Thursday, July 21, 2005

Drive-by Posting

Haven't had much time to post here for a while. Last week, I went out of town with the spouse to the "garden spot" of Midland, Texas. And we had a good time. He had a conference there so I spent a fair bit of time doing absolutely nothing. Though we went to the Midland Civic Theater "Summer Mummers" performance of their melodrama. Locally written, it was a traditional melodrama merged with a 60s "Beach Blanket" movie: Beach Blanket Buckaroos. Lots of fun and silliness. And popcorn.

The Summer Mummers have been around a long time, apparently. Long enough to have traditions. And rules. Throwing popcorn at the villain has morphed into Giant Popcorn Wars amongst the audience.

Popcorn doesn't throw very far--sorta like throwing autumn leaves--so it's hard to get it to reach the villain up on stage. (The piano player wore one of those hat-umbrellas to keep it off him down in the orchestra pit.) So, to do something with the popcorn, people throw it at each other. Barkers go into the audience selling whole trays full of popcorn and the audience buys it 20 bags at a time. There were popcorn drifts around our ankles 3 inches deep. I got popcorn in my pants pockets, down my shirt (and bra), all in my hair... I had a blast! All those community college presidents throwing popcorn--everybody played, except the high school freshman son of one of the presidents who was too cool to participate... They tend to be at that age.

And I got to have lunch with Eileen Wilks who writes for Silhouette Desire and Intimate Moments, and writes very good werewolf books for Berkley. In fact, she had finished her second werewolf book at 5:30 a.m. before coming to pick me up downtown for lunch. I offered to let her go home and sleep, but she said she was too wired. So we had lunch and talked a lot--it was fun.

And next week, it's time for Romance Writers of America's annual conference, this year in Reno, and the fella's going with me to my conference. I think he's looking forward to doing as little as I did at his conference. (Though mine is longer, and there's a lot more planned activities.)

I've been trying to write--but mostly I've been trying to get things ready for Reno, and for next March's book. I finished up with the copyedits before heading for Midland, so that's not hanging over me. Next thing, the galleys. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to see the cover for The Barbed Rose at the meeting.

Other than that, it's hot and dry. The dirt is like concrete, which makes it hard to pull weeds in the rose beds--but they're blooming...

Friday, July 08, 2005

Whittling down the TBR pile some more

Except I think I bought most of these new rather than taking them off the pile...

Seducing Mr. Heywood by Jo Manning
Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison
The Good, The Bad and The Undead by Kim Harrison
Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye by Victoria Laurie
The Misted Cliffs by Catherine Asaro
Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich
Crystal Soldier by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller

Liked all of these. I was going to say, especially the Harrisons, but then I'd have to say--oh, and the Laurie book too. And Evanovich's, and the Lee and Miller book! and ... well, by the time I got done, I'd have mentioned all of them.

If anybody would like to see more of the mini-review things, post a comment here that you would. I've got them anyway--just trying to decide whether I want to post them more places than I already do.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

"Oh Crap" Mode

I'm there again, in "Oh Crap" mode. I realized yesterday (July 5th) that I had a bunch of stuff I needed to turn in to my editor by July 1st to go with the book coming out next March. And I hadn't done it. Oh crap.

I did send the Dedication, and the "pronunciation guide", but I haven't updated the map, or the glossary, or the List of Characters, and I didn't have a blessed thing to go on the eHarlequin/Luna website for a "web extra."

I only had to turn in One extra, instead of two, like last year. (I wonder if they want a "Writing Fantasy" article again...) And pictures aren't allowed. Strictly text. They suggested deleted scenes or excerpts from the next book or--anything related to the book. And I had this idea for a short story, about the first meeting between Kallista and her bodyguard. I looked all through the letter about the extras, and found nothing about a word limit, so I sat down this afternoon (after another morning battling Bermuda grass and collapsing afterward) and wrote the story.

It came out to 1487 words--not bad for someone who has serious trouble writing short. Then I got an e-mail from the editor. I only get 800 words for the story. Ack! I have to cut over 600 words from the poor thing.

Then I got another e-mail. I only get Six Hundred (600) words! How in the world can I shorten by over half???

Well, I got yet another e-mail. The editor wants the short story really bad. Maybe we can put it on my personal website, and something really short--like the Adaran calendar and the stuff that goes with it--on the e-Harlequin website. I sent her the story. Now I have to figure out how to present the calendar, and actually do it.

Plus update the map. Plus check the ms. to make sure I have all the important characters in the list. Plus look for strange words for the glossary... And copyedits should be arriving sometime the end of this week.

Busy? Who me?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Book Binge

I'm not really one of these "steady as she goes" type people. I try to be, try to write every day, crank out a certain amount of work, but I still have a tendency to do things in surges. The writing is usually steadier, but I am very definitely a binge reader.

I binged last week. Here's what I read.

Survival: Species Imperative #1
by Julie Czerneda;

Straight SF book—heroine is an Earth-centric scientist studying species survival—salmon, specifically—who gets called on to investigate a series of disappearances in space. Stranger than the disappearances is the path they follow—straight from a region called the Chasm where planets that should have been life-bearing have apparently been stripped of all life. And the people are not the only things missing—so is every living thing in a specific area. An alien and his human “escort” come to ask for the heroine’s help. Other aliens seem to want to stop her, and matters escalate. This is a Very Scientific book of science fiction with interesting biological/evolutional plot twists. There’s a faint hint of romance, but mostly, it’s about the scientific mystery. I probably shouldn’t have read it as late at night as I did...

Zinnia by Jayne Ann Krentz;

Picked this up at a UBS, because I thought I hadn’t read it—and I was wrong, but I didn’t remember much of it, until I got to the climax part and remembered where it had taken place because it was a very distinctive location. Anyway, this is one of the SF locale books where most people have a synergistic psychic power. Some have the power, some have the ability to create a psychic prism that allows the other people to focus that power. The power doesn’t work well without the prism. In this, the hero has a Pattern-sensing power—one that tends to drive its possessors insane. And of course, the heroine is the only prism who can deal with his powerful talent. It’s a nice, enjoyable story.

The Perfect Rake by Anne Gracie;

This was a marvelous book with lovely, lovely dialog. It slips between drama and comedy so deftly there’s no sense of dislocation one often gets in books that have both. The heroine and her sisters have been living with a diabolical grandfather who beats them regularly. When the grandfather falls and breaks an ankle chasing the heroine down the stairs, she concocts a plot to get them all out from under his cruel rule. They will go stay with their great-uncle, one of them will marry, and they will be able to access their inheritance from their mother. Except Great-Uncle Oswald won’t allow the beautiful younger sisters to enter society for fear they’ll ruin the eldest’s (the heroine) chances. So she claims she’s engaged to a youthful Scottish Duke who never comes to London. Only he just happens to have come, this season, looking for a wife. So the heroine scurries off to his home to explain things, and mistakes his cousin, a Lord Carradice, for the duke—which is where all the delightful, witty conversations begin—and things go from there. I just loved this book—and wish I’d read it earlier in the day as well.

by Sharon Shinn;

I finally decided I hadn’t already read this one after all, and picked it up. It’s a romantic science fiction story, but the romance is slow to develop and the parties to the two romances don’t spend much time together. It’s mostly about how the lives of women in various Samarran societies and how these women develop a sense of self-worth. Elizabeth is a cook on her cousin’s farm after her parents die—an unpaid servant—and decides to leave the farm for a better life in a new Angel town. Maybe even have an angel baby. She finds a job in the angel dormitory laundry, and a place to live in a local boarding house, and even an angel who might give her that angel baby. Then she’s asked to help with a medical emergency and eventually becomes an apprentice healer. The parallel story is about a young Jansai woman, Rebekah, who finds a wounded angel beside a desert water hole. If not for this chance, she’d never have met anyone outside her family for Jansai women don’t leave their homes without escort and veils, and mostly, don’t leave at all. It’s a good story, with a satisfying ending.

Heart Choice by Robin D. Owens;

I had to try two stores before I found this, a couple of days before July started. It’s the 4th book in Robin’s Heart series set on Celta. In this one, the hero is the last of a family with a defective gene that leaves them vulnerable to a common illness. He’s been hunting a cure without luck, but has decided it’s time to restore the family home and find his Heartmate. As soon as he gets through with his fling with his interior designer (the heroine). Heroine was left sterile after a childhood illness, so she knows no one intending to re-establish his family’s line will be interested in marrying her. She doesn’t want a fling either, but someone seems to be after her. This is a very good, well-written story with multiple, interlocking mysteries, and it’s all about choices (hence the title). A definite keeper, and look to see this one raking in the awards on the contest circuit when the time comes.

Skintight by Susan Anderson;

Hero, a professional gambler who usually wins, has lost an heirloom baseball in a poker game. Except he’s not in possession of the ball—his “step-mother” has it. She’s a gold-digging Las Vegas chorus girl, so he figures he’ll have no trouble seducing his way into her house, grabbing the ball and saving his thumbs and other fingers from breakage. But she’s not anything like what he expects her to be. This is a fun story about expectations and illusions and finding love. It’s just a good read.

Enigma by Dee Davis;

Heroine is a federal bomb disposal expert. Hero is a black ops CIA kind of guy who comes out to work for a private/public coalition-type group when needed. And three Senators just got blown up in a San Antonio hotel, so the government and media are in hysterics wanting to know what happened. The heroine is called in to find out who. The hero is called in to help and to protect her. And of course there’s this attraction between them... Great characters, great story, very satisfying read.

311 Pelican Court by Debbie Macomber;

Another one of those Cedar Cove books. In this one, a divorced couple learns to cooperate again to deal with their rebellious daughter, a single mother allows herself to love the father of her child, despite his secrets, and a lady judge works through her feelings for her ex and her new beau and both judge and beau learn to fight for what they want. Women’s fiction full of nice people struggling with life.

44 Cranberry Point by Macomber;

A couple of books ago, this stranger died—seemingly spontaneously—in a Cedar Cove B&B, but he seemed familiar to the B&B’s owner, a Vietnam vet. So in this book, Macomber finally gets around to solving the mystery. (If it were me writing it, it would have taken me this long to figure out who had done it and why, but I bet Macomber had the solution all along. She strikes me as that sort.) Anyway, there’s stuff going on with all the other town characters—the judge’s mom falls in love. Her best friend tries to win back the beau she alienated. The best friend’s daughter tries to patch up her new husband with his estranged parents. Stuff like that. I think the only real romance in this book is the grandma’s, but it’s a nice, sweet read.

Navy Husband by Macomber;

I still don’t care much for Macomber’s romances. They’re just...not very romantic. In this one, a widowed Navy nurse has to leave her daughter with her single sister while she’s deployed at sea. “Uncle Adam”—the dead husband’s best friend (also Navy)—is living in the area and when the little girl accepts that he won’t marry her mom, she goes to work fixing him up with her aunt. Meanwhile, Mom is attracted to a commander on the carrier where she’s working, and winds up taking care of him after an emergency appendectomy. He never says one nice word to her, but she still falls in love with him. (!) And sis and the best friend are having some nice dates too. I couldn’t figure out when the falling in love happened, and I had trouble believing they really did fall in love. I like her women’s fiction, but I’ve never much liked her romances, and apparently still don’t. It was an okay read. Just not very romantic.

Total Package by Cait London;

Heroine is a photojournalist slumming at a swimsuit calendar shoot because she doesn’t want to run across the boyfriend who just dumped her to marry a fluffy blonde. She and boyfriend used to bond on the battlefield or the slopes of erupting volcanoes. Hero is the son of a Russian immigrant who’s moved to the NE coast to stay near family—his brother runs a resort there. He’s on a sea cliff making life decisions when the heroine comes up to commune with nature and ask the sky why the bf dumped her. He decides to pretend he’s just coming up to the cliff, and the minute she sees him, the heroine decides he’s climbed the hill intending to jump. I found her wild conclusion a bit hard to swallow, but they were an interesting couple of characters, so I enjoyed the story. She’s a very different sort of personality—a bit schizo, but interesting.

A Good Yarn by Macomber;

A women’s fiction story, revisiting the yarn shop of A SHOP ON BLOSSOM STREET. (A Good Yarn is the name of the shop.) A whole new set of ladies come to the yarn shop for classes to learn to make socks: a recent divorcee who can’t pick herself up again, a teenager spending her senior year in high school with her grandmother while her father works in Brazil, and a retired librarian who’s lost her retirement money to a bankrupt developer. It’s just a nice novel about some nice-ish people who get nicer by the end of the story. A nice read. (And sometimes nice-ness is just what a body needs.)

Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

I finally found Metro Girl in the local library. Don’t know if it’s because I had to wait till people left it long enough for me to check out, or it just took them this long to get a copy, but... I liked it. Barney isn’t Stephanie, exactly. The story was different—I got a real kick out of NASCAR Guy—but it had the same Evanovich voice—which makes sense, since Evanovich wrote it. Barney’s brother vanishes while he’s on the phone with her. She heads to Florida to find him. He’s stolen—er, borrowed—the boat belonging to Sam Hooker, a NASCAR driver, and Sam decides to stick with Barney in case she figures out where his boat is. And then things get really complicated. Fun story with a number of LOL moments. (The bakery thing was good for several.)

and It's In His Kiss by Julia Quinn

The last Bridgerton girl has her book. There’s still a boy left before we have to start on the next generation. Anyway, Hyacinth hasn’t acquired too many proposals. She’s a little intimidating. The lady she admires and tries to model herself after is Lady Danbury, a scary dowager with a cane she likes to whack people with. Lady Danbury’s grandson has a reputation as a rake, is estranged from his father (because he’s not his father’s child, which is revealed very early on), and is now the heir since his older brother’s death. But since Hyacinth and Gareth St. Clair are the only two people in the ton who actually like Lady Danbury, they become acquainted. And then, when Gareth acquires his other grandmother’s diary, written in Italian, Hyacinth undertakes to translate it for him. And the plot thickens. Thickly. There’s lots of fun, witty dialog and all the hallmarks of a Quinn novel. I liked it a lot.

What have you been reading?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Tension of various sorts

This is my second attempt to post something this week. I had a really great post all typed in and everything on Tuesday, and then it vanished somewhere in the internet/computorial ether. And it made me so mad, I didn't even want to bother to try to recreate it. So I didn't. And by today (Friday) I don't remember a thing I wrote. Probably about my busy week last week. (The one before the one that's ending now, in which I sat in a hospital waiting room while the M-I-L got her knees replaced, then rushed down to get the last-son-at-home registered and indoctrinated for college, then rushed back to check on the M-I-L (and babysit the grandboys) before rushing home again...)

So. Now I need to come up with a new blog post. Preferably not having to do with the Fourth of July doings here in town this weekend, though I'm sure you'll find them eminently fascinating--turtle race, stick-horse rodeo, Depression dinner and all.

Read a thing this afternoon (or maybe it was still morning) claiming that much of what prevents a romance from being a compelling read is a lack of sexual tension, and I'm still trying to decide whether I agree with that. Sexual tension is important, I agree, but I think there are things that are more important.

Before I go farther, let's define sexual tension--it's "wanting to have sex, while not actually getting to have it."

That done, I have to say that I have read a number of very successful romances without any sexual tension at all, because they are having sex all over everywhere, like little bunnies. (Well, maybe not everywhere, but you get the idea.) I have written some books that I thought were rather successful, without any sexual tension. I'm sort of in the middle of one right now. (I say sort of, because it has gone on hiatus for the next little while.)

For instance, in Linda Howard's To Die For, the heroine is completely incapable of resisting the hero. She melts every time he nibbles on her neck (or something like that) and falls into bed with him. (Or onto the floor, or the sofa, or...wherever.) And yet, the book is successful. (I know some people don't like the heroine--maybe this is why--or the tone of the book, but you have to admit the book has sold well.)

I think the reason is Emotional Tension. If you don't have sexual tenstion of the "want to but can't" variety, you have to have something else. It's part of the conflict, yes, but much of the time, if there is no sexual tension, you'll find a lot of emotional tension. As in "I want to love him/her, but I can't."

Much of the time, when the characters fall into sex with each other early on, you wind up with a lot of conflict/tension of the "I didn't mean to, and I shouldn't have, but I did" variety. Because, after all, these are novels and we have to have conflict.

Anyway, I guess my point is that you don't always have to have sexual tension. But you DO have to have Some Kind of tension of some sort.

Okay, dh is home, and promised to take me to some movie or other tonight. Now we just have to negotiate for which one...

Hopefully, the next time I try to blog, it won't lose my post.

Don't forget my contest. Lots of prizes to win!