Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Time

This has been a hectic Christmas, with lots of out-of-town guests, a widening pool of flu victims, a Christmas tree that smashed to the ground (breaking several dozen of my favorite ornaments and burying the village at its feet), and sundry other happenings. But we managed to get the tree back up and the village rebuilt, and we're muddling through and still having lots of fun.

These photos were taken with my iPhone, because it's much easier to just snap and email the images, so they're not of the best quality. The two above are of my buffet village, while below are the resurrected tree (bolted and wired to the ceiling) with its village, and a closeup of the village harbor...

Here's hoping your holidays are full of good cheer!

Monday, December 12, 2011

We Have a Title!

So this afternoon I sent my editor a chatty email in which I mulled over some new title ideas, trying to get a feel for what she might like. I included the lovely Michael Drayton poem "Farewell to Love" suggested by HJ, and the possibility of finding something to draw out of it. I talked about maybe using the word "hope," or "blue," or any of the various other suggestions people came up with. As far as I was concerned, the discussion was only just beginning. But within minutes (literally), I had an answer: they loved one of the suggestions so much that they had already made it official!

So I now have a new title, for which I am completely indebted to my blog reader, Essex, who suggested it. Are you ready? The new title is...

What Darkness Brings.

I still like Who Bells the Cat, but I must say that this new title does fit the story wonderfully. I big thank you to everyone for their ideas!

So what do you think?

(The above photo is of Croxden Abbey and is from the blog The Staffordshire Daily Photo.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Title Woes

Oh, dear! My working title for Sebastian book number eight, Who Bells the Cat, has just been given a big thumbs down.

Needless to say, I am disappointed. I really, really liked that title. Not only that, but I now have three weeks--in the middle of the holiday season, preparations for a wedding, and all sorts of out-of-town guests arriving--to come up with a new title.

Suggestions are welcomed, encouraged, begged. What's the book about? Well, without giving too much away, the murder victim is a nasty old diamond merchant. Kat's husband--Russell Yates--is accused of the murder. The Hope diamond--which actually once formed part of the French Crown Jewels until its theft during the Revolution--figures prominently. The victim was a devote of magic and dabbled in the black arts.

Oh, and there's a black cat.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Mary "May" Wegmann Burgdorf, May 1912-December 2011

This has been a sad week for my family, as the last of my mother's sisters died. On her ninetieth birthday back in 1992, my Aunt May told me she'd decided she was going to live to be 100 years old. She almost made it.

Aunt May had one of those personalities that specialists say contribute to longevity. Always laughing, happy-go-lucky and upbeat, she never had a mean or nasty word to say about anyone (Full confession: I don't resemble my aunt much). She loved her garden and worked out there every day she could. The picture above was taken just last year. She might have needed a walker to get around, but that didn't stop her.

I know she lived a long, rich life. Yet I can't help but be sad at her passing. She was a great lady, and she will be missed.

When I first moved here to New Orleans not that many years ago, my mother and all eight of her brothers and sisters were still alive. They used to laugh that when they started dying, they'd go like dominoes, and so they have. The only one left now is my Uncle Al, aged 91 1/2.

What an incredible family of strong, opinionated, generous, talented men and women they were.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Thanksgiving

I must confess I've never been particularly fond of Thanksgiving holiday. Neither my children nor I ever cared for most of the food typically associated with the occasion, and because my kids grew up overseas, we generally just ignored the day.

But this year, Thanksgiving has arrived at a particularly appropriate moment. Three weeks ago, someone I dearly, dearly love suffered a massive concussion. We've passed through some terrifying days, but while she's not completely out of the woods yet, she should be soon. I've started writing again, and hopefully I'll get back to posting more regularly, too.

And so, a heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Book Trailer for When Maidens Mourn

I'm not convinced these things do any good sales-wise, but they're fun to make and they seem to cheer my publisher, so here's the new book video for When Maidens Mourn:

And here's the cover copy:

Tales of King Arthur and the Lady of Shalott provide inspiration for this latest gripping installment in the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series when, just four days wed, the aristocratic investigator and his fiercely independent bride, Hero Jarvis, find themselves caught up in a twisted intrigue of ancient legends and a deadly family curse.

Regency England, August 1812: Sebastian’s plans to escape the heat of London for a honeymoon are shattered when the murdered body of Hero’s good friend, Gabrielle Tennyson, is discovered drifting in a battered boat at the site of a long-vanished castle known as Camlet Moat. A beautiful young antiquarian, Miss Tennyson had recently provoked an uproar with her controversial identification of the island as the location of Camelot. Missing and presumed also dead are Gabrielle’s two young cousins, nine-year-old George and three-year-old Alfred.

Still struggling to define the nature of their new marriage, Sebastian and Hero find themselves occasionally working at cross-purposes as their investigation leads from London’s medieval Inns of Court to its seedy back alleys, and from grand country homes to rural enclaves where ancient Celtic beliefs still hold sway. As he probes deeper, Sebastian also discovers dark secrets at the heart of the Tennyson family, and an enigmatic young French lieutenant with a dangerous, mysterious secret of his own.

Racing to unmask a ruthless killer and unravel the puzzle of the missing children, Sebastian and Hero soon find both their lives and their growing love for each other at risk as their investigation leads to Hero’s father, who is also Sebastian’s long-time nemesis… and to a tall, dark stranger who may hold the key to Sebastian’s own parentage.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

The pumpkin was carved by my younger daughter when she was home this past weekend.

And here is my older daughter's rescue dog, Bella, dressed up for Halloween as a bumblebee.

Did you know you can have your vet test your dog's DNA to see its heritage? Turns out Bella is half boxer, half bulldog. And all sweetheart.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Polish Angels

I've started giving some thought to how I plan to approach making a book video for When Maidens Mourn, and so I naturally began by looking at what I had done for What Remains of Heaven and Where Shadows Dance. But when I went to YouTube to watch them, I was surprised to find this:

It's a book video for the Polish edition of What Angels Fear. Kinda neat, huh? And I must say, I really like their cover.

Funny, I hadn't realized until tonight that I had never actually seen my Polish covers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

How Something Once Simple Became Complicated

Once, long ago (but in this galaxy) anyone who wanted to submit a manuscript to a New York publisher made certain that said manuscript was printed in Courier. Courier was the industry standard because it was the font of typewriters. Editors knew that a manuscript typed or printed in Courier with one-inch margins was estimated at 250 words per page, or 100,000 words for a 400 page manuscript. Of course, there weren’t actually 250 words on each page, but that’s the way it was figured because publishers were aware of the fact that empty white space takes up paper, too. In other words, it’s irrelevant if all your lines are this short:

“Holy cow!”

Or this long:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, etc.

Because what matters isn’t the actual number of words but how many lines it takes for you to tell your story. In other words, how many pages will be in the final published book?

Fast forward to the age of computers. While they resisted at first, editors eventually started accepting manuscripts typed in Times New Roman (which gives you a lot more words per page), Century School Book, Palatino, whatever. And then people stepped into the abyss and started using computer word counts. Now everyone is confused.

I’ve discussed this issue with editors, agents, and other writers, and while they all say, Yes, they use computer generated word counts, they also generally frown and say, Yes, they are misleading, and No, they really don’t quite know how to judge a book's length anymore, either. A book that comes in at 95,000 words as counted by a word processor can be as much as 125,000 words if figured using the old method. That’s a big difference! Authors who write lots of short sentences (“Holy cow!”) can come up with a much shorter computer-generated word count than verbose, long-winded authors given to writing long paragraphs of text, even though their books will end up the same actual number of pages.

So what do writers do? Most simply switched to Times New Roman and just go with the computer count. But there are still lots of hold outs. A huge, megaselling author I know still stubbornly uses Courier. Another NYT selling friend of mine uses Palatino and is if anything more confused than I am. Personally, I use Century School Book because I find it readable and it gives me a nice, old-fashioned 250 words per page. But I’ll admit that when my manuscript is running long, I’ll switch to Times New Roman because I know it will look shorter.

Yes, at some level we are all still in school, fiddling with margins and fonts, and deluding ourselves into thinking the teacher won’t notice.

(Ironically, the above image is taken from a 26 April 2011 article on Haggard and Halloo entitled "No more typewriters," and is about the shuttering of the world's last typewriter manufacturer, in India.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

And the Murderer Is… Um, Let Me Think About That Again


Full confession: I’m within some 75 pages of the end of Who Bells the Cat (working title only; I don't know yet if I can keep it), and I’m considering changing the identity of the murderer.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. I did it in the very first mystery I wrote, Midnight Confessions. I’ve even switched a couple of times in the Sebastian series, although never anywhere near this late in the writing of the story.

So why do I suddenly decide, No, wait! It’s not him. I think it's actually her? Sometimes I make the switch because I come up with a great new twist. Sometimes I realize that a sequence of events that seemed perfectly logical in abstract doesn’t hold together as well as expected once I get down to the nitty-gritty details. Once I even turned a murderer into a mere innocent suspect largely because I’d come to like him too much to turn him into a rat at the end. (No, I’m not going to tell who, so don’t ask!) Funny, I can kill off characters I like, but I have real trouble assassinating their characters.

I’m the kind of writer who likes to plot her books out very, very carefully in advance, so this kind of radical change is always both disconcerting and exciting. But my outlines have never been straightjackets. I recently moved a scene up over a hundred pages, from halfway through the book to about the 100 page mark; suddenly all the problems I’d been having with the manuscript magically disappeared. I’ve dropped everything from scenes and entire chapters to characters and motives. I dearly love adding new twists and subtle nuances. And just often enough to keep me on my toes, Sebastian will tell me, “No, you’ve got it wrong. He didn’t do it; he did.”

The photo above is from a great blog, Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

When Maidens Mourn, Chapter One...

Camlet Moat, Trent Place, England, Sunday, 2 August 1812

Tessa Sawyer hummed a nervous tune beneath her breath as she pushed through the tangled brush and bracken edging the black waters of the ancient moat. She was very young—just sixteen at her next birthday. And though she tried to tell herself she was brave, she knew she wasn’t. She could feel her heart pounding in her narrow chest, and her hands tingled as if she’d been sitting on them. When she’d left the village, the night sky above had been clear and bright with stars. But here, deep in the wood, all was darkness and shadow. From the murky, stagnant water beside her rose an eerie mist, thick and clammy.
It should have wafted cool against her cheek. Instead, she felt as if the heavy dampness were stealing her breath, suffocating her with an unnatural heat and a sick dread of the forbidden. She paused to swipe a shaky hand across her sweaty face and heard a rustling in the distance, the soft plop of something hitting the water.

Choking back a whimper, she spun about, ready to run. But this was Lammas, a time sacred to the ancient goddess. They said that at midnight on this night, if a maiden dipped a cloth into the holy well that lay on the northern edge of the isle of Camlet Moat and then tied her offering to a branch of the rag tree that overhung the well, her prayer would be answered. Not only that, but maybe, just maybe, the White Lady herself would appear, to bless the maid and offer her the wisdom and guidance that a motherless girl like Tessa yearned for with all her being.

No one knew exactly who the White Lady was. Father Clark insisted that if the lady existed at all—which he doubted—she could only be the Virgin Mary. But local legend said the White Lady was one of the grail maidens of old, a chaste virgin who’d guarded the sacred well since before the time of Arthur and Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table. And then there were those who whispered that the lady was actually Guinevere, ever young, ever beautiful, ever glorious.

Forcing herself to go on, Tessa clenched her fist around the strip of white cloth she was bringing as an offering. She could see the prow of the small dinghy kept at the moat by Sir Stanley Winthrop, on whose land she trespassed. Its timbers old and cracked, its aged paint worn and faded, it rocked lightly at the water’s edge as if touched by an unseen current.

It was not empty.

Tessa drew up short. A lady lay crumpled against the stern, her hair a dark cascade of curls around a pale, motionless face. She was young yet and slim, her gown an elegant flowing confection of gossamer muslin sashed with peach satin. She had her head tipped back, her neck arched; her eyes were open but sightless, her skin waxen.

And from a jagged rent high across her pale breast flowed a rivulet of darkness where her life’s blood had long since drained away.

Friday, September 30, 2011

At last! The Cover for When Maidens Mourn

I've finally been given permission to post the cover of When Maidens Mourn, due out 6 March 2012. So here it is:

A huge improvement, in my opinion, over the last two covers. But I think Angels and Mermaids are still my favorites.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Accidental Writer's Retreat

Nine months after Katrina, my family bought a lakeside cottage a couple hours' drive to the northwest of New Orleans. One of the most nerve-jangling aspects of evacuating for a hurricane is figuring out where to evacuate to. Horror stories of people driving 12-15 hours without finding accommodation are not uncommon, and when you have an elderly relative and multiple animals, that can quickly turn into a disaster. Hence our acquisition of what we affectionally called "The Bolthole."

But it wasn't long before we realized that our cottage was more than just a hurricane refuge. It was also a wonderful place to spend the weekend, far from all the sounds and nervous energy a city generates. And then I realized that I could go up to the lake by myself for a week at a time and write like crazy. It was that discovery that enabled me to turn in Why Mermaids Sing (the book I wrote while we were rebuilding our house ourselves) on time. I have written a hefty chunk of every book since then sitting on my porch swing and staring at the water. It's not uncommon for me to get 40-85 or more pages written in a week. At home, I consider it a good week if I make it to 25.

Why do I get so much more accomplished up there? Part of it is no Internet (my daughters have lobbied long and hard to get Internet installed up there, but so far I've resisted). Part of it is no piles of laundry, no dishes (except for my own), no plants to water, no lawn to mow (yes, I mow my own lawn--with an old-fashioned reel mower). At home, thanks to all the above-named distractions and more, I probably average six solid hours' writing time a day if I'm lucky, and I try to devote weekends to my family. At the lake, I write for 18 hours a day. So if I stay up there seven days, that's basically equal to a month a home.

When I look at it that way, maybe I'm not as productive up there as I like to think I am (I did say I spend a lot of time staring at that lake). And then, because I write by hand, I still need to come home and type everything up and do a preliminary edit.

But I've come to appreciate the opportunity the lake house offers me to simply live and breathe my story twenty-four hours a day, with only the occasional phone call from my husband and daughters checking in with me. I also cherish the peace that comes from watching the ducks cut a V-shaped wave across the surface of the water. I planted a hummingbird and butterfly garden across the front of the house, which brings a parade of little visitors to feed just feet away from where I'm sitting. I enjoy the hawks soaring over the treetops with wings outstretched; the squirrels chasing each other around the trunks of the pines; the chipmunk that lives under the back porch and loves to torment Huckleberry (the one cat I always take with me).

This past week, I had a new visitor. I was on the swing writing away when I heard a strange scraping rattle; looking up, I discovered that a big tortoise had crawled up on the porch with me. This guy is at least 16" long. (Unfortunately, I only had my phone with me, so the picture isn't the best, especially since the late afternoon sun was sending harsh shadows across the concrete). I didn't even know we had them up there.

And I can now say that Book Number 8 is coming along nicely, and I'm hoping that after one more trip to the lake in October, the rough draft will be finished.

Friday, September 16, 2011

When Books Become CDs

My author's copies of the audio version of Where Shadows Dance finally arrived, and it was quite a strange experience sitting down and listening to my own book. Interestingly enough, I enjoyed the reader's rendition of the dialogue of the minor characters. But neither Gibson, Sebastian, nor Hero sounded the way I "hear" them, so it was disconcerting. I made it through most of the first CD, then dozed off. Always a danger at this point, since I can practically recite the book in my sleep.

But Steve, being a trooper (and having only read it once), listened to the entire thing. He said he enjoyed it, and that he thought the banter between Sebastian and Hero came off even better when it was spoken. Of course, Steve listens to two or three books a week, while I've probably listened to only half a dozen, period. And I've never listened to a book by an author I normally read, so I can only wonder at how different the experience is.

Thoughts, anyone?

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Word Collector

When I was younger, I loved to collect words. I'd relish each new discovery, store it away in my memory, and then trot it out for use whenever the opportunity offered. But somewhere along the way, I pretty much quit doing that. It wasn't a conscious decision; it wasn't even something I was aware had happened. I guess I got lazy. Or maybe just distracted.

Then, a couple of months ago, I stumbled across a word (for the curious, it was canard) and thought, That's a word I know, but I never use it. Then, a few hours later, I ran across another such word. And a few hours after that, a third such word presented itself to me. It was obviously a sign. But because my memory is not what it used to be, I knew if I didn't write the words down, they would fade again from my consciousness. So I got out a Post-It note, wrote down the three words, and stuck it up on my monitor with a mental note to stop being so lazy and make it point to move these words from my passive into my active vocabulary.

And then a strange thing happened. I started noticing lots of such words, or words I didn't know at all but wish I did. Soon, my Post-It was covered. I switched to a note card. Now I have two cards covered front and back; I'm thinking about buying a little empty book. But you know what? I'm still not using them. So I thought I'd share some of them, which is sorta like using them, only not quite. So here we go, in no particular order:

A cat lover.


From the people who brought us Schadenfreude, this one means unhappiness at the pleasure of others.

UPDATE A word of warning: a German reader tells me he's never heard of Gluckschmerz, which evidently should be spelled Glücksschmerz if it did exist. But I still think it's a great word and ought to exist even if it doesn't!

If you have favorite little-known or little-used words, feel free to send them in. I'm still collecting!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Yes, Please?


This is a satellite image of a trough of low pressure, currently located over the Gulf of Mexico, which we're told has a strong possibility of developing into a tropical cyclone that will probably hit Louisiana. They're saying it has the potential to dump a lot of rain on us, but since it's already so close it probably won't have time to strengthen too much before it comes ashore.

Don't get me wrong; I don't want any flooding or high winds or damage of any kind. But there's this nasty marsh fire that's been burning right on the outskirts of New Orleans all week. Think of how a swamp smells. Then think about how that would smell if it were burning. Yeah, pretty sickening. Literally. It's sending the old, the young, those with respiratory problems, to the emergency rooms.

So a nice hard rain would be great about now. Not too hard. No flooding. No trees crashing into houses. Just enough water falling from the sky to stop a fire that is now threatening the Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge. Please?

UPDATE: Okay, make that No Thank You! Now they're predicting 10-20 inches of rain and warning residents to clean out their gutters, park their cars on the neutral ground, avoid driving through flooded streets, etc, etc. Good grief. Hey, can't we just get a nice, solid rain? Like, you know, 1 or 2 inches? Must it always be drought or flood?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wake Me Up When September Ends

When I first started thinking about my annual Katrina anniversary post, I searched for just the right photos to illustrate it. But I won't be using them. After spending the weekend watching what Hurricane Irene did to the east coast, I just can't look at any more flooded streets, any more shattered houses, any more white swirling clouds. So instead, for anyone and everyone savaged by this latest storm, this song's for you:

While hurricane season technically lasts from 1 June to 1 December, everyone in New Orleans knows that the truly dangerous period extends for three weeks on either side of 10 September. It's during that nasty six week window that the Gulf is at its hottest and conditions are somehow ripe for funneling killer storms our way. Betsy, Camille, Katrina, Rita, Gustav, Ike...they all fell within that six week period

This is the time of year when I just sort of hunker down, shut my eyes, grit my teeth, and wait for it all to be over.

Monday will be the sixth anniversary of Katrina. Next year will be seven; soon it will have been a decade, then a quarter century. With every year, Katrina recedes farther and farther into the past. I recently reread some of the posts I wrote in the months after the storm, and I was frankly astonished at the number of the things I'd forgotten from those days. But one thing I remember quite clearly about the weeks after Katrina is the way people kept playing Green Day's Wake Me Up When September Ends. Our houses were either open to the sky or protected by flimsy blue tarps; water was still standing everywhere; the levees were battered, weakened, or gone. We knew if another hurricane hit the city, at that point, all truly would be over. So we watched the sky, and hoped, and held our breath, and waited for that six-week danger period to be over...for September to end.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The English Patient

Although I enjoyed the movie The English Patient when I saw it in a theatre in Adelaide some years ago, I did not read the book. It was described as being “dense” and “inaccessible,” and since I generally have a low tolerance for self-consciously “literary” books, I was never tempted to have anything to do with it.

Well, a few weeks ago my daughter was cleaning out her bookshelves and one of the books she set aside was a trade paperback edition of The English Patient. I picked it up and said, “Are you getting rid of this?” She said, Yes; she hadn’t enjoyed it and could never really “get into it.” My plan was simply to flip through it and then toss it in the pile for the library book sale. To my surprise, not only did I end up reading the entire book (remarkable in itself, since these days I give up on probably nine out of ten books I begin), but I actually enjoyed it. And now I’m left pondering all those adjectives that we hear so frequently applied to it.

Yes, it is nonlinear, but I did not find it difficult to follow. The characters were rich, the language wonderful, and the insights into the human condition thought provoking. (The heroine’s response to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, “If we can rationalize this, we can rationalize anything,” echoes within me still.) But dense? Inaccessible? I don’t think so. And the ending, while only slightly different from the film version, did not leave me with that wretched sense of sadness that characterized the movie.

The book does, however, require a slightly altered frame of mind. I suspect enjoyment hinges on the reader appreciating that the book is not an attempt to recreate a realistic slice of life but necessitates an approach vaguely similar to the way one would read a fable or a fairy tale. Perhaps it’s that shift in thought pattern that so many readers find themselves unable to make—or uninterested in making. Or perhaps one must simply be in a certain mood, and the book and I happened to meet at the right place and the right time. Perhaps if I’d tried it ten years or even ten months ago I’d have hated it, too. I did say I have a low tolerance for self-consciously literary books, didn’t I?

Have you ever had that experience? Pick up a book and hate it, and then try it again at a different time and enjoy it?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whiskies in a Box and Co.

Whiskies is one of the kittens born to the mama cat my daughter found abandoned in a state park up in Arkansas two years ago on 4 August (a birthday they share with our President). She managed to find a home for the mama cat and one of the kittens, but we still have three kittens left: Whiskies, Roscoe, and Peanut. Whiskies had trouble being born and is slightly retarded as a result, which is a polite way of saying he's the dumbest cat I've ever met. He doesn't know how to meow and can only make squeaking noises like a pig. He also doesn't seem to know when he's full, so he eats constantly. But he's a lovable little (big?) sweetheart who really, really doesn't fit in a shoebox.

Here is Whiskies's sister, Peanut (with her adopted brother, Oden). Peanut was the runt of the litter and has a thyroid problem. As a result, she's about 1/4 the size of Whiskies. People who don't know better think she's about twelve weeks old.

And last but not least, here's Roscoe:

Unfortunately, I could only find an old photo of Roscoe from last Halloween, although he hasn't changed much. I always thought he'd grow up to be a big tomcat, but he's still fairly small.

A few weeks ago, my daughter went to Mississippi and brought this home...

She'd just had puppies, but the puppies didn't make it and she almost didn't either. Her name is now Bella, and she's looking much better...

I told my daughter she's not allowed to leave the state ever again.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Peaceful Coexistence

This cat and chicken live around the corner from my mom's old house. The owner is a little old man; sometimes the three of them will sit out on the porch together, but usually it's just the cat and the chicken. We've been trying to get a picture of them for ages, and Steve finally managed it this past weekend.

Talk about unlikely friends....

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Language Usage in Historicals


I’m in the midst of one of my least favorite writing tasks—going over the copyedited manuscript for When Maidens Mourn (Sebastian Number Seven). This manuscript has very, very few copyeditor’s balloons in it (to the point I’m worrying), but almost every one I’m finding is a query on word usage. As in, “The term ‘jawline’ dates to 1924; please consider rewording.”

As far as I’m concerned, the solution to that one is fairly simple: either leave it as is to conform to modern spelling, or separate it into two words to be true to the period but have the self-proclaimed Grammar Nazis come down on you (well, on me). Roofline (1857) falls into the same category. Hard-pressed (1825) can be changed to sorely pressed. But other words are much harder to deal with. Did you know that booed didn’t enter the dictionary until 1884? So what did they say? Heckled? But that conjures a different image, doesn’t it? Wooden-faced arrived in 1859. Confetti in 1815. Tic in 1834. So, what word did they use before then? Would modern readers even know what it meant, if I could find it?

Complicating all this is the fact that the Powers That Be sometimes get these word origin dates wrong. I remember I changed “tenement” in What Angels Fear because I was told it didn’t come into usage until the mid-century. Since then, I’ve seen it used in a passage from the first decade of the century. (So there.) Likewise, I’m told that Cyprian didn’t come into usage until 1819, yet Beau Brummell gave his famous Cyprians’ Ball in the Argyl Rooms in 1813. Doppelganger entered English language dictionaries in 1851, yet was used by Continental writers as early as 1796 (and is being used by Sebastian St. Cyr in 1812 because, I’m sorry, nothing else will work and we can all assume that Sebastian, clever man that he is, has heard of it). The term toad eater is said to date to 1742; does that mean I can use ‘toadying,’ even though it wasn’t in dictionaries until 1859?

Even trickier are words like chain gang, supposedly not used until 1834. Except that French prisoners of war were set to work in chain gangs. So what did they call them? I suspect chain gangs. I changed "guttersnipe" (1869) to tatterdemalion, which is true to the period but will doubtless send my readers scurrying for their own dictionaries.

The truth is, words frequently enter the English language because they fill a vacant niche. What did we use before we borrowed schadenfreude from the Germans? And is there another word that quite conveys the image of starburst (1959)?

So I change queried words when I can find a way around them. But if I can’t come up with something that says what I want to say without sounding awkward or imprecise, I’ll leave a word—like self-congratulatory (1833)-- even though the dictionaries say it wasn’t yet in use. Because I’m writing a story, not a dictionary.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Lake Therapy and Some Covers

I spent this past week up at our lake house, writing feverishly. The first part of this book (Sebastian Number Eight) has been giving me fits (I typically have trouble with the first part of my books). But by giving myself the time and space to do nothing but focus on my story, I think I’ve finally worked past that.

This next week is going to be devoted getting my younger daughter ready to move into her apartment up in Baton Rouge, where she’ll be starting graduate school next month. Then I’m hoping to head back to the lake for another intensive session in August. I can’t believe I'm already talking about August. Where has this summer gone?

Oddly enough, while much of the rest of the country has been sweltering, New Orleans has been relatively cool the last few weeks. We’ve had lots of rain, which has dropped our average temperatures ten degrees down into the high 80s. Normally at this time of year, I shut all my windows and doors and just hunker down to endure until fall. But I actually spent part of today sitting out on my porch swing. Wonderful.

Recorded Books has now posted the cover of their audio version of Where Shadows Dance, so I’m allowed to show you the entire image:

If you right click on the image it will take you to a larger version. I like it. Very evocative and moody.

And for those of you awaiting the mass market paperback edition of What Remains of Heaven, a box of these just landed on my doorstep:

I tried to get them to change the cover for the mass market edition, but I should have known that was never going to happen...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Full Monty Moment


This past weekend my daughter and I watched Calendar Girls, a 2003 British film about a group of middle-aged Yorkshire village women who decide to raise money for charity by producing an “artistic” nude calendar. I found it pleasantly entertaining and funny until about the two-thirds mark, when the movie lost its way. It began as a heartwarming story about a group of likable women who come to grips with aging and death by learning to embrace life, only to turn into some sort of Faustian tale about the temptations and repercussions of fame. It was no longer funny, or pleasant, but squirmishly uncomfortable, and I found myself wandering out to do laundry, get some tea, whatever, until the final, low key but gently-pleasing denouement.

But when you’re a writer, even a less-than-perfect book or movie can have something to teach you. In hitting Le Google to see if the move was, indeed, based on a true story (it was), I found this gem by critic Derek Elley. Elley praises the film for its gentle and likeable (“if sometimes dramatically wobbly”) spirit, and notes almost in passing the film’s lack of a “big Full Monty-like finale to send audiences buzzing into the streets.”

And I thought, Wow. The Full Monty Moment. Is there any better phrase to describe a pitch-perfect ending that provides both a satisfying finale and an uplifting rush?

The Full Monty is a great story about a group of unemployed steelworkers who rediscover their self-confidence and self-respect by putting on a male strip show. Its masterful screenplay almost never wobbles, and certainly never forgets its theme. And when those guys finally go out on stage, when we watch them successfully pull off (no pun intended) what once looked like a joke and see them smiling and full of confidence, the moment is magic. One can easily imagine theatre audiences spilling into the streets, as Elley notes, all abuzz with the experience (buzz is good; it sells movie tickets and books).

Of course, not every tale contains such a pleasantly uplifting moment within it. Some stories are dark and depressing and require a different sort of moment entirely. And some tales are simply inherently wobbly and gentle, and leave you with a warm glow rather than a rush. In thinking back on Calendar Girls, I’m not sure one could really fault the screenwriter for either the movie's unevenness or its lack of a “Full Monty Moment.” If there was another way to tell that story, I don’t see it. The truth is, some story ideas are basically flawed; even in the hands of a master, they will never produce a truly grand product. Does that mean those stories should never be told? Not necessarily. Despite its shortcomings, Calendar Girls was enjoyable and heartwarming (and profitable—that’s important). If the filmmakers had canned their project when they realized it didn’t a have a “Full Monty Moment,” they would have been making a mistake.

But I do love that phrase and the concept it encapsulates. It’s something for a writer to keep in mind when considering a story idea: “Does this story contain within it the potential for a grand Full Monty Moment?”

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Fun and Games with Amazon’s Author Central

Amazon.com has a feature on their book pages they call More About the Author. (“Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more. Visit Amazon’s So-and-So Page.”) It’s something authors need to set up themselves, with the result that every time I visit Amazon and am reminded of this feature’s existence, I get a nasty sinking feeling. It’s the same harassed niggling I experience whenever I realize just how big the weeds in my poor neglected garden have grown, or when I quickly close the door on a closet while thinking, Someday I have got to clean that thing out. I guess you could call it that I-know-I-need-to-do-this-but-oh-jeez-I-don’t-have-time-and-I-know-it’s-going-to-be-a-hassle feeling.

Well, today I decided, That’s it; I need to set up an Amazon Author page so that readers can find all the books I’ve written under my various names. Whereupon I was quickly reminded of why I avoid things like this.

I began by metaphorically rolling up my sleeves and going to the page for Where Shadows Dance on Amazon to click the “Are you this author?” link. Down the rabbit hole we go.

First, I typed in my email address. But because that email addy is linked to my Amazon account under my own name, Candice Proctor, the system automatically pulled up all my Candice Proctor historical romances and asked, “Are these your books?” Oh, this is easy, I thought. When I replied, “Yes,” they told me they would need to verify my email address with my old romance publisher. But once that was done, they assured me, I could add any of my other books that hadn’t come up.

Sounds simple, right? So, while waiting for Random House to respond to Amazon’s inquiry, I merrily set about uploading a short bio and photo to my new author page. Random House obviously responded quite quickly, because I soon got a little ding from my inbox telling me all systems were go.

Except they weren’t.

As I quickly discovered, Amazon only allows you to list books on your author page that are written under that name; you need to create separate author pages for each pseudonym. Only, when I tried to do that, I hit a snag. I wrote Amazon an email. “Since the system does not allow different pseudonym pages to be merged, how do I create multiple author pages using one email address? In other words, I would like to create pages for C.S. Harris and C.S. Graham, but when I try to sign up using my email address, I am immediately taken to the Candice Proctor page.”

I received a quick, friendly, cheerful response:

I'm sorry for any inconvenience caused. Yes, as you mentioned, we aren't able to merge Author Pages for those who write under more than one name. However, Author Central allows you to manage up to three pen names within a single account. You can manage both of the Author Pages from your current Author Central account. Here's how:

1. Log in to Author Central (https://authorcentral.amazon.com).
2. Click the "Books" tab located on the top of the page.
3. Click on the "Add more books" link that appears under "Are we missing a book?"
4. Search for books written by [PEN NAME] by title, author, or ISBN.
5. Click "This is my book."

Once we verify you're an author of the book(s) selected, a second/third Author Page will be available for you to maintain.

In order to switch between pen names in Author Central, select the drop down symbol to the right of your name in the upper right hand corner where it says “Hello [CURRENT PENNAME CLAIMED].” When you select the name you wish to access, you will be brought to the corresponding Author Central dashboard.

We appreciate your feedback and may consider cross-referencing Author Pages with one another in the future. If you have any more questions or concerns, please contact us by clicking on the following link. I hope this helps! We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Well, isn’t that cute? I get to maintain not one but three author pages (if I had four names, I'd be out of luck), each of them only showing the books I’ve written under that particular name. Since the object of this entire exercise was to help readers find all my books, I’m not a happy camper. I decide to write a second email telling Amazon I understood the setup, but maybe they ought to give some thought to changing their system to allow all books to be listed on each page, as well as simply cross-referencing the pages.

The response I receive is considerably less cheerful and friendly than the first, although they’ve obviously learned the old Be Sure To Use “I” Statements When Being Assertive To Avoid Making the Listener Feel Defensive Rule, because they write, “I understand you're upset and I regret that we haven't been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction.” They then repeat the instructions for setting up multiple pages [Duh! Got it the first time, people!] and end by saying, “We won't be able to provide further insight or assistance for your request.” In other words, Go away now and quit bothering us!

Do you think they'd be nicer if I were Dean Koontz or Ruth Rendell?

Anyway, I now have the Candice Proctor author site up. I’ve dealt with their no pseudonymous books rule by mentioning the Sebastian books in my bio, adding a link to the csharris.com website, and putting up the video for Where Shadows Dance. I’m still waiting for Penguin and Harper Collins to verify that I am me, after which I get to do this two more times.

In the meantime, I’ve written less than one and a half pages today.

Friday, July 01, 2011

The Sebastian Series Comes to Audio

I've never had any of my books released in an audio version, but that's about to change: coming in August, Recorded Books will be bringing out Where Shadows Dance in both cassettes and CDs. To say I am excited is an understatement.

I have to admit I'd always hoped that if an audio version were made of the series, the reader would be male. But I don't see how I can complain, given that Davina Porter has a stunning list of audio books to her name. She's perhaps best known as the reader for Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon series. But she's also read for Anne Perry, Ruth Rendell, and Alexander McCall Smith.

Personally, I don't usually listen to audio books. I tried several while I was driving back and forth to work on the house after Katrina, and I listened to quite a few when I went through several months of twice-daily, half-hour physical therapy for a messed up shoulder. But that's about it. My husband Steve, on the other hand, listens to them constantly and churns through several a week. He has several subscriptions and will sometimes buy a book he enjoys listening to (the most recent being Bill Bryson's At Home). He also frequently tries listening to new (to him) authors and, if he likes them, he'll then buy hard copies of their backlist to read. So I'm hoping coming out in audio will help the series reach a new audience.

Recorded books has also bought the audio rights to When Maidens Mourn, which should be out next year. Hopefully if there's enough interest in the series, they'll go back and pick up the earlier books.

The link to the book on their site is here, although there's not much to look at yet.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Weekend Whirlwind

Friday morning I flew to Phoenix, Arizona, for Poisoned Pen's June 2011 Conference (that's the pool of the Arizona Biltmore, site of the conference, above). This was my first visit to Poisoned Pen, a fact for which I was gently chided by Barbara Peters, the famous bookstore's impressive owner. And I can honestly say she's right, I should have made the trek out there long ago, because I had a fantastic time. Both my Friday afternoon panel (with Laurie R King, Peter Lovesey, Lauren Willig, Patricia Wynn, and Dana Stavenow) and Saturday morning's presentation (with Patricia Wynn) were loads of fun; I met lots of enthusiastic readers, aspiring writers, and published authors, and was really, really sorry I had to leave early.

I took my camera, but of course I never used it, except to snap this shot of British author Peter Lovesey singing a hilarious ditty about mystery books to the tune of an old Irish drinking song (yes, I recognized it, Peter). Unfortunately, this is one case where a picture is definitely not worth a thousand words, because the words and delivery were priceless.

Then, Saturday night, I flew back to New Orleans in time to participate in a mystery and thriller panel with S. J. Watson, Erica Spindler, and Cammie McGovern on Sunday morning at the American Library Association Conference. I took along Steve, who is better about remembering to take photos than I am. (Note to self: do NOT drink a giant latte in an attempt to stay awake for an evening flight if you want to go to sleep that night and avoid looking like you've been on a three-week bender the next day.)

I signed books both after the panel and then again Sunday afternoon at the Penguin booth. All told, I signed something like 300 books, which was quite amazing. Yes, Penguin was giving the books away, but the recipients could simply have taken their free books and walked off without waiting in line to meet me, so the entire experience was quite humbling. Thanks to everyone who came; it truly was a pleasure to meet you!

Monday, June 20, 2011

The 2011 American Library Association Meeting in New Orleans

Billed as the "world's largest and most dynamic library conference and exhibition," the annual American Library Association Conference will be coming to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans from June 23-28. I'll be on a panel entitled "Mystery and Horror at Your Library" on Sunday morning, from 10:30-12:30, in Room 268 in the Convention Center. Although it's billed as a "panel," the instructions say "each author has been asked to speak for 12 minutes," so I'm not sure if this is going to be a typical panel with questions asked of all or some sort of serial individual presentation. And I don't know who else is on the panel because I can't seem to find it on their schedule.

At any rate, we're told that a "booksigning will follow after the panel, and one of the Penguin staffers will be there to facilitate the signing."

Then, at 1:00pm- 2:00pm, there will be another signing at the Penguin booth, #1422.

The ALA had their convention in New Orleans the summer of 2006, less than a year after Katrina. It was the first organization brave enough to return to New Orleans after the hurricane, which means the ALA holds a special place in all our hearts. When I signed that year, I was still living as a refugee and the city was such a mess we were wondering if it would ever be made right again. How much things have changed in just five years.

So any of you coming for the conference, please stop by the panel room or the Penguin booth and say "Hi."

And it's nasty hot down here, so come prepared for some heat.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Candy Joins the E-Reader Revolution

So I finally did it: I broke down and bought an e-reader. Well, not a dedicated e-reader, but an iPad.

After years of watching one after the other of my family and friends buy e-readers, what finally pushed me over the edge? This thing:

It’s the published report of a Parliamentary committee that interviewed dozens of London magistrates, public office clerks, constables, pub owners, and clergymen in 1816, and it contains a wonderful wealth of information (more about that later). But after sitting at my desk and staring at my computer screen for something like 16 hours, my eyes hurt. My back hurt. My shoulder hurt (took me a while to figure that one out, until I realized it was from constantly making the same motion to turn the page). I download a lot of these old nineteenth-century texts from Google Books, and they are collectively a pain to read. Now I can sit out on my porch swing curled up with my iPad and read away.

My thoughts so far?

• The ready availability of free classics that I’ve always meant to read—or read long ago and would like to read again—is deadly. I was up until 2am last night playing with my new toy. And no, I don’t mean playing games on my new toy; I mean downloading free old books.
• You can’t comfortably flip through an ebook. I like to flip through poetry books, looking for old favorites or new ones that appeal or catch my eye. The first book I downloaded was Keats: Poems Published in 1820. I quickly realized that my style of reading poetry was not very compatible with the electronic format.
• Most people who buy iPads are not interested in reading books, or at least, they’re not interested in old books. I dealt with two sales reps in the Apple store, and neither had even heard of Google Books.
• The National Library of Australia is also a great source for old books.

Now excuse me, while I go play…

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

...and the livin' is easy

I've been taking it easy the last couple of weeks, enjoying having my daughter home for the summer, painting and refinishing furniture, and gathering boxes of necessities for the apartment she'll be moving into this fall.

But I did manage to submit the proposal for Book Number Eight in the Sebastian series, tentatively entitled Who Bells the Cat. My editor is most enthusiastic, so all I need to do now is, um, write it.

And if you're curious about the rose pictured above, it's my favorite of my four dozen or so old roses, the gloriously fragrant and deliciously named souvenir de la malmaison.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pomp and Circumstance...and Lots of Beaches

If you're wondering where I've been, my younger daughter graduated (brief pause for an indulgence in maternal pride here: Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude) from her college down in Florida last weekend and we decided to turn the expedition to celebrate her achievement (and help haul home four years' accumulation of stuff) into a brief vacation. At one point we were afraid only Steve would be able to go while I headed for high ground with the family's overpopulation of cats (I cannot drive Steve's hulking white SUV, nicknamed "Moby Dick"). But in the end the Mississippi River's threat to New Orleans receded and I was able to make the trip, too .

I know most people think graduations are boring, but I actually love them--or at least, I love the beginning of the ceremony when the graduates march in accompanied by a seemingly endless loop of Pomp and Circumstance. The auditorium or stadium (or giant tent overlooking the bay, in this case) swells with such a heartwarming surge of joy and pride that I usually find myself fighting back tears. Students graduating with honors are justly proud of their academic achievement, while those not graduating with honors are equally proud (and often enormously relieved) simply to have managed to graduate at all. It's a long, hard slog through college, four years of fun and pain, growing and decision making, sacrifice and transformation, exploration and discovery. And it all seems to come together in that one uplifting, shared moment of giddy rejoicing. I am soooo glad I didn't have to miss it.

Woven in amongst the various ceremonies were also multiple trips with my daughter to her favorite beaches and piers. She grew up on the beach in Australia, so the last four years have been bliss for her. And somewhere, strolling along some shell-strewn beach, I stumbled across the solution to a problem that's been holding up my proposal for book #8 in the Sebastian series. So I guess maybe I can call it a working vacation?


Monday, May 16, 2011

Breathing Easier

The Corps has opened the Morganza Spillway, which has actually dropped the river level at New Orleans by about half a foot and is taking potentially lethal pressure off the metropolitan area's levees. We are all breathing a lot easier today even as our hearts go out to those with homes along the Atchafalaya who are now facing increased flooding.

We went and looked at the river yesterday. Yes, it's still scarily high, especially at Audubon Park, above. But you could see that it had been higher, and the levees in Jefferson Parish (below) still had reassuring stretches of concrete and green grass showing above the water line. In the picture below, the river is normally on the left side of the batture trees. That's the bike path you see running along the top of the levee; the River Road is far below, to the right.

I snapped these pictures with my phone, which made them easy to email. But I have other shots I hope to get uploaded, including of a truly impressive mass of debris piled up against the pier in Kenner's old town.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Getting Scary


That's the second story of the cathedral you're looking at here; the street level is far, far below.

Of course, the Corps keeps assuring us that New Orleans will be safe...probably. That's after they put up this map to scare the bejesus out of us:

My house is in one of those areas colored for flooding of depths from 25 to 40 feet. Seriously? And everyone down here has soooo much faith in the Army Corps of Engineers. As for what's happening to the west of us, in Cajun country...it's just heartbreaking.

I need drugs.

(Photo by Matthew Hinton. He describes how he took the shot here, since, believe it or not, some people are trying to dismiss it as Photoshopped.)

Blogger Issues

Blogspot has been having problems, locking us out for nearly 24 hours and deleting recent post. But they're finally open again and say the missing posts should be back up soon. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

From Russia with Sebastian

In response to my recent post about covers, a reader in Uzbekistan very kindly sent me files of my Russian covers. I'm supposed to get copies of all my foreign editions, but in practice I frequently don't, so this was my first glimpse of the images chosen by my Russian publishers. They are certainly very different. Here's What Angels Fear:

When Gods Die:

And Why Mermaids Sing.

Obviously, Russian art departments are as oblivious to historically correct dress as their American counterparts. I also find it interesting that they chose to put a woman on all three books, with no real sense of danger--despite the fact that the series is about a man and rather violent. Of the three, I think my favorite is the Angels cover. There is something quite intriguing about the way the woman is looking over her shoulder and faintly smiling--although I think I would be surprised if I picked up the book and read the cover copy (that is, if I could actually read the Russian cover copy, which of course I couldn't!)

Contrast this cover art with what the Australians did:

(Actually, these are early versions--I can't find the final version, in which Big Ben was Photoshopped out.)

Obviously, a very different approach and look.

The truth is, traditions in cover art vary enormously from one country to the next. Which is why smart authors don't complain about the covers of their foreign editions--because we don't know enough to make any kind of a valid judgement.

My thanks to Irin Belokon for the covers!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Pig Coming Down the Python

As anyone watching the news knows, the Mississippi River is flooding. Badly. Those of us sitting down here at the mouth of Old Man River can only watch as the crest of high water rolls relentlessly towards us.

The flood is expected to hit the river at New Orleans on May 21, cresting on May 22 at 17.5 feet. (Update: They are now projecting a crest of 19.5 on May 23rd.) The levees along the river are built to take a 20-foot flood. Am I uncomfortable? Uh, yes; although thanks to protective measures taken after past river rampages, I know we are in a much more secure position than many upriver or even in other parts of Louisiana. I saw yesterday that the state has started evacuating prisoners from Angola, which is at St. Francisville, just above Baton Rouge. At the same time, Baton Rouge is borrowing thousands of sandbags from St. Charles Parish, although St. Charles made them promise to give them back before hurricane season. (Cue sick laugh here.)

The ironic thing about all this? We’re in a drought. All the storms sweeping through the South have gone north of New Orleans, so that we’ve had endless high winds but no rain since early April. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I look at the devastation caused by those storms in the other states around us and my heart aches for those effected.

The last truly devastating flooding of the Mississippi at New Orleans took place way back in 1927. Since then, the huge Bonnet Carré Spillway has been constructed. The Bonnet Carré (gloriously mispronounced by locals as the "Bonnie Carrie") is basically a 1 ½ mile mechanically controlled weir that runs along the Mississippi a few miles north of my house. When the river starts getting high, the Corps opens the spillway gates and diverts some of the floodwaters into a 7,600 acre floodway that runs for six miles to Lake Pontchartrain. It’s been opened nine times so far, the first time being in 1937, the last in 2008. In 2008, they only opened 160 of the spillway’s bays, although all 350 have been opened in the past.


Word is the spillway may be opened as early as Monday. Already, water has started seeping through the bays and roads in the area are closed.


In the meantime, all we can do is wait, and watch.

Update:The state is likely to also open the Morganza Spillway north of Baton Rouge. This spillway is connected to the Old River Control Complex that keeps the Mississippi from shifting its course to the Atchafalaya (opening it will divert more water from the Big Muddy to the Atchafalya). The Morganza has only been opened once, in 1973, when it caused extensive flooding to communities down river. This move will be worse than blowing up the levees near Cairo because there are homes and businesses in the Morganza Floodway. (In fact, whether the Morganza opens or not, those communities will flood simply because increased water will flow down the Atchafalya whether anyone wants it to or not. But if the spillway is opened, they're going to be looking at 10 feet rather than 2 or 3.) At this point you're probably wondering, Why is she writing about all of this? I guess the answer is that I find the forces of nature--especially water--fascinating.There is something mesmerizing about watching this destructive wall of water roll towards us, and realizing how powerless we really are to do anything about it. We are looking at a tragedy unfolding. It's only a matter of, How bad will it be?


Monday, May 02, 2011

On Covers

A reader commented recently about how much she hates the cover of What Remains of Heaven (Not as much as I do, believe me, Elaine!). So while we're waiting for my editor to give permission for me to post the new cover of When Maidens Mourn, I thought it might be fun to review the covers of the other books in the Sebastian series.

My publisher nicely asked for my input before the cover conference for What Angels Fear, and I suggested a funerary statue of an angel, perhaps with a church in the background. I was totally wowed by what they produced. It's classy, evocative, and moody, and I particularly like the scattering of red rose petals, which adds punch and gives the effect of drops of blood. I also think putting the title in a plaque on the iron fence was a clever touch, although it is a bit hard to read from a distance. But the book didn't sell as well as NAL hoped, so the powers that be decided to change the cover look.

When they asked for my input this time, I suggested using the image of the necklace that plays such a large part in the book. Needless to say, they ignored me. The first attempt at a cover for When Gods Die was actually quite attractive and showed a caped man on a murky street looking at a carriage. But the carriage was a hansom cab. I said, "You can't do that! Hansom cabs didn't appear until 1834. My readers will think I'm an idiot." So they came up with Gods Cover #2, which was beyond hideous. Basically it looked like the aged Ghost of Christmases Past leaning on a cane in front of the Brighton Pavilion, with a very spindly font used for the writing. I shrieked and made a bunch of suggestions for improvements, very few of which they listened to, with the exception of changing the font and making the male figure at least look more Regency-ish, although they also made both the figure and the Pavilion recede far into the distance (and the figure seems to float, ghost-like). The entire effect was simply weird, and ugly, and frankly I could have cried. About the only thing I like about the final Gods cover is the blue, and that burned effect around the edges. Otherwise it makes me want to throw things every time I see it.

I love the Mermaids cover. I even have a huge blown up copy hanging on the wall over my desk (along with the Angels cover). I think it's stunning, and mysterious, and wonderfully captures the mood of the book. I said, "Great! Can we do the next one like this? You know, get a look going to brand the series?"


Yup, that's a hansom cab. Did I complain? Nope. The image is striking, and it evokes a spirit of action and danger, which is good. The orange coloring is also unusual. This is my third favorite cover.

And then came...

Eeek! Except, as bad as this is, it was even worse at first. Oh, how I wish I could show you the original version. In Heaven #1, the woman (who is this woman, anyway?) was dressed in a white petticoat and a corset that laced up the back and showed her flesh beneath. And they had this weird lighting effect, so that it looked like she was being chased by sparkling lights. I am not making this up. Basically, it looked like a paranormal gothic erotic young adult novel, or, in the memorable words of my agent, "like Sarah Jessica Parker being chased up the stairs by a ghost." I wanted them to cut Sarah off at the waist; they compromised and cut off a bit of her head. They also added sleeves, got rid of the laced open back, and made it look like she was wearing a dress by coloring it peachy-pink. (I wanted something dramatic like red, but peach was better than her underwear.) They refused to put shoes on her feet, but they did get rid of the twinkling ghostlights, and they added the skull down in the corner, although not as noticeably as I'd have liked. I still hate it, hate it, hate it. It looks silly, and is so totally wrong for this book. It's just embarrassing. I said, Please, can we have something grown up for the next book?


I like the right half of this cover, with the man coming out of the mist and the looming statues. I HATE the woman. And this is the second version. In Shadows #1, she's wearing a dress with nipped in waist and a hoop skirt, as in 1860. And this was after I sent the art department literally dozens of pictures of Regency dresses. They sort of fixed the silhouette, but they still didn't get it right (the waist on the back of the jacket should be much higher), and she still reminds me of a sorority sister dressed up as Scarlett O'Hara for a rush party; she's too modern and photorealistic. And interestingly enough, if you compare this image to the one that they used on the cover, you'll see that somewhere between this version (which is what I have on my website) and the production of the book, some clever person nipped in the waist again. Sigh. Why did they do that?

So, let me hear what you think! Which is your favorite cover? What sort of images do you think would be best for the series? And maybe, someday, I'll get permission to post the new cover. I just heard back from my editor, and she said it could be months before all the permissions have been cleared. Why? Who knows.