Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Romantic Advances

OMG! So, like, there's this new site that has like every upcoming romance novel on it! So, like, you totally don't have to search around across a bunch of different publisher sites to see what's out each month!

Eh-hem. Pardon my outburst of girlish glee. (Little-known fact, my inner fan-girl is also a valley girl. I'm from LA, okay? So sue me.)

Those two lovely Ja(y)nes over at Dear Author got together with a bunch of friends and put together a site called Romantic Advances that just may be the best thing since Kaldi (blessed be his name) discovered the coffee bean - a single website that lists all upcoming romance novel releases, with information and links to purchase.

I may be Bettie-come-lately to this tidbit of info, but that doesn't mean I'm not thrilled to the caffeine-soaked marrow of my being. Get on over and check it out.


Friday, May 25, 2007

The Bitter End

Haven't I written this post before? At the start of the month, I wrote a 200 word entry for Bam's monthly contest. Didn't win, but I was curious to see where it would go so I kept on writing. Then I surfed over to Samhain and saw the call for submissions to their 2008 "Strangers in the Night" anthology. Short story (25K words), due by June 1, 2007.

"OK," I thought, "the story I'm writing has strangers who meet in the night. Granted, the heroine kills the hero by the third paragraph, but I've got 25,000 words to help those two crazy kids work things out. I've already set myself a goal to write 2, 000 words a day. This is doable, right?"


I'm sitting here looking at the last 5K words of the story. I know what's going to happen. I know how things will end. And I can't get it written. What is my problem?

And in case you're wondering, that other story, the one I posted about waaaaaaay back in the day? It's quite a bit longer than my current WIP, but it languishes on my hard drive, 5k words from completion. Uggh!

Like a Thief in the Night

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
20,000 / 25,000

Segment removed.


Friday, May 18, 2007

This is Not a Review: Karma Girl

Don't expect fairness and objectivity 'cause I haven't got either. Descriptions are half-assed, my taste is mercurial, and ratings are assigned entirely by whim.

Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep

First things first, I saw the first chapter of this book on a critique group site quite a while ago. I liked it then, I like it now. It's good to see folks make good.

Synopsis: In a World Where...every town has its own superheroes and ubervillains, plucky investigative reporter Carmen Cole climbs the ladder of journalistic success from Beginnings, Tennesse to Bigtime, New York by exposing the secret identities of every superhero and ubervillain she can find. Then her activities cause one of the heroes she's exposed to commit suicide and she gets demoted to society reporter.

An ubervillain orders Carmen to discover the identity of the leader of the local superhero group (who hates her on account of the suicide she caused), or face a fate worse than death. Guess who the hero of this story is. Opposites attract. Doomed love ensues. Karma Girl saves the day.

Over all, I liked this book. The Incredibles plays the comic book parody better than Estep does - but I can't blame anyone for falling short of Brad Bird. (Yes, that sound you just heard was me sighing like a schoolgirl whilst thinking of the writing/directing prowess of Brad Bird.) I liked the world Estep set up, and I am impressed that she managed to think up so many alliterative names for the characters (+ Clark Kent approved: Superman Comics #1). Also, I adore the town names.

Carmen's first-person narration draws the story along at a pretty good clip (+Flash Comics #1 a fast, fun read) . The romance is sweet but the love scenes are also written in the first-person, which is a very tricky thing to do (-not quite Superman, but close: Jimmy Olsen, Superman's Pal #111) . I am also willing to admit that first-person love scenes kind of creep me out.

While, as stated above, I generally liked this book, I have to mention that Estep, as a writer, totally hit one of my pet peeves. Specifically, she uses race as description (-What happens when racial stereotypes form a team of superheroes? New Guardians #1).

Here is Estep's description of one of the side-kick characters, Henry Harris,

"The black man smiled at me and went back to his computer." p.25
Estep describes his clothes, his age, his glasses, but she can't just throw in a line about what the fellow actually looks like? Is his face round or long? Does he have dark skin, light skin, freckles? What color is his hair? What color are his eyes?

  • "I stopped at the black man's desk..." p. 52
  • "The black man tugged at his bow tie...." p.135
One (dubious) point in Estep's favor, The Black Man does not use slang.

Estep occasionally describes another sidekick character as "the Asian girl", though, to be fair, she does give that character a more thorough description by using words like "skinny" , "young", "pretty", "heart-shaped face" and "almond-shaped eyes". See, that's not so hard to do, is it?
  • "The Asian girl's face grew guarded." p.56
  • "The Asian girl reluctantly took it..." p. 57
She never once refers to any of the other characters as "the white man" or "the European woman". Oh, and in case you couldn't guess, as the only two minority characters, the Black Man and the Asian Girl, hook up thanks to the heroine.

In conclusion: The book was a fun fast read except that Jennifer Estep landed on one of my major pet peeves. I do realize that this pet peeve probably won't hinder other readers' enjoyment of the book as it did for me. I would probably read another of Estep's books, but I'd get it from the library. Ms. Estep's not getting another dime from me until she learns that race is NOT a description.

Rating: If Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep were one of the actors who has played Batman in the Batman movies, with Michael Keaton being the best and George Clooney (sorry George) as the worst. Karma Girl would be:

Christian Bale

Hot and fun, but ultimately hampered by something that annoys me (a.k.a. Katie Holmes).

Oh, who am I kidding. I just wanted to link to a picture of Christian Bale.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Words!

Kate R. blogged that she can spot everyone else's overused words, but not her own. Which got me thinking:

1) I don't know quite how I feel about overused words. Sometimes, as in the case of Barbara Hambly's use of "chiaroscuro," the word feels like an old friend. Other times, seeing the same word or phrase over and over again can set my teeth on edge. David Eddings is often criticized for recycling plots, characters, etc, but it was his overuse of the phrase "kind of" in character dialog that made me throw the book at the wall. Big book, poor wall.

2) What are my overused words? A quick survey of my current WIP yields the following suspects: penchant, languor, cruel. Also, I freely admit my abuse and misuse of the word "also" in correspondence and blog posts.

3) I know I have some kind of nerve to solicit comments (my highest count ever is, like, 6) but what are your overused words? Are there any authors/words that drive you crazy?


Monday, May 14, 2007

When in Doubt, Link

Lacking anything original to say today, I will link to a couple of interesting entries over on Dear Author. The first is an interview with Heather Osborn, formerly of Ellora's Cave and now with Tor. Osborne has insight into both ePub and print publishing, which makes for some interesting reading. Also, I find Tor's move to break into romance quite interesting.

The second interview is with Jaid Black (a.k.a. Tina Engler) the founder of Ellora's Cave. Engler addresses the recent brouhaha on Karen's blog about possible declining standards at Ellora's Cave.

(To put my $0.02 in: the Vampire/Werewolf/Clusterfuck genre may make bank for EC, but it does tend to go bad if not properly refrigerated.)


Thursday, May 10, 2007

This is a Review: Revealing Skills

As with all my (not a) reviews, descriptions are half-assed, my taste is mercurial, and ratings are assigned entirely by whim.

In most Fantasy novels, if chapter one introduces the main character mucking out stables or scrubbing pots in the kitchen, you can bet your subscription to Everquest that Young Humble Stableboy/Scullerygirl won't be holding that menial position for long. In no time at all, YHS/S will fall in with Interesting Company, discover a Hidden Talent, undertake a Great Journey and become an Important Person.

If a Fantasy novel also happens to be an erotic romance, the Great Journey may traipse through the bedroom, the linen closet, the dungeon, and various anatomically challenging positions before YHS/S becomes an Important Person and gets his/her hornily ever after, but the basic premise is the same.

But if the author of that Fantasy erotic romance is Summer Devon (aka Kate Rothwell), you can expect tired tropes and genre conventions to be twisted, turned on their heads, and tickled 'til they beg for mercy. This is, after all, the author whose cursed-to-be invisible heroine actually had some fun. Devon also dared to write a story with a virgin hero.

[You have earned the Chalice of Chutzpah, +5 Hit Points]

Revealing Skills by Summer Devon
Tabica is a Young Humble Slave in the castle of a mean baron. When she helps shape-changing escaped prisoner Gilrohan hide from the baron, shenanigans and sexin' ensue. Like every good little fantasy heroine, Tabica has heretofore unrealized magical talents. And since this Fantasy tale is also an erotic romance, I'm sure you can guess what and who it takes to bring those talents to light.

The Summer Devon novels I've read have all had a sort of easy-going good nature. She doesn't go in for overwrought drama or dark whiny angst, and I find that pretty damned refreshing.
[You have earned the Plot that Refreshes, +23 Health Points]
Where another author might have played the very played out "beauty and the beast" angle of the shape-changer trope, Devon's take reads like an ex-rated retelling of an extra-hijinky episode of Bewitched.
[You have earned the Helmet of Hijinkiness, +12 Hit Points]
Devon strikes a good balance with setting, deftly sketching an world that is unique enough to draw you in and familiar enough to keep you reading, but is never cliche. As always, her main characters are appealing and likable from the start. Tabica and Gilrohan could easily exist in a story that didn't feature shape-changers and magic.
[You have discovered the Wand of Worldbuilding and the Cape of Character, +9 Defense Points]
The first chapter pulled me right in. Gilrohan changes into a rat in order to escape the mean baron's dungeon. Tabica recognizes Gilrohan-the-rat as a shape-changing morphlange and saves him when he gets caught by a servant. Lucky for Gilrohan, and for the reader's delicate sensibilities, he changes back into a man when Tabica touches him.

The two feel an immediate, inexplicable attraction to each other, and proceed to act on it throughout the book.
[You have been struck by the Arrow of Inexplicable Attraction, -8 Health Points]
The problem is, while our two lovers' appetites stay hot, the story itself sort of looses steam after the first few* chapters.
[You have become lost in the Fjords of Fiznuckin', -9 Health Points]
The complication that keeps the lovers apart feels contrived. Toward the end of the story, Tabica gains an irrational admirer and comes down with a case of magical who-ha .
[You have been cursed with the Codpiece of Cliche, -2 Hit Points]
Devon is a gifted writer with talent for creating realistic, relatable characters while turning genre conventions on their collective ear. Revealing Skills starts strong and is consistently readable, but it is rather disappointing to watch an interesting, inventive beginning wander into mediocrity.

You are a 4th level Mermaid
(beautiful at the start, but kind of fishy toward the tail end)

* Note, originally, the linked portion of the review read "first two chapters", but the version I read had an extra-long chapter two. I believe the chapters of the final versions are different.


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Back to Black ( A Two-Item List of Very Cool Things)

Thing 1: Kate Rothwell/Summer Devon (the gentle voice of encouragement urging me to update my blog in not a few of the comments) is having a contest drawing for a $30 gift certificate of your choice to Barnes and Noble, Amazon, OR Samhain (the publisher of the upcoming print release of her book Revealing Skills). To qualify, you can do one of the following:

Thing 2: Amy Winehouse's CD Back to Black. Amy Winehouse is a scrawny twenty-something Brit chick, but she sings like a voluptuous thirty-something chain-smoking Mowtown-era diva who has done a man or two wrong in her time. Her Motown mimicry is initially interesting, but after the novelty wears off, the songs are great on their own. And in addition to pulling off one hell of an American accent, this chick can sing.

Also, the divine Ms. Winehouse has added a lovely new phrase to my vocabulary - to wit: What kind of fuckery is this? Try it out. You might find the phrase has a certain lilt to it - both Shakespearian and profane (though the two are hardly mutually exclusive). And also, it is loads of fun to say.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

On Procrastination

A friend of mine says that procrastinators (como yo) are closet perfectionists. She says we procrastinate because we don't want to do a thing if we can't do it perfectly - and no one is perfect. I've always thought of my penchant for procrastination as the result of some sort of inherent laziness, but I think I'm starting to see her point.

Witness, this blog. I wanted to do a redesign, but I couldn't get the images just right. So I stopped blogging altogether. Every time I thought about blogging, I'd think about that redesign I wanted to get done. Then I'd think about how the stupid images and stylesheets were such a pain in my ass, and then I'd go do something else because I didn't have 5 hours to spend on my blog right then.

Trouble is, I think I do the same thing with my writing. Hubby gave me Stephen King's On Writing for my birthday, and I was surprised to read that King did not map out his plots, do character charts, or make revisions during the first draft. There are all these things I keep thinking I have to do when writing, but maybe I don't.

I'm a compulsive re-reader. Every time I sit down to write, I reread my last few chapters. And then I find typos, sentences that are not quite right, and plot points that could use a tweak. Result: Half a dozen works-in-progress in which the first four chapters read like a final draft, and which bore me absolutely to death.

So my project for the week is not to write, or to blog, but to stop being so damned picky. I did the redesign. It took me 1.5 hours. I still can't ditch the 2 pixel gap above the header, or the 10 pixel gap below the footer, but damn it, this is good enough.


P.S. Does anyone know how to get rid of those gaps? They really bug me.

Number of corrections made to this post after Bettie hit publish: 4

Advantage: Perfectionism