A Yuletide Kiss

Yuletide kissby Anne Gracie

Anne here, interviewing Mary Jo Putney about her delicious new Christmas story, which came out last week. A Yuletide Kiss, an anthology written with Madeline Hunter and Sabrina Jeffries, brings together three couples caught out by a snowstorm and stuck at the White Rose Inn in the days leading up to Christmas.

Anne: Mary Jo, you've written linked stories before with other authors — The Last Chance Christmas Ball comes to mind — but this was only with two other authors, instead of eight. How did you work to make the stories intersect? Were there any difficulties?

Mary Jo: Anne, we were both part of the Word Wench linked story anthology, so you know that it's real work!  In LCCB, we had eight authors contributing, but they varied greatly in how much the stories connected. (Susan King's Scots got snowed in and never made it to the ball at all. <G>) 

 

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Seduction on a Snowy Night!

Seduction on a snowy nightby Mary Jo

Holiday anthologies are fun to read and fun to write, so I was happy to sign on to this project with two other Kensington authors, both bestsellers and friends of many years, Madeline Hunter and Sabrina Jeffries.

Seduction on a Snowy Night received a starred review from Library Journal, and is listed as one of BookPage's top Christmas romance reads. Publishers Weekly said, "Christmas touches appear throughout, and the passion is hot enough to melt a snow bank. This fanciful Regency anthology will keep readers warm all winter."

Though the three of us all write mostly in the Regency period, we're very different writers, and I had fun reading through the draft book several weeks ago and enjoying how very different we all are when it comes to stories of romance, Christmas, and abduction!  Read on to learn more:

 

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Intrigue and Mistletoe

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MischWwmistletoewikiief and Mistletoe is out in the big wide world as of last week.  I am so delighted to be part of this anthology. 

Let me just meander aside here for an instant and mentiion that I haven't written a short story since I was in Grade School, so the whole concept was a bit baffling.  I had ta kinda feel my way through this.

Since I write Regency spies as my own particular metier, I figured my contribution to the anthology should be … Regency spies.
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I'm sticking with the secrecy and intrigue, of which there was any amount lying about in this time period, but shifting my focus just a bit.  One of the sad realities about spies in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries is that much of the spying they engaged in was against their own countrymen.  While the English crown certainly worried about the French armies milling about across the Channel, they were somewhat more terrified of the disaffected at home. They spied upon them diligently. 

In several of my books, my protagonists have been patriots on opposite sides of the long, bitter political struggle between France and England. In this short story, I considered the problems of a spy working in his own country. It's his duty to go undercover in England, playing a part, lying to Englishmen.

My hero, Jack, pretending to be a man he isn't, courted Elinor.  In the

Wwbuilding in snow attribe 1sox4

pictures are attrib creativity+, jennydowning, 1sox4.

end, he betrayed her trust and broke the bone and sinew of her life when he uncovered the treason of her uncle. 

Just a job.  Just another job. 
He hadn't counted on falling in love with her.Wwsnowinpinesattribjennydowning

Now it's two years later.  Christmas is the end of the old year, the beginning of the new.  From ancient times this has been the season of renewal and forgiveness.  I bring Jack and Elinor together, sheltering from the storm under the same roof, and ask the question, "Can she forgive the man who lied to her and betrayed her?"

Oh.  There's a secret list gone astray, naughty Latin texts, and a dangerous French agent flitting here and there about the corridors of the old inn.  The usual.   

So … what's your favorite book about 'second chances' and 'forgiveness'.  I'm thinking Susan Elizabeth Phillip's Nobody's Baby But Mine and Sherry Thomas' Not Quite A Husband.

Now We Are Six—and a Surprise Announcement!

Cat 243 DoverMary Jo here, hosting the sixth anniversary celebration for the Word Wenches!  This is a long time for a blog to survive and flourish.  But we’re still having fun, still finding new topics to chat about, and new people to have as guests. 

Today, the Wenches reminisce about how they came to Wenchdom.  The announcement will be at the end.  (And no, it isn’t that we’re shutting down!) So here are the Wenches, and covers of books they published the year that they joined the blog.

Keepingkate250Susan King
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I remember, six years ago, having an email discussion with Mary Jo and Pat about starting up a group blog, followed soon after by a lunch with our shared website guru, Eileen, who brought more ideas quite literally to the table – and the fledgling concept of Word Wenches was born.

At the time, I was writing Scottish historical romances for Avon as Sarah Gabriel, having already written several historicals as Susan King. When I moved to Avon as Sarah, I was secretly hoping to write bigger mainstream novels someday as Susan. Sarah G. wrote two more historical romances, To Wed a Highland Bride  and Highland Groom — and then Susan K. got the chance to research and write Lady Macbeth followed a couple of years later (these research-heavy books take time!) by Queen Hereafter.

Exploring the differences in writing for hardcover/trade over mass market genre has been exciting and challenging, and I hope I've grown as a writer and historian (certainly I've learned more patience…) . Currently I'm balancing several writing projects at once, so life is a bit crazy at the moment. I'm researching historical novels while converting my old Susan King backlist to ebook (Black Thorne's Rose, Laird of the Wind, and others are now available, with more soon). I'm also writing some nonfiction history, a refreshing change, as it needs a different focus and voice.

Yet one of the brightest highlights of these past six years is the Word Wenches. When I was first published, a very well-known author (I was so in awe!!) told me that the most valuable thing I would find as a published writer would be the friendships. She was right. I feel very blessed and fortunate to be a Wench — and to be able to call each Wench a true friend. That's part of what makes our little blog so special, I think  — we truly care about the blog, our readers, our books, and each other.

MagicManoriginalPatricia Rice:

2006 seems a millennia ago in book terms! I was still writing contemps, Magic Man and Small Town Girl were on the shelves, and my husband had just taken a new job and we'd moved to St Louis. These days, my contemporary romances are on the e-book backlist shelves, the MAGIC series is being reissued, I'm writing about the contemporary descendants of the Magic characters, and producing original e-books and writing urban fantasy. What a long, strange trip it's been!

 

To Rescue a RogueJo Beverley:

I knew I should blog and started to, but really couldn't keep up with it. Maybe some people love to journal, and others don't, so the Wenches was a great way to do my bit.  When I got Mary Jo’s e-mail inviting me to join the Word Wenches, I said yes immediately.  I really like what we’ve built here, and that we've created a flexible, dynamic group that can adapt to the ever-changing blogosphere.

 

MarriageSpell 2 CompMary Jo Putney

Like Jo, I thought blogging would be A Good Thing, both for promotion and as a way to interact directly with readers.  I knew darned well I'd never manage one on my own, but with friends?  All of a sudden, an exciting idea took shape. 

Since I knew how busy we all are, I suggested that we enlist Sherrie Holmes, whom I knew from the Regency loops, to keep us organized, a job she's done beautifully ever since, while keeping us wildly entertained behind the scenes. <G> 

Over the last six years, I've changed publishers and added a new genre, YA historical fantasy, and it's all good.  I like blogging, even though it takes time away other things, like writing books.  It's fun to delve into random topics, and it's fun not to have to worry about every word the way I do on my novels.  I also like the chance to interview other authors whose work I admire, like <BLARE OF TRUMPETS!!!>:

His Captive LadyAnne Gracie

In May 2006 I was probably working on the last of my "perfect-in-the-title" series, The Perfect Kiss. I was already a big fan of the Word Wenches as writers, but I can't remember exactly when I first started reading the blog. It was pretty soon after they started blogging I think, but in those days I was a bit shy about leaving comments. It was my regular morning ritual — to read the wench blog and all the comments — I loved the level of interesting discussion in the comment stream.

I do remember when I met Mary Jo and Jo and Pat at my first NINC (Novelists Inc) conference in March 2007 and I made some comment about them changing the blog from a post every day to only 3 times a week —  that was a word wench addict speaking. I do remember their expressions  when I said how I missed the daily dose of word wenchery.  I have to  laugh now, when as a word wench, I look at my calendar and exclaim,  "Another blog? Already?" because it's quite hard to come up with something fresh every fortnight. I don't know how they each blogged  once a week and still managed to write books.

I joined the word wenches in October 2008 and I remember how thrilled  I was when I read the email from Mary Jo inviting me to become a word wench. It's a wonderful group and I'm still very proud to be a word wench.  (His Captive Lady was published that year.)

The Scarlet Spy, jpgCara Elliott/Andrea Penrose

Now We Are Six . . . I love that I get a chance to trumpet A. A. Milne’s classic title, as it reminds me that from a very early age on, books were such an important part of my life. And they still are! Six years ago I wasn’t yet a Wench—and I wasn’t yet Cara Elliott or Andrea Penrose! So, much has changed for me personally as well as for publishing in general since 2006. E-readers were still just a flickering diode, bricks-and-mortar stores were still dominating the reading landscape, and I was just transitioning into mass market historical romance.

Things keep moving at cyber-speed, and there are a lot of crazy ups and downs in the book world, but for me, a constant has been the sense of camaraderie and community that comes from being part of this amazing group. I remember very well getting the call from Mary Jo asking if I’d be interested in joining the Wenches . . . and I nearly fell off my chair. Me? Needless to say, I was speechless with shock. And with excitement at the chance to rub cyber-shoulders with such wonderful authors. We’ve all become great friends, and have a wonderful time together, sharing laughter and our love of good books, as well as hugs when there’s a bump in the road.

It’s a very special part of my writing life, made even more so by the fact that we get to interact with such a wonderful group of readers.

ConfessionsofaduchessNicola Cornick

2006 was an exciting year! It was the year that my first book for HQN, Deceived, was published. I was working on the follow up, Lord of Scandal, that spring. At the same time I was in the second year of my MA in Public History at Ruskin College in Oxford and was working very hard on my dissertation on heroes and hero myths. There was a lot of writing of one sort or another going on! I also remember wonderful holidays in Norfolk and Wales that year and a memorable trip to Atlanta for the RWA Conference.

I heard of the Word Wenches early on and was over-awed by their combined star power, their fabulous books and their historical knowledge. I dropped into the blog regularly but I never imagined I would ever become a Wench. When Anne Gracie emailed me to invite me to join I almost fell off my chair with shock and excitement. My husband says I didn’t speak for half an hour! I learn a lot from reading the blog and I love that. I also enjoy the fact that the blog has an international feel with Wenches on several continents and I love the discussions with the other Wenches and our readers. It’s wonderful!

Forbiddenrosejoannabourne2Joanna Bourne

Six years ago I'd just come back to the States after many years overseas.  I did all the settling down things you do.  Picked out a dog and cat from the animal shelter.  Put the kid in school.  Bought a house.  Planted peonies.  I was on a roll.

I'd been agented for a couple of months at that point, and we'd begun what would turn out to be a year-long quest to sell that The Spymaster's Lady.  I was working away on Lord and Spymaster, figuring if I couldn't sell a historical set in Napoleonic France, by golly, I'd sell one set in Regency England.

When Word Wenches showed up on the internet, I read them regularly.  Pretty soon, the Wenches were bookmarked because they kept popping up whenever I went searching for some interesting historical material. 

Zip forward a few years.  I met Anne Gracie in person at the RWA National Conference.  What a lovely, funny woman.  Through her, I meet the other Wenches.  I was delighted and very surprised to be asked join Word Wenches.  Leapt at the possibility, though.  Snap.

So here I am, the most recent, baby Word Wench, with a bare two years tenure.  Still, as they say, wet behind the ears.

Mary Jo again. 

As you can see, the theme of fellowship is an important thread here.  It doesn't matter that we haven't all met in person, or that we're scattered across three continents.  (The latter is part of the fun!)

Writing is a solitary profession, and while we’re mostly introverts, we need to spend time interacting with out tribe.  And the Word Wenches—and our readers—are a tribe.

Mischief and Mistletoe FINALSurprise!

Now for the announcement: we’re publishing a Word Wenches Christmas anthology this year!  MISCHIEF AND MISTLETOE will be released by Kensington on September 25th in a trade sized edition. (The larger size of paperback.) 

It contains eight Christmas novelettes, one by each current Wench, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.  After reading the proposals, I was struck by how characteristic they are.  Whatever themes Wench a writes in her full length novels is right there in short form. <G> 

The anthology came about rather like the blog itself.  I think it was our web goddess Eileen Buckholtz who first suggested the possibility.  (She's a born marketing genius.)

We kicked the idea around for quite some time until we agreed on what we wanted to do.  Susan organized our short synopses into a proposal, we sent it off—and lo!  Multiple offers!  I was amazed.  But delighted. <G>

Win a copy!

So—come October, a copy of Mischief and Mistletoe will be sent to one commenter on this blog between now and midnight Thursday.

In addition, last summer regular Wench reader Jane Irish Nelson suggested that we should do an anthology.  We didn’t say anything then, but we think she deserves a book for figuring out what we were up to. <G>  Jane, remind us in October if we forget!

So there we are: six years of Wenchdom.  Of history and humor, learning and laughter, philosophy and fellowship.  Nothing is forever, but we're still going strong.  We hope you'll continue to enjoy the journey with us.

Do you like anthologies?  Holiday anthologies?  Any comments on our six years of blogging?  Please share!

Mary Jo, Susan, Pat, Jo, Anne, Andrea, Nicola, Joanna, & Sherrie the Cat-Herder

 PS: It's been suggested that links to Barnes and Noble and Amazon would be useful for those of you who want to preorder.  So here you go!