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The Romance List

I've been reading off this list from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List--specifically the Fantasy List and the Literary Fiction List. I was finding I enjoyed the recommended books so much, I decided to tackle the Romance List, since I've never had much success with that genre.

My impression honestly is almost all much of the genre is disposable crap--and much of it literally is--the category romances published by Harlequin, Silhouette, and Mills and Boon are designed to be on the store shelves one month, then any remainders are tossed. The list I tackled was of the so-called keepers, and yet even though that guide book came out only a couple of years ago, over half of the romance list's 129 books are already out of print. (In contrast, true of only four of the 36 on the fantasy list--and two of those four are paranormal romances that were found on the romance aisle when they were in print.) If the book suggested in the guide was out-of-print or unavailable in my neighborhood book stores, I looked to see if I could substitute another title by the same author found on the list of Top 100 Romance Novels. That left me with 36 books to read--and I did enjoy over half. However, I tend to enjoy a much larger percentage of books rec'd to me in other genres, and even of those I did enjoy, only about a handful--much fewer than with other genres--are what I'd call keepers that would take up my book shelf space and I could see rereading some day.

Below is what I thought of the books I tried. If anyone reads in the romance genre and can stand my ripping apart of many below, do let me know if a book I read and hated isn't representative of the author or if you think there's better romance novel authors out there not on the list below. Keep in mind in recommending though (reinforced by my reading the below) that I can't stand "head-hopping," flowery descriptions, a romantic hero who acts like a sexual predator or a romantic heroine that acts like a doormat.

The Romance ListCollapse )

Time to Crow!

Life Without Crows

My dear friend Gerri Leen has just had her first book published, Life Without Crows, which can be bought here on Amazon or here on Barnes and Noble com. It's a collection of 24 stories ranging from flash fiction to novelettes in length. I was a first reader (i.e., beta) for these stories, so I am by no means an unbiased reviewer, but for what it's worth, I love these stories. Most of them can be described as "speculative fiction" - fantasy, science fiction, horror - with a smattering of what might be called "literary fiction."

Gerri's style is clean, spare and often lyrical and stands out to me for the way it catches various voices: from a tough old lady remembering her good times with truckers in "Memory Lane" to the down to earth survivor in the post-apocalyptic tale "Life Without Crows" to the old groom of a talking race horse who manages his own career in "Bluegrass Dreams Aren’t for Free" to a subversive Biblical Ruth in "Whither Thou Goest." The stories feature historical figures like Anne Boleyn and Francis Drake; Egyptian, Greek, and Chinese goddesses and Biblical figures; early hominids, dragons, ghosts, vampires and were-crows and robots and aliens. Memorable characters who grab at the heart, stories that often have a twist in the tale, that make you laugh or cry or gasp--served with lovely prose and featuring eye-poppingly gorgeous illustrations by Maggie Middleton, a young artist. (The beautiful cover art is "The Song of Eternity," by another artist, Richard Kirsten-Daiensai.)

What's not to love? You can find her Official Home Page here and she's also gerrileen on live journal. Some of her stories can be read for free online on her site, so you can give them a try to see if her style might appeal to you.

Some of you may know Gerri as djinn_fic. She's de-cloaked on her own fandom Live Journal un-f-locked so I can mention that--so she's one of our own. One of those who has made the leap from fan fiction to professional sales. Someone I was privileged to know from my Star Trek fandom days who I had watched make her first professional sale to the Strange New Worlds VII Star Trek pro anthology and on to over 50 publications of short works sold to magazines, literary journals and anthologies including Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress XXIII (Where "The Vessel," included in the new book, debuted). I'm proud to know her as a person and a writer. Damn bursting with pride. I hope you'll buy and enjoy her book!

(And that someday, many of you on my f-list will be bragging about your first books.)

I now return you to your frantic fan fiction reading. *waves* Miss you guys! *returns to fanfic hiatus* *flails* *bounces off walls*
Some fan fiction bashing by Diana Gabaldon, GRR Martin and Katherine Kerr (recap here) has been mentioned on my f-list lately. Ironically, when this came up, I had been reading the bestselling Temeraire books by Naomi Novik--they've been optioned by Peter Jackson who produced the Lord of the Ring films. I came across this in the author acknowledgments to her last published book, Victory of Eagles, and just had to share:

I also want to take advantage of my little soapbox here this time to say a special thanks to the whole fan community. I've been participating in this community and writing fan fiction since my teens, and I wouldn't be anywhere near here without that experience and all the incredible people I've met thereby. I've had the privilege of working with dozens of different beta readers and serving as one myself for fellow writers, and I've learned tremendously from each and every one. Though I can't thank them individually and knew most of them only by their online names, I still want to say a heartfelt thank you to them all, and to all the amazing volunteers that I've been working with this last year on the Organization for Transformative Works.
[OfTW is a nonprofit organization run by and for fans to provide access to and preserve the history of fanworks and fan cultures, which started An Archive of Our Own.]

I highly recommend Novik's books by the way--Napoleonic Wars with Dragons--one of the best fantasy reads I've had in ages. (The first book in the series is His Majesty's Dragon.) Also highly, highly recommended is The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, which I also had recently been reading. Masterfully written, moving, fun, amazing--highly praised, it won the Pulitzer Prize. And this is what Chabon has to say on the subject of fan fiction:

"...[A]ll literature, highbrow or low, from the Aeneid onward, is fan fiction....Through parody and pastiche, allusion and homage, retelling and reimagining the stories that were told before us and that we have come of age loving--amateurs--we proceed, seeking out the blank places in the map that our favorite writers, in their greatness and negligence, have left for us, hoping to pass on to our own readers--should we be lucky enough to find any--some of the pleasure that we ourselves have taken in the stuff that we love: to get in on the game. All novels are sequels; influence is bliss."

I found that on a fascinating list of professional authors and their fan fiction policies I found referenced in the recent fan fiction kerfuffles. I'll take Chabon and Novik and Armstrong and Gaiman and Bujold and Cashore and Rowling and happily leave the other side to Gabaldon, Kerr and the others listed. (Also found in browsing, this awesome listing of classic works of pro fan fiction.)

Oh, and I recently gave up on reading David Drake's Lord of the Isles--that one is only guilty of boring me because I can't for the life of me after 150 pages find anything to distinguish it from a gazillion other fantasies or care one whit about any of the characters--why it's on the must-read list I picked up, I can't tell you.



I'm feeling social today, even though I'm on an extended vacation from HP fandom and not sure if and when I'll ever be back, so I thought I'd share this recipe I tried for dinner last night as a way of saying "Hi, hope you're all well." The nefarious influence of silburygirl among others has led me to gain something of a taste for veggie goodness. (Oh, stop shuddering Renita). I need to lose some weight again lest I creep up back to the women's department--and there is warmth seeping through the land. Yes, soon the New York City Winter Olympics will be over--where sledding, skating, and skiing won't be the most efficient mode of transportation; there will be all sorts of Spring fruits and veggie goodness in season and *gasp* a beach beckoning in Summer with all the terrors that implies. So I've been looking into veggie recipes--thought that if I have to make up a diet for say April, I might prefer giving up meat for a month and have more of hummus and tofu and tempeh and couscous and quinoa and seitan and edamame and the like...

Vegetarian Taco Filling of GoodnessCollapse )


Happy New Year! 2010

Thanks to everyone who gave me those fic prompts--even if I can't jump start my muse lately. Definitely on my Resolution list: write (and finish book of shadows).

I have been reading a lot instead--trying to plump up the non-SSHG recs for Know-it-Alls by making my way through crack_broom. I find I really am sadly OTP and close to burn out reading in other ships. What KIA really needs are more reccers for the other major ships with the same enthusiasm for reccing and knowledge of their ships that I have for Snape/Hermione (and who are good writers in their own right, or at least have a history of lots of good, good recs). It's nevertheless been rewarding going through crack_broom this past month, but after an endless round of it I'm ready for a break I think from Harry Potter fan fiction. But hey, since my muse isn't (yet) up to a story about Christmas (or New Years) in New York City or painted quail, here below is my top ten list of the stories that really impressed me on my recent Harry Potter crack_broom reading binge (no SSHG--sorry).

Must Reads Off My Rotation So Far: Gen, Xover, 3some, femmeslash, Ron/Hermione, Snarry, Snupin, Puppy, Drarry, Harry/RonCollapse )

I think one really interesting aspect of my reading this month is my impressions from this of m/m slash, which I haven't read so much of since my Trek days. I'm a Kirk girl, and there just wasn't much to read with him back when I discovered fanfic that wasn't Kirk/Spock. In a way, I'd love to discuss the issue of what makes m/m slash different, in another, I don't know how to frame it w/o touching off wank. And to be fair, I've found lots of misogyny and romance trope drek in SSHG too--and plenty of bashing of canon rivals--but I do find I do prefer Het greatly over Slash (and fanon over canon pairings). At the same time, I've found there are some authors that when they pop up on my radar, I sit back knowing I'm about to read a good story--even if it is slash--and that's what matters most.

Dare Me!

Congrats to everyone who placed in the sshg_awards and thanks to Shug, who's earned a good fandom rest. Thank you also to everyone who sent me a virtual snowflake cookie--duniazade, sshg316, gioiamia, kribu, ciphre, ginny_weasley31. Thank you for thinking of me!

So--NaNoWriMo. Didn't do good things for me. I think everyone should try it at least once, just like everyone should try an Exchange at least once. Some muses thrive on that sort of challenge and deadline. Mine, not so much I think. So, what am I doing? Setting myself another...

I can't promise anything--it depends on whether a prompt sparks something. My muse is not the most reliable beastie and tends to turn her button nose up at carrots. And I still want to finish Book of Shadows (still working on it, and even if not much wordage got done, at least I broke the ice a bit). I owe renitaleandra a sequel to "Madmen and Englishwomen" and lifeasanamazon a disgustingly overdue birthday ficlet. But...

My beta djinn_fic reminded me writing is a muscle, and if BOS isn't coming, I should work on other stuff or I'll get rusty. So, give me a Christmas/Winter Holiday/Winter Season prompt in Harry Potter or Trek (anything but Enterprise) for a ficlet or drabble. Any ship or character (except no Lucius pairing)--and I'll try. Up to 12 people. Let me know your dealbreakers. Not writing any non con or dub con.
The nominees for the sshg_awards have been posted here with links. Voting begins on the 5th and runs an entire month, so there's time to catch up on stories here you missed, and voting is a lot less involved than nominating (you don't have to worry about what's eligible among other things, and only one vote per category so you don't have to write out multiple choices. Hell, you don't even have to link, find author LJ or email. Just use the form below and type up the title of your vote (taken from the com profile):

Congratulations to all the nominees. Just to make it this far is an honor. If I haven't congratulated you individually, consider it done now! Lots I nominated on that list. SQUEE!!!

Also, annietalbot wrote an Open Letter regarding awards I muchly agree with here. She puts it more nicely and diplomatically than I will.

A Modest Proposal: The Kanye West AwardsCollapse )

Why I hate Wonderful ChildCollapse )

Oh, and mundungus42's filk below is FTW!

And a house-elf dropped these at my doorstep. And then ran off to iron her hands.



Given this post by ginny_weasley31 that some on Potter Place are seeking to compile lists of "abandoned" stories to complete--and some members are supporting the idea that if they don't hear back from the author they're going to consider permission implied.

Well, just in case, because I'm not sure anyone is interested in my little ol' WIP.

1) Book of Shadows is not abandoned despite not being updated two years--I've been trying to work on it.

2) No, you do not have permission to try to complete it even if I do abandon it. I'd rather pull the story completely off the internet than let that happen.

3) Just because we play in Rowling's world does not make me a hypocrite in this. Writing a derivative work in a shared universe is a very different thing than completing someone's story. You put something of yourself in that fanfic, you bring specific words to it and a particular take and a distinctive style. Writing your own story in a shared world (think say Mary Russell Holmes pastiches) is a very different thing than taking someone's incomplete story and pasting on.

4) Think of the effect on fandom. We don't get paid. Our only recompense is reviews and recs and awards and art and translations. Various forms of intangible ego boo. Part of the unwritten contract at least in my old fandom Trek was this. Your fic is yours. No one else has the right to control it. Even a beta is just an adviser. You use something distinct from a fic, you credit it. You don't plagiarize. You don't steal another's words and put them under a name you claim. And you never, ever, try to complete another's story without permission. Sometimes in Trek people would write "sequels"--I saw them much more often in Trek than I have here. It's a compliment, but even there the courteous thing to do to ask permission. But this is a different thing entirely. People post because they feel safe about their story not being appropriated by someone else. If they lose that sense of security... Well, had I thought an unauthorized completion of my story was a possible consequence of posting a WIP, I'd never have posted that first chapter. Others might start pulling their WIPs down. And I'd rather have access to KazVL's Falling Further In and Helga Von Nutwhimple's Meeting of the Minds even incomplete for myself and others who follow in the fandom. And no "completion" of those stories by others will feel like the real ending to me.

5) Fanfic isn't protected by copyright. I can't stop you if you try without my permission. Or if you do that to others. But if you do, in the words of an old curse: May you get everything you deserve.

6) If you really think this will get you friends and fans in the fandom... Think again. Anyone who even thinks this is a good idea has my undying enmity. I doubt I'm alone in that.

edit: Although one of the mods of Potter Place is involved in compiling a list, my understanding is the mods do not condone completing such fics w/o permission. Only certain people making comments. But this has come up before. Once on WIKTT early in my time in the fandom, and probably will again. And I think each time needs to be stomped on. Firmly.


You can blame this post on bluestocking79. She posted a couple of pumpkin recipes and reminded me of my lurve for things pumpkin. I tried her Pumpkin Streusel Muffins and they were delish. So in turn I offer some favorites I've tried and retried in the weeks since.

Adventures in Cookies, Soup, BreadCollapse )

I remember making a Pumpkin "Cheese Cake" with yogurt cheese one Thanksgiving inspired by a Pumpkin Cheese Cake sold seasonally by the Barnes & Noble Cafe in my neighborhood and counting that a success--but haven't found that old recipe I cobbled. I've seen pumpkin recipes for stews, pastas and puddings I'm tempted to try. (My family is Puerto Rican, and pumpkin, or "calabaza" is often put into stews in that cuisine--although I don't often like a lot of the traditional family recipes actually and a lot of them weren't written down and died with my grandmother.) Pumpkin is cheap, recipes using canned puree can be made all year; pumpkin is a "superfood" and very low in calories. Win win. Nom nom nom.

So give, have any recipes to share?


My Eligibles... and Help?

So, there's a new category in the sshg_awards, which just started taking nominations: Finite Incantatem: Best Newly Completed Fic (This category has its own rules. Stories nominated for this category began posting at any time prior to July 21, 2008 but were completed between July 21, 2008 and July 21, 2009.)

Anyone know some candidates I can nominate? (and no, not making another list post...) I immediately thought of lullabelle72's Jitters--certainly my favorite recently completed SSHG fic, but it was completed after the cut-off date so I'd have to wait till next round. I then looked at what I had rec'd on KIA (I rarely rec WIPs before completion) but Spellcaster by SGCbearcub, seemingly the next possible candidate, was completed before the cut-off date. So, anyone know of any stories that fulfill the above criteria for the new category? I can't think of one!

It might be a good idea btw to post a list of your eligible stories this week. (Especially if any fit the category above--and do mention if you're eligible for "New Author.") Don't think of it as self-pimping, think of it as a service to us all. I didn't write much this year at all. My eligible stories would be the two shorts Surfacing and Madmen and Englishwomen, two drabble series, Not Just a Pretty Face and Twice Blessed and seven single drabbles, Brilliant, But Scary, Heart of Oak, Tether and Just a Crack (and one, two, three drabble sequels to "Not Just a Pretty Face." All renitaleandra's fault).

Pathetic, I know, even if you add my one Snuna, The Hunting of the Snark and my romancingwizard Molly ficlet, Mated Pair, my Ron/Pansy ficlet on sortinghatdrabs, Sorthing Things Out and 3 drabbles in other pairings (SSLE, Stairway to Heaven; HPLL, Stargazing; and HGPP, Oyster) to the list of what I wrote during this period. Only 13,507 words in total, less than last year's of about 20,000. Hopefully I'll do better next time with my writing. OK, so I showed you mine--show me yours?

My Post-Deathly Hallows SSHG - Year Two list does have every completed story above 10,000 words, but below that there are so many stories and drabbles I had to be selective. With WIPs, I generally only listed those that have reached 40,000 words, and you won't easily find eligibles for the new category above through my lists since I don't include completion dates, so again, posting your eligibles would be helpful to your f-listies, especially since different posting dates on different archives can confuse the issue.

Edit: So far people have brought my attention as eligible in the new category: irishredlass's Require Your Assistance; ariadne1's No Loyalty in the Moonlight; subversa's The Love You Take, miamadwyn's Care of Magical Creatures, lady_rhian's Sage, little_beloved's Denial, Marisol's The Godfather, A Plus's Splintered and Broken and lariopefic's Second Life. Anything else? Also, keladry_lupin is linking to various people's eligibility lists here and lovedraughts here.