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Over 13,000 Dead In China Quakes…

Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Posted in: World tragedy

This is just so horrific, and in the wake of Myanmar too.

DUJIANGYAN, China (Reuters) – The death toll in China’s earthquake climbed past 13,000 on Tuesday and looked set to rise much higher after media said some 19,000 people were buried in rubble in just one area.

Rain and severed roads hampered rescuers in the mountainous area near the epicentre of Monday’s 7.9-magnitude quake in the southwestern province of Sichuan, China’s worst earthquake in three decades.

State media reported devastation as troops reached stricken villages near the epicentre in Wenchuan, a remote county cut off by landslides about 100 km (60 miles) northwest of the provincial capital, Chengdu.

Officials announced late on Tuesday that 500 Wenchuan residents were confirmed dead, Xinhua news agency reported. But the toll there and elsewhere is likely to soar.

Thirty People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops arrived at Wenchuan’s Yingxiu township and rescued 300 residents, Xinhua said. But only 2,000 were found alive in the town of 12,000, according to a local official.

“They could hear people under the debris calling for help but no one could, because there were no professional rescue teams,” state television quoted the official He Biao as saying.

About 60,000 people were unaccounted for across Wenchuan.

“What we most need is medicine. There is no medicine, there are no doctors and after such a long time, no food,” He said.

In a school of 850 students in Qingchuan County, Sichuan, 90 were killed and another 191 were missing, a local official told Xinhua.

A further 18,645 people were buried under debris in the city of Mianyang, Xinhua said.

All those poor people. So many families will be left devastated for years to come after this. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

For those who can’t remember, or weren’t around, basically, Millenia wrote a book called The Great Pretender. The characters in the book were white. The original cover didn’t feature people on it, and it sold so well (it was a self-pubbed book), that Penguin came a calling.

When the folks at Penguin found out that Millenia was black, they tried to market The Great Pretender as an African American book, and ended up putting two black characters on the front cover of the book, which was absurd because her characters were white. But the worst thing was, they tried to do this, contrary to Millenia’s wishes.

Millenia argued that being categorised as an AA author, would limit her sales potential, as her book would be shelved in the AA literature section, rather than the general lit section. Penguin ignored her, so she was left with no other choice, but to sue.

Lots of people had lots of things to say about Millenia trying to sue Penguin, including that f*cktard Ed Champion, who tried to help matters along by muddying the waters.

I blogged about this issue at the time, and Millenia was kind enough to take part in my Racism In Publishing interviews.

Anyway, the matter has now been resolved, after two long years.

Millenia writes:

So I always dreamed of being like Jackie Collins or Danielle Steel. Of having a career that had nothing to do with my color, everything to do with my stories.

I dreamed of reaching an audience so large that I, too, would one day sell over 400-500 million novels. Or over 300 million, like Sidney Sheldon. Or over 200 million, like Nora Roberts. Or (even) over 70 million, like Sandra Brown. My dream was sooo bright; as bright as the sun itself. I always believed it was attainable. Sink or swim…

I thought there was an equal opportunity.

But despite the current atmosphere, I still have a great deal of faith in the American publishing industry. I am an American. And I believe we can repair the hurtful, Jim Crowesque climate that plagues American publishing. We must. For as Eckhart Tolle carefully explains in A NEW EARTH: What we do to others, we do to ourselves…

I maintain confidence that my stories will find their way into the American mainstream, where they belong. Like any other, they deserve to have a fair chance in the marketplace, don’t they? Unfettered by any “color-of-the-author” impositions?…

The Discrimination Lawsuit.
I’ve received several inquiries about the status. I’m very pleased to share that the matter has now been resolved to my satisfaction through an agreement, the terms of which can never be discussed.

In the interest of my blog’s archival integrity, I fully disclose that all previous discussions about the case have been removed. There will be no further information about the lawsuit on my blog. I’m extremely happy to have this heartbreak behind me – I give beaucoup thanks to my wonderful attorney. And I likewise send a deep, heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who offered their unwavering support. I’ll remember it always.

Well that’s just great and very timely, considering the recent racism in romance posts.

Well done Millenia, you took a stand for many, and you came out victorious.

Via Monica’s blog.

I never thought I’d find a book that could make me blush like a virgin in a whorehouse, but that was before I read Opal Carew’s Swing.

Lacey Alexander’s Keywest was the hottest erotic romance book I’d come across previously, but I have to say, even she was wildly outdone by Ms Carew.

I’d read one of her e-books from Loose-Id, written as Elizabeth Batten Carew, and I’d actually liked her voice, so I went onto her website to look for her backlist. Unfortunately for Ms Carew, most of her older books are published with New Concepts Publishing, and seeing as I have no interest in purchasing anything from them, I had to order one of her St Martin’s Press books, instead.

Anyway, this is the blurb on the back cover of Swing:

Melissa’s friend Shane asked her to accompany him on a business trip to an exclusive resort, but the Sweet Surrender is no ordinary vacation spot – it’s for men and and women who swing.

As Melissa mingles with the other guests and discovers the resort’s fantasy rooms, she’s tempted to explore her naughty side and live out her most sinful fantasies – but she isn’t prepared for the storm of desire that awaits her.

Melissa soon finds herself torn between two men, one of her oldest friends, and a handsome stranger who belongs to another. Both men bring her the most exquisite pleasure, but which man will win her heart?

In terms of eroticism, this book had everything. And I mean everything.

There was exhibitionism, voyeurism, menage sex, group sex, sex in public (several times) anal sex, and light bondage. In fact, you name a staple erotic romance theme, and you’d have found it in Swing. All it needed was some vampires, wolfies, and dragons with a fetish for humans, and you’d have had the whole ER kit and kaboodle.

Now, by rights I should have hated this book, I mean, I wasn’t even convinced that the hero and heroine were in love in the end, I just felt that they fell in lust at first sight, but you know what, that was fine by me.

This book had a really high SQ (sex quotient) even for an erotic romance, but I have to say, the scenes were well written, and I never got the urge to go and scrub myself clean. Which was a nice change, seeing as the past few ER books I’ve read, have either bored me silly, or made me long for a cleansing bath.

Anyway, needless to say, if you prefer for your romance to be sweet, then for the love of god, do not go anywhere near this book. The sex scenes alone, would probably cause you to go into some kind of anaphylactic shock.

For those of you however, who love your erotic romance on the sizzling side, you can purchase Swing, from Amazon UK by clicking here, or from Amazon.com, by clicking here.

One of the most painfully ignorant comments that I’ve come across in a while comes from a girl called Shannon, over at the SB’s site, where Sarah has a racism in romance post up.

Shannon writes:

OK, I might just be pulling this all out of my ass, and sorry if I offend anyone, but I’m just throwing down some of the random thoughts I’ve been having as I read comments.

Does anyone think that the reason only 20% of black women get married is a cultural thing? Because from what I’ve seen of “hop hop” culture (admittedly not a whole lot), it seems that promiscuity in men is glorified a great deal, and women who are willing to wear skimpy clothing and shake their ass, etc etc are the ideal. So those two things together there, if its a widespread cultural thing (and it seems to be in my school, which is possible Whitest School Ever yet still manages to bring that over), then could that be part of the issue? All those bad standards and behaviors that arent conductive toward happy monogamous relationships keep getting reinforced as positive?

Oh dear. What are these schools teaching their students?

Marriage is a cultural phenomenon?

Promiscuity in black men is glorified?

Black women who shake their asses and can dance are the ideal, yet the aforementioned behaviours are considered negative as far as marriage is concerned?

Hip-hop is to blame for the lack of monagomous, happy marriages amongst black people?

Sigh. There was more:

Also, I found the comment about romances with black characters reinforcing negative black female stereotypes interesting. Historically, IIRC, it was always black male sexuality that was feared (with good reason, there be some damn good looking black men) by white men. So could this be a case now of white women fearing black female sexuality? There is always this idea in people I’ve talked to and media I’ve seen that black women are just more sensual and sexual (not in a bad way), better dancers, better lovers, and yeah, more wild in bed…but is that necessarily a bad thing? To me it seems like black women got a reputation for things that arent necessarily bad, and maybe white women felt threatened by that.

To be fair, I think she feels as if she’s being politically correct, and saying the ‘right’ things, but she exposes her ignorance with her words.

She continues:

And just wondering here, but why is there this idea that it is mostly black men who are gay, adulterous, felons, etc etc? Seems to me that it isnt race that makes you any of those things, its personal choice.

Not only has she suggested that being gay is a personal choice, but that it’s on par with being a criminal. I have to say, I really didn’t realise that it’s mostly black men who are gay. That shit’s news to me.

I have a feeling she’s very young, and just doesn’t know any better, but still…

Tomorrow, I’m going to highlight one of the most clear-cut examples of ignorance that I’ve come across in a while, but today, I want to highlight a comment from the SB’s racism in romance thread, that really made me think, and depressed me at the same time.

This is an excerpt from Trumystique’s thought-provoking post:

…However, I am heartsick by the silence around this issue. Granted its been talked about for many years without a lot of action. Maybe its all invisible action and what we see is the tip of the iceberg. I hope so but I dont think so. I have been really sick about this Marcotte issue (just this horrible nauseau in my stomach– Hilary’s comments last week just sent me over the top) and I have felt this at many times. Its like someone you think is your friend and is working with you reveals she’s a backstabber and doesnt care about you– she’s working for herself. Its a profound sense of betrayal.

Compound that with the fact that you are invisible in everyday life from the internet, on the bus, at work and in popular media. And I am invisible for so many reasons. People dont see me they see the stereotype. I am invisible because when people finally do see me they are like “Oh well I dont see color and you arent like other X people”.

That is what I am talking about- I need allies. I need someone who is willing to work with me and not pay lip service to working with me. Dont pat me on the head and say that sucks and keep doing what you are doing. If I tell you that this genre makes me invisible then please listen to what I am saying.

The inequality of it being possible for a white author to write about black characters and have that book shelved as “romance”, but when a black author does exactly the same the book tends to end up being marketed as “AA romance” means that to create real equality, white readers would need to support not just books written by white authors which include black characters, but also books written by black authors about black characters.

So I hear that you get what I am saying. And you are willing to be an ally. But frankly I think there needs to be a change in terminology. Romance is not Romance. For the most part I dont see myself or anyone like me in most of the romance novels on the shelves. There is nothing that is universal about Romance if it continues to silence, marginalize whole groups of people and their intimate relationships. If LaNora is a Romance author and Beverly Jenkins is a Black Romance author- there is a BIG FAT PROBLEM. Clearly is says that Jenkins is writing something different from Romance.

So we need to use different words and call it what it is. LaNora writes White Romance and so does Crusie, SEP, Laura Kinsale and most of the rest of those published in NY houses. And all the taglines on most blogs should change too. So the tagline for the SBs should change “all of the white romance and none of the bullshit”.

But I dont think anyone is going to like that proposition. So another suggestion would be to come up with an acronym to replace AA Romance. Because the term AA romance reinforces the idea that there is something essentially different about the love stories of black people. So maybe to acknowledge that it should be RwPOC. So that would be Romances with
People of Color. But again kinda lets the whitewashing of Romance off the hook. And of course my acronym doesnt speak to the fact that if romances are written by Asian women or Latina women they are shelved in the White Romance section. Hmm actually doesnt that reproduce what happens in this country when immigrants enter the US and they have been asked “Do you want to be with us or you want to be Negroes/colored/black folk?” We all know the answer to that question…

Very thought-provoking indeed.

SB Sarah posted this comment in the same thread:

One article cited featured a quote from an unnamed magazine publisher who stated that romance covers featuring Black characters in “Afrocentric styles” might make white readers uncomfortable. This same publisher said that covers without people would be preferable.

(White reader Sarah says: “What a bunch of unmitigated poppycock.”)

I think that Sarah’s dismissal of the above statement is wrong, and I said so:

I’m not sure if that statement is poppycock though Sarah. I think that a lot of white romance readers would be put off by a black couple on the cover. There are obviously exceptions, but I’m willing to bet that a high percentage of the white romance readers here have sub-consciously by-passed books that have featured black protagonists on the cover.

I still believe that one of the reasons Dorothy Koomson’s My Best Friend’s Girl sold so well, was because of the clever/subtle cover (UK version that is, the US version sucks arseholes). A lot of white readers confessed that they hadn’t realised that the heroine was black, until halfway through the book…

I think I’ve said it before, but I truly believe that even if the AA authored books were shelved in the same place as ‘regular’ romance, I still think the majority of white romance readers would not take a second look, if the cover featured black people.

I believe this to be true, and I’d really appreciate it if nobody brings up the fact that Suzanne Brockmann featured black protags or that Anne Stuart wrote an IR romance featuring an Asian hero, because they are really weak arguments.

Another argument which makes me cringe is the ‘But I’ve got nothing in common with these characters, plus they speak funny’.

It’s good to discuss the issue of racism within romance, but it saddens me that nothing ever changes.

Man United beat Wigan to claim their tenth Premiership championship in sixteen years!!

Wooo hoooo!!!!!!

I was quite prepared to not like Sugar Daddy, because I couldn’t see how Kleypas could write a great contemporary book, when I was so used to her fantastic historicals. I’m pleased to say however, that I absolutely loved it.

Here’s a rather long blurb from an Amazon Reviewer:

When awkward teenager Liberty Jones meets self-assured, loner Hardy Cates her life is changed forever. Liberty and her mother have just moved to a trailer home in Welcome, Texas. Hardy lives in the same trailer park with his mother and three siblings.

Both the Cates the Jones families don’t have much in the way of money, but their ties to their family make their lives complete. Liberty’s mother works hard to support her daughter on her own, and when she becomes pregnant, Liberty steps in to help shoulder the extra burden. Likewise, Hardy also comes from a single parent home (his father is in prison) and he works hard outside the home to provide extra income for his family.

Liberty is going through puberty when she first meets Hardy and she falls for him hard. He is her constant advocate, helping her with tests, teaching her to play basketball, helping her see her own inner and outer beauty. But Hardy wants nothing more than to one day leave the sheltered trailer park life behind him and make something of his life. He is determined to not wind up like his father and he knows that falling in love with Liberty will only make it harder for him to go. To both of their dismay, he refuses to get involved with her and he walks away from Welcome and Liberty without turning back. Shortly after, Liberty loses her mother in an accident and is left to raise her two-year-old sister alone.

Forced to act as a single mother to her sister Carrington, Liberty makes sacrifice after sacrifice to ensure they are both fed, healthy, and happy. She sets out on a career path as a hair stylist and moves with Carrington to Houston to work at a prestigious salon. Once there, she meets Churchill Travis, a successful businessman who the other stylists tell her would make a perfect “sugar daddy.” Liberty has never considered such an arrangement, but when Churchill takes a personal interest in her and offers her a live-in position as his assistant, she lets herself be swayed for the sake of her sister.

Living with Churchill will give Carrington opportunities Liberty could never afford on her own. Soon Liberty has found love, happiness, and contentment in the Travis home and things are going well. But when Hardy steps back into her life after nearly 10 years, she has to decide if she’s willing to sacrifice the happiness she’s found for the future she’d always dreamed of.

Liberty was a really likeable heroine. She went through quite a bit of hardship, including losing her mum, but she didn’t become bitter and twisted by the things that fate threw at her. I really like that quality in a heroine.

One of the other things I loved most about the book, was Liberty’s relationship with her sister, Carrington. Probably because I too have a sister who I’ve doted on since the day she was born.

Kleypas’ story-telling abilities is clear from the word go. I’m usually not a huge fan of first person POV books, but Kleypas gave Liberty such a great voice, that it was hard to find fault, in fact, I suspect it would have taken away from the story, had it been told in the third person.

Overall, a beautiful story, with a winsome heroine and fabulous secondary characters. And the heroes weren’t bad either.

If you haven’t read this story already, you really need to go buy!

By the way, that cover on the right is the UK version. I’m not sure what the cover had to do with the story, but it was infinitely preferable to the US version. What do you guys think?

“I’ve got an auction up on Ebay to help raise money for the cyclone victims and I’m trying to get the word out.

Right now, it involves a couple of ARCs, several books, but more have added, and a GC to Barnes and Noble.

It’s up on ebay thru missionfish-the charity I chose was SAVE THE CHILDREN since they already have people in the country and have had some success getting much needed supplies. And they have an excellent rep for putting their money where their mouth is- 90% of all monies received go to their programs, which is beyond excellent for a charity.

I know some people feel not doing anything might be best considering the actions of the junta and hold off waiting until that situation changes, but I don’t think letting people suffer is a viable option either if there are ways of getting help in.

From Save the Children’s 5/9 update

Westport, Conn. (May 9, 2008) — The death toll in Myanmar continues to rise as a result of Cyclone Nargis and hardships for hundreds of thousands of survivors left in its wake are increasing. With 500 staff on the ground, Save the Children has reached 72,000 people, 24,000 of whom are estimated to be children, through the distribution of food, water purification tablets, plastic sheeting for shelter and other needed supplies

And this is part of the reason why I chose them-they already have people inside the country and they seem to be a trusted by those within the country, making it easier to get help in.

So far, the auction includes

Signed copy of Private Places, historical romance anthology, not due out until 8/08 with stories by Robin Schone, Allyson James, Claudia Dain & Shiloh Walker

-The Perfect Ten, signed, donated by Janice Maynard

-The Legacy & bookmarks, signed, donated by Beth Williamson

-Hard as Nails, signed, *7/08 release* ARC donated by HelenKay Dimon

-Signed books donated by Rosemary Laurey-titles to be listed at a later date-

-Hunters: Heart and Soul, signed, by Shiloh Walker

-Hunting the Hunter, signed, by Shiloh Walker

-Hunter’s Salvation, signed, by Shiloh Walker

Recently donated but not yet listed items include books from Patrica Sargeant, Ann Jacobs, Charlene Teglia, Kate Angell & a gift card from the Brown Literary Agency for Barnes & Noble.

Anybody interested in bidding on the auction, it can be found here

Authors interested in donating can contact me shilohwalker at gmail.com”

Mills And Boon Movies On Offer…

Sunday, May 11, 2008
Posted in: Mills and Boon

Wow, The Daily Mail are giving away twelve Mills and Boon DVDs, as part of its Centenary celebrations.

The Daily Mail launches its latest DVD giveaway . . . a collection of 12 all-time favourite romantic Mills & Boon classics on DVD for you to enjoy — all ABSOLUTELY FREE. This year, Mills & Boon celebrates a century as one of the most enduringly popular brand names in publishing.

Over the past 100 years the Mills & Boon imprint has become synonymous with romantic fiction, and inside every copy of Saturday’s Daily Mail you’ll find your FREE DVD of At the Midnight Hour, starring Patsy Kensit and Simon MacCorkindale. Then, from Monday, in each day’s Daily Mail, we will be printing a voucher. Simply cut it out and take it to your local branch of Tesco or WHSmith where, in return, you will be given that day’s DVD

I’m loving the promo! (more…)

Hell’s Belles by Jackie Kessler

This is the first book by Ms Kessler that I’ve read, and also the beginning of her Hell on Earth series. I am most definitely going to be reading the rest of these books, let me tell you. For labeling purposes, we’ll call Hell’s Belles a paranormal romance with a distinct urban fantasy bent. This book and the next one, The Road to Hell, as well as a related novella, “A Hell of a Time” in the Eternal Lover anthology, are available now as trade paperbacks; Hell’s Belles is being reissued as a mass market paperback in September.

But first, the obligatory disclaimer:

People who are offended by religious parody definitely should not read further—and definitely should avoid these books.

Ms Kessler creates a wonderfully amusing and intriguing world based on demonic lore twisted in a highly entertaining way. We have best friends, old lovers, new friends, new loves, regrets, guilt, hope… The writing is so engaging I didn’t even click on the fact that the story is told in the first person until several chapters into the book.

Back cover blurb:

She’s a hot demon on the run from Hell—which isn’t easy to do in heels.
Once upon a time, Jezebel was a powerful succubus, capable of seducing men and sucking out their souls. But that was before Hell put a bounty on her head. Now her only chance to escape a fate far worse than death is to live as a mortal, losing herself in a sea of unfamiliar humanity, in a place where sinners walk hand-in-hand with saints—a place like Belle’s strip club in New York City.

Working as an exotic dancer is a piece of cake for a former demon who once specialized in sex. Taking money from men? Please. It’s like leading lawyers to the Lake of Fire. Plus the lingerie is great. But she hadn’t counted on meeting sexy Paul Hamilton, a man haunted by his past. Good-bye, succubus; hello, lovestruck. Learning all about how complicated—and pleasurable—love can be, Jezebel thinks she’s turned her back on Hell.

But Hell hasn’t stopped looking for her. The secrets Jezebel holds are the most dangerous of all, the kind every demon in the Underworld would do their worst to protect. Demons are closing in, which is enough to make Jezebel shiver in her G-string. But it’s her love for Paul that’s going to have deadly consequences…

Amazingly, I only have one tiny teeeeensie little quibble with this blurb: once upon a time is actually something like three hours before the novel starts. Not that it matters much when the story covers a handful of days total, really, but by now most of you know just how anal I really am, so there.

Anyway.

The book is structured in a way that introduces the main characters by going back and forth in the time line, and flipping between past events in Hell and current shenanigans on Earth (New York City for most of the story). Jezebel’s internal dialogue is fast and funny, and it made me like her almost from the very first page—mostly because her personality radiates from it in a way that is both hilarious and endearing.

I mean, she’s a succubus, a demon of Lust. A creature of the Pit indeed—lying, cheating, seducing and enjoying the damned’s eternal punishments are both tools of her trade and her rewards for a *cough* good *cough* job. And yet, she feels. Beyond what is prescribed for those such as she, she feels—sympathy, empathy, caring. Call it what you will, she feels, and her feelings make her different from her brethren.

So when things change in Hell, making it impossible for her to stay, where can a demon run to, to escape the hordes of Hell? (more…)

Apparently, Joseph Fritzl, locked his daughter up because she was enjoying too many nights out, according to an Austrian newspaper.

Austrian incest victim Elisabeth Fritzl was imprisoned for 24 years by her father because the then 18-year-old was reportedly enjoying too many nights out.

Shortly before she was locked in a cellar in 1984, Elisabeth wrote a series of letters to her friends, which have been published by Austrian publication the daily Oesterreich.

The notes paint a picture a normal teenager, writing about her daily life, her hobbies and a drunken night out with friends.

But her father Josef Fritzl disapproved of her social life and used it to justify locking up his outgoing daughter, another Austrian paper claimed.

“She did not obey any rules, she hung around in dodgy bars all night, drank, smoked,” he allegedly said.

“That’s why I had to provide, I had to create a place, in which I could keep Elisabeth away from the outside world, by force if I had to.

“I grew up under the Nazis, drills and discipline meant a lot at the time. I probably adopted some of this, unconsciously of course. But I’m no monster,” he said, adding that he had agonised over whether to free her.

“My situation became crazier with every week that I held my daughter captive. I considered again and again whether I should let her go or not,” he told his lawyer.

Fritzl denied the abuse had started when Elisabeth was 11. “That’s not true. I’m not a guy who abuses young children,” said Fritzl.

“It began later, much later. Not until she was ‘downstairs,'” he added. “The truth was, I wanted children with Elisabeth.

“I was happy about the kids. It was nice for me to also have a real family in the cellar, with a wife and a couple of children.”

He described the dungeon – 55m square – with no fresh air or natural light – as a typical household.

“I watched action films with them (the children) on the VCR while Elisabeth cooked our favourite dishes,” he said.

“Then we all sat down at the kitchen table and ate together.”

Fritzl said they celebrated Christmas and birthdays underground when he would sneak in Christmas trees, cakes and presents into the dungeon.

In August 1984, weeks before she vanished, Elisabeth wrote in a letter: “I like to listen to music and daydream. But if life is only made of dreams, well, I don’t know.”

She also spoke of her plans to leave home and move in with her sister after completing exams.

“When you get this letter, it will all be over. I’ll give you my new address as soon as I’ve moved,” she wrote in a letter to a friend in May that year, according to the daily Oesterreich.

It was a move she would never make – as she was forced into an underground chamber just weeks later, where she would be repeatedly raped by her father.

Isn’t it strange how people who commit such acts never feel as if they’ve done anything wrong?

I want him to suffer in prison. And I mean really suffer. If it was up to me, he’d live on bread, water, and daily beatings. Unfortunately, he’ll probably be left in solitary confinement for his own safety, living in relative luxury.

Well, isn’t this a turn up for the books? Hopefully I’m not jinxing him, but it would seem that Obama is still making headway, towards becoming the next American president.

Barack Obama took a big step toward the Democratic presidential nomination with an easy victory in North Carolina on Tuesday, and Hillary Clinton vowed to keep her struggling campaign alive after narrowly winning Indiana.

The results helped Obama widen his lead over Clinton in the gruelling Democratic duel for the right to face Republican John McCain in November’s presidential election with just six nominating contests remaining.

Both candidates looked ahead to contests next week in West Virginia and May 20 in Oregon and Kentucky, but Clinton was nearly out of opportunities to change the course of the race.

“We have seen that it’s possible to overcome the politics of division and distraction, that it’s possible to overcome the same old negative attacks that are always about scoring points and never about solving our problems,” Obama said at a victory rally in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I’ve finally decided that he would be the better leader, not Hillary. Hillary would be far too divisive, and I think that if she won the Democratic race, Old Man McCain would be the next US president by default. Mind you, the same could happen with Obama, but I’m more certain it would happen with Clinton.

I know how shallow this is, but I think it would be hard to deny that his looks would be an asset. Don’t look at me like that, why do you think Bill Clinton did so well?

One of the reasons I voted for the Conservative representative in our recent local elections, is because I really don’t want Gordon ‘I’m not fit to lick Tony Blair’s boots’ Brown to represent my country. It would be like having John Major in office again. Dull, drab, and no personality. Blair had his faults, but at least he looked like a leader.

Shallow much? Hell yeah. They’re all much of the same muchness, but I’d prefer the prettier version, over the staid crusty number cruncher anyday.

So, these past couple of weeks there has been the customary to-do about who-saw-what-done-where-and-to-whom during the last RT in Pittsburg, and who-is-reporting-what-someone-else-says-that-a-third-party-told- them-happened-there.

Here at Karen’s the discussion devolved into “old vs young” rather soon, and then it became “prudes vs sluts”. Pretty soon after there was the whole “look what trash you are letting into the romance genre!” vs “stop pretending you are all so pure, sex sells!” over at Dear Author (otherwise known as “is this what we want the professional image of the romance genre as an industry to be?”).

There have been first hand accounts of some minor and some oh-my-God-not-minor-at-all incidents where the line between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour was carelessly crossed. I’m beyond furious about the abuse Kim was subjected to, and both Lori Foster and Shiloh Walker have shared some unpleasant experiences of their own.

Of course such things can, and sadly do, happen everywhere, not just at a romance readers’ convention, as Anya Bast points out in the discussion over at Dear Author. But that is not the point, really. The point (which GrowlyCub, and Jane and Robin and a few others, made quite eloquently over there) is that some environments are more likely to beget certain behaviours than others.

So far I had felt no overwhelming reason to comment, because people with different points of view and different agendas will have different opinions and perspectives, and they are all valid (duly noted exception for criminal behaviour, of course)

Then Emmy offers this:

Hate it when people make sweeping generalizations. What is romance? Does porn have to be two strangers oofing in a one night stand? Can’t two people in a monogamous relationship who love each other deeply have hot monkey sex too? Why can’t that be romantic?

And this:

Sex, as the cliche goes, sells. If people didnt wanna see or read about smexing, there wouldnt be this whole industry out there. The only way to get the romance industry more respect is to take the romance- and any overt/covert sexual references- out of it.

And Erastes adds,

Romance is not necessarily porn. But erotica can be and is, in a lot of cases. Romance is not heterosexual monogamous marriage, either, by the way.

Huh? Color me confused here. (more…)

AztecLady sent me the link to this statement, written by a lady called Mildred Loving. It moved me beyond words.

I’ve posted the statement in its entirety, since I know how allergic to clicking on links some of you guys are:

Loving for All

By Mildred Loving*

Prepared for Delivery on June 12, 2007,
The 40th Anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Announcement

When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

We didn’t get married in Washington because we wanted to marry there. We did it there because the government wouldn’t allow us to marry back home in Virginia where we grew up, where we met, where we fell in love, and where we wanted to be together and build our family. You see, I am a woman of color and Richard was white, and at that time people believed it was okay to keep us from marrying because of their ideas of who should marry whom.

When Richard and I came back to our home in Virginia, happily married, we had no intention of battling over the law. We made a commitment to each other in our love and lives, and now had the legal commitment, called marriage, to match. Isn’t that what marriage is?

Not long after our wedding, we were awakened in the middle of the night in our own bedroom by deputy sheriffs and actually arrested for the “crime” of marrying the wrong kind of person. Our marriage certificate was hanging on the wall above the bed. The state prosecuted Richard and me, and after we were found guilty, the judge declared: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” He sentenced us to a year in prison, but offered to suspend the sentence if we left our home in Virginia for 25 years exile.

We left, and got a lawyer. Richard and I had to fight, but still were not fighting for a cause. We were fighting for our love.

Though it turned out we had to fight, happily Richard and I didn’t have to fight alone. Thanks to groups like the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund, and so many good people around the country willing to speak up, we took our case for the freedom to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And on June 12, 1967, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that, “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men,” a “basic civil right.”

My generation was bitterly divided over something that should have been so clear and right. The majority believed that what the judge said, that it was God’s plan to keep people apart, and that government should discriminate against people in love. But I have lived long enough now to see big changes. The older generation’s fears and prejudices have given way, and today’s young people realize that if someone loves someone they have a right to marry.

Surrounded as I am now by wonderful children and grandchildren, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the “wrong kind of person” for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people’s religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people’s civil rights.

I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.

It’s unimaginable to me that once upon a time, you could get thrown in jail for marrying somebody with a different skin tone to yourself. We still have a ways to go, but I do think we have come a long way from those very dark days.

The Countess Takes a Lover, by Bonnie Dee.

This is a very well executed short novel/long novella erotic romance from Samhain, set in London during the Regency (1800s). Ms Dee, who was a new-to-me writer, uses a few reliable tropes of the romance genre, but her excellent execution makes them feel fresh.

And for once, the blurb is nigh perfect!

Countess Meredith du Chevalier, a widow with a reputation for being sexually adventurous, is intrigued when she is approached by a gentleman who wishes her to “make a man” of his son. Sensing a passionate man beneath Christopher Whitby’s reserved exterior, Meredith takes on the challenge, inviting the botanist to her country home to revitalize her abandoned greenhouse.

Chris finds people to be a chaotic, animalistic species, and has chosen to devote his life to the study of plants. One kiss from the vivacious countess, however, and his inner animal is aroused. But lust is only a fraction of what he feels for the vulnerable woman hiding behind a brittle façade. He resolves to coax her to grow until her petals unfurl into glorious bloom.

To her surprise, Meredith finds Chris brings much more to life than just fallow soil. But just as their love begins to thrive, he learns about the secret arrangement. Meredith must risk her heart for the most dangerous lesson of all—love.

At a little over 130 pages, The Countess takes a Lover is, again, a bit shorter that most of the books I usually like, but the pacing is so well done as to make that just a minor quibble and not very noteworthy.

While having a wealthy society widow with a tarnished reputation as a heroine is not all that common, the fact that she was unhappy—and sexually unfulfilled—during her marriage is fairly common in romance novels indeed. In this case, Meredith wasn’t merely neglected or unhappy, but suffered true emotional and sexual abuse of increasing degree at the hands of her husband until his death. Further, her veiled cries for help to her family fell on deaf ears—and cold hearts—all of which left her deeply scarred emotionally.

However, she possesses a will strong enough to allow her to rise above this, and free herself—for the most part at least—from her past. She discovers her knack for business first, and the power of her sensuality soon enough after that, and creates a life for herself in which she is not accountable to anyone else. Of course, given her background so far, she equates this contentment with happiness. (more…)

Even though the owner still hasn’t paid the authors, the money that they are owed, OMP is still in operation. Their coming soon page, shows a release for May, by an author called ‘Essence’. You can also purchase any of the books listed on the site. Books by authors who haven’t seen a penny from the sale of their work, I suspect.

Author Crusader posted the following e-mail that she received, on her blog in March:

“Noemi is Essence and has a book with Loose id today, did you know that? She has not gone away and has books coming with Siren press too! She has not gone underground, she is still around and not paying people. She is rediculous!!! These companys know who she is but don’t care. I heard this info last year after she closed and cheated the authors. I hope you can get her!!!”

Basically Noemi is the owner of OMP and she managed to get away with sneakily closing the company down, and disappearing for months on end, without a word to her authors.

I think I’ve come across her before actually. I seem to remember that she brazenly posted an excerpt of a story she’d written on another author’s Yahoo List. I recall at the time thinking that the woman couldn’t write for toffee, and that she’d never get published. I think I said as much to the Yahoo owner. Big effing sigh.

This woman is not the kind of person you want to trust your work or your credit card with.

Talk about unscrupulous.

Let me just say, that any fool, who A, buys from Ocean’s Mist Press, and B submits to them, deserve everything they get.

Just sayin’

By the way, apparently Noemi has at least five pseudonyms, so she may have penned the majority of the books on the site herself.

Via ERECsite

Is it just me, or is Wesley Snipes’ conviction–and three years sentence–the result of a petty swipe by IRS?

See, they couldn’t get him for the big bucks–and I’m not saying he didn’t deserve to pay some, ’cause c’mon, there’s no way he didn’t know he was supposed to pay taxes. Unless he lived in a cave somewhere in the desert for a decade or so. Which, since he made a *cough* decently sized *cough* fortune with his films, we can rule out, no?

So, he knew he had to file and pay taxes, and he didn’t. Still, he’s got good lawyers, and got off on the felonies. The IRS response: three years in jail for the minor stuff.

And me, I just wonder how it makes sense to spend tax money keeping him in low security, high comfort jail for three years for *drum roll* not paying tax money to the government.

Of course, Mr Snipes is appealing the sentence, which means his lawyers get richer while the justice system spends more tax money.

If anyone can make sense of this, please edumacate me.

Dear Jeanne Sumerix, (TM Dear Author)

(Why don’t you have a decent website?)

I honestly don’t know why I continue with Genesis Press books, I really don’t. Admittedly, Rendezvous With Fate has been in my TBR pile forever, but still…

One common thing I’ve noticed about the majority of GP books that I’ve read is the extremely poor editing. The typos are also higher than average, which annoys the hell outta me.
Other equally annoying commonalities? Bad dialogue, bad technical writing, purple prose galore, stupid eupemisms for the vagina, dumbass heroines, and heroes who are so pansy-like they make Ru Paul look macho.

Anyway, on with your story. Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

Leela and Jack’s impassioned love affair of eighteen years ago draws them to revisit old feelings. They share a son that Jack knows nothing about and Leela won’t tell. They agree to be friends but the embers are still burning and they are thrust back in time where history repeats itself.

The premise was interesting enough, secret baby plot and all, but by the time I got to the 20th page, I knew this was not going to end well.

At this point can I mention how bad your dialogue tags were? Not only that, but the actual dialogue between your characters were so ridiculous that I had to keep checking which character was saying what.

For instance, does this really sound like something a seventeen year old, basketball-lovin’ teenage boy, would say to his mother?

Mom, I’ve been thinking of taking my first two years at the community college with you. We could be roomies or something

Would a boy who loves, basketball, fishing, and hunting, really want to share a room with his mother at college? Seriously?

I’m pretty sure that a seventeen year old boy, wouldn’t do or say the following either:
(Context, the mother, our heroine, is asking her son if he would mind having a step-father)

Alex, still very serious said, “No mom. Grandpa was all the father I needed” Then smiling broadly at her he tweaked her nose (Do 17-year old boys really tweak their mothers’ noses these days?) and said. “If your true love comes along, I’d never stand in your way”

Seriously?

Not only could you not write plausible teenage boy speak, you also had trouble changing your female ‘voice’, when it came to writing from the hero’s point of view. Your hero thought like a woman, and spoke like a woman would. It got to a point where your hero and heroine were almost interchangeable. That’s not a good thing surely?

Also the plot? Come on now, this could have been a perfectly readable book, but unfortunately, you turned it into one big cheesey cliche. I can live with cliches, but coupled with so much cheese? Not so much.

Let’s have a look at some examples shall we?

Heroine got pregnant when she was a teenager and didn’t tell hero?  Check the ‘secret baby plot’ box.

Girl leaves town for a short while, and when she comes back to tell the hero that she wants to be with him, he’s left allegedly with another girl?  Check the ‘Paper-thin conflict that could have been solved with just one conversation’ box.

Girl hasn’t been in a decent relationship for nineteen years because nobody could measure up to the hero?  Check the big old ‘Magical Penis’ box.

Hero hasn’t been in a decent relationship for nineteen years because no other vagina can beat that of his first love?  Another big fat check in the ‘Special Vajayjay’ box.

The hero and heroine get back together, but the hero’s ex girlfriend, (unfortunately named Nora) is a jealous bitch from hell who can’t take no for an answer, so tries to scupper the H&H’s relationship?  Check the ‘Cookie-cutter jealous ex-lover’ box.

The jealous bitch from hell tells the heroine something quite upsetting, and she believes her, even though she knows that the bitch wants her man?  Check, check.

Rendezvous With Fate read like a really bad HQN Presents book, all you needed was the billionaire sheik, and this could have been sold as a Presents story. (No offense to all you Presents lovers out there).

Also, I want you to know that nothing irritates me more, than reading the following during a love scene:

Moving her, guiding her, until he slid his throbbing manhood into her smooth, pulsating treasure box.

Are you fucking kidding me? Throbbing fucking manhood? It’s a COCK.

Also, treasure, freaking box? Come on, surely as a writer you could have done better than that? You didn’t have to use the ‘c’ word, but surely you could have found a better euphemism for the vagina, than ‘treasure box’?

Also, what was with the purple prose?

Gazes met and held.The earth stood still to allow for these two powerful forces to become one. Tenderly he lowered his mouth to her waiting lips. Her lips parted as he slid his tongue between the soft , sweet flesh. He explored the tender silk, and drank of its confection…

If I wanted to read this kind of crap, I’d pick up a historical.

The one thing that I can’t forgive in this book was how fucking dull it was. The other day,  I IMed Jane, and asked her if it was a good thing to be thinking about why 12% of people spammed, actually bought goods from the spam e-mails, whilst I was reading an anal scene in an erotic romance book.
Your book had a similar effect on me, except this time, I caught myself wondering why I never knew that Mars Bars were made by Masterfoods.

What a total waste of money and two hours.

Book? £6.99. Fireplace? £699. Throwing book into fireplace? Fucking priceless.

What happens in Vegas, anthology by Jodi Lynn Copeland, Anya Bast, Lauren Dane and Kit Tunstall.

The universe seems to be determined to show me how wrong I’ve been in avoiding short stories, by shoving some really good ones in front of me. Mind you, no complaints from this corner. What happens in Vegas is the first erotic stories anthology from Spice Books.

Behind closed doors, the real games begin…
Winning it big. That’s the name of the game at Las Vegas’ Liege Hotel and Casino, where the hottest fantasies hinge on a roll of the dice… and the tantalizing knowledge that anything could happen before sunrise.

Each story is around a hundred pages long—well under my usual comfort zone—and while some missed the mark with me, a couple hit it dead center. Bear in mind, as always, that what bothered me may very well be what other readers like best about each story. So, without further ado, here are the reviews. (I included the short blurbs from the back cover for each story in its review.)

“Hot for you” by Jodi Lynn Copeland

Cocktail waitress Carinna wants a man to tie her up, not tie her down. Little does she know that her most willing partner yet has something else planned for this fiery Latina bombshell.

A quick summary: Carinna and Jake have been best friends since childhood, until one fateful night four months prior to the story, when they fall in bed. Jake panics and leaves, Carinna is more upset about it that she’d like to be, since she a) is commitment phobic, and b) only wants to have her close friendship with him back.

Ms Copeland uses a new-to-me technique for this story: first person voice from both protagonists, alternating the point of views from both hero and heroine while moving the plot along seemed very fresh and interesting to me. Furthermore, the underlying story felt rather sweet to me—he knows he wants forever with her, she only wants friendship (perhaps with some fringe *cough* benefits) and doesn’t want to hurt him.

I had three issues with this story, though. First, the word choices through most of the intimate scenes put me off as being a bit too crude. I don’t consider myself to be prudish and, with one marked exception, it’s not the (sexual) actions described that bothered me, but the words used to describe them. Second, the exception: there is one particular incident, near the end, that yanked me even further out of the story. For me, it crossed the line between consent and violence, and completely colored my take of the story as a whole. Third and last, much is made of Carinna’s issues with relationships and trust, yet it would seem that she overcomes them pretty much from one moment to the next in the ending.

All in all, this one missed me completely—without that one scene, the grade would have been considerable higher. This one is 4 out of 10 for me.

“Stripped” by Lauren Dane

Dahlia is a burlesque dancer with a brain for business and a bod for sin. Her latest admirer may be a sweet-talking Casanova, but despite what he thinks she’s not giving anything away free.

Dahlia is a working class, small town girl with ambition and the determination to go places. In business, she has confidence and a sense of self-worth. In her personal life, though, she is insecure, marked by experiences with men who have thought her nothing more than a trophy.

Nash comes from a wealthy family; both his brother and his mother are quite the snobs, fixated on social class and financial worth. He is the exception, working hard at earning his own money, instead of living off a trust fund. While his attraction to Dahlia seems very natural to him, it’s his feelings for her that surprise him—and his inner dialogue endeared him to me. At one point, he and Dahlia exchange presents:

“Good God, she’d made him a shirt. Made it with her own hands and creativity. Crap, his presents didn’t even compare to her thought and effort. He was a fortunate man.”

I really liked the fact that, despite the short page count (just over a hundred) this story covered several months in the protagonists’ relationship. Since the hero and heroine meet on the first couple of pages, it made it that much easier for me to believe that they would be able to work on their issues enough that, by the end of the story, a future together was not only possible, but very much likely. (more…)

Thanks to Emily over at Erecsite, I came across this little gem from Ann Jacobs. Apparently, she’s still pissed at JC Wilder, and in her oh-so-passive-aggressive way, takes another swipe at Wilder, in a post entitled A Word On Pseudonyms.

She starts by explaining the reasons for her pseudonyms, and then she launches into the real reason for her post:

Some authors may use a pseudonym, or another one, because they’re writing books of a different type than what they’re best known for. In ebooks, authors may use two or more identities so it looks as if the “real” author isn’t putting out too many books.

Can you all guess where this is headed?

If I were to take a position in publishing other than as an author (which I’m not), I would use my legal name–all of it, not just my first name which happens to be “Ann”, with a made-up last name. I doubt, in that case, that any of my publishers or former publishers would fail to see that “their” author was working for a competitor in a position that might or might not show a potential conflict of interest.

Oh gee, I wonder who she’s referring to? Let me think…

Come to think of it, I would even *inform* all my publishers that I was taking this paid position with a competitor, before doing so. That’s because I would want no questions raised later if one of those publishers I wrote for sensed a conflict of interest on my part.

Seriously, could she be any more sanctimonious?

When someone comes up with another name (besides their legal one) without informing anybody–publishers, other authors, etc., it stands to reason that the “new” pseudonym wouldn’t be connected to the author’s original one(s), or to her legal name.

In a world where most business is conducted online, it’s quite reasonable that a potential conflict of interest can be cloaked until the author shows up at an in-person gathering of publishers and authors, and “outs” herself there.

And she calls herself a professional? Professional, my arse. Professional Suck-Up maybe.

Pseudonyms are good to hide behind if you don’t want your neighbors or your kids’ friends knowing how you earn your living. They’re bad when they cloak identities that will eventually be discovered once the person steps out and put a face to that name–a face that’s already known by another name, particularly.

Good grief. Indida’s infamous ‘Just write, bitch’ seems quite apt at this point.

Well, the wench was determined to become my Fucktard of The Week, and now she’s succeeded. I hope she feels honoured. Only very special people get on this list.