Thursday, August 30, 2007

New (gulp) cover

OK, every cover represents some artist's creative endeavor, so I'm going to do my best to be supportive and positive. :::deep breath::: Here's my December cover. Please note that Alex Gray, my hero, is actually 26, not 56, and he wears sweatshirts and jeans, mostly, not strange patchy vests that look like something out of Land of the Lost. But I was having a bad computer day when my Art Fact Sheet was due, and I completed it by phone, so I guess that's what happens....

Every cover represents some artist's creative endeavor. Every cover represents some artist's creative endeavor. I am being supportive. I support this artist's creativity. White light ... white light ...

The blurb, on the other hand, is awesome:

As an experienced search-and-rescue tracker, Alex Gray had solved his share of mysteries. But beneath his cool Lakota demeanor, Alex was running from his own dark secrets … including a traumatic family history that connected him to a killer. Now someone from his past had returned to play a deadly game. And only one woman could help him….

Sophie Brennan knew that Alex was the key to stopping the string of murders plaguing the Washington mountains. But as the authorities questioned her credibility, she had to resist the almost mystical connection she shared with Alex. For hiding in the shadows, someone was waiting to silence her whispered warnings …forever.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

About That Whole "Formula" Thing

So I was recently featured with two other local romance writers in an article written for my local newspaper, herein to be known as The Article That Shall Not Be Named or Linked To. All in all, it's not a BAD article, though there's definitely a sort of nudge-nudge-wink-wink-I-Certainly-Don't-Read-This-Stuff quality to it. I'm sure the local braintrust at the Newspaper That Shall Not Be Named or Linked To is too busy making their collective way through the Modern Library's Top 100 Works of Great Literature and developing a comprehensive plan for world peace this summer to read something for pure entertainment.

But I did want to publicly clear up a misquote in the piece about my having started writing romance "because there's a formula," as the thought of that quote sitting Out There, unanswered, is making my hair curl. And in this humidity, making my hair curl any more than it already does is just sick and wrong.

So anyway, here's the truth, which I told to said local braintrust in painstaking and carefully emphatic detail: I started THINKING about writing romance because I MISTAKENLY THOUGHT there was a "formula" that would make it easy, and I could use it as a stepping stone to writing a "real book." I know--how obnoxious. But I was quite young and I hadn't actually read a romance novel, so I was operating on the fumes of other people's stereotyped perceptions. So, my plan to rule the publishing world firmly in my head, I actually went and picked up a romance--Anyone But You, by Jennifer Crusie--and I discovered that it was a smart book; a very fun book; a book that didn't offend my feminist sensibilities in the least, but affirmed them; and a book I loved so much, I still have it on my shelf. And that's when I became a genuine fan of the genre.

That Crusie book was a great learning experience, because (and yes, I'm going to start trotting out my literature background--bear with me, I do have a point) I was just a couple years out of Boston College, where I'd gotten an M.A. in literature. At BC, I'd selected my courses so the majority of them were about women writers, and my papers were often about the "dilemma of women as artists," or, in plain, un-pedantic English, the critical response to women writers and how it impacted both their work and their careers. Needless to say, women writing about women's lives have very rarely been literary darlings, especially during their careers. Otherwise, George Sand, George Eliot, and Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell may not have found it necessary to adopt male pseudonyms--without which they may not have work that survives in print to this day.

I am NOT comparing my work to that of the Georges or the Brontes. But what I realized was that by giving in to the kneejerk, uninformed urge to look down my nose at romance, I was part of the same machine that had suppressed women's writing since women started writing. Why COULDN'T a romance novel be a good read? Why couldn't it be just as entertaining and fun and loved as a romantic film like When Harry Met Sally or Strictly Ballroom? Why was it socially acceptable to enjoy a romantic subplot in a mystery or general fiction book? Or a romance disguised as a general or women's fiction book? Or, my favorite, a "love story" (i.e. romance) with a craptacular ending written by a man?

Not everyone has to like romance--we all have different taste. I don't like tragic family sagas or cyberpunk. But slamming it just to make yourself look more well-read and intelligent? Ridiculous.

Also, there is NO FORMULA TO ROMANCE, other than the general conventions that bind any genre. For us, the story needs to focus on the growth of a relationship between two people, and we need to deliver a happy ending. End of story. End of formula.

Mystery has a formula, in that sense. Sci-fi does, too. Male "love story" writers have a formula, too--manly man of impeccable honesty meets woman, swoons, falls in love, says sappy things, and is pulled irrevocably apart from his One True Love by tragedy, often cancer.

I told all this to the author of The Article That Shall Not Be Named or Linked To, hoping that in supportive female solidarity, she would write a clever, unapologetic article about our clever, unapologetic genre.

Ah, well, at least we were upgraded from authors of "bodice rippers" to "pulp romance."

For a more respectful and accurate interview (although I was feeling a little snarkier than usual when I answered the questions), see my friend Rich Dansky's website. Rich writes the stories for Red Storm Entertainment video games, including the Tom Clancy tie-ins, and he's an accomplished horror novelist.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

La Cucaracha

Thanks to Sharron McClellan for pointing this out. Check out her video here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What Cracked Me Up Today

(Hi, Jen. No, I'm not dead. I'm just in deadline prugatory between work and books, and Something Had to Give, namely this blog. I'll be back blogging soon, I promise--even though I've been a bit of a blog slug all year.)

So today while I was reading the news online, I saw a brief article about the Australian spotted jellyfish, which has recently been migrating far north and is invading the Gulf of Mexico, where it is threatening to utterly disrupt the already fragile ecosystem by gorging its little jelly self on fish eggs and shrimp larvae. Curious as to how undulating hordes of Australian spotted jellyfish got this far north--and wondering whether global warming was to blame--I read on, and discovered that it's been traveling long distances not by blobbing pleasantly along across thousands of miles in that signature, soothing jellyfish way, but by slurping itself to the side of ships and hitching a ride to Mexican waters.

Now an article that talks about invasive species, ecosystem disruption, and the decimation of entire industries--in this case, Gulf fishing and shrimping--would hardly be amusing to most people, and I daresay, it wasn't to me. But then I started reading the commentary that AOL so thoughtfully allows readers the space to provide. Generally, I avoid AOL news commentary, because much of it is either batcrap crazy or grossly intolerant, racist, homophobic, and all kinds of offensive.

But underneath today's jellyfish invasion story was this little gem:

Oh No! The Jellyfish are comming[sic]! REPENT SINNERS, REPENT! Your [sic] gonna be at the beach, fornicating (or whatever you sinners do) and you'r [sic] gonna look up, and BAM! everyones [sic] gone! RAAAAAPPPPPTUUUUREEEEE!

Yes, it's childish and ignorant, but it made me laugh, so there.

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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