Tag Archive: books

As I mentioned in my last post, the ghost in my contemporary paranormal romance Eternally Yours, isn’t all that scary — especially not in his mind. Geoffrey Vereker, late poet and a womanizer in his day, still thinks of himself as a ladies’ man.

The trouble is that ghosts are inherently scary to most of us living ladies, and on the few occasions when Geoff has come across other ghosts, they can’t see him, nor he them. What is a would-be womanizing ghost to do?

At one point in the story, he is hovering around one of his haunts, admiring the beauty of the book’s main character, Lara Peale, and he tries to get a little a closer to her. She starts and says to the other living person in the room, “Where is that horrible chill coming from?”

Horrible? Geoff balks — then, recalling what he is, he glides away from her, his shoulders sagging. Poor Geoff!

As the story continues, Geoff learns that he has connections to Lara’s house, to the annoying (in his mind) local historian who keeps coming around to keep an eye on her, and to another ghost on the premises. Creepy!

To read the first couple of chapters (or the back-cover blurb), please spirit over to the book page here and scroll down to the web reader.

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My mom has always liked ghost stories (though my dad can’t suspend his disbelief), so as a kid I saw my share of scary movies. One old black-and-white one gave me recurring nightmares, though for years afterward I had no idea what film it was. In the scene that stuck with me (as I recall), a woman is lying in bed in a spooky house. Her friend, also scared, gets in bed with her, and they hold hands to comfort each other. Then … she hears her friend call her from the other room. She’s been holding hands with a ghost!

Ugh. After seeing that, I spent my whole childhood with fists clenched at bedtime.

When the book group I was in a few years back read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, I recognized the scene that had haunted me as a child. Hubby and I discovered that there was a newer 1999 version of the film starring Lili Taylor and Owen Wilson (a fave of ours), so we rented it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very scary or very good. I should try to watch the old one from 1963 for this Halloween (if I dare) and see how it holds up. Wikipedia tells me that the director, Robert Wise, is the same guy who directed The Sound of Music. In any case, the book is good! In the story, you’re not sure whether the house is really haunted or the main character is crazy. 🙂

In my own ghost story, Eternally Yours, the ghost — late Victorian poet and womanizer, Geoff Vereker — isn’t very scary (I think!). In fact, he’s my favorite character in the book. The main romance plot revolves around an artist who wants to renovate her Victorian house and a local historian who wants to keep her from “ruining” it. For the blurb and same chapters, please click through to the book page here. Happy haunting!

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Art and Austen

How important was fine art to Jane Austen? And how does it influence her books? We know that Jane sketched, and so did other members of her family. A couple of her heroines draw, too — but it’s not portrayed as their calling in life. It’s more of a hobby.

Janine Barchas, an associate prof at the University of Texas, points out in her essay “Artistic Names in Austen’s Fiction: Cameo Appearances by Prominent Painters,” that Austen also alludes to artists in some of her characters’ names. In Pride and Prejudice, Darcy’s housekeeper, who shows off her employer’s portrait to Lizzie, is named Mrs. Reynolds — maybe a reference to portrait painter Joshua Reynolds? In Emma, the title character, who sketches, has a housekeeper named Hodges — maybe inspired by William Hodges? Other characters who share names with painters of the time are George Moreland in Northanger Abbey and Charles Hayter in Persuasion.

In my Regency-set romance, The Artful Miss Irvine, the title character is a serious artist, and her work plays a key role in the plot, giving the hero insights into her personality and her past. Of course, art is always open to interpretation, and her artwork also sets the stage for a misunderstanding between the characters. 🙂

For a description and sample chapters of The Artful Miss Irvine, please hop on over to the book page here. Janine Barchas’ essay is available (for a price) from Amazon here. It also appeared in Volume 31 2009 of the Jane Austen Society journal Persuasions. More on them on this this site.

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Working Against Time

The concept of time travel is a surprisingly recent thing. Only a handful of old stories (and no ancient ones) feature characters who maybe slept for years or visited a strange place, then learned afterwards that while they were out, years had passed. As for traveling backward in time, that’s an even newer concept. I guess going forward is less of stretch since we’ve all traveled from the past to the present, but no one known has traveled back in time.

One of the first stories that describes a character traveling to the past (as well as the present and future) is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, published in 1843. Interestingly, only Ebenezer Scrooge’s soul, not his body, seems to travel back, since he remains invisible to other characters during his visits.

In 1889, Mark Twain published A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in which a man gets knocked unconscious and wakes up, body and all, in the past. A few years after that, in 1895, H.G. Wells introduced the idea of The Time Machine and purposeful time travel.

It’s interesting to me that my only time-travel book, As You Wish, was the first manuscript I sold (though the third or fourth one I wrote) and that year after year, it continues to sell better than my other books. Why? Is it because of the setting? (The heroine travels to Regency England, and maybe people find that elegant or romantic?) Or is it the past in general that appeals to readers — a simpler, more natural lifestyle than ours? Of course, maybe it’s just the title of the book that grabs attention somehow.

I’m fascinated with the past, which is why I love reading classic literature, from Austen to Shakespeare, from Apuleius to Herodotus. I’m working on some ideas for a story about a contemporary heroine who winds up in an ancient Roman town. Anyone want to go there?

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Who is humanity’s earliest known author? You might guess Homer or Moses, but actually it’s Enheduanna, who lived in ancient Ur (now in Iraq) around 4,500 years ago. A priestess of the goddess Inanna — like Mara in my novella Seventh Sanctuary — Enheduanna wrote dozens of hymns that have survived in cuneiform on clay tablets down through the millennia. (Just luck, or is someone up there on her side? 😉 )

Her vivid and evocative words inspired worshipers for centuries after she lived. See if this excerpt citing some of Inanna’s powers gives you a sense of the goddess’s fearsomeness as well as her grace: “To keep paths and ways in good order, to shatter earth and to make it firm are yours, Inanna. To destroy, to build up, to tear out and to settle are yours, Inanna. To turn a man into a woman and a woman into a man are yours, Inanna. Desirability and arousal, bringing goods into existence and establishing properties and equipment are yours, Inanna. Profit, gain, great wealth and greater wealth are yours …” (More here.)

We know a few biographical details about Enheduanna. She was the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad. (Legend has it that he rose from being the king’s gardener to king himself.) At some point in her life, she fell from political favor and was exiled, but later gained back her position.

For speculation on what life for a priestess of Inanna might have been like, please check out my sexy Sumerian novella, Seventh Sanctuary.

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