I’m off for three days, but I’m leaving you with some marvelous words I think authors and readers should be familiar with, some resources and some opinions, for what they’re worth.

Schadenfreude:  Pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.

Avarice:  Extreme greed for wealth or material gain.  (This is a word an editor made me take out of a manuscript, saying she didn’t understand it so therefore my readers wouldn’t either.)

Analogy:  If two or more things agree with each other in some respects, they will probably agree with in others.  A resemblance in some particulars between things not otherwise alike and a comparison based upon such a resemblance.

Metaphor:  A literary figure of speech that uses an image, story, or tangible thing to represent and explain a less tangible thing or some intangible idea.

Simile:  A figure of speech that directly compares two different things, using words ‘like’ and ‘as’ or ‘than’.

Idiom:  A word or group of words that develop a specialized meaning, becoming an idiomatic expression, such as:  There’s the pot calling the kettle black.

Malicious:  Having or showing a desire to cause harm to someone.  (As in Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty.  What a character!)

Epiphany:  A manifestation or striking sudden appearance or insight, generally thought of as religious or spiritual in nature.  I love epiphanies!

Symbiosis:  Close and often long term interactions between different biological species.

Synchronicity:  The experience of two or more events that are apparently casually unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance.

Symmetry:  Balance, something that conveys an aesthetically pleasing sense of balance…which leads me to…

Aesthetic:  A sense of the beautiful or beauty, a love of beauty.

Abstract:  Existing in thought or as an idea, but not having an existence in reality.

Archaic:  Very old or old fashioned.

Arcane:  Known or understood by very few – secret, obscure, esoteric…which leads to…

Esoteric:  Designed or understood by those specifically initiated in certain arcane knowledge or arts.

Agape:  Love, especially in a religious or spiritual sense.

And a great word I got from Charlie (and Little Women)…Blancmange:  A sweet dessert commonly made from milk or cream and sugar and thickened with gelatin.  :)

I’m going to point you in the direction of a couple authors/bloggers – women who’ve had some very interesting things to say this week:

Soul of a Word asks if you have plenty of words in your pantry.

Anny Cook discusses the way we authors measure success.

Dean Wesley Smith, who I very much admire as an author and an author’s advocate, posted about the myth of rewriting.  I agree with him most times.  In this case, I agree there is no point spending years rewriting and in fact, I’d go a little farther and claim continual rewrites are a form of self-sabotage for an author or wanna-be author.  However, I see tremendous value in editing and self-editing.  I edit my work for several reasons:  I want to get it right, not just for you, but for me.  I want to put out the best book I can – I don’t want to self-publish something that will have me cringing two years down the road.  I learn to be a better writer via the art of editing.

I am proud of what I write and I’d like to keep it that way.  Therefore, while I don’t cotton to perpetual rewrites, I do believe in editing and trimming the fat.

Last – so long to TJ at Dreams and Speculations.  She’s gone the way of Rebecca at Dirty Sexy Books.  I will miss their humor, their thoughtfulness, and their insights.

Dippin’ my feet in magic waters.

Of course, this is a tree, but it’s a magic tree.  I took the photo on my hike yesterday after I made a wish.

Because it’s also wishing tree.  The man I call the crazy poet spends time up in the branches, as does a huge clan of Flickers (woodpeckers), and I did see the mountain lion and her yearling cub up there several years ago.  Don’t worry, they weren’t waiting for me.  Deer frequent this trail too.

Ah, back to my topic.  Magic waters…the brave new world of self-publishing.  I plan to get my feet wet with my new WIP.  I gotta give it a try, besides, I doubt any self-respecting publisher would take this particular WIP.  While I don’t think the romance is risky, in fact, it’s way more tame than anything I’ve written so far, my treatment of the subject matter is risky.  I’m taking a few genre themes and turning them on their heads.  It’s called creative license.  No, Penelope, there are no bearded men in this book.

A friend sent me an article today about self-publishing.  Here.

I’m over at DSB (Dirty Sexy Books) reviewing Casanova, Actor, Lover, Priest, Spy, by Ian Kelly.  If you’re a student and you want the inside dirt on his life and times, I give the book four-five stars.  If you’re a romance lover…maybe two.  The read is pretty academic.

Hold the Presses! The Spirit of 2011 is upon me!

I’m feeling a might New Years-ish!  The approaching change looks interesting this morning!

Time to recognize!

For meritorious conduct in the face of wicked witches and heart attacks, Penelope, you have been inducted into the Legion of Courage, along with Amber Skyze, who put on a brave face after enormous tragedy and soldiered on.  Ladies, my hat is off to you.  I admire your strength and fortitude – and I envy your sites and readership!

These two authors have stuck by me from day one of my very first publishing contract – I owe them a big shout out – Anny Cook and Sandra Cox.  You are the best!  Anny writes paranormal romance and Sandra fosters cats and writes some great YA fantasy and nonfiction.

She who makes me laugh out loud – no matter how awful stuff is, author Mia Watts!  She also writes the only M/M stuff I read.  Her men are, uh, incendiary.   Fanning myself…Oh she of the golden prose…think Lord Dunsany.

These two authors go above and beyond, generously devoting their time and space to other authors – Rachel Firasek and Michele ZurloMichele hosts The Steam Room and Rachel, A Possessed WIP.  Great stuff!

The female bloggers who force the old neurons to fire:

TJ of Dreams and Speculation – OMG – she’s a bloody genius!  Talk about expanding your horizons!  Reading TJ’s site does it every time.

Jessica at Read, React, Review – If book blogging was an experiment, she would be the control.  She’s like…it’s too early in the morning to think of words…let me put it this way…Jessica sets the bar high.

Charlie at Smart Girls Love Science Fiction and Paranormal Romance – the name of her site pretty much says it all.  She is one of the most concise bloggers I know, always fills her blog with outstanding content and reviews, which leads me to my next smart woman -

Rebecca, of Dirty Sexy Books.   Rebecca, along with Stephanie at Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust, are my go-to women.  Rebecca, believe it or not, answers her emails!  She’s interactive and like all the bloggers mentioned above and below, responds to comments.  Plus, like Stephanie, she subscribes to the concept of ‘economy of words’.  She doesn’t waste my time.  Speaking of Stephanie, she’s like scary smart, yet incredibly tender-hearted.  She has a real soft spot for animals and nothing gets to me like a person with compassion for our furry and feathered friends.  She, Penelope, TJ and Jessica are all academics who love romance, paranormal and speculative fiction.  When I read their posts, I feel like I’m back in college listening to the lectures of my favorite professors.

The best recs?  Julie, at Outlandish Dreaming.  I get good reading recs from many sites, but Julie and I have similar taste in romance.  I use her site like a shopping cart – What’s Julie reading now?  Whatever it is, I’m on it!  Most of the books currently sitting in my TBR pile are from Outlandish Dreaming.

The sweetest book blogger/reviewer on the planet?  Susi at The Geeky Bookworm.  I don’t think I’ve ever met a nicer person – and she’s one of those smart girls too!  She’s passionate about romance.  Her native tongue is German.  Can you imagine how difficult it would be to read romance in another language, let alone review it?  She’s amazing!  And pretty funny too because she’s such a squeamish girl!  She reminds me of me.  Villains scare her!

Authors who always have something interesting to say?  Everyone on my side bar, but you have to check out Nina Pierce and Rosalie Lario.  Sometimes I’m guilty of skimming, but I read their posts from top to bottom.  They use their sites for teaching moments.  These two are great references for wanna-be authors.

Katalina Leon writes ephemeral erotica – my husband and I share a love of her books (and I worship at her feet) – we hold readathons to see who can finish them first, him on his Kindle, me on my computer.  Is your marriage/sex life stuck in the doldrums?  Read Kat’s stuff.  It’s like lightning in a bottle.  Go.  Read.  Enjoy.  Don’t hurt yourself.

The links I have on my sidebar are there because those authors and bloggers are special people.  Every single one brings a unique perspective to the romance genre.  If I had the space, I’d mention each of you.  I encourage readers to check them out when you have some free time.

Last but not least, many thanks to outstanding author Fran Lee, who is always available when I need a pat on the back or a kick in the ass.

Best read of 2010 – Under Heaven, by Guy Gavriel Kay

Best movie of 2010 – True Grit, with Jeff Bridges

Best star-struck moment – hearing from Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival, Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – after my series of posts on surviving the canoe trip from hell.  His book saved our lives.

Other best star-struck moment – connecting with one of my all-time favorite fantasy authors, Tad Williams – His books are on the top of my recommended reading list.  He’s also pretty hilarious!

So, done.  Happy New Year.  And I love you all.  Oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like home

Happy Endings, with Rebecca of Dirty Sexy Books (no commas)

Happily Ever Afters

(Julia) Typically, literary fiction does not require a happily ever after. For that matter, there is no requirement that literary fiction have a definite ending, period.  On the other hand, when it comes to genre fiction, romance in particular, a happily ever after or a happy for now is de rigueur.  It’s not only readers who demand a happy ending, publishers of romance require it.  Is it necessary for the author of a romance novel to wrap up a story in pretty paper and tie it with a neat little bow?  Is this always what readers want?  Is there an audience for a romantic story with an ambiguous ending?

(Rebecca) This is a bit of a chicken and egg question, because most readers would say that it cannot be called a romance unless it has a happily-ever-after ending, however I think we romance fans are softening on this hard stance.  I think a lot of fans are after “slow simmer” romances that evolve over several installments, and I hope this trend continues, but it does mean that authors need some freedom to end books on break-ups, fuck-ups, and all manner of grand miscommunications.

(Julia) Urban fantasy is an example of a sub-genre that often crosses over into the romance, yet it allows for some ambiguity in the same way literary fiction does.  Why?  In the end, when a series is spent, must every urban fantasy meet it’s happily ever after as well?

(Rebecca)  By taking cover under the popularity of urban fantasy, I think some romance writers have found the freedom they need to craft their stories without committing to a hard and fast happily-ever-after ending on every single book.

Two successful examples of “slow simmer” romances come to mind: Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series and Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunters series.  In both series the first installment has everything a die-hard romance fan could ask for, but both books end with the couple separated somehow (sorry, I’m trying not to be spoilerish!).  To see the couple reunited, we had to wait for book two, and I don’t know about you, but I had to read the second installment in these series ASAP.

To answer your last question above, yes, I think most fans expect urban fantasy series to end on a high note, even if every book in between is filled with doom and gloom.  If you want to piss off your fan-base, take them on a roller coaster ride, and then drop the couple off a cliff at the end.  No one will be pleased.

(Julia) So, in other words, a series provides an author a little more freedom to create conflict, in a sense, delay gratification for her characters, yet the audience can still anticipate a satisfying resolution for the main parties involved?  This usually means a cliffhanger.  I’ve heard many readers complain about cliffhangers, especially when they have to wait a year or longer for the next installment.  So the obvious question is, how do you feel about cliffhangers?

(Rebecca) I think some authors go overboard with cliffhangers and that’s where the disgruntled fans come in.  I recall having a bad reaction to the ending in Glass Houses by Rachel Caine.  It’s the first book in her Morganville Vampires series, and it literally ends in the middle of a pivotal moment.  I can quote the last sentence without being spoilerish (I think), and you tell me if you’d like to see a book end right here: “They all screamed as the knife came down.”

That’s the last sentence!  I have to buy the next book to find out what happens, and I never did because it left such a bad taste in my mouth.  I felt like the author was toying with me, and not in a good way.

So no, that’s not my preferred kind of cliffhanger, but that’s not to say they’re all bad.  I think the best writers close books in the lull before the storm.  There needs to be some sense of closure and peace at the end of each book, but there also needs to be a premonition that trouble is brewing on the horizon.  It’s a tricky thing to pull off.  Think Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back.  Luke just got his butt kicked by his *gasp* father, and he’s on the medical ship being fitted for a fake hand.  The final shot of that film is like a breather between what has happened, and what will come.  It’s the perfect balance between closure and anticipation.

(Julia) I like that concept…a moment of peace in between story installments, or story arcs, sort of a brief intermission. Two things leave a bad taste in my mouth as well – a story that ends in the middle of the action or the climax, forcing me to wait for the author to pick up the action according to the publisher’s or the author’s timetable, or remaining loyal to a series for the long haul, only to have the characters come to a tragic end, or perhaps worse…run out of steam.

Thanks so much for being my guest, Rebecca!

(Rebecca) It was a pleasure Julia.  Thanks for inviting me to stand on your soap box.

You can read more of Rebecca’s opinions, reviews and thoughts on her site, Dirty Sexy Books:

Arkansas Black Apple

My new favorite apple.  I found some last year, thought they were an aberration, but they’re back!  I gathered this info from some foodie site:

“Possibly raised by a settler called John Crawford in Arkansas, USA in the 1840s, and widely grown in Arkansas and Missouri later that century.  It is thought to be a seedling of Winesap.  This apple is notable for the extremely dark coloration, which becomes almost black after storage.”

All I can say is that the Arkansas black apple is super crisp and tart/sweet.  The best way for an apple to be.

You know, everyone thinks Eve tempted Adam with an apple, but it was really a quince, possibly a pomegranate.  Can you imagine being tempted by a quince?  A quince is the queen of tart fruits, like suck in your cheeks, pucker, tart.  I use them to make outstanding jam, but I have a hard time imagining Adam saying – yeah, sure, give me a bite of that.  Now a pomegranate makes sense…in the Mediterranean, it is considered the fruit of love.

Okay, I’m blabbing.  Monday, Rebecca from Dirty Sexy Books (no commas) will be here to discuss happy endings.

In the meantime, please confirm that you have signed up for my newsletter or your email is automatically dumped.  I can’t access it.  Sorry!