Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jacqueline Carey Tidbit

So, while I was at the RT con last week, I overheard a name that my brain just went *POUNCE* for: Jacqueline Carey.  I have no idea who said it or even where I was when I heard it.  (Maybe in one of the many lines?  Maybe in the bar?).  It was literally one of those things that seems to float through the ether with no discernible source:

"She's working on something new.  She's done with Kushiel.  I hear it's much lighter and more playful."

WOW.  What a freaking tease, right?  I am subscribed to Carey's FaceBook page, where there's a lot going on, and I checked her website, but there were no hints.

So I decided to right to the source, and I was delighted to hear back the same day via email:

It's good to know people are talking! :) I do have a new project coming out this fall -- it's an urban fantasy series called Agent of Hel, and the first volume is "Dark Currents." I'll post the description below. I'm calling it a blend of wonder, whimsy and creepiness!

Dark Currents is set in a small Midwestern resort town where paranormal tourism is a booming business. Daisy Johanssen, an incubus’ daughter raised by a loving single mom, is the liaison between the eldritch community and mundane authorities. Most of the time that doesn’t entail anything more challenging than retrieving stolen goods from a puckish pickpocket or tracking down a tourist led astray by a will-o’-the-wisp, but when a young man drowns in an apparent accident that’s not what it seems, Daisy’s job turns deadly earnest.

I love the sound of that!  Dark Currents is available for pre-order at Amazon, but at this point, we apparently know more than they do, since there is no description there.

Ms. Carey, thanks so much for the scoop!

ps, I really enjoyed the sequel to Santa Olivia, called Saints Astray, released last November. I mean, how do you not love a book with werewolves, rock stars, a Vegas kidnapping, diplomatic immunity, and, well, a small revolution?  Plus, Charlie's Angels cover.  Excellent!

Photo credit:  I stole the author picture from Ciara, without permission (!), because it's an event that I was at and I'm impatient.  :-)  Ciara, if you are not happy with that I'm happy to take it down and use a stock photo.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Thoughts on the RT Con

It Was My First Time....
(And there was hardly any blood.) 

So I've been thinking quite a bit about the experience and what I liked and what I expected and what I might do differently if I had to do it all over again.  So please forgive the length, this is a bit of a brain dump.  I'm processing.

There are a number of different types of events, which I enjoyed to varying degrees.  I'll ramble a little on them here...

Educational Sessions
I was pretty keen on the sessions. (I was always the teachers’ pet in school.)  On the first day, I went to four sessions on blogging and social media.  Most were directed at authors or aspiring authors on how to use it, how much to use it, etc.  There was another one on the second day that I had planned to go to, but I ended up changing my mind.

The best session I went to on Social Media was actually billed as a Marketing track workshop, with reviewers from Literary Escapism, Happy Ever After,   Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and of course, RT Magazine, who are the sponsor of the conference. I should say, it was the session I enjoyed the most, because the other ones I went to were all fine, but weren’t quite what I wanted.

The problem with getting what I wanted is that I didn’t know what I wanted.  I’m still not completely sure what I expected or hoped to get out of the RT Conference as a blogger (specifically, a “boutique” blogger that has sort of plateau’ed.)  What I decided, after that first day, was that I’d rather follow around authors and people that I knew of than treat the workshops like a class.  To be honest, I didn’t really hear much at the sessions that I didn’t already know.  

Reader/Fan Sessions
Within the scheduled workshops, there were a number of different specialty tracks aimed at different pieces of the industry, and then there was the reader track.  I think the reason that I liked the reviewer panel the most is because it was closest to what I do.  There wasn’t much in the way of formal programs for bloggers or reviewers.  If you are a publisher, a publicist, an editor, a bookseller, or an author, you have a distinct place in the RTCon world.   

While they invite readers, the reader track was spotty in terms of “worth it” as far as I’m concerned.  Some of the reader sessions were great – JR Ward was fantastic, as mentioned above, but many were very… I don’t know, featherweight.  “Bling Your Badge” – really?  No offense to those who enjoyed this, but I didn't pay $400-plus to put stickers on my nametag.
I pretty much changed tactics on the second day and just wallowed in the fangirl fun of hearing famous and favorite authors speak, and bumping into them in the hallways.  I went to panels on historical and Scottish romances.  I took a scrapbook and got it signed by all my favorites and will add in some photos and bookmarks and stuff later.  (It went missing for one very anxious evening but the fabulous Circle of Seven people found it and got it back to me.  Whew!)

I had a lot more fun at the sessions where I wasn't really expecting much other than a shared enjoyment of romance novels, like the Scottish themed panel, "Under the Kilt: The Naked Truth About Scotland."  To tell the truth, the audience sort of hijacked the agenda in this session but I still thought it was fun, because everyone in there was just dying to talk about the books they love.

Scheduled Parties and Mixers
I totally did not get how these worked, and nothing was said in the orientation to clue me in.  Based on the descriptions in the programs, most of them sounded like open-house sort of events, like, you arrive any time during the 2 or 3 hours that are scheduled, mingle a little, see who's there.  

As it turned out, most of them had distinct starting times, and if you weren't there when the doors opened, you pretty much missed out on whatever they were offering -- freebies, food, what have you.  Now, since I wasn't really expecting to get stuff at these things (because I didn't know any better) I wasn't particularly disappointed, but it was a little bit of a bummer to show up to what you thought was a stand-up-and-mingle thing only to find out that everyone was already sitting, you missed half a presentation, and all the goodies were gone.

There were exceptions though. The Avon party was extremely well-organized, with tons and tons of books from Avon authors and a chance to get them signed before the madness of the book signing event on Saturday.  I'm not just saying that because I'm being treated so nicely by Avon as part of their Addict program, honestly (though I will forgive you if you have suspicions).  It was a wonderful event, and I think it was one of the only ones that had giveaways for the conventioneers that did not run out. Yay for good planning.

The other one that stood out to me was the Circle of Seven party.  This group does book trailer videos.  I think their success was in that it was relatively small, the authors were accessible, and instead of having inadequate numbers of giveaways, they did a fun interactive raffle that kept the energy high and kept everyone engaged.  I thought it was really fun and no one walked away miffed because they didn't get the freebie.

Of course, I didn't go to all of them (not possible) so maybe I just had bad luck.  Hard to say.

Of the major parties in the evening, I didn't go to many of them, and since I didn't stay in the hotel, I didn't go to any of the late late ones.  One of the reasons I decided to go to this conference is that I have family in the Chicago area, so I had non-conference plans on a couple of the evenings.  I do sort of feel like I missed out on some of the good stuff, not least because I had to keep a clear enough head to drive home each evening.  I might opt to stay in the convention hotel one or two nights at least, if I did it again.

Book Signing -- Heaven and Hell

Yes, there were over 300 romance authors in one room, including big names like Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris, Kelley Armstrong, and JR Ward, and at least twenty authors that I love and read regularly, which is HEAVEN... but there were also just ENORMOUS amounts of people in one room, and because I was tracking down my lost autograph book, I didn't grab much to eat or a water bottle ahead of time.  I mean, that's all on me (#bloodsugarfail) but it would've been nice if there had been a water fountain or bottled water to purchase. I tried hard to enjoy it and I did go see and talk to dozens of my favorite authors but jam-packed crowds are just not something I enjoy. 

I love this idea, as it plays to my strengths (drinking and talking). I had a really nice time with Jackie & Casey from Literary Escapism, Danielle from Entangled Publishing, Chloe Neill, and Shiloh Walker {/shameless name dropping} but I wish I had been better about striking up conversations with folks, mingling more, and just been able to hang out longer. A few things I would do differently next time:  stay at the hotel to avoid needing to drive; and study up on author photos so I could recognize people. 

Thinking About What I Want
I don’t know if I would do this again, to be honest.  I'm feeling a little guilty about the amount of money that went into this experience-- and it was great, and not terribly much money if you look at it purely as a vacation.  I think I was somehow expecting some kind of "payoff," only I don't know what exactly it could be.  My blog isn't any kind of a money-making proposition or a career choice, so I can't write anything off, nor are the contacts I've made likely to "pay off" in my real career.

So, what was great, and what was missing?  If it were *my* conference, what would be different? Well, besides meeting and chatting with authors, I would really like to just find other bloggers and hang out.  I don’t enjoy being talked at all day long—I like to talk too.  (If you know me, you are saying something like “Haha, no SHIT!” right now.)  So this can totally happen in the BarCon, but it would have taken a little more planning on my part to at least contact the bloggers ahead of time and get contact information to make meetups easier.

What would be even better, would be a track for reviewers.  What makes a good review.  The ever-popular debate on negative reviews.  How far do you go (with a bad review or controversy).  Should you worry about copyright protection of your own content and that of the comments that other leave.  Should you have a formal review policy, and what should be on it.  What are the pros and cons of accepting review copies from publishers and publicists.  I could easily come up with plenty of topics that interest me on review blogging (or just reviewing).  And I'd want discussion sessions--small groups where everyone participates.  I'd love to have a mixer room for reviewers and maybe publicists - no scheduled events, just an easy meet-up place.

Here’s a thought – I wonder if RT Magazine specifically downplays the role of bloggers since they are sort of – at least as a group—competition?  Am I so dense that I’m the last one to figure this out?  Hmmmm.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fan Girl Moment with J. R. Ward

RT Con Anyone?
So, I'm here.  I don't think I posted that I was going but I have mentioned it on the Alpha Heroes Facebook page.

Overall, I'm having a good time.  It's been pretty intense, with about 12 events going on in any of the 4 main timeslots, and of course I have usually been wanting to go to 3 at a time on average.  Most of the daytime events in the various tracks did not have lines to get in.  If they did, the lines formed about 10 minutes before the event started.  However...

With Jessica Anderson and J. R. Ward, was the name of the event on the program.   I went to get in line 30 minutes before this one, and it was already stretched out far enough that I thought I wasn't going to get in.

Magically though, the event coordinators got everyone to fit and I wasn't even in the back-most row.  I had a seat and everything.  See that picture?  I was RIGHT THERE! 

The session was by far the most dynamic and fun reader session I went to.  Ward appears to travel with an entourage; she had a bodyguard, several very efficient handlers, a microphone when many of the other speakers did not, and she is frankly just an amazing speaker.  She enjoys the audience as much as we enjoyed her, or at least gives a damn good imitation of it.

Swear Jar
Who knew that JR Ward is as potty-mouthed in real life as any of her macho vampires?  She makes a pretty sincere effort to keep her forums "PG-13" rated, but in a roomful of adults it was indeed, no holds barred.  So she put a dollar in a swear jar every time she let one fly and I'm pretty sure there was about $40 at the end of an hour.  Hilarious!

A Few Tidbits
I'm sure most of these have been put up on the web already, but here's what I heard:

Q: Is there a connection between Michael (from Story of Son) and Murhder*?
JR: Keeeeeeeeeeeep Reading!

Q: What's the deal about the wolven and the dog biscuits and maybe Murhder*?
JR: wide-eyed innocently:  I don't know WHAT you're talking about!

Q: Is it fair to say that there is a blood connection between two characters with ice-white eyes with dark blue rims?
JR: looks down.  I believe my ass is in a crack right now. puts a dollar in the swear jar, pauses for assorted wisecracks, and attempts to skirt the question. OK, fine.  It would not be INCORRECT to say that ice white eyes with dark blue rims are from a limited genetic pool. 

Q: We haven't seen much of Butch and V lately--
JR: interrupts They've been seeing plenty of each other!
Q: -- will we ever see any of that on the page?
JR: No.. [paraphrased]... I will give hints about it and talk about it verbally, but it won't be on the page... because too many people would hate it.  sotto voce Butch is getting it regularly.

Q: Will the Band of Bastards ever join the BDB?
A: shocked One of them just shot Wrath in the motherfucking chest!  NO they're not going to be united on ANYTHING any time soon!!  pays the swearjar.  But, 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend', so they could be aligned against the lessers at some point.  Down the road.

Last BDB tidbit:  Ward says that one of the very best visions she's had is of Layla turning her and Qhinn's newborn child over to Blay in the birthing room, because she really wants to see Blay as a father.  Initially her wording implied Layla would be giving up the baby, but as Ward went on it sounded possible that they would do some co-parenting. 

Last last tidbit: you might check the #peegate hashtag on Twitter.  Pretty funny stuff.
*I sure hope I put the H in the right place there

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Cowboy Takes A Bride, by Lori Wilde - Review

Cover Blurb:
Welcome to Jubilee, Texas: where everyone knows everybody’s business—especially if that business is love! Ex-champion bull rider turned cutting horse cowboy Joe Daniels isn’t quite sure how he ended up sleeping in a horse trough wearing nothing but this Stetson and cowboy boots. But now he’s wide-awake and a citified woman is glaring down at him. His goal? Get rid of her ASAP. The obstacle? Fighting the attraction he feels towards the blond-haired filly with the big, vulnerable eyes.

When out-of-work wedding planning Mariah Callahan learns that her estranged father has left her a rundown ranch in Jubilee, she has no choice but to accept it. Her goal? Redeem her career by planning local weddings. The obstacle? One emotionally wounded, hard-living cowboy who stirs her guilt, her heartstrings, and her long-buried cowgirl roots…

This is one of the books I got in my awesome goodie box from Avon.  I have to admit, this isn't one I would have been likely to pick up otherwise.  Despite encouragement from the blogosphere, I am merely neutral on cowboys.  Meh, even.  Mind you, I'm not opposed, exactly.  It's just that they don't do anything for me as a archetype.  Dukes, moguls and vampires are more my thing, I guess.  Also, just everyday guys like Nora Roberts does so well.  But country boys aren't really my kind of guys.

The other thing that turned me off about this cover blurb was one single word.  Can you guess what it is?  "the blond-haired filly with the big, vulnerable eyes."  Filly?  ICK. 

So, this book wasn't on the top of my list, but I decided to give it a shot and I'm glad I did.  I'll confess that Joe rubbed me the wrong way for awhile at the beginning, with a bit more of the swaggering good ol' boy than I love, and the bar fight scene that got the heroine all hot would have completely appalled me.

But to be fair, Joe never applied the word "filly" to Mariah, so I'll chalk that up to the blurb writer.  And this cowboy, with his swagger and belt buckle and bar-fighting black eye DOES appeal to the heroine, Mariah, and that's enough to make it a good romance in my book.  There's great chemistry between the two; and character arcs for these two are very nicely done. I think the best part of this story is the way the couple truly gets to know each other over time.  They start out with preconceived notions and assumptions that are gradually corrected without artificial-feeling major turn-arounds -- they are more like gentle, gradual course corrections.  I don't see that done very often in the typical page count book these days.  I also really liked the secondary romance between Ila and Cordy who had some really wrenching scenes.

The bantery Moonlighting*-style dialog between the two has some great moments but occasionally drags on too long for my taste.  I got the feeling the author was doing this intentionally for effect, so maybe it works for others.  It's both a plus and minus in my book.  Another thing that tweaked me was that it seemed like Joe was too frequently comparing Mariah to his deceased wife.  I can handle guilt pangs after the fact, but he shouldn't be going down a checklist in the middle of a kiss, during the actual moment with Mariah. 

On the all-the-way plus side, Wilde spins out some world-class sexual tension in this story, holding out til almost the bitter end.  For that, I will forgive her use of the term "love muscle" in the epilogue.

Bottom Line:
A cute city mouse/country mouse story with a hot cowboy and equal measures of "getting over the angst of the past."

Around the Blogosphere
Kathy at Book Reviews and More 
Lou at The Book Pushers
Mona Leigh at Paperback Dolls
Jo at My House of Books
Kathy at Inside of a Dog
Lisarenee at Seduced By Books

Sampling of Moonlighting dialog for you youngsters (look at those shoulder pads!  and the YOUNG Bruce Willis!):

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back, by Sophie Barnes - Review

I can't make up my mind about the clever takes on movie titles for books.  I kind of love them on Kim Harrison's whole Clint Eastwood riff.  But there are so many now, as a general rule they just seem kind of lazy.  Somehow though, this one really made me smile and caught my attention.  Stylistic contrast, I guess.

I'd heard some buzz, so this title was on my mind a little bit even before I got my goodie box from the Avon Addicts program, and there it was just waiting for me.  So I was looking forward to sampling this new-to-me author.  I believe How Miss Rutherford Got Her Groove Back is Barnes' debut romance.

I'm not going to debate whether Pride and Prejudice is the greatest romance of all time.  I can't, really, because I couldn't get through it.  I tried.  I've owned the book for years and years.  I just... can't get through it.

Many comparisons are being drawn around the web between Sophie Barnes and Jane Austen, and I have to agree.  Unfortunately for me, it's just a style that doesn't appeal to me.  On top of that, I found some of the word choices to be jarring for the style and period (makeup instead of paint or rouge, and awkard phrases like "so help him God") and it quickly added up to a book that wasn't working for me.

So at least I'm consistent.  I really wanted to like Miss Rutherford, but it just isn't for me.  On the other hand, if you enjoy Austen's style, you may find it exactly to your taste.

Around the Blogosphere
Fellow Addict Amy Valenti at Unwrapping Romance
Fellow Addict Savannah at Simply Me
Paperback Dolls
Reading Romances
The Season Blog

As always, if you have reviewed this book and would like to be linked, just leave me the URL in comments or by email, and I will edit it in.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I'm at Literary Escapism Today...

I just love Jackie.  She is so great at the whole SuperBlog thing.

Check out Literary Escapism today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ready for Prime Time?

Protesting Too Much
Whether here on Alpha Heroes, or elsewhere in comments, I've said on more than one occasion that I am not an aspiring writer and that my angle here is purely as a reader. 

 But, you know, things change.  People change.  I think maybe I've changed my mind about that.  I'll still be here, reading everything I can get my hands on and sharing my thoughts with the intertubes (because everyone wants to know what I think, right? Right!).  But also, I think I'd like to take a shot at the other side of the review desk. 

See, I Have This Idea for a Book
... that I've been scribbling on for a while now and I feel like maybe it's ready for a tiny bit of sunlight; and-- I hope-- for some feedback from my favorite readers.

I haven't decided whether it will be post-apocalyptic or near-future-alternate-history, because there are elements of both that I find really appealing.  Either way, it will be somewhat dystopian, but with hope (because with romance, there's always hope!)

The heroine is shockingly sheltered, by our standards and by those of the fictional world.  Basically, she's been raised in a bubble. The world she knows will shatter, along with her virginity, and as she adjusts to the "real" world around her, warts and all, her parallel journey will be to accept her own flaws which in turn will enable her HEA.

By contrast, the hero is scrappy and scarred, inside and out.  He's grown up on the streets, and has never known the comfort of having anyone shelter him from anything. He finds the soft, naive nature of the heroine insistently attractive, but at the same time, he feels horribly unworthy and fears that he can only corrupt her purity.

I'm leaning toward making it a road romance, as a metaphor for the journey(s) they will both undertake, and also, those are just fun.  I'd like to include some allusion to McCarthy's  The Road, an homage if you will, but not in a derivative way, and, you know, happier. 

The Excerpt
Bianca woke slowly, muddled, to a maelstrom of confusion: heat and weight that should have been suffocating but instead something in her craved more.  She tried to turn her head but it wasn't allowed.  She tried to scream but the tongue in her mouth--someone else's--made that impossible.  Her eyes flew open, their usual clear blue clouded with perturbation, and locked into another pair, the color of ice and steel and things that were sharp and dangerous.

For a moment she was distracted by this. The only eyes she'd ever seen were the same color as hers-- her mother's. Close-ups in the old movies her mother had on VHS had shown eyes of other colors, but she hadn't really believed them. Her mother had told her that people back then often wore contacts to make their eyes different colors, and she wondered if the man with his tongue in her mouth was wearing contacts.

Awareness grew. Panic rose. Where was she? Where was her mother? She couldn't see where she was, but she heard the rising sound of chanting she didn't understand. Frantically she tried to twist, to writhe, to throw him off, but she was weak and the gray-eyed man seemed not even to notice.

Morlock* had drawn the short straw. Breaking into fall-out shelters was a good way to get a faceful of shotgun blast or worse, if they were occupied. On the other hand, they usually weren't, and finding an unbreached one usually meant a couple weeks of good eating, and his gang** hadn't had much luck lately.  After forcing the door open, the utter silence was promising, but the scene in front of him had taken precious seconds to make sense.  The old woman lay slumped over a table, arm dangling.  Eyes staring right at him. Foam on her lips.  Dead, but not very long.  A glance to the left revealed pantry stores-- empty.  Behind her, a survivalist kitchen setup with a jumble of gear; a water purification rig-- dry; and various utensils.  To the right-- whoah.

The young woman lay on a daybed which no doubt pulled out to be shared with the older woman in times past. Hair the color of midnight cascaded past her shoulders and pooled on the floor.  He'd never seen anyone with hair that long.  She was pale, so pale. Dead. That, he'd seen plenty of.

Instantly his mind rejected that. No. Not dead. He crossed the small room quickly and called to his comrades to stay back.

A kaleidoscope of want spun through his brain. He wanted her to be alive. To wake up. To be his. He wanted to protect her, from the men** who had always had his back (well, almost always). And from the dangers that they protected each other from.  From... everything.  He wanted to be worthy of her.

He wanted to hear her say his name.

*placeholder name -- but keeps my creative sense of the character where I want it

**I need a better name for the hero's band of unconventional, violent, but redeemable, comrades. Working on it.

So. That's the teaser. What do you think? Be gentle, this is my underbelly showing here.


Photo Credit: Vidalia_11 on Flickr, used under the Creative Commons licensing.


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