Posts tagged ‘Fiction’

Cruel to be Kind…or Just Kinda Cruel

Everyone’s a critic. Especially on the internet. Or so I hear. But see, here’s the thing I’ve learned during my past year as a semi-legit book reviewer: bad reviews are not easy to write. At all. In fact, they are infinitely more difficult to write than good reviews.

Not a "semi-legit" critic, more like a "totes legit" one

It seems so counterintuitive. You would think that it would be relatively easy to write a scathing review of some book by some author who you probably will never meet and who wont know you from Tabitha, Denise, or Harriet much less from Tom, Dick, or Harry.  Online you can hide your gender with initials, your name under pseudonyms, you can be anyone… so surely it must be easier to just rip into a book, to really get in there and give it a terrible review.

But it’s not. Bad reviews make you just feel bad.

Last night I was finishing up my latest book for RT BOOKREVIEWS. It was a new Carina Press romantic suspense, and I was just loving the beginning. It was smart. It was funny. The car chases seemed so real and quirky. And the hero and heroine seemed to have some pretty hot stuff between them.

And then the author lost me. Our quirky, spunky, stubborn heroine transformed into the clinched TSTL female–you know the kind, rushing into danger, refusing to listen to logic, spurring good advice all under the guise of standing up for herself and being empowered. Oh sure, I am all for empowered femininity and not bowing to the demands of an Alpha male, but when your empowered stance lands you in deep shit forcing the hero to save your worthless ass, then I don’t really see that as “empowered” per say. I see it as a demeaning example of a stereotypical feminine inability to reason. Not cool. At all.

Oh, I was so angry at this book.  They lured me in with happy, awesome-ness and then smacked me up the head with stupidity. I literally threw it across the room I was so frustrated. And then I ranted to Roaming through Romance diva, Spencer, who sadly seems to end up on the “arg” side of quite a few of my romantic rants.

However, as much I was angry with this book, as much as I felt betrayed and let down by it, it took me hours upon hours to write the review. Hours of sitting there at my computer watching the cursor blink, thinking of how I could emphasize the good, relate the bad, and still not crush the hopes and dreams of a talented debut author who just needed a little more work and a better heroine.

It took me all night when most reviews take me less than an hour. It wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say–my midnight emails to Spencer suggest otherwise–it’s trying to balance that line of professional and informative with just plain opinionated and bitchy. Who knows whether the review worked or not–we’ll just have to wait and see. But until then take a look at one of my 2 star, “official” reviews. The first book I ever had to be cruel and kind, Freedom’s Treasure by Janet Quinn. Oh Jubilee!

Romantic Question: Do you think you need to be cruel to be kind in bookreviews? Or should people just keep their opinions to themselves?

September 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm 1 comment

Card Carrying Romance Lover

Everyone has their little addictions.  Some people are shopoholics.  Some–like my friend Amanda–are chocoholics.  Others are bookaholics.  Personally, I’m all three.  We all have those little obsessions that we just can’t get enough of.  But me…well, while I may love books, chocolate, and shopping…well, for me, I am a contest-aholic.

Well, hello, there Aidan

Yes, I am addicted to entering contests. And it is a problem.

When it comes to contests I look before I leap.  I’ll just be wasting some time on the internet, browsing some sites, and the next thing I know, I’ve entered some romance novel/blog contest.  This wouldn’t be a problem if

  1. I didn’t keep winning and
  2. I didn’t forget that I had entered them.

See the problem?  Winning is great.  I love winning, but when I forget what I entered to win, it becomes a problem.  For example, last week I was just sitting with my mother on one of my visits back home when my father hands me an envelope.  Apparently, I had mail.  I expected some junk or maybe some letter from a friend, but when I opened the flap I ended up with the most amazing surprise.

Romance novel trading cards!

the front...

and the back

Yeah, I know! They’re like baseball cards for romance novels.  Too cool.  I was so excited.  New addiction.  They are like Pokemon + baseball + sex, which = happy in my world! I think I have to collect them all.  Now, if only I can remember which contest I entered to get them so I can figure out how to get some more…

September 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm Leave a comment

That Might Be A Problem…

I’m a mildly possessive person in my personal life. I think it may be because I’m a middle child, but I really like my things to stay mine. That book? Sure, I don’t have a problem with you looking at it…reading it…borrowing it. But I will want it back. Mine. The same applies for relationships. That boyfriend? Bitch, please. Back up right now. Maybe I should work on that…

But that said, I am not very good with romances that involve mistresses, the other woman, sharing. There are exceptions…like in Iris Johansen’s early romance Wind Dancer.  I love that book.  So emotional and passionate and compelling. I mean the hero in that book is just way intense, but spoilers: he’s married. And I just had to deal with that little roadblock in the great relationship that is our couple’s epic love. However, I am not usually so cool with the idea that our heroine has to share the love of her life with some other woman. It makes me a little angry.  I don’t necessarily like to share, so why should my heroine?

Which is why I really related to the heroine in my latest review for RT BOOKREVIEWS. Oh yeah, Geneen and I had a lot in common in that regard. Birds of a feather. Mildly judgmental…but in a supportive and nice way? Check. Completely possessive of our love? Check. Often accused of not “thinking with our hearts”–which makes no sense at all FYI–and being a little too “rational” when it comes to relationships–like that’s really so terrible? Check.

Yup, Genny and I match. And if you’re thinking, “Hmmm. That sounds like me!” Then check out my review of The King’s Mistress by Sandy Blair (Samhain) out now!

August 3, 2011 at 12:04 am Leave a comment

The Alpha and the Beta

Just a little something I want...

My newest and dearest friend Courtney asked me the other day what the secret is to writing a good romance novel. Is it the sex? The characters? The dialogue? The plot? What makes one romance novel good or even great and the other so bad that it makes you want to twirl the heroine around your head like a lasso and let go, thus ensuring she will never return?

Well, obviously there’s no set secret or key ingredient for a kick-ass romance. And hypnotically speaking? If there was, and I told you, then I’d have to kill you, and since y’all are primarily my friends and family, I think that would be very sad indeed. But, I can tell you that for me, there is ONE thing that can make or break my romance novel: the hero.

Oh that hunky, hunky piece of man-flesh. The hero is like 40% of the romance equation with the heroine making the other 40, the setting being 5 and the plot being 2. Which I don’t think makes a whole 100% but math has never been my strong point and there are other miscellaneous things that also contribute to romance gold like author and writing and for me HISTORICAL ACCURACY. But the hero, he’s really at the heart of the story.

See the hero needs to be someone you, the reader, can see yourself falling in love with (or for you strangling dudes out there who are reading this, he needs to be someone who represents an ideal, romanticized, yet totally realistic version of you).  When Courtney asked me what makes a good romance, I told her the hero needed to be Alpha. I know it’s a controversial stance. But for me, the hero has to be an Alpha Hero, preferably with a military/criminal background, the ability to fire a gun/beat someone up if he has to, or some mildly dominant/aggressive figure.  He also needs to be sensitive and caring and understanding, acknowledging that our heroine can take care of herself. Make sense?

Chose Wisely!

Some sites on the internet like to argue that there are many types of heroes blah blah blah. But in my mind there are two: the Alpha and the Beta. One I love. The other I loath.

Popular romance writer Jayne Ann Krentz defines the Alpha saying:

‘Alpha Male’ was a term coined by romance writers a few years back to try to explain the essential qualities of the most popular heroes in romance novels. It has come to stand for the hero endowed with the classic heroic virtues: honor, courage, determination – a man who may be rough around the edges but who is capable of learning how to love. Beta males just aren’t nearly as interesting, for some strange reason.

And I agree.  Beta males are the heroes who let the woman take the lead. I see them as the Ray Romano character on Everybody Loves Raymond (which newsflash: no one in that family really seems to love Raymond!). The Beta is more of a lover not a fighter. The site All About Romance, defines them as:

These romances have kinder, gentler heroes, the kind of men who will change your flat tire, open doors for you, help your kid with his homework, and bring you soup when you are sick. They are the anti-thesis of the testosterone-filled chest beaters found in the earlier bodice-ripper romances. These are the guys we all want to find in real life.

But really? Women love their Alphas (there are who blogs devoted to them like the aptly named Alpha Heroes). And yes, all that sensitive bullshit is nice, but where’s the passion? For me, Alphas have all that nice stuff and chivalry–it’s just under their super masculine exterior. Like in Linda Howard’s Mr. Perfect, hero Sam is not a Beta. He’s a tough, grouchy, sexy-as-sin cop who argues with Jaine, can shoot his gun, and is ever so mildly possessive. Yet, he also cares for his elderly neighbors, opens Jaine’s door, and washes her car.  Sam is testosterone meets sensitivity. Perfect Alpha (although some will argue he’s a gamma but really that’s just confusing).

The Alpha can be protective and aggressive because his heroine is just as spirited. If you have a Beta hero and a spitfire heroine, she seems too brash and domineering, but when you get the combo of the Alpha hero and spitfire heroine? Romance magic. Come on y’all this is a fantasy and no one really fantasizes about being a weakling!

Romantic Question: How do you weigh in? Are you an Alpha or a Beta fan? And what are your fav hunky heroes?

 

July 28, 2011 at 12:49 am 6 comments

Many Faces in Many Places

I’ve learned a valuable lesson here at the Columbia Publishing Course. Those covers you see at the grocery store, the windows at bookstores, the aisles at Walmart? Well, those books didn’t always look like that.  They didn’t always have that cover. During book workshop week, my group had to create book covers for all of our titles. Our poor art director, who I shall call C, went through cover after cover for these books before we finally came to a decision. Then that decision was questioned, dissected, talked about, and picked at until the very last evaluation of the week.

But see the thing here is that our experiences with those various covers and designs were completely normal in publishing! Case point: that iconic, classic, everyone-knows-it image on the Twilight cover? Yeah, it went through so many stages.  And when the editor of that super successful book series, Megan Tingley came to the course during our first week, we saw all the different stages and variations of the Twilight cover. Some were good, some were bad, some were pretty but not appropriate for a vampire romance geared towards a teen audience. But the thing is: that cover that we all recognize now was not the first, second, third, or even fourth cover they went through.  Talk about behind the scenes.

Then all of those book covers you love so much? Well, when you sell the foreign rights to those books–covers change.  Twilight in America does not necessarily look like Twilight in Japan or France or even Sweden.  Here’s a little glimpse of some of the foreign covers for the first book in the series.  Which do you think is the most effective?

 

 

July 14, 2011 at 4:54 pm 1 comment

Cold Turkeys and Book Workshop Week

Pages upon pages upon pages...

I got a text message last week from my mother that said, “No words : ( No Tweets : ( No blog : ( No facebook : ( ?????” When I finally found time to call her back three days later she accused me of making her go cold turnkey. “You’ve abandoned me!” she said, “You’ve given up on your blog and I am going through withdrawals.”

Opps! Sorry Momma! But, no I have not fallen off the face of the earth into an alternative dimension. Nor have I completely forsaken this blog.  I’ve just been insanely busy.  And going slightly insane.  Where to begin…

Well, last week was book workshop week at Columbia and it was insane.  Intense.  Overwhelming.  I got a cold.  Basically, they split us up into small groups where we had to come up with our own fictional publishing imprint.  Then we had to come up with our Fall 2012 catalog.  Then we had to perform a specific job within our group all in a week.

I was in publicity which means in a week I did press releases, pitch letters, and press kits for six fake books–that could literally be real titles as we had to find real authors for these fake books and draw up fake contracts with these real authors’ real agents.  I also worked on the marketing and promotion plans, tip sheets, and random brainstorming.  Imagine–if you will–a giant role-playing game where the judges are professional editors, publicists, agents, and sales people and then add-on late nights, bad lighting, and the illusion that all of it is real.  All of our titles had to realistic book ideas and we could not “publish” anything fictional without a manuscript.

Golly gee, I am still having surreal moments when I forget that those titles are not actual books coming out in a year.

My group was a general trade group that “published” biographies, memoirs, sports books, cookbooks, fiction, and pretty much everything in between.  And well, you know me…when coming up with ideas for these crazy books I had to bring a little romance to the table.  Enter Lizzie’s contributions to Trade Group C.  One real life romance novel–which I tracked down a manuscript for using the wonderful invention of the World Wide Web–and a romance-y nonfiction book.  My group looked at me like I was mildly insane at first, but we got great feed back and by the end of the week, several people asked me for recommendations for my favorite romance novels. Pat on my back? Why thank you!

So that’s where I’ve been dear friends.  Role playing publicist in the hallowed halls at Columbia University.  Here’s something sweet and southern and romantic to make it up to you!

KRISPY KREME DOUGHNUT BREAD PUDDING from Linda Howard’s Drop Dead Gorgeous

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Ingredients:
– 2 dozen Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts, torn into little chunks. (You can also use 2 dozen glazed crullers if you want a heavier texture.)
– 3 eggs, beaten.
– 1 can sweetened condensed milk.
– Vanilla flavoring to taste (I use 1 tsp).
– 1/2 stick melted butter.
– Cinnamon to taste. Takes more than you think. Just add until you think it tastes right.
– Can of fruit cocktail OR milk

Instructions:
Combine the eggs, condensed milk, vanilla, melted butter, and cinnamon (like I said, add until you like the taste).

Pour over doughnut chunks and stir (I use my Kitchen Aid. This can be hard on your arms and shoulders.)

At this point it’s going to look really dry so you can either add a can of fruit cocktail like I do (it really cuts the sweetness) or, if that freaks you out, add milk while stirring until you have a lumpy cake batter consistency.

You don’t need milk if you add the fruit cocktail–it’s the perfect amount of liquid.

Now you can add 1 cup of chopped pecans if you’d like. Or not. Depends on your preference. It’s great both ways. The pecans again cut down on the sweetness.

Now you can add 1 tsp of nutmeg if you want to. I’ve found I prefer it without.

Pour this into a 13 x 9 glass pan and cook for 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick to see if it’s done. If not, give it a couple more minutes.

Take it out and let it cool. You can eat it this way or you can add a glaze.

SIMPLE SUGAR GLAZE – this is the glaze I use

Ingredients:
– 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
– 3 to 4 tablespoons milk or water

Instructions:
Mix together and beat until it becomes smooth and pourable. Pour over bread pudding. You can make more if you need to.

BUTTERMILK GLAZE

Ingredients:
– 1/4 cup buttermilk
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/4 tsp soda
– 1 1/2 tsps cornstarch
– 1/4 cup margarine
– 1 1/2 tsps vanilla

Instructions:
Combine first five ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Add the vanilla. Pour over pudding.

July 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm 1 comment

A little scandal and a lot cute!

June 25, 2011 at 1:25 am Leave a comment

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