Edith Layton: Word Wench, Mom & A True Lady


Update 6/26: A TRUE LADY is now available as an ebook


First, I'd like to thank the Wenches for inviting me to post during their anniversary celebration. I am continually impressed by how the Wenches not only endure, but continue to innovate, entertain, and open the circle to new authors and guests. 

Secondly, yes, that's a cover reveal just to the left of this copy, and no I didn't write it, but more on that in a moment… 

Third, well, I probably should introduce myself first, right? OK, here goes…

Dear Readers,

I'm Susie Felber. No, that is not a very romantic name, and that's exactly why my mother, Edith Felber, was persuaded by her publisher to take a pen name in 1983 for the publication of her first regency romance: The Duke's Wager.

Edith Layton a/k/a mom, went on to publish over 30 novels and many more short stories. She blogged with the Word Wenches for many years, and only stopped because… well, because she died.

I lurk and read the Wenches often, and admit I go back and read the beautiful post and comments Layton readers left here.

Of course I miss her. Mom was funny, smart, and would've bragged about me even if I was in prison. e.g. "The warden says Susie's license plates have a certain Je ne sais quoi."

But not only does her memory live on (think of her daily), but of course I have her books to enjoy (reading her books is like having her in the room with me), and Layton HQ is still going strong. Here's some news and updates:

529090211_8d24ac9ed9_bOn Mother's Day this year, my brother Adam (the famous NPR / Hollywood guy) and I appeared on Faith Salie's Audible podcast on an episode called When Mom Writes Romance. <– that's a link there, and it's fun. You can hear about how my father sent out her manuscripts under our German Shepherd's name when she got discouraged by rejections, and much more.

Backing up, two and a half years ago, I finally got it together to bring the Layton books that were out of print but in demand, back into the world as ebooks. As you can imagine, or know too well, this is hard work.

Read more

Of Weddings and Arrows

0002Susan here, with a two-fer: two backlist ebook releases,
and two behind-the-scenes stories about them.

, two of my classic Scottish medieval romances, are now available in ebook! They're freshly edited and redesigned with gorgeous covers by Kim
Killion (scroll down to see how pretty!). The “Maiden” series has an official series title — “Celtic Nights: Lady of Legend I, II and III.” The third book – THE
SWORD MAIDEN – will be available soon as well.
Each novel in the trilogy was inspired by Celtic legends. 

SusanKing_TheStoneMaiden200THE STONE MAIDEN
is one of those personally meaningful books -– I wrote it through the ordeal of an sudden family tragedy, and the writing became
one of those rare instances in an author’s life where the creative experience is
transcendant and healing. A tidbit of historical fact inspired the story, set
in 12th century Scotland—a Highland girl must wed a Norman
knight by order of the king–yet these two willful characters refuse to give in. Long ago, land was offered to Norman knights to attract their
military strength, and foreign knights came up for land and Scottish
brides, founding new clans with French roots, such as Fraser (my own
heritage). A few foreign knights adopted the names of their
Scottish brides.

What would happen, I wondered, if Norman honor met Highland stubbornness? That’s the premise of THE STONE MAIDEN. Alainna MacLaren, a stonecarver, is the last hope of her diminished Highland clan—and the man she marries must take the clan's name before it vanishes. But the king orders Sebastien le Bret, a hardened Norman knight, to marry the lady–and there is no way he will ever give up his name for hers. Both are fiercely proud and passionate, and both must discover that love is its own legacy. I particularly love this story for lots of reasons.

Last year, something truly wonderful happened: two dear friends of my son were planning their wedding—and asked if they
could borrow the wedding scene in THE STONE MAIDEN for their own
Celtic-style ceremony. They incorporated
the wedding verses in the book (based on ancient Celtic
poetry) –- and they also did a handfasting with a rope braided in the harvest
colors of their wedding theme. I was so happy to witness these two special ones getting
married, and thrilled to see my wedding scene come to life. Here are the verses from The Stone Maiden, and a couple of photos from Kate and
Drew’s beautiful wedding:

Wed-00225  Alainna came toward Sebastien, then stepped to her left and walked around him in a
circle, brushing behind him, circling in front, and again, twice more, until
she stood before him. He held out his hands and she offered hers, joining left
to left, right to right, so their arms made a crossed loop like an interlaced design. They stood, gazes steady
upon one another. . . She
clung to his hands, drew a breath, and began: 

shade you are in summer

shelter you are in winter

rock you are

fortress you are

A shield you are about me
cherish you

help you

enfold you

promise you.

Wed-00234. . . Sebastien drew a breath,
overcome. He knew what to say, but he had not known until this moment that he would say it with such conviction. The poem that came to him was
not the one he had learned that morning, but one the bard had recited a few
nights ago.  Somehow it seemed perfect.


found in the garden

jewel, my love

eye like a star

lip like a berry

voice like a harp.

found in the meadow

bright-eyed maiden

eye like a star

cheek like a rose

kiss like honey.

is done," he whispered.  "So be
it." His 
heart leapt in a
new pattern, and he was caught in its infinite turning.

you, Drew and Kate, for giving the verses true meaning!)


SusanKing_TheSwanMaiden200The second book in the series “Celtic Nights: Lady of
Legend II” is based on the legend of a swan maiden, set in the 14th century—it’s a sequel to Laird of the Wind, a tale of the Scottish
rebellion. Juliana Lindsay, cousin to the hero of Laird, is an archer among forest rebels, captured by the
English—and Gawain Avenel is the English knight who risks his life for the
beautiful freedom fighter who turns out to be somewhat of a handful — not only is she a crack shot, but swans do whatever she wants.

There’s a fun story behind the research for this book,
which I've mentioned in a previous post here on Word Wenches – the author as arrow-catcher. 

Sometimes stacks of history books or open links through
Google are just not enough to complete the research for a book. We all bring
something more to the work than what we glean from research—and though, thanks
to graduate years in art history, I can research the heck out of anything, sometimes
we just gotta roll up our sleeves and experience something before we put it on the page. For THE SWAN MAIDEN, I wanted the hero to catch an arrow in mid-flight. I couldn’t find
any sources about it, but wanted to be sure it could be done. I thought it would be very cool for the hero to catch an arrow in the instant before
it struck the heroine.

One evening I was telling my husband about my
arrow-catching idea, and one of our sons (now a black belt) looked up from his
homework and said, "Sensei can do that." Sensei was his karate
instructor. What??A phone call to the sensei confirmed it,
and he offered to teach me how to do it myself. Umm, okay.

ArrowshandArrow catching is a lot harder than it looks. Trust me. It’s
definitely one of those Don’t Ever Try This At Home or Anywhere things.
Seriously. Unless you have an expert teaching you how to do it, and there
aren’t many of those out there, it's not something to mess with.

My husband and I showed up, and at first Sensei tossed a bo (a wooden staff) toward us to catch in one hand, out to the side. We progressed to hand-tossed
arrows, and then to blunt arrow shafts released from a bow a few feet away. Thunk, grab, oh hey, that’s easy, even I, a myopic writer, could do it.

Then he got out the REAL bow, and the REAL arrows.
And he backed up about thirty feet.

There’s nothing quite like facing a tenth-degree black belt, an ex-Marine, a massive towering guy, as he raises a real nasty looking bow nocked
with a very sharp arrow – and aims it straight at you. “Don’t worry,” says
he, “I’m not going to shoot you.” Right, cuz I’m not moving.

SusancatchingarrowHe let the arrow go. It zoomed right past me, though I
snatched for it. He released another. Zooooooopp. A blur. Another. Zzzzzzip.
Missed that—and with the next one, I touched feathers!  Zzzzzzzzzzzip.  More feathers! Then I reached out and grabbed the shaft smack in the middle. After that, I caught them consistently. The secret is in the timing, and senses on alert, a bit of coordination, a little courage, and making sure to listen for the release more than watch the thing. 

My husband, I have to admit, caught an arrow on the
first try. Argh! But I walked out of the dojo that day with a great research
experience—and a feeling of achievement that I hadn't expected. And Sensei was
so pleased (and found it so very amusing) that he asked me to demonstrate it
at dojo parties. Yup—we took it on the road. Here’s a photo – that's little ol' me by the Christmas tree. I caught that arrow too.    

The third book in the series, THE SWORD MAIDEN, will be out soon–and that has an amazing cover too, that I can't wait to share!

Have you been to a Celtic wedding, or had one yourself? Have you ever caught an arrow, or thought about it?  (I know, those questions are SO related, right!) — comments and thoughts welcome! I'll be giving away a print copy of the original paperback of THE STONE MAIDEN or THE SWAN MAIDEN (winner's choice) to one lucky commenter! 



Summer Reading List

TheDevilishMontague-low-res Pat here. Devilish Montague, my latest Regency romance, will be coming out in a few weeks and I’ll have to plug it hither and yon then, but self promo is tedious. Since I’m scheduled to blog both Bookviewcafe and Wordwenches today, I thought I’d gift our readers (and myself) with a summer reading list. I’ve gathered the list from among the wordwenches and BVC members, but we’re remaining anonymous because there are so many good books and we can only recommend so many. As it is, I’ll have to cut all the suggestions in half and do more later. Below is an eclectic mixture of recommendations from my reading buddies…

Anything by Terry Pratchett. He writes fantasy, but if you don't like fantasy, don't be put off. It's down-to-earth, witty, funny fantasy. It's really hard to pick one, but women will probably enjoy Witches Abroad, and most men seem to really like Pyramids. But really, anything. http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/

Jo Beverley’s An Unlikely Countess, historical romance  set in 1765, tells the story of the impoverished daughter of a scholar who becomes entangled with an equally impoverished ex-soldier, but fate makes him an earl, and life becomes very complicated indeed.

The Attenbury EmeraldsJill Paton Walsh's third novel based on Dorothy Sayers' beloved Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane.  It's a powerful and entertaining story where the mystery exists mostly as a structure for the family, social, and romantic relationships and an elegiac look at post WWII England.

Hunting and Gathering, by Anna Gavalda. French and a little quirky, about four people, pretty much adrift in the world, damaged by life and barely surviving — but before you screw up your nose and say, 'not for me,' it's not at all grim. It's the kind of book that makes you smile, and the ending leaves you feeling all warm and 47780 fuzzy. The French title is "Ensemble, C'est Tout" which means  "Together is Everything" and that's what the book is about — people needing people, forming families by chance and though random acts of kindness. And it's a romance.

Vienna Waltz by Teresa Grant (the new pen name of Tracy Grant), an historical murder mystery set at the Congress of Vienna, and is a fabulous mix of political intrigue, complex psychological layering rich historical detail and scintillating dialogue.

For delicious urban-fantasy-done right: Desdaemona by Ben Macallan (BVC’s own Chaz) and Katherine Kerr's Water To Burn (an August release).

Immortal by Pati Nagle, a contemporary elves and vampire romance in both print and digital, and a darker paranormal/fantasy romance by Pati Nagle, Heart of the Exiled in ebook.

Thistle Down by Irene Radford, a light and fluffy paranormal romance masquerading as urban fantasy.  Pixies in the park. Good for YA.  Thistle

Vampire Chef #1: A Taste of the Nightlife by Sarah Zettel comes out July 5.  Humorous, paranormal, mystery with vampires.  And food!

Trey Shiels, The Dread Hammer, "An enthralling, darkly comic fairytale of love, war, murder, marriage, and fate."

Martha Well's The Cloud Road. Epic fantasy/adventure with a PW starred review

Sherwood Smith, The Trouble With Kings, a romantic fantasy from Samhain

Madeline Robins: Althea, an old-fashioned "sweet" Regency, which will be followed in July by My Dear Jenny (also Regency, also sweet), ebooks from bookviewcafe. Also, her Sarah Tolerance books: Point of Honour and Petty Treason, a fusion of Regency, noir, and swashbuckler set in a slightly-alternate England in ebook format

The Iron Druid trilogy by Kevin Hearne, a new urban fantasy author with a light, intelligent touch.  The first two books, HOUNDED and HEXED are out, and HAMMERED will be along in a few weeks.
Evil GSilk_enius by Patricia Rice–mystery, romance, and a wickedly colorful cast of eccentric characters in this e-book only story.
  SILK & SHADOWS, & SILK AND SECRETS by Mary Jo Putney–these are e-book editions of the exotic Silk Trilogy.  The third, VEILS OF SILK, should be out soon.  I loved reading these books, and it's great that they're available again.

Katherine Kerr, License to Ensorcell , a Nola O'Grady urban fantasy,

Among Others, by Jo Walton, a wonderful combination of fantasy, coming-of-age, and modern historical (girl with magic in her extended and peculiar family, growing up in the 70s in Wales).

Tim Powers, On Stranger Tides–"Whether or not the Pirates of the Caribbean film satisfied, try the original novel by Tim Powers. Almost nothing of Powers magnificent yarn was taken for the film, so you won't feel as if you're reading anything tied to a movie.  Adventure, romance, pirates, and supernatural wonders abound.  Highly recommended."

Lois McMaster Bujold's The Curse of Chalion and its sequels—fantasy

And as the weather gets hot, nothing is more cooling than to read works about British explorers freezing to death: The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge, a Booker finalist.

Speak to Our Desires by Brenda Clough, mystery/thriller set in the Summer of Love in the 60’s, for those looking for e-fiction.

We, Robots  by Sue Lange, a humorous fantasy novella about a young girl who is given a robot nanny. The story is told from the viewpoint of the robot and explores what effect  technology has had on  the meaning of life

Vonda McIntyre, The Moon and the Sun: Nebula Award winner.  Set in the court of Louis XIV, a secret history revealing what happens when the king's natural philosopher, Yves de la Croix, captures a sea  monster — a mermaid — or is it something more? 

Ashley Gardner's Gabriel Lacey regency mysteries. They're not "light" exactly, but very engaging—rather perfect for long summer evenings when a bit of London fog is just the thing. Book One is The Hanover Square Affair.

Maya Bohnhoff: Taco Del and the Fabled Tree of Mystery is a good summer eBook read and The Meri (in print fantasy) and Star Wars: Patterns of Force (in print SF)

Kelley Armstrong's Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic, urban fantasy 

K.E. Kimbriel’s Nuala SF novels contain romance, but are easier to find in e-book and usually cheaper.

Jennifer Stevenson’s completely light, romantic comedy about blue-collar men and the women who pursue them: 
King of Hearts and Fools Paradise

Andrea Penrose, Sweet Revenge, Regency mystery  (Deception with a dash of murder is a recipe for disaster…)

Cara Elliott, To Surrender To A Rogue, a historical romance RITA finalist (Lady Alessandra della Giamatti arrives in Bath to excavate newly discovered Roman ruins-only to find herself caught in a web of evil intrigue . . .)

Susan King, The Black Thorne's Rose, medieval historical romance, now on Kindle and Nook

Susan Fraser King, Queen Hereafter, Scots historical fiction about saintly Queen Margaret


Wow, and that was just the start of the suggestions I've collected! Please, add more below if you like. Give a little bit about them so readers know if they're the kind of book they like to read. There are so many amazing books out there, it's so very hard to choose among them. Hope we've given you some choices!


  Bookmark I’ve been thinking a lot about “change” lately. Obviously, Obama’s campaign touted change as a good thing, and on the whole, I enjoy doing and seeing different things and believe change is required for progress. But sometimes, change comes so fast and furious that resistance sets in. I found this great website that covers predictable human behavior when faced with change: http://tinyurl.com/26786jv . The writer doesn’t solve anything, but he does a good job of explaining how and why various people react as they do when faced with any kind of shift in their circumstances.

One of the reasons I’m starting to drag my feet on the enormous changes the publishing industry is facing is explained quite succinctly on the website: “my needs are met, I’m heavily invested” in print publishing, and I really don’t want to change totally to this brave new world because “the journey there looks painful.”

I’m probably a bit ahead of the curve on my resistance because I’ve already experienced the rosy optimism part of the change, and now I’m heading to the downside as I see what we’re facing. I am dabbling with two books I want to sell electronically, and the heavy issues of editing, cover selection, and promotion are giving me headaches before I even get started. I really need a publisher to handle all of this for me. I just want to write the blamed books. But that’s not necessarily how the next chapter of publishing will work.

I, at least, have the advantage of being able to make choices based on the huge amount of information at my fingertips. But can you imagine how our historical characters felt as the enormous changes between the Georgian era and the Train industrial revolution took place? If you’re afraid to try an e-reader, just imagine how Our Heroine felt when faced with her first steamboat or train ride.  We all know how the Luddites reacted to machine manufacturing, and I can certainly relate to wanting to smash machines to bits—if only because I don’t grasp the technology and I’m convinced computers hate me.  (photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/2dmzaff)

Men who were interested in the changes happening around them probably belonged to the various scientific, philosophical, and technical societies that formed, but on the whole, women had only each Spinning-Wheel other to rely on for information. How did they feel when their wool was no longer spun by the local weaver but mass-produced by some smelly plant miles from home? And the new chemicals used for dyeing fabric (see Kill Your Hero with Wallpaper) created fabulous wallpapers and gowns, but would Our Heroine be leery of fabrics shipped all the way from exotic places like India? Obviously, the Kasmir shawl became popular at some point. Did mothers agree to the expensive purchase simply because Lady Neighbor had one? Or did some resist such wasteful extravagance when a good English wool would suffice? (photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/2bbn358)

But shawls and gowns were just material evidence of change. The underlying, volatile change was the Cashmere-Shawl raising of the lower and middle classes to wealth as merchants turned industrial technologies to new uses. Child and slave labor became social issues that divided a complacent society in two. New science raised awareness of the dangers of inadequate housing, poor diet, and disease, and suddenly, people had to think of others besides themselves and their tenants. Their worlds grew larger rapidly—and it would be simpler if they could just turn a blind to eye to those changes. I’m sure many did. (photo credit: http://tinyurl.com/24j2xdn)

I’m thinking the modern world is also undergoing such a sea change, where underdeveloped countries are suddenly growing fast—at the expense of the wealthiest countries, and technology is speeding ahead so rapidly that many of us would rather bury our heads in the sand than face another new iPhone. 

At what point do you draw your figurative line in the sand and say “heck, no” to change? And do you understand why you’re suffering from resistance and denial of the changes ahead?