Ask a Wench — What’s it like to create an interwoven anthology?

RednecklacesJo here, pulling together a group post.

We had fun creating The Last Chance Christmas Ball. At times it was the sort of fun you get from a camping holiday with unpredictable weather and odd creatures invading the tent.*G*

After all, the Wenches are eight strong minded women living around the world. Even within the US we have east coast and west coast, but add in England, which is  five hours ahead of the east coast and eight hours ahead of California. Pat was getting up when Nicola and I were thinking about dinner, and Anne, down in Australia goes to bed round about the times America wakes up! Even in this modern age we often had to wait many hours for the answer to a continuity query.

But we did have fun, and as you'll see, we all love Christmas stories.

I posted about the prologue on Sunday, but if you missed that, you can read it here.

LccbSo here are the Wenchly answers to the question: What's it like to create an interwoven anthology?

Joanna: My True Love Hath My Heart.

Read an excerpt here.

I wanted to write Christmas Eve turning into Christmas Day. I wanted that moment of change. I wanted lights. I know it's not the solstice, but for me midnight on Christmas Eve feels like the old is going out and the new is coming in. That was very much the 'feeling' I wanted for my story. It's a 'Second Chance at Love' tale and my hero and heroine have to change. So this felt like the right time and place

Also, decorations. And plum pudding. And holly. All the Right Stuff. I ended up a little surprised I didn't overlap with anybody else. I feel like I grabbed the best date and ran off with it.

Susan: A Scottish Carol Monet,_Lavacourt-Sunshine-and-Snow

(Jo.Susan shares a picture which is not of the Scottish borders in the snow, but has the right feel.)

Read an excerpt here.
Oh I just adore Christmas, Christmas love stories, winter and snow, Scotland, Scottish Regency settings — so it was a no-brainer for me to wrap those elements into a story when we Wenches began talking about writing another holiday anthology. When Alicia Condon suggested that we interweave our novellas and focus on the same Christmas ball, suddenly we had a lot of details to work out – the central location, the occasion, the hostess and her ties to each of our characters and their past and present circumstances. Jo Beverley created a Wiki page where we shared our details, and as we asked questions and figured out solutions, helping each other, the stories began to work together. The extra effort by all the Wenches as well as our editor and copy editor in making sure all the puzzle pieces fit perfectly was worth it – I think this is a very special Christmas collection! 

(Jo. We set the story in Northumberland to make it close enough to the Scottish border for Susan's characters to plan to attend.)

With my story set in Scotland in the midst of a snowstorm that affected more than one of the guests attending Lady Holly's Last Chance Christmas Ball, it didn't seem likely that my characters – Dr. Henry Seton, Laird of Cranshaw, and Clarinda Douglas, Lady Hay, the widowed daughter of Henry's old mentor – could safely arrive at the ball in northern England. So they became stranded in a blizzard, alone and cozy inside Cranshaw Castle — where Clary yearned to go to the grand ball, Henry was secretly relieved to miss it, and both had to face their shared past of first love, heartbreak, and the fear of starting over. With a little help from Dickens and a nod to Scrooge, Tiny Tim and a some other Christmas characters, I loved writing this story – and I hope you all will love reading our latest Wench venture, The Last Chance Christmas Ball! 

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A first taste of Christmas

The Wench anthology will be here soon! As a first step, the prologue is available now.

On Wednesday we'll be sharing some of the process of creating this anthology, but the prologue was the last bit. Our editor thought we needed an introduction and as I was the one with a bit of time I created it from the point of view of my enigmatic heroine, Miss Clio Finch.

You can read it here.

Let us know what you think.

Is it intriguing?

Do you like the idea of stories woven around one event?

How do you feel about Christmas anthologies in general? Are there too many, not enough, or like Goldilock's chair, is it just right? And does anyone else have pantomime as an essential Christmas memory?

Happy Sunday,


The Journey Home: An Anthology with a Past

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

The publishing world has changed so much in the last dozen years!  This anthology was first published in 2004, when independent anthologies were rare indeed, and it was produced as a fundraiser for the SOSAmerica, Inc. charity (CARE packages to deployed soldiers).  The volume was edited by award-winning Silhouette author Mary Kirk.

As Mary said in her introduction, "The Journey Home is about the wounded Thejourneyhomefrntcvrmediafile--2015hero. The man who does what he must. The soldier who risks his life for his beliefs, his family, his country. It’s about the man who goes to war and discovers, when it’s over, he’s a different man—and maybe he isn’t certain who or what he’s become.

It’s also about the woman who loves such a hero: the one who waits at home, worrying, wondering. When her man finally returns, will her love be enough to heal the invisible wounds of combat? Will she even recognize the stranger sleeping alongside her at night?

Whether victors or vanquished, all survivors of a conflict must face the aftermath. But where do battle-scarred warriors go to lick their wounds and heal? Will they—can they—return to hearth and home? Or are they destined to live in isolation, unable to find a woman brave enough to love a man whose heart has been shattered?"


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Mischief and Mistletoe — the genesis

Anne here, doing a kind of Ask A Wench — talking about how our Wenchly anthology, MISCHIEF AND MISTLETOE  (released on 25th September) came about. We think it's the first time a group of authors who blog together have brought out an anthology together. To illustrate the process, I'm using snippets of the email discussion the Wenches had in working out the concept. They're all in blue, so you'll have to guess who said what.

The idea originally came up in a discussion in Mary Jo's room at the RWA National conference in Washington DC in 2009, where Mary Jo, Jo, Pat, Nicola, and I had all met for the first time as wenches. We talked about doing an anthology together, agreed it was a great idea and then… got swept up in various activities and forgot about it.

In August, 2010 Pat raised the idea again on the wenchly loop. Her email started: I'm procrastinating major big time, as may be obvious. <G>
She suggested we could each write a story of around ten to twelve thousand words, either with an overall story arc, or based around a loose theme.
"We just need a tie-in factor."

Anne: I have to say, we all seized on the idea with enthusiasm and the suggestions flew thick and fast. The discussion went something like this:

*We could set all the stories under a full moon or at the time of a full moon.

*Love the anthology idea, and the idea of a loose theme, by moonlight or otherwise.

*I quite like the idea that the moon is involved — maybe "They met  by moonlight" or  "Wenches by Moonlight" or something like that. One moonlight scene in each story and that's the connection.

Moonatsea*With any concept we'd have to make sure we had a variety of themes and no outright repetition of them. But beyond that, lots of scope for variety.

*This is why I like doing short projects.  Feeds the muse, who likes variety.

Anne again: Most of us loved the full moon idea but then we discovered it had already been done, so that was that. But we thought Winter might be a good time of year to set the stories in. We thought we should have wenches in the title, as it was a celebration of the Word Wench group, and then for a while we debated the idea of wicked wenches.

*I keep thinking Wicked Wenches.
Then the link could be wickedness. I think it would have to be a  fairly serious badness, but it could be theft, a really bad lie, sex, treason, all kinds of things. Or even, probably only by one Wench, an  unjust reputation for wickedness. Or does anyone fancy the 7 deadly  sins? *G*

*The Wicked Wenches has possibility! Since there are 8 of us, 7 sins probably aren't enough. And I'm not sure I want to argue over who gets Gluttony. 🙂

*Deliberately wicked – because she has no choice.
I like. Oh there are so many wicked little things a heroine could do that can be justified in a romance plot…

*What are the side effects if we brainstorm this during a retrograde?  <g>

*Actually, considering that the idea was first bruited about more than a year ago at the DC RWA conference, returning to it on a retrograde makes sense. 

*I'm not sure about having "wicked" in the title. It suggests more erotic stories, and I don't think that's what we're going for here.

Anne here: We all agreed that we wouldn't have "wicked" in the title, because it would make people expect more erotic stories, but we still liked the idea of some kind of wickedness in the story. But how wicked is wicked? And could we still make our heroines likable?

*I don't know that I would want to put a level of badness, since it could be relative. A proper young lady who slips outside to kiss under the full moon might be called a wicked wench by her parents. Just depends on the level of conflict we want.

*True, but I always feel cheated if a story in an anthology seems to wimp out on an edgy concept. I don't think it means the wickedness has to be awful, but it has to  have that edge to it.
But you're right that it's relative. The proper young lady being caught with her clothing considerably disheveled, with a man with a very wicked reputation could do it. Whereas if the Wench were a whore, it wouldn't be seen as wicked at all!

BlueMoon*I "vote" for Wicked Wenches, with maybe a moonlight theme, if others like it. (In other words, I'm easy, and quite happy to go with the flow.)  

*My vote would also be for WICKED WENCHES, and if people want to add moonlight, all the better. <G>

*Yup, I'm happy with this. I suspect the "wicked" will push me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing.

*Good point about comfort zone. It's always good for us to go out on the edge, wherever that edge is for us personally.

*I'd say as soon as anyone has a wicked concept they want to use they should toss it out so that others can try not to use the same thing.

*Okay, if we want to do Wicked Wenches, then we want to make it deliberately edgy? Not sweet misses kissing in the moonlight but a miss who has deliberately done something she knows is wrong.

Anne again: I'll spare you the rest of the discussion — we made long lists of different kinds of wickedness, and as for titles — well, we have dozens.
But the stories were, in the end, linked in the following ways:— a dash of wickedness during the winter season, which for some of us also meant the holiday season. Hence the title, Mischief and Mistletoe. Most of the stories also involved an inn, named after a wench of some sort. Mine was the Wench and Haggis Inn, so you can guess where my story is set.

Mine's called The Mistletoe Bride and here's the set-up. Ronan McAllister must marry an Englishwoman to receive his inheritance but having one distastrous marriage behind him, he's reluctant to marry again. His lawyer offers to find him a dying woman to marry and reluctantly Ronan agrees.(You can read the scene here)

Of course the scheme goes wrong, there is a mix-up at the inn, and Marguerite Blackett-Smith finds herself with a wicked choice. Here's a tiny snippet of the story.

     The thought of having to leave this cozy, friendly house and take up residence with an uncle who was the most notorious skinflint in the county made her stomach sink with dread. But there was no help to it — they thought she was Peggy Smith and—
And Peggy Smith was dead.
Peggy Smith, who'd promised to marry a man for money and then disappear from his life, no questions asked.    
What if . . ?

I have to say, I really enjoyed writing this story. It did stretch me out of my comfort zone a little, writing a heroine who deliberately does something wicked, but I liked Marguerite and I really enjoyed watching Ronan open up to her in the end.(You knew it was going to end happily, right?)

I also really enjoyed reading the other wenches stories — it's a wonderful demonstration of our different voices and I have to say, I'm very proud to be part of this collection.

So, I'm giving away a copy of Mischief and Mistletoe, and I want to ask you, how wicked is wicked when we're talking romance heroines? Are heroines harder to redeem than heroes? Have you ever read a book where the heroine was, in your view, unredeemable? Did any author make you change your mind? Or if you don't want to wrap your head around wickedness, what's one of your favorite holiday stories? 

Guests Carla Kelly and Carola Dunn

CarlaKelly We are delighted to announce that Carla Kelly, popular writer of wonderful,CarlaKellyBk heartwarming historical romances, will be joining us on Monday, December 7 to talk about her books, her writing, and in particular her story in the new anthology, A Regency Christmas. Anne Gracie will be the host.
Then on Friday, December 11, Mary Jo welcomes guest Carola Dunn.  Carola is an established author of Regency romances who has branched out into cozy mysteries with her Daisy Dalrymple series set in England in the 1920s.CarolaDunn
Mark your calendars and join us this coming week!