TBR Challenge Check-In

Happy Halloween, fellow readers! Are you making progress on your TBR Challenge?

I am, but at a snail’s pace. I did finish listening to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope (it was as fantastic as I expected such a mash-up to be!), and I flew through Unmasked by the Marquess by Cat Sebastion (which was *such* a lovely story!).

Ye Olde Chronic Fatigue has been rearing its ugly head, though, so my previous plan of reading in the evenings hasn’t been sustainable lately–I’m just too tired most days. I’ve also got crochet projects lined up to make as gifts for Christmas, which I talked about last month, and I’m writing As Long As You Love Me So, both of which sap my remaining energy (though if I’m going to expend my limited energy on things, crocheting and writing are at the top of the list 🙂 ).

In light of all that, I’ve decided to do something I’ve never done in a TBR Challenge: modify the terms. I’ve dropped my Goodreads challenge from 36 books to 24, and I’m rolling back my TBR Challenge goal from 24 books to 14. That relieves some of the stress I’ve been feeling about making these goals, which helps make reading more fun again and knocks back my overall stress level. It’s always good to re-evaluate your goals and how you plan to achieve them–I think that should apply to reading challenges, too 🙂

TBR Challenge Check-In

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Just three months left this year, fellow readers! How is your TBR Challenge going?

Mine, as usual, is going slowly. But it’s going 🙂  I’ve started listening to audiobooks again–it’s a good way to pass the time while I’m crocheting Christmas gifts, especially when the pattern is kind of boring. Currently I’m listening to William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope, which is fantastic for so many reasons. I remember just enough about The Bard from high school to enjoy the style, I grew up watching Star Wars, and I love a good mashup! This is one of those books, too, that I think is better in audio–there are multiple performers, sound effects, and a little (familiar) music which enhance the experience, and I’d miss all that if I were reading instead of listening.

Kissing by the Mistletoe is available for pre-order!

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Who’s ready for a sweet Regency Christmas novella?

Kissing by the Mistletoe is available for pre-order at all your favorite e-tailers! It’s priced at $0.99 US during the pre-order period, and will increase to $1.99 US when it releases on October 1. If you purchased the Christmas Ever After last year, you do not need to pick this one up–this is the same story that was published in that anthology.

This is a sweet, traditional Regency romance, set in the same world as my Maitland Maidens novellas but written as a stand-alone story. If you like cinnamon roll heroes and the best friend’s sibling trope, this one’s for you 🙂

Cora’s TBR Challenge

Four months to go, fellow readers! How goes your TBR Challenge?

I’m making some progress 🙂  It’s not a lot, but I’ve finished two more books for the TBR challenge and am nearly through another. I’m also trying to carve out time to read on a regular basis–lately it’s been right before I go to bed–and I think that’s what’s been making the difference this past month. I may only read for an hour before I get too tired to continue, but an hour a day gets me through a novel by the end of the week. And if I can squeeze out more than an hour I can read more (or longer) books, which makes me happy. I get grumpy when I can’t/don’t read for more than a few days in a row!

Author Commentary: No Rest for the Wicked, Chapter 2

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Welcome to Author Commentary! Each month I’ll be re-reading a chapter from one of my books and talking a bit about what I was thinking when I wrote it, why I made certain choices, any easter eggs that might be hiding, research I’d done for that part, etc. This month I’m reading No Rest for the Wicked, which is available for free at your favorite e-tailer if you’d like to pick up a copy and read along.

You can find the commentary for chapter 1 here.

No Rest for the Wicked, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 opens with Joanna perusing Michael’s clothing, without having told him why she wanted to see it. Even though he gets grumpy a few paragraphs in because she hasn’t told him the whole story, this opening shows that there’s still some trust between them (though I don’t think either of them realize it just yet). Michael could have refused her request or demanded an explanation, but instead he allows her to go through his things.

“Better,” she said, running her hand over a red silk waistcoat. Was she remembering that he’d worn it at their wedding? He did, every time he put it on. That read waistcoat was a photo I’d found on Pinterest of a 1790s-style gentleman’s satin waistcoat while I was outlining the story. I thought it was such a good-looking piece I found a way to work it in!

You have the education and bearing of a gentleman. Even though he’s the son of a poor, Catholic laborer, Michael was sent to school then later to university courtesy of an anonymous benefactor. Honestly, I have no idea who that is yet, lol, but as an homage to Daredevil, Michael needed to be a lawyer and lawyering takes education. I would someday like to give Michael and Joanna a longer story, and this is one of the questions I hope to answer in it.

That was how he walked The Liberties at night—dressed in the same manner as his neighbors, attracting as little attention as possible. No body armor and helmet with horns, though 😉

“You did belong there,” she said firmly. “And you may actually be his lordship’s cousin. Wasn’t your grandmother a Talbot?” The Earl of Waterford, who is the lord they’re discussing here, is also the Earl of Shrewsbury. Waterford is an Irish title, and how he would be referred to in Ireland. The Waterford/Shrewsbury title has belonged to the Talbot family since the 15th century, and those of you who have read The Good, The Bad, And The Scandalous might remember that Sarah’s best friend was a Talbot, too. If Michael’s grandmother is also a Talbot, he might have some very powerful cousins (perhaps including Diana). How distant they are is the question 😉

She reached out and took his hand, squeezing it with a gentle pressure. If you read down a few sentences, you notice that Michael doesn’t react to Joanna’s touch until the conversation becomes personal. Part of that is shock on his part, I think–it’s been five years since he saw her last, and her she is standing in his bedroom holding his hand, just like old times. It’s also partly because that’s the kind of relationship they had before she disappeared–one of holding hands, of casual caresses and knowing looks even when out in public–and he automatically drops right back into that groove.

“Sir Arthur needed someone in Ireland in case the French made another invasion attempt…” France did actually attempt to invade Ireland in 1796 in support of emancipation for Irish Catholics. The fleet was set to land at Bantry Bay, near Cork, but was scattered by storms and never made port.

Instead, he released her hand and began gathering up his rejected clothing to return it to its case. She’s only just come back and this reaction is totally justified, but it always makes me feel sad for them both. Joanna’s overture is being rejected, or at least put aside, while Michael finally has his love back but he doesn’t–can’t–trust her or what they used to have together. At least not yet.

The thought of him brought to mind another list she’d been mentally keeping—the list of things she needed to tell him before they reached Cork. Particularly the fact that she— I want to say that Joanna was about to confess something important here, but I honestly have no idea what she was thinking, lol. I simply wanted Michael to interrupt her thoughts!

He again appeared not to have even noticed, and Joanna sighed inwardly. She’s missing their old relationship here, too, how easy they used to be together. Five years apart with no word will make things awkward though 😉

“There are nine others that Sir Arthur has invited from all over Britain.” This is a reference to a main character from each of the other books in the series, each also an homage to a modern superhero.

“…though I strongly suspect there are women who will indirectly be important parts of what we accomplish.” And that is a nod to the other main characters in each of the books. The way it worked out, it was the heroes who all ended up with invitations from Sir Arthur, but I wanted to make sure to acknowledge somehow that the heroines would also play important parts in their stories.

“Not more important than ensuring the safety of your neighbors,” she replied, patting his knee. “Just a way to do so on a larger scale.” “Yet, at least in my case, still working on a small scale.” This was me, basically figuring out how to incorporate a street-level hero into the world-saving reality of the Avengers.

“The Romans never conquered Ireland, so they never laid roads here.” And interesting tidbit I picked up researching this story. Ireland was notorious at the time for its terrible roads, and this is one of the reasons.

…but there was one rather important matter that had been neglected. He covered her hand with his, large and warm. “What is it?” “I didn’t bring a maid,” she whispered. “And I cannot get into—or out of—my clothing without help.” This is likely what Joanna was thinking of when Michael interrupted her thoughts at the stable in Dublin, but I didn’t think of it until later 😉

“They would if I weren’t carrying secret correspondence and weapons on my person.” One of my favorite lines!

Cora’s TBR Challenge Check-In

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Happy August, fellow readers! Are you getting in a lot of summer reading?

I’m still woefully behind, as has become usual for me 🙂  And I had an e-reader mishap, in the bargain–somehow An Extraordinary Union got reset back to the first page, and I have no idea where I was! I suppose I’m going to have to start that one over, but the first half was so good I don’t think I mind too much.

I’ve also begun reading Darcy Burke’s novella To Love a Thief, which has been languishing in my TBR for nearly 7 years! So progress is being made, and my working/writing schedule has become less frantic for a bit so I’m confident that this progress will continue, at least for a while 🙂

Author Commentary: No Rest for the Wicked, Chapter 1

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Welcome to Author Commentary! Each month I’ll be re-reading a chapter from one of my books and talking a bit about what I was thinking when I wrote it, why I made certain choices, any easter eggs that might be hiding, research I’d done for that part, etc. This month I’m starting No Rest for the Wicked, which is available for free at your favorite e-tailer if you’d like to pick up a copy and read along.

No Rest for the Wicked, Chapter 1

We open with Joanna Pearson standing outside the door of her husband’s rooms, working up the courage to knock. This is a good place to talk about the premise of this series–that one or both of the main characters in each book are the mortal, Regency incarnations of modern superheroes. Joanna is loosely based on Marvel’s Black Widow, who was trained as a Soviet spy, then switched sides and moonlights with the Avengers. This Natasha-esque character would ordinarily be calm, cool, and collected even in the face of danger, yet here she stands in a hallway trying to get a grip on the anxiety washing over her at the prospect of seeing her husband. Hopefully that tells you something about how strongly she feels about him, if not exactly what she feels for him 🙂

Before Joanna can open the door, a group of children rush out and pass her as if she’s not there. Perhaps they were used to seeing random people turn up there, or perhaps she blended in well with her surroundings. But I purposely chose to have Michael teaching in this scene because 1) it’s a great occupation (says the former teacher, lol) and 2) Catholics were banned from teaching, publicly or privately, by the Penal Laws until 1782. The story takes place in 1808 and Michael, loosely based on Daredevil, is Catholic. The fact that he’s also a lawyer comes both from his comic book counterpart and the Penal Laws, again–it only became legal for Catholics to practice law in 1793 (also the year it became legal for Catholics to enter Trinity College, Dublin, where Michael was educated thanks to an anonymous benefactor).

He spoke without turning around—he’d always been good at detecting her presence—so she addressed the back of his white linen shirt in the soft Dublin brogue she’d been practicing. “Michael. It’s been a long time.” This line in particular was meant as an homage to Joanna and Michael’s origins. He knows it’s her without looking (though in this story Michael has not yet lost his sight as Daredevil had) and she’s been working on blending in as a good spy would.

“I need to speak with the Demon of Dublin’s Hell.”  I wanted rather badly to call Michael the Devil of Dublin’s Hell because the possibilities to make puns and references was practically unlimited. But there was already a devil in the real neighborhood of Dublin that was called Hell. It was a wooden statue mounted on a gate that led to Christ Church Cathedral, taken down sometime early in the Victoria era and carved into snuff boxes. So Michael became a demon instead 🙂

He took the letter and broke the wax seal, his brown eyes slowly scanning the page. “Sir Arthur Wellesley?” The future Duke of Wellington really was getting ready to disembark with his army at Cork in July 1808, and I thought he would make an excellent spymaster. If we carry the modern superhero analogy further, that would mean his grace was playing the part of Nick Fury, assembler of special teams.

…her features as placid and unrevealing as the plain black dress she wore. Double meaning there–black was for mourning, and a woman might wear black when she’d become a widow. A widow’s black for my Regency Black Widow 😉

“An associate of mine is making her way to Dublin as we speak. She can take up the Demon’s post and look after The Liberties in your absence.” Cara Campbell, who Joanna is referencing here, is an homage to Jessica Jones, whose middle name is Campbell. I chose Cara as her first name to replicate Stan Lee’s penchant for alliterative names.

“He is assembling a group of individuals…” I spent the whole day walking around saying, “I’m here to talk to you about the Avengers Initiative,” when I wrote this part, lol. Except I couldn’t tell anyone what I was working on at that point, so I probably sounded like a madwoman quoting and cackling!

The chapter concludes with the pair striking a deal: Michael will heed his invitation from Sir Arthur and travel with Joanna to Cork, while Joanna promises to explain her 5-year absence after their business has been seen to.

She stood beside him, the top of her head barely reaching his chin. In my head, Joanna looks like Scarlett Johansson and Michael like Charlie Cox, neither of whom are overly tall. But in the comics, Daredevil is something like 6’4″ so that’s what I went with that for this story. The comics are also where the pairing came from–Black Widow and Daredevil have never even met in the TV/movie side of things, but they were an item in print 🙂

Exclusive Content And Where To Find It

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This is what happens when I get organized, lol. I end up with lists! In this case, though, everyone benefits. In each place I live online, I post something you’ll only find there and something you’ll find other places but in that spot first. This list tells you what you’ll find and where, for those who’d like to follow me places other than here. Any content not mentioned is shared across platforms.

courtesy of Nick Youngson & Alpha Stock Images

The Regency Salon, a group for historical romance readers
Exclusive content: monthly article/blog/Q&A/poll
First Look content: covers & blurbs of new books
Posting Frequency: varies

Twitter
Exclusive content: Retweets about history and the romance genre
First Look content: #1lineWed and #TeaserTues when I’m working on a book
Posting Frequency: daily

Newsletter
Exclusive content: electronic birthday gift (if you provide your birthday), $10 Amazon gift card giveaway, polls (different from the ones in The Regency Salon)
Posting Frequency: quarterly

Website
Exclusive content: detailed info about all of my books
First Look content: upcoming events I’m participating in
Posting Frequency: as needed

Other
You can also find/follow me on:
Goodreads
Bookbub
Pinterest
Amazon
Amazon UK

And announcing a new feature!

Here on the blog, I’ll be posting author commentary on each of my books! I’ll do one chapter per month until a book is finished, then we’ll begin another book. I’ll talk about the choices I made in that particular chapter, Easter eggs, what the characters were thinking but didn’t say, and whatever else might be fun or interesting to know.

Which book would you most like to start with? Leave a comment and let me know 🙂

Cora’s TBR Challenge Check-In

We’re halfway through the year, fellow readers! Are you halfway through your TBR challenge?

As usual, I’m not. But I seem to be getting back on track. After judging in the first round of the RITAs, dealing with a busy period at the day job, taking a history class in a condensed semester (History of Modern India–very interesting, but a lot of work in 6 weeks!), and taking a literary detour to read about dog training (new dog, Bo, came home nearly two months ago, but he’s big and strong and has almost no training), I’m finally getting back to my TBR books.

After several attempts, I’ve finished The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde in audiobook, read by Richard Armitage. I started it six months ago, and though it isn’t a long book, I kept getting sidetracked by other things (and, if I’m honest, by Richard Armitage’s voice  😉 ). It was good, as I’d expected, and the narration was fantastic!

Unfortunately, Jekyll & Hyde was only the third TBR book I’ve read this year, out of the 24 I set as my goal, so I have a way to go in the second half of the year. Perhaps this is the year when I learn to balance my reading time with my writing time (and my Bo-training time!), and manage not to run right up on my deadlines  🙂

Bo, my new furkid, pretending that he hadn’t just disemboweled a squeaky hedgehog toy.

Last Chance for Christmas Ever After!

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Christmas Ever After, a collection of sweet Regency Christmas stories, was always meant to be a limited time publication, and now its time is running short. Tonight is your last chance to read it with your Kindle Unlimited subscription, and it will be unavailable in ebook after April 16. But you can still grab it before then for just $0.99 USD at Amazon.