Thursday, September 29, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Words on the Page

One of my favorite movies growing up was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was funny and full of action and romance and … just a touch of the morbid. Maybe it was a bit of prescience about the emo chick I would turn into when I got older, but one of the many scenes that stuck with me from the movie was when the Knight Templar in the cave talked about the burden of drinking from the Grail every day, and how sometimes, even though it was the only thing keeping him alive, he just didn’t have the will to do it.

Because, you know, drinking the magical elixir of life is hard. Or something.

Except it kind of is, if you're alone in a cave for hundreds of years.

It's super melodramatic, but I feel that way about mundane things all the time. I love my job. I love my life. Writing and talking to people online and editing and reading are what keep me alive. And yet some days… I just don't have the will to do any of them. 

Like I said. Emo chick.

This happens more in the fall than any other time of year. Something about the days getting shorter and temperatures getting cooler. It's always made me want to crawl into a cave and hibernate for hundred of years. Most days I beat the emo down and get to work and I always feel better because I did. And some other days, I look at that life-giving cup and I just say… Nah. Not today.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Review of Zero Factor by Stacy Gail

As I put the final touches on my own cyberpunk romance, Unacceptable Risk, I've also been doing some reading in the genre. Samhain Press (which will also be publishing Unacceptable Risk) recently released Cybershock, a trio of cyberpunk novellas, which I snapped up immediately.

Here's my take on the second, Zero Factor by Stacy Gail.

Four Stars ★ ★ ★ ★ (4.0/5.0)

Stacy Gail's Zero Factor, like most cyberpunk stories, takes place in a grim future where much of society has collapsed, political borders have been redrawn and technology has changed the landscape. The book is set apart by the introduction of psychics, a rogue military-industrial complex and a villain who is entirely too plausible in his belief that his actions are above the law.

Our heroine, Via Brede, is one of the aforementioned psychics. In a fascinating premise for a romance novel, she receives and transmits psychically, but only through physical touch. At the opening of the novel, when she foresees a catastrophic attack, she uses this gift to warn a career soldier, Locke, who recognizes the attack as the profound betrayal that it is. The two escape together and go into hiding, intent on discovering the truth behind the explosion and the key to unlocking the true potential of Via's power.

First off, I'm a big fan of the world Gail has created. It's full of political intrigue and seems like a fairly natural extension of our current police state should consolidation of power continue to go unchecked, which is a big plus for me in speculative fiction.

Second, I love when a romance author creates a vaguely-supernatural world that specifically lends itself to, well, romance. The physical contact part of Via's power makes the eroticism of the book 100% integral to the story. And wow, does the story ever get hot.

Third, I loved her characters. Locke with his steady, self-sacrificing leadership. Via with her vulnerability and her fears… but also with her extraordinary abilities and strengths. That said, my favorite character was a supporting one, Madame Citrine, who gives our heroes sanctuary and the tools they need to get to the bottom of the many mysteries before them … and to the heart of their romantic connection. That she's gender-bending to the extreme is just a bonus.

That said, I would have liked a little more space for the connection between Via and Locke to play out. The two are almost literally thrown together, and their alliance is not an easy one. Considering that this is a fairly short novella, the author did forge a believable, compelling relationship between them. It just felt a little rushed in places.

On the whole, I give Zero Factor a solid thumbs up. It's an intriguing premise with a unique cast of characters that provides a hot romance and a lot of food for thought.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Lamentations of a Romance-Writing Feminist

I recently did an interview with The Mamafesto for a project called "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like," wherein a bunch of normal people talk about what feminism means to them. One of the major themes in my interview – and something I've been thinking about a lot of late – is the vague cognitive dissonance that comes with writing/enjoying romance novels and considering myself a feminist.

Romance novels have gotten a bad rap for ages, and I don't think that will ever change, even if the genre has come a long way since the bodice-rippers of old. Like many forms of entertainment enjoyed primarily by women, they're derided by men and by "serious" women alike, and sometimes with good reason. Alpha heroes and damsels in distress are still common tropes, and happily ever after always means getting the guy, not the doctorate. It's telling that the erotic romance genre has taken off by leaps and bounds since the advent of eReaders, since we can now read our steamy novels without having to show anyone the cover.

So what’s a feminist to do with all that shame?

Personally, I try not to be ashamed in the first place, but it's a tall order considering so much of that attitude is deeply sewn into us for our whole lives. I have a science background, and the idea of confessing that I write smutty romance novels to the guys I used to do physics experiments with gives me the shakes. Ditto for the ladies I took all those women's studies classes with back in college.

But the thing is, as feminists who choose not work outside of the home have been saying for decades, the essence of feminism is about giving women choices, not taking them away. So I do my best to own my choice and the choices of so many women (and even some men) who enjoy these types of stories. I try not to dissemble or blush when I admit to what I do.

And I try to do my small part to make sure the genre is something I can be proud of. I try to write women who care about more than just their love-lives and I try to pack as much literary merit into those sex scenes as I can.

So what do you think? Is reading and writing romance compatible with feminism? And if not, then how can we make it more so?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Writer's Life: So What Do You *Do* With All That Time?

Whenever I talk to my mother, invariably the topic comes around to the fact that I'm currently not working full time and (with my husband's blessing and generous financial support) am dedicating myself fully to this writing thing. And her main response is always, "So what do you do with all that time?"

If she only knew.

Writing full time sounds great, and it is (holy crap, but it really, really is), but especially once things start happening with publishing, there are all these little things that need to get done. I am so, so blessed to have four pieces under contract right now (3 shorts and 1 novella), but man. There's just all this stuff.

For example, yesterday I didn't manage to write a single word on my manuscript, but I sure did manage to kill some time. Things I crossed off on my to-do list include:

  • Proofing the galley and blurb for Bug Boy (my short story for Dreamspinner's upcoming Higher Learning anthology)
  • Writing long and short blurbs for A Gift of Trust (a Christmas story that will be releasing in December)
  • Cold-emailing blogs asking to guest blog in support of Unacceptable Risk
  • Keeping up with all the author blogs, book review sites, and writer discussion lists I stalk
  • Editing a short for a critique partner
  • Editing my own short story so I could send it to a critique partner
  • Scouring the internet for calls for submission so I can hopefully keep getting my work out there.
It may not look like a ton, but especially since I'm new to all of this (and terrified of people) all the blurb-writing and editing and cold-emailing seem to take forever, and it's super easy to have a day just fly by.

All that said, I'm really not complaining. I love this life. But seriously, Mom. There is never any lack of things to do.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Unacceptable Risk Has a Cover!!!

My cyberpunk romance, Unacceptable Risk (coming December 2011 from Samhain Press) now has a cover!!!

So what do you think? Personally, I couldn't be more thrilled.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review of Gridlock by Nathalie Gray

As I put the final touches on my own cyberpunk romance, Unacceptable Risk, I've also been doing some reading in the genre. Samhain Press (which will also be publishing Unacceptable Risk) recently released Cybershock, a trio of cyberpunk novellas, which I snapped up immediately.

Here's my take on the first, Gridlock by Nathalie Gray.


Four Stars ★ ★ ★ ★ (4.0/5.0)

Nathalie Gray has crafted an incredible world in Gridlock. Set in a dark, gritty city run by an all-powerful AI known as the Grid, the story centers around Steel, a damaged woman who has been fighting all her life to survive, and Dante, a vigilante looking to take revenge against the Grid for all it did to him.

The story is at its strongest when it's focused on the action and on the harsh world in which the two characters find themselves. The writing is visceral and the pace breakneck in the very best of ways, and I loved Gray's descriptions of the city and how it came to be the dangerous, illicit place it is today.

I also really enjoyed the characters, especially Steel, who is as hard as her name would imply. She kicks ass, takes names, and shows no remorse for her actions. If you like a strong female lead, this book is definitely for you.

If I have any criticism at all, it's that the romance felt a little rushed, and while I was enthralled by Dante's backstory, I would have liked more time to get to know him as a character.

That said, I recommend Gridlock without reservation as a past-paced, action-packed romance/adventure set in a unique and thrilling setting.