It sounds like the setup to a joke: a werewolf, a vampire, and a ghost all move in together . . .
Except, it’s really the pitch to a new BBC television series, Being Human. And what’s more, it’s not a comedy. It’s a down-and-dirty urban fantasy that’s quite dark — and quite welcome. Deena and I stumbled across it a couple weeks ago while cruising through the free on-demand offerings of our cable TV provider. (Readers take note: yes, I actually just paid a compliment to Comcast. It won’t happen again, I promise.)
Mitchell is a rockstar-looking vampire who dates back to WW1. He’s made a momentous decision: no longer will he prey upon humans. Except he’s having a hard time fighting his impulses, and, in a bit of poetic justice, is being stalked by the woman he recently turned into a vampire. The local vampire population, headed by a creepy police officer with a thing for hot chocolate, wants to recruit Mitchell into a brewing conspiracy against the humans.
George is an emotional, dorky werewolf. He and Mitchell both work as low-level nurses at the hospital. And like Mitchell, he was turned into a supernatural creature against his will and isn’t too comfortable in his own skin. His biggest problem, as far as I can tell from the first two episodes, is finding a decent place to transform during the full moon. Doing it at home tends to break all the furniture.
And finally, recently deceased Annie has found herself in a world where no one can see or hear her, and where she’s doomed to spend eternity wearing the same ugly gray sweater. She’s insecure and still pines after her old boyfriend. However, now that she’s found she can interact with the physical world, she compulsively makes cups of tea for her roommates.
Yes, I said roommates. You see, these three characters have all decided to move in together into Annie’s old townhouse. (Mitchell and George can see the ghost.) Post-move is where we find ourselves in episode #1. Apparently, an unaired pilot episode with different actors explains how they wound up in this situation.
In its first two episodes, Being Human suffers from a bit of first-draftitis, mainly in its inability to establish clear, understandable rules for its supernatural world. Vampires can walk in daylight, but there’s still some stray dialogue that confuses the issue. The ghost can’t be seen by anyone except for other supernaturals, and, for some reason, the pizza delivery boy. Things like that. But what’s important, the characters and their “humanity,” have been well established in an interesting and compelling way.
It’s worth watching. I’ll be looking forward to this weekend, when the next episode will air on BBC America . . . and then right after that, I’ll tune into HBO for that other addictive urban fantasy series, True Blood.
Yes, I sure am carelessly throwing that “urban fantasy” term around, aren’t I? Tor just released an interesting press release about this sub-genre that raises as many questions as it answers. But I’m starting to get a feel for the landscape. Right now I’m plowing through Carrie Vaughn’s excellent series about a werewolf who hosts a late-night call-in radio program for the supernatural population. The first novel is Kitty and the Midnight Hour and was a fast, enjoyable read.
Deena’s official due date is tomorrow, so it’s kind of a horror enthusiast’s requirement that we spent tonight viewing The Unborn. It’s a horror movie about a woman haunted by her twin, who died while they were in utero.
This movie started off well with good acting, cinematography, and soundtrack. It also had some neat scenes with ghost hauntings, like when the main character wakes up (in a dream, of course) to find herself pinned to her ceiling as she watches her ghost brother assault a mirror image of herself by ripping a big hole in her uterus and thrusting his hands into it. It did become a little tiresome, however, when the sound level tripled during the monster-jump-out-at-you moments. Also, some of the “red shirt” characters became predictable, meaning it was perfectly obvious when someone was going to get killed.
But I can forgive little flaws like this. The unforgivable sin is when a story just stops making any fucking sense. Here are Deena’s and my questions. Anyone who has seen this movie, would you please enlighten us with the answers:
1. If the dybbuk can possess anyone he wants, and if possession is his goal, then why does he even bother with terrorizing Casey?
2. Since it is proven he can possess anyone he wants, why not just possess her unborn baby . . . the end?
3. Where the hell is her father during all this when everyone is dropping like flies around her?
4. When the dybbuk possesses the pastor, why does the pastor want so badly to kill the boyfriend and her? Likewise, when the dybbuk later possesses the boyfriend, why does he want to kill Casey? If it is his goal is to possess her unborn babies, then he shouldn’t want any harm to come to her.
5. How did the exorcism finally work when it clearly didn’t have any effect at the beginning and when they skipped the whole middle of the ritual?
6. How on Earth could having a twin who died when she was in utero suddenly cause Casey’s eye color to change when she is an adult? Her doctor acted like this was a perfectly normal thing — and for some unexplained reason acted like it was a threat to her health — so obviously the sudden eye color change did not have a supernatural cause.
And finally, 7., Are we the only people who think that the actress’s resemblance to Jennifer Connelly must have played a role in her getting this part? And, goddammit, why utilize Gary Oldman if he’s only going to be a minor character? I mean, Jesus Christ, give him his wand back or something.
The hell business does a horror writer have at a romance writers convention? Plenty, if you want to reach a wider readership. I don’t know if it’s because males are devolving into a bunch of illiterate, Xbox-playing coach potatoes (I know I am), but there are sure a lot more female than male readers these days. Romance titles represent about 13 percent of all books sold.
So, I thought it a wise decision to write what I believed was a “paranormal romance” novel because that subgenre co-opts many of the trappings of horror. Much wiser, however, was the decision to attend the annual conference of the Romance Writers of America this week. I say that because there I learned that my novel isn’t “paranormal romance” at all.
More on that in a moment. First, let me tell you about the convention itself.
I’ve been going to conventions for about nine years, and I think this is the best-run one I’ve attended. Immediately upon arriving at the Marriott in Washington, DC, I received a goodie bag loaded with free books (complete with a huge ad for Harlequin on the side that made me feel pretty self-conscious on the subway, let me tell you), a 56-page glossy conference brochure, and a flash drive containing all the handouts from the workshops. The lariat for my ID badge came in a durable canvas carry case (I won’t say purse) complete with pockets for business cards and pens.
Of the estimated 3,000 attendees, there were about three men. So it was no surprise that most of the men’s bathrooms were converted into women’s bathrooms by means of hand-lettered signs outside and table cloths draped over the urinals inside. At the first-timers orientation Wednesday night — attended by some 500 women — the speaker gleefully said, “You can tell the men that now they know how we feel when we go to a stadium ballgame.” By the way, they had a door-prize drawing at that meeting for pink soap. Guess who won the soap. Yep.
The convention provided breakfast and lunch on two days. The food was excellent and served by an army of waiters. I ate in ballrooms so large that images of the keynote speakers had to be redisplayed on large-screen TVs throughout the space. The speakers included several bestselling authors such as Janet Evanovich, Linda Howard, and Eloisa James. And of course every time I sat down at one of these functions, I had to move aside the mountain of free books waiting for me. I enjoyed the talks very much. I can just tell by her covers that Eloisa James isn’t my cup of tea, but she sure is an excellent speaker, and the same goes for Janet Evanovich. It’s inspirational to hear that somebody so successful used to be right where I am: clawing my way up, dealing with rejection and self doubt, and every day digging down to the find the courage to soldier on. Evanovich admitted to once giving up on writing after years of dealing with rejection, only to finally receive her first acceptance months later.
If I’m counting right, there were 145 workshops or discussion panels within three days. Most were taped and will be available later on CD-ROM and for download. I could always find the right conference rooms thanks to plenty of maps, volunteers, and signs. The topics were all the usual stuff I’ve been hearing for years at conventions, but a couple panels stood out. First was the one on genre distinctions where I had the revelation that my manuscript isn’t a paranormal romance title after all but an “urban fantasy,” of which examples are True Blood (based on Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Although there’s some crossover, there are important differences at work. They have separate agents, publishing imprints, and shelving categories. They also have different reader expectations. For instance, it’s okay for the hero and heroine not to have sex within the first hundred pages of an urban fantasy story. For a paranormal romance, it’s not so okay. I’m not going to say much more about the genre theory right now because obviously I’m not an expert on it. What’s important is that I’ve found a new target niche for my writing, and now I’m aware of a whole group of other writers whom I now need to read.
The other workshop I especially enjoyed was where writers were invited to hand in the first two pages of their novels to have them judged on the spot by a panel of Harlequin editors. Two of the editors’ pet peeves are having a character’s full name within the opening few words of the novel (“That’s valuable real estate,” they said; “Is that really your most important piece of information?”), and having the opening scene be the protagonist driving somewhere, by herself, thinking about stuff. I guess these peeves go in the same category as having your protagonist look at herself in the mirror so she can describe herself. In an hour, they didn’t have time to get to my submission, but I think I learned enough to guess what they would have said.
Another thing that set this convention apart were the editor-agent pitch meetings. A sea of individual conference tables — one per agent or editor — filled a huge, Artic-temperature basement. Two sign-in desks regulated writers checking in for appointments and writers hoping to sign up for appointments. The pitch meetings lasted for two days, ten minutes each. I knew on Friday that I had an agent appointment at 9:20 a.m. Saturday, and damned if it didn’t start precisely at that time. At 9:10, an organizer lined up the 9:20 appointments in the corner, arranging us into three lines and telling us exactly where to stand based on whom we were meeting. Most of us laughed and felt like we were in the Marines. At 9:20, an announcer told us to start the next appointments, and we hurried to our tables. Fortunately, I had an excellent appointment.
“So, your hero and heroine don’t have sex until the end of the story,” the agent told me. “That’s a problem for a romance title.”
“But this is urban fantasy.”
“Oh, okay. That’s fine then.”
She asked me to email her the first ten pages and a synopsis. “I hope they’re good pages!”
I answered, “So do I.”
Being a man at a romance writers conference certainly made me stand out, but it was a welcome ice-breaker because I truly didn’t know a soul beforehand. I now have a handful of business cards, plans to upgrade my membership, and some new friends. One of the funnier exchanges came on Friday night at the bar. I asked a group of women why, in every romance novel I’ve read, the author seems to think it’s so important to describe a character’s eye color. It seems so cliched to talk about someone’s amber eyes flashing, or hooded eyes, or even brown or blue eyes doing this or that. I mean, who gives a shit? When I meet someone new, I’m not looking at their eye color. It’s the smallest thing about their appearance. I’m noticing body build, clothing, hair style, mannerisms, and personality.
After saying this, I sure found myself noticing these women’s eyes because they were rolling them. They laughed and said they simply could not believe I didn’t feel eye color is important. “If you’re going to write for women, you need to write about eye color,” they said, and all but appended this with, “moron!”
I wrapped up the conference by attending a panel on time management. I’ve always thought I have excellent organizational skills, but with a baby on the way (Deena thankfully didn’t give birth this week), I know my skills will have to be sharp. So it’s good that this conference gave me a swift kick in the butt at just the right time. It reminded me that writing is more important to me than playing with the Xbox and that if I want to be a successful writer, then I have to treat it like any other job.
My local newspaper served up another nugget of mental poop this morning, this time in the form of Erika Lassen’s column, Sexy ads limit my freedoms. The cusp is a recent Calvin Klein billboard in New York City. I assume it’s this one (described in the linked article as showing “two young men and a young woman entangled half-clothed (a male and female kissing) as a third man lays at their feet, either undressing or putting his pants back on”), although Lassen doesn’t say.
So sayeth the Brigham Young University graduate: “It was cheap pornography.” Well, actually it’s not. I’m going to go out on a limb here without researching the New York City code, but I would guess that a billboard meeting the legal definition of pornography could not have been posted or would very soon be coming down. But let’s not confuse matters with facts; it certainly didn’t stop the writer.
Proceeding from the invalid assumption that it’s pornography, Lassen writes, “An interesting thing happens when pornography is viewed. Like a leech, it clings to the brain. The image pops up in our minds at rather random, unexpected times.” Oh, really? Are you generalizing about how the populace reacts to pornography based on your own, apparently limited, experience? I’ll also venture to say that this assumption is statistically faulty. But again let’s not muddle things with actual evidence. It might undermine your thesis.
“And now I will need to force the image out whenever it springs on me,” she writes. “Calvin Klein’s freedom of speech has effectively infringed upon my freedoms.”
This is patently ridiculous. Causing something to pop into your mind at random, unexpected times is not freedom-infringing mind control, Ms. Lassen. It’s called advertising, and that experience is very much the point of it. And now you go so far as to hold Calvin Klein responsible for your thoughts? And because you are unable to control your own thoughts and/or repressed urges, Calvin Klein has infringed upon your freedom? Your freedom of what? Thought, I suppose. Just exactly where in the Constitution does it say you have freedom of thought and that a commercial retailer is responsible for preserving it?
Please, for the sake of all that is sane, take responsibility for your own thoughts. Stop blaming others for causing your thoughts to go to unexpected places at random times. If an advertiser had that much power to affect you, then good for it; such is always the effect I hope to have on people with my own creations. If seeing a sexy billboard advertisement — or even reading something — that challenges your narrow world view causes you to ponder things, then consider yourself lucky. It means you have a mind. Exercising that mind is perhaps the greatest freedom you have.
Last night, some friends who are also entreprenuers here in Staunton asked if we’re going to take a “baby moon” before our tyke is born in August. “A what?” we answered. A baby moon — sort of like a honeymoon, but it’s when expectant parents go on a trip as their last hurrah before the baby is born. Because, you know, our lives are supposed to end once the baby is here.
We said no, no baby moon, but we are making an effort to sate our appetites for things that we know will be difficult for the first few years after we cross over into the parenting universe. We’ve been eating out a lot, for instance, and are about to head down to Nashville to a convention where we’re both guests. And we’re seeing a shit load of movies. Some are great, some are okay.
A great movie was The Watchmen. Of course it was so long that I think my bladder ruptured, but it was surprising for a superhero movie, at least to me. Here we have your typical tale of men in tights in a place where cliched rain comes down constantly, especially when they’re fighting. You can’t shake a stick at a movie theater these days without pointing out some shlock where people fight in the rain — that, or where something blows up behind them while they walk casually away, or where they leap headfirst away from an exploding something or other. . . . But I digress. I loved Watchmen. It was mature. The characters were complex. There were gray moral issues instead of just black and white ones. And it wasn’t wall-to-wall action; they actually had a few slow moments to allow us to take a breath, which has the effect of making the action all that more memorable. The story was also morally ambiguous in some ways: you have to give kudos to a movie that has the balls to show a pregnant woman getting blown away in during the Vietnam War. (Well, okay, maybe there’s nothing morally ambiguous about that part. But there were some morally ambiguous moments elsewhere. Really, really there were!)
I also liked Terminator Salvation a great deal although a majority of people seem to think it was dreadful crap. It reminded me a lot of the first Mad Max movie, and I thought it had a good story. Its one, glaring flaw, that I could see, came when the terminators in the Skynet concentration camp/factory didn’t blow away Kyle Reese the instant they identified him. There was nothing in the movie that indicated Skynet didn’t know that Reese was going to be John Connor’s father, else why were they looking for him? Still, I don’t understand why the movie is so widely hated. Maybe people are reacting to the radical departure in format from the previous movies: no Arnold this time, no time travel, no futuristic robot in a modern setting — rather, lots of futuristic robots in a futuristic setting.
I didn’t see it until after it left the theater, but I also liked The Curious Case of Benjamin Button very much, although again it was a bladder-buster. (Glad I saw it at home.) It was a sentimental, unusual, and well done story, unmuddled by a sound track that got in the way. The only real objection I had to it was when Benjamin just up decides that he can’t be a father to his daughter and abandons his family. That was completely out of character for him. Up until then, he had always been depicted as a devoted family man and somebody in complete acceptance of his condition — and that everyone around him was in acceptance of his condition. It just didn’t make logical sense that he would suddenly take off. Maybe the writers needed him to do that in order to satisfy their outline — a cardinal sin of storytelling. Or maybe they finally realized the movie was getting too long and so had to compress part of his life. Whatever, it was a stupid plot development. The rest of the movie was great, though.
Other new movies I saw and enjoyed were Dragonball, Wolverine, and the new Star Trek. Sure, I can understand why purists had problems with Dragonball and Star Trek: “Go-Ku’s hair isn’t long enough, and they changed his backstory so that he’s not a Saiyan!” “But the Enterprise was constructed in orbit; not on the ground!” Again, whatever. (And for what it’s worth, all perceived continuity problems in Star Trek can be explained by the Romulan’s time travel, which altered the subsequent time line in big and small ways.) They were all still fun movies. The only problem I had, again, was shared by Star Trek, Wolverine, and the aforementioned Terminator Salvation: there was so much, nonstop action, that we never had a chance to catch a breath. As Richard Nixon once said, you can’t appreciate the heights until you’ve experienced the lows. Bad rock music has the same problem: a lack of dynamics.
And please, please, can we stop with the handheld, herky-jerky camera work? If I wanted that level of amateurishness, I’d download the stuff off of my own camcorder. A failure to keep the camera steady does not enhance the experience. It only calls attention to the cinematography, kind of like a writer who’s unable to write a dialogue tag without an adverb. Get out of the way, Mr. Director. You’re ruining the illusion of being there.
Anyway, the baby moon continues. In the meantime, I’m curious to hear what other people think of this summer’s selection.
So, Deena and I finally watched the season finale of LOST last night on ABC’s website. And I know I’m committing blasphemy to the legions of LOST fans by saying this, but this just ain’t the best show on television.
I watch it for the occasional flashes of brilliance when something truly powerful happens between the characters — like when Ben’s daughter was shot, or when Kate and Sawyer finally did the dirty in the bear cage. I’m less appreciative of the Rubik’s Cube nature of the story, of it being some type of puzzle to be solved. To enjoy a puzzle, one needs faith in the creators that there eventually will be a payoff, that things will make sense, that there is a master plan. I’m not all that convinced that a master plan exists in this show, or if one does, that it makes a whole hell of a lot of sense.
Two things particularly irk me about this show:
The first is the non-chronological nature of the storytelling. The show is loaded with flashbacks and flashforwards — this on top of a story with time travel — which interrupt the telling of the story. The story has become so confusing that they frequently have to have retrospective episodes where a narrator rehashes the events of the past season — in a more or less chronological fashion — just so you’re not as lost as the characters. The plotting of LOST looks like a train track assembled by a dyslexic meth addict.
Worse, the flashbacks are sometimes dropped in like Band-Aids whenever the writers need to give a character a motivation. For example, in Wednesday’s episode, the writers needed to explain Juliette’s inexplicable change of heart about whether to support Jack in his plan to detonate an H-bomb. So, out of nowhere, they show a flashback of her as a girl, learning that her parents are getting a divorce. Her parents said something like, “Even if you love each other, it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be together.” This memory of hers is then used to contrive her motivation for helping Jack, because she’s suddenly decided she’s not supposed to be together with Sawyer, and she repeats that line to Sawyer.
The second thing that bugs me, as you’ve probably guessed, is the characters’ frequent and unexplained changes of motivation. In that same scene where Juliette’s support for Jack has suddenly changed, Kate’s has also — for no reason that I can tell other than that she’s going along with the pack. Why, for instance, did Ben save Locke from suicide and then suddenly turn around and strangle him? In a subsequent episode, he vaguely gave a reason for this, but it didn’t entirely make sense (nor could I have believed him if he did make sense because he’s been well established as a compulsive liar). Jack is the worst character for motivations that shift in the wind. In the early seasons, getting off the island was all he wanted, and then later he’s a drunken fool going around to his friends, yelling, “We have to go back!” — a motivation supposedly brought about just because he’s learned Locke has died. And then, once they’re back on the island, he starts telling people, “We don’t belong here!”
Well, thank God for the people at the Shocklines message board, who have insightfully theorized about some of the larger things of the show. The current theory is that Jacob and the other dude from the beginning of Wednesday’s episode are two Egyptian gods who are using the islanders as pawns in their machinations against each other. One of them apparently has the ability to shape-shift — perhaps into the Smoke Monster — which, if true, explains a lot of things in retrospect. . . . But I ask you, is it right to wait so many seasons for anything to have a shred of sense?
God, why am I watching this show?
And . . . when does the next season begin? I need to mark my calendar.
[copied from my old Myspace blog]
The book for this year’s NEA Big Read is The Maltese Falcon, written by Dashiell Hammett in the 1920s. The local Augusta County Library in Fishersville, VA, has folks giving daily readings from the book, and I’ll be reading/performing chapter 16 on March 23 at noon.
So guess it’s about time I read the book, huh?
I finished it yesterday while lying on the couch, trying not to die from a head cold. And I must say that, while it was entertaining, I found it challenging on several levels, and not necessarily in a good way. There was, of course, the immense cultural baggage that accompanies a seminal book like this–all the decades of film and TV adaptations, the way it really established hard-boiled noir mystery fiction, as far as I know–so it was impossible to read the book and not think I was watching a black-and-white movie from the ’40s starring Humphrey Bogart. After awhile, I stopped trying. But that wasn’t Dashiell Hammett’s fault.
What was Dashiell Hammett’s “fault,” if any fault is to be assigned, is that he constructed a thoroughly dislikable character in Samuel Spade. Up to the very last page, I found nothing redeeming about him. Spade’s actions and words, quite consistently, showed that he valued one thing and one thing only: money. He wasn’t motivated by respect for the law, nor love, nor loyalty. At the end, he did say something about feeling obligated to investigate the murder of his partner, whom he didn’t like, just because he’d been his partner, but if that was the case, then it didn’t really come out in the story until that point.
I guess what I’m getting at is that one of the gold standards in judging the power of any story is whether the characters have been changed by the story. It’s a simple matter of character arc: was Samuel Spade a different person at the end than he was at the beginning? Because let’s face it: if a character isn’t changed by the story, then this must not have been a particularly significant episode of the character’s life, so we as the readers have no particular reason for reading the story. And on that criterion, I have to say about Samuel Spade that I’m not sure if he changed, and probably not. In the last chapter, Brigid O’Shaughnessy challenges Spade with a question: Do you love me? “Maybe I do,” he answers. “What of it?” He goes on to say that he won’t “play the sap for you” and makes it clear that he’s perfectly willing to sell her out to the cops because he doesn’t want to go down for her crimes. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is about all the character arc that I can detect. Spade might love her, he might not, but that doesn’t change who he is. He’s looking out for number one. Oh, and that other woman whom he’s been sleeping with, the wife of his dead partner? For God’s sake, Effie, keep her out of my office. Not now.
All that being said, perhaps The Maltese Falcon was a success for the very reasons I’ve cited above. It certainly got me thinking. It certainly elicited an emotional reaction in me, and, to the author’s credit, the emotional reaction had more to do with the story and characters than it did with how he writes. (It’s not often that we encounter a novel written entirely in the third-person objective viewpoint, in which we never get inside of character’s thoughts and have to figure it all out for ourselves, kind of like watching a movie or a play.) And in the final judgment, that’s really the most important thing about a book: did it reach the reader in some way? Did it affect the reader on some level? Did it entertain him, piss him off, or change the reader in any way?
In answer to that, the best I can say is to parrot Spade. Maybe it did.
[copied from my old Myspace blog]
The Augusta Free Press recently printed an interview of me and Beth Massie talking about the state of publishing. Here’s how it opens:
Horror Authors Talk about Ups, Downs in Business
by Chris Graham (11/27/07)
I go into any discussion of the book industry presuming that sales are down, down, down, reader interest is even worse, the prospects for improvement are dead in the water. And then I talk to my friend the horror author Matthew Warner, and I start to get depressed.
“I’m trying to break into the paranormal-romance genre, and I’m working on a manuscript there – and that’s only because I think there’s better money in it,” Warner told me.
That, I hope, explains my glum feelings – that my friend the horror author Matthew Warner is aspiring to be my friend the paranormal-romance author Matthew Warner.
His books make it so that I have to sleep with the lights on at night – and he’s thinking of jumping ship?
“Horror’s going away,” said Warner, who relocated to Staunton a couple of years ago from Northern Virginia. “There’s not as many bookstores using horror as a label, and I’m kind of tired of fighting against the whole perceptions of the genre. I get up and give speeches and give talks at libraries and in schools, and I’m realizing that they’re all running along the lines of apologias. And I said to myself, Everybody understands romance, and they’re buying that up.”
Yep, I really said it. You can read the article here.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the horror genre. (And when you see the title of my next book, currently in negotiation, you’ll realize how much.) It’s just that I recognize there are market forces at work in publishing that are beyond my control.
That’s not to say I won’t continue writing about horrific things. As I stated later in the article, I think there’s room in the paranormal romance (PNR) subgenre of romance for people like me because it’s making use of the tools and symbols I’m already conversant with, like vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and demons. The only hurdle preventing many of us from crossing over is a largely psychological one, painted with the following words: “I’m a guy. You kidding? I can’t write that stuff.”
It’s a hurdle I don’t think is in my path. I have a PNR manuscript in the works, yes, and I intend to sell it to a PNR publisher one day. And I’m also putting my money where my mouth is: reading in the genre I’d like to write in, titles like Angela Knight’s strange, genre-mixing Master of Swords (Berkley), which I enjoyed a great deal, and Lynn Viehl’s If Angels Burn (Signet), which I also enjoyed and which I maintain is indistinguishable from a horror novel except for the label on the spine. It all runs the gamut of subject matter, like I said, and I look forward to seeing where I might fit in.
I also gagged on Mary Lyons’s The Playboy’s Baby (Harlequin Presents), which was the source of my negative comment about Harlequin in the article. Yes, that comment was unfair of me, so I wish to put it into context. Harlequin wasn’t the problem; it was that one awful book.
I’ve read other Harlequin novels I’ve thought were fine, by the way. It’s just that this one really hit the gag reflex. And truthfully–although I don’t expect anyone to believe me when I say it–I didn’t dislike the book because the millionaire tycoon’s name was Matthew Warner (really my reason for picking it up). It was because of passages like this one:
‘For God’s sake!’ he breathed thickly, his hands sweeping erotically over her trembling figure. ‘Are you really asking me to stop making love to you?’ (p30)
I mean, every page was like that. We’re told no fewer than three times by this point that he has “hooded” eyes. Lots of heavy breathing and trembling and exclamation points dripping off the page in torrents of purple saccharin. I would go on, but I’m afraid Mary Lyons would launch a ballistic missile at me from across the Atlantic.
So, anyway, that’s full disclosure. I’m not jumping the horror ship, just whistling at other cruise lines. Because ultimately, it’s all about finding readers, and if nearly 27% of all books sold are romance, then someone like me would do well to scratch his chin and think hard about the lay of the land.