An Edith Layton Christmas Collection!

By Mary Jo

Just in time for the holidays! It’s a Wonderful Regency Christmas , a collection of six Christmas stories by the late and much missed Word Wench, Edith Layton, has just been released. 

Edith wrote many and varied wonderful stories, but she had a special gift for Christmas novellas.  For the first time, these six novellas are available in one volume.  The stories have been out of print for years, so this is a special treat for Layton Lovers and Layton Regency Christmas else who loves a warm, romantic holiday tale.

This collection includes the following stories:

The Duke’s Progress

It’s a Wonderful Christmas

The Gingerbread Man

The Last Gift

The Amiable Miser

Dogstar

I haven’t read Dogstar yet, but since Edith was a whole-hearted dog lover, I expect something really special! 

I just reread the first story, The Duke's Progress, and it was as lovely as when I first read it on the initial release.  A lonely and depressed duke, a winsome little boy, and the perfect woman to take dashing through the snow on a sleigh!  What more can a sentimental lover of Christmas stories want?

It's available as an ebook for the first time and in paperback almost everywhere books are sold. Edith's daughter Susie Felber says fans have been asking for this for years, and she's delighted to publish the first Layton Christmas collection is here–so we readers can be delighted as well! 

Mary Jo

PS:  A surprise bonus!  Susie Felber will give an e-book of IT'S A WONDERFUL REGENCY CHRISTMAS to one person who comments between now and Sunday midnight.  Good luck!

Edith Layton: The Fire Flower Blooms Again As An Ebook

TFF_Med_Lighter (1)The Fire Flower by Edith Layton, originally published in 1989, was recently re-released as an ebook for the first time. This is the story of bringing it back to life—the research for the Restoration setting, the efforts to retain the original painting for the ebook, and much more, told by Layton's daughter, a very occasional Wench guest.

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First, many thanks again to the Wenches for having me back as a guest poster. By way of introduction, I'm Susie Felber, the daughter of Edith Layton, who wrote and published over 30 historical novels and many more short stories. Her start was the Regency, but later she branched out into new time periods and locations. Since her death in 2009, I've been working to bring her much-loved books back into the world in ebook format. The first one came back in 2014, and I wrote about the big Edith Layton book party I threw for it, and that link explains why it took me nearly 5 years to do it. There's another Wenches post I wrote which tells you more about my mom, and there's two that tell what it was like growing up as a romance author's daughter: Daughter of Romance Part 1, and Part II.

Let's talk turning out-of-print books into ebooks

Thing is, some of my mother's books were already ebooks. All her later novels with Avon, and the earlier "C series", for example: The Cad, The Choice, The ChanceThe Challenge and The Conquest — those titles all live with Harper Collins and had no need for resurrection. 

But the majority of my mom's catalog is with publishers who never went to ebooks, at least not with the backlist. And of those books, many have stellar reviews, and many people have happy memories of them. But finding the paperback is really hard. For example, a beautiful "like new" copy of THE FIRE FLOWER goes for $267-$400. Not sure why the price bounces so much, but the point is, this is not the way to find new readers. Also, many long-time fans have the book on their keeper shelves, but the print is small and they crave the ability to read them again on their typeface-size flexible Kindles and e-readers. 

As I've rolled out re-releases with the help of the good people at Untreed Reads, mom's fans ask me all the time when certain favorite Layton titles are returning. They are often impatient for their faves. I really appreciate that. It means they care. It means they are readers… and without readers? Well, without readers, writers are kinda up the creek, no?

But bringing books back is hard. From contracts to scanning to proofreading to cover and beyond… it's way hard.

For example, three awesome books we recently brought back that included Bound By Love, were published by Pocket. Originally published in the late 90's, they were out of print, but I had no idea of the rights. My mother wasn't super organized. She had a filing system, but she'd file dried flowers and amusing cartoons as soon as she'd file contracts. I say she liked to create more than curate, and I loved her for that. Sure, her leaving a clearer trail would've been nice, but I'd rather have a fun mom than an organized one. And she was fun.

Anyway, for these three books, I worked a connection via a celebrity from my Nokia health day job. This celeb (OK it's Penn Jillette, why be coy?) had a new sure-to-be best-selling book at Simon & Schuster. Working with them to promo his excellent book (<–and you should read it, it's so fun) got me far enough into S&S to get a kind person who'd dive in and give me the docs that showed the rights had indeed reverted to the estate. Now if you've ever tried to just cold call a publishing company and find out about rights—well good luck. It's crazy hard. In fact, most agents/publishers told me that was why I should sign with them and why they deserved 10-15% of the re-release sales for eternity… because only they had the pull to dig to get the rights. 

The unique story of the cover art

I could go on about the book. But all you need to know is it's a restoration romance. It takes place in 1666, and yes, the Great Fire of London is a big part of the setting. It is the favorite of my brother Adam, who is a novelist and TV writer—and he's even a celeb if you're an NPR fan (I am). 

I was a teen when dragged to research this book, and I remember visiting the fire monument in London, which is very cool, but also situated in a very boring bit of the financial district. Yeah, research trips were fun, and I was lucky to go, but this was before the internet, so even if mom had every book ever (she did) there was so much she needed to see and experience. She saw her Fire Flower hero and heroine on that trip—together. Mom often picked pop stars for heroes, and pretty waitresses she met to base the heroines on. This was the only time, with us waiting for a ferry, she saw a dude on a motorcycle lean over and kiss the girl on the back of the motorcycle and BLAM! She told us, "LOOK! LOOK! THEY ARE MY NEW BOOK!" So if in the late 80's, you looked like the people on the cover you see above, were snogging, and rode a motorbike onto a ferry in England… yeah, that might be you.

After this book came out, the artist, Robert Maguire, sent mom the painting. Also known as R.A. Maguire, he's a BFD. He's amazing, the coolest of the cool. And in this painting, you see Fabio as a redhead. Say what you want about Fabio, he's an icon… and this might be the only red-headed Fabio cover ever. Editors don't like redheaded heroes, so mom getting that pass (and they fought her) was also a BFD. I love this painting. It hangs in my house now, and it will hang in Adam's house if he ever takes it back with him to Los Angeles. 

Even though I have the physical painting, that doesn't mean it is mine to use as a book cover. I contacted Maguire's site… and his daughter answered. She is like me—trying to preserve her father's legacy. It's a lot of work and not a lot of money. I asked for and paid for the rights to use it, because though we could use a stock romance photo, this seemed important. I also photographed it so you actually see the paint. I love seeing the brushstrokes. I also like how the whole of the scene is seen on the ebook, where on the original paperback it focused only on the people and left the lovely flowers and burning bits of London on the spine and on back of the book. I have a close friend who is an illustrator and still does painted covers, mostly for Kensington. Stephen Gardner is his name, and you should check that link—it's his Instagram and it's amazing because he shares sketches and covers in progress. 

I hope I've persuaded you to pick up The Fire Flower as an ebook… or get two, one for each eye, as my mom would say. That link goes to Amazon, but it truly is available in all formats, wherever ebooks are sold, which is something I appreciate about Untreed Reads.

I'll leave you with a pic of the original painting for the book, which is hanging proudly above (but safely far away from) my wood burning stove. It's far prettier in person, so please come by sometime for tea to admire it.

Supporting illustrators is as important as supporting writers… because they also create, and I'm so proud to be able to help curate. More books are on the way, including new titles, and I'll just be here at Edith Layton HQ trying to keep the home fires burning.

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Edith Layton: Word Wench, Mom & A True Lady

ATL_Draft

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

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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

Christmas Stories

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

I adore Christmas stories.  This is the season of the year when we can be as gooey, sentimental, and over the top as we want, and IT’S ALL RIGHT! 

We all know the original Christmas story with no room at the inn, the birth, the adoration of shepherds, sheep, and kings.  (And if you like amusing Christmas stories, here’s an interview with the Nativity Innkeeper from the Whatever blog by science fiction writer John Scalzi.) 

Christmas stories have become their own genre, and in recent years it’s A Christmas Carolbecome common for bestselling authors to write short Christmas novels.  There are lots of Christmas movies, of course, including beloved ones that are played over and over and over at this time of year:  It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, and at least four versions of A Christmas Carol.  (My favorite is the George C. Scott version.)  Obviously Charles Dickens was a pioneer in the short Christmas novel category. 

And the Christmas music!  Musicians across the whole spectrum of music from country to gospel and all points in between have recorded Christmas album—and I’ve bought a ton of them.  <G>  An early favorite was Joan Baez’s Noel, which surprised me when it Joan Baez--Noelcame out because she was known more as a protest/folk singer then.  But it was, and is, exquisite.

Christmas stories deal with reconciliation, returns of the prodigal, unexpected blessings, and finding love and happiness. 

This is a terrific fit with romance, of course.  The first romance Christmas anthology I remember was from Harlequin, and it made a huge splash.  A year later there were lots of Christmas anthologies, and they are still the most popular type of anthology. 

A Regency Christmas !!The Signet Regency Christmas anthologies were popular for years and years.  (By the way, it was only a couple of years ago that I learned that an anthology is multiple authors and a collection is several pieces by one author.  I used the terms interchangeably for years.)

All of the Wenches have written Christmas novellas and other short works.  Pat Rice Christmas Surprisesand I have written enough that we can now e-publish whole collections of earlier stories, like Pat’s recently released Christmas Surprises and my Christmas Mischief.  (I have enough more Christmas stories that when I have time, I’ll e-pub a second collection of them.) 

And you don’t even have to be Christian to play.  Our much missed Wench, Edith Layton, was Jewish and she wrote some of the Best. Christmas. Novellas. Ever.  She wrote enough for four or five collections of her holiday stories, and I hope someday they will be available in e-book form.

Christmas Revels MJPMary Balogh is another master of the form who has written many, many Christmas novels and novellas.  She has one collection of five of her Regency Christmas stories, Under the Mistletoe, which is still available in print.  I like to take credit for the collection.  I’d come up with the idea of packaging five of my Christmas stories together as Christmas Revels, and I persuaded my contemporary romance publisher, Berkley, to publish it. 

Not long after, I was talking with the Signet Regency editor who worked with Mary Balogh and me for years.  I forget the context, but I suggested she do an all-Balogh Christmas collection, and she jumped on the idea, with Under the Mistletoe the happy result. 

Christmas Mischief LargeOne of my favorites among my own stories is “The Christmas Cuckoo,” now available in my Christmas Mischief collection, and it contains all the holiday tropes, plus the kinds of characters I write about over and over because I love them. 

A weary soldier named Major Jack Howard comes home from the wars just before Christmas, steps off a coach, and is intercepted by a representative of his distant family who gives him orders about how to make himself presentable.  Not in the mood to be bossed around, Jack gets on the next coach leaving the inn, not caring where it’s going.

Riding on the bitter cold top of the coach, Jack drinks some very potent spirits to Christmas Wedding Belles--Nicolakeep from freezing, and falls asleep in an inn during a short stop to change horses.  Meanwhile, a warm-hearted young lady named Meg Lambert comes to the posting inn to collect Captain Jack Howard, the best friend of her soldier brother, whom she’s never met.

So she goes home with the wrong Jack Howard because he doesn’t know who she is, but he’d follow her ANYWHERE. And then he wakes up sober, and doesn’t want to leave because he is discovering the warmth and happiness he’s never known.

“The Christmas Cuckoo” is outrageous.  It is shameless.  It is schmaltzy.  It is the one of the Mayhem Consultant’s favorite stories, and one Christmas he had me read favorite scenes out loud to him. 

Is there a happy ending?  Do we even have to ask?   <G>  Here’s a very short Christmas story, "Sarah's Sister," also by science fiction author John Scalzi. The story is not science fiction, it’s shamelessly emotional and I loved it.

A_Christmas_Fling--MJPSo what are your favorite Christmas stories?  Ones you’ve read, or ones you’ve lived?  I’d love to hear!

Happy holidays to all from the Wordwenches.  From Christmas to Twelfth Night, the Christmastide period, we'll be posting little holiday favorites  of various sorts, so stop by for some fun. 

May you have a holiday of warmth and laughter–

Mary Jo

Edith Layton – Her Last Book

Sherrie, here.  Susie Felber's post will go up later today, so do check back! In the interim, we've put up a Wench Classic ToLoveWickedLordfrom last December, which will be replaced by Susie's post when it goes up.  The purpose of Susie's blog post will be to announce the release of Edith Layton's final book, To Love a Wicked Lord. Edith finished this book shortly before her death earlier this year, and it is a fitting farewell to her devoted fans. TLWL is getting excellent reviews and recently received 4 1/2 stars from Romantic Times.  Here's what RT said about TLWL:

“The Regency world comes to life as a wickedly handsome hero, sharp-tongued heroine and her ditzy grandmother are drawn together.” (Romantic Times Top Pick)  Maxwell, Lord Montrose, is the only man who can help Phillipa find her missing fiancé.  On the trail of the elusive husband-to-be, Maxwell and Pippa have the best of intentions. But a simmering attraction builds in close quarters . . .

Read more about the book by clicking the cover in the sidebar in the lower right side of this page.  Don't forget to return later today.  And now, here is Susie's interview from last December.   ~Sherrie

Hi there!  It's Edith Layton's daughter Susie here again.  In my last post, I shared photos and memories about what it was like growing up as my mommy morphed into some lady named Layton.

Wow, it was such a great post.  Really really amazing.  You should all read it again and again.

For part the second, I promised you tales of romance conferences, my gazillion prepubescent research trips to England and the tale of why I helped throw mom her second-ever book party 30 novels later.

But you know the saying "brevity is the soul of wit"?  Well brevity is also the soul of OMGits10pmIjustfinishedwriting4mydayjobbrainischeese.

So, I think this time, I'm just going to talk about research trips I was dragged on to ol' Blighty.  We'll tackle the other topics another time.

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OK.  I've just poured myself a glass of cheap-o 2005 Bordeaux — let's roll!

How about some pictures?   Yay!   On the right, you see Edith Layton sometime in the 80's.  In this photo, one can clearly see her steely resolve to visit each and every historical site in England.  Posing on the walls of York, her jammin' Pat Benetar haircut says, "Love is a Battlefield and I will cut anyone who gets in my way of visiting anything with a plaque and every Perkin Warbeck urinal from here to Penzance."

I know what you're thinking.  "How sharper than a serpent's tooth this child is!  What an ingrate!  She was lucky enough to be whisked all over the UK and has nothing but disdain and mockery for dear mum?"

OK, no.  That's not true. I loved many — nay most — of the places we visited. 

Castles were the best.  Loved the ruins and we stayed in many that had shored up their battlements and turned a buck as hotels in England, Scotland and Wales.  Second to castles were museums.  Then cathedrals.  We couldn't miss those.  Quite interesting.  Although when you're fourteen years old and on your umpteem chilly crypt, you tend to get a tad cranky.  Of course then there were small village churches, where, if you were very unlucky, mom would find some arthritic man running the parish who would then be interrogated about his knowledge of somebody who hung out there 200 years ago. 

England80s Oh and then there were the pilgrimages to ancient stone circles in the middle of nowhere.  Pre-GPS, actually finding one of these rumored stone circles buried within the fog of the mountains and the sheep exhalations was nearly impossible.  And once you got there, you clambered over a stile to tip toe over ewe poo to drink in the drama and mystery of rocks that looked like Stonehenge if it were engineered by mice.

 See that picture on the left?  That there is the late 80's.  My brothers had both gone off to college and my parents kindly brought my great friend Mary with me.  I'm not sure where this was taken.  Mary recently uploaded it to Facebook.  But, what you can clearly see is that we are likely the only visitors to a castle yet we looked like some sort of Cagney and Lacey/Flock of Seagulls trainwreck.  And at that age, hyped up on New Wave as we were, we set out on each crypt-filled research adventure with outfits made of synthetics and hair moussed into next week, hoping against hope some dreamy British rock star-ish type would amble by.

Let me say from bitterness experience, that more hot men can be found in a small convent than are passionately researching the Regency in all the rutabaga-sized towns of England.

And why always England?  I begged to go to France, Spain, Latvia — anywhere but another trip to the land of a thousand historic homes with psychotically perfect gardens selling dainty flowered items.

ThatchOn the flip side of kvetching, we did meet wonderfully nice people and we stayed at some amazing places.  Thatched cottages  galore in the Lake District, at the Grosvenor House in a suite so big I couldn't believe it was a hotel, in manors with bathtubs so deep they should've come with a snorkel. And yes, those fabulous castles, many of whom served continental breakfast in the dungeon, making you feel you were living a Monty Python sketch.

Of course the joke's on me.  All those trips to England obviously brainwashed me.  Because while happily enjoying my cosmopolitan crypt-less and thatch-free life in NYC — I met and fell in love with and eventually married a Brit. 
He even lived in a thatched cottage for a time and his family has a coat of arms, which I made into a onesie for our son.  I took that charming thatch roof pub pic you see here on our last visit to see his family.  Also, it's in our pre-nup that if he ever loses the accent — it's over!

Bridefor So although my mother thinks she's had the last laugh, just wait. I have no doubt I will enthusiastically drag our boy around more stately homes than you can shake a stick at.

OK lovely Wench readers!  If you've made it this far, put on your silver cape, shake it off and pat yourselves on the back.  Once you've recovered, leave a comment and say hi! 

xoxo,

Susie

PS If you are looking for more blogtainment, please visit www.dumbasablog.com which is just one of my online endeavors!

More importantly, me mum's latest book, [ A BRIDE FOR HIS CONVENIENCE ] To Love a Wicked Lord is out now! Buy buy buy it, then read, then, it stores easily on most any bookshelf.  Easy peasy!