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!