Friday, June 28, 2013

In which I talk about why Honest Reviews Matter in the CBA

I am over at Married...with Fiction today  (a singleton like me ! ) talking about why Honest Reviews in the CBA matter---can give you street cred--- are to be taken far more seriously than a string of 5-stars

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Author Interview: The Heiress of Winterwood by Sarah Ladd

1.)   The Regency voice in The Heiress of Winterwood is so impressive and consistent---not only in the dialogue---but the narrative voice as well. Was this something that came easily to you (you cite a love of classics such as Austen and Wordsworth on your website) or were you conscious of this and was it difficult to iron out any modern day manners of speech?  I have read literature from the Romantic and Victorian periods my entire life (both poetry and prose), and so the rhythm of the voice came pretty naturally. In fact, I had to go back and tone it down a bit!  I tend to lean toward “purple prose” and go over the top, and so I would write the scene as it came to me, and then I would go back and rein it in. That is not to say that I did not have to go back through it when I was done and look specifically for modern words, because of course, they did slip in!  There were also several times I had to stop and check the dates of when certain words were first used. For example, do you know that they did not say “hello” during the Regency? 

2.) Winterwood—like Pemberley or Thornfield Hall—is so well-drawn I felt ensconced in its grand halls and ramblings its extensive grounds with Amelia and Graham. Is Winterwood inspired by a specific estate? What tactics did you use to “get” there mentally so that, in turn, your readers could explore? As far as the exterior of Winterwood, I modeled it loosely after Wilton House in Salisbury, England. To get the feel of the location, I pinned pictures to my inspiration board. Pictures of the buildings, the moors, the countryside, the gowns, the ships … anything that I thought would visually help me recreate the ideas in my mind. I also listened to a lot of music from the Regency Era while I was writing. 
3.) As a nautical history buff (I re-read Patrick O’Brian all the time), I was enamoured by Graham’s reminiscences of the sea and the calling and pull he had to his ship –even while on land. What sorts of nautical research went into the tale?
  I did a lot of reading. One book I found particularly interesting was 
Jane Austen and the Navy. I also researched the types of ships, nautical information, and battle information about the War of 1812. I spread this research out over the entire span of time I was writing the book, so as I learned new tidbits of information I went back through the book and peppered them in where appropriate. If you are interested in learning more about the Navy during the Regency, one fun place to go is The Jane Austen’s Center’s page on military historyor their page on Officer’s Uniforms in the British Navy

4. ) Many readers, like myself, idealize historical periods such as the Regency. What’s one fact about the Regency period that might prove living then is best kept to daydreams?
I touched on one of these facts in The Heiress of Winterwood, and that was the mortality rate of mothers in childbirth. One article I read on the 
Jane Austen Centre’s website said the following: “To be sure pregnancy during the Regency was a risky business with a nearly 20% mortality rate for the mother”, and I have seen this percentage much higher in other sources. The infant mortality rate was also shockingly high. The same article says “Two-thirds of the children born in the Metropolitan Area of London in the eighteenth century died before they were five years old and three out of four of these poor little victims failed to reach even their second birthdays.”  These are sad, sobering numbers. Very tragic. 

5. Heiress of Winterwood is, fortunately, the first of a series. Were you cognizant of the fact that there would be more to tell while you were plotting the first book? I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but … no!  Not when I started the book, at least! But as I got further along into the writing process, I did start to think of what would be the next step in the series.
 My idea for The Heiress of Winterwood started with a single question:  What was the one thing that a well-bred lady in the Regency period would NOT do? The first answer that popped into my head was “propose to a man”… and the idea for The Heiress of Winterwood was born! The ideas for the other two books in the series came shortly thereafter. 

6.) Jane Orcutt, Julie Klassen, Ruth Axtell and Jane Austen are the delight of several women of faith. Why do you think that the mannerisms and traditions of the Regency period find such a home with Christian women?  
The church was central to Regency life, and so much of the mannerisms characteristic to the Regency period are about restraint. Self-control. The idea of good overcoming evil. I find it very interesting that a woman’s reputation was her prized possession during the Regency, and a reputation could be soiled over the slightest mishap, so a woman during the Regency was always aware of what was “right,” but that does not mean she did not encounter temptation. This goes away from your question a bit, but many people did not know that Jane Austen also wrote a few prayers. I think these prayers give a really interesting insight to a Regency woman’s views on God and religion. If you are interested, you can read these prayers
 here. They are as beautiful as they are thought-provoking and stirring.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

and in real life...

So, yah, I like books. We all know this.

But, I also REALLY like baseball.

Our amazing Toronto Blue Jays just completed the most recent game in an 11- win streak sweeping the Orioles. I was at the ballpark TWICE this weekend catching  the live action ...and enjoying the antics of one of my FAVOURITE of our current line-up, the adorable Munenori Kawasaki.

Our short stop steals EVERYONE'S heart, is a club and fan favourite and I was amazed to watch him hit the first homer of his MLB career on Friday evening....

A little Kawasaki treat for you:

Listen to him singing O Canada as he signs baseballs.  Love this guy

Monday, June 17, 2013

Films! I saw some!

Hi all,

I am a lazy little book blogger and don't really have the time to write these up with the credit they deserve; but BOTH get the Rachel Stamp of approval....

I saw two films over the past week.

1.) Before Midnight 

Love this trilogy and this, to me, was the strongest yet

Just go and sink in and revel in the conversation

2.) Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing

I think Nathan Fillion was miscast as Dogberry; but he is the only weak link in a super strong cast.  I could watch Amy Acker and Alexis Denisof spar forever .....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Author Interview Meg Moseley 'Gone South'

Hi everyone !  I recently read ---and loved---- Gone South! You can read my review at Novel Crossing 

My new friend Meg ( because I seriously hunted her down on facebook immediately after turning the last page-- such a kindred spirit she is ) was kind enough to answer a few questions:

1.)Your book is expertly executed. The scenes (from the earliest in Michigan to Tish’s settling into Noble) transition so seamlessly. Do you write an outline? What does your process look like?

Thanks! If there’s anything “expert” about it, I owe it to my critique partners and my editors, who do their valiant best to rescue me from plot problems. Yes, I write an outline but it defeats me every time. I always get sidetracked by unrelated ideas that don’t even belong in that particular story, or by basic questions like “What the heck is this story about, anyway?” Finally I wind up with a solid premise, but the midpoint of my process looks like what would happen if you turned a toddler loose with scissors, paper, hot dogs, glue, paints, used tea bags, and glitter. It gets ugly.

2.)I was very, very impressed by the point of view characters: George, Tish and Mel. Did they instantly start speaking to you and hinting for their voices to be heard? If you were to choose another character to give more “page time”, as it were, who would you choose?

Thanks, Rachel. Tish’s voice came easily, maybe because it was fun to revisit living in Michigan and the differences between Northerners and Southerners. I really enjoyed getting into George’s head too, especially with anything related to his love for old cars or to his love-hate relationship with his mother’s Maltese. But Mel’s voice came most naturally, and I wish I’d had more “page time” for her. On the other hand, I’m glad that her part in the ending of the story comes as a jolt, because that’s how grace often works—suddenly, from an unexpected direction—and you know everything is about to change even if it can’t all change overnight.

3.)I was enamoured by Tish’s immediate connection to the McComb ancestral house—especially as a reader and lover of LM Montgomery’s work. Montgomery so believed in attachment to place and how it nurtures one’s soul and creativity and how it springs into a life of its own. Is Tish’s new house in Noble inspired by a house from your past or present?

It’s not inspired by a particular house, but I love old houses in general. My favorites are from the Craftsman era, maybe because I grew up in a little California bungalow that was built around 1920. I can’t look at an old house without wondering who lived there through the years, its successive residents looking out the same windows on an ever-changing world. It’s easy to forget that the world was “modern” to our ancestors, and that our descendants will one day think how quaint and old-fashioned we were. But no matter how much life changes, people will always need a place to call home.

4.)You kind of take the idea of the Prodigal Son story from the Bible and turn it on its ear---meaning that while Mel is indeed a prodigal --- the home she returns to is not her original home, the fatted calf slaughtered is not done so by her family, rather her new family of George, Calv and Tish. Did you always know that Mel’s path would take a slightly different turn?

As soon as Mel showed up in my head, I knew she didn’t belong in a cliché-ridden prodigal story. I studied the parable’s concrete details (garments, sandals, jewelry, a hated job) and I tried to flip everything in new directions. Most of all, I wanted to show the sad reality that many prodigals can’t relate to the lucky boy in the parable because they don’t have a good father-figure to come home to. For instance, Mel’s father doesn’t give her a robe and a ring; he orders her to return the items she “borrowed” from him. She won’t find a welcome under his roof, but that’s where grace comes into the picture.

5.)Mel, Tish and George are so different in many ways; but so similar in others. Each has such an attachment to the past: Mel to her family (and even to GWTW!), George to the Antiques, Tish to the story of her ancestors and their beautiful letters. Why do you think the past ---the exploration of the past--- and the excavation of its wrongs and rights—so greatly informs who we are.

The more we know about the past, the more we know about the present and about ourselves. Recently someone asked me why someone would bother to film a documentary about a little-known episode of strange times within a particular church, and my answer was that the filmmaker is a historian who wants to know not just what happened but alsowhy it happened so we can learn from it. I think we’re all amateur historians when we delve into our family histories. If we can understand how and why the choices of previous generations still affect us today, we just might make better choices in our own lives.

6.) Who are some of your favourite authors? Books?

Prepare to be yanked around through a bunch of different genres. Frederick Buechner’s Godric is one of my all-time favorite novels, and his nonfiction is wonderful too. I also love Catherine Marshall’s Christy and Siri Mitchell’s Kissing Adrien, two of the best clean romances ever. I love James Lee Burke, Dorothy L. Sayers, and P.G. Wodehouse. To Kill a Mockingbird is also on my keeper shelf. So is I Conquer the Castle by Dodie Smith. If these books have anything in common, it might be that their writers have distinctive and authentic voices that draw me into their worlds and make me want to stay.

Meg, I don’t think I will be able to get the lovely after-taste of this book out of my mouth for a long time. I will keep wanting to sink back into the pages again and again. Please tell me what is next. And please, please, PLEASE confirm that you will sprinkle a gentle amount of romance in the same way you did in Gone South

Thank you! A Stillness of Chimes is coming out in February. It will include a fair sprinkling of romance, plus some family drama, music, and a mystery, all against the backdrop of the Southern Appalachians.

see guys? Meg's a kindred spirit! just look at that reading list :-)

Monday, June 10, 2013

This has NOTHING to do with books---- random random random White Collar moment

So, sometimes as an avid facebooker with a lot of American facebook friends, I like to send them little presents when they are feeling blue. Today, a good friend of mine was having a bad day and so I thought to myself....self! you need to find her a cute video or something to make her smile.

Somehow, don't ask me how I did it, I stumbled upon this.

And it isn't right to confine it to facebook.  White Collar-ites of the world, it would be EVIL of me to keep this from you

...don't think.... just enjoy

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Carol Cox and the Great Mercantile Mystery Sweepstakes

In TROUBLE IN STORE, author Carol Cox’s latest novel, out-of-work governess Melanie Ross is forced to pursue her last resort: a dusty Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But local shopkeeper Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he’s not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas take over. His solution? Marry her off–to someone else–as soon as possible! Then a sinister force brings mystery and murder to their doorstep, and this unlikely pair must band together to survive the trouble in store.
To celebrate the story, author Carol Cox and Bethany House Publishers are pleased to announce the MERCANTILE MYSTERY SWEEPSTAKES, and your chance to win one of three marvelous prizes!
Timeframe & Notifications: 
This giveaway starts June 3, 2013 and ends June 20, 2013 @ 11:59 pm (PST).  Winners will be selected Friday, June 21, 2013, and announced right here on the site.

Melanie causes all kinds of trouble in Caleb’s rough-edged mercantile, especially when she stocks the shelves with expensive, blush-colored china, rather than the usual tools and farm supplies!
Our Grand Prize winner will receive their very own set of Melanie’s fancy china: a vintage, Royal Standard cup and saucer set, service for four.

In Trouble in Store, the mystery of a beautiful music box causes sparks to fly between Caleb and Melanie.
Our Second Prize winner will have the chance to win an elegant music box, just like the one in the story. This hand-made Italian music box is made of inlaid layers of walnut and rosewood, and plays Melanie’s favorite tune, “Liebestraum”.

The townspeople of Cedar Ridge come to Ross-Nelson mercantile for supplies, advice, news, and best of all, fresh-ground coffee! Caleb grinds Arbuckles coffee beans as a service for his regular customers.
Our Third Prize winner can enjoy their very own, 1880′s hand-ground coffee, with this antique grinder, Arbuckles coffee, and a pair of Cowboy and Cowgirl mugs.

How to Enter:
Go to and complete the entry box, anytime between June 3 and June 20.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Random Musings on 'Hello, Dolly!'

I love Barbra Streisand in her belle époque ( hello! Funny Girl )

I could seriously watch her forever. She is so strikingly alive. She owns the space she inhabits. She flounces and flairs and flings her arms wide and she invites you in: to every harsh and adorably edged quip laced with her New York vernacular, to everyone wide, dewy-eyed glance and profile shot, to her triumphs, insecurities and sheer, strong femininity.

Hello, Dolly! has some pretty terrible musical numbers; but upon recent re-viewing I didn’t pay attention to that. This, friends, is spectacle. This is the type of musical that was meant for the screen: broad sweeping canvases: from Yonkers to nameless parks and avenue parades in New York city in the late 1800’s. This is the type of musical that is best viewed as a lavish, too-much, too-often, over-hyped, over-sung, over-repetitive sweep of musical goodness. This is “Glee” – on speed…. As directed by Gene Kelly: a veteran of movie-musicals with the same timbre.

'Put On Your Sunday Clothes' goes on illogically forever. Random characters show up and dance across train tracks: it is the epitome of delicious musical frounce and frou-frou. The poorly-lyrical “Dancing” number spills from Irene Molloy’s hatshop ( and the misdaventures therein with Cornelius and Mr. Vandergelder ) and out into the street, magnetically picking up other couples like lint to Velcro. 'Before the Parade Passes By' starts in one of the movie’s soft and wistfully reflective moments: urging us to spare a moment for Dolly the vulnerable widow---not Dolly the control freak. Her lavish exterior winnows away and we are given a glimpse of lost hope and utter humanity; before she is swept into the whirlwind of coloured kaleidoscope noise once more; parading with hat and feathers aplomb, over-taking the streets and forcing the attention on her. Craving from a nameless, faceless crowd what she had just mused on losing beneath a tree but minutes before.

"Hello, Dolly!' itself is a wonderful song. Seriously. Louie Armstrong, people, and good old Satchmo shows up, too! But it goes ON FOREVER and EVER! Two reprises. Bridges galore …. The denouement gets you revved up just as the central chorus whirs in again.

This is movie musical whipped cream. This is the feeling after you eat turkey dinner. This is cake.

What interests me most about this entire mélange of strange and wonderful sparkles and tomfoolery is that it is a marriage bred of Thornton Wilder whose silent escapades epitomized communal American life: Our Town, for example, revels in the quiet, the normal, the quilted pattern of community, home, hearth. 'Hello,Dolly!' , based on his play the Matchmaker marries Yonkers with the big broad city; the small Hayfeed clerk with the brokerage of matrimony in the high town. The high city life spilling back into Yonkers at the end of the film ( with Cornelius and Irene ready to flee away with money from the safe and Dolly willing and ready to be tamed) and the eruption of whirl and business descending upon a rural and very 19th century setting.

'Hello, Dolly!', for all its frills and flounces and terrible lyrics makes a bolder statement, thus, it’s about change, disenchantment and …dare I say it…. urban expansion.