Giving Away 35 Books for My 35th Birthday

I realized a few days ago that there are more books in my house than I have room for, thanks to my own book addiction and also to the advanced reading copies (ARCs) I get for reviewing for the Historical Novel Society.

In honor of my 35th birthday today, I’m giving away 35 books. I tried to group them into logical categories, so that means seven people will win packs of five books. Here’s what you could win:

Fantasy pack

Fantasy pack

Group 1: Fantasy

  1. The Falconer by Elizabeth May
  2. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Book 3 of a trilogy) by Laini Taylor (personalized to me, but autographed)
  3. Netherworld by Lisa Morton
  4. The Water Witch (Fairwick Chronicles #2) by Juliet Dark
  5. Longinus by Steven Maines (personalized to a stranger, but autographed)
Mystery pack

Mystery pack

Group 2: Mystery

  1. Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron (A Jane Austin mystery) (ARC)
  2. Murder and Mendelssohn by Kerry Greenwood (A Phryne Fisher mystery)
  3. The Prioress’ Tale by Margaret Frazer
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigurd
  5. Heat Wave by Richard Castle (audio book)
Chick lit/romance pack

Chick lit/romance pack

Group 3: Chick Lit/Romance

  1. Living Single by Holly Chamberlin
  2. Once Upon a Kiss by Jayne Fresina (ARC)
  3. How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Laura Lee Guhrke
  4. The Quilted Hearts Omnibus by Mona Hodgson
  5. Cocktails for Three by Madeleine Wickham
Historical Fiction Pack 1

Historical Fiction Pack 1

Group 4: Historical Fiction (Group 1)

  1. Boudicca: Dreaming the Eagle by Manda Scott
  2. The Winter King by Bernard Cornwell
  3. Perfiditas by Allison Morton
  4. The Amber Treasure by Richard Denning
  5. The Secret History by Stephanie Thornton
Historical Fiction Pack 2

Historical Fiction Pack 2

Group 5: Historical Fiction (Group 2)

  1. Mary Called Magdalene by Margaret George
  2. The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George
  3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  4. Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
  5. The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier
Historical Fiction Pack 3

Historical Fiction Pack 3

Group 6: Historical Fiction (Group 3)

  1. The Virgin’s Lover by Phillippa Gregory
  2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  3. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
  4. The King’s Daughter by Barbra Kyle
  5. Innocent Traitor by Alison Weir
Non-fiction Pack

Non-fiction Pack

Group 7: Non-Fiction

  1. The Druids by Ronald Hutton
  2. The Mysteries of Avalon by August Hunt
  3. The Celts by Jean Markale
  4. Christianity and Paganism in the 4th – 8th Centuries by Ramsey MacMullen
  5. The Rise of Western Christendom by Peter Brown

Some of these books are brand new, some are gently used only by me, and some came from book fairs but are in good condition. All you have to do to win one group is complete the Rafflecopter link. (You’ll tell me your order of preference of the groups in the comments below, but you have to use the Rafflecopter for your entry to count.) There are more ways to get additional entries there, too. I’m keeping the contest open for a week, so you have plenty of time to enter. I’ll announce winners here sometime after September 3. Good luck!

PS – My goal is to be able to give away my own books next year!

Click here to enter Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

save the dateIf you’re looking for a great end-of-summer read, I’ve got one for you. Mary Kay Andrews’ novel Save the Date is light, fun and downright infectious. (I LOVED this book!)

Florist Cara Kryzik is trying to keep her business afloat while recovering from a painful divorce and helping nervous brides have the most beautiful big day possible. She doesn’t believe in love anymore, but that doesn’t mean her clients shouldn’t have their happily ever after. While the bills and IOUs (especially to the bank of daddy) pile up, she finds out she’s got celebrity-grade competition for a wedding that could make or break her, on top of a complicated blooming romance with Jack Finnerty, a guy she met in soap-opera like circumstances. But when both of their exs return and the bride of the golden wedding goes missing, Kara realizes she may have to sacrifice everything she holds dear to pull things together.

Save the Date is definitely going on my Best Books of 2014 list. It doesn’t take long for the characters to feel like friends, or to become addicted to finding out what happens next. While some of the conflict is a bit contrived (but show me a love story that doesn’t have some of that), the relationship between the characters and the spot on southern wit make even those pages a pleasure to read. Plus, Andrews’ lush detail actually had me wishing I could open up my own little floral shop, and I don’t know the first thing about horticulture! It’s a fun world to get lost in, and that’s all I require of light women’s fiction.

I’m usually a historical fiction or fantasy reader, but I picked up this one (on audio) because I thought I’d read about it somewhere and my library had it available. I’m so glad I gave it a chance. In tone, it reminds me a lot of my own book, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Neither book will change the world, but they are both happy, funny and charming. And sometimes, especially amid life’s craziness, that’s exactly what we need.

Does anyone have any recommendations similar to this book? I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the author’s books, but I’d love to find more authors like her. Please let me know your favorite light women’s fiction, chick-lit or romance (not too graphic, please) books below.

Pinterest, Pandora and Inspiration

My Pinterest board for Guinevere-related pins.

My Pinterest board for Guinevere-related pins.

I had the good fortune to attend Deb Harkness’ book signing last week at my local library. During her Q&A session, someone asked who she pictured as the main characters. She gave a very PR-positive answer that she drew bits and pieces from different people and wouldn’t reveal who they were until such time as one or more of the component people are cast. Her reasoning was that she didn’t want any actor have to face the “but Deb said she envisioned so and so” question.

I get that and I totally respect that. I think Deb is doing the exact right thing. The only thing is, I don’t function that way. As many of you know, I tend to write my characters with a certain actor or actress in mind because it helps me envision the specifics of vocal inflection, facial expression or gestures. These things in turn, help me craft more layered, realistic characters. I can certainly write a character without an actor in mind (I was in book 3 of the Guinevere trilogy before I finally found a Guinevere), but when I do find that right person, there’s a special little extra “click” in my brain. It’s hard to explain.

I know not everyone works this way. And I certainly want my readers to envision the characters however they like. The people I “cast” are just the inspiration; sometimes it’s the way they look or a certain quality to their acting that I’ve seen that helps me unlock or convey a quality of a character. That they helped me in no way means that they are the only person who could ever play the role. But I also don’t think I can be cagey about who inspires the characters. Heck, I have whole Pinterest boards dedicated to my characters, so it’s not something I try to hide.

My point is that I don’t know how well I would write without Pinterest or Pandora for inspiration. On Pinterest I have boards for books I’ve written, am writing and have yet to truly conceive beyond the most basic notion. Some are secret if they would make the topic too obvious, but most are public because I believe we draw inspiration from one another. For example, some of my favorite bits of He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, were inspired by objects or quotes I found on Pinterest. Annabeth’s boyfriend, Victor, came to life thanks to a photo of a model whose identity I still don’t know.  I never know where I will find inspiration, and truly look forward to a daily trolling of the boards, just waiting for something to tug at my subconscious and say “Hey, I’m going to be important.”

As I write this, I’m listening to a station I created on Pandora while I was writing He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Because I listen to audio books in the car, I very rarely listen to the radio. That means Pandora is my way of being exposed to new music, whether it’s at home while I’m writing or at work. While I was cleaning out the freezer earlier (I lead such a glamorous life), it served up a song I’ve never heard before that is perfect for the wedding scene if when HLMHMN gets a sequel (it’s a standalone, but I have ideas for two possible sequels). Then a few minutes later, it handed me “Glitter in the Air” by Pink, which is totally perfect for Annabeth’s POV where the next book would start. Some of my favorite scenes from the first book were inspired by or complemented by music that Pandora gave me.

I really don’t know what I would do without these two resources. Obviously, I have an imagination and I use it, but getting the little nudges from the muse through electronic means is something unique to this period in history and I intend to use them to the fullest. As a reader, I know I love being able to see what an author was imagining/listening to when he or she wrote a book. Even if it doesn’t match what I envisioned, it gives me an insight to the story that I otherwise wouldn’t have. And that’s my goal in being candid about my visual and musical picks with all of you. If I someday am advised to change that, I guess I’ll do what I have to, but until then, you have an all-access pass into my creative brain, which I hope you enjoy and I hope it makes you all the more excited for the day the books are released.

What do you think about authors sharing their inspirations online? Do you want to know who they cast as characters or do you prefer to make your own choices? What about playlists – do you find them interesting or helpful? What else would you like to know about my books? I’m open to any suggestions you have for seeing into my world (although I can’t usually share excerpts).

Top 10 Fun Facts: the Roman Celts

512px-Roman.Britain.towns.villas

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Following last week’s post on the Celts, I decided that the Celts during the Roman occupation deserved their own Top 10 List. (BTW for those who care about this kind of thing, I referred to the Celts as Roman in the title because that will be the easiest for SEO, but the proper term is Romano-British.)

  1. Part of the Empire –  After the Romans conquered Britain, the native rulers became what we would call “client kings.” This meant they had the same allies and enemies as Rome and couldn’t form new ones without the sanction of Rome. Usually tribal leaders sought this status (rather than being compelled into it) because it meant Roman protection and trading rights. In return, the king/chieftain supplied men, money and supplies for the Roman army, but the people didn’t have to pay taxes until the kingdom was annexed.  (Southern)
  2. Your job is what? – Slaves were a sign of extra wealth that could be wasted on trivial tasks. While they could be used in the home, fields, or mines, slaves could also be things as silly as a lamp bearer, scavenger or even employed to call out the time, point out obstacles in the road or greet their master’s friends for him/her. (Alcock)
  3. Moving day - After the conquest, some people who lived in hill forts were forced to relocate to a new town so that Roman authorities could keep an eye on them. This also served to help introduce them to Roman ways. (Alcock)
  4. The mines were no joke - Being a miner was a punishment because it was so dangerous. One in eight miners died each year. (Lawrence)
  5. Place your bets…or not –  Gambling was illegal except on Saturnalia, but many people did it anyway. They placed bets on sporting events big and small, even a coin toss where the sides were called “heads” and “ships.” (Lawrence)
  6. In the army now - The Romans conscripted conquered people from across the empire to serve in their army as a way of subduing hostile tribes. They were auxiliaries (non-citizen soldiers). They were often sent outside their home country or tribal boundary so they couldn’t raise rebellion in their homeland. (Lawrence)
  7. Before the Magic 8-ball - Romans practiced a form of divination called haruspicy, which was the reading of animal entrails to foretell the future. (Rupke)
  8. Crime and punishment – Capital offenses for soldiers included running away from battle, striking or wounding and officer, insubordination and inciting mutiny. The punishment for rape was to cut off the nose of the perpetrator. (Southern)
  9. Weights and measures - Rome brought an organized system of measure to British trade. The basic unit was the libra (pound) which was equal to 327 grams. One libra equaled 12 unicae or ounces. (Lawrence)
  10. On the road again – The Romans built 8,000 miles of roads during their first 60 years in Britain. Roman roads were straight unless there was a major obstacle in the way. They even leveled small hills and built causeways over wet land. The military maintained them near the forts, but in other areas it was the responsibility of the town and local leaders. (Lawrence)

Sources
Alcock, Joan. Life in Roman Britain.
Lawrence, Richard Russel. Roman Britain.
Rupke, Jorg. A Companion to Roman Religion
Southern, Patricia. Roman Britain: New History 55 BC – 450 AD

What do you know about Britain under Roman rule? What questions do you have?

On Being Adaptable

Nicole Evelina:

My monthly post over at Spellbound Scribes.

Originally posted on Spellbound Scribes:

ADAPTABILITY_TO_CHANGEIf I’m learning one thing as a pre-published author, it’s that you have to learn to be flexible in this industry. And I don’t just mean in being able to take edits, although that’s a very important skill as well.

In the last year, I’ve seen writer friends get agents, leave agents, get new ones, take contracts, cancel contracts, get dropped by their publishers, succeed beyond their wildest dreams and have to adapt to all manner of situations in between.

In that same year, I’ve written several books, been on submission, experienced the acquisitions board and been both baffled and inspired by publishing houses and editors. I’ve started projects that I thought were pure genius, only to put them on hold to focus on those that have a better likelihood of selling in the current market, and I’ve rearranged my whole TBW (to be written) list more times than I…

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Another Top 10 Fun Facts About the Celts

This is Soay ewe. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This is Soay ewe. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

One of my most popular posts of all time is A Celtic Primer (Top 10 Fun Facts). Since that one was such a hit, I thought I’d give an encore. This post, like it’s predecessor, focuses on the British Celts before the coming of Rome. (I’ve listed the source at the end of each one, just in case you want to learn more.)

  1. The term Celts, as commonly used, is a misnomer – The Celts were not a single race, but a people defined by their language, which dates back to the eighth – sixth century BC. Q Celtic is a version where the “qu” sound is pronounced as “k” but written as “c.” P Celtic replaced the “qu” sound with a “p.” This may have been brought to Britain during the Neolithic period. and is the basis of the native language of the Britons. (Alcock, Daily)
  2. The Celts spoke multiple languages. Most British Celts were bilingual within a generation of the 43 AD Roman conquest, speaking their native dialect at home and Latin for business. It’s also believed that the Druids knew Greek. (Southern)
  3. Female slaves were an actual unit of measure. A female slave was called a cumal in Medieval Irish law. A cumal is a unit of measure equivalent to 3 oz of silver or 8-10 cows. (Wyatt)
  4. Sheep are more interesting than you think. The early Celts kept a type of sheep called Soay (see right, they still exist) that shed their wool naturally (who knew?), though shearing, which took place in May, produced a softer wool. They were plucked by hand until the Iron Age invention of the shears. (Alcock, Daily and Life, Lawrence)
  5. Names held great importance. The Celts believed that to name a thing was to give it power. A Celt had two names: a personal name and that of his/her father, which is like having a first and last name. (Lawrence) For example, I would be Nicole, daughter of Richard. (Many times the father’s name included a characteristic like “the bold” or “the brave.”)
  6. Beware their women drivers… The early Celts fought in chariots with a pair of small horses (which had their tails and manes plaited to avoid tangling in the reins). Each chariot had three people: a driver, archer and spearman. Boudicca is famous for this method of fighting. (Moffat)
  7. I can see how this Wolfhound could do a man in... (By Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927) (Druck ca. 1920) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

    I can see how this Wolfhound could do a man in… (By Louis Agassiz Fuertes (1874-1927) (Druck ca. 1920) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

    Dogs were more than pets. The Celts used wolfhounds, which some say were the world’s tallest dogs, in war and hunting. In war, they could not only brutally attack the enemy, but once the enemy threw their spears at them, they (the enemy) were rendered defenseless. (Duffy)
  8. Barter wasn’t their only method of payment. The use of coins may have come about in Britain as a result of trade with Greece. We know coins of the Belgae came to Britain before they started making their own. The first British minted coins were in 100-70 BC. (Alcock, Daily and Cunliffe)
  9. The Celts could float your boat. Traditional Celtic boats were hollowed out logs or coracles, leather or skin stretched over a light wood frame. There is reason to believe that the British Celts may have modeled larger vessels after  the Veneiti of Gaul, who had a large fleet of ships they used to trade with Britain. These had flatter bottoms to sail in shallow water, high bows and sterns to sail in rough seas and gales, and sails made of raw hides or leather.  (Lawrence and Alcock, Daily)
  10. Cooking happened even before the cauldron. One early method is the potboil, in which stones were heated and  placed in a trough of water, which has been proven to cook food just as well as heating over a central cauldron (which came later). Fish could be wrapped in river clay, left to dry, put in a shallow pit filled with hot firewood and left to bake. (J Alcock, Daily) 

Sources:

Alcock, Joan. Daily life of the Pagan Celts
—–  Life in Roman Britain.
Cunliffe, Barry. Iron Age Communities in Britain.
Duffy, Kevin. Who Were the Celts?
Lawrence, Richard Russel. Roman Britain.
Moffat, Alistair. The Borders.
Southern, Patricia. Roman Britain: New History 55 BC – 450 AD
Wyatt, David. Slaves and Warriors in Medieval Britain

Do you have questions about the Celts? If so, leave them in the comments or hit me up by email and I’ll see if I can answer them.

Quick Update

Hi everyone,

I’m finally emerging from research craziness and just wanted to let you know that I’m hoping to get back to a regular posting schedule again. Thanks for your patience. The project I was working on is nearly done (or as done as it can be right now), even though it’s likely going to sit on the back burner for a while. The good news is, I have plenty of Celtic history to share.

One thing I’m learning about this industry is that things change quickly and you have to be willing to change with them, so you may be seeing a lot of shifting of research/books going on around here.

My next book is something I never thought ‘d write – American historical fiction set in the mid-late 1800s. This isn’t really “my thing,” but I found a story that hasn’t been told in fictional format before (at least that I can tell), so I pounced on it. I won’t be able to tell you who the book is about until it’s on submission (hopefully early next year), but I will share time period research as I do it. There are lots of issues involved in this one: slavery, the suffrage movement, spiritualism,  you name it, it’s here. Seriously, if I didn’t know this person’s life really happened, I wouldn’t believe it. It’s that crazy.