So I went to see this today. First, the trailer, before my commentary:

This is a remake of REC, which I haven’t seen, so I can’t address the issue of whether the remake is as good as the original. I can only say this: it was so scary that I was crying with fear by the time I left the theater, damp with terror sweat and cramped from having my muscles clenched for an hour and a half.

Let it be said now, I like zombie movies. I like disease movies. I like movies that get your heart pounding and make you jump in the dark. I don’t like slasher flicks. Regular horror doesn’t work for me, most times. Some of my faves include Pitch Black, the Resident Evil movies, the Alien franchise, and 28 Days Later.

So I was really excited to see Quarantine. You’ve watched the trailer, right? Did it freak you out at all?

Here’s the thing. I know exactly why this movie scared me so bad. You ready?

Because it was plausible. In most horror movies, you have a certain remove. “That could never happen. It’s set in the future, the monsters came from the stars, or an alien spacecraft. It’s not our world.” So you can enjoy the pleasurable fear and cling to the person you’re with, and then walk out into the sunlight and forget. Not Quarantine. Not this time.

The setup was compelling. As I watched it, I kept thinking: This could happen. Somewhere, some hideous viral plague could be brewing in a tenement. And this is exactly what they would do if it started to spread. I can’t articulate the weight of the horror, watching such intense, painful images and knowing the carnage doesn’t lie outside your reality.

And that’s why after watching Quarantine, I’m back at home, still thinking about this movie.

Because it could happen.

Has anyone else seen it? Come shiver with me.

Finishing a book is NOT like having a baby

So I wrapped up KILLBOX today ahead of schedule. That means I get to enjoy the weekend before banging out the revisions on DOUBLEBLIND before the end of the month. Yay! Two days off.

First, a bit of exciting news. Both my workshops were approved for RWA in DC. Woot! Look for the following this July:

High-Octane Kisses: Writing Action with Heart


The Billionaire Tycoon’s Secret Promotional Baby: Making the Most of Online Marketing

In honor this occasion, I thought I would do a Top 10 list.

10 Ways in which finishing a book is NOT like having a baby

10. You don’t instantly lose 20 pounds.
9. Nobody comes to coo and take your picture once you’ve finished with it.
8. The process does not require an epidural.
7. Your mother cares less about this arrival.
6. Random strangers don’t stop you in the market to pinch the book’s cheeks.
5. The book doesn’t wake you up in the night.
4. Two words: no episiotomy.
3. The book doesn’t mind that you slept for two days, after it was done.
2. Your old auntie can’t leave property to your book or say you’re spoiling it by holding it all the time.
1. You can walk away from the book for several weeks, once it’s out of you.

Got more? Add your own! I’m off to celebrate with my family. Have a great weekend.

The Scratch N Sniff Post

Do you guys remember Scratch N Sniff cards? I was trying to explain the concept of Smell-o-Vision to Andres the other night, who I suspect was convinced I had made the whole thing up on the spot. I was convinced I didn’t, mind you, but I wasn’t armed at the time with the facts and figures that tend to persuade males that I’m not delusional. Until now I’ve been too busy to unleash my mad Google skills on the issue (read: I totally forgot about it), but here are the stats:

One of the more curious fad gimmicks of the period was Smell-O-Vision, a process initiated in 1960 by Mike Todd, Jr., son of the famed showman. Mike Todd, Sr. had entertained the world with his massive production of AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS (1956), but sadly, perished in a plane crash in 1958. Todd, Jr. invested his inheritance in the development of Smell-O-Vision, a process in which evocative smells were pumped to the cinema audience through pipes leading to individual seats in the auditorium. Bottles of scent were held on a rotating drum and the process was triggered by a signal on the film itself. Only one film, SCENT OF A MYSTERY, was made in Smell-O-Vision and was far from a milestone in movie history. Mike Todd, Jr. lost his entire investment and left the film business. As an added audience incentive, Eddie Fisher, best friend of Mike Todd, Sr. and, at the time, the husband of Todd’s widow, Elizabeth Taylor, sang the memorable theme song from SCENT OF A MYSTERY. Filmmaker, John Waters, paid homage to Smell-O-Vision with his 1980 film, POLYESTER. Waters created the process of Odorama and, rather than pumping in scents, used individual audience “Scratch and Sniff” cards.

You know something is cool if John Waters pays homage to it. He’s like the king of quirk. In any event, I’m doing something similar with this post, except I can’t mail you all sniff cards and I can’t fill your homes with fresh pine-y scent (and isn’t that too bad?!) But I can fill this entry with lots of interesting clickables.

So here we go!

First order of business…

How many of you have received your copies of THE EYE OF NIGHT? If you don’t mind, sound off here. I want to get some idea of when to schedule the book club. I was thinking the last week of February. Suggestions welcome! (The first rule of Book Club? We DO talk about book club! Tell your friends. Get them a copy of this book. Srsly!) Pauline is seven flavors of awesome cake with sprinkles. I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with her a bit via email, so maybe if you’re lucky, I’ll get her to pop by.

KILLBOX is clicking along nicely. I expect to have a draft by the end of this week. Then I’ll wrap up final revisions on DOUBLEBLIND, and go back to KILLBOX for first revision / polish before my March 15 deadline. Then I get to dive right into SKIN TIGHT, which is the second action romance by Ava Gray. (Yo, that’s still me.) In case you forgot, the first book is called SKIN GAME, and I was just talking about cover concepts with my wicked-tacular agent, Laura Bradford. I then sent the ideas to my kick-tastic editor, Cindy Hwang. Fingers crossed that I get a sexy cover like Anya Bast did for The Chosen Sin.

But enough about me. I’ve also collected some clickies on emerging technologies. I’m always watching Wired, Engadget, Discovery and others for news of stuff I can stick in my books. Here’s what interested me this week:

A “beam me up” update

Invisible cloak? Eat your heart out, Harry Potter.

3-D TV? Sweet!
Flying car? It’s about damn time.

What have you guys been reading this week?

I’m going to Texas…

For ArmadilloCon in August. But I hate to fly and I don’t want to go alone. Help me.

Road trip, ho!
Should Andres embark upon a 12 hour / 750 mile road trip with me to ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas?
Yes! What a sweet and tangible way for him to show his love while enjoying your scintillating company.
No way, leave the man alone. He wants to watch TV and play Xbox. Just fly there, woman?
What is ArmadilloCon, again?
Bananas are good!

Witch Heart, redux

Sadly, Jason never contacted me. I guess he was funning about wanting a copy of WITCH HEART. That’s good news for the rest of you because it means I’m drawing a new name. If this person doesn’t contact me within a week, the prize is forfeit. I won’t be drawing a third name.

Without further ado, our new winner is…

Donna (6)

Please email me, so I can get the book sent out.

In other news, look for more posts by Andres in coming weeks, as I have a couple of big deadlines approaching, which means I get to play on the internet less. But don’t worry; he’s a funny guy. He’ll keep you amused in my absence.

A foodie blog

This entry may be of interest to anyone who (a) likes food, (b) eats, or (c) is always looking for a good recipe. This particular meal is great for vegetarian friends, and it doesn’t take all day to prepare.

I was talking to my husband the other night over dinner, and we got to chatting about comfort food for some reason–for me, that’s meatloaf and homemade macaroni and cheese. I got curious, so I asked Andres, “What was your comfort food growing up?”

He answered: picadillo (ground beef cooked with tomatoes and miscellaneous veggies, similar to goulash) and queso guisado (which translates to cheese casserole). I had no idea what that was, so he tried to describe the dish (challenging since he hadn’t eaten it in like twenty years. His mom doesn’t cook much these days). At any rate, it apparently has tomatoes, peppers and panela cheese. “This cheese is mild, white, and crumbly. Like Queso Blanco it will not run when heated–it will get soft and creamy but will not lose its shape.”

Good to know, thought I. After dinner last night, I went to Google for guidance. To my dismay, there was little in English, so I shifted to recipes in Spanish. Andres had offered to ask his mother how she made it years ago, but I’m something of a kitchen pioneer and I love to invent my own recipes (assuming I can’t find one online). I did manage to find one basic recipe in Spanish, but it was astonishingly unhelpful. To whit: “Take seven big tomatoes, put them in a pot with 10 pesos worth of fat peppers, add some oil and cook until the liquid does something or other…” What is 10 pesos worth of fat peppers anyway? Wouldn’t it depend on how long ago the recipe was written? And for that matter, what’s a “big” tomato? I found some tomatoes I thought were big, and seven of them would’ve made enough queso guisado to feed an army.

I decided there was no help for it — I would have to invent my own recipe. I had some basic idea what I needed, so I went to the farmer’s market yesterday and bought the tomatoes and fresh peppers. I had other ingredients already on hand. So without further ado, here is my recipe:

Queso Guisado

13.5 ounces / 380 grams of premixed salsa (your choice of heat)
3 large tomatoes (they were 4-5 inches across), well diced
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped fine
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 sweet yellow pepper, chopped
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (maybe 3 tablespoons if you’re the measuring sort)
Garlic powder, sweet paprika, paprika / cayenne pepper, paprika / chipotle, salt and pepper to taste. (I can’t give measurements because individual spice preferences are going to vary.)
Up to two scant handfuls of raw brown sugar
1 pkg of panela cheese

In a saucepan, mix the salsa and all your chopped / diced veggies. Don’t be shy about the mixing. It’s going to boil down into a lovely sauce. Then add your seasonings to taste and drizzle your olive oil atop the lot. Let it cook down for a good 15 minutes on medium heat, keeping a close watch on it. You don’t want it to burn, so you’ll be stirring every five minutes and checking up on it. Now give it a taste. See if it needs more of anything.

You’ll also be assessing the acidity of your tomatoes at this point. That’s what the sugar’s for — not to sweeten the whole dish, but merely to knock the edge off the acidity. If you’ve got lovely sweet tomatoes, you won’t need much sugar at all. So you’ll swirl that brown sugar in until it the dish tastes spicy, but mellow. Once you’re satisfied with the way it’s seasoned, cook it another 10-15 minutes on low. That will turn your veggies a delicious sauce. If the people in your household are funny about chunks, you can run it through your blender to get a uniform texture.

At this point, you cut the panela cheese into cubes and drop it into sauce. Let it simmer on low for about 10 minutes, allowing the cheese to soften and warm, take on some of the other flavors. Don’t worry about the cheese melting away to nothing.

And that’s it! You have a tasty, wonderful vegetarian dish. This can be served with rice; I imagine it would do well with couscous too! It also goes nicely with beans, as shown here. This is our actual dinner from tonight: arroz a la mexicana to the left, queso guisado to the right, and frijoles blancos down below. Enjoy! And if you try it out, do let me know.

In which a book pisses me off

So I’m writing about a book late at night, once again. Tonight, though, there’s no incoherent squee of joy. Instead I’m left with this inchoate sense of dissatisfaction, as though this novel had been a pepper pot into which the author hurled all the factors (s)he could conceive of, left it to broil for four hundred pages, and then just sort of stopped writing.

The writing wasn’t bad, although I wouldn’t call it inspired. (S)he had serviceable prose. The book in question was science fiction — and it reminded me once me why I don’t read more of it. Lisa Iriarte commented on one of my other posts that she was surprised not to see more SF titles on my “best of 2008 list”, given that I write it and all.

But you see, this is the problem.

I’m only going to talk about the book in general terms, but let me summarize. The ship was commissioned to go seek out a solution to earth’s population problems, so they set off. Once on the distant planet, things began to go badly wrong, etc. I felt, at times, that parallels were being drawn regarding the starfarers reactions to the natives they encountered, parallels that harked back to, say, Europeans meeting indigenous peoples or the way the British treated the people of India. And yet I thought such veiled observations made little sense in a SF novel because the world-building wasn’t done in such a way that it seemed reasonable to me that certain historical facts would still be fresh in mind.

The mission went vastly pear-shaped until by the end, I had no idea what they’d accomplished if anything. It was a messy, messy book, and left me annoyed that I’d wasted my time with it when I have so many other things to read. But someone had recommended this author to me (not one of you guys, don’t worry. It was someone from a SF convention, and I’m coming to realize that I have very particular tastes where SF is concerned. It takes a lot to please me. Lois McMaster Bujold does, Sharon Shinn does. Connie Willis does. As you can see, it’s an elite cadre.)

But that’s not the bulk of my gripe. Much was made of the sexual practices of these natives. The captain of the ship fornicated with two alien babes (Hello, Cap’n Kirk!) and yet by the end of the novel, both these poor chickies were dead while the captain rode off into the sunset. wtf

To which I can only respond with a resounding WTF? The message horrifies me. Women die for having sex. Men ride off into the sunset? Oh. No. You. Didn’t. This is the kind of shit that sets womenfolk back ten years. And you know, this isn’t failure of HEA outrage, either. For one thing, it’s SF and I understand that’s not guaranteed, but as a second point, neither relationship was fleshed out well enough for me to give a shit whether they came to a happy conclusion or not. But holy crap! They BOTH had to die? For suffering his penis in their hoo-has? I dunno what the point of this was in the book, but I totally missed any symbolism or profundity. I was too busy being revolted.

As this is Smart Bitch day, feel free to use this post to bitch about something, as I have. Go on, let it out. We’re here for you.

Sexy cavalcade of new releases

by Megan Hart

I pay strangers to sleep with me. I have my reasons….

But they’re not the ones you’d expect.

For starters, I’m a funeral director taking over my dad’s business. Not exactly the kind of person you’d expect to fork over cash for the lust and urgency only live skin-to-skin contact can create. Looking at me, you wouldn’t have a clue I carry this little secret so close it creases up like the folds of a fan. Tight. Personal. Ready to unravel in the heat of the moment.

Unsurprisingly, my line of work brings me face-to-face with loss. So I decided long ago that paying for sex would be one of the best (and arousing) ways to save myself from the one thing that would eventually cut far too deep.

But Sam was a mistake. Literally. I signed on to “pick up” a stranger at a bar, but took Sam home instead. And now that I’ve felt his heat, his sweat and everything else, can I really go back to impersonal?

Let’s just hope he never finds out about my other life.…

Witch Heart
by Anya Bast

Claire, a demon’s handmaiden, is rescued from enslavement by a handsome playboy. Now they’re both in danger of being captured by warlocks who are determined to harness Claire’s powers for evil.

Stolen Fury
by Elisabeth Naughton

Oh, is he handsome. And charming. And sexy as all get out. Dr. Lisa Maxwell isn’t the type to go home with a guy she barely knows. But, hey, this is Italy and the red-blooded Rafe Sullivan seems much more enticing than cataloging a bunch of dusty artifacts.

After being fully seduced, Lisa wakes to an empty bed and, worse yet, an empty safe. She’s staked her career as an archaeologist on collecting the three Furies, a priceless set of ancient Greek reliefs. Now the one she had is gone. But Lisa won’t just get mad. She’ll get even.

She tracks Rafe to Florida, and finds the sparks between them blaze hotter than the Miami sun. He may still have her relic, but he’ll never find all three without her. And they’re not the only ones on the hunt. To beat the other treasure seekers, they’ll have to partner up–because suddenly Lisa and Rafe are in a race just to stay alive.

Megan Hart, Elisabeth Naughton, and Anya Bast have all had releases recently. See their sexy books? If you want a copy of one of these, ask for it. I’m giving away one of each.

Yesterday was a sucky day

Therefore, the only thing I can do, clearly, is cleanse the crap from my aura by explicating my problem via a Simon and Garfunkel song. I’m sure many of you do the same. So without delay, I present to you:

The Sound of Violence

Hello douchebag, my old friend,
Look here, you’ve cut me off again,
Into my lane rudely creeping,
Slung your car at me while I sat beeping,
And the collision that was granted to my frame
Still remains
Within the sound of violence.

In vexed steam I waited alone
Narrow streets near my home,
Where I could only sit & cuss,
And I turned my back to such a fuss
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
A five-oh’s light
That such delight
Could complete the sound of violence.

And in that stupid street I saw
A family of assholes in a car.
Jerks talking without listening,
Wanks threatening me even more,
Driver using words I never heard
And no one cared
About the sound of violence.

A-hole, said I, you do not know
You drive like a blinded mole.
Hear my words that I might teach you,
Better yet, fuck off, before I beat you.
But my words like silent raindrops fell,
And I said
Why don’t you go to hell?

At last the agent finally came
To the scene that was so lame
The ding, it hardly measured up,
It was no bigger than a cup.
And the guy said, the words of the statements
Are written on the paper here
Sign your names
And we left the sound of violence.