Thursday, June 30, 2005

More Links for Maili

Sybil has challenged us to find some sites for Maili now that she is going to have to sit in bed for a month.

Anyway, here are a few sites I go to when I'm looking for something interesting and entertaining:

WotMania -- This is mainly a site devoted to Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, but there is some good discussion of fantasy, science fiction, movies, comics, etc. on the Other Fantasy message board.

Darwin Awards -- I never get tired of this website, or the books based on the site. If you're not familiar with the awards, the short version is that they're given to people who do such stupid things that they take themselves out of the gene pool, by death or occasionally sterlization.

Duirwaigh Gallery -- Some of my favorite artists have works displayed on this website. You can buy prints and all sorts of cool things like keychains and stickers, etc., but I just like the central galleries of these artists.

PopCap Games -- When I am beyond bored this is where I go. You can only play solitaire or minesweeper so many times. When you're tired of them, go here.

Dark Horizons -- News, interviews, on-the-set pictures from movies. If you don't like spoilers, you should probably avoid this site, but it's cool to see what's going on with movies I look forward to.

Hot or Not? -- Hmm, you all are probably going to think I'm weird now, but this is a site where you rate photos of people that they put up themselves. You can sort by age and gender. It's interesting and crazy to see the pictures people voluntarily put up with the possibility of insult, and it's interesting to see how people are rated.

Gawker -- Pretty well known site, but I like the little blurbs of stupid or crazy things going on in entertainment, politics, and news.

Heads Up From Publishers Lunch

I don't subscribe to Publishers Lunch. If I was an editor, author, agent, bookseller, or some type of publishing professional, I probably would because it seems like PL has access to a lot of inside information. Using PublishersLunch gives you a major heads up on seeing what trends are dominating in publishing, which authors are getting contracts, which editors are selling, and an estimate of how much money certain types of manuscripts go for.

I do get the free teaser emails that PL sends out. The daily teasers are hit and miss for usefulness, but I do like the Lunch Weekly emails. They usually contain a few of the big deals of the week, and they cover genre fiction. Mystery, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, young adult and other often-overlooked genres get mentioned.

In the last few weeks, there have been a few sale announcements that have caught my interest:

In Romance:

Shannon McKelden's VENUS ENVY, about a goddess-turned-fairy godmother who isn't about to let any reluctant Cinderella get in her way, to Natasha Panza at Tor, for their new chick lit line, in a nice deal, by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency (world English).

Linda Winstead-Jones' romantic fantasy trilogy CHILDREN OF THE SUN, taking up the tale of the generation following the protagonists of her trilogy SISTERS OF THE SUN, to Christine Zika of Berkley, by Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis Associates.

C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp's TOUCH OF EVIL, the first in a new vampire/shapeshifter world, plus two more in their award-winning Sazi shapeshifter series, again to Anna Genoese at Tor Romance, in a very nice three book deal, by Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House.

Marta Accosta's BITE ME a humorous, sexy contemporary novel about a Latina aspiring writer, who finds love and acceptance among a family of sophisticated vampires, to Maggie Crawford at Pocket, in a very nice deal, at auction, for two books, by Julie Castiglia at The Castiglia Agency.

In Sci-Fi/Fantasy:

Author of HAMMERED, Elizabeth Bear's BLOOD & IRON, WHISKEY & WATER, a contemporary fantasy about the ages-old war between the realms of Faerie and the human mages of the Promethean Society, told from the point of view of the pawns who will be instrumental in deciding the fate of both worlds, to Liz Scheier at Roc, in a nice deal, by Jennifer Jackson at the Donald Maass Literary Agency (world English).

Co-founder of the UK's Orange Prize Kate Mosse's LABYRINTH, a thriller that connects two mysterious worlds in contemporary and Medieval France, featuring two heroines born centuries apart but linked by a common destiny, to Leona Nevler at Putnam and Berkley, for publication in spring 2006, by George Lucas of Inkwell Management, in collaboration with Lucas Alexander Whitley.

Fantasy and science fiction novelist Sean Williams' ASTROPOLIS TRILOGY, a pan-galactic gothic space adventure framed by a single murder mystery set in the far future, to Ginjer Buchanan of Berkley, by Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis Associates (NA). Foreign rights handled by Danny Baror.

Being published in the UK:

26-year-old James Palmer follows the crazed romantic figure of THE BLOODY WHITE BARON, a Russian aristocrat who crossed Asia to conquer Mongolia in the footsteps of Ghengis Khan, to be finally deposed and executed by Trotsky's Red Army., to Neil Belton at Faber & Faber, by Jon Jackson at Gillon Aitken Associates (UK/Commonwealth).

Movie Rights sold:

Film rights to Elizabeth Kostova's forthcoming THE HISTORIAN, to Sony, for producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher at Red Wagon, in a major deal, for seven figures, at auction, by Sylvie Rabineau, on behalf of Amy Williams at Collins McCormick.

Dan Simmons's epic horror thriller CARRION COMFORT, pitting a concentration camp survivor and a Southern sheriff against an army of mind vampires, optioned to Michele Gavras at director Costa-Gavras's K. G. Production, by Relevant Entertainment's Michael Prevett, on behalf of Richard Curtis Associates.

In Non-Fiction:

Dr. Chris Lavers' THE NATURAL HISTORY OF UNICORNS, presenting the mythical evolutionary history of the unicorn from 400BC to the present day, to David Roth-Ey at Harper, at auction, by Rebecca Winfield at the Rebecca Winfield Literary Agency (NA).

Authors of THE GOVERNMENT MANUAL FOR NEW SUPERHEROES Matthew David Brozik and Jacob Sager Weinstein's THE GOVERNMENT MANUAL FOR NEW WIZARDS, the second in a series of parodies of consumer-information guides (and of the audiences they serve), to Lane Butler of Andrews McMeel, by Robert Shepard at the Robert E. Shepard Agency (world; excl. UK/Commonwealth).

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Three Very Good Reads

I've read three and a half books in the last week (and started one more that I gave up on), which is more than I've read in a long time. A huge part of this recent interest in reading for me has been that I have been reading new authors and trying new genres. All five of these books are by authors I have never read before. I'm going to try to stick to this for a while until I feel good about reading again. It's not that I have started to grow bored or uninterested in books in general, but that the books I had been picking up for a long time were too much of the same old thing being recycled. I really needed this injection of freshness.

The short version on the one I put down: I've been trying to find some chick lit that I would like. I still haven't decided against the genre because I rarely do that, and I know there is good stuff out there, but I picked a major stinker. It was Dating Can Be Deadly by Wendy Roberts, a mix of chick lit and mystery that I had high hopes for. But the heroine was everything I hate in heroines, and after reading the first few chapters, I decided to skim ahead. Yep, still the same 100 pages later. Not for me. I don't expect perfect characters (two of the books I enjoyed have less than perfect characters) but I do expect characters I can understand and at least respect. Obviously, the characters here were not for a reader like me.

Oh, and the one I am halfway through is Hammered, which you can see on the right. It's science fiction and so far, it's quite good. And from another debut author.

But now that the bad and the business is out of the way, here are my three good reads from this week:

Hide Your Eyes by Alison Gaylin -- I read this one over the weekend. It is a mystery, and by a debut author. Samantha, the main character, is not at all a perfect person, and I like that. She went to Stanford, but she works in a movie ticket office and teaches at a preschool because she likes to. She's got some interesting and odd friends, but they aren't cariacatures. She sometimes does stupid things, but she isn't stupid about doing it (does that make sense?), for example, she leaves her wallet on a chair at the subway and it's stolen -- yeah, it's stupid, but she doesn't sit around giggling about it and saying "oh, funny me" to herself. She goes to the cops and reports it. Like a real person might do. The mystery plot is well-crafted, Samantha is a far from perfect investigator, which also makes sense (what normal person spends their free time solving crimes?). And there's a very nice romance with the cop who tries to help her out. If you like romance and mystery, this is a good one to pick up.

Here's the blurb from the book cover and the author's website:
New York Rule #1: Don't get involved.
Samantha Leiffer already has a self-centered self-help guru for a mother, a cadre of off-kilter Greenwich Village pals, and an ex-boyfriend who cheated on her with both sexes. She doesn't need more grief. But when she accidentally spies two people dumping a dubious-looking ice chest into the Hudson River, she has an unsettling feeling about its contents...

New York Rule #2: Don't make eye contact.
So, not being the kind of girl to let some psychos get away with murder, Sam sets out to unravel a mystery - and is soon being stalked by a sinister, shadowy figure who's wearing one-of-a-kind mirrored contact lenses...

New York Rule #3: If you must break Rules #1 and #2, get some help from New York's Finest.
Now, aided by a hard-as-nails (but still very hot) homicide detective, Sam is poking into some unsavory places - and finding out more creepy stuff than she ever wanted to know...

New York Rules #4 and #5: Don't expect anything to be what it seems ... and when necessary, fight like hell.

Ghosts in the Snow by Tamara Siler Jones -- PBW links to and talks about this author's blog frequently, and I thought the premise sounded interesting. Since I am a fan of both fantasy and mystery, and I like seeing cross-genre books, I brought it home from the library. It was good enough that I am going to order a copy for myself.
Dubric Bryerly is the head of security at the castle in the town of Faldorrah. He is responsible for dealing with criminals and solving crimes, including murder. When a servant girl is found murdered one morning, he has to try to find out who did it before more bodies pile up. And they do.
The plot starts out as a pretty standard mystery plot, but as you read you realize this isn't a standard mystery story. It is technically a fantasy, but you aren't bashed over the head with fantasy elements. Early on, you find out that Dubric sees the ghosts of the victims killed at the castle. That is part of how he knows that there is a murder to be solved. As the story goes on, other little fantasy elements are included, but they never take over the characters and the plot, which are the most interesting parts of the book. Dubric is a complex character, with a painful past. His assistants, the people who live in the castle, and the killer and victims are all fully drawn characters, not just cardboard cutouts. If you like mysteries, don't worry if you are a big fan of fantasy, because the fantasy elements are minimal. And there's a nice romantic subplot involved, even though the girl bugged me some of the time.

Here's the blurb:
Dubric Bryerly woke to find a ghost next to his bed this morning. It's the fourteenth this year.

Thus begins Dubric Bryerly's entrance into the most chilling investigation of his long career as the head of security at Faldorrah's castle keep. Not long after the first body is discovered, savagely disfigured, a second comes to light, also violently mutilated. And over the next few weeks, another, and another, and another. Each one announced by the arrival of a silent, gruesome ghost that only Dubric can see. Haunted by these silent spectres, and his dark secret, Dubric must use the rudimentary forensics available to him to uncover the identity of a ruthless serial killer living within the very castle walls and bring him to justice before he kills again. But the killer seems to be practically invisible, leaving no sign of himself even as he slips past a guarded post to kill again -- and all signs point to the worst of all possible suspects, the king's own grandson. As the pressure mounts, so does the danger...will Dubric manage to find the killer before another girl dies, or before the frightened and frustrated castle inhabitants rise up against the very man sworn to protect them?

A combination of forensics, fantasy, and sheer horror, this fast-paced "historical" thriller will have readers on the edge of their seats.

Fall From Grace by Megan Chance -- Thank you Tara for sending this to me, and thank you to everyone who has recommended this on AAR and on their blogs. Megan Chance has been around for a while (and this is a book that's been out for a while -- 1997), but I've never read one of her books before. I am so, so glad that I did.
I loved this book. It is not a perfect romance, and the HEA is somewhat ambiguous. You know they are together, but you don't really know exactly what happens to them. But that's okay, because what I loved about this book is that the characters are so original and so real. Basically, Lily is twelve when her parents are killed by outlaws. But one of the outlaws feels bad about, so he takes her home with them. And she is raised as an outlaw. One of the other outlaws is 15 at the time, and basically falls in love with her immediately. Fast forward twelve years (and a marriage to the once-15-yr-old, Texas) and she's finally found the chance to break away from them. But it doesn't turn out the way she planned, and Texas comes after her. Up until this point, he has been completely in love with her, but she still sees him as part of what has come to be a suffocating, horrible life. And he does take her for granted and I think in many ways sees her as his pet. When he captures her and finds out she betrayed them, at first he is understanding and forgiving. But she finally breaks through that trust and he realizes she really hates them. He decides that he must take her back to the outlaws for them to decide what to do with her.
The great thing about this story is that Chance took two people who aren't perfect, who are both killers, and who both have desires and dreams for their own lives, and brought them together. This is not the story of the perfect girl who is innocent and sweet, and so deserves to be swept away by a rich, handsome, perfect-lover type of man. If you want that type of book, don't get this one. This is the story of two people who have made some bad decisions, whose lives haven't turned out the way they want for themselves, that find out that they can find some of what they want together.

Here's the blurb:
Lily lost her childhood the day the Sharpe gang murdered her parents and "adopted" her. Soon, Lily the Cat was wanted by the law. But Lily betrayed the outlaws. And then she deceived Texas Sharpe,--the man who loved her, married her, and defied his father for her. But although he desired her like no other, she used him, and his love. And he was about to show Lily just how ruthless a man betrayed could be ...

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Thursday, June 23, 2005

2005 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs!

Woo-hoo! Just finished watching the game. This series, and this whole year, has been very exciting and very nerve-wracking. After game six, Steve and I were both worried about this Game Seven. The Spurs are an excellent team, but sometimes they struggle in big, stressful games. But they pulled through. And it's great that it happened in San Antonio. And it was cool to see David Robinson congratulate Tim.

For the third time, Tim Duncan is the MVP! Only three other players have gotten the MVP trophy three times -- Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Shaquille O'Neal -- pretty elite company.

Gregg Popovich -- the fifth coach in NBA history to win three championships!

People keep saying that San Antonio is the most international team in the NBA and a big part of that is because of these two excellent players -- Manu Ginobili from Argentina and Tony Parker from France.

Robert Horry has had some pretty amazing plays in this series.

Bruce Bowen has gotten a lot of crap about being a rough player, but he has also really delivered and been an incredibly steady player.

Nazr Mohammed is new this year, and was brought in to help fill in the hole left by David Robinson, and he has done an excellent job.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Pre-Pub Cover Changes

Pre-Publication changes in cover art aren't uncommon, but they always catch my eye and make me wonder why, especially when the original covers have already been released online. Now, none of these authors are a big name (yet), but I would imagine that the original cover flats would be collector's items of some kind if they were available.

How often do you see changes in cover art before they hit the shelves? I know it is standard practice a lot of the time to change cover art between a hardcover and a paperback, frequently because the consumers vary between the two formats, or because the cover art might be decided to be stale or a bad fit for the different size. It's also standard to change cover art for different editions (how many different version of LOTR can there be?). But how often do you just see a complete revamp of cover art for one edition?

Crazy Hot and Crazy Cool: You've probably all seen these by now, but they still shock me when I look at them. I really can't believe that this cover art was changed. I really like the original art (on the left). I think the art on the right (and presumably, what we will see on the shelves) is boring and ugly. Seems like they are trying to go for a less-romance, more chick-lit James Bond feel, probably with a hope for a more mainstream audience. Which I am fine with, but can't it be done with nice cover art?

How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire: I posted the original cover a couple of weeks ago, but I recently noticed that there is a new cover up at A very, very different cover. The first cover is more playful, emphasizing that the book is humorous. The second is a complete departure. The covers make these seem like two totally different books. The title is obviously humorous or satirical, but the new cover, the one on the right, doesn't really look like it would be humorous at all. Are they trying to confuse me?

Moon's Web: Just saw this new cover today. The web and wolf motif stayed, but I think it's interesting that the dynamics of the couple were changed. In the original, they are together -- implying that they are united against whatever threat/mystery they are faced with. But the newer cover, on the right, shows the heroine in the foreground and the man as a shadowy presence. Seems like a totally different kind of story. And am I the only one who noticed that the couple isn't black anymore? Did the publisher decide that people won't buy the book if the couple on the cover is black?

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Friday, June 17, 2005

US/UK DVD Cover Differences

I hope everyone who reads this blog is as equally fascinated with the differences between US and UK products as I am, because I've discovered that not only are book covers different, but DVD covers are different as well. Some of these differences are small, but some of these covers are significantly different. I tried to find a variety of different types of movies. In all cases the US version is first, and the UK version second. Oh, here's a question for anyone in the know: what is the number in the circle on the bottom of the covers?

The Untouchables: The same picture of Kevin Costner is used, but the UK version cuts out Al Capone. I think I prefer the UK version, which seems more stylish. The gun silhouette seems more like something you'd see on a James Bond movie though.

: I've seen two different versions of the UK cover -- the other one used the same picture of Keanu Reeves. I like the black and white sides of the US version, but I think I prefer the UK version with the angel wings. Wish I had that one.

Edward Scissorhands
: Very little difference here. So little that I wonder why they even bothered. The picture has just been flipped. I like the US cover where the colors are more vibrant.

: Same picture, different background. I kind of like the "Born to Fight. Trained to Kill." blurb on the UK cover.

The Forgotten: The UK cover is more mysterious. The US cover seems to focus more on the star, which doesn't surprise me, because in the US the star often seems to be treated as the most important part of a movie.

House of Flying Daggers: Great movie, btw. I like both covers. I think if I had the choice, I'd probably pick the US one. I think the choice of such a different cover design is interesting. the US one seems to focus more on the battle/action sequences, whereas the UK one has more of a historical feel to me.

Nip/Tuck: When this US cover appeared, I immediately hated it. If anything, one of the images from the credit sequence at the beginning of the show would have been nice. The UK version is so much better.

Ray: The US cover has more of a blues/jazz feel to me. I like the UK cover, but I guess I've seen the US poster art so long that anything else just doesn't feel right.

Shaun of the Dead: I like the US cover because it includes his friend and his girlfriend on the front. And because it has Shaun in his uniform. And I love the blurb on both.

The Terminal
: I like the UK cover because it makes more of the airport setting. Looking at the cover, you automatically know what kind of terminal is being referred to. And I like the blurring of all the people around him, emphasizing the constant change.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Wanting Something New

Lately when I look at new books, and when I look for new things to read in the romance genre, I find that the most important consideration for me is innovation and originality. Many online romance readers complain about the same-old-same-old in romance, and I count myself among those readers.

I actually like the Regency setting, but I am getting tired of it. Some say that we over-romanticize the Regency, but I think there is a certain amount of that, and expectation of that in all romance, and in all literature. So it's not the romanticization (is that a word?) of the Regency that bothers me, but that so many authors seem to buy into the same romanticization. Everyone does rakes, everyone does Almack's, everyone does heroines that don't want marriage. All of these things can be good in small doses, but I find that I am happiest with a book when it uses some of these conventions, but also switches things up. One of my all-time favorite romances, The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase, has many of these conventions, but her rake is a true libertine, a man who is living a throw-away life for his own pleasure. And the heroine may not want marriage, but she also is living outside of society's norms in many ways and I appreciated seeing this glimpse of a non-ton hero and heroine.

I am actively looking for new hooks or premises in romance. Vickie Taylor's Carved in Stone caught my attention (despite the cover I dislike) because the hero is a gargoyle. Now when have you seen that in romance, or much of anywhere, before? If you have, tell me, because I want to read more romance novels with great ideas like that. I look forward to what Gena Showalter has upcoming because every one of her stories seems to have an original premise.

The blurring of genre boundaries is another factor I've been looking at in romance. I've long read books in other genres, and it's refreshing to see romance authors try to bring what's great in other genres into romance, rather than just leaving. The 2176 and Crimson City series from Dorchester, and authors like Melanie Jackson, bring science fiction and fantasy ideas into traditional romance stories. Or how about this upcoming series from Susan Grant (always innovative) -- "The first two books in a romantic comedy suspense featuring strong, smart women...and the aliens who love them!"

It's not just in the paranormal/alternate reality romances that I've seen innovation, either. Authors like Tracy Grant combine what I love about historicals, mysteries, and romances together. Authors like Emma Holly and Jaid Black bring the daring ideas and sexual freedom of erotica into romance.

I find that my favorite authors are the ones like these that think outside of the box, along with the authors who are extremely gifted at crafting words and stories. Laura Kinsale and Judith Ivory are such high-calibre writers. They bring the incredible prose of literary fiction into romance. Anyone outside of romance who looks down on it ought to read them. Yeah, there's crap (like any type of fiction), but there are gems as well.

So, where have you guys seen innovation lately? New authors, new ideas from established authors, anything that has caught your eye. I'd love some more ideas and some more books to look forward to.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Cover Gallery

Because, obviously :) , book covers are one of my favorite things, here are a few upcoming books that have caught my eye.

Confessions of a Lingerie Addict by Jennifer Ashley
Dorchester, May 31st
I like the idea of a once-shy girl opening up to her sexuality, as long as it is by her own choice, and not because the "hero" forces her to do it. This one is out already, but I haven't picked it up because I wanted to see what others think about it. Anyone read it yet?

Carpe Demon by Julie Kenner
Berkley, July 5th
I like this little blurb: "What would happen if Buffy the Vampire Slayer got married, moved to the suburbs and became a stay-at-home mom?" I think this is a book that could be really good, or really disappointing, depending on execution.

Dare to Love by Yahrah St. John
Arabesque, July 5th
I don't know much about this one, but I like this cover, and Monica has really made me realize more about my buying habits and makes me want to step out of my comfort zone. This is a new-to-me author. Looks like this is her second book.

Over Her Dead Body by Kate White
Warner, July 11th
From the cover, I'd peg this as a chick-lit-mystery, but I'm not familiar with the author. Looks like this one is the fourth in a series, but I like this cover a lot. And it got a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

The Bought Bride by Juliet Landon
Harlequin Historicals, August 1st
The title and cover blurb make me a little leary, I think execution could go either way on this one, but I do love the cover. And it's only $5.50, so I will probably go ahead and pick it up.

Have Glass Slippers, Will Travel by Lisa Cach
Pocket, August 30th
I like this whimsical cover, which is drawn but not cartoony. And I have liked Cach's books, particularly her latest two.

The Smoke Thief by Shana Abe
Bantam, September 27th
Another one I don't know much about, but I've been meaning to try an Abe book (anyone know how to do the accent?), and I like the cover. Looks like a fantasy romance, two of my favorite genres.

Dear Penelope by Sharon Ihle
Leisure, September 30th
Another one I don't know much about. But I like the cover a lot, and I have enjoyed romances that revolved around letters (My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway). And I've always like the name Penelope, she was my favorite character in Julia Quinn's Bridgerton series. (Anyone else seen Club Dread, where that guy pronounces her name as Pee-na-lope instead of Pen-el-o-pee? That just cracks me up.)

Stuck in Shangri-La by Kasey Michaels
HQN, November 1st
I liked The Butler Did It, though not enough for it to be a keeper, so I will probably read this one to see how Michaels contemporaries are. Anyone else noticed how nice the covers for HQN and Harlequin in general are looking lately?

Card Sharks by Liz Maverick
NAL, November 1st
I didn't care for Maverick's Adventures of an Ice Princess. The heroine was the epitome of all that has made me leary of chick-lit-style books. I'm not bashing (really, Maili, I'm not), because I have found a couple of chick lit and chick-lit-romance books that I have enjoyed, like MJD, but I really don't like the vapid, shallow, shopping, trying to trap a guy type like the one in Ice Princess. And I don't know that this one is actually a romance, but I do like the cover.

Strictly Taboo by Jaid Black
Berkley, December 6th
I've got One Dark Night sitting on my bookshelf and one day I will get to it, but I think I will still buy this one. I want to support erotic romance now that it is becoming popular, and Black is an author who has been around for a while (in e-books). This one has three original short stories, one a historical, one contemporary, one futuristic.
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