Anne here, and since Christmas is less than a week away, I’m offering youa Christmas Quiz. However, since I’m working madly towards an imminent deadline, I have recycled some of the questions from my previous quizzes. How many do you remember? You might know some, you might not, but as always, this is just for fun.
Write down your answers as you go, then pop over to the link at the end to see the answers. Then come back here and tell us how you went.
1) Which Christmas carol might have been sung by Regency people? a) Hark the Herald Angels Sing
b) The First Noel.
c) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
d) We Three Kings of Orient Are.
2) The first member of the English royal family to display a Christmas tree was a) Queen Adelaide in 1820
b) Queen Charlotte in 1800
c) Queen Victoria in 1848
d) Queen Caroline in 1825
3) Mince pies in the Regency contained: a) ground nuts
b) dried fruit and meat
c) minced steak
d) chicken and other kinds of poultry
4). Stir-Up Day is:
a) The last Sunday before Advent, when the minister traditionally gives a fiery sermon to stir the congregation from sin and complacency.
b) The day when in the country, the winter hay is turned, to prevent it going moldy.
c) the day when all the members of the family gather to stir the Christmas pudding.
d) The day when the foxes are stirred from their dens to prepare for hunting on Boxing Day (26th December).
Anne here, and today I’m musing about the process of writing. Several readers have indicated that they’re curious about how we wenches go about writing our books, and while I can’t speak for any of the others — all writers’ processes are unique — this is mine. (Photo by Rhett Wesley on Unsplash)
A wall is made of bricks and mortar; a novel is made of scenes and the mortar is causality.
I once attended a talk by Queensland writer Kate Morton — read her, she’s fabulous — and in the question session at the end, someone in the audience asked how she decided what book to write next. I love knowing what sparks a story idea and why, out of the many story ideas you might have buzzing in your brain, one stands out.
Anne here, interviewing Mary Jo Putney about her latest book, SILVER LADY. It’s the first book in a new ‘Dangerous Gifts’ series, but it’s also a return to her Regency world with a touch of the paranormal, where some people are ‘gifted’ with extra sensory abilities, and where many others are prejudiced against them. (The Marriage Spell)
SILVER LADY has already received some glowing reviews. It’s the Editor’s Pick on Amazon for best romance. Publishers Weekly called it the start of “an exciting new historical romance series set in 19th-century Cornwall” and recommended it “for readers who like some fantasy in their historical romance and appreciate stories with chosen family and strong women.“
Booklist Reviewer John Charles said it deftly blended “a superbly atmospheric Cornish setting, spot-on historical details, and a danger-riddled plot enhanced with just the right touch of the paranormal.”
Anne: Mary Jo, can you tell us a little more about this world where some people are ‘gifted’ and others hate them for it?
MJP: I’ve always loved reading fantasy because I like the idea that there might be something wonderful just outside the corner of one’s eye. I’ve done full fledged magical fantasy books (my Guardian series and my Dark Mirror young adult series), but I wanted something subtler, more like the psychic abilities in Jayne Ann Krentz’s books. Since humankind has a long and terrible history of despising anyone who is different, it was easy to believe that being gifted could arouse hostility. I thought that would make a solid framework for a new series. And indeed it does. <G>
Anne: This new series features a “found family” of people who had been rejected at a young age by their parents because of their ‘gifts’ — ie paranormal abilities.
MJP: I only heard the phrase ‘found family’ relatively recently, but it’s something I’ve done from my earliest books because I was always interested in the friends of my protagonist. This interest became much more focused with my first long historical series, the Fallen Angels. I love the idea of people who have had difficulty in their early years finding friends who become closer than blood kin, bonded by absolute trust and mutual caring. These kinds of found families are the DNA of all my series. In this series, the “Tribe of Tremayne” was created by the gifted Lord and Lady Tremayne. They have three biological children but they’ve rescued many gifted children who had been discarded by their families. Some children they placed with other gifted families, some they kept, like Bran.
Anne: Bran, the hero of SILVER LADY, was dumped by his noble birth father in a baby farm, where he’d been expected to die, but he and another gifted little boy escaped and found their way to London where they were taken in and adopted by Lord and Lady Tremayne.
Now an adult working for the British government, the adventure starts when Bran’s intuition draws him to investigate something disturbing happening in Cornwall. Tell us about Bran.
MJP: Bran is reserved, even-tempered, and extraordinarily competent. His politeness to his rude, angry birth father makes the old bully even angrier. <G> Bran is a very gifted analyst, good at putting fragments of information together to form a larger picture. Bran is also very intuitive and sees important matters as shimmering silver. That leads him down to Cornwall. He doesn’t know why, only that it’s vital that he go there. (The photo above is by Mark Markstein on Unsplash.)
Anne: The Cornish setting is wonderfully evocative. (Photo on the left is by Thomas Vogel on Unsplash)
Your heroine, the ‘Silver Lady’ of the title is unusual in that for the first part of the book she has no name except ‘Girl’ and can barely communicate. Tell us about her. Was she difficult to write?
MJP: Not at all. I’ve always been interested in stories of identity, and an amnesiac situation really emphasizes that. Bran’s Silver Lady is gifted, and people who want to exploit her talents force a hypnotic amnesia on her. I thought it was interesting to show her gradually regaining a sense of herself until she has the courage to make a break for freedom. Once she comes under Bran’s protection, her recovery becomes much faster–and surprises everyone around her!
Anne: Apart from the London opening, the story is mostly set in Cornwall. Bran is killing two birds with one stone; reconnecting with his estranged noble family, and as a government agent, investigating the disturbing feelings he’s getting from that part of the world – personal and political. It’s the latter that provides the adventure part that’s so often a feature of your books. What sort of research did you do for this?
MJP: I chose an interesting period in 1803 when the Peace of Amiens is about to be broken, which will send Britain and France into war again. Since I wanted Cornwall to be the setting, I did some general reading and discovered the Royal Naval Dockyard on the border between Cornwall and Devon. It was vitally important in the ongoing wars with France, and more reading brought me to a disaster several years earlier. The explosion of the frigate Amphion was an inspiration for what might happen in my story. (That’s a frigate above.) I’ve found that poking around with research invariably produces possibilities. In fact, that just happened yesterday with the book I’m working on now.
Anne: Will you give us a short snippet of SILVER LADY please?
MJP: This is from the opening. Rhys and Gwyn Tremayne have been at the theater, but as they’re about to get into their carriage, Gwyn senses something down a dark alley.
“Something, or someone.” Gwyn drew her cloak more closely around her as she purposefully started threading her way through the mass of waiting carriages and playgoers who were happily discussing the show they’d just seen.
Two turns took them from Covent Garden into a narrow lane. Halfway down, Gwyn paused, then turned left into a dark alley barely lit by capricious moonlight. It dead ended at a wall where a pile of rubble had accumulated against the dingy brick. Heedless of her expensive cloak, she knelt on the frozen ground by the rubble and said softly, “You can come out now, my lad. You’re safe.”
There was a rustling sound but no one appeared. “How does warm food and a fire and a bath sound?” she said in her most persuasive voice.
A child’s voice snarled, “Don’t want no bath!”
“Then we’ll start with the food and the fire,” she said peaceably. “Will you show yourself? We won’t hurt you.”
Rhys stood silently behind her, knowing a frightened child would fear a rather large grown man more than a soft-voiced woman. The rubble shifted and a small, filthy face became visible. A boy child perhaps five or six years old.
Gwyn brushed back a lock of fair hair, then peeled the kidskin glove from her right hand and offered it to the little boy. He hesitantly took it. As she clasped his freezing fingers with her warm hand, his eyes widened and he sighed with relief.
“You can tell I’m safe, can’t you?” Gwyn said.
The boy frowned up at Rhys. “You may be, but not sure about him!”
“I’m safe, too,” Rhys said in his most reassuring voice. “I’m very good at protecting others.”
Unconvinced, the boy narrowed his eyes warily. As Rhys stood very still, Gwyn said soothingly, “I’m Gwyn Tremayne. What’s your name?”
The boy hesitated, as if his name was too precious to share. After a long moment, he said, “Caden.”
“Caden. That’s a good Cornish or Welsh name. My husband and I come from Cornish families.” Knowing there was more to find, her gaze moved back to the rubble pile. “Your friend can come out, too.”
Caden gasped and jerked away from her. For a moment she feared he’d try to bolt, but a thin, childish voice emerged from the rubble. “It’s all right, Cade. These are the people we came to find.”
An even smaller boy emerged from the rubble, his ragged garments almost indistinguishable from the trash around him. His gaze on Gwyn, he said, “I’m Bran.”
“For Branok?” Again Gwyn offered her hand and Bran took it without hesitation. His small fingers felt as if they were carved from ice. In the darkness it was hard to see the boys clearly. Though both were dark haired, there was little other resemblance. Bran’s eyes were light, Caden’s were dark, but the color wasn’t visible in shadows. “Are you brothers?”
The boys exchanged a glance. “We are now!” Caden said fiercely, challenging anyone who might deny that.
Anne: I love the way those lost little boys claimed each other so fiercely — the essence of “found family.” (Photo of on the left is by Jonny Gios, on Unsplash.) What’s next for MJP and the ‘Dangerous Gifts’ series?
MJP: I’m close to finishing book 2, Golden Lord. The hero is Caden, Bran’s foster brother who helped them escape from Cornwall to London when they were very small boys. They’re very close. Bran is more the strategist, Cade is in charge of cracking heads. <G>
Anne: I can’t wait. Question for readers: Do you enjoy stories with a touch of paranormal in them? Do you like “found family” stories? Mary Jo will be giving away a copy of SILVR LADY to someone who leaves a comment. (US only, alas.)
Anne here: Welcome to the new WordWench blog site. We hope you like the new design. Make sure you bookmark it, as the URL has changed. And since the system is new to us all, please be patient while we sort out the kinks.
To start us off with a bang (or a scratching of the head), I’m presenting another quiz — the second Georgette Heyer quiz, where we test your knowledge of her novels. It’s just for fun, and your score doesn’t matter in the least.
Make a note of your answers, check them on the link at the bottom, then come back and tell us how you went, and whether you enjoyed it, found it too hard, too easy or just right.
1) Who said: “I feel an almost overwhelming interest in the methods of daylight abduction employed by the modern youth.” ? a)The Marquis of Alverstoke
b) The Duke of Avon
c) Miles Calverleigh
d) The Duke of Salford
2). Who is our hero talking about here? “She blurts out whatever may come into her head; she tumbles from one outrageous escapade into another; she’s happier grooming horses and hobnobbing with stable-hands than going to parties; she’s impertinent; you daren’t catch her eye for fear she should start to giggle; she hasn’t any accomplishments; I never saw anyone with less dignity; she’s abominable, and damnably hot at hand, frank to a fault, and – a darling!” a)Phoebe Laxton
b) Phoebe Marlowe
3) Who is X in this exchange? “What do you mean to do when you reach Lacy Manor?” asked X, regarding him in some amusement. “Wring her neck!” said Z savagely. “Well, you don’t need my help for that, my dear boy!” said X, settling himself more comfortably in his chair. a)Lord Sheringham
b) Dominic, the Marquis of Vidal
d)Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy
The spring is fresh and fearless And every leaf is new, The world is brimmed with moonlight, The lilac brimmed with dew …
Here in the moving shadows I catch my breath and sing– My heart is fresh and fearless And over-brimmed with spring.
That’s from a poem called May Night by Sara Teasdale, but though it’s October, here in Australia, where it's spring, the sentiments are just as apt.
Anne here, in a contemplative mood.It’s a gorgeous time of year — spring and autumn are my two favorite seasons. Here, after several days of rain, the sun has come out and a gentle breeze is wafting the most gorgeous fragrances through my open window.
One of my favorites is lily of the valley with its gorgeous scent. My former neighbor had a huge spreading patch in her otherwise regimented garden, and each spring she'd bring me a bunch that would fill my home with fragrance.
Another favorite is lilac, and I loved the way that every spring the bare branches would bud first with soft green leaves and then vibrant, deliciously scented spikes of flowers. The photo above is of the lilac on my old garden. now sadly gone, but not forgotten.