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Monday, February 6, 2017

Suzanne Enoch and her Scandalous Highlanders

I was just re-reading this series from Suzanne Enoch and thinking it was a good thing that all these romance novels are so forgettable. Don't read me wrong. This is my guilty pleasure after all.

I do enjoy reading them and buy lots (mostly eBooks these days).  
When I start a new one it is really difficult for me to put it down. That is why sometimes, on a snowy day I just re-read the old ones. I get less glued to the pages and still have a good time even knowing what will happen. You mostly know what will happen anyway. Right? and since most are variations of the same, I expect my brain has troubles making the required connections for long-term memory.  

I have "Seven minutes in heaven" by Eloisa James just out of the press ready on my Kindle, but I want to savor it another day. I though to take the time to start writing some reviews, mostly to have a record for myself about what I read. I will show and comment about the covers too!


I liked the covers and the modern nod titles. Very suggestive, beautiful models, nice colors, showing both the hero and heroine. And lost of plaid, even the "MacLawry plaid" is shown.


Let's get back to our Scandalous Highlanders.

This is the story of the MacLawry family. The head of the family is Ran MacLawry a Scottish marquis in regency England. He his the most powerful lord in the Highland. Feared and hated by most of the other Scottish Lords. 
But this is romance! so we see him first, and then his brothers and sister fall in love. And we see the struggle between loyalty to the clan and family and the new loyalty to the one they start to love. This is especially true for Ran, who book after book has to confront this hard choice for him ant then is younger siblings. 

The characters have enough complexity and the heroines in each book are very different from each other. The characters are all handsome/beautiful, smart, noble and rich (I am not complaining). The stories are compelling and fast paced. And not least, there is a lot of explicit sex written with just the amount of detail I find nice to read. Tasteful for the genre. 

I just finish reading "some like it Scot" the story of the "Bear" MacLawry and "Cat" McColl. She is a bit over the top at the beginning, but also very unique among heroines of romance novels. I would definitely recommend the series (see notes at the end)


And these are the covers to enjoy: exactly what ye expect in a hot historical romance cover and naught else:






Scandalous Highlanders is a series of four novels and a Christmas mini-novella: In order

  1. The Devil Wears Kilts: Ranulf (Ran) MacLawry, Marquis of Glengask and Lady Charlotte Hanover 
  2. One Hot Scot: A Scandalous Highlanders Holiday Story: Duncan Lenox and Julia Prentiss 
  3. Rogue with a Brogue Lord Arran MacLawry and Lady Mary Campbell
  4. Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid: Lord Lachlan MacTier and Lady Rowena "Winnie" MacLawry
  5. Some Like It Scot: Lord Munro "Bear" MacLawry and Lady Catriona "Cat" MacColl



Note: I tend to notice mistakes (and make them too!), especially the second time I read a book. two things kept me adding notes:

1. All that handshaking: I had the feeling that wasn't something done then. I found that in times of Jane Austen only true friends greeted each other handshaking. New acquaintances would curtsey or bowed.

2. The nobility titles keep changing through books and pages. Some examples:

The Devil Wears Kilts: Ran's mother was the daughter of a Baron, but his uncle (his mother's brother), who must have inherited their father's title  is a viscount

Rogue with a Brogue: Mary's father is an earl but his wife is a marchioness in a sentence.

Some Like It Scot: The heroine father and his wife are first mentioned as viscount and viscountess and then suddenly his daughters are ladies and the uncle who has inherited the title is an Earl.

There is a great discussion of English titles for romance novel writers by the late Jo Beverly here: ENGLISH TITLES IN THE 18TH AND 19TH CENTURIES


I thank ye fer reading (and looking at the covers)

Miranda

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Fake Romance cover

 Dear Ladies and gentlemen;

It is still summer, let's have some innocent (or not so much) fun. After a friend posted an amazing romance novel cover I started a board on pinterest "the most outrageous romance novel covers" cover- pined looking for "material" for my board I started to find some covers that made me suspicious: was this for real? 



Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey. From the book cover: 
"For Lucas's beautiful, unsuspecting pawn was not supposed to be so irresistible alluring. And freedom-loving Sharisse never dreamed she could ever desire one man so much! "

After a few I had decided that the FAKE ROMANCE COVER was a new child of the photoshop era, an easy victim of the times. While "Tender is the storm" is a real book "A bit lower, lassy" couldn't possibly be. Don't you agree. So where there others?



And what about this brave Scotsman fallen in the hand of an evil hairdresser of a rival clan: 



Here a few more inventive examples



What a temptation! Could I make my own contribution to the genre? This is my first try using the late Jo Beverley's cover for "tempting fortune" my least favorite of the series featuring the family of the Marquess of Rothgar. I don't like the cover either but it reflects the character of the heroine quite well. 




I am not convinced this is funny. Maybe it is easier if I start with a funny cover in its own right? let's see. This is an illustration without text. A blank slate. An exercise That maybe some of my readers would want to try?





Maybe I am improving, but this isn't as easy as I though, I am mainly making fun of the cover picture itself. I think the masterstroke is the author's name. So here I go again, I found a cover that can be "enhanced" with little effort (you can find the original in my pinterest link above) 

With my last effort I am afraid I have descended to potty jokes, but I just had had to take one of Favio's cover pictures! 



The truth is covers are not like this any longer for a reason. Even without the mischievous text on top, the picture in itself is the biggest joke. Nowadays covers leave most to the imagination. The most common covers show only the heroine in a sweeping long dress. If some still imagine that the hero looks like Favio, that is between her and the virtual pages of the ebook. 

enjoy the rest of your summer,

Miranda







Sunday, December 20, 2015

Outlander coloring pages: The Outlander Un-Official coloring book 2015 Holiday Edition

Dear Outlander fellow fans, 

Regarding the Outlander Coloring book you probably are in some of this categories:

a) The  Outlander official coloring book prominently features in your letter to Santa
b) You started coloring it (did you have problems with Frank's car?, mine looks terrible)
c) You finished coloring it (for real? I am not nearly there)
d) What is the The  Outlander official coloring book?
e) Other (In case I forgot an obvious or totally improbable option)

There is no correct answer, because I have a present for all of you. I learned some new tricks and converted the beautiful images that "Starz" has shared with us (as a Canadian anchor put it: Outlander is on something called Starz). It is a shame the the coloring book has no right to use the  TV series material. Not that I have any, but I hope I am being fair by giving Starz its credit and stating this is just fan art.

I fully disclose here that I am not a professional and that someone else might do a much better job. At least I can say that the idea was entirely mine and the results are good enough to make me want to share them. Note: click once on the color image to enlarge. For the coloring pages you will find a download link at the end of the post.



What do you think? This is Diana Gabaldon. Author of the Outlander series as the character she plays in Starz Outlander TV series episode "The Gathering" as Iona MacTavish, a wealthy merchant's wife.


Bonus: 
If you have KIDS you might have noticed that your coloring book sparks the little ones enthusiasm to annoying degrees and you end up producing some form of coloring book for them. Well, this pages can be printed (and reprinted, no need for tantrums after a mistake) and you are free to color. Maybe you still will have to get them some crayons if you don't want to share the "good" coloring pencils.


1. Bouton: Claire's Dog in Paris (Outlander season 2) let's start with something easy to sharpen your pencils.





2. The wedding: Jamie and Claire entering the Kirk.  (Outlander season 1)




3. The wedding night: Jamie and Claire  (Outlander season 1)




4. Claire and Jenny at Lallybroch: I love this domestic scene! (Outlander season 1)




5. Claire and Murtagh: looking for Jamie (Who doesn't like to color horses?) (Outlander season 1)



6. Frank Randall and Black Jack Randall: For his fans, I know there is a cave full of them according to one insider.  They are a fun loving bunch not easily shocked. Who else would be a fan of Black Jack. (Outlander season 1).




6.  Jamie and Claire at a party in France (Outlander Season 2): This and the next are my first attempt at converting the images: The lines are harder. 





7.  Claire awaiting in a room. (Outlander Season 2). I like the composition, although Claire looks about to start crying.




8. Jamie&Murtagh: The parisian can-can (Outlander Season 2)



9. Claire's princess dress. Again the shadows make my task difficult.






Instructions: 
If you want to color this images follow the link to download the PDFs. 
1. If you are not asked where to download it will probably be in your "download" folder. 
2. Make sure to adjust the image to the size of your page before printing: 

Folder PDFs coloring pages click on this link


I hope you enjoy your coloring experience, and I hope I will have material for a new edition or volume II. I accept all kind of suggestions!

Miranda


note: I thank a fellow blogger for her tutorial on how to add PDFs to my blog How to attach PDFs

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The dawn of the adult coloring book: The new therapy

Dear ladies (and gentlemen?),

When I was a child my mother would read bedtime stories to my brother and me. It was a time of the day I would cherish.  She chose among her own childhood books and as we grew older she would read increasingly complex stories. One of the books I remember was the epic story The Winter Queen. It had wonderful drawings of Eastern European snowy landscapes. The characters were depicted wearing traditional costumes with rich embroidery. Most were black and white but my own mother had carefully coloured them when she was a teenager. My mother was born in 1940, she must have been coloring the book in 1953-55. 





This illustration is from the book "The Hat" by Jan Brett. When I next visit my home country I will update this pictured with one from my late mother's book if I can find it. But the clothes of the girls are in the stile of the book I was describing.








And here I am in 2015, sixty years later, longing to start my first historical fiction "adult" coloring book. I pre-ordered it about a month ago and I just received an email that reads: “We now have delivery date(s) for the order you placed on September 07, 2015  Gabaldon, Diana -The Official Outlander Coloring Book-…”. Mrs Gabaldon, being the great story teller she is gives her own description:  

"Well… adult coloring books. Evidently this is now a "thing," with so-called adult coloring books being touted widely as aids to meditation, as well as entertainment. I can kind of see that, and certainly I’ve seen several very beautiful books that look like they’d be interesting to color, if one was so inclined. (NB: The "adult" designation apparently merely means they’re marketed to adults, not that they contain R-rated illustrations. (Frankly, I think they’d be more interesting if they did, but probably not a good marketing strategy for a wide audience)” You can continue reading here Diana's page

And it seems we are in the midst of a literary (if it might be so described) boom. In Montreal, were I live, I have already found two stores, one a hardware store that also has nice presents and decoration and one home décor store Zone were adult coloring books were in prominent display, in the later including a tempting array of crayons and pencils. I took some pics to share:  








These are the pics from the store Zone in Montreal. the "Secret Garden"  is by Johanna Basford who is the author of marvellously detailed coloring books. See the detail of her book "Secret Ocean"
You can see pins of her book in my board pins including the Game of Thrones coloring book (yes there is one!) and an adult take on the classics "Grimm Fairy Tales Adult Coloring Book by  Jamie Tyndallet et al.









To my delight I found this big maps of two of my favourite cities: The New York City and the Paris  giant coloring roll. Also available from amazon Amazon_NEW-YORK. I picture myself taking over the dinner table for a me -time project while it snows outside. My beautiful box of color (or colour) pencils and maybe a cup of tea (cartful not to spill a drop!)

















It certainly makes a very nice present for all budgets (starting at just a few dollars). You can add a nice box of pencils and voilà, guaranteed to glitter. In fact, last Christmas, unaware of the "it" factor in-the-making I gave a mandala coloring book to my Yoga-enthusiast aunt and she was delighted. She does therapy for teens and she thought it would be a nice addition to her desk's "toolbox" . In addition, it was easy to send across continents. What's not to like?.

Wishing you a relaxing coloring experience!
Miranda





Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Encouragement for writers by Diana Gabaldon

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I just had to share this amazing work in progress by Diana Gabaldon (She posted it on her Facebook page today). Even for just the pleasure of reading something written by her, and specially if you are  a writer or want to become one. 




 you can make any fifth-grader cough up a reasonably coherent essay using the linear model—and no one ever mentions that this isn’t the only way to do it."


MIND GAMES

[Excerpt from THE CANNIBAL’S ART (not published; in progress). Copyright 2014 Diana Gabaldon]

The greatest thing about writing is that it’s just you and the page. The most horrifying thing about writing is that it’s just you and the page. Contemplation of that dichotomy is enough to stop most people dead in their tracks.

Success in writing—and by that, I mean getting the contents of your head out onto the page in a form that other people can relate to—is largely a matter of playing mind games with yourself. In order to get anywhere, you need to figure out how your own mind works—and believe me, people are not all wired up the same way.*

Casual observation (i.e., talking to writers for thirty years or so) suggests that about half of us are linear thinkers. These people really _profit_ from outlines and wall-charts and index cards filled out neatly in blue pen with each character’s shoe size and sexual history (footnoted if these are directly correlated). The rest of us couldn’t write that way if you paid us to.

The non-linear thinkers are described in all kinds of ways, most of them not euphonious: chunk writers, pantsters (_really_ dislike that one, as it suggests one’s literary output is not from the upper end of the torso), piecers, etc. ** All these terms carry a whiff of dismissal, if not outright disdain or illegitimacy, and there’s a reason for that.

Anyone educated in the art of composition in the Western Hemisphere any time in the last hundred years was firmly taught that there is One Correct Way to write, and it involves strictly linear planning, thought, and execution. You Must Have a Topic Sentence. You Must Have a Topic Paragraph. YOU MUST HAVE AN OUTLINE. And so forth and so tediously on…

Got news for you: You don’t have to do it that way. _Anything_ that gets words on the page is the Right Thing to Do.

Now, as a non-linear thinker myself, I prefer less pejorative terms. I like “network thinker.” Consider thinking and writing as a process that lights up your synapses (which it does): a linear thinker is like a string of holiday lights. Red-blue-green-yellow-blue-red-orange-yellow-green-red! And it lights up and then you can wind it around your Christmas tree or your Kwanzaa flag and it’s all pretty.

Well. You know those nets of lights that you throw over your front wall or your cactus or anything else that it would be inconvenient to staple strings of lights to? Those look like this:

Red - Yellow - Blue - Green - Red – Orange
l l l l l l
Blue - Orange - Red - Yellow – Green – Red
l l l l l l
Yellow – Green - Blue - Red - Orange – Red

The logical connections (the electricity, if you will) between any two lights in that network are there. It isn’t random, and in the end, it’s logical. It’s even linear. It just…isn’t necessarily a straight line.

Now, the reason that the educational establishment insists on the linear model of writing is that you can force a non-linear writer to work linearly (or apparently linearly). You can _not_ make a linear writer work non-linearly. (In fact, every time I describe the way I write to a linear-thinking person, they get annoyed. “You can’t _possibly_ do it that way!” they say. By which they mean that _they_ can’t possibly do it that way—and they can’t.)

But you can make any fifth-grader cough up a reasonably coherent essay using the linear model—and no one ever mentions that this isn’t the only way to do it. (Every time I go talk to an elementary-school class for Career Day, I pause mid-way and ask the teacher to turn his or her back. Then I tell the kids, “OK, the teacher can’t see you, so tell me the truth. When you get one of those essay assignments and you have to turn in an outline and a rough draft and a polished draft and a final copy….how many of you just write the final copy and then fake up the rest?” About a third of the class will raise their hands. I think it would be more, but some of them are scared to admit it.
……

• This is why you can read an article purporting to tell you How to Write, and discover that you just can’t write that way. That’s because the writer is not really telling _you_ how to write; he or she is just explaining how _they_ write. Maybe they have the same kind of brain you do—but maybe they don’t.

• ** This is the insidious principle that underlies Politically Correct speech, btw—the undeniable recognition that names have power, coupled with the invidious notion that by insisting on a specific term, the person assigning the name thus controls the person named, by controlling the perception of the named party. Hence the tiresome attempts to rename political parties as “haters,” “tax-and-spend liberals,” etc.

Stupidly annoying as this may be—it works. Frankly, it’s a lot older than the notion of PC; it’s one of the baseline techniques of exorcism and voodoo. As a character in one of my books observes, “Ye don’t call something by name unless ye want it to come.”





The writer Diana Gabaldon in a Cameo appearance on the TV  adaptation of her book Outlander.
 How would you feel to have the chance to be inside your own creation?



Miranda

Friday, August 8, 2014

The waistcoat rippers: Historical gay man fiction written by women

Dear Ladies & gentelmen,

For me it all started with Lord John William Gray, a fictional character created by Diana Gabaldon. He is a recurring secondary character in the author's Outlander series and the protagonist of his own series of historical mystery novels and shorter works. 
Lord John is secretly homosexual "in a time when that particular predilection could get one hanged," the character has been called "one of the most complex and interesting" of the hundreds of characters in Gabaldon's Outlander novels. Here Lord John in in a scene from the fantastic book "Brotherhood of the blade" as imagined by "Sylvia" a fellow reader with great talent 
(original source:  Lord John )




I avidly devoured all things Lord-John and went as far as to buy several more "gay historical fiction" novels. To my surprise apparently all were written by women (even the ones that have a male name) in fact some people say that much of the best gay romance was written by women. My source webpage "speaks its name" a literary review webpage that only reviews the few books available in this genre and interviews the authors. I joined a large gay-lesbian community on Google+ asking their opinion about gay fiction, but I got no answer, just some encouragement to write about the subject (or I think that is what they meant by "+" my question).

That is to say I can not comment on the gay audience of this books. I can comment on "straight" women reactions to Lord John's character, having read a lot of comments in forums I participate. And Diana Gabaldon herself has it right when she says (in her own better words) that this  character is a "trap" in a way: he is a gay man but straight women react to him as to a straight man. He is the stuff of dreams, but unattainable, which is part of his attractiveness. I tested my "straight woman" consequence by reading the only "lesbian historical romance" I could find "The caretaker's daughter" and...no, not my cup of tea.




Changing to the more general genre; the sampling I did from ebooks available in Amazon gave me an idea of the challenges of the gendre: I was first looking for the most problematic take: the Historical ROMANCE gay novel. Here the challenge is the happy ending, which is precisely what I craved after following Lord John. In a time were, as I mentioned before, there was no possible happy ending, I have seen authors struggling to concoct truculent possibilities (the Hero's sister marries his lover as a cover up, so that she can also live with her lesbian love who is the cousin of the other Hero...aggg) to historical implausible (they get away with it because of their nobility rank, or hiding in the country estate with loyal servants), to the more open ending that sees them happy together, but the future is an open question. This last ending is the better done, but defies the romance novel genre.  

I also read "as meat loves salt" a haunting tale of love and madness that obsessed me for a while. I did a pin board accumulating images from the historical events mentioned Pins: as meat loves salt .This is one of the best gay historicals out there according to several sources. I personally think that the sexual orientation of the main characters is the least of the drama. (disclaimer: This is not a romance novel). 

I finally downloaded a graphic novel (I love graphic novels) called "the lily and the Rose", mostly because it was available. This was a manga (Japanese style) and was as truculent as truculent goes...may I say that one of the two Heroes is a priest. I should have guessed that with that name something cheesy was going to present itself.  Well, my research ended there, with a somewhat guilty voyeurism.






My TOP recommendations: 

1. Lord John and the brotherhood of the blade by Diana Gabaldon 
2. False colors by Alex Beecroft  for a review click here


enjoy!

Miranda


Update from March 2016: 

1.The New York Times (really?!) just reviewed the gay romance novel BLUEBERRY BOYS By Vanessa North in a very favorable way. Apparently it is a not to miss. It is not historical, but I think I will read it!  review link

2. One of my readers suggested these two novels. Classic romance formula. For a start the reviews on amazon.com are already an amusing read and then the covers! oh my THE COVERS. I read the price of temptation (with new insipid digital cover) and would recommend it. 

*******Explicit (sort of)***************************************************************************


The Price of temptation by MJ Pearson

Discreet Young Gentelman by MJ Pearson

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A graphic tool to check if your writing is historically wrong!

Dear Ladies (and lately also gentlemen)

I normally talk about paintings an illustrations. This is an illustration of a different kind. A graphic tool that allows you to know if that sentence you want your character to say was in use back then, say in 1850. 

You may already know about ngram from Google books. I just discovered it and had to share it. Google books has been scanning and digitalizing so many books this last few years that they predict they will have scanned all of them by the end of the decade. I mean all single, unique, books in this planet, estimated to be 130 million. They had scanned 30 million in 2013.



There are of course a lot of sticky legal issues here. It isn't easy to play some sort of librarian-Robin Hood, and just take all this books from their rightful owners to give them to the hungry (minds), many of whom can afford to buy the books. Google claims this initiative will give new life to dusty books and help promote literature. I hope that too. I personally, thankful to be able to afford it, will continue to buy books to have them in my Kindle or on my coffee table. 

For research purposes this is great though. You don't need to actually read (for free) your fellow writer's book. Google Ngram viewer allows you to search for a word, a group of words or several of these at the same time. from 1800 to this day. In al those 30 million plus  books. 



Lets test it with the infamous word hello. Infamous because many a historical writer has used it out of time. The Canadian Alexander Graham Bell made his first successful experiment with the telephone in 1876. The word hello was coined to answer the telephone. You can see that there is some base noise, but it starts to appear in books after 1880 in the ngram plot, as it should. Note that the Horizontal axes of the plot shows the years from 1800 to 2000 an the vertical axes shows increasing usage (in %). 



click to see Hello in the webpage




lets test an even newer word that I have seen on some historical fiction: starts to be used in 1960.

click here to see the c_word in the webpage



You can make pretty neat things like combining words in the same search (separated by a coma) or differentiate between the word used as, for example, a noun or and adjective.

this is an expression that was used in the past and now is barely in use: by the by 

click to see by the by in the webpage


Just for fun a  chart were I compare Jane Austin with three very popularcontemporary female writers: Diana Gabaldon, Stephanie Llaurens and Loretta Chese. I  suggest you add "Shakespeare" to this plot and see how he dwarfs the rest. I think in the case of contemporary authors this is mostly their name in their own books and  in the case of Romance novel authors, were the books contain excerpts from books by other authors, these mansions are also included.

click to see the authors in the webpage








There are several caveats to these data, for me the main problem to be used by writers of historical novels is that some words are always in use, but changing their meaning through time. This is only possible to check if the word changes from say, adjective to noun, or if the context sentence is short enough to use in ngram search (max. 5 words). The second worry I had is the representation of different genres in the sample, but I think with 30 million plus books from complete libraries, this is not a real concern anymore.


In conclusion, this is a very neat tool! I have been playing with words for several hours, to find good examples to show. In the process I have learned a lot  about our always changing language.


for a complete list of tricks

click to see how to use Google ngram 

Miranda



PD: I was duly corrected for misspelling Jane Austen's name (Austin). Interestingly,the shape of the  "Jane Austin" plot is similar to the "Jane Austen" one, but the total % of usage is totally different, showing that the increased incidence of errors (by the automatic scanning process) correlates with the  increase of the total usage of the word.

click to view the comparison in the webpage




source of the pictures:

Robin Hood: 
http://www.enidblytonsociety.co.uk/book-details.php?id=509

lady at the telephone:  http://bygoneyears.tumblr.com/post/1022091629/woman-talking-on-wall-mounted-telephone-ca-1890