So yesterday…no wait…today, I woke up at 2 a.m. Pacific Time and it is now 8 p.m. Pacific Time.  In five days, I’ve managed maybe a total of eight hours of sleep – but it’s been fun, ladies and gents!  I’m like, slap-happy!

Okay – so many many thanks to the people who helped promote the release of Pushing Her Boundaries – Rachel Firasek at A Possessed WIP, the ladies over at The 100 Romances Project, and Lindsay at Lindsay’s Romantics.  And Amber Skyzes is promoting Pushing Her Boundaries.  Check it out!

Susi, at The Geeky Bookworm, already has a sweet sweet review out.  Here’s a taste:  “Pushing Her Boundaries was an entertaining and fun read with a real touch to it. I loved the characters enjoyed the setting and I will always be grateful that I won’t ever go canoeing again (different story but same conclusion). A great read you don’t want to miss.”

I also received this wonderful review on the Siren site from Angela Claire:  “Mace and Maggie meet in an airport lounge and it’s annoyance at first sight. Maggie thinks the pretentious doctor with the cell phone glued to his ear is obnoxious. Mace thinks the uptight girl eavesdropping on him is inexplicably hostile. Of course they both think the other one is hot. When it turns out Mace’s brother is marrying Maggie’s sister, the two antagonists are thrown together and annoyance turns to attraction turns to something deeper. I thoroughly enjoyed this light-hearted romp and would highly recommend it. The verbal interplay between Mace and Maggie is amusing and the love scenes are edge-of-your-seat sexy.”

What else???  Tuesday I’m over at Night Writers talking about plums.  Yes, you heard me, plums.  No, not that kind!  Get your minds out of the gutter!

Tomorrow – Who did Julia sit next to on the flight from Baltimore to Denver?  Hmmmm?

***New Reviews Today:  From Penelope

“When I heard Julia had penned an erotic story using this experience as inspiration, I couldn’t wait to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, but it surprised me. It was only loosely based on her experience, and the conflict and resolution between the hero and heroine were quite different from the experience she had with her husband. The truth is, I suspect, Julia realized the severity of this situation would be a perfect back-drop for two people just getting to know each other…just beginning to fall in love. Nothing will reveal your true nature quite like a near-death experience. The harsh and unforgiving circumstances of this canoe trip show what Mace and Maggie are made of.”

From Basia’s Bookshelf:

“We come to the portion of the review where I speak about the sexiness because I take one for the team that way and read those parts carefully.  There was a lot of sexiness.  And it was red-hot, indoors, outdoors and on one occasion, involved some dominance and the use of butter.  I’m from the dairy state.  I’m not sure we sanction the use of butter for that purpose, but at that point, I was all for it.”

The Secret Success of Romance – Part Two.

Romance Readers and Reviewers Are More Than the Sum of Their Parts.

Anybody remember the woman dubbed Miss Lonely Heart in the Alfred Hitchcock uber-classic, Rear Window?  I’m thinking of the scene where she dresses up, paints her face, sets the table, pours a glass of wine for an imaginary beau, even carries on an imaginary conversation before she bursts into tears and collapses over the table.  I’m guessing that Miss Lonely Heart fits the public perception of a woman who reads romance – alone, isolated, depressed, even suicidal without love and companionship.  Therefore she’s a sucker for a bodice ripper.  To quote Marlon Brando (Stanley Kowalski is memorable even if he’s not a particularly admirable character) in A Streetcar Named Desire“And do you know what I say?  Ha!  Ha!  Do you hear me?  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!”

For your reading pleasure, in their own words, I bring you intelligent women who not only like to read romance and it’s various sub-genres, they like to discuss it.

Jessica Tripler, of Read React Review – “I’m a philosophy professor who discovered romance novels in 2007. I was on vacation, shortly after earning tenure, and I realized I actually had time to read a novel. For fun. So I ran into a drugstore in Orlando, Florida and grabbed the first book that looked interesting. It was J.R. Ward’s Lover Revealed, Butch’s story. I could not put it down, so of course, I had to read the other books in the series. Then I moved on to Christine Feehan and Sherrilyn Kenyon. Then to historical romance, and then contemporary, and then erotic romance, and finally m/m.

“I teach feminist theory, and my view of these books and their readers was heavily influenced by feminist critiques of the 1970s which held that there is basically one romance novel being written over and over, and that the women who read them are alienated from their true self-interest by the capitalist patriarchy. I learned pretty quickly that the romance genre is very very diverse and constantly changing and evolving. I have come to have tremendous respect for romance writers, and I believe their work is unfairly marginalized, both because they are women and because they write about romantic love. I’m proud to be a member of the romance community, a complex community of varying ages, races, socioeconomic status, genders, sexual orientations, and educational levels. Ironically, the romance community is way more diverse and inclusive than any feminist philosophy conference I have ever attended.

“In the space of three years, I went from being pretty secretive about my romance reading to having a blog, and including romance novels in the courses I teach. Far from thinking romance novels are in tension with my feminist commitments, I now think reading and talking about them is part of my commitment. Although I have moved into reviewing, researching and teaching romance, just plain reading them is my favorite thing to do. I am finding new authors and books I love practically every day. It’s the best hobby I’ve ever had!”

Susi, who blogs on both The Geeky Bookworm and Book Lovers, Inc., is a post graduate student in engineering.  She lives in Germany.  “Yes, I love the romance genre with all my heart, but unfortunately loving romance doesn’t pay the bills so I have an actual life outside of the romance blogland. I’m studying Civil Engineering at the University for Applied Science in Magdeburg, Germany. At the moment, I’m completing my internship semester, spending most of my time planning the construction of roads and sewers and calculating the enormous costs for the actual construction of those. I love this work and I’m one hundred percent certain I will love this job later – actually creating something that will help the community. Building something that will stand for years is a really heady feeling. Yes, I admit it, I’m a geek and I’m really good with numbers and with physics in general. I can talk about a physics problem with my boyfriend for hours and yes, we talk about this stuff at family parties. In a year I will be done with the University and hopefully I’ll find my own way and perhaps start my own little company, but romance will remain my first love – it has all the emotion my real life job is missing so it’s a great balance to the numbers and figures I must focus on.”

Stephanie, who blogs and reviews on her creative site, Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust, is another academic with a yard-long resume. She’s also an artist and she is deeply involved in charitable organizations.  Her primary focus  is Paranormal Romance, but her tastes are quite eclectic so you can find a variety of genres reviewed on her site.  “I approach blogging about romance as a business. I love it, so it may be the one thing I do that never feels like a job. Volunteering has lately eclipsed painting as I am the first dedicated website administrator for the Junior League. Once I’ve gotten that website under control, I plan to start another blog and resume painting.

“I would like to leave a mark on the world through my volunteer work. Every child we help, every family we feed – that is how I will make a difference in this world. I’m also involved in preserving history. Understanding our past provides us with a way to understand our present. I’m involved with The Tate House Museum. If one person makes an informed decision because of the program I worked on, I will have achieved one of my goals.”  (Does Stephanie fit the profile of Miss Lonely Heart? Nah…I don’t think so!)

Penelope of Penelope Loves to Read is one more academic.  She labels herself a big science nerd. Her resume includes an article in The Journal of Marine BiologyNitrate Reductase Activity in Zosteria Marina, and a chapter in a textbook, Integrated Pest Management for Turfgrass and Ornamentals, entitled Fate of Pesticides in the Turfgrass Environment.  “My undergraduate degree, from Vassar College, is in biology. I concentrated on botany and ecology. My masters degree, from Cornell, is in horticultural science and plant taxonomy. My research at Cornell focused on the fate of turf-applied pesticides in the environment. I have had lots of cool plant-centric jobs, including volunteer jobs at the Shaker Museum in Enfield, New Hampshire – also working on the organic gardens there – as well as recently working at the Margaret Ferguson Greenhouses at Wellesley College, helping with their education program.

“I taught physical science and biology to middle schoolers and coached field hockey, basketball and lacrosse for many years too. I never even read a romance novel until I was in my thirties. Then I became obsessed with reading them, writing them, and reviewing them. I guess I have an obsessive personality!”

TJ at Dreams and Speculation rounds out the guest list.  I can personally attest to the fact that she is a pragmatic and plain spoken young woman with an enormous hunger for speculative fiction and sub-genres of romance.  “First and foremost, I’m a passionate student. I study English with a minor in history at a University of California campus, and I’ll be in law school next fall. I’m also a blogger who spouts my opinions about speculative fiction over at my blog, Dreams and Speculation. I’m a lot of things – I’m a wife, I was a soldier in the army. By nature or experience, I’ve become a very straight-forward person dedicated to my own individual path.

“Frankly, when I’m reading fiction, I want to read stories that remember there’s no one way of living or thinking. I guess that makes me a picky reader. In fact, I think if any of my friends saw my name on a list of fans of romance, they’d probably scoff or laugh. I can understand the reaction because I am such a picky reader. Most of the time my reading generally falls under the Speculative Fiction umbrella – science fiction, fantasy, horror, graphic novels, so my encounters with romance fall under one of those genres. For example, I read fantasy/romance, Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series or Connie Willis’ To Say Nothing of the Dog, or the odd paranormal romance – Marta Acosta’s Happy Hour at Casa Dracula. Any one of those stories has kept me enthralled and impressed me so incredibly that they’ve received some of the highest ratings at my blog. However, for every book I’ve rated highly, there have been others I’ve whined and complained about, and, well, that’s why my friends would laugh at me for being called a fan of romance.

“But I don’t think that tells the full story. After all, I haven’t read To Say Nothing of the Dog in about a year and I can still quote the most romantic line in the book:  “And he kissed her for a hundred and sixty-nine years.” Very few protagonists rouse the affection and admiration I have for Graceling‘s Katsa or her lover, Po (Kristin Cashore).

“Then what is it that makes me, an admittedly picky reader, have such strong reactions? Well, I don’t want to read a romance that has no basis whatsoever in reality. I do not want the same old fairy tales or happy endings. Personally I want to read stories where the hero and heroine feel real, no matter how fantastic the setting. I’m particularly enamored of  female protagonists who don’t just follow the social commandment that says your life goal is to fall in love and make babies. That’s not fair to women because it’s not what every one of us wants. I could go on and on about romance because it’s the genre I’ve grappled with most – both for good and bad. In the end, I may be a critic of how romance is often portrayed, but it’s lovingly done because I know how powerful the genre can be.”

A New Year…A Damn Fine New Look…

I decided I needed a new look for 2011 and Lex Valentine was happy to provide it.  Not only did she design and install the header, she spent New Years Day teaching me how to maintain my own site.  Thanks, Lex!  I love the new look!

So how do you like these apples?  A photo of our sunny hike on Friday morning juxtaposed with a photo of our hike on this flooded Sunday morning – we’ve had some major rain out here in Norcal, but Friday morning (the morning of New Years Eve) was gorgeous – and then it snowed on New Years Eve.  I couldn’t believe it!  We went to a party – one of the first we’ve ever been invited to because we are such recluses – and we drove home in a mini snowstorm.  Too bad it melted before it hit the ground!

For those of you who’ve signed up for my newsletter, thanks. I’ll be sending it out this week.  I’m a little late because of the holidays.  I’ll be running another contest – Don’t know what the prize is yet.  Guess you’ll find out when I do.  :)

I’m pointing you in the direction of Sweet Vernal Zephyr. Miranda posted a sweet review of Captured.  And to The Geeky Bookworm.  Susi chose Anytime Darlin’ as one of her top ten reads of the year.  Wow!  It’s sort of amazing to see my little book in such august company.

My current reads?

In ebook, Nice Package, by Katalina Leon.

In print, Generations of Winter, by Vassily Aksynov.

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

The Great Thing About Blogging!

Meeting new people.

Have you been watching the World Cup?  I have, along with Susi, The Geeky Bookworm, over in Berlin, Germany!  We’ve watched together, screamed, hooted and hollered, and cheered over google chat.  It’s been great!  Well…except for the United States losing, that is.  Susi and I agree that the vuvuzelas have to go.

Speaking of Germany, an author contacted me about my post on the true identity of Will Shakespeare entitled, The Dark Lady.  Lev Raphael left me this erudite comment regarding the article I quoted:

“It’s a lovely fantasy, but Reform Judaism’s editors should have been more thorough and done some fact checking.  Bassano Lanier was not a Jew, first  of all.  Her mother wasn’t, and there’s no proof whatsoever that her father was.  As for the rest of the story, it’s a lovely fantasy constructed out of half-facts and suppositions and starts from a false premise: Shakespeare couldn’t have written the plays.  This premise took root in the mid 1800s, more than two hundred years after Shakespeare died. That should give people pause.
Interested readers should check out James Shapiro’s “Contested Will,” Irvin Matus’s “Shakespeare in Fact,” and

Mr. Raphael is the author of My Germany.  He’ll be speaking in Berlin this fall.
Watch an excerpt of the book at:

Yes, I’d like to think that Shakespeare was a woman – it’s a very romantic notion, ah well…

Thanks to the blog hop, I’ve met some great new book bloggers, like Steph at Fangs, Wands and Fairy Dust.  We’ve been discussing True Blood.

And today I was thrilled to find a new-to-me site, (it’s a long story), Kelly and Five Agents and a Funeral – a name I find hilarious!

News:  Little by little, I’m doing better.  I’m no longer crying all the time.  I can’t wait to see the puppies, but that won’t be until we get back from ten days in Montana – leaving on Friday.  Author Stacey Espino has had a great week with her new release, Saving Grace.  I think she’s like, um, numero uno over at Siren.  I’m sending many positive thoughts to my friends, authors Regina Carlysle and Paris Brandon who’ve faced some tough personal challenges lately.  All right, going to bed, night.