Friday, November 15, 2019

Never Doubt a Duke, Out Loud


Audio books are an exciting frontier for literature these days. In an industry where flat is the new up when it comes to sales, audio books continue to see double digit increases. I admit I was not much of a connoisseur. The few I listened to never seemed to capture the story for me. And then Jannie Meisberger approached me about producing an audio book of Never Doubt a Duke, and I fell in love.

Jannie was born in England. She attended a British boarding school, where she studied elocution. She has university degrees are in Modern Languages (French and German) and Communication & Theatre Arts. How perfect for a narrator! I was just as delighted to discover that she now lives across Puget Sound from me. I thought you’d enjoy learning more about her and the audio book process.

What made you decide to become a narrator? I had studied music and acting in school in England and worked for an international organization in Europe before moving to America and raising a family. I inherited my mother’s ability to pick up accents and dialects and had great fun ‘performing’ bedtime stories to my children as they were growing up! 

After a career in international education, I decided to get back in acting, this time voice acting. I completed a number of projects, including children’s concert narration and recording public domain poems and short stories for LibriVox, before deciding that my passion was audiobook narration. I recorded my first audiobook in 2014 and have now recorded 36 audiobooks with number 37 in production.

What do you love best about being an audiobook narrator?  I get to travel through time, journey into different worlds, real and imagined, voice a myriad of characters, and bring all these wonderful stories to the world of audiobook listeners. It is also a joy to collaborate with a group of creative authors that I am honored to call friends.

What drew you to Never Doubt a Duke and the Fortune’s Brides series? As a schoolgirl in Bath, England, I fell in love with Regency period novels, notably Georgette Heyer, as well as the classic Regency authors including Jane Austen. I have narrated a number of Pride and Prejudice variations, so you can imagine how delighted I was to come upon Never Doubt a Duke and the Fortune’s Brides series and discover that they had not yet been made into audiobooks. I was even happier to discover that Regina lived not far from me, so I had the opportunity to meet and chat with her about her writing career in general and Never Doubt a Duke in particular.

What’s your secret for creating an audiobook that captures the characters and the story?  Lots of careful preparation! The average time a narrator spends per finished hour of the audiobook is between 4-8 hours preparation, sometimes more. This includes requesting character descriptions and pronunciations of names from the author, as well as reading the manuscript several times through, listing all the characters and voices for each. I make short recordings of each voice for reference and check various online resources for pronunciations of certain words. Being English, this means checking both the English and American pronunciations of many common words, to ensure whichever pronunciation I choose remains consistent throughout the book!

What was the most challenging about recording Never Doubt a Duke? I always keep in mind that the author has spent many months, even years crafting each book, and it takes a leap of faith to trust a narrator to give just the right voice to the story. I truly believe we are a team. The author’s words are the stars, and I hope my voice allows the listeners to be enthralled by the story. When Regina and I met, she shared her concerns about an audiobook version of her book, and I am so happy she trusted me to record this first book in the Fortune’s Brides series. It has been a true pleasure to narrate, and I’m looking forward to narrating the continuing journey of Miss Thorn and dear Fortune through the peerage!

So, stay tuned! Jannie is currently recording Never Borrow a Baronet too!

You can learn more about Jannie at https://www.voicebyjannie.com.

And you can find her marvelous recording of Never Doubt a Duke at

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A History Geek Moment


You all know by now (I should hope!) that I collect early nineteenth century fashion plates. As items to collect, these are pretty harmless.  They aren’t expensive, don't take up vast amounts of space in my house, are easy to care for...and they're fun. The best part is when they come with text—not only the descriptions of the plates themselves, but other articles and features and commentary on what was happening in the world. To us, those pages in old magazines are history. To the people of the past, it was what was happening in the moment. 
I was reading through the text that came with one of my prints, from the April 1813 Ackermann's Repository. It included part of an article about Napoleon's having given one of his generals the title of Prince of Moscow, and an article about the agricultural outlook for the spring.  And then there was this brief item, which I'll quote in full:

AMERICA

It is with feelings of more than the keenest grief, we have to pollute our pages with the record of another victory of the Americans over the proud, the hitherto invincible navy of Great Britain.  By American journals recently arrived, we learn, that, on the 29th Dec. last, at about ten leagues from the coast of the Brazils, our frigate the Java, Captain Lambert, in her way to the East Indies, was met by the American frigate Constitution, Commodore Bainbridge.  An action of nearly two hours duration ensued, in which the British frigate lost 60 killed and 101 wounded; had her bowsprit and every mast and spar shot away; was altogether reduced to an unmanageable wreck, and compelled to strike to the enemy, whose loss is stated not to have exceeded nine killed and twenty-five wounded.  The British commander, Captain Lambert, is reported mortally wounded, and among the prisoners who were released on parole, is Lieutenant-General Hislop and his staff, who were proceeding to Bombay in the Java.”
File:USS Constitution edit.jpgSounds pretty boring apart from the hyperbolic language in the first sentence.  But were you paying close attention?  The American ship mentioned in this two hundred and six-year-old article was the Constitution...which this very day is still a commissioned ship in the United States Navy, her home berth being Boston Harbor, about twenty miles from where I sit typing this. You might also know her by her nick-name “Old Ironsides.”  She was one of the newly-independent United States’s first naval vessels.  Think about that. It’s not often that a two hundred year old news item still resonates so materially through the intervening centuries, is it?

Just had to share.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Sneak Peek of Evergreen!


I’m still celebrating the release of Evergreen, my new young adult historical fantasy just out from Book View Café.

While I've posted a first chapter sneak-peek sample of Evergreen on my website, I thought it would be fun to give NineteenTeen readers a further peek into the story...at the point in Newport when things begin to get complicated for my heroine, Grace. Enjoy!

* * *


An hour later Grace had managed to put Alice’s magics and most everything else out of her head on a beautifully groomed grass tennis court at the Casino. She and Alice were gently lobbing a ball back and forth over the net so that they could chat if they felt like it. Alice was still complaining about her stepmother’s stricture against balls, so Grace let her blow off steam, responding suitably whenever it was required but not really paying much attention.
It felt good to move and stretch. Grace realized that, whenever Mrs. Rennell was around, she held herself stiffly, probably out of sympathy to their highly strung hostess. It was a beautiful morning—no need for her to alter the weather today. Out of sheer high spirits she returned Alice’s patted ball with a hard drive to the far side of the court that she knew Alice would never be able to return.
She was right. “Very funny, you,” Alice called. “Just for that, you can go find where it went. Anyway, let’s stop for a moment. I need to retie my shoes.”
“All right,” Grace said amiably and started round the net to the lawn beyond while Alice headed for a bench next to their court, strategically set in the shade of a small maple tree.
She hadn’t gotten past the back line when a tall, white-flannelled figure came strolling toward her, racquet on shoulder, tossing a ball casually in one hand. “Lose something?” Kit Rookwood called. His smile brushed past her and came to rest on Alice, who hastily finished tying her shoe and leapt up to join Grace.
“Mr. Rookwood!” she said. “Is that our ball? You angel!”
“Well, not really,” he replied, his smile widening. “At least, angel’s not the role I usually aspire to. Are you done playing, Miss Roosevelt?”
Alice seemed to melt under the force of that grin. “Not at all. I had to tie my shoe and sent Grace to fetch our ball since she hit it so abominably past me—”
“I did not!” Grace was stung into retorting. “You missed the return!”
“Well, anyway, we’re here.” She smiled at him, head tilted to one side. “Are you playing this morning?”
“I’d like to,” he said meaningfully.
“In that case, won’t you play with us? If you’re not busy, of course.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. After all, you promised me a game.”
“Did I?” Alice pretended to look vague, not very successfully—she was never vague.
“Need I remind you exactly when you promised that, Miss Roosevelt?”
“I’ll go and have a seat, shall I?” Grace said to no one in particular, but they didn’t even notice. She almost stomped over to the tree-shaded bench—insofar as one could stomp while wearing tennis shoes—and slumped onto it, her good mood all but evaporated. Alice was suddenly acting as though she weren’t even there, and Kit Rookwood wasn’t any better. She watched while Kit squinted up at the sun and gallantly offered to change sides with Alice so that the glare wouldn’t be in her eyes, then sent a gentle forehand over the net.
“Think I’m a softie, do you?” Alice called, hitting it back to him.
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he replied, returning an incrementally harder shot.
“He’s going to let her win. I know it,” Grace muttered. Was this really how flirting went? Imagine a boy at home letting her win at tennis! Whenever anyone beat her, he’d jolly well earned it. It was one thing to let Dorothy win now and then…that’s what you did with a little sister. But to let a person of one’s own age win, as one would a child…well, it didn’t imply much respect for the other person, did it? She’d expected better of him…but between this and his obvious making up to the vice-president’s daughter, maybe she’d been wrong—
I have watched here for many years, and still I do not understand, said the tree behind her.
“Oh!” Grace started. “Forgive me, cousin. I should have spoken,” she added more quietly. She’d been so occupied with watching Alice and Kit that she’d forgotten her manners. It was nice to talk to a tree for a change. They were calm and gentle and didn’t dissemble. “Greetings to you; it is a pleasure to rest in your shadow. What don’t you understand?”
The tree was silent for a moment. A few of its upper leaves fluttered, then were still. This thing men do—the sending of an object back and forth between them.
“Tennis, you mean,” Grace murmured. “It’s not the only thing they do. It’s a game—a pastime. It’s done for enjoyment.”
A ‘pastime’. Does not all time pass, no matter what one does?
“I suppose it does.” Alice was laughing at something Kit had said, and she wasn’t sure if she’d wished she heard it or not.
Yes. The tree fell silent. Grace watched the play and wished Alice would try harder, but she kept missing balls that she would never have missed playing with her. She wasn’t trying to let him win, was she? How funny, the pair of them doing their best to let the other win. Except it wasn’t funny. It was nauseating.
It is strange, this tennis, the tree said.
“You’re telling me,” Grace muttered.
I have seen men who profess the greatest amity toward each other do this tennising. Yet when they tennis, it is clear that their amity is all on the surface, and they are tennising as a way to best each other. Do men often do one thing and use it to mean another?
“Happens all the time.” Like right now. She settled herself more comfortably in the tree’s shade and resigned herself to watching. It would be interesting to see who won this battle of wills.
To her surprise, Kit Rookwood did—that is, he managed to lose to Alice. It must have taken some doing on his part, for it was clear he was a strong player.
“Well played, Miss Roosevelt,” he said as they shook hands over the net.
“Piffle.” She tapped him with her racquet as they strolled toward Grace. “You let me win, you bad creature. I shall get a swelled head and be insufferable, and you’ll deserve it.” She pulled out her handkerchief and fanned herself with it.
He was immediately all concern. “Is it too warm for you? May I bring you a cool drink? Or escort you back to the piazza?”
“No, I want to sit in the shade for a few minutes.” Her eyes lit on Grace on the bench, and she smiled. “I say, why don’t you play Grace while I take her shady-looking seat?”
Grace sat up. Play him, after that? “Alice, I don’t really—”
“Oh, humor me. You’ll have to do a proper job of beating Mr. Rookwood, since he was so gallant as to let me do it badly.” She sent him a sly sideways look.
Kit barely even glanced at Grace. “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go back to the club?” he asked Alice again. “It’s really gotten quite warm—”
“I’m sure.” Alice prodded Grace with her racket. “Go on. It’s your turn.”
Grace tried not to scowl as she rose. It would look childish to continue to refuse…and anyway, why shouldn’t she play him, even if he was so…so pusillanimous as to intentionally lose? “Mr. Rookwood?” She looked at him.
“I’m waiting,” Alice called. “Entertain me.”
Kit bowed. “At once, ma’am.” He didn’t meet Grace’s eyes as he escorted her back to the court. “Do you have a preferred side?”
Grace smiled sweetly. “I’ll take this one.” She indicated the side he’d played on. It would mean playing with the sun in her eyes, but she would rather be boiled in oil than accept any advantage from him.
She watched while he crossed to the other side of the court, catching Alice’s eye and smiling at her as he took position behind the service line. She flexed lightly up onto her toes, waiting.
“Cooler over there?” he called to Alice, and served.
Did he even notice she was here on the other side of the net? Grace narrowed her eyes and returned his serve hard, just beyond his reach if he wasn’t paying attention enough to meet it.
Alice laughed as the ball flew past him. “Oh, I’m quite cool. I think you’re the one who’s in hot water now, Mr. Rookwood.”
He stalked off to retrieve the ball without replying, but by the time he returned, his smile was back. “I wish you would call me Kit. Every time you say ‘Mr. Rookwood’ I keep expecting to see my father.”
“Very well, Kit,” Alice drawled. “And you may call me…Miss Roosevelt.” She laughed at his expression. “Oh, don’t be silly. Of course you may call me Alice.”
“Your serve, Mr. Rookwood,” Grace said. He hadn’t asked her to call him Kit, after all.
He hesitated and, for the first time that day, actually looked at her. She returned his regard steadily so that for a moment they stared at each other just as they had earlier that week, and again Grace felt that pull between them like an elastic band trying to snap them together. What are you doing? she wanted to ask him. Who are you, really?
And then he served.
The play that followed was fast and intense. Grace understood as soon as the ball crossed the net that he had no intention of letting her win, as he had Alice. And she’d been right: he was a good player. He hit hard and straight and controlled. But she was good too.
She won the first furiously played game. Alice laughed and clapped. “There you go, Kit. Beaten by two girls in one day. What a comedown!”
“It’s not over yet,” Kit replied lightly. “Best of three?” he said to Grace. She noticed that he was back to not quite meeting her eyes.
“If you wish,” she replied.
He won the next game, though not easily. Grace knew she was tiring but she guessed that he must be also; he no longer took time to smile at Alice but concentrated wholly on the ball. As they prepared to start their last game, she remembered what the maple tree had said and smiled. It had been right about men and tennis, hadn’t it?
Her smile seemed to unnerve Kit. He’d been about to serve, but paused before swinging his racquet up and took a few seconds to resettle his feet. He was off-balance for the rest of the game, which Grace won easily.
“Hurrah!” Alice jumped up. “I knew you’d do it, Grace!”
“Glad one of us did,” Grace muttered to herself. She was hot and sweaty and her hair under her white straw boater felt like it was in danger of tumbling over her shoulders, but she couldn’t suppress the fierce surge of triumph that welled up in her as she walked to the net toward Kit. Beyond him, she saw the maple’s branches waving back and forth, as if an extremely localized gale was blowing around it. The sight made her smile again as she reached across the net to shake Kit’s hand. “Thank you. You play very well.”
He didn’t offer his hand; in fact, he walked right past her as if he hadn’t seen her. Grace felt herself flush and followed after him, fuming.
“Do all the girls in Boston play like her?” he asked Alice loudly. “Must be all the centuries of Puritan virtue. Cold baths and plain oatmeal and scratchy woolen long underwear.”
Grace nearly came to a halt from sheer surprise. Why was he behaving so strangely? Surely not because she had beaten him…or was it?
Alice giggled. “Grace doesn’t wear scratchy woolen long underwear. Her grandmother orders their underthings from France. Lyons silk and lace, you know.”
“Alice!” Grace wished a crack would open in the beautifully manicured grass at her feet and swallow her up. Or maybe swallow Alice up. Why was she discussing Grace’s underwear, of all things, with him?
For a fleeting second, an odd expression crossed his face. Then he laughed harshly. “Not such a Puritan maiden after all, then.”
Grace followed the pair back to the clubhouse, still fuming and not sure which of them she was more cross with. A few moments later, though, she knew.
“Thank you for the game,” Kit said to Alice as he prepared to leave them on the piazza steps. Alice had invited him to join them for iced tea, but he’d claimed a prior engagement. “I hope we can do it again soon.”
“Next time I hope you won’t feel you have to play the gentleman and let me win,” she pretended to scold.
“Who, me? I’d never do such a thing.” He turned the full force of his smile on her, and Grace could practically see her melt under it. Then he half turned toward her. “That is…most of the time I wouldn’t.”
Before Grace could even sputter, he’d turned and started back down the path, whistling.


* * *

Evergreen is available directly from Book View Café in both EPUB and MOBI formats, ordered in print from your favorite local bookstore, and from Apple Books, Kobo, Googleplay, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble...and subscribers to my newsletter should look for a special deal on Evergreen showing up in their inboxes shortly...

Enjoy! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Evergreen is Here!


It’s release day for my new historical young adult fantasy, Evergreennow out from Book View Cafe!


It’s 1901—a brave new century—and seventeen-year-old Grace Boisvert thinks it’s high time to forget that she’s a dryad; being able to talk to trees just doesn’t seem very useful in the automobile age. A little hair dye to touch up her green roots, and she’s off to join her best friend Alice Roosevelt for a visit to glamorous Newport, RI, with her family’s warnings not to fall for any human boys ringing in her ears

As it happens, the only interesting boy in Newport, Kit Rookwood, clearly prefers Alice to her. But that changes when he and his family unexpectedly follow the girls to a secluded Adirondack camp to join the rest of the Roosevelts. All of Kit’s considerable charm is now focused on Grace, and she finds herself falling in love—and not just with the breathtaking forests.

But sometimes stern family warnings really
should be heeded and ancient magical heritages not forgotten, especially when it turns out that not everything—and everyone—are quite what they seem...

This story is the result of my long-time, love-hate fascination with Alice Roosevelt (not to mention her dad, President Theodore Roosevelt), with the excesses of Gilded Age Newport, Rhode Island, and with the majesty and mystery of the forests of the Adirondack Mountains of New York (that last one isn’t a love-hate thing, of course!) It was huge fun to write—I hope you’ll find it just as much fun to read. A sneak peek is available on my website here, if you’d like a taste—and here’s another taste:



Evergreen is now available directly from Book View Café in both MOBI and EPUB formats and also from Kobo, Apple books, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and GooglePlay. Or you can order it in print from your local bookstore (or buy it online too, for that matter) or ask your local library to carry it. And if you do read it and enjoy it, pass it on to a friend.

Thank you for celebrating with me!

Friday, November 1, 2019

The Hotel that Lime Built


When I was up on San Juan Island in the spring, I visited Roche Harbor for the first time. The sheltered bay on the north end of the island is home to the Roche Harbor Resort, but the history goes back into the nineteenth century.

The harbor itself is named after Richard Roche, a British lieutenant stationed at nearby English Camp during the Pig War. After the British departed in 1872, the area ended up in the possession of the Scurr brothers, who started producing lime from the limestone ridge above the harbor. Kilned limestone was a hot commodity at the time for use in making steel, plaster, cement, and paper. The Scurr brothers quarried the limestone on the island and transported it to kilns not far from the water’s edge for easy shipment.

In 1886, Joseph McMillin bought the property and opened the Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company. He then set about building a town for his workers to live and shop in. He built a new lime factory, a barrel works, warehouse, docks, offices, company store, a Methodist Church which served as a school on weekdays, post office, doctor’s office, barns and homes. Some of the quaint little cottages still remain, as does the company store. Roche Harbor had its own power, water, and telephone systems. It even had its own monetary system, as the workers were paid in script that could be used at the store.

The town was surprisingly multiethnic, with workers from Scandinavia, Russia, and Japan. Two dozen young Japanese men worked at Roche Harbor in the late 1800s. The story goes that they sent away to Japan for brides.

Besides the kilns, another old building stood on the property—a log cabin originally built by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1845. McMillin used it as the foundation for a grand hotel to accommodate important customers and visiting dignitaries. The Hotel de Haro featured nineteen elegantly appointed rooms, sweeping balconies overlooking the harbor, and a full dining room. McMillin got his wish as to famous visitors as well. Both President Teddy Roosevelt and President William Howard Taft stayed at the hotel during their terms of office.

Mrs. McMillin surrounded the hotel with beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, said to rival those of Mrs. Butchart across the water in Victoria. (Butchart Gardens, anyone?) She also built an arbor running from the dock up to the hotel. Each crossbeam held a saying that was only visible as guests left for the harbor and home. These included “Fare thee well and if forever still forever fare thee well” and “Your coming gives us pleasure. Your going gives us pain.”

The hotel and company felt their own pain during the Depression and World War I. In 1923, fire destroyed the warehouses, store, and wharf, but production gradually ceased as more modern and cost-effective ways to produce lime were developed.

But that’s not the end of the story. McMillin’s son sold the property to the Tarte family in 1956. The Tartes set about making Roche Harbor the premiere yachting destination. They restored the hotel to its former grandeur, reopening it in 1960, where it has since welcomed the rich and famous, including actor John Wayne. They enhanced the harbor with a marina and turned the McMillan’s old home along the water into a restaurant. They also built an airstrip nearby. New homes and condominiums line the bluffs behind the hotel. New shops are open along the waterfront. They were preparing to host a massive wedding when I visited in May.

The Hotel de Haro claims to be the longest continually operating hotel in Washington. From what I can see, it will keep that claim for some time to come.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

La Belle Assemblée for the Win


Wowza!


I rather think that this Kensington Garden Walking Dress from the July 1809’s La Belle Assemblée can only be described as a complete and utter show-stopper. Can't you just see eyes widening and heads whipping around as our young lady, attired thus, ambles through the park on a fine early summer day!

The accompanying text reads as follows: A spenser bodice of pale pink sarsnet. White muslin dress, with double row of scollop lace forming a light flounce round the bottom, over which is worn a black lace mantle and train. Egyptian bonnet, composed of pink sarsnet and antique lace. Shoes and gloves of pale yellow. Amber necklace and earrings. Hair after the Egyptian manner. Parasol of pink and brown shot, with white fringe.

The pink spenser (with a slightly military air lent by the simple frogging down the front) and white muslin dress with rows of lace around the hem seem ordinary enough for a nice stroll along garden paths. The Egyptian bonnet, which looks like the offspring of a tricorn hat and a turban, wakes things up a bit, and the pink and brown shot (taffeta? silk?) parasol with white fringe is charming…

But then the ensemble takes a turn into Hollywood fantasy costume with that black lace mantle, set on the shoulders with a dramatic flaring collar (tied with a prosaic little cord!) Its got an almost science fictional feel to it, that collarbut the lace turns that on its head and into I dont know what! 

And dragging on the ground (yes, that’s right—a lace mantle as part of a walking dress.) Is it conspicuous consumption, utter frivolity, or...or what?

I think I need a little lie-down now—this print packs a wallop! How about you? Would you wear this on your next foray into Kensington park?

Friday, October 25, 2019

Tall Tales of Smugglers, and Napoleon


File:Smugglers-resting-1833-smal.jpgI’m researching smuggling along the Dorset coast of England in the early 1800s. (Lovely, lovely research!) My next self-published series will be set in the area in the days leading up to the Battle of Trafalgar. If you’re interested in the subject, I recommend Smuggling in Hampshire and Dorset 1700 to 1850 by Geoffrey Morley. Fascinating stories! I expected to find tales about secret tunnels and midnight raids, but some of the stories are so amazing, I couldn’t wait to share them with you.

Legend has it, Isaac Gulliver, called by some the King of the Smugglers, once covered his face with the white chalk of the Dorset soil and laid in a coffin to hide from the Excise Men. But legend also has it he foiled a plot to assassinate King George III, who praised him and vowed to let him smuggle all he liked. Smuggling increased dramatically in the area of Weymouth whenever the King came to visit.

Another story tells of two Preventers, as the Customs Officers were known, who were caught spying on a smuggling gang. The gang hung them by their feet over the edge of a cliff, then proceeded to unload their cargo in full view. When the smugglers were finished, they hauled up the officers and dumped them bound in a nearby field, where their colleagues would eventually find and release them.

And then there’s the story about a Dorset farmer’s wife, who happened to be French. She vowed she’d seen Napoleon standing on the headland not far from her home in 1803, studying the English defenses. This was at a time when England’s fear of invasion from across the Channel was at its highest. According to the legend, Napoleon looked down the coast, compared what he saw to a map in his hands, rolled up the map, uttered the word, “Impossible,” and was never seen again.

That one’s going in my book. 😊