Chat here tonight, 7pm central. I’ll be announcing the winner of the Monthly Favorites contest and conducting an hour-long Q&A with y’all.
Why do I still love John Cusack, almost twenty years after he stole my heart in Say Anything? Read this. I defy you not to swoon. Brains, principles, passion. O.M.G. War, Inc — I am so there.
In comments, Christine wrote: “You’re so awesome, Ann! Always doing something fun for your readers and friends!”
Well, she’s right. At least about doing stuff, if not the awesome part. I’ll let y’all judge my awesomeness individually. See, after I finished my “for pay” words on HELL FIRE (Corine 2), I started working on the free short story I’ll be posting on my Free Reads page in June. RENEGADE is written in March’s POV, third-person / past-tense for people who care about such things.
You may not know about this about me, but I’m also a heartless tease. Just ask Azteclady. What do I mean by that? Well, I’m going to post the first paragraph of RENEGADE today. I’ll tantalize all you March-junkies out there just because I can. To read the rest, you have to check my website, come June. *maniacal laughter*
Nicu Tertius, late summer
The air was thick with clotting blood, the ground a morass of churned mud. Blueflies droned in the distance, laying eggs in the corpses of men he’d called comrade. This plan had been doomed from the beginning, and if March owned anything like a conscience, he’d have told the soft little Nicuan nobleman where he could stuff his credits because clearly he already had his head wedged up there.
In case you didn’t know, I have a contest running here. You will need to register for the message board in order to enter, but it’s painless. I would ask that you make your username something that looks remotely real. I’m constantly deleting nonsense spam registrations from bots that want to use the board to advertise Xanax, porn, online casinos, and other junk. So if you pick coiadfouhgadfgh as your username and say you’re from Estonia and you’re interested in farming, I’m probably going to think you’re a bot.
The Monthly Favorites contest runs every month from the 23rd to the 30th. We talk about our favorite reads, and at the end, I announce the winner, who can then choose from any book named over the course of the discussion. I think it’s pretty fun, and it lets me give away a free book, which is also fun. If you’re not part of it, you really should be.
As an adjunct to that, I’m going to institute a new tradition. On the evening of the 30th (that’s Wednesday), I’m going to start a monthly chat at 7pm, where I’ll announce the contest winner, and then do an hour-long Q&A with readers. This will happen every month on the 30th at 7pm. (That’s Mexico City time, which I believe is central. If you’re in another time zone, plan accordingly if you’d like to come chat with me.) I’ll still post the winner the following morning on the message board for people who are unable to attend.
Without further ado, this is where you can find me. 7 pm, April 30th will be the first chat. I may just give out extra prizes for the inaugural event, you never know. (That means I probably will.) So you don’t want to miss this.
First, thanks for the outpouring of support that came in the form of comments and emails after my crappy United experience. Things did get better, and I had a lovely time at RT. My first day was hurried because I had to locate boxes before my first event, and I would have preferred to do that the day before, but the RT staff came through down at the wire (thanks, Kevin!)
So let’s talk high points. I’m not giving a minute by minute account, just listing some things that struck me as awesome.
Even though the Hilton was a bit lacking in basic amenities (she said in a massive understatement), they made my stay a pleasure. When our room proved too small for a cot, we pushed the beds together and made an Ann-wich. They’re both so much fun I can’t even articulate it. I miss them both already!
Hanging out with the Bradford Bunch.
I loved meeting Lauren, Vivi, Megan, and Anya. Sometimes people aren’t what you expect in person, but that wasn’t the case here. I don’t know what I’d have done without them. I’m sure, in fact, that I would have been miserable because I’m the type to sit in my room with a book if other people aren’t actively inviting me places. I suck at networking and I never assume anyone wants to hang around with me unless they actively say so.
I participated in a couple of reader events, which were fantastic. That was the whole reason I came to RT and I wasn’t disappointed. It was cool to have people recognize me, sometimes even in the elevator. She said, “Hey, you’re the Grimspace lady! I read your book and LOVED it.” There’s nothing like it for feeling like a ‘real’ author.
Selling out at the book fair.
God, I was sooo excited. I had worried myself sick before leaving for RT that I wouldn’t sell any copies, and to my astonished delight, Grimspace moved really well. I got to meet readers I’ve communicated with via email, and they brought friends by my table to recommend the book. (Thanks, Shannon!) I will also never forget the wonderful lady who bought my last copy (K.E., I’m talking to you). I hope the Chandler dance was worth it! It was also a crazy thrill to sign books for Keri Arthur and Shiloh Walker.
Being interviewed by Smart Bitch Sarah.
I can only imagine what that interview will look like, but Morgan seemed to think we did all right. It was wicked cool talking about my book in person with Sarah. She said I have mad skills and she really liked Grimspace. She also totally got Jax. Her insights impressed me; it’s just fabulous when a reader totally tunes into what I was trying to do, and the way I envision her character and motivations.
I also had fun dancing at the Faery Ball. My ass-shaking drew the attention of the venerable Fred, who danced with me to Come on, Eileen. Jeri said cover models are like cats; they only come to those who don’t seem interested in petting them.
I’m not much for the spectacle aspects of RT; all the costumes and pageantry are lost on me. It looked like the participants had lots of fun with it, though, and some of the dresses were astonishingly lavish.
I sneaked away from the convention twice. The first time, I bought myself a new PDA, and the next, I hied myself to Barnes and Noble, hoping against hope that I might have a chance to see the special display. I told myself it was unlikely, but I cabbed over to Squirrel Hill anyway. I squeed quietly when I found it in the SF&F section; I couldn’t believe it was still up! I took some pictures, then I signed their stock. It was one of the best moments of my life. I’d seen my book in stores before, but never like that, set apart from the others. I can’t really describe how it made me feel, except that I came pretty close to crying over it.
I met so many cool people that I couldn’t possibly name them all. Rather than possibly upset somebody by leaving them out, I’ll just say it was fantastic to put so many faces to names and be social for a week. If I met you, it was a pleasure. Thanks for being kind enough to converse with me.
In conclusion, RT was worth attending, and I enjoyed it immensely. How did it shake out for everyone else?
Chapter one is at Tumperkin‘s.
Chapter two is at Carolyn Jean‘s.
Chapter three is at Kate Rothwell‘s.
Chapter four is at Carrie Lofty’s.
Chapter five is… right here.
Chapter six (and the finale!) will be at Lisabea‘s.
And now… enjoy chapter five.
To her consternation, her nipples hardened. This was just like Nico Lefkas! All he thought about was hummus and humping, not that she objected to either.
Her face burned with mortification. To her consternation, her nipples hardened again. She rather liked the thought of Nico’s unfeasibly tall body smeared with hummus. She could take little bites of his iron hard pectorals and nibble her way down the ridged slope of his belly. Molly’s mouth dropped open, her eyes going out of focus.
Only when Father Apollo cleared his throat did she remember she’d been issued an ultimatum!
“Oh no,” Molly cried. “Don’t take your wrath out on the poor orphans. Your grudge is against me, Nico! Please do not punish anyone else in my stead.”
Whatever he meant to do to her, she could take it! Even if it involved four goats, a baby lemur, a tiny car full of clowns and six yards of nylon mesh. She could take anything so these poor, darling children didn’t suffer. She gulped, eyes wide and shining like two pork chops left in the pan overnight.
Nico sneered, his handsome face drawn into angry lines. “Then you will marry me, accept my seed, bear me fat Greek babies and work the PowerPoint for the global hummus presentation later today?”
Tears prickled in Molly’s eyes. Now she would never have the happy life of which she’d always dreamed. Who would live in her grandmother’s English cottage with its bower of roses and picket fence? Certainly not Nico Lefkas! He was too tall and would hit his head on the low hanging timbers. The idea of marrying without love caused turmoil in her stomach she felt sure was unrelated to hummus, even if Nico insisted she butter her muffin with it every morning.
“Yes,” she sobbed. “I will marry you, Nico. Just do not harm the children.”
“See here,” Father Apollo said, flexing his gloriously muscled chest in priestly protection. Two nearby nuns fainted. “I will not let you force this woman to do anything against her will.”
“Is it against your will, Molly?”
Nico swept her into his arms, taking her mouth in a harsh, punishing kiss.
To her consternation, Molly’s nipples hardened. They felt like twin aching BBs responding to the demand of Nico’s love-gun.
“No,” she whispered. “I want to marry Nico Lefkas.”
To save the children. For them, she would permit all manner of shameful degradations, including spankings and oral sex.
If only she could tell him she loved him…but what was the point? Nico never believed her! Ever since he had caught her in the elevator with another captain of the global hummus industry, he thought the worst of her. He hadn’t listened to her stumbling explanation. He thought she was the sluttiest secretary ever to type a memo.
As she’d leaned to press the button, her sweater had gotten tangled on the man’s suit jacket and the more they struggled, the worse the snarl became. When the elevator opened to their floor, Nico found them straining together, the man’s hands on her hips so she didn’t lose her balance. Everything had gone so wrong that day! He’d never trusted her since.
Father Apollo clapped his hands. “Then let the preparations begin!”
Molly wore a white dress for her forced wedding, though she wasn’t pure anymore. Nico didn’t believe she ever had been. He thought she was the sort of woman who rode the pink pony in an elevator without a second thought! She sobbed aloud.
“Why, child, whatever is the matter?” A kindly old nun came into the courtyard where Molly sat weeping artistically.
She spilled out her painful, sordid tale of woe. “But what’s the point? Nico never believes me!”
“Oh my poor dear child,” Sister Helena said. “You must clearly pray over this.”
When Nico Lefkas, CEO of ALL UR HUMMUS R BELONG 2 US, came upon Molly talking to Sister Helena, he wanted to shake that whore Molly until her teeth rattled, and then kiss her into a coma. He nearly did.
Then he heard Molly’s words. Nobody could lie to Sister Helena, so it must be true. The mighty Greek billionaire Nico Lefkas fell to his knees in a pile of incredibly handsome Greek grief. He had used her like a savage, and she was pure and gentle, giving as the spring rain that gave life to his cherished chickpeas.
How could he ever make this up to Molly?
I’m in a mood. I was ON the plane, and United pulled me out of my seat. They had overbooked the flight, so instead of asking for volunteers, they pulled me. I’m now stuck in Dulles until 10.
I should be in Pittsburgh by now. And I’m not going to get to go dancing with Lauren and company. I’m really upset. I got a good sale fare apparently. So it’s ok to inconvenience me.
*frustrated scream* My flight from Mexico City was an hour late. We sat on the runway forever while the plane had computer trouble. So I had to RUN through the aiport to make my connection. I did too. I got there at 4:30, it was leaving at 4:40.
When I boarded they didn’t say anything. They were boarding like 5 flights at once, and nobody said which plane was ours. Two employees were arguing. I stopped and asked four times, which plane, before the woman finally stopped yelling at her coworker to give me an evil look and point. I asked the woman in line ahead of me if she was going to Pittsburgh. She said yes.
I made it! I was on the plane, seatbelt on.
And they PULLED me.
I was sitting there, thinking, oh thank god I made it. waiting for take off. And BAM.
I don’t care if they gave me a free ticket. It’s only good in the US. And I pretty much always fly from Mexico City. Plus it has like a bazillion restrictions. So what good is this gonna do me, ever?
I bought my freakin’ ticket MONTHS ago. They didn’t tell me why they had pulled me until I was off the plane. They sent guards for me. And said, “You need to get off the plane.”
I was like “[email protected]@@ why?” I thought I was being arrested or something.
“We’ll tell you inside the terminal, ma’am.”
I thought I was in trouble. If I’d known it was for that, I wouldn’t have gone. I’d have said get another sucker. They don’t care I had plans tonight. I complained to three people and they were like, “you got off the plane, ma’am.”
I was like !!!!!!
But if they had said, “We overbooked, will you disembark?” I’d have said, “NO! I have plans!” So then when we first got off the plane, I asked, “What’s this about?”
The woman cut me a snotty look and said, “We have a weight limit.”
Yeah, I’m chunky, but DAMN. I fit in one seat, ok? I don’t even need an extender belt, so it’s not like I have my own gravity. Instead of an apology, I get a veiled insult. Then when I got inside, the guy said I paid the lowest fare. So I get bumped. I don’t see why they can decide by fare. I mean, if they accepted my fare price, that means I bought the seat.
But I bought those seats back in Jan. So I got bumped by some idiot who decided to go this morning. How exactly does this reward anyone for planning ahead?
And when I asked to talk to a manager… he said, “I am the manager. This goes no farther. If you want to fly with us, you take this flight. Otherwise I’ll refund you.”
Basically STFU, I don’t care how inconvenienced you are.
I am very upset. I almost cried when I realized I would be here six hours and I would miss two events. I was supposed to stuff bags tonight for a party tomorrow. And then go dancing, etc.
Instead I get to do neither.
AND I told the hotel I would be there on the 15th. I have boxes to collect, but they may not be able to find them so late.
If RT doesn’t get better, I may never go again. Assuming I ever get there…
An apology would have made me feel somewhat better, but they have convinced me nobody at Dulles gives a shit.
Copies of The Duke of Shadows
Ok, everyone: send me an email to ann.aguirre at gmail dot com. I’ll need your full names and mailing addresses to hook you up with your prizes. Thanks so much for making this an awesome and successful contest.
I’ll be taking off for RT early Tuesday morning, so if I don’t have your info by the end of today, your prizes may be delayed until after I get back. Final note: gift certificate winners, you’ve also promised to review Duke of Shadows as a condition of winning. So even though I’m not sending you a copy of the book, I’m giving you the wherewithal to get it. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean?
Thanks for playing. This was a blast!
Now available. Other people have written more eloquently about the backstory that brought this project into being. I just thank the people who worked a lot harder than I did to make it happen.
The purpose of Nothing But Red is to bring attention to the issue of violence against women worldwide, as well as the continuing need for equality, through art—both written and visual—and by raising money for a charity that strives to help women of all faiths, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds, with the support of dedicated volunteers who share a desire to promote equality.
I have a short story in this anthology. So do Lilith Saintcrow, Elaine Corvidae and about a hundred other people who care. Go buy it if you’d like to make a difference.
If you’re really feeling zealous (or jonesing for more of my books), you can also pick up a copy of Stone Maiden. All proceeds from that go to Equality Now as well.
If you read this book and want to talk about it, go here. I’m dying to discuss it without worrying about spoilers.
Because I love this book so much, I want to tell the world about it. The best way I have to do that is a contest. Thus commences
The Duke of Shadows Sweepstakes.
- Grand Prize: $25 gift card from Barnes and Noble
- First prize: $15 gift certificate from Amazon (or online bookstore of your choice)
- Runners up: Five more winners will receive a copy of The Duke of Shadows
Seven winners. Cool prizes. What do you have to do to get in on this?
Rules for entry for people with a blog:
- Step 1: Make a new post on your blog, entitled “Enter The Duke of Shadows Sweepstakes”
- Step 2: Post the graphic shown here, along with a link back to to this contest. If you aren’t sure how to add a picture to your blog, use TDoS Sweepstakes Code.
- Step 3: Add something like “I entered, you should too!” Publish blog post.
- Step 4: Leave your link in comments, letting me know you’re done.
For those who don’t have blogs, here’s what you do to enter:
- Step 1: Promise in comments to put a review on some online review site, if you win.
- Step 2: Tell at least one other person about the contest.
I hope everyone who enters will check out this book. It would be great if you told people about it, if you love it as much as I do. Winners also agree they’ll review the book somewhere as a condition of accepting their prize. This contest will run until midnight on April 13th. On the morning of April 14, I’ll announce the winners.
After I finished this book, I immediately got on IM and sent messages to my friends, telling them I’d just glommed The Duke of Shadows. I begged them to get it at once, toss out their TBR list, and devour it immediately, and then said I would be greeting them for the next two weeks with “Did you read it yet?”
I don’t do story summaries. I don’t really do reviews, either. If you want the blurb, it’s on Powells. This is homage. This is me, struggling to express all the ways the book succeeds, no, soars. Take a woman, saturated with loss. Cast her to a man who has worn so many faces, he is no longer sure which is his true self. In many ways, Julian is a soul divided, and Ms. Duran portrays it with such grace and valor that I will always, always remember this hero, and his love for the complex, passionate Emmaline.
The Duke of Shadows was pitch-perfect, not a single wrong note. This book ravished me. The writing is lovely and luminous, bedizened with subtle poetry. It hit me like a fist in the chest, rousing a sudden, shocking ache. In reading this, you will be permeated with yearning. Some sentences are so lovely, they make you say, “Oh,” in quiet, helpless admiration. This book is pure beauty married to elegance and simplicity.
Let me show you. Even without context, these small excerpts will steal your breath.
She lay there, staring upward. Long crimson clouds stretched across the lavender sky, as though giant claws had laid open the innards of heaven.
Such imagery. Can you not imagine such a sky? This is India at twilight. Yes, this is a romance novel, but it is art, too, and one of the finest books I have ever read in my life.
His face lowered to hers, so close she felt his ragged exhalation against her lips. “Emma, you can trust me with your life. But I am not your brother. You cannot trust me in this.”
“I have no brother,” she said softly. “Nor mother, nor father, now. If I trust you with my life, I trust you with everything I have.”
My heart clenches. I say, “Oh.” Gone totally breathless. In one sentence, one achingly lovely sentence, she has given him permission to touch and revealed such heartbreaking vulnerability, I could weep.
He glanced back up to her face. “God, you are beautiful.”
She did not feel anything so boring as beautiful. She felt fierce.
This is masterful. The heroine is imbued with power during an intimate moment. She is strong; she is not a passive vessel.
She would say no prayer for him. She had tried them before. They did not work.
These short, stark sentences distill the essence of her despair. Here, Emma cannot muster the energy to embellish her thoughts. Julian has become her world, and he is leaving.
I could go on, but I think I will let you discover the rest yourself. I want to read The Duke of Shadows again, again, again. The characters were so well-drawn and compelling, and the plot smart and well-researched. And the emotional intensity…good God, it was gut-wrenching. I found myself in tears more than once, and that doesn’t happen often. This book is perfection, better, in fact, than any historical romance I’ve ever read. I am astonished to find a work of such proficiency and power in a debut author.
If Meredith Duran is not a superstar in ten years, taking her place amid such luminaries as Laura Kinsale and Loretta Chase, then the world is mad. Read this book.
The author was kind enough to consent to answer a few questions for the edification of readers, as part of my celebration of all things Meredith Duran. Enjoy!
What’s your favorite scene in The Duke of Shadows?
As a reader, I think I’d pick the scene that transpires in the garden in London, shortly after Julian and Emma encounter one another again. But in terms of the actual writing of it, I’ll choose the scene at the Ardsmores’, which ends with Julian smashing the globe. I’d been struggling with what was going to happen there — I knew that they needed to confront the history they shared, and the mystery of what had happened to Emma, but my inspiration had evaporated. I sat in front of the screen for *several* hours, until I was ready to tear my hair out. Finally I gave up and got ready for bed. As I went to shut down the computer, I paused to type two lines that randomly came to me: “There was a giant globe, as big as a carriage wheel, standing near the desk. It was startling and unusual, and she recalled suddenly having heard of it: the Ardsmores’ famous globe.”
Stupid, I thought. A globe? Great. That did not help me move the scene forward AT ALL.
I lay down, closed my eyes, and suddenly — BOOM. Of COURSE there was a globe. The globe was CRUCIAL!! I jumped out of bed, turned the computer back on, and wrote the rest of the scene without pause.
In other words, I love that scene because it’s the product of one of those fantastical and exhilarating and ALL too rare moments when intuition takes over and a scene simply materializes. What a rush that is! I wish it happened every time I opened Word. 🙂
What was your inspiration for this fabulous book?
I think the first seed was probably planted a very long time ago — when I was in India in 1998. I was on a study abroad program, and we were living in a medieval fortress that towered over the city below. When the typical teenage melancholy struck, I would climb up onto the ramparts and sit between the cannons and watch the sun set. Much, much later, when I first visualized Emma, it was like this — on the edge of a rampart, looking out over an Indian city. Only… the city was on fire, and she had a knife in her hand. Since I’ve always been fascinated by the events of 1857, I knew instantly why the city was burning.
Ultimately I denied Emma the chance to stand on the ramparts, but I let her keep the knife. 🙂
You’ve worked in India. How did that enrich your ability to depict the setting in part one?
It definitely helped with “setting the scene.” For instance, the description of the fortress at Sapnagar is a composite of Mehrangarh Fort, Amber Fort, and the City Palace in Udaipur, all of which I’ve visited several times. But — and there’s always a but! — sometimes I did find myself troubled over some of the assumptions I was making. Deven’s a great name, but was it common in 1857? For that matter, did bazaars back then really smell like bazaars do now? I was very glad of my university library, which has a massive collection of books on (and memoirs about!) colonial India.
If you could write a book set in any historical time period / location, when and where would it be?
Well, I absolutely indulged myself with The Duke of Shadows — I think 1857 is one of the most interesting moments in history. But I’m also fascinated by Roman Britain, Tudor England, and World War II Europe. And, lest I forget, the 1880s and 1890s in Britain, where my next books are set. I chose the 1880s specifically because it was a period of such swift and dramatic change: the decline of landed wealth, the height of imperialism, the rise of the “new woman,” etc. It’s a great time period to be writing about. So many possible stories!
You’re shipwrecked on a desert island with another author. Who is it and why?
Laura Kinsale. I hear she has a new manuscript but no plans yet to publish it. Very well, she can read it aloud to me while I drink coconut milk!
What do you want to tell readers about you and/or your work?
Hmm. Well, 1) I’ve been reading omnivorously in the genre since I was thirteen, but my secret loves (aside from historicals, of course) are paranormal and futuristic romances. I attribute this to a childhood of Lois Duncan, Christopher Pike, and Star Trek. 2) My worst nightmare is to write a heroine who is Too Stupid to Live. 3) My heroes are Laura Kinsale, Judith Ivory, Loretta Chase, and Patricia Gaffney (“To Have and To Hold” actually launched my keeper shelf). 4) I get a little cranky when people knock the romance genre, because I think that, like any other genre, ours has produced some brilliant books along with the good reads, so-so reads, and occasional stinker. 5) I tend to make numbered lists for no reason. And finally, 6) I am thrilled to have made an appearance on Ann’s blog. Thanks so much for having me!