Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas to All, and to All, Some Good Reads!

Everybody loves presents. Here's a list of presents from authors to readers--free reads!

  1. Update: December 26, 2007 through January 1, 2008: Free Harlequin eBooks! You can download one book a day.
  2. Paperback Writer's 2006 Free eBook Challenge
    This here is a big, mama-jama list o' free fiction. Lynn Viehl (she of the Stardoc & Darkyn novels) challenged her blog readers to write original free stories for their readers. Also, check out the sidebar for links to Viehl's outstanding freebies.
  3. be delicious by Annie Dean (Ann Aguirre)
    Friends to lovers. Short. Sweet. Hot. There are actually four free stories on this page. I haven't read them all yet--but only because I'm pacing myself. ;o)
  4. Meeting in Darkness by Imogen Howson
    Clicking around on the Drollerie Press site, I came across the cover of Ms. Howson's forthcoming YA novel, Frayed Tapestry. It is a thing of beauty. And the hook is cracktastically hookalicious. That book's on my list. Meeting in Darkness was Howson's contribution to the Romance Divas Free eBook Challenge. It's short, sweet, and I adore her writing style. Also, her freebie, Helen is available at Drollerie Press.
  5. One Night Stand by Dionne Galace
    What happens when they stay for breakfast? (Good gory fun. This story is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.)
  6. The Serial
    No, this isn't shameless self-promotion. Okay. It's not just shameless self promotion. It's a Watch This Space announcement. Tumperkin's two-part short story, the Ring, is on it, and, come January, there will be something new.
All right. That's it, y'all. It is time for me to go forth and shop. (Yes, I know it's Christmas Eve). Here's hoping your Christmas is full of peace, love, and many, many good reads.

P.S. This list is by no means complete. Mostly, it's what I could think of off the top of my head. If you have recommendations for good free reads, please post them in the comments.


Saturday, December 22, 2007


Wow, Part 1: Demon Night
I just finished the ARC of MelJean Brook's Demon Night that I won from Dear Author. I'm still gathering my thoughts on it--there's a lot of plot, and backstory, and detail. I don't know quite what I think of Demon Night but I am certain of two things:

  1. Meljean Brook can write.
    Really. The opening of chapter one was a marvel of pacing and deftly placed detail. It sucked me in, and made me want to reread it a few more times just to admire it.
  2. I want to read Brook's other books.
    Not just because this book was jam-packed with characters from earlier novels, but because I want to read something that's not quite so full of characters and ongoing plot and backstory. As a newbie reader jumping in on the third (?) book, I gotta say, Brook handled all those elements extremely well. But her big, complex world full of angels, demons, guardians, vampires, secret government agencies, prophecies, and conspiracies is like a hot bath--it's enjoyable, but it's also something you want to ease into.
Wow, Part 2: Sundial
I picked up my copy of Carrie Lofty's Sundial a couple of days ago. It's a novella, and a damned good deal at $3. Sure, it's only 67 pages, but there is at least 250 pages worth of longing, tension and angst packed into those pages. Plus, vespas! Also, a hero with a little moral ambiguity, 1950's Italy, and the loveliest final line I've read in a great long while.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fiddler and Her Proofs

I should be all aglow with happiness--the final version of Like a Thief in the Night is turned in, and the excerpt is up on the Samhain site. Instead, all I see are things I want to change.

I can't help it, I'm a fiddler. I nitpick. I tweak.

Editor Laurie and the ever-patient Bam can attest, every time I send in a draft, something is different. I just can't help it. Just yesterday, I noticed in Ember chapter 8 that I described fabric as jacquard when I really meant brocade. O, the horror! I can't believe I did that! (Sorry, Anonymous Auction Winner!). It will be fixed in the full PDF.

I can't leave well enough alone. I change a word here, a sentence there. When a question about my main character that wakes me in the middle of the night like, "What does she do when she's not killing people?" I have to answer it.

It's like some kind of curse: Lo, and she shall edit nigh until the very end.

One of these days, I'm going to have to learn to let go. Maybe I can do that by obsessing on my next WIP?

WIP Title: Rohais
Word Count: 7,000/95,000
Current Favorite Words:
Alone of all my sisters, I was not named to honor queens or saints. Instead, my stepmother named me for the climbing rose on the south wall of her garden, with its sweet scent and wicked thorns.


Does the Romance Genre Need a Make Over?

Another great post over at Dear Author wherein Jane wonders if a makeover would get the Romance genre a little respect from the mainstream.

Now, I hate mantitty, secret babies and clinch covers as much as the next gal-who-also-likes-to-occasionally-read- in-public-or-on-the-bus, but not even a tag team of Oprah, Tyra and Ty Pennington could spruce up the genre enough to get it an invite to the Mystery/Sci-Fi/We're almost literature Prom.

It's not that I'm down on Romance. You know I'm not. Thing is, Harlequin's many secret babies, Fabio dressed up like a metrosexual Indian, and those clinches that defy the the limits of human flexibility--they sell. And since they sell, they aren't going anywhere--not unless those of us who hate them rip off those cute calico "bookcovers" we bought at the last garage sale our romance-reading 80-year-old neighbor had (the one where she tried to sell you a whole box of Cassie Edwards novels for $0.50) and stop buying books with covers we hate.

And since I am not about to forgo one of my favorite genres for 3-5 years just to make publishers change their ways, I will suggest that those of us who would like to class up the look of our reading material give up on lifting all boats with a rising tide of respectability and focus our attention on the well-crafted vessels that aren't weighed down by the claptrap and cliche for which our beloved genre is (somewhat justifiably) mocked.

In the comments at Dear Author, I suggested that the Romance genre follow in the footsteps of comic books--er-hem, graphic novels--and think up a new name for books that aspire to a more artistic level. Comic books were long reviled as thinly-plotted, tawdry niche-market geek-boy fantasies. There were plenty of good--great--comics out there, like Love and Rockets or The Watchmen, but they never got any respect because they shared shelf space in dingy, geek-filled little stores with the afore-mentioned tawdry niche-market geek-boy fantasies. And then some clever person decided to christen the good stuff "graphc novels" and the rest, you know, is history.

So here's my question: What do we call our classier, more literary-leaning subgenre of Romance novel? And how do we make it stick?


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Forget Santa Clause, I Want the Green Fairy

Editor Paula Guran on the Juno Books blog did a post about absinthe. It is quite fashionable right now. Damn, but I hate to be a trend hopper. My husband collects interesting liquors the way some men collect baseball cards, and he's been wanting a bottle of the EU-legal stuff for a couple of years. As the exchange rate has only gotten worse over time, I decided it was now or never and ordered him up a bottle for Christmas.

I've been curious about absinthe for a while. How could anyone who loves art nouveau not be? Add that to my general impressionability (I am the girl who started smoking in college because of all those classic Hollywood movies--don't worry, I quit.), and it's a wonder I didn't belly up to the absinthe website and order a bottle sooner.

Then there's the allure of the ritual. I must admit, I am a sucker or food and beverage rituals. Currently, I have tea service in both the English and Japanese styles, Turkish coffee (I start by roasting the beans), South American coco, and, of course, more bar paraphernalia than you can shake a swizel stick at (oh, I just love those itty umbrellas). And I'm really wanting a samovar so I can make myself a good cup of Persian tea (I blame the local Persian eatery, and Marjane Satrapi's Embroideries for that one.) Also, I'd really like some of those little things to make Vietnamese coffee.

I have a feeling I probably won't like the absinthe. I've never been a big fan of anise, and that's a major flavor in la fee verte. But I'll probably like the ritual of it. In the case of my tea/coffee/coco habits, the ritual is as soothing as the resulting beverage. Our society does everything so quickly--fast food, fast coffee, and lots of both as we travel so we can keep going, going, going--it's nice to slow down and take the time to go through a series of steps before savoring the fruits of your patience (this is especially true with the drip, drip, drip of Vietnamese coffee--you have to be patient, or you'll go crazy). And when you have guests, the ritual gives you time to talk while you're preparing, and a good excuse to linger over your coffee, tea or cocktail once it's finished. When you have to wait for something, you generally don't want to just gulp it down.

Anyway, point is...what was the point? Oh, yeah, slow ritual = good. I'll let you know what I think of the absinthe after we open the bottles at Christmas. :o)


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Praise of Genre Fiction

If you read genre fiction, you've probably heard the laundry-list of complaints about it from readers of "serious" literature: formulaic, cliche, tawdry, unoriginal, and--worst of all--popular. Genre Haters seem to think any novel shelved by plot or content is, by definition, a lesser species of fiction.

But that's a load of bullshit. If bookstores started shelving "Sprawling, multi-generational family dramas" together, you'd find The Godfather, The Corrections and Love in the Time of Cholera in the same section as the oeuvre of the late-yet-still-writing VC Andrews. Would proximity to the late Ms. Andrews make the first three books any less worthy? Would it make Flowers in the Attic any less addictively terrible?

Genre haters have a tendency to compare the worst of genre fiction with the best of literary fiction, and then acting like it's a foregone conclusion that "literature" would come out on top. And, worse yet, if a bit of genre or popular fiction is particularly good, they start calling it literature. By subject matter and structure, Jane Austen's stories are romances, but, somehow, because they're so very good, they're literature. Likewise, the insanely popular, often maudlin and always melodramatic works of Charles Dickens transcend the author's immense popularity and often trite subject matter (Oliver Twist, anyone?) and wildly popular roots to become "literature".

The way I see it, there are only so many plots and themes out there, and, depending on historical era and geographical location, some of those plots and themes are more popular than others. So what if genre fiction works with a predetermined set of known elements--so does opera. Does musicians and music-lovers hate on opera for all those tales of doomed, stupid lovers? Nope. Opera lovers love the music. The subject matter is just a framework.

That's kind of how I feel about genre fiction. Genre is a framework around which I can let my imagination run wild. If you pick up a murder mystery, you know somebody gonna get killed, and the crime is gonna get solved. But the how, where, when, and why of it--oh, those are some fabulous details. If you pick up a romance, you know folks are going to fall in love, and no matter what kind of crazy shit happens between the words "Chapter One" and "The End" those folks are gonna have some kind of a happy ending.

One reason I like writing romance is that it incorporates elements from every other genre. Absolutely anything can happen between Chapter One and the End--mystery, adventure, intrigue, emotional drama. Romance novels can be contemporary, historical, futuristic, speculative, magical. Romance offers an incredible latitude of possibilities built around the simple, easily accessible framework of a romantic relationship.

The other reason I like writing romance? The happy ending.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Pay it Forward Giveaway

A while back, Nice Mommy and Evil Editor Angie had a fun contest. She said she would send something to the first three people to reply to her post. The thing is, the winners have to pay it forward and hold a similar contest.

Which is quite a nice kick in the pants for yours truly. I keep meaning to hold a contest (all the cool kids are doing it), but I have this problem when it comes to actually putting stuff in the mail. (Yet another reason I like ePublishing.)

Knowing my natural penchant for postal-avoidance, I thought and thought and thought, and ate a Godiva truffle, and thought some more about how to give something away without having to mail it.

Here's my solution: I do an electronic give away. Instead of oh-so-cute and cuddly hand-sewn items, I will give away cold hard pixels. I have at my disposal, Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, Flash and a lovely new toy called a Wacom tablet that lets me draw straight into the graphics program of my choice.

Maybe you've been wanting a flash banner for your website, or a pretty cover for your free ebook, or an anime avatar drawn in your image. Here's your chance. The first three people to respond to this post get the web-only file type of their choice, three hours of work by me and up to three of their favorite royalty-free images from or to be purchased by me for use in their shiny new file.

Examples of graphics stuff I've done:I did a bookmark for Ann Aguirre using images from the cover of her forthcoming novel Grimspace. Check her kick-ass quote from Sharon Shin! I asked that part of my payment be a signed copy of the book--I am so looking forward to reading it. Have been since I read the excerpt on her site ages ago.

I did the cover from Ember using this royalty free image, and, depending on the version, a copyright-free illustration from the original Perrault version of Cinderella or a curl of smoke as the background.

Then there's the anime avatar, which, apparently, looks enough like me to get me recognized at a LARA meeting IRL. But maybe that's just because anime me also has short hair and brown skin and there aren't so many women fitting that description being newbies at RWA local chapter meetings.

Also, here's the Flash banner I did for Like a Thief in the Night before I got the cover.

Here's the static banner ad I did after. I still need to update the Flash image...

I also did all of the graphics on this blog layout, and my web site (but don't take the website as an add--I did it all in one afternoon and I totally intend to re-do it up nicer when inspiration strikes me. :g:)


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

We Have A Winner

Many, many thanks to the bidder who won the Ember auction with a bid of $35. She asked to remain anonymous, so I'm not printing her name, but I will sing her praises. In addition to being generous, and having excellent taste in reading material, she is a kind and humble person--far more so than me.

Because, let me tell you, if I had something before everyone else got it, I would gloat so much. How much? A lot. Just watch me spend the rest of the week gloating about the ARC of Meljean Brook's Demon Night I won over at Dear Author.

I'm so busy getting my gloat on, I didn't even finish singing the praises of the kind, noble, humble bidder who even went so far as to donate an amount higher than her winning bid to Mercy Corps.

So, let me resume:

Dear Mystery Lady,

I hope you enjoy your advance copy of Ember. Specifically, I hope you enjoy the car chase and the gun fight in Chapter 8. I hope you are shocked and amazed by the heartwarming alien abduction in chapter 9. Most importantly, I hope you are touched and amused by the surrealistic denouement in which Ember wakes up in her bedroom in Lancaster, California and realizes that the whole story was just dream she got from eating pork rinds and pop rocks with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer while watching her little sister's DVD of Disney's Cinderella on a replay loop.

(Sure, we both know that's not what happens, but everyone else has to wait.) Happy reading.

Thank you again.



Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Mysterious F.L.E.: In Praise of the Final Line Editor

You already know how fascinated I am by the whole editing process. Perhaps if I am published several more times, I will become jaded enough to complain about it, but, for now, it's super neat-o cool. My editor Laurie has been great about explaining the process, the schedule, and all that. She's fabu to work with, besides. (You should check out her blog.)

But today, I'm going to write about a far more mysterious person, the FLE. I got the Final Line Editor's revisions on Like a Thief in the Night this week. Wow. She caught mistakes I've missed again and again. Little things that would totally jump out and annoy a reader, like mentioning "bullets" when only one shot is fired. And big things like an anatomical inconsistency in a love scene that I am totally embarrassed to have missed.

On a side note: I always wondered how authors could make such mistakes in love scenes, and now I know: Cut & Paste. The love scene mistake the FLE caught was not the result of me not knowing how everything fits together, but the result of a previous version of the same scene that had the characters positioned in different locations relative to each other. I thought I was being economical by not rewriting the entire scene when I decided it should run differently. I guess now, as a reader, I will have to be a little more forgiving of those sorts of mistakes.

Anyway, FLE, you eagle-eyed woman of mystery--I salute you. :o)