Archive for September, 2006


In Honor of Jill: Eat Cake Instead

Poor Jill Shalvis is giving up cookies.

So I wrote this poem for her:

I be happy,

If I have cake

I don’t need no cookies

If I have cake

So Jill, please don’t be sad

You can’t have cookies

But you can have cake


Jorrie Spencer Talks to Us: Sense of Place

Not all romances—or all novels—have a particularly strong sense of place, and not all need one. But I’ve been thinking of the handful of contemporary romances whose setting—world-building, I guess, though in this sense it represents a real place—stayed with me over the past couple of years. Chesapeake Blue was my first Nora Roberts novel. I didn’t know it was part of series when I picked it up. (It stood alone.) What hooked me immediately was the opening and its description of Seth, an artist, coming home.

Maryland’s Eastern Shore was a world of marshes and mudflats, of wide fields with row crops straight as soldiers. It was flatland rivers with sharp shoulders, and secret tidal creeks where the heron fed. It was blue crab and the Bay, and the waterman who harvested them… As he drove across the bridge, his artist’s eye wanted to capture that moment—the rich blue water and the boats that skimmed its surface, the quick white waves and the swoop of greedy gulls. The way the land skimmed its edge, and spilled back with its browns and greens. All the thickening leaves of the gum and oak trees, with those flashes of color that were flowers basking in the warmth of spring.

I loved “straight as soldiers” and remembered it forever. And descriptions of water and ocean, while not the only setting I enjoy, evoke a strong reaction. Seth is returning to a place he loves and this shines through. Suzanne McMinn‘s Cole Dempsey’s Back in Town is a category romance—my favorite category, soon-to-be-defunct Silhouette Intimate Moments—set in Louisana. In the opening, McMinn intertwines backstory and description.

Cole Dempsey stared up the oak-canopied drive to the classic columns fronting the antebellum Bellefleur Plantation. The Greek revival-style monstrosity had filled his waking fantasies and sleeping nightmares for fifteen long and bitter years. Someone owed. He was here to collect.… The mansion rose before him as timeless as the Mississippi that flowed behind it, holding its secrets, its lies, its fears, its ghosts. And sweet, false Bryn Louvel. Now that he was here, the emotions that came with the magnolia-laden air, the river-swept breeze, the memory-churned past hit harder than he’d expected. Amidst the buzzes, hums and whispers of the late-spring evening came the sounds of the past—the mental audio reel of another May night.

Like Seth, Cole is also coming home, but the horror of a certain night is laced through the description, which effectively roots the story in place and makes the reader ask what happened. And how can I not end with Jennifer Crusie, who does much with her book, but certainly manages to evoke small town in Welcome to Temptation. (WTT was also the book that brought me back to reading contemporary romances, so everything within its pages had a strong effect upon me.)

The town proper was on the other side of a muddy river that streamed sullenly under a gunmetal bridge at the bottom of the hill. Beyond the bridge, the land rose up green and lush behind smug little brick-and-frame houses, and as the hills rose, the houses got bigger, much bigger. Sophie knew the kind of people who lived in houses like that. Not Her Kind.… The flesh-colored, bullet-shaped tower thrust through the trees at the top of the hill, so aggressively phallic that Sophie forgot to fidget with her rings as she stared at it. “Hello. Do you suppose they did that on purpose? I mean, you couldn’t accidentally paint it to look like that, could you?” “Maybe Phineas T. is compensating. I don’t care. I love this town.

Sophie is not coming home. She’s a stranger arriving in a town she believes she will hate: smug and sullen. But Sophie (and Crusie) also has a sense of humor. What are some of your favorite romance settings? Places that have stuck with you for months if not years after reading the book? I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I came back to read these openings, but one thing is certain: each of these descriptions has an emotional component which I believe makes the sense of place more effective and more vivid.

Jorrie Spencer

On September 26 my book Haven goes on sale at Samhain Publishing.

She’s taking questions! 😉


Kym Ragusa: The Skin Between Us

I picked up this book on a whim.

It’s a memoir, which puts it in my “I don’t usually read this” category, about growing up biracial in America.

I didn’t expect to enjoy The Skin Between Us this much, and I definitely didn’t expect to want and finish it in one sitting.

But Ragusa is a wonderful writer, and the images she paints of her life so far are vivid.
I definitely recommend this book.

This rates 9 out of 10.


David & Leigh Eddings: Crystal Gorge


Do you know what the copyeditor didn’t catch? 4 replieds in 1 mass-market paperback page.

Freaking amazing, isn’t it? And if it was Mrs and Mr Eddings who STETed the replieds…

I couldn’t enjoy the book after that! I saw dialogue tags everywhere!

What am I going to do? I haven’t started on the Malloreon yet (and I desperately want to read it) and I’ve a feeling I’ll see tags everywhere too.

This rates 5 out of 10.


It’s All Jay’s Fault

Last night, I had a dream. Or rather, nightmare.

I dreamt that the RTB post I’m working on for November went up on the site.

In my dream, I didn’t even realise that it was my day until it popped up on my RSS feeds.Then I immediately rushed to the site and found that OMG, it wasn’t long enough because I hadn’t finished it!

And I’m blaming it on Jay because she started having nightmares first. Who’s gonna be next? Bev?


Janine Cross: Touched By Venom

I like her writing.

And I thought I was going to follow the trilogy.

But halfway through the book, I suddenly put it down and it took me two weeks to go back to it.

I finished it, but I feel that Cross’s protagonist is a tourist. Everything happens to people around her. I keep waiting for her to do something, but she’s yet to do anything.

This rates 6 out of 10.


Thirteen Things: Midnight Snacks

1. Scrambled eggs. Plain, and hopefully salted enough.

2. Plain toast–preferably with good bread, but Wonderbread and its like will do in a pinch.

3. Instant noodles.

4. Instant noodles tossed in my mom’s sauce, which is made from dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, pepper, a bit of salt, onion and sesame oil, and a bit of chicken stock (water if there’s no stock).

5. Pasta, done aglio olio. Garlicky, spicy goodness! You can make the oil part in the bowl you plan to eat the pasta from, by making it in the microwave.

6. Cake. It’s really, all cake, all the time, but I needed to fill a slot, so….

7. Ice cream.

8. Cheese toast.

9. A good, rich and thick cup of cocoa/chocolate/coffee. Sometimes, I go a little crazy and mix all three.

10. Fruit. I really like fruit. There are few kinds of fruit I won’t eat.
11. Nuts. Cashew nuts, at the moment.

12. Alcohol. Not something I’ve tried, mind, but I imagine at the rate I’m going, eventually it’ll happen.

13. Fried Rice.

If you did a , comment, and I’ll link to you!

What Colleen Read As A Kid aka, What? No Enid Blyton?

Get your Thursday Thirteen Code here!


Roxanne St. Claire: Kill Me Twice

You have a twin sister who is perfect. She is never late etc.

One day, she asks you to fly to where she now lives. But when you arrive, she doesn’t pick up the phone. Never mind, you head on over to her apartment.

When you get there, there’s a bodyguard waiting for you, who mistakes you for your twin because he’s not actually met her. This bodyguard was hired for her by her boss, who’s worried about stalkers.

You’re a private investigator. Your sister’s gone. There are stalkers involved. Don’t you think that there’s something wrong with the picture?

If you’re Jasmine Adams, you don’t.

It ruined the whole book for me.

This rates 3 out of 10.


Monday Movie: The Devil Wears Prada

Yes, call the tabloids! I actually went to the movies!

I went to kill some time, and this was the only one I was remotely interested in watching at the time I was there–the other being Little Man, and I absolutely refuse to watch that.

I liked it.

I’m sure I’ve a character somewhere that I can use Miranda Priestly as a model for. Every writer should write a Dragon Lady character like Priestly in her/his lifetime, especially if you’re a she. I honestly rather BE a Dragon Lady, but it requires work and me lazy.

Andrea Sachs…Sigh. Why oh why oh why oh why must she turn out nice? Why couldn’t she have turned her back on Nate and her journalism dream and become another Miranda Priestly? Mind you, I think Anne Hathaway did a good job.

Wait, I think this is a roman a clef, right? I know Lauren Weisberger wrote the novel of the same name which this movie is based on, but is it a roman a clef? I don’t know.

Mary Sue. Mary Sue. Mary Sue.

This rates 8.5 out of 10.


Nail Polish and Me

I have a love-hate relationship with nail polish.

I like it.

I enjoy the act of putting it on.

But I always manage to ruin one nail before I’m even done! That nail is the one attached to my right index finger.

Now, in the next hour, I should be able to ruin the rest.


PS If you want to know, I painted them deep purple, overlayered that with a light champagne gold before adding a clear overcoat.


Jon Courtenay Grimwood: Felaheen

I figure if I gush enough, somebody will go buy his books.

This is the third and final book of the Arabesk series, and it ties up the plotlines very well.

It’s set in El Iskandryia, which appears to be an amalgam of various Middle East cities.

The star is Ashraf, maybe a Bey, maybe an al-Mansur, maybe an Emir’s son. And maybe none of them.

He’s been the Chief of Detectives in El Isk, the magister, the prosecutor… I can’t remember what else.

Now he lives in the al-Mansur madersa with 2 of the richest women in North Africa…and he’s in debt.

Sigh. It’s the last book. 😦

I haven’t reviewed his work before because his books defy description. Cross-genre doesn’t begin to cover it. It’s a detective novel set in a cyberpunk world with what I think are bits of allegory (but we all know I don’t get allegory).

But I really love his work. A large part of it is that I really like his voice. I’ll read anything he writes. In fact, I’ve been reading his work about a novel a week and I’ve not gotten bored of his voice yet.
This rates 10 out of 10.


On Gender and Double Standards

This drives me absolutely nuts.

Gender should not dictate life choices or societal expectations.

Future housefrau Dr. Paul talks about how things haven’t changed. Very true. Househusbands are still very much a rarity.

I do have friends who think that university is just a place to find a husband. Doug‘s met a woman like this before. And, to be fair, I wouldn’t mind, if the guy’s rich. LOL.

The specific point Paul mentioned was that it’s fine, even normal, for a woman to feel that way. But if a man says the same thing…He’s not considered a real man.

A man doesn’t knit or cross-stitch or do any similar crafty stuff. He should be in the garage, tuning his sexy sportscar.

On the other hand, if a woman’s in the garage, tuning her sexy sportscar…People think, “Wow! What an independent woman!” She’s taken a huge step forward for feminism!
Karin brings up a different kind of double standards: Parents treat daughters differently from sons.

They definitely do. It’s the whole “One penis vs a whole world of penises” issue, like Elisabeth said.

What it all boils down to is that I’m an adult with rather less freedom than her younger by three years brother.

Understand, it’s by choice that I don’t date. I’ve 2 brothers and dozens of boy cousins around my age and older. I believe that boys are only good for carrying shopping bags until they reach their early twenties. By nature, I’m not a partier either.

Nor is it that I’m not allowed out the house. I am. My parents just insist on finding out who I’m with, where I’m going and what time I’ll be back before I leave the house. My brother leaves the house, grabs his bike and cycles a couple of kilometers away to his pal’s place and comes home whenever.

They pick me up from school, whereas my brothers, including the youngest who’s 6 years younger than me, return home on their own.

I can live with that, because I know I’m leaving. That is my endgame, and that’s what I’m playing for.

That said, I’m relatively lucky.

I’ve girlfriends whose parents spend tens of thousands of dollars to send them overseas to study.

This girl, we’ll call her R, is super-smart. She regularly tops the maths and physics classes. She wants to become an engineer.

What’s wrong with that? I say nothing. You’d probably say the same thing. In fact, if you don’t, this probably isn’t a blog you want to read.

Her parents say that it’s not a career that suitable for a girl. They want her to become a teacher because it’s ‘suitable for a girl.’

WTF? You are paying soooo much for her study in a good school, and when she wants to become an engineer, you decide that she should be a teacher instead?

This are Asian parents you’re talking about. Money Money Money. Engineers earn more than teachers! And it’s not like she wants to become an artist.

Sometimes people really fuck with my head.


7 Questions with Lilith Saintcrow

1. On a scale of one to ten, rank your current level of insanity–where ten is belongs-in-lunatic-asylum insane–and tell us why.

About a seven. I can function in the real world (mostly) as long as people don’t expect too much of me. As I often tell my friends, “you can have me organized, or you can have me writing. Pick one.” I’m terminally messy and have learned to try to leave the house an hour before I need to go anywhere, so I will eventually end up leaving on time. My friend Mel says that for someone who can’t wear a watch I’m amazingly prompt–but I have to schedule in time for me to wander around the house looking for things that are already in my purse to be so.

I do wander around muttering to my characters sometimes, and I have been known to black out fight scenes in my back yard or at random while speaking to people. One part of me is there and paying attention, but about sixty percent of me is always working on the book, turning over plot lines, blocking out scenes. I do get some strange looks. Some part opf me is always working on the current book. I suppose that qualifies as compulsive.

2. Working For The Devil is the first book in the Danny Valentine series. It’s unique in that you’ve planned for five books. That’s unusual given that such series tend to be open-ended. Is there a reason for it?

It’s just the way the story went. I realized very early (while I was writing Book 2, Dead Man Rising) that there was an arc and a natural place for the story to end, and that five books was going to be it, world without end, amen. There is another series planned for that world, having to do with the daughter of two of Danny’s friends and the Hell Wars, but that’s not for a couple years (once I finish this current slew of projects.)

I can’t see dragging out a series just-because. I’ve got to have the ending in sight. I function best when I can see the whole arc of the story stretching out under me.

3. I read on your blog that you are already part way through the last Danny Valentine novel. Are you just a very very fast writer, or had you already begun writing the next titles in the Danny Valentine series when you sold the first one?

I was pretty much done with book 2 by the time I signed the contract for books one and two. My editor knew that books 3-5 were planned, and we did have a conversation about them as soon as we got on the phone the first time. So I went into a creative frenzy, doing revisions on books 1 and 2, then going full-bore and writing 3 and 4. It was a case of Dante wanting her story told yesterday. She’s a very demanding character to have inside one’s head.

I am naturally a fast writer. I tend to have two or three books I’m working on, and when a project heats up I’m capable of knocking out six to seven thousand words a day. On a good day most of them are even usable, *grin*. I write fast and get the whole skeleton of a book out, then it goes to beta readers, who tell me where it needs more muscles and nerves.

I tend to see so clearly what’s happening in a certain scene that there are things I take for granted; luckily, I have wonderful beta readers who tell me, “You’ve got to put more here, and tell us what’s going on here.” I’ve gotten better at knowing how to give more than just the bare bones as a result.

4. Are you contracted through to the last Danny Valentine book? *fingers and everything else crossed*

I’m contracted through book 4, and my editor knows about book 5. Chances are very very good that book 5 will be spoken for sometime next year. I’m taking my time with it, partly because it is the last book and it needs time to flower and be what it should be. I also have revisions on books 3 and 4 that will materially affect book 5, so I’ve decided to just take it very easy and wait until revisions are done before I devote myself fully to the last book. It’s in my head, but I want to get it right on the page.

5. As an indie bookseller, is there any advice, as a bookseller, you have for authors? Especially with regards to author promotion?

Etiquette. Etiquette, etiquette, etiquette. Call the bookseller in advance to keep in contact and to make sure there are no last-minute snags. Arrange getting your books to the store if necessary, and always keep a case of your books in your trunk. Be polite to the bookstore people organizing this event. Chances are a: they love your work and b: are not doing their job for money. Be kind to them. If nobody shows up at an event, content yourself with the thought that the employees will hand-sell your book if they like it and like you. Also, don’t get drunk at readings, and use some common sense.

There’s a story I tell about a particular author who sent out a mass-mailing of postcards for her book. The postcards were ill-designed, making it look like our store had sent them, which was problem #1, since we feel very strongly about customer privacy and will never do direct mailings. (We do have an email list, though.) Then, to add insult to injury, the author put the wrong address for the store on the postcards. This was a perfect storm of things you should not do.

Someone else ended up handling this author’s event, because I was off at a convention that weekend. Left to my own devices, we would never have had the author in the store, and I was quite vocal about it among the employees, who agreed with me. That’s the sort of thing that will get you, quite frankly, not invited back. And it all could have been avoided with a little common sense–for example, if the author had asked us before doing the mailing, or even vetted the design with us.

6. The Watcher books you published with ImaJinn are romances, in the sense that there is a happy ever after for the couple in each one. Will you be writing more books like those any time soon?

There are two more Watcher books already finished and waiting to come out (Cloud Watcher and Mindhealer.) The Society series has another book or two in it that I haven’t gotten around to writing yet. Most of my books do have what I consider the right endings; I don’t try to shoehorn a “happy” ending onto them if it won’t fit. I’ve written two Watcher books that end “badly,” and for various reasons the publisher can’t use them.

Interestingly enough, even my “happy” endings come at a terrible price for the people involved. Go figure.

But yes. I plan at least two more Watcher books after Mindhealer, to finish out the second trilogy. I plan the other two Society books, once my schedule loosens a little. Last but not least, there are other paranormal romances I want to write. So there’s definitely more in that pipeline.

7. I’ve not read everything you’ve published, but it seems to me that all of them are dark. Do you think you could find it in you to write something lighter?

I don’t seem to have much control over it. Stephen King likens writing to getting stuff stuck in your mental filter–what sticks in my filter may pass right through someone else’s, and what sticks in someone else’s might pass right through mine. I suppose the darker types of fiction just stick in my mental filter, though it’s not at all the only thing I read or watch. I’m pretty wide in my tastes when it comes to books and films, but I seem to be stuck being a dark urban-fantasy pulp hack. 🙂

Most of my stuff is very dark, yes. But the flip side of that is, I am obsessed with the theme of redemption. Is redemption possible for someone whose job is dirty and awful? Is redemption possible for someone who has committed great crimes? Are there any situations in which violence is an appropriate response? What kind of person do you have to be, what crisis do you have to pass through, before you can be redeemed? What type of person can do terrible things and long for redemption? I strongly believe that the violence and darkness in my books has a purpose and a point. I don’t write gore just for the sake of gore.

I spent a lot of time when I was younger hanging out with what my friend Monk calls “petty thugs.” I also spent a lot of time hanging out on city streets at night, watching street kids and gangs and petty and major violence as well as drug use and prostitution and all sorts of other stuff. I saw tremendous self-sacrifice and families made on the strength of friendship ties. I also saw damaged people striking out and damaging other people. I saw horrific things and beautiful things. I suppose those experiences have never left me. I’m fascinated with marginal people, people on the outskirts, people who are different or who can’t submerge into the mainstream. (Plus I worked retail for years, which was an education in wierdness in and of itself.)

Even my light stuff has very dark subtexts. I’ve written stuff I think is very light and frothy, and a beta reader will point out very dark undercurrents. I just can’t seem to get away from staring into the abyss.

Lili’s site is here, and this is her blog. Dead Man Rising is the second title in the Danny Valentine series, and should be in a bookstore near you.

Her new forum, The Saint City Street Fair, is now open. Register, comment in the contest thread stickied in the Welcome forum, and you could win a signed copy of Working For The Devil.


Lilith Saintcrow: Dead Man Rising

I did worry that Dead Man Rising wouldn’t be as good as the first Dante Valentine book, Working For The Devil, but I shouldn’t have. Angie’s right.

It’s a more stately book than WFTD. Not that it’s not a page-turner, but that…I don’t know, I think it’s Danny’s sadness over You-Know-Who (it’s a spoiler if you’ve not read WFTD and why haven’t you?).

DMR is the book in which Danny faces her childhood. And it does have a happy ending. Sort of–this is Lili we are talking about, so happy endings cost the characters something.

I enjoyed meeting Polyamour the sexwitch and Nikolai the Nichtvren. I think I’m in love with Nicolai and he was only in the book for a few pages!

Go buy this book. Or WFTD if you haven’t read it yet.

This rates 9.5 out of 10.


Marianne De Pierres: Crash Deluxe

With each Parrish Plessis novel I read, Marianne‘s writing grows on me.

As does Parrish herself.
It’s a book for people who want a more sci-fi-type Dante Valentine
series, with a bit less of the paranormal/supernatural elements.

This series is rather less focused on Parrish and more on the world around her, which isn’t to say that she’s a tourist, and just that you find out a great deal more about the world Marianne’s created than you might normally do. Without infodumps, I might add.

When I read the first book in the series, Nylon Angel, I didn’t review it. I didn’t know what to say about it beyond the fact that I enjoyed it.

Now, I’ll just say that Parrish is a kick-ass heroine and you should go and buy Nylon Angel. She really does grow on you. 😉

This rates 8.5 out of 10.


John Donohue: Deshi

This is the second book is Donohue‘s Burke-Yamashita series.

I read the first one, Sensei, and didn’t like it, but I picked this one up at the library anyway.

It’s better. It’s more polished and the sentences are less clunky. The book ties up better, with less loose ends too, as I remember it.

But the real reason why I reviewed this book was to share with you this description by Connor Burke, in whose point-of-view this book is written from, of his brother the cop and his partner:

they hovered for awhile like mad wizards over a Xerox machine

For some reason, it struck me as hilarious. Hey, there are worse reasons to review a book, like to pan it!

This rates 7 out of 10.


Rachel Caine: Firestorm

Rachel appears to be taking a step into the darkness with this series.

Things become grayer, as in, they aren’t so black and white.

It’s a surprising turn, and it’s a good one. I think readers who, like me, were getting bored with the series are no longer bored.

Jo appears more alone…and less predictable in this book. I think Rachel‘s setting us up for something truly stunning in the next book

As with Windfall (if you want a review, let me know), this book ends with a cliffhanger. Sigh. July 2007 people. And I’ve already read the excerpt. This is bad readers, bad.

This rates a 9 out of 10.


JR Ward: Lover Awakened

Well, the WARDen, as her fans call her, didn’t use the Scribe Virgin as a cop-out again.

It’s a solid romance novel. I feel that the romance between Zsadist and Bella works better than Wrath’s and Beth’s, for instance.

I think this is the book that makes her as a writer. Not as in she won’t get any better, but that she has found her footing and has matured.

Some might feel that the book might be tighter and better if she cut out the scenes that don’t deal with Zsadist and Bella. I don’t disagree entirely with that. Like Jane, I think that we don’t really need to know so much about the lessers.

Her “worldbuilding” annoys me: If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, you can call it a duck, you feel me? Unless it has 3 legs, has neon green feathers, a pointed beak and squeaks, you can call it a duck. In fact, just call it a duck!

There are inverted commas around worldbuilding because changing contest to cohntest is NOT worldbuilding! Really. It’s not.

We won’t get into the names here. Me, I just think they are hilarious. Especially the part about us readers letting her get away with it.

Despite all that, the Black Dagger Brotherhood has largely lost its magic for me. I want to still love it, but I don’t. It’s just hard to love a writer you don’t trust.

One last thing: On page 219, it says whard with regards to someone asking for sehclusion status for his sister. But according to the glossary, it says that whard means godmother or godfather, and that the most powerful level of ghardian is that of a sehcluded female. Copyediting error? Or am I reading something wrong here?

This rates 7 out of 10.


Jeff Lindsay: Dearly Devoted Dexter

I totally loved this book, which is the follow-up to Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which I unfortunately haven’t read.

It’s written from Dexter Morgan’s point of view, and he’s a serial killer.

A sort-of good serial killer, if there’s such a thing.

In this book, someone’s onto him and in order to protect his secret, he’s had to stop killing. It is very darkly comical.

This rates 10 out of 10.


Nora Roberts: Morrigan’s Cross

I wanted to love this book so bad!

Nora Roberts + Vampires = 10/10, right?


I struggled through the first hundred pages.

And after the first hundred pages, it got better, but I never really connected.

I could differentiate the character voices. I could appreciate the stylistic shifts within the book. And the mythos was pretty well woven together, if it wasn’t terribly far from the usual.

She just wasn’t as good as I remembered.

This rates a 6 out of 10.