Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review--Midnight Blue Light Special

Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid, #2)Midnight Blue-Light Special by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another excellent offering from McGuire, with laugh-out-moments, especially when the mice are in the scene, and truly memorable characters. Verity Price's conflicted love life with Dominic (who still may or may not betray her), her amazing family, and their hereditary enemies, The Covenant, all would be interesting enough, but when you throw in the complicated cryptid community it gets that much better.

I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review--The Last Word (Spellmans #6)

The Last Word (The Spellmans, #6)The Last Word by Lisa Lutz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's always been a bittersweet note to the Spellman novels. Yes, they're sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but there are underlying tensions and disappointments for the characters that preclude complete happiness at the end of the novel.

Spellman #6, The Last Word, may be the last of the Spellman novels and it raises the bar on melancholy. Isabel is still careening through life, making mistakes in her judgment, her boyfriends, her wardrobe choices, but it's more disconcerting to see this behavior in a woman in her mid-30s than in a 20 year old. I kept thinking that if I was this woman's BFF, I'd be rolling my eyes at her antics and wondering when she was going to grow up. Perhaps that's what Isabel needs in her life, some female friends who'll tell her home truths.

In addition to dissatisfaction with Isabel's messed up life we have two characters facing debilitating illness, a former flame with real life problems, and a mystery involving the FBI and embezzlement. Despite all the turmoil though the patter is still snappy, and there are genuine funny moments.

This book will best be appreciated by fans of the Spellman family, but if it's the swan song for the Spellmans, I'll understand hope Lutz brings her writing talent to a new, fresh setting.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Where do you get your ideas?"

“Do you have everything you need?”
Daphne looked at the items in front of her and ticked them off on her fingers.
“I gathered the driest wood and plant shreds I could find. Here is your piece of char cloth. I have my twigs ready and more dry wood. I prepared the firepit.”
“Then stop humming and listen, Miss Farnham.”
Daphne couldn't help it. She was so excited at learning how to make a fire the humming was springing out of her like the water burbling up to the pool. Why had no one ever realized how much she loved learning new things? Why had she never realized it?
Daphne vowed when she returned to England, she would make it her goal to learn one new thing each day. Maybe learn a new word like “gravitas,” or how to build a fire, or how to help gruff surgeons smile.
That last one needed further work.
           --Castaway Dreams

I'm often asked, as so many authors are, where I get my ideas. Part of the idea behind Castaway Dreams came from one of my favorite movies, 1950's Born Yesterday, with William Holden and Judy Holliday. The lovely and talented Miss Holliday plays Billie Dawn, the girlfriend of crooked businessman Harry Brock. Holden, a cynical newspaperman, is hired to teach Billie and give her some "class" so she'll be more of an asset to Brock.

I have great admiration for Holliday as an actress. She was typecast as the classic ditzy blonde, but she brought verve, poignancy and an innate intelligence to her characters. Sadly, Holliday died young, but her work lives on. If you've never watched Born Yesterday, one of the great romantic comedies of the mid-20th Century, I strongly encourage you to give it a viewing. It's on Turner Classic Movies tonight at 11 p.m. ET.

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Worldcon Schedule--LoneStarCon3, San Antonio, Texas

Here's my Worldcon (World Science Fiction Convention) program schedule. In addition to these panels, I'm working in the Green Room (look for me on the early morning shift) and will once again be the Voice of the Ghoddess at the Hugo Awards Ceremony, as well as working the after-Hugos party. Whew! 

In addition to my program appearances, signed copies of Castaway Dreams will be available in the Dealers Room at Old Earth Books. Support your indie bookseller and get some great vacation reading. Castaway Dreams is a finalist for the Aspen Gold Reader's Choice Award, sponsored by the Heart of Denver Romance Writers of America. The winners will be announced in September. Also, Castaway Dreams and Sea Change are now available in Kobo editions. They've long been available from all the other major vendors in all formats.

(The (M) means I'm moderating those panels.)

The Future of the Small Press
Friday 13:00 - 14:00
Gary K. Wolfe (M), Kaja Foglio, Michael Underwood, Darlene Marshall, Neil Clarke

The Fake Hugo Awards
Friday 18:00 - 19:00
Sure, the Hugo Awards have a prize for everything from Best Novel to Best Semiprozine to Best Fan Artist. But what about an award for the Best SF Novel by an Author Who Insists They Don't Write SF? Or Best Rant About the Death of Science Fiction? Come out and see what else our panel can suggest.
Dave McCarty (M), Darlene Marshall, Guy H. Lillian III

Magic Realism:
Saturday 11:00 - 12:00
Magic Realism, Science Fiction, Fantasy. How can you use these terms to describe the varied work of Angélica Gorodischer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Laura Esquivel?
Darlene Marshall (M), Howard Waldrop , Rudy Ch. Garcia, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Stina Leicht

I Married a Werewolf: Paranormal Romance
Saturday 13:00 - 14:00
Vampires and werewolves (and sometimes even zombies, as the recent Warm Bodies showed) are more complex creatures than they used to be. Moreover, over the years, they have become the subject of romance. Why, and in what ways?
Darlene Marshall (M), Carrie Vaughn, Jean Johnson, Gail Carriger, Charlaine Harris

Writing Outside Genre
Monday 10:00 - 11:00
Many genre writers also write things on and over the edges of genre. Why do they do this? How is the experience of writing in different genres different?
Ellen Datlow (M), Lezli Robyn , John Maddox Roberts, Darlene Marshall

Friday, August 16, 2013

I typed "The End" today on [working title] "The Hot Pirate's Secret Baby", aka "The Pirate's Governess"

Yep. Only five months after missing my self-imposed deadline, I've finished the first draft of novel #7. It's a great feeling, knowing I've got a book I can work with. Oh sure, there's still oodles to be done. Just an hour after I typed "The End" I jumped out of my chair at lunch, ran back to the computer, and changed the wording of the last sentence.

Now I'm going to clean it up. I'll go back through it and where I have brackets like this : [describe dress], [supper menu], [THIS MAKES NO D*MN SENSE AT ALL!!!] I'll fill in the blanks. Or make it make sense.

Then I'll let it sit for a week while I attend LoneStarCon3, the World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, Texas. Some time away from the book will allow me to look at it with a fresh eye and catch mistakes before I send it to my beta readers.

When it's finally as clean and shiny as I can make it, I'll send it to my publisher, who'll let me know when it will be released.

In the meantime, I'm already thinking ahead to novel #8, jotting down notes and gathering research material. This time I hope to stick to my one year timetable. More on this as it develops.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review--The Beast

The Beast (Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus, #21)The Beast by Faye Kellerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's a credit to the author that she can still bring the suspense after 21 books following the same couple. Rina and Peter are talking about moving to live closer to their grandchildren, but in the meantime, there's still one more weird murder case for Peter and his crew to solve. I must admit, I was kept guessing until nearly the end about the "whodunit" details, and stayed up late reading.

The novel was also highlighted by appearances by the Decker's foster son, Gabriel Donatti, and a phone call or two with Gabe's father,the rather sociopathic Chris Donatti in Vegas.  Good times with dysfunctional families!

Naturally, this book will be a must read for Kellerman fans, but those who've never read the series are recommended to begin with the first novel, The Ritual Bath.

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Friday, August 09, 2013

Review--The Ocean at the End of the Lane

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are authors who are good, and entertaining, and then there are authors who are in the master class. Neil Gaiman is one of those authors.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is a tale of childhood and magic, but where it really shines is in how it captures the fears and realities of childhood, the powerlessness, the terror of things going wrong.

I don't need to write a synopsis of the book. It's Neil Gaiman. Read it. That's all.

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Friday, August 02, 2013


Romance Matters
by Darlene Marshall

I’m thrilled to be participating in National Read-A-Romance-Month.  I heard recently from a fan that her 96-year-old mother enjoys my books, and re-reads them often. They’ve become comfort reads for her, and I’m trying to write faster with that particular lady in mind.

We have a shorthand in Romanceland, a language for readers and writers in our genre. If you tell people about your “comfort reads”, they understand it’s those books you can read over and over again, just as one visits old friends or returns to a favorite garden. I’ve always felt if we can share the concept of comfort reads, we can share the concept of a comfort community, a group that knows exactly what you mean when you say “I love romance novels because it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

If you’re reading this, you are likely a member of that comfort community of readers who appreciate romance. I have friends, well meaning friends, who ask me when I’m going to write a real book. Mind you, this is after 10 years of publication in historical romance. They can’t understand why I would write “those” books with the (to them) embarrassing covers, and same plots, and you’ve heard it all before.

In Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels*, Sarah Wendell of  “Smart Bitches, Trashy Books” says, “…many people who disdain the romance genre and look down on the women who read it presume that reading about courtship, emotional fulfillment, and rather fantastic orgasms leads to an unrealistic expectation of real life…That accusation implies that we don’t know the difference between fantasy and real life, and frankly, it’s sexist as well.”

She’s right, and she’s far from the only person who feels that way. Author Maya Rodale says romance novels, “depict stories of women choosing to live and love to a higher standard, and they are rewarded for it in the end.” (Emphasis mine)

I like books that reward women for being strong, and I like a happy ending.  25 years ago my husband survived a major heart attack, but it was a long recovery process and I had two toddlers to care for as well. When I could grab a few moments for myself at the end of the day, I’d pick up a romance novel. For that brief space I could escape what I was experiencing in my real life, especially the crushing fear that I would be widowed and raising my sons without their father. Thankfully, my husband is doing just fine and our sons are grown, but I remember how romance novels comforted me, helping me through the most difficult period of my life.  

When I began to think maybe I could write a book and sell it, I asked myself, “What stories do I like?” and the answer was (with apologies to Garrison Keillor) stories where the women are strong and the men good-looking, where the heroine can have adventures, save herself and him, and end up with happiness at the end.

That’s why I read romance novels, and that’s why other readers come back to the genre.  We want a story that entertains, that brings us into other worlds, and that leaves us satisfied at the conclusion.  A well-written tale is worth reading, no matter what genre, but for comfort reads you can’t beat a great romance.

This blog post is also an opportunity to recommend authors, particularly ones I’ve enjoyed in ebook form. The first author is mystery writer Barbara Rogan whose new release A Dangerous Fiction has the beginnings of a lovely romance and it’s got an older than 20-something heroine, which I also enjoyed. When you’re looking for something a little steamy, one of my favorite erotic romance authors is Anne Calhoun. Her work is thoughtful, hot, and romantic, a great combination.

*Full disclosure—I’m quoted at least three times in Everything I Know About Love I Learned From Romance Novels.  I think that rocks.


What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

If I’m going with craziest, I’ll have to choose the lovely (real) sword my brother gave me a few years back. It perches atop a bookcase across from my desk and reminds me when I’m writing that if I get stuck, have someone rush into the scene swinging a cutlass. Works every time!

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

The story of my life might be called “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up!” or a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:  “And Though She Be But Little, She is Fierce!”

I would want to be played by Emma Thompson, a great actress whose comedic talents are underappreciated. If she played me, there would definitely be comedy.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

My sons bought me an illustrated copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. They clearly know their mother well.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

I would pick Daphne and Alexander from my newest release, Castaway Dreams, and I would pick the scene where the couple is adrift in a lifeboat, learning how to tolerate one another and survive. It was fun for me to write, and I think it showcases my “voice” as a romance author.

If I was picking a romance author in general, I'd fall back on the recommendation so many other readers and authors offer, Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels. It's one of my comfort reads, and a great example of the genre at its best.

Thank you, Romance Matters, for inviting me to participate in Read-A-Romance-Month. This has been great fun, and I’ve loved reading what the other authors and writers have to say about my favorite genre.