Books, books, nothing but books!

I know lots of y’all weren’t able to make signings on the tour but would still like a signed book. No problem! The Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles is ready to help. I will be stopping by there in March to sign stock, and they are taking pre-orders! They’ll have copies of A CURIOUS BEGINNING (trade paperback), A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING (hardcover), and NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS (trade paperback). Drop by their website and get your order in before March 3rd!

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Home again, home again!

The book tour is finished and A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING has been properly launched! Heaps of thanks to all of you who turned out, bought books, sold books, asked questions, and were just generally awesome people. (If you want signed books, there are still copies at The Poisoned Pen, Murder by the Book, Fox Tale, and Litchfield Books!)

I am also delighted to note that I have turned in my revision of Veronica #3! (Not going to lie–January was BUSY.) In addition to traveling and revising, I wrote a few guest pieces and one is up today. Pop over to the Strand Magazine website and check out my list of the 10 best film adaptations of Victorian books!

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The chicken and the egg…

I’m away on the last week of the book tour for A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING and I hope your traveling along via social media links! (I’ve been lucky enough to have return visits to favorite stores, and this week I have the pleasure of visiting two new stores, so it’s just a big fat win all around.) Since I’m out of pocket, I’m reposting favorite reader questions and answers. This one is courtesy of Janet in April, 2016.

Does the book idea lead to research of the research lead to a book idea?

Oh, what a good question! And one to which there is no easy answer because it’s very much a question of chicken v. egg. I read constantly–memoirs, biography, natural history, essays, novels–any and all of which counts as research. Even when I’m reading something that is technically out of my chosen time period, I will find the odd scrap of information or a thread of a personality I can use. Those little gems get filed away for future reference.

Then, when I have an actual book idea taking shape, I start my research in earnest in a much more focused way. I collect anything and everything that I think might contribute to the book and begin to plow my way through it. Since I only write about things that interest me, this is rarely anything other than enjoyable. (That’s actually a technique I recommend–choose to write about subjects you REALLY like because you will be spending much time with them. Much, much time.)

For me, research and ideas is a deep and twisty symbiotic thing. There is no way to separate one from the other.

And that wraps up the launch month for A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING! HEAPS of thanks to all of you for making it such a great month. I’m so happy that Veronica’s second adventure is finally loose in the world, and I will be back to live-blogging next week–after turning in Veronica’s THIRD adventure to my editor!

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Rolling into the last week of the tour!

This is the last week of the tour for A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING, and I hope you’re keeping up with the lastest! The social media buttons on the bottom of the page will hook you up with my Twitter, Instagram, and FB feeds so you can come along for the ride even if you don’t live near one of our tour stops. In the meantime, here on the blog we’re revisiting some of my favorite reader questions from years gone by. Today reader Carroll R. wanted to know about the travel I do for research, particularly for CITY OF JASMINE. This post originally went up in August, 2014.

I loved the description of Damascus, the bazaars and the restaurant where they ate and the feeling of being there in that time—-What did you research to be able to describe it so well, and, as I was conjuring it in my imagination I wondered if their orders at the restaurant (I think it was this restaurant in Damascus) were typical of that time or was it a generic order you might do now as well as back then? I know that sounds weird, but I know you do a lot of research, and by the time we got the restaurant, I wondered about the specific orders—the same with describing riding on a camel — it was a great description and I just wondered if you tried riding one to describe it. 

When I’m very lucky, I’m able to travel to the destinations I write about, but sometimes that’s just not possible. I haven’t been to Transylvania or Kenya or the foothills of the Himalayas, and right now, Damascus isn’t, unfortunately, on anybody’s travel list. When I can’t travel, I immerse myself in as much armchair traveling as possible. I read guidebooks, old and new; I read cookbooks, folklore, children’s books. I scour the internet for trip pictures posted by people who have been there. I print maps so I can trace my characters’ journeys, and I read memoirs written by people who grew up in my setting.

As far as the food goes, the meals I wrote about include traditional food of the sort you could order now or a hundred years ago in Damascus. It’s an extremely cosmopolitan city with food from all over the world, but I wanted to focus on the customary cuisine that would be fairly commonplace to someone from Syria but exotic to an English character.

And yes, I have ridden a camel. It’s not nearly as charming as you would wish!

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Research, we search

Since I’m out and about promoting A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING, I’m reposting some of my favorite pieces from previous years. This is a reader question from Aimee Celeste originally posted in August 2014.

You do a lot of great research for your novels. What are your favorite resources for historical details, particularly in the time periods you write in?

I have a wide variety of sources, and I’m not remotely snobbish about where I start. For instance, I’m a huge fan of Wikipedia and children’s books. With Wikipedia, I go straight to the bottom where the sources are linked. Following those can take you to websites you might never have found on your own. I have prowled through parliamentary archives, period newspapers, art museums, and stately homes without ever leaving my study.

With children’s books, I can get a quick overview of a foreign country including agriculture and industry, history, topography, and demographics, giving me a quick shortcut to which areas need focused attention. I also follow archives and museums on Twitter to keep up with their latest exhibits, and museum curators often keep blogs full of arcane information. My favorite books for research are memoirs and journals kept by people who lived in my setting during the time period I’ve chosen–especially if they were children at the time. Children retain lots of detail in their memories, the sort of detail that can flesh a novel out beautifully. I also read cookbooks and natural history books to get a good sense of what people ate and what animals and plants were around. And I keep an eye out for information about fashion, transportation, sports, music, etc. just to add extra depth.

Finally, if there’s an author who writes great nonfiction about a given time period, I find them on Twitter or check out their blogs for even more goodies!

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Reminder–chat tonight!

Just a quick reminder, I’m chatting tonight–1/18 (Wednesday)–at 9pm eastern at the Writerspace chat room. Please drop by and visit! I’ll be giving away a signed copy of A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING and answering questions. Hope to see you there!

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A little how-to chat

It’s release month for A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING, so that means lots of travel! Please use the social media links at the bottom of the page for the latest on where I am and what I’m up to. Don’t forget the Writerspace chat on January 18 at 9pm eastern! Since I’m out and about promoting PERILOUS, I’m reposting a great reader question about how to write clothes. This post was originally up in August, 2014 and the question came from Megan B.

Where do you get your ideas for what the characters wear?

Oh, the clothes are so much fun to play with! Since I tend to stick with a time period for several books, I get a thorough grounding in the popular silhouettes and fabrics. Luckily for me, there are photographs of 1880s and 1920s fashions, so there isn’t much guesswork. There are websites devoted to period fashion, and I also have a small selection of costume and photography books. I will hit museums for special exhibits that feature period clothes, and I study the artwork of the era as well.

Once I know the shapes and fabrics, the colors come into play. Colors themselves can be tremendously important. For instance, in mourning clothes, bombazine was favored because it lacks sheen. (This is why a widow wearing black satin might find her choice exciting comment where a duller black silk might go unremarked.) Colors are a good way to show trends–during the reign of Marie Antoinette there was a rage for the color puce, a reddish brown hue the color of a flea’s back. (There was also a thoroughly unsavory fad for a color called caca dauphin when she delivered the long-awaited heir to the French throne. I’ll let you imagine the rest for yourself.) White has often been the color that sets the rich and idle apart from the working classes, while red telegraphs boldness in most circles. I choose colors based upon the messages they send, but also based upon whether or not they’re supposed to flatter the coloring of the character wearing them. And current fashion magazines are also a great source of inspiration–read them long enough and it soon becomes clear that there’s nothing entirely new under the sun!

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I’m on tour!

So today I’m at the Poisoned Pen in Phoenix–after what I’m assuming was a fabulous event yesterday at Murder by the Book (I’m writing this in advance like the keen multitasker I am…) Since I’m on tour, I thought I’d repeat a post when I was answering reader questions. This was a great query on structuring mysteries from reader Jessica and originally appeared in August, 2013.

What’s the process you follow when writing a mystery? Do you know the answer (who done it) and work backwards, or do you let the characters lead to you the answer?

For me, writing a mystery is a simple thing from a structural standpoint. I always know who did it and why when I begin. Now, I also make sure that a number of characters could have done it and could have WANTED to do it–this helps with red herrings and plot twists. And more than once I’ve been tempted to change horses midstream and let someone else do the killing. I haven’t done it yet, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I succumb to temptation one of these days…The reason I haven’t done it yet is because it could require a phenomenal amount of rewriting and I do like to work clean.

I was intrigued to read that Agatha Christie often wrote without knowing who the murderer was. When it came time to write the last chapter, she would select the least likely candidate, then make THAT character the murderer. She would go back and rewrite the few things that were necessary to make it all fit–which I think accounts for both her occasional misses and her far more frequent brilliant innovations.

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Sorry for the all caps, but I’m excited, y’all! Since we tweaked release dates, it’s been awhile since I’ve had a new release, and I am beyond delighted to share Veronica’s second adventure! It tickles me to no end to know that some of y’all are heading to bookstores today and cracking open the fresh hardcovers, some of you are opening up your e-readers to find her already sitting there, butterfly net in hand, waiting…

I am leaving on tour tomorrow, and I cannot wait to see you and talk to you about Veronica. If you can’t make a signing date, don’t forget to head to the Appearances page to hit up one of the kindly booksellers to get a personalized copy ready for you. I’ll also be hopping around Instagram, Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook this month, so be sure to check out those feeds for pics from the events or reader questions answered. And on January 18 at 9pm eastern, I’ll be over at Writerspace for a live chat, so we can visit then if you’re not close to one of our tour bookstores. Hope to see you there!

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Comfort reads!

Oh, it’s been cold and blustery and damp here, my dears–a typical start to January in my neck of the woods. It’s perfect reading weather, although I’ve been busy revising the third Veronica book and preparing for the launch of A PERILOUS UNDERTAKING. I have still managed to sneak in some pleasure reading, and here is my perfect list for a cold, drizzly, grisly afternoon!

First, you need something warm to drink. Tea, cocoa, coffee, mulled wine, bouillon–it doesn’t much matter as long as it’s soothing. Next, a flame of some sort. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, I’m envious! I make do with candles and the Yule Log channel for as long as it lasts. (It doesn’t seem possible, but having it on DOES make the room seem cozier.) If you’re the kind of person who likes music when you read, then a little Brahms would do nicely here. Finally, something to keep off the chill, snuggly socks or a lap robe will do. A draft is not at all what you want when you’re reading, particularly if it’s a mystery. You’ll just think the cool breeze against your neck is a villain approaching with a sharpened letter opener in hand…yes, this kind of weather is perfect for a little genteel crime, don’t you think?

Here are some books to while away a winter’s day with pleasant thoughts of murder:

*Stephanie Barron’s Jane Austen series. I am a huge Jane Austen fan, and I adore mystery, so what could be better than Jane Austen as discreet detective? For this weather, I’d suggest JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP as an excellent place to start.

*A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN. If you haven’t already made friends with Sherry Thomas’s delectable new take on Sherlock Holmes, this is a perfect opportunity. Lowering afternoon fogs are just the thing when you’re reading gaslit London…

*Rachel McMillan’s Sherrinford and Watts stories. I do seem to be stuck on Sherlock at the moment, don’t I? Well, if you’re looking for a sprightly pair of female sleuths, this is the series for you.

*THE SECRETS OF WISHTIDE by Kate Saunders. A mid-Victorian series debut with a delightful older female sleuth who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty…

*MY COUSIN RACHEL. A classic by Daphne du Maurier. As much psychological thriller as mystery, it’s a delicious exploration of the effect of a femme fatale upon a younger man.

*COUSIN KATE by Georgette Heyer. Confession, I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s on my TBR pile, and I am SO looking forward to it. A cross between her bright Regency romps and her Golden Age mysteries, this one is billed as a period Gothic, just the thing for a dark and stormy night…


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