Archive for the 'Good reads' Category



The Draw of the Dark Side
by Our Guest on May 20th, 2010

Note from Jessa: When Elisabeth Naughton told my writing group about her first adventure romance trilogy, she called it “Indiana Jones meets Romancing the Stone,” which is like saying chocolate ganache meets dark chocolate.  And now she has a new series paranormal romance starting, which is like saying chocolate ganache meets dark chocolate with chocolate sprinkles.  And she’s giving away a copy today, so read up and leave your comment.

elisabeth-naughtonThanks so much to the gang at Silk & Shadows for inviting me to be with you all today! 

If you’ve read any of my previous books you know that I’m a romantic suspense author who has recently shifted to the dark side and is now writing paranormals as well. The first book in my Eternal Guardians series – MARKED – released this month. Someone recently asked me, “Why the change?” and I thought about the question for a minute, but couldn’t answer. It’s a simple question, I know, but the only answer I could come up with was not one I knew the questioner wanted to hear. I mean, authors are supposed to know why they do everything they do, so to have an author say, “I dunno. I just write the books that come to me,” I knew my answer just wasn’t gonna cut it. 

That, of course, is a cop out answer (even if it’s true). And since readers seem to want to know why things change (as my editor says… “Okay, why is this happening again?”), I’ve decided it would be in my best interest to have a list of answers ready and waiting for just such a question. 

So here it is, my top ten list for shifting to the dark side. 

marked-final-400x60010. Look at that cover. Do I need to have another reason for wanting to write paranormals?!

9. Special powers come in really handy in the climax of a paranormal book. As an author who ALWAYS gets stuck here trying to make everything work out, I can tell you it’s much easier to throw in an electrical storm or zap someone with lightning fingers to get out of a bind than it is to save the day with plane ol’ Tom, Dick & Harry. 

8. Superhuman sex. (I do write romantic paranormals, after all.)

7. I get to write about snarky gods. They seem to be able to get away with anything they want. Who knew? 

6.   Looking for a little danger? You don’t need a serial killer on the run to amp up the tension. That’s sooo over done. Throw in a seething daemon instead. Seven feet tall, horns like a goat, face like a cat, ears off a dog and lots of claws? Oh man. So much more fun! 

5. Sure, romances are great, but when the two main characters are fated to be together and hate each other at the same time? That just adds an extra level of tension that makes the whole romance that much more interesting. 

4. The fact I can throw in a Fury (or two or three) whenever I feel like it (Yes, I am Fury obsessed). And this time they’re real winged creatures with snakes in their hair, razor sharp teeth and a rabid need for blood, not simply stone carvings of the creatures. 

3. I can write really twisted scenes and blame the genre. (“What? You think that’s too sick? Yeah, but it’s a paranormal. My readers will expect it.”) 

2.  Superhuman sex (did I say that before?) 

And the number one reason I decided to write paranormals: 

1. They’re just plain freakin’ fun! 

I never expected I’d have so much fun writing this series, but every day I’m excited I get to take my world one step further. While I love romantic suspense and don’t plan to give up writing in that genre (as soon as I turn in TEMPTED, book 3 in my Eternal Guardians series, I’m jumping back into a romantic suspense novella for Kensington), I’m thrilled I get to write about heroes and gods and prophecies and soul mates. The possibilities in a paranormal are endless, the danger is epic and the romance seems a thousand times more intense when other-worldy dangers are lurking around every corner.  

So why did I shift to the dark side? The answer is clear: Why the heck wouldn’t I?   

What do you love most about paranormal novels? What draws you to them again and again? I’ve got a copy of MARKED to give away to one lucky commenter today! 

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Your browser may not support display of this image. A previous junior-high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton now writes sexy romantic adventure and paranormal novels full time from her home in western Oregon where she lives with her husband and three children. Her debut release, Stolen Fury, heralded by Publisher’s Weekly as “A rock-solid debut,” was recently nominated for two prestigious RITA® awards by Romance Writers of America in the Best First Book category and the Best Romantic Suspense category. When not writing, Elisabeth can be found running, hanging out at the ball park or dreaming up new and exciting adventures. Learn more about Elisabeth and her books at www.Elisabethnaughton.com.

On the Lighter Side of Wallets
by Annette McCleave on March 23rd, 2010

Sorry to be posting so late. I’m deep in the final days of finishing off a manuscript and when I’m writing I lose all track of time.

The other day, I went to the bookstore and parted with forty-one dollars to buy a handful of mass market paperbacks. As I handed the cashier my money, I felt a momentary twinge of guilt. This reading habit of mine keeps getting more and more expensive. Forty bucks is a fair chunk of change. But then I thought about the last time I went to see a movie at the theater. Thirteen dollars for the ticket, another ten for the drink and popcorn (I CANNOT go to the movies without buying popcorn, even if I’ve just had dinner). That’s twenty-six dollars for two hours of entertainment.

The books I bought will keep me contented for at least six times that amount of time. And I get the added value of using my brain.

If I go to a hockey game (Go Sens!), it costs me $42 to sit in the nosebleed section up near the roof. And that’s without food. If I go to a concert, I can double that price at a minimum.

Hardcover books aside, aren’t books a great value? What do you think? If you mostly pick up your books at the library, what motivates to actually lay down the cash for a book?

Romance Firsts
by Annette McCleave on February 23rd, 2010

I’m sad to say I can’t recall the very first romance I read. I do know it was a Harlequin romance—my mother was a monthly subscriber to the Presents line. I can remember reading dozens of books by Violet Winspear, Penny Jordan, Anne Mather, and Charlotte Lamb. I devoured a ton of delicious stories about wealthy alpha heroes, princes, and sheiks.

The first book I actually remember reading was Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. Probably not the best book to form the foundation of my love affair with romance novels, but definitely a memorable one.

The book that truly hooked me and made me a lifelong reader of romance was Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Wolf and the Dove. I loved it then, and I love it now. The bastard son of nobleman trying to make good, the feisty heroine standing up for her people, even the hint of something paranormal in the appearance of the wolf. Loved it all. My original copy has long since fallen apart, but I still have a copy on my keeper shelf, and every ten years or so, I read it again. No surprise that my first forays into writing were medieval romances. I heart stories of knights and maidens and castles.

I’ve been a fan of Teresa Medeiros for years—she was my first glom. I read Touch of Enchantment and promptly ran out and bought every book of hers I could find. My next crush was on Karen Marie Moning. Her time travel romances with heroines falling into the lap of handsome highland heroes sent my imagination soaring.

I’m still discovering new authors—some have been around for ages and I’m just cluing in. Some are new debuts. There’s a treasure trove of great authors out there, thank goodness. I’ll never run out of excellent stories to read.

My first romance… Novel, that is :)
by Jessa Slade on February 22nd, 2010

Currently working on: Just finished page proofs on FORGED OF SHADOWS, the last step before June 2010 publication
Mood: Good luck, little book!  Now get out

rose-in-winterDoesn’t everyone remember the first romance novel they discovered?  Back in the day, I stumbled upon my mother’s copy of A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen Woodiwiss.  A charming rouge, a burned-out manor house, an auction-block marriage, a winter ball, and a Beauty and the Beast twist.  Oh my!  After reading that, I was ruined forever.  Kinda like your typical swooning historical ingenue.

I think the right first romance novel is very much like the right first kiss.  You want it to be special, deep and meaningful, a memory to cherish.  So, like a fairy godmother picking out a prince, I take a book recommendations very seriously, especially when I am recommending a first romance novel.

Romance novels already suffer from red-headed stepchild syndrome with some (silly!) people, but I love when I can win over a new reader.  I’m always discovering new great books that I just KNOW will turn on the most hard-hearted cynic, and I also have a few gold standards that I can fall back on.

Romantic comedy
I always like to start off easy on a new romance reader.  I find a contemporary romantic comedy can be a good beginner romance because:

  • The contemporary settings are readily absorbed.  There are no Austenian social mannerisms to maneuver around, no “och, wee lass, do ye ken mah claymore yearns fer ye?” historical diction to decipher.
  • Rom-com movies often pave the way in reluctant psyches.agnes
  • The fun covers sometimes don’t even give away that it IS a romance.

Anything by Jennifer Crusie is a great “starter” because her dazzlingly delightful dialogue will win over non-believers.  And it’s so convenient that she’s writing with Bob Mayer now, because you can even spring these books on unsuspecting male-type readers because — hey! — there’s a guy’s name on the cover!

Historical romance
For the slightly uptight, a good, corseted historical can help loosen them up.  The trick with “reading” a reader who might like a historical is figuring out whether they’ll sway toward a more correct historical interpretation or if a rollicking adventure would more tickle their fancy.

But as far as tickling goes, a spicy, saucy story like Delilah Marvelle’s are sure to please.  And by pleasure, I think we all understand what I mean ;)

Of course, there are also category romances, romantic suspense, inspirationals, straight contemporary, women’s fiction (with a strong romance)…  And, of course, paranormal romance :)  But as you know, paranormal romance isn’t for the faint of heart.

Finding a first romance novel for the people around me isn’t just a job.  It’s a passion!

And how lucky I am to be able to indulge my love as a tax write-off ;)

What’s the first romance novel you recommend to newbies?  Have you ever made a romance reader for life (or — in the case of paranormal romance – afterlife)?

I love the smell of apocalypse in the morning
by Jessa Slade on January 11th, 2010

Currently working on: The End is coming! (Not an apocalypse end, just The End of my Book 3)
Mood: Pre-post-apocalyptic

nuke-cone-2

As a child of the Cold War, I have a special place in my heart for apocalypses.  Total world destruction was forever imminent — but it was survivable as long as we got under our desks in time, and meanwhile there’s still a lot of ice cream to eat when you’re 10 years old so it was hard to get too freaked out.

Of course, I planned to be a survivor (the aforementioned ice cream was motivation and I’m super quick sliding under a desk) so — thinking ahead — I even decided to study Russian.  It was us or them, I figured.

Who knew, I should’ve studied Mandarin.  Oh well.

Over the years, I studied apocalyptic literature and movies with great and horrified delight.  Here are a few of my favorites apocalypses you might have missed the first time around.  I even learned a few more tricks — besides the head under desk thing — that might help you survive the end.

nuke-alasALAS, BABYLON by Pat Frank
One of the first post-apocalyptic books written in the nuclear age, ALAS, BABYLON was also one of the first post-apocalyptic books I read as a kid.  Set in a small Florida town, the book chronicles the breakdown of the society — naturally — as well as the heroism of those who kept their heads and their hearts.

Apocalyptic lesson: When the bespectacled doctor’s only set of eyeglasses are destroyed, I was horrified.  As a four-eyed kid myself, I understood this was a death sentence.  The lesson I learned was read lots now because you never know when you won’t be able to read again.

nuke-swanSWAN SONG by Robert McCammon
In a post-nuclear world, two children become the leaders of opposing camps of good and evil as the rebirth of civilization hangs in the balance.  Apparently the author hates being compared to Stephen King, but this story does read as a more digestible version of the themes in King’s THE STAND, another fun post-apoc — plague, this time — story.

Apocalyptic lesson:  The survivors are afflicted with keloid scars that worsened through the course of the story… and then revealed the true, inner nature of the afflicted.  The lesson being, you better be pure and good if you want to avoid permanent radiation burns and possession by creeping evil.

nuke-maxMad Max with young, hawt, pre-crazy Mel Gibson
Because post-peak-oil is definitely post-apocalyptic as anybody who wouldn’t be able to fuel up their sweet 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon Coupe aka Max’s Interceptor would agree.  You probably saw this movie when it first came out and then it got buried under layers of Tina Turner’s hair in Beyond Thunderdome.  Go back to the roots where surviving the apocalypse meant being badder ass than the bad guys.  Yes, I know this contradicts the earlier post-apocalypse lesson of being pure of heart, committed to humanity, and not so quick on the trigger.

Apocalyptic lesson: Invest in black leather now, before it’s too late!!!

nuke-loganLogan’s Run (the 1976 movie version)
Spoiler alert!  This was an interesting take on post-apocalypse because… whatever bad thing had happened (some sort of environmental disaster, apparently) was over, but the people didn’t know it and had barricaded themselves inside a domed city and were euthanizing themselves to avoid any overcrowding that would force them out into the bigger world.  Allegedly, a remake — in the works with various producers and directors since the mid-1990s — has been again rescheduled for 2012.

Apocalyptic lesson:  The only thing worse than an apocalypse that ends the world is living as if an apocalypse has ended the world… when it hasn’t.  Doh!

nuke-sarahApocalypse has gotten more sophisticated over the years, from the fabulous climate change pseduo-science of The Day After Tomorrow — cold air from space swirls down to freeze our heroes!!! — to the amok-running of technology in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (my fave of the franchise — girl crush!) which taught us that (contrary to the waif-like Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run) upper body strength will be vital to post-apocalypse survival and, yes, black is still THE color for Armageddon.  But for all the changes since the fall of the Soviet Union, apocalypse remains full of good times in the end times.

Don’t forget to pack your Zippo.

Do you have a favorite apocalypse story?  Do you think you’d be the brave assistant deputy mayor who leads the survivors to safety?  Or would you be the well-armed loner who vows not to get involved?  Or would you be the mutant screamer?

Inquiring Minds Need to Know
by Annette McCleave on July 23rd, 2009

Edited to announce the winner is Zita! Congratulations! Email me with your address and I’ll send the book off to you.

Sorry for my late post. Wouldn’t you know it, I came down with a nasty cold and cough right after returning from DC and I slept the morning away. To make it up to you, I’m offering up a free copy of Loretta’s Chase’s Your Scandalous Ways (I’ve somehow ended up with two copies) to one of today’s commenters.

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Some book series are like crack: as soon as you close the book and put it down, you itch to read the next. Others have tugged you into a world so enticing and vivid that returning is a blissful, mesmerizing thought. J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and the Harry Potter series come to mind as examples.

jrw-cover-dl-med

In exploring the reasons why I love some series and not others, the over-arching conflict that Jessa mentioned yesterday is a big factor. If I’ve bought into the world the author has built and the reason the characters are in a constant struggle to win, then I’m eager to know what happens next. I want to see them conquer the BIG BAD in the end. (Who doesn’t want to see Harry defeat Lord Voldemort? Or see Wrath and his hunky gang deliver the beat-down to the Lessers? I sure do). If I haven’t bought in, then I may never pick up book two in the series, let alone three or four.

The tricky part as an author is to make each book in the series a satisfying read while still leaving problems unsolved and questions at the end. If you leave too many questions at the end, the reader feels ripped off. Not enough and the anticipation for the next book may be lacking.

hp

A vivid world is also very important for me as a reader. I LOVED the world J.K. Rowling sucked me into. Chocolate frogs and Diagon Alley and flying cars. Wow. The world she created came so alive in my head that I didn’t want to leave. Isn’t that what all of us dream about doing as writers? Crafting a world so engaging that people lose themselves inside, just for a few hours? I can’t imagine a more delightful comment from a reader than “I didn’t want it to end”.

Which is why, I think, some series go on for a large number of books. The readers don’t want the story to end. It’s bittersweet when it does. We’re happy to see our intrepid hero/heroine triumph and yet sad to see them move on without us.

Do you have a favorite series that ended, one where you felt that bittersweet sense of longing? What was it? Why do you think it worked so well for you?

Serial reader
by Sharon Ashwood on July 22nd, 2009

I’ve noticed that in the romance market, series have become de rigeur. I suspect this has as much to do with marketing as anything else. As with movies, if one has good box office, make a sequel and cash in. Ditto books. The system works pretty well for authors because it gives us a chance to hook a readership in a way single efforts might not.

As an author, it affects how we think about plots. It’s nice if there’s an overarching idea to drive the series, but each book has to have its own logic. And what if your readers pick them up out of order? It’s a problem if there has to be pages of explanation to catch them up before the adventure even begins. In other words, we have to be clever little pumpkins to do a good job.

For this reason, SCORCHED can be read independently of RAVENOUS. They’re sequential and related, but by no means inextricable from each other. I think most authors aim for this kind of flexibility now, especially when bookstores aren’t always stocking all the titles in a series. If it’s too hard for a reader to pick up the story part-way through, the author loses the opportunity to bring more people on board.

Speaking as a reader, I love a series I can sink my teeth into. Characters become family. Places become like old friends. I start expecting to meet my favourite heroes on the street. The books become a reliable, comfortable haven—or at least a constant source of entertainment. I’m not sure I’d want to exactly hang out in Rachel Caine’s Morganville, even though I wait with bated breath for each new instalment.

carpe

Another series I’ve loved is CT Adams and Cathy Clamp’s Thrall series. It’s original and interesting and occasionally downright scary.

tod

And then there’s C.H. Harris’s beautifully-written regency historical detective series (Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries.)

waf

Those are just a few of my favourites–there’s no shortage of great series out there. Nevertheless, do you as a reader ever feel series exhaustion? Despite an author’s best efforts to make each book stand-alone, do you ever get tired of having to figure out which one to read first, or when you kind find the first one without ordering it on-line?

Girls with Gumption!
by Our Guest on June 11th, 2009

Someone mentioned A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L’Engle the other day. I still own a copy of that book and read it again when I’d heard that Madeleine L’Engle passed away. Of all the books from my childhood, that one really stands out. Maybe it’s because the heroine, Meg, wasn’t a princess, or popular or especially pretty or endowed with magical powers. Being a kid who hadn’t quite grown into herself, she was awkward. Her hair never did what she wanted. She wore glasses (considered cool now but not then!). She often didn’t like herself and she never could quite control her temper, especially when the other kids at school poked fun at her family situation (father missing) or her “dumb baby brother.” Meg was a regular girl, a girl like me, who struggled with life and fitting in and worrying if she would ever just be “good enough” in the eyes of others.

In a sci-fi adventure story driven by the values of honor, courage, loyalty, personal freedom, the importance of family, etc., we watch Meg overcome one insecurity after another, until she comes to see her own worth. In learning to believe in herself, Meg learns she has the power to save the people she loves even when all seems lost.

For a shy ten-year-old who didn’t think she was particularly remarkable either, that was a powerful message

Another book I loved was THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare. It was what you could call my first historical romance and the beginning of a lifelong obsession. OK, the romance was kind of secondary to Kit’s trials and tribulations as she tries to fit in with her Puritan relatives in cold, damp, gray Connecticut (coming from Barbados, poor thing!), but Nat is there for her when she most needs him and makes her dreams come true at the end, albeit they were dreams she never knew she had.

WITCH is a fish out of water story, and I love experiencing the journey of someone who is struggling to adapt to new situations without losing their own sense of who they are. Kit is a fighter and a courageous girl, which is especially evident when she befriends a woman reputed to be a witch. Not cool in a Puritan environment! I’ll admit that in the beginning she is a bit of a spoiled rich girl, but little by little she gets over her silver spoon expectations, comes to terms with the drastic changes in her life, learns to value her often dour relatives and emerges a strong, positive, independent-minded young woman.

I think it’s so important for young girls to read stories that feature strong, intelligent young heroines with the power to take their world by the reins. My friend Traci Hall’s YA Wiccan series, about a spirited, psychic teenage girl named Rhiannon, certainly fits that category. Can anyone suggest others that are being written today?

Dog Star Rising
by Our Guest on June 8th, 2009

Today we’re excited to have author Jeri Smith-Ready with us talking about this week’s topic, our favorite childhood books.

Jeri will be stopping by throughout the day, so leave a comment or question for her and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of her latest romantic urban fantasy, BAD TO THE BONE, which features the vampire dog Dexter, among other dark and devoted heroes.

Smith-Ready pours plenty of fun into her charming, fang-in-cheek urban fantasy. — Publishers Weekly, starred review

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By Jeri Smith-Ready

Thanks to Jessa for inviting me to join you ladies on your fabulous blog! I was thrilled when she told me the topic, because I always relish the opportunity to dish about books I love, especially lesser known ones like DOGSBODY by Diana Wynne Jones.

I rediscovered my favorite childhood book only last year. I couldn’t remember the title or author, just that it was about Sirius the Dog Star, a short-tempered Luminary (a sort of deity) who was framed for murder and sentenced to live out the life of a dog on Earth. After almost an hour of searching online, I found the now-out-of-print book and ordered a used copy. There was much rejoicing.

I then had the pleasure of reading this book out loud to my own dog as she recovered from back surgery last December. It seemed to soothe her to put her head in my lap and listen to my voice. She didn’t even care how gracelessly I switched between the English and Irish accents.

Anyway, the book. The reader experiences everything through the mind of Sirius as he is born blind and deaf (and very, very hungry!), and then is tossed in a river with the rest of his mongrel brothers and sisters. He survives this ordeal with the help of the sun (Sol, who along with the Moon and Earth will later become a friend and helper) and is rescued by Kathleen, an Irish girl living with her English cousins while her father serves a prison term for his part in “the Troubles.”

As Sirius grows up, he realizes/remembers he’s more than just a dog, and that one of the reasons he’s been sent to Earth is to find a dangerous luminary weapon known as the Zoi. Problem is, he doesn’t know what it looks like or where to find it. Moreover, the pursuit of his quest tends to be sidetracked by things like butcher shops and bitches in heat. He is, after all, still a dog, and at first he laments his corporeal limitations. But when he faces an ancient power as old as the earth itself, it’s the love he inspires in his adopted family that ultimately sees him through his darkest hours.

DOGSBODY was the perfect novel for my nine-year-old self, for I loved animals and astronomy. But it’s a book that filled Grownup Jeri with as much wonder as it did Kid Jeri. As an adult, I was better able to appreciate the ambitious task Jones undertook in her attempt to marry a girl-meets-dog story with astro-mythical elements, plus a dash of Celtic legends.

To this day, I adore animals, and Sirius is still my favorite star (not to mention my choice in satellite radio carriers). I even married an astronomer and convinced him to adopt a dog. Talk about childhood dreams coming true!

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Jeri can be found at http://www.jerismithready.com and most often these days at http://twitter.com/jsmithready, along with the WVMP Radio series main characters Ciara Griffin (http://twitter.com/CiaraGriffin) and Shane McAllister (http://twitter.com/ShaneMcAllister).

Awwww ….Fairy Dust!
by Sharon Ashwood on February 4th, 2009

fairy

I’m writing this blog on Tuesday evening. RAVENOUS released this morning, so I’ve spent far too much of the day sleuthing the internet for indications of success or failure. It’s a useless pursuit because there won’t be any hard numbers for months, but that doesn’t stop a small, papery voice inside from whining, “Do they like it? Oh, please, please, PLEEEZ tell me they like it!”

Disgusting. Absurd.

Human. I’ll get over it in a day or two. Then I’ll get out the heavy artillery and MAKE them like it. I don’t write heavy hitting monsters for nothing!!!!!!!!!!

*Ahem* I’m back.

But what DO readers like? What do they want? Well, if I knew that, I’d own the entire publishing industry.

thinker

It’s not that folks don’t try and help us authors out.

• They say not to write romantic comedy, because that’s so over.
• They say any historical but Regency is a no-go zone, but Regencies are dead.
• So is anything French or anything not Scottish if it’s historical.
• North American history might be okay, as long as it’s not Colonial, Civil War, World War, Victorian or Western (there must be a fifteen-minute window there somewhere that works).
• They say not to write vampires because vampires are dead (well, duh).
• They say no one will be reading a printed page by the year 20XX. Everyone by then will have electronic readers (except for the mighty Them, who apparently use stone tablets.)

It’s enough to make one want to write a sexy French cowboy vampire, Luc des Fangs, who signed on with the Confederates and conquered Edinburgh. Now there’s a story that needs telling. On papyrus.

Anyway, it’s all nonsense. No one reads by the rules, so why write by them?

I think readers want well-paced story, with good characters, a satisfactory conclusion, and a plot they remember fifteen minutes after they close the book. In short, good entertainment.

Oh, and if there’s joy in writing it, I think the readers know. Sharing that joy is what separates the good from the great, the workmanlike from the magical. The moment of inspired creation leaves a sparkle that no one can capture in a rule.

fairy2