Celebration Time!

Circular_Temple_-_panoramio Mark A Coleman  CC BY 3.0 httpscreativecommons.orglicensesby3.0  via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Mark A Coleman

Christina here and I'm delighted to tell you that this week it's THE WORD WENCHES’ 16th ANNIVERSARY! In order to celebrate properly, we decided to hold a picnic and you’re all invited!

We're each bringing our favourite historical food to a lovely park somewhere in the UK – the precise location is a secret as it’s by invitation only, but you can reach it via this lovely temple folly which acts as a time portal.

The setting – hills, woodland and parkland – is beautiful, with wildflowers, ancient trees and herds of deer that can be glimpsed roaming in the distance.

Andrea Vauxhall (2)Birds fill the air with song and a couple of peacocks are strutting nearby showing off their shimmering plumage. There’s a boating lake too, where we can paddle in the water if we like, or just drift peacefully while someone else does the rowing. For our comfort, we have brought rugs and silk cushions to recline upon, and we would advise you to bring a parasol or a hat as the sun can be very hot! It's going to be a wonderful day and here’s what else the Wenches will be bringing:-

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It’s our Wenchiversary!

Champagne flutes 1

By Mary Jo and the rest of the Wenchly Crew

Has it really been thirteen years since we cautiously launched the Word Wenches blog? Indeed yes, and so much has changed in the world, in publishing, and in us. We've lost beloved Wench sisters Edith Layton and Jo Beverley, entered into new genres and new forms of publishing, and we've expanded to having Wenches from Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US so we can truly say that the sun never sets on the Wench Empire!

IceCreamWikipedeaHere is the very first Word Wench blog post, also written by me. (I thought I was better at not volunteering!) Here is also a link for the first month of blogs, as we felt our way into this new enterprise and learned how to use the blog site's tools.

And we're still here, musing three times a week on books, history, travel, and other intriguing topics. Blogging is work even if we each only write one about every two weeks. When on deadline, there can be a mad scramble to swap dates, whip off something very quickly, or republish an older post. But we've kept blogging all these years because, basically, we like doing this.

We like connecting with our readers. We like being able to do quick, low stakes riffs on Dianethings that catch our attention. We LOVE telling readers about our new books, or new authors we've discovered.

For our first anniversary, we did a three part series on Getting Naked With the Wenches, and very popular it was! Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


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Twenty Years Ago

Tea at the museumNicola here, inviting everyone to join me in a small celebration! Twenty years ago this year my first book for Harlequin Mills & Boon was published. True Colours was named in homage to Georgette Heyer; the writing style probably owed a fair amount to her as well for she, along with Alice Chetwynd Ley, Clare Darcy and others had been strong influences on my developing love of the Regency romance.

Even now I can remember the sense of disbelief to see a book I had written actually in print. For Cyprian years I had written in my spare time – 12 years to be exact. True Colours was begun when I was at college and was a long time in the writing and re-writing. Life went on around it – marriage, moving jobs, moving house… And then suddenly there it was in my hand and on the shelves. It was an extraordinary and almost unreal feeling. I also remember being a tad disappointed by the cover which looked rather vampirish to me (the US version that came later was much prettier!) I also remember spending my first royalty cheque on a new bicycle! Later that same year (August, in fact) my second Regency romance, The Virtuous Cyprian, was also published. I wrote two books a year in those days even though I was working full time in an office as well. Her I am in a bookshop looking very excited to be on the shelves with Penny Jordan and Sidney Sheldon! This is a photo of an old photo so apologies that it isn't that good!)

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The ninth, part deux!

Aren't we having fun with our ninth anniversary? Here are some more Wenchly first books. By chance the Friday post is Jo, Jo, Jo — and Anne. So we have Joanna Bourne, Mary Jo Putney, me and Anne Gracie talking about our first published book. As on Wednesday, you still has a chance to win our anniversary prize.

It's simple. You'll get a ticket in the Rafflecopter hat for every option you click on below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

On to first books.

Joanna Bourne.

Ladyships companion 2My first book — it was the first fiction I'd written since short stories for Middle School English class — came about for one of the usual reasons.

I was staying at home with my first child. I was going squirrelly. One day I put down a book I was reading (which I did not wallbang only because … sleeping child,) and I said, "Heck. even I can write better than that," as who among us has not.

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The Ballad of the Long Distance Storyteller

Cat 243 Dover by Mary Jo

March 21st, 1986 

Not a date that will live in infamy, exactly, but that is the day I started writing my first romance.  Twenty-five years ago.

It was the first full day of spring, so the symbolism was good.  No deadlines for my freelance graphic design business, so I had the time to start the contrarian traditional Regency I’d been toying with in the weeks since I acquired my Leading Edge computer.  The Mayhem Consultant showed me how to Daffodils2008[1] use the word processing program, and Eureka!  I’d found the writing tool that could turn daydreams into books. 

Not that I had any expectation of actually selling a book, but what the heck, why not give it a try?  So I wrote “RR” for Regency Romance on a 5 ¼” floppy disc (yes, it’s been that long <G>) because I couldn’t admit even to myself that I was writing a book, and I started to work on the rather unimaginatively titled A Musical Lady.

And my life changed forever with less thought than I had invested in researching a new electric hand mixer.  For me, the biggest life changes tend to be the ones I don’t even notice until everything has been turned upside down.  Not that this is necessarily bad, but it is often surprising. <G>

So my fingers tripped lightly over the keys as a very Heyer-derivative story flowed out.  My brother-in-law, a fine pianist, read the first chunk and suggested calling it A Lady of Note, which was better and touched on the musical abilities of the heroine. 

Divine intervention stepped in, I found an agent in six weeks, sold the book on a Diabolical Baron--Original partial in three months.  As soon as money was offered, the smooth flow of words diminished, never to be as easy again.  (Someone actually wanted to pay money for my stories?  Good but scary!) 

I turned in the book, my market savvy editor renamed it The Diabolical Baron, and I was off and running, like a lemming over a cliff.  On this, my 25th anniversary of starting that first book, I’m still diving off cliffs.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

I’m not literary, I’m a storyteller because I love great stories, and what we love is mostly likely what we’ll write.  I like to read adventure, history, romance, fantasy, and happy endings.  Guess what I write. <G>

I’ve had my share of ups and downs, though more ups.  I’ve been overpaid and Dearly Beloved underpaid.  Treated wonderfully, and manipulated into a corner where I had to chew my paw off to escape the steel trap.  (Because they thought I couldn't escape.  They shouldn’t try to coerce stubborn authors. <G>)

I have pretty much always been able to write what I want, though some stories had to wait years for the time to be right.  I’ve had the fun of researching wonderful settings and events by setting stories in the middle of them.

I’ve told stories about good guys and bad girls and reformed bad guys.  And if none of my characters, tortured and otherwise, are really me, they all have some traits that echo in me. 

The people are never real people (except for the occasional historic figure), but the DSCN0035 cats are always based on real cats. <G>  (That's Lacey.)

At the beginning, I didn’t even know how to format dialogue because I’d never written it before.  (Despite being an honors English major.)  Didn’t know how to do a kiss.  Luckily I didn’t have to figure out to write a sex scene in those early books!

VeilofSilk5 Since my traditional Regencies tended to be too complicated and too long, not to mention paying too little to support me and my cat, I moved into historical romance. That is my enduring genre even though I’ve made side journeys into contemporary romance, fantasy, paranormal romance, and now young adult. There is just about always history, always romance, and most certainly a Happily Ever After!

I’ve mostly had good editors, with a couple of exceptions.   I remember the day a friend called cross country to say that the editor who had been making us both insane WAS LEAVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Joy abounding!  The editor is gone, but the friend and I are both still standing. 

I’ve had two amazing agents because I am lucky, not because I was businesslike or professional in agent hunting.  (Though I still haven’t quite forgiven the first for ADM--300dpi retiring a mere 19 years into our relationship.  Most inconsiderate of her!) 

I’ve made terrific friends who share my particular forms of madness, and we celebrate and commiserate each other’s ups and downs.  At conferences, we get together and tell the tales of our kind.  Of covers good (“it’s gorgeous!”) and bad.  (“It looks like he’s giving her a field pap test!”)

Of the infamous three armed heroine who helped launch Christina Dodds’ admirable career.  Of copyeditors.  (“This CE couldn’t have had English as his first language!”)  Of the legendary editor who changed a teenage secondary character into a raccoon because she didn’t want there to be the least possible hint of impropriety on the part of the hero.  (Yes, a raccoon.  Really.) 

NEVERLESSTHANALADYART Writing may be easy for some authors, but for me, it’s the hardest work I’ve ever done.  The hardest, and the most satisfying.  I can’t imagine doing anything else—I’m now unemployable in any real trade. 

Yesterday a friend called from New Mexico and we chatted.  She asked what I had coming out this year (Three new books!  No wonder I’m behind on everything. <G>)

She asked if I’d ever run out of story ideas.  An instant no from me.  Ideas are easy, it’s execution that’s hard.  The ideas are always there when I need them.  Apparently my brain is wired for stories.

So here I am, a battered old story wolf, prowling the wild hills of Storyland while more sensible folk stay within their pastures and work at jobs that have regular income and benefits and paid vacations.  In all of these years, I’ve never once had the desire to join the flock of the sensible. 

DARK MIRROR--Finalcove-- What about you?  Have you merrily started new projects that took you to places you never dreamed of?  Have you stayed with something—a career, a relationship, a hobby, longer than you ever imagined?  What interesting and totally unexpected turns in the road have you experienced? 

Mary Jo, still standing after 25 years.