News you can use (reminders)

In case you forgot, you have but a few short hours left to enter the Monthly Favorites contest on my message board.

I’ll announce the winner in my monthly chat, tonight at 7pm central. I’m also going to be giving away at least one Wanderlust arc, so even if you haven’t entered the Monthly Favorites contest, it would behoove you to attend the chat. You never know what might happen.

Edited to add:
I’m doing a lotto thing for the arc. You’ll all pick a lucky number between 1-100 and type it into the the chat window, so it’s officially recorded for posterity. Then I’ll use a random number generator to come up with the winning “lotto”. Whoever comes closest (either under o over, this isn’t The Price is Right) will win an arc of Wanderlust. Fun, right?

The trip in review

We got up on time on Thursday, got ready and loaded the car. It took a little more effort to convince the dog that getting in the backseat was in her best interests. When we first snapped the leash on, she was very excited, tail wagging over a walk, then she realized she wasn’t going walkies. Talk about a depressed dog.

But we delivered her at the kennel, where she has space to run and other dogs to play with, no problems. Then we made the drive to Acapulco. The new highway is really lovely. Such vast, unspoiled mountain ranges, first lined with fir trees, and then more tropical growth as we got closer. It’s just breathtaking all the way. Sometimes we went for miles without seeing civilization. I saw a lonely house on a mountain with no power lines, just a donkey track leading up to it. I imagined what life would be like there.

After about four hours (not counting the time it took to get out of DF), we arrived at our destination. Princesa That’s our hotel pictured there. It was really gorgeous, reminded me of a ziggurat, and the landscaping truly captured the essence of “tropical paradise.” It’s like a luxurious Mayan fortress full of people anxious to pamper you. Andres and I snagged the ocean view room, of course. If you’re interested in seeing more, there’s a slideshow here of where we stayed.

Once we put our things upstairs, we rested a bit and then changed into swimsuits. We spent an hour or so down at the pool. Then we had a welcome dinner to attend. The food was fantastic, some of the best BBQ ribs I’ve ever eaten, and the curried rice was lovely too. There was a totally kick-ass show with Cuban dancing, lots of nearly nekkid people. Afterward, we chatted a bit with people, but the kids were tired, so we went up to the room and got to bed relatively early.

Friday morning, we joined the extended family for the breakfast buffet. At that point, I discovered we were sharing the resort with the national soccer team from Monterrey. I had wondered why there were so many young, hot, totally ripped dudes wandering around. The kids spent the day at the pool with their grandmother, and I worked. Andres had a business meeting to attend; the vacation wasn’t all play for him, as it was a pharmaceutical convention as well. In the afternoon, we met up for lunch, and then we all went to the beach. Once we were done bodysurfing in the ocean, we headed for the pool. By nighttime we were exhausted, so we went upstairs, showered, and got in our jammies and ordered room service, which was delish, and watched a couple of movies. First we watched Alvin and the Chipmunks (not terrible) and then just before bed, we watched Mr. Woodcock (beyond terrible).

Saturday, we went down to breakfast again, but we were running late, and Andres had to be at the conference at 10, so we hurried. Then I took the kids upstairs to let their food digest. Just before noon, we went down to the pool. They weren’t interested in the ocean, and I didn’t push. We swam and played for a few hours, then they decided they could use some lunch. We got sandwiches at a little cafe on site, took them up to our room to watch Nancy Drew and eat. By the time we were done, Andres was finished for the day, so we went back down to the pool. Swam and played some more, lazed in the sun, and generally had a wonderful time. My sister / brother in law came in with their toddler, which delighted the kids. We stayed down there until almost 7pm, when we had to get out to get ready for the closing events banquet.

At eight, we went down to the restaurant, looking fine, and enjoyed an “Under the Sea” scene with sea horses and fish covered in glitter, white plaster brightening red brick walls. The place was right by the ocean, so we watched the sunset on the waves as the program went on. It was beautiful and very romantic. We had another show with a different troupe of dancers. This group pulled people out of the audience and made them dance on stage, which was hilarious as long as you didn’t get tagged. We had a good time, but once again, the kids were sooo ready for bed by ten that we said our good nights, and headed for the room.

I wasn’t ready to call it, so I read a Julia Spencer-Fleming novel, and then turned the lights out sometime after midnight. Might I add that I’m highly annoyed that I can’t get all her books in e-form? I got the first two free from the promotion they ran, but now I want the third one and I. Can’t. Get. It. It would take weeks to get here and I’m leaving in three! Which means I may as well wait until I’m in the States, but see… I HATE waiting for things I want. Grumble.

Anyway, Sunday… today… we got up in a lazy fashion, packed up and ordered room service. Breakfast was absolutely lavish. If you’re looking for a seriously decadent place to stay, try the Fairmont Acapulco Princesa. Ordinarily I wouldn’t recommend Acapulco for tourists because the old zone can be dangerous if you don’t know where you’re going. But they’ve been giving the zona diamante a real facelift, trying to make Acapulco a luxury destination in line with Cancun — and after having stayed at the Fairmont Princesa I would have to say they have succeeded. I came away feeling like I’d had a hell of a weekend vacation.

After we finished breakfast, we were ready to go. We enjoyed great roads, little traffic, and wonderful weather on the way back. Once more, I appreciated the beauty of the scenery between Acapulco and my home in Naucalpan. Though I wasn’t born here, I have come more and more to identify this country as my home. I take such pleasure in the mountains. That’s why Puerto Vallarta is such a favorite for me; it has jungle, mountains and ocean, all right there together. It’s like the best of everything combined. Sooo beautiful. Every year I find something else to admire about living here… and the best part is… even quickie weekend trips are thrilling because I see parts of the country that are new to me. I loved going to Puebla.

We even managed to get home before the afternoon storms set in. So I’ve been sitting here listening to the rain drumming on the rooftop as I type. I love the smell of it on the tiles outside, damp clay and cool mist coming through the green leaves and red blossoms on the Noche Buena tree. The sky is damp charcoal, kissed with violet, and I’m happy to be home. Wang Chung is playing on my Itunes right now, so I’ll leave you with this particular profundity:

We were so in phase
In our dance hall days
We were cool on craze
When I, you, and everyone we knew
Could believe, do, and share in what was true

Dance monkey says… paranormal romance

dance monkey

So I’ve been alluding to this for a few weeks, but I now have final confirmation and permission to share. The notice has been filed officially with Publishers Marketplace.

But first let me give you the backstory. A few months ago, I came up with an idea for a series of linked single-title paranormal romances. I discussed the project at length with my wonderful beta reader. She had some fantastic ideas, and we both got really excited.

I wrote the synopsis and a three chapter partial. Laura loved it, so after I made a few tweaks, she pitched to Penguin. Since we’ve both been so thrilled with our treatment there, we didn’t want to take the project anywhere else. After that, the waiting period began.

As is my custom, I kept busy and thought about the incipient project as little as possible. I didn’t want to get too attached to something that might not come to fruition. I wrote and revised books, did interviews, chatted with readers and generally worked on other things.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Laura told me she’d had a conversation with Cindy at Berkley, who liked the idea, but she wanted some things in the synopsis clarified. The backstory needed to be strengthened among other things. So I rewrote it. Laura sent the revised version along, and we waited some more.

Last night, I got a text message from Laura that just said: IM me.

So I did. Since we don’t belong to the Black Dagger Brotherhood, I had a good idea what she wanted, but I was nonetheless thrilled to get the news. I have a book deal. As of now, I’m also writing paranormal romances for Berkley Sensation. You can find these awesome books under the name AVA GRAY. I’ll soon have a website set up, but I’ll have links from Ava’s site to this one, and vice versa.

In case anyone is confused, Annie Dean is retired. You need not remember that name for any reason. When the domain expires, that site will go “poof” and no more books will be forthcoming. AVA GRAY suits the tone of these romances better, and any pure romances I write in the future will be published under AVA GRAY. Clear?

Here’s a sneak peek at Kyra and Reyes:

He was a hitman sent to kill her; she was a con artist who counted cards to the tune of two million from a casino in Vegas.

Before her dad bought into the idea he could work the system, they traveled together like Moses Pray and Addie Loggins in Paper Moon. Those were the happiest times for Kyra, even if they didn’t enjoy a conventional existence. But her dad found a “foolproof” system that would let him beat the house at any casino. She didn’t want him messing around; she’d heard they were made men, mob-connected, but her dad wouldn’t listen.

He promised Kyra life on easy street, but he got caught—and wound up with a punctured lung. With his dying breath, he told her who was responsible—and she set out to humiliate the bastard who had her father beaten and left for dead, Gerard Serrano, owner of The Silver Lady.

First, she staked out the place, learned his habits. Then she studied his sexual preferences and the kind of women he preferred—and turned herself into his ideal. That meant a new name, new identity. She even stored the only thing her father left her, his 1973 Grand Marquis. It took a good six months to work her way into his inner circle.

For Kyra, faking it came easy. She possessed the gift of absorption; it permitted her to steal someone else’s best skill for a limited time. She could be a gambler, a fighter, an athlete, a musician, an artist—anything she wanted…until the clock ran out. A lesser adjunct of this ability was called transference. If she wanted to, she could snatch a talent and pass it to somebody else.

Kyra made herself date Gerard, stringing him along, but she never gave him any satisfaction. She refused him anything more than kisses. The time in Vegas was the longest she ever spent in one place, the biggest con of her life, but it was so worth it when he proposed.

She took his ring and then gambled it at the tables, using a skill she’d stolen from a card counter nearby. When she won millions at 21, she held up a sign for the security camera, knowing Gerard would see it eventually. “Sorry, I was only in it for the money. Thanks for the stake, but I’d rather DIE than marry you.”

Like all good pros, she took the money and ran. Gerard became a laughingstock, the butt of all jokes. Furious and humiliated, Serrano began taking steps to make her preferences a reality. Nobody got away with screwing him over. Nobody.

That was where Reyes came in.

Before Reyes terminated her, he had to find out where she hid the cash. Gerard Serrano didn’t just want her dead; he wanted his money back, and then he wants to be there when she dies. For all Reyes knew, his employer might intend to record it as an object lesson to those who cross him. If Gerard Serrano was ever going to regain the status he once enjoyed, he had to prove to his peers that some little chick did not, in fact, get the best of him. He needed to put her down hard, or he’d never shake the stigma, never get the upper hand in Vegas again.

As he hunted her, Reyes didn’t realize what Kyra could do at first, but he sensed there was something unusual about her, and he never acted without having all the facts. He needed time to figure out what made her tick, and would receive a performance bonus if he recovered part of the two million before offing her.

That meant joining her on the run, and trying to unearth her secrets, including where she stashed the loot, since she hadn’t been flashing any of it around. Kyra wasn’t an easy nut to crack, but she was hungry for sex, starved for physical contact. She never touched unless she means to steal, denying herself pleasure, so she was ripe when he made a move. She found his dark, dangerous appeal all but irresistible.

But Kyra surprised Reyes by giving him the slip in the morning. She was perfectly capable of taking what she wants from a man and moving on. Getting into Kyra’s world wouldn’t be as easy as he thought…

These will be strong, kick-ass action romances with more sexxoring than you’ll find my urban fantasy or SFR, but I do expect to have quite a few crossover readers. They will explore “Talented” individuals finding their perfect mates — not in the sense that they’re predestined to be together, but in finding that one person who isn’t affected by the supernatural things the hero or heroine can do. I definitely won’t shortchange you on heat or the falling-in-love thrill. I’ll just combine it with high octane action.

I hope you’re as excited as I am. Now is zee time on zee blog ven ve dance!

Vacation

The blog will be dark this week.

Today through Wednesday I’ll be hard at work on Doubleblind. If you really miss me, you can find me on the Bradford Bunch today and announcing a winner to the Wanderlust contest over on Something Wicked.

Then on Thursday, I’m heading for Acapulco for a long weekend. I hope to have some exciting news to report by then, but for now, check out this blurb from Christine Feehan:

“Fast-paced and thrilling, Wanderlust is pure adrenaline. Sirantha Jax is an unforgettable character and I can’t wait to find out what happens to her next. The world Ann Aguirre has created is a roller coaster ride to remember.”
–#1 NYT bestselling author Christine Feehan

Movie- featured review: Undead

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Undead

I must preface my review by saying I totally dig zombie movies. In all other respects, I hate horror movies. I don’t like seeing people getting eaten by giant sharks or swamp monsters. I don’t like watching chainsaw-wielding maniacs run around beheading people. But a good old fashion zombie stomp? I am sooo there. If I had to guess, I’d say my predilection for such films harks back to college, wherein I took a film class — and wrote an analysis of the symbolism found in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.

Thus began my love affair with zombies. Well, you know, not literally. Because that would be gross. Imagine all the parts that could fall off when things started getting heated, not to mention the inconvenience of having your lover obsessed with trying to eat your brain. Just…not cool, man.

Anyway, onto the movie. Undead is a totally original gem out of Australia. It combines all the best qualities of Night of the Living Dead, Shaun of the Dead and the Resident Evil movies. I know that sounds like a tall order for one quirky little indie film, but trust me, Undead is up to the task. The special effects are astonishingly well-done, and the acting is top-notch. In fact, after watching this, I’ve now decided that I would love to have Felicity Mason (the lead in Undead) play Jax. She’s that good.

Writer/directors Michael and Peter Spierig are ones to watch, mark my words. They’ve written a surprisingly tight story where there’s foreshadowing, clues given, deft touches of bizarre humor, and everything wraps up in a way that was quite astonishingly skillful. Undead is pure ass-kicking fun, all the way.

I give this film two thumbs waaaaaaaay up. But don’t take my word for it:

Wacky, inventive, and outrageously gory, Undead is a reason to believe that low-budget horror can still knock it out of the ballpark every once in a while. More than just echoing the visual style and humor of Sam Raimi and early Peter Jackson, the Spierig brothers have crafted a film that will undoubtedly deliver to midnight movie lovers around the globe who are looking for a laugh-out-loud, bloody time every now and then. Exceptional low-level effects are handled far better than you’d think, while the performances by a mostly unknown cast never come off stilted, but at points, downright inspired. There’s a manic energy to the movie that only tends to come out of gifted filmmakers at the beginning of their game… ~ Jeremy Wheeler, All Movie Guide

Or how about this from MovieBox.net?

Springing from the imaginations of twin brothers Peter and Michael Spierig, Undead is an ambitious low-budget endeavour that succeeds on every level. With the zombie genre, there is no way to avoid certain obvious references and the Spierig brothers bow their heads in respect not only to George Romero, the Zombie King himself, but to the Princes of the domain, Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson – and even to the Court Jester of gunplay, John Woo. Undead is more splat-stick comedy than pure horror, with zombie fish, an insecure cop who spews the most inventive curses ever and re-animated torsos galore.

If you can get a hold of this movie, check it out. It is made of awesome…with sprinkles!

A question for the ages

“Isn’t Ann Aguirre more female-focused Science Fiction than SFR?”

SFR = sci-fi romance, in case you didn’t know.

That question comes from a comment in this blog post. It’s from an article talking about SFR covers. My Wanderlust cover is compared to a Lois McMaster Bujold one (which is pretty cool). It’s amazing that a cover done seventeen years ago could have elements in common with one designed recently.

But you know what’s funny? From one end of the spectrum, I get people telling me I don’t write “real” science fiction. It’s all girlie, full of relationships and such. It should come with a warning label! “Run away, herein lies girl cooties and coitus!” This quote comes from a review of Grimspace, found here:

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre is one of those novels that you thoroughly enjoy reading. You wouldn’t tell serious fans of speculative fiction that you did, but you would spend an entire evening devouring it anyway.

I’ve bolded the significant bit. It’s a nice review and it seems for that reader, my books qualify as a guilty pleasure. But it amuses me to be dismissed from both sides of the spectrum. I don’t write real science fiction. But apparently I don’t write real romance either. I fall into this nebulous gray space, where my science fiction is soft, squishy and romantic, but maybe… not a romance, according to some.

Is Grimspace just female-centric science fiction? Or is it nothing more than a romance in space (as real spec fic fans allege)? I’m going to go out on a limb and say it depends on your frame of reference.

I know what I think — and what I intended — but I’d like to ask those who read the book. What is Grimspace? Did it have a “real” romance? Is it “real” SF? Could it, ever, in any known universe, be …both?

Bits and bobs

I’m blogging over here today. Go comment and make me happy.

And there’s a contest over here, so you might want to check that out. Go congratulate Wendy for doing well on her finals and you could win a copy of Grimspace or an Erin McCarthy book called Fallen.

All you get is linkage today. If you want to learn more about me, click on that first one. I’m gonna buckle down today and wrap up revisions on Hell Fire.