Archive for July, 2010



Before video killed the radio star (i.e. the paleolithic)
by Sharon Ashwood on July 28th, 2010

Embarrassment is a matter of perspective; I would almost say it is the province of the young, who do not yet understand the value of being ridiculous. Once you’ve worn sparkly silver platform heels, there’s not much else that life can throw at you. You’re officially a survivor.

When I look back at what was cool in my high school years, I find, oddly, it’s back on TV. Ozzy Osborne and Gene Simmons are reprising their roles as cultural icons in ways I would never have anticipated at sixteen. I think even then I would have had a sneaking admiration for their tenacity.

What was the young Sharon Ashwood devoted to in her teens? Glam rock, the more glittery the better. Alice Cooper had already (apocryphally) bitten the heads off chickens and David Bowie had already fallen to earth, but a secondary wave of costumed curiosities was strutting into suburban living rooms. On vinyl, of course. This was the dark ages.

KISS and Queen were my obvious choices because I’d grown up on comic books and live theatre. The sheer, unapologetic in-your-face of it all blew me away. It was a synthesis of a lot of my fixations.

kiss_band1

As far as the actual music went, it was interesting times. Punk was just losing its bleeding edge. New Wave was still, well, new and occupying one or two New York nightclubs. Bands toured with convoys of sets and personnel because gas was relatively cheap and the carbon footprint wasn’t an issue. Green was still the colour of your face the morning after the night before. News of one’s rock idol doings came monthly from Creem Magazine and the Rolling Stone. It would still be another ten or fifteen years before the music industry crashed beneath the Napster bulldozer. This was the era when you’d stay glued to a.m. radio all Saturday afternoon to find out if Your Song had made it to the pinnacle of the Top 40 Countdown.

Fun times, and it’s refreshing that some of the spandex gods of those days are still around and still going strong. As for the reality TV appearances, I largely ignore the whole thing. Glam rock was always tongue in cheek—this is just more of the same. Embarrassing? Only if you have a sense of shame.

Yup, we will rock you—as soon as we can lever ourselves out of the La-Z-Boy.

Wolves, doves, and alpha heroes
by Annette McCleave on July 27th, 2010

My high school years had so much going on that I don’t remember too much about my reading habits. I was a competitive swimmer and much of my spare time was spent in the pool or at swim meets. I actually represented my province at two national competitions, the Canada Games and the Junior Olympics. Can you believe it?

As fuzzy as those high school memories are, I can guarantee you I was reading. Because books were a fabulous escape from the trauma of being a teenager. My mother’s Harlequin Presents novels arrived at the house each and every month, and I consumed those like cotton candy. She also bought Barbara Cartland novels. Talk about your sticky sweet. Glom, glom, glom.

During those years, I also discovered a wonderful new treat—single title historical romances. Who doesn’t remember these titles: The Flame and the Flower, The Wolf and the Dove, Sweet Savage Love, and Captive Bride? I will forever be grateful to Kathleen Woodiwiss for turning me into a lifelong romance reader. The Wolf and the Dove is my all-time favorite romance. Next would be Lord of Scoundrels. Great reads.

Some people are ashamed that they read romance novels. I love ‘em. I read ’em every chance I get and proudly display my clinch covers to anyone who stares. They saved my life in high school. When the real boys were sneering at my awkward social skills and acne prone skin, I was finding love with handsome knights and pirates in the pages of a novel. Go me.

So, time to fess up. If you had to name your all-time favorite romance read, what would it be?

When I grow up, I want to be a Vorlon
by Sharon Ashwood on July 21st, 2010

A lot of good TV shows have come and gone, but sometimes I wonder if I miss the show itself or the circumstances around watching it. I used to watch a TV show about the Vikings Sunday afternoons when I was in university. It was a great show on history and archaeology, but I think the real pleasure came out of the fact that by the time it came on, my weekend homework was usually finished. It was the signal to start my night off. I can say similar things about a lot of the British cop shows that were around in the 1980s, because I used to watch them with my Dad. I miss the shows, but I what I really miss is spending time with him.

All that being said, there are some shows I miss because of their pure genius. My two all-time favourites are Babylon 5 and Buffy/Angel. Both were clever and beautifully crafted. Bab 5 was more complex and sometimes struggled with all that creative brilliance (+/ the network execs who simply didn’t get it) but will remain on my keeper shelf always. There is something of a Shakespearean grandeur there. Plus, the Vorlons were just so cool.

I have to point to it as a real influence on how I think about story construction. The plot layering is without peer. If you watch it from the beginning, there isn’t a throw away scene in the entire series. (Watch out for Mr. Morden). Everything counts, even if it doesn’t become apparent until the next season–or even several seasons later.

Both B5 and Buffy ran their course. Angel ended in a rather spectacular, dystopian fashion I love or hate depending on my mood, but at least it ended. What bugs me far more are all the shows that died on vine before they had a chance to reach their full potential. Firefly (see Jessa’s post) is a great example—I will never understand why that one didn’t flourish.

Others committed the sin of stumbling at the starting gate, but given time could have grown into their promise. Moonlight was just starting to hit its groove after a somewhat wan beginning (Vampire Mick needed assertiveness training). Blood Ties started out well but the writing faltered, probably once they figured out they were destined for cancellation. Defying Gravity was definitely interesting, but I think the threads of the story needed to be pulled together sooner. I loved the Dollhouse, but it was too abstract for a lot of people. It took some time to understand what was going on.

Which leads me to think that, while it’s tough enough to get a book series off the ground, there is zero tolerance for any missteps while launching a new TV show. Viewers—or maybe it’s advertisers?—don’t wait around for slow but steady growth. It’s either an instant, or it’s gone.

It makes me cautious about becoming attached to a new series too soon. Does the high rate of cancellation make anyone else reluctant to try new shows?

Defying TV Gravity
by Annette McCleave on July 20th, 2010

I’d have listed Buffy as the TV show I miss the most, but technically, I didn’t watch it while it was on the air, so I don’t think it counts. And it wrapped up quite nicely.

Many of the old shows I used to enjoy are now available on DVD, and if I need a fix, I can just hop down to Best Buy and pick them up. But I’ve found that many shows of old don’t hold the same appeal for me that they did when they first came out. Case in point: I bought the DVD set of Remington Steele (oh, how I used to sigh over Remington Steele), but when I sat down to watch it, I quickly got bored. There’s something very wrong about that. How can Pierce Brosnan being boring in any way, shape, or form?

I’m going to go with something more recent, a show that falls into the same sad trend Jessa identified yesterday—those which got canceled too early.

I am a sci fi TV buff. Used to love the old Star Trek, watched NG faithfully, and was stuck to the tube for the entirety of Battlestar Galatica. So, when a new sci fi show made an appearance last year, with an intriguing and mysterious plot line, I tuned in. The show was Defying Gravity. It had flashbacks galore, interesting characters, lots of angst, and a big mystery. Kind of like LOST in space. Except Lost in Space was a whole ‘nuther show entirely. But I digress.

defying-gravity

Defying Gravity had potential. Was it perfect? No. But it had the possibility of being a really great show. All it needed was a bit of maturity. Unfortunately, it got cut off at the knees. The truth is, we are a tough crowd. If something doesn’t snag widespread interest, it’s hard for the networks to justify the budget to keep it going. Especially sci fi shows with their necessary special effects.

defying_gravity_cast1

The difficult part about canceled TV shows is you often find yourself hanging in limbo about the storyline. Defying Gravity got canceled halfway through its first season, so all that remains is a ton of unanswered questions. Frustrating. A wrap-up episode (or movie, a la Firefly) would be real nice…but not always practical, I suppose.

Are there TV questions that never got answered for you? If there was one canceled show you wish could have had a final wrap-up episode, what would it be?

A leaf on the wind
by Jessa Slade on July 19th, 2010

Currently working on: Revising back cover copy for Book 3
Mood: Tweaky

First off, thanks to everybody who commented last week for a chance to win the signed copy of Nalini Singh’s ANGEL’S BLOOD, that I picked up at RomCon.  With the help of Random.org, we have a winner:

JenM, who hiked to Machu Picchu, congrats!

And I finally unpacked from RomCon and found an extra copy (unsigned, I’m sorry) of Jeaniene Frost’s DESTINED FOR AN EARLY GRAVE, which goes to:

cories, who — very sensibly, I think — would rather attend romance cons than work ones

Email me at jessa at jessaslade dot com with your snail mail addy and I’ll make a PO run.

Onto our topic of the week, which is “The TV show I miss the most.”  I didn’t even have to contemplate for a microsecond.  Even my XY knew what I was going to write about.

firefly

Joss Whedon’s cowboy space opera Firefly played for one gorram season in 2002 before being brutally and summarily cancelled by the evil Fox network, may their bean counters burn in a special level of hell reserved for People Who Don’t Get It.  The world lived on through graphic novels to a 2005 wrap-up movie, Serenity, and occasionally, wistful rumors surface of another movie.  (A photo tweeted earlier this month of some of the main actors with the sly caption “Together. Again.” was enough to get geekdom panty-wadded for several long minutes.)

The storyworld (or ‘verse, short for universe) inspired a fanatic group of followers, the Browncoats (a reference to the rebellious frontiersmen who fought for their freedom against smothering Fox executives… I mean, against a smothering central government).  The Browncoats continue to stage charity viewings of Firefly, Serenity and other ’verse ephemera, including a fan-filmed movie, Browncoats: Redemption, that has been screened for select audiences but is not yet in wide release.

Why I loved Firefly

firefly-shipI love science fiction.  I love anti-heroes.  I love Joss Whedon.  It’s like Firefly was always aimed straight at me. 

Anything with spaceships gets my attention — even the old black and white movies where two pie tins squashed together served as the spaceship.  And the little Firefly-class ship, Serenity, was as adorable as two pie tins, with her lit-up butt and hard-loved interior.

firefly-crewBut it wasn’t the hardware that made this show.  It was the crew.  From the first episode (aired out of order by idiots), the crew revealed themselves in all their dysfunctional and yet highly effective glory.  From the wounded soul of their fearless leader, Captain Malcolm Reynolds to the shattered mind of their mysterious and dangerous passenger, River Tam, their interactions were endlessly (and by endlessly, I mean ended after one season, thank you, Fox) fascinating, entertaining, emotional and true.

And damned funny.  Of course Whedon usually inspires clever, but never better than Firefly.  As a writer, I drooled over those lines.  Oh, I’m sure they were written and revised for best effect, but they were always delivered with such beautiful immediacy that I couldn’t help but despair of ever writing as well.  And while I despaired, I laughed, I cried, I bought DVDs. 

I could requote all the wonderful lines here, but fans have read them all before and non-watchers (it’s YOUR fault Firefly died and I will never forgive you!) would just scratch their heads, but I have to give just one back’n'forth between the captain and his second, Zoe, as they come — once again — to save the day (after having nearly lost the day, of course): 

Mal: “Well, look at this! Appears we got here just in the nick of time. Whaddya suppose that makes us?”

Zoe: “Big damn heroes, sir.”

Mal: “Ain’t we just!”

You were, Mal.  To me, you were.

Are you a Firefly fan?  Can you recommend another other good cowboy space operas (or anything remotely similar) in TV, movies or books?

Winner of Unchained release week contest!
by Sharon Ashwood on July 17th, 2010

The Unchained release week contest is over and we’ve picked a winner. Congrats to Barbara E.! :grin:

The Unintended Voyage
by KimLenox on July 17th, 2010

I love vacations. My favorites, I think, were when my family lived overseas, and we’d venture off into the unknown to see what we could find. I remember once, my dad had heard of some great island on the other side of the Panamanian isthmus, and so we hopped in the car, drove a few hours and just started asking around (in really bad Spanish). After a few wrong turns, a bumpy boat ride offered by locals, we spent the day on a beautiful isla!

While I love a good cruise or resort, I think my favorite vacations have been more authentic adventures where I got to see something ancient or historical, or “local”, or worked on a service project.

I also look forward to time spent with family. I’ll be leaving within the hour to go see family out of state - not as a vacation, but for a funeral. I am very sad about the occasion, but I am looking forward to seeing relatives I have not seen in years, and being in a place that holds a lot of wonderful memories for me. My nearest family lives hours away, and I don’t see them near often enough.

Are you someone who lives near a lot of family and spends a lot of time in that circle, or are you miles and hours away from your nearest relatives?

On the road
by Sharon Ashwood on July 14th, 2010

Congrats to cgnemesis for winning Vicki Pettersson’s book, CHEAT THE GRAVE

My family was never big on vacations. They were busy and didn’t have a lot of spare money, so travel fell to the bottom of the priority pile and, when it did happen, was often accomplished by bus. Sometimes at seventy-two hour stretches. I get bus sick. I developed an early aversion to travel.

When I was one my own (and possessed a car) prospects improved. True, I took the “dream” vacation with the boyfriend of the day (vile mistake, but good diagnostic tool for future un/happiness), but that’s not the main reason I find travel stressful. Wherever I went for many years, there was usually a disaster of some sort. Bombing. Snipers. Flood. Riots. I was just about to start blackmailing tourist spots so they’d pay me to stay home, but that era appears to have ended with my trek to San Francisco a few years ago. It was AOK, which must have signalled the lifting of the curse. Though there was that flood in Nashville right after I reserved my hotel for the RWA National conference this summer. That’s just a coincidence, right?

Yes, it’s possible that I do read too much paranormal fiction. On the other hand, perhaps I will never take a “normal” vacation, because my perception is different.

Travel is too important to an author for me to hide on my safe little island. My two trips to England (one plagued by the IRA, the other by poll tax riots, mad cow disease, and a storm that washed out the bridge to Wales) have provided a wealth of historical imagery. All of those ghastly bus rides as a kid showed me the prairies in a way an airplane just can’t (there is a giant bronze Viking AND a giant corn cob somewhere in Minnesota). And there’s nothing like waking up to your first up-close view of the northern Rocky Mountains at sunrise. The imagery, down to every last bus stop and greasy spoon, is stored in my mental treasure room. I found seeds of stories in all of those places. (And sitting on my grandma’s porch watching the creek waters creep across the lawn toward me, half-distracted by the itch-worthy fact that I’d stupidly moved straw bales all afternoon wearing shorts and a midriff).

Authors aren’t all that different from those wildly irritating tourists who snap pictures and videos every three steps. You know the ones I mean—those people who seem to experience more with the camera lens than with their eyeballs. Storytellers are also recording every last detail for future use, even if we’re not conscious of it at the time.

What’s one mental holiday snapshot you’ve always kept with you?

Extreme Vacation. Or Not.
by Annette McCleave on July 13th, 2010

To put this post in perspective, I should mention that I’ve done a few things in my life that could qualify as adventurous: I’ve gone scuba diving among barracuda in Mexico, snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, ridden a bus up a steep Spanish mountain to visit a town split in half by a gorge, eaten smoked eel and alligator, ridden a camel, and pet a tarantula.

But there are a number of things I’ll never do.

Bungee jumping, sky-diving, and free-form mountain climbing, to name a few. I’m not afraid of heights—in fact my husband used to get me to hang the Christmas lights on the highest peak of our roof—but I am afraid of falling. Or to be more precise, hitting the ground. Hard.

Yes, I know that the bungee cord is supposed to stop you from splatting and the parachute deploys properly 99% of the time. But my over-active imagination—so very useful when writing—will not allow me to forget the one percent chance of something horrible happening.

You’d think such a vivid imagination would prevent me from getting on a plane, or even into a car. But no. If I feel someone has a chance of controlling or avoiding the splat, I’m okay with it. It’s that out-of-control, no-chance-of-landing-safely part that worries me. And I just can’t see me putting myself in harm’s way for fun.

I watch plenty of people bungee jump, sky dive, and mountain climb on TV, and as I watch, I gasp with absolute amazement. I admire people who can throw caution to the wind and go for broke in the spirit of adventure. But you’ll never find me on an extreme vacation. Nope. Not going to happen.

Has anyone done an extreme sport? Care to share your experience?

Home sweet book
by Jessa Slade on July 12th, 2010

Currently working on: Unpacking from RomCon
Mood: Sleepy

This week’s topic is “The vacation untaken” (sort of a spin on Robert Frost’s ”The Road Not Taken,” perhaps, if you’re feeling poetical) but I thought I’d mention the trip I DID just take — the first annual RomCon romance readers convention.

I headed out to Denver Colorado early Friday morning. The sun is not up at 4:15, in case you were curious.  The picture below — taken from the car on the way to the airport — is a good visual representation of my oracular and mental functioning at 4:15 a.m.:

414 am

The pale fuzzy squiggle at the top is the moon.  Poor moon.

The convenient part of arriving at the airport so early is that I had time to visit the three Powell’s Books in the various concourses.  And lo and behold…

Liams airborne butt

Liam’s fine (and signed!) butt could become airborne at any moment.  Much thanks to the Powell’s employees who were waaay more awake than me and helped me find my copies.

I took a nap on the plane and that was the last sleep for the weekend. I roomed with the always wickedly delightful Delilah Marvelle, who brought her infamous penis candy to give away by the handsful. (Well, not handsful, really; they were very tiny penises.)

The party started right away with workshop and events and author/reader chats. It was a convivial group. As one reader told me, she had come to the convention by herself but she felt completely comfortable finding an empty seat at dinner, knowing that everyone there was a fellow romance reader. If ever the conversation lagged (and trust me, it did not) one simple question could restart the talk for hours: “What do you read?”

My favorite events included:

Betwixt & Between Paranormal Tea: Paranormal romance authors and readers gathered for cookies and chatting.

Monster Charades: Despite being held at 10 a.m. (that’s almost as early as 4:14 a.m.!) on Saturday, the guessing-game of paranormal authors, titles, series, characters and creatures was huge fun.  Thanks (and I mean that sarcastically) to author Carolyn Crane for coming up with some baffling stumpers that had us laughing through the guessing.

Build-a-Hero Workshop: The dark fae we created — Shikar of the magic hands — somehow lost out to the historical hero Sir Rochester, but we love him still.  I was supposed to bring home the whiteboard where we’d written his description (including his… um, manly measurements) but I lost it at the Denver airport on the way home!  Someone there is going to be very confused.  Luckily, we took good notes:

note-closeup-2

And a close-up of the final version, written in the preternaturally tidy script of Elizabeth:

note-closeup

Thanks to Sabrina for forwarding me the pictures!  And thanks to author Meagan Hatfield, especially for coming up with our team name: Team Awesome!  We were, weren’t we?

I think the brightest highlight for me was the chance to sit with Nalini Singh, Christine Feehan and C.L. Wilson on a paranormal author panel.  Can you imagine?  Sitting next to those stars?  In comparison, I looked a little like that fuzzy moon I posted earlier!  But I felt very much at ease because they are among the nicest people in the world (or most other worlds you can imagine).  The fact they write the stories that rock MY world is the frosting-and-sprinkles on the cupcake of my glee!

(If you’re on Twitter and want a blow-by-blow account, you can scroll back through #romcon for commentary.)

Last and best, I had the chance to meet readers, a few of whom had even read my stories :)  What a trip!  I was on Cloud 9.  Actually, I was above Cloud 9 and just a little to the north of Mt. Hood (thanks to Southwest Airlines and their two free bags policy which allowed me to bring 100 lbs. of giveaways and snacks):

mt hood

The event is in the planning stages for next year in Denver. I’ll post word here as soon as I hear what’s up. I’d love to meet some Silk And Shadows readers at RomCon 2011!

Meanwhile, I brought home a few books.  Honestly, just a few.  But the highlight… I have a signed copy of Nalini Singh’s ANGEL’S BLOOD!   It’s the first book in her Guild Hunter series and you do NOT want to be left behind on this one.  Just leave a comment on any post this week and you’ll be entered for a chance to win.  I’ll warn you now, you’ll want to go get your copy of the second book, ARCHANGEL’S KISS, before you start reading.  Yes, it is that good.

What do you think?  Would you be interested in attending a romance readers’ convention?  Which author would you most want to meet?