The Vanishing Thief, Kate ParkerOne of the joys of writing is discovering new source material. On a trip to England, I discovered a reprint of “The Lady’s Dressing Room” by Baroness Staffe, translated from the French by Lady Campbell, in 1893.

Baroness Staffe has opinions and suggestions on everything, from the sensible (green is a “dubious” choice for an olive-skinned brunette, very fat women shouldn’t wear a low cut dress) to the incredible (using cocaine on insect stings, rubbing in arsenic for the complexion).

Along with her opinions comes information about everyday life in the 1890′s for Georgia Fenchurch, the heroine of The Vanishing Thief and the other books of the Victorian Bookshop Mystery series. These suggestions and directions of the baroness’s give wonderful clues about a character to plant in a story.

Buttoned and laced boots were both popular at that time, and the baroness gives directions for putting both on. I would never have guessed you don’t button the first two buttons on the boots by the toes until after you close the boot from the instep to the ankle. That might be another case of the baroness’ opinion, but it could be used in describing a character’s actions.

She recommends if your “fingers are square or wide at the ends, you may narrow them a little by pinching and squeezing the tips.…in time you will become aware of a notable and pleasant change.” Can’t you see a possibly guilty woman doing this while being questioned?

“A woman should speak in a rather low voice, but distinctly. To shout in speaking denotes vulgar habits, and sometimes shows a domineering spirit…We should have self-command enough never to shout, even when under the influence of anger, indignation, or pain. Such outcries spoil forever the chords of a musical voice.” A character who carries on in a mild voice while everything is falling apart around her would be interesting. What would make her finally scream at someone?

“A badly-dressed woman is only half a woman, if her being so comes from indifference.” Can you imagine a meeting of Baroness Staffe and a suffragette?

On the other hand, the baroness recommended walking and housework for exercise. She preferred using chamois leather or cotton satin for corsets which should be short and only boned in the front and back, allowing freedom of motion.

A woman like Georgia who is running a bookshop and investigating crime in the Victorian Bookshop Mysteries would need to move easily. It’s nice to find evidence that upper crust dispensers of advice in the books in Georgia’s shop would approve of her corset, if not of her occupations.


This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

Liane Moriarty is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the reading group hit, What Alice Forgot, as well as The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, and the Nicola Berry series for children. Liane lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband and two small, noisy children.

Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson

I had such a sense of movement when I was reading this book, it was as though the author was spinning me round and round, leaving me laughing, dizzy, breathless and exhilarated. I didn’t quite get the ending, but that’s just because I was so dizzy (and also I read it too fast and greedily). It would be a wonderful book club choice because everyone could argue over the ending, and perhaps someone could e-mail me and explain it.

Light Between Oceans, by M. L. Stedman

I shouldn’t really suggest this one because it’s already been such a huge book club hit, you’ve probably already read it and loved it. But if you haven’t, you should. Beautifully written and such a moral conundrum to get everyone all worked up.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler

This is a wonderful, original story about an unforgettable family. I laughed and cried the whole way through. Lots of interesting ethical issues for your book club to discuss.

Read an Excerpt »
View the Reading Group Guide »

A Corner of White: Book 1 of The Colors of Madeleine, by Jaclyn Moriarty

Every now and then someone in your book club selects a book that is unlike anything you’ve read before, and you’re so grateful to them for choosing it. If you’d like to be that person, choose A Corner of White. It’s the first in an extraordinary three-book fantasy series that takes you on an incredible journey between Cambridge, England, and the Kingdom of Cello. (It was written by the award-winning YA writer Jaclyn Moriarty, who happens to be my sister.)

The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller

This is an amazing postapocalyptic adventure novel. It was so good, I even forgave the author for not putting his dialogue in quotation marks. The writing style is very different, and you can all argue over whether this worked for you or not. The correct answer is that it did work and if someone didn’t like it, you should be really mad at them and forget to refill their wineglass.

Read an Excerpt »
View the Reading Group Guide »

Big Brother, by Lionel Shriver

I adored this book, but if you look at the Amazon reviews you’ll see that it’s one of those books that people love or hate, and that’s perfect for book clubs, because you’ll have such a heated, interrupting-each-other debate. I can already anticipate what some of your members will say, and I understand but I disagree, and I would love to tell you why but then I would give away an important element of the book. Serve a big chocolate cake.


The Vanishing Thief, Kate ParkerMy series of Victorian Bookshop Mysteries takes place during a fascinating time period, the 1890′s. From the 1880′s until the beginning of World War I, Europe and North America seemed to run under the belief that there was no problem that couldn’t be solved by technology and good will.

This was the time period when telephones and electricity made their appearances in many homes, particularly in large cities such as London. Automobiles and airplanes began to be useful instruments and not just curiosities. Mass production brought more and better goods to the middle class.

This was also the period when large numbers of people began to have leisure time because inventions meant tasks took less time to perform. Travel, whether across town by bicycle, tram, or Underground, or long distances by ever faster ships and trains, took less time and energy. Labor saving devices made their way into offices, homes, and factories.

Despite lives cut short by diseases seldom fatal with today’s medicine, and poverty many times worse than anything experienced with today’s safety nets, we think of this time period as the last age of innocence. They saw the world and their lives as constantly improving. We look back at this time through the smoke of world wars, depression, and terrorism and see only a simpler age.

For young women of that day, their lives were more taken up by sports, doing “good deeds,” and education than previous generations. During this time, it went from rare to more commonplace to find women attending colleges, although job opportunities for graduates were limited. Fashions changed to allow for freer movement for sports. During this time, skirt lengths began to rise from the floor to just above the ankle.

I chose this time period for Georgia Fenchurch and the Archivist Society because attitudes were changing. Women had more freedom of movement than during the earlier Victorian period. Universal education became the law. Travel increased between countries and continents, and with it, communication between people, businesses, and governments. And before World War I, there was an innocence about society that with strong leadership, improved sanitation, and good intentions, life would continue to improve.

All of these advances created a world where Georgia had both the freedom to go about her investigations and the expectation by society that she would do good deeds. This was also a world where universal education and more leisure time meant more customers for her bookshop. Money coming in from the colonies and an increase in manufacturing led to more people buying luxuries including antiquarian books from Fenchurch Books. Along with the innocence of society, Georgia has a belief that her individual efforts can solve crimes and make the world a better place.

And isn’t that something we all hope for despite terrible events in today’s world? Join me in the simpler age of The Vanishing Thief, the first of the Victorian Bookshop Mystery Series.


This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, and designer. He both cofounded the Guadalajara International Film Festival and formed his own production company—the Tequila Gang. However, he is most recognized for his Academy Award-winning film, Pan’s Labyrinth, and the Hellboy film franchise. He has received Nebula and Hugo awards, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and is an avid collector and student of arcane memorabilia and weird fiction.

The Case Against Satan, by Ray Russell (to come in 2014/2015)

The Vampire Tapestry, by Suzy McKee Charnas

The Terror, by Dan Simmons

Blue World, by Robert McCammon

The Damnation Game, by Clive Barker

Dark Feasts, by Ramsey Campbell

Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories, by Algernon Blackwood

View the table of contents »

The Monk, by Matthew G. Lewis

Read an excerpt »

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, by M. R. James

Uncle Silas, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

The White People by Arthur Machen

Read an excerpt »

View the table of contents »

The House on the Borderland, by William Hope Hodgson

Pet Sematary, by Stephen King

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

The King in the Golden Mask, by Marcel Schwob


This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

Charlaine Harris is a New York Times bestselling author for both her Sookie Stackhouse fantasy/mystery series and her Harper Connelly Prime Crime mystery series. She has lived in the South her entire life.

I am particularly smitten with a novel when I think the writer has raised the bar on world-building. Luckily, I read several books this year that were really amazing in that respect; books that transported me to another place where the rules are different.

Written in Red by Anne Bishop was fascinating from start to finish. In her world, humans and “others” do interact — but very, very, carefully. Her heroine, caught in the middle and running from trouble, is totally engaging. Benedict Jacka’s Chosen, a continuation of the adventures of mage Alex Verus, exposes the lead character (warts and all) in a milieu where magic is hidden in plain view and survival is never a given.

I’m still thinking about E.E. Knight’s Appalachian Overthrow, the latest entry in the really superior Vampire Earth series. Overthrow has a different protagonist, a Golden One, but his part of the revolution trying to reclaim America is just as compelling as Knight’s usual human protagonist, David Valentine. I’m not an enthusiast over military science fiction, but these books are enthralling.

Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes is part of his modern London series about a policeman who finds he has magic powers. Every book in this series is a winner, and Broken Homes is no exception. The only “magic” in Leigh Perry’s A Skeleton in the Family is that Perry’s protagonist, an adjunct professor named Georgia Thackeray, has a best friend named Sid . . . who is a skeleton who can walk and talk. It’s delightful, and I found Sid as credible a character as the humans around him.

Read an excerpt from Written in Red, by Anne Bishop »

Read an excerpt from Appalachian Overthrow, by E.E. Knight »


This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

My first three recommendations for the holiday gift-giving season are, oddly enough, all sequels to earlier novels.  John Grisham, in Sycamore Row, Stephen King, in Doctor Sleep, and Scott Turow in Innocent have elected to pick up narratives from A Time to Kill, The Shining, and Presumed Innocent, respectively.  Since the span of years between these novels is substantial, it’s been fascinating to watch how each handles the passing of time.  For avid fans, it would be interesting to pair the new novel with the original.

The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty 

This novel would more rightly be classified as psychological suspense, beautifully rendered, with a structure that sustains and builds interest from beginning to end.

Read an excerpt »

Storm Front, by John Sandford 

I’ve become a recent convert to the Virgil Flowers series by this always entertaining author.  Flowers is the kind of low-key hero I look forward to following with each new installment.

Read an excerpt »

The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton 

While this novel was published in 2011, the tone and subject matter are still fresh and original today.

The Innocent, by David Baldacci

Will Robie, though a professional hit man, is someone whose perilous adventures I look forward to following from novel to novel.


All over the world writers are celebrating the end of National Novel Writing Month 2013, aka NaNoWriMo.

Well, maybe celebrating is not quite the right word. Some of us, certainly, are feeling jubilant that it’s over. Those who met the 50,000 word goal are doing a victory dance, for sure. Others of us, those who didn’t “win” (including yours truly, with 27, 000 words written), are feeling glad to have participated but perhaps a little consternated by their word count coming up short.

No matter where you fall on this continuum, take this short multiple choice quiz to figure out what to do next now that NaNoWriMo is over.

It’s December 3rd and you’ve got a big chunk of a novel (if not a full draft of a novel…go, you!) saved on your hard drive. (By the way, we really hope you’re also saving another copy somewhere. Check out these horror stories if you need a reminder about the importance of backing up your work!)

The very next thing you do is:

  1. Read. It’s pretty difficult squeezing in a good book while writing 1667 words a day. You’re about to go on a full-on book binge in your favorite genres.
  2. Write. You might have 10K words. You might have 100K words. All you know is you’ve gotten into a writing routine like never before, and you’re going to keep it up while you can.
  3. Get feedback. All throughout NaNoWriMo you were dying to ask fellow writers what was working in your book and what wasn’t. Now that you’ve got some serious prose to work with, you’re dying to show it off.
  4. Revise. The whole “no-editing during NaNoWriMo” thing? That was driving you nuts. Now that you’re officially off the clock, you’re itching to go back through and replot, reword, rewrite.

Which of these should you do? The answer is, of course, all of the above.

One online space where you can do all four options above is on Book Country, the online writing and publishing community where I work as the Community and Engagement Manager. Book Country is a proud sponsor of NaNoWriMo 2013 because our missions are so beautifully aligned: NaNoWriMo emboldens writers to write more than they ever thought possible, and Book Country is the most supportive online writing and publishing community on the web, helping writers in over sixty literary categories to write their best books. Book country is the perfect next step for the post-NaNoWriMo writer: there you can read books written by other writers in your genre, you can post chapters of your Nano WIP as you write, you can get feedback on your work via our peer review feedback system, and you can use that feedback to revise your book, preparing it for traditional publishing queries or for self-publishing.  As a Book Country member you can connect with writers from around the world for year-round support, and use our discussion boards and blog to learn more about the craft of writing and the business of publishing.

Curious about how to get involved on book country? Join here and send me an email: Lucy at bookcountry dot com. I’ll show you around.

Let’s celebrate the end of NaNoWriMo together!

Lucy Silag is the Community and Engagement Manager for Book Country, Penguin’s online writing and publishing community.


Undressing Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos

Hello from the steps of the Jane Austen Centre!

Welcome to the tour! As an ice-breaker to each leg of the Blog Tour, I’m taking you along for a ride to England, where I traveled during the summer of 2012 to do some research for Undressing Mr. Darcy. Where am I on this stop? The gorgeous Regency city of Bath…on the steps of The Jane Austen Centre with a statue of Elizabeth Bennet and Martin, the costumed greeter, well known in Bath. I enjoyed the museum and gift shop, but especially loved taking a picture with the oil painting of Colin Firth in the tea room! More photos of England to come as we tour along…

Undressing Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos

Let the Undressing begin…

Undressing Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos

As author of the just-released Undressing Mr. Darcy and my first novel Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, it’s a thrill for me to be writing here on the Penguin USA blog. Thank you for having me. And what a pleasure to be a published by Penguin, publisher of…

Jane Austen’s novels! How cool is that? An Austen fangirl couldn’t ask for more—but wait, there is more—

Undressing Mr. Darcy releases this week, during Austen’s birthday month of December and in this 200th anniversary year of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. Let me pour you a glass of cyber champagne and toast to Austen herself! Here’s to Austen, still relevant, and, two centuries later, one of the most popular authors on social media, in film, literature, and merchandising. (Have you seen all of the Austen paraphernalia? Everything from Austen action figures and band-aids to tea and umbrellas?)

Undressing Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos

Hats off to Austen, and speaking of hats off, I invite you to the coming-out party of my latest book celebrating all things Austen in our modern world: Undressing Mr. Darcy. Join my Blog Tour and all the fun and giveaways on the pea-graveled road through the English countryside ahead…

So, what’s up with the Undressing?

Or, how did it occur to me to write something called Undressing Mr. Darcy? Full disclosure: back when I was still rewriting and researching my first novel in 2009, I would find myself, late into the night, Googling and searching for cravats, waistcoats and Regency drawers. You know, the typical late night fare of a Regency-inspired author, right? One night I stumbled across an English website on the Internet called “The History Wardrobe” and hit upon one of their shows called “Undressing Mr. Darcy.”

Well.

That gets the mind clicking right along doesn’t it? The website didn’t offer much of an explanation other than a certain “Mr. Darcy” would give an historical discussion of each article of clothing as he proceeded to take it off—down to his drawers. (Despite learning that titles aren’t protected by copyright, I did ask permission to use the title of their show, and they granted it, but sadly they no longer do the Undressing show. A few other shows have popped up, such as “Dressing Mr. Darcy” that takes place here in the states at the Louisville Jane Austen Society of North America Jane Austen Festival. But I digress…)

My first thought was: What? A Mr. Darcy striptease act?

The show only took place in England and I thought to myself, why not here in the states? Then, just as quickly, my brain flitted to: what if a “Mr. Darcy” did travel to the states?

* Smirk *

I remember writing down Undressing Mr. Darcy in a notebook I keep for book ideas. By July of 2011, before publication of my first book, I had a sketchy outline.

Because of course, he would be old-fashioned and English. And she would be modern, hooked on her social media, and American.

How about a piece of that?

Here’s a quick excerpt from the book:

… But the young woman and Aunt Ella weren’t looking at her. They were beaming at a tall, dangerously good-looking man on the other side of the rope wearing a formfitting Regency tailcoat, cravat, buff breeches, and black riding boots. He had an antique, leather-bound book tucked under his arm and didn’t carry suitcases but toted old leather trunks—leather trunks on a wheeled cart? A tumble of black hair spilled onto his forehead.

How could he look so much better in person than in his author photo? She made a mental note to update that shot—it would increase their crowds. Pleased with his looks (for marketing purposes, of course), Vanessa cleared her throat, as if to clear her mind.

He wore his Mr. Darcy garb on the plane? Then she found herself trying not to notice the slight tug of his breeches, the snug way they fit him—

Huh? He was a client, after all, regardless of whether he was paying her or not.

Even if he had been a prospect, she preferred a man in a well-tailored Italian suit or blue jeans and a button-down shirt, didn’t she? What woman, at thirty-five years old, with a condo, her own business, family ties, and a thing for modern American amenities, would consider a man from another continent—not to mention the nineteenth century? She didn’t understand it.

And, let’s face it, Mr. Darcy’s skill set—chiefly, diving into a pond in his shirtsleeves—would get him nowhere in today’s job market.

“Miss Ella Morgan and Miss Vanessa Roberts, I presume?” he asked in a bass-range voice that needed no emoticons to get attention. Then he bowed.

He was none other than a very official-looking Mr. Darcy. On the big-screen TV above him, a bomb exploded on the news, and when Vanessa tucked her long brown hair behind her ear, her earbud popped right out.

-End of excerpt-

You can read more about Undressing Mr. Darcy here!

Thanks once again to The Penguin blog for hosting me here. It’s been great. Did you know…

Mr. Darcy’s Stripping Off…

His beaver hat. At each blog stop Mr. Darcy will strip off another piece of clothing. Keep track of each item in chronological order and at then end of the tour you can enter to win a GRAND PRIZE of a book, “DO NOT DISTURB I’m Undressing Mr. Darcy” door hangers for you and your friends, tea and a bottle of wine (assuming I can legally ship it to your state). US entries only, please.

Undressing Mr. Darcy, Karen Doornebos

Karen Doornebos is the author of Undressing Mr. Darcy published by Berkley, Penguin and available here or at your favorite bookstore. Her first novel, Definitely Not Mr. Darcy, has been published in three countries and was granted a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly. Karen lived and worked in London for a short time, but is now happy just being a lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society of North America and living in the Chicagoland area with her husband, two teenagers and various pets—including a bird. Speaking of birds, follow her on Twitter and Facebook! She hopes to see you there, on her website www.karendoornebos.com and her group blog Austen Authors.

JOIN THE BLOG TOUR:

12/2: The Penguin Blog

Launch! 12/3: Austenprose

12/4 Laura’s Review Bookshelf & JaneBlog

12/5 Chick Lit Plus (Review)

12/6 Austen Authors

12/9 Fresh Fiction

12/10 Writings & Ramblings

12/11 Brant Flakes & Skipping Midnight

12/12 Risky Regencies (Q&A)

12/13 Books by Banister

Jane Austen’s 238th Birthday! 12/16 Jane Austen in Vermont, My Jane Austen Book Club & Author Exposure (Q&A)

12/17 Literally Jen

12/18 Savvy Verse & Wit (Review)

12/19 Kritters Ramblings

12/20 Booking with Manic (Review)

12/23 BookNAround

12/26 My 5 Monkeys (Review)

12/27 All Grown Up (Review)

12/30 Silver’s Reviews

1/2 Dew on the Kudzu


This holiday season, our Penguin authors can help you find the best book for everyone on your list.

View more holiday recommendations on the Random House Tumblr.

The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert Elizabeth Gilbert began her writing journey with two acclaimed works of fiction—the short story collection Pilgrims and the novel Stern Men. Both were New York Times Notable Books. Her nonfiction work, The Last American Man, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her two memoirs (Eat, Pray, Love and Committed) were both number one New York Times bestsellers. In 2008, Time magazine named her one of the one hundred most influential people in the world. Her journalism has been published in Harper’s Bazaar, Spin, and The New York Times Magazine, and her stories have appeared in Esquire, Story, and the Paris Review.

Want Not, by Jonathan Miles

Every generation or so an American novel appears that holds up a mirror to our lives and shows us exactly who we are right at this moment. Want Not is that book right now — a searing but compassionate look at modern Americans and their STUFF. A book about garbage and consumption and accumulation and disposal…but most of all about humanity. Simply put, the best book of the year.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

They didn’t give her the Booker Prize for nothing, guys. The best contemporary novel about the 16th century you’ll ever read, with the most powerful and muscular antihero (Thomas Cromwell) of recent memory.

Night Film, by Marisha Pessl

I’ve been an admirer of Pessl’s since her splendid debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics and her latest novel rocked my world — a bold, dark, complex, universe of fear and art and obsession.

The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach

This is a novel I’ve purchased for several members of my family, and those copies have been lovingly passed around. A novel about baseball (but not really about baseball), it has been enjoyed by everyone from my serious seventeen year old nephew to my nostalgic seventy-two year old dad.

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë

To my shame, I realized this year that I’d never read this classic. I THOUGHT I had read it, but I think I’d just semi-absorbed it thorough osmosis over the decades. But now I have read it, and it dazzles. It is also, with all apologies to contemporary erotica, the frankly sexiest (even kinkiest) bit of writing around.

 

 


art_of_doingThis coming week Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield will be presenting an Illustrated Art of Doing Book Talk at the New York Public Library, Mid-Manhattan Library, 6th floor December 4th, 2013.

So what is it about success? Why do some people succeed? And others don’t? From Dale Carnegie to Malcolm Gladwell authors have tried to answer these questions. Philosophers, economists and neuroscientists have taken their shots at the success conundrum. Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band even offers advice on the subject in their song Express Yourself: “Whatever you do, un-huh, do it good. Whatever you do, do, do, Lord, Lord, do it good, oh yeah.”

We are a writer (Camille) and an artist (Josh) and out of our great (you could say insatiable) curiosity, we got this idea: Why don’t we go to go straight to highly successful people and simply ask them, “How do you do what you do?

And the next idea was to turn the concept into a book, The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well. So then we asked ourselves, “Who do we want to include?” We wanted people who were good, but good wasn’t good enough. We wanted people who not only excelled in his or her field, but transformed it into an art form. We were looking for the Picassos and Warhols of their fields.

We wanted the book to be like a fabulous dinner party. We wanted a mix of people from every sort of human endeavor including someone from business such as Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, elite athletes like Yogi Berra, innovative entertainers like OK Go and funk master George Clinton, scientists like astronomer Jill Tarter, a great actor like Laura Linney, a best-selling author like Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics and dozens more. (A full list of participants can be found here.)

At first our goal was to find out what was unique about each one of the dozens of superachievers we interviewed: What was it that vaulted them above others in their field? But during the hundreds of hours of conversations, we were often surprised to discover how much a tennis champion, for instance, and a rock band think alike, or how a racecar driver and an extraterrestrial hunter share similar traits. Our pattern recognition systems were fully activated. Our participants’ vocations, goals, philosophical perspectives and personalities could not have been more different, but as their responses to our questions accumulated, we realized that these extraordinary people, no matter what they did—whether it was an opera diva, a war photographer or a CEO—shared many core principles and practices that had led to their great successes.

Some of these principles were what you may imagine such as perseverance and focus. But we also found that these superachievers had thought deeply about how to achieve success, inspiring them to employ many counterintuitive practices—listening, patience, managing emotions, and more.

So what is it about success? Of course, talent is required—but it’s just the beginning. We discovered that it’s what you do with your talent that matters. And that’s really a profound idea, because it means success is up to you.