that change to dark purple leaves. Then I started naming books after flowers, and found I really enjoy the exotic looking ones. I keep a pinterest board for the ones that catch my eye:

4. HWK: What is the most important thing you've learned as an author?

AO: To write what I’m most interested in reading. You constantly see calls for books on specific topics like Christmas, or ghosts, no paranormal now only contemporary, and so forth. I’m a fast writer. I could try to keep up with the trends. But I tried starting a few books to fit one of those molds, and they always changed into what I really wanted to be writing. My ghost story turned into a cowboy contemporary for example. So now I stick to what I care about. I think my books are stronger, better reads when I do.

5. HWK: If you were restricted to wear only one colour for the rest of your life, what would it be? What colour would you wear to rebel?

AO: Black. Just about everything I wear is black anyway. :) Not a fun answer, I just think most things in black look good on. Now, if were to rebel it would be jewel colors – bright reds and greens and blues and purples. I love vibrant colors.

6. HWK: Preach it! If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?

AO: Elvis is still the King! Oh yes, I said it. I could have gone more serious with this one. As a mother there are so many things I want for my children – compassion, strength of character, peace, tolerance, happiness. Too many things to pick just one. So in honor of his birthday month, Elvis is what I would preach. Wonderful music, great dance moves, undeniable heart throb – he brought and still brings happiness to millions.

HWK: My maternal grandmother was a big Elvis fan. I inherited part of her Elvis collection.
Abigail's latest project is Andromeda's Fall, Book 1 in the Shadowcat Nation series.

Blurby goodness:

Andromeda Reynolds is being hunted. After witnessing her mother’s violent death at the hands of a pack of wolf shifters, Andie has devoted her life to protecting her community of cougar shifters from a similar fate. But now, a greater threat lies within her own dare, and she must run. If she stays, Kyle Carstairs will force their mating, seeking the added political power their union would provide.
Andie would rather chew off her own foot than end up with Kyle. Though, knowing him, she won’t live long either way. Andie’s only hope of survival is to mate Jaxon Keller, the Alpha of the Keller Dare with which she is seeking asylum. But before she can get to him, Andie must first go through A.J., one of the Alpha’s Protectors.

What Andie doesn’t realize is that A.J. has secrets of his own. All Andie knows is that the incredibly frustrating shifter insists on challenging her story, her skills, her trust… and her heart.

Go buy! Available where all good books are sold:

Amazon - Amazon UK - Amazon CA - Amazon AU - B&N - Apple - Kobo - Print

What?  Still not sure? Here's an excerpt:

    Neither of them said a word once the Healer was finished. Andie followed A.J. down another series of hallways, through a few comfy common areas with couches, TVs and kitchenettes, and finally to a wing that looked mostly like living quarters. Andie would bet a lot of money that the compound was intentionally designed to bring the members of this dare together more often, to force them to interact with one another whether they wanted to or not.
    As mountain lion shifters, they all tended to be loners, part of the nature of the beast inside them. The wild cats were elusive and highly territorial. Circumstance had forced them to form dares, making up the Shadowcat Nation. And now they had to learn to coexist…to get along, despite their natural instincts to live a solitary life.
    A.J. eventually stopped at a nondescript door and knocked. After a small pause, it was opened by a petite redhead whose eyes opened wide when she saw who was standing there. Andie kept her own shock of recognition successfully hidden. She sent the girl a surreptitiously pleading look, hoping she’d get the hint to keep quiet.
    “Hannah, this is Andromeda Reynolds,” A.J. said. “She’s asked for asylum and needs a place to stay while I prepare her to meet the Alpha. Can she bunk with you for a bit?”
    Andie narrowed her eyes at A.J, but she quickly moved her focus back to a confused Hannah.
    Hannah finally nodded. “Of course. Come on in…err…Andromeda.”
    “Andie, please.” She gave A.J. one final enquiring glance as she stepped into the room.
    “I’ll be by first thing in the morning,” he told her. “We’ll start then.”
    “Start what?”
    But all she got in reply was an enigmatic smile. A.J. turned and strolled down the hall, whistling a little tune.
    Andie glanced at Hannah, who just shrugged and closed the door.
    They looked at each other for a moment in total silence. Hannah held up a single finger as she listened at the door. Finally, she turned to Andie, grabbed her and pulled her in for a tight hug.     Leaning back, she said, “Andromeda Jaci Reynolds. What. The. Hell?”

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Dear Richard, you so can do a Romantic Comedy

Y'all know how fond I am of Richard Armitage. Lovely chap. Brings joy to so many.

There are many of us who would love to see him play a softer role--something like Harry Kennedy in "The Vicar of Dibley". Or possibly even a full-on Rom-Com. He doubts his ability to pull off such a role, but isn't above considering attempting comedy.

I think he could pull it off, as long as he plays the foil or the straight man. We (his adoring followers) are confident enough in his mastery of the craft to support him in an effort to attempt a comedy. He, however, isn't so sure, as he claims he's "probably not very good at rom-com."

It's because you're out of practice, dear. Here you are, playing all these dour roles with little chance to do some serious exploration of lighter roles.

We'd love to see him in another romance because despite some of the really nasty roles he's successfully pulled off, we still think of him as the original Mr Thornton (Mr Darcy's brooding twin). Even when he played sinister Guy of Gisborne in BBC's Robin Hood, he still managed to make hearts throb, not to mention loins ache.  (Admit it. BBC's Robin Hood was really The Guy of Gisborne Show.)

Even when he played Paul Andrews (cheating bastard), Ian MacAlwain (bro-code breaker), Percy Courney (adulterous bastard), Lucas North (lying spy), Heinz Kruger (evil spy), John Proctor (bad husband) and now Francis Dolarhyde (serial killer), our hearts still beat for him.

Possibly because in real life Richard's a sweetie. He's always got a kind word for us, encourages us to be better people in the world, and has that lovely un-self-centred attitude about him.

So yeah, he keeps getting cast in these "tough guy" roles. Not only get cast, but pulling them off rather well. No wonder he's not getting offered anything sweet and gentle. Unlike many actors, aspiring, mid-lister or well-known, he's not a one-trick pony. This guy played with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Hands up, everyone who loved him in The Vicar of Dibley?

Could Richard pull off a rom-com?

I believe he can, and not just because I adore him to bits. Give him the right script, and he could do wonders.  He wants to play a romantic lead. We want him to as well.

Richard needs a high-brow comedy with erudite humour and a comedic love-interest who has great chemistry with him. The jokes must be three-stage, and every once in a while, Richard needs to deliver a punchline with a wry little grin. He would totally go to town on a project like that.

Alas, too many rom-coms are twee little things with pratfalls and cheap jokes and Seth Rogen and Jennifer Aniston.

Richard needs a comedy of cleverness. He needs to play opposite a female lead whose role is educated, clever, and not self-conscious. Oh, and a few subtly naughty jokes. Subtle being the key.

I wish I had the time to write a script like that.

That said, if ever one of my Romance novels fits that bill, I'll have my agent include a rider in my film rights contract that offers Richard rights of first refusal for the male lead.

Her Grace must ask Richard for a kiss some day. But not while he's wearing his Dolarhyde teeth.