Tag Archives: Lynn Kurland

Aaron Sorkin is the best writer I’ve never read by Vivienne Lynge

Happy Easter Monday world!  It’s me, Vivienne Lynge, popping in to say “Hi!”  I hope you had a lovely spring holiday weekend.  Somehow, I was able to stay out of the kid’s shocking candy haul.  Yes, my children are the beneficiaries of mildly competing grandmothers.   Add that to the goodies left by the bunny, and the treasures found in our annual graveyard egg hunt and I’ve got 3 kids with a gallon zip bag o’candy.  Each.  Sigh.

But that’s not what I want to write about today.  Today, I’m tackling a topic near and dear to my heart as a lover of a good story: a favorite author. 

aaron sorkinI love Aaron Sorkin.  There.  I’ve said it.   Can I say he’s one of my favorite authors when I’ve never even read his work?  Yes I can.  I’ve watched his work.  Religiously. 

A Few Good Men?  Awesome.   The American President?  LOVED it!  The West Wing – I can probably recite it.  The Newsroom – love it – can’t wait for season 2 to arrive on DVD.

Now, here’s the tougher question:  What is it about his writing that appeals to me?  First, I like that his stories are smart.   I feel like I learn a little something about the world.  The political stories are usually told from a liberal point of view, but they still respect the conservative side and portray conservatives as thoughtful people with serious concerns, not as gun-happy, narrow-minded, religious zealots.

I like that these stories are fast paced and often funny, again in a smart way.  You gotta be paying attention to the dialogue to get the joke.   Aaron is the king of walk-and-talk stories where much of the action takes place during conversations between one meeting and another. 

Another favorite author of mine has a new book out next week: Lynn Kurland.  Yes, I’ll be declaring April 29th, as Lynn Kurland Day, this year.  Don’t expect that I’ll do anything until I’ve finished reading Dreams of Lilacs.  

These medieval Kurland stories are my favorites – time travel  or not.  Kurland writes characters better than many and as well as the best.  Her heroines are ladies you’d love to hang out with and her heroes are fellas you’d consider trading your own husband for. 

One of the things I like best about her books, is that her stories are equally about the hero falling in love with the heroine as they are the reverse and more traditional romance.   A few of her books actually lean more heavily on the side of it being the hero’s story rather than that heroine.   If you are looking for a few hours of joy, consider picking up a Kurland.  You won’t be sorry!

Writer friends, do you do this?  Analyze your favorite writers and try to figure out what you like about them?  Who are your favs?

Confessions of a Story Binger

Hello, I’m J Monkeys.   I’m a story binger.   Phew.   Boy, it feels good to get that out.   They say you can’t solve a problem until you recognize you have one.   Well, I do.   I binge on stories.   Only good stories, by good storytellers…but still.   I’m a story binger.

You may wonder what brought me to this point in my life.  Lots of things, really.  Specifically, Julia Quinn, Lynn Kurland, Jude Deveraux, Aaron Sorkin, Eric Northman, Temperance Brennen, Piper Halliwell, Jack Bauer, Benedict Cumberbatch, the fellas of Ripper Street, the ladies of Downton, Walter White and Francis Underwood

Back in the days before Netflix, I binged mostly through books.  In my high school and college years, I’m not exaggerating when I write that I read at least a thousand romance novels.  It’s a good thing I’ve had a job since I was 8 years old, to support my habit.  And I discovered second hand book stores about the same time I learned to drive.  very handy, that. 

When the last couple of Harry Potter books came out, my boys weren’t born yet, so I declared each of those days “Harry Potter Day” and nobody was allowed to interrupt me until I had finished the book.  I recall wandering the house, cooking and eating all while sobbing my way through the end of Book 6.

the west wing castIn my 20′s I would occasionally by a season of 24 on DVD, then watch the whole thing in 36 hours or so.    And Mr. Monkeys bought me wonderful Valentine’s Day gifts a couple of years in a row, the complete series of The West Wing and Charmed.  Not together, that would be a strange combination, but two different sets.  Charmed comes in it’s very own book of shadows.  ;)

I’ve had to limit myself to not watching episodes in order, because that leads to another one and another one until half a day has gone by with me watching shows that I can probably recite.  Sigh. 

And True Blood?  I’ve bought the last few seasons and watched the whole thing in less than two days.  Pretty much every moment that the children were unlikely to walk into my office, I was sitting at my laptop, with my headphones on watching the show.  If you are unfamiliar, it’s the kind of show that you never know what someone might say (HBO – f-bombs galore – and that’s not the worst of it!) or what might pop up on the screen in the time it takes to hit pause on the remote. 

bonesBut now, Netflix is enabling me in heretofore unheard of ways!  I watched 7 seasons of Bones in a month.  A MONTH!  That’s like 7 episodes a day.  I watched all of Breaking Bad in a few weeks.   I watched so much 24 in two weeks that I had to take a break from it.  House of Cards, the whole season in a weekend!   I’m chomping at the bit for the next seasons of Sherlock and Ripper Street

Is it any wonder that I seem to have trouble finishing writing projects?!   Okay, I’ve admitted my problem.  Now it’s time for a solution.  Here’s the one I’ve come up with: I vow to stay away from all stories (but my own) until I have written 500 words every day.   No word-y, no story.  That’s my new philosophy. 

Anybody else have this problem?

Must Buy Authors by J Monkeys

Hiddey Ho Scribblers!  J Monkeys here.  This past week or two, I have “discovered” a couple of new “Must Buy” authors.  These are authors who’s work I LOVE and will buy and devour the moment it becomes available.  I thought I’d share ‘em with ya.

dangerous curves in the wildNow I’ve known Sugar Jamison for a while…obviously – she’s been our Monday Scribe since we started!  I read Dangerous Curves Ahead this summer and loved it.  But for me, it takes more than one book to be a “Must Buy” author.  Last week I read her new novella, Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmasand I LOVED it!  Somehow, Sugar took a very unlikeable character from the first book and made her into a heroine!  There were so many things that I liked about this story – I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t tell you what they were, but trust me.  If you’ve got a spare $1.99 laying around and a Kindle app, do yourself a favor and read it!  In fact, you should probably write Dangerous Curves Ahead first to fully appreciate the wonder of Have Yourself a Curvy Little Christmas.

tessa dareLast week, I also read a book I picked up at the RWA National Conference last summer – Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare.  I’ve read one or two of her books before, but this is the one that grabbed me.  When I have some space in my TBR shelves (I brought home more than 80 books from RWA and I’ve got another 50 from my local library sale in June) I’ll be looking for Ms. Dare’s back list.  I don’t mine telling you that I’ve read so much regency romance at this point, that if it wasn’t written by Julia Quinn, I usually can’t get into it.  But Tessa Dare has just edged her way into my heart.

39 cluesNow, Scribblers, you know that I write kids books.  I read a lot of kids books too.  The 39 Clues series is still going strong.  The first 10 or 11 books wrapped up a year or more ago.  They then came out with the sequel series, Cahills vs Vespers. It looks like that story wrapped up with book 6.  Yesterday, I bought Nowhere to Run, book one in The 39 Clues Unstoppable series.  Our heroes, Amy and Dan, are back with even more Cahill trouble.  I’m about 1/2 way through it.  It’s a very enjoyable read.  If you’ve got 3-5th graders out there, as well as older kids, especially boys, they might like this fast paced, action packed adventure series.  They travel the world, so there’s some geography in it and a nice message about not carrying on the feuds of your ancestors.

infinity ringAnother series for kids that I really like is the Infinity Ring series.  There are 4 books out in it right now.  It’s similar to The 39 Clues in that the books are written by a variety of authors but tell the story of a trio of Tweenage time traveling heroes, working to write historical events set awry by a shadowy company of baddies.  I like the history in these – it’s a nice sneeky way to get it in.  And they come with an online game that is fun, but not so hard that I couldn’t figure it out.  

Today’s secret: By the way, Julia Quinn’s next book is out next week!  I can’t wait.  The teaser on her website cut off at an inopportune time…I’m sure on purpose!

Who are your Must Buy authors?  For me, at this point it’s just these that I’ve mentioned here and Lynn Kurland.

The Voice by Vivienne Lynge

Hello Scriblers!  Happy Saturday to you.  Vivienne Lynge here.  Over the next few weeks, I want to tell you about a few things I learned at RWA National Conference.  I took some WONDERFUL workshops and I thought I’d share a bit about my favorite three.  Today, I want to share a bit of Deb Dixon’s workshop on Finding Your Voice.

Voice is one of those things that authors hear about a lot.  “Oh, her voice is so authentic!”  Or from agents, “To represent a project, I’ve got to love the author’s voice.”  That’s all well and good, but unless the story is in audio-book form, there is no voice to hear.  And if it is an audio-book, the voice is probably an actor, not the author.

But of course all these people are not talking about something they heard with their ears.  An author’s voice is often described as the author’s style, the syntax and vocabulary they use.  Deb Dixon says that voice is more than that.  She says that voice comes by accessing your own authentic emotions and using them to inform your writing.

For example – the next time you have an honest-to-God, over-the-top, toddler-style freak-out about something (come on – we all have ‘em from time to time) when it’s over, take a moment to jot down those thoughts, actions and emotions that triggered it.  What was that last straw that threw you over the edge?  What were the pressures that built up to that last straw? 

krackatoaNow when you write a character who’s having a melt down, reread your comments about your own melt down and use that information.  Let’s say I have a close relative who just gets under my skin, pushes my buttons like nobody else in my life can do.  Every once in a while, that comes to a head and like Krakatoa, I explode – often loud enough to be heard miles away.  If I write down how it happened to me, next time I have a character get angry, I can style the fictional triggers after my own. 

That’s my voice.  That’s unique to me.  Nobody else is wired exactly the same way I am.  We are all similar and that’s what makes one person’s emotional experience relate-able to another’s, but we’re not exactly the same. And my voice will carry through my body of work.  It’s often what gets people to come back, book after book, shelling out their hard earned dollars for a few hours of entertainment.

Now of course anger isn’t a particularly personal emotion.  I’m very willing to share it with others. Sometimes too willing – ala Krakatoa.  ;)  Embarrassment, humiliation, hurt, love, passion, emotional risks and failures – those are much more private and may be more difficult to share with a world of people, many of whom may comment on your product.  But that authentic emotion is a big part of voice.  It will inform your character arcs, the themes you write, the plots you create, your scenes.  Don’t shy away from voice – embrace it.  

Today’s secret: if you ever get the opportunity to hear Deb Dixon, do so!  This was a wonderful workshop, that frankly, I’d like to take again.  I’m sure I’d get even more out of it a second time through.

Who do you think has a great authorial voice?  Whose writing speaks to you?  Who do you find recognizable even from a small sample of their work?  For me – the first one that comes to mind is Lynn Kurland.  I love her romances.

Must Buy Authors by Vivienne Ylang

Happy Saturday Scriblings!  Vivienne Ylang here.  Do you have must-buy authors?  You know, those handful of authors whose books you love so much that whenever a new one comes out you are compelled to buy it immediately (if not pre-order!) and devour it right away?  I know I do. 

Here’s what happened to me this week.  Tuesday morning, I was checking my emails from bed before I got up – aren’t smartphone’s great?  Goodreads kindly informed me that a book I had flagged as To Be Read was available to purchase that morning.  This was bad news for me. 

roses in moonlightSomehow, I had misread Lynn Kurland’s website and mistakenly had the idea in my head that she didn’t have a new romance coming out until September this year.  I knew that was unusual, but figured the vagaries of publishing had pushed her out from her regular spring offering. 

For me, Lynn Kurland is a “must buy and devour” author. 

This was a problem this week because I had an insanely busy week last week.  The kind of insanely busy week that takes two weeks of normalcy to recover from.  Which meant that I didn’t have a day to avoid all other responsibilities and read a book, cover to cover.  And that’s how I read a Lynn Kurland book – start to finish.  I might put it down to use toilet paper, but that’s about it. 

So being informed that an unexpected treat was waiting for me at the break of dawn on Tuesday was a problem.  I made it all the way to Wednesday without buying the book.  And I didn’t finish reading it until Thursday evening.  Honestly, that’s something.  I mean, it shows actual dedication to kids and job.

Roses in Moonlight was a delight.  Wonderful characters as always: a heroine I’d like to be friends with and a hero worthy of a few hours of mental disloyalty to my beloved husband.  It was well worth the $7.99 I spent on it at B&N.  If you haven’t read a Kurland, do yourself a favor and give her a try. 

Today, I want to know your secret.  Do you have must-buy authors?  Who are are they, why do you like them and do you ever have trouble putting real life aside to fall into a good story?

What is in a name?

Hello Scribblers!  J Monkeys coming atcha from inside a snow globe.  Or at least that’s how it looks from my office window.  A fresh batch of snow fell last night and everything in view is covered – trees, roofs, even the sky is white, matching the gently falling flakes.  Quite a contrast from the book I’ve been reading this morning.

How do you select a book at the store?  Usually, it’s one of two things that prompts me to pick something up – either a cover that attracts my attention, or the author’s name.  When it comes to authors, naturally, it’s repeat business for me – I’m buying books by authors I’ve read before and enjoyed.  Lynn Kurland, Julia Quinn, Julie Garwood, Jude Deveraux.  Sometimes it’s a new book written by a friend or acquaintance – especially when they are written in a genre that isn’t typically my cup of tea, but where I know from experience that I’ll enjoy the ride – Kristan Higgins’ contemporary romances, Katy Lee’s inspirational romances or Casey Wyatt’s urban fantasies, for example. 

This morning, I’m reading a book that I chose based on the author, but it isn’t an author whose work is familiar to me.  In fact, the book I’m reading is his debut novel.  Nor was the book/author recommended to me by a friend.  I’m reading Dracula the Un-Dead written by Dacre Stoker – great grand nephew of Bram Stoker.

dracula-the-un-deadI’m almost exactly to the half-way point in the book and it’s a delight!  It’s not scary, which is a good thing for me because I do NOT like scary stories.  Mr. King’s The Shinning still haunts me 25 years after I read it!  While I loved The Stand, there were parts that I found creepy – I remember reading it while sitting in a corner, hidden from any ghouls lurking in the ether.   But Dracula the Un-Dead seems more like a drama than horror as I think of it today.  It’s written as a sequel to the original book.  In truth it’s co-authored by Dacre Stoke and Ian Holt apparently written (according to Wikipedia) “Because of the Stokers’ frustrating history with Dracula’s copyright, Dacre with encouragement from screenwriter Ian Holt, decided to write “a sequel that bore the Stoker name” to “reestablish creative control over” the original novel.”  What an interesting idea.  I don’t know the extent to which it would reestablish copyright – but hey.

But if you’ve enjoyed the rise in vampire stories in the last decade or so, you might want to take a look at this homage to the original.  It’s well done (at least the first half!) and worth a few of your hard earned dollars.  And, again according to Wikipedia, they wrote it based on Bram’s original notes and stuff pulled out of the original novel.  Again, a cool idea. 

Today’s secret: Dracula is Un-Dead and available at the bookstore once again.  :)  Oh and by the way, they have begun filming season 6 of True Blood, speaking of popular vampires.  The delightful Mr. Skarsgard has revealed a spoiler-ish something from filming.  Click here to find out what.

Today’s question: how do you decide to buy a book?  What changes you from a browser to a buyer?

Time Travel Is a Fascinating Way to Explore!

Hello peeps!  J here.  I just finished reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  I mean I “just” finished.  Like 10 minutes ago.  My sister got a signed copy for Christmas and I hijacked it.  Have you heard of this book?  It’s new, just came out in November.  It was REALLY a great read.

I’m not a huge reader of Stephen King’s books.  I read The Shining when I was about 20 and it scared the bejesus out of me.  I have a very active imagination and I don’t need help getting frightening images in my head.  One day of high stress and my dreams become 3-D night-terrors for a week.  After that one twirl around the dance floor, Mr. King and I stayed on opposite sides of the ballroom.  I did read The Stand (the long one) when I was 27 (the first time – I’ve had many 27th birthdays since) and I enjoyed the story, but there were definitely parts of it where I was reading huddled into a corner of my living room where no one could sneak up on me, that’s for sure.  

Then this past summer, I was researching book trailers (see mine here…) and I came across a great trailer for Under The Dome.  If you wonder how trailers should look, check out this fabu example.  Of course, we don’t all have Mr. Kings deep pockets…which I’m sure has a lot to do with the difference between his and mine.  I was intrigued enough to get Under The Dome out of the library a few months ago.  It was also quite good, but a bit long for me.

Now, 11/22/63 is at least as big a book as Under the Dome and at 850 pages in hard cover, probably about the size of the longer version of The Stand, but the story doesn’t seem too long, or draggy.  What kept me glued to my chair wasn’t fast paced action or a heart wrenching love story, although 11/22/63 has both of those.  I was mesmerized by his detailed descriptions of life in the late 1950s and early 1960.

Gerard Butler in Timeline

I’ve been a fan of time travel stories ever since I watched Somewhere In Time at some point in the 1980s.  I read all the Constance O’day Flannery time travel romances and, of course, I absolutely devour Lynn Kurland’s time travel romances, with many other time travels thrown in for good measure.  Michael Creighton’s Timeline was a page turner and a good movie.  I’m even going to write a time travel myself this year.  But most of the TT stories I’ve read have the character traveling to a distant time – hundreds of years, or nearly so.

I was born in 1970, just two days after the Beatles broke up (hence the reason for my many 27th birthdays).  1958 is just a dozen years earlier and 1963 is just a hop skip and jump backwards, but American life as Stephen King described it is as foreign seeming to me as Lynn Kurland’s Artane castle of 1215.

soda can pull ring

I grew up with a rotary phone, dimes in my penny loafers to make a call at a pay phone, and life with only 3 channels of TV.  I can barely remember watching a black and white television, twisting the rabbit ears to find just the right angles.  I remember the invention of the pop-top soda can and the commercial with the teary-eyed Native American in his regalia climbing a mountain of litter.  But even so, I can’t picture a world where I might utter the words, “You’re my husband, so of course I’ll obey you.”  Or where I might buy a candy bar with a racial slur in its name.   King’s descriptions are so real, the flavor of a root beer, the cloudy haze of a public smoking everywhere, the narrow-mindedness of a school board firing a teacher for having the bad taste to be the victim of a home invasion.

This all struck me as so odd, that I had to ask my mom about it.  She was 10 in 1958 (she’s only 35 now, so you understand where  I get my penchant for creative math).  She clearly remembers a time when women were expected to wear hats and gloves to church and skirts to work.  And of course, defer to the wiser, stronger, more adept men in their Holly-homemaker little lives.

All of this brings me to today’s secret: time travel is a fascinating way to explore!  Our 2012 sensibilities might be affronted by life in an earlier time, but that’s kind of what makes it so interesting to imagine.

Today’s question: What’s your favorite time?  I’m hard pressed to choose between  medieval England, Revolutionary America or maybe even the 1950′s.  I sure would like to taste that root beer.