Book purchases: this week’s rundown

Writers are often curious as to how readers find their books and what makes them push the buy button or hand money to the cashier. Here’s my receipt from Kobo this week so far:

  • Before I Wake by Kathryn Smith
  • The Rogue Prince by Lindsay Buroker
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
  • Not Another Family Wedding by Jackie Lau
  • Dangerous by Amanda Quick
  • Outcast by Kiru Taye
  • Rock Rift by Elsa Jade
  • End Transmission by Robyn Bachar
  • Lady of Desire by Gaelen Foley

Dangerous and Lady of Desire are both historical romances I borrowed from the library when they first came out and I enjoyed them. They’re now on sale, so I’ll support that. In a similar vein, I loved Kathryn Smith’s historical romances years ago, and this paranormal looks like it could be fun.

Rosemary and Rue and The Rogue Prince have both been recommended to me: the former by a personal friend, and the latter by some SFRB members.

Not Another Family Wedding and Outcast are part of my personal desire to support writers of color, especially in romance.

I read the weekly Veronica Scott new SFFR releases, and picked up Rock Rift and End Transmission, both new releases by authors I like. Rock Rift is a new series in a shared universe that I heard about via the SFRB, and End Transmission wraps up the Galactic Cold War series.

I also bought Nier: Automata – Short Story Long by Jun Eishima from my local bookstore because I’m a super hyper mega fan of the video game.

Long story short cover image, has androids on it
!@#$ Square Enix, as Yoko would say.

I have gotten to the financial point where I don’t have a book budget anymore. If a book fulfills certain criteria, I buy it. I’ve given up the goal of reading every book I buy. There are just too many good books out there!

Binge-worthy series for the holidays

Winter (in the northern hemisphere) holidays are coming up: whatever you do or don’t celebrate, you may get some time off to relax. When I have a chunk of time, I love to binge-read a series. Here are some romance and science fiction series I recommend for this holiday season if you haven’t already read them. All of them are complete.

The Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan

brothers sinister box set cover image

Historical romance series set in Victorian England. Features intelligent, complicated characters I can’t forget. Favorite character: Violet Waterfield in The Countess Conspiracy. Some would call her difficult. I find her amazing.

You can buy the whole darn thing as a bundle, too.

The Phoenix Adventures by Anna Hackett

box set cover imagereturn to dark earth cover image

I’ve made it clear that I adore Anna Hackett’s books. Lots of action, monsters, treasures, and other discoveries make the lives of the protagonists very interesting. Favorite character: Nera Darc from Return to Dark Earth. Quiet, deadly, and kinder than she lets on.

Hackett also made a small box set to start you off on the series.

Darkest London by Kristen Callihan

Paranormal historical romance. Callihan presents non-traditional supernatural creatures in a way that always kept me guessing. Watching the characters fall in love was mesmerizing. Favorite character: Hollis Evernight of, well, Evernight. I sympathized with her specific communication struggles.

Paradox series by Rachel Bach

knight cover imagequeen cover image

Feel like some action-packed science fiction with romantic elements that will remind you of Mass Effect? Go read the Paradox trilogy by Rachel Bach. Since there’s only one protagonist, I won’t pick a favorite character, but Devi’s voice is engrossing and I was always rooting for her.

Another perspective on my work

A week and a half ago I discussed my manuscript with my friend N. N is a literary agent who does nonfiction. She also does editing for her agency. However, she reads hundreds of novels every year, mostly genre ones. She was curious about my second draft because she’d heard me kvetching about my novel for two years, so I gave it to her and hoped she wouldn’t vomit.

N had a lot of encouraging feedback and advised me to submit a later version of the manuscript to agents, though we still don’t know whether this manuscript is romance or science fiction. Right now, I’m leaning towards social science fiction because a lot of the plot explores societal issues. The novel wouldn’t work without the love story, but the manuscript doesn’t always have that in focus. We were trying to figure out comps, and N said Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which surprised me a lot. I don’t have cool transit modes or branding or conceptions of cyberspace. I guess both books are about the strangeness of capitalism, though.

N and John detected a lot of the same weaknesses in my manuscript. The ones they agree on make sense to me and are going to need some work. There were some things they didn’t agree on (some content on one scene, the length of another), which I found more interesting and less likely that I’d revise. I have a to-do list of things to fix, but I’m not entirely sure what the best way is to fix two of them. I also have a lot of prose to fix. Time to roll up my…I don’t have sleeves, it’s summer!

I’m also in the middle of a cross-country move, so my environment is chaos. I’m hoping to get settled in without too much more incident.

my own romance has few words!

A week ago I proposed marriage, and John accepted. I’d planned it for half a year and it’s such a relief to have that done. We’ve known each other over twelve years and been together for four. I’m touched by the outpouring of congratulations. The words that come out are clinical, almost blocked, though. I feel zoned out: I just want to get the logistics of the wedding dealt with (booking the judge, getting the license, measuring for and ordering rings, arranging the family dinner after). It just feels like a formality at this point, but a welcome one. Ratifying what’s already there.

I’m writing a love story that is not much like my own. That’s easier, somehow, than talking about my love life because I don’t know what to share and what not to about John, so I tend to err on the side of not sharing. So this is short and sweet and for posterity.

Reading scifi romance voraciously

The past winter I took a writing class for short stories, and I found it rewarding. I had not written fiction in fifteen years, and I was unsure whether I’d enjoy another solitary hobby.  The experience has been rewarding afterwards, albeit in fits and starts. I had a story I wanted to flesh out, and there are plenty of sticky points in the plot I have not tackled. I have another story I’m thinking of expanding beyond four hundred words. They’re both science fiction romance, or will be once I get more into them. The idea is to have fun and write something I can look at and say “yeah, that’s kind of cool”. My ambitions lie in finishing projects, the bigger the better. I have no deadline because I’m just doing this for me, but I try to set aside some time a few days a week to devote to books.

Part of my writing-time is actually reading-time. Plenty of authors encourage this, but it’s a no-brainer to me. I read what I love (and some other things for variety) so why wouldn’t I write what I love! My first exposure to science fiction romance must have been the first three books by Dara Joy and some Johanna Lindsey when I was a teenager. They were quite campy, and that was pretty representative of the genre at the time. I loved reading science fiction and romance, why not the two together? Fantasy romance was so much easier to find, and I had a higher chance of finding a story with Serious Stuff in it. There were exceptions that I stumbled upon and treasured: Gena Showalter’s Alien Huntress series hit the spot especially with Savor Me Slowly, in which our heroine is a killer cyborg, and Marcella Burnard’s Enemy Within left me wanting more than just one other novel in the series.

During and after my college years, Ellora’s Cave pioneered lots of electronic romance novels, and with the lower overhead cost of e-publishing (I assume), they could take more risks with niche genres. Of the authors there, Nathalie Gray wowed me the most with Demo Derby and the Femme Metal series. Publishing has by now changed so that books that traditional publishers would never have taken before can see the light via self-publishing or small e-press. I imagine that some of it may not be good, so I’ve been on the lookout for curation.

In March I took the Seattle Public Library’s recommendation of Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach and devoured the book (and its sequels). Better than flourless chocolate cake. While it was a science fiction novel with romantic elements instead of having the romance as the central plot, I realized that this is what I want to read and if the library’s carrying it, what have I been missing? The answer was plenty. Great novels had been published when I wasn’t paying attention and I found myself with some more library books to read: Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series (I have read Grimspace and Wanderlust), and Linnea Sinclair’s everything (I adored Games of Command and am reading The Down Home Zombie Blues). Holy Lego Man, I’ve hit pay dirt!

As if that weren’t enough in my queue, the publishing world continues to change, and there are communities on the internet dedicated to science fiction romance, complete with reading lists and networking. Why didn’t I look at this before? I’m mystified by the oversight, but now the spread in front of me is overwhelming. I am trying to wrap my mind around the Science Fiction Romance Brigade and the Galaxy Express. A new world awaits me, and I hope it helps spur my own work on. Even if it doesn’t, I’ve got months of delight to come!