The joy of real.

I don’t use the word blessed, because I don’t consider myself special, nor do I think God chooses to bless certain people while ignoring others.  However, I can say that I have been fortunate enough to spend significant face time with two authors I’ve met on line.

A little over a year ago, author Mia Watts visited me.  She and I first met in a superficial way via our shared publisher, but we really met when I read her gorgeous prose in Claimed By Darkness, and I just had to tell her how magnificent her writing is.  Claimed is the only M/M romance I’ve ever read or, for that matter, will ever read.  Just the facts, ma’am, no insult intended to all you readers of M/M.  I compared her prose to Lord Dunsany.  Wordy, evocative, lush, sensational…

Anyway, Mia let me drag her up a mountain, to the beach, all over our little valley.  She’s the same in person as she is on line, genuine, funny, enthusiastic, loyal, sweet.

Now I’ve met author and book blogger, Penny Watson, up close and personal.  I loved having her here.  What you see over at her site or read in her books, is exactly what she is.  Like Mia, she’s genuine, warm, funny, enthusiastic… not quite as sweet, she’s a bit on the spicy side!  And it’s funny, we originally met over food, and man, we ate some great meals (Morimoto anyone?) during her visit.  She read my contemporary, Beauty and the Feast, and contacted me.  The circular nature of author interactions is really very interesting!

I’m amazed I’ve had the opportunity to meet two such talented, creative, intelligent authors.  They are exactly what the genre needs to show the world that romance is not for dummies.  Penny’s most recent release, Sweet Magik, is a thinking woman’s Christmas romantic fantasy, i.e., librarian soft porn, as it was recently referred to in The Paris Review.  Damn girl, that kind of publicity is priceless!  Green with envy here…

Anyway, Penny, I am so glad you came!  Missing you already!

My friends have new releases. Enjoy!

Crime reporter Tess Nielsen is determined to get an exclusive vampire story, even if it means indulging a certain dhampir agent, whose dangerous sensuality sets her blood on fire. She lands in a bit of vampire trouble, but she can take care of herself, which is why she’s infuriated when the sexy agent intervenes and carries her off to his home.

Milan Markovic likes his affairs hot and brief. Spirited Tess Nielsen stirs his most primal instincts, but she suspects his only motive is seduction. It isn’t until Tess is kidnapped that he realizes his feelings for her aren’t limited to physical pleasure. Losing her isn’t an option.

Tired of their ho-hum sex life, Jack decides to spice things up by planning a surprise for his wife. After sending the children off for an overnight with their aunt, Jack handcuffs Beth to their bed.

Beth awakes naked, blindfolded and at the mercy of her husband. The day starts off with being fed by Jack and quickly turns into hot and heavy sex. She soon learns that a slip of the tongue can lead to stinging ass cheeks.

This rainy day will be spent pushing their sexual limits. Whether in bed or out, Jack will leave Beth begging for more—until she says something unforgiveable.

Father Garth Roderick is a priest with a problem. He’s had a fascination with a particular congregant for years. Though he’s never actually acknowledged his sexuality, Garth’s definitely more attracted to men than women. Fortunately, he hasn’t had to deal with making a moral decision… until the night he is caught in the dark and kissed senseless. Now he fantasizes that the kiss was from the one man he can’t forget, Eli Jennings.

For Garth, the man of his fantasies could be his, but how does he reconcile human desire with his vow to God? And for Eli, coming in second best hurts like hell, but how do you ask a man of God to leave the church and take a chance on love?

I meet the nicest people in writerland.

For an admitted loner, I’ve met some great people over the past couple years.

Today, author Sharon Hamilton drove to meet me for lunch – she persisted in finding me despite getting extremely lost.  It was kind of funny because we both approached the same woman sitting at a counter at the coffee bar, separately, to ask if she was ‘we’.  Like, I went up to this woman to ask if she was Sharon and Sharon went up to her to ask if she was Julia, because she looked like a writer.  Seriously.  Anyway, Sharon is a wonderful woman and she’s encouraging me to actually meet other writers, participate in groups (oh lord!) and communicate with people.  Sharon possesses two attributes that turn me green with envy – in a non-malicious way.  A.  Her fingernails are gorgeous, totally perfect, as opposed to my own, which are chewed-to-the-quick, and B.  She has a literary agent.  Sigh-o-licious.

You have to realize if left to my own devices, I’ll talk to my dog and my cats and maybe the birds…sometimes the hubster.  If my horse was still alive, I’d be with her almost all the time.

In summary, over the past two years I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Anny Cook in all her glorious, outspoken, wise woman, person-hood.

Donna George Storey, an incredibly unique, elegant, and fearless/unapologetic writer of erotica.

Mia Watts: if there’s one word to describe her, it’s hilarious – but she’s also compassionate, empathetic, brilliant and filled with sex-a-palooza-ness!

Sharon Lathan, as sweet and humble a woman as I’ve ever met, accompanied by a great husband.  The pride he feels for her shines from his eyes like a beacon.  Sharon is the consummate professional.  I am soooo not!

I swear I’d like to have a slumber party and invite all my author friends – those I’ve met IRL and those I’ve met online -for pizza and beer, and sex talk.

Jake update:  He was freaked out about hiking today – hid in my bedroom when I got the leash.  We went to a different wilderness park and he relaxed, but we did have to hike along a cliff edge where there are three downed trees.  One, the big one, I climb over, two I duck under on my hands and knees.  Jake was unwilling to let me help him over the big tree.  I had to pull myself up a nearly vertical slope along the fallen tree trunk and convince him to follow me; then jump over the tree where the diameter of the trunk is smaller and then slide down the slope.  Took a lot of convincing, but he seemed to regain his confidence after he succeeded.  German shepherds…such babies.

The Secret Success of Romance – Part Three.

Straight from the horse’s mouth.  I think I’ll let these wonderful authors speak for themselves.

From Rosalie Lario:  “I have been an avid reader of romance since I sneaked my first romance book at the age of thirteen.  Yummy heroes and whirlwind adventures?  I was instantly hooked!  After graduating cum laude from law school, I became an attorney and practiced law for five years.  But all the while I continued to read for relaxation.  Nothing has ever been more effective at calming the stress than a well-told story of adventure and romance.  When I was at home with my first child, I decided to indulge in my long-time dream of actually penning a romance of my own.  I didn’t know if I could do it, but I was determined to try.  Yes, that first manuscript was less than stellar, but it didn’t matter.  Once again I was hooked.  I’ve gotten more than one snide comment over the years about my love of romances comments like why would you read that trash? Honestly, I think it’s mostly said out of ignorance.  In my experience, those who deride romance the most tend to be people who’ve never even read one.  I’ve read many romances, and on the whole I would say they are well-crafted stories with strong, intelligent plots and satisfying emotional entanglements.  I challenge naysayers to give romance a shot.  It’s not for dummies!”

From multi-published author Cindy Spencer Pape:  “I have a BS/MS in biology, specifically animal behavior.  I interned at the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park.  I worked as an educator for the Philadelphia Zoo, curator of zoology at the Central Michigan University Museum, I’ve been on the science faculty at Mid Michigan Community College and I’ve been a naturalist for the Howell (Michigan) Nature Center.  I’ve done a stint as township clerk and I’ve worked as a short and long-term substitute teacher and high school math tutor, including SAT prep.”  Cindy writes romance in many genres – paranormal, western, contemporary, historical, erotic, sensual, gay, and menage.  Cindy is published with Carina Press, Ellora’s Cave, Total E-Bound, The Wild Rose Press, and Resplendence.

From Leslie Richardson, aka Tymber Dalton, Tessa Monroe, and Macy Largo:  “I am a classically trained writer.  By that I mean I knew 20+ years ago when I was in school that I wanted to be a writer.  I spent that time studying the art and craft of writing, reading voraciously, working as a writer of nonfiction, editing – you get the picture.  When I was in junior high and high school, romance books were Harlequin bodice rippers.  I tried one, hated it for lack of plot and cardboard characters, and from that point on, I was one of the detractors of romance books.

“I swore I’d never write romance and erotica.  But I stumbled across Undead and Unwed by MaryJanice Davidson in the bookstore – not shelved in the romance section – and after it hooked me, I learned it was classified as paranormal romance.  Wow, really?  Hmmm.  I wrote like that already.  Many of my unpublished stories had some sort of romantic element in them…but they weren’t those old bodice rippers.  I wondered, what gives?

“What gives is that in those 20+ years romance and erotica had undergone a huge metamorphosis.  People wanted plot, not just hot.  They wanted characters they could care about even when they weren’t doing the nasty and having wild monkey sex!  Okay…cool!

“I majored in English in college, with a minor in creative writing.  I had to drop out before graduation due to family circumstances, but I am not an uneducated person. I write stories I’d enjoy reading, characters I’d like to read about.  I try to be as realistic as possible.  Some readers enjoy this approach, some just want hot monkey sex.  That’s fine because there’s a flavor for everyone.

“People read romance and erotica as a diversion.  It doesn’t matter what their educational level is or what they do for a living.  Reading romance doesn’t make them stupid.  My reading interests range from Jen Cole and Rick R. Reed, to Stephen King, James Lee Burke and Tim Dorsey, to Hemingway and Shakespeare.  And everything in between!  I read what interests me.  I write what interests me – romance and erotica, horror, mysteries and YA.

“You don’t have to have a reading list full of high-brow titles to be a smart person.  Don’t the smartest people broaden their horizons and view the world around them in its entirety?  They certainly don’t limit themselves or exclude certain genres just because they think it’s beneath them.

“Do I like all romance out there?  No.  But does any mainstream reader like every choice laid before them?  Of course not.

“Writing isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am.  I am a writer.  I wrote before I was fortunate to be able to make a living at it, and I’d keep doing it as a hobby even if I couldn’t get paid for it.  I want to have fun with what I’m doing.  So if someone thinks that puts me or my readers beneath them, I’d challenge them to prove to me why – beyond their personal disdain for the genre.  Prove it.  Put your money where your mouth is.  Because quite honestly, romance readers probably have a heck of a lot more fun in their lives.  I’d be willing to bet they’re less judgmental and probably more open-minded about reading choices.”

From Katalina Leon:  “For a number of reasons, my early education was very spotty.  I was dyslexic at a time when no one recognized or diagnosed dyslexia in girls.  My brother was given help in school, I was not – I was considered lazy.  The school’s solution was to stick me into a large utility closet with a desk and force me to work harder – to memorize everything.

“I dreaded being labeled stupid and I often was.  My handwriting and spelling resembled chicken scratch – and still does – but I found my hand could control a paintbrush or drawing pencil perfectly, so I taught myself what I could and set my sights on becoming an artist.  It was the only avenue open to me at the time.

“By the age of fourteen, I virtually dropped out of school to care for my terminally ill mother.  Soon after my older sister had a child and returned to work, so I had my mother and my nephew to care for.  I dodged truant officers for a couple of years until I could have myself legally emancipated as an adult.  All during this time, I read voraciously.  I found odd positions to sit in – hanging my head upside-down off a bunk bed – where I could concentrate and read for hours.  I read many subjects, trying my best to supplement my education.

“What does this have to do with romance?  Everything.  During this time, I denied myself the pleasure of reading a romance novel because I heard some catty women talking about how stupid they were.  Being labeled stupid yet again was the last thing I needed, so I didn’t touch a romance novel until I was thirty.

“I bought a hot book with Fabio on the cover.  Blushing, I almost ran from the bookstore in shame, but I read it, and a whole new world opened up.  I realized I loved romance novels.  These books touched me, healed me, on a level no other form of literature had ever reached.  These were books by women for women about women, and something clicked.  I dreamed about writing my own stories.  Four years ago, I mustered the courage to teach myself to type and I began to write for the first time, ever.  I was shocked at how many words I had within, waiting to pour out on the page.

“My education is on-going.  I did get help from a tutor and returned to community college as an adult.  I love working with children and being a mentor to young adults because I know how easy it is to slip through the cracks.  Our school system often overlooks smart, talented people because of superficial problems.

“In my view, romance novels are the feminine version of the mythical heroic journey.  I’m hooked.  I love romance and I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to the collective story.”

Comments from yesterday’s post that deserve repeating – from Mia Watts:  “Jessica’s role as a teacher, feminist, and supporter of romance, I find most gratifying. Perhaps it’s because of the regularly received barbs about my writing being “porn”, or the insipid little chuckles when I reveal what I do for a living. It’s amazing to me that people can be so harsh and judgmental over an industry and genre that thrives on warming the hearts of readers. We have fun doing what we do. We enjoy making readers happy. Hell, I like making ME happy, too.

“The criticism never stops. I know that it probably never will. You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see one of those naysayers sit down and create a solid, well-woven plot, that others want to read. My guess is they can’t. I’m not saying their words are about jealousy, just ignorance. Close-minded people closed the door a long time ago. It’s not my job to convince them they’re wrong. However, it IS my job to write the best damn story I can to entertain whomever is knocking on my door for more.”

And Rebecca Goings:  “I think romance is getting bigger these days because there’s so much *more* than “contemporary” and “historical” now.  Women who love to read literary fiction, who enjoyed the thin, romantic subplots within can now turn the volume to “11″ with today’s romance novels.

“Romance authors nowadays (I believe because of eBooks) are more open to the weird, strange, and exciting plot lines.  You no longer have to read about falling for your neighbor or the English rake.  Sure, those plots are still readily available.  But these days, we have the paranormal, the fantasies, the urban fantasies, historicals that go beyond England, more prevalent time travels, futuristics.

“Romance is thriving because of all it’s sub-genres.”

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