Friday, March 24, 2006

Shower Power

Last year, when our water heater crapped out, the hubby and I decided to upgrade to a 50 gallon-capacity model rather than the 40 gallon one we were replacing. Our logic was that at some point in the not-too-distant future we will have two teenagers living in the house, and four people requiring daily showers will push the water heater to its maximum endurance. And since the hubby loves long, hot showers, the idea of running out of hot water is simply not an option.

But, I'm thinking that somewhere in my subconscious I knew there was another good reason for the extra capacity, a need much more immediate.

I do all of my best thinking in the shower. No joke. No matter what I might be stumped on, if I stand under the spray of hot water long enough, the solution will come to me. I've imagined entire scenes, complete with dialogue and imagery, while my skin prunes up to a raisen-y texture. I've come up with more solutions to more problems there, more ideas than are good for me, and enough character backstories to populate a small village.

Oddly enough, I only take one shower a day. You'd think I'd be hopping in the tub right and left, but so far I haven't stooped to that. Maybe it's because I know I'd end up washing oodles of extra laundry to supply enough clean undies for multiple showers per day. Or maybe the fiscal cells of my brain are powerful enough to subdue the extravagant cells by remembering how much heating gas costs these days. I do know that turning off the faucet has become almost as hard as crawling out of bed after the third snooze time has run out. I generally have to tell myself it's not going to get any easier so I might as well get on with it now.

Perhaps the shower is such a great thinking spot for me because it's one place that is absolutely quiet. The kids actually obey the closed-bathroom-door-means-absolute-privacy-unless-you-are-bleedng dictate in our house. We don't have a radio in our bathroom, so I'm not distracted by song lyrics or gossipy morning DJs. I can't do anything else but stand and/or wash, so I'm not tempted to shove random thoughts out of the way until I can devote time to them.

And of course, I can't write anything down, which every writer knows is the key to coming up with the Best. Ideas. Ever. If you can hold on to something long enough to get out of the shower, dry off, get dressed and get it out on paper, it might just be a keeper.

Even the moments before I fall asleep every night - the other time of day I do a lot of my best writing thinking - aren't nearly as fruitful as my shower moments. Perhaps this is because I usually fall asleep too quickly, or at least long before I get anywhere in solving my latest problem. Add the holdover habit from my youth of telling myself bedtime stories to help put me to sleep and my productivity spirals to zero.

I'm thinking that I should find a way to tap into my shower genius. I haven't tried hot baths for inspiration yet, although I imagine they'd work nicely. Except, taking baths requires work and planning, whereas a shower is simply part of my daily routine. I can always count on that time to work through things, and I've come to look forward to it.

And I'm beginning to wonder if maybe we shouldn't have sprung for the 70 gallon water heater.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blog Cleaning

I did some blog housecleaning this week. Went into my favorites list where I have bookmarked probably about thirty or so blogs I visit regularly and removed a couple that have not been updated in well over a month. Moved quite a few around so they more clearly reflect the order in which I'm likely to check them out, so I can efficiently work my way down the list and have good stopping points when I'm limited for time.

I've noticed that many of the blogs I visit daily are slowing down as far as frequency of posts go. I'm very guilty of this (because for some reason, I haven't had much to say lately), so I'm not throwing stones or anything. And it's Spring so people start to get busy and aren't inside so much, plus the needs of work and family and real life often step in to take priority over blogging.

I do admit to that twinge of disappointment when I open a favorite blog to find something two or three days old, or even a week or more. I'm never sure how long a blog can go quiet before I get fed up of checking in and delete it from my rounds. Problem is, what happens if the blogger comes back? I always appreciate those notices that let me know the person is on vacation or bogged down with a project or RL and will be on hiatus for a while. Then I can just move their link to the bottom of my favorites list and check it infrequently.

Too, some of my favorite blogs have gone a bit self-promotional of late. I don't blame the people for using their blogs as an avenue for generating interest in their books; we get to reap the benefit of their professional wisdom and everything comes with commercials these days. But when the blog content becomes more promotional than conversational, I tend to stray away. I've either already bought the book(s) or have determined I'm not likely to because they aren't my style, so constant reminders really have no effect. I'm beginning to wonder if promoting through a blog only works on newcomers to the site because regulars have been there, done that and are only there for the appetizers and beer anyway.

What I haven't done is update my sidebar to add a handful of new sites. It's that old 10% unfinished trap I always fall into. Like leaving the dustbunnies under the couch. I'll get around to them. Eventually.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Down In the Valley

In the latest At the Back Fence column over at AAR, Laurie confesses to what she's calling a bout of reader's block. Nothing she picks up - from new releases to comfort-read keepers - has been able to capture her attention. Man, do I ever understand her situation. I've gone through years of reader's block, and it is no fun.

While probably not as frustrating as writer's block is to writers, reader's block is more than highly annoying to those of us who love reading. Sometimes my reader's block results because of lack of time. I'm just too busy and too tired at night to read anything at all, and after a few weeks out of the habit, as it were, I forget what pleasure losing myself in a great read can be. Kind of like going without chocolate long enough you forget how much you loved it, until, of course, you taste it again. Then you wonder why you waited so long.

But sometimes it's just my brain acting all weird. I know I have books on my TBR shelf that I will love. Books I couldn't wait to read when I picked them up at the library where they'd been acquired especially at my request from a sister library across town. Books that everyone else is raving about. Sometimes there is no conceivable reason why a book wouldn't grab me and pull me in completely. But it happens, and it's frustrating as all hell.

On the flip side, it seems these valleys in reading are followed by peaks, when I just cannot get enough. I read book after book, forgoing pretty much everything else to keep turning those pages. I started off 2006 in such a mode and polished off half a dozen books in the first two weeks of the year. Since then, I have slowed down substantially, and I'm pretty sure my plan to read 100 books this year won't happen. Part of this is because I've been in a re-reading mode of late, and I don't count re-reads when I list books read for the year.

The only explanation I have for my own reading cycles is that I tend to jump into anything I do with both feet and with 110% of my attention. I become obsessed fairly easily, shutting down the other parts of my mind that might be distracted by other interests. I'm either reading or writing or watching TV or researching or whatever, but I'm usually not doing two things at once.

Whatever the reason, I need to give myself a good shake. I have about five books I've started but have set down only a chapter or three in, not because the books aren't good but because I'm just not in the mood. With the summer beach-reading season just round the corner, I need something to do with myself while on vacation.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I'm Their Guest, I'm Their Guest

You know, I'm not one to complain about things I get for free, because it really is true that you get what you pay for, but, dang, eblogger/blogspot has really been giving me headaches the past few days. I understand I'm not alone, so I won't take it personally. And, you know, you get what you pay for...

Anyway, my post for today is actually the Open Blog spot on RTB for yesterday. Head on over if y'all are interested. Monica Jackson also waxes hysterical about fat chicks, so read that while you're there.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Lover Eternal

Since it's been ten days since its official release day, I think enough spoiler space time has passed for me to offer up my thoughts on Lover Eternal, by J.R. Ward.

First of all, I could not wait to read this book. I absolutely loved Dark Lover, the first book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. The world Ward has created - the mythology, the group of heroes that make up the brotherhood, their way of talking and walking in the real world - really sucked me in. Mostly, though, the heroes left me needing to know more and more about them. They certainly don't fit the traditional vampire model, frilly-shirt wearing seducers with thick accents and pasty skin, but rather come across as modern day guys who can turn any woman's knees to jelly.

The hero of LE, Rhage, is the pretty boy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood. Movie-star good looking with sex appeal to spare, he spends the time he's not hunting down members of the Lessening Society working the bars and shagging everything in a skirt. Apparently, stories about his sexual exploits are legendary among the vampire population. He's as happy-go-lucky as a vampire warrior can be, the party boy with no ties and no worries.

Except Rhage is hiding two secrets. Well, one secret is actually not so secret. Long ago, the Scribe Virgin cursed Rhage by placing a beast inside of him. This dragon-like creature comes out whenever Rhage loses control of his emotions, and when it appears, the beast shows no mercy to anyone, friend or foe. Rhage's mad skilz at fighting and loving are actually his efforts to alleviate enough stress to keep the beast at bay.

Which leads to Rhage's real secret. All of that mindless sex? He actually hates it. It has become a chore for him, something he does almost medicinally, and he's more than a little tired of it all. Kind of like working at the ice cream shop; by the end of the summer, the ice cream just doesn't taste so good after having eaten as much of it as you could ever want. Rather, he longs to make a real connection with someone, to find something deeper and more personal than the up-against-the-wall encounters he's so used to.

Enter Mary Luce. Mary is a human who stumbles across the vampire world when she serves as a translator for a mute young man who has been recognized as a pre-transformation vampire by Mary's next door neighbor and vampire-ess, Bella. While at the Brotherhood compound, Rhage, coming down from his latest Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde switcheroo, literally bumps into Mary and finds something in her voice that soothes his savage soul. Unable to help himself, he sets out to spend more time with her.

Which Mary can't understand. Why would this gorgeous man want anything to do with her? she wonders. Mary is not only an average-looking person (as opposed to a total goddess), she has just discovered that the lukemia she'd thought she'd beaten two years earlier has come out of remission. She's looking at major health issues - possibly death - and isn't interested in putting an outsider through any of it. She's pretty sure Rhage's interest in her is some kind of sick joke.

But, since this is a romance after all, Rhage and Mary reach an understanding that involves lots of sex. First, however, Rhage has to come to terms with the beast inside of him, a beast that Rhage discovers is just as interested in Mary as he himself is. His fears that letting go in the throes of passion will unleash the beast, who will hurt or kill Mary, won't allow him to take advantage of the comfort she's willing to offer. Nor will Mary accept the support of a man she's just met as she faces what could be her own death. She's determined to face her troubles alone.

Overall, I really liked this book. It read as quickly as Dark Lover, kept me turning pages in such a way that I had to tear myself from it to do such mundane things as shower and eat. The Brotherhood is as interesting as ever, and the pure evil of the Lessening Society grows even more terrifying.

I also liked how the main characters in the first book - hero Wrath and heroine Beth - are mentioned, with Wrath appearing properly in his role as king of the vampires, without us being clubbed over the head with them. I'm not a big fan of series books where the couple from the prior book shows up all the time wagging their HEA all over the place. This story picks up where the last one ended and moves forward without revisiting old stuff in that cloying way.

Since I read DL first, I can't objectively tell if LE works well as a stand-alone book. There was nothing in the story that I didn't understand, but I have read the series from the beginning. I find the glossary at the beginning of the book very helpful, although I know such a thing often scares readers away, thinking they are going to be very confused if they're going to need a glossary. I'll be interested for the gals over at the Paperback Reader to offer up their thoughts on this since I believe they haven't read the first book yet.

That being said, I did have a few problems with the story. First of all, it seemed to follow nearly the same format as the first book in the series. In both DL and LE, hero meets girl at her home, hero and heroine clash but have an intense sexual encounter, hero convinces heroine to move to the Brotherhood compound so he can protect her, after which time the heroine hangs out in the hero's bedchamber for a heck of a lot of the time waiting for the hero to come home and have sex with her. The heroines don't do a whole heck of a lot; they are too busy being protected.

Too, I'm not really sure what Rhage saw in Mary that drew him to her so obsessively and so quickly. Or rather, what began their relationship wasn't used as the motivation for his attraction after that very first meeting. When Rhage first meets Mary, something in her voice is soothing to him. I liked the idea that at long last, Rhage has met a woman who can calm the beast inside of him. I imagined the story continuing with Rhage using Mary as a tool for controlling the beast, only to fall in love with her. But after that, not much talk of Mary's ability to soothe anything ever occurs. Instead, he seems to fall in love with her for reasons I was entirely sure of and spends the rest of the story avoiding sex with her because he's afraid the beast will emerge.

I wish Ward would have dropped a line on how to pronounce Mary's last name. Spelled LUCE, I wasn't sure if it was "Loose" or "Lu-chee" or "Looch", and every time I saw it I puzzled. Also, Ward fell into one of my pet peeves by having Rhage use Mary's name too often in dialogue. In a few scenes, nearly every other line of diologue Rhage uttered to Mary included her name. For as natural and realistic as Ward's dialogue is content-wise, this little nitpick pulled me out of it.

But, as she did in the first book, Ward has set up the next hero in line for his own story. By the end of Lover Eternal, the darkest brother, Zsadist, has already met the woman possibly able to reform him. As it stands, the female vampire, Bella, has fallen in the clutches of a particularly sadistic lessener and is being held prisoner. Zsadist is already crazed with the need to find her, and I am dying to read their story. Sadly, I have to wait until September for the release of Lover Awakened.

And I certainly hope that Ward intends to write all the stories of the brotherhood. I give Lover Eternal a solid B+ and highly recommend both books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Warning, though - once you get on, you'll find that you don't want to get off and just have to wait for the next go-round.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Need For Speed

In honor of the recently DVD release of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie, I've been on an HP reread kick. In the past week, I've plowed through Books 4, 5, and 6. Nice thing about rereading is that I know which parts I can skim over and which I recall being most interesting to read, which significantly cuts down on the time it takes to get through 800 plus-page books.

But, just like it was the first time I finished Book 6 (HP and the Half-Blood Prince), I'm left very anxious to know what happens next. I simply cannot wait until Book 7 is released. Rumors that I've seen - and these are totally speculative, no bases in any reality rumors - is that Book 7 might hit bookstores on July 7, 2007, taking advantage of the 7/7/07 date. Such a happy coincidence can't be ignored by J.K. Rowling and her publishers since it is almost magical that such a perfect date comes in time for a possible release. Talk about your publicity wet dream.

Anyway, say that this rumor were to come true and the book will be out next July. That means I have over 15 months to wait. Yikes! I could develop an entire human being before I'll find out what happens to Harry and friends. Since I'm not a person who waits nicely - I hate lines with the intensity of 1,000 white hot suns - this is like to drive me crazy. And if the HP crew can't make it happen by next July, I'm looking at an even longer gap.

Not to mention that the movie of Book 5 is also not slated to be released until 2007. Knowing the movie industry like I do and taking into account the release schedules of the past HP movies, I have a hunch we're looking at sometime around Thanksgiving. I have to go through a full cycle of holidays - some of them twice! - before I'll get to see Harry confront his demons on screen.

So we're talking a huge gap before I can get any kind of HP fix.

That being said, I don't want J.K. to rush on my account. I would much rather wait the extra months (not years, please!) for her to get it right than have her force the story in order to meet a tidy deadline. I've been with this story for six books and some six years (I jumped in way after the bandwagon had left the barn), and I certainly would be disappointed to have the whole enterprise fall apart because we fans didn't give her enough time. Not that I have any true concern that J.K. would fall under pressure to get it done. I imagine she pretty much writes her own ticket.

Which segues me into why I think it is that so many people have had it up to here with series books. Màili posted an interesting rant the other day about the over-proliferation of series books, which got me to wondering why so many hate books with a shared universe. I personally love series books, assuming, that is, that I loved the book that brought me into the series in the first place. If I enjoyed the characters in Book A, I'm more than happy to get more of them or more like them or at least more of their world via Books B, C, D and onward. My love of the Brockmann Tall, Dark and Dangerous and Troubleshooters books are a perfect example. Her brotherhood of Navy SEALs is an interesting group of guys, and I'd love to hear all of their stories.

That being said, I do confess to liking her books less and less as the series has gone on. It's a classic case of the subplot characters becoming more interesting than the main characters (a la Jules Cassidy shining much more brightly than Cosmo Richter in Cosmo's book, Hot Target) and/or the secondary characters not living up to their potential when they finally get their own books (again, see Cosmo Richter in Hot Target).

Which is, I suppose, always a danger when you write series books. I know for a fact that I'm just about drooling over the prospect of reading Zsadist's story - Lover Awakened - based on the set up J.R. Ward has created in Dark Lover and Lover Eternal. Yet, I was slightly disappointed with Rhage's story in Lover Eternal as I felt the potential wasn't quite met. I'll specify in a later post, but as much as I loved the book, I was left slightly unsatisfied.

Anyway, I'm wondering if this phenomenon might not be a result of a writer feeling pressured by her publisher, agent, fans, whomever to write faster than the story demands. After all, it takes time to figure out an intricate plot that involves multiple characters over the span of many books. If a writer doesn't take the time - or isn't allowed to take the time - to think through the big picture, it could be that the set up never results in a payoff worthy of it. Characters who show much promise in early books simply aren't given the chance to shine because the writer had to gerry-rig a story for them as quickly as possible to feed the starving masses screaming for more.

Granted, J.K. Rowling isn't saddled with the challenge of taking secondary characters and giving them a story of their own. Her series follows the life and adventures of only a handful; three main characters and only one true star. And she's allowed the full expanse of seven books to develop characters and intertwine plots. If I were guaranteed a 7-book contract and given as much time as I needed to write them, I'd like to think I could come up with something pretty great. Not J.K./Harry Potter great, mind you, but pretty good. Well. Maybe not.

Which illustrates the genius of J.K. With every new book, a reread of the old books reveals how unbelievably complex the world she has created really is. Details that originally seemed placed simply for color take on a whole new significance, and you begin to see how far she must have thought through the entire story arc before writing even a single word. How else would she have been able to plant such subtle clues or to use such fine threads to so very firmly tie the stories together?

I know there are some out there who decry the quality of the Harry Potter books. But I challenge any one of them to do what J.K. has done. If they are able to write a series of 7 books released over a span of some 15 years - that's more than 2 years between books - and still have people sitting on the edge of their seats between each one, then they deserve the same kudos. I honestly don't know any other writers out there who have pulled off such a feat.

For myself, there isn't any other series out there that keeps me breathless this way.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Left In the Dust

I don't think it comes as news to anyone that both erotic romance and e-publishing are on the upswing. As readers turn to e-books more and more as a viable sorce of material, and offerings from places such as Ellora's Cave show up on bookstore shelves, both the subgenre and the alternative format are gaining validity and acceptance as true forms of writing in the romance genre.

And rather than break into the market by starting in category romance, it seems like many writers are dipping their toes into the stream via e-publishing. Write a really good, hot love story and submit it to Ellora's Cave or Cobblestone Press and hope to be taken on board. Perhaps something in the print industry will come of it. Instead of being ashamed of having taken this road into traditional publishing, writers who got started in e-publishing can hold heads high and proud. As the category-to-singe-title romance writers were in years past, the e-published writers are today.

So I should be excited that a whole new world of opportunity seems to be coming of age just in time for me to take advantage of it. In addition to the printed publishing market, I have the electronic market to fish.

Except, every time I read of another newly published e-author, she's written something erotic. E-publishers seem to be all about the hot, the spicy, the non-vanilla sex. Sure, the story is important. After all, this isn't just a random sequence of sex scenes strung together (a la porn) but rather a love story that owes a healthy portion of its existence to the sexual relationship between the two (or three or four) main characters. I get it. I have no problem with it.

But I don't write non-vanilla sex.

Let me clarify. I can write hot, steamy sex scenes. I want my hero and heroine to yearn for each other desperately, and when they finally get together, I want the pages to fairly smolder. I'm not into boring sex, nor am I into behind-closed-doors implied sex. It's not that I don't want or appreciate the hotness and spiciness, in either what I read or what I write. In fact, sweet stories leave me disappointed because it feels like something key is missing from the big picture.

But I'm into more traditional things. Like monogomy. Like sex between two people rather than three or more. I'm not big on reading sex scenes that involve really out-there sexual practices. Anything other than very mild bondage (think silk scarves, not handcuffs and chains) just goes beyond my own personal preferences in what I read or write. And don't get me started on what comes into my mind when I read about anal sex.

Not that I would deny other people their own enjoyment, mind you. I'm glad this market is flourishing and that so many have found a new subgenre to explore. I'm all about whatever floats your boat and to each his own and all of that. I don't think anything but well of readers or writers of erotic romance. More power to them.

It's just that my own personal boat is floated on calmer waters, that's all. While others are deep sea diving and boogie boarding the big Kahuna waves, I'm happy to snorkle along the shoreline.

So I feel like many doors that should be open to me - those e-publishing doors - are actually not so much open as painted with a No Admittance sign. I don't have it in me to write hot enough. Weird to be censored for being too non-explicit, but that's me.

Too, for me, sex is the icing on the love story cake rather than the cake itself. My scenes will be hot and steamy (so I hope), certainly, because great sex is part of a great love IMO. But they come a far secondary to the love story. I like slow, building sexual tension. I like the big bang (pardon the pun) payoff when finally, finally the hero and heroine consummate their relationship, especially after they've come to realize that no one else will do. I love that magic moment, both as a reader, writer, movie viewer, connoisseur of good love stories.

But once a few well places sex scenes are described that contribute to the story overall and establish the new position of the relationship, I'm no so keen to write (or read) sex scene after sex scene just because a) I can or b) the readers want to read it or c) because it's what is required by a publisher. I personally get bored with books that have sex scenes on every other page. I skim that stuff. Yeah, the sex is great between the H and h. Really great. So, what else happens?

I'm sure there are e-publishers out there who welcome manuscripts with more traditional love scenes or tamed down sex in them. It's just that I don't hear about these e-publishers. It seems that the ones focused on erotica have gotten all the press due to the popularity of the sub-genre and, perhaps, have recruited the writers who would also gain an audience via traditional publishing due to the content of what they write. Miss Erotica Writer can start off in e-publishing but also has a fair chance of getting published in print because she's writing what's hot right now. So she brings a certain cache to her original e-publisher, validating it when she crosses over and proving that true talent can be found on the internet.

I have no intention of changing my style to fit the erotica market. I would never feel comfortable writing in that subgenre, so I could never do so successfully. I can only hope that as e-publishers of erotica gain the acceptance they deserve, they'll pull non-erotica publishing e-publishers along on their coat tails, as it were. Too, maybe by the time everyone has caught up, those e-publishers will have figured out a way to improve those horrible computer-generated covers that bring tears of pain to my eyes.

Meanwhile, I'll putter along in my little Sunfish, looking for a nice breeze and thrilling to the occasional big wave when it comes along.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Disbelieving. Disgusted. Discouraged.

Sorry for the spotty entries. I'm actually finding myself kind if in a lull as far as things to say. If my hubby is reading this, just shut up.

This did catch my eye. Yesterday, HelenKay posted the top 15 best selling romance novels for the week ending February 26, according to Bookscan. With complete admission to my laziness in copying, the list is as follows:

1. Impossible by Danielle Steel
2. Cordina's Royal Family: Gabriella & Alexander by Nora Roberts
3. Red Lily, Nora Roberts
4. The Quinn Brothers: Sea Swept/Rising Tides by Nora Roberts
5. Jude's Law by Lori Foster
6. The MacGregors: All the Possibilities/One Man's Art by Nora Roberts
7. The Truth About Love by Stephanie Laurens
8. The Barefoot Princess by Christina Dodd
9. Sex, Lies, and On-Line Dating by Rachel Gibson
10. Breakwater by Carla Neggers
11. Black Rose by Nora Roberts
12. Hearts Divided by Debbie Macomber, Katherine Stone, Lois Faye Dyer
13. Blue Dahlia by Nora Roberts
14. The Hunt by Allison Brennan
15. The Quinn Legacy by Nora Roberts

Okay. As HelenKay pointed out but you can also see and do the math for yourself, Nora Roberts holds 7 out of the top 15 slots, which is 46.7%. Nora Roberts owns almost 50% of the top selling romance novels out there for this particular week.

I did a bit of digging and found out the following:

Cordina's Royal Family: Gabriella & Alexander was first published in 1986. The edition appearing on Bookscan's list is the rerelease that came out this past February.

Same thing with The MacGregors: All the Possibilities/One Man's Art. The two original titles were released in 1985. The appearance on Bookscan is due to the rerelease on March 1st.

The Quinn Brothers: Sea Swept/Rising Tides both came out in 1998. I couldn't find a rerelase with just these two titles, but I can assume it must be one of the half-dozen re-releases I did find. This also applies for The Quinn Legacy holding the #15 spot.

Blue Dahlia, Black Rose, and Red Lily are part of a series released in Fall, 2004 through May, 2005.

So, assuming La Nora runs a tight turn-around with her work and was able to whip off her Flowers books and have them on shelves within less than a full year, she hasn't worked on any one of these books since sometime in 2004.

Books that Nora Roberts wrote 21 years ago are still appearing in the top 10 best selling romance novels for the current time period. She is sitting on 46.7% of the top 15 best-selling romance novels with books she hasn't touched in years. The phrase resting on your laurels comes to mind.

I can't begin to describe the depths of discouragement this makes me feel. Not only are all of us new writers working on an uphill battle against each other and the new work Nora cranks out by the freight-train-load every year, but also with books she wrote when many of us were in junior high or high school. How in the world does this make any sense at all?

And I'm sure I'll never be in this position, but I have to wonder if I were La Nora, would I feel maybe just a tiny bit embarrassed? I don't know. It's like going to the year-end awards banquet where you receive award after award after award. After a while, you kind of squirm in your seat when they keep calling you up to the podium. Like, maybe you think other people might deserve a nod here or there. That all of this is a little bit over the top.

Not that Roberts can do anything about her book sales. After all, she didn't even write these books recently. She's being applauded and cheered for stuff she did in an entirely different millenium. I suppose she might say "maybe not" to those rereleases, if her publishers even give her an option. But, what, is she stupid?

Okay, no more thinking about this kind of stuff. My head is starting to come off my body.

Instead, I went out and bought The Hunt by Allison Brennan. And renewed my vow, taken on that stack of holy bibles I keep for just such occasions, never to contribute to the titanic pile of books La Nora has already sold, which I imagine stretches somewhere past Pluto by now.

She's probably reached the aliens in other galaxies. So she certainly won't miss my $6.99 in the least.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Where, Oh Where, Have My Heroes Gone?

Usually, it's my heroes who come to me fully formed. I never have much trouble imagining the guys I want to write about. I know what they look like. I have an idea of their professions. I already have in mind the events of their past that have loaded them up with the baggage that will require the heroine to unload before she gets her man. Heroes are easy for me.

It's the heroines that give me grief. I think this is because they all end up sound too much alike. I figure this is because I'm a woman, and it's much harder to break away from what I myself am like to create women unlike me than it is to invent men, who are completely foreign entities without any stretch of my mind. With men, I can let my fantasies and wildest imaginings play out because there is nothing inside of me to tell me how stupid I'm being. With women, I have that little voice saying "You'd never spend $1,400 on a pair of shoes/have a one night stand with a total stranger/think having ten kids would be heaven on Earth/go downstairs to the deserted and very creepy boiler room to investigate that odd noise which may or may not be your evil cousin coming to kidnap and force you into marriage, knowing that there's a big, handsome hunk o' man waiting to rescue you."

So, what's really weird for me right now is having come up with an idea for a paranormal book and having no less than five female characters walking around the story already with nary an idea for any heroes. Honestly. I have five heroines just waiting to meet their men. But the guys? They are standing against the wall across the room, refusing to get on the floor and dance.

I have some names. I have some broad, general background in terms of world-building and the paranormal aspect of things. But I can't come up with any details. These guys are robots at this point. I'm floundering!

Anyway, I do have some good real-life examples for villains. You know, the bad guys who have motivation behind their evil deeds instead of just acting evil to move the story along? Well, maybe not good motivation, mind you, but presumably something other than reasons to twirl his mustache. I have my suspicions on that, though.

Specifically, I'm talking the lovely Bill Napoli, Republican state senator of South Dakota, who handily redefined unacceptable rape (warranting an approved abortion for any resulting pregnancies) for anyone confused by the concept. See, he's not all bad because he does have compassion for at least the miniscule percentage of unfortunate women who were truly raped and deserving of compassion, even if he believes the other 99% of rape victims probably deserve whatever they get and can just drive outside the state borders to get the help they might need in the case of a resultant pregnancy. It's that sliver of compassion that keeps old Bill from being that two-dimensional cardboard cut out villian that populate so many a-bad bodice ripper. I'm sure he also has a dog. That goes a long way in making the villain sympathetic, or so I hear. Perhaps Bill better head over to the local ASPCA and plan on adopting their entire inventory.

Strange that I would have to look no further than two states west and two states north to find a creepy, misogynistic tyrant bent on subverting women to the role of broodmares and mindless servants incapable of making their own decisions in regards to their bodies. I would have thought I'd have to travel overseas to invent such a man. It's like finding a Nazi sex offender living in your own neighborhood. Nothing could be creepier than that, proving that reality is far sicker than any fiction.

And because the state government of South Dakota which houses guys like Bill Napoli deserves all the crap we can give it, check out this from Spittle & Ink (which is hilarious) and this by Molly Ivens (which is spot on). Thanks to Smart Bitches and Storytelling for providing these links.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Not Shoes, Manolos

I know there's some debate (don't ask me where, just trust me that there is) about the use of name-brand items in contemporary books. And I extrapolate that to include any vocabulary that would be specific to a certain group of people or time period. So, for example, going on and on about the heroine's fixation on the Spring 2006 line of Manolos would be a no-no, as would referring to the hero's uber-thin cell phone as his Razr.

The argument for using specific brands/names/references is that it grounds the story in reality. It gives readers reference points they may be familiar with to help form images and impressions, and it contributes to the story by being specific. A woman who wears Manolos is quite different than one who shops at Payless. If the heroine stays home to watch the season finale episode of American Idol, many will nod their heads in understanding. And in both examples, there is something about using the words "Manolos", "Payless", and "American Idol" that fleshes things out more fully than the more generic "expensive shoes", "cheap shoes", and "reality TV program".

On the negative end, though, using specific names immediately dates the story. Granted, romance novels have fairly short shelf lives unless they become Classics. Even so, if I pick up a book in five years that goes on and on about Survivor, I'll immediately know that the story is set in the early 2000s. Which then would bring to mind other early-millenium trends that the writer may or may not want to invoke. Kind of like referencing anything that happened in the 1980s making me think of mint green shaker sweaters, mall hair, and stirrup pants.

Too, using specific names requires that the readers have the same familiarity with those brands - and all those brands imply - as the writer and the characters in the story. I, personally, have never owned a pair of Manolos. I do know that they are high end shoes, and I know that characters who wear them spend an exorbitant amount of money on something they walk on which gives them a priority structure slightly different than my own. But I have no way of understanding what might drive a woman to spend a week's pay on a pair of shoes. They must be incredibly comfortable, I'd think. Either way, I can now relate to the character who covets Manolos only to a certain degree, which is not very much.

Reason I bring all this up is because my latest read makes liberal use of modern terminology, dropping names of popular movies, television shows, and entertainers in all aspects of the story. The characters listen to modern music, they watch current DVDs and television programs, and all of these things are named very specifically. It does ground the story in today's reality. Except, some of the music I'm not familiar with, so it holds no meaning for me other than as a generic genre. Kind of the way specifying Mozart versus Beethoven would have no significance beyond the fact that the music is classical as opposed to disco or southern rock to anyone unfamiliar with the differences between the two composers.

The story also employs slang for every day objects, words that I myself don't use. It does this a lot. So much, in fact, that it came to the point where whenever I came across this one particular word, I actually stopped in the story to wonder, exactly, what that item must look like. Until finally, I headed over to the Internet to look it up. After which, I wondered why she just couldn't call it what it was.

So, this writer's use of specifics worked in both good and bad ways. Good - I got a very distinct impression of the people and world the story was set in. Bad - the stuff I didn't know took me out of the story. And I kept thinking that if this book stands the test of time, someday people aren't going to have a clue what some of this stuff is.

If a character calls something by a particular slang word or by a specific brand name, then I'm all for using it. Especially in dialogue or in close third-person perspective. But I'm thinking that when the narrative is a little more distant, perhaps being generic to a certain degree isn't such a bad thing.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Coup de Ville In a Cracker Jacks Box

I confess I rarely shop in bookstores these days. My little suburb doesn't have a mom and pop bookstore, or rather, the mom and pop bookstore that we did have couldn't compete with the Barnes & Noble and Borders a mere mile and a half down an easy road, so it packed up and moved out. It's a crime, really. My little downtown boasts, like, a gazillion restaurants of a dizzying variety of ethnicities, but we can't keep in business one decent-sized bookstore? For shame.

Anyway, since I can't support the local guy with my book-buying dollars and would be giving them to the Big Bad National Chains anyway, I do the majority of my book buying on-line. I'm nearly always guaranteed I'll find what I want at And I usually have no problem reaching the $25 limit that qualifies me for free shipping. Yeah, I have to wait a few days for my stuff to arrive, but I usually don't mind.

Another reason I don't shop in bookstores is because I rarely am child-free, which is the only way I enjoy going to bookstores. My kids don't allow me leisurely browsing rights, so it's quick in, pick up what I need, quick out when they're tagging along. I remember the glory days when hubby and I would spend hours before or after a nice dinner out, perusing the aisles of the Lincoln Park Barnes & Noble on Diversy. Bliss. Now we consider that a big treat when the kids are away at grandma and grandpa's house.

So Thursday afternoon (which looks like today based on the date of this post, but is really yesterday since I intended for this post to go live on Friday but can't figure out how to hold it until then) I found myself with some unexpected free time, so I cruised on down to B&N. I really wanted to get the second and third titles in Pamela Aiden's Fitzwilliam Darcy series (Duty and Desire and These Three Remain) and thought maybe I could find them locally rather than wait the week or so for an Amazon delivery. Plus, I was reluctant to place an Amazon order since next Tuesday Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward is due to come out. The wisest course of action would be to place one order, get my free shipping, and be done with it. But that would mean waiting an extra week for my Darcy books. You all already know that I'm not a patient person.

So off to B&N I go, happy happy happy when I find the third title in the Darcy trilogy. Sadly, the second title is not there. But that's okay. I found two other books I didn't know I desperately needed and headed off to the Borders a mere 1/10th of a mile up the road.

Borders didn't have Duty and Desire either. But...

But!!! I decided to peruse the romance section, to see if maybe DaD might be shelved there instead of in literature. And what do you suppose I found? A whole five days early??

Lover Eternal!!!

Gak! Yes, this is worthy of multitudes of exclamation points. I snatched that baby up like a Snickers bar at a fat farm.

Now, I have no idea if Borders made some kind of error and put the book on the shelf before they were supposed to. I know if this were of Harry Potter status, there's no way I would have seen a peak of this book until its official March 7 release date. All I know is that I wanted to run around the store and kiss someone, because I got this book a full two weeks earlier than I'd expected to have it (when you add in the shipping time).

So, yes, I've already jumped in head first. I won't say a word about it until end of next week, to keep the sanctity of the release date pure. No spoilers from me. Nope. No way. Do you think I'd risk pissing off the good karma that sent me stumbling blindly down the path that lead to this unexpected treasure?

Woo Hoo!!

100% Personal Eye Candy

Total, blatant rip off from Candy over at Smart Bitches as far as ideas go. It's a long way off from Valentine's Day now and I wasn't memed directly, but who needs a reason for a little eye candy? And since I'm stealing, I'll borrow also directly from Friends by lamenating my list of the 10 Famous People I'd Shag (and who my husband would probably let me):

BTW - these aren't in any order of preference, just in the way that I found the images

Gale Harold. As the character Brian Kinney on Queer as Folk, Gale was pretty much walking sex on a stick. QaF is gone, but I sure hope Gale shows up someplace soon. Yum.

Heath Ledger. Yeah, I feel like a dirty old lady and he looks like such a kid. But, man, that smile just knocks my socks off. He reminds me of being in high school.

James Marsters. I prefer him with the bleach blond Spike hair, in fact, as bad boy Spike in general. But the one episode in Buffy where he appeared with his roots grown out so darkly was probably the sexy I've ever seen him. Although, sometimes the severity of his cheekbones is a bit frightening. Talk about sculpted.

Tom Welling. Yeah, yeah, he's a pretty boy. So? What's wrong with pretty boys? Especially extremely tall, extremely pretty ones?

Matthew McConaughey. Can I just tell you how glad I am that movie execs always manage to write in at least one naked-torso Matt shot per film? What a crime it would be to cover up all that fine muscle. Only thing about Matt - he always looks to me in need of a shower. Which, actually, could be a good thing...

Jude Law. Which proves I have the ability to divorce reality from fantasy, ignoring the skank factor this guy obtained on cheating with the nanny. He's still sexy. And he has the loveliest British accent. I could listen to him talk all night long.

Vin Diesel. Which proves a boon for my husband, since I'm more than willing to sit through some pretty plot-poor, bad-dialogue action flicks just to watch Vin be bad. And good. And really bad. Oh, there was that The Pacifier movie...

Simon Baker. He's a new one on my list thanks to Something New. He's the quintessential California surfer boy. He's also one who makes me question why romance readers don't tend to prefer blond heroes.
Colin Firth. Yeah, I'm sorry. It's Darcy, I know. But...I just can't help myself. Only when I saw Colin as Darcy did I understand the true appeal of cravats and lacy shirts. Who could ever resist The Look? My hubby just doesn't get Colin's appeal, since he really is kind of an every-man. That's the point, isn't it?

Viggo Mortensen. Do I get points because I found a shot that isn't Viggo-as-Aragorn? Because, really, the guy is sexiest when he's all grungy and return-of-the-king-y. I prefer him with a bit of scruff, but even without beard, the man is something to behold.

So, these are the current Top Ten, subject to change on my whims. That's the nicest thing about living in the fantasy world; no hurt feelings when you get bumped from the list.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Please, Just Stop

I'm not a pedant. I can overlook a lot of the little liberties people take with the English language because I'm certainly not perfect. But if I hear one more improper use of the phrase "you and I," I think I'm going to scream.

This problem seems to be endemic to songwriters. Maybe it's because it sounds proper or eloquent or something to say you and I as opposed to the correct you and me, thus lending some kind of elevated status to the lyrics. Or perhaps it's because the next line requires the use of I for rhyming purposes. Whatever the reason, it's not good enough to butcher the language, and instead of endearing the song to me, grates on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard and causes me to wince when I hear the opening strains, knowing what is soon to come.

Specifically, what got my panties in a twist this morning is the Keith Urban song, "Tonight I Want to Cry." Lyrics are as follows:

Alone in this house again tonight
I got the TV on, the sound turned down and a bottle of wine
There's pictures of you and I on the walls around me
The way that it was and could have been surrounds me
I'll never get over you walkin' away

Now, I can see how changing the wording to be correct results in a very awkward repetition of me - There's pictures of you and me on the walls around me - but, hey, even in the country song writing business, there's no such thing as a free lunch. If you're a person of Keith's success and fame, I think it's worth the extra half hour or so to find a way to make it work. In fact, without having the melody running in the background to be certain, I think even There's pictures of us on the walls around me would work well enough beat-wise. (And I'm ignoring, for this particular rant, the miss-use of There's since it should, properly, be There are pictures...)

I know Mr. Urban is Australian, but I have it on very good authority from friends who live in Sydney that Australians don't make a habit of saying "There's pictures of I on the walls..." so, sorry, Keith, differences in Australian and US English won't cut it for an excuse.

For any songwriters out there who simply do it wrong because they don't quite understand the rules, I'll clarify them right here. The word I is a personal pronoun used when I am the subject of the sentence:

I am going to the store.
I like chocolate mint Girl Scout cookies.
I tore my pantyhose, and now I am in a really bad mood.

If I and a friend are doing something together, I remains I:

Tina and I are having lunch.
The kids and I love pizza with extra cheese.
My husband and I went to St. Thomas on our honeymoon.

When I become the object of the sentence, I becomes me:

Wendy [subject] gave me [indirect object] the book on King Henry VIII's six wives.
Jenny [subject] told me [indirect object] the neighbor across the street is having an affair with the cable repair man.

Even when another person joins in the fun, me does not become I if we are still the objects of the sentence:

There are pictures of you and me on the wall.
The dog woke my husband and me up this morning by jumping on our bed and barking for her breakfast.
The doctor told Grandma and me that Uncle Charlie only has three months to live.

If all this object/subject stuff is just too high school grammar class to remember, there is a very easy test to make sure you have it right - a test any songwriter can apply with little effort. Simply take away the other person and see how the sentence sounds:

There are pictures of you and I on the wall.
The dog woke my husband and I up this morning by jumping on my bed and barking for her breakfast.
The doctor told Grandma and I that Uncle Charlie only has three months to live.

Uh...yeah, no. Doesn't work, does it?

So, Keith, maybe you could pass the word? No more sloppy lyrics, if you please. It's killing I me.