~~ "She has so many aliases, you'd think she was a spy!" ~~

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Recommended Reading: The Demon Lover, the Newsflesh trilogy, and Tamsin

The DemonLover, Juliet Dark. Juliet Dark is a pseudonym for literary mystery author Carol Goodman, whose books I’ve raved about here before. By “literary mystery” I really mean rich gothics: stories that involve the heroine’s physical and sometimes emotional isolation, evocatively described settings, a sense of dread or foreboding, and often a past mystery that needs to be solved. Yum. The Dark pseudonym is for her new trilogy (and who knows, maybe more?), which are billed as paranormal romance, but they aren’t, not really. Demon Lover is paranormal, absolutely, but not really a “romance” in the genre sense, in part because it’s a trilogy.

Anyway, I still loved it. It’s got an incubus and a witch and a Victorian house and a slightly creepy college in “upstate New York” (which is in quotes because it’s not really upstate upstate), and a heroine whose “lifelong passion is the intersection of lurid fairy tales and Gothic literature” (back cover copy). Oddly, the book I’ve just started writing has some of those elements. Or maybe not so oddly, because I love those elements, and gothics, and paranormals, and romances. If you do, too, you might very well like this book.

Blackout, Mira Grant. I’ve been remiss in keeping up with these posts, so I don’t think I’ve actually recommended Feed and Deadline, the first two books in this trilogy. Let’s just make this about all of them, shall we?

Mira Grant is the pseudonym for Seanan McGuire, whose urban fantasies I’ve rave about there before. (Apparently it’s been my month for pseudonymous author I rave about.) She went with a pseudonym because these are more science fiction/horror. They’re about biologically created zombies.

If you’d told me I’d willingly read a zombie book, much less enjoy it, I’d’ve laughed. I really don’t get the whole zombie phenomenon. (Which is not to say there’s anything wrong with it—I’m simply more partial to ghosts, witches, and fairies than I am zombies, vampires, and werecreatures. If it’s a good book about any of those things, I’ll give it a try.)

These are good books. Give them a try. Grant/McGuire’s magical power is the ability to create characters that really feel like real people. She also creates believable situations—she researched the epidemiology of how the zombie virus works—and talk about page-turning cliffhangers, hoo boy. If you’re up all night reading these books, don’t blame me. But read them.

Tamsin, Peter S. Beagle. I first read Tamsin when we lived in Wales, and I reread it earlier this year in preparation for Phoenix Comicon, where Beagle was a guest. I’d intended to have him autograph it, but instead I caved and bought the deluxe DVD/Blu-Ray edition of The Last Unicorn. (What can I say? I’m weak when I get all fangirly.)

I’d forgotten how good Tamsin is, which was in some ways nice because it felt like I was experiencing all the wonder for the first time. Although the protagonist, Jenny, starts the book at age fourteen, it’s not a YA book (although it could certainly be read by YA readers). Jenny’s perfectly content with her life in NYC with her mother, her cat Mister Cat, her friends, etc. Then her mother has to go and fall in love with a British guy who hauls them off to a farm in Dorset, along with his two sons. When I was growing up, this would have sounded like pure freaking heaven (and it still does, in many ways!), but not so much to Jenny. Jenny’s miserable but not bitchy; she’s unhappy but not unhelpful. She has a fantastic voice, too, and as she teeters on the brink of womanhood, she finds both the wondrous magic and terrible evil the world contains.

Beagle is a master storyteller, and Tamsin is just about perfect. If it weren’t for the tottering piles of books in my To Read bookcase, I’d be likely to pick this back up and reread it right now….

Monday, July 30, 2012

RWA Nationals 2012, Day 1

I’m at the annual Romance Writers of America national conference (aka RWA Nationals or just Nationals), surrounded by smart, creative, savvy, engaging, vibrant, funny, wonderful women. I was hit with some negativity in my life recently, and this is like a refreshing, energizing dive into a woodland pool that’s almost shockingly cold—bringing me back to center, sluicing away the bad stuff, and waking me up to the good.

Over the past couple of days, I found myself resisting coming here. (It was never a question, since I’d already paid for it, committed to sharing a room, etc.) It wasn’t logical; it was emotional. Ken’s going to be gone for most of August, and I just don’t want to be away from him right now. Plus I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump, thanks to the above-mentioned negativity but also, I’m coming to realize, that I really haven’t completely recovered from the emotional battering of the past couple years (the trifecta of my father’s death, my sister’s aneurysm, and Ken’s accident and my attendant primary-caregiver status, along with the added pain and stress of my own hand injury last December). I always think I’m better before I really am, and I’m surprised to discover I’m wrong. I’m much, much better, don’t get me wrong—I just forget that it’s a process, and there are always slides backwards, even if they’re small and the forward motion is bigger.

Anyway. I rode down here with the utterly wonderful Kim—which is, in fact, one of the things I really was looking forward to, because she’s funny and a bundle of positive energy, and I never get the time to just sit and talk with her. We had a blast. Then I hit my room and hugged my awesome friend Christine and met our roomies Sarah and Roz, both of whom I adored within minutes, and Kim and Tanya stopped by, and there was wine and conversation until far too late.

I’ve been to two workshops today, but the third was so crowded that I opted to take a break and do a little work in the room. Next is a luncheon, followed by another workshop, and then I’m taking the rest of the afternoon off. Sarah and I are going to work out, and then a bunch of us will grab dinner, and then who knows what mischief we’ll get into.

One of the workshops this morning made the conference worth the price of admission. It was about how productivity isn’t a matter of time management, but of energy management. So much of it resonated with me, like this simple exercise: Close your eyes, focus on your body, and think five times, “I have to write.” Did you tense up? Now do the same thing, except think “I get to write!” You’ll have an entirely different physical, emotional, and spiritual reaction. Duh. (I’m saying “duh” to me, because, well, that should’ve been obvious…)

[Hm…it’s now after the conference and I don’t remember what else I was going to write here, so I think I’ll just post this and move on!  :-)  ]


I’ve signed the contract, so now I can announce the very, very exciting news!

I’ve had a short story accepted for a Mercedes Lackey-edited anthology of stories based in her awesome Elemental Masters universe!

::runs around in small circles, hands flapping::

I’ve been reading Misty’s work since…well, let’s just say math would be involved in figuring it out. A long time. And I love the Elemental Masters series. It’s mostly set in Britain (although our stories didn’t have to be), pre-WWII, and the premise is that there are people who have elemental magic, the ability to work magic based on the four elements and to interact with the attendant elemental creatures (water magicians commune with sylphs and naiads, etc.). Additionally, each book is based loosely on a fairy tale or legend.

I set my story in and around Castle Coch in south Wales, a place I’ve been to several times. It’s truly a fairy tale/fantasy castle, with conical-roofed towers and incredible decorations. Unsurprisingly, my underlying fairy tale is Rapunzel. (See also below.)

I love writing romance and erotica (obviously), but fantasy was my first love, and any opportunity I get to write fantasy makes me happy. To be a part of this project makes me insanely joyous.

I have to thank a few people for helping me on this journey:
  • Ken, for putting up with me every time I thought I couldn’t do it, thought the idea was stupid. I haven’t had much faith in my writing ability lately, and he’s done nothing but prop me up and say all the right things I needed to hear.
  • Kris & Dean and the Oregon Writers Network, for not only holding so many workshops that have helped me grow as a writer, but for making it possible for me to be in the right place at the right time for this opportunity.
  • Lee Rebennack, for immediately saying “Rapunzel” when I asked those in our hotel room at Phoenix Comicon what their favorite fairy tale was. That smashed into the idea of using Castle Coch and my brain did that wonderful writerly “OoooOOOoooh!” that happens when the right ideas come together.

I’m probably overreacting to this—I mean, hell, I’ve sold more than a hundred short stories—but given how hard it’s been to even finish a short story lately, much less how I’ve questioned whether I should be even doing this, I’m going to go with the euphoria.