Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Mish-Mash - Oscars & Popular Lit

Thanks for your patience during the lack of bloggerness this week, I was trying like crazy to finish a story before the Epic Awesome that is my China Trip commences. And my internet was being all wonky and wobbly. So those are my excuses. Mea culpa.

I promise to have (semi)brilliant and (vaguely) insightful things to say later this week, but it's a weekend so today I'm taking a break from that bothersome brain usage. So I'm just gonna babble for a few minutes. Feel free to ignore me.

I have big plans to watch the Academy Awards tonight (woot!). I'm abnormally excited about James Franco & Anne Hathaway hosting. I love that they both have the capacity to be both silly and respectful -which can be a tricky balance. I'm slightly less enthused than I was yesterday, since last night I saw the rerun of Anne Hathaway hosting SNL and her humor seemed a trifle forced. Hopefully she's more natural a la Oscar.

Are you rooting for any films? I'd love to see The Social Network win. It just feels like the film of the year for me. So brilliantly written - but then all things Aaron Sorkin are. And Colin Firth and Natalie Portman both turned in Oscar-worthy performances, I'd say. (I also kinda loved that Geoffrey Rush's wife in The King's Speech was played by Jennifer Ehle who was Lizzie to Colin's Darcy in the BBC Pride & Prejudice. Yay, random trivia!)

Speaking of trivia, I found a trivia place in Alaska! This is a cause of much rejoicing as I am freakishly addicted to pub trivia. We made a trek to it last Wednesday and came in third! Which meant cash money winnings, baby. Woot! Just think how well we could have done if we'd remembered that Van Buren was the first President born a US Citizen! Will I be going back? Wild horses couldn't keep me away. (But China will... T-minus ten days to departure!)

I've started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I know I'm about a year behind the rest of the US and two years behind the rest of the world, but I like to let the furor die down before I wade into Literatus Popularus Maximus. I'm only about sixty pages in and, yes, it's quite solid, but I find myself wondering what it is that made this book such a phenom when there are so many not dissimilar books that just sort of bellyflop onto the market.

I then thought about why I was reading the book and wondered - as with the Da Vinci Code & Twilight & My Sister's Keeper - if there is a level of sales that is achieved when not only is a book popular, but it becomes the book that people believe they must have read to keep face. I am reading TGWTDT because everyone and their brother seems to have read this book and I want to know what all the fuss is about. This seems to be a level beyond bestseller. When people are almost forced to read a book against their will to avoid cultural dunce status.

I'm not sure how a book reaches this tipping point to begin with, but it is a fascinating point to have reached.

Have YOU ever read a book just because of peer pressure? Did you like it? Did you judge the book differently - either favorably or more harshly - because of it?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oh, the Pretties!

We have art! I've been biting my lip and wriggling with impatience to share this baby and at last we have clearance for liftoff! Woot! So now, without further ado (though we all know how much I love my ado) I give you the (pretty! pretty!) cover art for Serengeti Sunrise!

What do you think? Not to bias your opinion or anything but I kinda love it.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

DA BWAHA Nomination Time!

Every March the powers of Dear Author and Smart Bitches combine for the epic explosion of awesome that is the Dear Author Bitchery Writing Awards for Hellagood Authors (or DABWAHA for short). Books and prizes? Baby this tourney has 'em. I discovered Patricia Briggs, Joanna Bourne and Suzanne Collins through their DA BWAHA dominance, so yeah, this is a powerful indicator of some freaking superb books.

And this year, you (yes, YOU, reader-friend) can nominate your favorite books (one per category). Don't miss the chance to get your Must Reads onto this list.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Borders Bankruptcy

As you may have already heard, Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday and announced the planned closure of 200 of their 600+ stores. The Wall Street Journal provided a list of the stores closing. One of them? The only Borders in the state of Alaska. (Also of note to me: the Kailua Borders will also close and in Ohio the Sawmill & Kenny Rd stores are both shutting their doors as well.) So pretty much every Borders I've ever been to. It is safe to say I will not be shopping at Borders in the foreseeable future.

I live in a fairly large town. We have countless restaurants, half a dozen mutli-plex cinemas, two Costcos, three Walmarts, two Targets, and three major book stores - one Borders, one Barnes & Noble, and one large independent store that specializes in used books. I would probably be sadder to see Borders go, but for the fact that they've never carried my books (selfish of me, but true) and the customer service at my local branch leaves something to be desired. Mostly, I'm just bummed that B&N and Title Wave are going to be so much more crowded when it was already hard to find a chair.

And I'm curious to see what company will move into their retail space - it really is a beautiful free-standing building in an excellent location. The fact that Borders tanked there has nothing to do with the excellent, high-traffic, high-visibility location and everything to do with a decade of poor business decisions. Do you remember ten years ago when you clicked on "Buy It Online" at the Borders website and you were redirected to the "Borders" tab on Amazon? Really, how small did they think this whole interwebz thing was gonna be that they decided to siphon all their early-adapter web-business to one of their competitors rather than establishing their own online storefront? And no one can deny they've been distinctly behind the curve on ebooks which have saved B&N as brick and mortar store sales decline.

The times, they are a'changing and Borders is finally going to have to catch up. Here's hoping they can restructure as a company and haul themselves out of bankruptcy. It's a shame for the publishing houses for whom Borders' "debt" of millions has become "loss." (Penguin is out over 40 mil.) It will be interesting to see how they evolve and whether they survive.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


We have a coming soon page, boys and girls! You know what that means? Official, hot off the presses blurbage! And now, unveiled, your first glimpse of Serengeti Sunrise! Squee!

No strings? Try hopelessly tangled.

Zoe King is itching to get out of Three Rocks. Sure, the pride is more progressive with her brother in charge. She’s just got a bad case of wanderlust…and an even worse case of the hots for Tyler Minor.

The pride’s mechanic sets her senses on fire one second, then shuts down and walks away the next. Before she hits the road for good, this lioness decides it’s time to bring their cat-and-mouse game to a satisfying end.

Twenty years ago, Tyler’s father walked out and left him with a mountain of responsibility. Now that his younger siblings are settled, the last thing he wants or needs is another obligation. Which is exactly what he’ll get if he screws around with the Alpha’s sister.

When Zoe offers—more like demands—a no-strings affair, temptation wins and he finds his hands in places they shouldn’t be, and his thoughts straying to words like his. But Zoe’s got her own ideas about possessive, chest-banging males. And they don’t include white picket fences…or letting Tyler keep her out of the danger zone when an outside threat to the pride’s secrecy becomes all too real.

Are you psyched? Because me? I'm psyched.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Jeopardy is having IBM's computer Watson play in a tournament against mega-champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter this week. So cool, right? But at the first break, I have to say I was kinda pissed (and I wouldn't be surprised if Jennings & Rutter were too). I mean, seeing Watson's "thought process" was cool and all, but had they not taken into account human reaction times for buzzing in? Jennings & Rutter were only able to ring in four times! (of 15) And a couple of those four were questions the computer didn't know. I wonder if they adjusted the ring-in time for the second half or if Watson just had a harder time with the higher point value questions.

I also might have yelled at the screen when they accepted "Maxwell's silver hammer" as a person. They would have made a human clarify that, but they let it slide for Watson - which seemed grossly unfair.

And was it just me, or were the questions seriously easy? Hoping for more from tomorrow's Double Jeopardy. (Gripe number four: only half a game per day? Really?)

But still, very cool. Not really sure what the usefulness of a Jeopardy-playing computer is to the human race, but cool that it exists. And this huge team of genius people spent the last three years and who knows how much money working on that when they could have been... okay, clearly I can't bitch about people not using their brains for the scientific advancement of humanity since I spend my days writing fluffy romance novels. Shutting up now.

Yay, Watson! (But I'm still rooting for Jennings.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Hearts & Flowers Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Guess what? Guess! Guess! Guess! The Ghost Exterminator was named one of Joyfully Reviewed's Best of 2010!!!
Did you guess it? Did the graphic give it away a tiny bit?

I'm all twitterpated. This calls for heart-shaped sweets of every variety. Luckily, it's Valentine's Day and there is a plethora of such delicacies on hand! Huzzah!

How are you celebrating Love Day?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Engage Your Psychic Powers

Tomorrow is The Romance Studio's 8th Annual Cupid & Psyche Awards (or CAPAs) and you (yes you!) can win a $50 Barnes & Noble gift card just for guessing the winners! Swing by and fill out your ballot before 10am Valentine's Day for your chance to win!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yours, Mine & Howls

Remember that awesome novella Kiss & Kin that was released with Serengeti Heat and is also part of the Shifting Dreams anthology? Did you immediately run out and search desperately for anything else by the utterly fabulous Kinsey W. Holley? Were you crying tears of frustration at the thought that you would have to wait for her next brilliant book? Well, DRY YOUR TEARS, darlings!

Kinsey Holley's new release Yours Mine & Howls released this week to much delighted sighing and rapid page turning from the reading populace.

Sometimes happily ever after is on the wrong side of death’s door.

Thirteen years ago, Ally Kendall died defending her young cousin from his werewolf stepfather.

She hasn’t been the same since.

Ally returned from the hereafter with strange new powers, burdened with the secret of why and how she survived. She managed to scrape her life together and raise her cousin, but now he needs a pack to guide him into adulthood. That means pulling up stakes yet again and heading for Colorado to find the only werewolf qualified for the job. A werewolf, she discovers, who tempts her to give up control in a thousand sinful ways.

Cade MacDougall, Alpha of an unrecognized pack, has a tragic history, a sizable ranch, and a daughter who thinks she’s a cat. Time to find a mate? Don’t make him laugh. Until Ally shows up with a smokin’ hot, preternaturally strong body that smells like mine, and introduces him to a nephew who holds the key to unraveling mysteries about Cade’s family—and himself.

But Ally’s holding something back. As Cade’s enemies gather, the cowboy and his secretive new mate must come clean about their mysterious pasts…or else all hope of protecting their newly formed family—and their future—will be lost.

Is Kinsey as good as you remember? Damn straight she is.

Aaaaand, there's a new Samhain release by perennial favorite Vivian Arend as well. It's a good week, boys and girls. A very good week.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chuck & the Line Between Comedy & Melodrama

Let's talk Chuck.

I watched this show (Mondays 8/7central on NBC) when it first came out and then my attention wandered away in the second season, only to be reinvigorated by my melty Disney-crush on the voice of the guy from Tangled who also plays the hero on Chuck. (I could just listen to that voice for days...*sigh*)

Recently my DVR has been chock-full o' Chuck, but as I watch it, I keep pondering why the series doesn't quite work for me. I loved Alias. I love comedies. So a show that is essentially the lighter side of Alias should be excellent, right? Except... it doesn't quite fly for me.

It reminds me of that Aaron Sorkin show Sports Night. The first few episodes had a live audience and you could hear the awkward laughter. Sorkin is one of the cleverest (yes, that's a word now) writers out there, but laugh-out-loud is just not his kind of humor. And Sports Night, while witty and sharp, just didn't play like a comedy. The studio audience/laughtrack/what-have-you was weird. And as soon as they took it out, the show became sooooo much better. The actors stopped overplaying for laughs and it became real and much more powerful. And funnier. (Though still, more a drama in a weird 30 minute "sit com" time slot.)

I think maybe Chuck's problem is almost the opposite. Chuck is great when it's over the top camp, but occasionally it falls into the category of comedies that are taking themselves just a tiny bit too seriously. Going for the dramatic moments, tipping into playing it straight - most noticeably where the relationship between the hero & heroine are concerned. And when comedies try to be dramatic, they have to tread very carefully, because melodrama is waiting to suck them into its gooey clutches, never to be seen or heard from again.

Here's what I think might be the crux of the issue - the straight man/funny man dynamics. The byplay between goofy Morgan and hard-ass Casey is brilliant, because Casey is utterly emotionless. But the relationship between hapless(though not as hapless anymore) Chuck and his tough-girl (who isn't really that tough anymore and is really pretty damn angsty) girlfriend Sarah doesn't play. She is written as too emotional to carry the straight man role, so their interactions seem... awkward to me. They are pushing so hard for heartfelt that all I see is the effort. Hawkeye & Hotlips they ain't.

Or look at Beckett & Castle. Booth & Bones. Shuester & Silvester. The entire Stephanie Plum series in which she is a basketcase who plays off the manly emotional lock-down of Morelli & Ranger. When the straight man is buttoned up, it's poetry. And that isn't to say that they can't have real emotions, but these folks don't wear their hearts on their sleeves - at least not voluntarily and certainly not Every. Single. Episode.

Humor is a delicate balance. And so is sexual chemistry. It needs resistance! But with them all lovey-dovey and no alternative love interest on the horizon, even her dangerous mission behind enemy lines feels like a delaying tactic to keep them apart until the big finale episode rather than an actual obstacle.

But still I watch (and listen) and so do many others, so they must be doing something right.

Do you watch Chuck? Love it? Hate it? Never bothered with it? Do you, too, have a melty Disney-crush on an animated character's voice person?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Editorial Crushes

To promote her new book, I Think I Love You, Allison Pearson and a host of editorial folks fess up to their teen crushes. I think this might be my favorite book trailer ever.

Ah, those celebs who made us twitterpated... Who turned your crank when you were a teeny bopper?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Do You Remember?

I'm currently in love with Nova Science Now on PBS. This week they did an episode on the brain which was seriously cool (mind control, anyone?), but the part that fascinated me the most was when they were talking about the computer that is going to be competing on Jeopardy. It really brings clarity to the wonderful way the human mind words, easily navigating puns and dual meanings a computer would have to be taught to analyze statistically. Thinking about Watson and his vast resources of data I got to thinking about the trickiness of human memory.

I have a "good" memory, but what that really means is that I just have a very particular type of memory. My particular type of memory helped me excel in school, but it also means I forget huge swathes of things... like almost everyone I knew in school. (One of my friends is constantly struggling to remind me of the existence of people I used to speak to on a daily basis.) The way my brain works is simple: Out of sight, out of mind.

I have a trigger memory. (Which means I kick ass at Jeopardy, even if I spend half of every episode ranting about how annoying I find Trebec.) Things get lodged in my brain in relation to one another, stored in spots and called up by triggers that set off cascades of information. But without the right trigger, I draw a big ole blank. I don't know why my brain works this way and luckily I find it entertaining rather than frustrating. (It also makes me rather an odd conversationalist because I follow some rather bizarre tangents, but that's neither here nor there...)

This kind of memory has given me an odd Achilles heel that I have to grit my teeth through. You see, I can't shut off the memory cascade. When I see/hear a trigger, I remember everything associated with it that's stored in my brain. This is fine in most circumstances, but it can add unexpected interference (like background static) to watching movies and reading books (two of my favorite activities).

I can't read reviews of movies I'm actually planning to see, I ask people not to talk about them around me - even if they think they aren't giving anything away - and I even try not to watch too many previews. (I'm one of those people who will walk out of a movie and be able to quote the two lines that were in the preview that hit the cutting room floor and never made it into the feature film.)

But my real problem is people who are just trying to chit-chat who give me their opinions of films. Harmless, right? I hate this, but you can't always plug your ears and yell "La la la la!" when it happens. I went to see the Fighter last week. The ticket clerk told me "the acting's really good" as she handed me my ticket. Innocent enough, but my stupid brain wouldn't shut up about it and I spent the entire movie with a little sotto voce conversation in the back of my head about why she focused on the acting rather than the story or the film itself. Was the story flawed? Would the ending be unsatisfying? Depressing? Why were Oscar movies often such downers? Was "good acting" code for "everyone dies in the end"? Did she usually focus on the acting (which was in fact quite good) or had she only mentioned that because there were a bunch of nominations for actors in the film? Pause to recall the acceptance speeches of Christian Bale (double pause for internal debate on the merits of "method" actors) and Melissa Leo. This segued into the analysis of actors playing real people, other movies set in Boston (hiatus for rundown of all movies by Ben Affleck or Matt Damon), other boxing movies with notable performances - which led to Million Dollar Baby which led to everything directed by Clint Eastwood and the question of whether the ticket taker would have called them good movies or commented on the performances therein. Did she have aspirations to be an actor? Or was she just the kind of person who liked to sound erudite and informed when offering comments on films and thought the acting was more high brow to comment on than just the generic merit of the film? On and on and on... being triggered over and over and over again every time there was a particularly effective acting moment on the screen. (Is that the scene that made her decide the acting was good? What about that one? And that one? Surely, it had to be that one.)

It's the same if it's something someone said to me weeks ago or something said five minutes before I walk in the door (though after several months it starts to fade). And it's worse when it's the opinion of someone I know.

Of course, it's the same with books. If you recommend a book to me, your words will echo in my brain as I read it. Which is part of why I carry books around with me for a while before reading them. To get distance from the people who raved about it when it first came out.

A friend's much-anticipated book released this week. I was in the Can't Wait to Read It camp, but now I find I will not be reading it for a while. Too many people have been gushing to me about it. I can't touch it now without being constantly reminded who sang which praises. In a few months the trigger won't be so fresh and I'll be able to ignore most of the hype when I pick it up. In the mean time, it sure looks pretty on my bedside table.

What kind of memory do you have? I know some people whose memories are strongly tied to emotion or who remember precise wording and others who excel at remembering sequences of events. I'm always stunned when people can remember what they did last week or last year on this date without having to look at a calendar. I know what happened, but the order and the exact date in the past often elude me.

Why do we remember the way we remember? Is it about focus? Can we train ourselves to remember things in different ways? Did you know there are parts of the brain that actually serve to suppress extraneous information? Do you wonder if perhaps we remember far more and in many more ways than we believe ourselves capable of? Do we all, perhaps, have photographic memories waiting to be tapped? Is this why a hypnosis subject can recall detail the conscious mind cannot?

The way the human brain works really fascinates me. So much untapped potential! This is probably part of why I'm so in love with psychic phenomenon books. There's so much we don't understand. So many things we might be capable of if we only accessed our own abilities.

Of deep space, deep seas, and the inner workings of our own craniums - which do you think will be the final frontier?

(You can watch past episodes of NovaScienceNow at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

All About Romance Poll 2011!

It's that time of year again! All About Romance is hosting their annual "best of" poll. We, the readers, get a say. And in addition to the traditional categories there are perennial favorites: "Best Kick-ass Romance Heroine" and "Guiltiest Pleasure Romance".

Voting is open until Saturday so let your voice be heard. Click here to fill out your ballot!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Greatest Wall on Earth!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I'm going to Beijing!!! (And there was much rejoicing!) For three weeks this March, there may be radio silence here at the blog since China is rather finicky about their internet access, but when I return I will have stories! And photos! And new stamps in my passport! (Sorry about the excessive use of exclamation points. I'm a tad excited.)

I continue on my quest to visit all the Wonders this World has to offer, and I'm going to get to visit a great friend in the process. Double bonus!

Have you been to China? Any sights you recommend I see on my visit? What's number one on your travel wish list?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beyond Good & Evil

Back when I was in high school, I had a writing mentor, Marcia. She was the first "real" writer I'd ever met and I'm still shattered by the vast quantity of things she taught me in the few short months I had access to her wisdom and experience. One day, she took me with her to a writer's workshop. It was not of the One True Way of Writing school of thought (thank goodness) but rather about finding the stories that meant the most to you and focusing your energies there.

We did an exercise at the workshop that I wish I could remember in more detail. It was four (six?) sentences where you had to write down three things. Like: Three Things that would make the world a better place if everyone had them. Three Things that would make the world a better place if they were eradicated. I don't remember the exact wording or even all my Threes, but I remember I wanted people to have Freedom and be rid of Prejudice. I'd love to find this exercise and do it again... to see how my answers have changed in the last decade and a half. But I think some of them would be the same. I still want to get rid of Prejudice. I still long for Freedom.

At the end of the exercise, after we'd talked about all our answers ad nauseum, the guy leading the session turned to us and said, "If you aren't writing about these things, what's stopping you?" I liked that message. Don't just write the books you like, write the books that mean something bigger to you. Write the ones that resonate with your Threes.

I've been struggling a bit lately with my focus. I'm always more focused when I'm passionate about my story, so I've been working to find a way "in" to the book I'm writing, a common point of passion between it and myself. And when that fails to inspire, I find myself lured off to contemplate this completely different idea in a new genre.

I was trying to figure why this teaser idea was so tempting, and I realized it had to do with my threes. The things that matter most to me... or in this case, the three things that piss me off the most.

I have a trio of pet peeves - hot buttons that get me going faster than anything else. i swear I don't just sit around thinking about things that make me crazy all the time, but it's funny because a few weeks ago I was worked up over one of them and I sort of asked the universe if there was anything that bothered me more than that, and it provided examples of the other two in short order.

Number One, and the most common, is Unnecessary Assumptions. It makes me crazy when someone can ask a simple question and get an answer (I love questions) but instead they make a ridiculous assumption and then make a conclusion based on that erroneous information. (I think this is why I get so annoyed by misunderstandings in books.) If you meet me, it might feel like an interrogation because I ask you so many questions, but I won't be making uninformed assumptions. And if I am, you are encouraged to smack me. Repeatedly.

I was bothered a couple weeks ago by someone who was making assumptions about my background. She assumed I could not know anything about what I was talking about, when she could easily have asked if I knew what I was talking about. (Sometimes I don't, but I'll usually tell you in advance that I have no idea what I'm blathering about.) In that particular case, I did know so it was doubly frustrating. And the next day, as I sat there wondering, does anything hack me off as much as that? my second pet peeve popped up: Missionaries.

Religious, political, lifestyle, whatever - they come in all flavors. Have your opinions. Share your opinions. Defend them and publicly praise them. Go for it! But please, for the love of all that is respectful of others, do not insist that your way of life is better than someone else's and they must live by your rules for their own good.

This one definitely ties in with #1 and Assumptions, because you are assuming that all people would be better off if they were like you. You are happy in your way of life and I am happy for you, but I don't necessarily want to live that way. And if I do decide to, I want to come to that decision on my own. But there is no sense arguing with Missionaries - whatever they are preaching for your own good - because you cannot change the minds of zealots.

At that point I was convinced nothing else made me as frustrated as Unnecessary Assumptions and Missionaries. But then today... I found the third. (They always come in threes don't they?) This one is harder to pin down to a particular word. It's part Narrowmindedness and part Judgmentalness - but it's a very specific type. It's the tendency to brand something or someone "Evil."

I don't believe in evil. I believe people do horrible things out of self-interest (or deluded self-interest or massive psychological damage). It's all a question of the filter of perspective. This is part of why I avoid Romantic Suspense. Because I got sick of reading about serial killers who are just "evil" and there is no why behind their actions because once you throw out that catch-all phrase, what more do you need?

This behavior is dismissive and condemnatory - and whenever you dismiss and condemn something, you shut yourself off from anything you might learn about it. That's what all three of these pet peeves have in common - shutting yourself off from the possibility of learning from others. And that makes me nuts.

This, I think, is why my new idea keeps tugging me away from my work (when I really need to be working). It shines a light straight on my Three Pet Peeves. It looks at the assumptions about evil and turns them around, in spite of the resistance of those who would inflict their beliefs about the matter on everyone they can.

I'm gonna have to write it one of these days... or every time I get hacked off about something, it's going to keep distracting me from the work I should be doing...

What are your Three Hot Buttons? Do you write about them?