Monday, December 31, 2007


Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Heart of Stone
Author: C. E. Murphy
Spoiler level: low

You walk by a big old building and look up at a gargoyle and think, what if that thing came alive and flew around at night? What if it only just now froze and pretended to be a statue, but as soon as I look away, it will fly somewhere? That's the situation in Heart of Stone, where author C.E. Murphy has created a wonderful shadow world of 'Old Races,' and gargoyles are one of them. Alban, the gargoyle hero here, gets the prize for the coolest shifted form, as well as for being incredibly nice.

I love the moments where people are first putting things together, where the paranormal bleeds into the normal. My great moment from last night's reading was when our heroine, Margrit, is with this not-yet-believing fellow, and they're looking out the window and they see a gargoyle on a high ledge, and she's like, was there a gargoyle there before? He thinks surely there was. But then later, there isn't one there at all. Ooops.

There are five Old Races - dragons, djinn, vampires, gargoyles and the weird selkies, sort of like sea lion people. Actually, all five of the categories spend much of their time in human form. And in the case of the dragon and the djinn, they spend time in human forms that have a bit of the batman villain in them, and I mean that in the most positive sense possible.

Ah, the infamous clawed door

Great moments from last night's reading
Book: Demon Angel
Author: Meljean Brook
Page: Finished
Spoiler level: HIGH HIGH HIGH

I distinctly recall being midway through this book and thinking to myself, gosh, how are these two EVER going to be together? So it was delicious when they finally were, in the infamous clawed-door sex scene. I am a big fan of power-balance shifting in my fiction, and that scene, which I will not attempt to recount, did it wonderfully. But the moment from last night's reading I want to appreciate here came well after that delightful scene. It was when Lilith and Hugh returned to Lilith's apartment to get her clothes and they discover the door has been removed, taken, most likely, to be analyzed in a forensic lab. I just loved that, and it sort of doubled the pleasure of the initial scene just thinking of somebody in a lab trying to make sense of that evidence. I don't have a list of top 2007 reads, but this one would be somewhere near the top.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Welcome to my planet

Great moments from last night's reading
Book: My Fair Captain
Author: J. L. Langley
Page: 40
Spoiler level: low

I often think it would be so great to live in the olden days, and England's Regency period (early 1800's) is quite attractive. Then I think, But wait! Medieval dental procedures! Lack of women's rights!

In My Fair Captain, J. L. Langley has quite neatly gotten around this problem by creating an outer space society that's based on the Regency model. You have all the fun of Regency clothes and courtship rituals and castles and balls, plus all the high-tech conveniences you'd want. I would totally live there. And if you are a secretly gay and hunky spaceship captain on assignment to the planet Regelence, you are also quite pleased to note that this Regency society is quite different from traditional Regency societies in another key way.

I always love a good "reveal" moment in a book where a character is really surprised by something the reader already knows and this one was fun. Nate's superior, Carl, informs Nate that he'll be the guest of King Steven and his consort, Raleigh while investigating a crime. Carl goes on to say,
"I doubt you will be recognized, but if you are it will not be a big deal. And while we are on the subject, Steven and Raleigh are the only ones who will know the true reason you’re there. Off the record, I know both of these men personally. They are good men and they aren’t involved. You can trust them fully. However, officially you report to me. You’ll be briefed fully when you—”

Nate blinked, totally losing track of what the admiral was saying. Did he say—surely not. “Wait. Did you say he? The king’s consort is a man?” Societies like the one they were discussing, like the one Nate grew up in, did not tolerate same-sex relationships.

The admiral laughed. “Did I forget to mention that Regelence is a very patriarchal society?"
Very patriarchal indeed! The entire ruling class is gay. There are lube faucets in every bedroom. This book also has a delightful "duel scene" opening. The text is written in a highly conversational way, and therefore sort of lax on language, but that's part of the personality of the tale here. I find myself thinking about this story a lot when I'm not reading it. I won this book on a contest at Lisabea's Nose in a Book blog, and it's tons of fun. Thanks! I'm at the part where fair captain Nate is about to attend a ball. Will he be able to retain his professional demeanor around enchanting young swain Adrian? I hope not!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What's wrong with suddenly? and other forbidden and hated words

I wish I could remember where I read this the other day, but some web writing authority suggested that there is no good use for the word suddenly in fiction. Yes, yes, I can see the point, show and don't tell, but gosh, suddenly is a kind of go-to word for me. I can't imagine a world without suddenlies!
A writing mentor of sorts of mine, who has steered me right in oh so many things, does not like the word seems in non-dialogue descriptions for the same reason. (Example: The man seems angry.) This is another show don't tell issue. Better to tell the reader that the man is frowning, or frothing at the mouth and clawing at somebody's face.

I try to do this, but every once in a while I really want to use a seems construction. It is like my lazy forbidden fruit. Yummy!

The word select as a verb used to irritate the hell out of me. Why not pick or choose? I felt that, as a verb, select sort of puts on airs. Please select a color. But I don't hate that word anymore because sometimes you want a verb to put on airs. However, I do dislike the word dollop. It's just too precise; there's no wiggle room in it. I know that's a bad explanation, and I know it's not fair because there are no other words that mean what dollop means. But there it is.

My husband dislikes the word nosh as a replacement for words like eating or snacking. I am in complete sympathy with him on that. Though in a certain devilish mood I will use it in a conversation with him.

Do other people have words they single out unfairly to dislike? Could any other words possibly be more deserving of it than dollop or nosh?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Characters and taste

Great moments from last night's reading
Book: Demon Angel
Author: Meljean Brook
Page: 160
Spoiler level: medium

Okay, I’m almost halfway through Demon Angel and SO enjoying it - it rises well above most books I’ve read lately, in genre and ordinary literature. I see now why everybody loves it. The big fun is the interplay between characters, especially Lilith and Hugh, and Lilith and Colin. It just sizzles and crackles!

But the enjoyable moment I want to talk about from last night is sort of small. It was getting insight into Hugh’s character and current circumstances through his aesthetic sense, specifically his décor, shown here through Lilith’s eyes: dark wood, thick rug, “everything here was uncluttered, minimalist. She would have thought it sterile if not for the colors...” which are warm and rich and bright. And then, “apparently he abhorred white.” Hugh, with his heavenly heritage and pedigree stretching back to antiquity, goes for a contemporary and warm decoration scheme, which is quite at odds from what he is, or at least has been most of his life. In this way, the décor went beyond making sense for Hugh's personality, it actually went to the plot. It characterizes him, and at the same time, suggests his unease with aspects of himself, something that’s becoming evident elsewhere. And Lilith, of course, notices his preferences because she loves him. Oh, the pathos!

I love hearing about characters' artistic sensibilities. Laurel K. Hamilton was great at this, too. I’ll never forget Jean Claude’s decorating schemes, or the time he sent Anita Blake a bunch of roses after she was hurt, and they were all white except one red one. And then Richard, who’s way more a wildflower guy, sees them and could not be more full of derision. I don’t have this example on hand, but I recall Nalini Singh put a lot of thought into the décor Lucas chose for his werewolfy treehouse-like home.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas gift exchange in Romancelandia

Welcome to the Christmas Advent Tour edition of my blog.

For my contribution, I thought it might be interesting to see what our favorite characters (or at least my favorite characters) are giving each other for the holidays.

Coming soon: New header by Bettie!

I won Bettie Sharpe's Pay it Forward contest where she generously offered to do a design project for each winner. So I asked her to put together a new header for this here blog. I am SO excited to see what she comes up with. NO pressure, Bettie!

I believe she is working on it now, unless I have totally annoyed her with all my little caveats. And I will be running my own pay it forward contest, as soon as I can think of an equally cool prize. So much excitement.

Bettie Sharpe, author of Ember
and the forthcoming Like a Thief in the Night,
is pictured here relaxing at her LA home.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A perfect little scene

Great moments from last night's reading
Book: Demon Angel
Author: Meljean Brook
Page: 79
Spoiler level: low

I love when angelic Guardian Hugh and demonic Lilith are standing on a London rooftop in 1666 as the city burns, and he presents her with a bound quarto of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus.

"Her heart thundered. 'You would give this to me?'"
Of course, Hugh knows she has haunted various writers and poets, though she can't tell him why such things are so important to her, then,
They staggered as the roof buckled and caved; a hole opened yards from where they stood. Flames shot up, sparks showered down around them. Yes, it was much like Below. What would Lucifer do should she have such a gift in her possession? She wouldn't be able to hide it, or excuse it. It was not a theft--was not something she could cover with a lie.

She clenched her hands by her sides, tempered her shields, and forced the words through the tightness in her throat. "No. I want nothing so worthless."

His features hardened, and his gaze dropped to the book. He slid his palm reverently over the tooled leather cover.

Then he tossed it into the fiery pit beside them and walked away.

Oh, she so wanted the book! I loved this moment; it was so poignant, and so dramatically illustrative of their whole relationship. Also, I love how these two stand around conversing in the midst of lots of action. With a lot of books, if you think about them too hard, especially when it comes to plot and character motivation, they fall apart. While I'm still early on in the book, I have to say, the more I think about the plot and the people, the richer and more interconnected the text becomes, the more tightly it holds together, even grips, sort of like a Chinese finger trap. Well woven, Ms. Brook!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Dear Black Dagger Brotherhood,

Please, my brothers! April 1st was so long to wait, but now you say you won’t be back until June 3rd? Please reconsider! SEVEN LONG MONTHS is too long to wait. I miss you so much! I miss your crazy sayings and your red smoke and freakass tattoos and music, and even your giant SUVs, even though I am personally against them.

I am interested in what you have to say—I am!!! And I want to get to know your brother Phury, and I want to long for the union of him and his woman as only you can make me long, and I want to be vicariously satisfied when they finally unite as ONLY you and your XXXL craziness can satisfy me. I cannot wait SEVEN LONG MONTHS!

Is it something I said? Yes, I was disappointed about Jane being a you know what, but it’s only because I love you and I didn’t want that for you. I understand now that VU was one of your most creative endeavors. I was such a fool not to recognize it, not to blog about it. It’s okay with me if you make the women you know whats, if only you will let me back into your world. I don’t even care about the women, it’s all about you and your world, and the mannish way you help and comfort each other, and your booth at the club, and the way you go around, a little bit victims and a little bit badass victimizers. Please, HURRRRRY.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

6-10 of the 10 coolest things about Keri Arthur's Riley Jenson Guardian series

6. Memorable hero entrance. I loved the entrance of Talon in Book #1, Full Moon Rising, for its over-the-topness. Setting: werewolf nightclub. Talon’s way across the club and up on the stairs, but our heroine, Riley, feels the sexual energy radiating off him, turns to see. “He walked down the steps, stripping off his shirt as he did so and tossing it casually toward an empty table.” I love that he throws off his shirt. Insert the requisite description of leather pants and erection, then, “The force of his aura rolled before him, hitting the women nearest him like a tidal wave. Sighs and stares followed in his wake, but he didn’t stop, his gaze on mine as he strode toward me.” Ah, the classic nightclub entrance. It sort of reminds me of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. But in a good way. “He stopped when there were still several feet between us, his gaze sliding casually down my body before rising to meet mine again. The lust that surged between us caressed my skin until I felt like I was glowing.” And then they have sex like nine times. I believe the term “inferno of lust” is utilized at one point.

7. Quinn, an excellent and complex lead. Though it is understandable that certain astute readers are becoming fed up with the recurring problems between Riley and Quinn (cue the Richard and Anita music - I think about Van Morrison for some reason) but there is one significant difference for me: whereas Richard, in a way, yielded up his treasures early on, and went on to become a somewhat dried up automaton, our secretive and mysterious Quinn has yet to yield up his riches. I believe the solutions to many problems are within him, and within his and Riley’s relationship - their interaction and growth. That’s my big hope, anyway. Plus, I like him. He’s a secretive and mysterious badass.

8. Keri Arthur manhandles the reader on setup.
I don’t know that this qualifies as cool, but I’m putting it in because it’s interesting to me as a writer. Like, if there is something she wants you to know, she’ll repeat it all over the place. I suppose sometimes it feels redundant, but it’s way better than when writers just expect you to have an encyclopedic knowledge of their every musing, and they bury important stuff in the middle of a paragraph on page 8, and then on suddenly on page 199 you’re like, WTF? If there is a key thing you have to get, Keri Arthur goddamn makes sure you get it. She’s taking care of the reader in her own manhandley way.

9. The blurbs on the cover. Who is writing these? Keri? The publicist? Some of them are great. Like, “Half vampire, half werewolf, all trouble…” I love that one. Or this: “Desire. Temptation. Seduction. Let the night begin.” That one’s great too. But this one is sort of crazy: “Between desire and bloodlust is the sweetest sin of all.” That’s a whole lot of tundra between bloodlust and desire for a human like me, in fact, I think it would encompass every sin, sweet and not. For a werewolf vampire, however, I’d imagine the spectrum between those concepts is razor thin. And you never quite find out what that sin is! This inquiring mind wanted to know! Okay, and this last blurb earned endless derision from my husband: “In a realm without inhibitions, there’s nothing more seductive than temptation…” The “nothing more seductive than temptation” part is really what got him, but really, when you think about it, the entire blurb is sort of insane. And now that I think about it way too hard, in a realm without inhibitions, temptation probably wouldn’t exist, because it relies on forbiddenness.

10. Strong supporting cast. I especially like Riley’s gay brother, Rhoan, who is a fully drawn badass and all-around fun fellow with his own robust relationship drama that I’m sort of getting into. I also like the boss, Jack. Like Quinn, I believe he has treasures to yield. The next book, The Darkest Kiss (!) comes out in April 2008! Color me definitely reading that one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

1-5 of the 10 coolest things about Keri Arthur’s Riley Jenson Guardian Books

1. They deliver. A friend of ours, when asked why he, a fabulously intelligent person, prefers action adventure movies to art house films, had this two-word reply: “They deliver.” That’s my overall feeling about this series. Steamy sex? Delivered. Violence and thrills? Delivered. Monsters? Delivered. This is my total go-to series in the way the Anita Blake books once were. Oh, the steaminess drops off a bit in book 5 but strong plot thrills deliver plenty of fun.

2. Good creepy bad guys. The bad guys here are bad in creepily creative ways, which I really like. Sometimes the bad guys and their nefarious plans can get a little TOO creepy. Which brings us to #3.

3. The reader doesn’t always get what she wants, and sometimes is put through a bit of hell. I sometimes find the urban fantasy/paranormal romance genre lets the heroines out of awful situations too easily. As a reader in the act of reading, I want things to be easy and tension to be resolved quickly, yet when it is, that drains a bit of drama from my fun experience. When I read urban fantasy, I like to feel like I’ve gone through something. The best book for this is #3, Tempting Evil, with the madman-scientist villain!

4. Strong central quest. I like a heroine who has that. Riley Jenson wants a family and a picket fence. With every book she seems to get further away from that goal, but hey, the night is young. This particular quest is pedestrian, sure, but that doesn’t matter.

5. Wanton sex. Riley Jenson, as a vampire/werewolf combo, is totally into having sex with lots of different partners. (One at a time - not all at once.) Arthur gets away with this because she portrays its being in the werewolf nature so very well. In this world, werewolves go to clubs and dance around naked and have all kinds of sex. In fact, it is dangerous for them not to get a certain amount in during the full moon week, though many eventually settle down with a single partner. I tend to remember reviewer complaints of the implausibility of Riley Jenson having sex with a guy, say, while sadistic bad guys are hot on her heels. Yes, that is a problem in Book #2, Kissing Sin, I think. The most egregious infraction occurs in a scene that involves her riding a horse shifter—they’ve escaped an evil villain’s lair, and they stop by a stream to rest and drink water, I believe, where they have sex. Mind you, they were both in their human forms at the time. See "wolf sex vs human sex" below for an enlightened discussion of that topic. Anyway, yeah, yeah, inappropriate for the action and tension level. But I got over it.

Coming soon: 5 more

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Future Quiz

I suppose if I was a better person I'd get some sort of book on scientific trends and the future and do future research, but I hate research, which is one of the many reasons I don't write historicals. I enjoy making stuff up.  And hey, with a novel in set 40-something years in the future, you'd think I could make it all up. But actually, you can still have anachronisms, and that's something I struggle with.  I have the geopolitical, transportation and clothing issues figured out, but sometimes it's the little things that give me most trouble. 

Here are some questions at the top of my mind lately as I revise. Feel free to weigh in!

1. 40-something years in the future, will they still use the terms:
  • Freak out as in, "don't freak out about my messy car."
  • Shit, as in, "oh, shit."
  • Angsting, as in, "he's angsting about his job again."
  • Will they still say wow, and if not, any suggestions?
2. I'm getting that there won't be phones, but rather a single small device that does everything and hooks to stations, or is carried around in a pocket. (In my book it's called a cometz.)  But when somebody calls a person on their cometz, will people still say it's ringing? I sometimes think about it toning, but I hate tone as a verb.  Currently, I just work around it.   

3. Will people still wear watches?

4. Will there still be paper or hemp-print magazines, or will it all be digital? I have a magazine scene, and I need them to be paper, but I worry about that.  

5. Will all supermarket and store checkouts be digitized, or will humans still be involved?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Goodbye, Ebola Similie

For those of you who have been keeping breathless track of my life, I have been cutting in all areas of my novel, but particularly in the first 100 pages - I was advised to cut them in HALF (by an agent who agreed to reread the first 50...eeep!)

Well, I've succeeded in cutting them by slightly more than a third (from 27, 523 words to 18, 312 words, or 97 pages reduced to 65). But wow, does that opening ever move! And I'm still going to cut more. Anyway, I had my husband, who is both handsome AND brilliant, read the first 50 pages last night, and he found some additional cuts, including one of my favorite, albeit silly, similies which today will leave its home on page 10, way too early for such a thing, and go into a file I keep for such cuts, where it will live out its days in quiet darkness. Here it is.

I pull the covers over me. Sometimes when I’m alone in Cubby’s condo I try to feel what it would be like to be him. Cubby has faith in life the way you might have faith in a five star hotel: you assume everything is perfect, and the place is full of caring people and sunny swimming pools and plush towels, and the folks at the front desk are highly capable—just call if there’s a problem and it will be fixed. To me, life is a trip into a jungle full of toothy predators and fire ants. You find shelter in an Ebola cave and set out a vase of flowers on a doily to cheer up the place, and everybody pretends people aren’t disappearing. I want more than anything to live in Cubby’s safe hotel. To just go through one day without fear.
He suggested the cut because I already show what I tell here about the heroine. Alas, he is right.

In other news, I wrote Xmas cards last night, and I used Star Wars stamps, which all looked absolutely beautiful on the deep red envelopes I had, though not that festive. I refrained from using the Darth Vader one, though I wish I had used it for one of my sisters, because she and her husband would think it was pretty funny. It's like twice as large as a normal stamp. Maybe I'll save it for a health insurance bill.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ghost sex vs human sex

I have had Gabriel's Ghost in my TBR pile forever. I heard it was great, but somehow, I couldn't get past the cover. Not only did it make me think the book was a romance with a ghost, but with a SUPER DORKY-LOOKING ghost. (He's sort of hard to see in the picture, but obviously, the humanoid on the right.)

Like, if you name your book Gabriel’s Ghost, and then you have a ghostly dork-ghost on the cover, and then the blurb says, “A life and death battle where giving up the ghost has a whole new meaning.” And then the lead is actually called “a ghost from her past” on the back,” well, how can you blame a girl for drawing such conclusions?

So I was relieved to find that Gabriel is NOT a ghost. Now, I just started it, so I suppose he COULD become a ghost, but the ghostly image on the cover is a different character. Phew!


I wasn’t up for another ghost-human romance after my traumatic experience with Lover Unbound. I’ll review it at some point, but yow, I loved that sex scene in the bathroom between Vishous and Jane. It was my favorite Ward sex scene since the first book with Wrath and Beth. However, the instant Jane became a ghost, I was no longer interested in her relationship or her sex life, even though there was nothing technically different about her when she was with V. I was thinking, why is that not good enough? Why am I not interested in a romance with a ghost if the ghost is corporeal enough to have sex, and has almost a normal life, except for being a ghost most of the time? I don’t really have an answer. But after that scene at the dinner table where she was just empty clothes, she ceased to count for me. Maybe part of the excitement of romance is who the person is in the world. Maybe it’s something about balance, or polarization between people. Because if I really liked a guy, and then you told me, ‘Hey Carolyn, when he is not around you, he is a ghost!’ I think I wouldn’t like the guy anymore. It’s funny how many clichés come to mind as I write this— non-entity, doesn’t hold water, no substance. Maybe those cliches have a root in the way humans are hardwired, who knows.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Wolf sex vs human sex

One of the things I loved about Bitten (which I consider to be one of the best - possibly THE best - paranormal romances out there) was how vividly and convincingly author Kelley Armstrong wrote about the pleasures of being in a wolf body—running around in the forest, nuzzling other wolves, playing, hunting, having a coat of fur. Reading it, I always said to myself, Armstrong loves dogs and she’s observed them with incredible attention and imagination.

This was all a few years back and I remember reading the Amazon reviews of Bitten, or possibly Stolen, the sequel, and I came across some guy griping about the fact that werewolf sex always takes place in human form, never wolf form.

This comment sort of surprised me, and to be honest, I never ever craved a wolf-body sex scene. I never even thought of it! Maybe I'm being species-centric here, but animal body sex scenes don't strike me as having very many fun possibilities. I suppose if anybody could pull it off and make it enjoyable to read about, Kelley Armstrong could, but I don’t believe she’s ever tried it. (I could be wrong - it’s been a while, though I’m pretty sure I’d remember it!)

I’ve read quite a few werewolf books since then and I’ve never seen a sex scene in wolf bodies. Alluded to, maybe, but never played as a scene. I’m reading all the Riley Jensen books now (excellent!) and her werewolves consider sex in wolf bodies to be like rape.

Maybe there’s a reason for this lack of sex-in-wolf-body scenes. Zero foreplay goes without saying, but I don’t know, animals never seem to enjoy animal sex in general. Granted, I’ve only seen pigeons having sex, but the female always just wants to get away. Is any werewolf author out there doing sex in wolf bodies? I’m sure this guy on Amazon would be pleased, but would anybody else?