Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Great Whatever You Celebrate

So I finally got my tree up...

It was so late, I didn't put my village and train at the base of the tree this year. But I did set up the one on the buffet...

My packages are all wrapped, the Christmas cookies are all baked (and mostly eaten!), and this year we finally did something I've been wanting to do forever...

We went up the river to watch the lighting of the Christmas Eve bonfires along the levee in St. James's Parish. This picture was simply snapped with my phone, but hopefully I've some better ones on my camera that I can upload after Christmas, because it was really quite spectacular.

At any rate, I hope everyone is having an enjoyable holiday season. Cheers!

Thursday, December 12, 2013


I've finally finished Who Buries the Dead, the tenth book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series. This one has been giving me fits and is technically late in terms of its deadline, although since it won't be published until March 2015, it's actually early (the publishing world is weird). At any rate, it's FINISHED. So now I'm filing papers and cleaning up my office and my house and trying to do all those things I've put off for the last year, except there are so many of them I know I'm never going to get around to even a fraction of them.

And the worst part of it is, it's Christmas time. I haven't done any shopping, or bought a tree, or done any decorating. Much of that is due to the fact that I'm finding it hard to get into the spirit of what is normally one of my favorite times of the year; my older daughter is now living in San Antonio and my younger daughter has been spending that past two weeks in England for the wedding of her half sister. Add in the extent to which all these sick cats have consumed my life, and who has time for Christmas? Maybe this weekend...

Monday, December 02, 2013

New ANGELS Cover

In recent discussions with my publishers about what we could do to attract new readers to the Sebastian St. Cyr series, I raised the possibility of redoing some of the previous covers that I've always felt sent the wrong message about the books, beginning with the totally inappropriate cover of What Remains of Heaven. I thought it would be great if we could move toward a more uniform look for the series, using the cover of Why Kings Confess as a model. To my amazement, they agreed.

Then they told me they had decided to begin with the cover What Angels Fear.

"But--but--but," I said. "What about redoing What Remains of Heaven? I love the cover of What Angels Fear!" Yes, I was told; the Angels cover was nice, but they want to do a promotion using the first book in the series, and promotions are most successful when there is something new about a book, so they want to redo that one. Sigh.

What's amazing is how fast they can produce a cover when they want to; the prototype landed in my email inbox just days later. It's now gone live on Amazon (thanks to Sabena for the tip; no one told me!), so I asked for the final version of the file, and here it is:

I still love the original version. And I must say I don't particularly like this model's looks. But  everyone at NAL is excited about the new cover and I do agree that it is very striking. So what do you think?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Back to Answering Those Questions...

I've let this thread slide far longer than I'd intended, so without any further ado, here are the answers to some more of your questions:

LOgalinOR asked, "I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your historical romance novels. Any chance of writing any more in the future?

The reason I quit writing historical romances was because I was being pushed into a direction I didn't want to go. I enjoyed setting my stories in whatever period or place best fit the romantic conflict I wanted to explore, and I happily ranged all over the place--the American Civil War, Medieval France, nineteenth-century Australia, etc. But then publishers noticed that authors who wrote linked series with 5 brothers/7 cousins/4 good friends sold best, so I was told I had to "pick a time and place and stick with it."  I knew I could never do that; it seems such an artificial way to come up with story ideas, I don't know how people do it (although some do it very well). So I decided that if I had to pick a time and place and stick with it, I'd rather write a historical mystery series in which I could explore the lives and conflicts of my main characters over the course of multiple books. Plus, I understand from authors who still write historical romance that the genre's list of do's and don't is far, far more restrictive than it ever was (they always say to me, "How did you ever get away with the things you did?). So I guess the answer is that as long as the genre is headed in its current direction, I could never write in it. That said, I really, really enjoyed writing the romance that is an important part of WHY KINGS CONFESS.

Lesley asked, Have you considered writing another Jax and Tobie book?

I found being contracted to write two books a year very difficult, and when my mother started failing and we moved her in with us, it became impossible. I didn't exactly decide not to write another Jax and Tobie book--I had lots of ideas for future stories. But I finished that contract first and decided to focus on the Sebastian series since I was still under contract for more of those books. Then the Sebastian series started doing much better, and I wasn't happy with the way the Jax and Tobie series was being published, and after my mother died my grief provoked a serious period of writers' block. The thing about the publishing industry is that you can't let a series slide; after a certain amount of time goes past, publishers think readers have forgotten and so they don't want another. At this point, probably the only way I could ever get them to consider another Jax and Tobie book would be if Hollywood made a movie out of one of the earlier books.

I doubt I'd ever want to be contracted to write two books a year again. But I do think it's important for me to occasionally write something different in between the Sebastian books because I believe an author needs the challenge of stretching and trying new things to stay fresh. So, ideally, I'd like to write other books but not under contract and--full confession here--I did just that last year. I wrote a mainstream historical set in the American Civil War about what happens to the women of a small Southern town when a thirteen-year-old girl kills the soldier raping her mother. The book has received lots of praise from most of the editors who read it, but the topic is touchy and no one seems to know how to market it, so I haven't sold it to anyone. Writing it was not a logical or wise decision--I knew the subject and setting would make it difficult to sell. But I can't regret doing it; it was a magical experience, and I think it grew me as a writer.

The above photo of is of the climbing rose that grows up in my lemon tree. My roses are covered with buds and my lemons and oranges are almost ripe, so I really, really hope this nasty weather headed our way doesn't bring us a freeze.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Girls Who Read

A lovely poem to bring a smile to the hearts of girls who read...

Of course, it also goes the other way!

Cat Update:

First, the good news: Huck is through his nasty four week course of antibiotics and is getting better (and feistier) every day. As for everyone else, Angel has decided we don't love him anymore because we only give him tasteless food to eat and shove medicine down his throat every night; we've decided to let nature take its course with Baby, whom we're hoping still has some good months ahead; Thomasina will be going back to the vet soon for more tests; and the kittens... Well, the kittens have unfortunately suffered what looks like permanent neurological damage from a bad reaction their shots and need to be hand fed and given physical therapy daily. I don't have a life, I have sick cats...

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

A Cat Named Angel

Angel is my mom's old cat. He was born feral under a neighbor's porch and when he was about a year old, my mother enticed him inside with freshly cooked chicken livers. He became the companion of her twilight years, "helping" her garden, and sitting on her lap while she read or worked her crossword puzzles, and stretching out on the bed beside her for a daily afternoon nap.

My mother let my girls name him, and because this was the late nineties and he had a buff colored litter mate (who was not as interested in food and therefore stayed feral), my girls named him Angel after the vampire in Buffy.

When my mom evacuated to my sister's house in California after Katrina, Angel went with her. And when my mother moved in with us six years ago, Angel came, too (much to Huckleberry's disgust). He adjusted amazingly well to becoming an indoor cat. And the night my mother went in the hospital, he crawled into bed with me and has slept with me ever since.

As he once "helped" my mother garden, Angel now "helps" me produce my books. He sleeps on my chapters. He sprawls half on my lap and half on my computer table when I'm trying to type. He lays on my right arm or bats at my hand wanting pets while I'm trying to write with a pen. He's fifteen years old, grumpy and opinionated and intensely affectionate, and I love him dearly. And yesterday I learned that he is in stage three renal failure.

Two of my other cats, seventeen-year-old Baby, who lives with my older daughter in San Antonio, and fifteen-year-old Thomasina, who now spends most of her time up in Baton Rouge with my younger daughter, are also seriously ill at the moment with unrelated problems. It is a human tendency to try to create order in a chaotic universe, to seek a reason for heartache. But there is no reason for all these sick cats; it simply is. And words fail me.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Old London

Ever wonder what it would be like to take a stroll through old London?

A team of students from a university in Leicester have created a wonderful, detailed, 3D animation of the streets of London before the Great Fire of 1666, based on an original map of the area around Pudding Lane (which is where the fire started, by the way). This is 150 years before the Regency period, but there were lots of parts of London--namely the older, poorer parts--that still looked like this in Sebastian's time. So come with me, back in time...

For more about the production, see  http://puddinglanedmuga.blogspot.co.uk/.

Huckleberry update: One of the last of numerous tests our vet ran actually uncovered what was wrong with my baby. He's now undergoing a brutal three week antibiotic treatment, which on top of seventeen days of fever is taking its toll. But he's still hanging in there, and we're hopeful he's going to make it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cautiously Optimistic!

Huck's fever has finally broken and stayed down for three days now. He's starting to eat and drink on his own, and slowly regaining strength, so we're hopeful he really has finally turned the corner and is on the mend.

Our vets never did figure out what caused it, and I'm still terrified that my other cats will come down with whatever it was. But I'm over the moon and very, very grateful to still have my baby with me.

Needless to say, I've written almost nothing the past two weeks. But I have received a box of ARCs for Why Kings Confess, and I'll be posting a photo soon. My publishers have also started redoing the covers of the first eight books in the Sebastian series, and hopefully I'll get approval to show you the first of those new covers within a few weeks.

Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and prayers. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Six Days of Hell and Counting

My big black cat, Huckleberry, fell ill with a strange, raging high fever on Saturday morning and has been barely hanging on ever since. Blood tests indicate it's a virus that attacks the white blood cells. We've no clue where he got it, since he's an indoor cat and we've been very, very careful to observe good hygiene practices with the new kittens, which are still isolated. He was the first such case the vet had seen but they've now had four more come in. So New Orleans cat owners, be warned.

It's a nasty, nasty bug, and Huck is barely hanging on with the help of regular subcutaneous fluids and anti-inflamatories. He's neither eating nor drinking, and has spent the last six days simply curled up in the rocking chair beside my bed. He was in great shape before this hit, but he's now twelve, almost thirteen, and I'm not sure how much more of this my poor little sweetheart can take.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Some Questions on Characters

Rebecca asked: Are any of your characters based on real people, historical or living, loosely or firmly? 

The murder victim in What Darkness Brings was loosely inspired by an historical figure,  a diamond merchant named Daniel Eliason who is known to have possessed the Hope Diamond in September of 1812. But that was all I knew about him; the nasty, twisted character of my victim, Daniel Eisler, was all my own invention.  Sometimes I will take isolated aspects of people I know and use them--a physical characteristic, a personality trait, a gesture, a habit of speech. But I rarely go beyond that. Only when I'm using a known historical figure, such as the Prince Regent, or Marie Antoinette's daughter, or Jane Austen, do I try very hard to make my portrayals as accurate and true to the person as I can. But usually my characters just....come. It's a rather magical experience, and one of the aspects of writing I find most enjoyable.

Paz wrote: "My questions are all about Tom. I am terribly intrigued by Sebastian's relationship to him... What inspired the character? Do you have plans to develop Tom's backstory? How do you see Tom's relationship with Sebastian developing?" 

This is a tad embarrassing because the truth is I don't remember exactly what was going through my head ten years ago now when I came up with the character of Tom. He was one of those characters who leapt off the page as I was writing and quickly became far more than I'd envisioned. I do know that his backstory was inspired by a book I read long ago, The Women of Botany Bay, about the mothers who were transported from England to Australia and how many of them were forced to leave their children behind to simply fend for themselves. As a mother, that always horrified me.

I have very much enjoyed Sebastian's interactions with Tom, how it brings out sides of Sebastian we don't otherwise see. I have toyed with the idea of doing more with his backstory in a future book, but whether I do or not will probably depend on whether it fits in well with one of the murders. As for how I see Tom's relationship with Sebastian developing, it will obviously shift as Tom grows older. Exactly how, I don't think I'll plan. I try to let those sorts of things develop naturally.

And if your wondering about my CH kittens, we almost lost them last weekend after they reacted badly to some aspect of their vet visit. We're now bottle feeding them kitten formula every 4-6 hours, and they're slowly regaining strength, although they still can't stand up or feed themselves. It's all been very emotional and exhausting and time consuming. Although the silver lining is that my once wild kittens are now tame little sweethearts who love nothing better than to be held and petted and told how much they're loved.

Friday, October 04, 2013

And Babies Make...You Don't Want to Know

About two months ago, my daughter looked out her apartment window to see a mama cat and three kittens on her patio. Then the mama cat and one of the kittens went away, leaving these two guys...

It didn't take my daughter long to realize there was something seriously wrong with these kittens. They shake. Constantly. And when they try to walk, they fall over. At first we thought they had some deadly disease, but it turns out they're not sick; what they have is cerebellar hypoplasia, basically the kitty form of cerebral palsy.

I did not want to adopt these guys. I already have a house full of cats (in addition to the usual crew, I'm also currently taking care of two of my older daughter's cats while she's in San Antonio). And CH cats have elimination issues. Except that unlike our other cats with minor elimination issues, theirs are pretty extreme. And they can't live on the porch because they don't have the coordination to walk on those widely spaced boards. But they were barely surviving by hiding amongst my daughter's flower pots and eating the food she put out for them, and with a hurricane barreling down on us....

I now have two new kittens. We took them to the vet today, and thank heavens they found nothing wrong with them except the cerebellar hypoplasia. I thought they were about four months old but they're actually six months, even though they barely weigh two pounds, the poor things.

In preparation for the new arrivals, everyone else in the house had to go to the vet and get their shots ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$), too. I was truly embarrassed to take Whiskies. He now weighs twenty pounds!

And in case you're wondering, the new kittens' names are Scout (a girl, on the right) and Banjo, her brother. Banjo has a moderately severe form of CH, while Scout is more mild to moderate. And yes, this is insane. But what else could I do?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Characters and Necklaces and Galleys, Oh My!

I've received a lot of great questions in response to my "Ask Me Anything" post, so I thought I'd start answering some. 

JustWingingIt asks: Which character has evolved the most from what you initially intended - either taking a more prominent role in the story arc or less of one?

That would be Jamie Knox. Although I hinted at his existence earlier, I didn't actually introduce him until When Maidens Mourn. Before I begin writing a book, I always type up a fairly detailed 15-20 page outline, and the initial plot line for Maidens actually called for Knox to die near the end of that book. But I liked him so much as a character and I could see so much potential for him in future books, that I reworked the plot and kept him alive.

JustWingingIt also asks: Will Sebastian ever discover that his mother's necklace has 'chosen' Hero?

Hero hasn't worn the necklace because the clasp needed fixing (and because I was waiting for the right point in the series' story arc to be able to give it the necessary time and attention). I don't want to give too much away, but I can say the necklace comes back in a big way in Who Buries the Dead and will also play a part in book #11, (which doesn't have a title yet and is at this point only a gleam in my eye).

I've spent much of this past week going over the galleys for Why Kings Confess. I also spent a fair amount of time collecting images for the cover conference being held this week for the first of the new covers they're doing for the earlier books in the series. And then, just when I thought I could get back to writing, the galleys for the mass market paperback edition of What Darkness Brings appeared on my doorstep! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ask Me Anything Monday

I'm going to try something new here. Is there something you've wanted to know about me or the Sebastian St. Cyr books or any of my other books? If so, click on Comments and ask your question, and I'll do my best to answer.

Rather than answer the questions in the comments section, I'll be answering in upcoming posts. If the answers are short enough, I'll combine a few; if the question requires a longer or more thoughtful answer, or just inspires me to ramble, it might be a post of its own. I also reserve the right to pass on any questions, and I won't give away any secrets.

So, What do you want to know? Fire away.

And yes, that is a picture of my notebook this morning as I sat down to write; almost finished Part Three and getting ready to move on to Part Four. And yes, the book is due soon and I am horribly behind....

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hold Part of That Happy Dance...

So, the good news is that books eleven and twelve are coming.

But... Number 9, Why Kings Confess, will be published in March 2014. Number 10, Who Buries the Dead will be released in March 2015. Number Eleven is scheduled for March 2016. And Number Twelve is scheduled for March 2016.

I know, I know. Believe me, it's all been very confusing. Part of the problem is that the proposed shifting dates were confusing me, the publisher, and the booksellers. Plus, booksellers and readers have grown accustomed to seeing a new Sebastian St. Cyr book come out in March. Soooo, while I will still be writing to a faster schedule, it has been decided that for now we will stick to the March release dates. Then, when I've turned in so many books ahead of time that I'm hopelessly confused, the extra book will be released in November, with the next Sebastian book after that following close behind again in March.

Confused? The fault is all mine for broadcasting what I thought was the firm scheduling for Who Buries the Dead, but was not. I was saying, "Why didn't anyone tell me?" when the truth was I hadn't been told because it was actually not the done deal I thought it was. I mean...

Oh, nevermind. At any rate, sorry for the confusion, sorry for getting everyone's hopes up only to dash them. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

The silver lining in all of this is that eventually there be two Sebastian books published in one year, only that year will not be 2014. At the moment it's looking like it may be 2016, but don't quote me on that!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Good News!

Readers of the Sebastian St. Cyr series will be happy to hear that I have accepted a new contract for two more Sebastian books, numbers eleven and twelve.

And here's something I am really excited about: my publishers are so happy with the cover of Why Kings Confess that they are planning to go back and redo some of the less successful covers from the past, using this same cover artist. I said, "Can we please start with What Remains of Heaven?" But I'm not sure where they'll start. (With my luck they'll redo the Angels cover, which I have always loved.)

There's a lot more going on that I can't talk about just yet, including more promotion and some trips to mystery bookstores around the country. My publishers are excited about the series, and for that I have to thank you all, my readers.

UPDATE: Parts of this post have been removed because of changing circumstances! Please see more recent post.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Blog Interview!

I have a new interview up at the blog Mysteries and My Musings. The blog owner, Ariel, asks some great questions. So if you ever wanted to know why I write, how I go about coming up with the idea for a new murder, what Sebastian and I have in common, how I go about creating characters, or who my favorite literary sleuth is, head on over there!

Also, I have some great news coming up, so stay tuned....

Friday, September 06, 2013

Reconsidering Jane

I have a confession to make: I never liked Jane Austen. Oh, I enjoyed the 1995 BBC production of Pride and Prejudice as much as the next woman. But the books themselves left me cold, even back in the day when my teenaged self was gamely plowing through a list of One Hundred Books Every Educated Person Should Have Read, given me by some well-meaning high school English teacher. (I am probably the the only student she handed that list who actually kept it and tried to read them all. I was soooo determined to be an Educated Person.)

I tried reading Jane again in my 30s when I was writing romances and the Austen craze was sweeping Hollywood. Once again, my reaction was, "Eh."

But the plot of Who Buries the Dead, the Sebastian book I'm currently writing, happens to involve Jane Austen.  So I started reading Austen biographies and her letters, then moved on (with a loud groan) to her novels. The first one--Sense and Sensibility--I still loathe. But then I tried Persuasion, and wonder of all wonders, I liked it. I mean, I really liked it. The BBC's Pride and Prejudice is so faithful to the book that I could hear the actors' voices echoing in my head as I read it, making the experience impossible to judge. But I'm now halfway through Emma (a book I started and abandoned at least three times in the past) and I find myself enjoying it, too, albeit not as much.

Why the shift? Perhaps it's because I'm reading them as e-books, and I find I read faster electronically. But I think part of it is because I didn't come at them this time looking for a romance or even a story. I'm reading for voice and social observations, and so for perhaps the first time I find myself actually enjoying all those funny, nasty things Jane says about almost everyone.

Because the truth is that while she cloaks her venom in humor, Jane Austen peoples her books with a collection of characters who are almost without exception self-absorbed, hypocritical, silly, pompous, self-indulgent, self-delusional, stupid, weak, and/or vain. It's impossible to read Austen and not come away with the conclusion that she had an extraordinarily low opinion of the vast majority of her fellow men, and that the Austen family delighted in the endless lampooning of their acquaintances and neighbors (and probably each other).

In fact, the portrayals are so relentlessly uncharitable that at first they made me uncomfortable. But the truth is, I have a pretty low tolerance for self-delusion, hypocrisy, and vanity myself. And here's the thing about Austen's characters: they may be silly and self-absorbed, but they are rarely evil. Their cruelties are almost always the result of their selfishness, their obsession with wealth and status, or their greed. George Wickham is perhaps the most undiluted villain in her books, a true textbook-worthy sociopath; others such as Willoughby and Crawford are above all else weak. Obviously, Jane knew of the existence of evil only too well. But she found moral weakness more interesting--and useful.

I still think the push to elevate Austen to the same heights as Shakespeare is misguided. Her language is studied and contorted rather than lyrical, and her plots are episodic and weak. But I no longer agree with Mark Twain, who wanted to dig her up and hit her over the head with her own shinbone. Jane Austen's shining talent was her ability to take ordinary life and people and, by her biting wit and astute observations, make them both memorable and endlessly entertaining. And that is a rare talent indeed.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Eight Years On

It was eight years ago this morning that Katrina slammed into New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, changing our city--changing us--forever. So much has happened in the past eight years that in some ways those horror-filled hours and days and months seem long, long ago. And yet...

I can still feel the gut-wrenching despair of opening my front door for the first time after the storm and seeing what the floodwaters had done to the inside of my home. Still vividly recall the anguish of sitting beside my dying aunt in an understaffed hospital with boarded-up, shattered windows and orange FEMA blankets (because their laundry service had been swept away). Still remember the endless, strained jokes about blue tarps and National Guardsmen with machine guns at the corner and driving up to Baton Rouge for groceries and water. And none of us will ever forget that inimitable stench of decay that clung to the city for months and months--and, in some places, years.

They tell us the city has now regained 75% of its pre-Katrina population. That means more than 25% of us never came home, because our population today includes many volunteers who came down here to help, fell in love with the place, and decided to stay. It also includes new Hispanic residents who came to work on the reconstruction and also stayed.

In many, many ways, New Orleans is "back," as they like to say, although the changes are there, and heartbreaking. Yet change is a part of life, as are trauma and renewal. None of us will ever be the same again, in some ways that are good, but in others... Not so good. The memories of Katrina are always with us, a part of who we are. Yet every year on this date, those thoughts push their way to the front of our consciousness, and we go through our day shadowed by the old hurt and fear, shock and horror, despair and pain, disillusionment and bewilderment.

And we mourn what we have lost.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The HMS Acasta

The HMS Acasta is a Royal Navy reenactment group portraying the crew of the HMS Acasta, a 40 gun frigate built in 1797. The Acasta saw action against the French, Spanish, and Americans in the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812. After taking a number of prizes, mostly in the West Indies, it was broken up in 1821.

The HMS Acasta reenactment group maintains a wonderful blog at  http://www.hmsacasta.com/. They are fanatical about being true to their period, which makes the blog a great source for anyone interested in the Regency period. So be warned! Click on that link and be prepared to lose hours meandering through their past posts.

One of their most interesting posts is this one, available on YouTube, "Dressing Mr. Darcy," which does one of the best jobs of explaining Regency male dress I've seen.

Monday, August 12, 2013

More Pomp and Circumstance

We had another graduation in the family this past week when my younger daughter, Dani, received her master's degree in cognitive psychology from LSU.

Although Baton Rouge isn't far away, they're doing a lot of construction on the interstate at the moment, so Steve and I drove up the day before and stayed at LSU's lakeside hotel. My daughter actually completed the degree last spring and has now started work on her PhD (she taught her first course, Introduction to Psychology, this summer), but she didn't quite finish in time to get all the paperwork in and go through the ceremony in May. Which was a good thing, since not only would she had graduated the same day her big sis graduated from medical school (the medical school ceremony is in New Orleans), but sitting through a graduation of less than 800 students is far more pleasant than enduring a parade of thousands!

While graduations can be painful--especially when the seats are as scrunched together as those in LSU's arena--I still get a buzz out of the atmosphere of intense pride and accomplishment (and relief) they generate. The familiar strains of Pomp and Circumstance still bring a lump to my throat.

And yes, Steve and I are very proud of our girls.

Top photo courtesy of Jim Zietz/LSU University Relations.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

When Karma Bites

I don't really believe in karma. I'd like to, but I don't. Yet sometimes...

Today was quite lively in my neighborhood. Remember the crazy lady who lives across the street? Remember the nasty neighbor who did this to my Bradford pear tree?

Well, this afternoon I walked out into my front yard to move my sprinkler, only to discover the crazy lady standing in the driveway next door and fighting with my nasty neighbor. This lady is seriously crazy--and scary. She lit into the guy to the point that he retreated into his car and locked the doors, while the crazy lady yelled obscenities at him and banged her fists on his roof. Now, normally the crazy lady is not one of my favorite people, but I had to restrain myself from shouting, "You go, girl!"

Of course, then someone down the street called the cops, and because I was a witness...

And I'm supposed to be writing a book through all this? Can I just say, I actually live in what is considered a "nice" neighborhood?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Careful, Or You'll End Up in My Novel

Sooner or later, we all have one: the proverbial neighbor from hell. 

The rest of my neighbors are pleasant, even if some are a bit peculiar. One lady seems to be bipolar and has substance abuse and anger control issues, but I have never called the cops on her (someone obviously does, though, because they’re always coming to cart her off). Another of my neighbors used to be Aaron Broussard, the Jefferson Parish president who had fifteen minutes of fame during Katrina. He was always nice, but I say “was” because he’s now in a federal pen. One next-door neighbor is a very affable, extremely buff black FBI agent with an impressive collection of automatic weapons, whose presence is rather comforting during hurricanes. But then there’s the jerk on the other side…

Once, after Katrina, he called the cops on me when I stopped his workmen from moving his fence posts another foot inside my property line (they were already six inches on my property, but he managed to pull that off before I bought the house). Another time he sprayed Round Up on the gardens of the houses that border his back yard. And just this past weekend, when I wasn’t home, he sent men with chainsaws to lop the tops off four of my small trees and seriously butcher my Bradford pear tree (he doesn’t like things that grow because the wind carries leaves and petals into his pool). Yes, I could call the cops on him because we’re not talking branches hanging over the property line but limbs that were on my own property and the tops of the trunks of trees growing in my front yard. But the trees are already ruined, and while I used to be a rather scrappy person, I’ve mellowed enough these days to realize that fighting with people only introduces disharmony and aggravation into my own life.

Besides, I have a way to get back at him that is open to few: I intend to put him in one of my books—maybe even more than one—and it will not be a flattering portrayal.

I have in the past put an ex-husband in one of my books, and killed him. One of my daughter’s old boyfriends has been an endless source of inspiration for a number of characters with borderline traits. An annoying woman from our local RWA chapter is making an appearance in the book I’m writing now. There’s a reason Steve gave me this sweatshirt for Christmas one year:

Of course, I also put people I like in my books, or at least bits of them. Both Hendon in the Sebastian series and the Colonel in the Tobie and Jax books have aspects of Steve in them. My two daughters inspired the little girls in one of my historical romances (and yes, they recognized themselves when they grew old enough to read it). It’s something all authors do, consciously or subconsciously. Sue Grafton once told me that she turned her daydreams of killing her ex-husband into A is for Alibi .

In you-know-who's case, I’ll change enough that he won’t be able to sue me on the off chance he should read my book(s). But I will have endless fun with him. And quietly laughing at him is much more pleasant—and productive—than getting angry, and much safer than trying to get revenge. However, the next time he lets his pool get nasty, I am definitely calling code enforcement.

UPDATE: I must confess that my attempt at maintaining a Zen-like calm did not work. By Friday, when I realized I was still too upset by the incident to write, I did call the police. They warned him that I could charge him with  "simple criminal destruction," although I have decided not to press charges at this time. He's still going in my next book, though!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Copyedits and Cover Flats, Oh My!

Two milestones last week brought the publication of Why Kings Confess a little bit closer: the mailman delivered two cover flats (evidently they are so pleased with the cover they decided to produce them early this time, to make use of them). And then the copyedited version of the manuscript popped up in my email inbox.

For reasons known only to the Powers that Be, they made the cover darker than the version I saw. But while I liked it better lighter, I'm still very happy with it. The print is a nice metallic silver (in the photo, it shows up best in my name, but the title is the same).

The copyedits took most of last week to read through, since I always go over the manuscript very carefully. This is essentially my last chance to change anything (they get really, really cranky if you try to change things at the page proof stage). And since I'm coming at the story with fairly fresh eyes after not having read it for six months, I sometimes see things I didn't notice before.

I must say, I do miss the good old days when copyeditors made their changes on the printed manuscript, and I could sit down with the manuscript pages in hand and read. Now it's all done electronically with Track Changes adding color-coded bubbles in the margins, and I need to either read it on my computer or print it off in an itty-bitty font in order to get those bubbles in there.

Life was also complicated last week by the death of our refrigerator. Barely seven years old, it's been problematic ever since we bought it while rebuilding after Katrina (there's a reason appliances purchased after Katrina are known around here as "Katrina Klunkers"). So we decided not to fix it again. This new one is huge (they no longer make them the size of our old one) and includes a giant, shallow drawer across the bottom of the fridge part for pizzas! Seriously. Every French door style refrigerator we looked at had one. Do people eat that many giant pizzas that they need a special drawer for them? At least this one doesn't have a dispenser for coke and beer cans built in the door, the way so many of them did.

I'm now looking at my other Katrina Klunkers--specifically the dishwasher and washing machine--and thinking I ought to look into replacing them BEFORE they die. The infuriating thing is, these were not cheap appliances. If you want to see me go red in the face, just whisper, "LG..."

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Can I Just Say, I Really Hate This Time of Year?

Ah, it's that time again. Time to stockpile water, get the generator serviced, make sure the shutters close, count cat carries and little noses, make sure the car is always full of gas, and lay in fresh batteries and a supply of canned food we'll never eat unless forced by circumstances I try not to think about.

Despite some of the computer projections, Tropical Storm Chantal is not really expected to hit us. But it does serve as a wake up call, if one were needed. Chantal is the third named storm of this season. Normally, the third named storm doesn't form until the middle of August, rather than the 8th of July. Previous years when this happened included 2005 (think Katrina) and 2008 (Gustav). This does not bode well for those of us who live along the coast and have anxiety issues.

Some incidents in our lives we never really recover from, and for me, Katrina falls into that category. I simply don't want to go through that ever again.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


An observant reader (thanks, Ali!) alerted me to the fact that the cover of Why Kings Confess is already up on Amazon. I queried my editor (it was news to her, too!) and so, without further ado, here's the new cover:

You can click on the picture to enlarge it, if you want to see it better.

I'm happy with it. The guy doesn't look like my image of Sebastian (he actually reminds me a lot of Sean Bean in the Sharpe series, whom I always found incredibly sexy), but I love his dynamism and energy and that edge of danger and purposefulness. And I think the cover itself is very striking. Perhaps those of you who don't like to think of Sebastian looking like this can simply decide it's a picture of some other random Regency guy!

And since Amazon also has the cover copy (can you tell I'm feeling a bit late to my own party?), I'll post that, too:

The gruesome murder of a young French physician draws aristocratic investigator Sebastian St. Cyr and his pregnant wife, Hero, into a dangerous, decades-old mystery as a wrenching piece of Sebastian’s past puts him to the ultimate test.

Regency England, January 1813: When a badly injured Frenchwoman is found beside the mutilated body of Dr. Damion Pelletan in one of London’s worst slums, Sebastian finds himself caught in a high-stakes tangle of murder and revenge. Although the woman, Alexi Sauvage, has no memory of the attack, Sebastian knows her all too well from an incident in his past—an act of wartime brutality and betrayal that nearly destroyed him.

As the search for the killer leads Sebastian into a treacherous web of duplicity, he discovers that Pelletan was part of a secret delegation sent by Napoleon to investigate the possibility of peace with Britain. Despite his powerful father-in-law’s warnings, Sebastian plunges deep into the mystery of the “Lost Dauphin,” the boy prince who disappeared in the darkest days of the French Revolution, and soon finds himself at lethal odds with the Dauphin’s sister—the imperious, ruthless daughter of Marie Antoinette—who is determined to retake the French crown at any cost.

With the murderer striking ever closer, Sebastian must battle new fears about Hero’s health and that of their soon-to-be born child. When he realizes the key to their survival may lie in the hands of an old enemy, he must finally face the truth about his own guilt in a past he has found too terrible to consider.... 

So what do y'all think of the cover? Love it? Hate it? Can live with it? The most important factor for me is, Will it attract new readers? And I think it will do that nicely. 

UPDATE: And did you notice my name is AT THE TOP? Finally!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Back to Writing

Life has been getting in the way of writing a lot lately. First, a huge chunk of my time went to helping my daughter get ready to move (and fixing up her furniture, as discussed in the previous post). Then I went over to San Antonio for a week to help her get settled in. Then, just to complicate things, the day after I came home, I smashed my right hand so badly I could neither type nor hold a pen. Talk about frustrating!

But I've now picked up where I left off with Who Buries the Dead, which will be book # 10 in the Sebastian St. Cyr series for those keeping track. All that time away enabled me to come back and look at the manuscript with fresh eyes, so that I immediately spotted solutions to a few niggling little things that had been bothering me. I wouldn't exactly describe the last few weeks as a vacation, but it has certainly been a break, and I hope that will prove to be a good thing.

While we were gone, one of my climbing roses invaded the screened in second-floor gallery where our two cats with "elimination issues" (fondly known as the P Cats) live. I plan to cut it off even though they're not toxic to cats, but in the meantime, Whiskies has really been enjoying it!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Candy's Furniture Repair Shop

I wouldn't exactly call furniture restoration one of my "hobbies," because people are supposed to enjoy their hobbies and I don't actually like working on furniture. It's too nerve wracking; something can always go suddenly, horribly wrong--and frequently does.

But I still seem to find myself doing an awful lot of it. It all started after Katrina, when I had a house full of lovely, ruined old furniture and quickly realized that our flood insurance was not going to begin to stretch to get it all professionally put to rights. Fortunately, we had a friend who worked restoring furniture for area museums and plantations, and he walked through the house with me, telling me what to do--or at least try--with each item (he also told me to just "throw away" one of my favorite pieces, but I didn't listen to that part). The fact that everything was already essentially destroyed gave me the courage to forge ahead. But once it was all finished, I put away my hide glue pot and shellac flakes and artists colors (I quickly realized I needed to mix my own stains) with a sigh of relief and said, "Never again."

Then my younger daughter moved into an apartment and thought that old map case we had in the storeroom would make a nice coffee table....

She also took the hutch that was in the spare bedroom, which meant I had to fix up my dad's old gun cabinet and fit it out with shelves to take its place.

Now my older daughter is moving off to Texas with a few items that really could use some tender loving care before she leaves.

My partner in all this is Steve, who very obligingly routs missing pieces of trim and cuts shelves and translates my sketches for coffee table legs into reality and does all sorts of other things that are utterly beyond me, and with nary a complaint. But I swear, when this round is all over, I am quitting. I really am. Once I fix up that old cedar chest....