Saturday, March 28, 2009

My semi-doomed battles, and one winning one

Battlefront #1: BWAHA!

Okay, first, WOW! I wanted to capture the wonder that is the BWAHA current standings because I so rarely win at these things. I inherited my Dad's gene of being unlucky in gambling, but look!! I am #2 at the moment!!

I don't really understand all the numbers and things, and I don't think it's entirely likely that Iron Kissed will kick ass on all the other books, but I am basking in the glory of right now. 

Who is this Jennifer Y? I really can't fault her for picking Spymaster's Lady.
All these other people picked Blue Eyed Devil. 

Oh, my Iron Kissed has some fierce competition!

Battlefront #2: words per day
In a land of 3000 word-a-day, even 5000 word-a-day writers, not only am I lucky to do 1000 words in a day, but I write longhand, so I have to type those words in later on.

I made a fleeting breakthrough this past summer/fall where I actually typed big chunks of a first draft onto the computer--the speed was dizzying! I was happy. Finally I was like the other writers. Now I'm on a new novel that's not coming as easy, and I have regressed. I'm back in my chair with a notebook.

Battlefront #3: my pathetic Led Zeppelin OCD
Along with being back in my chair with my notebook, my OCD thing is back where, at the beginning of my writing time, I have to listen to this one Led Zeppelin compilation that contains, among other songs, Kashmir, No Quarter and When the Levee Breaks. There are other songs on it, but those are the key songs I have to hear. 

It's not as if I especially like those songs. They're barely even songs to me anymore; they're compulsions. Like a slave I grab my pen and hit play.   
Suffice it to say, the presence of longhand and Led Zeppelin are not positive indicators for the writing front. Nevertheless, I slog on.

Battlefront #4: snowcrusts
Okay, you are OUT OF HERE, snowcrusts. This is one battle that I, and all of Minneapolis, is currently winning.

Snowcrusts, you contain sand from winter plowing, and have leaves and things stuck onto you that help you stay cooler than the air and let you hang on even when it's like 40 or 50 degrees, but you are fighting a losing battle.

Look at you! You are not even touching the road anymore. Today is the day. I may not win BWAHA, I may not get off the Led Zeppelin or the longhand thing, but by God, at least the snowcrusts of Minneapolis will be gone soon!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A little update on In Too Deep

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: In Too Deep by Portia Da Costa
Page: 76
Spoiler level: Low

Continuing to hugely enjoy In Too Deep. It isn't going exactly where I thought it would, and I always love when a book does that. (Yesterday I was focusing mostly on the fun of the anonymous dirty letters put in the library suggestion box.)

Not to spoil anything, but I will say this much: that there's this absolutely wonderful dynamic between librarian Gwendolynne and handsome, unassuming Professor Brewster where they have these odd little exchanges about the letters and letter writer (who calls himself Nemesis). Gwendolynne sometimes suspects Brewster is her letter writer, but sometimes she thinks not!

At one point Professor Brewster goes, "We barely know each other, yet we're talking about sex. And somehow we seem to be involved in what amounts to a menage a trois. [with the letter writer!] It's most perplexing."

Perplexing indeed, Professor Brewster.

The fun of the book is that, of course the reader knows it's him, but you totally can't tell if Brewster is this sly operator playing an elaborate erotic game, or a kind of Cyrano character who lets his true sexual deal come out only through the written word, or something else all together.

And of course, now it's not at all creepy or stalkery. It is, however, an entertainingly inventive scenario. Okay, I'm only a third of the way through but I might not report anymore because I know I will want to spoil things!!  Excerpt here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Portia Da Costa & the fun of anonymous dirty letters

I love books about librarians. I love books with letters in them, and I love excellently smutty books. Needless to say, I was super excited to get In Too Deep, Portia Da Costa's latest, which manages to be all three.

From the back: Librarian Gwendolyne Price begins to find indecent proposals and sexy stories in her suggestion box. [..etc.]

So, I'm only just past the first letter, but it occurred to me that Portia Da Costa really sort of set herself a hard task. (Well, maybe not hard for her, but it seemed so to me). And that is, how do you make anonymous dirty letters not stalkerly or creepy?

Portia Da Costa pulls it off by making them well written, even slyly literary, like you can sense a mind behind them that's intelligent and observant and thoughtful (in addition to being face-reddeningly indecent).  I'm finding it all highly enjoyable.

I'll be interested in how she cranks the letters concept up through the book. I have an idea already of who wrote them. Yay!

Look at the cover - isn't it great? With all the books?

Reading in general, not to mention writing longhand letters, are both sort of bookish, buttoned-up things to do, old-fashioned activities with a slower pace, but then you look at the content and it's another thing altogether. 

This whole thing appeals to me greatly, I don't know why. Maybe it appeals to my own inner prim-on-the-outside librarian.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Fave Stranger Scenario...decisions decisions!

Great Moments from last night's reading
Book: Stranger by Megan Hart
Page: 150
Spoiler level: Low

Is there a bad Megan Hart Spice book? No, don't answer that--I won't believe it if you say there is!  I am devouring Stranger right now. The basic plot is simple: Grace, the heroine, pays male prostitutes to pick her up in bars or come to hotel rooms and enact little fantasy scenarios she cooks up. She's a funeral director with issues.

I'm trying to think of my favorite scenario so far for this post...I loved them all, but I guess it comes down to either this one about the pizza delivery guy, and the stranger in the bar.

Yes, after much deliberation, I have decided I like the pizza delivery one best so far. He comes to her hotel room with the pizza and demands that she pay up. But I don't have any money! she protests. Then I guess we'll have to think of something else, he says.
"If you think--" I started, intending but unable to sound angry. My voice shook just a little, and I had to stop to swallow against my dry throat.

"Turn around. Put your hands on the table."

I did, one on each side of the pizza box, still warm and smelling of cheese and sauce. I didn't dare turn, not even to glance over my shoulder. I closed my eyes so I didn't have to watch my fingers clutch against the sleek laminate of the hotel table, and I waited, every muscle tense and atremble, for him to touch me.

He didn't. Not as soon as I'd thought he would, and the waiting became torture.
I sometimes think Megan Hart's special genius is in hooking into female fantasies in a precise and honest way. But it's also in getting the little details right that make it all feel very real life. Like the laminate table and the smell of pizza. Or afterwards, she and this rentboy, as she calls them, Jack, laugh about his having borrowed the delivery uniform from his friend and how mad this friend would be if he knew how Jack used it. And she compliments him on the nice touch of actually bringing the pizza. And then they eat it.

I also totally enjoyed realizing who Jack is from Dirty, and the reappearance of other characters from that book, and frankly, the fact that the heroine has sex with other guys even after she meets the hero. I never really liked that rule. But I sure like this book!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Oh boy, I am so crazy into Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. It is so wonderfully gothic! And I love the voice of the main character, Lady Julia Grey. So well done and smart and lovely. The story is delightful. The whole thing is delightful. I have already ordered the next.

Okay, quick synopsis:
At the opening, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests. Julia assumes it was a heart condition, and is outraged when private inquiry agent (like a Victorian P.I.) Nicholas Brisbane suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. Later she comes to believe the enigmatic Brisbane, and together they follow a trail of clues that lead Julia to even more unpleasant truths, and a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.

One of my fave gambits--not a spoiler
About a third of the way in our heroine, widow Lady Julia Grey bursts in on the brooding Brisbane (who is still kind of a stranger to her) and finds him ill, delerious, and not fully dressed. She feels bad about it, and afterwards here is what she thinks to herself:
And worse by far, I had taken advantage of Brisbane's indisposition and state of undress to assess his physique. It was shamefull, really. Poor Brisbane, racked by pain and half mad with absinthe, and I had actually taken the opportunity to look at his bared chest.

My only consolation was that I had not enjoyed the experience. Brisbane was not at all the sort of man I admired. He was too dark, too tall, too thickly muscled, altogether too much. I preferred a slender, epicene form, with delicately sketched muscles and golden hair. Graceful, artistocratic, like a Renaissance statue. Like Edward.
She goes on a bit, and though she notes that Brisbane had his own sort of grace that "puts one in mind of wolves and lithe jungle cats" (!!) she concludes that:
It required an entirely different aesthetic altogether to appreciate Brisbane, one that I lacked. Entirely. Even so, it was wrong of me even to look at him, especially at so fraught a time.
When I was reading this I thought, what??? The heroine isn't thunderstruck by the unexpected glimpse of the hero?!? I mean, there are shades of "thou doth protest too much" but so subtle I couldn't tell...and I really wanted to tell! I'm so spoiled by instant gratification in these sorts of circumstances, I was a bit disappointed. Not for long.

I was immensely pleased when this passage comes a few pages later. Lady Julia is searching through her old books for a specific one, and finds Persuasion, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice.

The rest were much the same, romantic stories with dark, brooding men with mysterious pasts and scornful glances. Some of them were good novels, by proper authors. Much of it was complete rubbish. I groaned as I shoved them back onto the shelf. How many summer days had I whiled away tucked in the apple tree at Bellmont Abbey with one of these books, dreaming of the day when a darkly handsome man would sweep me away to his castle on the moor? How many winter evenings had I huddled in bed, reading by candlelight until my eyes ached just to see if it all turned out happily for the beleaguered lovers?
Why on earth had my father permitted me to read such muck? It had left me with an overactive, overromantic imagination, I thought furiously. As a girl, when I had imagined my future husband, I had always thought of someone dark and masterful, lord of some crumbling estate...
In the uppermost part of her mind, she is attracted to pretty blonde men like her late husband Edward, but then when she's looking at her old books, she sort of reveals what is deeper in her psyche--dark, brooding heroes like Heathcliff...or Brisbane.

Oh, I so admired this smart and entertaining use of first person! Can an author even pull this off in third person? I suppose, but it just wouldn't be so much fun. For this reader, anyway.

Another small thing I loved about this book is the kindness of characters to one another. It made me happy to be in this world. I especially enjoyed Lady Julia's kindness to others, and her extreme conscientiousness. What reminded me of it was this bit I found when I was searching for the above. This was a few lines below:

(Julia, thinking about her late husband Edward): "Once I married him, I ceased to think of my girlhood heroes, carefully shelving the books I had once adored. I somehow felt disloyal to Edward to read them..." and later, "And I remained faithful to him, even in literature."

Faithful even in literature! I would heartily recommend this to anybody. (Unless you're looking for smutty heat.) I can't wait to read the next.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Guess who's stopping a month!!!!

Oops. I thought it was March 9th that Ann Aguirre stops by....but it's really April 9th!!!  

Hell.  So instead, how about some photos of my cats?  

Behold, Tiberius stretching cutely, an action fight, and  the kitties being cute on a chair they have seen fit to TOTALLY DESTROY. 

Guess who's stopping by!!

Ann Aguirre, author of the fabulous Grimspace and Wanderlust (lavishly and hugely enjoyed by yours truly) will be stopping by today to talk about her latest: Blue Diablo!

Check out what Patricia Briggs has to say about it:
"Ann Aguirre proves herself yet again in this gritty, steamy and altogether wonderful urban fantasy. Outstanding and delicious. I can't wait to see what she comes up with next."

Okay, the book releases April 7th. And you can get in on her big contest by posting the widget below - check Ann's blog for the info! And stop back to catch Ann's guest appearance right here!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Ah yes, questionable characters week continues...

In honor of the release of Watchmen, Ana and Thea over at The Book Smugglers are hosting a super-hero-extravaganza-blowout bash with reviews, discussions and guest posts.

Oh, Book two are so crazy! But in a fun way. And I, too, cannot wait for this movie! (Though actually, I will. I hate a crowded opening week theater. But don't tell Ana and Thea!)

Anyway, I'm over there for today's vengeance-filled event:

My boyhood comic fanatic husband and I each have contributed. We are a DUO.

My Internet connection is on the fritz, so I can't actually go over there myself and see if my little write-up reveals DH (and me even more so) to be way bigger vengeance-lusting freaks than my fellow bloggers who contributed, but I'll have to hope. And keep trying! errr. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Is the morality bar set higher for heroines? How about human heroines?

Discussing Sabine from Kiss of a Demon King made me think of other questionable-ethics heroines.

The one that most immediately comes to mind? Hitwoman Nadia Stafford from Kelley Armstrong’s wonderful Exit Strategy. Book two, Made to be Broken, came out this month (discussed by Renee here). I'm so there: this is a series I am definitely into.

Exit Strategy: overlooked?
Kelley Armstrong wrote one of my all-time three favorite books, Bitten. She’s fantastic writer. While Exit Strategy was a definite deviation for her, had all the Armstrong hallmarks--tight plotting, great details and well-drawn characters, right down to their speech patterns.

I really loved Exit Strategy, but I know some people didn't, and the reasons for this vary. First, it’s slightly psychological (which I actually really love in a book) but because of this it could feel slow to some. Second, it doesn’t have a romance at its core (though there is the potential for one). And third, the heroine kills for money.

I was totally fine with this, in fact, I loved this heroine – Nadia has a code of honor about the (very few) jobs she takes, and here, she's trying to find a killer. I thought this hitwoman bit made Nadia really interesting--and the world was hugely interesting, full of all kinds of cool hitwoman details, but I know her profession bugged potential readers, and I think about that a lot.

It didn’t bug me in the very same way Dexter being a killer doesn’t bug me in the show Dexter. I think Dexter would be a scary person in real life, but I’m sure interested in stories about him. I'm interested in Nadia, too!

Do heroines have to meet a higher standard of morality?
I think a lot of readers of romance and related genres, (including me) often forgive things that would be awful in real life, from questionable varieties of seduction to vigilante justice.

Do heroines in romance and its subgenres have to be more moral than the heroes?

Is this a human thing? If the heroine is paranormal, can she get away with more?

Is it possible that this is a romance genre thing, and people who came to romance (like me) via urban fantasy, thrillers or literary fiction have a higher tolerance for amorality in a heroine?

Remember how LKH made Anita Blake go to church all the time and have all these moral qualms about things (at first). Not that I have a problem with characters going to church, but I remember feeling it was out of character for Anita Blake, like an overlay to make her behavior more palatable.

Do you ever feel like that with heroines, where they seem like they’re made to be more upstanding or feel more qualms about their badass ways than a hero might?

Do you think authors ever push up the moral goodness of heroines to conform to an unwritten genre rule?

If you’re an author, do you feel like you have to do that?

What, in your mind, is the genre rule?

Wondering in Minneapolis

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Kiss of a Demon King & a meditation on Sabine's evil nature

Imprisoning a handsome, good-hearted demon for wanton purposes. Check.

This was another deliciously set up Immortals After Dark book. Thank you, Kresley Cole. In this one, we have sorceress Sabine keeping demon king Rydstrom in chains in a dungeon, in order to force him to have sex with her to fulfill a prophecy ... and he really wants to have sex with her, but the prophecy must not be filled! So he doesn't. Even though he really really wants to. Then he gets out and drags her across the wasteland as his prisoner. More fun sex stuff. Sacrifices, battles.

Sigh. I guess I am barely objective about this series these days. I have achieved lift off. Out of radio range.

Finding the book, on the whole, wonderfully badass. Check.

You know that game where you randomly open a book and find a line and write it down? Pulling this book out from under my bed, I was thinking, you can open this bad boy to any random line and chances are good that it will totally entertain. Wait! I'm going to play the game now:
Devious vampire. He rose another notch in Sabine's opinion.
Okay again:

"I can make you see your worst nightmares or your most coveted dreams. And I can control them."

"You still look unsullied," Lanth said when she and Sabine met upstairs. Sabine hated that word.
Loving evil Sabine
I really enjoyed how evil Sabine was. She came from a culture where evil ways were applauded and effective, and she grew up at war, more or less, with the "good" side. In a way, it was sort of like opposite world. What is bad is good where she comes from.

Question for the ages
So does that even make her truly evil? If you grow up in a world where bad is good, where bad is honored and rewarded, and you never know otherwise, are you bad for being bad? Or are you living up to the moral code you've been handed?

I suppose, when I think really hard about that question, at the end of it is the question of whether human beings supposedly have some innate compass of good and evil. But then, hey! Sabine is not even a human.

I love this exchange between her and Rydstrom (and can I just say, what is with these names? I say that in a loving way. Anyhow):
"Why do you have to steal?"

She blinked at him "How else would I get gold? Join the typing pool?"

"Maybe you could do without."

Impossible. You must have gold." Gold is life...

"You're hated by more than can be imagined."

"Do you hate me?" she asked.

"I don't yet, but I believe that it's inevitable."

She laughed softly. "Hating me is like hating a sharp sword that cuts you. It can't help the way it was formed."

"A sword can be refashioned, shaped anew."

"Only after it's broken down. Imagine how painful the forge fire and hammer blows would feel...
I think Rydstrom himself comes to that sense that this is a conflict of cultures rather than a conflict of morality with realizations like these:

The Sorceri worship gold, Sabine had told him. He'd thought it had been an excuse for greed, but she believed it was more.

To be honest, though, I really wouldn't mind an amoral heroine even when it's not cultural. But that's another post.

And I was absolutely thrilled and refreshed that, though she ended with Rydstrom, Sabine didn't turn good in the end, but rather she seemed almost to relish a deception of his--one that I thought he'd get in trouble for.

I understand this book hit the NYT best seller list (I think). If so, I'm so very glad. I think this is the most imaginative and vibrant series in the whole paranormal and urban fantasy realm.