May 31, 2011

New at H&H: LKH's Merry Gentry FTW

My newest piece for the Heroes and Heartbreakers blog just went online this morning.

Gee, a new article online and a huge birthday all in the same day. As my daughter asked me not to work today, this'll be it from me, although I don't think reading possible comments and maybe responding counts. She's not here at the moment for me to ask. <g>

Before the new Anita Blake book came out, Megan asked those of us who read her if we would write about our LKH experience. Hence, Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry Series: Merry Gentry For the Win, which is self-explanatory. I know the series attracts far fewer readers than Anita does, but then, I'm a natural born contrarian.

Hop on over to H&H and read it, and consider posting a comment. Hope you'll enjoy the visit!


May 30, 2011

Some Interior Design

I got a wild hair yesterday and redesigned my blog using the same paisley background I created to use on twitter. Blogger redesigned its layout since I set up Toe in the Water last year, so it wasn't simply a matter of swapping out a background image for the black background, and adjusting text and link colors. Color blocking and new fonts were involved, widgets, moving things around, and basic tweaking by conventional means, followed by jerry-rigging to fix other minor issues. I'm still not quite happy with needing to move the "Share" widget to the side column from underneath the blog description, but I'm not skilled enough in html/css to handle transparencies from scratch. At least i managed to figure out how to use the same "AddToAny" widget for the blog as a whole and for each individual entry...that took some time. The real issue is that the tag cloud at the bottom of the page may not be as readable as it could be, but I hope you'll let me know if that's the case.

Sometimes you just gotta zhuzh, ya know? Particularly when it helps keep those mad skills developed over years, even for a blog nobody reads. <g>


May 28, 2011

One of the All-Time Great TV Characters

This summer my husband and I are re-experiencing Northern Exposure, and on the second DVD for season one is the first episode in which Adam appears. Watching it reminded me that he is one of the all-time great television characters.



Let's Not Forget the Forgotten

A close friend of mine has a son who joined the armed services straight out of high school rather than going to college, not because he and his family were gung-ho hawks, but because he wanted to serve his country and because he thought it would help him become a man. He chose to become a grunt in the Marines; if he was going to do it, he was going to "do it right" by being on the front lines. He was injured yesterday in his second tour of duty in Afghanistan by IED attack. His injuries were considered minor, but the injuries of one of his buddies were far graver.

I think I've written before about the emotional dangers facing our soldiers, and that they seem to increase exponentially with each deployment. That's outside of the physical danger they face daily, and the unbelievable conditions in which they live. I remember the first time I saw this photo—these guys are sleeping, not dead—and having it hit home in a visceral way how brave these young (some as young as 18) men and women are; it's frankly unfathomable to me, in my air-conditioned suburban home surrounded by beautiful flowers and the ability to bathe and/or shower at will.

These "forgotten" wars of ours shame me, not only because we continue to fight them when the true enemies are elsewhere, but because they are forgotten. I continually wonder why we aren't exposed to these wars on a daily basis, on television, in newspapers, on online news outlets and blogs. Because of modern techniques more and more soldiers survive horrific traumas to their brains, psyches, and bodies that would previously have left them dead on the battlefield or in field hospitals. And yet most of us don't realize their survival comes at unimaginable costs to their long-term quality of life.

And now, I guess it's time to go shopping in order to support our troops this Memorial Day weekend.

Fresh Meat: Kristina Douglas' Demon

Online from me today at Heroes & Heartbreakers

Fresh Meat: Kristina Douglas' Demon (excerpted below)

* * *

I need to get this out of the way first: I think Anne Stuart, a.k.a. Kristina Douglas, is awesome. Four of her books sit on my all-time keeper shelf, and what I notice more and more is that as her heroes go farther in skirting the edge or going over it in terms of acceptable behavior, the more I seem to love it. She skirted the edge of it with her heroes in the four that I read of her five-book Ice series, and she took them over it in her 2010 historical House of Rohan series, culminating with possibly the biggest prick in my experience reading romance: Lucien De Malheur, the 'hero' in Breathless. So I had high expectations for Demon, the second in her Fallen series written under the pseudonym Kristina Douglas. Demon will not be joining Breathless, Ice Storm, A Rose at Midnight, and To Love a Dark Lord on my all-time keeper shelf because I'm stingy when it comes to annointing books and it's nowhere near her best work, but it offered plenty of nougaty goodness nonetheless. I'll focus on two nougats...

Please click here to read my new Fresh Meat in full. Would love for you to add a comment.


May 23, 2011

Gotta Love the Free Market

I just read that the U.S. lags behind other many other developed nations in terms of broadband access and speed. That according to the FCC, which, as we all know, is not exactly a market-neutral entity, as most recently evidenced by the so quick the revolving door gave me whiplash career change for Meredith Baker, who just a few months ago voted for the monopolistic merger of Comcast and NBC, only to have announced last week she'll be working as a lobbyist for Comcast.

Every day I read something that infuriates me, that makes the case that "we, the people," no longer are. Whether it's Net Neutrality, the wives of investment bankers getting bailout money, or the sale of our infrastructure to foreign interests, monied interests are not looking out for you and me...they're looking out for themselves, but have convinced many of us that it's government that's the problem, that taxes are awful, and that the free market can solve anything.

It's as though there never was a Great Depression, trust busting, or any ability in our minds to understand how credit inexorably links Wall Street to Main Street. Or that if we cede control over legislation and regulation to business, they come out on top at our expense.

We blame Obama (not entirely blameless), rather than remembering what he inherited. We refuse to pay for our wars by raising taxes, and believe ridiculousness like 90% of funding to Planned Parenthood is for abortion, 15% of our budget funds the NEA, and that foreign aid accounts for a quarter of our spending.

The "government is evil" bunch hasn't got it entirely wrong, but that's only because government is in so deep with big business that I believe this picture says a thousand words.


Busy Girl

This morning I turned in my latest PW review, saw that three of my previously written PW reviews made it into this week's PW (a new record), and learned that I have [at least] two pieces going online this week at Heroes and Heartbreakers. I've got assignments out the wazoo, and could not be any happier. These aren't lengthy articles, but the creativity seems to be flowing out of me.

My H&H piece for tomorrow was a blast to write, but achieving just the right tone for it proved a challenge. I worked and worked and worked on it, and because it was a spec piece was patient as it found a slot on the H&H schedule. Once you read it you'll understand that I feel proud of it yet while also feeling, in a non-ironic sense, exposed. That's as much of a teaser as you're getting from me.


May 21, 2011

Fresh Meat: Carolyn Jewel's My Dangerous Pleasure

Online from me today at Heroes & Heartbreakers

Fresh Meat: Carolyn Jewel's My Dangerous Pleasure (excerpted below)

Cupcake, anyone?

* * *

What stands out most after reading My Dangerous Pleasure, fourth in Carolyn Jewel's Immortal series, is this: The hero, while totally the alpha male you'd expect a demon to be, is also incredibly sweet to the heroine, a human with latent magic being threatened by a mage.

The typical urban fantasy/urban fantasy romance hero is usually pretty slutty, with a bad-ass attitude to match. He's generally pulled into helping/saving/working with the heroine, often begrudgingly, and...yada, yada, you know the drill. Iskander, Jewel's hero, fulfills the slutty part of the equation, but even though he never planned any sort of involvement with Paisley Nichols, he brings no pissed off, sullen, or I'm-the-boss-of-you attitude into their relationship...

Please click here to read my new Fresh Meat in full. Would love for you to add a comment.


May 19, 2011

It's a Look

This morning, after getting my driver's license renewed, I met a friend for coffee at a local mall that also houses a mineral makeup store for which we'd both bought Groupons. Because I knew I'd be getting my picture taken for my driver's license, I wore makeup (mineral foundation and veil, three colors of eyeshadow applied with a very restrained hand, a brow filler/tamer, mascara, and my typical blush). I should have known that perhaps this store wasn't for me when the make-up artist/saleswoman asked if I was wearing any makeup.

I told her that I wanted to try out her store because Bare Escentuals tends to build their product line around warm tones and I prefer cool ones. What do you suppose she did? Well, after putting foundation and a very brown bronzer on me, she loaded on eye shadows that she described as neutral—ie, browns—but in no way restrained. As for the blusher she used, it had already turned orange by the time she finished my eyes, so she removed it all to try again.

At this point I suggested a neutral look built around gray, but I guess I should have specified light gray, because her idea of a neutral gray eye featured charcoal gray over most of my lid, a teal color on the inner part of the eye, and a coppery yellow smack dab in the center of my lower and middle eyelid. At that point I said, as tactfully as possible, that this might be a fine "night" look, but she assured me it was perfect for daily wear.

In the end I used my Groupon for the foundation, mineral veil, an eyelid primer to cover my red lids, some brow filler, and a huge Kabuki brush that puts my BE Kabuki brush to shame. I picked up a new technique for loading the 'buki brush that I can't wait to try, but after walking in the door five minutes ago, I headed straight for the bathroom and scrubbed the whore off my face.


May 15, 2011

Web Work

I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon creating a blog for my husband's family. I did it here on blogger, using their new template designer interface. I enjoyed the design process more than I thought, because one of the reasons I ended up not being happy as publisher at AAR was the result of all the design work I did, particularly for advertisers in creating ads for authors. I think working on my Heroes and Heartbreakers pieces, laying them out and considering which images to suggest, made the difference. What had become a chore is once again an outlet for creativity.

Speaking of which, my piece on clubbing it in paranormals, posted at the deadly hour of five p.m. Friday afternoon, has died an ignominious death. But I hope you all will be more interested in my next piece, which is, shall we say, on a very titillating subject. All my creativity the day I wrote it went into not being prurient and maintaining a high level of humor throughout. I won't say more until it's posted, but consider your appetites whetted.


May 13, 2011

New at H&H: A Party to Die For

My newest piece for the Heroes and Heartbreakers blog just went online.

In A Party to Die For: Night-Clubbing in Paranormal Romance, write about various hot spots that appear in urban fantasy/urban fantasy romances, including Jean-Claude's Guilty Pleasures, the Blue Moon werewolf club in the Riley Jenson series, and the Rehv's ZeroSum.

Hop on over to H&H and read it, and consider posting a comment. Hope you'll enjoy the visit!


May 7, 2011

L Isn't Just for Losers...It's for Lakers

To call game three of the second round of NBA playoffs last night between our Dallas Mavericks and the L.A. Lakers (the team of my youth) a nail biter is putting it mildly. We got on the train after an early dinner at Mockingbird Station with plenty of time to walk around and soak up atmosphere...which last night meant listening to live music, looking at a couple of Ducati bikes on display, and watching a few crazed fans in wacky outfits (if you dress up crazily enough, they let you stand in a section for the entire game for free).

Once inside we put on our "The Time Is Now" blue t-shirts everyone was asked to don (and those who wouldn't were embarrassed into it by the "shirt cam" that relentless honed in on the scofflaws).

As for the game itself, the Mavs got off to a bad start, but eventually came back to lead.

Then they went down again, and with scant moments left, began to come back as a result of a couple of game-changing three-pointers, the first by Peja Stojakovic, the second by Jet Terry. Nowitzki, who scored 32 points, was named "player of the game," but without that shot by the wish-he-still-looked-like-this Serb, I don't think things would have turned around.

In the end the Mavs won by a healthy margin. At the start of the game the chant was "Beat the Lakers." By the end it was "Sweep the Lakers," in reference to the now 3-0 lead we have over Bryant et al. I hope that's the case, but at this point it's nearly impossible for the Lakers to come back. No team has ever been down 3-0, and I should know. The Mavs almost came back a few years ago, but didn't. That was the year they choked less than usual during the playoffs.

Watching the game was incredibly frustrating because even after losing year after year after year in the playoffs, the Mavs continue to stick with their same outside game. I've watched several coaches come and go, and it doesn't matter; the Mavs refuse to shoot within the paint. Yes, when their 3-point game is on, it's fantastic, but is it too much to ask that they be able to add some lay-ups into the mix? Honestly, I don't think so.

When we got on the train to go home, a gaggle of adorable teen-age girls got on at the West End, with a guy, probably one of their dads, and though they hadn't been to the game, they knew all about it. Everyone was in such a party mood that the smack talk began when one of the girls mentioned she was going to "Cali" for the summer. (Note to cute girls "Cali" natives don't call it Cali.)

Even after that faux pas, we were all having such a good time together that after she said she was a Lakers fan, I felt confident enough to tease her in return. In my very first ever bit of smack talk, while making the L is for Losers sign on my head, I said, "L isn't just for's for Lakers!" The whole back section of our train car—including the cutie—erupted in laughter, and then we were back at Mockingbird Station. The perfect end to a really fun night.

On Sunday we'll be watching game four, this time on television, to see if the Mavs make a clean sweep. With Ron "I need anger management" Artest back from his one-game suspension for hitting J.J. Barea in the face, who knows what'll happen?


May 6, 2011

Fantastic Fiction Sidebar

...I simply turned to my favorite backlist website, Fantastic Fiction. If isn’t on your radar yet, it’s the best source I know for sussing out backlist and series order information. Just last week I learned that Rose Fox’s (one of my PW editors) mother wrote romance. I looked Jennifer Rose up on FF and sent Rose the link, which she promptly included in her Twitter feed. (from Order of Importance, my blog piece for H&H, online May 5th.)

When I wrote the first draft of that blog entry, I took a "time out" smack dab in the middle of it for a sidebar about In my next draft I decided to pull it out as a full length companion piece, only it really didn't "fit" at H&H. So I talked about it with Megan, and decided to post it here.

For those who haven't used before, it's well worth a detailed introduction. As talk of Christine Warren's new Others book kicks off my H&H piece, I captured a screenshot of her Fantastic Fiction page and broke it out into three more manageable images. If all of this is too elementary because you've used Fantastic Fiction forever, forgive me.

This first image shows the author's picture and provides a generally brief biography. I say generally because the bio for Julie Garwood is extensive. Photos aren't always included. Sometimes the author's birth date is included. If the author is dead, the date is generally noted.

New and forthcoming books are broken out, with dates attached, and clicking a cover/title link brings you to a separate page for an individual book. All the individual book pages include, when possible, synopsis information, along with purchase and issue/reissue information. Click here for the page to Black Magic Woman and see what I mean.

Below the new/forthcoming books section is the meat of the page. This part of the page provides the backlist and series information I use on an almost daily basis. I was thrilled when the computers at the bookstore were able to access the Internet because using Fantastic Fiction was often easier in helping to determine a series order than B&N's own system. Many customers walked off with a little slip of paper in their pockets/pocketbooks with "" written on it for future use.

Christine Warren's Fixed series (with each of the six titles and their dates of publication) is followed by her Novels of the Others. The 11 already published books—in order and with dates included—and other titles in the series set to be published this year are listed. Stand-Alone novels follow, then anthologies. All of the titles are links to individual pages, and wherever possible, linked covers are shown.

The third part of the page features author recommendations and a set of links to other authors that may interest the reader. To be honest, I've never actually scrolled down far enough to pay much attention to this part of the page, but it's probably worth a look.

As with the individual book pages, Fantastic Fiction provides quick links to Amazon in the U.S. and U.K., and for those looking to find copies of perhaps hard to find books, those individual pages also provide direct links to various used copies.

Before signing off, I thought I'd also mention a site referred to in one of the first comments to my corresponding H&H piece: While it's a free site, unlike Fantastic Fiction you need to register. Once registered, though, you click "follow" for the series you read, and it'll let you know when the next installment goes on sale. I registered and will be giving it a shot in upcoming weeks and months.

Let's see...I now use my personally designed database, honed and adjusted over the last six or so years to track my reading, goodreads, fantasticfiction, and now fictfact. How do I ever find the time to actually, you know, read?


May 5, 2011

Reading Series in Order (Or Not) at H&H

My newest piece for the Heroes and Heartbreakers blog went online an hour ago. I actually didn't know it was going to appear at all until I checked my twitter feed. What a nice Cinco de Mayo day surprise, and how exciting to see two comments already!

The article is all about reading series in order...when it's important, when it's less so, and what to do when you can't start at the start. I hope you'll swing by, read it, then talk about your own experience by adding to the comments.


May 3, 2011

Voices in My Head

Evan Fallenberg's When We Danced on Water, my favorite book so far in 2011—and my first Desert Isle Keeper in more than half a year, will be published later this month. It's terrific for a lot of reasons, chief among them its elegant prose.

Those of you who've known me online for long know that I often point out bad prose—hence a decade of the Purple Prose Parody Contest. It's less often that I talk about prose in a positive sense. When I do, it's generally to compliment spare prose, as I've done with other DIKs, such as Paulo Coelho's The Fifth Mountain, or overall spareness, both in prose and plot, as with Mary Balogh. Fallenberg's writing isn't so much spare as it is precise. Coelho's writing packs an emotional punch because the prose itself is so spare. Balogh's emotional success comes from the all-round spareness. It is Fallenberg's precision that works so well in this book because it allows him a tremendous fluidity, like Baryshnikov flying across a stage.

The book features an 85-year-old choreographer, so indulge my using that as a metaphor for Fallenberg's writing. Just as a choreographer can capture the fluidity and emotionality of a piece of music and dance, so does this author. Just as a dance features moments of different tempos and varies in boldness and strength, so does Fallenberg write with a pin-point focus, creating a similar fluidity and elegance.

In a couple of scenes his lead character explains how he sees and feels music in his head. While a beautiful concept, it did not fit my experience of music. I wanted needed to understand it better because it was conveyed with such beauty. As music is so integral to his being, I read those passages aloud to my husband, who seemed surprised when I asked if he understood what Fallenberg's character was trying to explain. "Of course," he said matter-of-factly, as though everybody experienced music in that way.

It's been quite awhile since we had that conversation, but it wasn't until recently that I realized he sees music...and when I'm reading, I hear dialog. I hear dialect, voice inflection, even timbre. I don't listen to audiobooks because hearing someone else voice characters interferes with my experience of hearing them in my head.

Among the reasons I so love Eve Dallas' Roarke is that his voice is so clear in my head, particularly when he jokes with Eve or croons sweet nothing to her in that yummy Irish brogue. And when he speaks Gaelic in moments of pure passion, I'm a goner. When a poster to yesterday's piece for H&H objected to a similar speech cadence in Roberts/Robb's writing, I had to sit back and think about whether I'd ever noticed that. I haven't, but I'll start paying attention. That said, though, some of her most vibrant characters are those with accents, so perhaps there's something to her criticism.

What about you? Do you experience music, art, or books in an unusual way?


May 2, 2011

"This Is the End" at H&H

My newest piece for the Heroes and Heartbreakers blog went online late this afternoon. I've been on sort of a writing frenzy the last several days, turning in two more spec pieces to the blog. This one, though, on why I won't be buying Dead Reckoning, Charlaine Harris' new Southern Vampire Mysteries release that goes on sale tomorrow, started forming in my head probably a month ago. Anyway, it goes from Sookie Stackhouse and Liz Phoenix to Eve Dallas, LOST, The Sopranos, and Mad Men, all in the space of about a dozen paragraphs.

I hope you'll swing by, read it, then post a comment. As for me, I'm still trying to take in the death of Osama Bin Laden...and yes, episode three of Game of Thrones.