I carried a watermelon

When a friend read my upcoming A Lily Among Thorns, she pointed out that my heroine is good at everything. She said it got a little improbable.

It’s a totally fair criticism: I did originally intend Serena to be the female version of the “good at everything but feelings,” dark-past-ed alpha hero.

But the hidden truth, the one I should maybe have played up a little more in the book, is that there are plenty of things Serena’s bad at. Millions of things. But, up to the point where she meets Solomon, she’s very carefully arranged her life so she only has to do things she’s good at. It’s a major limitation in her life, and something that’s always at the background of her consciousness: “If I might not be in control of my image while doing this, I can’t do it.”

I had the realization recently that I have a tendency to do the same thing. Not, obviously, to the extent that Serena does. But I really, really don’t like doing things I’m not good at. Even if I want to do them. I never learned to ride a bike because I didn’t learn when I was a kid and then when I was older everyone else already knew how and it was easier to say, “I don’t ride,” than to wobble or fall in front of friends (or strangers!). I rarely have the courage to sing karaoke or dance in public. I hate working out where other people can see.

You might notice a trend in this list: I have always thought of myself as a klutz, someone who’s good with her brain but not very coordinated or sporty. But the truth is, I love sports. I played soccer and basketball as a kid…but it wasn’t until I started fencing in middle school that I found a sport I really could love wholeheartedly.

At the time, I thought I was so much happier fencing because I was better at it. Looking back, I suspect it’s because it was less awkward for me socially. The other fencers were mostly geeks like me, and because it wasn’t a team sport, no one got mad or blamed me when I lost. (Plus, come on, fencing! To a history nerd, it’s the most glamorous sport EVER.)

I’ve found myself swooning over dancing in movies lately. All kinds: tap, krumping, swing dancing, Broadway musical, ballroom, popping and locking. It just looks like so much fun!

I can’t do that, right? I have no sense of rhythm! I’m uncoordinated! I have two left feet! I’ve never done any kind of formal dancing in my life unless you count that British folk dancing class in college where I could only really do the English country dances, not the Scottish ones, because the English ones only required me to remember where to walk and the Scottish ones required me to learn special footwork and keep a beat! I can dance at parties, but I certainly can’t dance with anyone without feeling hopelessly foolish!

And the thing is, I’ve always just thought of this as part of who I am. It’s something I’m not good at, something I can’t do. But I don’t really believe in natural talent. We’re good at things we care about enough to work at and spend time on. I’m a good writer…because I’ve been reading and writing stories consistently since I was a tiny child. I’ve never put the effort into music or dance. Partly because I was busy with other things, and partly because the other things I was busy with didn’t give me a sneaking sense of inadequacy.

I think maybe it’s time to step outside my comfort zone and sign up for some beginners’ dance lessons.

When’s the last time you did something outside your comfort zone? Did it work out? I could use some inspiration!


At RWA and having a blast! It’s so great to see/meet everyone!

I mostly ended up staying by my table during the signing (thank you, people who stopped by, you made my YEAR, and it was so nice to meet those of you I already knew online in the flesh!!) but I did sneak out for a bit near the end and managed to get a few signed books to give away on the website over the next little bit: The Betrayal of the Blood Lily by Lauren Willig (this book has one of my favorite difficult heroines and one of my favorite bad first marriages EVER), His at Night by Sherry Thomas (actually her only book I haven’t read yet, how did that happen? I think I got confused and thought I had read it. Should have bought two copies! Luckily I have my Kindle with me), The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanna Bourne (I may have gotten gushy about how much I love Adrian), and Wild Ride by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer (!!!). I got a little starstruck while talking to Jenny Crusie and forgot to tell her that my dad is a huge fan as he asked me to, I hope he won’t be too mad. (Yes, I got my dad hooked on romance!)

I’ve been reading a lot lately and haven’t had time to post on Goodreads, but the conference is making me want to spend hours talking about books! So those of you who have me friended on Goodreads and Twitter may be deluged by reviews in the next few weeks. Sorry!

Also Susanna Fraser and I went to the Pompeii exhibit this morning. So awesome! Apparently the discovery of the ruins of the nearby city of Herculaneum in 1709 and the later discovery of Pompeii and their excavation was really important to the creation of modern archaeology and a lot of that was happening in the 18th and early 19th century. I wish to learn more. LOTS more. Anyone have any book suggestions?

That was a lot of exclamation points, huh? Whatever, it’s that kind of week.

Updates on various things

Hey all, I seem to have injured one of my wrists a bit so I’m trying to cut back on my computer usage for the next few weeks. This means I won’t be posting to my blog as often or replying to e-mail or comments as promptly as usual, and I’ll probably be absent from Twitter and Facebook almost entirely. Thanks for your patience! I promise I’ll be back as soon as possible!

I’ll be posting to Favorite Thing EVER on Tuesdays as scheduled, and don’t forget, Susanna Fraser is guest blogging here on Wednesday! And of course the In for a Penny short story will go up September 1st as scheduled.

Update on Dorchester (my publisher): I’m sure some of you have heard that my editor Leah Hultenschmidt was laid off last week. The book is in copyedits already, and I’ve been told this won’t affect the publication timeline. I’ll keep you posted as I hear more.

On a personal note, I’ll miss Leah a lot. She’s a fabulous editor and a wonderful person. It sucks that this happened to her, but I’m excited to see what she does next. ♥

And I'll be in Scotland afore ye!

Great news–plans are finalized and at the end of this month a friend and I are going to the UK for two weeks!

We’ll be visiting friends in Newcastle and Orkney, and then spending a few days in Edinburgh.

I’ve been to the UK twice before. My mom took me to London, Bath, and Brighton as a college graduation present (so five years ago–yes, I’m young), and the year before that I studied abroad in Paris and spent some time in the summer travelling around Europe. In England, I visited the same three cities plus Canterbury and Oxford.

It was wonderful and I loved all those cities (especially Bath–sorry, Jane Austen, I know you weren’t a fan!), but I’m excited to see a bit further north. Less and less of my book ideas seem to want to be set in London these days, so I want to collect other interesting settings. Newcastle is one of the northern industrial cities that come up so often when researching Regency politics and labor/class relations, and Orkney is…

Okay, my main association with Orkney is still Lot and Morgause from the Arthurian legends. But it’s at the very northernmost part of Scotland, and my friend and I are taking a six-hour ferry ride there from Aberdeen. I LOVE ferries. It is going to be beautiful! (And there is a BAR on the ferry. I’ve never been on a ferry with a bar before.) Also, my friend lives in a cottage. She doesn’t even have a street address, just “— Cottage.”

I promise I will post loads of pictures!

Does anyone have any tips to share for international travel (I haven’t been out of the country in years), or suggestions for things we really ought to see? Regency-era stuff especially welcome…