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Author. Traveler. Cat lover. Introvert.
Recent Activity
by Mary Jo Being crazy busy, I thought I'd invoke Wench Privilege to run a classic blog, and I came across this, one of the earliest blogs I ever wrote way back in 2006. I decided to update it with new pictures, mentioning what has changed, and what has not. One of the signature features of newish American homes is the deck—a broad sweep of wood on which one can slap mosquitoes, dodge wasps, burn slabs of animal flesh over a grill, and wreck one’s skin. From which description you may correctly deduce that I’m not a big fan of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 16, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo The publishing world has changed so much in the last dozen years! This anthology was first published in 2004, when independent anthologies were rare indeed, and it was produced as a fundraiser for the SOSAmerica, Inc. charity (CARE packages to deployed soldiers). The volume was edited by award-winning Silhouette author Mary Kirk. As Mary said in her introduction, "The Journey Home is about the wounded hero. The man who does what he must. The soldier who risks his life for his beliefs, his family, his country. It’s about the man who goes to war and discovers, when... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo I love a movie that combines real history with period elegance, powerful themes, and a good romance, and Belle is such a movie. It's based on the life of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an 18th century woman of mixed blood. Her mother Maria Belle was an African born slave in the West Indies, but her father was a British naval officer, Captain John Lindsey, who eventually became an admiral. After her mother's death, Dido's father took her to England and put her into the keeping of his uncle, Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Due to stealth and cunning, I was able to acquire an early copy of Word Wench Anne Gracie's The Spring Bride, third in her Chance Sisters series. I volunteered to interview her about the book, which gives me an opportunity to gush about it. <G> I love the Chance Sisters, and I'm not alone in that. The first book, The Autumn Bride, made several "best of the year" lists including Library Journal and NPR, and was also a RITA finalist. The Winter Bride received several starred reviews, an RT top pick, and was voted Favourite Historical by... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Several weeks ago, I set out to write about clotted cream and scones, and it rapidly ballooned into such a massive amount of material that I decided to do two posts, one on clotted cream and one on scones. (Anne Gracie has already blogged on the general subject of afternoon tea.) And it's still a massive amount of material! In our private Wench discussion loop, we ran wild, and given that the Wenches come from the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia, the range of experience--and opinions!--is vast. A Short History To start with an important point:... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo This week, Kensington has reissued my early romance, The Bargain, which got me to thinking about the long journey this story has. It started life as my third Signet Regency, The Would Be Widow. I was very much a neophyte at the time, and several of my writing traits first appeared here. To begin with, I connected the story to my first book, The Diabolical Baron, by making the hero of The Baron the best friend of the hero of the Widow, and a key player in the story. Without even realizing it, I had started writing... Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Afternoon tea is a quintessential English custom, and one that has been discussed on the Word Wenches before when Anne Gracie wrote a delightful post on the subject. (And if anything, Australians love their afternoon tea even more than Britons do. And let us not forget the New Zealanders!) This blog began at the Virginia Festival of the Book, where Joanna Bourne and I were part of a lovely event for romance readers and writers held at a local Barnes & Noble. Two of the readers said they'd met Jo Beverley in England, and she'd showed them... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2015 at Word Wenches
By Mary Jo I shamelessly begged for an advance reading copy of Jo Beverley's new book, Too Dangerous for a Lady. It's a great read, with romance, suspense, and even medical matters of the time. Not only is the story a Romantic Times Top Pick (along with new books from Wenches Patricia Rice and Cara Elliott), but it received a wonderful review in Publisher's Weekly: "Beverley's brilliantly drawn protagonists shine in a story that puts equal emphasis on intrigue and love." Too Dangerous is set in Jo's long-running Regency Rogues World. There's more about the Rogues here. MJP: Jo, is... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo I've always liked quilts. Throughout my childhood, I slept under a blue and white quilt a neighbor gave to my mother because the neighbor didn't want it anymore. A lot of quilts were passed around as old fashioned and uninteresting in those days, I think. But these days quilts are very popular, partly because they represent authenticity and a link with the past. Not to mention that they're beautiful usable art that can be lived with and appreciated every day. (Like most Americans I have a rather romanticized image of pioneer women gathering together for a quilting... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Word Wenches reader Anne Hoile asked this question: "Do any of you pick up an historical event and build a plot and characters around it?" We all thought the question really interesting, so here are our answers. And as always, we all have different takes on the topic! Jo Beverley: I can't remember ever beginning a book with an event in mind, probably because I begin with imaginary characters, but I often end up with a real event being a major part. My first medieval romance is set after the Norman Conquest, and my hero, Aimery, is... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Serious birdwatchers keep life lists of all the varieties of birds they've observed, and I've known travelers who keep track of all the countries they've visited. I don't actually keep count, but I've certainly noticed that if you want to build up the list of countries you've visited, the Caribbean is a great place to travel. So many islands, most of them sovereign nations, and each with its own history and identity. Which is how I was able to add four new countries to my list on our recent cruise on the Wind Star, a combination sailing... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo I met jeweler and jewelry historian Renee Huff at last year's Romantic Times conference in New Orleans, where I fell in love with (and bought!) an unusual Victorian necklace from her. She's fascinating to talk to, so I prevailed on her to visit us last summer. (Renee's Etsy shop, Jeweled Legacy, can now ship internationally, if you'd like to browse the wide range of things she carries.) Now with Valentine's Day almost here, she's visiting again to talk about historic love tokens. Renee, tells us about Snakes of Love! Renee Huff: It's almost St Valentine's Day. What... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Barring a visit to a Nordstrom's cosmetic counter, I've never had a makeover personally, but I enjoy reading about them, and I love writing them! Which is why so many of my books have such scenes--not because they're good business, but because they're fun. I very seldom write stunningly beautiful heroines, and when I do, they have invariably suffered because of that beauty. Think of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world, who became the trigger for a war. Not a good place to be! Having the sort of beauty that brings men to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Sometimes I read a non-fiction book that I like so much that I'm compelled to share it here. This time, the subject is one I'm betting most of you are familiar with: The classic movie THE PRINCESS BRIDE. The male romantic lead, Cary Elwes, has written a memoir called AS YOU WISH: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride. Besides his own behind-the-scenes experience, he includes quotes from some of his co-stars. THE PRINCESS BRIDE was written by the superstar screenwriter William Goldman, who won best screenplay Oscars for BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo The holidays are over! You've: Roasted your turkey. Navigated and possibly refereed your relations. Watched or fled the football games. Wrapped presents or shoved them all into gift bags because that's easier. Taken the ornaments away from the cat. Eaten all the Christmas cookies/fruitcake/latkes and wished for more, or decided enough already! Watched the ball drop at midnight of 12/31 to usher in 2015 (though in some Maryland towns, it might have been a crab, or a donut or a canvasback duck that dropped. <G>) Made your resolutions. So now: RELAX. I like January because it's usually... Continue reading
Posted Jan 1, 2015 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo As my Christmas contribution to our Word Wenches Christmastide postings, I want to talk about what gives us pleasure. I've read two articles recently that said we find the greatest and most lasting pleasure in experiences, not things. Not that things aren't nice, but if you're debating taking a trip or buying a new dinette set and telling yourself that the trip will be over in days but you'll have the dinette set for years--remember that being "practical" isn't always the best choice. Twenty years from now, the dinette set might be history, but a wonderful experience... Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2014 at Word Wenches
hosted by Mary Jo I met Edith Layton and her ten year old daughter Susie at my very first romance conference, when I was under contract but the book hadn't come out yet. Edith and her fellow Signet Regency writer pal Barbara Hazard kindly invited me to join them for a drink. I was in the presence of goddesses! And with us was Susie, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, interested in everything , and really, seriously bright. So now it's a pleasure to welcome grown up Susie, who is a writer/producer/performer/Jill of all trade who not only inherited Edith's bubbling creativity, but looks... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2014 at Word Wenches
b y Mary Jo On Wednesday, December 10th, Edith's daughter, Susie Felber, will visit us to talk about the long awaited e-release of her mother's classic Regency romances, and on what it was like growing up as her mother's daughter. Guaranteed to be fun! Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2014 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Relaxing on a cruise is a good way to recover from deadline craziness. It's also good at providing a real drop-dead date because who wants to go on vacation with an unfinished book hanging over one's head like the Sword of Damocles? So I sent Not Always a Saint off to my editor at 1:30 am of the day we left for a cruise of Canadian Maritime provinces and Quebec. (What can I say? My Muse likes to live dangerously, alas.) Eastern Canada has a very long history of settlement by the French and British, and the... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2014 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo "Revel" derives from a Middle English word that means "celebrate," and it always sounds happy to me. That's why I chose the name Christmas Revels years ago for a print collection of five of my holiday novellas. All of those stories have been released in different e-versions in recent years, but now, for the first time, I'm collecting those original five back into an e-book version of Christmas Revels. The title had been in my mind for years, ever since we visited my sister and her husband in Boston one holiday season, and she took us to... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2014 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo MJP: Word Wench Joanna Bourne's long-awaited new book, Rogue Spy, will be released tomorrow! Her last book, Black Hawk, won RWA's RITA for best historical romance of the year, and Rogue Spy was named to Library Journal's list of the 10 Best Romances of the year even before it was released. So--Joanna, could you tell us about the story and the characters? I loved not only the protagonists, but all the delightful, kindly criminal elders, such as the Fluffy Aunts. <G> JB: I'm writing a love story, of course, so the emotional mainspring of Rogue Spy is... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2014 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo Such a deal! In Regency Masquerades, six talented Regency veterans have released a box set containing six full length Regency novels, including the RITA winning Gwen's Ghost by Alicia Rasley and Lynn Kerstan. (This might be the only RITA won by a writing team and the book is great, with Alicia and Lynn writing different characters so the story is integrated seamlessly.) AND they're offering the set for a special introductory price of 99 cents to reward their long term readers! So here, forthwith, are Alicia Rasley, Allison Lane, Brenda Hiatt, Lynn Kerstan, Elena Green, and Gail... Continue reading
Posted Oct 21, 2014 at Word Wenches
By Mary Jo I'm in the crazed mode of finishing a book, so I'm invoking Wench Privilege by re-running an old blog, this one about the spice trade. What gave me the idea was going out to my car after exercising at Curves, and smelling something sweet and tangy from the McCormick spice company headquarters about three miles to the north. Inspiring! ++++Originally published August 3, 2007++++++ I’m sitting on my screened porch on a summer morning, sipping coffee, watching birds, and enjoying the scent of pepper that floats through the summer air. This is unusual—more often, I would smell... Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2014 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo In a Robert Heinlein novel, the War of 1812 is mentioned dismissively as a brushfire conflict on the fringes of the Napoleonic Wars. I'm not sure that the average Briton has any awareness of it at all. But in the US and Canada, the war matters. In my hometown of Baltimore, the war is very, very personal. When I first moved here, I was surprised to find a Maryland state holiday called Defenders Day on September 12. Say what? It turns out that September 12 was the land part of the Battle of Baltimore, where the militia... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at Word Wenches
by Mary Jo I made a flash announcement here when the audiobook version of Dancing on the Wind finally went live two weeks ago, but I wanted to ruminate a bit more on the process. This is the third audiobook that I've produced, and each time there have been more things to learn. Though I'm still a novice, for me the key points are: 1) The first big challenge is finding The Voice. Someone I like listening to, and who will also appeal to regular audio listeners. I have a fondness for a lovely deep male voice (calling James Earl... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2014 at Word Wenches