In which books are being given away!

By me over on Facebook–be sure to enter today’s Friday giveaway!

And also by France Book Tours. They’re celebrating their one year anniversary with a giveaway extravaganza, so head on over there and join in the fun–congratulations, FBT!

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In which I am experimenting

So today I’m playing with a bit of new technology and you can’t see it but I’ve already made twelve typos I had to correct. Oops. Fourteen. In the interest of being able to work when I travel, I bought a tablet–a super little gizmo called a Transformer by Asus and I am torn between loving it so much I want to sleep with it under my pillow and hurling it out the window. But the hurling moments are fewer and further between the more I play with it. This is my first chance to try out the keyboard, and it’s workable. BUT WEE. Anybody with big hands is going to find this a challenge, and I’d hate to write a novel on it, but I could manage if I had to. More importantly, it means I can work when I travel, and since I’ve got RT coming up–six days in New Orleans!–I won’t lose a week of writing time.

I’m also digging the fact that I don’t have to take my Kindle–I loaded the Kindle app onto the tablet and even though it’s a bit more unwieldy than the ereader itself, it’s perfectly acceptable. This means my phone and the tablet are the only devices I’ll need to pack–no camera,  no iPod, no sleep machine. I’m pretty sure this thing can even blow dry my hair if I asked. Oooh, and I just increased the display size and it’s even better…Also a plus for the Transformer? It came with the keyboard. I priced several other brands but adding in the keyboard and case in some instances doubled the cost. With this one the keyboard doubles as the case, and even then it’s barely  heavier than my Kindle. My netbook (hello, 2008!) is giving up the ghost and my laptop is WAY too heavy to schlep around airports. This little guy will fill the gap nicely–and it also came with Word, another selling point since that’s the program I use for my work. I’d like it better if it came in dark red or hot pink, but alas, we’ll have to make do with basic black. In any event, it’s functional, well-priced, has just the features I want without loads of things I don’t. What more could I ask? (Oh, and having a touch screen is just a plain old LUXURY since my laptop doesn’t. My fancy schmancy desktop does and I always forget to use it, but in a smaller device, it’s just NICE to be able to make things happen at the touch of a finger. Makes me feel like Hermione Granger.)

Now, onto something entirely different. This week I’ve been pondering moods–specifically mine since they’ve been variable and occasionally rotten. I could blame lots of things: the weather, hormones, having a contract proposal out (those are always nerve-curdling), the Grand Cross that’s approaching on April 23. (Got your astrological updates? This one’s a DOOZY. I have an ongoing skeptic/believer conflict with astrology. It seems absurd and yet so often when I go looking for a planetary explanation for something, there it is. At this point, I just think it’s interesting. And the moon influences the tides, so who’s to say? In any event, the Grand Cross puts lots of things in conflict, so it’s a reminder to be extra-gentle and kind with one another. And when is that ever a bad thing?)

Anyway, MOODS. Managing them can be an exercise in frustration. If you indulge yourself with food or wine, you’ll regret it. And if you indulge yourself with shopping to feel better, you’ll REALLY regret it. A few treats to pamper yourself are a great idea–a new lotion, a bubble bath, a fresh new lipstick, a book. A yoga or ballet workout, a few pages written in a journal, a walk in the sunshine and fresh air–also great ideas. But the BEST way I’ve found to turn around a sour mood is do something for someone else. Call a friend, return an email, send a compliment. Get out of your own head and focus on doing for somebody else. It can be small–grand gestures need not apply. Sometimes remembering to pick up toilet paper is just as important as showing up with flowers.

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In which we’re talking research

One of the questions I get a fair amount is whether or not it’s necessary to travel to a setting in order to write it. It’s a great question, and I’ve sat on panels with other writers who will argue both sides with vehemence. Before I tackle the answer, let me preface it by saying that since I write historical fiction, I CAN’T travel to the settings I write about. I may have been to Paris, but I haven’t been to Paris in 1789. (I have a French Revolution novel that I’d like to write in a dozen years or so.) And post-Haussmann Paris is a very different city. Even 1920s Damascus is not the city it is today.

Naturally, some things endure. Monuments and city walls, castles and canals are often exactly where they’ve always been, and a trip to see them can whisk you back in time and give you a good feel for what the space would have been like once upon a time. Natural landscapes might not have altered much; the tang of sea air and the steamy heat of a rain forest are largely the same. You can still go out on safari in Tanzania or visit the pyramids in Egypt or board a sailing vessel in the Caribbean, and if you have a chance to visit your chosen setting, by all means DO. It’s a wonderful jump-start to the imagination, and you can collect details and sensory impressions that are very difficult to come by otherwise. But is it NECESSARY?

Short answer: no. I maintain that writers are creatures of imagination. If I’m good enough at my job, I should be able to make you believe I’ve been to the moon if I’m writing about a lunar landing party. We put ourselves into fictional worlds ALL THE TIME. It is our job to do so and to make it believable. Budget, time, work demands, family obligations, health–all of these things can prevent you from traveling and many of them have kept me from settings I’d like to have seen. (You can probably guess that given the situation in Syria at present, I did not visit Damascus before writing CITY OF JASMINE.) When I’ve been able to travel for research, I’ve done it–but I’ve also written books set in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Transylvanian Alps, and Kenya, none of which I’ve visited.

So, how do you conjure a place you’ve never been? Here are my favorite tips:

*Start with the kids. In the children’s section of the library you’ll find nonfiction books about every corner of the globe as well as cultural studies and histories. Grab and armful and start reading. You can find food and crafts, flora and fauna, ethnographic information, timelines of events–in short, everything you need to get a very broad, very basic picture of the area you’re studying. Their books also have maps–nice big, simple maps that will give you an overview of a country with major topographical features, seasons, perhaps even agricultural products and ethnic breakdowns.

*Move onto the adult nonfiction. Now that you have a child’s eye view of the place, you can choose which adult nonfiction books will fill in the gaps. (Starting with adult nonfiction is a wonderful idea–it also takes a VERY LONG TIME. These books are often very densely written and very long, great if you have the time to spare, but if you’re writing on a deadline, you might not. You’ll have to triage your research into the stuff that you MUST learn and the stuff that can wait but would be a nice idea and the stuff that isn’t necessary at all. Jumping into the kids’ section first helps narrow your focus to the books that will be most helpful.)

*Don’t forget memoirs. Diaries, letters–wonderful sources of first-hand information as long as you remember there is an inherent bias in all of them. (Yes, there’s an inherent bias in ALL books, but it’s much more apparent in first-person accounts.) My personal jackpot? When I score a memoir from an author who, as a child, lived in the area I’m researching. Writers naturally have a good eye for detail and children notice all kinds of things that grown-ups don’t. They’ll have stories packed with subtle touches that bring a place to life.

*Remember sensory details. It’s the sensory details that bring a setting to life for a reader, so don’t skimp on them. Pillage the research books for mentions of food, animals, fragrances, weather, scenery, materials, music–anything and everything that can lend a touch of reality.

*Ask friends. I didn’t have a chance to go to Africa before writing A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS, but I did know several people who had been on safari. They were generous enough to share impressions, memories, photos–all of which was immensely helpful. (Best question to ask? “What is something I’d only know if I’d been there?” That’s how I learned that lions smell like domestic cat pee…)

*Screen documentaries and films. Scour your TV listings, Netflix, PBS site, and library for the keywords associated with your project. You’ll turn up everything from kids’ shows to nature programs to vintage films, all of which can be useful.

*Do the best you can. When I realized I wasn’t going to have time to visit Africa before writing SPEAR, I did everything I could to find at least some sort of similar experience. The best I came up with on short notice was heading down to Florida to visit Animal Kingdom and Busch Gardens Tampa. Now, let’s be clear: there is NO substitute for going on safari. Just NONE. But at Animal Kingdom Lodge, I was able to stay in a room that had giraffes and Ankole cattle and zebra drifting around outside. I was able to talk to staff members from Kenya and Tanzania. I interviewed their zoological director who had just returned from one of four trips he takes every year to east Africa. I got to see museum-quality art from all over Africa as well as artifacts from the trips of Martin and Osa Johnson, pioneering nature filmmakers. I got a behind the scenes tour with the cheetah specialist at Busch Gardens and I fed giraffes by hand. At Animal Kingdom, I participated in a special safari that included lunch out of tiffin boxes served at a pavilion overlooking a savannah teeming with wildlife–artificial, yes. Absolutely. But I turned my deck chair out towards the savannah and got to imagine, at least for a little while, what it must be like to experience the real thing. And I stood five feet away from a lion who obligingly roared at me, and in spite of the fences between us, I got to experience the way the roar will reverberate all the way down the spinal column into the ground. Again, in no way do these experiences compare with being there. But they’re something, and something is always better than nothing.

*Immerse yourself. When working out a setting, I have listened to authentic music, cooked traditional dishes, bought soaps and perfumes imported from that country, watched YouTube clips of traditional dances and ceremonies, burned their incense, drunk their tea, read their children’s books, listened to their language, read their native authors, tried their crafts, and worn their fabrics. And if budget is an issue, most of these things are extremely inexpensive, particularly if you put out a call to your friends. People are thrilled to share their travel experiences and their culture. I have been overwhelmed by how generous people have been–and all because I ventured a question or two about something they knew much more about than I did.

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In which our Friday giveaway is up!

Go check it out–entries at the FB page only!

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In which we’re getting airborne

Okay, not really. But this is as close as I got during the writing of CITY OF JASMINE. The heroine of the novel, Evangeline Starke, is an aviator bent on piloting her airplane, the Jolly Roger, across the seven seas of antiquity. (Full marks if you smelled any hint of Beryl Markham there–and ALL THE POINTS if you know who Maia Carbery was.) Anyway, those pioneering women–among many others–were the inspiration for Evie Starke. One of the first things I had to do was choose her plane. Everyone and their dog seems to have flown a de Havilland Gipsy, especially the Moth. But I wanted something different. And I freely admit to taking my lead from that greatest of WWI aces….Snoopy.

Yep, Snoopy flew a Sopwith, so I started poking around and discovered the Sopwith was a perfect plane for my heroine. Now, our erstwhile beagle hero flew a Camel, at least in his imagination, which wouldn’t serve Evie for one good reason–it was a one-seater. I needed a second seat for Aunt Dove and Arthur Wellesley, so I researched more and found the Sopwith Strutter 1 1/2. It was light and quick, and after WWI, it wasn’t in great demand–the perfect plane to be snapped up by a girl with a dream and not much money.

A little further research uncovered the fact that there were a few Strutter replicas hanging around–most built for the film “Flyboys”. And as luck would have it, one of the planes actually USED in the film was living only about 50 miles from my house at the Military Aviation Museum. Say no more. A field trip was in order, and before the week was out, I was there, petting an actual Sopwith Strutter 1 1/2–at least when the docent wasn’t looking…

The thing that amazed and horrified me was how utterly FLIMSY the plane looked. It was plywood and canvas and precious little else.(Oddly enough, in the early years of aviation, if you crashed, you had fairly good chances of surviving simply because the planes didn’t fly all that fast. But I still didn’t like my chances in this thing that looked like a glorified kite. I will admit to being irredeemably smitten with the Fokker tri-plane parked next to the Strutter. It didn’t look much sturdier, but the scarlet paint, the black Maltese cross, and the wings edged LIKE BAT WINGS were just too cool to ignore. At least the Strutter had a truly beautiful wooden propeller…

Strutter 1 Strutter 2

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In which I’m blogging about Miss Elizabeth Bennet

Recently I received the following from reader Nancy:

Deanna,

I would so love for you to blog about Elizabeth Bennet. You’ve said before she’s a favorite character of yours. My response to this is a high pitched Seinfeld-y, and only 20% serious “whaaat? Are you nuts?!  How could she possibly?”

And yet I appear to be alone in my opinion of her. I spoke with a 1900 English Lit. professor at UVa a while ago and she was surprised with my take on Lizzy. I may have used “twit” in my final verdict. However(!) said professor did see where I was coming from; I suppose that comes with being an educator though…

The girl flits from one dude to the next no less than three times. AIRHEAD. FLAKY. AIRHEAD. Of course she could get over her scruples with Mr. Darcy: she changes her mind more than her socks. Also what tripped me up pretty well is Mr. Bennet saying Mr. Wickham was his favorite son in law. Or something akin to that. This seems entirely out of character for anyone from that time/social setting. I didn’t have time with the professor to broach this; I was far too concerned about on one hand the Dashwood’s couldn’t afford a horse and carriage but on the other they could afford two servants. How’s that work. Got that question squared away though.

And after that, how could I not blog about her? First, favorite characters are hugely subjective. Recently I did a panel discussion with Sabrina Jeffries, Cathy Maxwell, and Gail Barrett. A reader asked how we felt about Scarlett O’Hara and our reactions ranged from adoration to flat-out hate. (My take is that she’s deeply flawed but I love her anyway.) So I could just leave that there and walk away–I love Elizabeth Bennet. So there. But that’s not helpful so I’ll give you some of the reasons I think other folks love her too:

1. She’s not beautiful. We’re told plainly that her elder sister Jane is the real beauty of the family, although Elizabeth is pleasant enough to look at. (Darcy’s commentary on Elizabeth’s looks–after he begins to be attracted to her–is that she has “fine eyes”. And that’s enough to start with.)

2. Her attractions come almost entirely from her personality. She gives as good as she gets and it’s THIS quality of liveliness and spirit that attracts Darcy and makes him give her a second look. The message here is that you don’t have to be the prettiest girl in the room to get the guy of your dreams–you just have to be authentic, and Lizzy is never anything BUT herself, whether she’s metaphorically tweaking Darcy’s nose or holding her own with Lady Catherine. Which leads us to…

3. She has an excellent sense of her own self-worth. She’s not a raving beauty; she’s not wealthy. Her prospects on the marriage market are fair at best, but Lizzy is not cowed by this. She doesn’t back down from sparring with the Bingley sisters or from confrontation with Lady Catherine. She even tells Lady Catherine quite plainly that she can have no objections to Elizabeth’s marriage to Darcy on the grounds that they are equals–big talk from a poor girl whose family estate is entailed to a buffoon like Mr. Collins. Which again leads us on…

4. She doesn’t take the easy way out. It would be expedient for her to marry Collins and keep Longbourn in the family, but she doesn’t do it. She opposes her mother’s insistence upon the match–albeit with her father’s approval–and holds firm to the idea that a woman should at least be able to respect her marriage partner.

5. She can laugh at herself. When she overhears Darcy slag her off to Bingley on their first meeting, she covers her hurt feelings with good-natured raillery. She doesn’t keep the story to herself; she shares it with a little embellishment and encourages others to see the ridiculousness in the situation. It takes a secure person to do that, and that is DEEPLY attractive in a heroine.

6. She’s willing to learn from her mistakes. Yes, she misjudges Wickham. She’s also twenty and with limited experience of men. She misjudges Darcy initially too. But she’s quite correct about Collins, Col. Fitzwilliam, and Bingley. One’s a social-climbing twit, one’s a perfectly nice guy with no marriage prospects–and therefore a pleasant friend–and the third is besotted with her sister, all conditions she judged perfectly. And she wasn’t the only one to make the wrong call with Darcy and Wickham. The novel was originally called FIRST IMPRESSIONS, and it makes a better title, I think, because Darcy’s first impression of Lizzy and her first impression of both men are all wrong. To her credit, she’s willing to put aside her prejudices–see what I did there?–and accept that Darcy is lovely and noble and generous and that Wickham is a toad. (And since you asked, Nancy, about Wickham and how Mr. Bennet could possibly like him, that one’s simpler. Notice Mr. Bennet didn’t say he admired Wickham. He said Wickham was his favorite. It’s easy to look fondly on someone you can also look down on. He knows he has a better character than Wickham, and Wickham took Lydia off his hands. That alone would earn some serious points. Bingley is a sweetly unassuming fellow who is probably a trifle vanilla to make much of an impression on his father-in-law. And Darcy would be a very uncomfortable fellow for a father-in-law to like–he’s got a strong character; he’s RICH, principled, and dashing. He’s far more of a gentleman with all that the word entails than Mr. Bennet is, and Mr. Bennet knows it. Remember, he tells Lizzy he gave Darcy permission to marry her because he dared not refuse him. Plainly put, he’s a little scared of this paragon from Derbyshire.)

Alright, Nancy, I’ve given you six good reasons for folks to like Elizabeth Bennet–and I could probably find a dozen more, but not to worry. If you don’t like her, you absolutely don’t have to. I defy anyone to make me like Fanny Price!

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In which the chickens are cranky

Alright, y’all, I’ve had some emails lately on a few subjects so I thought I’d address them in one place. First, we’ve been talking about the Lady Julia digital novellas since May 2012–the blog entries about the digital projects are still in the archive and answers are on my FAQ page but some folks have missed those, so I’m going to address it again. To state this as plainly as I can, the decision to bring out the novellas solely as ebooks rests entirely with my publisher. NO REALLY. I HAVE NO SAY IN THIS MATTER WHATSOEVER. If you want it in print, your feelings should be communicated TO THEM. I can tell them how many readers ask for a print collection–and I do!–but that really has no impact. If every reader who complained to me personally had sent their email to the publisher instead, they’d have been rushing to get this sucker into print. And I’m DELIGHTED that so many of you want to see a print version–so would I! But emailing me is simply not the best way to get that done. And the vast majority of the emails have been genuine expressions of devotion for the Julia books which I appreciate greatly. I have noticed, however, a different tone creeping into them over the past few months as if I am deliberately and cruelly withholding print versions for some purpose of my own. I really, REALLY want to clear that one up! I would neeeeever withhold a print version from you if it was within my power to give you one.

For more thoughts, here is a portion of the May 2012 blog entry:

I get that not everyone owns or wants to own an ereader. But I’m a writer and when my publisher says, “HEY, WANT TO WRITE SOMETHING?” my reaction is usually “YES, PLEASE.” And while every reader has the right to format preferences–I myself am a trade paperback girl all the way although I use my Kindle plenty–if you are completely resistant to the ereader, you do have to understand that there will simply be some things you won’t have the opportunity to read. The industry is changing, probably more so than at any time since William Caxton said, “Hey, you guys, I have an idea…” Last year, Amazon sold more ebooks than paperback or hardcover, so there is a tremendous demand for this format. It also provides publishers–whether traditional or the authors themselves–with a format so low in overhead that projects which would NEVER get published in hard copy become viable prospects for turning a profit. The issue here is not that material is being published deliberately to exclude the people who don’t like ereaders. The issue is that it is being published in a format that can turn a profit.

Traditional publishers only have so many publication slots each year. If they have the opportunity to offer more content by widening their formats, everybody wins–the author who wants more exposure and more royalties, the publisher who wants more profits, and the readers who want more content. The only ones who take exception to it are the people who are unwilling to embrace the new format. And that’s perfectly fine–print books aren’t going anywhere. But it does seem a little odd to me that there are folks who will say, essentially, “I don’t like this technology and therefore no one else should be able to enjoy the full range of its capabilities.” It’s rather like only ever seeing movies in the theatre and then feeling left out when people who purchase DVDs get to see extra features. It isn’t that anyone is trying to leave you out. It’s that this other bit of technology offers opportunities that loads of other folks really enjoy.

Other readers have complained about the cost of ereaders. Here are some thoughts from the May 2012 blog entry on that subject:

As to reading the ebooks without your own ereader, here are some options:

1. Borrow an ereader. Some libraries are offering them for loan and this is a superb way of dipping a toe into the ereading experience. You might also have an extremely generous friend or family member willing to loan one for as long as it takes to read a novella!

2. Purchase a refurb. If shelling out full price for an ereader is not at the top of your priority list–and for many people it isn’t–consider the refurbished models you can buy at a discount. I know several people who have purchased Kindles this way and been very happy. I haven’t checked, but perhaps Nook and Kobo offer the same?

3. Take a hand-me-down. My parents and daughter all have ereaders and none of them has ever bought their own! My husband and I have been the tech guinea pigs, trying out a couple of different ones before settling down happily with our Kindle Fires. (Daughter prefers the Nook, my parents are quite content with the Kindles that have keyboards.)

4. Install the ereading app on your computer or smartphone. Before I bought an ereader this is how I did it. It’s old school, but it works just fine. The apps are FREE. You can download them in about four seconds from Amazon or Barnes and Noble and shop in their stores within a minute. If you have a tablet, it’s barely bigger than an ereader, and if you have a smartphone, it’s actually more portable. But with a wee little screen, of course…However, it is the most budget-friendly option.

Now, onto the next prickly subject–contests. It’s odd but true that no matter how I choose to give things away, some people take exception to how they’re organized. If it were possible, I would happily give oodles of things away across every social media platform to readers all over the world. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. First, it’s hideously expensive to ship books around the world. I have a writer pal who got gigged with an $80 shipping bill for ONE book headed to South Africa. Even shipping to Canada is at least five times the cost of sending a book to a US reader. By restricting a contest to US entries, I can reach five times the readers–that’s just a better business practice. I DO open contests to international readers, but I have to consider the costs carefully and do it infrequently in order to maximize how many readers I’m able to make happy.

As far as the social media platforms, the contests vary and they will continue to vary. If I open a contest here on the blog, I have to monitor and approve EVERY SINGLE ENTRY. Comments can’t go unmoderated because there’s a spam problem here, and if I sit on the blog approving every one of the hundreds of entries we get for a contest, no writing is getting done and nobody would be happy about that, least of all me. I DO run contests through the blog, but again, I have to consider the time involved and do it infrequently. (And paying someone to moderate the comments as they come in is not cost-effective.)

Which brings me to the April Friday contests. Those are offered on Facebook only because FB is changing its algorithms CONSTANTLY and we’re attempting to improve the reach of my author page. You would expect that if you’ve liked my author page on FB, you’d get to see whatever I post there. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Now you not only have to like the page, you have to follow the page, AND you must engage with the page–Facebook’s rules, not mine. (Grrrrr, snarl.) That means to see posts regularly, you have to have commented on the page. What’s the best way to get readers to comment? Offer an inducement in the form of a contest prize. The whole point is to make sure that readers who have indicated they WANT to see updates via FB are actually seeing them in spite of FB’s attempts to throttle the page reach. They’re doing this to force people to pay to boost their reach, BTW. I have calculated, and if I wanted every person who has liked my page to see everything I post there, I would have to pay FB approximately $2000/month. With numbers like that, I’m sure you can see why I am interested in boosting the page reach WITHOUT resorting to paying FB’s rates. Those contests are being run to have some fun with readers but mostly to help ensure they’re getting regular page updates. They were not designed to punish folks without FB accounts, and for the folks who have written to tell me how much they hate FB–yeah. Right there with you. I would LOVE to leave FB, but for now it’s a necessary evil and I need to put that particular tool to the best possible use that I can so long as it’s in the toolbox. 

PHEW! I think that takes care of the bulk of the complaints we’ve had recently, and I hope that clears up any confusion. And since I’ve had to clear away some of the things that were troubling some readers, I’d like to close by sharing something AWESOME that a reader sent–her Pinterest board devoted to the Lady Julia novels. It’s FABULOUS; thanks a million, KC!

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In which the Friday contest without a name is OPEN!

Here are the details:

Open to international readers. Comments must be left at my Facebook author page to count as entries. Good luck!

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In which we have some catching up to do

First, huge thanks for all the DABWAHA love! I was delighted to make it to the sweet sixteen round–and just between us, that was my entire goal. I wanted to have a chance to play with my pal Susanna Kearsley and we had an awesome time, so I was perfectly happy to bow out from the competition. (I’m just vexed that she didn’t go all the way with THE FIREBIRD!)

Next, I’ve been beavering away at April’s newsletter, a new book proposal, and a few other bits and bobs, so writing has been happening, good people, and that’s always an excellent thing. I’ve also been puttering in the kitchen, and thanks to this recipe, made the BEST ROAST CHICKEN EVER. Okay, technically it was wildly undercooked. But even after carving off the breasts and slapping them in an iron skillet to finish, they were still moist and juicy and super-flavorful. Plus, it’s the ultimate lazy recipe. You can literally make it with two ingredients–chicken and salt. Beautiful. I may have to invest in a proper roasting rack since I used a cake rack, but it will absolutely be worth it for this chicken. This chicken is so good they should serve it at peace summits to bring people together. I imagine the carcass would also make a gorgeous soup…

In reading news, I’ve been slooooowly working my way through Marie Brennan’s A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS. I saw this one when it first came out and thought I might enjoy it, but never got around to picking it up. Silly me. At my March signing at Murder by the Book, I noticed they had it on a display with Mary Robinette Kowals’ SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY, but I pootled on by since I only brought a carry-on bag with me. Once home I started to order a batch of thank-you cupcakes for the store, but it occurred to me they might prefer a sale…so I called them up and ordered both books and OH MY GOD. So glad I did! If I tell you DRAGONS is Victorian in feel with a natural historian-narrator it might suggest something dry or dusty, but it really, really isn’t. For some reason, the narrator’s voice reminds me of Flavia de Luce, and y’all know how much I love her! I’ve been stretching out the reading to last until the release of the sequel, THE TROPIC OF SERPENTS which is out now. Yay!

Now, onto fun news–in April we’re going to be doing a series of Friday Fundays. No, I hate that name. Alright, Friday Giveaway? Friday Funstival? They’re all bad. Choose your own. Anyway, every Friday in April I’ll be posting a question on my FB author page. Answer it there for a chance to win the novel of your choice–any full novel from the Julia series, THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST, A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS, or CITY OF JASMINE–the choice is all yours! I’ll post the link to the first question tomorrow. See you there…

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In which it is ON, chickens!

Today is round three–sweet sixteen!–of DABWAHA and my good friend Susanna Kearsley is killing me! She’s got a substantial lead right now and I’d at least like to make it a close fight–I am the underdog, you know. Head over to DABWAHA and register your vote for A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS! And if you follow me on Twitter and FB, get ready for a REALLY fun morning. Voting is open until noon central time!

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