Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Bermuda triangle of handbags + event news

Does this look like an evil purse to you? (Handbag, for you U.K./Australian folks). Anyway, does it?

Would you ever think a good natured blogger that you know would ever want to stab it with a knife, rip it in half and burn it? No?

Well you'd be wrong! OMG, I got this purse for FREE at a rummage sale. That should've been my first tip off. I thought, Hey, it has metal link-buckle things, a sort of cute stripe around the bottom (you can't see it that well in this picture but it does) and it's red, my favorite color.

Do not be fooled!
Once you put something in it, you will NOT BE ABLE TO FIND IT AGAIN! Seriously, it is almost like a magician's trick. Things disappear in this purse, to be found later when you are looking for an entirely different thing.

TRUE STORY: I had to call my cell phone to locate it in this purse (my cell phone lights up, and I knew the light would lead me to the right pocket.) UH, so frustrating!

Scientific explanation: the construction of the interior pockets. There are three of them, they are identical, and deep and there are interior zippers on each side, too. Things disappear no matter where you put them.
Non-scientific explanation: The Omega!

However, my man and I went out for wine and French fries at our pal's tony restaurant last night, and we walked by a flea market after, and look what I found!

This lovely yellow purse is a vintage number from Neiman Marcus, and I got it for ten bucks. Isn't it cute? It too has metal link-buckle things, a Carolyn Crane favorite feature. Also, please note the little tie feature on the front. And there are no interior pockets. I am so into this purse.

Enjoying the new French fry revolution.
There are many ways in which civilization continues to evolve and improve, and I have to say, the quality of French fries is definitely one of them. I mean, your bar fries have sort of stayed static, but fancy and semi-fancy restaurants are getting into the act with really wonderfully done, crispy, perfectly salted fries. Sometimes with great sauces. Oh, am I ever a fan!

In other news:
Smexy Books is having a big to-do while others are off at RWA. I will be one of the unfortunates left behind (thanks a lot, stupid economy!) so I'm very into this. Go visit to read about it; she'll have:
  • Giv3aways (hopefully this sneaky spelling will disguise me from contest scrapers. Uh! go away.
  • THREE of my fave authors: Megan Hart, Jeri Smith-Ready and LB Gregg
  • Interviews with a cover artist Anne Cain (go over and leave a question!)
  • Cover model Jimmy Thomas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Best ending of the year + random Medieval & watermelon-related items

I think I am going to put up a hall of fame here on my blog, or like an award thing, and the best ending of the year will go to Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James. (Previous thoughts on book here.)

This was just a delightful book that galloped exuberantly to its end! It was a perfect ending in every way. And though obviously, this being a romantic comedy, you grow to expect a certain ending, there were elements of it came as a pleasant surprise. But don't get me wrong--the seeds of the ending were in the story. It lived up to the 'unexpected yet inevitable' maxim for endings. Oh, I love an ending like that. I don't know what to say, this was a great ending. It was just all so perfectly done. Okay, this is a terrible blog post, I know.

My new yummy MedievalIn other book news, I have begun Immortal Warrior by Lisa Hendrix, which I won from the ever lovely and kind Leslie of Leslie's Psyche. I wanted to read it for two reasons: it's set in 1095, and I was craving that time period. Also, the hero turns into an eagle at night, and I like that. I really enjoy birds and, well, all critters, really.

And I'm really enjoying this book, too. There was this sweet scene in the beginning where pigeon pie is served and Ivo, the eagle-by-day hero, refused to eat it. There was also this interesting bit where Ivo muses on the arrangement of the pieces on the chessboard, thinking how times have changed, what with the religious pieces flanking the king and queen, and the knights and castles farther away.

Wow! It had never occurred to me that the standard arrangement of the chess pieces mirrored Medieval political realities. I LOVE learning new things in books like this! Even though there's not much eagle action, Immortal Warrior is satisfying my time period craving. Read more about it here.

My new favorite fruit
In still other news, it is beastly hot here in Minneapolis, and I have had watermelon for dinner for several days. Amazingly, watermelon really fills you up and quenches your thirst at the same time. I have rediscovered watermelon! Watermelon is now officially my favorite fruit. Note: I am not in that photo.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect: Best Angry almost-kiss & timing of goodies

Great moments from last night's reading
Book: Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James
Page: 80 (that's where the moment is but I'm a bit farther)
Spoiler level: very low

Okay, plot, quickly
Two hotshot lawyers with different worldviews compete for partnership. They've hated each other for eight years and as their competition heats up, so does their unexpected passion.

So, as some readers may recall, I'm a great fan of the angry sex in books. Great fan. As I found reading Practice Makes Perfect, I am just as big a fan of the angry kiss, or even this, the great angry almost kiss:

Payton felt her face flush with anger. "Really? Well you know what I think, J.D.?" She jabbed his chest with one of her fingers. "I think that you are an uptight, pony-owning, trickle-down-economics-loving, Scotch-on-the-rocks-drinking, my-wife-better-take-my-last-name sexist jerk!"
J.D. grabbed her hand and pulled it away. "Well, at least I'm not a stubborn, button-pushing, Prius-driving, chip-on-your-shoulder-holding, 'stay-at-home-mom' -is-the-eighth-dirty-word-thinking feminazi!"

He had her pressed against the bookshelves, his body against hers, her hand pinned to her side as he glared down at her. She glared up at him right back.

He was furious. So was she.

Neither of them moved. And in that moment, the strangest thought popped into Payton's head.

She had the feeling that J.D. was going to kiss her.

And - even stranger - she had the feeling that she just might let him.

J.D. must have read the look on her face. Payton saw his eyes flash - but not with anger this time - and she felt his hand suddenly reach for the nape of her neck, the strength of his arms pulling her in, his head bending down to hers, and even as she cursed him for thinking she would ever, ever, allow it, she closed her eyes and parted her lips and -

"Excuse me."
[Quick digression: Wow, I have to say that I really sometimes learn so much from typing these passages out. Check out the paragraph breaks - I think they are really effective, and I wouldn't have noticed them at all if I hadn't been forced to retype here. {esp. He was furious. So was she. As a paragraph} If this was in my WIP, I wouldn't have thought of this; I imagine I'd have changed the pronouns around and stuck she was furious with the para above, and stuck so was he below, heading the next, or left it lonely. But this is so much better. Oh, the balance. Julie James, nice paragraphing! In fact, actually, maybe I wouldn't have put either furious bit in at all, thinking I'd shown it sufficiently, so why tell? (ye old Show don't tell rule) But this tell really adds. This is a place where telling enriches, and creates a sweet little balance. Just great.]

Ahem. Anyway, the librarian arrives and interrupts the angry almost-kiss. Isn't this scene just so wonderful? It comes sort of early, on page 80, and it's a fabulous moment of relief from the battle--a moment I wasn't expecting.

This is something that Practice Makes Perfect has in common with The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie, another book I greatly enjoyed: just when I'm expecting to be put through a little bit of hell by the author, she gives me flowers and candy. In both books, I'd find myself thinking, if only this would happen or, OMG, it would be so great if only...etc. etc. And then, the thing I wanted to happen would actually happen, right there, (and not 170 pages later.)

I am so full of admiration for authors who can do this.
Because I see it as such a difficult dance: obviously, if an author gives the reader too much candy and flowers, the book ends up being a bore with no tension and nothing to anticipate. But if the balance is the other way and it's all tension and angst with no relief and no little treats and tastes to keep us happy, and well, hell, that's no fun.

Renee recently wrote a post on angst fatigue in a historical (not either of these books), and a lot of people commented with the same problem. And I think this lack of bright spots of relief is part of it when I get angst fatigue. Though I also think it happens when I'm not given something wonderful to look forward to.

Anyway, more on Practice Makes Perfect later, but I wanted to say that I'm loving it for giving me candy and flowers at the just-perfect times while remaining exciting and fun to read.

Proper reviews: Madness at RRR, Practice Makes Perfect at RRR, PMP at Book Binge, PMP at Babbles. Actually, now that I've started this list, I realize most everyone has discussed both.
Image: Detail from the kiss by Francesco Hayez, from Wikimedia

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A David Cassidy outrage in comments from my last post must not go unanswered

Often, my commenters are reasonable, rational people, but I have to say I was shocked at two certain comments that came in on my Wicked Game post below, apparently in reaction to my posting of a photo of the ULTIMATE ALL-TIME BEST teen idol who most kicks ass on all other teen idols, including this Ryan fellow.

I think you know who I am talking about. Keith Partridge.

I will let these outrages speak for themselves. First, here is Hilcia's comment. Dear readers, I found all this just as shocking as you must be finding it right now.

Hilcia is somewhat new on the blogging scene, at least to me (visit her at her blog, Impressions, or Musings of a Bibliophile, where she co-blogs with Brie).

Anyway, when contacted, Hilcia got right back to me, and responded like any reasonable person: she was mortified she'd said that and totally didn't mean it.

From Hilcia's email:
CJ, Now that you e-mail me, I notice that when I posted I made an error. I was excited about Wicked Game and posted Shaun instead of DAVID CASSIDY!

DAVID CASSIDY Rocks, that's what I meant to say.... **sigh** ...When he sang "I think I Love You" I used to melt like a grill cheese sandwich.

CJ NOTE: right on sister! I THINK I LOVE YOU is an amazing song. David Cassidy is AMAZING!

HILCIA CONTINUES: Never mind when he wore one of of those little leather chokers around his sexy neck --THEN the panting would start -- AND, when singing, he always looked sideways..

CJ NOTE: Totally! The sideways look! It is so coy and mysterious yet manly, and sexy. **Pant pant** Personally, I was always partial to his puka beads, but those leather chokers did have a certain dangerous charm...

HILCIA: ...while tossing his shiny hair and puckering his sexy lips **sigh, sigh** -- THEN, the drool would just fall and gather on my chin.

CJ NOTE: Hilcia, I am just falling out of my chair thinking of this. You have practically written my post for me. David is the essence of all manhood.

HILCIA: I'm not even going to mention the pants... no, I'm not going there, because then I would have to cop to fainting spells, lolol!

CJ NOTE: Oh, yes, please do mention the pants! Yes, yes.

The pants...
Twenty minutes later
Dear readers, click here if you want to see the lameness that is today's "hottest bachelors:" Chace Crawford, Chris Pine, yada yada, as reported on by an unimpressed Kati. These men have nothing on David. Unfortunately, not everybody understands this.

Exhibit 2: Leslie's comment. Leslie runs the blog Leslie's Psyche. She has always seemed like such a nice person to me, so I contacted her, assuming it was a mistake--I wanted to give her a chance to clear her good name.

Below I have reproduced the hugely troubling email from Leslie. As you can imagine, I nearly choked on my coffee. It pains me to even let it be on my blog:

Leslie SEZ: Why Shaun Cassidy rules over David Cassidy:
1) The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries - one of the best shows ever. Joe Hardy was a smart, brave hero who always solved the mystery. The Partridge Family - *rolls eyes* Keith spent the show combing his hair and hitting on girls while Danny spent it pulling pranks on Keith. CJ: totally not true!

2) Shaun has golden locks that feather more naturally than David's mousy brown hair.
CJ: Cough sputter cough. See photos above.

3) Shaun drives a cool van in the Hardy Boys. David drives a bus that looks like it was painted by someone on an acid trip.
CJ: umm, no comment.
4) Shaun as Joe Hardy is smart, funny and brave. David as Keith Partridge is constantly made to look like an idiot by Danny. CJ: Danny would've made mincemeat of Shaun!

5) Shaun can sing way better than David. Da Doo Ron Ron is a classic. I Think I Love You - David's voice squeaks. (No, wait. That's Peter Brady.) Still, David can't sing, his step-mom was the real singer in the band.
CJ: Da Doo Ron Ron? What does that even mean? I think it demonstrates a poor grasp of the English language.
6) Shaun is 3 inches taller than David. Shaun - 5'11. David - a short 5'8.

And if the attached Rolling Stone picture is what you consider attractive, well CJ, I think you're even scarier than Little CJ.
CJ: Umm. *g*

And there's the pic of Shaun, David and Shirley. Shaun looking good in jeans. David wearing bizarre shiny pants. CJ:
Uh, Hilcia? Help!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go back to watching my Hardy Boys Mysteries Marathon on YouTube.

Oh, oh, this is all far too distressing! I have to believe this shiny pants photo was photoshopped. David would never wear those pants! As for the RS pic (which Leslie entitled David_Cassidy_mantitty_not.jpg), well, those were some crazy times back then. You have to understand.


Sunday, June 14, 2009

The hugely satisfying mix of familiarity and monsteryness in the hero of Wicked Game

It practically takes an act of God to get me to pick up a new vampire series these days, but wow, I'm sure glad I gave this one a whirl. Wicked Game is book 1 of the Ciara Griffin/WVMP radio urban fantasy series by Jeri Smith-Ready. I bought it because I wanted to read Bad to the Bone, Book 2, which came out last month, and I'm constitutionally incapable of starting a series at Book 2.

The plot, quickly: Vampires, stuck forever in the eras when they were turned, work as DJs in a radio station. (The '40's guy does blues, the '60's guy does psychedelia, etc.) and the radio station is in danger of being bought and destroyed; intern Ciara Griffin to the rescue.

Anyway, I am loving the character of Shane MacAllister the youngest of the vamps, who spins grunge (he was turned in the 90's).

The hugely satisfying familiarity of Shane MacAllister
This is an exquisitely and perfectly drawn portrait of the grunge guy, a species that roamed the streets of Minneapolis in small herds in the late 80's and early 90's, though I think even somebody who missed all that would recognize this type of guy--I think he's typical of the counterculture 20-something you find in a number of alternative scenes, and it's just really fun to read about him.

A few of the details that make Shane so 'that guy'
  • Shane is sleeping on the couch when Ciara is first introduced to him and his co-workers, but really, he's highly aware of everything going on in the room.
  • His blend of ideals and pragmatism is pitch perfect: He opposes the idea of degrading the purity of the station with a cheesy advertising campaign, even if it means it's eventually destroyed, but in the end, he accepts the save.
  • He has a genuine rock-guy pedigree but is the first to mock himself ("My first concert was Night Ranger and .38 Special, but don't tell the other DJs. They think it was Black Flag.")
The most perfect Shane scene was when he takes Ciara, who has trust issues with him at this point, to a bluff to watch fireworks, and packs this little picnic, then he somewhat awkwardly pulls out a guitar to sing her a song. Just before he starts, we get this little moment of self-effacement:

He takes a deep breath and blows it out slowly. "I apologize ahead of time for fucking it up."
But then it's actually a very lovely song that he plays well. I never see this type in UFs, and certainly never as the hero. But he's excellent as a hero. He's neither alpha nor beta, just your smart, easygoing buddy who underplays his strengths, but he'll whip them out when he needs to.

The way in which the hugely satisfying familiarity of Shane MacAllister makes his monsterness really intense.
So all the DJs here are a real-life type, they're all a guy (or girl, in the case of the goth girl) that you might work with or be neighbors with. Except the older era vamps, though they seem like somebody's grandfather (in behavior, anyway).

Take Rio, Rhage, Wrath, Eric Northman or Butch for comparison--those guys are already other, at least in my mind. Even Sookie's Bill is other-ish--a Civil War era vet, slightly stiff and clueless. I mean, none of these guys seem like real life guys, so it's not that huge a stretch they might kill and suck blood.It's not like you really know them.

These guys you might know. I mean, the WVMP DJs seem so familiar and friendly, especially Shane, that it is startling to know they have this violent animal nature, and some killed for food, or have it in them to do so. Ciara is constantly having to be reminded--and reminding herself--that they are not human. Shane is not human. He seems so cuddly, and acts so cuddly--it's a just a wonderful effect, wonderful tension. I know other books play this card, but JSR's excellent characterization makes it fresh and powerful.

Is there a saying about this? Like, when something dangerous is embedded in the familiar, that makes it all the more intense?

The also-hugely-satisfying way in which this book relates to the human condition.

It's been said that part of the reason Buffy became so popular is how it sort of pulled some of its truth from real life. Truths like: Nobody ever goes to the high school library. The nerdy kids always turn out more interesting. As soon as you have sex with your high school boyfriend his personality completely changes, and he turns into a monster freak.

The thing about the vampires here is that they are stuck in their eras, and they stop growing, become more empty husk, empty patterns of the past--less and less human and more monster, until eventually, they really are dangerous to society. To me, this is a sad thing that happens to real life people: they grow old, stop taking in new things and get fossilized, somehow less human. But then I also know older people who are interested in the changing world around them, and they continually take in new ideas and learn new things, and they beat the fossilization. Really, we are all on that journey to some extent.

So beyond the external battle with the baddies, there's a poignant internal battle and a character journey for all these vampires - can they stop the dehumanization process? Specifically Shane - can he fight the fossilization of being stuck in his era? Can he learn new things? Play new songs on his radio show? Learn computers? Can Ciara help him?

It's a character journey that doesn't end with this book - I'm looking richly forward to continuing it in Bad to the Bone.

Jeri Smith-Ready interviews at Patricia's Vampire Notes and Bitten by Books.
Proper reviews: Tempting Persephone, Alert Nerd, Musings of a Bibliophile, Leslie's Psyche ...(anybody else? Let me know!)

Monday, June 8, 2009

Miss Doreen interrogates: Partners in Crime

The interrogation transcripts
Dear readers, I have some troubling news. I was alerted to the possible presence of cowboy menages in Partners in Crime, the new double novella by authors Josh Lanyon and Jordan Castillo Price. What alerted me? I give you exhibit A, below, the Josh Lanyon image. As they say, a picture tells a 1000 words.

Needless to say, I dropped everything to look into the situation. I questioned these two devious authors in separate interrogation rooms.

Transcript from Room #1: Author Josh Lanyon
Topic: Lovers and Other Strangers, Lanyon's novella in the Partners in Crime anthology

Suspect profile: This cool customer pens the highly acclaimed, award-winning Adrien English mystery novels. He has also written numerous highly regarded crime novellas and novels, as well as Man, Oh Man!: Writing M/M Fiction for Kinks & Cash.

Miss Doreen: Josh Lanyon, thanks for agreeing to come down to answer these questions. Now, I want to read you something, and you tell me if it sounds familiar:
Recovering from a near fatal accident, artist Finn Barret returns to Seal Island in Maine to rest and recuperate. But Seal Island is haunted with memories, some sweet, some sad; three years ago Finn found his lover in the arms of Fitch, Finn's twin brother. Since that day, Finn has seen neither Conlan nor Fitch. In fact, no one has seen Fitch.

What happened to him? Did Fitch run away, as everyone believes? Or did he meet a more sinister fate?
Miss Doreen: Does that sound familiar?
Josh: It does, yes. It’s from Lovers and Other Strangers, my novella in the Partners in Crime anthology I’m doing with Jordan Castillo Price. It just came out la --

Miss Doreen: Could you please tell us what happened to Fitch?

Well…no. I mean, it’s a mystery. You have to read the book to find out.

Miss Doreen: Ah, yes, we have to read the book. That’s a little convenient, don’t you think?Josh: * guilty silence *

Miss Doreen: Moving on: Josh, as you know, Carolyn is an embarrassingly avid fan of yours. You’ve done some fine work, and by that I mean in pulling the wool over her eyes. Are you happy now? Do you think you can do the same to me?

Josh: Is she? I mean --

Miss Doreen: Shhh! I’ll do the talking here. When Carolyn heard I’d be interviewing you and Jordan, she got quite excited, wanting to help me choose excerpts to highlight. She liked the one below as a demonstration of the “keen human observation” you bring to your work, and noted that, though it’s not humorous as in your Adrien English mysteries, it’s every bit as satisfying yada yada.
Hiram pulled up in front of the long front porch. Lights shone welcomingly from several downstairs windows.

“Ain't no place like home,” he said, and Finn made a sound in his throat that was supposed to be humor but wasn't.

Or, this, when they are figuring out that nobody has seen this young fellow for THREE years. Oh, let me tell you how she fell all over herself on this dove bit and so forth.

Finn eyed her curiously from the perspective of his years away. She was in her late sixties now, a small, very plump woman with silky white hair - it had been white since her early thirties - and soft dark eyes. Something about her had always reminded him of a dove, though doves were fairly stupid birds and Martha was a far from stupid woman.

Martha said, “Didn't Fitch come to you in New York?”

“Come to me?” That made him blink. What a funny idea - but maybe not so funny because Fitch wouldn't see what he had done wrong, would he? He would expect to be forgiven as he always was by - his words - better half.

“Didn't Fitch follow you to New York?” asked Martha again and she was staring at him hard now, as though only realizing that something was very wrong. But Fitch had always been her favorite. Fitch was everyone's favorite for all he shocked and appalled people with his outrageous - but God, yes, funny - antics. The things he did and said. It was impossible not to love Fitch.

Even when you hated him.
Miss Doreen: Carolyn Jean calls this “a moody, intriguing and beautifully wrought mystery. But we both know different, don’t we? In terms of how it’s wrought?

Josh: How it’s wrought? *g *

Miss Doreen: And here the realization scene. Oh, I suppose it’s intriguing in it’s way. I suppose that is part of your plan, to intrigue us into the mystery, so that we cannot turn back:
But now he sat in the kitchen of the house he had grown up in, the home he had shared for twenty-three years with his twin. Slowly, he worked it out, tried to absorb what it meant. He said, “Fitch isn't here?”

And Martha shook her head slowly, her bright, birdlike eyes wide.

Reading her expression, Finn smiled reassurance, because it seemed ridiculous - like they were talking at cross purposes and they would soon realize what the other actually meant. In a moment they would laugh as the misunderstanding was straightened out. “You mean no one's seen him since…?”


“No?” He took it in slowly, absorbing it much like the heat soaking into his chilled body or the alcohol wending its way through his bloodstream - a gradual realization that he was warm and tipsy and…alone in the world.

He said carefully, “No one has seen or spoken to Fitch in three years?”

Miss Doreen: I just have one question: what is the significance of three years? Is your idea of a double entendre?

You mean like…like a ménage or something? I just thought three years was a long time not to notice your brother was missing. Even he was --

Miss Doreen: Let’s stop horsing around here. I will give you one chance to tell me what this novella is really about.

Josh: It’s about loving and forgiving, coming to terms with the past and learning to live within the present. It’s about the nature of art and the art of living and loving. And of course it’s a murder mystery.

Miss Doreen: That’s a fascinating answer considering that, if you look closely at the cover, it looks like there is another person standing behind the two men. Did you think nobody would notice?

Josh: I -- there is?

Miss Doreen: Let me give you another chance, Mr. Lanyon, to answer the question. We can even make it a hypothetical. Hypothetically, what if these twins were cowboys, and met a third cowboy or cowgirl. Is this starting to sound familiar? What do you think would happen? And what if they were bathing in the sea, so all they had on was their spurs…

Josh: Miss Doreen, it’s an island off the coast of Maine. There aren’t a lot of cowboys. Or even cowgirls. And even if there were…I honestly think their spurs would rust.
Miss Doreen: You want to play it that way? Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Lanyon, but your gig is up. Your partner sold you out. Did you know that? Jordan Castillo Price herself all but confessed that your story is not only about a menage, but a cowboy menage. What do you say now?
Josh: Jordan said my story was about cowboys and ménage? When? I mean, when did she say that? Because there weren’t any. Cowboys. And they didn’t. The cowboys, I mean.

Miss Doreen: Let me stop you right there—I want to give you a chance to help yourself out here. Since she squealed on you, why not just tell my readers how her story is about a cowboy menage, and for proof, please describe the sex scene in detail.

But Miss Doreen, Jordan’s story takes place on an island in Michigan during an ice storm. There aren’t any cowboys. And if there were…their…er…popsicles would stick together.

Lanyon was all denial from here on in. He insists there is no cowboy menage, yet the Mr Lanyon image wears a cowboy hat. He seems to be at the height of his writerly powers, and he focuses them on enticing and intruguing the reader with all these interesting questions in the first chapter of this novella. He writes it so that a reader feels compelled to read more, to keep turning the pages, drawing her deeper and deeper. Why?

You can be sure I will be examining every inch of his dubious masterpiece and reporting back. More about Mr. Lanyon here.


Transcript from Room #2: Author Jordan Castillo Price
Topic: Body Art, Jordan Castillo Price's contribution to the Partners in Crime anthology

Suspect Profile:
Jordan Castillo Price is best known as the author of the acclaimed PsyCop series, an unfolding tale of paranormal mystery and suspense starring Victor Bayne, a gay medium who's plagued by ghostly visitations.

Miss Doreen: Welcome, Jordan. Thanks for agreeing to come down voluntarily. Did you know Carolyn has recently purchased several of your Psycop books? And that people are just crazy about that whole series? She can’t wait to read them. Are you aware of all the hubub around you?

Don’t answer that. Of course you are. You are a clever person and a clever writer. This small excerpt from the larger one on your site really impressed poor, sweet, gullible Carolyn. She went on and on about how great it was how we learned all this stuff about your character Ray from what he wanted to hide from the employers:

I’d been so excited to know the answer to that one that I’d leaned forward and allowed my tie to slide out of place. The missing button midway down the shirt gaped. I hadn’t noticed it at the thrift store. I’d just been glad to find a dress shirt for less than three bucks that didn’t need to be ironed. I covered the buttonhole with the tie. And then I realized the gesture had caused my sleeve to ride up and show a glimpse of my ink. Damn it. Maybe they hadn’t noticed.
Full excerpt here.

Miss Doreen: Very clever indeed. Do you see yourself as a clever person, Jordan Castillo Price?

Jordan Castillo Price:
I suppose I’d like to. But there’s a fine line between clever and stupid.

Miss Doreen:
Is there? Hmmm. * adjusts hairdo, thinking * Never mind! Let me draw your attention to the book description:

His lover has betrayed and swindled Ray Carlucci out of everything he valued, including a tattoo business. Hounded by creditors, weary of heart, he accepts the job of chauffeur and body man for the dying owner of a remote estate. The island, minus its wealthy summer colony, is colorless in winter and Ray thinks he understands why staff on the estate periodically desert.

But, he's baffled by, then drawn to, Anton, the eccentric artist who haunts the forest, bringing strange life to bizarre and disquieting sculptures amidst the ice and trees. When the body of a man who once held Ray's job rises from the frosty earth, Ray wonders what part Anton's wildness has in the escalating violence.
Miss Doreen: So, do you think that fools people into thinking this isn’t a cowboy menage story?
Jordan Castillo Price: Cowboys? On an island in Lake Huron?

Miss Doreen:
Right, who can imagine such a thing? What clever fiction writer? Fine, then. Do tell, what is the book about?

Jordan Castillo Price:
Body Art is the story about a tattoo artist named Ray who’s lost everything. He takes a job as a chauffer for an elderly couple who live year-round on an island that’s mostly summer homes. Ray thinks he aced the interview because he successfully crammed himself into the mold of a trustworthy, working class guy. But his sexy new neighbor, Anton, tells Ray he looks like a thug playing dress-up.

When it seems like someone who’s not supposed to be there is lurking around the island, Ray starts to wonder if he was hired because if his thuggishness, not in spite of it.

Miss Doreen:
Did you know Carolyn Jean Crane loves stories about characters who have lost everything? She will be a sucker for this tattoo artist, this down-and-out fellow drawn into a mystery.

Your cleverness really is admirable.
And this poor Ray thinks he was hired for one reason, but perhaps it turns out to be he was hired for an entirely different reason. What could that be?

No! Don’t speak! Allow me to draw your attention to another passage. Here, our hero Ray is woken up by noises in the middle of the night on this deserted island and goes out to the woods to investigate and sees:

A man.

More accurately, the guy in black from the side of the road. Or if you wanted to split hairs, his silhouette. He hung from the lowest branch of a tree, maybe seven feet off the ground, arms and legs locked around the tree limb. His long coat, long hair — and now a long scarf that he'd added to his ensemble — dangled beneath him. He inched forward and caught a smaller branch with one hand. Moonlight glinted off metal as he pulled a blade from the grip of his teeth. He clenched hard with his legs and started to saw at the smaller branch. When he'd sawed about halfway through, he bent the branch back upon itself.


"What are you doing?" I called.

His silhouette shifted as he faced me. He tucked the knife away, let go with his legs, hung for a second by his hands, and then dropped. The leaves below him gave off a rumpled sigh.

He trailed the branch he'd cut behind him as he crossed the clearing. It dragged through the fallen leaves with a shish-shish-shish. He walked like a runway model, all attitude and hips. And when he stopped in front of me and tossed his dark hair over his shoulder so he could get a look at me, I forgot how to breathe. He was breathtaking, in a wasted sort of way. All soulful eyes and long sideburns and five o'clock shadow.

"What are you doing?" I said a second time. Because what else could I say? Don't tell me you're an overbooked gardener? Or, it's late? Or, what's it gonna take to get you out of all those clothes?

"I'd tell you," he said. "But then you'd think I'm crazy."
Miss Doreen: What exactly is he doing with that knife? Please correct me if I am mistaken, but is it not the case that cowboys frequently gather wood for their fires after a long day driving the herd?Jordan Castillo Price: There are no fires in Body Art.

Miss Doreen:
Please answer the question: is it not the case that cowboys frequently gather wood for their fires after a long day driving the herd?

Jordan Castillo Price:
I really can’t say. I’m a city kid. I’ve never met a cowboy.

Miss Doreen: So you won't admit cowboys enjoy campfires. Fine. Now, your character Ray has a number of tattoos. Care to comment on that?
Jordan Castillo Price: The side opposite Ray’s dominant hand is covered with his own work, and the rest of his body features work from his friends and apprentices, and even a tacky piece of flash he got with a fake I.D. when he was 17. It never occurred to Ray that his tattoos would be a liability, and keeping his ink covered is really stressing him out.

Miss Doreen: Have you noticed anything interesting about the cover? And here, I’m talking about the hidden third man. Is it possible that man has tattoos? And that’s why he’s hidden?

Jordan Castillo Price:
Huh? You couldn’t wedge a third guy into that cover with a prybar.

Miss Doreen: Let me cut to the chase and save us all some time. There is a third man, behind the other two. What’s more, you need to choose your partners in crime a bit more carefully, Jordan. Because Josh all but said that the man behind the other two men was your character Ray. He also all but said that the men are wearing cowboy hats, and that’s why the photo is cut off there, and he also implied spurs, because they just came in from a swim.

Jordan Castillo Price:
Wait -- what? The guys were swimming? With spurs?

Miss Doreen: Yes. Your so called partner was very colorful on that point. I wonder if Josh was projecting. Do you think that’s possible? Considering the cowboy menage content of his story?

Jordan Castillo Price: Are you sure you’re looking at The Art of Dying? Josh’s story was about a painter.

Miss Doreen: Please, you can stop protecting him now. I’m thinking particularly of a specific scene. Oh, dear me, now it’s slipping my mind. Can you remind me of that horribly smutty cowboy menage scene Josh wrote, in full detail?
Jordan Castillo Price: Well, come to think of it…there was that part where Paul threw open the Seal Island Saloon doors and dared anyone to challenge his sexuality. He ended up slung over the bar, greased and naked, with these two Mexican banditos who’d ranged a little farther north than usual…but that was in the first draft. I think Josh might have cut that scene and put in something with a lighthouse instead. Or maybe Paul got killed off. I’m not sure which.

Miss Doreen: * Gasp! * * moment of reflection * Ah, I get it. A comedian. But here is what I think is funny: you say you never met a cowboy, yet who wears a cowboy hat? I refer you to exhibit A.

Here is what else is funny: You make the reader curious about what that hot and mysterious fellow is doing in the woods and why they hired poor Ray, enticing them to read further. You are like a Venus Flytrap, luring the reader in, and then you close your writerly talons around her. You can be sure this reader will not fall into your trap.

Astute readers, you have been warned. Further information on Body Art, Price's novella in the Partners in Crime anthology, can be found here, and more on the works of Jordan Castillo Price here. More excerpts from Lanyon's Lovers and Other Strangers here, and more on Lanyon and his body of work here.

Partners In Crime 4: The Art of Dying, two novellas by Josh Lanyon and Jordan Castillo Price, came out in Trade Paperback just last month from MLR Press; available at most booksellers.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Writerly question of the day: when do you capitalize god/God?

When the word God/god is in the middle of a sentence, do you capitalize it?  I see it both ways, and I never know. Is it correct to say  Oh my God! or Oh my god!  ?   Which is more respectful? Which is considered state-of-the-art in current English? What is the linguistic trend - toward or away? Which is more squiriferous?

Or, what about well, goddamn! or, Goddamnit!  or Goddammit!  If you look at in in, the initial capital is sometimes used, sometimes not. Both are correct. In a word like that, is more or less respectful to capitalize it?  What is the thinking on either side? I swear, I see it both ways in published books!
I mean, I know the rule of thumb is if it is a proper name, you capitalize. But when you're saying Oh my God! or Oh my god!, is it even a proper name at that point? 

Then you also have the confusion of God being a proper name, as in, for example, the Christian god, but also, a regular noun, such as in the sentence: Carolyn Crane's husband is such a god!  Or even in the phrase Oh my God! or Oh my god!  are you really talking about a specific god with the proper name of God, e.g. the Christian god, or gods in general, as a concept?

Hey writerly & readerly friends: Do you capitalize or not, and what is your thinking behind it? Please advise!

Image: Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God, from wiki commons

Monday, June 1, 2009

A TOTALLY non-spoilery discussion of the end of A HINT OF WICKED

I have read and hugely enjoyed a number of historicals at this point, especially Regencies. But I rarely feel the need to ponder them afterward, and I almost never find myself unable to make up my mind about certain moves the author made.

Because of this, a Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore was a huge success with me. I like being challenged. This book made new neural pathways in my brain!!

Do people know that plot by now? Okay, okay.
Nutshell: husband Garrett got amnesia during the war and everyone thought he was dead. He comes back 8 years later to discover his wife Sophie has married his beloved cousin Tristan. Sophie must choose, but she loves them both!!

The book did buck a few conventions. I suppose in part, that’s something that automatically disposed me to like it. But the thing I want to talk about is the ending.

They say that a good ending to a book must be 'unexpected, yet inevitable.'
Was this? I could go in two ways here; I suppose that was my quandary. I was one of the people who didn’t guess which choice Sophie would make. Part of me says, well, maybe Haymore didn’t quite make the case. I mean, we had access to Sophie’s thought process, so you’d think I shouldn’t be surprised.

But then I say, if the case had been made too overtly, I wouldn’t have been surprised, and I love being surprised. I was like, reading inside the last 20 or so pages from the end and I was thinking, OMG, this is great! I still don’t know how this will end! I mean, when does that happen? Usually the suspense is about the how, rarely the who or what!

My possibly half-assed and definitely half-baked thoughts on why this is a unique love triangle...
I'm not exactly the veteran romance reader, but in most love triangles I can think of, (and I totally enjoy triangles) a contender slowly pulls ahead and proves himself, or else one ruins it for himself or reveals himself to be less than, or the heroine and hero have a deepening connection that becomes undeniable.

Here, the woman is sorting out her own feelings and the men aren’t changing—or proving or un-proving themselves. Relationships aren’t evolving on a deep level. It’s so interesting.

My point? The heroine, Sophie, has an unusual amount of agency here. Her waffling can (and has) made people see her as weak, but this is also really how a person decides, esp. here in the Carolyn Jean Crane household. They want two things. They can't have them. They have to dither a while.

Oddly, when I compare Sophie here to say, kickass Anita Blake, Sophie actually had more say-so over her love triangle, because in the Anita Blake triangle, one of the guys would act like a freak in some way and she’d go to the other. Or, in Sugar Daddy, one was clearly not right and the heroine had to get that, even though she didn’t have evidence.

What I'm saying (and as you see, this is the blog version of thinking aloud), in most books, the solution to the triangle comes from outside a heroine as much, if not more, than inside. In this book, the solution comes from almost entirely inside. Both men are right for her. At least, that’s what I thought, and I feel strongly I could make a case for that. So she goes through this period of agonizing indecision, and then comes out of it.

It was all very odd and challenging. I really liked that about this book, and I excitedly looked forward to reading it at the end of the day.

Proper review: The Booksmugglers, Stacy's, Alpha Heroes, Find the Time to Read; Don't Talk just read; Author Interview at Love Romance Passion.

Totally SPOILERY discussion of HOW here!  (Anyone else? Let me know!)