I'm on Vacation

I’m on vacation, and it’s already been very exciting. At the Miami ariport yesterday, I saw actor David Caruso at the baggage claim (hey, youtry getting 10 days’ worth of clothing into a carryon!). I texted my husband back home (this is a mom-daughter-children trip) and he texted back: “Tell him you loved Jade!”. I didn’t do that, because by the time I turned around to get a second look, he had been escorted into a special room and handed his luggage, while the rest of us plebes waited for 30 minutes in the heat and noise.  

Anyway, we are going on a cruise and I doubt I will be doing much posting, because the prices for internet access are steep on the ship. My mom is a big cruising fan, and my last Caribbean cruise was in 1994, with her. I was in graduate school, and had a terrifying seminar on Heidegger that semester. I brought Being and Time with me and stayed in my cabin the entire week reading it.

Cruising has changed a lot since then, I am coming to realize. Instead of watching the ocean go by with a drink in your hand, you are supposed to DO things. There’s a climbing wall, a surfing pool, you name it. Of course, this works well for kids. My sons are most excited about the ice skating rink on the ship. Hmmm. You can take the boys out of Maine … 

I hope to actually get outside the cabin this time, but in order to maintain the tradition of mixing post-Kantian German philosophy with American indulgence and excess, I downloaded Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil to my Kindle, which I badly need to reread. Maybe I’ll post on it!

I’m reading Adele Ashworth’s Winter Garden and Lisa Valdez’s Patienceat the moment, as well as a collection of essays by Sloane Crosley and, of course, Dracula. I am not sure if I mentioned this, but my proposal for a paper on vampire fiction and bioethics was accepted at the major conference in my field (and by “major conference” I mean, specifically, “conference that has rejected my proposals in the past”). The best thing about it is that between now and October, everything vampire-related that I read can count as “work”! Finally, I plan to read some Carolyn Jewel and Carry Lofty in preparation for RomCon.

Have a great week!

Rom Con Schedule and how awkward it is to tell people I am attending a romance conference

I’ve been a romance reader for three years now, and in August will celebrate my second blogging anniversary. I used to hide my romance reading in every way possible. I would have hidden it from myself if that were a metaphysical possibility.

But over time I’ve become much more open about reading romance, from actually browsing the romance section in my local bookstores (I used to call first to see if they had what I wanted and have them hold it for me at the check out), to leaving my books out when company comes over (provided the cover is not too explicit, of course), to putting a romance novel in my ethics and fiction syllabus and telling my colleagues in the philosophy department about this blog.

However, when I decided to attend a fan conference, RomCon, I hadn’t realized that I was entering a whole new level of fandom, which would stimulate a new form of incredulity among my friends, and require a whole new round of explanations. Here’s the typical conversation lately:

Friend: Can you guys come to the bar mitzvah/party/game/dinner on the 10th?
Me: Um, maybe Stephen and the boys can. But I will be away.
Friend: Really? Where are you going?
Me [Somberly, hoping my tone puts an end to this line of questioning]: To Denver, for a conference.
Friend: Really? Are you giving a paper? What kind of conference is it?
Me: [Shit shit shit!] Um. A romance novel fan conference?
Friend [Stunned silence. Then, slowly repeating my words, as if making sure she has them right] A romance novel fan conference. What do you do there?
Me: Well, you meet authors, and meet other romance readers (there is no way I am telling this person about “Strip the Heroine” or “Build a Hero”).
Friend: Do you know any of these people?
Me: Um. Not technically. But I feel like I know them, because we’ve been talking online about romance for a couple of years now. Like my friend Carolyn, she is an urban fantasy novelist. We are sharing a room and I can’t wait to meet her! [bright smile]
Friend [Skeptical, but fascinated. Great. I have officially become a curiosity]: You are sharing a room with someone you have never met?
Me: Yes! My friend Kristie says that’s one of the best things about a romance conference. You can talk all night about the books you love.
Friend: And you’ve met this ‘Kristie’… ?
Me [sheepish]: Um, not exactly. But I can tell you all about her. Like, her son just moved back home, and he has these cats, but she has Destructo Cat, see, and she’s keeping this totally hysterical tally of his fights with her cat… [trailing off as I can see this is not helping.]
Friend: Uh huh.
Me: And actually, it’s not a totally random bunch of people. I mean, we’re having the Cucumber Club’s inaugural meeting!
Friend: The cucumber club? Do they garden?
Me: Erm. No. Actually [think, Jessica, think think!] … We are unusually perceptive when it comes to vegetable references in our reading material.
Friend: Vegetable references? You don’t mean the man’s-
Me: [cutting in quickly] No, no. [fake laughter] Of course not. I mean, you know, like in a Regency romance when they eat those cucumber sandwiches. Layers and layers of literary allusion right there, let me tell you! I think I may write a paper on it. [cough cough] Yeah, a paper.
Friend [furrowing her brow]: Ah ha. I see.
Me: [clears throat] Anyway, sorry I’ll miss the bar mitzvah/party/game.
Friend: [backing away slowly, shaking head as if to try to clear cobwebs] Um, yeah. Hey, have a great time. Sounds like fun.
Me: [smiling] Yeah, it does.

So here’s the schedule, which I cut and pasted from the Rom con site (with a few of my notes in italics):

Friday Events (Friday July 9-Sunday, July11):

9 AM Early Bird Breakfast with Cindy Gerard & Tara Janzen: Arriving at RomCon Thursday night? Sign-up via our event lottery to win an intimate breakfast on Friday morning with romantic suspense authors Cindy Gerard and Tara Janzen…and get free books!

10 AM – 12 PM Weapons Gallery: In a powerful pre-event show, weapons experts will have an amazing array of weapons on display! Come see what the heroes we love to read about take into battle!

11 AM Volunteer Meeting

12:30 PM – 3:30 PM Pamela Clare’s Reality Tour: Join Pamela Clare for a tour of locations that inspired or are included in her popular I-Team series. Learn the stories behind the novels straight from the author while she takes you to places you’ve read about in her books. Bring the novels so you can read pages where these places are mentioned. Included in the tour are: downtown Denver (and the site of the Denver Independent); Colfax Avenue out to Aurora; Boulder Mountain Parks; Valmont Butte; and a visit to breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park to see the real Rocky Mountains. Some walking may be required. A half-day event. Limited to 10 participants. Food and drinks not included. Submit a lottery request form for your chance to participate!

[I entered the lottery for this one.]

1 PM Anti-Heroes You Hate to Love: Do you love the Dark, Desirable and Deadly heroes? Join us for a lively chat with authors who have mastered this archetype. Chat with a room full of authors and friends who understand your obsession! Participating authors include Jo Beverley and more! Authors participating: Anna Campbell, Carolyn Crane, Carolyn Jewel, Cathy Maxwell, Cindy Gerard, Elizabeth Hoyt, Hana Samek Norton, Jeaniene Frost, Jessa Slade, Jo Beverley, Keena Kincaid, Lori Wilde, Meagan Hatfield, Nalini Singh, Terri Brisbin, Terri Garey.

1 PM Question & Answer Chat with Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal Authors, including Cathy Clamp, Erin Kellison, Gabi Stevens, Judi Fennell, Shannon K. Butcher

1 PM Intimate Chat with Christine Feehan

1 PM Intimate Chat with Tara Janzen

1 PM Question & Answer Chat with Category Authors, including Jodi Thomas, Leanne Banks, Lori Wilde, Mary Sullivan

1 PM CSI Fact or Fiction

2 PM Question & Answer Chat with Futuristic, Fantasy & Paranormal Authors, including Christine Feehan, CL Wilson, Jessa Slade, Meagan Hatfield, Nalini Singh

2 PM Intimate Chat with Susan Mallery

2 PM Author Fairy Godmothers to the Rescue! Have you ever wondered how you, the reader, can help your favorite authors? You indicate your support for an author by purchasing her books, but is there more that you can do? Join us as a panel of authors and publishers give you the tools you need to help ensure your favorite authors keep producing the magical stories you’ve become addicted to! Authors & editors participating: Autumn Piper, Carly Phillips, Cathy Clamp, Cindy Hwang, Deb Werksman, Deeanne Gist, Elizabeth Boyle, Jeanne C. Stein, Lori Wilde, Veronica Wolff.

[I confess, I have never, ever wondered this.]

2 PM Question & Answer Chat with Urban Fantasy Authors, including Christine Feehan, CL Wilson, Jessa Slade, Meagan Hatfield, Nalini Singh

[This seems really interesting.]

2 PM Strip the Heroine: The history of female attire revealed–layer-by-layer. This session will be oh-so-delicately handled by leading historical authors who know exactly what women wore . . . or didn’t! Participating authors include, Jo Beverley and more! Participating authors: Amanda McCabe, Anna Campbell, Catherine Anderson, Deeanne Gist, Jo Beverley, Pamela Nowak, Terri Brisbin.

3 PM Contemporary Spotlight Authors Host A Tea: Join Susan Mallery, Brenda Novak and Carly Phillips as they host 150 special attendees with tea and traditional tea fare! Attendees must register for this free event and will be selected via a lottery in May.

3 PM Build a Hero: What makes a hero PERFECT? In this fun session, participants will construct the perfect fiction hero working in teams. At the end of the session, each table will vote on the assembled selection of heroes–the group with the most votes wins. Authors participating: Anna Campbell, Autumn Piper, Delinda Jasper, Elizabeth Boyle, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jami Alden, Jessa Slade, Jo Beverley, Jodi Thomas, Karen Jones, Mary Burton, Mary Sullivan, Meagan Hatfield, Monica McCarty, Pamela Clare, Pamela Nowak, Susan Donovan.

3 PM Intimate Chat with Cindy Gerard

3 PM Intimate Chat with Hannah Howell

4 PM Book Reviewer Panel: Ever want to add your opinion of a book you just read to the reviews accepted by online bookstores? How much do you tell about the story? What types of criticisms can readers offer? Why do reader reviews matter? How do you move up to the next level? When do you move up to the next level of book reviewing? How do you get publishers and authors to submit books to you for review? Come visit with a panel of authors and expert reviewers to learn the tricks the of the reviewer trade–get the inside scoop on how to move your reviews to the big time! Authors participating include Catherine Anderson, Cathy Maxwell, Courtney Milan, Deb Werksman, Melissa Mayhue.

[Am wondering who the expert reviewers will be on this panel.]

4 PM Intimate Chat with Nalini Singh

5:30 PM Cocktail Hour

5:30 PM Susan Mallery’s Book Launch: Come celebrate with bestselling author Susan Mallery the release of her latest book, Almost Perfect, the second book of her popular series of Fool’s Gold romances. Fool’s Gold is the Land of Happy Endings!

6:30 PM Dinner (meal ticket required – cost $35)

7 PM Keynote Speech — Lori Foster

7:15 PM Readers’ Crown Awards

8 PM Costume Ball: Are you a friend of hot fanged friends? Ever want to dance with other shapeshifters? Are you the belle of the ball? Join us for a wild adventure at our costume ball Friday night, July 9, 2010. Any costume, any time period goes. If costumes aren’t your thing, just come and hang out with your crazy friends. And remember, 5 of the people with the craziest costumes will be rewarded with a general admission ticket to RomCon® 2011!

[Wow, those awards must be handed out at lightning speed. I am attending, but not in costume. I was told that’s allowed.]

8 PM Mini-Mystic Fair–Step out into the realm of other worldly realities to have your palm read or to take a peek at your tarot cards at our mini-mystic fair. There might even be a crystal ball or two! (Note: there is a small fee of a $1/minute charged by the mystics for this service.)

8:30 PM Melissa Mayhue & Friends Blogger/Reviewer Party (Invitational)

[I plan to attend this.]

8:30 PM Mix and Mingle with Erotic Romance Authors

Saturday Events:

7 AM Breakfast Buffet (meal ticket required – cost $20)

9 AM A Bridal Gown, A Photo Shoot, A Cover Model: A Behind the Scenes Look at the Making of a Book Cover — Did you know book covers are often made before the author has even finished writing the novel? That the author doesn’t know what her cover will look like until it’s all ready finished? The publisher of bestselling, award winning author Deeanne Gist discovered that Gist’s daughter was a model in Houston, so they invited the daughter to be on the cover of her mom’s bestselling novel, A Bride in the Bargain. Take an up-close-and-personal look at the process from a germ of an idea to a photo shoot to a full blown cover. Video clips from the publisher’s Art Director, the Graphic Designer and the Cover Model (Gist’s daughter) supplement this entertaining and fascinating look at how book covers are made.

[This one sounds neat.]

9 AM Bestill My Heart: Does your favorite Hero’s heart beat? Join Christine Feehan and Jeaniene Frost, authors of Vampire fiction for a foray into vampire lore, legend, & their individual story mythologies. Find out if you know the difference between the “Good Guys” & the “Bad Guys” in vampire romance.

[While book cover event sounds good, but I may have to go with the vamps. If I’m awake, that is.]

9 AM Romance Reader Roundtables: Come visit with editors, book buyers, bloggers, reviewers, and other readers–let them know what you love, what you’re over, what you’d strangle the friendly neighborhood bookseller to get your hands on!

[This also sounds good, depending on who is on the panel. 9:00am is a tough-to-choose slot!]

9 AM Intimate Chat with Carly Phillips

9 AM Intimate Chat with Jo Beverley

[Gah. I entered a lottery for the JoBev chat. We’ll see…]

9 AM Speed Date a New Author–Session 1: Have a flash visit with your favorite authors or new-to-you authors and decide for yourself if you’d like to check out their books! Some of the authors participating are Amanda McCabe, Brenda Novak, Bronwyn Scott, Erin Nicholas, Jami Alden, Jeanne C. Stein, Lila DiPasqua, Monica McCarty, Nicole Peeler, and Susan Donovan!

10 AM Monsters & More Semi-Charades: You don’t have to know charades, or have a good knowledge of Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance, to have fun playing Monsters & more! Players draw slips with the names of monsters, heroes, heroines, etc. and try to get their team to quick say the name though descriptions, hints, and pantomimes (anything but names/book titles) – in this thrilling, silly, super-interactive event! Authors participating: Carolyn Crane, Carolyn Jewel, Cathy Clamp, Jessa Slade, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, Nicole Peeler, Terri Garey.

[I would never in a million years consider something like this, normally, but look at that lineup!]

10 AM Intimate Chat with Julia Quinn

10 AM Intimate Chat with Melissa Mayhue

10 AM Question & Answer Chat with Romantic Suspense Authors, including Cindy Gerard, Jami Alden, Mary Burton, Pamela Clare, Susan Crandall, Tara Janzen.

10 AM Shock the Queen: Think you have a handle on social etiquette in Victorian England . . . or would your manners Shock the Queen? Your favorite historical authors (Jo Beverley and others!) will put you through your paces in a friendly competition to see if you can make it through a day in London without “Shocking the Queen” and earning a “cut direct”. Ouch. Author participants: Anna Campbell, Bronwyn Scott, Courtney Milan, Deeanne Gist, Delilah Marvelle, Elizabeth Hoyt, Hannah Howell, Jo Beverley, Pamela Nowak, Terri Brisbin.

10 AM Speed Date a New Author–Session 2! Have a flash visit with your favorite authors or new-to-you authors and decide for yourself if you’d like to check out their books! Some of the authors participating are Autumn Piper, Blythe Gifford, Catherine Anderson, Christine Feehan, CL Wilson, Elizabeth Boyle, Gabi Stevens, Hana Samek Norton, Jodi Thomas, Keena Kincaid, Lynda Hilburn, Mary Sullivan, and Veronica Wolff!

12 PM Book Fair–Open to the Public! Meet Jo Beverley, Christine Feehan, Julia Quinn, Lori Foster, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, Carly Phillips, Susan Mallery, Melissa Mayhue, Catherine Anderson, Jodi Thomas and dozens of other fabulous authors at our multi-author booksigning sponsored by Borders. Bring up to 3 books from your own library for your favorite author to sign!

[My first book fair! Long lines! Aching feet! And … how can I get them to sign my Kindle editions?]

12 PM Publisher Meet & Greet Scavenger Hunt at the Booksigning: Make your way through the labyrinth of clues in our Publisher Maze to win great prizes and find some great new authors!

[Me and mazes = trouble. If I attend this, it will be the last event for me, because I will be stuck there until Sunday, when Carolyn comes looking for me to pay my half of the room bill.]

2:30 PM Were-Squares: Can you tell the big hairy bluff from the unvarnished truth? Two reader teams go head-to-head attempting to detect which werewolf & shape-shifter authors are telling the truth and which are lying through their canines. Authors participating: Carrie Vaughn, Cathy Clamp, CL Wilson, Meagan Hatfield, Nalini Singh.

2:30 PM Susan Mallery–En Route to the Bookstore: Have you ever wondered why your favorite authors’ covers don’t match their books? Why aren’t reissues marked so you don’t keep buying the same book in a new format? And hey–what about audio books? Why do some authors offer them and others don’t? What happens on the way to the bookstore explains who does what in publishing, what authors control and what publishers decide. An honest and entertaining look inside the world of publishing. All questions will be answered!

[This one sounds pretty interesting.]

2:30 PM Intimate Chat with Anna Campbell

2:30 PM Intimate Chat with Jeaniene Frost

2:30 PM Murder, Darling, Murder! RomCon® hosts a murder investigation with leading authors of romantic suspense. Step through the crime scene, gather clues, and use your newly acquired C.S.I. skills to solve the murder! Authors participating: Brenda Novak, Carolyn Crane, Cindy Gerard, Deeanne Gist, Keena Kincaid, Mary Burton, Pamela Clare, Tom Adair, Samuel Soloman, Susan Crandall.

2:30 PM Mix and Mingle with Contemporary Romance Authors, including Autumn Piper, Catherine Anderson, Cathy Maxwell, Deb Werksman, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jeanne C. Stein, Jodi Thomas, Julie James, Lori Wilde, Meg Benjamin, Susan Crandall, Susan Donovan

3:30 PM The Perfect Heroine: What makes a heroine a woman you can identify with? Do they prefer them to be perfect, slender, gorgeous, and supremely self-confident? Or do they prefer them to have some flaws and feel self-conscious in some situations. Sexually active or more discerning? Financially successful or struggling in an ordinary job to make ends meet? Sexy underwear or plain? What types of heroines appeal to you? Come share your thoughts with Catherine Anderson, Cathy Maxwell, J L Wilson, Julie James, Sally MacKenzie, Susan Donovan.

[“Sexually active or more discerning?” What does THAT imply?]

3:30 PM Intimate Chat with Lori Foster

3:30 PM Betwixt and Between–Paranormal Authors Tea, including Cathy Clamp, Christine Feehan, CL Wilson, Erin Kellison, Gabi Stevens, Jeaniene Frost, Jeanne C. Stein, Keena Kincaid, Lynda Hilburn, Melissa Mayhue, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, Nicole Peeler, Shannon K. Butcher, Terri Garey,
Veronica Wolff.

3:30 PM Historical Spotlight Authors Tea: Join our historical spotlight authors, Hannah Howell, Anna Campbell, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jo Beverley, Melissa Mayhue, and Julia Quinn, as they host 75 special attendees with afternoon refreshments including tea, coffee and cake! Attendees must register for this free event and will be selected via a lottery. Lottery winners will be announced in July.

[I think I entered the lottery for this one.]

4:30 PM Blog, Oh Blogger! Visit with the Borders’ True Romance team, Dear Author’s Jane, Smart Bitches’ Sarah, and other bloggers for a chat about all things blogosphere. Bring your questions and ideas to share and leave with some fabulous new ideas about the direction your own blogs might take!

4:30 PM We Put the “Special” in Special Ops with Cindy Gerard and Tara Janzen

5:30 PM Cocktail Hour

5:30 PM HCI Line Launch for Vows!

6:30 PM Dinner (meal ticket required – cost $35)

7 PM Keynote Speech — Jo Beverley

[Looking forward to this one.]

7:15 PM Borders’ Romance Bestsellers Awards

8 PM Black & White Masquerade: Wear black, wear white, wear black and white…but don’t forget your masque at this elegant extravaganza Saturday, July 10, 2010. Come dance the night away with your favorite authors and all your friends!

[This sounds fun. But I don’t dance. Except in the privacy of my house, and even then … the kids make retching noises and avert their eyes. I make Elaine from Seinfeld look like Tony Manero.]

8 PM Mini-Mystic Fair–Step out into the realm of other worldly realities to have your palm read or to take a peek at your tarot cards at our mini-mystic fair. There might even be a crystal ball or two! (Note: there is a small fee of a $1/minute charged by the mystics for this service.)

[Er. You would have to pay *me* to get me to let you read my palm. But I am sure others will love it.]

9 PM Midnight Sexcapades: Join erotic romance publishers & authors in a naughty, late-night romp through erotic romance fiction with games, chats, and more. Authors participating: Autumn Piper, Bridget Midway, Delilah Marvelle, Delinda Jasper, Karen Jones, Melissa Schroeder, Monica Kaye, Nadia Aidan, Wendi Darlin & Harlequin.


Sunday Events:

9 AM Librarian Love-In!! Come chat about romance with librarians, authors and fellow readers! Join a discussion led by New York Times bestselling authors Julian Quinn and Elizabeth Boyle. Learn about the exciting new programs offered by your local library. Discuss how libraries support your romance addiction! Participating authors: Anna Campbell, Carolyn Jewel, Cathy Clamp, Cathy Maxwell, Christine Feehan, Courtney Milan, Deb Werksman, Elaine Levine, Elizabeth Boyle, Gabi Stevens, Hana Samek Norton, Jo Beverley, Jodi Thomas, Judi Fennell, Julia Quinn, Leanne Banks, Lori Wilde, Mary Burton, Meg Benjamin, Nalini Singh, Terri Brisbin, Veronica Wolff

[Until this minute, I had no idea the Elaine Levine I have been emailing about RomCon registration is a romance author. Neat!]

9 AM Speed Date a New Author–Session 3! Have a flash visit with your favorite authors or new-to-you authors and decide for yourself if you’d like to check out their books! Some of the authors participating are Amanda McCabe, Cindi Myers, Deeanne Gist, Jeaniene Frost, Julie James, Karen Jones, Lavinia Kent, Lori Foster, Meagan Hatfield, Melissa Mayhue, Sally MacKenzie, Tara Janzen, and Terri Garey!

9 AM Intimate Chat with Brenda Novak

9 AM Intimate Chat with Elizabeth Hoyt

9 AM Where Did She Get That Crazy Idea: A fun romp through the chaotic machinations of an author’s mind. Led by Lorie O’Clare with Pamela Nowak, Catherine Anderson, and Cindy Gerard.

10 AM Brunch (meal ticket required – cost $35)

10:30 AM Keynote Speech – Carly Phillips

10:45 AM $2,500 Trivia Challenge: Think you know romance? Questions will be pulled from bestselling authors’ public websites, with a listing announced in May. Care to play? (This challenge is only open to reader/general admission advance ticket holders. Must be present at the Sunday Brunch awards ceremony to win!)

[I haven’t the slightest chance with so many romance veterans in attendance, but it might be fun to try!]

11 AM Mix and Mingle with Historical Romance Authors, including Anna Campbell, Catherine Anderson, Cathy Maxwell, Celeste Bradley, Deb Werksman, Deeanne Gist, Elizabeth Boyle, Elizabeth Hoyt, Hana Samek Norton, Hannah Howell, Jo Beverley, Jodi Thomas, Julia Quinn, Keena Kincaid, Lavinia Kent, Melissa Mayhue, Monica McCarty, Pamela Clare, Pamela Nowak, Sally MacKenzie, Veronica Wolff.

11 AM Harlequin Open House with authors: Amanda McCabe, Blythe Gifford, Brenda Novak, Bronwyn Scott, Carly Phillips, Cindi Myers, Courtney Milan, Delilah Marvelle, Geralyn Dawson, Lori Foster, Meagan Hatfield, Terri Brisbin

11 AM Speed Date a New Author–Session 4! Have a flash visit with your favorite authors or new-to-you authors and decide for yourself if you’d like to check out their books! Some of the authors participating are Carolyn Jewel, Cathy Clamp, Cindy Gerard, J L Wilson, Jessa Slade, Judi Fennell, Leanne Banks, Mary Burton, Meg Benjamin, Nalini Singh, Shannon K. Butcher, Susan Crandall!

Happening throughout the weekend:

Author Avenue: Meet your favorite authors in a casual setting. Authors will change every hour, so stop by often to see who’s waiting to meet you!

Memory Lane: Need a photo keepsake of your best friend dressed up as a Regency Duchess, or would you just like to stand next to your favorite author and smile like a giddy teenager? You can do both, at Memory Lane. Authors will rotate through every hour!

Review: Instant Attraction, by Jill Shalvis

Instant Attraction, published in Feb. 2009, is the first in Shalvis’ contemporary romance trilogy about the Wilder brothers, who run Wilder Adventures, an outdoor expedition company based in the small Sierras mountain town of Wishful (excerpt here).  The family had some rough going as children, and each brother has his own issues. Cam was the product of his mother’s extramarital fling with a ski bum, and his father made sure he knew it.

Cameron was a snowboarding and X-Games winter champion until a leg injury forced him to retire early. Unable to cope with such an abrupt end to his adrenaline junkie, gold medal winning lifestyle, he left home to travel the globe for a year, staying in barely sporadic contact with his concerned family. When he returns unannounced in the middle of the night, he finds an attractive young women in his bed. After an amusing first chapter that establishes Cam’s emotionally deadened, but sexually interested state of mind, morning arrives and he learns that the cute girl in his bed is Katie, an office temp. Here’s a bit from their meet cute:

She’d been working for Wilder Adventures for a week now, the best week in recent memory. Up until right this second when a shadowy outline of a man appeared in her room. Like the newly brave woman she was, she threw the covers over her head and hoped he hadn’t seen her.

“Hey,” he said, blowing that hope all to hell.

His voice was low and husky, sounding just as surprised as she, and with a deep breath, she lurched upright to a seated position on the bed and reached out for her handy dandy baseball bat before remembering she hadn’t brought it with her. Instead, her hands connected with her glasses and they went flying.

Which might just have been a blessing in disguise, because now she wouldn’t be able to witness her own death.

Katie, a former accountant, is the lone survivor of a California highway bridge collapse. In response, she has quit her L.A. job in order to live life “balls out”, and her stint at Wilder Adventures is just the first of what she hopes will be many exciting adventures, the kind of adventures that, prior to the accident, she would have been too timid to try. Katie now knows that every minute of life is precious, and she’s determined not to waste it. On the other hand, she still suffers from the symptoms of PTSD — panic attacks, nightmares, and generalized worry and dread — and, like Cam, needs to do better at facing them head on.

Katie and Cam share an — er — instant attraction, and while Katie is pretty much gung ho, Cam is worried that she will fall for him. He has no plans to get into a relationship. They do spend a lot of time together, though, with Cam taking Katie on a hyperspeed snowmobile ride and a midnight trek up a mountain, and, despite being interrupted several times by the inopportune arrivals of various Wilder clanmates, they don’t fight their attraction for too long before giving in. Shalvis is excellent at writing sexual attraction, tension, and fulfillment, and this book is no exception.

Cam ends up having to recognize that although he was always physically very brave, he has been too guarded emotionally to have a mature adult relationship, especially not with a woman. And Katie has to face her survivor’s guilt head on.

There is a secondary “older” romance involving Annie, the chef, and her estranged husband Nick. Annie is a hard-boiled mountain woman who took Cam in when he was being abused by his father. She’s short and stout, a scowler, fiercely protective, loving beneath a tough exterior, etc. She wears a different apron every day, with sayings that reflect her mood, usually aggressive. Nick is oblivious to what she means when she asks him to “see her”. I wasn’t that interested in this relationship, which unfortunately takes center stage near the end of the novel.

This is the third book by Shalvis I have read, and I enjoyed reading it. “Enjoyed” in that sentence is the average of my “delight” in the first half, and “occasional boredom” in the second. I loved Katie’s straightforwardness, the humor, the really sweet and exhilarating and sexy moments between them as they grew to know and care for each other. I am not sure what happened, but at a certain point, I stopped being able to figure out what the conflict was between Cam and Katie. They kept having these arguments that seemed to come out of thin air.

One of Shalvis’s other strengths is creating a world you want to return to, and this is no exception. The setting is very fresh and authentically rendered, and I’m interested enough in the other brothers to read their stories as well, although at about $9.00 a pop for the Kindle editions, I may wait for the library to get a copy.

What are the ICONIC Romance Novel Covers?

Abe books recently did a post on 25 iconic book covers, and AIGA (a professional association for design) just released it’s Best 50 Covers of 2009 — several of which are truly breathtaking.

All this cover talk got me thinking: we make fun of the awful romance covers. But what are the covers that are iconic? The ones that make you stop and stare … and keep staring? That make you pick up the book? The ones that still throw you right back to the moment you read it? The ones whose spine you can pick out on a crowded book shelf from 50 feet away.

Being a newbie to the genre, I am relying on you guys. If you have some suggestions, make them and I will put the images in the body of the post. But to get things started, here are a few covers that seem like contenders to me:

And here’s a cover which I doubt is iconic, but which I could not resist: Can you imagine a time when someone thought a paranormal cover wouldn’t sell, so they decided to make the book look like a historical????

Ok, what are the covers you would consider iconic? Or do covers change so often in romance that the category doesn’t exist?

Additions below”

Surrender My Love

Carla Kelly Daughter of Fortune

Will we refer to this as the Kamp era?

An Early Presents

The Presesnts Circle!

Hmm. Is this a UF? It's so hard to tell! ;)

Monday Morning Stepback: Condoms with Teeth, Addiction, and AAR's new look

The weekly links, opinion and miscellaneous post

1. Links of Interest (from the past 2 weeks)

It’s Jean-Paul Sartre’s birthday today. In honor of the occasion, I will link to that beloved old chestnut, The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook:

I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of a cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones.

All About Romance’s redesign is on display today. The aesthetics are not my cuppa, but I think it is much easier to navigate and read. What do you think? I am planning a major redesign and am intensely interested in these things at the moment. It’s like when you are shopping for new light fixtures or a new car and suddenly you notice every make and model on the road.

What You Talk about when You Talk About Not Having Time to Read by Minnesota writer Jodi Chromey (from @bookladysblog)

I hate “have time to read” for two reasons. First, it insinuates that the reader does nothing but fritter away his/her time lazing about reading . . . books! Books! Oh, just think of all that lascivious self-indulgence. If only we too had the time to do something so decadent. But no, we are much too busy and important to have time to read books.

It was only a matter of time. From On Fiction, a report on a presentation about the neural bases of creative writing. Follow the link for an image of your brain on writing.

Mrs. Giggles on the Hierarchy of Nationality in Romance. Guess who comes out on top?

Over at Unusual Historicals, author Lisa Yarde on What Surprised Me: Ancient and Medieval Prostitution

Author Jeannie Lin links to a discussion about Asian characters on covers.

I liked this post from The Reading Experience on John Dewey and Perception. Dewey identifies the function of and two common errors in criticism. The post makes me want to re-read Art as Experience.

A brief but compelling defense of the claim that Romance is THE genre from Karen Anders over at the Blaze Authors Blog.

At Abe Books, Beth Carswell on Literary Towns, with a discussion of the effect of The Twilight Saga on Forks, Washington (via Books Inq.)

Forget zombies: Minotaurs are the New Vampires. From The Onion.

Marg at The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader asked What Is A Book Blogger? Is an author blog a book blog? Good question.

An older post, but as a Buffy fan, I found it really interesting. At Feministe, “How Come It’s Never Joss’s Fault?

What [a critic of season 5 or 6] wants to talk about is not characterisation, plot, embedded contexts in the show, but what a horrible person Marti Noxon is, and how she ruined everything, and how Joss never should have abandoned Buffy, leaving the show in the hands of a woman. How it’s obvious that Marti and other female creators involved in the show are to blame for everything that went wrong. They’re ‘working out their issues’ or they are just not capable of handling a big television show all on their lonesomes or Joss gave them too much leeway.

Penelope is talking about the ARC conundrum:

So, in conclusion, you can probably tell that I am really conflicted about this whole issue. On one hand, I hate having the magic wrecked by so many folks reading books before I get my hands on a copy, and on the other hand, I am eternally grateful to reviewers willing to read them from an author’s perspective.

I’ve mentioned the new series on Philosophy at the New York Times. Well, this week it’s feminist political philosopher Nancy Bauer on Lady Gaga.

The tension in Gaga’s self-presentation, far from being idiosyncratic or self-contradictory, epitomizes the situation of a certain class of comfortably affluent young women today. There’s a reason they love Gaga. On the one hand, they have been raised to understand themselves according to the old American dream, one that used to be beyond women’s grasp: the world is basically your oyster, and if you just believe in yourself, stay faithful to who you are, and work hard and cannily enough, you’ll get the pearl. On the other hand, there is more pressure on them than ever to care about being sexually attractive according to the reigning norms. The genius of Gaga is to make it seem obvious — more so than even Madonna once did — that feminine sexuality is the perfect shucking knife.

When we were in South Africa earlier this year, we spent a lot of time talking with our tour guides about the social and political issues facing the country today. One of them was rape. A child is raped in south Africa every three minutes. When you have a country in which 1 in 4 men admits he has raped someone, you have a very big problem. Is a female condom with teeth one way for women, at least, to fight back?

2. Addiction in romance: a minirant

Holly at the Book Binge reviewed a book in which the hero is a gambling addict. She didn’t like the book for legitimate literary reasons: because she felt the relationship with the heroine was abusive, and because she didn’t believe in the hero’s recovery, which was addressed in a brief unpersuasive epilogue. You can read the full review here. A month or so, there was a similar discussion about a book by Stacia Kane, whose heroine was compromised by addiction. Some folks made comments along the lines of not wanting to read about addicts.

I would just like to be a voice, right here, for recognizing the right of addicted people to love and be loved, and to have their happily ever after. I understand that we are genre readers, and just as having a heroine who is battling cancer or poverty or partner abuse lose — or appear to lose — her battle at the end of the book violates our legitimate genre expectations and disappoints us as readers, so I can understand why an unrecovered addict might do so as well (unless, as is apparently the case for Kane’s book, it is the first installment of a series). But unless you have a personal experience which makes reading about addiction struggles triggering for you, to say “I won’t read about addicts”, sounds, to me, an awful lot like a negative moral judgment. Addiction in the US is a major issue, not just to drugs and alcohol, but to nicotine, to gambling, and even, dear reader, to the internet. People can become addicted in all kinds of ways, including by being introduced as children by their parents, as patients by their doctors, and as victims by their abusive partners. Today, we understand that addiction is a disease, like any other disease. We know that addicts’ brains are different, sometimes before (thanks to genetics) and always after the addiction. Addicts are struggling against chronic and sometimes terminal disease, just like someone with cancer. But, unlike someone with cancer, the addict has to face discrimination and negative moral judgments as well. I am glad that romance writers are writing characters who struggle with addiction, and I hope they keep doing it.

3. On the blog this week

I have so many ideas for blog posts and so little time to write them! But watch out later tonight or tomorrow for my post on iconic romance novel covers, inspired by Abe Books’ post on 25 Iconic Covers. (posted it here)

I also have some reviews, of romance and nonromance. You may have noticed that, despite my name change, I’ve hesitated reviewing the nonromance, for the really bad reason that I am afraid people won’t read those reviews. I’ve decided not to care. *shrugs*


Ethics and Professionalism and Blogging

Can I write a blog post about a conference I didn’t attend? Watch me.

The first Book Blogger Conference, a one day gig, happened a few weeks ago in New York, just after BookExpoAmerica. I want to start by saying how impressive it is to me that some book bloggers would get together and do what they did.

On the agenda, there were two speakers, in addition to a number of panels. One of those was Ron Hogan, who spoke on Ethics and Professionalism in Blogging. I was really interested in his talk, so I watched the video. I offer a summary and commentary below. Let me say for the record that I love the fact that this talk was invited, that the organizers made room on a crowded schedule for ethics, and that Hogan had a number of things to say that are interesting, important, and worth hearing. I offer disagreements and critical remarks below, because that’s how I engage with things that interest me. That’s what philosophers do. It’s not an indication of lack of respect or appreciation: quite the opposite. If the talk sucked, I wouldn’t bother with this post. I have better things to do, and so do you.

Moving on … according to his bio, Hogan

helped create the literary Internet by launching Beatrice.com in 1995. In 2010, after writing about the business side of publishing as a senior editor for GalleyCat for several years, he briefly served as the director of e-marketing strategy for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

I confess that I had never heard of Hogan prior to checking out the BBC agenda. In case any of you are in a similar boat, this piece is a nice introduction to his interests, skills, and achievements.

Anyway, here is a summary of the talk, with commentary. I did my best to be accurate, but I may have gotten something wrong. If I need to be corrected, feel free to do so.

Hogan starts out by distinguishing what professional literary critics do from what the book bloggers in the audience do:

Of course you don’t live up to the standards it sets for itself because you are doing something completely different and there are so many other ways to talk about a book than an analytical review. And many of you are doing that. You show enthusiasm. You do interviews. You contextualize things through biographical reflection. You do personal reflection, getting very specific about what a book means to you, rather than an attempt an objective analysis of it.

[It’s probably true that a lot of bloggers don’t strive for objectivity, but I think they achieve it, or come as close to it as any pro. Otherwise, how do we explain the common practice of declining to review certain books, i.e. books written by friends or crit partners, or books for which a reviewer has served a beta reader? How do we explain disclaimers within reviews to the effect that “this is not a type of book I normally read”, etc.? To my mind, all of those are objectivity-enhancing practices.

It’s true, absolutely, that book bloggers are more likely to talk about personal experiences with a book — the way it felt to read it, especially. But to my mind, this doesn’t detract from the potential of objectivity. It’s also something pros do, albeit in a less explicit way. When Larry Doyle reviews Elliot Alagash: A Novel by Simon Rich in the NYTRB, calls it “funny” and recounts the “nasty pleasures” it provides, does anyone think he is measuring the novel against an objective (i.e. has-nothing-to-do-with-Larry-Doyle’s-subjective-preferences) standard of “humor” and “pleasure”? Or, to take another random example, when the LRB’s Nicholas Spice says of Phillip Roth’s Everyman, that it is “disagreeable”, or that its formal intricacy is “the most interesting thing about it”, I have to ask “disagreeable and interesting to whom“?

Doyle and Spice compare the subjects of their reviews with other books in the author’s oeuvre, and with similar books published before or since. So maybe it’s their knowledge of their subject that sets them apart? Um, no. In my websurfing, good genre fiction bloggers do the exact same thing (“This Nora Roberts is a bit steamier than her usual”; “I think we have seen this hero before in an earlier Julia Quinn novel; “With this book, J. R. Ward has moved from romance into urban fantasy” etc.). There are differences, but I think they are mainly stylistic, and of degree rather than kind. I also think they have more to do with the self-image and goals of the reviewer than content of the reviews.

Hogan began his talk by saying that the “war between the bloggers and professional reviewers is over, and that the bloggers won.” But I wonder how it’s a “win” if they are not even playing the same game?]

Hogan then defines what “professional” means for this group:

“Professional” for most of you is not about drawing a paycheck or commission or freelance sort of thing. That’s not what professionalism is to you. It is about living up to a certain standard of excellence or a certain standard of performance.

[I appreciate, from personal experience, how hard it is to talk to a diverse group of people. There is no way anyone could address all of the different interests of the audience in one talk. But I just want to point out — and I am not saying that Hogan, of all people, doesn’t know this —  that many book bloggers are, or hope to be, professionals in the sense of earning money and making a living: some are aspiring authors, editors, publishers, or marketers, and some are aspiring to — and do — earn a living directly from their blogs.  So, I think it’s worth noting that many of these “amateur” bloggers have complex and intricate relations with commercial interests — which serve their own economic interests —  from taking ARCs to serving as stops on publicity tours to joining with bookstores to ad revenue, Amazon vine, you name it. Finally, even those who book blog “for fun” are often contributing in some way to their family’s finances, even if it’s just saving money on purchased books. No, not a profession, but not somehow outside our economic system either. If you can hear the grinding of a feminist axe, you have good ears. I’m a little sensitive about this because economic history is littered with descriptions of the public sphere that describe anything women do as non-public, non-commercial, non-political, etc.]

Hogan then adapts Seth Godin’s techniques for making yourself indispensable to your employer. Godin, also a new name to me, and again from his bio, is the “author of the most popular marketing blog in the world”, and “of the bestselling marketing books of the last decade”.

[I confess I was skeptical right away. How do we get from professionalism to marketing? Hogan has just told us that book bloggers aren’t interested in professionalism in the usual (paycheck earning) sense, but rather in the sense of a standard of excellence. So it feels like a bit of a nonsequitur to hand the talk over to a guy known for helping people sell things, especially themselves.]

Hogan relies mainly on Godin’s book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? (Review here). He says,

I am going to jump off from the specific qualities that he talks about and tinker a bit with the qualities that he raises … and we’ll talk about them in our kind of environment.

So, here are the 7 qualities for making yourself indispensable to your employer or — in the case at hand — your blogging audience:

1. Providing a unique interface between members of the organization — what is it that binds you and your readers? What is the passion that you share? The book and authors that you love, and the ways that you love them. Each of you must identify that quality for yourself, for your blog, and for your audience in your own unique way.

2. Delivering a unique creativity — what makes your blog stand out?

3. Managing a situation or organization of deep complexity — there are so many books published, no one can cover it all. “What are you zoomed in on and bringing to people’s attention?”

4. Leading customers — “Where are you pointing your readers? …  You have a mission or point, whatever that is. What is it? What will result from the conversation you are starting?”

5. Inspiring staff — you are inspiring readers simply by being out there. What are you inspiring them to do? It is an ongoing movement. Where is it headed?

6. Possessing Deep Domain Knowledge — Do you know the territory? — You are an expert of some kind, even if it is only in the field of “books I love.”

7. Possessing a unique talent — What perspective do you bring? What do you have to say about those books that will draw people back to your site day after day?

So those are sort of the professional standards, and professionalism meaning standard of performance, the kinds of things that you might want to try to live up to as you are sitting there at the keyboard. Not necessarily in a very conscious way, but simply as things that would inform your actions on a very organic level.

[Contrary to my initial skepticism, I liked the adaptation Godin’s qualities to blogging, and Hogan’s questions were thought provoking for me, especially #5. On the other hand, I’m not seeing the connection between these 7 qualities and “professionalism”. Godin’s idea was to provide ways for employees to make themselves  indispensable so they don’t lose their jobs. When I think of a “standard of excellence” for book bloggers, I think of different things. Qualities like honesty, diplomacy, sanguinity, and reliability, for example, and specific comprehension, communication, writing, and technological skills. But maybe that’s just me.]

Hogan moves from here to the next segment of his talk:

So the ethical part of the conversation is that just as you shouldn’t accept somebody else’s standard of professionalism willy nilly, you shouldn’t necessarily allow book critics or professional journalists to impose their standard of ethics on you because their standard of ethics is not necessarily applicable to what you do. It’s applicable to what they do, and it’s created specifically to respond to their circumstances … but it’s not your set of circumstances and, you know, frankly, why would you need to declare a code of ethics?

Hogan says that bloggers don’t need a code of ethics because either you are trustworthy or you aren’t and no code of ethics will change that reality. You shouldn’t have to say that you are trustworthy — you should just be trustworthy. Citing Godin, Hogan notes that codes of ethics evolved when commerce developed to the point that business associates did not necessarily know each other, and they needed a standardized sign of trustworthiness. Hogan says that we don’t need a code of ethics to trust bloggers we love because we have let them into our hearts already.

[I agree with Hogan here, in principle (heh) as I will explain below, but I have no idea what he meant when he said that last line. I think there are lots of good reasons to develop a code of ethics that go unexplored here. It’s more about the effect of the process on the self-understanding of the people to whom the code applies, than about getting readers/customers/clients to trust you. The bigger problem, to my mind, with developing a code of ethics for book bloggers is that it is such a diverse group, with different aims and audiences, that it would be hard to come up with anything not unhelpfully general and superficial.]

Hogan then moves on to define what “ethics” means to him:

Ethics to me are not about the principles that you lay out but about the questions that you are asking from the starting point.

[I like this very much.]

Noting that principles have exceptions, Hogan suggests moral particularism, where it’s

not about the codified principles but rules of thumb by talking about the situation and seeing where people are coming from from a variety of different perspectives and sort of laying out some guidelines but not hard and fast ‘you must do this or you are an unethical person’ sort of rules.’

[Here Hogan is wading into philosophical ethics, with not very satisfying results, to me at least. It’s a long way from “principles have exceptions” to “moral particularism” (most principlists recognize the need for context sensitivity and for exceptions), and a long way from “moral particularism” to “we don’t need principles” (most particularists think we do), but the bigger problem is that I don’t think this detour did any work for him in the talk. That is, the debate between particularism and its opponents is really a metaethical debate about the structure of moral judgment, and isn’t really helpful in discerning which moral judgments are right or which ones have a better claim on us. My own rule of thumb is to avoid direct discussion of arguments in ethical theory whenever possible when giving ethics talks, unless there is absolutely no other way to make my point.]

Hogan proceeds to demonstrate this ethical approach by discussing two issues:

1. Do you talk about how you got your books, i.e., the FTC thing.

We get a summary of the issue. Hogan says that disclosure is not something we have to do, but we can choose to do it for any number of personal reasons. Not doing it is a personal choice. So again “it’s not a hard and fast rule one way or the other. It’s this is right for me, this is right for you.”

[I detected no ethics in this discussion whatsoever. In fact, the implicit claim is more or less that disclosure is a matter of personal preference, not a matter of ethics. By definition, an ethical matter is one for which you have to provide public reasons of some form more compelling than “this is what I want to do”. It is fine with me if someone doesn’t think disclosure is an ethical issue — that’s a legitimate position to take. But let’s be clear on what we are doing.]

2. Do you ask people to write for your blog for free?  Hogan makes a reference to the keynote speaker, who said she didn’t like blog tours. His next example is the Huffington Post, which doesn’t pay its writers, yet makes loads of money off of their content.  Hogan notes that this presents a potentially exploitative situation. But

I don’t have an answer for you that would fit every set of circumstances. And I don’t think anybody does. It’s an ethical decision that each of us has to make of our own accord. … You have to look within your heart and ask yourself, ‘is this what I want to accomplish in terms of all those kinds of qualities I talked about before of your professionalism?’ The choices that you make ethically, are they steering you toward the standards that you set for yourself as a blogger and as a writer and as a communicator. And are you doing that in a way that is helpful to everybody rather than harmful to anybody?

[While I see the HuffPo point, I actually had a hard time understanding what the ethical issue is here with book bloggers. Anyway, we get a glimmer of a substantive ethical approach in the last line, a sort of consequentialism (i.e. take the action has the best consequences for everybody affected, however “best (goodest)” is defined. Here, best seems to mean “helpfulness”.) But just a glimmer. You know what would have been great here? To move beyond “context counts” to talking about one specific case and working through it. I can understand choosing not to tell other people what they should and should not do, but then how about talking about, as he said earlier, the ethical realm in which he is truly expert —  Beatrice.com?  I would have loved to hear what his standards are for his blog/s, and how his standards dictate a certain response to the disclosure issue, and how that has worked out for him and for those affected by it. Because I can think of a lot of ways to meet the “professional” standards of 1-7 that are pretty darn unethical. So being more specific here could have shown how 1-7 can work as ethical standards, or at least how those professional standards might intersect with ethical concerns to generate a satisfying resolution in a particular case.]

I gather that Hogan, like any good speaker, left a lot of time for Q&A, and I would have loved to hear if some of his points were fleshed out during the less formal part of the presentation. As this talk shows, professionalism, marketing, ethics, community, and reviewing intersect in complex and new ways for book bloggers, and I’m glad knowledgeable people in the book blogosphere are taking the time and creating the space to reflect on these issues.

Review: The Raider, by Jude Deveraux (with matching figurines)

How do you begin a review of the most insane romance you have ever read? With action figures, of course!

I think we need a closeup of that hero, don’t you?

Yes, folks. That’s the hero. How many lab animals do you suppose had to suffer to get those eye colors just right? And what shall we call the lip shade? Paul Revere Rose? But the pose in the top pic is significant, as we shall see below.

This Pocket historical romance, published in 1987 as the seventh in Deveraux’s Montgomery series, called to me as I walked by the charity used book table at my local supermarket. I don’t know if it was the masked hero on the cover, the fact that the setting was Maine (then Massachusetts) in 1766, or that the heroine shared my first name (oh, didn’t you know? The name Jessica was third in popularity in Revolutionary era New England, right after “Mary” and “Elizabeth”). But I had to have it.

I knew it was going to be good when it started out on a ship, heading to America, with the hero and his new best friend, Nicholas, who just happens to be His Imperial Highness, The Grand Duke, Twelfth in line to the Tzarina Catherine of all the Russias. Despite the important sounding title, Nicholas has nothing better to do than sail his friend Alexander Montgomery back home to New Sussex to save the town from the Redcoat-collaborating jerk his sister has married. As the ship enters port, Alex wonders if Jessica Taggert, leader of a poor, motherless gaggle of kids, is “as hot tempered as she always was” and lo, our heroine has been identified.

Alexander, after some rough treatment as he is entering town by the English, decides to become The Raider, a black-mask-wearing, black-horse-riding saver of Colonial butts. In order to keep his heroic identity secret, he pads his belly, dons a powdered wig, and borrows the wardrobe of Nicholas’s dandy cousin, which includes vests of canary yellow, breeches of emerald green, and lots of embroidered flowers.

Alex used to tease Jessica as kids, and she’s a bit defensive as a rule — oops, I mean “proud-tempered” —  so when Alex arrives looking all flowery and Pooh sized, Jessica makes merciless fun of him in front of the whole town. When he protests, she says Mean Girl things like, “the piglet has claws” and when he threatens her, she wonders aloud if his weapon of choice is creme cakes. She is, as Alex thinks later, a “damned hardheaded little she-cat”. He falls immediately in love.

It’s pretty amazing actually, how de-masculinized Alex is when not in character as the Raider. He’s more than beta — he’s theta. He “shudders delicately”, primps in front of mirrors, waves embroidered fans, gently combs the heroine’s hair, listens to her talk about her man troubles, and “gets the vapors more than a woman.” He’s the gay best friend, essentially.

Alex complains to Nick that “Fat doesn’t make me less of a man!” but Jessica begs to differ. She describes him as “not an actual man”, and at one point, she disrobes in from of him, thinking that “Alexander was so far removed from being a man that it seemed quite natural.” In what must be the most unusual similes ever used to describe a hero, Jessica thinks at one point that Alex resembles “an oddly shaped lighthouse” and at another, compares him to a “nest of fireflies.”

Basically, the Raider raids, and then checks in with Jessica to bodice-rip her every so often. Jessica ends up having to marry “that peacock” Alex, to avoid criminal charges for fighting back against the English. As they get to know each other, she begins to appreciate her husband’s intelligence and kindness.  She even offers him pity sex, but Alex tells Jessica he finds sex vulgar, only to rapidly change in to Raider gear (step 1: remove wig; step 2; don black mask) and attempt to seduce her.

It is amazing to see the alignment of gender and sexuality come apart, like a zipper unzipping, in this book. Masculinity, personified by the Raider, is signaled by virility, brawn, dark clothing, and sexual aggression while femininity, personified not by the heroine but by dandyfied Alex, is associated with chastity, brains, vanity, and passivity. The heroine is basically an appendage in this book: the real romance, the real conflict, is between Alex and the Raider.

The Raider is a total fail as both a raider and a lover. For example, on one of his first raids, he is under Deep Raider Cover. Jessica and her friend Abigail follow a group of Redcoats, hoping for some musket action:

“Where’s the man in black?” Abigail whispered.

Jessica listened to the sounds of the town and the evening. “There”, she whispered, directing her glance to the trees behind Ben’s house.

Oh, snap!

Later, in a rare moment of self-awareness, the Raider notes it is “a little disconcerting” that everyone seems to be able to predict his actions. In yet another scene, Jessica and the Raider are making love in a dark cave and fail to discern the arrival of six soldiers …  with lanterns.

Jessica hits the nail on the head when she says:

“Some Raider you are! The only successful raid you’ve ever made is under a woman’s skirt!”

Unfortunately, she is forced to retract the harsh truth of her words (“I didn’t mean it. You are a successful Raider!!”) to get some Raider nookie. Still, it’s hard not to love a guy who uses a weighted fishnet to snare the baddies, and then scoops women up as he gallops away, giving them punishing kisses (see the verisimilitude of the figurine pose above). Jessica’s not too bright herself: she can tell that the Raider is a “handsome man”, but never figures out he’s Alex.

She also denies her growing feelings:

“You can’t keep appearing in my life, ridiculing me, holding me against trees, mauling me in blackberry patches, and expecting me to … to … .”

But just because Jessica hasn’t read Signs He Is Your Soul Mate 101 (too busy clamming. Oh, did I not mention her occupation?) doesn’t mean we readers aren’t well aware that she falls in love with the Raider the minute she says “I hate him” three times fast.

As to the “lovemaking”, I use the term advisedly. There are several kissing sessions which involve struggling and that extreme form of Cartesian mind-body dualism for which Old Skool heroines are known. But the pièce de résistance is the deflowering.  Never has a lover been so respectful of a woman’s personal autonomy:

He kissed her again. “You have a choice. We make love tonight on the soft cool sand or I rape you tonight on the sharp rocks.”

Or so giving:

After a few swift strokes, trying not to hurt her, he collapsed on top of her, sweaty, limp, and sated.

For his part, Alex is trapped. He has created an alter ego that he can’t claim. Echoing the plaint of Colonial men everywhere, he says:

“I want her to love me for myself, not because I wear a black mask and ride a black horse.”

Finally, all is revealed, and Jessica, embracing the multiplicitous (not to mention duplicitous) nature of her man, proclaims:

No matter how many people you are, you’re the one I love.

Sigh. And who can’t get behind a metaphysically wonky love like that?

What I've Been Doing on my Hiatus

As you can tell, I’ve been too busy to blog lately. First the hack thing, from which the blog seems to have finally emerged after 2 weeks of hell. But now I’m teaching a summer course, and tomorrow I leave at 5:30am for a palliative care conference in the southern part of the state. Not enough for you?

Here are some other excuses:

1. We’ve been redecorating/remodeling the entire first floor. Our kitchen as I type this (and forget the counters and floor):

Can't decide on cabinet colors. Kids like them as is.

2. Trying get the summer camp/travel schedules set…

3. Watching a lot of soccer, both professional and this kind:

My little Pele

4. Moving into a new office at the university:

And you can see I haven't gotten very far...

So, while these are all good things, lately I look and feel like this:

uh oh. Mommy has the crazy eyes. And hair. Run!!

I’ll be back. Thanks for your patience!

RRR Questionnaire Extraordinaire: Rosario of Rosario's Reading Journal

Rosario’s blog is Rosario’s Reading Journal

Tagline: “Book reviews from a Uruguayan reader”

About: “Reviews, reviews and more reviews.”

Rosario’s was one of the first blogs I found when I entered Romanceland, and I came to admire her to-the-point reviewing style, and the depth and breadth of her knowledge of the genre.  I mentioned Rosario in my very first post back on August 3, 2008:

I’d like to remember what I’ve read and how those books struck me when I read them. The model for the “review and record” aspect of this blog is Rosario, whose blog is one of my inspirations.

I have also long admired her singleness of purpose and incredible organization. Rosario’s Reading Journal is a terrific example of doing one thing and doing it very well. Her first post is dated August 26, 2002. She wrote:

My first post! I’ll be back as soon as I figure out what I’m doing.

Well, she did come back, and she has been coming back for nearly 8 years, to the tune of over 1500 reviews.

I was so pleased when Rosario managed to find time in her busy schedule to answer a slew of questions. I found her reflections fascinating. I hope you do, too.

0. When did you start reading romances?

I started reading romance novels in my early teens, but I had unknowingly been looking for them since I can remember. Even when really young and with books that weren’t romances, I was always drawn to whatever little romance there was in them. Mi grandpa had the entire collection of Emilio Salgari’s adventure novels (80+ of them!), and I remember digging into those when I was about 7 or 8. There was a bit of everything there, but the ones I’d reread again and again were books with good romances in them, like Captain Storm, which starred a Venetian countess who dressed up as a knight to fight in the war and fell in love with an Ottoman warrior, the Lion of Damascus. I haven’t read it in ages, so I don’t know how good it might have been, but back then, I loved it to pieces.

I then went on to Victoria Holt and all the rest of her pseudonyms and, finally in my early teens, discovered Harlequins and a couple of Janet Dailey novels my mom had in her shelves. That was a revelation: books where the romance was the whole point of the story, and I didn’t have to dig through piles of stuff that didn’t really interest me just to find a few nuggets? Brilliant. Soon after that, I found Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Shanna (in my school library, of all places) and started looking for other historical romances in bookshops.

This was Uruguay in the early 90s, though, so it was all a bit hit or miss. The couple of bookstores that ordered books in English didn’t order specific books, it was just by the box, and they got whatever their supplier had a surplus of. It wasn’t until the internet came along that I started being able to find out about specific titles. I made my first order from Amazon in 1998 (and paid about twice as much for shipping to Uruguay as I did for the actual books, ouch!) and never looked back.

1. What motivated you to start your blog?

The most prosaic of reasons: I needed to practice my English. I attended a bilingual school in Uruguay, but by 2002 I’d been out of regular English classes for 6 years. Because I wasn’t practicing my written English, writing even a simple, two-paragraph email was a chore and took me an hour. Obviously, the only way to fix that was to start regularly writing in that language again, but I knew that unless I found a reason to actually want to do so, I’d give up after the first few times. I needed to write about something I was passionate about and I needed to have a purpose, and a romance review blog was the best I could come up with.

2. How has it changed over the years?

Not much, really. There have been cosmetic changes, like adding images, and doing a single post for each book (for the first months I’d post about a book as I went along in my reading, so I’d have several posts about a single title), but not much else. Although, well, I want to think that the quality of my reviews has increased as I’ve got more practice!

3. Most review blogs do other things besides reviews, but you have stayed true to your review mission. Have you ever felt tempted to write another kind of post? Why or why not?

At the beginning I did try to post a few different things… personal news, opinion pieces, comments about industry developments, links to interesting articles, memes, that sort of thing. I soon realised I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it. I felt like I couldn’t hit on the right tone. I’d come back to something I’d written and think “what a pretentious git” :-D  What I’ve never been too interested in doing is promo. While I don’t mind a little of it in industry blogs or websites, it’s not what I’m looking for in personal blogs, so I won’t put it in mine. I’ve learnt to stick to what I like (and hopefully, do well!).

4. How have your reading tastes changed over the years, if at all?

I’m pickier about quality now (some of the books I gave As to in 2002… oy!), but what I’m looking for in a book hasn’t actually changed all that much. Of course, when I first started reading romance there was still a lot of bodice-ripping going on and way too many alpha-asshole “heroes” and feisty hair-tossing, foot-stamping child-like heroines, but even though I read those books, I always hated those elements, and wished I could get my romance without having to put up with them. I just didn’t have the choice at the time, and I’m very happy I do now.

5. Do you think the romance genre has changed? What are some of the most significant changes in your eyes?

I know lots of readers feel that the genre has become homogeneous over the years, with fewer and fewer settings and authors constantly jumping on whatever the new big trend is, but I think it’s more complicated than that. In terms of who the protagonists can be, in my opinion, there’s much more variety. It’s most obvious with heroines, and I do love that. These days female characters can be strong, they can go toe to toe with the hero and actually win (without then being punished for it, either), they can be sexually experienced, they can make mistakes and be flawed, and they’re still allowed to be heroines. As for the heroes, although the over-the-top alpha is still as popular as ever, I feel different conceptions of masculinity have become acceptable in romance novels now.

6. How do you foresee the romance genre changing in the next decade?

I think romance novels do reflect contemporary sensibilities, only they run a few years behind what’s happening in the real world. So I would expect heroines in contemps to continue to become more like real contemporary women (too many today read 30 years older than they’re supposed to be) and HEAs to reflect more of the variety that I see all around me (couples choosing not to have children, the man being the one to stay home with the kids, etc.).

Also, it seems to me the YA and romance genres have began to mix quite a bit, with many romance readers also going for YA in a big way, and many YA books containing really lovely romances. So maybe in the next few years, as YA readers grow up, they’ll start seeking out romance novels. Hopefully that will lead to more of what I described above and even to a narrowing of that gap, but it might also lead to more fights about the definition of romance, as YA readers seem to be more flexible about their HEAs.

And of course, it probably doesn’t even need to be said that there will be new big trends and it will seem every author is jumping on them (which trends? Ah, if only I had that crystal ball! I can only hope the next one is steampunk romance, which seems to be taking off a bit lately).

7. How has your life changed from 2002 to 2010? Are your life changes reflected in your reading choices, or in the way you blog?

My life now is nothing like it was in 2002. Romance novels are probably one of the very few constants, actually! Back then I lived in Uruguay, with my parents and had a job which, while a good learning opportunity, wasn’t really going anywhere. I now live in England, in my own house, and have a proper career I love.

I’d never thought of it, but this (especially moving to England) really has impacted on my reading choices. When I was in Uruguay I was reading almost exclusively romance, with a smattering of mystery. That was mainly because AAR was the only place I could get recommendations I trusted enough to actually go through the trouble and considerable expense of getting the books all the way to Uruguay. Not to mention, mass markets are a lot cheaper and lighter than anything else (ergo, lower shipping charges), and my Uruguayan pesos didn’t buy too many dollars back during the big recession we had in 2002. Now I’ve got access to a pretty good library system and my salary is in pounds (yeah, not *that* great these days), so I’m trying a lot more of other stuff, especially non fiction, knowing that I can just drop books after 20 pages if they don’t interest me. Unfortunately, I’m also reading less than I did, as I have less time and more other things competing for it.

8. What was “Romanceland” like — if it even existed — when you started out in 2002?

At the time, Romanceland for me was just the All About Romance boards and the yahoo groups associated with them. I know there were other places I didn’t frequent, but they were along similar lines… message boards and email lists. The romance blogosphere just didn’t exist. The only other romance-related blog I was aware of was the one that Laurie, from AAR, had just started. In fact, it was hers that gave me the idea of starting one myself. Wendy the Superlibrarian started hers soon after, but that was it for quite a while. For the first year or so, I didn’t get more than a couple of comments from romance readers (which might be why I don’t particularly care about traffic figures, even today).

In terms of the discussions themselves, the biggest difference that comes to mind is that now there is a general acceptance about the value of negative reviews that just wasn’t all that general back then. These days pretty much all authors accept that readers and reviewers have the right not to like their books and say so (even if there are still arguments about the appropriate tone to use), but in 2002 there was a lot more of the “how dare you!!!!” attitude, both from authors and other readers.

9. What has surprised you the most about how the online romance community has changed since 2002?

Its meteoric growth. New blogs and sites pop up practically every day, and whatever sort of involvement you want, you’ll be able to find a place for yourself.

10. What has made you the most happy about the way Romanceland has changed since 2002?

The sheer size and variety of it now, and the fact that there are plenty of places where I can get the level and depth of analysis of issues that I like (including your blog, and I’m not just saying that because you’re interviewing me *g*). The one internet kerfuffle I’m still pissed off about after all these years is one that happened in AAR’s message boards. There was a group of posters who’d have the most wonderful, in-depth discussions, which I relished reading (I’d actually save their posts to read when I had time to enjoy them properly), but they were basically ran off the boards by a group of idiots that complained that they were hogging the discussion and that their posts were too long and made them feel dumb (some people now deny that’s how it was, but those are my memories of the episode, and I’m sticking to them. People actually did say that the posts made them feel dumb). Of course, these days, those great posters would just set up their own blogs and they’d be pretty easy to find, but back then, I had no way of finding out where they’d gone and it was really annoying.

11. Are you dismayed at all by any of the changes in the online romance community?

Oh, dear, I feel like I’m picking on AAR, but here goes. I find the us-vs-them mentality towards blogs that I perceive in their boards quite upsetting. Just to make myself completely clear, this is not something that’s coming from the people who run them, but from several frequent and long-time posters. I’ve been visiting forever and ever, years before I even started my blog (gosh, come to think of it, I think I was actually in my teens when I first followed LLB over from The Romance Reader!), and it’s always been a big part of my reading life, so it’s sad to be made to feel unwelcome by a minority of loud twits.

12. What, if anything, do you feel is missing in the online romance community? How do you foresee it growing in the next decade?

That’s a tough one. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously realised anything was missing in the romance community until it (whatever “it” was) showed up. I suppose I’d like a bit more of an international perspective, sometimes. Most of the bloggers I’m aware of live in the English-speaking world (even me, now!), and I’d love to hear more from, oh, I don’t know, all those people who read Mills & Boon in India, or whoever’s reading the Spanish translations of single titles I see when I go back to Latin America.

How do I foresee the community growing? Well, “growing” is the operative word here. It will only keep growing. There might be more formats (like a lot of the discussion has moved to twitter now), but it will still be there years from now.

13. What are some blogs you enjoy reading?

I follow a ridiculous number of blogs, but my absolute favourites are Dear Author, The Book Smugglers, Wendy the Superlibrarian, KristieJ’s , jmc’s, and Aneca’s World . I’ve also got a few on my Google reader that haven’t been too active for a while, in the perpetual hope they’ll start blogging regularly again. Those include Jennie’s B(ook)log, ReneeW, Tara Marie, And yours. I did mention I enjoy yours, right? [Thank you, Rosario, for reading the fine print in the RRR interview contract.]

14. I don’t notice you making many comments on other blogs — although I am happy to see you on Twitter. Why not?

Oh, but I do comment, only not as much as I used to, I’m afraid. I’m always too late now! Since I travel quite a lot, most of my blog reading (and I do follow quite a few, just see above) is now done on my phone, and I just don’t find that conducive to writing comments. I can do the “I  liked that book, too!” kind of thing there, but not proper comments. I’ll often mark posts as unread to comment the next time I’m at a normal computer, but by that time, the discussion has either moved on or someone has made the point I wanted to make, so I just let it go.

15. One of your all time favorite authors is Nora Roberts. What are your favorite books by Nora? Have you found her books have changed over time? In what ways?

My top fave is one that doesn’t come up a lot, Midnight Bayou. [Rosario’s review here.] Strong, interesting heroine, beta, dreamy hero, atmospheric setting and a really unique paranormal subplot. I also have a soft spot for Born in Fire (it was my first Nora ever, and the romance is almost a prototype of the Eve and Roarke relationship, which I also love) [Rosario’s reread review here.]  and Birthright [Rosario’s review here].

Nora’s books I feel have changed less than the genre as a whole, but that’s because her books always felt more modern and up-to-date, and the others have only been closing the gap in that respect. Back in the 90s, when anyone made the argument that the reason even contemporary heroines in their 30s had to be virgins was that otherwise they wouldn’t sell, I always brought up Nora’s success. *Her* heroines didn’t need to find contrived excuses to be virgins, and that didn’t make her sell any fewer books!

16. What is a new favorite author or book?

I’ve found plenty of wonderful new authors in the past few years, but Meljean Brook is the clear standout. Her Guardian series is amazing, with both excellent romances and a world that is fascinating and complex, yet completely coherent. Oh. And great writing. My favourite thing about the writing is that not everything is spelt out, and you feel like the author trusts your intelligence enough to understand.

17. How long do you think you will keep writing romance reviews?

Until I stop enjoying it and it becomes a chore, but I doubt that will happen anytime soon!

Thank you, Rosario!!

Monday Morning Stepback: Hello Goodbye edition

The weekly news, links and opinion post

I. What’s up on this here blog:

As regular readers know, I have been dealing with a Russian hacker for about 10 days now. Esosoft tells me it was a sophisticated hack, in which I take some elitist comfort. The lesson for me is not to use any plugins that are not in continuous development, as they are easy targets for hackers. I deleted almost all of my plugins, and am adding them back one at a time. So there may be some reduced functionality this week for readers. I am sorry about that. Thank you for bearing with me.

On the plus side, I decided to turn my angry feelings about Russia into something more positive by digging out old photos of my undergrad trip to the former Soviet Union. Here’s me, twenty one years ago, at The Hermitage in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad).

Not bad for 1989, but I think my coat should be bigger

On ReadReactReview this week:

I am very excited about the week coming up. Tuesday is an interview with Rosario, of Rosario’s Reading Journal, which went live in 2002. Rosario talks about her romance reading past and present, her love of Nora Roberts, and changes in the genre and in the online romance community.

Wednesday, I will have a report on a discussion with my friend Elizabeth, who is finishing her dissertation on sensation novels of the nineteenth century.

Next, I review An Unwilling Bride, by Jo Beverly, whose heroine is a “follower of Mary Wollstonecraft”.

I hope to have a comment on Ron Hogan’s talk on ethics and professionalism in blogging at last week’s Book Bloggers Convention. Hogan recently left his new position as director of e-marketing strategy at Houghton Mifflin .

And — maybe — Part 3 of my series on Ethical Criticism of Genre Fiction (Part 1 and Part 2).

II. Links of Interest (even more stale than usual, as I missed last week’s Stepback post)

It’s a big day in Romanceland as Harlequin’s new e imprint, Carina Press opens for business with a 20% off all books promotion. Click here for a list of launch books.

My Friend Amy has announced the third annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week, September 13-17 2010. After last year’s controversy over the awards, on Tuesday there will be a special That’s How I Blog to go over the new rules. Amy says there are all new categories. I am crossing my fingers for an “I Would Have Written Less If I Had More Time” category, for which I am a shoe in.

I was flabbergasted by the tour the book bloggers at BEA got of some NY publishing houses. Here is Natasha of Maw Books’ report, complete with drool worthy pictures. I think the next RomCon needs to be held in Toronto. Either that, or I am going to have to start reviewing general fiction.

Jenre of Well Read Reviews is closing up shop. We’ll miss you!

When one door of happiness closes another opens. Keishon of AvidbookReader is starting up a new mystery blog.

Editorial Anonymous interviews Adam Rex, author of the forthcoming Fat Vampire. Here’s Rex on his inspirations:

ADAM REX: That’s the gist of what got me started. A big part of the fantasy of vampirism, of course, is the wish-fulfillment of being frozen at the peak of your existence. At the moment we seem to have agreed as a culture that everyone should want to be a teenager again. But, while being a teen had its charms, I actually think I’m a lot happier now. I’m certainly a better person now than I was in high school.

I have to say the impetus for this book actually came when I misread a banner ad. I was in the middle of my morning web-crawl when I saw an ad for some manga or webcomic or something called My Dork Embrace. And I thought, That’s great. I bet it’s a story about the kind of awkward guy who’s never supposed to become a vampire. And a minute later my brain wouldn’t let go of it because the art and tenor of the ad didn’t really jive with the assumption I’d made, so I scrolled back to have another look at it. And I discovered it’s really just My Dark Embrace. I’d misread it. But then I got excited because that meant I could write My Dork Embrace myself, and it would be a good framework to work out some thoughts I’d been having about high school.

At On Fiction, a post on Blogging as Renaissance-Style Correspondence:

Until I read Johan Huizinga’s biography of Erasmus, I had not realized that, before the coming of print culture which Erasmus was one of the first to use, although people would address handwritten letters to particular people they often intended them to be read more widely. Alongside formal readings at churches and synagogues, and lectures in universities, and before the emergence of magazines and newspapers, letters were means by which ideas could circulate. People would pass them around.

At the guardian Books Blog, Literature’s Great Sister Acts. Apparently, psychologists have used literary sisters are source material since so few studies of women were done until the 1970s.

A meditation on genre-bending at the Bradford Bunch, by Kelly Jamieson, whose book Lost and Found was rejected for not being one thing or another (it has found a home at Samhain Press).

At Critical Mass, notes on the future of book reviewing, based on a National Book Critics Circle panel “in a BookExpo America session that registered fewer sparks than the one in 2009”:

After Reed and Kellogg enthused over the possibilities for rich interactivity in ebooks, Travers added a cautionary note. “It all depends on the writer,” she said. “I’m supposed to be — boo-yah — for digital books. But think how bad the DVD extras are on so many movies.”

In such a fluid reviewing environment, Reed asked about the “delineation between content and advertising. Is it Armageddon? Can anyone retain their integrity? Or maybe establish a new integrity?”

As a rule, Nawotka asserted, Powells.com is not going to be circulating negative reviews. And authors are increasingly popping up in on-line book conversation. Kellogg put it succinctly: “Is it pimping or is it journalism?”

And again on book reviewing, this time a Literary Saloon meditation prompted by The Death and Life of the Book Review, an article in The Nation online by book review editor John Palattella:

I see ‘serious book coverage’ in more expansive terms than Palattella does — and, in fact, I think this point has been made often enough by now: the online scene, in all its variations (yes, ranging even to that ‘Daily Beast’), now contributes — at least in the English-speaking world — as much to the larger (and especially the many smaller) literary debates as the print media does. But maybe it hasn’t been said often enough: Palattella, for one, seems, quite honestly, to be if not clueless at least fairly oblivious.

And one more on book reviewing: It’s All Over but the Reviewing: Self-Publishing Edition from AuthorScoop. This is a brief recommendation of editor Jane Smith’s The Self-Publishing Review, where “You send me a copy of your self-published book, and I’ll read it. If I like it I’ll review it here, and will be generous with my praise.”

Author Tracey Cooper-Posey on why Authors Shouldn’t Read Other Authors in their Genre

The accepted wisdom in the industry is that authors should read everything in their chosen genres, to keep up. I think this is excellent advice for beginners trying to break into the industry, and for a writer easing into a new genre or publisher.

But if we do this all the time for our established genres, then we would all start sounding almost the same as each other, with just shades of variation, because we’re all pulling from the same stewpot of ideas.

Another genre meditation, this time on the difference between romance and romantic elements at the Romance Junkies Blog.

From The New Yorker online, Spaying Your Laptop. Can you guess what that involves?

Slate on A New Kind of Drunkenness: the Greatness of Gin, which is, alas, not a permission slip to get soused as I type this post, but a fun review article on a few new books on alcohol.

Should we put hyperlinks at the end of our posts instead of the middle? GalleyCat considers this in the wake of Laura Miller’s Salon.com experiment along those lines.

Sonya Chung at the Millions on Breaking Up With Books. She categorizes the books she failed to finish and why. My favorite is this one: “Books Written By Friends/Acquaintances That I May Have Been Destined Not to Like in the First Place, But Gave Them a Try For Friendship’s Sake.”


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