An unlikely love letter

First, I have a post up on Writer Unboxed that you may find interesting. Or not. true love

I’ve been busy writing, and as you can see in the sidebar, I’m nearly done with my SKIN DIVE draft. I also wrapped up the KILLBOX galleys, so that book’s in the bag now. Hard to believe Jax is rolling toward book four, right? Amazing. At the end of August — shortly after my birthday — that book will put the series at 4/6 (or 2/3) completion. That makes me incredibly proud; that I could start something and finish it. How splendid! It’s rather a milestone, too, I think.

Other than that, I have exciting RAZORLAND goodness percolating behind the scenes. I’m finalizing the agreement for my book trailer with the UK production company, and I’ve been working with the Feiwel audiobook department. As it turns out, they’re doing a special CD sampler with excerpts from the audiobook, which will be included in the galleys. Part of that CD? An interview with yours truly. I did the call today, and wow, I was nervous, but I think I did all right. So many exciting things are coming down the pike this year. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap my head around. For instance, in the next month, I get to see my Cliff Nielsen cover art. I. Can’t. Wait. Interesting (or maybe not?) sidenote, he has done art for Charles de Lint, too, as has my Jax artist, Scott Fischer. This makes me feel like I’m playing Six Degrees of de Lint, who totally friended me on Facebook — without any prompting from me, I might add.

Along with Walter Jon Williams and Simon Green, de Lint holds a special place in my esteem, as he’s wrapped up in my courtship with my husband. Well, not literally. Geez, people. But both Andres and I love books. I logged those recommendations as another woman might gifts of perfume or jewelry; see, we communicate by recommending books to each other, and the themes say private things. The first book Andres ever told me to read was Aristoi by Walter Jon Williams. The next was Imajica by Clive Barker. After that, it was Someplace to Be Flying by de Lint. And then, of course, we discovered Simon Green’s Nightside books together. To this day, shared reading is important to us. When I find an author I love, if I love them enough, I give the book to Andres, and I say, Read this. The subtext is, I want you to love what I love. Maybe it’s goofy of me, but I see each instance as a quiet renewal of vows — that the commonalities that brought us together initially bind us still, so many years later.

I could never have imagined I would end up here… on the cusp of seeing my own words in hardcover. I marvel. Andres, on the other hand, does not. You see, he fell in love with my words first, and then the person behind them. He always knew. He always believed, even when I didn’t. His patience means so much to me now, more than I can say. And so I post a love note for all the world to see on our anniversary, vaguely blog-shaped. Love is not perfection; it is understanding and forgiveness.

Thank you for these marvelous years, my darling. May there be fifteen more and fifteen more again, until you’ve no hair, and I’ve no teeth, and I have forgotten everyone’s eyes but yours. Happy anniversary.

Love, Ann

An interview with Jeri Smith-Ready (And a Wicked Game giveaway!)

The Squee

First, let me state: Jeri is a good friend of mine. However, I don’t squee about books that aren’t squee-worthy. I might tell you she’s a nice person, I’m excited to present this interview, I love her hair, or that I loved rooming with her in Pittsburgh. I might tell you any number of nice things, but if I didn’t love Wicked Game, there would be no squeeing.

Wicked Game

The best part about being an author is that I get to read books early that I would line up to buy. Wicked Game is one of those.

Jeri reinvents vampire mythos and she manages to make them grim, scary as hell, yet still sexy. Ciara and Shane are a fantastic couple with serious conflict. I loved the way the relationship develops; it felt natural to me. And the plot? Amazingly fresh.

As if that’s not enough, Wicked Game has some of the finest writing and characterization it’s been my privilege to read, ever. No spoilers, but certain scenes gave me chills. I just can’t tell you how much I love this book. But don’t take my word for it; Kresley Cole and Rachel Caine love it too. Now check out this blurb:

Recovering con artist Ciara Griffin is trying to live the straight life, even if it means finding a (shudder!) real job. She takes an internship at a local radio station, whose late-night time-warp format features 1940s blues, ’60s psychedelia, ’80s goth, and more, all with an uncannily authentic flair. Ciara soon discovers just how the DJs maintain their cred: they’re vampires, stuck forever in the eras in which they were turned.

Ciara’s first instinct, as always, is to cut and run. But communications giant Skywave wants to buy WVMP and turn it into just another hit-playing clone. Without the station — and the link it provides to their original Life Times — the vampires would “fade,” becoming little more than mindless ghosts of the past. Suddenly a routine corporate takeover is a matter of life and undeath.

To boost ratings and save the lives of her strange new friends, Ciara rebrands the station as “WVMP, the Lifeblood of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” In the ultimate con, she hides the DJs’ vampire nature in plain sight, disguising the bloody truth as a marketing gimmick. WVMP becomes the hottest thing around — next to Ciara’s complicated affair with grunge vamp Shane McAllister. But the “gimmick” enrages a posse of ancient and powerful vampires who aren’t so eager to be brought into the light. Soon the stakes are higher — and the perils graver — than any con game Ciara’s ever played….

The Interview

What book have you read the most? How come?
Alice in Wonderland. There was something about the way it made me feel as a kid—that ANYTHING could happen, and you’d never know what would be around the next corner. I wished so hard for my very own rabbit hole.


What’s your favorite drink, alcoholic or otherwise?

Ginger beer, the hotter the better. I like food that hurts, probably because of the endorphin rush.

What was your favorite book as a kid?
DOGSBODY by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s about the Dog Star Sirius who is punished by the gods (I can’t remember why) by being forced to come to earth and live the life of a stray dog. It combined my love of animals with my passions for astronomy and mythology. Because of that book, Sirius became my favorite star forever (not to mention my eventual choice in satellite radio).

Who do you think is the coolest writer who ever lived? (This can be anyone, living or dead. Of course you have to tell us why. You don’t need to have personal experience of this person.)
Neil Gaiman. Not only is his work amazing on so many levels, he’s an incredibly nice and funny person, and so generous with his time and self. Back in the days when he was merely Big and not OMG MF’ing ROCK STAR, I stood in line for ninety minutes to get a book signed by him. It moved so slowly because he spoke with each reader for at least five minutes. Even now at signings he’ll stay behind long after everyone else to make sure all the readers get to speak with him.

If you could transform into any animal, what would it be? Why that?
I think a dolphin would be tons of fun. Swim around and eat fish all day, but still be smart enough to appreciate life. And hey, sharks are afraid of them. You can’t beat that.

Your rabid fans have proclaimed you the best writer in the world. Defend your title!
The words I hear most often to describe my work are “original” and “unique.” This is flattering, but sometimes it worries me, because conventional wisdom says most people gravitate toward the familiar and aren’t really looking for something different.

But readers should buck the conventional wisdom. Prove the experts wrong! Besides, every mega-author was once original and unique. You can’t stand out and become an OMG MF’ing ROCK STAR by writing the same stuff as everyone else.

What’s one mistake you see in books that drives you nuts? (This can be grammatical, research errors, whatever skeeves your gentle heart.)
It really bugs me when a vampire bites someone in the carotid artery. No. That’d be like drinking from a fire hose. The blood would usually end up on the ceiling and all over the walls, but let’s say, just for yuks, that it actually got into the vampire’s mouth. It would totally come out his nose. Ooh…blood-snarfing—sexaaaay!

Pie or cake?
No contest: Pie! Cake, for the most part, is not worth the calories. Too dry. I like my sweets rich and moist. That being said, if someone wants to send me cake, I wouldn’t turn it down. Though I might x-ray it first.

Pirate or ninjas?
Ninjas are so freaking cool!! They’ve got stealth, balance, strength–they’re like human cats.

Could there be pirate ninjas? Or ninja pirates? Hmm, probably not. I think there are basic philosophical and tactical barriers between the two camps.

Who is your imaginary celebrity boyfriend?
Seth Green. He was at New York Comic Con a few weeks ago, as was I. I had this nutty fantasy he would show up at my book signing saying, “I read about your book in Publisher’s Weekly. Vampires DJs—awesome.” Alas, he did not.

What’s your favorite book, among those you’ve written?
WICKED GAME

That one? Really? How come?
It made me so happy to write it. I’d be in the car listening to music, and a song would come on that resonated with one of the characters or a part of the story. It was so much fun to write and to think about even when I wasn’t actually working on the manuscript.

On the opposite end of the happiness spectrum, VOICE OF CROW is my other favorite novel, because it was the Book That Almost Killed Me. It was my first attempt at multiple POVs, and it drove me crazy trying to balance the “screen time” among all the characters. The rewrite was hellish, but it ultimately turned out really well (I think). So VOICE OF CROW is like that troublesome kid who earns a special kind of love.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
For more about Wicked Game, including the entire first chapter, check out www.jerismithready.com/wicked-game. To visit the DJs and listen to a sample of their shows, go to www.wvmpradio.com. Jeri and her heroine Ciara can also be found on MySpace, though mysteriously never at the same time (www.myspace.com/jerismithready and www.myspace.com/ciarawvmp).

You can win a copy of this awesome book for commenting. Ask Jeri some questions or comment on her work. You don’t want to miss this!

April Hot Read – The Duke of Shadows

If you read this book and want to talk about it, go here. I’m dying to discuss it without worrying about spoilers.

The Contest

Enter the Duke of Shadows Sweepstakes

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.

Prize packages

  • 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.

The Squee

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 Interview

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!

Meredith Speaks
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!

Short post

Hey everyone, today’s post will be short. Why?

Well, I need to get my word count in, for one thing. My lack of motivation on my WIP is a thing of the past. I was having a hard time with it because it wasn’t different enough. I love writing books that push the boundaries and aren’t going to be the same as everything else you find out there. Well, My Valentine didn’t qualify. Until now. I’ve revamped it, and it’s now a paranormal interracial erotic romance. This book kicks ass and takes names.

Check out this blurb:

Then…
Once upon a time, a lady named Beatrice loved a dissolute lord, who gave her a child and never knew. They shared a brief, magical affair that ended at swordpoint. And on Valentine’s Day, after watching the man she adored (and then betrayed) breathe his last, she died for their love.

Now…
Darnell Valentine used to be a geek. His life is pretty good these days, other than the odd déjà vu and the occasional sense he’s been there and done that. He has just one significant problem — he’s been in love with Maya Hanoush forever. And she won’t give him the time of day.

But he has a funny feeling time is running out, so this year, he’ll claim Maya as his own. He somehow sees the way things should be, instead of as they are. Can a beta go alpha and teach his woman she can trust him with her very soul this time around? Only if they put the past behind them for good.

Maya Hanoush has no trouble getting men, but she can’t keep them. For reasons she doesn’t even understand, she keeps Darnell at arm’s length. Though they’ve been friends since childhood, she always feared taking the next step with him.

Lately, she’s been having crazy dreams and flashes of things she shouldn’t remember, things that never happened. She might just be losing her mind.

Ancient secrets, treachery, longing and despair lie between them, unresolved, unseen, and unsung, adding to the weight of a secret shame Maya guards like a junkyard dog.

But if she doesn’t put the pieces together in time, she’ll lose him forever. Again.

Y’all are gonna love it. I sent an excerpt to Dee, my BFF, to see if I was on the right track, and she said, “That’s beautiful.”

No excerpts for you, though. I’ll do that another day, when I have cover art to show you.

So I have a book to write, and later I’m taking my kids (who are out of school today) to see The Dark is Rising.

For now, go read this interview. It’s the first one I’ve done, so tell me the truth. How’d I do? Was it interesting? What do you think?