Why My Writing is Like My Holiday Baking

Old Fashioned Spiced Apple Chews

Old Fashioned Spiced Apple Chews, 2013

By the time you read this I will be elbow deep in flour, running pell-mell from table to counter to stove, and bemoaning the fact that my slippers are making that schwick schwick schwick noise of plastic soles sticking to the floor of my kitchen because I haven’t had time to scrub the tiles.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon holiday occurrence.

I always start the holiday baking season with the best of intentions but invariably I end up getting caught up in the stress of the day job. The baking gets set aside for laundry, for dishes, for sleeping. Needful things happen, yes, but the baking gets put off always until the very last minute and then I end up rushing right through it.

What’s really horrible about all this is that when it comes to cooking full meals for family and friends or multi-course medieval feasts, something I think I personally excel at, nothing even remotely resembling this kind of rushing around happens. I’m usually prepared months in advance and I have multiple backup plans in case anything goes awry.

I should probably point out that I cook all the time. ALL the time. I’m always coming up with something new and tasty. Dishes gets created purely for the joy of it, sometimes simply because something falls out of the fridge when I’d intended to go and make something completely different. (Remind me to tell you the story of how I once went into the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies and came out with a crown roast.) Sure I make cooking mistakes and stuff gets relegated to the compost heap on occasion. Some of the things I cook though? So yummy. Friends and coworkers comment constantly that it’s a wonder MrMr doesn’t weigh a ton for all the cooking that I do that he happily eats (he’s actually quite svelte, by the way).

Now let’s swing this around to my writing. (I know you were wondering. Don’t deny it.)

I go through these stages where I write fiction like mad (as evidenced by last year’s NaNoWriMo participation in particular) and then things begin to taper off until the next big rush. I don’t think it’s any big secret that I wait until the last minute most of the time to find a topic to blog about. While I know that’s not an uncommon way of going about blogging or writing fiction, I’m just completely struck by how it’s so very much unlike my writing process for my day job. I’ve mentioned before that I write for a living in my day job. And much like my cooking abilities, I think I’m actually dab hand at it. The simple fact that my bosses seem to like my work well enough to send me gifts addressed to “Jennelle Is Awesome Holland” should be evidence at least that I don’t completely suck at my chosen profession, right?

Yet when it comes to writing the fiction, I hesitate. I delay. I find excuses. And then there’s this mad rush near whatever self-imposed deadline I’ve set where I actually sweat out the words and get something written that, for the most part, works well and doesn’t suck.

So why is it that this fiction writing, like the holiday baking extravaganza that happens, something that causes such panic and angst?

Ego. Ego, plain and simple.

The problem here, both for the baking and the fiction writing is that I need to figure out these transferable skills I should have. For my baking, it’s clearly my ability to plan ahead. I just need to do it for baking too. Realistically I don’t suck at baking. I have failures just the same as my cooking. MrMr loves the treats I make him and not just in that “awh honey you shouldn’t have” sort of way. I can work with that and make it happen. I know I can.

TIME

I think the same thing is true for my writing. I have the ability to affect people in profound ways with my writing. I’ve felt it. I’ve seen it happen. I know I can do this. I have the mad organizational skills to take a software documentation project from idea to birth. I have the skills to know when to abandon plan A and move on to plan B or C or whatever letter comes next at the stage I’m working on.

It just needs doing and that’s going to take time, so this is going to be my Yule gift to myself: time. Time to write.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, all. May you all gift yourself with time.

Advertisements

Holiday Romance: An Interview with Regan Walker

Today at Teatime we’re pleased to be hosting author Regan Walker.

♥♥♥

ReganWalker_TheTwelfthNightWager800First, thank you for coming to Teatime. It’s so much fun to host authors of Christmas books because they always come up such interesting info about the holidays that we don’t know. Your novella, The Twelfth Night Wager. You’ve written about your research into Regency holiday preparations before. How did it help you set the stage for the events in your novella?

Thanks for having me, Jennelle!

What a fun first question! Well, I knew from the start the wager on which the story is based would be made at White’s Club in London, and I worked off of pictures to describe it. And since the story begins in October and the start of the theatre season, I began researching the plays and the theatres in 1818. When I found Bachelor Miseries was the lead play that October at the San Pareil Theatre (later the Adelphi), I knew I’d found the one! And then I was off to the fall season of pheasant hunting and house parties. One cannot just leap into Christmas for a ninety-day wager! For those fall activities, I set the scenes in an actual estate one can visit today, Wimpole Hall. Only after that did I work my way into Christmas and its festivities and then on to Twelfth Night. They didn’t really decorate until Christmas Eve and then it was greenery, not Christmas trees (which became popular in the Victorian era). For each of my stories, I include an Author’s Note that gives you background and some interesting historical tidbits for those who love such things like I do.

A ginger Viscount (can you hear the happy sighs from Teatime Lady Erica?) a virtuous widow with secrets (that “Oooh!” would be from me) and a bet that could, at best, be labeled “improper” and yet you manage to fit that all within the confines of a novella. Looking at the other books in the Agents of the Crown series, all of which are full-length novels, I can’t help but ask what you thought of the novella length for The Twelfth Night Wager. Easier? Harder? Mixed blessing?

You forgot the blackmail and the murder! Well, to answer your question, the size of a novella is definitely a mixed blessing. The story is all there, of course (at 42K words, it’s not a short novella), but there were some rabbit trails and some twists and turns in the murder plot that I could have added if there were more pages. Still, for a reader who wants a holiday story that doesn’t take 2 or 3 days to read, it’s perfect. My short story, The Holly & The Thistle, which follows (with an auburn haired Scot hero!) is an even shorter read for those on the go. All you need is a glass of hot-spiced cider and you’re good.

I do so love bite-sized romances and the holidays make them that much more delightful. In addition to The Twelfth Night Wager, you have other short stories that are holiday themed. Can we count on other shorts and novellas? Do you think they might follow this same holiday pattern?

4326416 9766640Probably. My publisher likes them and the holidays seem to fit those smaller stories. I’ve one in mind that I want to write at the end of the Agents of the Crown (after the prequel, To Tame the Wind is finished). It was hinted at in The Holly & The Thistle. I’m tentatively calling it the Secret Scottish Christmas and I envision all the “agents” and then some showing up to celebrate a holiday then banned in Scotland. If I can squeeze it into a novella, I might do. It will be the story of the twin Powell brothers mentioned in the last two books of the Agents of the Crown, and William Stephen’s sister mentioned in The Holly & The Thistle—two young Englishmen fighting over one young, beautiful Scot, all at Christmas!

You have additional books in the Agents of the Crown series, I see Wind Raven is scheduled for an early 2014 release. Let me just give a mighty cheer for pirate Regency, which I seem to be devouring as of late. Wind Raven is set both on land and on sea and in a variety of locations. Did you get an opportunity to travel when researching this book? I know you’ve been blessed with international travel experience. What about the other books in the series? Any travel associated with those?

1110059There is travel in all of them. I promise adventure as well as love! In Racing with the Wind, the hero and heroine journey to Paris; in Against the Wind, it’s a revolution brewing in the Midlands of England; and in Wind Raven, it’s the Atlantic, the Caribbean, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Baltimore! I’ve been to England and Paris several times, to the Caribbean several times, including St. Thomas where the scenes are set, and to Baltimore’s inner harbor, and I’ve been on ships—but never have I been to Bermuda. I spent a week “living” in Bermuda online. My head was full of the island’s history and it’s food and traditions. At the end of my research, I felt like I had been there. (I even posted recipes on my website from those scenes, as I often do!) It’s like that sometimes. I could feel the warm tropical wind on my face, I could smell the frangipani flowers and the salt air—well, you get the picture.


In addition to
Wind Raven, you also have other works coming out and scheduled through 2015. The Red Wolf’s Prize comes out in 2014 (yay medieval England!) and your prequel for the Agents of the Crown series, To Tame the Wind is scheduled for 2015. Good lord, the organization required to manage a schedule that far out. Can you offer us up-and-comers any tips? What does it take to manage multiple, long-term schedules like this? What does a typical week look like for you?

2973025My head is always partly in the future. And, while I’m not a plotter, scenes for To Tame the Wind have been coming to me as well as issues for research. I started a folder on my desktop and a “Research” sheet where I keep url’s for the sites I need to look at later. It’s set in late 18th century France and England and on ships of the period so there’s a lot of work involved. I have a shelf in one of my bookcases that clusters the books for each of my books I’m researching. I’ve already got some books lined up for To Tame the Wind. The medieval I’m writing now, The Red Wolf’s Prize, is a William the Conqueror romance set in 1068. I actually started it after Racing with the Wind but left it half done to finish my trilogy. It was nagging me to finish it. I was fascinated by the idea of one culture conquering another and wondered what a high-spirited young Saxon woman would do. I had no idea of the challenge of researching life in the 11th century or knights and what they wore then and the kinds of horses they rode (they did not, for example, ride destriers all over the countryside!). I have stacks of research for that one all over my desk.

A typical week for me involves walking my dog each morning, some time on the computer doing social media, particularly when I’m promoting a new release like I am now with The Twelfth Night Wager, or doing posts for my Regan’s Reviews blog. Then I try to get in a chunk of time on my research or work in progress. Right now, I’m not working so I may have more time than most. Of course, there’s the usual fixing of meals, seeing friends and shopping. And church on Sunday. In the evenings, I mostly read. I’m a voracious reader and reviewer of historical romance. (I have over 600 reviews on Amazon and am also now one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads.) I love helping other readers find the keepers.

On your romance review site, you list some of your favorite authors and books in multiple categories (including a wonderful list that I saved for my Highlander obsession). One question that we ask all Teatime visitors is this: your house is on fire and your eReader is already slagged into a molten heap. Which five books across all those genres you love do you save from fiery death?

You can see these on my Top 10 list:

  1. Bride of the MacHugh by Jan Cox Speas (Highlander) – beautifully written
  2. The Passions of Emma by Penelope Williamson (Irish in America)
  3. The Windflower by Laura London (aka Sharon & Tom Curtis) (pirates!)
  4. The Dragon and the Jewel by Virginia Henley (Medieval England)
  5. Princess of Fire by Shannon Drake (aka Heather Graham) (11th century England)

Even choosing those was hard. There are so many more wonderful novels I truly love and will re-read—all 5-star keepers. I don’t just read eBooks (though I do love my Kindle), but I also dig for the greats that can only be purchased used. Such are #s1 and 3 on the list above. But so worth it!

Thanks for the reading suggestions. One final question, then if you don’t mind: how do you take your tea?

I drink my tea green with jasmine and stevia. I also like white tea.

Excellent! Jasmine is my favorite too. Thanks so much for stopping by, Regan!

♥♥♥

About Regan

Regan's pic for BoroughsAs a child Regan Walker loved to write stories, particularly about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.

Regan can be reached in a variety of ways:

♥♥♥

An Excerpt from The Twelfth Night Wager

London, January 5, 1819

Twelfth Night

It never would have happened if he hadn’t been so terribly bored that night at White’s. Staring into the crackling fire in the parlour on this frosty night and reflecting back on the last several months, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, recalled the evening well; the deep leather chair he sat in, the lit cheroot dangling from one hand and a brandy in the other. He had only been half listening as Hugh Redgrave, the very married Marquess of Ormond, droned on about the virtues of the leg-shackled state. Happily married men could be so tiresome. Looking back on it now, it seemed years not months since they’d traded quips in the conversation that led to the wager:

“I say, Ormond, just where are you going with this praise for the wedded state? You know me too well to believe I’m convinced.”

“You might at least consider taking a wife, Eustace. There’s much to be said for the change it would bring about in your otherwise tawdry existence of late. After all, thirty-five is past the age where dissipation wears well, don’t you think?”

Tawdry existence? Dissipation? “Surely you cannot mean those words, Ormond. I’m just after a bit of fun.”

“You go after women like you go after the fox. It’s all in the chase for you.”

“And that is wrong? Just because you have your heir and a spare at thirty-two does not mean I wish to accumulate the same baggage.” At the frown that appeared on Ormond’s face, Christopher, Lord Eustace, hastened to add, “No offense meant toward the beautiful Lady Ormond, whom I admire above all women, but I am not ready for such a change, as my recent indulgences confirm. Besides, I like women and have my own way of handling them, which suits me quite well. I see no reason for change.”

“As far as I can see, your way of ‘handling’ them is not to have one at all.”

“Ho, now that ain’t so, and well you know it! Though, being a gentleman, I’ll not disclose the number ‘had’ even if I could recall. My method, I assure you, works perfectly for me.”

“You have a method?” Ormond asked, incredulous.

“Well, perhaps not a method as you would count it. I seduce ’em, bed ’em and—”

“Leave them. Yes, I know. But not always smiling, I’ve heard.”

Christopher looked up at the chandelier above and back to his friend as he let out a sigh. “Perhaps not, but none complain till the end is in sight. Then, well…I admit things have on occasion become a bit sticky. But they are all willing players in the game.”

“Your way of handling women cannot work with all. You must have failed with some.”

“Quite the contrary, my good man. I’ve succeeded with every lady I’ve gone after.” Christopher held back a grin. He did not lack confidence when it came to his success with women. And a worthy adversary made every game more exciting.

“I would wager there is one you cannot seduce.”

“Ho! Wager? Do I hear a challenge being laid down?” Snuffing out his cheroot, Christopher leaned forward. “Who might this unassailable paragon be?”

Ormond glanced about the sparsely populated club room filled with tables and chairs. Christopher’s eyes followed, noting the small group of men at a round table engaged in muted conversation some distance away. None appeared to be eavesdropping.

Leaning forward, Ormond whispered, “Grace, the Lady Leisterfield.”

Christopher leaned back in his chair and took a sip of brandy. In his mind’s eye he saw a slim blonde in a rather modest gray gown standing next to the elderly Lady Claremont. “Yes, I recall her from the last ball of the Season. The young widow lives like a nun, or so I’ve heard.”

Ormond grinned. “That, old man, is the challenge.”

“She’s in mourning, is she not?”

“Just coming out. And a worthy contender to test your…method.”

“I see.” But did he? Was there more to this than a wager? It was clear Ormond had something in mind, and the marquess could be exceedingly cryptic at times. Still, whatever was behind the challenge, and whatever the stakes, Christopher was drawn by the opportunity, even more by the encouragement, to entice the lovely Lady Leisterfield to his bed.

“I’ve been very impressed with the lady,” his friend continued, “and I would love to see you fail miserably trying to scale her castle walls. I would consider it sweet justice for the fairer sex.” Ormond winked.

Christopher was tempted to decline, still miffed at Ormond’s comment about his tawdry existence. Yet the memory of the beautiful Lady Leisterfield permeated his thoughts. “Perhaps I shall accept your delightful challenge.”

Ormond grinned, then his expression turned serious. “One thing. If you do this, Eustace, you must promise to preserve the lady’s reputation no matter the outcome. That must be part of the challenge, as I would not see a good woman ruined at the end of it.”

“Well, I know of no woman who has suffered overmuch from being associated with me, but I assure you I will be discreet.”

“All right—and so we are clear,” said Ormond. “You must seduce, bed and walk away from the baroness, else I will have won.”

Christopher nodded, wondering all the while if he’d missed something. Ormond always seemed to have an agenda not fully disclosed. With him, much was hidden beneath the surface.

The marquess suggested with a pointed look, “Ninety days should be sufficient; do you agree?”

“We are indeed agreed. And let me add, it will be my pleasure.”

It wasn’t just the thought of bedding the lovely widow that put a grin on Christopher’s face; he was thrilled with the prospect of a real challenge with a virtuous woman. It was a wholly different sport than he normally engaged in, but Lady Leisterfield was a worthy quarry. A challenge indeed. One for which he felt himself uniquely qualified.

“Shall we reduce the wager to the book?” Ormond inquired with a wry smile. “Say, one thousand pounds to make it interesting?”

“Done.” Casting his reservations aside, Christopher set down his empty glass, reached for Ormond’s extended hand and gave it a hearty shake.

And so, that night, Christopher entered the following into White’s book:

Ld Eustace has wagered Ld Ormond 1000 pounds that by Twelfth Night he can seduce, bed and walk away from a certain lady understood between them.

 

Cowboys & Knights: An Interview with Author Rue Allyn

Today we have author Rue Allyn visiting us in the Tearoom. I’m so excited to finally be interviewing a fellow writer from the Heart of Detroit, my home chapter of the Romance Writers of America!

Welcome, Rue!

TrueAndPerfectKnight-A300Jennelle and all of the Teatime Romance ladies, thank you very much for offering me the opportunity to share with your readers. I’m thrilled to be here and look forward to all of your comments.

Have you always been based in Michigan?

Well yes and no. I was born in Michigan and it’s been my state of residence for all but 13 years of my life (10 years in Delaware when I was a child and 3 in Florida as an adult). However, I also spent ten years in the US Navy, traveling the world while remaining a resident of Michigan.

You have two books that just came out, within days of each other: A True and Perfect Knight and One Day’s Loving. How do you cope with such tight release schedules? Do you sleep? Continue reading

Helping Disaster Victims by Sharing Stories

Give us this day...This past week I celebrated my *mumbleteen* birthday. In all it was a glorious day of me doing absolutely nothing but exactly what I wanted to. That is to say, reading. I am not a watcher of television (though right now Lost Girl on Netflix seems to hold sway in the brief moments of “what do I do next” in my life). I also don’t subscribe to any news aggregators or websites of any kind. This leaves me blissfully free of any of the baloney political crap that seems to get my ire up in a big damned hurry. The downside, of course, is that it leaves me blissfully unaware of major events happening in the world and I must, sadly, rely on people notifying me, usually after the fact. Continue reading

Which (Romance) Novels Would You Save from Fire?

Lord of Scoundrels

One of Jennelle’s “Save from Fire” choices.

Way back when we first started the blog (has it really been more than a year?) each of us posted in our introductions our list of romance novels we’d save from fire if the house were burning down around our ears. We only allowed ourselves five books, no more. I actually came up with my list of five to save fairly quickly.

All of us agreed that coming up with three wasn’t so bad, but getting that fourth and fifth one was a lot tougher. Which ones stay and which ones go? Did we have sentimental attachments? Was that copy of X novel our very first? Or was it an autographed copy we stood in line for hours to get? In the end we did all come up with five romance novels each and we collected everyone’s in a Pinterest board for you.

It turns out that our “save 5 from fire” question ended up  becoming a staple “fun” question for guests we interviewed at Teatime too. Of course, when the ladies of Teatime initially answered, we didn’t allow “my eReader” as one of the selections. Our guests on the other hand? Well, we cut them a little more slack and we opened it up to all books they’d save, not just romance novels. Still, we love it when they share those treasured gems that they really wouldn’t want to give up. We collected them in another Pinterest board.

As I was chatting with friends this past weekend at our annual Halloween party, the idea of this “save them from fire” reading materials came up in conversation. The books were fairly wide ranging as MrMr and I hang with some scary smart people. A few of them approached this similarly to the “you’re stranded on a deserted island” question where you’re required to pick 10 things you wanted to have with you while you waited for rescue. Others approached it similarly to how many a guest has: emotions and fond memories ruling the day. One friend said he’d save his Bible because his grandpa gave it to him. Another lady said she’d save her children’s books because her fondest memories are reading with them when they were young. There were the inevitable “but I’d take my eReader” attempts, which I quickly squashed because I really wanted to know which books would matter.

So now I’m curious about you, my friendly reader:

Which romance novels would you save from fire and why would you save them?*

For that matter, would you save romance novels or other books like my friends at the Halloween party this past weekend? Go ahead and pick up to five books. And no, your eReader can’t be one of them.

(*Another Pinterest board will be in the works once we gather your selections together!)

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Teatime Romance!

Happy Birthday!

Teatime Romance has turned 1 year old.

Actually that’s not entirely true. As of this writing we’re one year, one month and 15 days old. You see, our real birthday was last month. On September 1st to be exact. It’s not that we forgot. No really it’s more that as of that very moment, we didn’t know it was September 1st… Okay, maybe we sort of forgot. But not for long and it says a lot about how busy we are here in the Tearoom. Guests arriving, snacks and tea to share, novels to chat about. Continue reading

Why are there so few anti-heroines?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

How many anti-heroines can you name? How many are from romance novels?

I freely admit that I am not as well read as a lot of people when it comes to popular literature, nor have I been widely exposed to foreign literature to any appreciable degree. But I suspect it’s not my lack of exposure that has had me sitting here for more than two hours trying to think of all the female anti-heroines I have enjoyed reading about or watching on film.

In point of fact, my list is, as of this very moment, a sorry four females long and most of them I can argue myself out of with little effort. Surely there have to be more that I’m missing, but I’m just not coming up with much. Even the very public lists on Wikipedia come up with precious few names that are female. Male names? Not a problem. I can list scads that I love dearly (Han Solo, please expect my call soon). But females? Not even enough to fill one hand’s worth of fingers. Why is that? I think it’s just that popular American literature has little love for the anti-heroine. Continue reading