Links: Kirkus Recommendations, Cover WTFery, and Canadian Bears

Book Suddenly Last Summer

It's Friday (or early Saturday if you're on the other side of ye olde date line), and I have a collection of links to things that I hope you'll find interesting – or thought provoking. Possibly scary. 

I'm over at Kirkus this week, recommending two books for your immediate reading needs:

Whether your reading tastes vary during the summer or are pretty consistent throughout the calendar—and I'm definitely of the latter reading group—the books we enjoy most when we're trying to relax seem to have all the warmth of good weather without the biting pain and lasting irritation of mosquito bites.

So here are two warm, wonderful, and just plain lovely books to try this month:

Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan

I love Morgan's writing, and whenever I'm recommending Harlequin Presents, I always mention hers. This is her second single-title romance for HQN, and I happily recommend those, too.

As I noted earlier today, the first book in that series, Sleigh Bells in the Snow, is $1.99 this weekend, too. You know, if you have some romance purchase needs. 

Danielle Summers wrote about the Chicago North Spring Fling for The Rumpus, regarding how romance writing is a feminist act: 

But by far, the ultimate act of feminist defiance by romance writers is that they don’t care whether the literary establishment gives them respect or not.

“As romance writers you bring happiness to people. Never apologize for what you do,” said Mary Balogh, a keynote speaker at the conference and the author of nearly 100 novels and novellas set in 19th century Regency England. (Some of these books have hit the New York Times bestseller list.) She then urged the audience to “have the courage to take yourself seriously.”

None of the speakers at the event, including Balogh, said anything about asking anyone else to take them seriously or to give them respect or anything else. The literary establishment can snicker all it wants. Romance writers have readers. They do what they love.

I attended the Spring Fling, and moderated on a panel with Mary Balogh. She is an unequivocal badass as a speaker. 

Kindle Unlimited has been opened for reader types for a 30 day free trial.  One click (oooh, so easy) and you have access to a rather large selection of books, though the romance selection is mostly self-published, plus Kensington and Sourcebooks titles.

Angie James pointed out on Twitter that selecting a book to read from the KUn program triggers a discount on the audiobook purchase – which is pretty spiffy. I'm not entirely sure I'd subscribe for $10 a month. What do you think?

Wax statue of Jane Austen - she looks beautifulI linked to this on Twitter but realized I'd never posted it here. (Ooops). The Guardian reported that a new wax statue of Jane Austen had been created using descriptions of her from the written accounts of her contemporaries:

The Jane Austen Centre claims to have drawn on forensic techniques and eye-witness accounts to create the closest ever likeness of the Pride and Prejudice novelist.

Their waxwork went on display at the centre in Bath on Wednesday morning. It has taken three years to create, with forensic artist Melissa Dring taking as her starting point the sketch done by Austen's sister Cassandra in 1810, the only accepted portrait of the writer other than an 1870 adaptation of that picture. She then used contemporary eyewitness descriptions of the novelist to come up with her own likeness.

I am fascinated by this statue, particularly how well done and vibrant it is. It looks as if she's about to speak or smile or something. 

Photograph credit: Alastair Johnstone/SWNS.COM/SWNS.COM

Ally aka Bliss Undone's adventures continue at The Chatsfield, and her adventures get more saucy, too. (I wrote Ally's character, and in doing so completely screwed up my ability to recognize recognise recognize – ARGH- which words have Zs and which have Ss in American spelling.)

 

I thought this article in the New York Times was fascinating: writers explain how playing Dungeons & Dragons was influential in their creative process:

When he was an immigrant boy growing up in New Jersey, the writer Junot Díaz said he felt marginalized. But that feeling was dispelled somewhat in 1981 when he was in sixth grade. He and his buddies, adventuring pals with roots in distant realms — Egypt, Ireland, Cuba and the Dominican Republic — became “totally sucked in,” he said, by a “completely radical concept: role-playing,” in the form of Dungeons & Dragons.

Playing D&D and spinning tales of heroic quests, “we welfare kids could travel,” Mr. Díaz, 45, said in an email interview, “have adventures, succeed, be powerful, triumph, fail and be in ways that would have been impossible in the larger real world.”

“For nerds like us, D&D hit like an extra horizon,” he added. The game functioned as “a sort of storytelling apprenticeship.”

Now the much-played and much-mocked Dungeons & Dragons, the first commercially available role-playing game, has turned 40….

For certain writers, especially those raised in the 1970s and ’80s, all that time spent in basements has paid off. D&D helped jump-start their creative lives. As Mr. Díaz said, “It’s been a formative narrative media for all sorts of writers.”

I was not a D&D player, though I remember hanging out with a bunch of people when I was in high school who were very into role playing games, and listening to them was fascinating stuff (especially when they argued). Did you play D&D? Do you think it influenced you as a creative person?

Bother. I can't find who sent me this link, but someone completely awesome sent me this link to Loads of Women Running From Houses: The Gothic Romance Paperback

What exactly is the “women running from houses” genre?  I’m glad you asked.  It refers to Gothic romance novels (generally paperback) which WITHOUT EXCEPTION pictured a woman running from a house on the cover.  It’s really a bit insane when you think about it: for several decades an entire genre (a quite popular one at that) featured the exact same cover with very little variation.

The endless line of cover after cover featuring a woman running away from a house is hilarious – and also so true. I can think of at least three books on my shelf growing up (and also now) that feature that motif. 

This link, sent to me by Gry, is very thought provoking and disturbing: Photographs of People Lying in 7 Days Worth of Their Trash.

The United States has a trash problem. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces more than 4 pounds of garbage per day. That’s more than double the amount produced in 1960, and it’s 50 percent more than the amount produced by Western Europeans. In January, photographer Gregg Segal decided to put some imagery to those numbers. His ongoing series, “7 Days of Garbage,” shows Californian friends, neighbors, and relative strangers lying in the trash they created in one week

This is something I think about frequently, given that in the area in which I live, recycling options are limited and most plastic goes into the trash. I'm fascinated by how different countries and even smaller communities manage their refuse. I wonder if there's a documentary about trash practices worldwide. I'd watch the hell out of that. 

And finally: bear romance. This went viral, justifiably so, and if you missed it, well, enjoy. And O Canada, thank you. So much. MWAH. 

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The Link-O-Lator

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  1. 1
    pamelia says:

    Had to look up “Bear” on Amazon— great reviews (11 of them) and it won the Governor Generals Award in 1976.  Wowza.  Not sure about that one.  Guess it’s considered…you know… LITERATURE.

  2. 2
    SusanS says:

    I grew up on the “woman fleeing from horrifying house” books too.  I think the first one was Victoria Holt’s Mistress of Mellyn.  At least the women had heads and faces on these covers!  When we look back 20 years from now all we’ll have is decapitated women in pretty dresses.

  3. 3
    GHN says:

    SusanS – don’t forget the pile of books featuring decapitated male torsos!

  4. 4
    jimthered says:

    D&D (and subsequent role-playing games) certainly spurs imagination.  If you’re the Dungeon Master/Game master (DM/GM), you have to create (or, if using a pre-made adventure, read) a whole world for the players that keeps them knowledgable, engaged, and interested.  If you’re a player, you not only get to choose what your character has, but also what they do, to advance the adventure and their personal goals.  (Plus, a lot of DMs/GMs will give bonuses or rewards for players who actively describe or enact their actions, instead of just saying “I roll on X skill.”)  And all this is done almost exclusively through dice, pencils and paper, and the spoken word.  (Folks can use props—from fake items to music—but they don’t substitute for the participants’ actions.)

    Anyone interested in telling a story should play a role-playing game, to hone their skills and learn to adjust to unexpected events.  It’s very useful.

  5. 5
    Nita says:

    I already have an e-book service that beats Kindle Unlimited: my local library. Free, folks! Overdrive and 3M Cloud equals a happy reader. Is there a wait sometimes? Sure. But I can be patient.

  6. 6

    There was quite the bit of amused snickering in SF/Fdom at that Austen statue and its suspicious resemblance to Mary Robinette Kowal. :D

    Enough that Ms. Kowal is insisting she is not a Time Lord, and that her father does NOT own a Delorean:

    http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/answer-questions-time-lord/
    http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/also-father-definitely-delorean/

  7. 7
    roserita says:

      I well remember the gothic period; in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve read a lot of those books.  It was about the same time that mass market paperbacks really took off.  A lot of perfectly respectable (hardback) authors has their books reprinted and rebranded as gothics.  Margaret Erskine wrote British mysteries in the classic mode, and the hardback covers reflected that.  The paperbacks that I’ve found have all been “gothicized.”  And Elsie Lee’s heroines, bless their hearts, were more likely to confront and confound the villain than to flee.  They were very kickass for their time.

  8. 8
    Miranda says:

    I was in the same D&D campaign for over 10 years. It was one long, endless story, and it was great. It can definitely stimulate the imagination.

  9. 9

    I’m a complete nerd, so I did roleplay well into my uhh well I think I generally stopped in 2010? :)

    Also, the women running from houses killed me. It should be women in dressed, running from houses. I thought that the one 5 rows down with the Farrah-hair was rocking a bitchin’ halter-pantsuit, but on closer look… it’s a dress, just caught in the running. Either that, or it’s inexplicably got a train in the back.

  10. 10
    kkw says:

    I played D&D. Mostly I played AD&D. Sorry, nerd joke. See, the original…doesn’t matter. The point is I’m old. And nerdy. And happy about it. Anyway, I don’t know if it made me more creative, or if I was drawn to it as a creative outlet.

    One of the (many) other things I am totally a nerd about is composting. The trash problem is insane in NYC.

  11. 11
    Karen H near Tampa says:

    Romance reading is also a feminist act.  The most important thing I took away from reading “Dangerous Men, Adventurous Women” (edited by Jayne Ann Krentz) is that the heroine always wins, and what is more feminist than that?  I enjoyed Danielle’s article and definitely agreed with her.  I am proud to read and enjoy romance novels and never hide it because doing so would be a disservice to myself and the authors who write such wonderful stories.  I don’t hide the covers either because I’m a healthy female and very much appreciate the male body and I actually think flaunting the covers is even more of a feminist act as I refuse to obey someone else’s rules about what is appropriate for me.

    Thanks once again, Sarah, for all you do to keep this site up and interesting and worth looking at every day (as I do).  And now I step down from my soapbox.  Oh, and while definitely a computer nerd, D&D came after I was already married and working and no longer had time for those kinds of involving games, so I never played it.

  12. 12
    Barb in Maryland says:

    I will confess up front that I am older than dirt (why, yes, I qualify for Medicare—i.e., I’m over 65).  So the gothic covers feature just totally cracked me up!  Thanks for the trip back to my high school years(mid-‘60s).
    I always called them ‘women in nightgowns running from candle-lit windows’ books.

    There were great authors—Victoria Holt, Phylis Whitney, Jane Aiken Hodge, Barbara Michaels, Mary Stewart, and then there were these guys—actually—who are these guys??!?!

  13. 13

    And oh yes, on the topic of D&D—I TOTALLY come from a gaming background, but oddly enough, I’ve played very little actual D&D. Most of the tabletop RPGs I’ve played were much lower profile than D&D was, though I did play in one game briefly. A LOT of my familiarity with D&D lore comes out of, of all things, playing the computer game Nethack, which relies upon a lot of the classic D&D monsters for its combat.

    RPGs in general though, they’re a HUGE influence on me as a writer. I have a very long history of participating in online roleplaying games, and after doing that for several years I eventually started posting logs of my characters’ adventures on my website. I’d write intros for them to try to tie them together into a cohesive narrative, and people started telling me my roleplay read like novels.

    So I started shifting over to writing novels, which, at the end of the day, is what I wanted to do in the first place. :D But to this day I often feel like my writing is essentially the product of a bunch of characters roleplaying stuff out in my head. You’d think this wouldn’t be surprising to me, since all the characters are in my head, so you’d think I’d know in advance what they’re doing. A good bit of the time, though, I don’t—and a character will hit me out of left field and go “okay, I’m doing THIS now.”

    But that said I also greatly miss active roleplay environments, whether they be tabletop gaming like D&D or online multiplayer games like the ones I used to play. There’s a certain dynamic feel to roleplaying with other people’s characters in real-time that you don’t get when you’re the writer in charge of an entire cast of characters and what they’re all doing.

  14. 14
    LauraL says:

    Like Nita, I take advantage of the free e-book service from the county library. I can wait for a book that would cost me $14.99 to one-click. Lately, though, some of the books are not offered as Kindle eBooks which has me considering getting another reader. Something I’d never thought I would say. I looked at the Kindle Unlimited selections and am considering the free trial. I wish it was part of Amazon Prime….

    Seeing Mary Balogh speak is on my reader bucket list. I love her books and really enjoy her Facebook posts.

  15. 15
    Susan says:

    Great links.  I especially enjoyed the trip down memory lane with the Gothic book covers since I, like SusanS and Barb in Maryland, grew up with them.  I’m sure I still have a few in storage that have survived the purges.

  16. 16
    Gail says:

    It’s not about world wide trash practices, but Waste Land is a fascinating documentary about Vik Muniz’s artistic collaboration with trash pickers in Rio de Janeiro. It’s worth watching the hell out of, and is on Netflix streaming

  17. 17
    Celia Marsh says:

    As a reader, I think KU is awesome, and they would so totally lose money on me.  As a (sf short story) writer with writer friends, I think it’s terrifying.  I’m with the library peoples—I may have to wait, but I can deal with that, and I know the author is getting paid for the book.  Kindle’s plan, I don’t know that they are, and I’m intensely curious to find out what those details are.

  18. 18

    That BEAR book = wow. And it has a quote from Margaret Laurence on the back plus it won the Governor General’s Award. Hmmm. I might need to read this, (especially since I’m Canadian), though it is quite expensive on Kobo.

  19. 19
    Alice in Nova Scotia says:

    As a Nova Scotia Canadian words fail me regarding the “Bear” book, so all I can say is: sorry, eh?

  20. 20

    The plot thickens: modern-day Jane Austen-lookalike is writing fantasy “Jane Austen with magic” books… (I highly rec the books, btw.)

    http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/07/jane-austen-mary-robinette-kowal

  21. 21
    SB Sarah says:

    @Angela:

    Oh my GOSH. I hadn’t noticed that at all, seeing as I’ve only met Mary Robinette Kowal once at RT this year but YES IT DOES OH THAT IS FUNNY.

    I wonder if Jim C. Hines could borrow WaxJane for cover poses? WITH MARY?

  22. 22

    Mother-in-law is Canadian former bookstore owner, and gives us many of the Governor General Award books. I think I will ask in three weeks when we visit if she has BEAR!

    (Seriously. Cannot. Stop. Laughing.)

    And re romance and pride in reading it: people are constantly left without words when they hear that I write romances. They often ask “Why do you do that?” or “What made you choose romance?” and my answer is always “Because I read them. Since I was twelve.” You can actually see the completely opposing parts of their brain trying to connect… their opinion of me, and their opinion of romance … 80% of people are just confused and unable to comprehend, and their face shows that their brain ground to a halt. The other 20% confess that they read romance too and I end up giving them book recs. Yay!

  23. 23
    Robyn Bachar says:

    Did you play D&D? Do you think it influenced you as a creative person?

    YES. All caps serious. Gaming was a huge influence on my writing. I was that gamer who wrote 20-page character backgrounds. But inevitably I’d roll a 1 at a critical moment in the game and my character would die. I wanted complete control over the story. As an author I can make my characters walk down the 10 by 10 stone corridor with a minimum amount of complaints on their part, and they only fail rolls when I want them to. ;)

  24. 24
    donna marie says:

    Um, why is Harlequin taking the rap for Bear? It very clearly says

    A Bantam Seal Book

    . Is Harlequin now just a generic term people use to infer bad romance novel? Because Harlequin wouldn’t have published this, they have better taste.

    Canada, I weep for you.

  25. 25
    LaineyT says:

    Wow! 
    @ donna marie …Admittedly, I had a WTF moment when I initially read the blog post regarding “Bear”.  This was the first I’d heard about Marian Engel’s “Bear” but then, in ‘76, I would have been too young for this to have been on my radar.  However, from the bits of information about the author and the book reviews I subsequently found online (as a Canadian myself, I just had to dig further!) it sounds like there is a great deal more to this short novel than “bear-erotica”.  Also the article below provides a brief glimpse into the career of a woman who seems to have been pretty kick-ass to me!  So, I hope you’ll agree, even if you’ve read, but didn’t like the book, there’s no need to weep. :) 

    http://hpcanpub.mcmaster.ca/case-study/marian-engel-life-writing

  26. 26
    Katie Lynn says:

    About the trash thing, I am endlessly surprised when I go to other people’s houses and see what they throw away. Between three grown adults in my house we have maaaayybe 2-3 bags of garbage by trash day. The recycling bin, however, is always full.

    As for kindle Unlimited, I have considered it in the past few days, but with the addition of the kindle download option at the library I mostly read library books. I also subscribe to several email alert systems that tell me about free or cheap ebooks in genres I like (riffle and bookbub, if anyone is interested), and have found several authors I now buy books by that I would not have otherwise considered spending money on.

  27. 27
    Stacey IK says:

    About the trash, my hometown recycles and does a pretty good job.  We have curbside recycling that is easy to do.  Now, when I go visit other people who don’t have recycling, I am flummoxed about what to do with my recyclables.  I kind of stand there dumbly by the trashcan with my plastic whatnot and can’t seem to put it in the trash.  “Um, you don’t recycle?!”

  28. 28
    Sarita says:

    An excellent link collection!

    @Robyn Bachar: What you describe sounds so familiar :P

    I got introduced to D&D as a young child by my Dad (he admitted later that he used to ignore most of the rules when he DM’d for us) and then in my teens graduated into the uber-nerdary that is LARP. Whitewolf, not boffer. These distinctions are very important. To LARPers. So while most of my classmates were sneaking into frat parties, I spent my friday nights with a gang of folks pretending to be vampires, or werewolves, or sometimes fairies. It was awesome.

    I ran one for over a year (werewolves), with over thirty players at it’s height. I learned a ton from the experience. Definitely collaboration, and how to weave together other people’s ideas on the fly. I also learned how to facilitate creative planning sessions by running ‘staff’ meetings. I learned some things about conflict mediation, because folks get super serious about what happens to their werewolves. I learned how to accept feedback with grace, sort out the useful bits and let the rest go. Running a game is kind of incredible, you get this instant (often harsh) feedback from your audience. I think it also influenced me as a writer to think of stories in terms of characters + a handful of key plot points, and the rest is flexible. I don’t feel the same anguish some writers describe in the editing process, because I can always think of several alternatives for how a scene goes. It’s settling on one that’s hard ;)

    I have to admit, I still play a bit when I get the chance. Though none of my usual gang has had the time to run a full on LARP in years.

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